The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts handshake with Kim, tariff freeze with Xi




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday and hello July! 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.

✵✵✵   The country’s 10-year stretch  of economic expansion hit a milestone today as the longest in U.S. history  ✵✵✵

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE is back at the White House this morning after a headline-grabbing weekend in Asia that produced a startling handshake in North Korea with leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnThe foreign policy canyon between Americans over China Blessing for Trump: a campaign devoid of foreign policy Bolton: North Korea 'more dangerous now' MORE and what may be a more consequential agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a trade cease-fire and revived talks between China and the United States.


Trump, with swashbuckling drama, made history as the first sitting American president to step into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), meeting with Kim for a discussion that lasted an hour. The two leaders agreed to restart denuclearization talks, which collapsed in February as both sides traded blame (The Hill).


During an interview with The Hill one week ago, the president revealed he planned to visit the DMZ and “might” meet with Kim, a disclosure the White House asked The Hill to delay publishing. Five days later in Japan, however, Trump described his visit, complete with a tweeted invitation to Kim to meet with him at the DMZ, as both spur-of-the-moment and “long planned” (The Hill).  


Trump leaned on flattery, intermediaries, tweets and a personal letter to Kim to display rapport before flying from Japan to South Korea on Sunday. The president publicly de-emphasized the brutality of the North Korean regime and played up his cordial relationship with “Chairman Kim” before their third meeting. Asked about South Korean reports that Kim executed and banished some members of his negotiating team following the failed Vietnam summit early this year, Trump told reporters he believes Kim’s negotiators are still alive.


“I have to say that when I first became president of the United States, there was great conflict in this area. Great, great conflict,” Trump said, standing at the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea. “And now we have just the opposite. And it's my honor,” he added, describing his handshake with Kim in the DMZ as “a great day for the world.”


Many experts with experience with North Korea express deep skepticism that Kim, who sees North Korea’s nuclear program as his country’s calling card in the international arena, will ever verifiably disarm his country’s nuclear capabilities as a prelude to what he wants first and foremost, which is an end to crippling international sanctions.


“This has a lot of significance because it means that we want to bring an end to the unpleasant past and try to create a new future,” Kim told reporters through a translator while standing next to Trump. “So, it’s a very courageous and determined act.”


The New York Times: U.S. talks with North Korea are to resume within weeks.

The Los Angeles Times: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWar in the Caucasus: What happens without US leadership — but a chance to get it right Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats Taking aim at online anti-Semitism MORE said he expects working-level talks to resume with North Korea in mid-July. 


Before Trump visited North and South Korea, he sat down on Saturday with Xi at the Group of 20 summit in Japan, and the two men agreed to restart trade talks that fell apart seven weeks ago after the United States accused China of reneging on commitments it made as negotiations moved from sticking point to sticking point (The Hill).


Trump and Xi did not agree to lift tariffs currently in place but said the world’s two largest economies would not escalate levies on imported goods while talks continue. Trump promised to hold off on his threat to slap new 25 percent tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports. The news gave global financial markets a boost (Reuters).


The New York Times: Trump and Xi agree on more talks.


Perspectives and Analysis:


The Associated Press: History at the DMZ or a photo-op?


NPR: Experts debate whether the DMZ event was the start of a deal or “just some nice pics and pageantry.”


Politico: Trump’s made-for-TV moment in North Korea.


Ben Rhodes: Trump lies when he says Obama as president sought

a meeting with Kim and was rebuffed. 


David Nakamura, The Washington Post: Trump scores his biggest

live show yet in North Korea with a diplomatic gambit that has no precedent.


The New York Times: China-U.S. trade truce could enshrine a global

economic shift.


The Hill: 2020 Democratic presidential candidates pan Trump’s North Korea visit.


The Hill: Trump raises 2020 stakes by elevating North Korea, China on his agenda.





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Fresh off an underwhelming debate performance last Thursday in Miami, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE is facing more problems elsewhere, namely Iowa where warning signs have cropped up as the state becomes a massive test for his campaign. 


According to Reid Wilson, some Iowa Democrats say they are unimpressed by Biden’s centrist credentials and have grown nervous about his gaffes. This comes at an inopportune time for the former vice president as sharper candidates are commanding attention and growing in polls behind him.


Biden’s team has built a strong on-the-ground presence in the state, which includes 50 full-time staffers, with another wave of hires coming next week in a push to overwhelm other campaigns. Although they are trying to replicate plans by John KerryJohn Forbes KerrySeinfeld's Jason Alexander compares Trump dance video to iconic Elaine dance This time, for Democrats, Catholics matter President's job approval is surest sign Trump will lose reelection MORE in 2004 and former President Obama in 2008, Iowa remains tricky for the former vice president.


Voters this weekend told Wilson they’re concerned Biden's pledge to return the country to an earlier, possibly mythical, age of political gentility is naive, that his policy positions are insufficiently progressive for a party moving to the left and that he has been absent from a state where personal interaction with caucus goers is key to building support. 


The debate performance on Thursday does not seem to have helped matters for Biden and has left him on the defensive. During a fundraiser in the Bay Area on Saturday, he pushed back on those claiming he is just the “old guy” in the race.  


“I know I get criticized, 'Biden says he can bring the country together.' Well guess what, I refuse to accept, 'He's the old guy.' I refuse to accept the status quo,” Biden said. 


Additionally, a new Morning Consult poll released Sunday showed that while Biden maintains his front-runner status, he fell to 33 percent support. This is down from 38 percent in a Morning Consult survey a week ago. Meanwhile, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally Overnight Defense: US, Russia closer on nuclear treaty extension after Moscow accepts warhead freeze | Khashoggi's fiancee sues Saudi crown prince | Biden nets hundreds more national security endorsements Democrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll MORE (D-Calif.) has seen a substantial uptick in support since Thursday, rising from 6 percent to 12 percent in less than a week. 


If the poll is any indication, it shows that debates could have a profound effect on the race. The next round takes place on July 30 and July 31 in Detroit. As Niall Stanage writes, the Democratic primary contest has become more fluid than ever after last week’s events in Miami. 


Along with Harris, the momentum has also swung behind Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Mass.), who concluded a strong June with a surge in polling after a commanding debate performance in Miami last week, where she was the sole top-tier candidate on Wednesday’s stage. 


As for Biden, the debate performance showcased his vulnerability as a front-runner and injected the first serious doubts about his fitness to become the party’s nominee a year from now. It also serves as a reminder of past presidential candidates who failed to turn high early expectations into winning formulas for the nominations. Examples: former Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump jokingly blames 'Crooked Hillary' after his rally mic stops working The Hill's Campaign Report: Two weeks to the election l Biden leads in new polls as debate looms l Trump pressures DOJ on Hunter Biden Trump remarks put pressure on Barr MORE (D-N.Y.) in 2008 and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) in 2016. 


With the first debate in the rearview mirror, the eyes of political watchers are turning to see how candidates fared in the second fundraising quarter, which ended at midnight. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Buttigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE became the first to report their second quarter numbers, announcing early Monday morning he raked in $24.8 million from nearly 300,000 donors, and has $22.6 million in cash on hand. Max Greenwood takes a look at five major questions worth asking as candidates report their fundraising totals.


Among them is whether strong debate performances translate into big dollars for campaigns, and whether momentum for Warren will pay off, literally. Another big question centers around Biden: Will he meet the hefty expectations set after he raised $6.3 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign? Despite the lackluster debate performance, his campaign touted that it had its best online fundraising hour since his kickoff event in Philadelphia last month. Political watchers are keeping eyes on that second-quarter figure. 


The Washington Post: Democratic candidates veer left, leaving behind successful midterm strategy. 


The Associated Press: 2020 Dems face prospect of being cut from debates.


The Houston Chronicle: Julián Castro deserves good look after strong performance in Dems’ 1st debate.





CONGRESS: After a battle over funding for border spending roiled their conference, House Democrats are preparing to battle once again, this time over the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations bill.


Progressives are sharpening their knives after losing out last week to moderates in the conference and are readying another battle over the DHS bill. Progressives were livid last week when the House voted on a compromise package negotiated by Senate leaders after being boxed in by a deepening humanitarian crisis at the border and moderates, also known as “front-liners,” who helped them win the House last year. Now, the fight is ready to repeat itself. 


"You don't have to watch the debate,” said Rep. Mike QuigleyMichael (Mike) Bruce QuigleyWomack to replace Graves on Financial Services subcommittee Preventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Democrats introduce legislation to revise FDA requirements for LGBT blood donors MORE (D-Ill.), an appropriator. “Just get the old C-SPAN tapes. Run them again. It's the same arguments."


The DHS bill is one of two the House did not pass in June. The House passed 10 of the 12 appropriations bills last month. It remains unknown when leadership may put the bill on the floor as the debate continues to play out (The Hill). 


The New York Times: For all the talk of a Tea Party of the left, moderates emerge as a Democratic power. 


Paul Kane: ‘It ain’t going to be easy’: Freshman House Democrats learn the limits of Washington in border bill fight.


> Spending talks: Senate Republicans are facing problems internally as they struggle to unite behind a plan to fund the government after budget talks ground to a halt recently.


At the moment, Republicans are struggling to agree on top-line figures for defense and nondefense spending as they hope to strike a deal before the end of September to avoid a second government shutdown. 


Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag | Company layoffs mount as pandemic heads into fall | Initial jobless claims drop to 837,000 GOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election MORE (R-Ala.) pitched his colleagues during a closed-door lunch about “deeming” top-line defense and nondefense spending levels once they return from the July Fourth recess next week, absent a budget deal. 


Time is also becoming a major factor. After lawmakers return to Washington next week, they will have only four weeks standing between them and a five-week break for August recess before they return for September after Labor Day (The Hill). 


> Election security: Democratic lawmakers, headed by some 2020 presidential candidates, are making a renewed push for action toward passing an election security bill. 


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress MORE (R-Ky.) has consistently refused to bring legislation to the floor on the issue, citing federalism issues. Nevertheless, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) attempted to force a vote on her election security bill, the Election Security Act, but Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordMcConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate Senators push for Turkey sanctions after reports Ankara used Russian system to detect US-made jets McConnell: Plan is to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick before election MORE (R-Okla.) blocked it. 


Additionally, the House passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act by a party-line vote last week, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer says he had 'serious talk' with Feinstein, declines to comment on Judiciary role Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Trump to lift Sudan terror sponsor designation MORE (D-N.Y.) trying to put pressure on McConnell to bring legislation to the Senate floor in a press conference (The Hill). 




WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: A pending court battle over a congressional subpoena issued to former White House counsel Don McGahn tests the longstanding executive branch concept of absolute “immunity,” which was previously invoked by Republican and Democratic administrations. For example, the Obama administration also cited the concept to shield presidential advisers from testimony before negotiating with the legislative branch to provide information as part of oversight. However, the concept of immunity has not been settled in court (The Hill). The Congressional Research Service published a May report summarizing legal arguments and the history of executive claims of immunity from congressional oversight HERE.


> Defense Department: Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper began his new job as Pentagon chief last week with advantageous connections on Capitol Hill and in the administration. Esper, named by Trump to permanently hold the top defense post with Senate approval, was secretary of the Army for the past two years. Since November 2017, the 55-year-old has sought to establish influential ties with Congress in a style his admirers describe as charismatic and detail oriented (The Hill).


> Department of Homeland Security: The turnstile at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spun last week as the official lineup of those tasked with enforcing immigration law changed again, just 10 weeks after an earlier purge ousted former Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenWatchdog finds top DOJ officials were 'driving force' behind Trump's child separation policy: NYT More than million in DHS contracts awarded to firm of acting secretary's wife: report DHS IG won't investigate after watchdog said Wolf, Cuccinelli appointments violated law MORE. Following Nielsen out the door was the acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who abruptly resigned. Then the administration announced a new head of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Some Trump allies and outside advocacy groups have expressed frustration with acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan, a sign that personnel changes may again be on the horizon as the president hunts for loyalists and immigration hardliners to implement his agenda, challenge Congress and argue his policies in court (The Hill).  


> The White House salary list: An annual West Wing report required by law to be sent to Congress each June illuminates who in Trump’s staff circle received raises in 2019, up to a ceiling of $183,000 for those with the title “assistant to the president,” the most senior staff level in the White House pecking order. Former government ethics expert Walter ShaubWalter Michael ShaubTrump breaks with precedent on second night of convention Democratic senators call for ethics review into Ivanka Trump's Goya tweet Chris Cuomo blasts Trump over photo with Goya products: 'In the middle of a pandemic, they're selling beans' MORE tweeted on Friday that some Trump advisers who have been accused of violating the Hatch Act multiple times received raises this year, including Trump counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayBillboard warns Trump's Iowa rally will be 'superspreader event' White House Halloween to be 'modified' to meet CDC guidelines: report Minnesota health officials connect COVID-19 cases to Trump, Biden campaign events MORE and newly appointed Trump press secretary and communications director Stephanie Grisham (AlterNet).


Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? On The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security MORE, acting White House chief of staff, has an unusual arrangement in which he benefits from his simultaneous role as director of the Office of Management and Budget. The result: Mulvaney, unlike his predecessors in other administrations, is compensated above the West Wing salary cap for senior staff, a benefit of his “acting” status. He earns $203,500 a year. The salary list is HERE


Forbes: Trump’s leaner White House payroll in 2019 is a savings for taxpayers.

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!


Democratic debates didn't knock out frontrunners — but Kamala Harris got a big boost, by Brad Bannon, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Xg8ZyV 


Trump's stranglehold on Iran, by Dov S. Zakheim, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2NpyJsL 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Fred Fleitz, former chief of staff of the National Security Council and CEO of the Center for Security Policy, reacting to the president’s visit to the DMZ; Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chairman and former Maryland lieutenant governor, discussing last week’s Democratic debates; and Matt Taibbi, a reporter for Rolling Stone, unpacking the debates and the 2020 campaign at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House will get back to work on July 9.  


The Senate is in recess until July 8.


The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence.


Justice Department officials will discuss how the government legally classifies fentanyl for medicinal purposes at 11 a.m. at the department, part of the administration’s efforts to respond to the opioid crisis.


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE speaks at 1:30 p.m. at the IRS Criminal Investigation’s 100th anniversary celebration at IRS headquarters in Washington. 


Economic data: The Institute for Supply Management releases a manufacturing report for June at 10 a.m. 


Tech: Trump granted a concession to China on Saturday during talks that restarted trade negotiations, saying the United States will allow companies to sell American products to Chinese tech giant Huawei. "Huawei is a complicated situation," Trump said. "We agreed to leave that to the end" (The Hill). … Apple is shifting production of its new Mac Pro desktop computer, its only major device still assembled in the United States, to a factory in China (Reuters).


Disinformation and social media: CBSN, the 24/7 streaming network, produced an original documentary titled, “Fake News, Real Consequences: The Woman Fighting Disinformation” that’s worth watching across CBS News’s digital properties HERE. Journalist Maria Ressa reports how “disinformation campaigns across social media are orchestrated, sometimes from the highest levels of government.” CBSN programs are HERE … For months, Patrick Mauldin, a Trump campaign consultant, has been trolling Democrats with the most popular Joe Biden website — one that isn’t Biden’s and includes Russian-style disinformation (The New York Times).


Minting the moon: A former NASA intern who bought a truckload of videotapes to resell them may end up a millionaire next month when Sotheby’s auctions what it says is the only surviving original recording of man’s first steps on the moon 50 years ago (Reuters). 





And finally … It’s July and somehow June zoomed by in a blur. But there’s still time to put down your smart phones and turn to books. Summer books. Escapist books. Books for all ages. Books that fit in a suitcase, do well under umbrellas and survive a little sand.


The Washington Post’s Book World editor, Stephanie Merry, worked with her team to put together a list of quality, important reads for all ages, from 1 to 100 HERE (Examples: if you’re 21, Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.” If you’re 47, “Stretching” by Bob Anderson.) The Post also recommends 20 novels and nonfiction works to consider this summer HERE.


The New York Times’s book critics assembled the 50 best memoirs published in the past 50 years HERE. Lots of interesting people to ponder over a span beginning in 1969.


From true crime to a hot novel, Outside magazine culled its choices to five favorite summer reads HERE. Cosmopolitan magazine has its “beach-worthy” list HERE. O, The Oprah Magazine champions 28 page-turners HERE. And the smart staffers at The Atlantic chose 14 recommendations for summer reading HERE.


The Sunday Times in the U.K. touts 100 recommended summer reading selections (50 novels and 50 works of nonfiction) HERE. And NPR’s devotion to books year-round is bound to spark some ideas if you skim HERE.


If you’re a parent with college-age offspring or high schoolers contemplating college, a higher-education admissions specialist, Brennan Barnard, created a summer reading list after asking colleagues in high school counseling and college admission to recommend their favorite books from the year. He says that “some titles can help students and families ask critical questions of character, and others will simply serve as an escape from more academic pursuits.” The Washington Post published Barnard’s interesting book recommendations HERE