Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report – Audio puts McCarthy in hot water

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has a Trump problem.

Late Thursday night, audio emerged of McCarthy on Jan. 10, 2021 saying he considered asking former President Trump to resign in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” aired the audio, which was from a conversation between McCarthy and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) only hours after the GOP leader denied that the conversation ever took place.

In the audio clip, Cheney asks McCarthy if he was hearing that Trump might resign or had any reason to believe it could happen. 

“The only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign. I mean, that would be my take but I don’t think he would take it. But I don’t know,” McCarthy says, referring to the likelihood that Congress would impeach the then-outgoing president (The Hill). “What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that and nobody should defend it.”

In a statement released Thursday morning after a report by The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns (now with a link to the audio) drawn from their new book, McCarthy denied them outright, saying the report was “totally false and wrong.”

“It comes as no surprise that the corporate media is obsessed with doing everything it can to further a liberal agenda. This promotional book tour is no different. If the reporters were interested in truth why would they ask for comment after the book was printed?” McCarthy added.

McCarthy’s office did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment by press time. A Cheney spokesman declined to comment.

The latest development is likely to pose major trouble for McCarthy moving forward, especially in his years-long quest to ascend to the speakership if Republicans win the House majority in November. The California Republican has staked much of his political future on his ties to the former president, now an ally and a major fundraiser for the House GOP. 

If Trump ditched his support for McCarthy, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s discarded a Republican candidate in search of what he considers greener pastures. Last month, Trump rescinded his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) for an open Alabama Senate seat. Brooks was one of Trump’s most outspoken supporters in the push to overturn the 2020 election results. 

In other words, McCarthy’s political future and the road to 218 go through Trump. For argument’s sake, if Republicans were to win 24 seats in the midterm elections, bringing them to a total of 233 seats overall, only 16 Republicans who are loyal to Trump would have to break ranks to deny McCarthy the speakership if Trump moves against the GOP leader.

Initial comments from House Republicans have been scarce since the audio posted. Lawmakers are in recess until Tuesday (unless, of course, Trump speaks out). However, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) offered a word of support for the minority leader.

Gonzales tweeted, “29 wks from now Republicans will have the majority and Kevin McCarthy will be Speaker of the House.”

A reminder: Days after the Capitol riot, McCarthy said in a public statement that “the president bears responsibility” for the deadly attack, adding “these facts require immediate action from President Trump, accept his share of responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is successfully able to begin his term.”

The New York Times: Donald Trump Jr. plans to meet with Jan. 6 committee.


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LEADING THE DAY

UKRAINE CRISIS: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday declared success in the key Ukrainian city of Mariupol. But President Biden refuted Putin’s claim and announced the United States will ship another $1.3 billion in heavy artillery weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and will ask Congress next week to agree to spend more in what he called “a critical window now of time” (The Associated Press).

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Biden had approved about $3.4 billion in military aid since Feb. 24 that was appropriated by Congress. 

Russia’s offensive in the east after failing to capture Kyiv has escalated along with Putin’s public bravado. Biden’s emphatic insistence on Thursday that Putin will “never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine” follows a U.S. assessment that without help over the next month, parts of eastern Ukraine could fall to Russian control.

Following weeks of pleas from Ukraine for additional weaponry, supplies and economic support, the U.S. and Western allies say they have found ways to militarily back Ukraine without putting Western forces in the air or on the ground within its borders.

Putin personally ordered Russian forces on Thursday to seal off rather than storm a mammoth steel plant in Mariupol where Ukrainian troops are pinned down in a stronghold, arguing that Ukrainian troops and sheltering civilians could escape if they surrendered. But the shelling continued unabated, and Ukrainian forces inside said they would run out of ammunition within hours. A few caravans on Thursday were able to get some Mariupol residents out amid the shelling.

As the Russian president asserted military might, Biden appealed to allies for continued unity and gave a pep talk to the American public to show patience and resolve in standing with Ukraine for what he suggested could be months of heavy fighting and brutality. Some analysts say May 9, Russia’s Victory Day, is an important benchmark in Putin’s mind (Newsweek). His ambitions to seize territory he sees as Russian and halt NATO’s enlargement are unlikely to stop with Ukraine without the West’s forceful pushback, experts argue.

Putin is banking on us losing interest,” Biden said after meeting at the White House with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. “We’re going to prove him wrong. We will not lessen our resolve. We’re going to continue to stand with the brave and proud people of Ukraine.” 

© Associated Press / Satellite image | Mariupol, Ukraine.

Developments:

NBC News: Biden announces $800 million more in weapons for Ukraine.

The New York Times: The U.S. will outfit five artillery battalions for Ukraine and provide new drones that explode on impact.

The Associated Press: Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announce $500 million more in U.S. humanitarian and economic aid for Ukraine.

Reuters: Biden bans Russian-affiliate ships from U.S. ports.

The Hill: NATO and European Union members Latvia and Estonia on Thursday declared through their respective parliaments that Russia committed genocide in Ukraine.

The Hill and The Washington Post: The president announced a new plan for Ukrainian refugees to enter the U.S., noting that more than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their country seeking refuge in neighboring countries or where they have relatives in the West. “Approximately two-thirds — two-thirds — of all Ukrainian children have been displaced from their homes,” Biden said with evident agitation. “More than 5 million Ukrainians have fled their country. It’s an absolute outrage. The idea this is happening approaching the second quarter of the 21st century is just (sigh).” 

The Hill: In a display of tit for tat, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that 29 Americans, including Vice President Harris, are barred from entering Russia on an “indefinite basis.” The list also includes Meta/Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.  

© Associated Press / Evan Vucci | President Biden on Thursday.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLICY: Twenty-one states on Thursday filed a temporary restraining order in an attempt to bar the Biden administration from ending Title 42, the Trump-era policy that blocks migrants from claiming asylum and allows for their expulsion (The Hill). 

The motion for the order is part of a lawsuit the states have filed against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in opposition to the administration’s move to end the controversial policy. Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri filed the lawsuit against the administration’s maneuver earlier this month, with other states joining on in the interim. Biden officials are expected to file their response today (CNN). 

Unless the administration reverses course, Title 42 will end on May 23. 

As The Hill’s Niall Stanage writes, the issue is also making life difficult for the White House on the legislative side as lawmakers prepare to return to Washington next week. At the moment, at least nine Senate Democrats have expressed concern about ending the policy, and those who are up for reelection are not alone, as Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a top ally of the White House, has also done so. 

The overall situation has forced the administration back to the drawing board. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN earlier this week that the department is putting a plan together to deal with the expected influx of migrants to the border in late May.

“I say, number one, that we have plans. We are executing on those plans,” Mayorkas told the outlet when pressed about the bipartisan pushback. “I think we have to be very mindful of the fact that we are addressing enemies, and those enemies are the cartels and the smugglers, and I will not provide our plans to them. We are going to proceed with our execution, carefully, methodically, in anticipating different scenarios.”

Rebecca Beitsch and Rafael Bernal, The Hill: End of Title 42 could make it harder to cross the southern border.

NPR: As Biden plans to lift Title 42, Democrats want details on how he’ll address influx.

© Associated Press / Eugene Garcia | The U.S.-Mexico border in June, 2021.

******

POLITICS: The Florida legislature made it official on Thursday and voted to revoke special benefits that since 1967 gave Disney the ability to essentially self-govern a vast area around its Disney World theme park and issue tax-free municipal bonds (The Associated Press and The New York Times). 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a potential 2024 presidential contender, denied that the move is punishment for what he calls a “woke corporation” that opposes the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law prohibiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity until the third grade, and limits it for older students. 

Disney CEO Bob Chapek last month spoke out against the new law after facing a backlash from employees (The New York Times). Analysts note that the nullification of the Reedy Creek Improvement District benefits that gave Disney autonomy shifts responsibilities to at least two Florida counties as well as to Sunshine State taxpayers, likely in the form of higher property taxes (OrlandoNews6).

The Wall Street Journal: Florida’s new political map will give Republicans more power in Washington. 

The Hill: Kentucky abortion law halted by judge. 

Reid Wilson, The Hill: Native Americans warn of voter suppression in Western states.

The New York Times: “Carpetbaggers” raise an age-old question: Do voters really care?

Dollar dash: The midterm elections are less than seven months out, and in-person fundraisers featuring Biden and Harris are on the rise as Democrats look to their party leaders to rake in the dough ahead of November.

As The Hill’s Max Greenwood and Morgan Chalfant point out, Harris has appeared at two fundraisers in the past week and Biden headlined one Democratic National Committee event on Thursday night in Portland, with a second taking place today in Seattle as part of his second trip out west as president. 

Democrats say it’s crucial for Biden and Harris, as well as other well-known members of the administration, to take part in more fundraising events so that Democrats can protect their majorities, especially with both chambers in peril in what is expected to be a difficult campaign cycle.  

“I think donors, like the rest of the world, are looking for in-person events. We have all been through our long COVID experience and I think we’ve all done our Zoom fundraisers but I think people are done with that,” said Steve Elmendorf, a prominent  Democratic lobbyist and donor.

The Washington Post: Harris selects new chief of staff as top aide Tina Flournoy departs White House.

OPINION

Joe Biden has a presentation problem, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3rIglx1 

Putin’s and Biden’s changing messages as the Ukraine war shifts to a new phase, by David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3rHu47c 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets for a pro forma session on Monday at 12:30 p.m. Lawmakers return from their spring recess next week.

The Senate returns from recess on Monday at 3 p.m.

The president is in Seattle today, where he will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. PDT, then mark Earth Day with a status report about his administration’s climate change goals and efforts to fight inflation at 10:30 a.m. PDT. He will issue an executive order aimed at bolstering old-growth forests and reducing wildfire risks that impact forest. At Green River College in Auburn, Washington, the president will speak at 12:30 p.m. and call on Congress to pass his energy and health care plans. Biden will fly to Philadelphia tonight and spend the weekend in Wilmington, Del.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets in Washington at 2 p.m. with Prime Minister Shmyhal of Ukraine.

📺 Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.

ELSEWHERE  

➤  INTERNATIONAL: French President Emmanuel Macron has cemented his frontrunner status against nationalist challenger Marine Le Pen as a result of a combative debate performance this week. French voters said they found Macron most convincing but arrogant, and described Le Pen as scary (Reuters analysis). 

© Associated Press / Ludovic Marin, pool via AP | French President Emmanuel Macron and nationalist Marine Le Pen during a debate Wednesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a two-day trip to India, announced a set of investment and export deals. Johnson today is scheduled to discuss trade and security ties with his counterpart Narendra Modi in India’s capital, New Delhi. The U.K. also has been trying to persuade India to reduce its reliance on Russia (BBC). Separately, Johnson remains mired at home in “partygate” controversies; the House of Commons on Thursday ordered a parliamentary investigation into Johnson’s alleged lies about whether he violated coronavirus restrictions by attending various gatherings during the pandemic while most British citizens were in lockdown (The Associated Press). … Also news in the U.K.: Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 96th birthday on Thursday (CNN).

Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was extradited to the U.S. on Thursday to face drug and arms charges in New York City. U.S. prosecutors accuse Hernández of facilitating an international drug network that moved hundreds of tons of cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia via Honduras to the U.S. Hernández has denied the allegations (Reuters and Georgia Public Media). 

HEALTH: Anthony Fauci indicated on Thursday that regulators will likely wait until the summer to green light COVID-19 vaccinations for children under age 5. The news comes despite reports that Moderna’s shot could be considered safe and effective by next month (CNN). … Based on a sudden drop in hospitalizations from COVID-19, Philadelphia dropped its indoor mask requirement to a simple recommendation for face coverings just days after reinstating a requirement (The Associated Press). Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University: 990,679. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 375, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … The CDC issued a health alert on Thursday concerning a group of children in Alabama found to have hepatitis. According to the CDC’s advisory, all of the children were healthy beforehand. None of the patients died, but two needed liver transplants. The cause of their conditions is currently unknown. In total, nine patients were admitted between October and February (The Hill). 

  EARTH DAY: People can volunteer for a community project, donate to a worthy environmental charity or curb their own wasteful, polluting inclinations. Here’s an Earth Day flashback:  

💮 In the spring of 1970, Wisconsin environmentalist Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D), who died in 2005 at age 89, pushed for a national day of action to expand public awareness about the environment. Twenty million Americans gathered in streets, parks and auditoriums to rally for a healthier environment on the first Earth Day. 

🌳 Later in 1970, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency, which got to work that year. Lawmakers established much of the basic structure of the Clean Air Act in 1970 and made major revisions in 1977 and 1990.

🌐 The United Nations in 1971 recognized Earth Day on the vernal equinox, the first day of spring. There is no single global Earth Day, but nearly 200 countries in the world celebrate it on either April 22 or the vernal equinox.

🚰 In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act and gave the EPA authority to create pollution control programs and develop wastewater standards. 

🌅 In 2015 and 2016, the legally binding Paris agreement on climate change focused on restraining the rise in global temperatures this century to under 2 degrees Celsius.

👎 This year, a sobering report from a United Nations panel concluded that countries are not working hard enough or fast enough to safeguard the planet, and in just eight years, the ambitious goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) will be irrevocably out of reach. The Hill’s Rachel Frazin reports that the U.S. is failing to keep pace with its emissions-cutting goal at the end of this decade. Experts say Congress is the reason.

THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s that time of the week! Time to rise to our feet to offer a lengthy standing ovation for all of our Morning Report Quiz winners (and Googling gurus) out there who knew about all things Zelensky (or are just big fans of his TV and film career). 

Here are all those who went 4/4 this week: Richard Baznik, Pam Manges, John Donato, Harry Strulovici, Naomi Freeman, Randall S. Patrick, Mary Ann McEnery, Daniel Bachhuber, Paul Harris, Patrick Kavanagh, Robert Bradley, Lori Benso, Paul Harris, Joe Erdmann, Len Jones, Jill Jackson, Eric Truax, Terry Pflaumer, Lesa Davis, Luther Berg, Steve James and (as Al ribs his friend) Matt McDonald.

Zelensky starred in the Ukrainian sitcom “Servant of the People,” the eventual name of his political party, which swept him into power three years ago.

The Ukrainian president has not left Kyiv since Russia invaded (so the answer was zero).

In 2006, Zelensky was a contestant on the Ukrainian version of “Dancing with the Stars.” For those interested, he won the competition (and YouTube preserved his performances). 

Finally, Zelensky provided the Ukrainian language voice of Paddington Bear in “Paddington” (and “Paddington 2”).

© Associated Press / Zoya Shu | Zelensky, June 2019.


Morning Report journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver can be reached at asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. Send us a message and/or SUBSCRIBE!

Tags Biden Donald Trump Jr. Earth Day house Jan. 6 Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney McCarthy audio Mo Brooks Morning Report russia Tony Gonzales ukraine

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