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 MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation 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 PelosiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul 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 BarrGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote MORE’s defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report 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 HoyerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul Dem leader says party can include abortion opponents Hoyer calls on GOP leader to denounce 'despicable' ad attacking Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D-Md.) told CNN’s Dana BashDana BashCNN, NY Times to host next Democratic debate in October CNN's Dana Bash: NC election shows Trump, Republicans are building 'unbelievably huge' war chest to drive rural voter turnout Scott: White House and FEMA 'convinced me there's plenty of money' for Dorian response 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 SessionsPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment McCabe says he would 'absolutely not' cut a deal with prosecutors MORE to control the inquiry after he recused himself; and asked James ComeyJames Brien ComeyNadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime We've lost sight of the real scandal Former Obama officials willing to testify on McCabe's behalf: report 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 SekulowHouse Democrats planning to hold hearings regarding Trump's role in hush-money payments: report Trump, RNC sue to block California law requiring release of tax returns Voters sue California over tax return law targeting Trump 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 ConwayObama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' Journalists, political heavyweights pay respects to Cokie Roberts: 'A pioneer for so many' Iran's supreme leader rules out talks with US at all levels 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 SwalwellYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats clash over future of party in heated debate 5 takeaways from fiery Democratic debate 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-CortezOcasio-Cortez mocks 'White House ethics' in Instagram post Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi set to unveil drug price plan | Abortion rate in US hits lowest level since Roe v. Wade | Dems threaten to subpoena Juul Kennedy to challenge Markey in Senate primary MORE (D-N.Y.) announced support for an impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOmar says she hopes Netanyahu not reelected Bill Maher, Michael Moore spar over Democrats' strategy for 2020 Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight 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 SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall 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 NadlerPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime Lewandowski says he's under no obligation to speak truthfully to the media 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. LewandowskiPelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Ocasio-Cortez mocks 'White House ethics' in Instagram post Democrats bicker over strategy on impeachment MORE — could be called as witnesses.

Senate Republicans, however, have been less forceful since the report’s release. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort GOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi 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 McConnellLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet 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 CollinsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan Sinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico 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 group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? 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 MeadowsGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan GOP struggles with retirement wave Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing 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 RosensteinLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Nadler's House committee holds a faux hearing in search of a false crime House Democrats seeking Sessions's testimony in impeachment probe 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 SandersSarah Huckabee Sanders says she is 'relentlessly' attacked by women Sarah Sanders makes debut as Fox News contributor Sarah Sanders to publish book ahead of 2020 election 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 ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary 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 BidenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument Budowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat 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 WarrenBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Defense bill talks set to start amid wall fight Biden allies: Warren is taking a bite out of his electability argument 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 ButtigiegBiden lead shrinks, Sanders and Warren close gap: poll Poll: Biden leads Democratic field by 10 points in Florida CNN announces details for LGBTQ town hall MORE of South Bend, Ind., plans aggressive fundraising push in California.

Elsewhere on the political scene … Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Wall Street ends volatile month in major test for Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Hurricane headed for Florida changes Trump's travel plans 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 OmarHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Omar asks Twitter what it's doing in response to Trump spreading 'lies that put my life at risk' Trump seeks to expand electoral map with New Mexico rally 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 TrumpMelania Trump to ring stock exchange opening bell on Monday On The Money: Fed delivers second rate cut to fend off global risks | Trump says Fed has 'no guts' | House gets deal on continuing resolution | GM faces bipartisan backlash amid strike Washington Monument reopens after three years of repairs MORE are in Palm Beach, Fla., for the Easter weekend. Accompanying Trump will be acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyTrump administration asks Supreme Court to take up challenge to consumer bureau NOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same 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 MacronBudowsky: Donald, Boris, Bibi — The right in retreat Whistleblower Edward Snowden calls on Macron to grant him asylum in France Trump to meet with India's Modi in Texas, Australia's Morrison in Ohio 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.