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.
The battle is on for President TrumpDonald TrumpJudge rules Alaska governor unlawfully fired lawyer who criticized Trump Giuliani led fake electors plot: CNN Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE and Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York woman arrested after allegedly spitting on Jewish children Former Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Giuliani associate sentenced to a year in prison in campaign finance case MORE, even if a general election contest is well in the distance.
Only days after the announcement by the former Democratic vice president that he’s in the race, Trump and Biden are in a battle of wits as they campaign in states seen as crucial to any 2020 success for either: Wisconsin, where the president rallied supporters Saturday night, and Pennsylvania, where Biden is slated to make his first campaign stop today.
Biden is scheduled to hold his maiden campaign rally at a union event in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania is a state that has become central to Biden’s 2020 ambitions and one Trump allies fret about nearly 2-1/2 years after the president’s upset win there.
The Associated Press: Biden turns to Pa. to pitch rebuilding American middle class.
The New York Times: In Pennsylvania, Biden finds support where he most needs it.
“The case for Joseph R. Biden Jr. has always come down to Pennsylvania.
“It is not just that the former vice president, who jumped into the presidential race last week, is a native son of a state that is a 2020 must-win for Democrats.
“The argument is that Mr. Biden’s brand of politics — appealing to a traditional coalition shredded by Donald J. Trump in 2016 — still has latent appeal in Pennsylvania and across the Midwest, and that stitching the coalition back together would restore Democrats to the White House.”
Biden’s Pittsburgh stop is one of at least three events he will hold in Pennsylvania during the first month of his campaign. He also held his first campaign fundraiser in Philadelphia on Thursday night, which netted more than $700,000 of the $6.3 million he raised in 24 hours, and is expected to rally supporters in the City of Brotherly Love in mid-May after he wraps up a swing of early primary states.
As the former vice president makes his early Pennsylvania play, Trump’s team continues to project an air of confidence around the state. However, the warning signs are there for the president after Pennsylvania handed Republicans a cadre of losses over the past two years. Most notably, the special election victory of Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), which took place in a Republican-leaning district, the flipping of five congressional seats after a new congressional map took effect and easy wins in the gubernatorial and Senate contests in November over two Trump allies.
Now, much of the Pennsylvania political class is lining up behind Biden as problems mount there for the president despite the state’s success, evidenced by a 3.9 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in recorded history. Since he took office, the president’s approval in the state has dropped by a net -17 points, according to a Morning Consult tracking poll taken in March.
Additionally, 61 percent of registered voters believe it’s time to elect a new president, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll taken in March. Only 36 percent believe Trump should be reelected.
Politico: Trump camp descends on Pennsylvania as alarms grow over 2020:
“The meeting is the first of what Trump aides say will be a series of visits to battleground states. The fact that Pennsylvania is the first stop underscores the state’s importance, they say — and the level of concern about it.
“`The party is not in great shape,’ said Rob Gleason, a former Pennsylvania GOP chairman. ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that.’ ”
The concentration by Team Trump is also extending to the two other states that helped hand him the presidency in 2016 — Wisconsin and Michigan. Trump held his latest campaign event in Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday night, a bit of conspicuous counter-programming to compete with the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, which he skipped for the third straight year.
His previous campaign stop was in Michigan in late March. The only other campaign event he has held during 2019 was in El Paso, Texas, as part of his push to win funding for a border wall.
Bloomberg: Trump playing defense in Rust Belt as he opens reelection bid.
While the trio of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania remain the key for Trump’s 2020 chances, his campaign is beginning to look elsewhere and create new avenues to the requisite 270 electoral votes. Brad ParscaleBrad ParscaleAides tried to get Trump to stop attacking McCain in hopes of clinching Arizona: report MORE, Trump’s campaign manager, told CBS News on Sunday that they believe they have a shot to win in Minnesota, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado — all states Trump lost in 2016.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: They’re back! After a two-week break, lawmakers return to Washington to pick up where they left off with federal funding dramas, investigations and a Senate effort to overturn the second veto of Trump’s presidency.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum MORE (R-Ky.) wants to strike a compromise with House and Senate Democrats on federal spending, while the president would like to see a spending freeze through the 2020 election. Navigating the competing interests will test McConnell’s strategy and skills, reports Alexander Bolton.
The Associated Press: Cuts are coming. Can the House and Senate reach a deal?
The Washington Post: Congress returns to confront impeachment, infrastructure and more.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia Democrats hope to salvage Biden's agenda on Manchin's terms MORE (D-Calif.) faces another kind of test as she sits down on Tuesday with Trump for a wide-ranging discussion shaped by what divides them as well as what could unite them. Infrastructure is supposed to boast bipartisan appeal and Pelosi and Trump will revisit the topic (CNN). A Democratic source previewed a four-point list to Axios describing what Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Predictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure Voting rights and Senate wrongs MORE (D-N.Y.) seek, including Trump’s support in an infrastructure measure for renewable energy.
On the investigatory front, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWilliam Barr's memoir set for release in early March The enemy within: Now every day is Jan. 6 Dems worry they'll be boxed out without changes to filibuster, voting rules MORE agreed to testify about the report he received from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. But there’s a snag: Barr objects to some of the ground rules preferred by Democrats on the House panel and the tensions have yet to be resolved (Reuters).
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two MORE (R-S.C.) says his panel will confer with the Homeland Security and Intelligence committees about what’s needed to stop Russia from continuing to tamper with the U.S. election system as well as other cyber interference ordered by Moscow.
“They were very involved in the 2016 election. They're coming at us again. I'd like to stop them. And one way to stop them is to make them pay a price,” Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We need more sanctions not less.”
Separately, leading Republican committee chairmen also plan to pursue a line of questioning much preferred by Trump, with hearings focused on former Justice Department and FBI officials whom Trump says launched a “dirty” investigation into Russia’s interference because they sought to stop Trump’s election. Justice officials have denied the allegations, but Barr said he’s examining whether former officials authorized “spying” on the Trump campaign (The Hill).
The House Oversight and Reform Committee will question Carl Kline, a former official with knowledge of the West Wing’s security clearance process, with his attorney present during a Wednesday interview. Kline was subpoenaed to appear but sought unsuccessfully to limit lawmakers’ questions (Reuters).
Before the end of the week, the Senate is expected to vote on whether to overturn the president’s veto of a Senate-passed measure that called on the administration to cease its support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The Senate voted 54-46 in March to break with Trump (The Hill), echoing the opposition to the administration’s policy in the House. Nonetheless, analysts believe the Senate will fail to muster the votes necessary to overtake Trump’s veto.
Current and former colleagues mourned the death on Sunday of former Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (Ind.), 87, who served 36 years in the Senate until 2012, when he lost a GOP primary battle. He was known as a foreign policy and national security specialist and was admired for his intellect and soft-spoken, collegial approach to legislating (The Associated Press).
Fellow Hoosier Vice President Pence saluted his friend in a statement on Sunday.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Biden’s entrance in the 2020 campaign has brought to the forefront a fight that’s ready to take hold for the second time in two cycles: the establishment versus the progressives.
As Jonathan Easley reports, Biden’s decision to take the plunge sets the stage for another knock-down, drag-out fight between the establishment wing of the party and the progressive left, led by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFilibuster becomes new litmus test for Democrats Gallego says he's been approached about challenging Sinema Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans MORE (I-Vt.).
Either Biden or Sanders has sat atop every poll thus far in early states or nationally, and a showdown between the two threatens to reopen the wounds the party suffered in the bitter 2016 contest between the Vermont Independent and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo Hillary — the 'Third Way' is the wrong way The dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE.
Progressives are already taking shots at Biden in an attempt to drag him down. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple MORE (D-Mass.) criticized the former vice president for being “on the side of the credit card companies,” a reference to a fight they had 14 years ago over bankruptcy legislation.
Will the establishment prevail again or will the progressive takeover of the party become complete in 2020? The future direction of the party is at stake and insiders are certain that it’s going to be nasty.
Joshua Green: Democrats’ senior surge could help Joe Biden.
Scott Clement and Dan Balz: Biden holds a slight advantage over nearest 2020 rival, but Democrats are far from making a decision.
Josh Kraushaar: Biden’s revolution: A return to normalcy.
Politico: Democrats see Biden as wobbly 2020 front-runner.
> Policy proposals have become a popular topic on the 2020 Democratic primary circuit. But when it comes to Social Security, the proposals have been largely absent, as no candidate has offered a plan to keep the program solvent.
According to Niv Elis, a report out this week found that the Social Security trust fund will run out of money in just 16 years, meaning beneficiaries will start seeing cuts in 2035 if nothing is done. While the candidates lob volleys on hot button issues such as “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal, Electoral College reform and whether to impeach President Trump, they have largely been mum on how to keep Social Security afloat.
The Washington Post: Math favors Senate Democrats in 2020, but geography gives GOP the advantage.
Politico: Dems sweat Trump’s economy: “We don’t really have a robust national message right now.”
Paul Kane: In a Trump district, a freshman House Democrat works on repeating his success.
The Associated Press: GOP’s warning of socialism doesn’t resonate with many voters.
NBC News: The making of 'Mayor Pete': How a data geek learned to govern with heart.
Elsewhere on the political scene … Conservative groups have opened a new front in the voting wars, targeting groups that register new voters with harsh punishments if they submit forms containing errors and omissions (The Hill) … Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharEffort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (D-Minn.), a 2020 presidential candidate, hails Anita HillAnita Faye HillMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Joe Biden's surprising presidency Gloria Steinem: 'International Women's Day means we are still in trouble' MORE as an inspiration (Politico) … A speech by Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Bass raises nearly million since launching LA mayor campaign CNN legal analyst knocks GOP senator over remark on Biden nominee MORE (D-N.J.) in Miami Gardens was interrupted when a van crashed into building (Miami Herald).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
How Trump’s ego increases America’s risk from white supremacists, Russian hackers, by Will Bunch, columnist, The Philadelphia Inquirer. https://bit.ly/2GTpdsR
Impeachment would be a redundant judgment, by Kevin D. Williamson, National Review. https://bit.ly/2W7GWSs
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Ana Kasparian, online host of “The Young Turks,” about Biden’s presidential bid, plus International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger, who will talk about his union’s announcement timed to Biden's Pittsburgh rally today. http://thehill.com/hilltv.
The House convenes at 2 p.m.
The Senate gets back to work at 3 p.m.
The president has lunch with the vice president at 12:45 p.m. Trump also welcomes the Baylor University Lady Bears, who are the 2019 NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball national champions, to the White House at 3:45 p.m.
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoPence to deliver keynote at fundraising banquet for South Carolina-based pregnancy center Russia suggests military deployments to Cuba, Venezuela an option The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Altria - Winter is here for Democrats MORE participates in The Hill’s Newsmaker Series at the Council on Foreign Relations this morning. He meets with Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo at 12:30 p.m. Pompeo meets with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom at 3 p.m. The secretary hosts the dinner for the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies at the State Department at 6 p.m.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis will release March data about personal income and outlays along with February data about personal outlays, savings and prices at 8:30 a.m.
The annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., began Sunday and ends Wednesday. Trump administration officials, including White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerKushner investment firm raises more than B: report Trump: Netanyahu 'never wanted peace' with Palestinians Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah MORE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossMomentum builds to prohibit lawmakers from trading stocks Census memo notes 'unprecedented' Trump administration meddling: report Holding defiant Trump witnesses to account, Jan. 6 committee carries out Congress's constitutional role MORE, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine ChaoHogan won't say if he will file to run for Senate by Feb. 22 deadline Top Republicans pressing Hogan to run for Senate Biden returns restores tradition, returning to Kennedy Center Honors MORE and senior Treasury officials, are participating. Information HERE.
➔ Tech: Facebook's estimate that it could pay up to $5 billion in a settlement with federal regulators leaves plenty of unanswered questions about the potential landmark enforcement action. Critics worry that Facebook, despite front-page privacy violations and scandals, will eventually receive a slap on the wrist in the United States without substantive changes to its business practices (The Hill).
➔ Defense: The United States objects to Turkey's plan to buy a missile defense system from Russia (The Hill).
➔ Lobbying: Rather than drain the swamp, some former Trump Cabinet secretaries are now helping clients navigate the agencies and issues they once led. Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Understanding the barriers between scientists, the public and the truth Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official MORE and former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund unveils first midterm endorsements Trump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Watchdog: Trump official boosted former employer in Interior committee membership MORE are examples of ex-officials who flew through the revolving door and into the lobbying world (The Hill).
And finally … As we mentioned in the items above, there are plenty of things about which candidates, lawmakers and policymakers think we’re insufficiently prepared, including Russia’s continued attack on U.S. elections, Americans’ woefully miniscule piggy banks for retirement and the rapid onset of climate change.
So it’s good news that scientists keep preparing for the idea that an asteroid might one day be poised to strike Earth.
Every two years, scientists join forces to simulate what they would do in that remote but still possible event. One basic assumption is that populations would turn to social media. A drill this week exploring a mock asteroid disaster will assign participants specific role-playing, such as "national government," "space agency," "astronomer" and "civil protection officer,” the European Space Agency reported in a statement (LiveScience).
The exercise is part of the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in Washington and is the work of NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. The public is invited to watch updates from the drill live on the @esaoperations Twitter channel, from today through Friday.
The Hill: NASA grants SpaceX $69 million contract to fly a spacecraft into an asteroid. A test mission is scheduled for June 2021.
LiveScience: Doomsday: 9 real ways Earth could end.
U.S. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Scientists design conceptual asteroid deflector.