The Hill's Morning Report — Dem ire at Barr intensifies

The Hill's Morning Report — Dem ire at Barr intensifies
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In any era, it’s an explosive moment when a House Speaker publicly accuses the nation’s attorney general of lying to Congress.

Under TV lights during a news conference, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBattle over reopening schools heats up Pelosi: Trump wearing a mask is 'an admission' that it can stop spread of coronavirus Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE (D-Calif.) asserted on Thursday that Attorney General William BarrBill BarrWe haven't seen how low it can go Trump lashes out at Toomey, Romney after Roger Stone clemency criticism GOP senator says Trump commuting Stone was a 'mistake' MORE intentionally misled Democratic lawmakers during testimony about special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s findings.

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“He lied to Congress, and if anybody else did that it would be considered a crime,” she said. “Nobody is above the law; not the president of the United States, and not the attorney general.”

A firestorm of recriminations, accusations and political theater burned through the Capitol on Thursday. Props used by Democrats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing — including a chicken figurine in place of Barr, the witness who was a no-show — left little room for decorum, and lots of openings for Twitter. 

The committee, led by Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler: Barr dealings with Berman came 'awfully close to bribery' Nadler wins Democratic primary Voters must strongly reject the president's abuses by voting him out this November MORE (D-N.Y.) used an empty chair to punctuate the point that the Trump administration is not warming to Democratic efforts to obtain an unredacted copy of the Mueller report, to question Barr as members see fit and to gather evidence about the president and his advisers in case a formal impeachment inquiry gains traction.

Barr, who is serving for a second time as attorney general (79 days thus far with the Trump administration), has infuriated Democratic lawmakers with what they view as his misleading testimony under oath, his caustic dismissal of Democratic oversight, his absolutist analysis that no president can be prosecuted while in office and his defense of Trump’s behavior, as described in detail in the Mueller report. 

Some House Democrats want Barr to resign or recuse himself from ongoing investigations. Some are threatening to hold Barr in contempt or eventually serve him with subpoenas. Others have floated the idea of impeaching him (The Hill).

Early on Thursday, the villain in the Democrats’ political narrative was Barr. But Trump retook the stage, telling a Fox News interviewer late in the day that he might block former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying to Congress, a move that would escalate his war against Democrat-led investigations. The president said he does not “think [he] can let” McGahn testify to lawmakers while keeping other White House aides from cooperating in the future with House Democrats’ probes of his administration, campaign and business dealings (The Hill).

When Pelosi took aim at the attorney general, the Justice Department immediately shot back, describing her comments as “a baseless attack” (The Hill).

The bitter name-calling continued, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention MORE (R-Calif.) took a swing at his Democratic colleague from New York in front of a room full of reporters (The Hill).

I do not believe Attorney General Barr lied; I believe he’s been very transparent in all of this,” McCarthy said. “I think if people are looking at who has lied in the process, simply look at Chairman Nadler.”

Partisan tensions have also flared in the Senate, where the fallout from the Mueller probe has cleaved the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Republicans have blasted Democrats for critiques they describe as "slander" about Barr. GOP members fume that the Senate’s minority (where six senators are running for Trump’s job, three of whom sit on the Judiciary panel) want to revive the "Kavanaugh treatment," a reference to events during the committee’s emotional and divisive confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughRoberts court tempers conservative expectations OVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe Five takeaways from Supreme Court's rulings on Trump tax returns MORE (The Hill).

On Thursday, House Democrats entered into direct talks with Mueller and his team, rather than with the Justice Department, about testimony to Congress. Although a May 15 date had been proposed by Nadler, no date had been set. 

The Hill: Timeline — Mueller, Barr and the Trump probe.  

The Associated Press: The attorney general Trump wanted – a look at Barr’s rhetoric.

The Associated Press: Barr is besieged with allegations of being the president’s protector.

The New York Times: How opinion writers across the political spectrum reacted to Barr’s testimony.

 



LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: It was a day of milestones for both congressional majorities Thursday even though the headlines largely focused on investigations.

In the House, Democrats passed the first bill in a decade aimed at combating climate change in what they call a “first step” toward building a strategy to fight global warming.

As Rebecca Beitsch and Miranda Green reported, the House voted 231-190 to pass the Climate Action Now Act, which would block the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement, among other actions. Three Republicans — Reps. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickKaren Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill MORE (Pa.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Fauci 'aspirationally hopeful' of a vaccine by winter Pentagon: 'No corroborating evidence' yet to validate troop bounty allegations Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (N.Y.) and Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (Fla.). — joined Democrats in voting for the measure.

The bill, however, will not come up in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCongress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Congress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok MORE (R-Ky.) says it “will go nowhere.”

Trump announced in June 2017 that he would withdraw the U.S. from the accord negotiated during the Obama administration. The U.S. cannot officially pull out of the agreement until November 2020.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Republicans confirmed their 100th judge since Trump took office Thursday when Rodolfo Ruiz was confirmed, 90-8, to serve as a United States district judge for the Southern District of Florida. 

In addition, the Senate also confirmed two other district judges on Thursday, bringing the total to 102. Since Trump took office, 63 district judges, 37 circuit judges and two Supreme Court justices have been confirmed (The Washington Examiner).

> Trump is facing opposition from within his own ranks as the White House presses on with negotiations toward a $2 trillion infrastructure package. Namely, Republicans are concerned about how the package would be funded.

As Alexander Bolton, Scott Wong and Juliegrace Brufke report, Republicans are hellbent against raising taxes and say the bill should be paid for.

They disagree with Trump leaning toward a greater share of federal funding for infrastructure, and they are warning against a replay of former President Obama's 2009 stimulus package. They are also cautioning that the highway trust fund is about to expire and that money needs to be directed toward it.

McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseCheney clashes with Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Republicans shift, urge people to wear masks GOP-Trump fractures on masks open up MORE (R-La.) want to keep public-private partnerships on the table for a bipartisan infrastructure deal, breaking with the president.

“We ought to look at every option to see if those kinds of partnerships help us build more roads and help meet the needs of communities,” Scalise told reporters on Thursday.

Trump reportedly referred to his administration’s previous infrastructure plan — which called for public-private partnerships and was coordinated by former national economic adviser Gary CohnGary David CohnFormer national economic council director: I agree with 50 percent of House Democrats' HEROES Act Sunday shows preview: Congress spars over next round of coronavirus relief; GOP seeks offensive after news of Flynn 'unmasking' The Memo: Speculation grows about Fauci's future MORE — as “so stupid,” adding that he was never supportive of the model because “you get sued.” 

The Hill: GOP distances itself from Trump’s ObamaCare attacks.

Politico: Dreamer bill stalls amid Dem divisions.

The Atlantic: Infrastructure Week isn’t a joke anymore.

The Washington Post: Senate Democrats ask NRA execs, PR firm for documents related to alleged self-dealing.

***

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Another day, another addition to the 2020 Democratic primary.

It was Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 MORE’s (D-Colo.) turn Thursday. Bennet, a two-term senator, made it official during an appearance on CBS This Morning.

"My plan is to run for president," he said, adding that his campaign would focus on restoring opportunities for Americans and integrity in government.

Bennet had teased a potential run in April, when he was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, he says he was pronounced cancer free by his physicians weeks later following successful surgery.

Known for his even-keeled political approach on Capitol Hill, Bennet’s bid for the White House is his boldest bid yet for national attention. He made waves earlier in 2019 when he took aim at Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOh, Canada: Should the US emulate Canada's National Health Service? Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott Trump says he'll sign order with 'road to citizenship' for DACA recipients MORE (R-Texas) during the midst of the 35-day government shutdown after the Texas Republican and other Senate Republicans backed a bill to pay members of the Coast Guard but not to reopen the government.

In years past, he also made news as a member of the Gang of Eight immigration bill in 2013 that died when the House did not take up the measure. He also chaired the Senate Democratic campaign arm during the 2014 cycle when Republicans took back the majority.

Bennet is the sixth sitting Senate Democrat to enter the 2020 race. 

 

 

> Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Teachers face off against Trump on school reopenings Biden wins Puerto Rico primary MORE has cast himself as a “union man” in his pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination and support from white, male voters, but there’s concern that he is focusing too much in that area and not on “increasingly diverse unionized workforces” (The Daily Beast).

“ ‘Those of us who work in and around the labor movement understand how diverse the membership is. The old stereotypical view of white male-dominated unions is a thing of the past,” Steve Rosenthal, former political director for the AFL-CIO, told The Daily Beast. ‘It’s one element of the labor movement, but not even the dominant element anymore. With the growth of the public and service sectors, with organizing, the bigger unions like [National Education Association] NEA, [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees] AFSCME and [Service Employees International Union] SEIU have incredibly diverse memberships.’ ”

In the opening week of his campaign, Biden’s push to frame himself as a winner for unions has come under attack from Trump, who claims that he still earns the most support from rank-and-file members despite antipathy from union leaders.

The Hill: Biden faces dilemma over K Street allies.

The Atlantic: Trump’s Biden plan? It could get dirty.

Politico: Trump team races to fend off red-state debacle.

> Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn politics, as in baseball, it ain't over till it's over Trump defends Roger Stone move: He was target of 'Witch Hunt' Democrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' MORE’s (D-Mass.) focus on policy and ambitious field organizing may be starting to pay off in the 2020 race. 

According to Max Greenwood, a handful of national polls released this week show the Massachusetts senator gaining on her competition, even placing second to former Biden in one survey. In the process, Warren has largely cemented her standing as the leader of the “ideas primary.” She has managed to secure consistent media coverage and draw curious voters to campaign events by issuing a steady stream of detailed policy proposals on everything from corporate consolidation in the agriculture sector to mounting student loan debt.

The New York Times: Warren’s campaign, “based on ideas,” bets on Iowa.

The Associated Press: Klobuchar releases $100 billion substance abuse, mental health plan.

The Associated Press: Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Senators raise concerns over Facebook's civil rights audit Biden's marijuana plan is out of step with public opinion MORE aims to regain spotlight in crowded 2020 field.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Hours after economist Stephen MooreStephen MooreSunday shows - Coronavirus resurgence dominates Trump economist says that voting for Biden is a 'scary proposition' Sunday shows - Bolton's bombshell book reverberates MORE appeared on Bloomberg TV on Thursday to say “I’m all in” to try to persuade the Senate to grant him a confirmation hearing, Trump announced Moore’s name had been withdrawn as a nominee to join the Federal Reserve Board (Bloomberg and CNBC).

The announcement reflected insufficient Senate support following a cascade of personal and professional controversies that dogged the conservative Trump ally who has been known for years as a cable television analyst. Trump still faces two vacancies on the Fed after Herman CainHerman CainTulsa health official: Trump rally 'likely contributed' to COVID-19 surge Trump campaign taps White House aide to oversee rallies Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday MORE, another nominee recently floated for the Federal Reserve Board, withdrew his name from contention last month.   

"I'm bummed out, frankly, that I'm not going to be over there, the Fed, because I think I could have some ideas that the Fed really needs," Moore told Fox Business Network's Neil Cavuto on Thursday afternoon. 

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstDemocrats seek to tie GOP candidates to Trump, DeVos Ernst: Renaming Confederate bases is the 'right thing to do' despite 'heck' from GOP GOP senators voice confidence over uphill Senate battle MORE (R-Iowa), who is running for reelection in 2020 and publicly opposed Moore’s nomination, offered advice to the White House for the next pick: “Please do some research.

> Pentagon: Reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military jumped by nearly 38 percent from 2016 to 2018, with an estimated 20,500 allegations of unwanted sexual contact last year. The report surveyed Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine personnel who reported that the number of sex assaults has risen significantly since the 14,900 recorded in the last survey in 2016. Unwanted sexual contact includes all forms of assault, ranging from groping to rape (USA Today). … The Defense Department, in response to the report, plans to make sexual harassment in the military a crime (The Hill).

Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierProtests force military reckoning on race Air Force documents acknowledged 'persistent' racial bias in justice system HHS watchdog says actions should be free from political interference MORE (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, added, “Congress must lead the way in forcing the department to take more aggressive approaches to fighting this scourge.”     

> U.S.-China trade: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress | Trump complains of 'political prosecution' | Biden rebukes Trump, rolls out jobs plan Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Why Trump can't make up his mind on China MORE described this week’s round of talks in Beijing as “productive” and said negotiations will resume Wednesday in Washington with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. Administration officials have said the United States will know within a few weeks whether China is serious about reaching a trade accord. Trump is eager to sign an agreement with President Xi Jinping this spring.

 



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

Mueller’s facts versus Trump’s spin, by Al Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2PKuHZo

Any infrastructure program will be swallowed by the swamp, by Liz Peek, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2DKvvsL

WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at 2:30 p.m.

The Senate meets Monday at 3 p.m. and at 5:30 p.m. is expected to vote on whether to advance the nomination of Joseph Bianco to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  

The president will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Amazon backtracks, says email asking employees to delete TikTok was sent in error Amazon asks employees to delete TikTok from mobile devices: report MORE. Trump will then meet with Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini of the Slovak Republic for an hour beginning at 1:45 p.m. at the White House.

Vice President Pence heads to Lafayette, La., where he’ll visit Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, which was burned during a recent act of arson. Pence will fly to Lexington, Ky., and take a tour of Hallway Feeds, a small business, and meet with employees to discuss the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which would replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. This evening, Pence will attend the Kentucky Governor’s Ball in Frankfort, Ky., and returns to Washington. 

White House acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says | Supreme Court rules that large swath of Oklahoma belongs to Native American tribe WH pushed for 'correction' to Weather Service tweet contradicting Trump in 'Sharpiegate' incident, watchdog says  Mulvaney: Trump faces difficulty if 2020 election becomes 'referendum' on him MORE will join Mexican Ambassador to the United States Martha Bárcena Coqui and representatives of Latino groups interested in trade for a White House briefing for guests and business owners from around the country about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. The briefing will be followed by a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will report on U.S. employment in April at 8:30 a.m.

ELSEWHERE

Tech: Facebook permanently banned right-wing commentator and former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones,  Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and other “dangerous” figures from its platform, the company announced on Thursday (The Hill). … Changes being negotiated between the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook would alter the board’s structure and corporate governance by adding a committee focused on privacy practices. The aim would be to put privacy on par with the board’s other responsibilities (The Wall Street Journal). 

Opioid execs guilty: Drug company executives were convicted on Thursday on charges related to a racketeering scheme involving kickbacks for doctors who prescribed large quantities of fentanyl painkiller spray. A federal jury in Boston found Insys Therapeutics CEO John Kapoor, 75, and four other executives guilty (USA Today).

CBD: Oreo-maker Mondelez says it’s considering adding cannabis-infused products to its snack repertoire, which includes Chips Ahoy cookies, Cadbury chocolate and Nutter Butter cookies (NBC News).

Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeGlenn Greenwald calls charges against Assange a threat to journalistic freedoms Hillicon Valley: Justice Department announces superseding indictment against WikiLeaks' Assange | Facebook ad boycott gains momentum | FBI sees spike in coronavirus-related cyber threats | Boston city government bans facial recognition technology Justice Department announces superseding indictment against Wikileaks' Assange MORE: The WikiLeaks founder told a judge in the United Kingdom he will fight extradition to the United States, triggering a prolonged legal battle while he also serves a 50-week prison sentence for skipping bail in 2012 (The Associated Press).

Pod mania: Loquacious former President Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton announced they’ll launch a summer podcast, called “Why Am I Telling You This,” to feature wide-ranging discussions with celebrities, innovators, deep-thinkers and do-gooders. Early interviews will include celebrity chef José Andrés and former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek Hallegere MurthyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Jerome Adams The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Harman says Russia is trying to exploit America; Mylan's Heather Bresch says US should make strategic reserve in medicines; Trump unveils leaders of 'Warp Speed' The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Moniz says U.S. needs energy jobs coalition and Manchin says Congress is pushing Wall Street solutions that don't work for Main Street; Burr to step aside MORE. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden leads Trump in Florida, tied in Arizona and Texas: poll We haven't seen how low it can go There's a big blue wave coming MORE may occasionally be a guest (The Hill).

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Readers were savvy about the Kentucky Derby, which takes place on Saturday. 

Here’s who finished strong with this week’s puzzle: Elise McClintick, Ken Cottman, Cheryl Gibson, Bob Schneiderman, Jeff Marston and David Straney.

They knew that the Kentucky Derby is often referred to as the “longest-running sports event in the United States,” the “Run for the Roses,” and the “greatest two minutes in sports.” However, we invented “distilled heartbreak” to describe the Derby, so that bit of fiction was the correct choice in our lineup.

Horses in the Kentucky Derby race 1-1/4 miles.

Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, American Pharoah and Justify all won the coveted Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing with victories in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. (And FYI, among those champions American Pharoah captured the informal Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing, which includes the Triple Crown races plus the Breeders’ Cup Classic.)

The total Derby purse this year is the richest in history at $3 million. The winner of Saturday’s race takes home $1.86 million in prize money (based on responses, this question proved tricky for quite a few skilled guessers). 

On Wednesday, Omaha Beach, suffering from a respiratory ailment, was scratched from the race after being an early 4-1 favorite to win on Saturday.

> Related news from The Associated Press: Kentucky Derby evolves from 90 minutes to 5 hours for NBC.