The Hill's Morning Report - Pompeo condemns Iran for 'act of war' while Trump moves with caution
The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - After GOP infighting, Trump Jr. agrees to testify again
Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report. Happy Wednesday! 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.
Donald Trump Jr. is making an encore appearance on Capitol Hill.
The eldest son of the president made it official Tuesday as he announced he will comply with a subpoena issued last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which sparked a battle within the Republican ranks over Chairman Richard Burr's (R-N.C.) decision to increase oversight pressure on the president's son.
As Jonathan Easley reported, Trump Jr. will appear in mid-June before the committee for between two to four hours. The scope of the questions will be limited to five or six topics related to his communications with Russian officials. This will also be the last time he will be called to testify, according to the terms of the agreement.
Until news hit Tuesday evening, it remained an open question whether Trump Jr. would even agree to appear on Capitol Hill again. He already did so before the Intelligence Committee in December 2017. The committee had reportedly been in discussions with him since December, including agreements for him to testify voluntarily, which fell through.
The fight even led Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to take the rare step of advising Trump Jr. to ignore the subpoena. But now, Trump allies hope this will put all questions to bed regarding the committee's probe.
"It is just a willingness to once again share the truth and contradict a convicted liar's testimony," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told The Hill, referring to Michael Cohen. "[I'm] not surprised he is coming back because he has nothing to hide. But certainly there is hope that this will be the final chapter."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a vocal supporter of Trump Jr. and critic of the decision to subpoena him, continued to question the merit of bringing the president's son in before the panel.
"He's already been there 27 hours. They're basing the idea of bringing him back in on Cohen, who's in jail for lying, talking about a meeting he wasn't even at," McCarthy said. "Why single him out? Why come back for that? But it seems like it's worked out for him to come back in."
McCarthy also took a shot at Burr for his report being outstanding, even after Mueller's has been turned in after nearly two years of investigating.
"He's chairman of the committee," McCarthy said. "Why's his report still out there when Mueller's done and everybody else is done? That way, we could have been done a long time ago."
Meanwhile, in other investigative matters, Attorney General William Barr's decision to tap a U.S attorney to dig into the origins of the Russia probe has thrown a curveball into investigative plans on Capitol Hill.
As Jordain Carney reports, a trio of Senate Republicans are planning their own investigation into "spying" on the Trump campaign and the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe. Though they say they support Barr's move, they warn it could hamper their ability to get responses to their own demands for information.
Barr's decision to appoint John Durham to look into the origins of the Russia investigation is setting off a partisan firestorm on Capitol Hill. As Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers report, Democrats have accused Barr of following conspiracy theories and GOP talking points, arguing that a new probe was not necessary. Conservative allies of the president, however, hailed the decision as something that should have been done a long time ago.
The New York Times editorial board: The attorney general investigates the investigators.
Politico: Moot courts, job interviews and potluck parties: A look inside Mueller's office.
The Hill: Republicans amp up attacks on Rep. Rashida Tlaib's (D-Mich.) Holocaust comments.
The Hill: Businesses, trade groups turn to former Pelosi aides to push priorities in Democratic House.
LEADING THE DAY
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump on Tuesday called the dramatic tariff turmoil with China "a little squabble," arguing via Twitter that the United States is "in a fantastic position" because of its healthy economy, even if rising levies on imported goods persist for some time and force U.S. companies out of China and its huge market. He said he was weighing "very strongly" even higher tariffs on all Chinese goods.
"I think it's going to turn out extremely well," he said. "We're in a very strong position."
The president's remarks continued to baffle many economists, market analysts, investors, farmers and business owners as they worked overtime this week to gauge where the U.S.-China trade war ends up.
Trump is pinning his hopes for a breakthrough with Beijing on a meeting in June with President Xi Jinping of China during the annual G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
In the meantime, U.S. agriculture interests are pleading with Washington's power brokers to help finesse some kind of accord with China so American farmers can hang on.
The New York Times: Trump mulls more farm aid.
The Washington Post: Trump believes China tariffs will help him win reelection.
> Iran: Trump dismissed as "fake news" a New York Times account of a White House review last week of plans to deploy 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran attacked U.S. interests or revived its nuclear weapons program.
The president took issue with the article but then said he'd deploy "a hell of a lot more" than 120,000 troops if Iran sparked hostilities. "Would I do that? Absolutely. But we have not planned for that," Trump added.
Reuters: Iraqi prime minister says Iran and the United States do not want war.
The Associated Press analysis: Persian Gulf tensions, unclear threats raise risks for everything from the price of a gallon of gas to the fate of nations.
Reuters: The Trump administration today ordered the withdrawal from Iraq of some U.S. Embassy personnel in Baghdad and consulate employees in Erbil, following repeated warnings in Washington about potential attacks on U.S. targets by Iran. The U.S. military reaffirmed to troops those warnings about potential threats from Iran.
> Russia: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday at Putin's getaway in Sochi, and the two men agreed on little except a shared desire to improve chilly relations between their two countries.
Pompeo's first meeting with Putin as Trump's top diplomat extended a long and often unconventional list of administration encounters with the Russian president during which much gets communicated and the frost never thaws.
On Iran, Venezuela and Russian interference in U.S. elections, Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put their disagreements on display during a news conference on Tuesday (The Washington Post).
Pompeo warned Russia that the United States will not tolerate Moscow's election interference going forward, which was a message many U.S. lawmakers from both parties in Washington wanted the secretary to convey because of Trump's own reluctance to revisit the issue (The Hill).
Putin again denied intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 and 2018 elections in the United States. He said special counsel Robert Mueller's report found no evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign or the president's associates. Putin sidestepped Mueller's indictments of Russians and detailed evidence describing how Moscow's intelligence arm sought to boost Trump's odds of victory (Reuters).
Putin, whose forces are alleged to be actively interfering this month in European elections, called Mueller's report "objective" (The Hill).
Trump spoke with Putin by phone earlier this month and hopes to meet with him again in the near future. Putin's foreign affairs adviser said the Kremlin is open to any format for a future encounter between the two leaders (The Associated Press).
> Immigration: Trump is preparing a speech about immigration policy in the coming days, perhaps this week, GOP senators said after meeting with top White House advisers on Tuesday (The Hill).
Trump backs a proposal that would favor highly skilled workers who want to enter the United States while cutting back on other types of visas, including for some family-based migration allowances. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner briefed senators on the outline of a plan (Reuters).
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters the goal is less about enacting legislation - which would need Democratic support - than giving Republican candidates cover to back an immigration agenda during the 2020 elections, one that focuses on proposed changes to bolster legal and merit-based migration.
"I don't think it's designed to get Democratic support as much as it is to unify the Republican Party around border security," Graham said.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop faces business executive Dan McCready (D) in September's do-over election in North Carolina's scandal-plagued 9th Congressional District, after last year's results were thrown out amid allegations of election fraud (The Washington Post). Bishop is the lead sponsor of North Carolina's controversial "bathroom bill" (The Hill).
> More than four months into the Democratic primary, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is proving to be an early winner.
Maddow made her mark once again Monday night as she interviewed former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) in one of the few interviews he has granted since he launched his 2020 bid as he seeks to reboot his campaign.
As Niall Stanage writes, a Maddow interview has become a rite of passage for Democratic contenders, with the anchor's unparalleled prominence and influence among the liberal base making her show a key stop for any 2020 candidate.
Maddow's standing is not much different than Fox News's Sean Hannity's status during the 2016 Republican primary fight. He was the first interview for a number of the 17 candidates that year, including many who did interviews on-site after their announcement addresses.
While Maddow and MSNBC have been beneficiaries of the busy 2020 Democratic circuit thus far, some within the party have pulled out the knives for Fox News, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Warren declared Tuesday that she will not accept an invite for a town hall on Fox News, saying that she didn't want to help promote a network "that profits from racism and hate."
"I won't do a town hall with Fox News because I won't invite millions of Democratic primary voters to tune in, inflate ratings, and help sell ads for an outlet that profits from racism and hate. If you agree, sign our petition," Warren tweeted.
Fox News has held town hall events with Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) so far, with more scheduled to involve South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Fox News declined to comment specifically on Warren's remarks but did point to comments made by CEO Suzanne Scott last Thursday that the network's fiscal year "is on track to be our highest advertising revenue year ever." It also noted that Maddow's interview with O'Rourke was her second-lowest-rated telecast of the year in the 25-54 demographic, according to Nielsen Media Research.
A Warren aide said that the senator's decision to boycott Fox extends to their shows, including "Fox News Sunday," which she appeared on in March 2018.
"We don't have any plans to right now. And we're not giving them 60 minutes of her time for an exclusive major TV event so they can market it to their advertisers," the aide told The Hill.
> Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has a new weapon in his arsenal to use against former Vice President Joe Biden as part of the 2020 wars: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Sanders appeared at Howard University on Monday night with Ocasio-Cortez, who supported his 2016 presidential bid and received a boost from the Vermont Independent when she challenged former Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.) for his seat in 2018.
As Amie Parnes reports, Ocasio-Cortez is returning the favor by hitting Biden, who has soared to the top of polls in the Democratic race since entering the race, leaving Sanders trailing behind in national and early-voting state polls.
"I'll be damned," Ocasio-Cortez said at a rally, "if the same politicians who refused to act [in past decades] are going to try to come back today and say we need a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives."
Ocasio-Cortez is a useful surrogate for the 77-year-old Sanders, even though she hasn't endorsed him. Both are democratic socialists and popular with young voters - a demographic where Sanders has an edge over the former vice president. Ocasio-Cortez has the ability to strengthen Sanders with such voters, and to attract crowds and media attention for the senator as he battles front-runner Biden.
The Associated Press: Slipping in polls, Sanders contrasts his record with Biden's.
The Washington Post: Climate change tests Biden as he confronts a major question for Democrats: Is any compromise too much?
The Wall Street Journal: Biden invokes 'Barack' to court primary voters.
The Washington Post: Trump uses official White House event to mock Democratic presidential rivals.
> Marianne Williamson thinks she has a chance in 2020, even if most others don't.
The best-selling spiritual author is not a fan of people telling her she can't win the Democratic presidential nomination, even though she barely shows up in polls. Additionally, as Max Greenwood writes, she bristles when asked how she might influence the race without winning it.
"Those who say who can and cannot win now are the same people who were telling us that Hillary Clinton was a shoo-in three years ago," Williamson said in a nearly hour-long interview on Sunday. "I have this radical idea and that's that we let the people decide."
Williamson believes her campaign can still take off, and argues that there's some polling evidence that people are starting to get familiar with her campaign. As they do, the hunger for a political outsider that propelled Trump to the GOP nomination will help her with Democrats, she says.
Elsewhere on the political scene ... New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announced Tuesday that he will run for reelection instead of launching a bid to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). The seat is considered one of the top pick-up opportunities on the 2020 Senate map for Republicans (The Hill) ... The House Democratic campaign arm took aim at the National Republican Congressional Committee after it admitted it is more focused on "the politics of what the Democrats are doing" on healthcare than their own party's plans on the issue (The New York Times).
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Is the Supreme Court's decision on Apple really good for consumers? by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2JEeYu8
Why Xi Jinping reneged on a trade deal with Trump, by Bradley A. Thayer and Lianchao Han, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2W4Rvsy
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV's "Rising" program, starting at 8 a.m., features John Gans, a former Pentagon speechwriter and author of a new book about the White House National Security Council; Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute; and Carl Cannon with a new poll from RealClear Opinion Research about health care. http://thehill.com/hilltv
The House convenes at 10 a.m. Daniel Elwell, acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, and Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, will testify on the status of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft during a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing at 10 a.m.
The Senate meets at 10 a.m. Stephen Dickson, 61, nominated to lead the Federal Aviation Administration during a key period for aviation safety and regulation, will testify before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee at 10 a.m. Dickson spent 27 years with Delta Air Lines (The Associated Press).
The president speaks during the annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol. Trump is scheduled to get a debriefing from Pompeo about his meetings this week with Putin and European leaders. The president and first lady Melania Trump will host a dinner for the White House Historical Association.
Vice President Pence delivers a eulogy in Indianapolis, Ind., for former Sen. Richard Lugar, and second lady Karen Pence joins him to attend the funeral service before returning to Washington.
Federal Reserve data about U.S. industrial production in April and a Census Bureau report describing retail sales in April will be released at 8:30 a.m.
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➔ State Watch: Alabama legislators approved the strictest abortion law in the country on Tuesday, making the procedure a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who is widely identified as an opponent of abortion, has not said if she will sign the measure. If she does, proponents and activists hope an Alabama abortion ban would be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court under the theory that newly installed conservatives justices would overturn the landmark 1972 decision Roe v. Wade, which ruled there is a constitutional right to abortion (The Associated Press).
➔ Supreme Court: A ban on executing juvenile offenders will not extend to people who were as old as 20 when they committed their crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. The justices also denied a stay of execution for Michael Brandon Samra, who is scheduled to receive a lethal injection on Thursday at a south Alabama prison for his participation in a quadruple murder when he was 19 (The Associated Press).
➔ Tech: Cyber industry experts believe if Apple ultimately loses a legal case involving its control and pricing of apps, the risk of malware infections on iOS devices may increase if users and consumers have easy access to apps from a marketplace beyond the App Store (The Hill). ... A cybersecurity breach in Facebook's messaging app WhatsApp left 1.5 billion users vulnerable to malicious spyware. The breach affected both iPhone and Android devices, and users are encouraged to update their apps ASAP (The Hill).
And finally ⚾️... What could be better for the boys of summer and their fans than a resurgence in minor league baseball thanks to, well, the baseball?
Triple-A baseball, right below the major leagues, is seeing a spike in the number of home runs this season after it started using the type of ball used by major league players. The superior, aerodynamic balls are made in Costa Rica and are manufactured differently than the minor-league version, which is made in China and is more pitcher-friendly.
As The Associated Press reports, the El Paso Chihuahuas have slugged 89 home runs in their first 37 games, while an April game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs featured 15 home runs. In total, 26 Triple-A teams are on pace to surpass their 2018 totals.