The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony

The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! 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 months in the making, former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as House Democrats say they hope his appearance spurs committees’ ongoing probes of President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE.  

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Although Mueller has he won’t go beyond the four corners of his 448-page report, House Democrats are expected to shine a spotlight on its most untoward and unpleasant aspects as they try to move the ball in their investigation of Trump. Meanwhile, House Republicans are expected to defend the president and question the origins of Mueller’s 22-month investigation. It is also likely that they will invoke Mueller’s finding that there was no collusion among Trump, his campaign associates and Russians. 

Morgan Chalfant looks at 10 questions that lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees could pose to the former special counsel. Among them: 

The Hill: Key numbers to know for Mueller's testimony.

James Comey: What I would ask Robert Mueller.

Mueller’s appearance will be time-limited as his team negotiated constraints for the former special counsel with each panel. He is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee for three hours and before the House Intelligence Committee for two hours. It is unlikely that all lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee will be able to ask questions due to the time limit. 

With Mueller set to testify and comply with a subpoena more than three months after his report was released, House Democrats are defending the looming testimony and do not believe that the country has moved past the report in the meantime. In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nalder (D-N.Y.) noted that most people did not read the full report, necessitating Mueller to speak about it publicly.

“The country has not moved on. The president and the attorney general have lied to the American people about what was in the Mueller report,” Nadler said. “That it found no collusion — that was not true. That it found no obstruction — that is not true.”

“People don’t read a 448-page report, and I believe that when people hear what was in the Mueller report then we’ll be in a position to begin holding the president accountable and to make this less of a lawless administration,” he added. 

The president, who labeled the investigation “bullshit” during a campaign rally in North Carolina last week, told reporters on Friday that he will not be watching Mueller’s appearance on Wednesday, redirecting the conversation to the House’s vote last week on impeachment. The House voted 332-95 against launching impeachment proceedings, although Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenDanish prime minister: Trump's idea to buy Greenland 'absurd'  Juan Williams: Democrats finally hit Trump where it hurts We need a climate plan for agriculture MORE (D-Texas) and Rep. Steve CohenStephen (Steve) Ira CohenHobbled NRA shows strength with Trump House Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony MORE (D-Tenn.) have vowed to continue the push to impeach the president (The Hill).

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Republicans agree with Trump and are hopeful to make the president’s case at the hearings. As Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCapitol Police advised Gaetz against holding open events I'm not a Nazi, I'm just a dude: What it's like to be the other Steve King Gaetz cleared by Florida Bar after Cohen tweet probe MORE (R-Fla.), a top ally of Trump who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, told The New York Times, “We are going to re-elect the president.”

The New York Times: In 88 trips to Capitol Hill, Mueller grew weary of partisanship.

The Washington Post: Hostile witness or Democrats’ hero? Mueller’s past appearances before Congress offer clues.

Politico: Democrats to face off against a reluctant Mueller.

The Hill: Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump doubles down on Jewish controversy Trump retweets baby elephant video Epstein death sparks questions for federal government MORE: Mueller should not testify before Congress.

Axios: Mueller's day on the Hill.

Jonathan Turley: What to expect when Mueller testifies: Not much.

The New York Times: Mueller hearings on Wednesday present make-or-break moment for Democrats. 

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

2020 POLITICS: Trump entered his second week of waging a partisan and bitter public battle with four female Democratic lawmakers he urged to “go back” to their home countries, although only one, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarMaher hits back at Tlaib: Does she 'want to boycott 93 percent of her own party?' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' Trump ramps up attacks on Tlaib MORE of Minnesota, was born outside the United States.

After initially retreating a few yards last week when congressional Republicans expressed political misgivings about a North Carolina crowd that chanted “send her back” during his rally in Greenville, the president resumed his assault on the four Democrats, arguing they “hate” the United States and advocate extreme socialist views, not constructive dissent.

Putting aside questions about the president’s views of race in America (Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE of South Carolina defended Trump last week as a “narcissist,” not a racist), the political conundrum remains whether Trump’s toxic dismissal — “go back” — aimed at young women of color in Congress helps or hurts his campaign and what effect it may have on fellow Republicans on the ballot next year.

Rebuked, condemned, shushed and praised during a rollicking week, Trump decided once again to use a blowtorch on Sunday.

“I don’t think the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our country,” he tweeted before enjoying some golf in steamy New Jersey. “They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said.

The New York Times: Trump sets the terms on racial division. Do Democrats know what to do?

There are typically two yardsticks for incumbent presidents in any reelection cycle. First, how do voters feel about how the economy affects them, and second, does the president enjoy job approval numbers above 50 percent?

Trump has never sustained job numbers above the mid-to-high 40s, which is why Republican candidates wish he’d talk in mantra-like loops about the economy. 

Reid Wilson reports that the size of Trump’s voter base may be smaller than it appears because it may lean heavily on Americans doing particularly well financially rather than those doing just slightly better or still struggling after his administration’s nearly three years in office.

But Trump maintains the economy is stronger than it’s ever been and that more Americans are sharing in the prosperity, strengthening his chances for reelection. His campaign is tending to the states and districts he won in 2016, hoping to ward off any inroads by Democratic challengers while playing in states where he might need some Electoral College insurance. 

The New York Times reports that if Trump locked in modest improvement in his job approval rating, combined with a strong economy next year, he could lose the popular vote by a larger margin than he did in 2016 and still be able to hold the White House against a Democratic nominee. “It is even possible that Trump could win while losing the national vote by as much as five percentage points,” according to the Times.

All of the Electoral College math makes Democrats lose sleep as progressives butt heads with moderates in an attempt to identify a winning formula for the White House in 2020.

Looking ahead to the New Hampshire primary next year, a CBS News poll released on Sunday found former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTop adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 'Forever war' slogans short-circuit the scrutiny required of national security choices MORE ahead by 7 points (The Hill), but the interesting takeaway was that Biden’s lead in early states is shrinking among an increasingly competitive top tier of contenders (The Hill).

See the CBS Battleground Tracker poll HERE.

By the numbers: Democratic delegate race tightens (CBS News). 

Most Americans disagree with Trump’s tweets (CBS News). 

Democrats in the early primary states say health care should be the dominant issue in the contest (CBS News).

 

 

The Atlantic took a deep-dive look at the presidential campaign waged by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (D-Mass.) and concluded she’s the candidate who is leaning into a “new movement” for the Democratic party in 2020.   

As voters in early states say they want to learn what Democratic candidates propose on health care coverage, many indicate they want to hear more policy specifics from Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (D-Calif.). Unclear, waffling, a political opportunist? Jonathan Easley  and Max Greenwood report that Harris is being pressured to locate her core and explain it (The Hill).

Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro of Texas, a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio, carved out a place for himself in the packed Democratic field by making border and immigration issues his calling card (The Hill).

> 2020 Senate: Amy McGrath, Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSaagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? Johnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' MORE’s (D-N.Y.) prize recruit to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE (R-Ky.), faces competition for the nomination following her rocky campaign launch last week. A number of Democrats are thinking about getting into the marquee race (The Hill).

> Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló sparked an outcry on Sunday, one that is expected to lead to mass demonstrations today on the island (The Associated Press). Via Facebook, the governor announced that he will not seek reelection but will not resign following a controversy over a leaked and obscenity-laced online chat. The governor tried to shrug off an impeachment process, whose preliminary stages have begun in Puerto Rico’s legislature. In the chat, Roselló and his top advisers insulted women and mocked constituents, including victims of Hurricane Maria (The Associated Press). 

***

THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Hobbled NRA shows strength with Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Democrats push judge for quick action on Trump tax returns lawsuit Five key players in Trump's trade battles MORE continued their running dialogue over the weekend as the two near a deal to raise the spending caps and the debt ceiling by the week’s end and before the House breaks for the annual August recess on Friday. 

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke on Saturday afternoon for about 15 minutes, following up on Friday’s call, as they near an agreement. As The Washington Post’s Damien Paletta and Erica Werner reported Sunday night

“White House and congressional negotiators rushing to hammer out the final details of a sweeping budget and debt deal are unlikely to include many — if any — actual spending cuts, even as the debt limit is lifted for two years, people familiar with the talks said.  

The agreement appeared likely to mark a retreat for White House officials who had demanded major spending cuts in exchange for a new budget deal. But the process remained in limbo while negotiators awaited final approval late Sunday from President Trump.  

The pending deal would seek to extend the debt ceiling and set new spending levels for two years, ratcheting back the budget brinkmanship that led to a record-long government shutdown earlier this year.  

But instead of the $150 billion in new spending cuts recently demanded by White House acting budget director Russell Vought, the agreement would include a significantly lower amount of reductions. And those reductions aren’t expected to represent actual spending cuts, in part because most would take place in future years and likely be reversed by Congress at a later date. A precise figure could not be learned.  

Details remained fluid and subject to change, according to the people describing the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal details. 

In practical terms, the budget agreement would increase spending by tens of billions of dollars in the next two years, a stark reversal from the White House’s budget request several months ago that sought to slash spending at many agencies starting in October.”

Although lawmakers questioned whether any deal would work given the president’s recalcitrance in past negotiations, the likelihood of a deal received a boost from Trump on Friday when he told reporters that talks are in “good shape,” adding that the debt ceiling is a “sacred element” that should not be messed with.

“I can’t imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge. I would have to assume we’re in great shape,” Trump said.

The Wall Street Journal: Debt ceiling and spending negotiations split Republicans.

 

 

> 9/11 fund: The Senate is expected to vote overwhelmingly to extend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Tuesday despite a speed bump last week when Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulGraham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Rand Paul to 'limit' August activities due to health MORE (R-Ky.) blocked passage of the bill. 

Along with the House package that passed by a 402-12 vote, which would reauthorize funding until 2090, the Senate is expected to vote on two amendments to the bill, one from Paul and the other from Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeMcConnell, allies lean into Twitter, media 'war' Conservatives buck Trump over worries of 'socialist' drug pricing Criminal justice reform should extend to student financial aid MORE (R-Utah). 

The Utah Republican’s amendment would authorize $10.2 billion for the fund over the next 10 years. As for Paul, his amendment is expected to offer a way to pay for the House bill. 

Paul blocked passage of the fund’s extension on Wednesday as he sought a vote on his amendment. McConnell previously vowed that he would bring the House’s legislation for a vote before senators leave on August 2 for August recess. 

The fund’s extension has been championed by comedian Jon Stewart, who has appeared on Capitol Hill multiple times in support of its passage (The Hill).

NBC News: The one Democrat who can get Trump's state taxes doesn't want to. That's infuriated the left.

Politico: Democrats weigh vengeance on Republicans over judges.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump & executive authority: The nation’s courts have become a central battleground for the president’s policy agenda, posing challenges for the third branch of government that has long sought to insulate itself from partisan politics. As more of the president’s policies fail to gain traction in Congress, he has increasingly turned to executive actions to set them in place. But outside groups have filed lawsuits challenging the administration, turning to the judicial branch to referee political and policy debates between the executive and legislative branches (The Hill).

One such group, the Center for Biological Diversity, boasts it has filed 143 lawsuits against the administration. Some groups have mushroomed into large in-house law firms because of the boost in activity in the courts.

> Pentagon: The U.S. military is studying a small cohort of “hyper fit” women who have made it through the military’s most arduous physical and mental courses, previously the exclusive terrain of men. Some of these accomplished women have made it to the most elite commando roles, and the Pentagon wants to know more about the traits that help them succeed. “My belief is it’s grit — grit gets them through this,” said Mark Esper, who is likely to be confirmed by the Senate this week to lead the Defense Department. “You have to have a certain level of athletic ability, but they take it to an extraordinary level. These women are tough” (The Associated Press).

> SecDef: If confirmed by the Senate, Esper faces a backlog of business at the Pentagon, which has been without a confirmed secretary since James MattisJames Norman MattisOnly Donald Trump has a policy for Afghanistan New Pentagon report blames Trump troop withdrawal for ISIS surge in Iraq and Syria Mattis returns to board of General Dynamics MORE resigned in January.  The Senate is expected to confirm Esper to the post on Tuesday.  (Bloomberg). Senators hope Esper can save the Pentagon (Military Times).

> Defense — Operation Sentinel: The Pentagon is developing a plan aimed at de-escalating tensions with navigation in international waters, specifically focusing on the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Oman, the Defense Department said on Friday. The plan, called “Operation Sentinel,” is intended to safeguard ships’ navigation in light of recent clashes in the Arab region, according to U.S. Central Command (The Hill).

> Turkey: Turkey and the Trump administration are at odds. Here are five things to know about the U.S. tensions with a key NATO ally (The Hill).

> Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Immigrant communities across the country are on edge after mass deportation raids failed to materialize last week, as predicted by Trump. The president insists that the ICE raids took place and were “very successful” but invisible to the general public. Immigration advocacy organizations dispute Trump but urge migrants who may be targeted for deportation or detention by the government to be prepared (The Hill).

> U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:  The administration plans to change the U.S. citizenship test administered to migrants who navigate the legal immigration system, calling the alteration an “update.” The test was last changed in 2008 (The Washington Post). Conservative Ken Cuccinelli, Trump’s new acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within the Department of Homeland Security, is the face identified with the changes expected before Trump leaves office (RealClearPolitics).

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

Trump has nothing to fear from Mueller, by Brad Blakeman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Z3m4wX 

When America aimed for the moon, by The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. https://on.wsj.com/2OplKYP

 

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani; Michael Brooks, host of “The Michael Brooks Show,” on impeachment and the Mueller testimony this week; and Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, who salutes former GOP presidential nominee Sen. Bob Dole’s 96th birthday today. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. 

The House meets at 4 p.m.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. 

The president will welcome Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan to the White House from noon to 2:15 p.m. for bilateral meetings and a working lunch. 

Vice President Pence will travel to Windsor, Colo., to stump for the reelection of Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerPoll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (R-Colo.) during a political lunch (Colorado Politics). Pence will fly to Aspen, Colo., to headline a Trump 2020 reelection reception.  

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChina threatens to sanction US firms over sales of F-16s to Taiwan Trump moves forward with billion F-16 sale to Taiwan Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE is in Orlando, Fla., where he will meet with Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Vincent “B.J.” Lawrence at 10:55 a.m. before delivering the keynote address to the VFW Annual Convention at 11:15 a.m. Twenty minutes later, Pompeo will meet with VFW members and the VFW Auxiliary Kansas delegation

The Washington Post today continues its live series of interviews with 2020 presidential candidates with Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash MORE (D-Minn.) at 9 a.m. Information to attend is HERE

The Hill invites you to two live events: On Wednesday, join the third annual Latina Leaders Summit at the Conrad Washington, D.C., with leaders from across the country, including Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Del. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico) and Rep. Grace NapolitanoGraciela (Grace) Flores NapolitanoLatina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Muller testimony dominates Washington The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller day finally arrives MORE (D-Calif.). They’ll discuss paths to elective office and the next generation of Latina leaders. Information is HERE. … On Thursday, The Hill presents “Policy Prescriptions: Lowering Drug Prices” at 1777 F Street NW, Washington, D.C., with Sens. Mike BraunMichael BraunOvernight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Pair of GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule MORE (R-Ind.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinRecessions happen when presidents overlook key problems Trade wars and the over-valued dollar Overnight Health Care: Senate panel advances drug pricing bill amid GOP blowback | House panel grills Juul executives | Trump gives boost to state drug import plans | Officials say new migrant kids' shelter to remain open but empty MORE (D-Wis.), who will discuss how to lower patient drug prices. Sign up HERE.

ELSEWHERE

Iran: Iran captured 17 spies working for the CIA and some have been sentenced to death, Iranian media reported today. Iranian state television published images it said showed the CIA officers who were in touch with the suspected spies.There was no immediate comment on the Iranian allegations by the CIA or the White House (Reuters). Separately today, Great Britain is expected to announce its response to Iran’s seizure on Friday of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. A recording became public that showed the Iranian military defied a British warship when it boarded and seized the tanker. The Iranian capture of the ship in the global oil trade’s most important waterway was the latest escalation of spiraling confrontation with the West that began when new, tighter U.S. sanctions took effect at the start of May (Reuters). “We'll be working with the U.K.,” Trump said on Friday. … Some hard-liners in Iran suggest talking to Trump as a crisis escalates (The New York Times). 

United KingdomBoris Johnson is expected on Tuesday to become the victor over Jeremy Hunt in the vote of Conservatives in Great Britain. He would formally take over on Wednesday for outgoing Prime Minister Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayTrump, Boris Johnson discuss Brexit, trade issues in Monday phone call Pence to travel to United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland in September Pelosi vows no UK free trade deal if Brexit undermines Good Friday accord MORE. Johnson’s hoped-for triumphant march into Downing Street this week is set to be dampened by a carefully timed series of resignations by senior ministers, who will retreat to the backbenches with a vow to thwart any moves toward a no-deal Brexit. Great Britain’s treasury secretary, Philip Hammond, and justice secretary, David Gauke, are expected to step down on Wednesday. The resignations underscore a fraught political climate facing May’s expected successor (The Guardian). Hammond said Johnson’s vow to press for a no-deal Brexit if he can’t secure a new agreement with the European Union is “not something that I could ever sign up to” (The Associated Press). The New York Times explores Johnson’s record in politics and mayoral governance.

 

 

European Union: Ursula von der Leyen, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is set to take the helm of the European Union as president of the European Commission, posing a test for Trump as he seeks to ramp up pressure on everything from trade to defense spending. Von der Leyen, who will become a leading negotiator on the world stage, is expected to become a formidable force on behalf of Europe (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

And finally  ⚾ The Baseball Hall of Fame welcomed six new ballplayers into baseball immortality and the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, N.Y., on Sunday. Headlining festivities was the enshrinement of Mariano Rivera, the longtime closer and five-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees, who became the first player in baseball history to be voted into the hall of fame unanimously. In his speech, Rivera, a Panamanian, spoke about his struggles learning English and the genesis of his devastating cutter, which he rode to unparalleled success, including a 0.70 ERA in the postseason.

Also entering the hall of fame was Roy Halladay, the dominant starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays who tragically died in 2017 in a plane crash. Halladay, a workhorse who won Cy Young Awards in both leagues, notably tossed two no-hitters in the 2010 season —- one a perfect game, the other the second no-hitter in postseason history. 

Along with Rivera and Halladay, Cooperstown opened its doors to Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith and Harold Baines

Finally, the hall also honored Jayson Stark, a longtime reporter and columnist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, ESPN and The Athletic. Stark won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing" (ESPN).