The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations
The Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget
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Lawmakers are juggling a to-do list this week that defies the space-time continuum in any Congress hurtling toward a Memorial Day recess.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow met with lawmakers in the Capitol on Monday, urging more progress on "everything," including the budget. "We're open to a lot of solutions," he said.
"There's a possibility we could work out something on the broader issues, the budget," Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said with a note of optimism in his voice. "It would be nice to get it done before we go on this break, at least a framework for avoiding ... another government shutdown, God forbid."
> House and Senate leaders will continue talking this week with senior White House officials about how to fund the federal government after Sept. 30. The White House also wants to persuade Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to raise the nation's borrowing authority as a separate must-do measure without the partisan jockeying surrounding potential default (The Hill).
> Today, the entire Congress will be briefed on the intelligence behind the administration's warnings that Iran could strike U.S. interests in the Middle East (The Hill). President Trump has threatened "the official end of Iran," while Iran says it has quadrupled its production of enriched uranium. "I think Iran would be making a very big mistake if they did anything," Trump told reporters on Monday evening. "If they do something, it will be met with great force but we have no indication that they will."
> On Monday, senators from both parties reached a tentative agreement to send Puerto Rico more disaster aid, just one of the stumbling blocks in a major disaster assistance measure that has been in limbo for months. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who discussed the topic and the overall budget picture with Trump, isn't sure the president's opposition has softened when it comes to Puerto Rico's disaster travails, but observers think an aid bill could now be on a fast track (The Hill).
> Trump, Schumer and Pelosi are expected to meet again, as they said they would last month, to discuss ways the government could pay for $2 trillion in infrastructure upgrades (The Hill). House Democrats now say they're not sure they want to work with Trump on a deal before the 2020 elections, while Republican lawmakers balked at the price tag and Trump, who initially sounded enthusiastic last month, now argues he's being "played" by the opposition party (The Hill).
> Vice President Pence on Monday for the first time pressed Congress to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement "this summer," a brisk schedule before Congress's August break, particularly for Democrats who want to add provisions to support labor and environmental protections leading into an election year (The Hill).
Also in Congress ... McConnell, who is running for re-election in 2020, on Monday announced he's working across the aisle with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to back what advocates call "Tobacco to 21" legislation to raise to 21 the legal age for the purchase of tobacco products (The Hill).
LEADING THE DAY
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Whether he likes it or not, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is becoming persona non grata within the Republican Party.
Amash, the libertarian-leaning lawmaker, doubled down on his weekend claim that the president engaged in impeachable conduct and has since been the center of speculation about a possible 2020 challenge to the president on the Libertarian Party ticket.
As Jonathan Easley reported, buzz is building that Amash will leave the Republican Party to launch a bid. Earlier this year, Amash left the door open to a Libertarian Party run and he has repeatedly expressed frustration with the GOP for abandoning its conservative principles to bend for Trump.
His statement over the weekend that he believed Trump committed impeachable offenses energized and united the "Never Trump" Republicans, who have been unable to recruit a candidate of their own, and prominent libertarians.
Since those remarks, Trump and his top allies have gone on the attack on his behalf. Additionally, GOP leaders are poo-pooing the idea that Amash could be a spoiler for the president, particularly in Michigan, which the president won in 2016 by just north of 10,000 votes (The Hill).
McCarthy, who left the door open to supporting a challenger if Amash runs for his House seat again, downplayed impact Amash may have on the 2020 scene and questioned whether anyone there has even heard of him before this past weekend.
"How many people know Justin Amash?" McCarthy asked reporters. "The only people I saw come up and congratulate him [tonight] were Democrats. How well did it play for [former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)]? How well did it play for others? ... It's really about attention more than anything else."
"He wondered 'Who is this guy?'" McCarthy said when asked if he talked to Trump about the congressman, adding that Amash is an inconsequential member who hardly ever gets legislation passed.
"He does have a post office," he quipped.
The friction between the two is no surprise as Amash voted for Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) on the House floor for speaker in January while most of the conference supported McCarthy.
The alienation even came from some of his closest colleagues. As Juliegrace Brufke reported, the House Freedom Caucus voted to condemn the impeachment remarks, but decided against expulsion of Amash, a founder of the three-dozen member group.
The Washington Post: Republicans caught between Trump and reluctance to penalize Amash after "impeachable conduct" declaration.
> Trump has a steep mountain to climb 18 months out from his reelection contest, as his approval ratings and polls continue to show him underwater, and a shockingly-high number of voters make it clear they will not vote for him in 2020.
As Niall Stanage writes, Trump also is staring at head-to-head polling that shows him losing heavily to former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, and other top 2020 Democrats.
However, the president's supporters believe he still has the wind at his back, pointing to the strong economy and the fact that his polling numbers have nudged upward since special counsel Robert Mueller's report was released.
Trump made his latest appearance on the campaign trail Monday night in Montoursville, Pa., where he stumped for state Rep. Fred Keller, the GOP candidate for the special election to replace former Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) in the state's 12th congressional district.
Trump told the Pennsylvania crowd that "I'll be here a lot" as he looks to repeat his 2016 feat and win the state's 20 electoral votes.
During the appearance, Trump made a point to ding Biden, a native of Scranton, Pa., on multiple occasions. At one point, he said that foreign leaders can't wait to deal with the former vice president. Later on, he argued that Biden deserted the state.
"He's not from Pennsylvania," Trump said. "I guess he was born here, but he left you folks. He left you for another state. Remember that, please....He left you for another state, and he didn't take care of you, because he didn't take care of your jobs. He let other countries come in and rip off America. That doesn't happen anymore."
Biden was born in Scranton in 1942, although his family moved away 11 years later (Politico).
The Washington Post: The narrator in chief: Trump opines on the 2020 Democrats - and so much more.
Reuters: Trump plans an official launch of his reelection campaign in mid-June, to coincide with the four-year anniversary of his initial White House bid.
The New York Times: As Biden rakes in big money, will there be a political cost?
> Biden isn't the only Democrat trying to appeal to the middle-of-the-road voter as Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has staked out a position in the middle to win votes from centrists in his bid for the Democratic nomination.
As Reid Wilson reports, Bullock, who entered the race one week ago, is pushing his red-state credentials having won twice in a deep-red state. This is headlined by his reelection bid when Trump won the state by 20 points in 2016.
The Associated Press: Town hall on enemy turf? Fox News debate divides 2020 Dems.
Elsewhere on the 2020 scene ... Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) will take part in a CNN town hall Tuesday night. The network also announced four more town halls in the coming weeks with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), all of which will take place in Atlanta (CNN) ... Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) is expected to launch a bid for reelection to the Senate this summer. A final decision will be reached this summer, but Republicans believe will run despite speculation that he could forgo a bid (Politico).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Former White House Counsel Don McGahn will not appear on Capitol Hill on Tuesday and plans to "respect the president's instruction" to defy a congressional subpoena, setting off a new round of calls to get the ball rolling on impeachment proceedings against the president.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), a member of House Democratic leadership, said that the "pattern" of obstruction by the White House is the impetus behind the call, adding that Democrats are being left with no choice.
The impeachment question is also pressuring Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who continues to dismiss the possibility. According to Politico, Cicilline and two other Democratic member pressed her to move forward on impeachment proceedings, which she, along with multiple leadership allies, rejected immediately.
"Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) - a former law professor - said he wasn't advocating impeaching Trump but suggested that opening an impeachment inquiry would strengthen their legal position while allowing Democrats to move forward with their legislative agenda.
"Pelosi dismissed this argument, asking Raskin if he wanted to shut down the other five committees working on Trump investigations in favor of the Judiciary Committee.
"'You want to tell Elijah Cummings to go home?' Pelosi quipped, referring to the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee."
> U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta blocked Trump's bid to withhold from House Democratic investigators his financial records held by an accounting firm he retained as a New York businessman, giving House Democrats a victory in their bid to unearth a trove of financial information about the president.
Trump panned the decision, pointing to Mehta being a judge appointed by former President Obama in 2014 and calling it "crazy."
Trump's attorneys filed a lawsuit last month seeking to block Mazars USA, an accounting firm, from complying with a subpoena for years of documents related to the House Oversight Committee's investigation into claims that Trump inflated or deflated financial statements for potentially improper purposes (NBC News).
The Wall Street Journal: Attorney General William Barr says he is fighting for the presidency, not Trump.
> The Environmental Protection Agency plans to get thousands of deaths off its books by changing its math about air pollution, to the chagrin of scientists and critics who challenge the accuracy and motivation (The New York Times).
> A government watchdog said Secretary Betsy DeVos used personal email for official purposes in "limited" cases without keeping department copies, an internal investigation disclosed on Monday.
According to the Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, DeVos sent fewer than 100 emails pertaining to government business from her four known personal email addresses between Jan. 20, 2017, and April 10, 2018, with most coming within the first six months (The Hill).
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Don't recycle another myth to justify a war with Iran, by Dov S. Zakheim, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2En8MTJ
Democrats should seize the day with a trade agreement, by Luis de la Calle, former Mexican deputy secretary for trade, and Arturo Sarukhan, former Mexican ambassador to the United States, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2HuZQhf
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV's "Rising" program, starting at 8 a.m., features Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.) on the situation with Iran; Robert Scott, director of trade and manufacturing for the Economic Policy Institute, on China and the trade war; and New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, interviewed about his latest book, "Obama: The Call of History." http://thehill.com/hilltv
The House convenes at 10 a.m. House Democrats will hold a private weekly caucus meeting to be briefed about Iran by former White House national security adviser John Brennan and other former U.S. officials who negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran (The Associated Press).
The Senate will meet at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of Daniel P. Collins to be a United States circuit judge for the 9th Circuit.
The president has lunch with the vice president. Trump holds an expanded bilateral meeting with the leaders of the Freely Associated States, which are three Micronesian nations (Honolulu Civil Beat).
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, and other officials are briefing lawmakers in the House and Senate about Iran (The Associated Press).
The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. will report on U.S. existing-home sales in April, a closely watched economic indicator during a year in which home sales nationally have been up and down.
➔ Manufacturing: Ford Motor Co. on Monday said it will eliminate about 10 percent of its global salaried workforce, cutting approximately 7,000 jobs by the end of August as part of its larger restructuring in a move that will save the No. 2 automaker $600 million annually (Reuters). ... Tesla Inc.'s stock slide intensified on Monday after a once-bullish analyst called the range of financial issues facing the electric-car maker a "code red situation" (Bloomberg).
➔ Abortion: The Supreme Court on Monday took no action on appeals seeking to revive two restrictive Republican-backed abortion laws from Indiana. The court could next announce whether it will hear the cases on May 28. If the court takes up either case, it would give conservative justices an opportunity to chip away at the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling during a period in which states' adoption of restrictive abortion laws are at the forefront of political debate (Reuters).
➔ Tech: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is recommending approval of a T-Mobile and Sprint merger after the two companies agreed to changes to a proposed $26 billion deal (The Hill). However, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division is leaning toward a thumbs-down on the merger (Bloomberg). ... Meanwhile, Chinese telecom giant Huawei continues to be in the middle of a U.S.-China tech cold war (The New York Times). The company got temporary exemptions from a U.S. blacklist in order to keep existing communications systems operating (The Wall Street Journal).
➔ Jeopardy! Contestant James Holzhauer was back at the buzzer on the game show match-up that aired Monday. Guess what? Yep, the professional sports bettor won again. Will he beat Ken Jennings's all-time Jeopardy record? Ken has been rooting for him (The Washington Post).
➔ Eiffel Tower: Rescuers in Paris eventually persuaded a man who scaled the Eiffel Tower on Monday to give himself up after his actions forced the monument's evacuation and closure. "The man entered the tower normally and started to climb once he was on the second floor," a spokeswoman for the tower's operator told Reuters. The iconic, 1,063-foot tower reopened today and tourists with timed tickets to ascend on Monday said they were désappointé to find themselves still on the ground (The Associated Press).
And finally ... Washington commuters and a summer's supply of visitors to the nation's capital should prepare this week to get a little hot under the collar. Beginning on Saturday and extending through Sept. 8, Metro system repairs will shut down subway stops in Virginia that are south of Reagan National Airport.
Virginia stations along the blue and yellow Metro lines that will be affected for months are Braddock Road, Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, Eisenhower Avenue, Huntington and King Street-Old Town. Express shuttle buses, local shuttle buses and water taxis are planned to help alleviate some of the public transportation gaps (WTOP). More details HERE.