The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE has rhetorically snapped a padlock around the Russia investigation more than once, only to revisit disputes and events he insists are settled and in the past.

“No, Russia did not help me get elected,” Trump told reporters on Thursday on his way to an event in Colorado. 

Twenty minutes earlier, the president tweeted, “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” 

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Where Trump is concerned, there is no such thing as turning the page. Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE on Wednesday said his team’s lengthy report was the final word about obstruction of justice and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Trump replied, “The case is closed! Thank you!”

That closure, such as it was, turned out to be brief. 

As Niall Stanage reports, the president may appear publicly self-assured in goading House Democrats to try to impeach him while he insists he’s done nothing wrong, but he’s also visibly aggrieved about the possibility that such an inquiry may be in his future.

Investigations are continuing in Congress, in New York state and through the courts. Mueller may hope he’s done talking, but everyone else seems to have plenty more to say.

Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrPelosi releases 'fact sheet' saying Trump has 'betrayed his oath of office' Federal prosecutors interviewed multiple FBI officials for Russia probe review: report Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe MORE told CBS “This Morning” on Thursday said Mueller could have decided whether Trump committed a crime as part of the Russia probe. And when the special counsel did not, Barr said he believed it was “necessary” that he make the call.

“He could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity," Barr said during an interview with CBS while he was attending an event in Alaska. "But he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained, and I am not going to, you know, argue about those reasons."  

Even former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has been off-stage since he resigned from the White House in 2017 and began cooperating with Mueller’s probe after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, may soon add to the continuing conversation about Russia’s outreach to Trump associates.

A federal judge set a deadline today for federal prosecutors to release transcripts of Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials and a transcript of a voicemail that was left for Flynn (CNN).

Elsewhere in the Justice Department, federal prosecutors this week subpoenaed Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and his campaign fundraising operation for records about Cindy Yang, a woman alleged to have networked to sell Chinese citizens access to the president, including at Mar-a-Lago (The Wall Street Journal and The Miami Herald). Democrats in Congress asked the FBI to investigate Yang in March.

 

 

> Trump trade news … The administration will levy a 5 percent tariff beginning June 10 – and raise it to 10 percent July 1 – on all goods imported from Mexico “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” Trump announced on Twitter Thursday night (The Hill). Some Trump aides attempted to dissuade the president from threatening new tariffs on Mexico at a time when the White House is also lobbying for congressional ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade accord (The Washington Post and The New York Times). 

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes State cites 38 people for violations in Clinton email review Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings MORE (R-Iowa), who has for months urged the president to lift tariffs on goods from Mexico and Canada in order to smooth a congressional path toward ratification of the USMCA, strongly objected to Trump’s announcement (The Hill). "Trade policy and border security are separate issues. This is a misuse of presidential tariff authority and counter to congressional intent," he said in a statement. 

If Trump follows through on the escalating new tariffs, analysts anticipate economic upheaval on both sides of the border. “Trade with Mexico is basically all about the supply chain, which essentially is all about cars,” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities (The Washington Post).

The New York Times editorial board: Trump appears to view tariffs as the solution to a wide range of foreign policy problems. It isn’t working.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Thursday commencement address at Harvard University): “Protectionism and trade conflicts endanger the free global trade and the very foundations of our prosperity. We must not call lies truths and never deem truths lies. We must not accept aberrations as our normalcy” (The Wall Street Journal). 

More White House news … Trump adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCareer State official warned about Biden's son: report Buttigieg knocks Trump as a 'walking conflict of interest' Biden's weak response to Trump is a lesson for Democratic candidates MORE met with Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE in Israel on Thursday to discuss a Middle East peace plan a day after a politically weakened Netanyahu learned he faces a second election in September (The Hill). … Vice President Pence is at the center of administration efforts to remake health care policies along conservative and Christian lines both abroad and in the United States (Reuters special report). … The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMelania Trump breaks ground on new White House tennis pavilion Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Buttigieg unveils aggressive plan to lower drug prices | Supreme Court abortion case poses major test for Trump picks | Trump takes heat from right over vaping crackdown Kroger to stop sales of e-cigarettes at stores MORE will travel out of the country again next week, this time on a state visit to the United Kingdom (Monday-Wednesday) and to commemorate the 75th anniversary on Thursday of the D-Day invasion of France (The Associated Press).

LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: Once again, a House Republican thwarted an attempt to pass a $19.1 billion disaster assistance package by unanimous consent on Thursday afternoon and is forcing a roll call vote on the legislation once lawmakers return to Washington on Monday.

Rep. John RoseJohn Williams RoseFrom state agriculture departments to Congress: Our farmers need the USMCA Trump signs long-awaited .1B disaster aid bill 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill MORE (R-Tenn.) labeled the attempt to pass the disaster aid package via unanimous consent “another act of irresponsible big government. He becomes the third House Republican to do so after Reps. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Trump congratulates China on anniversary as GOP lawmakers decry communist rule Texas Republicans sound alarm about rapidly evolving state MORE (R-Texas) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieO'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Scalise blasts Democratic legislation on gun reforms Airports already have plenty of infrastructure funding MORE (R-Ky.) blocked calls to pass the legislation by unanimous consent on Friday and Tuesday, respectively (The Hill).

The bill was passed out of the Senate last Thursday by an 85-8 vote. 

> House Democrats are making a renewed push to have Mueller testify before Congress despite his desire to allow his 448-page report to be his testimony and his statements that he would not expand the findings during any congressional testimony.

Democrats would like to avoid subpoenaing the special counsel after his 22-month investigation, but they are not ruling it out as they may have no other recourse if they wish to see him on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers say there remains a slew of unanswered questions about the special counsel’s investigation.

“I understand his reluctance,” Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondTwo former Congressional Black Caucus chairmen back Biden Election security funds caught in crosshairs of spending debate Lawmakers weigh responses to rash of ransomware attacks MORE (D-La.), a House Judiciary Committee member, told The Hill. “But I think the stakes are so high that he has an obligation to [testify].”  

“There are a million questions you can ask, and that's why you have testimony,” said Richmond. “I don't care if it's private — I'm not saying it has to be public testimony — but there are questions I think people need an answer to.” 

Talk about opening an impeachment inquiry is also expected to remain a hot topic once members return to Washington on Monday. 46 House Democrats are now calling for the beginning of impeachment proceedings against the president, with Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyIn testimony, Dems see an ambassador scorned, while GOP defends Trump Ex-Ukraine ambassador arrives to give testimony Tax-return whistleblower in spotlight amid impeachment fight MORE (D-Ill.) the latest to do so on Thursday night (The Hill). However, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Four companies reach 0M settlement in opioid lawsuit | Deal opens door to larger settlements | House panel to consider vaping tax | Drug pricing markup tomorrow Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails Trump urges GOP to fight for him MORE (D-Calif.) still isn’t going there, saying she wants an “ironclad case” against the president if they go ahead with an inquiry (The Associated Press).

The Washington Post: Democrats in Trump districts face split-screen reality on impeachment.

> Republican lawmakers have allowed legislation aimed at securing elections from foreign actors to languish as they are unwilling to risk the fury of the president and don’t want to shine a light on Russia’s actions in the 2016 election, according to Maggie Miller.

In his remarks Wednesday, Mueller devoted a fair share of airtime to the threat to democracy posed by foreign actors who want to interfere with U.S. elections, giving a shot in the arm to legislation aimed at securing elections, which has stalled in the Congress.

Trump on Thursday said Russia did not help him with the presidency in his first on-camera remarks about Mueller's public comments, even though he tweeted earlier in the day that Russia had sought to help him win. 

Politico: Inside Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump urges GOP to fight for him Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Romney earns rants and raves for secret Twitter name MORE’s Trump strategy.

Elsewhere in Congress … Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, says he differs with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump urges GOP to fight for him Senate Dems signal they'll support domestic spending package Trump's top picks for Homeland Security chief are ineligible for job: reports MORE (R-Ky.) and does not support filling any potential Supreme Court vacancy ahead of the 2020 presidential election (PBS Firing Line) … Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump has had a rough October Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocratic strategist: Sanders seeking distance from Warren could 'backfire' These 3 women are defining the race to unseat Trump CBS to Ocasio-Cortez on Sanders support: 'As a woman of color, why back an old white guy?' MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted Thursday about teaming up on a “clean bill” to ban members of Congress from becoming lobbyists (The Hill) …

More from the Capitol … The House will begin to consider appropriations bills for fiscal 2020 on June 12 (Roll Call) … Former Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R-Miss.) passed away Thursday at 81 just over a year after he resigned from Congress because of poor health. He served in Congress for more than 45 years, including 40 years in the Senate after winning his seat in 1978 (The Hill).

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The Democratic National Committee has a plan to defeat the president, and says it’s ready to put the plan into action it shoulders more responsibility to boost the party’s eventual nominee next year.

Part of the plan will be put into action next month when hundreds of young Democrats arrive in Atlanta to be trained as field organizers in an effort to prepare the party’s next generation of operatives to join the eventual nominee’s presidential campaign in seven battleground states. The program is one of several new initiatives the Democratic National Committee has implemented under Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, whose two-year overhaul of the national party has focused on building out the DNC’s campaign infrastructure, data and cybersecurity programs.

 

 

Perez detailed the DNC’s plan in a recent interview with Jonathan Easley, emphasizing the goal of bolstering the eventual nominee with resources and infrastructure he or she will need from the moment the nominee walks off the stage at the nominating convention in Milwaukee in July next year. He acknowledged that defeating Trump “won’t be easy.” 

“I don’t underestimate him for a moment,” Perez said, his voice rising as the conversation turned to Trump. “I don’t underestimate their capacity to lie, cheat and steal to get elected … This is going to be a challenge.”

> Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Warren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE (D) will be making a play for an important Democratic primary voting bloc on Friday as he courts the LGBTQ community and pushes to expand his support among a field of two dozen Democratic candidates, including South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Russian, Iranian accounts trying to interfere in 2020 | Zuckerberg on public relations blitz | Uncertainty over Huawei ban one month out Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race MORE, the only openly gay candidate in the 2020 presidential race. 

Biden is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the Human Rights Campaign’s dinner in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, where he is expected to remind attendees of his leadership on issues from marriage equality to his support for hate-crime protections. Ahead of Pride month in June, his campaign also unveiled rainbow-themed campaign T-shirts and other gear. But winning over the much-needed demographic is anybody’s game, according to more than a dozen LGBT donors, strategists and activists interviewed by The Hill, and Biden is looking to capitalize, according to Amie Parnes.

One Democratic strategist, who is unaffiliated with any campaign, said Biden has staunch competition not just from Buttigieg but the string of women competing for the Democratic nomination. 

> Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Sanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Democratic strategist: Sanders seeking distance from Warren could 'backfire' MORE (I-Vt.) is placing his bets in February on winning Iowa, a state that handed him a tie in the 2016 caucuses. Sanders believes the early contest will start him along a path to the Democratic nomination next year. 

As Alexander Bolton writes, Iowa has proved to be a giant-killer in the past, handing then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Saagar Enjeti: Clinton remarks on Gabbard 'shows just how deep the rot in our system goes' MORE a big setback in 2008, and leaving George H.W. Bush with a third-place finish in 1988. The Vermont Independent hopes to replicate former President Obama's path to victory, where he relied on a strong activist network to dominate caucus states en route to the 2008 nomination and the White House. 

Politico: Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick MORE’s failure to launch.

The Washington Post: Democrats are divided: Work with Republicans — or wage war against them?

CNN: The man who predicted Trump's victory says Democrats may have to impeach him to have a chance in 2020.

Politico: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyWall Street firm predicts stock market would rally if Trump resigned Poll shows Michelle Obama would lead in New Hampshire if she entered 2020 Democratic race Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble MORE begins experiment in political life after Trump.

Elsewhere on the political scene … The DNC will require female moderators at all 2020 presidential debates (Refinery29) … A group of 2020 Democrats are scheduled to descend on San Francisco on Saturday to speak at MoveOn.org’s “Big Ideas Forum,” including Sanders and Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Four companies reach 0M settlement in opioid lawsuit | Deal opens door to larger settlements | House panel to consider vaping tax | Drug pricing markup tomorrow On The Money: Trump dismisses 'phony Emoluments Clause' after Doral criticism | Senate Dems signal support for domestic spending package | House panel to consider vaping tax MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisClinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Poll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Trump declines to participate in Weather Channel 2020 climate change special MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPoll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Trump declines to participate in Weather Channel 2020 climate change special Bennet: Warren 'not being honest about' her 'Medicare for All' plan MORE (D-N.J.) (San Francisco Chronicle) … CNN will host hourlong town halls with Reps. Seth MoultonSeth Moulton2020 Presidential Candidates Rep. Joe Kennedy has history on his side in Senate bid Mass shootings have hit 158 House districts so far this year MORE (D-Mass.), Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden camp faces new challenges Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart The Hill's 12:30 Report: Hunter Biden speaks out amid Ukraine controversy MORE (D-Ohio) and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellBill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings Mulvaney admission deals blow to White House impeachment defense Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense MORE (D-Calif.) Sunday night, with the town halls starting at 6, 7 and 8 p.m., respectively (CNN).

 

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

Natural disasters are getting worse and we need a new plan, by Josh Sawislak, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2YUzTgT

A trade deal with China is impossible, by economist Peter Morici, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2XgouHD

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features Quincy Vagell, a meteorologist, to discuss extreme weather, and Rebecca Friedrichs, the founder of For Kids & Country and author of “Standing Up to Goliath,” to talk about California's sex education guidelines. http://thehill.com/hilltv

The House and Senate officially return to work on Monday following the Memorial Day recess.

The president and first lady Melania Trump host a White House reception for Gold Star families at 5:30 p.m.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDiplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan Mulvaney faces uncertain future after public gaffes MORE is in Berlin today, where he warned German officials that the Trump administration believes next-generation wireless networks manufactured by China’s Huawei pose a risk, adding that the United States may decide to stop sharing intelligence and national security information with Germany if it lacks confidence in the networks used by its ally (Reuters). Pompeo is scheduled to continue his trip through June 5 with stops in Bern and Lugano, Switzerland, The Hague in The Netherlands and London, where Trump will next week meet the Queen and talk with Prime Minister Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayHold the Brexit Champagne U.K.'s Boris Johnson reverses, requests extension of Brexit deadline Boris Johnson urges UK parliament to approve Brexit deal MORE.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports on personal income and spending in April at 8:30 a.m.

ELSEWHERE

Death penalty: New Hampshire on Thursday repealed the death penalty, which it has not used in 80 years, with the legislature’s override of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto. With New Hampshire’s action, 29 states allow capital punishment, but in four of them, governors have issued moratoriums on the death penalty. Twenty-one states have abolished or overturned capital punishment (The Associated Press). 

Abortion: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed a ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy Thursday, a move that puts him in the company of governors from other conservative Southern states while provoking anger from members of his own party (The Associated Press).

Manufacturing: The tit-for-tat tariffs war sparked by the Trump administration has begun to alter long-range corporate decisions made by U.S. manufacturers in ways that will be hard to reverse. For example, companies are writing contracts that make tariffs easier to pass on to consumers, shifting supply chains out of China and redesigning products to avoid needing Chinese components. Trade — both imports and exports — slumped in April, and data released earlier this week showed a sharp slowdown in the manufacturing sector, according to the government (The New York Times).

Scripps National Spelling Bee: As the old adage has it, the more the merrier. The Scripps National Spelling Bee agreed late Thursday night as they named eight youngsters co-champions (Rishik Gandhasri, Erin Howard, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao and Rohan Raja) after they all made it through the 20th round of the finals, a decision organizers announced just prior to the 18th round. The eight co-champions will each receive a $50,000 prize. To finish out the bee, the contestants spelled 47 consecutive words correctly. The final five rounds were perfect. As ESPN’s Matt Barrie put it near the end of the 19th round, “I don’t think we’ve missed a word since the Obama administration.” 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … Congratulations to this week’s Morning Report Quiz winners! Readers tracked news about a surge of tornadoes reported across the country, as well as weather records and history.

Here’s who aced all five questions: Donna Nackers, Ki Harvey and Luther Berg. Those who can take a bow for correctly answering 4 out of 5 questions are: Andrea Pinabell, Tim Aiken and Dan Hebert.

They knew that a destructive path of tornadoes from the Rocky Mountains to the Mid-Atlantic did not include Virginia in the 13 days leading up to Tuesday.

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 “well above normal.

It has only been since about 1990 that weather scientists have been able to rely on sophisticated tornado data drawn from the current generation of radar.

Oklahoma holds the current record for both the largest (2.6 miles wide) and the strongest (301 mph) tornadoes ever recorded.

Hollywood has done well at the box office with films that featured tornadoes, but 1972’s “The Poseidon Adventure,” which was nominated for 13 awards and captured one Oscar, was the exception on our list, since it featured the travails of a cruise ship at sea.