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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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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. TGIF! 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.

After warning that Iran’s decision to shoot down a U.S. surveillance drone was “a big mistake,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit 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 GrahamClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Spokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome 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 PutinScarborough says he'll never return to Republican Party after GOP supported Trump Will Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? Russian vessel threatens to ram US warship in disputed waters in Sea of Japan MORE

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

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results 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 BluntMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Graham becomes center of Georgia storm Republicans start turning the page on Trump era 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 SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn 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 BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' 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 BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care Biden: 'Difficult decision' to staff administration with House, Senate members 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 FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee 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 MooreAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Long-shot Espy campaign sees national boost in weeks before election Ocasio-Cortez slams Tulsi Gabbard for amplifying ballot harvesting video 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 McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight 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 StrangeAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Sessions hits back at Trump days ahead of Alabama Senate runoff The biggest political upsets of the decade 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 ByrneLawmakers grill Pentagon over Trump's Germany drawdown Bottom line Jerry Carl wins GOP Alabama runoff to replace Rep. Bradley Byrne 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.Don John TrumpMost Republicans in new poll say they'd vote for Trump in 2024 President says Trump Jr. doing 'very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis Trump has not prepared a concession speech: report 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 SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms 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 IssaIssa defeats Campa-Najjar in California House race Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Ex-RNC, Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged in covert lobbying scheme 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 HunterIssa defeats Campa-Najjar in California House race DOJ veteran says he's quitting over Barr's 'slavish obedience' to Trump DCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program 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 BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world 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 WarrenKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach No, the government cannot seize, break or 'bypass' pharmaceutical patents — even for COVID-19 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 HicksWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration President says Trump Jr. doing 'very well' after COVID-19 diagnosis Donald Trump Jr. tests positive for COVID-19 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) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 ClintonFederal workers stuck it out with Trump — now, we're ready to get back to work Biden soars as leader of the free world Intercept DC bureau chief says Biden picks are 'same people' from Obama years MORE’s campaign (The Hill).  

The Washington Post: For ally of Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation 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 PerlmutterRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Col.) and Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst StiversLawmakers highlight housing affordability, struggling businesses in push for more COVID-19 aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - Vaccine breakthrough spurs markets; McConnell warns Trump on Afghanistan GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power 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 PompeoO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report Biden's State Department picks are a diplomatic slam dunk MORE. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony 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 MnuchinOn The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience 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 CassidyBill CassidyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Bottom line Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection 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.