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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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. TGIF! 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.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems 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.” 


Where Trump is concerned, there is no such thing as turning the page. Former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 BarrThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Mueller report fades from political conversation Barr removes prisons chief after Epstein death 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 GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation 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.


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 KushnerPresident tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Top immigration aide experienced 'jolt of electricity to my soul' when Trump announced campaign 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 TrumpEx-Melania Trump adviser raised concerns of excessive inauguration spending weeks before events: CNN The Hill's Morning Report - Trump moves green cards, citizenship away from poor, low-skilled White House seeks volunteers, musicians for Christmas celebrations 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).


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 RoseTrump signs long-awaited .1B disaster aid bill 58 GOP lawmakers vote against disaster aid bill House approves much-delayed .1B 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 RoyGOP lawmaker blasts Omar and Tlaib: Netanyahu right to block 'enemies' of Israel The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats step up attacks ahead of Detroit debate Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (R-Texas) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieAirports already have plenty of infrastructure funding Overnight Defense: House votes to block Trump arms sales to Saudis, setting up likely veto | US officially kicks Turkey out of F-35 program | Pentagon sending 2,100 more troops to border House votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale 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 RichmondHouse Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington Democratic lawmakers support Bustos after DCCC resignations 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 QuigleyLawmakers point to entitlements when asked about deficits Mueller Day falls flat Mueller on Trump's WikiLeaks embrace: 'Problematic is an understatement' MORE (D-Ill.) the latest to do so on Thursday night (The Hill). However, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJohnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Mueller report fades from political conversation Five key players in Trump's trade battles 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 RomneyA US-UK free trade agreement can hold the Kremlin to account Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces 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 McConnellPelosi, Schumer press for gun screenings as Trump inches away The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking First House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons 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 CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Pro-Trump Republican immigrant to challenge Dem lawmaker who flipped Michigan seat 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 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).



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 BidenHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Panel: Jill Biden's campaign message 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 leads Democratic field in Colorado poll Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado Castro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates 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 SandersHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' The exhaustion of Democrats' anti-Trump delusions Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden 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 ClintonThe exhaustion of Democrats' anti-Trump delusions Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado Soft levels of support mark this year's Democratic primary 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 Elizabeth GillibrandCastro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries 2020 Democrats react to NYPD firing of officer in Garner case: 'Finally' 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) HaleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Haley: 'Threats of China on full display' in Hong Kong Juan Williams: Trump's trouble with women 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’s “Big Ideas Forum,” including Sanders and Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Panel: Jill Biden's campaign message MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Warren offers plan to repeal 1994 crime law authored by Biden Sanders leads Democratic field in Colorado poll MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerCastro qualifies for next Democratic primary debates Eight Democratic presidential hopefuls to appear in CNN climate town hall Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report MORE (D-N.J.) (San Francisco Chronicle) … CNN will host hourlong town halls with Reps. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur Moulton2020 Democrats react to NYPD firing of officer in Garner case: 'Finally' Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment MORE (D-Mass.), Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanBiden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report Tim Ryan jokes he's having 'dance-off' with Andrew Yang The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape MORE (D-Ohio) and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellHickenlooper ends presidential bid Scenes from Iowa State Fair: Surging Warren, Harris draw big crowds Nadler hits gas on impeachment 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: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Natural disasters are getting worse and we need a new plan, by Josh Sawislak, opinion contributor, The Hill.

A trade deal with China is impossible, by economist Peter Morici, opinion contributor, The Hill.


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.

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 PompeoCotton warns China: Crackdown on Hong Kong would be 'grave miscalculation' Pompeo expresses concern over North Korea missile tests Pompeo acknowledges 'places where ISIS is more powerful today' 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 MayTrump, Boris Johnson discuss Brexit, trade issues in Monday phone call Pence to travel to United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland in September Pelosi vows no UK free trade deal if Brexit undermines Good Friday accord MORE.

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


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.” 



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.