The Hill's Morning Report - Is impeachment back on the table?

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, find us at @asimendinger and @alweaver22.



***   Happy Earth Day 2019!! ***



Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' MORE’s report hasn’t even been out in the open for a week, but Democrats across the spectrum are looking for the answer to the same question: Where do we go from here?

 

At the moment, Democrats appear to be scattered all over the place when it comes to impeachment. On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders are trying to figure out the way forward as talk of impeachment proceedings gain steams with rank-and-file members. Three committee chairmen — Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDemocrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook Trump asks if Nadler will look into Clinton's 'deleted and acid washed' emails Trump tweets conservative commentator's criticism of FBI director MORE (D-N.Y.), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats Trump appeals order siding with House Democrats bank subpoenas MORE (D-Calif.) and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk Nancy Pelosi fends off impeachment wave — for now House Democrats, Trump lawyers ask appeals court to expedite subpoena case MORE (D-Md.) — made clear they are open to the possibility despite House Democratic leadership pumping the brakes (The Hill).

 

The caucus is slated to hold a conference call on Monday at 5 p.m. to discuss the path forward.

 

Meanwhile, vulnerable House Democrats are proceeding with the utmost amount of caution as they stand between the progressive wing of the party who are clamoring for impeachment proceedings and their districts, many of which sit in territory that the GOP views as ripe for the picking in 2020.

 

Reuters: Vulnerable House Democrats tread carefully in the wake of the Mueller report:

 

“Those incumbent Democrats may have to strike a delicate balance on the campaign trail next year. Too much bashing of the president could turn off voters more interested in kitchen-table issues and motivate Trump sympathizers to rally around him.

 

“Hours after Mueller’s findings were released, Abby Spanberger, a Democratic congresswoman from Virginia, held a town hall that saw virtually no discussion of the report. She knocked off a Republican incumbent last year in a district that favored Trump by more than 6 percentage points in 2016. The 39-year-old representative told reporters before the event that she was more interested in preventing Russia from attacking the electoral process than in ‘re-litigating’ the 2016 presidential contest.

 

The Hill: Cummings: William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' House Democrats must insist that Robert Mueller testifies publicly Why Mueller may be fighting a public hearing on Capitol Hill MORE acting like “defense counsel” for Trump rather than attorney general.

 

The Washington Post: Nadler says Democrats will call Don McGahn to testify.

 

Complicating matters are the myriad 2020 presidential candidates on the Democratic side, who are all getting asked about the possibility of impeaching the president and will likely receive more questions in the coming days. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE (D-Mass.) issued an opening salvo Friday, calling for the House to begin impeachment proceedings.  

 

“It’s my responsibility to speak out. … For me this is not about politics. There are some decisions that are bigger than politics.”

 

Others aren’t ready to go there yet. Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony Booker2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan MORE (D-N.J.) told voters in Nevada on Sunday that the time isn’t right for impeachment. Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC GOP faces new challenge in 2020 abortion fight 2020 Democratic presidential candidates rally in support of abortion rights MORE (D-Ohio) said that Nadler should continue to open up the investigation and “let the process play itself out,” making it clear he isn’t ready for impeachment either.

 

The question is coming for others too, as CNN is slated to hold a town hall with five 2020 Democrats on Monday night: Warren, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersJames Carville: Biden represents 'stability' not 'generational change' Ocasio-Cortez, progressives trash 'antisemitic' Politico illustration of Bernie Sanders 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSan Francisco police chief apologizes for raid on journalist's home Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk MORE (D-Calif.), and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharKlobuchar to roll out policy priorities for farmers in Iowa 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan Samantha Bee slams 2020 Democrats who go on Fox News MORE (D-Minn.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg defends Kaepernick, NFL players who kneel during national anthem Journalism is now opinion-based — not news-based Buttiegieg backs NFL players' right to protest during anthem: I 'put my life on the line to defend' that MORE (D).

 

On the other side of the aisle, it’s been crickets from Republicans, who have barely offered any criticism of the leader of the party. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyClimate change is a GOP issue, too On The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump MORE (R-Utah) said he was “sickened” to read about the actions of Trump, prompting a rebuke in the form of a presidential tweet.

 

As Alexander Bolton reports, the report’s release has put Senate Republicans who are up for re-election in 2020 in a real bind. They are all weighing the same problem: How far do they distance themselves from the president?

 

In the White House, Trump has also left the defending to his allies, namely Rudy Giuliani and Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway: Pelosi is playing Trump 'like a drum' Schumer: Trump was 'agitated' during White House infrastructure meeting Trump, Pelosi exchange insults as feud intensifies MORE, counselor to the president. Outside of a handful of tweets Sunday and a few retweets on Saturday, the president has stayed quiet, having declined to gaggle with reporters during his weekend trip to Mar-a-Lago.

 

The Washington Post: Armed with Mueller report, Democrats confront challenge of Trump’s messaging machine:

 

“For Democrats aiming to topple Trump in the 2020 election, the contrast was a stark reminder of the challenges ahead in a country where political information travels largely through polarized channels that can be shaped by a president fluent in angry denunciations of his enemies, tribal appeals to his base and frequent misdirection.”

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: As Democrats await the announcement of Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJames Carville: Biden represents 'stability' not 'generational change' Trump's misspelling of Biden's name trends on Twitter Trump says 'I have confidence' after past North Korea missile tests MORE’s campaign, they are asking the same question repeatedly: Who is in the best position to beat Trump?

 

As Amie Parnes reports, Democrats who are obsessed with finding a candidate to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE are showing a willingness to give up their preferred candidate for one they believe is the most electable and able to take down the president.

 

“It's an important trend that will leave many in the Democratic field touting their strengths in a potential general election — and could be particularly helpful to a candidate such as Biden, who is expected to put electability at the center of his campaign push when he enters the race next week.  

 

A Monmouth University poll in February found that 56 percent of those surveyed preferred electability in a candidate while 33 percent said they’d prefer a candidate who echoed their beliefs.”

 

> Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeO'Rourke: Trump 'provoking' war with Iran by sending troops to Middle East Buttiegieg backs NFL players' right to protest during anthem: I 'put my life on the line to defend' that Overnight Energy: Democrats ask if EPA chief misled on vehicle emissions | Dem senators want NBC debate focused on climate change | 2020 hopeful John Delaney unveils T climate plan MORE has a Buttigieg problem.

 

O'Rourke, who saw his star turn in 2018 when he narrowly lost to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOn The Money: Conservative blocks disaster relief bill | Trade high on agenda as Trump heads to Japan | Boeing reportedly faces SEC probe over 737 Max | Study finds CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay Conservative blocks House passage of disaster relief bill The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan MORE (R-Texas) in November, is trying to ward off Buttigieg's fast-rising presidential campaign as the latter is seeing a star turn of his own.

 

As Jonathan Easley writes, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) traveled through Virginia last week, visiting a Super Tuesday state where he sought to make inroads with black and Hispanic voters. The trip comes as attention on O'Rourke has fallen and Buttigieg has won headline after headline, changing national perceptions about his candidacy. Both candidates are white males, and younger than Sanders and Biden, septuagenarians who lead in most early polls. That means there's a natural competition between the two, one that in the last month is seemingly being won by Buttigieg.

 

NBC News: Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonRepublicans attempt to amend retirement savings bill to include anti-BDS language CNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Pelosi employs committee chairs to tamp down calls for Trump impeachment MORE (D-Mass.) officially announced his bid for the presidency.

 

The Associated Press: Buttigieg scrambles to turn 2020 buzz into momentum.

 

The Washington Post: For Sanders, 2016 gets in the way of 2020.

 

Politico: “The Democratic base is angry as hell”: Cory Booker’s message of love falls flat.

 

The Associated Press: Harris’s campaign focuses on black colleges for support.

 

Perspectives & Analysis:

Dan Balz: Buttigieg has been the surprise of the Democratic field. Where does he go next?

Paul Kane: Freshman Democrats keep the “green wave” rolling for reelection bids next year.

Matthew Continetti: Bernie vs. The Democrats: This time, the Democrats might not win.

The Atlantic: The last Kennedy.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump aides over the weekend argued that the president received “a clean bill of health” from Mueller’s report on Thursday. Trump is eager to turn the page and resume the nation’s work, officials told reporters.

 

The truth — according to numerous accounts citing senior administration sources — is that Trump and his allies remain unsettled by the special counsel’s evidence, which is now complicated by a tangle of ongoing investigations in Congress, in the states and within the Justice Department.

 

A White House communications plan has been crafted to move forward with other issues while muddying the details and evidence described by the special counsel, particularly about instances of obstructive behavior during at least two phases of the Russia investigation. Trump’s instinct, however, is to look backward and berate those he believes were disloyal, politically biased or out to benefit themselves.

 

Trump on Sunday continued to attack Mueller, using Twitter to assail reams of withering evidence gathered during a 22-month probe. He called the 448-page report a "hit job" that was written by “Trump Haters and Angry Democrats” (The Hill).

 

Just a month ago, however, the president said Mueller had acted honorably during the Russia investigation.

 

On Friday and again on Sunday, Trump lawyer Giuliani, attacked the credibility of McGahn, arguing his account of events given to Mueller and his team during more than 30 hours of testimony was inaccurate (The New York Times).

 

The officials and Trump allies identified by Mueller as having refused to carry out the president’s orders, instructions and work-arounds to try to end or control the Russia investigation no longer work for Trump. They were all fired or purged in the last two years. Those who left and those who remain in Trump’s inner circle and cooperated with the special counsel now fear — or feel — the sting of the president’s wrath (The New York Times).

 

McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, told the Times that his client’s account of potential obstruction described in the report was truthful. “It’s a mystery why Rudy Giuliani feels the need to relitigate incidents the attorney general and deputy attorney general have concluded were not obstruction,” he said in a statement.

 

Giuliani, eager to spark distracting headlines, appeared on multiple Sunday shows and did just that. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the former New York mayor argued that campaigns can legally use opposition research that was stolen by Russians or other criminal entities and that if campaigns do not participate in the theft and the stolen information is true, there’s “nothing wrong” with its use as political weaponry (The Hill).

 

This is not the prevailing public stance within either party, and Giuliani’s remarks waved a red cape in front of lawmakers, implicitly daring them to try to draft legislation to bar any such future practices.

 

"There's no crime," Giuliani said on CNN. "We're going to get into morality? That isn't what prosecutors look at — morality."

 

 

 

 

Other investigations:

> Mueller spinoffs: Federal prosecutors in Manhattan continue to investigate Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenTrump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Cohen challenges Sekulow to testify about Trump Tower meetings MORE’s admitted violations, while prosecutors in Washington prepare for a November trial for Trump friend Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDOJ plans to show Senate Intel less-redacted Mueller report, filing shows Roger Stone considers suing to discover if he was spied on by FBI Stone claims unfair prosecution by Mueller MORE (The Hill).

 

The report released on Thursday revealed that Mueller’s team of prosecutors found enough evidence of potential crimes to make 14 different criminal referrals to other federal prosecutors. So far, only two of those have officially been made public,” The New York Times reported last week.

 

On Sunday, Mueller responded “no comment” when asked several questions by an MSNBC reporter as he left Easter church services with his wife.

 

> Barr says he’s weighing a potential investigation into what he has called “spying” on Trump’s 2016 campaign, while Democrats in Congress have called for Barr, who has been at the helm of the Justice Department for two months, to resign (The Hill).

 

> Trump’s finances continue to be a topic of scrutiny within House oversight committees and in New York State (The Hill).

 

> Trump’s tax returns, which the president has for years refused to reveal (and which House Democrats are pursuing with gusto), will run up against a second deadline this week set by the House Ways and Means Committee. The White House is not expected to relent by Tuesday at 5 p.m. (The Hill).

 

> White House security clearances: The House Oversight and Reform Committee continues to investigate the West Wing’s process of granting security clearances to Trump advisers, including the president’s son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerNational commission needed to monitor and combat anti-Semitism Trump pushing for GOP donor's company to get border wall contract: report Trump family members will join state visit to UK MORE. The White House and the committee are at an impasse over the West Wing’s request to have a lawyer present while Carl Kline, the former head of the White House Presidential Personnel Office who overturned a subordinate’s vetoes of security clearances for multiple White House officials, testifies. Kline was subpoenaed to appear (The Daily Beast).

 

And in the small print related to the Mueller probe … Asset forfeitures to the government by former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Ex-GOP lawmaker says Trump 'illegitimate president,' should be impeached Government moves to seize Manafort's condo in Trump Tower MORE closely track the costs to taxpayers of the entire Mueller probe, which uncovered Manafort’s financial crimes and sent him to prison (USA Today and Money).



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

Pete Buttigieg is already making history, by Juan Williams, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2PnFnwR

 

Your taxpayer dollars are footing the spiraling costs of illegal immigration, by Kristin Tate, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Uu70pg



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 TrumpEarthquake shakes parts of Tokyo before Trump arrival Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit Trump to meet with Prince Harry during UK visit MORE host the annual   Easter Egg Roll at the White House.

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoVenezuelan government, opposition to meet in Norway for talks O'Rourke: Trump 'provoking' war with Iran by sending troops to Middle East Trump aide: North Korean missile tests violated UN resolutions MORE will address the media at 8:45 a.m. in the State Department briefing room.

 

Earth Day inspires environmental advocacy programs around the world. One to watch today is the “No-Fly Climate Conference” organized as a “social network for climate action” based in Stockholm. Information about the event is HERE. Earth Day 2019: Seven things about Earth learned since the last Earth Day (Vox).

 

 

 



ELSEWHERE

Sri Lanka: Easter bomb blasts killed at least 290 people and injured more than 500 in churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. At least 13 people were arrested and at least three police officers were killed in the first major attack on the Indian Ocean island since the end of a civil war 10 years ago. Multiple outlets reported Monday that a domestic militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath was responsible for the killings (Reuters). Pompeo on Sunday confirmed that “several” Americans are among the dead. “These vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism,” he said in a statement. Sri Lanka has a troubled recent history marked by war (The Associated Press).

 

Supreme Court: Justices will hear arguments on Tuesday in the battle over the Trump administration's efforts to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. The Commerce Department, which administers the census, is expected to assert the question is needed to assist the Justice Department's enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (The Hill). The Associated Press reports on why accuracy is at the heart of the case, and offers readers an intriguing glimpse of census accuracy tied to some of the justices’ own ancestors.

 

North Korea: Last week, North Korea’s first weapons test since the failed Hanoi summit in February did not violate Pyongyang's self-imposed moratorium on missile and nuclear tests — indicating it hasn't given up entirely on forging a denuclearization framework with the United States. The test is a sign, however, of growing impatience and gives rise to new worries that North Korea will continue to escalate hostilities (The Hill).



THE CLOSER

And finally … From Earth, gaze heavenward! The 2019 Lyrid meteor shower, active from April 16 to April 28, peaks today into early Tuesday. The recent full moon may be too bright to enable most of us to see the show, but when Earth passes through fields of comet rubble, the bits of debris cut through the sky with such speed that the space waste creates brilliant fireworks (The New York Times).

 

Experts usually suggest viewing meteor showers just before dawn, but because of the moonlight, they advise looking for this year’s Lyrids shower in the early part of the night.

 

“There will be a brief window between the time the radiant rises in mid-evening and moonrise around midnight. You might see some meteors during these evening hours, and, in particular, the evening hours are the best time to catch an earthgrazer, which is a slow-moving and long-lasting meteor that travels horizontally across your sky” (EarthSky).

 

NASA: “Find an area well away from city or street lights. Come prepared with a sleeping bag, blanket or lawn chair. Lie flat on your back with your feet facing east and look up, taking in as much of the sky as possible. After about 30 minutes in the dark, your eyes will adapt and you will begin to see meteors. Be patient — the show will last until dawn, so you have plenty of time to catch a glimpse.”