The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now?

The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now?
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Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats 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 report is a day old. Now what?

All eyes turn to Congress, where House investigative hearings are on the docket and where Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Al Green: 'We have the opportunity to punish' Trump with impeachment vote MORE (D-Calif.) will decide if an impeachment inquiry is warranted or, as she previously suggested, too politically risky for her party to pursue. 

“Congress will not be silent,” she said in a statement late Thursday, adding that House Democrats will hold a conference call on Monday to discuss next steps. 

Analysts and legal experts said Mueller crafted the 448-page report as an evidentiary record for the legislative branch.

“This is entirely a handoff to Congress,” former Solicitor General Neal Katyal said on MSNBC and again on Twitter.

In early reactions on Thursday, House Democratic lawmakers were unstinting in their criticism of Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrImmigration advocacy groups sue Trump administration over asylum restrictions Webb: Questions for Robert Mueller Groups sue Trump admin over new asylum restrictions MORE’s defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE. But they sounded less certain about where they head from here.

“Based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment,” House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal House to test Trump's veto pen on Saudi arms sales MORE (D-Md.) told CNN’s Dana BashDana BashDemocratic debates don't need spectacle of live drawings and opinion hosts CNN to conduct live draw for second Democratic debates Castro to participate in Fox News town hall MORE.

In other words, at least one member of the leadership needed no time at all before kicking a key decision about the president and his administration to the electorate — and to the candidates who want Trump’s job. 

The president let others do most of the talking for him on Thursday, but his message and Barr’s were in sync: no obstruction, no collusion. On Thursday evening, Trump was upbeat, telling well wishers who greeted him in Florida, “Game over folks, now it’s back to work.” 

Barr offered an interpretation of Trump’s intent and state of mind, although Mueller’s team said it did not reach conclusions about the president’s intentions and motives during instances they described in the report that could be construed as obstruction. 

“There is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents and fueled by illegal leaks,” Barr said during his brief presentation at the Justice Department.

The Mueller report outlined instances that could be construed as attempted obstruction in which the president looked for an ally to oversee the investigation; pressured former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump's no racist; he's an equal opportunity offender Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question MORE to control the inquiry after he recused himself; and asked James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFBI's spreadsheet puts a stake through the heart of Steele's dossier Hannity invites Ocasio-Cortez to join prime-time show for full hour The Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta under fire over Epstein plea deal MORE, the FBI director he subsequently fired, to conclude an investigation of Michael Flynn, his national security adviser at the beginning of his presidency.

One member of Trump’s personal legal team, Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowNY governor signs bill allowing Congress to obtain Trump's state tax returns Political victory for Democrats in Trump tax return lawsuit hinges on timing Trump says Mueller 'must' stick to report's findings during testimony MORE, said the Justice Department permitted the president’s lawyers to read the Mueller report on Tuesday and Wednesday — two days before Congress and the public saw the document.

The president’s White House legal advisers also reviewed the findings early this week to determine if Trump wanted to assert executive privilege, according to Barr. The president did not. 

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayKellyanne Conway says she meant 'no disrespect' with question about reporter's ethnicity Kellyanne Conway asks reporter 'what's your ethnicity' while defending Trump's 'go back' comments about minority lawmakers Conway: Progressive congresswomen represent 'dark underbelly in this country' MORE told reporters, “We’re accepting apologies today.” 

 

 

How did the presidential candidates react, many of whom are lawyers and currently serving in Congress? Answer: cautiously.

While campaigning in Iowa on Thursday, presidential candidate Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) heard not a single question about the Mueller report while talking with a group of about 50 potential voters. “It’s certainly not at the top of mind of most voters around the country,” she told a reporter who brought the subject up (The Des Moines Register).

At the moment, at least, voters eyeing the sprawling Democratic field of White House aspirants are more interested, according to pollsters, in health care and the economy than Mueller’s detailed information about how Trump sought to derail an investigation that began with a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Presidential candidate Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMatt Gaetz hints prosecutor won't press charges against threatening caller for political reasons Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on Thursday called on Barr to resign. He was more circumspect about what Congress should do with the special counsel’s evidence. 

Many Democratic lawmakers said they want to wait to hear public testimony from Mueller, seek release of the redacted portions of the report and the evidence that went into the document and be briefed privately about the intelligence community’s findings, which were not made public. 

Lawmakers in both parties said they also want to concentrate on securing the 2020 election from interference traced to operatives linked to the Russian government in both 2016 and 2018.

The Associated Press: Congress mulls next steps after report.

The Hill: Five intriguing details from the Mueller report.

CNN: Mueller’s footnote explains resignation from Trump golf club membership in 2011. 

The Hill: Justice Department redactions in report leave questions unanswered.

Bloomberg: The president’s legal team gambled and won.

 

 

Perspectives and Analysis:

The New York Times editorial board: Don’t trust Barr. Verify his redactions.

The Washington Post editorial board: Barr’s redactions on the Mueller report don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Julie Pace (analysis): Mueller paints a damning portrait of the president.

Harry Litman: The most important day in the Mueller probe was deeply upsetting.

Joe diGenova: Time to go after the real conspirators.

Jonathan Turley: Mueller report proves key Trump advisers saved him from himself.

Eugene Robinson: Only Congress can hold Trump accountable now.

J.T. Young: Mueller report a tale of two parties.  

Niall Stanage: Winners and losers at the conclusion of the Mueller probe.

Yoni Appelbaum: Mueller report is an impeachment referral.

Mikhaila Fogel and Margaret Taylor: Will Congress ever see all of Mueller report’s redacted grand jury material?

Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage (analysis): Mueller’s rationale left the door open to the possibility that Trump could be charged after leaving office.

LEADING THE DAY

In Congress: The ball is now in the court of House Democrats. As Mike Lillis and Olivia Beavers write, they face a choice: Do they continue their investigation into Russia, or do they pick up where the special counsel’s probe concluded after 22 months? 

Impeachment became a major question in the hours after the report’s release. Pelosi, who is traveling overseas during the congressional recess, did not weigh in on that process on Thursday but said she will confer with her caucus next week about what she described as a “grave matter” for Congress. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezPhiladelphia mayor: Trump would 'go to hell' if he had to go back to where he came from Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout The four Republicans who voted to condemn Trump's tweets MORE (D-N.Y.) announced support for an impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Trump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers House expected to vote Wednesday on Green's impeachment effort MORE (D-Mich.) (The Hill).

The New York Times: Democrats draw closer to a dicey question: Whether to impeach Trump.

What is known, though, is that oversight committees will be busy in the coming months. Barr, who was described by some pundits as Trump’s defense attorney on Thursday, is expected to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary committees on May 1 and 2. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants MORE (D-N.Y.) said they want Mueller himself to testify before both committees “as soon as possible.”

Additionally, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) is expected to issue a subpoena seeking grand jury information and underlying evidence as part of a looming fight over access to the entire unredacted report. Others who are considered major players in the Mueller report — such as Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, and Corey LewandowskiCorey R. LewandowskiJudiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates House Judiciary to vote to authorize subpoenas for Trump officials, immigration documents Pavlich: Nadler's intimidation tactics backfire MORE — could be called as witnesses.

Senate Republicans, however, have been less forceful since the report’s release. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet Why Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets MORE (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he is “not interested” in having Mueller appear before his committee (The State). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) also kept his cards to himself Thursday, saying only that he looked forward to reviewing the report.

Others signaled an openness to having Mueller appear on Capitol Hill. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet MORE (R-Maine), who is up for re-election, said that testimony from the special counsel would give Congress and the American people another opportunity to better understand the facts and conclusions that he reached during his investigation,” while Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Top Democrat demands answers on election equipment vulnerabilities Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership, said he is “neutral” about the possibility. 

Some of the president’s top allies on Capitol Hill, however, want to turn the tables and investigate the investigators and find out from what basis the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant was issued to launch the investigation, including House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers request documents on DC councilman ethics investigation House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan's take on Trump The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran MORE (R-N.C.).

“In the coming weeks ahead, I look forward to joining my colleagues in getting to the truth on how this investigation was apparently allowed to begin without sufficient basis. Overwhelming evidence we’ve seen suggests a few rogue actors at the FBI and DOJ cut corners, broke protocol, and acted recklessly to retaliate against a duly elected President—opening an investigation based on flimsy evidence and illegitimate methods. If that happened, they will be held accountable,” he said in a statement.

As for the Department of Justice, changes are in store over the coming months as Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFeds will not charge officer who killed Eric Garner The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates MORE, who oversaw the Mueller probe until Sessions’s ouster, is expected to exit in the coming months. Jeff Rosen, the top deputy at the Department of Transportation, was nominated for Rosenstein’s post in late March and is awaiting confirmation in the Senate.

Another issue likely to crop is the Department of Justice’s plan to investigate “spying” that occured on the Trump campaign, which Barr brought up during his recent appearance on Capitol Hill.

> White House Press Secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersBiden pledges return to daily press briefings as president Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House 'with my head held high' Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away MORE Sanders faces mounting criticism on Capitol Hill, in newsrooms and from members of the White House press corps for her admission that she lied about FBI agents with an invented account during exchanges from the podium with journalists.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

And believe or not, other things happened in the world on Thursday…  

CONGRESS:  While he stayed largely quiet about the Mueller report, McConnell announced his plan to introduce legislation that would raise the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.

As Jordain Carney reported, McConnell made the announcement during a press conference in Kentucky on Thursday, saying the legislation would be similar to the current one on the books, only with the age change. The bill would cover all tobacco products, including vaping devices.

“For some time, I’ve been hearing from the parents who are seeing an unprecedented spike in vaping among their teenage children. In addition, we all know people who started smoking at a young age and who struggled to quit as adults. Unfortunately it’s reaching epidemic levels around the country," McConnell said in a statement. 

McConnell is also up for re-election in 2020 for a seventh term. 

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WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank MORE confirmed that North Korea conducted a missile test on Wednesday, but that the test was not for a ballistic missile (The Hill). 

"I’m not going to go into the detailed intelligence, but the way I’d characterize is it is not a ballistic missile,” Shanahan told reporters earlier Thursday prior to a meeting with Albania’s defense minister. 

The test did not appear to violate North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on missile and nuclear tests. 

In other administration newsAn Environmental Protection Agency official said the agency may ban asbestos near the end of the year. The agency will complete its risk assessment of asbestos within the three years set out by Congress by the end of 2019 (The Hill) ...  The Department of Homeland Security, in a new report, said that it is aiming to use facial recognition technology on 97 percent of departing air passengers within the next four years (The Hill).

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POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Sanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE (D) will announce his candidacy for president on Wednesday in a video release, The Atlantic reports this morning. The former vice president made his latest public appearance on Thursday as he readies for a likely 2020 announcement, this time in Boston to rally on behalf of nearly 31,000 Stop & Shop workers, who are protesting proposed changes to wages and benefits (NPR).

 

  

"I know you're used to hearing political speeches, and I'm a politician. I get it. But this is way beyond that, guys. This is way beyond that. This is wrong. This is morally wrong, what's going on around this country. And I have had enough of it. I'm sick of it, and so are you."

The stop was Biden’s latest before a core constituency of his — blue-collar workers — and only his latest appearance before a union crowd. Biden’s most recent public appearance came on April 5 during a speech to union workers in Washington, during which he made light of recent accusations of improper touching from multiple women over the past decade. He did not offer an apology.

> Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Democrats fret over Trump cash machine MORE (D-Mass.) is making a big bet with a big price tag as she hopes that her organizing efforts in early primary and caucus states will pay dividends when voting starts next year.

As Max Greenwood reports, Warren’s campaign spent nearly $1.9 million in the first three months of 2019 to hire and retain more than 160 staffers, including many in crucial early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, according to campaign finance records. Salaries alone cost the campaign roughly $1.2 million. Taken together, the salaries, along with insurance and payroll taxes, accounted for roughly one third of Warren’s total spending for the quarter, according to the senator’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, as she burnt through much of the $6 million she raised during that time. 

Politico: Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet MORE of South Bend, Ind., plans aggressive fundraising push in California.

Elsewhere on the political scene … Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur Moulton2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist Biden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care plan 2020 Democrats push tax hike on wealthy investors MORE (D-Mass.) has hired staff and taped an announcement video as he is expected to enter the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination next week (Politico) … Julián Castro needs a defining moment. It hasn't come yet. (The New York Times) … former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), other Democrats see the downside of releasing tax returns: Questions about their charitable giving (The Washington Post).



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

What must the leaders of Russia, China and North Korea be thinking? by Jane Harman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2IHYIHS

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBen Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist Trump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers House expected to vote Wednesday on Green's impeachment effort MORE, harbinger of Democratic decline? by Bret Stephens, New York Times columnist. https://nyti.ms/2Dk8HzD

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 TrumpCruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book Designer defends Melania Trump statue: 'People may laugh but the context still resonates' Melania Trump heading to West Virginia to discuss opioid epidemic MORE are in Palm Beach, Fla., for the Easter weekend. Accompanying Trump will be acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke Acosta out as Trump Labor secretary Pelosi reportedly told Trump deputy: 'What was your name, dear?' MORE and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Today, neither Trump nor Vice President Pence noted official events on their respective public schedules.

ELSEWHERE

Notre Dame investigation: Paris police investigators said early indicators suggest the cathedral fire was accidental, beginning with an electrical short-circuit (The Associated Press). 

Census data: Reid Wilson reports on the fastest-growing areas of the country. Southern and Western counties are booming. Rural America is showing signs of a comeback, according to new census data. For the first time in six years, rural America added population in 2018 (The Hill).

Tech: Samsung’s new $1,980 phone, the Galaxy Fold, began breaking in the first few days of pre-release to reviewers. It’s not the first disastrous rollout by Samsung of a new device (The Associated Press).

THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to winners of the Morning Report quiz, who knew or guessed correctly when asked about Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

Quiz masters who nailed details from this week’s news coverage from France: Kathleen Hatcher, Mary Brule, Ki L. Harvey, Manley Glaubitz, Fran Tankersley, Bruce C. Keener, Bob Hirsch, Linda Tillery, William Bakke, Ray Fleming, Dara Erinashley, William Chittam, Timothy Ramsey, Beth Blazek, Neysa M. Slater-Chandler, Timothy B. Aiken, Dan Hebert, Jess Gravitt, Lorraine Lindberg, Caroline Fisher, Kenneth Fridsma, Eileen Lavine, J. Stewart Baker, Kenneth Sparks, Ron Wolfarth, Ramona Palmatier, Kelvey Vander Hart, Sophie Rivera, Michael Kenny, “Land2scape,” Randall S. Patrick, Kane Martin, Noel St. Pre, William Riley, Greg Stetson, David Straney, Rich Gruber, Milt Mungo, Aaron Gebard and Matthew Moore.

They knew that Notre Dame Cathedral is celebrated as a beautiful example of gothic architecture.

Paris firefighters and the fire brigade chaplain acted quickly on Monday to save priceless art and relics from the burning cathedral, including the crown of thorns, which is said to date to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronNew photo of Trump with Kim Jong Un hung in the White House Protests storm Champs Elysees after Bastille Day parade Democrats' policies hurt those they claim to help MORE vowed to see France restore the devastated Catholic cathedral within five years, considered by many to be an ambitious timetable. 

Parisians and architects have begun debating whether the cathedral’s 295-foot spire should be replicated, and if so, in what form after it collapsed in flames.

Victor Hugo’s popular novel, “Notre-Dame de Paris,” which was published in English as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” helped launch a major restoration of the cathedral in 1841.