The Hill's Morning Report - Can Barr and House Dems avert contempt clash?

 

 

 

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.



The ongoing feud between Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump's Justice Department should change its tune on antitrust policy Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community MORE and House Democrats is barreling toward a crescendo.

 

House Democrats are threatening to hold Barr, who has earned a special type of ire in their eyes, in contempt of Congress, a move designed to provoke the Justice Department into handing over special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s full report and the underlying evidence, which was due Monday morning on Capitol Hill.

 

As Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers report, the Department of Justice is pushing House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWatergate figure John Dean earns laughter for responses to GOP lawmakers The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by MAPRx - Nadler gets breakthrough deal with DOJ on Mueller docs The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by MAPRx - Nadler gets breakthrough deal with DOJ on Mueller docs MORE (D-N.Y.) to backtrack from a scheduled contempt vote, which is scheduled on Wednesday at 10 a.m., and to negotiate with the department to find an alternative course of action.

 

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to Nadler after the contempt vote was scheduled and requested a meeting between the two sides on Wednesday afternoon “to negotiate an accommodation that meets the legitimate interests of each of our coequal branches of government.” The two sides are expected to meet on Tuesday.

 

Boyd’s offer included allowing a select group of lawmakers to see the unredacted report. This would apply to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees and the eight congressional leaders who receive classified intelligence briefings. When the Mueller report was initially released and a similar offer was made, Democrats blasted it as too limited.

 

One issue standing in the way of everything is possible testimony by Mueller, which was thrown into question after Trump tweeted Sunday that the special counsel “should not testify” before the Judiciary Committee. The call from Trump has raised pressure on Barr while stoking a deepening feud with Capitol Hill over presidential power.

 

Prior to Sunday, Trump had expressed ambivalence over Mueller’s testimony as he cheered the special counsel’s conclusions as a vindication against claims of collusion with Russia and on obstruction of justice, despite Mueller not reaching a conclusion on the latter.

 

On multiple occasions, Barr said he did not have a problem with Mueller testifying, including at a news conference on April 18. The attorney general took a similar stance before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Barr told Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoFemale senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Female senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster Trump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation MORE (D-Hawaii) that the White House was not exerting influence on his decision about whether and when to allow Mueller to testify.

 

In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuOvernight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations 'alarming' | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale Lieu trolls Trump with 'warning' to foreign powers on office door MORE (D-Calif.) wondered if the president has “realized the Mueller report is actually quite bad for him and that is why he is trying to prevent Robert Mueller from testifying.”

 

He added that Democrats “fully expect” Mueller to appear eventually.

 

Democrats had been hoping that Mueller would appear before the committee on May 15. At the moment, Mueller would need Barr to sign off in order to testify as he is still employed by the Justice Department. However, he is expected to leave the department within days, and as a private citizen can theoretically decide on his own whether to testify.

 

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, told The Hill on Monday that Mueller “will be concluding his service within the coming days.”

 

The reason Democrats want to hear from Mueller is because they have lost every bit of confidence in Barr. Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Congress and contempt: What you need to know MORE (D-Md.) dismissed the attorney general to The Hill as a “one-man spin factory,” adding that Democrats have had “enough of the propaganda.”

 

Republicans on Capitol Hill vehemently disagree. Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsTensions between Democrats, Justice cool for a day Tensions between Democrats, Justice cool for a day Nadler reaches deal with Justice on Mueller documents on eve of contempt vote MORE (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, believes Barr is right, adding that he has bent over backward to accommodate House Democrats and their “perverse demands.”

 

"After far exceeding what the regulations require and offering to field questions from Congress, the attorney general faces demands from Democrat leadership who refuse to read the information he’s offered," Collins said in a statement. "I appreciate the respect Attorney General Barr is showing our committee by responding to a deluge of perverse demands."

 

Perspectives and Analysis:

 

Aaron Blake: Four very important things Mueller could tell us.

William McGurn: Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWatergate figure John Dean earns laughter for responses to GOP lawmakers The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by MAPRx - Nadler gets breakthrough deal with DOJ on Mueller docs The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by MAPRx - Nadler gets breakthrough deal with DOJ on Mueller docs MORE’s contempt.

Kim Wehle: Mueller testimony must answer four questions.

Madison Gesiotto: Do Democrats really want to see the unredacted special counsel report?



LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump’s hard-line trade strategy with China over the weekend — including a tweeted threat to raise tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion in Chinese goods on Friday — is one of a series of moves giving Senate Republicans severe heartburn.

 

Alexander Bolton reports that Trump's bellicose statements aimed at Beijing put new impetus behind Senate Republicans who favor legislation to try to rein in Trump's tariff authority. Just days ago, a group of senior GOP senators pressed Trump during a White House meeting to back off on tariffs against Mexico and Canada, as well as tariff threats aimed at Europe, and to wrap up talks with China expeditiously. They believe the president is unmoved by their advice.

The administration, in turn, is pushing Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), negotiated as a successor to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump campaigned to overhaul. Vice President Pence has been speaking around the country about how the USMCA, as the administration calls it, would help farmers and small businesses.

Outside groups that favor the USMCA are lobbying lawmakers to approve the deal ahead of a critical legislative period this summer. They say they’re optimistic about the outcome (The Hill).

Trump tweeted his tariffs threat on Sunday because China backtracked on substantial commitments it had made during earlier rounds of trade talks with U.S. negotiators, according to administration sources. Higher tariffs will take effect on Chinese imported goods one day after talks are to resume this week (Reuters). The two countries are expected to confer again in Washington on Thursday, but pessimism about the outcome sent financial markets into a tailspin early Monday.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is expected to be in Washington on Thursday and Friday as part of the Chinese delegation, according to U.S. negotiators (Reuters).

 

 

 

 

> North Korea: Trump spoke on Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about Pyongyang’s resumption of testing of what are thought to be short-range ballistic missiles. The two leaders are preparing for Trump’s state visit to Japan later this month and Abe is concerned about the future of denuclearization talks with North Korea after the failure of the last round in Vietnam between Trump and Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnTrump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Trump appears to walk back pledge not to use CIA informants against Kim Jong Un MORE (Reuters).

> Treasury Department: Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSchiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill MORE on Monday rejected House Democrats’ pending request for Trump’s tax returns, offering the administration’s legal judgment that the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

“I am informing you now that the Department may not lawfully fulfill the Committee’s request,” Mnuchin said in a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealSchiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns On The Money: DOJ offers legal opinion backing refusal to release Trump tax returns | Centrist Democrats raise concerns over minimum wage | Trump bashes Powell ahead of crucial Fed meeting | Design leaks for Harriet Tubman bill MORE (D-Mass.), offering an analysis that was widely expected.

The refusal to provide copies of Trump’s personal and business tax filings sets the stage for a likely court battle (The Hill). Trump has repeatedly said since 2016 that he’s willing to publicly disclose his tax filings when he is not under IRS audit.

> Presidents and prosecution: More than 450 former federal prosecutors who worked for Republican and Democratic administrations signed a statement asserting that the findings presented by Mueller would have resulted in obstruction charges against Trump, if he were not the president. The statement of legal opinion is intended as a rebuttal to Barr’s view that evidence described by Mueller in his 448-page report was “not sufficient” to establish that Trump committed a crime by obstructing or attempting to obstruct justice. Barr believes no president can be criminally prosecuted while in office (The Washington Post).

> FBI: The number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty has been on the rise, according to an annual FBI report released on Monday. In 2018, a total of 106 law enforcement officers were killed on the job, compared with 94 in 2017. The report is HERE.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Trump World is swinging back at Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments MORE (D-Calif.) after she claimed that the president may not leave power voluntarily if he is beaten by a narrow margin in the 2020 presidential election.

 

Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate Trump says he will not fire Kellyanne Conway for Hatch Act violations MORE, counselor to the president, told The Hill that Pelosi's remarks were “ironic and tone-deaf” and accused the speaker of trying to "call a preemptive process foul 18 months before Election Day." Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for Trump's re-election campaign, said Pelosi’s comments were "ridiculous" and "warrantless fear-mongering."

 

As Niall Stanage writes, the pushback from Team Trump is undoubtedly a push to secure the political high ground. But it also reflects pent-up frustration with what they consider to be a double-standard as Democrats continue to question the legitimacy of Trump’s 2016 win.

 

The New York Times: Trump embraces the traditional fundraising he once shunned.

 

> Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Buttigieg on Biden's Iraq War vote: 'that vote was a mistake' Ocasio-Cortez starts petition to repeal Hyde Amendment MORE (D) has found himself a target of progressives who are trying to ding his campaign amid sterling polling numbers as they argue he is too conservative to be the party's presidential nominee.

 

As Amie Parnes reports, unnerved progressives are casting him as an establishment figure out of touch with the grass roots of his party. However, progressives acknowledge the criticism of Biden is a sign of nervousness about his big lead in some polls of the race. According to a new Hill-HarrisX poll on Monday, Biden holds a 32-point lead nationally, and some progressives think nominating Biden would bring the party to defeat, just as nominating the more centrist Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally It's about the delegates, stupid MORE did in 2016.

 

“I think that people’s initial, and main concern is that he is out of step with the primary electorate and is going to have the same problems that Clinton did with motivating the base and being the best candidate to run against Trump,” said one Democratic strategist. “And then that got turbocharged by him jumping out to an early lead, and all of the [news] articles about people being focused on ‘electability’ and that again is going to be another Clinton campaign redux.”

 

Time: Trump attacks Biden more than other 2020 rivals. Is he afraid or excited?

 

The Atlantic: Here comes Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioDemocratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement Democratic presidential hopefuls react to debate placement The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Biden, Sanders to share stage at first DNC debate MORE for some reason.

 

> To run or not to run? That is the question facing Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One House panel approves 3B defense policy bill House panel approves 3B defense policy bill MORE (R-Wyo.) as speculation mounts regarding whether she’ll launch a bid to replace Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziBeware of the 'unknown knowns' of budget reform The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE (R-Wyo.), who announced over the weekend that he will not seek a fifth term in the Senate.

 

Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, is at a crossroads, as Scott Wong and Juliegrace Brufke report. Does she launch a bid for the open Senate seat, which she’d be favored to win six years after she launched a primary bid to unseat Enzi? Or does she stay in the House, continue to climb the ladder in a bid to potentially become the first Republican speaker if the party retakes the chamber in the coming years?

 

 

 

 

While Cheney has not made a decision, several House and Senate GOP lawmakers expect her to run for the Senate, where they believe she would make an immediate impact on the issues she is most passionate about: defense and foreign policy.

 

“I predict she runs. It’s hers if she wants it,” says a House colleague who works closely with her. “Senators can really shape policy.”

 

When asked Monday about Cheney possibly running for his Senate seat, Enzi — after a long pause — told The Hill, “I’m really disappointed anyone is trying to talk to me about succession. I got a year and a half around this place. So I’m still enjoying the fact that I just said that I’m not running again.”

 

Cheney, of course, briefly challenged Enzi for his seat in 2014 before Wyoming Republicans rallied to his side and she dropped her bid.

 

Elsewhere in politics Garland S. Tucker III, a chief executive of a Raleigh investment company, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Monday to launch a primary bid against Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTrump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump puts GOP in tough spot with remarks on foreign 'dirt' Trump hit with fierce backlash over interference remarks MORE (R-N.C.) (The Washington Post) … Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is calling on 2020 Dems to focus on the federal judiciary and has joined People for the American Way in order to promote that message in the future (The Nation).

 

***

 

CONGRESS: The president and congressional Democrats continued blaming one another on Monday for an impasse over disaster assistance, with the U.S. territory of  Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory, at the epicenter. At issue is more than $17 billion in federal assistance that would benefit a broad array of states recovering from numerous natural disasters.

 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.) accused the president of slow-walking recovery aid because Trump believes Puerto Rico does not warrant additional federal assistance following direct hits from two hurricanes in 2017.

 

“Puerto Rico has NOT gotten $91B in recovery aid,” Schumer tweeted on Monday. “Just last week, your administration missed its deadline to release more than $8B in funds for Puerto Rico,” he added, referring to a regulatory process stuck between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Office of Management and Budget (The Hill).

 

Schumer was responding to Trump’s attack on Democrats, also on Monday.

 

Puerto Rico has been given more money by Congress for Hurricane Disaster Relief, 91 Billion Dollars, than any State in the history of the U.S.,” the president tweeted. “The Dems don’t want farmers to get any help.”

 

Trump says Democrats are holding up federal help to states following hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and flooding because lawmakers seek political solidarity with left-leaning Puerto Rican voters residing in blue states and are pushing for additional funding (Politico).

 

Meanwhile on Monday, House Democrats on the Oversight and Reform Committee reopened an investigation into Trump’s handling of the 2017 hurricanes that devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

The committee is seeking documentation by May 20 related to hurricanes Irma and Maria, requesting information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

"The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether any of our nation's disaster response laws need to be amended and improved — including with respect to long-term planning, advance contracting, real-time communications, intelligence-sharing and leadership structure," the lawmakers wrote (The Hill).

> Next week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezPolice say man trespassed into Ocasio-Cortez's office Police say man trespassed into Ocasio-Cortez's office Ocasio-Cortez starts petition to repeal Hyde Amendment MORE (D-N.Y.), who is trying to nudge the Democratic Party to the left on climate change, among other issues, will headline a rally in Washington in support of the progressive platform known as the Green New Deal, which she co-sponsored in the House (The Hill). The Sunrise Movement is organizing a May 13 rally at Washington’s Howard University, the final stop on the young activists’ nationwide “Green New Deal Tour” (The New York Times).  



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

U.S., Iran, Israel and Gaza turn the Mideast into a danger zone again, by Simon Henderson, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2DSwBTo

 

Trump calls President Xi’s bluff, but who really holds the cards? by Philip I. Levy, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2POSA24



WHERE AND WHEN

The House convenes at noon. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt will testify about his department’s budget proposal before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies at 3 p.m.

 

The Senate meets at 10 a.m.

 

The president joins first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpWhite House mulling restoring daily press briefing with Sanders replacement: report White House mulling restoring daily press briefing with Sanders replacement: report Trump compares Melania to Jackie Kennedy: 'We have our own Jackie O' MORE as she celebrates the one-year anniversary of her Be Best campaign for children. Trump has lunch with Pence. He’ll meet with Republican senators at 3 p.m. to discuss an immigration reform plan crafted by senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFinancial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Financial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Kim Kardashian West joins Trump at White House event for ex-prisoners MORE (Politico).

 

First lady Melania Trump hosts an event to mark the Be Best campaign, which will include three guest speakers, each representing one of the three pillars of the first lady’s initiative, plus other guests who embody Be Best aims.

 

The vice president participates in the 49th Washington Conference on the Americas with a speech at 3:20 p.m. about the situation in Venezuela and the administration’s strategy in the region, at the State Department.

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack The US must do its part in closing the largest outdoor prison in the world MORE is attending the Arctic Council ministerial meeting in Finland. He’ll be in Berlin, London and Nuuk, Greenland, later this week.

 

Recipients of the 16th annual Bradley Prizes — former federal Judge Janice Rogers Brown; Roger Kimball, editor and publisher of The New Criterion and Encounter Books; and James Grant, founder and editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer — will receive $250,000 stipends today at an event hosted by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Washington. The Bradley Prizes honor scholars and practitioners who support the concept of American exceptionalism and reflect the “commitment, conviction and courage ... to advance the ideals of freedom and liberty.” Information HERE.



ELSEWHERE

Iran: Tensions between the United States and Iran are reaching a boiling point near the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (The Hill). Iranian President Hassan Rouhani may deliver a speech on Wednesday and address the tensions (The Associated Press).

 

Abortion: Anti-abortion rights advocates are celebrating passage the of bills that place some of the most onerous restrictions on abortion access in recent memory in states across the country. Anti-abortion legislators are engaged in a not-always-subtle race to overturn Roe v. Wade (The Hill).

 

Extinction: At least 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction because of human activity, posing a dire threat to global ecosystems and human survival, according to a stark, 1,500-page United Nations report compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies. A summary of the findings, approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris (The New York Times).

 

Sports: Horse racing continued to make news on Monday as Maximum Security dropped out of the Preakness Stakes, and an appeal of the thoroughbred’s disqualification at the Kentucky Derby was denied by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (The Associated Press). … In professional golf, Tiger Woods, 43, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump in the Rose Garden on Monday evening to honor his recent victory in the Masters in Augusta, Ga. “Your spectacular achievements on the golf course, your triumph over physical adversity and your relentless will to win, win, win — these qualities embody the American spirit,” the president said (The Hill).  

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally …   “Over-the-moon” Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, celebrated the birth of their first child, a son, on Monday. The seventh heir in line to the British throne arrived at 5:26 a.m. and became the first interracial baby in the British monarchy’s recent history. He weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces.

 

"It’s been the most amazing experience I can ever possibly imagine," a delighted Harry told reporters at Windsor Castle. "How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension, and we’re both absolutely thrilled” (NBC News).