The Hill's Morning Report - Is US weighing military action against Iran?




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Talk of military confrontation escalated over the weekend as U.S. leaders described what should happen next after two oil tankers were reportedly attacked at sea in the Middle East last week.


The United States blames the tanker explosions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, but Iran has strenuously denied involvement.


Today, Iran announced it will break from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal within 10 days and exceed limits set on is uranium stockpile, warning that the country has a need for uranium enriched up to 20 percent, a step away from weapons-grade (The Associated Press). Iran says its situation is the result of the increased sanctions and gradual fraying of the international nuclear pact following the Trump administration’s withdrawal last year.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Gabbard warns Trump: Acting like 'Saudi Arabia's b---- is not "America First"' Trump ramps up rhetoric on Iran MORE continued to defend intelligence that he says makes clear that Iran’s elite military unit initiated an attack on ships sailing in the Gulf of Oman.


The secretary repeated Sunday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE does not want war in the Middle East but has not ruled out a range of possible responses, including military action.


"The United States is considering a full range of options,” Pompeo told CBS News in an interview. “We are confident that we can take a set of actions that can restore deterrence which is our mission set.”


Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant Cotton2020 Democrats raise alarm about China's intellectual property theft Bolton returns to political group after exiting administration Meadows, Cotton introduce bill to prevent district judges from blocking federal policy changes MORE (R-Ark.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged Trump to order a military strike against Iran.


“The president has the authorization to act to defend American interests,” Cotton told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “What I'm talking about is not like what we've seen in Iraq for the last 16 years or Afghanistan for the last 18 years, but retaliatory military strikes against Iran that make it clear we will not tolerate any kind of attacks on commercial shipping on the open seas,” he said.


House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Schiff: Diplomacy with Iran 'only way out of this situation' Sunday shows preview: Democratic candidates make the rounds after debate MORE (D-Calif.) affirmed the administration’s intelligence implicating Iran but warned on Sunday that Pompeo and White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump ramps up rhetoric on Iran Iran's strength and strategy show with Saudi oilfield attacks The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico MORE, whose hawkish views of Tehran are well known, have narrowed Trump’s options to avert use of military force (The Hill).


Schiff called the idea that a sustained pressure campaign could force Iran back to the negotiating table “dangerously naive,”,” saying Iranian aggression was proof that the U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal “has not made us safer.”


South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegFive top 2020 Democrats haven't committed to MSNBC climate forum Abrams helps launch initiative to train women activists, organizers This is how Democrats will ensure Trump's re-election MORE (D), who deployed to Afghanistan in 2017 as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Navy Reserve and is now seeking the presidency, said the Trump administration embraced a policy of aggravating tensions with Iran’s government when it tore up participation in a nuclear deal negotiated under former President Obama.


“Any negotiation is going to have to meet the needs and the realities of the moment. Unfortunately, the moment we're in is one where the United States influence in this region has diminished because of the way that we have withdrawn,” Buttigieg said, echoing cautious misgivings voiced by leading Democrats.


“So, what we're going to have to do is re-engage with our partners, re-engage with anybody who has an interest in stability in the region and do whatever we can to once again meet the objective of stopping Iran from developing nuclear capabilities, which is exactly what that [2015 nuclear] deal was doing,” he added.


The New York Times: “Full-scale economic warfare”: The question now is whether escalation of tensions prevails inside the White House and in Tehran or if instincts to back away from direct confrontation kick in.


The Washington Post: A standoff with Iran exposes Trump’s credibility issues as some allies seek additional proof of tanker attack.


The Hill: Five things to know about last week’s attack.


Christopher J. Bolan, opinion contributor, Defense One: Deterrence is failing, partially because Iran has no idea what the United States really wants. U.S. policymakers need to conduct an honest assessment of where and why U.S. policies have failed to deter Iranian actions.


James Downie, opinions editor, The Washington Post: The danger of Sen. Cotton.





CONGRESS: Senate Republicans are worried that another government shutdown could be coming down the rails as concern grows that the president’s demands for border funding could harm their ability to strike a spending deal with Democrats.


As Alexander Bolton reports, once again, the president wants $5 billion to fund his border wall as part of ongoing talks toward a potential deal on spending caps and the debt ceiling. While Senate Republicans are anxious to strike a deal and avoid a government shutdown, the president is viewing any deal through a political lens and wants to rev up his conservative base ahead of the 2020 election.


Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySenators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Congress set to ignore Trump's wall request in stopgap measure Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Ala.) and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine On The Money: Trump delays increase in China tariffs until Oct. 15 | Treasury says US deficit topped trillion in 11 months | Defense spending bill advances over Democratic wall objections MORE (D-Vt.) are on the verge of a deal, but Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyNOAA chief praises agency scientists after statement backing up Trump tweet The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Democrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA MORE, the acting White House chief of staff, is pushing back against raising the debt-limit, and Trump remains wary of agreeing to any deal that could garner criticism from the House Freedom Caucus and conservative media outlets.


“You also have to get the House Republicans on board so they won’t denounce what the Senate does. Nobody really thinks about that. If they come out against it, then you’re going to have the conservative media say it’s a terrible deal,” said one GOP senator, adding that Mulvaney and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinIran: Rouhani, Trump won't meet at United Nations Trump denies reports he's willing to meet with Iran with 'no conditions' Turkey confirms delivery of second Russian anti-missile system MORE are “concerned about the debt and rightfully so.”


Additionally, conservatives do not want to raise the funding for non-defense spending, but it is unlikely Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico This week: House jump-starts effort to prevent shutdown Schumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill MORE (D-Calif.) will agree to any deal without raising that figure, leaving Senate Republicans with work to do in order to thread the needle.


The Washington Post: GOP in disarray as budget impasse threatens shutdown, deep cuts and default.


The Associated Press: GOP mutters, gently, as Trump sidesteps Senate for top aides.





> Election security legislation continues to hit a wall on Capitol Hill despite special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE's 448-page report detailing Russia's interference attempts and an ongoing push by Democratic lawmakers before time runs out.


House Democrats passed their own sprawling election reform bill earlier this year and are readying another legislative push, but that's dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate, continuing to frustrate Democrats on Capitol Hill.


“I can’t believe Sen. [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] is not entertaining election security measures right now. ... We don’t have a lot of time left,” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators struggle to get spending bills off ground as shutdown looms Trump defends push to ban flavored e-cigarettes: Let's 'keep young children from Vaping!' Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (D-Ill.).


While some GOP senators, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico Bolton exit provokes questions about Trump shift on Iran The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-S.C.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers applaud Trump's ban on flavored e-cigarettes Trump to hold campaign rally in North Carolina day before special House election Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R-N.C.), have backed passing additional legislation, Republican leadership has signaled the effort is going nowhere (The Hill).  


> Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report 2020 Democrats call for Kavanaugh to be impeached Warren: Kavanaugh 'should be impeached' just like Trump MORE's (R-Texas) offer to work with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez calls for Kavanaugh to be impeached Why are we turning a blind eye to right-wing incitement of violence? Bill Maher, Michael Moore spar over Democrats' strategy for 2020 MORE (D-N.Y.) to make birth control available over the counter spurred hopes that there could be bipartisan support for making contraception more accessible, but major obstacles remain before legislation would become law.


As Jessie Hellmann reports, the two parties are far apart on the nitty-gritty, namely the cost of birth control and how it is paid for. The two major sticking points will likely complicate efforts to craft a compromise bill between the liberal rock star and the tea party favorite.


> House Democrats are weighing legislation to scrap the executive rule that bars the Justice Department from indicting a sitting president in the wake of Mueller citing the rule as the main reason he did not recommend or consider charging the president with obstruction of justice.


Democrats are putting together legislation focused on protecting elections from foreign influence, but some lawmakers have their sights set higher with legislation to nullify the Department of Justice's long-standing rule that Mueller cited.


“It's definitely on the menu,” said Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHistory in the House: Congress weathers unprecedented week Democrat grills DHS chief over viral image of drowned migrant and child Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE (D-Va.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. “I'm in favor of expanding enforcement tools and accountability tools, and that's definitely one of them.”


Even if Democrats were to pass legislation through the House, a bill of this nature would almost certainly be dead on arrival in the Senate and would not be able to win a signature from the president (The Hill).


The Washington Post: Push to impeach Trump stalls amid Democrats’ deference to — and fear of — Pelosi.


Ron Fournier: Will impeachment backfire on Democrats? Not if they do it right.


The Hill: New push to regulate self-driving cars faces tough road.


POLITICS & 2020: All eyes will be on the president on Tuesday when he launches his reelection campaign with a rally in Orlando, Fla., in the face of polls showing him trailing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: NY Times story sparks new firestorm over Kavanaugh Top Sanders adviser: 'He is a little bit angry' Working Families Party endorses Warren after backing Sanders in 2016 MORE and others in states that are crucial to his 2020 reelection hopes.


Along with his standing in states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, the president is suffering from mediocre approval ratings, as Niall Stanage writes. Nevertheless, Trump campaign aides insist he can expand the electoral map from his narrow win in 2016, and they mock pundits who put a lot of stock in polls, given what happened nearly three years ago.


Additionally, Trump aides believe the ongoing Democratic battle for the nomination will ultimately help the incumbent. Two dozen candidates are warming up critiques of one another, including Biden, who has come under siege at times from progressives over the past month.


“It’s hard to take the polling seriously after 2016,” said one Republican strategist with ties to the White House. “Trump is branding each one of these Democratic candidates while they have their knives out for each other.”


The New York Times: Trump wants to neutralize Democrats on health care. Republicans say let it go.


Politico’s Gabby Orr: Trump campaign makes a radical break from 2016:


“President Donald Trump is sitting on a war chest topping $40 million, has boots on the ground spread across nine regions crucial to his 2020 map and owns a sprawling network of volunteers who’ve been rigorously trained for the months ahead.  


“When he takes the stage Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., to announce his bid for reelection, Trump will be joined by 20,000 guests whose personal information — names, zip codes, phone numbers — was meticulously recorded when they requested tickets to the rally. First-time attendees will receive relentless emails and texts in the coming weeks, reminding them they can help ‘Keep America Great’ by contributing $5, $10 or $15. Some maxed-out donors who gave generously to his 2016 campaign will trek to Florida to witness what they delivered — and decide whether to give big again.  


“It’s a straightforward strategy to get the president four more years in the White House: be the political juggernaut Trump lacked in 2016.”


The Associated Press: Four years in, Trump fondly recalls Trump Tower campaign launch.


The New York Times: Trump campaign to purge pollsters after leak of dismal results.


The Atlantic: This isn’t going according to plan for Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAt debate, Warren and Buttigieg tap idealism of Obama, FDR Trump court pick sparks frustration for refusing to answer questions Klobuchar, Buttigieg find themselves accidentally flying to debate together MORE (D-N.Y.).


The New York Times: Wall Street donors are swooning for Mayor Pete. They like Biden and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisChamber of Commerce argues against Democratic proposals for financial transaction taxes Warren proposes new restrictions, taxes on lobbying Five top 2020 Democrats haven't committed to MSNBC climate forum MORE (D-Calif.) too.


Paul Kane: Pro-impeachment Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash: 'Bolton never should have been hired' Romney: Bolton firing 'a huge loss' for nation Amash says Sanford presidential bid won't impact decision on whether he runs in 2020 MORE (R-Mich.) insists he hasn’t changed but Republican Party has.

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Killing the messenger: Trump administration vs. the intelligence community, by Nabeel Khoury, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hong Kong people have spoken truth to power, The Financial Times editorial board.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Scott Dworkin, co-founder of The Democratic Coalition, to discuss the Meet The Candidates 2020 book series, and Pennsylvania state Reps. Jordan Harris (D) and Sheryl Delozier (R) to talk about their Meek Mill-backed probation reform bill at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House returns Tuesday at noon.


The Senate convenes at 3 p.m.


The president has lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m.


Pence at 2:30 p.m., following lunch with Trump, meets with Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvinia in the Roosevelt Room.


Mnuchin meets at 10:30 a.m. with Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at the Treasury Department.


Pompeo meets with Italy’s Salvini at 9 a.m. at the State Department.


Powerless: A blackout left tens of millions of people without electricity in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on Sunday after a cascading failure on an interconnected power grid. Nearly half of Argentina’s 44 million people were in the dark early in the day, but power was subsequently restored to most of Uruguay’s 3 million people and to most of those affected in Paraguay. Today, electricity has been restored to most of Argentina, but President Mauricio Macri says the cause is “unexplained” (Reuters). Experts blamed crumbling infrastructure in Argentina and poor utility maintenance but the hunt for the cause of the massive power failure has just begun (The Associated Press).


Supreme Court: Court watchers await rulings in 24 cases near the end of the term, including high-profile decisions about a citizenship question on the 2020 census and on partisan gerrymandering (The Hill). … The term’s biggest cases present partisan challenges (The Washington Post).


Movies: “Toy Story 4” from Disney-Pixar is in theaters this week, introducing a new character, “Forky,” to the story. Tom Hanks, the voice of Woody, and Tim Allen, who plays Buzz Lightyear, talked about the endearing and enduring series of toy buddy films during a recent interview with Rotten Tomatoes (YouTube). … Animators pull the strings to reveal Woody’s inner life (The New York Times).


And finally …  Today is the 47th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, a caper that went so spectacularly wrong on June 17, 1972, that it eventually led to the resignation of former President Nixon on Aug. 8, 1974.


It was a security guard, Frank Wills, then 24, who noticed tape on the lock of a stairwell door used by burglars to gain access to the Democratic National Committee headquarters on the sixth floor of the Watergate complex. Wills initially removed the tape during his overnight shift and an hour later realized tape had reappeared. He called the police and logged his actions at 1:47 a.m., setting in motion events that exposed the biggest political corruption scandal in U.S. history.