The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates

The Hill's Morning Report — Uproar after Trump's defense of foreign dirt on candidates
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 Happy birthday to President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE, who celebrates 73 today!   

 

President Trump is facing another political storm after he said he would consider accepting opposition research from a foreign source about a political opponent, drawing the ire of Republican lawmakers who were forced to either break from the president or remain mum about his responses during an ABC News interview. 

As Jordain Carney reports, Republican senators largely distanced themselves from the president’s remarks, condemning them as dangerous and over the line as the 2020 campaign cycle hits into high gear and less than a week before the president launches his reelection bid.

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Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans GOP member urges Graham to subpoena Schiff, Biden phone records Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (R-S.C.), one of the president’s preeminent allies on Capitol Hill, told reporters that Trump stepped over what he believed was a “bright line,” adding that it was a mistake on the president’s end.   

“I think that’s wrong. That’s a mistake,” said Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’ve been consistent on this, if a public official is approached by a foreign government offering anything of value ... the right answer is 'no.'”

“When it goes down the road of 'I've got dirt on your opponent,' that's a bright line. The answer is no,” he added.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' MORE (R-Calif.), another Trump backer, said he would send any sort of opposition research “to the authorities,” although he believes Trump would take “the right action” if he was offered information (The Hill).

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRepublicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in Romney: 'No evidence' Ukraine meddled in 2016 election MORE (R-Utah) came out yet again against the president, calling the remarks “unthinkable” and “totally inappropriate.”

Multiple GOP senators in tough 2020 reelection races also pressed that the president made a misstep in his remarks. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate confirms Trump pick labeled 'not qualified' by American Bar Association Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Collins opposes Trump's district court pick MORE (R-Maine) said that if the opportunity presents itself, Trump and others should simply call the FBI. Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Senators urge FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (R-Colo.), who is one of the most endangered Senate Republicans on the 2020 map, did not hesitate to break with Trump. 

"Just say no,” Gardner told reporters. "I mean, turn it over."

The remarks threaten to make life more difficult for Senate Republicans, many of whom simply shook their heads upon hearing them. As Alexander Bolton reports, it also makes it more unlikely that the Senate will pass an election security bill, according to Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio on Chris Pratt water bottle story: 'I too was caught with a single use plastic water bottle' House votes to sanction Chinese officials over treatment of Uighurs Poll: 51 percent of Florida voters disapprove of Trump MORE (R-Fla.), which is something Democratic lawmakers continue to clamor for. 

“It stirs up a lot of a chatter but it doesn’t really change how anything works around here,” he said. “I don’t think it changes anyone’s views on election interference and I don’t think it changes how our law enforcement agencies are operating.” 

On the Democratic side, the Trump remarks enraged lawmakers. However, according to Mike Lillis, it did not advance the ongoing discussion about impeachment or escalate momentum sought by impeachment advocates. Additionally, some lawmakers dismissed the president's latest headlined remarks as a calculated distraction, and one to be ignored.

“He specializes in that; he's very good at throwing bombs to divert us away from what we're doing,” said Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassThe US treats asylum seekers so poorly Lawmakers visit African migrants at US-Mexico border Preventative measures are needed in child welfare policy, data shows MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a member of the Judiciary Committee. “So why would we fixate on a comment like that when we know he feels that way?” 

However, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a 2020 presidential candidate and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, came out in support of impeachment following Trump’s comments.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans On The Money: Falling impeachment support raises pressure for Dems on trade | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Biden eyes minimum tax for corporations | Fed's top regulator under pressure over Dodd-Frank rules Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Virginia moves to suspend Medicaid work rules | Powerful House panel sets 'Medicare for All' hearing | Hospitals sue over Trump price rule | FDA official grilled on vaping policy MORE (D-Calif.) labeled the remarks as “cavalier” and an “assault on our democracy,” but continued to resist launching a formal impeachment inquiry. 

Many Democrats who support impeachment believe Trump added fuel to the fire, offering additional rationale behind an inquiry to examine alleged criminal behavior.

The New York Times: Trump equates taking dirt from Russia with presidential diplomacy.

The Associated Press: Democrats assail Trump on being open to foreign help in elections.

Politico: Trump smashed months of FBI work to thwart election interference.

ABC News: Full transcript of Oval Office interview with Trump. 

The Washington Post: Federal Election Commission chairwoman warns candidates not to accept help from foreign governments.

 



LEADING THE DAY

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Two crippled oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman became the centerpiece of vivid tensions between the Trump administration and Iran on Thursday, raising fears of a major confrontation in the Gulf region.

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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS, Sudan to exchange ambassadors for first time in decades Iran expert: Trump's foreign policy approach aimed at instigating 'unrest' Fox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats MORE said the tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were attacked and damaged by Iran. Iranian officials denied responsibility and suggested Tehran was being falsely accused to create a provocation. It remains unclear what caused the explosions. 

Late on Thursday, the United States released grainy, black and white video its said showed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing an unexploded mine from one of the tankers by boat, an assertion that suggested Iran sought to remove evidence that would tie Tehran to the events (The Associated Press).

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed “deep concern” about a potential military escalation. “Facts must be established, and responsibilities clarified,” he told the Security Council. “If there is something the world cannot afford, it is a major confrontation in the Gulf region” (The New York Times).

Neither the U.S. Navy, which came to the assistance of the ships’ crews, nor the owners of the vessels, offered explanations early on Thursday about what weapon caused the damage to the MT Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous off the coast of Iran (The Associated Press).

The Associated Press: A key global oil route is threatened. 

 

 

> In the West Wing on Thursday, one top Trump aide said she will depart the White House. At the same time, an independent government watchdog recommended that another presidential adviser be fired.

White House press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersBill Press: Mulvaney proves need for daily briefings White House correspondent April Ryan to moderate fundraising event for Buttigieg White House press secretary defends lack of daily briefings: Trump 'is the most accessible president in history' MORE Sanders, who has been a spokesperson for Trump since his campaign, will depart at the end of June and return with her family to her home state of Arkansas (The Hill). The president encouraged her to campaign for governor, an office once held by her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose two presidential bids she helped advise as a young political operative.

The president, who tweeted the news of Sanders’s resignation, did not announce a successor for one of Washington’s toughest staff jobs. Sanders replaced Sean SpicerSean Michael Spicer'A Warning' replaces Donald Trump Jr.'s 'Triggered' as No.1 book on NYT bestseller list Sarah Sanders defends Trump: He reads 'more than anybody I know' The Hill's Morning Report - Witness transcripts plow ground for public impeachment testimony MORE as press secretary and quickly became a magnet for criticism, forfeiting her currency as a truth-teller with members of the White House press corps and with former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE in order to shade her public remarks to please Trump. 

Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway calls out Melania Trump after she criticizes impeachment witness: 'You're amplifying what was a nothingburger reference' Trump: Democrats' impeachment 'performance' is 'unpatriotic' George Conway quote-tweets Kellyanne Conway on Trump, Biden, Ukraine MORE, Trump’s counselor and former campaign manager and a frequent spokesperson for the president, had a different kind of day. An independent government watchdog said she should be fired for repeated violations of the Hatch Act, which says that while in her official role she cannot represent her political views, advocacy or criticism of candidates.

The independent Office of Special Counsel recommended that Trump, who lauds Conway as a loyal lieutenant and TV-savvy defender, remove her from government (NBC News).

House Democrats on the Oversight and Reform Committee said they will hold a hearing to examine the Hatch Act violations (The Hill).

In the past, Conway dismissed criticism that she opined from the White House about candidates and specific state and national elections while identified as a spokesperson for the president. 

“Blah, blah, blah,” the former pollster told the press recently, shortly after she criticized former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGabbard moves to New Hampshire ahead of primary Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Trump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans MORE, who has been leading a large pack of 2020 presidential contenders, according to surveys. “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts,” she said (The Washington Post).

Sanders and Conway are two of three senior aides still serving the president after transitioning from his campaign. Dan Scavino, Trump’s White House social media director, has been with his boss since the Trump Organization and once worked as Trump’s caddy.

Historically in the West Wing, senior staff turnover spikes after two years, and especially before the start of an intense reelection campaign. Trump’s turnover, however, has been unprecedented since his first year in office, according to numerous studies. 

 

 

> Today is the last official day at the White House for attorney Emmet T. Flood, the White House lawyer who oversaw the administration’s response to the special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. 

> East Wing: First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpGeorge Conway calls out Melania Trump after she criticizes impeachment witness: 'You're amplifying what was a nothingburger reference' Impeachment witness apologizes for mentioning Barron Trump in hearing Melania Trump says impeachment witness 'should be ashamed' for mentioning son MORE is the subject of a CNN hour long documentary tonight airing at 9 p.m. (rebroadcast at 1 a.m. Saturday).

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: After weeks and months of jostling, the field for the first Democratic presidential debate is set less than two weeks out from the two-night extravaganza in Miami.

Among those missing out are Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonDeval Patrick beefs up campaign staff Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Pardoning war crimes dishonors the military MORE (D-Mass.) and Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockKrystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates Trump on Harris dropping out of race: 'We will miss you Kamala!' Kamala Harris drops out of presidential race MORE (D), who has directed his frustration in recent days at the Democratic National Committee after it omitted what the Bullock campaign considered to be a third poll putting him at 1 percent and, therefore, qualifying him for the debate.

However, the two will still have a chance to make the second debate at the end of July in Detroit as the polling and donor thresholds remain the same.

In total, 14 candidates qualified for the debate by reaching the polling and donor prerequisites, with the other six making it onto the stage by winning the needed support in polls. 

The Washington Post: Democrats delete from presidential debate stage a Montana governor, a Massachusetts congressman and a Florida mayor.

The Associated Press: Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Impeachment enters new crucial phase Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate 2020 hopes rise for gun control groups after Virginia elections MORE denounces Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard moves to New Hampshire ahead of primary Sanders to join youth climate strikers in Iowa Saagar Enjeti unpacks why Kamala Harris's campaign didn't work MORE’s (I-Vt.) democratic socialism vision. 

The New York Times: How many candidates is too many?

 

 

> Democrats and Republicans both are taking polls showing Biden leading Trump by a wide margin with a grain of salt as distrust sets in after the 2016 election when most political watchers thought Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThree legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise Report: Barr attorney can't provide evidence Trump was set up by DOJ Jayapal pushes back on Gaetz's questioning of impeachment witness donations to Democrats MORE had the race in the bag ahead of election night.

As Jonathan Easley reports, Republicans and Trump supporters have no faith in the polls that have emerged in recent weeks and point to the president’s win in 2016. As for Democrats, many are warning that they do not expect a landslide win for any Democrat, including Biden, and continue to believe that a close race is the most likely outcome in 2020. 

“These same geniuses all predicted that Hillary Clinton was unstoppable and inevitable,” said Chris Kofinis, a Democratic pollster.

“Anyone who believes that the Democratic candidate is headed for a landslide victory right now is doomed to repeat the tragic history of 2016,” Kofinis said. “It’s a fundamental mistake for anyone to believe that reality can be projected or predicted based on these polls this far out from the general election.”

According to recent polls, Biden holds a sizable lead over the president. In a Quinnipiac University poll released this week, the former vice president leads Trump by 13 points, while other recent state polls in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, show Biden ahead. Even polling in Texas and North Carolina shows Biden leading, but Republicans remain optimistic less than a year and a half until the election. 

The New York Times: They like Biden in Iowa. For now. (Many voters are still looking).

The Associated Press: Younger 2020 candidates hint at age divide in hitting Biden.

Politico: Dems stretch map to find edge in 2020 primary. 

Frank Bruni: Trump will pick the Democratic nominee.

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

Did the rich get all of Trump's tax cuts? By Laurence Kotlikoff, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2IzmiVu

Smart Democrats will focus on the two groups that can provide a 2020 victory, by Jessica Tarlov, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2IeHXU6

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Cenk Uygur, host and founder of The Young Turks, talking about a progressive pledge; and Gordon Chang, author and journalist who specializes in China and Asia, who discusses protests in Hong Kong at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

The House meets for a pro forma session at 1 p.m. and returns to work next week.

The Senate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m.

The president is scheduled to phone Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” for an 8 a.m. interview on his birthday. Trump will have lunch with the secretary of State. At 1:45 p.m., the president will meet with Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosGOP set for all-out battle over Michigan Senate seat 'Can I get a ride?' Removing an obstacle for families using school choice DeVos should be applauded, not demonized, for her work in education MORE in the Oval Office and Vice President Pence will attend. Trump will speak about expanding health coverage options for small businesses and employees at 3:30 p.m. 

Economic reports: Advance monthly retail sales (8:30 a.m., Census Bureau) ... U.S. industrial production and capacity utilization in May (9:15 a.m., Federal Reserve) Manufacturing and trade inventories and sales (10 a.m., Census Bureau).

ELSEWHERE

Follow the money: The Trump administration is reviewing foreign funding at U.S. colleges and universities, opening investigations into Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Donor countries of interest include Qatar, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia (The Associated Press).

Out of the ashes: Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, damaged by a dramatic fire in April, will hold a small mass on Saturday that will be limited to fewer than 30 people because of safety concerns (CNN).   

NBA: There’s a new NBA champion, and for the first time, the winner comes from north of the border. The Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship Thursday night by defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 6, 114-110. Kawhi Leonard, who the Raptors traded for before the season, earned NBA Finals MVP honors after leading them to the title. Golden State was denied its third straight title and its fourth in five years after the team lost Kevin Durant in Game 5 and Klay Thompson to a knee injury late in Game 6. The Associated Press: The injuries pile up and the Warriors’ reign ends.

THE CLOSER

And finally … High-fives to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz!

Here are the readers savvy about the assorted news coverage this week about things that fly (or don’t), and who aced our puzzle: Tim Aiken, William Chittam, Ki Harvey, Patrick Kavanagh, Candi Cee, Rich Gruber, David Straney, Norm Roberts and Donna Nackers.  

They knew that the White House denied Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingJuan Williams: Stephen Miller must be fired Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy MSNBC's Donny Deutsch: 'Pathetic' Republicans who stormed closed hearing are 'boring, nerdy-looking white guys' MORE (R-Iowa) his request to fly with the president on Air Force One to Iowa on Tuesday.

Uber is developing a flying car program it says will launch by 2023. The company selected Melbourne, Australia, as the first city outside the United States to experience its aerial ride-hailing service.

Amazon boasts about the imminent launch of self-piloting drones to deliver its packages. Drone specialists say the company’s timeline is ambitious because the Federal Aviation Administration approval process is lengthy.

Boeing would like to see its 737 Max 8 aircraft flying again after two deadly crashes and groundings that began in March. American Airlines, the largest U.S. airline, now says it expects to resume flying 737 Max aircraft in late August or early September.

A helicopter crashed this week atop a 54-story Manhattan skyscraper, killing the pilot. Preliminary reports and an audio recording of the pilot suggest foul weather was a factor.