The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Barr split over Mueller testimony to Congress




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.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE erected a new investigative roadblock on Sunday with his statement that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE “should not testify” to Congress about the findings of the Russia investigation, which was completed in March. The president revised his statement just days ago that the matter was up to Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr bemoans 'moral upheaval' that has brought 'suffering and misery' Trump threatens to sue Schiff and Pelosi Democratic lawmaker says Barr's reported meeting with Murdoch should be investigated MORE, who previously said he had no objection to Mueller’s appearance before Congress.


After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents - all culminating in a more than 400 page Report showing NO COLLUSION - why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller to testify,” Trump tweeted.


Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”


The Hill: Trump says Mueller should not appear before Congress.


The president is loath to watch House and Senate Democrats try to amend the public’s impressions of the 448-page Mueller report using testimony from the special counsel, whom he believes would be perceived as credible by many voters.


While Trump says it’s time to turn the page to tackle infrastructure and the nation’s legislative business, he also seeks a Senate GOP probe into the underpinnings of the FBI and Justice Department probe of Russia’s interference in 2016. The president asserts the FBI began with political bias and surveillance aimed at hurting his chances for election.


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Army officer calls Syria pullback 'a stain on the American conscience' MORE (R-S.C.) says he will conduct hearings to examine the catalyst for the FBI’s Russia probe, but he said he has no interest in calling Mueller as a witness to discuss what’s in the report written after a 22-month investigation.


Reuters: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage Schiff: Whistleblower testimony might not be necessary A Republican Watergate veteran's perspective on a Trump impeachment MORE (D-Calif.) vows that Mueller and former White House counsel Don McGahn will ultimately testify.


The Hill: Anticipation builds for Mueller testimony.


House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBarr to speak at Notre Dame law school on Friday The 13 House Democrats who back Kavanaugh's impeachment Ignore the hype — this is not an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.Y.) revised his request to Barr last week to secure the original, unredacted version of the Mueller report and its underlying grand jury and intelligence information, setting a new, 9 a.m. deadline for a response today in a letter sent to the attorney general.


“If the Department persists in its baseless refusal to comply with a validly issued subpoena, the Committee will move to contempt proceedings and seek further legal recourse,” Nadler added.  


The Washington Post: “Investigate the investigators” is Trump’s new rallying cry to counter the Mueller report.


Trump and his lawyers this week appear intent on defying and delaying congressional oversight into the Mueller report, White House operations and the president’s business and financial affairs. Trump has turned to the courts to help him block Democratic investigations while he repeatedly tells his base of supporters that he’s a victim of a political “witch hunt” (The Hill).


As Mike Lillis and Cristina Marcos report, House Democratic leaders, who are facing liberal calls to impeach the president, find themselves pressured in a way they had not expected: Republicans appear eager to goad them into it.


Some Democrats sense the Republicans are setting a political trap to help Trump, even as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden on impeachment: 'I'm the only reason' it's happening Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Rand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter MORE (D-Calif.) and her leadership team have repeatedly sought to defuse calls for impeachment hearings as premature.


But recent stonewalling actions by the administration have only fueled the liberal push to oust the president, complicating leadership efforts to take the long view and move with care.


The New York Times: Pelosi believes the only way to remove Trump as president is with a decisive win by a Democratic nominee in 2020 that he cannot challenge as illegitimate.





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage Schiff: Whistleblower testimony might not be necessary Trump warns Democrats will lose House seats over impeachment MORE is putting pressure on Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders wishes Ocasio-Cortez happy birthday Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Sanders can gain ground by zeroing in on corruption MORE (I-Vt.) in one specific part of the Democratic primary electorate: African-American voters.


Biden’s entrance in the race over a week ago has heightened the attention the Sanders campaign is expected to give to the key voting bloc. Given his time as former President Obama’s vice president and the loyalty African-Americans are giving him, coupled with his surge in the polls leaving the Vermont independent in a distant second place, Biden is creating a problem for Sanders, as Amie Parnes reports. This was evidenced by the warm reception Biden received at Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., on Sunday morning.


Sanders allies say that the Vermont senator recognizes the importance of appealing to African-Americans in his push for the nomination.


CBS News: Biden attends services at South Carolina church, where voters say they want a fighter.


The Associated Press: Biden surge fueled by electability advantage. Will it last?


The New York Times: Biden thinks Trump is the problem, not all Republicans. Other Democrats disagree.


Politico: On the campaign trail, Biden keeps his hands to himself.





> Only months into the 2020 Democratic primary, the early contours of the race are becoming clear.


As Niall Stanage writes, Biden has jumped out to a polling lead after a stronger-than-expected campaign launch and surviving allegations of inappropriately tactile behavior with women, with Sanders trailing him. Meanwhile, several contenders are bunched together behind them.


> Military documents provide a glimpse into South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegTrump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage Sanders can gain ground by zeroing in on corruption Biden praises Buttigieg for criticizing GOP attacks: 'That's a good man' MORE’s (D) time serving in Afghanistan as a Navy intelligence officer.


As Jonathan Easley reports, the documents reveal details about Buttigieg’s work to disrupt the flow of money among terrorist organizations during Operation Enduring Freedom, the war on terrorism launched after the 9/11 attacks. Buttigieg’s military background is one area that sets him apart from others in the 2020 Democratic field.


According to the documents, Buttigieg served in the Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell (ATFC) in Kabul, placing him in “an imminent danger pay area” from late March to mid-September 2014, while the then-32-year old was still serving his first term as mayor.  


“The ATFC ‘identifies and disrupts Taliban, Al-Qaida and other insurgent financial support networks in Afghanistan.’  


“Buttigieg represented ATFC at ‘high level briefings,’ the documents say, and `coordinated intelligence sharing and targeting deconfliction’ methods with multiple organizations.”


The Hill: Buttigieg, husband meet with Jimmy Carter, sit in on Sunday school class.


The Associated Press: Home state politics complicate message for some 2020 Dems.


The Hill: Strong economy bolsters Trump heading into 2020.


Axios: Inside a top Trump adviser's fundraising mirage.


> A mini campaign is breaking out among 2020 Democrats as they fight for the party’s nomination: the battle to become the party’s climate change candidate.


As reported by Miranda Green, four candidates already have offered detailed policy plans on how they'd tackle the issue, a signal of the importance of climate action among the primary electorate. In the past week, former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeButtigieg pushes back on O'Rourke threat to strip religious institutions of tax-exempt status O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter Conservatives slam Beto O'Rourke over threat to tax-exempt status for religious organizations MORE (D-Texas) and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee2020 Presidential Candidates Warren environmental justice plan focuses third of climate investment on disadvantaged communities Poll: Warren closing in on Biden's lead with climate-focused voters MORE (D) both released detailed policy plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions, with Inslee dismissing the former congressman’s plan out of hand.


Last month, Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders can gain ground by zeroing in on corruption Biden praises Buttigieg for criticizing GOP attacks: 'That's a good man' Warren enters crucial debate with big momentum MORE (D-Mass.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRepublicans wrestle with impeachment strategy O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (D-N.J.) introduced a public lands and environmental justice proposal respectively, with each addressing how to stop emissions.


Perspectives and Analysis:


John Hickenlooper: Running to save capitalism.

Dan Balz: Democrats and the “electability” trap. Can anyone define what it means?

Megan McArdle: Sorry, Bernie, but most Americans like their health insurance the way it is.

Jonathan Allen: Trump's economy is roaring. Will it carry him in 2020?


Elsewhere on the 2020 scene Buttigieg called for reforms in the criminal justice system, including the elimination of mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and legalizing marijuana (The Associated Press) … Biden raises more than $100,000 at South Carolina fundraiser (CBS News) … O'Rourke says the Mueller report solidified his belief in need for impeaching the president (CNN) … Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharRepublicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Klobuchar takes shots at health and education plans supported by Sanders and Warren O'Rourke campaign says path to victory hinges on top 5 finishes in Iowa, Nevada MORE (D-Minn.) gave Obama, but not Trump, credit for the current economy despite a 3.6 percent unemployment rate and strong economic numbers that emerged Friday (RealClearPolitics) … Trump expected to travel to Louisiana this month; his campaign is raffling off a dinner with the president to take place in New Orleans in email to supporters.  


CONGRESS: Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group Overnight Energy: Top Interior lawyer accused of lying to Congress confirmed | Senate set to deny funding for BLM move | EPA threatens to cut California highway funds MORE (D-Hawaii) is showing that it doesn’t take running for president to make waves in the Democratic Party.


As Jordain Carney reports, Hirono, a second-term senator, has emerged as an electrifying force for progressives as they battle with the president. The petite, generally unassuming, senator garnered national attention with her questions to Attorney General William Barr, which earned her near-universal condemnation from Republicans, but praise from all corners on the left.


While six of her colleagues run for the Democratic nomination, the Hawaii Democrat has become one of the caucus's staunchest Trump critics with a penchant for making high-profile, viral moments.


> Paul Kane: Shutdowns and legislative logjams stir appreciation for the once-hated earmark:


After an initial burst of optimism, most lawmakers quickly grew skeptical of the $2 trillion infrastructure framework that President Trump and congressional Democrats proposed this past Tuesday.  


“Most doubters pointed to the incredibly high price tag and noted that neither side settled on a way to pay for the massive program: a higher gas tax, increased taxes on the wealthy, a user fee based on how many miles you drive?   But the bigger problem might be that lawmakers feel little incentive to support such a massive project because their constituents view Congress with such deep cynicism and doubt their cities and towns will see any benefits.”


“This is part of the reason behind the push for the return of the once-hated E-word: earmarks.”  


‘Yes — I’m talking about restoring earmarks, which I believe can be great instruments of good when done in a way that is fully transparent and accountable,’ House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) testified in March before a select committee tasked with recommending internal reforms.”


Politico: “You create chaos”: Trump squeezes Dems with border demands.


> Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziPoll: Majority of independent voters want GOP to retain control of Senate in 2020 Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Liz Cheney and Rand Paul extend war of words MORE (R-Wyo.) announced Saturday that he will not seek a fifth term in office and will retire in 2020 at the end of his term. For Republicans, any possible field will be determined by the intentions of Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican (Casper Star-Tribune).


Although Cheney briefly sought Enzi’s seat in 2014, it is unknown if she will do so this time. She could be in line for the speakership if House Republicans take back the House in one of the coming campaign cycles, giving her enough reason to stick around in the lower chamber. Expect her to be asked about it on Capitol Hill this week.


> Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungFederal aid is reaching storm-damaged communities too late Senators pressure Trump to help end humanitarian crisis in Kashmir Congress set for chaotic fall sprint MORE (R-Ind.) called on leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a hearing this week with administration officials about a possible U.S. military intervention in Venezuela (The Hill).




WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The United States late on Sunday said it was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to apply pressure on Iran. White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonEx-top Trump Russia aide to testify about 'shadow policy' on Ukraine: report Bolton to write memoir on time serving under Trump: report The Russian offensive in Africa and America's feeble response MORE described the administration’s “response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” and said the United States would use “unrelenting force” in the case of an Iranian attack on U.S. interests or on U.S. allies.


“The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said in a statement.


He was not specific, but Iran recently warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz if it was barred from using the strategic waterway through which about a fifth of the oil consumed globally passes (Reuters).


Meanwhile, Trump and Vice President Pence tweeted words of support for Israel late on Sunday. Israel and Hamas engaged in their worst fighting in nearly five years as Palestinian militants launched a barrage of more than 600 rockets and Israel responded with airstrikes on more than 300 targets. The exchange threatened a new war and an end to efforts to broker a longer-term truce. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE said he instructed the military to continue strikes and prepare “for the next stages” (The Washington Post).


The New York Times: Pence serves as a Trump decoder but not a White House decision maker.


Trade: Over the weekend, U.S.-China trade talks appeared to falter. Trump vowed to raise tariffs on Friday to 25 percent on $200 billion in Chinese imported goods because the ongoing trade talks between the U.S. and China are happening “too slowly” and he believes Beijing is trying to “renegotiate” after months of discussions. “No!” Trump tweeted.


Trade negotiations were to resume in Washington on Thursday with a group from Beijing that was to include Chinese Premier Liu He. A Chinese delegation is still expected to travel to resume the talks, but following Trump’s tweet it was unclear if the Chinese premier will be among them (CNBC).


The president is impatient to sign a trade and intellectual property deal later this month, if possible, with Chinese President Xi Jinping (Axios).


Trump’s tweet:


For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA of 25% on 50 Billion Dollars of High Tech, and 10% on 200 Billion Dollars of other goods. These payments are partially responsible for our great economic results. The 10% will go up to 25% on Friday. 325 Billions Dollars of additional goods sent to us by China remain untaxed, but will be shortly, at a rate of 25%. The Tariffs paid to the USA have had little impact on product cost, mostly borne by China. The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!”


MarketWatch: Stock market futures were hit hard overnight after Trump tweeted that tariffs on Chinese goods to rise this week.


The Wall Street Journal: Global markets tumble. Opening losses today projected to be significant.


> Related to hemispheric trade, Mexican Foreign Relations Undersecretary Jesús Seade met on Thursday with U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerOn The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead MORE to discuss the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Act, which must be ratified by Congress. Rafael Bernal sat down with Seade for an interview.


Infrastructure: Trump on Saturday appeared to downshift from his agreement last week to a $2 trillion price tag for an infrastructure measure (The Hill). The reason? Coming up with $2 trillion to build roads and bridges, upgrade ports and airports and finance broadband is a tough sell for GOP lawmakers (The Washington Post).


Naomi Jagoda and Niv Elis report where the infrastructure hurdles keep cropping up, and why such investments pose a challenge (The Hill).


Education Department: Distant from Trump, disliked by many, Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosJudge warns DeVos: 'I'm not sending anyone to jail yet' but it's an option Students ask judge to hold DeVos in contempt over debt collection DeVos security detail could cost taxpayers over M during Trump's first term MORE is a Cabinet survivor (The Associated Press).


Immigration: The president on Sunday selected Mark Morgan, a former chief of Border Patrol during the final months of the Obama administration, to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Morgan left government during the early days of the Trump administration, saying he had been forced to resign (The Hill). Trump later tweeted that pending Morgan’s confirmation by the Senate, “Matt Albence will serve in the role of Acting Director. Matt is tough and dedicated and has my full support to deploy ICE to the maximum extent of the law!”




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The real Trump foreign policy: Stoking the GOP base, by former White House national security adviser Susan E. Rice, opinion contributor, The New York Times.


The New Cheney: Washington finds a bugaboo in William Barr, by Matthew Continetti, The Washington Free Beacon.


The House convenes at noon on Tuesday.


The Senate meets at 3 p.m. today 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 2nd Circuit.  


The president will present the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy football team. Trump will present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfer Tiger Woods, winner of the 2019 Masters in Augusta, Ga. (USA Today).


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoReporter presses Pompeo on whether he met with Giuliani in Warsaw Pompeo: 'I wish the NBA would acknowledge' China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims Dem senator urges Pompeo to fire State official accused of retaliation, harassment MORE is traveling until Thursday to Rovaniemi in Finland,  Berlin, London and Nuuk, Greenland. Today in Finland, Pompeo delivers a speech, then meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.


The U.S. Small Business Administration kicks off National Small Business Week by designating the National Small Business Person of the Year today. Events continue all week. Information is HERE.


Cohen to prison: Former Trump lawyer Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenTrump's tirades, taunts and threats are damaging our democracy Maxine Waters: Trump should be imprisoned and 'placed in solitary confinement' Michael Cohen denies Omarosa advising him in prison MORE today begins serving a three-year sentence at an Otisville, N.Y., federal facility with notable amenities (Reuters). Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial crimes and cooperated with the Justice Department. For that reason, some former U.S. officials say Cohen should exercise caution among the general inmate population (NBC News).


North Korea: North Korea confirmed Sunday that it fired multiple rocket launchers and “tactical guided weapons” on Saturday under the personal supervision of leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnBeware the 34th month of Trump's presidency The Trump doctrine: Principled realism or endemic confusion? Stockholm breakdown reflects North Korea's failure to compromise MORE. Experts believe the test included a short-range ballistic missile, which does not invalidate North Korea’s self-declared moratorium on inter-continental ballistic missile tests, but raises tensions with Washington and Seoul (The Washington Post). … Trump used a tweet over the weekend to make light of the test, referring to his confidence in Kim and in the prospects for a denuclearization deal. “I am with him,” the president said.


Venezuela: The continuing struggle for power in Venezuela is testing Trump’s relationship with adviser Bolton (The Hill). … How a plan filled with intrigue failed to oust Nicolás Maduro (The Washington Post). … U.S. talk of possibly using military action in Venezuela aims to pressure Maduro (Politico). … Pompeo on Sunday repeated the administration threat that “a full range of options” remains under consideration to push Maduro from power (The Hill).


State watch: The National Governors Association, a group that deliberates twice a year over policy and real-world solutions beyond Washington, D.C., is in turmoil (The Hill).  


And finally … The white beluga whale that defected to Norway after likely receiving Russian training for an unknown marine assignment won’t leave the area. The whale is so friendly and keen on human interaction that marine biologists and Norwegian officials worry its quite evident social skills could prove hazardous to its health. They may try to send the celebrity guest to a marine sanctuary in Iceland to live out its days (The Washington Post).