Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! 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.
Former Vice President Joe Biden Is back on the campaign trail and perhaps no one has taken notice with more lively punctuation than President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE.
Trump levied a series of attacks against the Democratic challenger on Tuesday ahead of Biden’s inaugural campaign event in Pittsburgh, which followed multiple barbs at Biden’s intelligence after he announced his 2020 bid. The decision by Trump to hit Biden suggests he sees the former veep as a major threat at the outset of the 2020 race.
As Jordan Fabian reports, while Trump’s team sees flaws in Biden, it views his broad name recognition and appeal to white, working-class voters as potential advantages in a general-election matchup with Trump. The president also believes he can weaken Biden’s chances of winning the nomination by bloodying him early in the primary. Trump has nonetheless made it clear he thinks he would beat Biden if he faces him next year.
However, Democrats believe the attacks by Trump show that Biden is living rent-free in his head as he campaigns in Pennsylvania, a state considered to be a top priority of Trump’s reelection effort, and makes his first 2020 appearance in Iowa Tuesday morning.
"Clearly, Vice President BidenJoe BidenDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Pfizer to apply for COVID-19 booster approval for 16- and 17-year-olds: report Coronavirus variant raises fresh concerns for economy MORE bugs the president,” said Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Senate advances defense bill after delay Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Senators to take up defense bill Wednesday MORE (D-Va.). “He's not the only one. There are a number of the Democratic candidates who I think worry him, but it does seem like Biden worries him. I think he's very worried about Pennsylvania and he's probably thinking about Biden's strength there."
“It’s significant, huh?” Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenators urging federal investigation into Liberty University's handling of sexual assault claims Crucial talks on Biden agenda enter homestretch Senate Democrats call for diversity among new Federal Reserve Bank presidents MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), a supporter of Biden’s campaign, said of the president’s attacks. “It’s a sign of concern, and [Trump] should be concerned.”
“A greater concern should be the results the president’s team got in the [midterm] elections in Pennsylvania,” Casey said. “They ran the same plays. They ran on his agenda. They used his language, and they had a really bad day.”
Democrats believe Biden could benefit from being in Trump’s crosshairs. The attacks set up a one-on-one political fight that could elevate the former vice president above the fray of the crowded Democratic primary field.
In all, Democrats were impressed by the former vice president’s launch 12 years after his previous bid. While Trump hits Biden, the former vice president has made clear his intention to return serve and hit back, which he did again Monday. From the outset, he has shown that he has his sights set on Trump by launching his campaign with a video attacking the president’s response to the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Few other candidates went after Trump during their campaign rollouts in such a direct way.
The Washington Post: With push on labor, Biden aims nascent campaign directly at Trump, who is eager to engage.
Matt K. Lewis: Biden’s pitch: I’m good enough for Democrats and better than Trump.
Republicans, meanwhile, are left to wonder why the president is paying so much attention to Biden given his confidence in a 2020 general election matchup. Trump’s attacks are a move on his own as advisers counseled him against going after Biden in this fashion, according to CNN.
"I don't know what's going through the president's mind on that,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMental health: The power of connecting requires the power of investing Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Cornyn says he 'would be surprised' if GOP tries to unseat Sinema in 2024 MORE (R-Texas). “I think Joe Biden would be a serious opponent if he was nominated, but I think in the modern Democratic Party, it's hard to see he gets nominated."
Trump’s attacks didn’t end there Monday. He also continued his offensive against the ongoing investigations by Democrats on Capitol Hill, which show no signs of letting up after 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’s probe handed him a partial victory.
According to Brett Samuels, the president's allies say Trump's mindset has shifted to "go on offense" following Mueller's investigation, and argue he is left with little choice but to attack as Democrats have provided little indication they will move on quickly from Mueller’s report, released a little more than a week ago.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS: It’s up to Senate Republicans to serve as Trump’s firewall while investigations raise questions about the president’s conduct, including the evidence in the Mueller report. Thus far, key senators, such as the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.) and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWisconsin senators ask outsiders not to exploit parade attack 'for their own political purposes' It's time to bury ZombieCare once and for all Marjorie Taylor Greene introduces bill to award Congressional Gold Medal to Rittenhouse MORE (R-Wis.) have publicly expressed sympathy for Trump’s “frustrations” and his assertions there was no conspiracy with Russia or subsequent obstructive behavior that rises to a crime (The Hill).
Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMichael Cohen officially released from prison sentence Incoming NAACP Legal Defense Fund president sees progress against 'revitalized mission to advance white supremacy' Fox's Bartiromo called Bill Barr 'screaming' about election fraud: book MORE and House Democrats are arm wrestling over the Mueller report and Barr’s four-page letter selectively summarizing the report’s 448-pages of evidence. Democrats, including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNews media's sausage-making obsession helps no one Klobuchar confident spending bill will be finished before Christmas Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (D-Calif.), have called Barr a partisan shill for the president. The attorney general objects to the format of the House Judiciary Committee questioning in advance of a Thursday hearing, scheduled one day after he will testify before the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. Although a compromise appears likely in the next few days, Barr could refuse to appear before the House. In that case, some lawmakers believe a refusal of congressional oversight by the nation’s top law enforcement officer could become additional evidence in any impeachment inquiry (The Hill). House Democrats say Barr must testify on Thursday, and under the format set by lawmakers (The Hill).
> The determination by House Democrats to subpoena Trump’s financial records was met with a federal lawsuit late on Monday in the Southern District of New York. The president, members of his family and his private businesses sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One in an attempt to block the financial institutions from complying with subpoenas from the House Intelligence and the House Financial Services committees. Trump argues that requests for financial information amount to what he calls political harassment, not legitimate congressional oversight (The Hill). Text of the lawsuit is HERE.
> Pelosi and Trump are expected today to discuss competing visions for infrastructure financing, accompanied by other key lawmakers from both parties. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers take aim at 'Grinches' using bots to target consumers during holidays Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Schumer mourns death of 'amazing' father MORE (D-N.Y.) released a letter explaining their latest priorities for any such measure, including a whopping price tag, tax hikes to finance it and climate change provisions (The Hill). K Street lobbyists, who are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for a legislative accord, see the meeting between the two leaders as a last chance for substantive legislative collaboration this year (The Hill).
> Disaster relief: Congress continues to hear from states and municipalities that seek additional federal funding to address impacts from natural disasters. Panama City, Fla., Mayor Greg Brudnicki and City Manager Mark McQueen told the Morning Report they hit the pavement in Washington on Monday for a week of face-to-face appeals to lawmakers and federal officials, including at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Their message: Panama City has made progress but still needs help to recover from Hurricane Michael.
Midwestern agriculture interests also are part of a loud chorus about disaster relief, pounding lawmakers to help them rebuild and overcome severe flooding. White House economic adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE said Monday that the administration will provide more help to farmers, if necessary (Reuters).
> A climate-focused measure will get a vote in the House this week, a seismic change for progressive lawmakers, who accuse Republicans of sidestepping climate change for seven years. The measure slated for a vote on Thursday would bind the Trump administration to the carbon-cutting goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which is the international accord that Trump spurned more than two years ago (The Hill).
> Impeachment: House Democrats generally fall into one of three camps on the question of whether to try to unseat Trump from office before the 2020 election. Their internal deliberations are colored by competing advocacy groups, special interests and political dynamics they encounter daily (The Hill).
> U.S. Air Force secretary: Rep. Adam Zinzinger (R-Ill.) threw his hat into the ring for a job in the administration that will be vacant at the end of May, saying on Fox News that he’d like to be considered to be Air Force secretary, to succeed outgoing Heather Wilson, who will soon become president of the University of Texas at El Paso (Roll Call).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
ADMINISTRATION: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris Mnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book MORE spoke on Monday about the “swagger” of his first year on the job, and he showcased his determination to avoid putting daylight between himself and Trump (The Hill).
During a wide-ranging interview with The Hill, Pompeo predicted Russia would still be meddling in U.S. elections “in 2050.”
He dismissed the notion that the threat from Moscow is new or more severe and described it to editor-in-chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackDeGette calls for 'lean and mean' health research agency to tackle diabetes NAACP president pushes for more emails from NFL after Gruden resignation Al Eisele, founding editor of The Hill, dies at 85 MORE as “much broader” — emanating from other nations such as Iran and China and impacting a variety of U.S. infrastructure.
“The fact that this town seemed shocked by the fact the Russians don’t care for us — in that case the Soviet Union — I find stunning,” Pompeo said.
The secretary declined to answer whether he agreed with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani that there is “nothing wrong” with accepting Russian help during a presidential campaign, saying he would let Giuliani “speak for himself.”
The Hill: Pompeo predicts Russia will be an election threat for decades.
The Hill: Pompeo defends U.S. support for Saudis in Yemen as “in America’s best interest.”
The Hill: Secretary of State says Maduro’s inner circle is looking for an exit strategy in Venezuela.
> Pentagon: Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanProtection of critical military benefit shows bipartisanship can work Senators introducing bill to penalize Pentagon for failed audits Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE on Monday approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security for 320 additional U.S. troops at the southern border, and has approved expanded authorities that allow them to come into direct contact with migrants and asylum seekers (The Wall Street Journal). Trump challenged existing immigration laws on Monday by ordering new restrictions on asylum seekers at the border, including through application fees and restraints on work permits, giving the Justice and Homeland Security departments 90 days for implementation, including a tall order to resolve immigration court cases within 180 days (The New York Times).
> Federal Reserve: The White House is “reviewing” economist Stephen Moore’s nomination to the central bank in light of his writings and comments about women (The Hill). GOP women senators pose an obstacle to Moore’s potential confirmation (The Hill). Trump’s other recent nominee to the Fed board, Herman Cain, withdrew his nomination last week after a number of GOP senators said they would not vote to confirm him.
> Food and Drug Administration: The CBD industry of hemp-based cannabidiol products occupies a gray regulatory area as the market booms. The FDA is struggling to keep up as lawmakers from both parties urge new federal rules (The Hill).
> Education Department: Education Secretary Betsy DeVosBetsy DeVosMnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book Republicans look to education as winning issue after Virginia successes McAuliffe rolls out new ad hitting back at Youngkin on education MORE has her own agenda, according to a Washington Post report. “Trump has privately complained about her, insulting her intelligence on several occasions, according to a former senior administration official who worked closely with Trump and another senior official who is still at the White House. Yet the president shows no signs of asking her to resign, reflecting in part his lack of interest in the issue of education and the department responsible for it. And DeVos has no interest in departing.”
> Justice Department: Embattled Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE, as expected, submitted his resignation effective May 11 to leave federal service after three decades. Rosenstein, who was involved in the president’s firing of former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyCountering the ongoing Republican delusion How Biden should sell his infrastructure bill 'Finally, infrastructure week!': White House celebrates T bill MORE and supervised Mueller’s special counsel probe when former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThose predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold The metaverse is coming — society should be wary MORE recused himself, attracted plenty of scrutiny and second-guessing beginning in January 2017 (NBC News).
MORE POLITICS: As Trump looks to replicate his winning formula, a major question has opened on the Democratic side: Can the coalition built by former President Obama in 2008 be replicated?
As Niall Stanage writes, there are already concerns in Democratic circles about whether any candidate will be able to replicate the famed “Obama coalition,” which the former president was able to turn into two presidential victories before Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE lost trying to replicate it in 2016.
Obama won his two terms with strong support from young voters, nonwhites and upscale white liberals. As a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted over the weekend made clear, many of the frontline contenders are showing weakness with at least one of these groups — Biden with young voters, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo This week: Congress starts year-end legislative sprint Restless progressives eye 2024 MORE (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Restless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegHarris, Buttigieg to promote infrastructure law in Charlotte 'Fox & Friends Weekend' hosts suggest new variant meant to distract from Biden's struggles Buttigieg: Families who buy electric vehicles 'never have to worry about gas prices again' MORE with non-whites.
This could all change if one candidate catches fire but for the moment —- and with a nasty primary expected to deepen existing divisions — it is causing some Democrats anxiety.
CNN: Poll: Biden solidifies frontrunner status with post-announcement bump.
The Washington Post: “Bring it on”: Biden and Sanders teams kick off debate over “Medicare for All.”
The Daily Beast: Far-right smear merchants try to slime Buttigieg with bogus sex assault claim.
Politico: Biden actually is a dealmaker. And that could be a problem in 2020.
Elsewhere in politics … Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is the latest Democrat gearing up for a 2020 launch. Bullock is staffing up and announced Monday a new communications director for his PAC, an Iowa press secretary and a senior adviser ahead of an expected campaign (NBC News) … Buttigieg (D) had lunch with Al Sharpton in Harlem on Monday as the 37-year-old presidential candidate looks to make inroads with African-American voters (The Hill).
Stacey Abrams, who lost an election for governor in Georgia last year, decided against a run for Senate. She informed Schumer of her decision on Monday (CNN) … Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeVaccine mandates put unions in a bind Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Armadillo army takes over North Carolina town Washington redistricting commission fails, punts maps to Supreme Court MORE (D) on Monday took a shot at former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), both presidential candidates, over O’Rourke’s lack of leadership on climate change during his tenure in the House. It was in response to the former congressman’s newly-announced climate change policy proposal, an issue Inslee has staked his 2020 bid on (The Hill).
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!
Executive privilege case law favors Trump, not House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerUnrequited rage: The demand for mob justice in the Rittenhouse trial Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs Merkley, Warren and Markey sound alarm over 'dirty' hydrogen provision in climate deal MORE, by Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2IPvoQM
Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears MORE is not invincible, by Meredith McGehee, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ZLFSFR
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features filmmaker Rachel Lears and former Nevada congressional candidate Amy Vilela, talking about their “Knock Down the House” documentary, plus highlights from Monday’s interesting Pompeo interview with The Hill, and Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, with his latest takeaways from the Marist Poll. http://thehill.com/hilltv.
The House convenes at noon for legislative business.
The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of William Cooper to be general counsel of the Department of Energy.
The president sits down with leading Democrats from the House and Senate at the White House to discuss infrastructure and other issues at 10:30 a.m. Trump will host Joey Logano, the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series champion, at the White House at 3:30 p.m.
Vice President Pence will travel to Norfolk, Va., to speak at 1 p.m. and tour the USS Harry S. Truman at the Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field. In Norfolk, he’ll also meet with representatives of NATO. Separately, Pence will hold a roundtable discussion about trade with local business leaders about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement at 2:30 p.m. in Chesapeake, Va. He will return to Washington this evening.
Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinMajor Russian hacking group linked to ransomware attack on Sinclair: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Former Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report MORE is in Beijing with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerBiden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Whiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' MORE to resume trade negotiations with China today. The White House said they’re dealing with intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, purchases and enforcement of any agreement.
The Federal Reserve today begins a two-day meeting. Analysts do not expect to see a change in interest rates.
The Washington Post Live with national political reporter Robert Costa interviews House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Schiff: Jan. 6 panel decision on charges for Meadows could come this week MORE (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsJan. 6 panel plans vote to censure Trump DOJ official Clark Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to omicron variant Schiff: Jan. 6 panel decision on charges for Meadows could come this week MORE (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. about the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month probe. A panel of the newspaper’s journalists who have covered the government’s investigations since 2016 will discuss their takes following the interviews. The Washington Post is also marking release of a staff-written book titled “The Mueller Report.” Event and live stream information is HERE.
The Ronald Reagan Institute hosts Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWisconsinites need infrastructure that is built to last Republicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall Rubio: Dropping FARC from terrorist list threatens Colombians, US security MORE (R-Fla.), who will deliver remarks beginning at 1 p.m. to commemorate the 35th anniversary of former President Reagan's speech about democracy in China, which Reagan delivered at Shanghai's Fudan University. Rubio will talk about U.S.-China relations in 2019. Location: Willard InterContinental, Washington.
➔ Amazon: The Seattle-based behemoth posted its initial job openings for a new location in Arlington, Va., for what it estimates will be 400 hires this year. The company is transferring two vice presidents from Seattle to oversee workforce development and international growth of its virtual assistant Alexa, a clue about its operations in the Washington suburb. The newly listed positions are in human resources, finance, corporate procurement and facilities, at an average compensation of $150,000 a year (The Washington Post).
➔ Measles: The U.S. measles outbreak this year has surpassed 700 cases in 22 states, federal health officials said on Monday. More than 500 of the 704 cases recorded as of last Friday involved people who had not been vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. Los Angeles is currently experiencing the fastest-growing outbreak (The New York Times).
And finally … A friendly, playful beluga whale wearing a harness complete with GoPro camera mounts emerged from the deep near a fisherman in open waters in Norway last week, which set off a wave of curiosity, alarm and inspection by marine biologists and government officials. It’s believed the Russian military trained the whale, but for what? The tight harness had markings that said “equipment of St. Petersburg.”
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries succeeded in freeing the whale from the contraption, after which it swam away.
"It was the best feeling ever," Jorgen Ree Wiig, a marine biologist with the directorate, told CNN.