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

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 TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' 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 BarrClash with Trump marks latest break with GOP leaders for Justin Amash Schiff: Impeachment proceedings could be 'tool' to get information, evidence Trump fires back at 'loser' GOP lawmaker who said he'd engaged in 'impeachable conduct' MORE is set to release special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe 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 RosensteinKlobuchar: 'Don't think' there are reasons to investigate Mueller probe's origins Democrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Barr dismisses contempt vote as part of 'political circus' 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 NadlerDemocrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Trump asks if Nadler will look into Clinton's 'deleted and acid washed' emails Trump tweets conservative commentator's criticism of FBI director 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 StoneDemocrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Feds claim 'continued need' for Stone associate's grand jury testimony A reality-based game for Trump watchers: 'Name that Fallacy' MORE.

However, most members will not have that ability and will get the redacted version. Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonBarr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems Trump Jr. subpoena spotlights GOP split over Russia probes 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 MooreRoy Moore wants judge who ruled against him removed from case The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers split over Mueller findings: 'case closed' vs. 'cover-up' Roy Moore 'seriously considering' another Senate bid 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 McConnellBolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 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 Robinette BidenButtigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' Buttigieg: The future 'is personal' for me Donald Trump, president for life? We need term limits now 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 GarlandWarren calls for Congress to pass federal laws protecting Roe v. Wade Harris 'open' to adding seats to Supreme Court Gillibrand sets litmus test: I will only nominate judges who back Roe v. Wade MORE’s nomination to the Supreme Court, his shepherding of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughClash with Trump marks latest break with GOP leaders for Justin Amash ACLU, Women's March to hold nationwide protests over abortion bans Warren calls for Congress to pass federal laws protecting Roe v. Wade 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 Un 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 Putin 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 PompeoTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Dems ask former CIA chief John Brennan for Iran briefing: report 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 PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryHouse Dems propose billions in extra funding for environmental programs that Trump sought to cut Overnight Energy: States fight Trump rollback of Obama lightbulb rules | Greens seek hearing over proposed rule on energy efficiency tests | Top Dem asks GAO to investigate climate threat States fight Trump rollback of Obama lightbulb rules MORE is planning to leave his Cabinet position, but not imminently (Bloomberg). 

Trump calls the pope: The president spoke with Pope Francis 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 KushnerWhite House encouraging investment in Middle East as part of peace plan Bank staff highlighted 'suspicious activity' in Trump-, Kushner-controlled accounts: report Trump: 'Good chance' Dems give immigration 'win' after Pelosi called White House plan 'dead on arrival' 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 Netanyahu won a fifth term.

Federal Reserve: Herman Cain, 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 MnuchinWhite House encouraging investment in Middle East as part of peace plan Trump, China and trade: Who blinks first? On The Money: Treasury rejects Dem subpoena for Trump tax returns | Companies warn trade war about to hit consumers | Congress, White House to launch budget talks next week | Trump gets deal to lift steel tariffs on Mexico, Canada 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 TrumpAlec Baldwin leads Trump Oval Office sing-along on 'Saturday Night Live' The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration The Hill's 12:30 Report: Alabama abortion bill revives national debate 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 SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act 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 to headline Essence Festival Obama shares tribute to Michelle to celebrate Mother's Day 111-year-old woman gets free tickets to see Michelle Obama book tour MORE, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Dems walk Trump trade tightrope Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution MORE, McConnell, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezThe unintended consequences of interest rate caps The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump threatens jail time over 'treason' and 'spying' Lewandowski: Why Joe Biden won't make it to the White House — again 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 Macron 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.