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 MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump 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 NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Trump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify Mueller to give extended testimony after appearance postponed MORE (D-Calif.) and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid 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 BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Harris campaign accepts money from partners of law firm she criticized over Epstein case 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 WarrenWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Trump says administration will 'take a look' after Thiel raises concerns about Google, China Thiel calls Warren the most 'dangerous' Democratic candidate 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 BookerHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race MORE (D-N.J.) told voters in Nevada on Sunday that the time isn’t right for impeachment. Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John Ryan2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist 3 reasons billionaire activist Tom Steyer is running for president ProPublica to fund reporter to cover Youngstown, Ohio, after newspaper folds 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 SandersWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Sanders slams decision not to charge officer who killed Eric Garner Cardi B says voters let Bernie Sanders down MORE (I-Vt.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death Harris vows to 'put people over profit' in prescription drug plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE (D-Calif.), and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race Critics slam billion Facebook fine as weak MORE (D-Minn.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race South Bend police officer resigns after killing of black man 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 RomneyGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Liberal think tank: GOP paid parental leave proposals are too narrow Romney won't say if Trump's attacks against minority lawmakers are racist 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 ConwayThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet George Conway calls Trump a 'racist president' in new op-ed George Conway's group: Trump tweets 'should be rejected by every American' 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 BidenBiden jokes he's ready for a push-up competition with Trump Biden says his presidency is not 'a third term of Obama' Biden knocks Trump on tweets about 'smart as hell' Ocasio-Cortez 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 TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA 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 raises .6 million in second quarter Biden support slips below 30 percent in new poll Biden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care 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 CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book Hillicon Valley: Twitter says Trump 'go back' tweet didn't violate rules | Unions back protests targeting Amazon 'Prime Day' | Mnuchin voices 'serious concerns' about Facebook crypto project | Congress mobilizes on cyber threats to electric grid 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 Moulton2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist Biden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care plan 2020 Democrats push tax hike on wealthy investors 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 CohenFeds unlikely to charge Trump Organization execs in campaign finance case: report Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy Trump associate Felix Sater grilled by House Intel MORE’s admitted violations, while prosecutors in Washington prepare for a November trial for Trump friend Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneCounterprotesters outnumber far-right extremists at DC rally Judge orders Roger Stone to file rebuttal to allegation he violated gag order Federal prosecutors allege Roger Stone violated gag order with Instagram posts 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 KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates House Judiciary to vote to authorize subpoenas for Trump officials, immigration documents 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 ManafortTop Mueller prosecutor Zainab Ahmad joins law firm Gibson Dunn Russian oligarch's story could spell trouble for Team Mueller Trump, Mueller, the issue of 'guilt' and a do-nothing Congress 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 TrumpCruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book Designer defends Melania Trump statue: 'People may laugh but the context still resonates' Melania Trump heading to West Virginia to discuss opioid epidemic MORE host the annual   Easter Egg Roll at the White House.

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoAs tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Trump's Huawei concession is 'the rope that could hang America' 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.”