The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller day finally arrives

The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller day finally arrives
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Wednesday! 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.

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 today will make his highly anticipated appearance on Capitol Hill before a pair of committees to discuss the findings of his investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential obstruction of justice by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE

House Democrats have been waiting for a chance to grill Mueller since his report did not exonerate the president of obstruction, although it did clear him and his campaign of conspiring with the Russians, and have been preparing meticulously for it.  

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Mueller is slated to appear before the House Judiciary Committee at 8:30 a.m. to kick off his marathon day. He will wrap up by testifying to the House Intelligence Committee, with his total time before the two committees capped at roughly five hours. While all 22 members of the Intelligence Committee are expected to be able to question Mueller, the same cannot be said of the Judiciary Committee, given the time constraints and its 41 members (The Hill). 

While House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerSecond Democrat representing Trump district backs impeachment GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' House Democrats urge Trump to end deportations of Iraqis after diabetic man's death MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Trump: Jews who vote Democrat show 'lack of knowledge or great disloyalty' Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE (D-Calif.) have heightened expectations for Wednesday, some Democrats are doing the opposite as Mueller is expected to stick to the four corners of his report and not deviate from it. 

“He’s going to testify to what’s in his report. We’ve all read the report. I don’t think the American public has, so this is the first opportunity for a lot of folks to hear what was in the report,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyHobbled NRA shows strength with Trump Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces White House eyes September action plan for gun proposals MORE (D-Conn.) “I don’t think anybody’s expecting there’s going to be any new bombshells.” 

The Hill: 10 key lawmakers to watch at Mueller hearing.

Peter Baker, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times: Fireworks, maybe, but will Mueller hearing be a turning point?  

The Associated Press: Mueller takes the TV stage; Democrats hope America tunes in.

The Hill: Trump tweets that Mueller deputy should be blocked from testimony.

Democrats have become hopeful that Mueller will breathe new life into their ongoing investigations into the president and that his testimony could lead to a louder drum beat toward impeaching the president after 95 Democrats voted in favor of it last week. 

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are expected to be a line of defense on behalf of Trump. Among the items they are expected to question are the origins of Mueller’s probe and the investigators on the special counsel’s team, which Trump has repeatedly panned. 

Republicans are also banking on the belief that voters don’t care at all about what happens on Wednesday and are more focused on other issues that affect their day-to-day lives.

“I imagine it will be a partisan circus. Congressional Democrats have already tried and convicted the president. Facts don’t matter and law doesn’t matter to the Congressional Democrats, so I fully expect a political show to be put on in the House,” said Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (R-Texas). “The American people have already moved on, so Democratic congressmen will engage in histrionics to try to impress their far-left base, but I don’t think it is moving reasonable voters across the heartland.”  

One major question surrounds how Wednesday will affect the president moving forward. In recent weeks, Trump’s approval numbers have almost hit all-time highs despite his team’s repeated stonewalling of House Democratic investigations. According to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, 45 percent approve of the president’s performance, while 52 percent disapprove. 

Politico: “Barely interested” Republicans tune out Mueller.

The Washington Post: “A lack of urgency”: Democrats frustrated as House investigators struggle to unearth major revelations about Trump. 

FiveThirtyEight: Will hearing from Mueller really change Americans’ minds about his report?

 



LEADING THE DAY

MORE CONGRESS: 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 made his opening push to lock down support for the bipartisan deal to raise spending by $320 billion and extend the debt ceiling for two years amid pushback from conservatives who are pushing Trump to oppose a bill he has signaled he supports.

Mnuchin appeared on Capitol Hill at the Senate GOP’s Tuesday lunch to sell lawmakers on the deal and lock them down early as conservatives make their push to derail the package. Buoying Mnuchin is the president, who has not said explicitly that he will sign the package but has voiced support for the bill’s funding for the Pentagon. 

“He said the president is behind it, had signed onto it and we can move forward," said Senate Appropriations Committee Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyIn-space refueling vs heavy lift? NASA and SpaceX choose both Budget deal sparks scramble to prevent shutdown Trump border fight throws curveball into shutdown prospects MORE (R-Ala.), who backs the deal. "The president said he is on board. Let’s take him at his word." 

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Among those opposing the package are Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsBen Shapiro: No prominent GOP figure ever questioned Obama's legitimacy Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' Gun store billboard going after the 'Squad' being removed following backlash MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanDemocratic Women's Caucus calls for investigation into Epstein plea deal DOJ releases notes from official Bruce Ohr's Russia probe interviews CNN slams GOP for not appearing on network after mass shootings, conservatives fire back MORE (R-Ohio), two Freedom Caucus members who are close allies of the president, along with outside groups such as the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, which called the deal a “disgrace.” The Freedom Caucus also took an official position Tuesday night to oppose the legislation. 

The last time Meadows and Jordan became embroiled in a spending fight, they pushed Trump into a 35-day government shutdown over border wall funding. However, Meadows intimated that the opposition to the president will not be as intense this time around. 

“I don’t know that there will be a strong campaign to have the president oppose it,” Meadows told The Hill on Tuesday evening, adding that while outside groups oppose the legislation, they aren’t “as much as you would normally anticipate.”  

Among the others who have announced their opposition to the package are Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerOn The Money: House passes sweeping budget, debt limit deal | Dem court filing defends powers to get Trump's NY tax returns | Debt collectors to pay M to settle consumer bureau charges House passes sweeping budget, debt limit deal Romney to vote against budget deal: Agreement 'perpetuates fiscal recklessness' MORE (R-N.C.), a member of House GOP leadership, and Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyGOP lawmaker blasts Omar and Tlaib: Netanyahu right to block 'enemies' of Israel The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 Democrats step up attacks ahead of Detroit debate Conservatives call on Pelosi to cancel August recess MORE (R-Texas), a Freedom Caucus rabble rouser. Walker made his position known when he tweeted out a GIF of the Joker burning a giant pile of cash, adding that the U.S.’s credit card is “maxed out” (The Hill). 

The Hill: Winners and losers in the Trump-Pelosi budget deal.

The Washington Post: “We’re like Thelma and Louise”: Republicans shrug at deficits under Trump.

Andrew Taylor of The Associated Press: Budget deal is epitaph for bid to control spending.

 

 

> 9/11 funds: The Senate overwhelmingly passed an extension of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Tuesday, extending it through fiscal 2092 and sending it to the president’s desk in the process. 

The reauthorization passed the Senate by a 97-2 vote. 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.) and 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) were the only two to vote against the package. 

They voted against the legislation after their respective amendments were voted down prior to the passage of the final package. Paul’s amendment offered paying for the bill by making cuts to other accounts. Meanwhile, Lee wanted to specify that $10.2 billion would be allocated for the fund over the next 10 years, with an additional $10 billion allocated after that.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerJewish Democratic congresswoman and veteran blasts Trump's 'disloyalty' comments Schumer says Trump encouraging anti-Semites Saagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense: Two US service members killed in Afghanistan | Trump calls on other nations to take up fight against ISIS | Pentagon scraps billion-dollar missile defense program Sanders targets gig economy as part of new labor plan Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill MORE (D-N.Y.) joined first responders and comedian Jon Stewart at a press conference after the vote to celebrate the bill’s passage (The Hill).

“Righteousness sometimes, sometimes, in the mangled town, sometimes prevails,” Schumer said. “Your losses, painful as they are, are not in vain, as today shows.” 

> Pentagon: In a second high-profile vote on Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the former Army secretary, to permanently head the Pentagon after nearly seven months without a permanent secretary.  

Esper was confirmed by a 90-8 vote and sworn in by evening as he officially took over the day-to-day reins of the Pentagon. An Army veteran, Esper replaced 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, who resigned his post on New Year’s Eve after he opposed the president’s decision to pull troops out of Syria. Former acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanWhy Dave Norquist is the perfect choice for DOD's deputy secretary Five questions for Trump's new defense secretary on first major tour Trump says media is part of vetting his nominees: 'We save a lot of money that way' MORE withdrew his nomination to take over for Mattis in June, opening the door to Esper.

Despite Esper’s confirmation, the Pentagon is still lacking full-time personnel in key positions. The Senate has not confirmed a permanent deputy secretary of defense, though David Norquist was nominated for the post on Tuesday. Furthermore, Gen. Paul Selva is retiring on Friday as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and no confirmation has been set for Gen. John Hyten, Trump’s nominee to replace Selva (The Associated Press).

 

***

 

2020 POLITICS: Amie Parnes reports that former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor Poll shows Biden, Warren tied with Trump in Arizona Giuliani says he discussed Biden with Ukrainian official MORE is increasingly viewed as a vulnerable front-runner among competitors close on his heels as the Democratic field prepares for next week’s Detroit debate. 

On that stage, Biden hopes to reassure supporters that he’s the right candidate to lead the party in 2020 against a combative, say-anything incumbent.

"It's important that we show he's the legitimate front-runner and that it's not just name ID," said one longtime aide. "I think people want to be for Joe Biden. But they want to him to be stronger."  

Biden and fellow Democrats are in Detroit this morning at a candidate forum hosted by the NAACP as part of its annual convention. The former vice president wants to persuade influential attendees that his new criminal justice platform has evolved from his record while serving as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman in the 1990s.

 

 

> House Democrats face a rush of primary contests as a new generation of progressives prepare to challenge long time party incumbents, reports Reid Wilson. The likely targets? Powerful committee chairmen and senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The Democratic chairs of the House Judiciary and Ways and Means committees have each attracted primary challengers (The Washington Post). 

> Disabled voters face basic physical challenges to vote in person on Election Day. Voting officials across the country are working to increase participation among voters with special needs (The Hill).

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Justice Department is launching an investigation of major digital tech firms to examine whether they engage in anticompetitive practices, the government announced on Tuesday (Reuters). It’s a significant action, and while the Justice Department did not identify the companies, it appears to be focused on Google and its parent, Alphabet Inc., as well as Amazon, Facebook and potentially Apple. Lawmakers and Democratic presidential candidates have called for tough regulation or even government-ordered breakups of the big tech companies, following scandals involving compromised user privacy, security lapses and misinformation and extremism that flourished on their platforms (The Associated Press). Separately today, Facebook and Instagram will announce content restrictions on their platforms about alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes (CNN).

> Immigration: The administration has been slapped with legal setbacks on a range of efforts to address immigration, from using military funds for a border wall to the detention of asylum-seekers. The judicial branch challenges show no signs of abating, and advocates for Trump's policies argue opponents embrace a strategy of delay and deny to buck anything the president backs on immigration (The Hill).

> Funding for faith-based alternatives to Planned Parenthood: Obria, a faith-based group that opposes contraception and abortion, wants to be the “pro-life” version of Planned Parenthood, which is blocked from receiving federal support. Obria’s clinics are now receiving federal funding under the Title X family planning program, established by Congress in 1970 to fund clinics and organizations that provide low-income women with birth control and other reproductive health care services. In March, the administration announced Obria would receive $1.7 million for this year’s grant cycle (The Hill).

> FBI: Director Christopher Wray testified on Tuesday that most domestic terror arrests in 2019 have been tied to white supremacy (The Hill).

> Trump tax returns: The president is suing the House Ways and Means Committee and New York officials to try to prevent the public release of his state income tax returns. Trump has not released his federal returns, despite oversight requests from the chief tax-writing committee, which says it would like to examine Trump’s returns while deliberating about potential legislation. The president argues that “the committee … lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” (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

The U.S. flexes its military muscle — and restraint — in the Persian Gulf, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2Syv7n5  

The bipartisan spending party, by The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board. https://on.wsj.com/2Y6GIQF 

We need a new government agency to fight Facebook. The feds are no match (for now), by Charlie Warzel, opinion writer at large, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2GoTSgK

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent and author of the new book “American Carnage”; Gene Rossi with a preview of the Mueller hearing; and Kyle Kulinski, host of The Kyle Kulinski Show, talking about media coverage of the 2020 election. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House meets at 10 a.m. The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hear from Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham at 2 p.m. about the administration’s aborted push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census (C-SPAN has coverage). 

The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. to resume consideration of Stephen M. Dickson to be administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.  

The president has lunch with Vice President Pence. He’ll fly to Wheeling, W.Va., this afternoon for a private fundraising reception at 6:30 p.m. in WesBanco Arena hosted by Murray Energy president and CEO Robert Murray (The Intelligencer. Wheeling News-Register). The political event is closed to the news media.  

The National Governors Association holds its summer meeting in Salt Lake City through July 26. Outgoing chairman and Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockCan Steve Bullock win? Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Sunday shows - Recession fears dominate MORE of Montana will attend, as will the incoming chairman, GOP Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland. Cindy McCain, widow of late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Anti-gun violence organization endorses Kelly's Senate bid McCain's family, McCain Institute to promote #ActsOfCivility in marking first anniversary of senator's death MORE (R-Ariz.), is expected to speak about strategies to combat human trafficking.

The Hill invites you to two live events: This morning, 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. And don’t miss The Hill’s special report on Latina Leaders to Watch. Event info 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

Great Britain: Boris Johnson, 55, the Brexiteer who pledges to lead Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal by Halloween, today replaces 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 as prime minister after winning the leadership of the Conservative Party on Tuesday. May steps down today after a visit with Queen Elizabeth. Johnson — known for his ambition, mop of hair, oratorical skills and spotty command of policy detail — takes office at one of the most tumultuous points in post-World War II British history (Reuters). Trump tweeted his support: “Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be great!” (The New York Times reports on Trump and Johnson, “allies in disruption.”)

Puerto Rico: The island’s 13-year recession, a severe debt crisis and allegations of corruption are the foundation beneath a political crisis in Puerto Rico over offensive comments made by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who is expected to resign today under unrelenting public pressure, reports CNN. On Tuesday, a Puerto Rico judge issued search warrants for the cellphones of officials involved in a crude online chat, and Rosselló’s chief of staff stepped down, saying he and his family received threats (The Associated Press).  

China: The defense ministry in China warned today that it is ready for war if there is a move toward Taiwan’s independence, accusing the United States of undermining global stability and denouncing its arms sales to the self-ruled island. “If there are people who dare to try to split Taiwan from the country, China’s military will be ready to go to war to firmly safeguard national sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity,” a defense spokesman said (Reuters). Beijing released a new defense strategy, its first in six years, while accusing the United States of undermining stability in Taiwan and hintin at the use of force (The New York Times).

THE CLOSER

And finally Without Lucille in his arms, B.B. King would not have become the King of the Blues. Lucille will attract an audience on Sept. 21 when King’s guitar, a black Gibson ES-345 prototype, and other items from his estate head to the auction block.  

“Blues Boy” King, the son of Mississippi sharecroppers who became a singer and performer beloved around the world, died at age 89 in 2015. Gibson gave King a guitar for his 80th birthday adorned with his name and a crown inlaid with mother of pearl, and it’s that instrument that will be up for auction (The Associated Press).

As The New York Times explained in its obituary for the 15-time Grammy winner and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006, King began naming his guitars early in his career:

“He was playing a dance hall in Twist, Ark., in the early 1950s when two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove. Mr. King fled the fire — and then remembered his $30 guitar. He ran into the burning building to rescue it. He learned thereafter that the fight had been about a woman named Lucille. For the rest of his life, Mr. King addressed his guitars — big Gibsons, curved like a woman’s hips — as Lucille.”

Take a minute to listen to King’s simple, plaintive 1969 version of “The Thrill is Gone” HERE

You know I’m free, free now from you, baby. I’m free from your spell. And now that it’s all over, all I can do is wish you well.”