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 MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Trump denies 'tantrum' in meeting with Pelosi: 'It is all such a lie!' 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 BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign Justin Amash confirms collusion witch hunt was all about politics MORE’s defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 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 - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Pelosi faces tipping point on Trump impeachment Trump urges Dem leaders to pass new NAFTA before infrastructure deal MORE (D-Md.) told CNN’s Dana BashDana BashCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC CNN announces four more town halls featuring 2020 Dems Beto O'Rourke to appear in CNN 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 SessionsJeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general House Democrats leave empty chair for McGahn at hearing MSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump MORE to control the inquiry after he recused himself; and asked James ComeyJames Brien ComeyAttorney General Barr puts former intel bosses on notice Christopher Steele's nugget of fool's gold was easily disproven — but FBI didn't blink an eye Clash with Trump marks latest break with GOP leaders for Justin Amash 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 SekulowCohen says Trump attorney told him to say Trump Tower talks ended earlier than they did Cohen told lawmakers that Trump lawyer Sekulow instructed him to lie about Moscow tower project: report House Intel to probe whether lawyers for Trump family interfered in investigation 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 ConwayConway clashes with Pelosi after Trump infrastructure blowup 'Cover-up' talk enrages Trump, who threatens to end work with Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump blows up meeting after Pelosi 'cover up' remarks 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 SwalwellCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Biden retains large lead over Sanders, other 2020 Dems in new Hill-HarrisX poll Hickenlooper: Gun owners should be licensed, pass safety test 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 makes endorsement for Queens district attorney Lawmakers call for 'time out' on facial recognition tech Markey releases infrastructure suggestions that align with Green New Deal goals MORE (D-N.Y.) announced support for an impeachment resolution introduced by Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibTlaib urges Mnuchin to seek personal legal advice Pelosi faces tipping point on Trump impeachment WHIP LIST: Democrats who support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump 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 SchumerNo agreement on budget caps in sight ahead of Memorial Day recess Ex-White House photographer roasts Trump: 'This is what a cover up looked like' under Obama Pelosi: Trump 'is engaged in a cover-up' 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 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.) 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. LewandowskiMichael Caputo eyes congressional bid Clinton lawyer: Mueller's failure to draw conclusion on obstruction a 'massive dereliction' of duty Mueller's facts vs Trump's spin MORE — could be called as witnesses.

Senate Republicans, however, have been less forceful since the report’s release. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThreat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats Congress, White House near deal on spending, debt limit 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 - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Chances for disaster aid deal slip amid immigration fight 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights 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 BluntHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Top Republican says Senate unlikely to vote on any election security bills San Francisco becomes first city to ban facial recognition technology 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 MeadowsHillicon Valley: Lawmakers seek 'time out' on facial recognition tech | DHS asks cybersecurity staff to volunteer for border help | Judge rules Qualcomm broke antitrust law | Bill calls for 5G national security strategy Lawmakers call for 'time out' on facial recognition tech DeVos family of Michigan ends support for Amash 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 RosensteinJake Tapper fact-checks poster Trump admin created describing Mueller investigation Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller 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 SandersLive coverage: House panel moves forward with Barr contempt vote Mueller's facts vs Trump's spin Trump says he was called 'the greatest hostage negotiator this country has ever had' 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 ShanahanFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report Pentagon approves DHS request to build tents to house 7,500 migrants at southern border Overnight Defense: Iran worries dominate foreign policy talk | Pentagon reportedly to send WH plans for 10K troops in Mideast | Democrats warn Trump may push through Saudi arms sale | Lawmakers blast new Pentagon policy on sharing info 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 BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues 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 WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues 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 ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE of South Bend, Ind., plans aggressive fundraising push in California.

Elsewhere on the political scene … Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests 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 OmarCarson invokes abortion in Twitter response to jab from Omar WHIP LIST: Democrats who support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump Muslim lawmakers host Ramadan iftar to break fast at Capitol 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 TrumpTrump to meet with Irish prime minister during upcoming Europe trip Cannes movie poster shows decapitated Trump in MAGA hat Security concerns hinder Trump visit to sumo tournament on Japan trip MORE are in Palm Beach, Fla., for the Easter weekend. Accompanying Trump will be acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOn The Money: Judge rules banks can give Trump records to House | Mnuchin pegs debt ceiling deadline as 'late summer' | Democrats see momentum in Trump tax return fight | House rebukes Trump changes to consumer agency House rebukes Mulvaney's efforts to rein in consumer bureau The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push 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 MacronLessons from Australia: Voters put pocketbooks over climate change, again Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order to protect US networks from Chinese tech | Huawei downplays order | Trump declines to join effort against online extremism | Facebook restricts livestreaming | FCC proposes new tool against robocalls 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.