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) 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 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 TrumpOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report 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 NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog 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 MurphyDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Testing struggles emerge as key hurdle to reopening country Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers 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 CruzOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves Florida sheriff asks for new leads in disappearance of Carole Baskin's former husband after Netflix's 'Tiger King' drops 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 MnuchinOn The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds Trump officials struggle to get coronavirus-relief loans out the door Kudlow says administration 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds 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 ShelbyFive things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Coronavirus bill includes more than billion in SNAP funding 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 MeadowsThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Schumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Guidance on masks is coming MORE (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court The relief bill and public broadcasting: A missed opportunity 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 WalkerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Top GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Freshman Dem finds voice in fight against online extremism MORE (R-N.C.), a member of House GOP leadership, and Rep. Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill The Hill's 12:30 Report: House to vote on .2T stimulus after mad dash to Washington Conservative lawmakers tell Trump to 'back off' attacks on GOP colleague 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 PaulGeorgia governor says he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus McConnell: Impeachment distracted government from coronavirus threat Warren knocks McConnell for forcing in-person Senate vote amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeJustice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Trump on Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'I am so happy I can barely speak' 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 SchumerSchumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House Democrats struggle to keep up with Trump messaging on coronavirus Schumer: Fired inspector general will be remembered as a 'hero' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle Lawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package 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 MattisIs coronavirus the final Trump crisis? Pentagon seeks to reconsider parts of B cloud contract given to Microsoft over Amazon Democrats press FEC pick to recuse himself from Trump matters 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 ShanahanBoeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January Defense chief calls on European allies to be wary of China's investments, blasts Russia 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 BidenOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen 16 things to know today about coronavirus 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 BullockPolitics and the pandemic — Republicans are rightly worried The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden moves to unify party before general election Poll shows Daines, Bullock neck and neck in Montana Senate race 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 McCainEsper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander Democratic super PAC targets McSally over coronavirus response GOP senator suspending campaign fundraising, donating paycheck amid coronavirus pandemic 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 NapolitanoHispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging Bicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers Latina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' 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 BraunDemocrats, Trump set to battle over implementing T relief bill Senate GOP looking at ,200 in coronavirus cash payments GOP divided on next steps for massive stimulus package MORE (R-Ind.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal 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 MayNo 'post-Brexit doom' indeed: Watch Britain boldly move forward Labour's loss should tell Democrats not to tack too far to the left Is Corbyn handing Brexit to Boris Johnson? 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.”