The Hill's Morning Report - Mueller finally speaks. What now?




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.

At long last, special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats 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 has spoken. And now all eyes turn to Congress as the debate over whether to open a formal impeachment inquiry kicks into high gear and House Democrats debate what to do in the coming weeks and months.


With Mueller’s remarks, the ball is now in the court of House Democrats, as Mike Lillis and Olivia Beavers write. For now, they are expected to stick to the script and continue to investigate President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE after the positions of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump knocks Mueller after deal struck for him to testify House Democrats request briefing on Epstein, Acosta Nadler apologized after repeatedly calling Hope Hicks 'Ms. Lewandowski' at hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) remained static. Nevertheless, the rhetoric ramped up, particularly from Nadler, who declared that the president committed “crimes” and vowed that Congress would act.


As Pelosi noted, the vast majority of House Democrats are not in favor of impeachment, saying that only 35 or 38 are at the moment, meaning that many more will need to come forward and that public sentiment will need to swing decidedly to their side, something Pelosi preaches over and over no matter the issue.  


According to The Hill’s whip list, 40 House Democrats support opening an impeachment inquiry.


The Hill: Five lingering questions after Mueller's remarks.


It also remains an open question whether Mueller will be subpoenaed to testify on Capitol Hill, despite a declaration from the newly resigned special counsel that he does not wish to do so. Nadler has said in the past that he will do whatever is needed to bring the special counsel to Capitol Hill, particularly now that Mueller has resigned from the Department of Justice. However, he indicated that House Democrats heard a lot of what they needed to hear from Mueller on Wednesday. The calls for Mueller to appear are still coming, though, with House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOcasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump House Democrats introduce resolution condemning Trump for 'racist' comments Feehery: Trump inspires temporary House Democratic unity MORE (D-Md.) renewing his plea after the remarks (The Hill).


As Morgan Chalfant, Jacqueline Thomsen and Olivia Beavers write, Mueller’s surprise nine-minute address gave fuel to the Democratic arguments toward impeachment proceedings after he said that if his team “had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” The comment, along with Mueller saying that he could not bring charges against the president due to guidance from the Department of Justice, set off a firestorm, primarily from 2020 Democrats, some of whom had already called for the president’s impeachment, and led to new calls from those who had previously steered clear of pressing for an inquiry.


Most notably, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) called for Trump’s impeachment, while others, including South Bend Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race South Bend police officer resigns after killing of black man MORE (D) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden jokes he's ready for a push-up competition with Trump Biden says his presidency is not 'a third term of Obama' Biden knocks Trump on tweets about 'smart as hell' Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D), opened the door to potentially backing impeachment proceedings. Others used the opportunity to double down on their previous impeachment calls, including Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Trump says administration will 'take a look' after Thiel raises concerns about Google, China Thiel calls Warren the most 'dangerous' Democratic candidate MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death Harris vows to 'put people over profit' in prescription drug plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur Moulton2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist Biden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care plan 2020 Democrats push tax hike on wealthy investors MORE (D-Mass.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).


In total, 10 notable 2020 presidential candidates endorsed impeachment proceedings against Trump within a few hours of Mueller’s remarks (The New York Times).


As for Republicans, they became even more entrenched in their support for Trump after Mueller’s comments. The common refrain, led by the White House, was to endorse his preference not to testify before Congress and move on from the investigations, adding that the “case is closed.”  


Perspectives and Analysis:


The Washington Post editorial board: Mueller should have said this weeks ago. He should not resist testifying.

Michael Tomasky: Mueller is admirably apolitical. That’s the problem. He is serving a vision of America that no longer exists.

Jonathan Allen: Mueller turns up the heat on impeachment.

David French: Bad law is corrupting the obstruction debate.

Kevin M. Kruse: Democrats need to get past impeachment jitters. It’s not 1998 and Trump is no Clinton.

Dana Milbank: An invitation to impeach, in Mueller-speak.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: In a crowded 2020 presidential field where 16 candidates have a combined 181 years of legislative experience in Congress, Democratic candidates overall have a small legislative footprint.


According to an analysis by Reid Wilson and Max Greenwood, the vast majority of Democratic candidates who have served or still serve in the House and Senate have passed few pieces of legislation on their own. Neither Harris nor Gillibrand has seen any of their bills passed as sponsored, while O’Rourke and John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyBiden proposes tax increases for wealthy as part of health care plan The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president 2020 Democrats push tax hike on wealthy investors MORE (D-Md.) left Capitol Hill without ever seeing one of their proposed measures signed into law.


Additionally, six other candidates, including Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Sanders slams decision not to charge officer who killed Eric Garner Cardi B says voters let Bernie Sanders down MORE (I-Vt.) have managed to pass only one meaningful bill each, excluding resolutions to rename post offices or honor sports teams. However, the thin legislative résumés have partly become a hallmark of how Congress functions today.


“There are lots of ways that legislators can impact the legislative or policy-making process in ways that aren’t obvious. You can have a huge impact on a piece of legislation that gets completely folded into another piece of legislation by amendment or substitution,” said Jennifer Victor, a political scientist at George Mason University who studies Congress.





> Joe Biden is making a Texas-sized political play as he made his first campaign appearance in the Lone Star State.


Biden held a pair of events in the state on Wednesday, including a fundraiser and a campaign stop to talk with students in the Dallas area on Wednesday, during which he continued to make that case that he is the one who can beat Trump in 2020, all the while collecting some key endorsements.


The appearance is also a shot across the bow at O’Rourke and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro as the former vice president made a play there for not only votes, but also campaign cash in their own backyard (The Dallas Morning News).


Politico: Dems chafe at high bar to make third and fourth debates.


The Washington Post: Revolution stalled? Sanders struggles against a double bind.


Politico: Bernie's biggest hurdle: His fellow senior citizens.


The New York Times: Four years after Beau Biden’s death, his father bonds with voters in pain.


The Associated Press: Immigration largely absent from Democrats’ 2020 policy blitz.


CONGRESS: While communities in the Midwest battle severe flooding after witnessing one of the most unnerving weeks of tornadoes, a $19 billion disaster aid bill still languishes in Washington. House lawmakers may try for a third time this afternoon to mute the conservative GOP naysayers in order to achieve unanimous consent to pass the measure. If they fail, the bill must wait for a roll call vote in June.


The major legislation, negotiated over many fraught months and already adopted by the Senate, has repeatedly been hobbled by House conservatives who object to some provisions and the price tag. It’s an embarrassment for GOP leaders who are being blasted in their stricken communities at the same time that many states are digging out from new tornado destruction and flooding, which the $19 billion measure doesn’t begin to address (The Hill).


> Republicans who control the Senate want to hold on to their majority, and they will do what it takes to keep trouble at bay. Looking ahead to 2020, some GOP leaders are increasingly nervous about a potential intra-party brawl as potential Republican primary challenges threaten to complicate Senate races in Alabama, Kansas and North Carolina.


Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Alabama senator says Trump opposed to Sessions Senate bid The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 jitters hit both parties in the Senate MORE, whose cringe-inducing and scandal-plagued campaign during a 2017 special election helped elect a Democrat, Doug Jones, to the Senate in Alabama, is flirting with yet another bid. Trump on Wednesday warned Moore to stay out of a contest in which Jones is considered extremely vulnerable in 2020 in a red state Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016 (The New York Times). In Kansas, conservative Kris Kobach, a Trump loyalist who lost last year in the governor’s race, could also make things difficult for the GOP (McClatchy). And in North Carolina, where Republican Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP senator: 'Outrageous' to say Trump's tweets about Democratic congresswomen are racist Top North Carolina newspapers editorial board to GOP: 'Are you OK with a racist president?' Republicans make U-turn on health care MORE is viewed as vulnerable, there may be a primary challenge from the right (The Hill).


Politico: Moore, during a phone interview on Wednesday, dismissed Trump and said Alabama voters can decide for themselves if he’s fit for office. He said he’ll determine in a “few weeks” whether he’ll enter the Senate primary.




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Democrats should not jeopardize 2020 victory with impeachment, by Richard Pierce, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Why intelligence officials need to brief Congress on Iranian threats, by Todd Rosenblum of the Atlantic Council, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features former federal prosecutor Joseph Moreno, discussing Mueller's closing public statement about the Russia probe, and retired Gen. Jim Jones, who was former President Obama’s first White House national security adviser, talking about U.S. tensions with Iran.


The House is out until June 4 but will hold a pro forma session at 4:30 p.m. and may make a third attempt to pass a disaster assistance measure by unanimous consent.


The Senate returns to work on June 3.


The president travels to Colorado Springs, Colo., to deliver a commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy. It will be the president’s first trip to Colorado since he was a candidate in 2016.


Vice President Pence travels today to Ottawa, Canada, to call for ratification by Congress of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade and to meet with Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauTrudeau rips Trump over attacks on Democratic lawmakers: 'That is not how we do things in Canada' Sarah Sanders hits Ocasio-Cortez over criticism of Ivanka Trump's G-20 appearance Macron's office 'didn't anticipate the reaction' after sharing Ivanka Trump video clip MORE. Pence and Trudeau will deliver joint remarks, and the vice president will meet with the Canadian version of the United States-Mexico-Canada Advisory Council as well as U.S. embassy staff before returning to Washington.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis releases its second estimate of U.S. gross domestic product in the first quarter, plus its preliminary estimate of corporate profits in the first quarter, both at 8:30 a.m. Some analysts, investors and economists point to ominous signs in the bond market that the U.S. economy is weakening (The New York Times).


Treasury Department Deputy Secretary Justin Muzinich and U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza headline a moderated discussion at 4:45 p.m. in Atlanta hosted by Hope Global Forums during its annual meeting.


Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will speak about security threats and global issues at 5:30 p.m. at the inaugural Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelTrump's pick for Pentagon chief wins allies on Capitol Hill Trump pick brings scrutiny to 'revolving door' between Pentagon, industry Overnight Defense: Senators plan 22 resolutions to block Saudi arms sale | Trump defends transgender military plan | Trump, lawmakers prep to mark D-Day anniversary MORE Leadership Lecture Series at the University of Chicago. Following her remarks, Albright will join former Secretary of Defense Hagel, who also served as a Republican senator from Nebraska, for a moderated discussion. Information is HERE.


Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE failed on Wednesday to form a governing coalition, which means Israel will hold an unprecedented second election in September. Netanyahu’s future and the fate of Trump’s as-yet unseen Middle East peace plan are question marks (The Washington Post). A look at what comes next in a second election this year (The Associated Press).


Air travel: Boeing Co.’s 737 Max is unlikely to return to service before August, the head of the International Air Transport Association said on Wednesday, adding that the final say rests with regulators (Reuters). Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg apologized to the families of 346 people killed in two crashes aboard 737 Max planes. Speaking during an interview broadcast Wednesday with incoming CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell, Muilenburg said, “We feel terrible about these accidents, and we apologize for what happened. We are sorry for the loss of lives in both accidents.”


Opioids: In Europe, corporate managers at Mundipharma, the international arm of Purdue Pharma, a Sackler family company facing some 2,000 lawsuits in the United States over its role in the opioid crisis, have been implicated in a sprawling corruption case that alleges that physicians accepted kickbacks to promote powerful painkillers offered by an alliance of pharmaceutical executives nicknamed “The Pain League” (The Associated Press).


Jeopardy!: Yet again, it was a runaway for James Holzhauer, who stretched his winning streak to 30 games Wednesday night after he piled up another $69,033. In total, he has won $2,323,971 to dominate the game show with a chance to break another record as soon as next week. As Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek put it at the end of Wednesday night’s episode, "It just keeps getting better and better for him." Holzhauer is on pace to surpass the total winnings by Ken Jennings, the famed Jeopardy! champ who won a record $2,520,700 during his 74-game streak.


Tennis: Switzerland’s Roger Federer, 37, advanced on Wednesday to the third round on the red clay of the French Open, poised to play Casper Ruud, 20, the son of a professional tennis contemporary of Federer’s when he made his Paris tennis debut in 1999. “I know probably more about his dad,” Federer said, “than about him.” Federer, who holds a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, joked that he is “super old” (The Associated Press).





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Alarmed by headlines describing hundreds of destructive tornadoes reported across the country in a matter of days, we’re looking for some smart guesses about twisters.


Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


The most recent path of tornadoes extends from the Rocky Mountains to the Mid-Atlantic. Which of these states did NOT report one in the past 13 days? (Hint: The New York Times published a helpful map on Wednesday).


  1. Kansas
  2. Ohio
  3. Missouri
  4. Virginia


Meteorologists at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., this week described the frequency since April of reported U.S. tornadoes as …


  1. “Normal”
  2. “Well above normal”
  3. “Below normal”
  4. “A total shocker”


Solid scientific information about tornadoes gathered from the current generation of radar is relatively recent (compared with hurricanes), dating to what year?


  1. 1980
  2. 1990
  3. 2000
  4. 2018


Which state holds the current record for both the largest (miles wide) and the strongest (wind speed) tornadoes ever recorded?


  1. Illinois
  2. Colorado
  3. Delaware
  4. Oklahoma


Hollywood has prospered at the box office with movies featuring tornadoes, hurricanes and other weather disasters. Which of these films did NOT feature a swirling funnel of tornado destruction?


  1. “Twister”
  2. “The Wizard of Oz”
  3. “The Poseidon Adventure”
  4. “Sharknado 2: The Second One”