Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! 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.
After four months, the race for the 2020 Democratic nod is almost in full bloom as the battle to face off against President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Intelligence Committee to review impeachment investigation report Monday Comedian Rosanne Barr to speak at Trumpettes’ Gala at Mar-A-Lago Israeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project MORE next year takes shape.
The party has a clear current front-runner. Democrats also have a swarm of other candidates all trying to gain in polls and lock in enough individual donors to make it to a debate stage in Miami on June 26 or 27 under Democratic National Committee rules.
For those scraping the bottom of the polling and donor barrels, the hourglass is running low. Candidates now have a month until June 12 to qualify through polling prerequisites for invitations to the first debate.
According to FiveThirtyEight, 18 candidates have qualified for the debates while others sit on the bubble because they recently entered the race (examples, Colorado’s Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Senate jury pool is tainted Five questions looming over impeachment Buttigieg campaign returns donations from Kavanaugh’s lawyers: report MORE and Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonDeval Patrick beefs up campaign staff Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Pardoning war crimes dishonors the military MORE of Massachusetts) or are on the verge of entering (Montana Gov. Steve Bullock this week and perhaps New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioConservatives must absolutely talk politics at the Thanksgiving table Booker campaign announces six-figure ad buy to qualify for December debate De Blasio: ‘I have spent literally six years undoing what Michael Bloomberg did’ MORE), meaning that someone will likely be forced off the stage because the DNC capped the number of debate participants at 20. Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBooker campaign announces six-figure ad buy to qualify for December debate Buttigieg campaign returns donations from Kavanaugh’s lawyers: report Note to Democrats: We need compassion and reason regarding child welfare MORE (D-N.Y.), who has met the polling threshold but not the donor metrics, aired her grievances about what she views as the arbitrary donor rules created by the DNC (CNN).
In a race where candidates can ill-afford a major setback, missing the debate stage would qualify as one. In other words, the race is on.
As for the front-runner, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Intelligence Committee to review impeachment investigation report Monday Biden canvassers join Teamsters union California Rep. John Garamendi endorses Biden MORE is showing off a more disciplined version of himself in his third presidential bid, according to Amie Parnes.
At an event in Las Vegas last week, Biden declined to respond in his typical fashion when a supporter yelled that he could “hug and kiss me anytime!” Instead, he laughed before pivoting back to his stump speech, showing off a more restrained candidate his supporters believe could go a long way toward securing the party’s nomination next year.
Polling is bearing this out. According to a new South Carolina poll, Biden leads with 46 percent, tripling the support of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden canvassers join Teamsters union Michael Bloomberg’s billions can’t save an unserious campaign Biden begins 8-day blitz of Iowa as caucus race heats up MORE (I-Vt.), his closest competitor.
The Associated Press: White House hopefuls swarm rival Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCalifornia Rep. John Garamendi endorses Biden Adam Schiff’s star rises with impeachment hearings Kamala Harris aide says in resignation letter: ‘I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly’ MORE’s home turf of California.
Politico: “Why not me?” Big-city mayors watch with envy as South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden canvassers join Teamsters union Biden begins 8-day blitz of Iowa as caucus race heats up New Iowa ad compares Booker to the ‘other Rhodes Scholar mayor’ MORE surges.
The Associated Press: Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from Texas, plans “reintroduction” as 2020 buzz fizzles.
While Biden holds firm atop the field, those trailing him are trying to score points on policy, and some are trying to do in a timely fashion.
Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSunday shows preview: Washington gears up for next round of impeachment hearings The Senate jury pool is tainted Five questions looming over impeachment MORE (D-Minn.) made one of the first trips by a presidential candidate to Puerto Rico, which has been in the news lately amid the fight for disaster aid and what Democrats see as Trump’s dismissal of the territory and its recovery from devastating hurricanes.
Some candidates are taking aim at Biden, particularly over combating climate change. After an adviser for Biden described a pending policy proposal as a push to seek a “middle ground,” progressives in the race weighed in. Sanders and Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeO’Rourke ends presidential bid Sunrise Movement organizer: Sanders, Warren boast strongest climate change plans Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators’ quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he’ll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate MORE (D) both criticized the former vice president, while Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezJane Fonda steps up climate fight as part of ‘Fire Drill Friday’ Ocasio-Cortez knocks Buttigieg: He has adopted a ‘GOP talking point’ on education Democrats: The ‘Do Quite a Lot’ Party MORE (D-N.Y.), a leading progressive voice in Congress, said a “middle ground” plan is a “dealbreaker” (The New York Times).
Jonathan Allen: As Biden predicts a shorter race, rivals dig in for long fight.
Another area where Democrats have tried to carve out space is the economy, which Trump is sure to claim as his own given the 3.6 percent unemployment rate and rising wages. However, as Max Greenwood reports, Democrats have avoided giving Trump credit for a strong economy. Instead, they salute former President Obama and the policies he shepherded after the Great Recession.
The presidential race is expected to get more crowded this week as Bullock, the two-term Montana governor, takes the plunge, bringing the number of Democrats in the race to 23.
Bullock, who won reelection by four points despite Trump carrying the state by nearly 21 points, teased an announcement on Saturday, before releasing a second video on Sunday showing his children creating a pros and cons list for a 2020 campaign.
The Hill: Top Dem money man puts muscle behind Latino mobilization.
The New York Times: Iowa’s likely outcome for 2020 contenders: A field of broken dreams.
The Associated Press: Wisconsin Republican Party rebuilds for 2020.
On the GOP side of presidential politics, Trump has some campaign-related stops on deck this week, with a stop in Louisiana on Tuesday and a trip to New York on Thursday. Trump is expected to dine in New Orleans with the winner of a fundraising raffle during his trip to Louisiana, which will double as an official event to discuss jobs, energy and infrastructure (The Advocate).
Trump will fly to New York City on Thursday to headline a fundraiser for his reelection campaign. Beyond annual remarks at the United Nations, the president has largely bypassed his home town since his inauguration (The New York Times).
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS & INVESTIGATIONS: Time is at a premium on Capitol Hill as lawmakers struggle to make progress on pending must-pass issues, including a budget agreement and an increase in the nation’s borrowing authority.
There are only eight legislative days before lawmakers leave for recess around Memorial Day, and nine weeks of work before the August recess, during which lawmakers will be forced to make headway toward a deal to raise the debt limit and toward a budget agreement before $100 billion in automatic cuts slice through the government on Oct. 1 (CNN).
Among a host of issues still unresolved is disaster assistance, a sticking point for the White House, particularly over Democrats’ demands for increased funding for Puerto Rico.
The White House and House Democrats are also working on an infrastructure proposal with a price tag of between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. Republican lawmakers say they have sticker shock, and insist they will not vote to raise the deficit to fund infrastructure and will refuse Democrats’ pitch to raise gasoline or other taxes to fix roads, bridges, ports and broadband.
The president is expected to highlight the issue during his trip to Louisiana this week. According to Scott Wong and Mike Lillis, House Democrats are calling on leadership to pass a bill through the House if no bipartisan compromise appears possible after discussions with the president.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Pelosi accuses Trump of ‘bribery’ in Ukraine dealings Democratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe Democratic lawmaker asks for probe of reports Chao favored Kentucky officials MORE (D-Ore.) says that if talks fail, he’d like to push an infrastructure measure through his committee. Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaDemocrats pledge sharp turn in US ties with Saudi Arabia Sanders doubles down on Bolivia ‘coup,’ few follow suit Democratic lawmaker: It ‘defies logic’ for Trump to push Ukraine to investigate Biden MORE (D-Calif.), a top progressive, wants leadership to muscle up to bring an infrastructure bill to the floor immediately to stake out a negotiating position with Trump. In part, he wants to also show voters that Democrats are not obsessed with investigating the president.
Trump is supposed to meet with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Mexican negotiator says US trade deal needs work, could be finalized next week Adam Schiff’s star rises with impeachment hearings MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhy a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP Army taking security assessment of TikTok after Schumer warning Trump signs short-term spending bill to avert shutdown MORE (D-N.Y.) later this month to continue gauging odds of a deal.
Paul Kane: Time works against Democrats in Trump investigations. So does a lack of shame.
> A growing number of leading Democrats are declaring that the U.S. is facing a “constitutional crisis” that’s worse than the Watergate scandal that forced former President Nixon out of office, as Cristina Marcos reports.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerGraham on House Judiciary’s impeachment plans: ‘Salem witches got a better deal’ Democrats vow court victories won’t slow impeachment timeline Maloney wins House Oversight gavel MORE (D-N.Y.) agree on the “constitutional crisis” label, while House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said “this is bigger than Watergate.”
But despite the dire terms, Democrats are not moving any faster toward the same remedy the House turned to with Nixon over Watergate: impeachment. Liberals clamoring for that route — and Republicans goading Democrats into it — are losing patience. Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenScientists: Carbon dioxide in Earth atmosphere is at an all-time high The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Vindman defends witnesses from ‘cowardly’ attacks at third day of hearings Trump knocks Pelosi ahead of new impeachment hearings: ‘She’s CRAZY!’ MORE (D-Texas) declared at a rally with activists on Thursday that saying there’s a constitutional crisis “means you have to do something about it.”
Hugh Hewitt: The Senate has important work to do. Why waste time subpoenaing Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John Trump‘A Warning’ replaces Donald Trump Jr.’s ‘Triggered’ as No.1 book on NYT bestseller list Trump mocks Newsweek over story on Thanksgiving plans Mia Farrow resurfaces photo of Trump sons with dead leopard after signing of animal cruelty bill MORE?
The Washington Post: Trump and his allies are blocking more than 20 separate Democratic probes in an all-out war with Congress.
The Hill: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoIsraeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Ex-GOP lawmaker: Former colleagues privately say they’re ‘disgusted and exhausted’ by Trump MORE is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinDemocrats: The ‘Do Quite a Lot’ Party Rudy Giuliani’s reputation will never recover from the impeachment hearings The Hill’s Morning Report — Dems and Trump score separate court wins MORE this week, his first such official diplomatic bilateral meeting with a president who presents myriad challenges for the United States.
The secretary met U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Moscow on Sunday before traveling to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he’ll meet with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday.
Morgan Chalfant reports that arms control is at the top of Pompeo’s list with Putin, but the roster is long (The Hill). Trump spoke with Putin by phone for 90 minutes earlier this month and brought up what he called a “Russian hoax,” referring to the two-year investigation by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he’ll release financial records before election, knocks Dems’ efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows ‘very strong case of bribery’ by Trump MORE (The New York Times).
Schumer, in a statement on Sunday, encouraged the secretary to warn the Russian leader that “any attempt to interfere in U.S. elections will not be tolerated.”
Citing Mueller’s findings and indictments brought against Russians tied to Moscow’s 2016 election interference, Schumer advised the administration without specifics to convey to Putin that “any action to interfere in our elections will be met with an immediate and robust response.”
> China and trade: Escaping the tariffs war waged between the Trump administration and China appeared as murky over the weekend as it was when trade negotiations broke up on Friday in Washington.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu He told state media that Beijing’s negotiators did not retreat from any preliminary commitments to the Trump administration, adding that U.S. trade tariffs would need to be lifted as a threshold in future discussions.
Both governments said negotiators expect talks to resume, but no date has been set.
The United States is prepared for China to retaliate in the wake of Trump’s decision to escalate tariffs on $200 billion in imported Chinese goods to 25 percent as punishment for what the president described as Beijing’s backtracking on commitments U.S. negotiators insist China made during negotiations (The Hill).
“We want to be as sure as we can be. We don’t think the Chinese have come far enough,” Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“The problem is two weeks ago in China there was backtracking by the Chinese. We can’t forget this. This is a huge deal with the broadest scope and scale the two countries have ever had before,” he added.
“But we have to get through a lot of issues. For many years China trade, it was unfair. … One of the sticking points right now is we would like these corrections in an agreement, which is codified by law in China” (The Hill).
The president took to Twitter over the weekend to defend his decision to impose high tariffs on Chinese goods, which raise prices for U.S. consumers. Trump suggested for the first time that the federal government may offer another round of taxpayer-funded subsidies to U.S. farmers who complain of significant losses as China’s imports of American wheat and soybeans plummet. An earlier program offered the U.S. agriculture sector up to $12 billion in temporary relief, but some farmers complain they have not received federal subsidies for which they applied.
On Saturday, Trump again suggested that a trade deal with China had eluded his administration because Beijing wants to wait until after the 2020 election to see who will occupy the Oval Office.
“I think that China felt they were being beaten so badly in the recent negotiation that they may as well wait around for the next election, 2020, to see if they could get lucky & have a Democrat win — in which case they would continue to rip-off the USA for $500 Billion a year,” Trump wrote.
“The only problem is that they know I am going to win (best economy & employment numbers in U.S. history, & much more), and the deal will become far worse for them if it has to be negotiated in my second term. Would be wise for them to act now, but love collecting BIG TARIFFS!”
The president continued in that vein on Sunday, arguing the United States is “right where we need to be” with China (The Hill).
The Hill: Five things to know about the trade war with China.
The Wall Street Journal: Frustration, miscalculation inside the U.S.-China trade impasse.
Financial Times (FT): China’s Liu denied backtracking with the Trump administration, suggesting negotiators from both countries were still discussing language when the president announced higher tariffs. Analysts predict the Trump administration will not achieve a trade deal with import levies. “Basically the US cannot defeat China through trade,” Huang Weiping, an economics professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told FT. “American sanctions did not break Russia or Cuba. They will definitely not break China.”
The Washington Post: Economic risks posed by Trump’s go-it-alone approach to trade, immigration.
The New York Times: Trump’s trade war escalation will exact economic pain, White House’s Kudlow says: “Both sides will suffer on this.” Asian stocks were lower this morning, and futures markets suggested Wall Street will open down, too.
The Associated Press: What are Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods, and how do they work? … In a fact check, Trump’s trade assertions, theories are a fog of misinformation. For starters, tariffs are paid by U.S. companies and usually passed on to consumers (The Associated Press).
On Capitol Hill, Trump’s trade challenges are not limited to China. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is bogged down and faces slim odds of ratification by Congress. The administration has begun to discuss various fallback options, including living with some aspects of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump campaigned in 2016 to tear up and replace (The Hill).
“Americans are much less free to trade today than we were on Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump took office. He withdrew us from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was a huge agreement,” said Dan Ikenson, director of the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, a think tank that favors free trade.
“He has imposed duties on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods and another $70 billion with the aluminum tariffs and other tariffs,” Ikenson added. “I think there were some serious miscalculations done by President Trump and [United States Trade Representative Robert] Lighthizer, and we’re going to be in far worse shape when they’re gone than when they came.”
Nevertheless, Republicans in Congress who consider themselves opponents of trade barriers are holding their fire about Trump’s decisions. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe job no GOP senator wants: ‘I’d rather have a root canal’ Michael Moore: Comparing Trump’s Ukraine dealings to Hunter Biden’s is a ‘false equivalency’ Trump draws ire after retreat on drug prices pledge MORE of Iowa, a Republican advocate for Midwestern farm interests, defended the president.
“We’ve gotta get [these] negotiations right, and we have to applaud Trump being the first president to call out China on bad behavior and bring them to the negotiating table,” he said (The Hill).
Grassley earlier this month threatened to block Trump’s signature hemispheric trade deal from advancing if the president didn’t agree to scrap tariffs imposed on Mexico and Canada.
The administration, working through the Federal Communications Commission, is separately battling Chinese telecom companies, a complicating factor as a backdrop to the trade tit-for-tat. The FCC’s action against China Mobile and its ongoing investigations into two other Chinese telecom giants could help spur Beijing back to the negotiating table, according to analysts (The Hill).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected]. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
The threat of Iran is in our backyard, by Doug SchoenDouglas SchoenUkraine scandal shows that foreign influence is a bipartisan affair Trump taps Monica Crowley to be Treasury spokeswoman The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition – Deadline approaches for 2020 Dems MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2HfRutq
The United States must not flinch in the face of Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnHow to shut down your Trump-supporting family member at Thanksgiving dinner North Korea fires two projectiles off its east coast China is the United States’s North Korea problem MORE’s missiles mind trick, by Sung-Yoon Lee, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2HhFlmJ
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program, starting at 8 a.m., features former Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldWeld: Trump using border wall as a ‘scare tactic’ Trump challenger Bill Weld: ‘If I win the New Hampshire primary, all bets are off’ Michigan GOP attempting to have Trump be only Republican candidate on ballot MORE, a Republican challenger to Trump for the primary nomination in 2020. Felicia Wong, president & CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, also stops by. http://thehill.com/hilltv
The House convenes at noon on Tuesday.
The Senate meets at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of Michael J. Truncale to be United States district judge for the Eastern District of Texas.
The president will sign an executive order dealing with economic opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Trump will have lunch with Vice President Pence. He’ll welcome far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary to the White House, the first prime minister from Hungary to be granted a White House visit since 1998 (The New York Times). Trump will host a White House iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset.
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➔ Courts: The Supreme Court will begin issuing some of the most consequential decisions of the year nearing the end of its term. Here’s what to watch (The Hill). … Trump has been frustrated that some of his policies were blocked by lower courts before being upheld by the Supreme Court and he now wants to stop lower courts from being able to issue national injunctions in a move that could dramatically limit the authority of judges behind the orders (The Hill). … During an interview with The Washington Post, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, 99, whose memoir is in bookstores on Tuesday, expresses regret that he was on the losing side of a Second Amendment case he believes costs lives.
➔ Sweden: A Swedish prosecutor has reopened a pre
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