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 MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski 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 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 NadlerBarr to speak at Notre Dame law school on Friday The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Ignore the hype — this is not an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.Y.), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffEx-Trump aide on Russia testifies for 10 hours as part of impeachment inquiry Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe GOP rep says he was kicked out of Trump aide's deposition MORE (D-Calif.) and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCracks emerge in White House strategy as witness testifies Overnight Defense: Pentagon insists US hasn't abandoned Kurds | Trump expands sanctions authority against Turkey | Ex-Ukraine ambassador says Trump pushed for her ouster On The Money: Trump announces limited trade deal with China | Appeals court rules against Trump over financial records | Trump expands authority to sanction Turkey 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 BarrBarr bemoans 'moral upheaval' that has brought 'suffering and misery' Trump threatens to sue Schiff and Pelosi Democratic lawmaker says Barr's reported meeting with Murdoch should be investigated 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 WarrenSupport drops for Medicare for All but increases for public option Hillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Feehery: Trump may be down, but he's not out yet 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 BookerHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill O'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Progressives fume at Buttigieg, warn him not to attack Warren at debate MORE (D-N.J.) told voters in Nevada on Sunday that the time isn’t right for impeachment. Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John Ryan2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the October showdown 2020 Presidential Candidates Democrats decry Trump's push to slash number of accepted refugees 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 SandersSupport drops for Medicare for All but increases for public option Hillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill On The Money: Trump touts China trade deal | Wall Street, Washington see signs for caution | Trump threatens sanctions on Turkey | Sanders proposes sharp hike to corporate taxes MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisO'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Warren leads Democratic field by 3 points in new national poll Analysis: Warren and Booker most cyber-aware 2020 candidates MORE (D-Calif.), and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Warren takes on Facebook over political ads | Zuckerberg defends meetings with conservatives | Civil liberties groups sound alarm over online extremism bill Analysis: Warren and Booker most cyber-aware 2020 candidates Poll: Democratic support for Warren climbs to record high MORE (D-Minn.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegO'Rourke hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Chasten Buttigieg fundraising for husband Pete overseas Progressives fume at Buttigieg, warn him not to attack Warren at debate 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 Romney10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable Cindy McCain condemns video of fake Trump shooting political opponents, late husband GOP braces for impeachment brawl 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 hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy Stephen Miller defends Trump, accuses Democrats of 'witch hunt part two' George Conway, conservative attorneys urge House to move quickly on impeachment 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 BidenSupport drops for Medicare for All but increases for public option Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report 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 TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report 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 hits back at Buttigieg over criticism of his gun buyback proposal Booker hits Buttigieg over gun buyback comment: NRA doesn't 'need our help' White House condemns violent video MORE has a Buttigieg problem.

 

O'Rourke, who saw his star turn in 2018 when he narrowly lost to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers return to work as Dem candidates set to debate Cruz: 'Of course' it's not appropriate to ask China to investigate Bidens Sunday Show Preview: Trump's allies and administration defend decision on Syria 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 Moulton2020 Presidential Candidates Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year 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's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy Maxine Waters: Trump should be imprisoned and 'placed in solitary confinement' Michael Cohen denies Omarosa advising him in prison MORE’s admitted violations, while prosecutors in Washington prepare for a November trial for Trump friend Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneMeet Trump's most trusted pollsters 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Judge rejects Stone's request to dismiss charges 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 KushnerButtigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates Mark Hamill zings Ivanka Trump for 'Star Wars' tweet 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 ManafortRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter He who must not be named: How Hunter Biden became a conversation-stopper Schiff should consider using RICO framework to organize impeachment 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 TrumpMelania Trump breaks ground on new White House tennis pavilion Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown Kroger to stop sales of e-cigarettes at stores MORE host the annual   Easter Egg Roll at the White House.

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump: Let Assad, Russia or China protect the Kurds Reporter presses Pompeo on whether he met with Giuliani in Warsaw Pompeo: 'I wish the NBA would acknowledge' China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims 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.”