The Hill's Morning Report - Biden on Putin: 'a worthy adversary'




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Tuesday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 599,769; Tuesday, 599,945.


The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is approaching 600,000 and members of Congress held a moment of silence on Monday night for victims of the virus (ABC News). Racial and regional inequities persist, evidenced by available data about fatalities (The Associated Press).

President Biden is preparing, with help from aides and allies, for Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinIs Ukraine Putin's Taiwan? Democrats find a tax Republicans can support Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE’s tactics, including the Russian president’s fondness for strategic tardiness and surprise gifts, as Capricia Marshall, former U.S. chief of protocol, recalled on Monday during an interview with Bloomberg TV.


Biden also is ready, during Wednesday’s summit in Geneva, for Putin’s well-known habit of turning discussions of Russia's bad practices back on the United States, according to his aides. The two men last met in person a decade ago.


During an NBC News interview that aired Friday and Monday, Putin denied ordering a hit on political rival Alexei Navalny but offered no assurance that his critic, who previously survived being poisoned with a nerve agent, would leave prison alive. “Look, such decisions in this country are not made by the president,” Putin said.


The Washington Post, 2017: Putin critics who have ended up dead.


Should Navalny die or be killed in prison, Biden said Monday in response to a reporter’s question, it “would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy.”


Putin, eager to turn the tables on U.S. boasts of free expression and tolerance for dissent, told NBC last week that the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol had subsequently subjected 450 people to government “persecution for political opinions.”


The Associated Press: Putin likens Russian crackdown to U.S. arrests of Jan. 6 Capitol rioters.


The Russian president, a former KGB intelligence officer, denied that his government assassinates foes. “Did you order the assassination of the woman who walked into the Congress and who was shot and killed by a policeman?” he said, referring to Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt, who was fatally shot by a Capitol Police officer during the January siege as she tried to climb through a window that led to the House floor.


Biden and foreign policy analysts have suggested that while the summit is generally anticipated to be flinty, the United States is looking beyond divisions. “I’m going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses,” Biden told reporters, referring to Putin as “sharp,” “tough” and “a worthy adversary.”


If he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and other activities, then we will respond. We will respond in kind.”


“I shared with our allies what I'll convey to President Putin: that I'm not looking for conflict with Russia but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities,” he added.


The leaders will engage with each other during two sessions at the stately Villa La Grange in Geneva. One session will involve a smaller group and one with a larger contingent of aides, according to a White House official (CNN).


The Associated Press: Biden rallies NATO support ahead of confrontation with Putin.


The Associated Press: Biden wants to be seen as clear-eyed about Russian president.


Axios: Inside Biden’s prep.


The New Yorker: How Biden rattled Putin.


The Hill: There are two American families who view the summit through the prism of Trevor Reed, 29, and Paul Whelan, 51, who are imprisoned in Russia for reasons U.S. officials maintain are unjust.


The Hill: Biden seeks to build momentum ahead of Geneva summit.


The Associated Press and The New York Times: NATO leaders declare China a global security challenge.



Russian President Vladimir Putin



CONGRESS: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (R-Ky.) signaled Monday that if Republicans win back control of the upper chamber in 2022, they would not advance a Supreme Court nominee if a vacancy occurred in 2024, the year of the next presidential election. 


“I think it's highly unlikely — in fact, no, I don't think either party, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election,” McConnell told radio host Hugh Hewitt


McConnell’s remarks came when he was asked if a GOP-controlled Senate would repeat its actions from 2016, when it refused to give Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandDOJ sues Texas over Abbott order restricting transportation of migrants Graham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Garland floats legal action over Abbott immigration order MORE, former President Obama's final Supreme Court pick, a hearing or a vote on his nomination to fill the vacancy created by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.


The Kentucky Republican, however, has defended his decision to proceed to confirm Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettBill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol Supreme Court's approval rating dips to 49 percent  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week MORE in October shortly before the 2020 general election. Specifically, he has noted that there was split control of the Senate and the White House in 2016, while the two entities were controlled by the GOP four years later (The Hill).


There are no immediate vacancies expected on the court, though progressives are calling on Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerSenate panel votes to make women register for draft Biden's belated filibuster decision: A pretense of principle at work Klobuchar: If Breyer is going to retire from Supreme Court, it should be sooner rather than later MORE, 82, to retire to allow Biden to nominate a younger individual while Democrats control the White House and the upper chamber. 


Jordain Carney, The Hill: McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight.



Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)



> Road or pothole?: A $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal crafted by five Democrats and Republicans apiece is staring at an uphill path to getting the necessary 60 votes.


As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, the plan has both proponents and critics on each side of the aisle, but the fight is turning into a staring match, as neither GOP or Democratic leadership wants to be blamed for killing the most promising prospect for bipartisanship on a major Biden priority. 


On the right, lawmakers are hesitant to throw their support behind it because they oppose indexing the gas tax to inflation (which some view as raising the gas tax), believe the package is too large or simply don’t want to hand Biden a win on a domestic priority. 


Meanwhile, Democrats argue that the package is not big enough — especially compared to the initial $2.25 trillion plan the White House laid out months ago. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Angst grips America's most liberal city Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (I-Vt.) confirmed on Monday he won't vote for it, citing size as the main reason. 


The bottom line is there are needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs and it has to be paid for in a progressive way given the fact that we have massive income, wealth inequality in America,” Sanders said.


Politico: Republicans plot an infrastructure 2-step: Spend more, then kill Biden’s agenda.


NBC News: Democrats harden position on infrastructure package as doubts about bipartisan deal grow.


Forbes: Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Top Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure MORE (D-W.Va.)  softens on Democrat-only infrastructure bill as bipartisan group falters.


The Hill: Black Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month.


> State watch: Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi and Missouri this week are leading the pack of 25 GOP-led states in pulling back emergency unemployment benefits, becoming a test case for whether the cutoff will push people back into the job market or undermine their economic recovery. Republican governors in 25 states have vowed to cut off $300 in additional federal weekly unemployment benefits that were part of Biden's $1.9 trillion March COVID-19 relief package. But the first four canaries in the coal mine, with unemployment rates ranging from 3.8 percent to 6.7 percent, may see wildly different results (The Hill). 


The Hill: Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes.


The Washington Post; Bipartisan group of senators introduces $40 billion bill to close the digital divide.


The Hill: High-speed rail getting last minute push in Congress.


The Hill: New Mexico Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D) was sworn in on Monday to fill the vacancy created by former Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandTracy Stone-Manning's confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop Overnight Energy: Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections | Biden to return to pre-Obama water protections | Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections MORE’s when she became Interior secretary.


More in Congress … Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal On The Money: Justice Department says Trump's tax returns should be released | Democrats fall short of votes for extending eviction ban MORE (D-Ariz.) revealed that she broke her foot while running in the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon in Washington state over the weekend. She was unable to finish the race and landed in the hospital (The Hill).




MORE ADMINISTRATION: Who else might have been targeted in the Justice Department’s aggressive Trump-era leak investigations that secretly sought the phone and email logs of lawmakers, journalists and executive branch officials? On Capitol Hill, outrage has grown as questions multiply (The Hill).


According to Axios and CNN, Apple last week said it responded to subpoenas and turned over to the government information for 73 phone numbers and 36 emails, informing targets of the searches after the subpoenas expired. Microsoft also responded to a subpoena. It remains unclear if other tech companies responded to demands related to the Trump administration’s search through personal communications data for potential leaks. 


Garland said on Monday the Justice Department is considering changing its policies for obtaining records from the legislative branch after revelations about the Trump administration’s secret demands for email and phone logs tied to at least two House Democratic lawmakers (Reuters)


Garland emphasized in a statement that “political or other improper considerations must play no role in any investigative or prosecutorial decisions” and noted the department’s inspector general has already launched an investigation. “Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we must ensure that full weight is accorded to separation-of-powers concerns moving forward.”


The disclosure of the resignation and planned departure later this month of John Demers, head of the Justice Department’s national security division since 2018, is said by the department to be unrelated to the current furor about snooping on lawmakers. Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate infrastructure talks spill over into rare Sunday session Senate holds sleepy Saturday session as negotiators finalize infrastructure deal An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done MORE (D-N.Y.), called on Demers to testify publicly about what he knew about the subpoenas to Apple and Microsoft for information involving California Democratic Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOfficers offer harrowing accounts at first Jan. 6 committee hearing Live coverage: House panel holds first hearing on Jan. 6 probe Five things to watch as Jan. 6 panel begins its work MORE and Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellCalifornia Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's riot lawsuit Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push MORE. Their colleagues in Congress are upset that it was Apple’s disclosure to the two lawmakers, and not the Biden administration, that alerted Schiff and Swalwell in May about what took place during former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE’s term (NBC News). 


The Hill: The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-Ill.), has begun to investigate the Justice Department’s secret subpoenas for lawmakers’ records in 2017 and 2018 by seeking information in a letter sent to the attorney general on Monday. 


Former National Security Agency contractor Reality Winner, who was arrested in 2017 and convicted of disclosing classified national security information to a news outlet and given the longest federal sentence for such a crime, was released to home confinement and remains in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Her sentence had been five years and three months (The Associated Press). 



A marble statue representing Themis, the Goddess of Justice



The Associated Press: A new federal intelligence report warns that adherents of QAnon, the conspiracy theory embraced by some in the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol, could target Democrats and other political opponents for more violence as the movement’s false prophecies don’t come true.


POLITICS: McConnell on Monday said that he and his allies are more than willing to once again play a role in GOP primaries to prevent what they consider to be unelectable candidates to advance to general election contests next November. 


“If necessary,” McConnell told Hewitt when asked if he and the Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group led by top McConnell allies, would be willing to intervene in 2022 Republican primaries. 


“There's no question that in order to win ... you have to appeal to the general election audience,” McConnell added. “I'll be keeping an eye on that. Hopefully we won't have to intervene, but if we do, we will.”


McConnell and his backers changed their philosophy on getting involved in primaries after 2012 when candidates in Nevada, Delaware and Missouri cost the party a chance at the Senate majority. In 2014, Republicans won back the Senate in part by denying those kinds of candidates general election opportunities (The Hill). 


Republicans are likely to have crowded fields of candidates in Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Trump has thus far weighed in only on the North Carolina contest, having endorsed Rep. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddTrump takes two punches from GOP Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Pro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising MORE (R-N.C.) recently.


Meanwhile, Trump’s endorsement of Budd in a competitive three-way contest is setting off a round of finger-pointing among frustrated Republicans across the Tar Heel State. As The Hill’s Max Greenwood writes, the early endorsement came as a surprise to state party leaders and other candidates who had believed they were still in the running to receive the most sought-after endorsement in Republican politics. 


Perhaps more importantly, some North Carolina Republicans are alarmed for the same reason McConnell may feel compelled to play a role in various races: Budd, a House Freedom Caucus member, may be the least competitive GOP candidate in a general election setting.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: New York City mayoral race is harbinger for politics of crime.


> Tech: YouTube will ban political and election-related ads in its masthead starting Monday, the company said, marking a larger change to the company’s advertising policy. 


“We regularly review our advertising requirements to ensure they balance the needs of both advertisers and users. Today, we are updating those requirements to limit the categories of ads that are eligible to run on YouTube masthead inventory. We believe this update will build on changes we made last year to the masthead reservation process and will lead to a better experience for users,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. 


The change will limit candidates from elected office from placing ads in the large rectangular ad box at the top of YouTube’s homepage. Additionally, the change will also ban the company from accepting bookings for the masthead from ads related to gambling, alcohol and prescription drugs (The Hill).


The Hill: Rep. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE (R-Ga.) apologized on Monday weeks after stirring outrage by comparing COVID-19 restrictions and mask rules to the Holocaust. She visited the U.S. Holocaust and Memorial Museum in Washington and said, “I have made a mistake.”




CORONAVIRUS: California is set to reopen its economy and lift the lion’s share of its COVID-19 restrictions today.


“On Tuesday we will fully reopen our economy,” tweeted Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomBiden rolls dice by getting more aggressive on vaccines California Democrats warn of low turnout in recall election Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires MORE (D). “It's been a long road, but our future is BRIGHT.” 


Newsom said that the Golden State has administered more than 40 million COVID-19 vaccines, which is the most of any state in the U.S., adding that 72 percent of adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.


Individuals will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result in order to attend indoor events with more than 5,000 capacity. Unvaccinated Californians, however, will still be required to wear a mask in a number of indoor settings (The Hill).


The Hill: Biden pleads for people to get vaccinated “as soon as possible.”


The Associated Press: Vermont lifts remaining COVID-19 restrictions. 



People walk through the Santa Monica pier



> Variants: A British study released on Monday found that COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and AstraZeneca offer solid protection against the Delta variant, which recently became the dominant strain in the country.


Public Health England determined that fully vaccinated individuals from Pfizer’s jab provided 96 percent protection against hospitalization, with AstraZeneca’s vaccine giving 92 percent protection. The study also concluded that the protection rates are “comparable” to the vaccines’ effectiveness against the Alpha variant. 


The study was released based on 14,019 people in England who were infected with the Delta strain, including 166 who were hospitalized, between April 12 and June 4 (The Wall Street Journal).


The Guardian: Delta variant COVID-19 symptoms “include headaches, sore throat and runny nose.”


The Hill: Transportation Security Administration says airport screenings Sunday hit their highest level since the pandemic started.

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! 


Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Why do presidents forget that? by Eugene Robinson, columnist, The Washington Post.


No one really wants filibuster reform, by Jonathan Bernstein, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. 


JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon says his bank is “stockpiling cash.” He explained Monday during a conference: “I think you have a very good chance inflation will be more than transitory” (CNBC). 


The House meets at 10 a.m.


The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Lisa Khan to be a Federal Trade Commission commissioner.


The president in Brussels today will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. He will meet with King Philippe of Belgium and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Biden will meet with Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, at 12:15 p.m. Biden will participate in the U.S.-European Union summit at 12:50 p.m. He will depart at 2:40 p.m. for Geneva and meet with Swiss President Guy Parmelin upon arriving this evening.  


Vice President Harris will deliver remarks at 1 p.m. at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, along with Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenMissed debt ceiling deadline kicks off high-stakes fight Fed chief holds firm amid inflation concerns The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 MORE, about small businesses’ access to capital. Harris at 4 p.m. will meet with immigrant women who work in the care economy on the ninth anniversary of the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She will host a private dinner at 6:30 p.m. to which all 24 female senators (16 Democrats and eight Republicans) have been invited at the Naval Observatory, the vice president’s residence. 


Economic indicator: The Census Bureau reports at 8:30 a.m. on retail sales in May, considered another prism through which to view U.S. economic recovery.


The Center for American Progress hosts an online discussion at noon with Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan infrastructure deal The Hill's Morning Report - 2024 GOPers goal: Tread carefully, don't upset Trump MORE (D-Md.) and a panel of experts about U.S. global anti-corruption efforts. Information is HERE.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube


GUNS & VIOLENCE: The early-summer trend in shootings, injuries and deaths in American cities is painful to read. Recent headlines: In Georgia on Monday, a store clerk was killed and two people were injured in a shooting dispute over COVID-19 mask policy (The Hill).  In New York City over the weekend, two people were killed and 19 wounded, including a woman on her way to a laundromat, in multiple incidents of gun violence (New York Post). … A man was killed in Washington, D.C., in a double shooting on Friday (WUSA9). In Cleveland, Chicago and Savannah, Ga., and Austin, Texas, there were a total of 39 wounded and six dead in shootings within hours (ABC News). Nationwide, more than 120 people died in shootings in a single weekend (Gun Violence Archive). “It’s very disturbing what we’re seeing across the country and the level of gun violence that we’re seeing across the country. It’s disturbing and it’s senseless,” Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter Jr. said during a weekend news conference. Last year was the deadliest in the United States for gun violence in many decades, and 2021 so far is worse (The Washington Post). … U.S. civilians own close to 400 million firearms. … An Associated Press investigation uncovered that at least 1,900 U.S. military weapons were lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some resurfacing as evidence in violent street crimes. 


SUPREME COURT: Justices on Monday put off a decision about whether they will hear an appeal claiming that Harvard discriminates against Asian American applicants, in a case that could have nationwide repercussions. The court asked the Justice Department to weigh in on the case, a process that typically takes several months (The Associated Press). … The Supreme Court on Monday ruled unanimously that certain low-level crack cocaine offenders are not eligible to be resentenced under a 2018 criminal justice reform law. The decision shuts the door on hundreds of inmates who might have been eligible for leniency had the court reached a different conclusion (The Hill).


STATE WATCH: A Minnesota appeals court on Monday sided with regulators who approved a controversial new section for an oil pipeline passing through the state. In a 2-1 ruling, the court sided with the state Public Utilities Commission, which had given Canadian company Enbridge Energy the go-ahead on the pipeline’s Minnesota segment. The proposed 337-mile section has drawn fierce opposition from a coalition of conservationists and tribal groups (The Hill).


And finally … The COVID-19 lockdown was tough for many. But some took things to extremes. 


Valentina Miozzo, a travel guide and blogger from northern Italy, decided in September to make the trek to Kongsfjord, Norway, on the Arctic Circle, home to 28 locals and where the closest hospital, airport and grocery store were treks.


“In winter, there were 75 mph winds and ice everywhere, so it's hard to get around." Residents venture out for their grocery shop every week or two -- as long as the roads are clear. The route to the airport and supermarket at Berlevåg is a winding, jack-knifing coastal road bordered by cliffs; in bad weather, it's impassable,” she told CNN Travel


Making matters worse, Miozzo showed up on the eve of two months of 24/7 darkness, followed eventually by two months of nonstop daylight. 



Travel blogger and tour guide Valentina Miozzo moved to the far north of Norway during the pandemic