The Hill's Morning Report - Tempers boil over at the White House




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. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the up-early co-creators. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

*** BREAKING — Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsHouse Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them We must act on lowering cost of prescription drugs MORE (D-Md.), who served 12 terms in Congress and chaired the House Oversight and Reform Committee, died early this morning at Johns Hopkins Hospital due to complications from underlying health issues, according to his staff (The Hill and The Baltimore Sun). Cummings was 68. Former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonClinton, Bush, Obama reflect on peaceful transition of power on Biden's Inauguration Day Trump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official MORE once heaped praise on the congressman while visiting Cummings’ beloved city of Baltimore, “I was here about 10 minutes and I realized how Elijah got to Congress,” Clinton said fondly in 1998. ***

President TrumpDonald TrumpClinton, Bush, Obama reflect on peaceful transition of power on Biden's Inauguration Day Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds MORE continued to distance himself from Turkey’s incursion into Syria in an offensive against U.S.-backed Kurds, telling reporters on Wednesday that the raging conflict along the northeastern Syrian border “has nothing to do with us,” even as he dispatched Vice President Pence to Ankara to try to broker a ceasefire with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


The Hill: “Nothing to do with us.”


Bloomberg: Erdoğan to meet Pence.


Chafing at congressional and global criticism of his decision last week to move U.S. forces out of northeastern Syria, Trump lashed out at the Kurds, saying the fighters are “no angels” and can fend for themselves after years of U.S. protection to battle ISIS.


Russia’s leap into the Syrian breach to try to play the role of powerbroker among Turkey, Syria and the Kurds is “fine,” Trump said, if that’s what Moscow wants (Bloomberg).


The president denied responsibility for Erdoğan’s move to launch an air and ground offensive against the Syrian Kurds and said his decision to pull U.S. troops out of harm’s way honored his commitment to voters in 2016 to end U.S. involvement in global conflicts.


“We’re bringing them back home. That’s what I won on,” Trump said during a joint White House news conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.


Meanwhile, Turkey’s strained relations as a member of NATO pose challenges for Erdoğan among European partners and the United States, but at home, his standing is likely to rise among the Turkish people, who are in a heightened state of nationalist fervor (The New York Times).


That’s one of the reasons Pence’s pursuit of a ceasefire with Erdoğan this week, accompanied by Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoBiden taps career civil servants to acting posts at State, USAID, UN China sanctions Pompeo and more than two dozen US figures China calls Pompeo 'doomsday clown' after its treatment of Uighurs labeled genocide MORE and other senior U.S. officials, may go nowhere (CNN). 


Trump’s view that Turkey and the Syrian Kurds have battled one another for years, which he again conveyed during a tense bipartisan meeting on Wednesday with congressional leaders at the White House, infuriates some House Republicans who fear divisions in the party over Turkey and Syria are politically injurious heading into an election year.


Those intra-party divisions were front and center as Trump was asked to respond to criticism by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader Senate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen MORE (R-S.C.), who backs Trump on most issues but not this one.


"President Trump is being told EXACTLY what President Obama was told before he withdrew from Iraq. He appears to be hell-bent on making the same mistakes in Syria as President Obama made in Iraq," Graham tweeted (The Hill).


Clearly annoyed, Trump responded that “Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next thousand years,” adding that Graham, whom he has not publicly backed for reelection, should focus on chairing the Senate Judiciary Committee and probing the origins of what Trump called “corrupt” activity by the Obama administration during the 2016 election. “That’s what the people of South Carolina want him to focus on,” he continued.


House Democrats, sensing Trump’s anxiety about his dual problems with foreign policy and impeachment, decided on Wednesday to adopt a resolution rebuking the president for his troop pullout in Syria. The vote was 354-60, and the 60 votes backing Trump came from Republicans, including loyalists Reps. Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Trump leaves White House, promises to be back in 'some form' LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE (N.C.), Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day McCarthy won't back effort to oust Cheney MORE (Ohio) and Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzFlorida Republicans close ranks with Trump after Capitol siege The Memo: Historic vote leaves Trump more isolated than ever Top Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win MORE (Fla.). Rep. Greg PenceGregory PenceOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Nine, including former Michigan governor, charged over Flint water crisis | Regulator finalizes rule forcing banks to serve oil, gun companies | Trump admin adds hurdle to increase efficiency standards for furnaces, water heaters READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night MORE (R-Ind.), the vice president’s brother, also opposed the slap at the president. But in a rare split from the White House, the top three members of the House GOP conference supported the resolution (The Hill).


Soon after that vote, an agitated Trump continued his name-calling, this time taking aim at House and Senate Democrats who joined him in the White House.





IMPEACHMENT & CONGRESS: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer placed on administrative leave: reports Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden taps career civil servants to acting posts at State, USAID, UN MORE (D-Calif.) and Democrats battled it out with the president on Wednesday, this time in increasingly personal terms as Trump derided the speaker as a “third-rate politician” and wondered openly whether Democrats would be pleased if communists took control in the Middle East. 


The comments came during a West Wing meeting between Trump and congressional leaders on the situation in Syria, but Trump directed his ire repeatedly at Pelosi and other high-profile Democrats.


“He was totally on edge,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' Why pretend senators can 'do impartial justice'? MORE (D-N.Y.) to reporters on Capitol Hill. “He was unravelling.” 


According to Pelosi, the topic of impeachment was not raised, although it was the first face-to-face meeting between the president and the Speaker since House Democrats officially opened an inquiry into potential high crimes and misdemeanors.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.) is already mapping out a potential impeachment trial in the upper chamber, which he expects will start after Thanksgiving.


During the weekly Senate GOP lunch, McConnell laid out the timeline and expectations for a trial in the upper chamber, saying that he expects the House to vote on articles of impeachment before Thanksgiving, allowing the Senate to do so after the holiday, with the potential to wrap up by Christmas. According to CNN, McConnell said that lawmakers would be in the chamber six days a week and unable to speak to one another as they normally do.


"Senators will not be allowed to speak, which will be good therapy for a number of them," McConnell told reporters after the lunch. "We intend to do our constitutional responsibility."


During the lunch, McConnell invited Graham to address the room on the topic given his past involvement in former President Clinton’s impeachment process. Graham broached the idea of sending a letter to Pelosi warning her not to impeach Trump based on the Ukraine transcript the White House released, with the goal of having two-thirds of the Senate GOP sign it. 


However, the idea received pushback from multiple senators in the room, with some arguing that it would politically harm multiple senators and others wondering what purpose it would serve, as Jordain Carney and Al Weaver report


“I will sign the letter, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s necessarily a good idea. We don’t need distractions right now,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), one of the senators who raised concerns. 


Another Senate Republican labeled the move “one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard from Lindsey,” adding that the move will backfire for both Trump and the conference. As for Graham, he noted that he is taking the concerns “under advisement, but declined to say how many signed the letter.


The Hill: GOP cautions Graham against hauling former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenKaty Perry and her 'Firework' close out inauguration TV special Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Tom Hanks: After years of 'troubling rancor,' Inauguration Day 'is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal' MORE before Senate. 


The Hill: McConnell: Senate will hold impeachment trial.


The Washington Post: Pompeo adviser decries politicization of State Dept. in impeachment probe testimony.


On the other side of the Capitol, House investigators motored on with testimony as part of their inquiry and heard from Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to one official familiar with McKinley’s testimony, the former State aide described that despite being pleased with how Pompeo was running the department originally, his opinions about Pompeo soured after learning about the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine.


Additionally, the testimony left House Democrats clamoring for Pompeo to be deposed, even though that is unlikely to happen given the administration’s decision to stonewall investigators at every turn (The Hill). 


With McKinley’s testimony in the rearview mirror, investigators are expected to hear from Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, today. They are also expected to bring William Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, before investigators on Tuesday. Taylor will be the latest in a string of diplomats to cooperate with investigators despite the administration’s pledge not to do so (The Hill). 


The Hill: Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryWhite House advisers preparing to launch nonprofit to promote Trump policies: report Chip Roy fends off challenge from Wendy Davis to win reelection in Texas The Memo: Texas could deliver political earthquake MORE doesn't know if he'll comply with congressional subpoena.


POLITICS: Biden faces a new threat in the form of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Biden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports MORE, who is climbing in the polls in Iowa and positioning himself to be the top choice among centrist Democratic voters if Biden falters in the coming months. 


As Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley write, the college town mayor has raised millions more than the former vice president, and just as importantly, he has millions more in the bank than Biden with less than three months before the Iowa caucuses. 


Buttigieg has also shown a willingness to battle fellow candidate Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Top Senate Democrat backs waiver for Biden Pentagon nominee Consumer bureau director resigns after Biden's inauguration MORE (D-Mass.) and the left in general on hot-button issues such as “Medicare for All” and gun buyback programs. His pushback on those topics was on full display at the fourth Democratic debate in Ohio on Tuesday night, for which he received high marks from many in Democratic circles. 


As for Biden, Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo that the former vice president had yet another indifferent debate performance on Tuesday. Even more problematic for Biden, however, is his mediocre fundraising ability, as he posted only $15.3 million in the third quarter with only $8.9 million in the bank. Those fundraising totals are considerably less than those of his Democratic rivals, with the cash-on-hand figure sitting below some candidates who are well behind in polling. 


Politico: “They’ve got no margin for error”: Biden cash crunch raises alarms. 


The New York Times: Biden ramps up attacks on Warren’s “credibility.”


With the third fundraising quarter in the books, Democratic presidential candidates raised a combined $186 million during the third quarter, setting a breakneck pace even as Trump stockpiles a massive campaign account, as Reid Wilson and Max Greenwood write


Three of the candidates who hope to face Trump next year — Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Sanders's inauguration look promptly gets a bobblehead Booker brings girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, to inauguration MORE (I-Vt.), Warren and Buttigieg — have set themselves apart from the crowded field, both by raising more and keeping more money on hand than their rivals.


The Washington Post: How Bernie Sanders scored a coup and won the backing of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation Facebook has no current plan to end the Trump suspension MORE (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocrats poised to impeach Trump again Pence opposes removing Trump under 25th Amendment: reports Pelosi vows to impeach Trump again — if Pence doesn't remove him first MORE (D-Minn.).


The Wall Street Journal: Trump campaign makes Texas push ahead of president’s visit.


The Hill: Democratic divisions emerge over tackling Big Tech.


> Medicare for All: Medicare for All is losing support in the polls as it faces attacks from both Democratic presidential candidates and the health care industry. Those attacks were on display at Tuesday night’s Democratic primary debate when moderate candidates called Sanders’s signature proposal a “pipe dream” and an “obliteration” of private health insurance. Meanwhile, hospitals, doctors and health insurers are spending millions of dollars to sink public support for the proposal (The Hill).







INTERNATIONAL: U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reached a Brexit agreement with the European Union today. The next step is approval by two Parliaments, a tough hurdle (The New York Times). ...Brexit could reignite a long history of smoldering animosities in Northern Ireland, especially if there are renewed customs and passport controls along the now-invisible border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland (The Associated Press).


> China: Trump on Wednesday said a first phase of a trade deal with China will probably not be signed until next month, when he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific economic summit in Chile (Bloomberg). The president announced an interim agreement with Beijing on Oct. 13, without specifics, but told reporters on Wednesday that U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE “is in the process of getting it completed.”


> Canada: Former President Obama on Wednesday endorsed Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauBiden's first foreign leader call to be with Canada's Trudeau on Friday World leaders congratulate Biden on becoming president LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE before Canadian voters head to the polls on Oct. 21. Trudeau has been under fire after admitting he darkened his face with makeup several times as an adult while wearing costumes and also bungled a government ethics case. I was proud to work with Justin Trudeau as President,” Obama tweeted. “He's a hard-working, effective leader who takes on big issues like climate change. The world needs his progressive leadership now, and I hope our neighbors to the north support him for another term” (The New York Times). 




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!


The impeachment inquiry won't make Trump any less trustworthy to his supporters, by Stephen Martin and Joseph Marks, opinion contributors, The Hill. 



America adrift: Trump has ended the 'post-World War II era', by R. David Harden, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2VMvs7v 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Amaryllis Fox, former CIA clandestine service officer, to discuss her new book, “Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA”; Rep. Andy LevinAndrew (Andy) LevinForeign adversaries skewer US after Capitol riots Biden taps Boston Mayor Marty Walsh for Labor secretary: report Biden picks leave Democrats with slimmest House majority in modern history MORE (D-Mich.), to talk about the United Autoworkers strike and Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate; and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Ky.), for his reactions to the situations involving Syria, China and the NBA, and to preview his new book, “The Case Against Socialism.” Watch at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv, or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House meets at 10 a.m.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The Senate Armed Services Committee meets at 9:30 a.m. for a closed hearing to examine the situation in Syria.


The president this morning flies to Fort Worth, Texas, where he will meet with GOP donors at 1:45 p.m. before addressing a joint fundraising committee luncheon at 2:20 p.m. This afternoon, Trump presides over a ribbon-cutting event at a new Louis Vuitton handbag workshop in Johnson County, Texas. The president will hold a reelection rally in Dallas and arrive back at the White House after midnight.


Pence is in Ankara, accompanied by Pompeo and other administration officials.


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference MORE holds bilateral meetings this morning with representatives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank at two IMF locations in Washington.   


You’re invited to The Hill's upcoming newsmaker event, Innovation Runway: The Cutting Edge of Aviation, at the Newseum on Oct. 23 at 8 a.m. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzArizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear MORE (R-Texas), Rep. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenLIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Wash.) and Daniel Elwell, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will discuss changes in American aviation that affect consumers and the nation. Information is HERE


CQ Roll Call hosts a newsmaker event with Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats seize on GOP donor fallout Senior Democrat says Hawley, Cruz should step down from Judiciary Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure MORE (D-R.I.), focused on the Supreme Court’s new term, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. in Washington. Details are HERE.


Labor: General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative contract deal on Wednesday that could end a month-long strike. Union officials say the agreement offers “major gains” for 49,000 striking hourly workers (The Associated Press).


Tech: The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved the $26 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, but the agreement still faces a significant obstacle as more than a dozen state attorneys general forge ahead with a lawsuit to block it, claiming the combined telecom giant would increase prices for consumers and result in significant job losses (The Hill). 


CBD: The current popularity of products that contain cannabidiol (CBD) has outpaced science and federal testing. The New York Times explores whether CBD is effective for conditions such as anxiety (no proof), sleep disorders (maybe not) and seizures (evidence of effectiveness seen with some seizure ailments). 





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by this week’s anniversary of the 1951 debut of a television comedy classic, we’re eager for some smart guesses about “I Love Lucy.” (Some full episodes HERE.)


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


How did TV characters Lucy and Ricky Ricardo and Fred and Ethel Mertz know one another?


  1. Fred and Ethel were the Ricardos’ landlords
  2. Lucy and Ethel were friends since childhood
  3. Fred was Ricky’s show business manager
  4. Fred was Lucy’s cousin


In the episode “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” Lucy promotes a tonic that’s 23 percent alcohol, asking, “Do you poop out at parties?” What was the name of the product?  


  1. Vitameatavegamin
  2. BoostJuice
  3. Dynasyrup
  4. Vigorvimvis


In what ways did “I Love Lucy” plow fresh sitcom ground during its six seasons? 


  1. Showcased a multi ethnic marriage in primetime
  2. Featured a pregnant star
  3. The hit show was owned by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz under their own Desilu production company 
  4. All of the above


The most-watched sitcom of all time was the 1953 “I Love Lucy” episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” as measured by the percentage of American households with televisions that tuned in. How large was that national audience for the birth of Little Ricky? 


  1. 50 percent of households with TVs
  2. More than 60 percent
  3. Nearly 72 percent
  4. 85 percent