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 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 is a day old. Now what?

All eyes turn to Congress, where House investigative hearings are on the docket and where Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiImmigrants who seek opportunity should comply with longstanding American values Trump's intel moves spark Democratic fury Buttigieg sounds alarm after Sanders wins Nevada 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 BarrPresident Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE’s defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat 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 HoyerImmigrants who seek opportunity should comply with longstanding American values The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime MORE (D-Md.) told CNN’s Dana BashDana BashLimbaugh: Trump advised me to 'never apologize' for Buttigieg remarks Sunday shows - Spotlight shines on Bloomberg, stop and frisk Klobuchar says she raised M since New Hampshire debate 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 SessionsPresident Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Trump looms as flashpoint in Alabama Senate battle MORE to control the inquiry after he recused himself; and asked James ComeyJames Brien ComeyBill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn Comey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Trump punts on Stone pardon decision after sentencing 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 SekulowWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment Roberts emerges unscathed from bitter impeachment trial 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 ConwayBrazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record Conway: Reported sexist Bloomberg remarks 'far worse' than what Trump said on 'Access Hollywood' tape Candidates make electability arguments, talk Bloomberg as focus turns to more diverse states 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 SwalwellRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill California lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Chris Wallace: 'Just insane' Swalwell is talking impeaching Trump again 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 claps back after article on her dress: 'Sequins are a great accessory to universal healthcare' Democrats working to ensure Trump's second term Ocasio-Cortez announces slate of all-female congressional endorsements MORE (D-N.Y.) announced support for an impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSanders wins endorsement of top Muslim group Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Omar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat 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 SchumerImmigrants who seek opportunity should comply with longstanding American values The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders's momentum puts Democrats on edge Schumer confirms spending K on cheesecake in 10 years: 'Guilty as charged' 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 NadlerThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Trump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify 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. LewandowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Trump campaign chief relocating to Washington: report Lewandowski decides against Senate bid MORE — could be called as witnesses.

Senate Republicans, however, have been less forceful since the report’s release. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThis week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime Congress set for clash over surveillance reforms Five things to know about emerging US, Taliban peace deal 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 12:30 Report: Sanders's momentum puts Democrats on edge House Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid This week: House to vote on legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime 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 CollinsBill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The new American center Democratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in January 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 BluntSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Booker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' 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 MeadowsHouse Freedom Caucus chairman endorses Collins's Georgia Senate bid Lawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Conservative lawmakers warn Pelosi about 'rate-setting' surprise billing fix 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 RosensteinAttorney General Barr is in a mess — and has no one to blame but himself Graham requests interviews with DOJ, FBI officials as part of probe into Russia investigation DOJ won't charge former FBI Deputy Director McCabe 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 Sanders says she 'can't think of anything dumber than' having Congress run foreign policy Rapid turnover shapes Trump's government God did not elect Trump, people did 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 ShanahanEsper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall 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 faces do-or-die primary in South Carolina Democrats view Sanders as having best shot to defeat Trump: poll Karl Rove: 'Long way to go' for Sanders to capture nomination: 'The field is splintered' 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 WarrenJack Black endorses Elizabeth Warren Democrats view Sanders as having best shot to defeat Trump: poll Poll: Biden, Sanders tied in Texas, followed by Warren 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 ButtigiegLiberal author Matt Stoller: Iowa caucus screw-up was 'Boeing 737 Max of the Democratic Party' Biden faces do-or-die primary in South Carolina Democrats view Sanders as having best shot to defeat Trump: poll MORE of South Bend, Ind., plans aggressive fundraising push in California.

Elsewhere on the political scene … Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonTrump set to confront his impeachment foes Biden lines up high-profile surrogates to campaign in Iowa The DCCC's 'blacklist' protects a white male political status quo 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 OmarSanders unveils plan for government-funded child care, pre-K Ilhan Omar accuses Meghan McCain of trafficking in 'anti-Muslim smears and hate speech' Sanders wins endorsement of top Muslim group 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 TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders's momentum puts Democrats on edge Trumps tour Taj Mahal to cap off first day in India The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday MORE are in Palm Beach, Fla., for the Easter weekend. Accompanying Trump will be acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Tucker Carlson calls out Mick Mulvaney on immigration remarks: 'Dishonest and stupid' Trump furious after officials allowed Americans with coronavirus to fly home with other passengers: report 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 MacronErdoğan to meet with Putin, Merkel and Macron to discuss Syria situation Lawyers to seek asylum for Assange in France: report Democrats: The road to kumbaya 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.