The Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today

The Hill's Morning Report — Category 5 Mueller storm to hit today
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! 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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The trajectory of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE’s presidency, a divided Congress and the 2020 election will be jolted by what happens in the next few hours. 

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters The failure of the other police officers to stop George Floyd's killing may be the biggest challenge 18 state attorneys general request authority to investigate local police MORE is set to release special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s report in what is shaping up to be one of the most highly anticipated investigative releases to hit Washington in quite some time.

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A redacted report is expected to be released at some point after Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over GOP chairmen stake out turf in Obama-era probes McCabe, Rosenstein spar over Russia probe MORE hold a 9:30 a.m. press conference at the Department of Justice. Reactions from the White House, the president’s lawyers, lawmakers, 2020 candidates and more are already a torrent before Americans get to read a single word. 

As Olivia Beavers writes, the findings could turn the Beltway into a political firestorm. The White House has a 35-page response to the report ready to go, while lawmakers wait anxiously for the report itself. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on police brutality next week House Judiciary to hear whistleblowers on 'politicization' of Justice Dept under Trump House Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality MORE (D-N.Y.) objected on Wednesday evening to the procedures the Justice Department decided on.

While questions surrounding the report have been numerous, those that come after the report’s release will multiply. What will be the next move of House Democrats and the relevant committees? What, if anything, will change for the president’s situation? How will it affect his reelection chances and the bids of 2020 Democrats? And on and on they will likely go.

The fact that Barr’s presentation takes place before journalists or lawmakers have a chance to read it this morning sparked a frenzy of objections on Wednesday and invited outrage from Nadler and other Democrats, who called for the news event to be canceled and held a press event of their own Wednesday night.

Bottom line: Barr and Rosenstein will walk into a testy press gathering this morning. And Mueller will not attend the press conference as questions surround why the White House was reportedly briefed on the report while Congress and the public won’t see it until after Barr and Rosenstein speak.

The release will come less than a month after Barr wrote a four-page memo describing findings drawn from the report. He said Mueller found no conspiracy between the president, his representatives and Russia to influence the 2016 election. And Barr said there was not sufficient evidence for a criminal charge of obstruction of justice, although Mueller and his team presented evidence on both sides of the question while saying the evidence did not “exonerate” Trump. 

Reporters are expected to sprint toward any text detailing Mueller’s findings on obstruction. The White House is expected to repeat Trump’s narrative that he’s been cleared: “no obstruction, no collusion.” 

A major question in some circles, particularly the White House, is what Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, told Mueller during the course of 30 hours of interviews. Trump’s lawyers were unaware months ago of what McGahn told Mueller and did not have a full accounting of what he said during those meetings, something they never asked for.

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For those hoping to read the edited report, copies are expected to be posted on the special counsel’s website.

The New York Times: A guide to the report.

The Washington Post: Report expected to be a lightly redacted version of Mueller’s findings.

The Washington Post: Three ways the Mueller report still threatens Trump.

The Hill’s Jacqueline Thomsen reports that the Justice Department is planning to let some lawmakers view the Mueller report “without certain redactions,” a revelation that came out in a court filing Wednesday as part of the criminal case involving longtime GOP operative Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneTrump retweets message calling for Roger Stone pardon: 'He can sleep well at night!' Democrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies Roger Stone to surrender to prison by June 30 MORE.

However, most members will not have that ability and will get the redacted version. Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGraham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over GOP votes to give chairman authority to subpoena Obama officials Democratic senator to skip vote on Obama-era subpoenas MORE (R-Wis.) said in an interview with the Morning Report that he expects today’s document to be a tough read because of the blacked-out text.

“I would say a frustrating read. I’ve read documents that are redacted. They’re really hard to follow the flow. You don’t know what’s missing, so it will be an incomplete accounting,” Johnson said Wednesday when asked of his expectations. “I’m particularly interested to see whether Mueller at all investigated or even questioned the FBI, the intelligence community, the Department of Justice in terms of their predicate, whether this was reasonable, whether anybody needs to be held accountable there. That might just be part of the redaction if that’s part of the ongoing investigation. I think it will be frustrating for people.”

Paul Kane: Members of Congress intent on sticking to script, no matter what Mueller report says. 

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) took his roadshow to Virginia on Wednesday and became the first 2020 Democrat to campaign in the critical Super Tuesday state. He made eight stops in two days through a state that has become reliable for Democrats, but has experienced some tumult in recent months after three top officials began fighting off controversies from their respective pasts.

As Jonathan Easley reported as he traveled with the candidate, Democrats are hoping to build on their 2018 gains in House races across the country by flipping the state House and Senate in Virginia this year, among top races on the 2019 fall calendar.

“As important as 2020 is, 2019 sets the ground for whoever the nominee will be,” O’Rourke told a group of about 350 supporters at a local coffee shop on Wednesday morning in Fredericksburg. He urged voters to back the eventual Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees to ““do everything we can to make sure they defeat Donald Trump.”

CNN: O'Rourke defends paltry charitable contributions by saying he donates his time instead.

 

 

 

The New York Times: Terry McAuliffe will not run for president.

> In the early stages, Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreSessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Sessions fires back at Trump over recusal: 'I did my duty & you're damn fortunate I did" MORE is leading the Alabama GOP primary as he preps for a likely second Senate bid and as GOP leaders make it their mission to knock him out and not allow a second race in Alabama to slip through their fingers.  

As Alexander Bolton reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump juggles three crises ahead of November election Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues in battle to save seats MORE (R-Ky.) will make it his mission to blow Moore out of the water and give Republicans a better chance of knocking off Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is considered the most vulnerable Senate Democrat on the map, especially with Trump atop the 2020 ticket for Republicans.

> RealClearPolitics: DNC mulls higher bar to qualify for primary debates: 

“The Democratic National Committee may have an overcrowding problem on its hands, and is considering ways to address it. After relaxing its rules, the party must now accommodate a sprawling field of presidential candidates who have qualified for the first two primary debates this summer. Based on the current formula, 15 hopefuls have already earned a spot on stage for the first nationally televised debate, which will be spread over two nights, June 26-27. 

“But following the second debate on July 30-31, some of those same candidates might not make subsequent cuts. Sources with direct knowledge told RealClearPolitics that the DNC is considering a rule change.

“ ‘This sort of low entry point into the debates is not going to last forever,’ one party official said before mentioning possible higher standards in terms of fundraising and polling that would create ‘a natural winnowing before we get to Iowa.’  ‘That is the conversation we are having right now. And it is incumbent on the party not to put our thumb on the scale — everyone is very cognizant of what happened in 2016 — but also not to let this thing drag out.’ ” 

The New York Times: 2020 Democrats seek voters in an unusual spot: Fox News.

In other political news … Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination The Memo: Job numbers boost Trump and challenge Biden Chris Wallace: Jobs numbers show 'the political resilience of Donald Trump' MORE is expected to rally on behalf of 31,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union on Thursday who are protesting proposed cuts by Stop & Shop to health care and take-home pay (ABC News) ... McConnell officially launched his reelection bid with a three-minute video focused on his denial of Judge Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDon't mess with the Supreme Court Graham on potential Supreme Court vacancy: 'This would be a different circumstance' than Merrick Garland Prosecutor who resigned over Stone sentencing memo joins DC attorney general's office MORE’s nomination to the Supreme Court, his shepherding of Justices Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchChief Justice Roberts wisely defers to California governor in church challenge  It wasn't just religious liberty that Chief Justice Roberts strangled Supreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions MORE and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughWhy the Senate must vote against Justin Walker's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court Senate panel sends Trump appeals court pick to floor in party-line vote Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony MORE to the high court and praise on the stump from Trump (Louisville Courier-Journal).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: North Korea is turning up the heat. It test-fired a new tactical guided weapon on Wednesday, according to state media, creating an act of provocation. Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnNorth Korea lashes out, says US will be overshadowed by China Kim Jong Un seeks to continue bolstering North Korea's nuclear capabilities, state media says Overnight Defense: State Dept. watchdog was investigating emergency Saudi arms sales before ouster | Pompeo says he requested watchdog be fired for 'undermining' department | Pensacola naval base shooter had 'significant ties' to al Qaeda, Barr says MORE reportedly watched what he called “an event of very weighty significance.” But it wasn’t immediately clear what type of weapon was tested, although the test did not appear to involve banned medium- to long-range ballistic missiles (The Associated Press).The U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, was in Moscow on Wednesday as Kim prepares to meet with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill's Morning Report - DC preps for massive Saturday protest; Murkowski breaks with Trump Russia declares emergency after 20,000 tons of diesel leak near Arctic Circle How Russia benefits from America's crisis MORE during an upcoming North Korea-Russia summit (CNN). The meeting between the two leaders was confirmed by the Kremlin (Kyiv Post). … Trump recently said he’s open to a third summit with Kim about denuclearization. But today, North Korea demanded that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoMurkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump Pepper spray fired during Tiananmen Square memorial in Hong Kong The Hill's 12:30 Report: NYT publishes controversial Tom Cotton op-ed MORE be jettisoned from any future talks, adding a new level of friction to the Kim-Trump relationship following their unsuccessful meeting in Vietnam (The Associated Press).

Cuba: The Trump administration on Wednesday ordered new restrictions on travel to Cuba, seeking to unwind some of former President Obama’s negotiated openings between Americans and the Cuban people (The Washington Post). The crackdown is intended to reduce a key source of U.S. currency on the communist island nation (Business Insider). … The change also builds on the administration’s support for lawsuits filed by American interests against foreign companies that seized property in Cuba after the 1959 revolution (The Hill).

Justice Department: The Department of Homeland Security and the other parts of the federal government have 90 days to make plans after the attorney general disclosed a new policy that will deny some migrants the chance to post bail, which will have the effect of requiring prolonged detention of thousands of asylum seekers under federal supervision for indefinite durations. The policy is intended to thwart the “catch and release” enforcement practices that Trump objects to, and to communicate to Central American families and other immigrants that they should rethink attempts to flee into the United States. The New York Times described asylum and how the law determines who is eligible.

Some Senate Republicans are clamoring to pass immigration changes, including Sen. Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Johnson recently spent two days at the border near El Paso, Texas, and said he’s ready to introduce a bill called the FAMILIES Act, which he said would “reduce illegal immigration incentives” and toughen the system for asylum seekers. 

Additionally, Johnson reacted to the president’s proposed plan to release migrants into sanctuary cities, which has received a raft of opposition from Democratic lawmakers and 2020 candidates. He lauded Trump’s aims as “a political point,” but as policy, he conceded it’s a proposal that would be tough for the federal government to administer.

“I think it’s a very smart political point to make to show the hypocrisy of the left. They’re all for open borders. They’re all for sanctuary cities until they all of a sudden face reality. ‘You mean we may have to take these people?’” Johnson said mocking Democrats. “Then all of the sudden they want nothing to do with this.

Johnson, however, believes that it would not work “operationally.”

Energy Department: Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Ernest Moniz Trump issues executive order to protect power grid from attack Why we need to transition, quickly, from fossil fuels to clean energy MORE is planning to leave his Cabinet position, but not imminently (Bloomberg). 

Trump calls the pope: The president spoke with Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope thanked Texas priest who took a knee at protest to pray for George Floyd Pope condemns racism, says street violence is 'self-defeating' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US MORE on Wednesday by phone to offer his sorrow about the fire damage to Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday (The Hill). The president previously offered U.S. support and assistance to the people of France in the wake of the extensive destruction. The White House said Trump also talked to the pope about economic and political unrest in Venezuela. 

 

 

 

 

 

Middle East peace plan: White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump poses for controversial photo op at DC church amid protests Tucker Carlson tees off on Trump, Kushner: 'People will not forgive weakness' Trump's strategy to stay in office MORE said the president’s proposed Middle East peace plan won’t be unveiled until June (The Hill). Trump and his advisers had waited to see the outcome of the Israeli elections, and said they are pleased Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE won a fifth term.

Federal Reserve: Herman CainHerman CainOn The Money: Trump adviser presses House to make Bezos testify | Kudlow says tax-cut proposal coming this fall | NY Fed says Boeing woes could hurt GDP | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Republicans expect Trump to withdraw controversial Fed nominee MORE, Trump’s controversial pick for one of two vacancies on the central bank board, told The Wall Street Journal he is “very committed” to the position and will not withdraw his name from Senate consideration, despite four GOP senators who publicly said they will reject Cain’s nomination. Trump last week told reporters that “it’s up to Herman” to decide if he should withdraw. 

Treasury Department: The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s central bank and its director in another set of actions to pressure Nicolás Maduro to step down (Reuters). … Fox News personality Monica Crowley is reported to be Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner Mnuchin The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Association of American Railroads Ian Jefferies says no place for hate, racism or bigotry in rail industry or society; Trump declares victory in response to promising jobs report Trump signs bill giving businesses more time to spend coronavirus loans The Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO's Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million MORE’s pick to be his top communications aide (The New York Times). Crowley is no stranger to controversy after she denied evidence that she plagiarized material for her doctoral dissertation and a book, calling the dust-up a “political hit job.” Coverage and details about those incidents reportedly blocked her path to prospective high-level West Wing appointments in 2017.

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

Why William Barr should resign, by former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Gt9sbO

Presidential candidates need multiple media, not Brady Bunch approach, by Joe Ferullo, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2XnuwG9

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 and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump was rushed to White House bunker due to breach of temporary barricades: report The Memo: Nation nears a breaking point Washington archbishop criticizes Trump visit to Catholic shrine MORE host the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride at the White House this morning. Trump later meets with Pompeo. The president and the first lady depart the White House at 4 p.m. to spend the Easter weekend in Palm Beach, Fla. 

Barr and Rosenstein hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. at the Justice Department to discuss the redacted version of the Mueller report, which will not be released publicly until midday. Lawmakers were advised not to expect receipt of copies transmitted by disc until after 11 a.m.  

The Washington Post hosts Reporters Without Borders for the release and discussion of the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates levels of freedom afforded to news outlets and journalists in 180 countries. A discussion moderated by Dana Priest and Mary Jordan of the Post will feature ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl and ambassadors to the United States Fitsum Arega of Ethiopia and Karin Olofsdotter of Sweden. Also joining the journalists will be Sabine Dolan, the interim executive director of Reporters Without Borders. The event begins at 9 a.m. and will be live streamed. Information HERE.

ELSEWHERE

Columbine, Colo.: Nearly twenty years after a mass shooting tragedy, survivors are helping others heal (Reuters).

U.S. Capitol: Who says things are set in stone under the dome? Times change and apparently so does the marble, reports Roll Call. Arkansas is sending new faces to Statuary Hall in the form of civil rights icon Daisy Lee Gatson Bates and musician Johnny Cash. Ushered out to make way for the newcomers: 19th-century attorney Uriah Milton Rose and statesman James Paul Clarke.

In the Know: Judy Kurtz pulls back the curtain to reveal a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary GOP lawmaker calls on Senate to confirm Michael Pack as head of US media agency McConnell blocks resolution condemning Trump over treatment of protesters MORE (D-N.Y.) who inspired a documentary about life as a high school coach. Chris Scribner left Washington to coach a wrestling team in Alabama with Teach for America (The Hill). … Time’s 2019 issue profiling 100 influential people features Trump, former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama celebrates seniors, tells them to 'breathe deep and dance your heart out' at virtual prom The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead Michelle Obama working with 31 mayors on increasing voter participation MORE, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNRCC turns up heat on vulnerable Democrats over Omar's call to abolish police Shocking job numbers raise hopes for quicker recovery Engel primary challenger hits million in donations MORE, McConnell, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNRCC turns up heat on vulnerable Democrats over Omar's call to abolish police Overnight Energy: US Park Police say 'tear gas' statements were 'mistake' | Trump to reopen area off New England coast for fishing | Vulnerable Republicans embrace green issues Engel primary challenger hits million in donations MORE (D-N.Y.), Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Kavanaugh, Barr and of course Mueller, among many others.

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Notre Dame, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history, fire and restoration plans described this week in coverage about Paris’s revered cathedral.

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday. 

The Notre Dame Cathedral is celebrated as a beautiful example of what architectural style?

 

  1.   Bauhaus
  2.   Romanesque
  3.   Gothic
  4.   Neoclassical

 

On Monday, Paris firefighters and the fire brigade chaplain acted quickly to save priceless art and relics from the burning cathedral, including which item said to date to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?

 

  1.   Crown of thorns
  2.   Shroud
  3.   Lock of hair
  4.   Bible

 

French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronPresidents and 'presidents' Trump postpones G-7, plans to invite Russia, other nations German chancellor says she 'cannot confirm' she'll attend possible G7 summit MORE proposed what ambitious timetable for the restoration of the severely damaged Catholic cathedral?

 

  1.   Decade
  2.   Eight years
  3.   Five years
  4.   Two years

 

Parisians and architects began debating on Wednesday whether a particular feature of the damaged cathedral should be replicated. Which feature?

 

  1.   The altar
  2.   Gargoyles
  3.   Bells
  4.   The 295-foot tall spire

 

Which renowned novel helped launch one major restoration of the cathedral?

 

  1.   Voltaire’s “Candide”
  2.   Victor Hugo’s “Notre-Dame de Paris,” published in English as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”  
  3.   Ernest Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
  4.   Alexandre Dumas’s “Le Comte de Monte-Cristo,” published in English as “The Count of Monte Cristo”

 

Watch The New York Times architectural video: Why Notre Dame was a tinderbox.