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 TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates 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 MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report 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 - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Supreme Court set to deliver ruling on census citizenship question Trump: 'I think I win the election easier' if Democrats launch impeachment proceedings 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 GrassleyGrassley raises concerns about objectivity of report critical of GOP tax law's effects Overnight Health Care: Key Trump drug pricing proposal takes step forward | Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic loses bid for license | 2020 Democrats to take part in Saturday forum on abortion rights Key Trump proposal to lower drug prices takes step forward 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 KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Dershowitz: With 'Mideast Marshall plan,' Abbas can help — or hurt — Palestinians Palestinian leaders reject Kushner's economic plan for region 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 TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump calls off Iran strike at last minute The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's reelection message: Promises kept 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 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 RoyOversight Republicans: 'Hundreds' of migrants in caravans have criminal histories GOP lawmaker delays House for second week This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive MORE (R-Texas) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieThis week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive House conservative's procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes Trump signs long-awaited .1B disaster aid bill 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 hearing marks historic moment for slavery reparations debate Lawmakers demand answers on Border Patrol data breach Democrats keep censure for Trump on the table 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 QuigleyDemocrats wary of Trump's 'erratic' approach to Iran Dems eye repeal of Justice rule barring presidential indictments Democrats lash out at Trump's bombshell remarks MORE (D-Ill.) the latest to do so on Thursday night (The Hill). However, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThis week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Judd Gregg: An Irish friend and wisdom Juan Williams: Warren on the rise 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 RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Democratic challenger leads Tillis by 1 point in North Carolina poll The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider? 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 McConnellBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility California governor predicts 'xenophobic' GOP will likely be third party in 15 years This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request 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 Cruz Hickenlooper, Bennet bring deep ties to 2020 debate stage 2020 Democrat Bennet releases comprehensive government reform plan GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (R-Texas) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown Young activists press for change in 2020 election Ocasio-Cortez calls out Steve King, Liz Cheney amid controversy over concentration camp remarks 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 CochranThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Democrats deal with Mueller fallout 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 BidenBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility Inslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution Biden lays out immigration priorities, rips Trump for 'assault on dignity' 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 ButtigiegGroup of wealthy Americans write open letter asking to be taxed more The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate 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 SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Progressive group launches campaign to identify voters who switch to Warren 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 Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Trump says he's not prepared to lose in 2020 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 GillibrandJuan Williams: Warren on the rise 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown 2020 Democrats vow to expand abortion access at Planned Parenthood event 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) HaleyNikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' Trump UN nominee: Climate change poses 'real risks' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump's reelection message: Promises kept 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 Warren2020 Democrat: 'My DM's are open and I actually read & respond' Group of wealthy Americans write open letter asking to be taxed more Inslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown MORE (D-Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerInslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Progressive group launches campaign to identify voters who switch to Warren MORE (D-N.J.) (San Francisco Chronicle) … CNN will host hourlong town halls with Reps. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonMoulton says new Trump rape accusation furthers need for impeachment proceedings 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown Overnight Health Care: Key Trump drug pricing proposal takes step forward | Missouri Planned Parenthood clinic loses bid for license | 2020 Democrats to take part in Saturday forum on abortion rights MORE (D-Mass.), Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John Ryan2020 Democrat: 'My DM's are open and I actually read & respond' 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law MORE (D-Ohio) and Eric SwalwellEric Michael Swalwell2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown Young activists press for change in 2020 election Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 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 PompeoTrump calls on foreign countries to protect their own oil tankers Trump to travel to South Korea The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck 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 MayConservative British politician suspended after video shows him grabbing female climate protester by neck EU leaders won't renegotiate Brexit deal Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt head to runoff to be UK's next prime minister 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.