The Hill's Morning Report — Combative Trump aims at Pelosi before Russia report

The Hill's Morning Report — Combative Trump aims at Pelosi before Russia report
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Wednesday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE is warming up.

In about 24 hours, give or take, the Justice Department’s edited version of the long-awaited findings of the Russia investigation will counter or corroborate his insistence that he’s a victim of what he calls an “attempted coup.” 

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To fill the social-media-saturated time until special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s findings emerge on Thursday morning, the president this week took aim at frequent target Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data House Democrats question DHS over using facial recognition tech on US citizens MORE (D-Minn.), calling her “unpatriotic” and “disrespectful to Israel” during a local-news interview during his visit on Monday to Minneapolis. And he castigated presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersButtigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Buttigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' The generational divide of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party MORE (I-Vt.) in a tweet after apparently watching the senator’s unflinching interview with anchor Bret Baier on the president’s favorite network, Fox News.   

The real tell — as the president searches for ways to strengthen his standing with his base — was his sudden description of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE (D-Calif.) in a tweet as an ineffective leader. Trump is always happy to cast the Speaker as a San Francisco liberal, but the shadow boxing about Pelosi’s effectiveness contradicted his publicly and privately conveyed admiration for what to him looks like a steady hand with her party’s fractious caucus, from investigations to legislation (The Hill). 

But Pelosi controls a megaphone of her own as the most powerful elected Democrat in the country. And she’s been doing plenty of talking to the news media, which triggers Trump’s finely tuned radar. 

She appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday, and sparked a Trump harrumph via Twitter (The Hill). “Thanks for watching!” her team replied. 

Pelosi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during an interview in Dublin on Tuesday that even though Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump's Justice Department should change its tune on antitrust policy Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community MORE will release his redacted version of Mueller’s report on Thursday, it “isn’t up to the attorney general” to determine what Congress or the American people ultimately gather as complete information.

Barr “has said basically that the president is above the law,” Pelosi added, reiterating Democrats’ distrust of the administration’s top law enforcer and their insistence that Trump and Barr do not have a lock on the storytelling. Democrats want Mueller to testify about his team’s findings over the 22-month probe, and they want to see an unredacted version of the special counsel’s report — obtained one way or another.

The New York Times: Trump serves up more red meat for red-state Americans.

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The president’s attack on Pelosi was aimed at conservative Republican voters he’s courting for a second term. Yet, Trump and Pelosi are also conferring about legislative issues such as spending and infrastructure. And the Speaker insists she and the president still have to conduct the nation’s business, no matter where the Mueller report or her colleagues’ oversight investigations lead. 

As Alexander Bolton reports, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE (R-Ky.) face serious challenges along with the White House to cut a deal on federal spending in the next few months. McConnell described it as his top legislative goal when lawmakers return to Washington April 29. 

Democrats want to increase federal funding for domestic programs. Trump and the GOP favor raising defense spending instead. And Congress and the president will have to agree to hike the nation’s limit on borrowing and red ink before the fall. The 35-day partial government shutdown and a skirmish over a State of the Union speech invitation early this year brought home to Trump that the leverage he used with the Speaker did not work out as planned. 

The question after Thursday is what lessons the president applies next.

The Hill: As expected, Trump vetoed a measure late on Tuesday that would have cut off U.S. military support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen's civil war. It was the president’s second veto.

The Washington Post: White House, Trump lawyers prepare to battle congressional subpoena powers amid multiple investigations.

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: As South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Buttigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE continues to see his star rise in the 2020 Democratic primary process, talk has begun to center around how Buttigieg can actually make his way through Iowa and New Hampshire en route to winning the party’s nomination, with a focus on his media strategy and an early grassroots effort in the states.

As Amie Parnes writes, the Indiana Democrat has come out of nowhere to be seen as a top contender for the nomination, becoming a bit of an early primary sensation. Rivals are taking him seriously, and even a second-place finish in Iowa could boost Buttigieg on, they say. 

Once a dark horse candidate with a surname few could pronounce, Buttigieg has soared in the polls in recent weeks, bypassing better-known political figures and candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJulián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' O'Rourke unveils plan to support women, minority-owned businesses MORE (D-Mass.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe generational divide of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party Booker, O'Rourke, Buttigieg rally with striking McDonald's workers in South Carolina Booker, O'Rourke, Buttigieg rally with striking McDonald's workers in South Carolina MORE (D-N.J.). The political website FiveThirtyEight said “Mayor Pete” was the second-most-mentioned candidate on cable news last week.

 

 

As he climbs in the eyes of presidential watchers, Republicans have a separate concern on their hands: the fate of Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R). There is speculation in the Hoosier State that Buttigieg could parlay his early primary prominence into a 2020 gubernatorial bid, two GOP sources told The Hill’s Scott Wong:

“There is a growing concern and an increasing amount of anxiety among the Indiana Republican leaders associated with Gov. Holcomb that Buttigieg could make a switch several months down the road and challenge Holcomb for governor instead,” said one of the GOP sources who is from Indiana and close to the state party leadership. But in a phone call, the Indiana GOP chairman rejected what he called a “fabricated narrative,” saying the party is not worried about Holcomb and believes the South Bend mayor would not win statewide. 

> The ascension of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the polls has Democrats fretting about how to halt his rise, especially as former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Buttigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Ocasio-Cortez starts petition to repeal Hyde Amendment MORE continues to sit on the sidelines after being beset by concerns about his behavior toward women. Their reaction is testament to a sense of momentum building behind Sanders’s bid. 

As Niall Stanage writes, Sanders tops early polls (alongside Biden) and is experiencing a level of support as yet unseen by other candidates on the Democratic side. Additionally, some gambles have paid off, including his appearance on Fox News on Monday, which was the highest rated town hall broadcast so far this cycle.

One area where the senator has tried to make inroads, particularly with white working class voters, is on the issue of “Medicare for All” — he wants to appeal to some of the voters who backed Trump in 2016.

As Peter Sullivan reports, Sanders aimed his message at an audience watching Fox News, Trump’s turf, touting an agenda he also pitched through the Rust Belt last week. Republicans, however, think “Medicare for All” is a winning issue for them, and have attacked Sanders relentlessly over the issue, setting up a showdown on the idea’s merits.

Bloomberg: ‘Bernie or Bust’ voters create predicament for Democrats in 2020. 

Politico: How Sanders thinks he can win Pennsylvania — and the presidency.

> Despite the presence of six of their colleagues in the 2020 race, Senate Democrats are staying on the sidelines of the fierce fight to win the party’s nomination.

Jordain Carney reports that Democratic senators are largely holding off on picking sides in the crowded primary field that features 18 total candidates, with several more weighing a run, despite having received outreach from White House hopefuls. The only Senate Democrats who have announced support for 2020 hopefuls are those supporting their home state candidates, including Democrats Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOn The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill On The Money: Pelosi says no debt ceiling hike until deal on spending caps | McConnell pressures White House to strike budget deal | Warren bill would wipe out billions in student debt | Senate passes IRS reform bill Trump's border funding comes back from the dead MORE (Vt.); who backs Sanders; Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithDemocrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Democrats push election security legislation after Mueller warning MORE (Minn.), a supporter of presidential candidate Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' MORE (Minn.); Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Ending the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean MORE (N.J.), who supports Booker; and Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyDemocratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Hillicon Valley: Democratic state AGs sue to block T-Mobile-Sprint merger | House kicks off tech antitrust probe | Maine law shakes up privacy debate | Senators ask McConnell to bring net neutrality to a vote MORE, who endorsed Warren, his Massachusetts colleague in the Senate.

Business Insider: Tax returns show 2020 Democratic candidates donated little to charity. 

The Washington Post: Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth Gillibrand2020 Democrats mark 7th anniversary of DACA 2020 Democrats mark 7th anniversary of DACA Julián Castro defends going on Fox: I'm focused on 'the people out there watching' MORE (D-N.Y.) backs challenger to anti-abortion House Democrat.

The New York Times: Biden, at Fritz Hollings funeral, talks about how "people can change." 

Elsewhere on the political scene … A Mason-Dixon poll of the Alabama Senate race showed former Judge Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreLawyer for Roy Moore arrested on drug charges Lawyer for Roy Moore arrested on drug charges Doug Jones mocks Moore over reaction to potential Senate bid: 'They're just not that into you' MORE leading a group of declared and potential GOP candidates with 23 percent. Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneOvernight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland Overnight Defense: Latest on House defense bill markup | Air Force One, low-yield nukes spark debate | House Dems introduce resolutions blocking Saudi arms sales | Trump to send 1,000 troops to Poland House panel votes to restrict possible changes to Air Force One design MORE (R-Ala.) the only declared candidate to take on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), sits in third with 13 percent (Mason-Dixon)… Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingThe Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates Steve King unveils 'Diamond and Silk Act' named for conservative YouTubers MORE (R-Iowa) had an abysmal first fundraising quarter, having raised only $61,000, and spent more than he raised. Randy Feenstra, his GOP primary opponent, raised $260,000 (HuffPost).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

The world joined Parisians as they continued to mourn the fire that decimated Notre Dame Cathedral in the heart of Paris. Individuals continued to line up outside the famed cathedral, which has stood since the 13th century, as Catholics take part in their most solemn week of the year: Holy Week, which culminates with Easter on Sunday.

 

 

 

NBC News: Fire out, Parisians grieve for beloved Notre Dame:

“The charred scaffolding of Notre Dame Cathedral stood out like a scar in the gray sky of the ‘city of light’ early Tuesday. … As it drizzled, there was a gaping hole where the landmark's roof would have offered protection.” 

“Some made a point of taking time to pause and pay their respects during the French capital's buzzing rush hour. 

“‘People have come as if they are visiting a sick friend,’ student Jossien Prouteau, 22, said while standing on a bridge across the Seine River, which connects the Left Bank with Île de la Cité — the island where Notre Dame is. ‘Watching the flames last night was like watching a woman being beaten up without being able to do anything.’”

French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronBig donors haven't given money pledged to Notre Dame restoration: report Big donors haven't given money pledged to Notre Dame restoration: report Macron will gift Trump another tree after first one died MORE declared Tuesday during a televised address that he wants to see the revered cathedral rebuilt in five years, telling viewers that “we will rebuild Notre Dame cathedral even more beautiful,” adding that “we can do it and once again, we will mobilize” to do so (The Associated Press). 

Despite Macron’s hopes, the rebuild of the cathedral will be a long, arduous and expensive process. According to AP, experts agree the project “will take years, if not decades.”

“Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural organization, said restoring Notre Dame ‘will last a long time and cost a lot of money.’ A government appeal for funds has already raised hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) from French businesses.”

Nevertheless, nearly $1 billion has poured in during the aftermath of the fire towards rebuilding the grandiose structure from, with monies coming from “ordinary worshipers and high-powered magnates around the world.” 

Ross Douthat: From the ashes of Notre Dame.

One saving grace is that many of the treasures from within the cathedral were salvaged or rescued. Most notably, the crown of thorns — known as the most treasured relic the cathedral housed — was saved, while the organ and many of the paintings that adorned the walls are believed to have survived the flames.

The New York Times: Notre Dame found to be structurally sound after fire as investigators look for the cause. 

The Washington Post: As flames engulfed Notre Dame, a fire brigade chaplain helped save the treasures inside. 

 



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



OPINION

Electronic surveillance isn’t spying. It’s much more powerful, by Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2veiKlf

Making Trump’s tax returns public will set a dangerous precedent, by George Washington University Law School Associate Dean Alan B. Morrison, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Xin13q

WHERE AND WHEN

The House returns to a legislative schedule on April 29. 

The Senate gets back to work at 3 p.m. on April 29.

The president speaks at a conference with state, local, community and tribal leaders about federal “opportunity zones,” which provide tax benefits to investors as part of the 2017 tax law (The Tampa Bay Times).

Vice President Pence flies to Dallas and Midland, Texas, today to headline Trump Victory fundraising events. In between at 3:40 p.m., Pence will tour the Permian Basin Oil field and Diamondback Oil rig operated by Diamondback Energy. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack The US must do its part in closing the largest outdoor prison in the world MORE holds a news conference at 9:30 a.m. at the State Department.

White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonUS ramping up digital attacks on Russia's power grid: report US ramping up digital attacks on Russia's power grid: report US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack MORE will be in Miami today to speak to the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association Brigade about Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela at 12:30 p.m.  

The Bureau of Economic Analysis releases a trade report for February at 8:30 a.m.

ELSEWHERE

Tech: Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump and House Democrats resume battle House Intel to take first major deep dive into threat of 'deepfakes' MORE sought to consolidate the social network’s power and control competitors by treating its users’ data as a bargaining chip while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data, according to about 4,000 pages of leaked company documents. In response to the reporting, Facebook denies it gave preferential treatment to developers or partners because of their ad spending or relationships with Zuckerberg and other executives (NBC News). Meanwhile, members of the House and Senate are interested in legislating around artificial intelligence, but such measures face hurdles as powerful tech companies seek to stave off federal regulation (The Hill).

State Watch: Denver area schools are closed today as police and the FBI hunt for an armed 18-year-old Florida woman said to be “infatuated” with the Columbine High School shootings, three days before the 20th anniversary of that attack (Reuters).  … Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey formed a task force on Tuesday to investigate the circumstances of 23 horses that died at the Santa Anita Park race track over the last three months(Los Angeles Times).

Privacy: The New York Times used publicly available technology tools and less than $100 to create a facial recognition machine to track the comings and goings of individual pedestrians in Bryant Park in New York City. The system detected 2,750 faces without the individuals’ knowledge in the span of nine hours, and correctly identified several people using public images. The experiment’s results raise significant privacy questions: “The accuracy and speed of modern facial recognition technology means that building a dragnet surveillance system is now feasible. The law has not caught up. In the United States, the use of facial recognition is almost wholly unregulated.”

THE CLOSER

And finally … Speaking of privacy … drones, astrophysics and thermal imaging are being used by conservationists to track endangered orangutans in the wild, scientists report.

Technology helped researchers find and count the great apes in the hot, humid jungles of Borneo (Smithsonian Magazine).

The size of an orangutan population is usually estimated from the ground by counting sleeping nests they build in the trees, but it’s a costly and time-consuming technique over large survey areas.

Drones cover acres of difficult ground quickly and monitor endangered wildlife from above with relative speed and little disturbance to the animals. Adding sophisticated thermal-imaging cameras means the apes can be located and counted using their heat signatures, particularly early in the morning and at night when temperatures are coolest in the animals’ natural environment (The Engineer). 

Orangutans are not the only species captured on camera. In previous tests, researchers used a drone to track Mexican spider monkeys and rabbits in South Africa. Next, they have their space-age lenses trained on endangered lemurs in Madagascar.