The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats frustrated by Hope Hicks's silence




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! 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.

House Democrats were left shaking their heads on Wednesday after former White House communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksJustice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Former White House official won't testify, lawyer says Trump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me MORE appeared on Capitol Hill, but continued the White House’s ongoing stonewalling by declining to answer most questions during a day-long, closed-door interview before the House Judiciary Committee.  


According to Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers, Democrats were fuming after the White House blocked Hicks from answering any questions related to her time in the administration. A White House lawyer accompanying Hicks’ argued that she was immune from testifying on her time in the White House, something lawmakers immediately disputed. Nevertheless, Hicks did not answer White House related questions, including, where her office was in the West Wing, according to lawmakers.


“I’ve been watching obstruction of justice in action,” Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuOvernight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote Ted Lieu undergoes surgery following chest pain MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters. “You have their White House serving ‘absolute immunity,’ which is not a thing — it doesn’t exist.”


The move is a blow to Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee who thought they had won a major fight to even get her to comply with a subpoena and appear on Capitol Hill, as she was the first material witness to testify before the panel. The latest move from Hicks continues the stonewalling from the administration, as Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrJudge rejects DOJ effort to delay House lawsuit against Barr, Ross Holder rips into William Barr: 'He is unfit to lead the Justice Department' Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE and former White House counsel Don McGahn have both declined to cooperate with subpoenas.


Additionally, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerJudiciary members battle over whether GOP treated fairly in impeachment hearings Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers MORE (D-N.Y.) has been unable to strike a deal with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MORE for him to appear on Capitol Hill after Mueller said in public remarks that his 448 page report would be his testimony.


Hicks’s lack of testimony also gives more ammo to lawmakers who support opening impeachment proceedings against President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Trump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed MORE. 65 Democrats back opening an impeachment inquiry, a number that continues to grow by the week as Democrats grow more frustrated with the president. However, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump scramble to rack up accomplishments gives conservatives heartburn Sherrod Brown backs new North American trade deal: 'This will be the first trade agreement I've ever voted for' Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Turf war derails push on surprise medical bills | Bill would tax e-cigarettes to pay for anti-vaping campaign | .5M ad blitz backs vulnerable Dems on drug prices MORE (D-Calif.) continues to stand in the way of any effort toward impeachment, including on Wednesday after Hicks blocked and parried Democratic attempts for her testimony.


“I don’t think you should have an inquiry unless you’re ready to impeach,” Pelosi said, according to The Washington Post, adding that you need the Senate GOP to convict also.  


Republicans panned the hearing, arguing they learned nothing from Hicks that they hadn’t already learned from Mueller’s report.


Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, congressional leaders, top appropriators and senior White House officials were unable to strike a spending and debt limit deal Wednesday after a meeting in Pelosi’s office earlier in the day, with Democrats laying the blame squarely on presidential interference for the lack of an accord.


"If the House and Senate could work their will without interference from the President, we could come to a good agreement much more quickly,” said Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (D-N.Y.) in a joint statement after the meeting.


According to Niv Elis, a senior administration official blamed the Democratic duo for their inability to negotiate on top-line spending numbers and argued the two are “playing press games.”


While lawmakers have time on their side because the new fiscal year does not start until Oct. 1, they are pushing for a deal and to wrap up the issue early. However, there are only 17 days in session before lawmakers leave for the August recess, giving them limited time to negotiate before times get tense if negotiations stretch into September.


House Democrats passed a partisan budget earlier on Wednesday, 226-203, with seven Democrats voting against the legislation. The bill is unlikely to be brought up in the Senate.


Mediaite: NBC News “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddChuck Todd challenges Cruz after senator pushes theory that Ukraine meddled in election Retiring House Democrat says a Trump reelection would be a 'nightmare scenario' for Congress Cruz on House impeachment inquiry: 'This is 'kangaroo court' MORE knocked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez to hold campaign rallies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas Overwhelming majority say social media companies have too much influence: poll MORE (D-N.Y.) for what he called her “tremendous disservice” after she referred to migrant detention facilities at the U.S. southern border as “concentration camps.” Ocasio-Cortez defended her use of the description and its definition.


The Washington Post: Pelosi warns Democrats that Republicans can exploit their words as controversy continues over Ocasio-Cortez “concentration camp” comments.


ABC News: As Senate appropriators pass $4.6 billion border package, House Dems express “concerns.”


CNN: Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump to sign order penalizing colleges over perceived anti-Semitism on campus: report Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump GOP senators unveil bill to expand 'opportunity zone' reporting requirements MORE (R-S.C.) supports McConnell on not paying reparations for slavery.





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Media organization fights Trump administration over Ukraine documents FOIA Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers MORE sparked an intra party bonfire Tuesday night when he tried to make a point about his early experience in the Senate working alongside politicians whose opposition to integration and support for segregation he is on record as rejecting.


Biden’s remarks at a New York fundraiser were covered by the news media, turning the former Delaware senator into an instant social media target. By Wednesday, fellow Democratic presidential candidates weighed in, seeing openings to rebuke the current front-runner.


“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said on Tuesday, speaking of the Mississippi senator, a Democrat. “He never called me ‘boy.’ He always called me ‘son.’ ” The late Sen. Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) was “one of the meanest guys I ever knew,” Biden added. “Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done,” he continued. “We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore.”


Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate Booker cancels NH activities, campaign says he has the flu Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Wisconsin: poll MORE (D-N.J.) said he respected Biden but called him “wrong,” while Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Reject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead MORE (I-Vt.) joined Booker in urging the former vice president to apologize. New York Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNYPD creates special unit for far-right and neo-Nazi threats Mayor accuses de Blasio of dumping New York's homeless in Newark Conservatives must absolutely talk politics at the Thanksgiving table MORE (D) said it was “past time for apologies or evolution” from Biden. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Krystal Ball rips Warren's 'passive-aggressive' swipes at rivals MORE (D-Mass.) said “it’s never OK to celebrate segregationists,” while Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSanders revokes congressional endorsement for Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats trading jabs ahead of Los Angeles debate New poll finds Sanders surging to within 7 points of Biden in South Carolina MORE (D-Calif.) said Biden’s discussion of Eastland and Talmadge concerned her “deeply” (The Hill).


The former vice president bristled at Booker’s call for an apology, telling a reporter on Wednesday, "Apologize for what? He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period. Period. Period” (The Hill).


“Vice President Biden shouldn’t need this lesson,” Booker said on CNN as the back-and-forth continued. “This is deeply disappointing.”


Biden campaign spokeswoman Symone SandersSymone SandersSaagar Enjeti rips Biden over testy exchange in Iowa Biden gets in testy exchange in Iowa: 'You're a damn liar' Biden defends ties to former fossil fuel executive at climate forum MORE argued on Twitter that the former vice president did not praise segregationists but “basically said sometimes in Congress, one has to work with terrible or downright racist folks to get things done. And then went on to say when you can’t work with them, work around them” (The Hill).


Bottom line: Biden wants to set himself apart from the progressive left of his party in a way that appeals to voters beyond the Democratic base. But he has to clear a primary field first, and his Democratic opponents saw a misstep and pounced. Expect some back-and-forth about segregation, racial reparations and racial discrimination in the justice system during next week’s Democratic debates, to be held in Miami.


The Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Political Insider: Parsing Biden’s relationship with Southern history.

Stephen Collinson: Biden gets in his own way on race.

SE Cupp: Biden is stuck in the wrong century.

David Leonhardt: Give Joe a break. Talking about compromise is smart.

Elizabeth Bruenig: Why Biden can’t take us back to normal.

Sara Boboltz, Black Voices: Biden fondly recalls segregationist senators from a time of more `civility.’





> Warren is nipping at Sanders’s heels in recent polls of likely Democratic voters, but advisers and allies who back the Vermont senator for the White House say they’re confident his supporters will emerge when the sprawling field of primary candidates begins to winnow, reports Amie Parnes. Sanders took a swipe at Warren on Wednesday.


> Twenty-one Democrats running for president were videotaped answering 18 questions posed by The New York Times. It’s worth taking the time to watch their answers. Biden declined to participate.


> In the wake of his reelection rally on Tuesday night, Trump’s argument for four more years was tinged with grievance and anger about Democratic foes, witch hunts, corruption and deceit. Niall Stanage explores whether incumbent presidents can appeal to voters as outsiders once they lead the very system they pledged to fix.


Perhaps part of the answer emerged on Wednesday morning when the Republican National Committee announced that Trump raised “a record breaking $24.8M in less than 24 hours for his reelection.”


Politico: Trump’s plan for Democratic debates: Make it about him.


> The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman tweeted a fascinating and detailed 2020 scenario in which Trump could conceivably win reelection by one Electoral College vote but lose the popular vote by as many as 5 million ballots. Read Wasserman’s take HERE.


> House GOP and 2020: Republicans are growing pessimistic about recapturing the House majority next year. Trump's approval ratings in key states put downward pressure on expectations, while the party's 2020 campaign strategy may be heading for the operating room (The Hill). The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House GOP candidates, is the subject of much agitation among conservatives who think Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerDemocrat who opposed Trump, Clinton impeachment inquiries faces big test Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar George Papadopoulos launches campaign to run for Katie Hill's congressional seat MORE (R-Minn.) and his team need to step it up, and quickly. As one disgruntled GOP lawmaker put it, “His team is inept. They have no idea what they’re doing, and their strategy is not putting Republicans in a good position to take back the House.” (The Hill).


> House Democrats and 2020: Democratic primary challengers in House races are poised to challenge incumbents, eager to shrink the ranks of moderate Democrats in Congress. What’s a hot-button litmus test issue among progressives trying to take out moderate incumbents? You guessed it: Impeachment (The Hill).


The Associated Press: Alabama’s Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreThe job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Former AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Campaign ad casts Sessions as a 'traitor' ahead of expected Senate run MORE to announce U.S. Senate plans today.


The Washington Post: Former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLisa Page sues DOJ, FBI over alleged privacy violations Sessions leads GOP Senate primary field in Alabama, internal poll shows Trump rebukes FBI chief Wray over inspector general's Russia inquiry MORE (R) hasn’t ruled out a run for his old Senate seat from Alabama, says Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyLawmakers strike spending deal to avert shutdown McConnell accuses Democrats of stonewalling funding talks with wall demands  On The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday MORE (R-Ala.).


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Defense Department: Trump is feeling pressure from members of Congress to quickly nominate a new pick to take over the top job at the Pentagon on a permanent basis. Concerns in Washington about mounting global tensions, deployment of additional U.S. forces to Poland and to the Middle East and Trump’s avowed preference for temporary, “acting” Cabinet secretaries are being heard loud and clear in the West Wing. The Defense Department has not had a confirmed secretary since James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis downplays Afghanistan papers | 'We probably weren't that good at' nation building | Judiciary panel approves two impeachment articles | Stage set for House vote next week James Mattis: Afghanistan papers not 'revelatory' Overnight Defense: Watchdog to audit company's border wall contract | Pentagon to step up vetting of foreign students after Pensacola | Report finds former defense official sexually harassed staffers MORE departed in January following policy differences with Trump. After the abrupt withdrawal on Tuesday of the nomination of former acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanDefense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia Pentagon chief approves 20 more miles of border wall Why Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary MORE at the Pentagon following disclosure of past domestic violence incidents, senators expressed misgivings about the White House process to vet candidates and share relevant information before confirmation (Bloomberg).


The Associated Press: Iran Revolutionary Guard shoots down U.S. drone amid tensions.


MORNING REPORT EXCLUSIVE: Republican governors have released a joint letter urging Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The letter, addressed to the four leaders on Capitol Hill, is signed by all 27 GOP governors and says it is “critical” for the Congress to act. The note to lawmakers comes less than a day after Mexico became the first of the three countries to ratify the agreement. The president is also scheduled to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauTrump expresses confidence on USMCA, touts Democrat support Trump, Trudeau discuss USMCA as deal appears imminent Trump rips media coverage that 'mocked' him during NATO summit MORE on Thursday. Trudeau is also expected to hold meetings with Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSherrod Brown backs new North American trade deal: 'This will be the first trade agreement I've ever voted for' McConnell: Bevin pardons 'completely inappropriate' House panel to hold hearing, vote on Trump's new NAFTA proposal MORE (R-Ky.) to discuss the USMCA. Read the letter HERE.


Federal security clearances: The president’s decision to transfer authority over federal security clearances for employees from the Office of Personnel Management to the Defense Department is behind schedule and disorganized, impacting employees and government programs and projects, according to a new report. Trump ordered the change as a way to strengthen and streamline the process of deciding who is permitted to know U.S. secrets (Reuters).


Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Immigration officials on Wednesday said they want to deport recently arrived families who are in the United States illegally to discourage the surging numbers of Central Americans arriving from Mexico. The message they want Central American migrants to hear: “You will be removed” (Reuters).

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Addressing climate change is a win for Republicans — why not embrace it? by Shane Skelton, opinion contributor, The Hill.


The 'blue wall' is real; GOP should back national popular vote before it's too late, by Saul Anuzis, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Judiciary Democrats approve articles of impeachment setting up House vote next week Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote Photographer leaves Judiciary hearing after being accused of taking photos of member notes MORE (R-Fla.) talking about news the day at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House convenes at 10 a.m. The House Judiciary Committee will hold its second hearing at 10 a.m. focused on the special counsel’s Russia investigation and findings, “Lessons from the Mueller report: Bipartisan Perspectives.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal House panel to hold hearing, vote on Trump's new NAFTA proposal House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices MORE (R-Calif.) holds a news conference at noon on Capitol Hill.


The Senate meets at 10 a.m.


The president welcomes Prime Minister Trudeau to the White House for bilateral meetings. In a break from recent custom with visiting heads of government, Trump and Trudeau are not scheduled to hold a joint news conference.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoKobach has lead in Kansas Senate race unless Pompeo enters: report The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE delivers remarks at 9 a.m. at the State Department about findings of the 2019 Trafficking in Persons report.


The Hill invites you to the “Future of Healthcare Summit” June 26 to discuss some of tomorrow’s biggest questions in health care with policymakers, health officials and industry leaders. Speakers include Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyThis bipartisan plan is the most progressive approach to paid parental leave Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Key House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills MORE (R-La.); Dr. Amy Abernethy from the Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who advised the Obama administration during enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and Steve Papermaster, the CEO of Nano Vision. The event happens at Long View Gallery in Washington, D.C. To RSVP, take a look HERE.


Federal Reserve: The nation’s central bank signaled a readiness to cut interest rates for the first time in a decade, concluding a two-day meeting on Wednesday with a policy statement that attempted to navigate economic “cross-currents,” including slowing global growth and trade tensions with China. Chairman Jerome Powell said the Fed wants to wait for more economic data in order to gauge trends. Responding to a reporter’s question, Powell said that despite public criticism from Trump, he intends to serve out his four-year term (The Hill).





Tech: Facebook is experiencing scrutiny from lawmakers and consumer advocates about its new cryptocurrency project, which is slated to launch next year and could change the world of e-commerce. Facebook's digital currency project, "Libra," which is backed by an array of powerful companies including Mastercard and Uber, is likely to invite regulatory inspection (The Hill). … YouTube is under Federal Trade Commission investigation over allegations it violates privacy with its handling of children’s videos (The Washington Post).


State Watch: People’s emotional support animals are on a tighter leash in various states (The New York Times). … In Kentucky, an unusual feud between Gov. Matt Bevin (R) and his own lieutenant governor is throwing the state into political turmoil. Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton says she is battling “dark forces” in Bevin’s administration (The Hill).


Congressional spouses: Here’s an interesting, head-shaking read for the morning. The influx of women serving in Congress has given the spouses club a makeover (The Wall Street Journal).


And finally …  It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the Friday release of “Toy Story 4” in theaters, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the famed Disney-Pixar series.


Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


In which year was the original “Toy Story” movie released in theaters?


  1. 1994
  2. 1995
  3. 1996
  4. 1997


Which longtime comedian voiced Mr. Potato Head before his death in 2017?


  1. Rodney Dangerfield
  2. Robin Williams
  3. Don Rickles
  4. Bob Einstein


Who is Buzz Lightyear’s archenemy?


  1. Stinky Pete
  2. Emperor Zurg
  3. Bullseye
  4. Evil Dr. Porkchop


Who is Sheriff Woody’s love interest, reappearing in “Toy Story 4” after omission in the third installment?


  1. Barbie
  2. Bo Peep
  3. Jessie
  4. Trixie