Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps

Getty Images

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! 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 Mueller departed Capitol Hill after more than six hours of testimony before two House committees on Wednesday, sparking an exultant response from President Trump as Republican allies joined him in declaring it a “good day” for the White House. 

Trump said Mueller’s presentation was a “disaster” for his political foes and he repeated his view that the probe has been a “witch hunt” from the start. 

{mosads}Democratic lawmakers, who hoped the subpoenaed testimony might “breathe life” into a narrative that the president broke the law by attempting to obstruct justice, were less certain about their desired outcome. 

One senior Democratic aide told The Hill’s Scott Wong that the majority on the House Judiciary Committee got Mueller to walk through his 448-page report while stating that the 22-month investigation did not exonerate Trump, as the president has claimed.

“The president was not exculpated for acts he allegedly committed,” Mueller told committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), using a legal phrase meaning “not cleared.”

“There was no new information relayed today,” conceded Judiciary Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.). “But it was new to about 99 percent of the American people. So, it wasn’t new to anybody who read it. But most people have not read it.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) sarcastically thanked Democrats for securing Mueller’s testimony. “Great day for Republicans. We’re just really glad that Chairman Nadler scheduled a hearing,” he told reporters outside the packed hearing room. 

The former FBI director spent hours offering one-word responses while lawmakers read aloud from numbered paragraphs with sentences filled with dozens of witness’s names. For an uninitiated TV viewer, it was a tough through-line to follow.

Mueller at times indicated he had trouble hearing the questions and had to be reminded to speak into the microphone when he answered. He occasionally appeared unsure about the report’s findings and asked to pause while he reviewed sentences before responding. When asked how many interviews with witnesses he attended, he said “very few.”

If it’s in the report, then I support it,” he said at one point. 

Politico: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rebuffed Nadler, who pushed for an impeachment inquiry in a closed-door caucus meeting following Mueller’s testimony.

{mossecondads}Although the former special counsel was cautious when speaking about Trump, Mueller was firm and expansive when defending the professionalism and dedication of his team and about the investigation’s findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and continues to pose a threat to American democracy. “They’re doing it as we sit here,” he said.

In his opening statement, the former special counsel underscored that the risks continue.

“Over the course of my career I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” he said in his opening statement. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. As I said on May 29, this deserves the attention of every American.” 

The Hill: Mueller Day falls flat.

The Hill: Both parties dig in (and 4 other takeaways).

The Hill: House impeachment supporters, now numbering 92 according to The Hill’s tally, did not see the needle move.

The Hill: Mueller Day winners and losers.

In depth:

The Hill: Mueller explains decision not to subpoena Trump. “We had to make a balanced decision in terms of how much evidence we had” and how much time they were willing to spend in court, Mueller said.

The Hill: Mueller says Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice after he leaves office.

The Hill: Mueller reveals what he wants the public to “glean” from his report. “We spent substantial time ensuring the integrity of the report, understanding that it would be our living message to those who come after us,” Mueller said.

The Hill: Mueller declines to answer dozens of questions from lawmakers.

Perspectives and Analysis:

Niall Stanage: Mueller’s stumbles distract from substance.

Noah Bookbinder: Mueller said all he needed to say. Now it’s up to Congress.

Dan Balz: Democrats are now left with one option to end Trump’s presidency: The 2020 election.

Nicholas Kristof: The Mueller hearings and the stench in Washington.

Harry Litman: 5 things we learned from Mueller’s Judiciary testimony.

Henry Olsen: Mueller’s testimony crystallized public opinion against impeachment.

John Cassidy: Why the Mueller hearings were so alarming.



MORE CONGRESS: Democrats will bring the bipartisan deal to raise spending caps and the debt ceiling for a vote on the House floor Thursday before lawmakers break for a lengthy August recess.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made the announcement early Wednesday and it is expected to be the final vote for members on Thursday. The Senate will likely take up the package next week before they break for their own recess a week later than the House. 

The vote comes as conservatives make noise and try to push Trump to oppose the bill given the spending increases in the package. Including spending cuts in the bill, the package increases spending by $320 billion over the next two years, leaving some conservatives frustrated as they ready to go home to their districts for August. 

On the other side of the aisle, it remains to be seen how many progressive Democrats will vote against the package due to the $738 billion in defense spending, a figure that some believe is too high for them to swallow. However, as Niv Elis and Cristina Marcos report, House Democrats received the package well at a caucus meeting Wednesday morning.

“We had a whole presentation from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on how good this deal was, how far above expectations it was, what a great negotiator our Speaker is. No one stood up at all to oppose it,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a progressive who intends to vote for it.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a staunch opponent of the defense spending increases, announced Wednesday that he’ll vote for the package, pointing to the $100 billion increase in domestic spending. 

> House Dems kumbaya: Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are scheduled to meet Thursday to address simmering tensions within the House Democratic Caucus after the two engaged in an intraparty feud over the vote on the border supplemental package in late June (The Wall Street Journal). 

After the vote on the Senate’s $4.6 billion border supplemental, which was supported by most centrist House Democrats and panned by progressives for not having tight enough restrictions on what the administration can and can’t do, Pelosi dismissed Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) for not having “any following” and for only being four votes. Ocasio-Cortez intimated that Pelosi’s targeting of “the squad” was based on race before walking those remarks back. 

Additionally, House Democrats have taken issue with Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, particularly for claiming that Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) took votes that “enable a racist system” and described centrist Democrats last month as “new Southern Democrats.” 

Since then, however, Pelosi and other House Democrats have rushed to the side of the four progressive members over Trump’s tweet telling them to “go back” to where they came from. Three of them were born in the U.S.; Omar was born in Somalia.



> Saudi Arabia: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is rife with tension over how much pressure to put on the Trump administration to get tough with the Saudis. The conflict is threatening to harm the bipartisan nature of the committee’s work as Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) is set to put two bills forward to deal with the Riyadh situation, one from Risch, the other from Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the committee’s ranking member. 

The move sparked backlash from Democrats who argued it violated a deal Menendez and Risch made on how to handle the Saudi legislation. Moving forward without Menendez’s backing would break a long-standing committee tradition of the chairman always securing the ranking member’s support before voting on a bill. One aide described the standoff as “World War III” (The Hill).

> FAA Commissioner: The Senate voted to confirm Stephen Dickson, a former Air Force pilot and Delta Air Lines executive, to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday by a 52-40 vote that broke along party lines. 

The post had been vacant since January 2018 and led by former acting chief Daniel Elwell, a former American Airlines pilot. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said Dickson was “highly qualified to lead the FAA,” pointing to his past experience (The Associated Press). 


2020 POLITICS: The battle between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) escalated Wednesday when Biden and his team hit the New Jersey senator for labeling him the “architect of mass incarceration” after he released a criminal justice plan earlier in the week. 

Biden panned Booker during a stop in Detroit, saying that the New Jersey Democrat “knows that’s not true,” adding that most of the incarceration happened before the 1994 crime bill that Biden supported was written. He then turned the tables on Booker, calling out his tenure as mayor of Newark and the city’s “stop and frisk” policy.

“If you look at the mayor’s record in Newark, one of the provisions I wrote in the crime bill, patterned and practice of misbehavior, his police department was stopping and frisking people, mostly African American men,” Biden told reporters. “The Justice Department took action against them, held the police department accountable. … If he wants to go back and talk about records, I’m happy to do that, but I’d rather talk about the future.” 

Shortly after, Biden’s team expounded upon his remarks, noting that 90 percent of those incarcerated are in state and local prisons and adding that the “absurdity” of Booker’s remark is “obvious.” They added that they are responding to Booker now because of the short amount of time Biden will have to do so in next Wednesday’s debate in Detroit (The Hill).  

Politico: Cory Booker is all out of love.

The Associated Press: Biden says he’s not relying on Obama as “crutch” in 2020 bid.

The Hill: Sanders campaign accuses Biden of “continued lies” about “Medicare for All.”

The Atlantic: Julián Castro’s pressure to be “the Latino candidate.”



> The Club for Growth, a conservative super PAC, is coordinating with the largest pro-Trump super PAC on ads attacking the 2020 Democratic contenders in a sign that the fiscally conservative group has warmed to Trump after fiercely opposing his 2016 presidential bid.  

As Jonathan Easley writes, the anti-Democratic ads have nothing to do with fiscal conservatism, the group’s founding principle, and instead focus on issues important to the liberal electorate, such as Biden’s record on race. The group has not committed to spending on Trump’s behalf yet for the general election, although David McIntosh, the group’s president, said in an interview they would likely spend against the eventual Democratic nominee.  

The Club for Growth is deeply frustrated by exploding spending and deficits in the Trump era, but the group blames Democratic and Republican lawmakers, saying that the Trump White House has made a good faith effort to reduce spending but has been railroaded by Congress. Trump has signaled his support for a spending bill that conservatives warn would add trillions of dollars to the deficit. 

Josh Kraushaar: Democrats throwing Trump a political lifeline.

Reid Wilson: Inside the progressive hunt for vulnerable House Democrats.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: As part of a $5 billion settlement, the government ordered Facebook to create new layers of oversight for its collection and handling of users’ data. The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday detailed a privacy settlement with the social network that helps drive the debate about how aggressive U.S. regulators should be against big tech companies (The New York Times). Text of the FTC settlement is HERE.

> Trade: The United States and China will restart negotiations next week in Shanghai, the first such meeting over trade differences since talks fell apart in May. Traveling to China to represent the United States will be Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (Reuters). The White House announced that talks begin on Tuesday with Vice Premier Liu He of China about intellectual property, forced technology transfer, non-tariff barriers, agriculture, services, enforcement and the trade deficit. The Wall Street Journal reports the administration wants China to agree to buy more American agricultural products and that China appears amenable as a “goodwill gesture.”



> Immigration: A federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction on Wednesday that blocks Trump’s new asylum restrictions at the U.S. southern border (NBC News and The Hill). Earlier in the day, Trump’s new asylum border rule cleared a separate, initial legal hurdle as a federal judge in Washington rejected a request to block the new policy that bars almost all immigrants from applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexican border.  

> Food Stamps: A controversial Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal to tighten eligibility for food stamps could undercut access to basic nutrition for millions of Americans and hurt some low-cost retailers, according to an analysis by the USDA. The study clashes with the administration’s defense of the proposed rule change, which the government said on Tuesday would end widespread abuse of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by Americans who don’t qualify because of income. “The proposed rule may also negatively impact food security and reduce the savings rates among those individuals who do not meet the income and resource eligibility requirements for SNAP,” the department said in the text of the rule published in the Federal Register (Reuters).

> Saudi Arabia: Trump on Wednesday vetoed three congressional resolutions that would have blocked the administration’s emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. “This resolution would weaken America’s global competitiveness and damage the important relationships we share with our allies and partners,” Trump told Congress. It’s the third time the president has used his veto pen, and it follows a previous presidential rejection of a Saudi-related measure (The Hill).

> Ebola: USAID announced it will send more than $38 million to fight the Ebola crisis in the Congo region, in part through support for the World Health Organization (Axios).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



Boris Johnson faces a rocky road, by Michael Geary, opinion contributor, The Hill. 

An interest rate cut is a done deal. Or is it? By Robert J. Samuelson, columnist, The Washington Post.



Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee to react to Mueller’s testimony, Andy Ngo, a journalist who was attacked by antifa in Portland, Ore., and Joseph Moreno, a former federal prosecutor, to talk about the Mueller hearings. Find Hill.TV programming at or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House meets at 10 a.m. The Oversight and Reform Committee at 10 a.m. expects to act on a resolution to hold Kellyanne Conway, senior counselor to Trump, in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will hold a news conference at 11:30 a.m. in the Capitol. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security will hear from Matthew Albence, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at 1 p.m. 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m.

The president heads to the Pentagon to participate in welcome honors at 11:15 a.m. for Mark Esper, the new secretary of defense. Trump participates in a celebration for Pledge to America’s Workers at 3:30 p.m. 

The National Governors Association is holding its summer meeting in Salt Lake City through Friday. 

The National Urban League holds its summer conference in Indianapolis, Ind., through Saturday, including presentations by 2020 presidential contenders today.

The Hill today hosts an 8 a.m. event, Policy Prescriptions: Lowering Drug Prices at 1777 F Street NW, Washington, D.C., with Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who will discuss reducing patient drug prices. The Hill’s special report on the subject is HERE. Event info is HERE.



Great Britain: New Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday and appointed a government of like-minded ministers (BBC). Here’s a look at Johnson’s Cabinet (BBC).

Puerto Rico: Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico announced his resignation Wednesday following 12 days of continuous demonstrations — the island’s largest protests in recent history. Puerto Ricans called for his ouster over a scandal involving leaked private chats as well as corruption investigations and arrests. The governor said his resignation, announced by video posted to Facebook, is effective Aug. 2. By law, the island’s secretary of state would succeed Rosselló, but no one has been confirmed for that position since Luis G. Rivera Marín, who was part of the chat scandal, submitted his resignation on July 13. Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez is next in line (NBC News). 

Justice: Convicted embezzler Bernie Madoff, 81, asked Trump to commute his 150-year prison sentence, effectively asking the government to free him for time served for his role in the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. Investors lost $20 billion in principal and Madoff pleaded guilty a decade ago (Bloomberg). The Justice Department lists the application for commutation as “pending” (CNBC).

Washington tennis for a good cause: Team Stripes defeated Team Stars on Tuesday night during the seventh Washington Kastles Charity Classic tennis tournament. The clouds parted at the Kastles’ new stadium in Union Market for a sporting event that raised money for Washington, D.C., charities, including the DC Ed Fund, N Street Village and Food & Friends. Serving up plenty of good will and bipartisanship: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and William Timmons (R-S.C.) and former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). Among the media aces were CNN reporter Michelle Kosinski, network president Jeff Zucker, and Wolf Blitzer, host of “The Situation Room.” The Hill, a media sponsor of the event, was represented by Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack. ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl took home the MVP award (The Hill).



And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Boris Johnson’s ascension to succeed Theresa May as prime minister at 10 Downing St., we’re eager for some smart guesses about the history of British PMs. 

Email your responses to and/or, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

Who was the first prime minister to serve the United Kingdom under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II?

1)        Neville Chamberlain

2)        Winston Churchill

3)        Harold Macmillan 

4)        Margaret Thatcher


Which famed actress won an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady?”

1)        Meryl Streep

2)        Julie Andrews

3)        Glenn Close

4)        Frances McDormand 


Prior to his most recent turn as foreign secretary, what position did Boris Johnson hold from 2008 until 2016? 

1)        Home secretary 

2)        Member of parliament 

3)        Mayor of London

4)        Chancellor of the Exchequer


Which prime minister notably became a top ally of former President George W. Bush and supporter of the Iraq War in the early-mid 2000s? (Hint: Brits nicknamed him “the poodle.”)

1)        John Major

2)        Gordon Brown

3)        David Cameron

4)        Tony Blair


Tags 2020 Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ayanna Pressley Bob Cusack Bob Menendez Charlie Dent China Cory Booker Denny Heck Donald Trump Elaine Chao Ilhan Omar Jamie Raskin Jan Schakowsky Jared Huffman Jerrold Nadler Jim Risch Joe Biden Kellyanne Conway Kevin McCarthy Mark Esper Matt Gaetz Mike Braun Morning Report Mueller hearing Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib Ro Khanna Robert Lighthizer Robert Mueller Saudi Arabia Sharice Davids Shelley Moore Capito Steny Hoyer Steven Mnuchin Tammy Baldwin Testimony Theresa May William Timmons
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video