The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back

The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back
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After warning that Iran’s decision to shoot down a U.S. surveillance drone was “a big mistake,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE approved military strikes but pulled back late on Thursday after a day spent conferring with national security advisers and congressional leaders about a measured response, The New York Times reported.

Officials told the Times that the president initially approved strikes on a handful of Iranian targets, such as radar and missile batteries, before the action was called off around 7:30 p.m. without any weapons being fired.

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The retaliation was set to take place before dawn in Iran to minimize risk of casualties, according to the Times. But military officials received word a short time later with planes in the air that the strike was off, at least temporarily, the Times added.

Trump warned Iran overnight that a U.S. attack was imminent by using Oman as an intermediary, Iranian officials told Reuters today. According to the account, Trump conveyed his opposition to any war with Iran and a preference to talk to Tehran, including an offer of a “short period of time” in which to receive Iran’s response. The official quoted by Reuters said Iran responded through Oman that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was “against any talks,” adding a warning that “any attack on Iran will have regional and international consequences.”

The Associated Press, The Washington Post, Bloomberg and ABC News were among news outlets that confirmed The New York Times account overnight, citing unnamed administration officials.

Trump’s reaction to Iran’s drone strike evolved as Thursday wore on. The president said “this country will not stand for it, that I can tell you,” but he also sounded a cautious note, suggesting that the destruction of the surveillance drone was different in his mind than a strike against U.S. pilots or armed forces.

United States Central Command said in a statement on Thursday that the drone was destroyed in “an unprovoked attack” in international airspace, reportedly by a surface-to-air missile. Iran insisted the drone was inside the country’s airspace when it was struck. 

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For more than a year, the Trump administration has applied maximum economic pressure on Tehran and recently warned publicly that Iran was plotting military attacks, and was to blame for this month’s strikes on two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Prisons chief: FBI investigating whether 'criminal enterprise' played role in Epstein death MORE (R-S.C.) emphasized the importance of an assertive rejoinder from Trump, arguing that if the president did not respond to what the senator said was a clear provocation, Trump risked being perceived as “all talk.” 

Graham told reporters after a classified briefing in the Situation Room: "If they do anything else against an American asset and this president doesn't respond like Ronald Reagan, that's a signal to North Korea and the entire world we're all talk."

The senator referred to former President Reagan's decision to order retaliatory strikes against Iranian targets during the 1987 "tanker war."

"I'm confident that if there is a war with Iran, they lose," Graham said. "I'm confident it would be very devastating to the region. It will not be pretty.”

Trump is scheduled at the end of next week to attend the Group of 20 economic summit in Osaka, Japan, where he planned to discuss trade and security issues with world leaders, including President Xi Jinping of China and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPutin is making a move while America is distracted 'Old World' demons are stirring again Former US envoy Samantha Power: Trump finding 'new ways to compensate Putin for election interference' MORE

The Hill: Putin warns that war between the United States and Iran would be “catastrophe.” 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack 2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation MORE (R-Texas) echoed Graham’s support for U.S. retaliation.

“I think it would be a mistake for the president and the United States not to respond in a proportional or appropriate way,” he said Thursday afternoon in the Capitol. “The best way to keep the peace and stop war is to demonstrate to an aggressor that their escalation is going to be met with equal and proportional response that will cost them something they care about." 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMichelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule MORE (R-Mo.) said, “There should be a response. What the response should be, I don't know. … Whatever action is taken, it needs to be widely supported and I believe it will be. I believe it will be, but it has to be timely and appropriate and they need to figure out what that would be.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year MORE (D-N.Y.) said he worried Trump could drag the United States into a war with Iran in the absence of thorough consideration and congressional approval.

“I told the president that these conflicts have a way of escalating,” he told reporters after a meeting at the White House. “The president may not intend to go to war here, but we’re worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war.” 

The New Yorker: A tanker war in the Middle East — again? 

CNN: Iran said on Thursday that the U.S. drone was a “blatant violation of international law,” calling on the international community to demand the United States end “its continued unlawful and destabilizing measure in the already volatile region of the Persian Gulf.”

The Associated Press: The Federal Aviation Administration barred U.S.-registered aircraft from flying over Iranian-administered airspace in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman following the shoot-down of the U.S. drone, which had a wingspan broader than a Boeing 737. British Airways, Dutch carrier KLM and Australia’s Qantas changed flight routes over the Strait of Hormuz to avoid tensions in the region.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE’s Democratic presidential rivals have continued to ding him for touting his work with segregationist senators, but Senate Democrats have the former vice president’s back and believe the attacks are unfair.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerKrystal Ball issues warning to Biden supporters Sanders official predicts health care, climate change will be top issues in fifth Democratic debate 2020 Democrats seek investigation into 'toxic culture' at NBC ahead of debate MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (I-Vt.) have continued to pound Biden for invoking his work with former Sens. James O. Eastland (D-Miss.) and Herman Talmadge (D-Ga.) at recent fundraisers as examples of “civility” and the ability to get things done. However, as Alexander Bolton reports, Senate Democrats are not fans of the attacks and hope the intraparty sniping will be kept to a minimum, even with next week’s debates on tap.

“I think everybody is picking on him, press as well as others. He’s the front-runner so he’s the one to shoot down, so to speak,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP senator wants Violence Against Women Act passage by year end Hillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Senate Democrats unveil priorities for federal privacy bill MORE (D-Calif.), a Biden supporter who served with him for years in the Senate.

“I think it’s a little unexpected, I don’t think he has figured for this,” she said of the attacks from fellow Democrats,

Despite firing back at Booker and others, Biden tried to defuse the situation by calling the New Jersey Democrat after he appeared on CNN late Wednesday night and assailed him for not apologizing and asking Booker to apologize, according to The New York Times.

According to CNN, Booker told Biden that he would not apologize.

The Associated Press: Biden’s South Carolina trip to test whether stumbles matter. 

The Washington Post: Biden’s past working relationship with a segregationist senator comes into focus through 1977 letters that show the pair of lawmakers aligned on an anti-busing legislative issue.

Politico: Biden huddles with Congressional Black Caucus members amid ‘segregationist’ controversy.

The Associated Press: Booker campaign gets 2020 jolt with pushback against Biden.

> Judge Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreFormer AG Sessions enters Alabama Senate race Campaign ad casts Sessions as a 'traitor' ahead of expected Senate run Doug Jones on potential challenge from Sessions: Alabama GOP primary will be 'really divisive' MORE announced Thursday that he will once again run for the Senate in Alabama despite near-unanimous opposition from within the GOP ranks, including from the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled MORE (R-Ky.). 

Unsurprisingly, Senate Republicans are not pleased about Moore’s run, especially after what happened nearly two years ago. He defeated former Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeState 'certificate of need' laws need to go GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries Roy Moore trails Republican field in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.) before falling to Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).

Prior to Moore’s announcement, one reporter tried to ask Blunt about Moore’s candidacy. However, before the reporter could finish the question, Blunt interrupted and said “we’ll see what he says,” making it clear he hoped to avoid all Moore-related questions.

 

 

Outside of Moore, three other Republicans are in the race, including Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneSessions vows to 'work for' Trump endorsement Trump attends football game with Jeff Sessions' Alabama Senate race opponent Bradley Byrne The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race MORE (R-Ala.) and Tommy Tuberville, the former head football coach at Auburn University. Republicans are hoping one can emerge to take on and defeat both Moore and Jones. 

“Unfortunately, we’ve been down this road before where we’ve nominated unelectable nominees and then we lose the election,” Cornyn said. “That’s what happened last time and that’s what I predict will happen again. I hope he reconsiders.”

“I don’t know what will stop him. Maybe nothing,” Cornyn said, referring to the president and Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpSwalwell on flatulence allegation: Total exoneration Conway and Haley get into heated feud: 'You'll say anything to get the vice-presidential nomination' Conservative group cuts ties with Michelle Malkin MORE’s attempts to discourage Moore’s run. “The only thing you can do is beat him.” 

One person who is not expected to jump into the Alabama contest is former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: Ukraine's not the only outrage To understand death behind bars, we need more information White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE, who held Jones’s seat prior to the special election in December 2017. Blunt told reporters that he talked to Sessions a couple of weeks ago, adding that “he doesn’t sound to be interested in coming back to the Senate.” 

At the moment, Democrats are celebrating Moore’s entrance in the race. When told by The Associated Press of Moore’s announcement, Democratic National Committee 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 called the news “awesome.”

> Evangelical leaders and anti-abortion rights groups are preparing to reward Trump for his socially conservative policies by mobilizing the Christian right and spending money to help him get reelected, reports Jonathan Easley. Religious leaders are often pressed to explain their support for the president, who does not have a spiritual life or attend church regularly.

> Former Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaWhy the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries Lawmakers come together to honor Cummings: 'One of the greats in our country's history' MORE (R-Calif.) is weighing a potential second act in Congress next year.

According to Olivia Beavers and Scott Wong, Issa is keeping tabs on the ongoing federal corruption case involving Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterIndicted lawmaker Duncan Hunter fails to land endorsement from local GOP Duncan Hunter challenger raises over 0,000 in third quarter Trump says White House reviewing case of Green Beret charged with Afghan murder MORE (R-Calif.) and is looking into possibly running to replace him in California’s 50th congressional district. Issa represented the adjacent 49th district before he decided against running for reelection in 2018.

Issa was nominated in September to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, but his nomination has stalled in the Senate, leaving him to eye Hunter’s seat.

News of Issa’s possible return comes after Margaret Hunter, the congressman’s wife and a co-conspirator in the case, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to use funds from her husband’s congressional campaign last week. The guilty plea is a reversal from when the charges were first handed down. 

Elsewhere in political news … Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetFox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa MORE (D-Colo.) released a series of government reform proposals, including a constitutional amendment to institute a lifetime ban on Congress members from becoming lobbyists and a ban on political gerrymandering (The Hill) … Coinciding with her rise in the polls, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (D-Mass.) will celebrate her 70th birthday on Saturday. She is scheduled to campaign in South Carolina this weekend, including an appearance at the South Carolina Democratic convention on Saturday.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

CONGRESS:  The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday released the transcript of its closed-door interview this week with Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksFormer White House official won't testify, lawyer says Trump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me Trump criticizes Fox, which 'isn't working for us anymore' MORE, the former White House communications director. During her testimony, White House lawyers repeatedly blocked her from answering questions about her work for the president.  

During eight hours of testimony, lawyers advised Hicks not to answer questions 155 times, according to the committee, including a number of questions about Trump and instances of potential obstruction of justice as laid out in the report by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE.

Hicks did answer questions related to the Trump campaign in 2016, saying that she would not accept dirt from a foreign entity to use against a political opponent. She also told the panel that there was a sense of “relief” in the campaign after WikiLeaks released emails from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats ask judge for quick ruling on McGahn subpoena Hillary Clinton: 'Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency' The Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race MORE’s campaign (The Hill).  

The Washington Post: For ally of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul Five things to know about Tuesday's impeachment hearings McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' MORE (D-Calif.), backing impeachment of Trump is carefully calibrated. 

The Atlantic: The White House is nowhere near ready for impeachment.

> The Senate voted Thursday to block the president’s arms sale to Saudi Arabia, setting up a potential veto clash with the White House.

Senators passed 22 resolutions of disapproval, one for each sale noticed to Congress. Two of the sales were voted down, 53-45. The remaining 20 sales were voted against, 51-45.

The arms sale, estimated to be worth more than $8 billion, would provide weapons to Saudi Arabia, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. it sparked widespread backlash in Congress after Trump used an “emergency” provision of the Arms Export Control Act to sidestep the 30-day notification to lawmakers about a pending sale. 

The White House is expected to veto the resolutions of disapproval, and the Senate is unlikely to override the likely vetoes with a two-thirds majority needed to do so (The Hill).

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

Gulf war would be 'Iran against the world' — but still not easy to win, James R. Holmes, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2FnCjgD 

What the United States and Israel can expect from next week's meeting with Russia, by Jacob Nagel and Jonathan Schanzer, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/31IsSSF

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Reps. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterFinancial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more House passes bill to protect cannabis industry access to banks, credit unions Showing consumers health care pricing could lower costs MORE (D-Col.) and Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversWaters clashes with Trump officials over 'disastrous' housing plans Financial sector's work on SAFE Banking Act shows together, everyone achieves more GOP ratchets up 2020 attacks as impeachment storm grows MORE (R-Ohio), who discuss a bipartisan banking measure at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

The House meets at 9 a.m.

The Senate returns at 3 p.m. on Monday and resumes consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

The president today is scheduled to have lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Netanyahu calls Trump administration reversal on Israeli settlements a 'huge achievement' UN pushes back on US reversal on Israeli settlements MORE. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpBilly Ray Cyrus thanks Melania Trump after meeting with family of cyberbullying victim Trump rips speculation about his health after Walter Reed visit Trump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report MORE receive a briefing about the 2019 hurricane season. At 5:45 p.m., the Trumps host a congressional picnic, which was delayed by a day because of inclement weather.

Vice President Pence participates in a conference call at 4 p.m. with Republican governors to champion the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Pompeo speaks at 2:30 p.m. at the State Department about the contents of the 2018 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, mandated by law. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback answers questions about the report following Pompeo’s remarks.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNegative interest rates are uncalled for in today's strong economy House passes stopgap as spending talks stall On The Money: Supreme Court temporarily blocks House subpoena of Trump financial records | Trump touts 'cordial' meeting with Fed chief | Stopgap funding measure includes census money, military pay raise MORE delivers the keynote address at 10:30 a.m. in Orlando, Fla., at the plenary of the Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental body established in 1989 to help combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats. At noon, the secretary visits NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Economic indicators: Information about U.S. existing home sales in May will be released at 10 a.m. by the National Association of Realtors.

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 CassidySchumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures UN Security Council to meet after Turkey launches Syria offensive Trump faces growing GOP revolt on Syria 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.

 

ELSEWHERE

Supreme Court: Justices ruled on Thursday that an American Legion-built cross can remain in place in Maryland at a state-owned World War I memorial park (The Hill). … Linda Greenhouse, opinion, The New York Times: The Supreme Court is showing an instinct for self-preservation, at least until next year’s election. 

 

 

Tech: Officials with NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration worry the administration’s 5G plan to auction off radio frequency bands adjacent to one used by weather forecasters will hamper the ability to monitor, predict and forecast hurricanes and other dangerous weather events. The solution, they say, is to make 5G signals quieter. The FCC says there’s no problem to resolve (The Los Angeles Times). … Slack, a workplace communications tool, is now worth more than $20 billion (CNN).

July 4th in Washington: Plans for Independence Day celebrations in the nation’s capital are taking shape, according to a schedule of events released by the Interior Department (WTOP). Trump’s “Salute to America” on the National Mall on July 4 begins at 6:30 p.m. and includes the president’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial and a tribute to the U.S. armed services with flyovers, music and military demonstrations. The holiday begins with a parade and ends with a concert at the U.S. Capitol and fireworks at West Potomac Park near the Potomac River. Schedule details are HERE. Security and access details for visitors are to be released next week.

THE CLOSER

And finally …    Congratulations to Morning Report Quiz Winners, who are in the know about the animated Pixar characters in the popular “Toy Story” franchise.

Quiz masters this week are Donna Nackers, Dominique Tonneas, Carol Katz, Candi Cee, Allyson Foster, RGruber42, Dan Stephen, Luther Berg, Aaron Gebard and Ki Harvey.

They knew that the first “Toy Story” movie arrived in theaters in 1995.

Comedian Don Rickles, who died in 2017 at age 90, was the “Toy Story” voice of Mr. Potato Head.

Buzz Lightyear’s archenemy is Emperor Zurg.

Sheriff Woody’s love interest in the 2019 film is Bo Peep, back for “Toy Story 4” after a cinematic hiatus.