The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran?
The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes
Welcome to The Hill's Morning Report. Happy Thursday! 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.
*** Happy 69th birthday to Attorney General William Barr, who may feel a wee bit older than he imagined just a few weeks ago ... ***
President Trump, in a blast of irritation on Wednesday, said he would not work with House and Senate Democrats on legislation unless they halt their ongoing investigations into his administration, campaign and businesses.
The president's eruption was ostensibly in reaction to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) assertion that Trump's noncompliance with congressional oversight was tantamount to "a cover up" - a statement she made early Wednesday while her House colleagues continued weighing a potential impeachment inquiry.
But GOP lawmakers later suggested the president's ultimatum might blow over after Trump vented his outrage about Pelosi's comment and voiced his exaggerated, stage-managed claims about "exoneration" by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Republicans say voters next year will ask the party in power in the White House and in the Senate how the GOP helped solve Americans' kitchen-table problems.
"I don't see this as a permanent derailment," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, choosing his words carefully. "I'm not giving up."
"It was understandable, albeit very prescriptive," chuckled Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), referring to Trump's heated reaction. "Hopefully, after a day or two goes by, we can all get back to work. ... I don't expect the flare-up to have long-lasting effects."
Trump, however, indicated on Wednesday that his appetite for conflict can surpass his patience for scrutiny - or for collaboration.
"I've said from the beginning - right from the beginning - that you probably can't go down two tracks," he said in the Rose Garden while standing behind a placard that delivered his "no collusion, no conspiracy" message in print.
"You can go down the investigation track, and you can go down the investment track or the track of let's get things done for the American people," Trump added.
His ire was evident as he met briefly with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), just hours after the administration appealed to Congress to work together.
Earlier in the week, the president spoke with lawmakers about his desire to see swift ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, the need to raise the nation's debt ceiling and the push for a new spending accord before September. Trump also sent two top Cabinet officials to Capitol Hill to reassure a jittery Congress that the U.S. stance toward Iran is about pressure, not war. In addition, the White House and Congress would like to provide more federal disaster funding to states and communities, if disagreements can be ironed out.
Trump's refusal on Wednesday to discuss a potential $2 trillion infrastructure measure invited some shrugs on Capitol Hill, largely because many lawmakers doubted there was enough unanimity within either party to cut a deal with the 2020 presidential race already underway.
Congress will continue to do its work, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said, echoing some of his GOP colleagues when asked what happens next. "I think both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate want to get on with the business of doing appropriations bills, so we will work hard to try to keep the White House on board."
Pelosi and Schumer have said Democrats are making some inroads while seeking Trump's tax returns, financial records and key intelligence evidence as a result of actions in the courts, in the New York state legislature and even a temporary détente between the Department of Justice and the House Intelligence Committee. The department agreed on Wednesday to begin responding to a subpoena for some intelligence from the redacted version of the Mueller report.
The Hill: Pelosi fends off impeachment wave - for now.
The Hill: Impeachment threat siphons oxygen out of this year's legislative agenda.
NBC News: Wells Fargo, TD Bank gave Trump-related financial data to the House Financial Services Committee, while a federal judge ruled Deutsche Bank and Capital One can provide requested documents about Trump's finances to Congress.
Paul Kane: Democrats who stood with Clinton through impeachment urge caution in pursuit of Trump.
Alex Shephard, The Atlantic: Impeachment is coming.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: It is becoming increasingly unlikely that Congress will pass a disaster aid package on Thursday as immigration-related issues have thrown a wrench in negotiations for appropriators despite continued talks toward an accord.
As Jordain Carney reports, the sticking point centers on how much of the administration's $4.5 billion request for emergency funding for the U.S.-Mexico border will be included in the disaster aid package. Of the $4.5 billion requested, $3.3 billion was included for humanitarian assistance. An additional $1.1 billion would go toward border operations, such as increasing the number of detention beds, which Democrats say is a non-starter.
While Democrats have agreed to monies for humanitarian aid, they have refused to budge on funding for detention beds.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters that "several" issues remain unresolved before a potential deal is struck. The two sides largely have the rest of the package in place, including more than $17 billion in aid for communities affected by hurricanes, wildfires and extreme flooding.
"I'm hoping they're not insurmountable," Shelby said. "I think right at the moment it's in abeyance. It's not there yet."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted multiple times that there will be a vote before senators leave town for the Memorial Day holiday, though it remains unknown what the Senate will vote on if no agreement is reached. According to one GOP aide, the plan is still to vote on a bill before senators leave town.
> While lawmakers were cautiously optimistic earlier in the week that a framework deal on budget caps would be reached before the Memorial Day recess, those hopes faded.
"The first meeting went pretty well, [and] the second meeting not as well," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday. "I think it will take a little more time."
According to Juliegrace Brufke and Niv Elis, disagreements over non-defense, discretionary spending remain a key sticking point between parties, with Republicans arguing Democrats are requesting "obscene" levels of spending. And while offers continue to be exchanged, no additional meetings between the "big four" - Pelosi, Schumer, McCarthy, and McConnell - and administration officials have been scheduled, according to a Democratic aide.
After a meeting ran long and resulted in a second get-together on Tuesday, negotiators seemed poised to strike a deal. McConnell said he expected an agreement by the end of the day. However, the second meeting ended quickly.
A House aide told The Hill it was "more likely that we'll discover the moon is made of green cheese" than resolve the differences by Friday.
The Associated Press: Democrats slam McConnell for delay on a domestic violence bill.
POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Sensing that her campaign has stalled, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is planning to make the case for her own electability in the coming weeks as she seeks to revive the momentum her bid for the White House captured in its early months.
As Amie Parnes writes, Harris's campaign has sagged over the past month since former Vice President Joe Biden jumped into the 2020 race and became the clear front-runner. However, she has also been leapfrogged by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in polling, and has found it challenging to break through the newscycle. The California Democrat believes her campaign is entering a new phase of the race after an initial stage aimed at introducing her.
"It's a crowded field, and I think she'll emphasize why she's the best candidate to win," one ally told The Hill.
The New York Times: 2020 Democrats on impeachment: What the candidates have said.
The Hill: Disability advocates seeing new spotlight on their concerns from 2020 Democrats.
> Politico: "Wrong on most everything": GOP smacks down Biden's bipartisanship:
"Joe Biden is making his bipartisan bona fides a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, boasting recently that he persuaded three Republican senators to support the economic stimulus that helped save the country from catastrophe.
"'It was my job to find them. To persuade them to vote for it. And I did,' he said in Philadelphia this weekend.
"The only problem: Olympia Snowe is retired, Arlen Specter is dead and Susan Collins will be defeated if Democrats get their way next year. So when the former vice president talks about the GOP having an 'epiphany' and working with him if and when he beats President Donald Trump, lawmakers in both parties are skeptical.
"'If anyone can do it, it would be Joe Biden,' said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). 'But a lot of those people are gone. States have changed. Washington's changed.'"
Los Angeles Times: Biden's campaign pitch: Make America normal again.
The Atlantic: Waiting for Obama.
The Associated Press: Democratic pledges against big money come with an asterisk.
Elsewhere on the political scene ... Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced Wednesday that she will not attend a fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), one of the last remaining Democrats in the House who opposes abortion, after a string of abortion laws and legislation have brought the issue to the forefront in 2020 (Politico) ... Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) received strong marks for his CNN town hall performance on Tuesday night, but viewers did not seem interested as he drew only 745,000. By contrast, more people watched a town hall with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in March (Deadline).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The president today is expected to unveil "trade aid," or federal subsidies for farmers and ranchers affected by the U.S.-China tariffs war, in a package worth between $15 billion and $20 billion (Bloomberg).
> Pentagon: U.S. military leaders are asking the Defense Department for between 5,000 and 10,000 additional troops in the Middle East related to ongoing tensions with Iran, according to wire reports. The Associated Press puts the number at 10,000 and reports there will be a White House meeting today to discuss the request. Reuters reports a request of "about 5,000" additional troops, noting that such a request is not certain to be approved.
> Trade: Additional U.S. tariffs on Chinese imported goods are on hold for at least a month as the administration gauges the impacts on consumers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Wednesday (Reuters). Meanwhile, China is seeking support from Russia and its Central Asian neighbors in its escalating tariffs fight with the United States (The Associated Press).
> Treasury Department: Democrats seized on an IRS draft memo obtained by The Washington Post affirming congressional authority to obtain a president's tax returns. Democratic lawmakers argued the document contradicted Mnuchin's rationale for withholding Trump's tax filings (The Hill). The secretary said he's trying to find out who leaked the internal draft memo to the newspaper (The Hill).
> Venezuela: The ongoing crisis in Venezuela is boiling over and aggravating security concerns throughout the Western Hemisphere, the top U.S. military commander for South America, Central America and the Caribbean, Adm. Craig Faller, told The Hill's Rafael Bernal during an interview.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill's reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The lonely world of Justin Amash, by former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2VXXmkg
Democrats need to sharpen their knives, by George F. Will, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2Esp0Lv
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV's "Rising" program, starting at 8 a.m., features Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, interviewed by The Hill's editor-in-chief, Bob Cusack, on affordable housing, Oreos and other issues in the news; and Rear Adm. Wanda Barfield, assistant surgeon general with the U.S. Public Health Service at the Centers for Disease Control. http://thehill.com/hilltv
The House convenes at 9 a.m.
The Senate will meet at 9:30 a.m.
The president meets with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry at 1 p.m. in the Oval Office. Trump will deliver remarks in the Roosevelt Room about supporting U.S. farmers and ranchers at 3:15 p.m.
The vice president meets with U.S. Agency for International Development Administer Mark Green at 2:30 p.m.
➔ India: Narendra Modi, India's powerful and polarizing prime minister, will get a new term, according to partial election results tallied as of this morning. His Hindu nationalist party is heading to a win (The New York Times).
➔ Higher education: Two successive administrations, joined by lawmakers from both parties, believe college students and their families would make smarter decisions about piling up student loan debt if they had better, more transparent data about future earnings among students who graduated with specific majors and from specific programs at the colleges and universities to which they want to apply (The New York Times).
➔ Paroled: John Walker Lindh, who was called the "American Taliban" when he was captured in 2001 in Afghanistan, will be released today from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., at age 38. He's described as still adhering to Muslim jihadist views after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence (The New York Times).
➔ Lobbying: Former lawmakers who turned to lobbying this year largely flocked to K Street's largest law and lobby shops. In the 2019 class, 15 are now consulting for clients at firms. The Hill's Alex Gangitano reports where the turnstile took them.
And finally ... It's Thursday, which means it's time for this week's Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by "The Late Show" claiming the No. 1 rated show in late night, we're eager for some smart guesses about the history of late night television.
Email your responses to email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org, and please add "Quiz" to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
Who took over as host of "The Tonight Show" in 2009, only to be removed as host months later because of sagging ratings?
- Jay Leno
- Conan O'Brien
- Jimmy Fallon
- Jimmy Kimmel
On whose program did former President Clinton gain notoriety for playing the saxophone prior to the 1992 presidential election?
- David Letterman
- Johnny Carson
- Arsenio Hall
- Joan Rivers
Who was the longtime bandleader for Conan O'Brien's late night programs?
- Ringo Starr
- Paul Shaffer
- Max Weinberg
Which comedian and late night host served as the stand-in host for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in 2013 before taking his/her talents to HBO in 2014?
- John Oliver
- Samantha Bee
- Michael Che
- Steve Carell