Morning Report — House GOP’s political jujitsu; Cohen has a rough day

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President Biden is entering a critical phase of his presidency and his campaign. House Republicans want to make it more difficult.

Conservatives in the House on Thursday used a bill that will go nowhere in the Senate to showcase uncomfortable divisions among Democrats over Biden’s confusing weapons policy with U.S. ally Israel. The House voted 224-187 to reverse the president’s pause last week in sending U.S. heavy bombs to Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, House investigators who are eager to play up Biden’s willful possession of classified documents at his home triggered the president’s decision to assert executive privilege Thursday in response to a subpoena. The president denied lawmakers access to recordings of his lengthy October interview with a Justice Department special counsel, previously released by Democrats in lightly redacted form. Special counsel Robert Hur described Biden in his report as an “elderly man with a poor memory.”

Biden’s assertion of privilege with Congress is intended to protect Attorney General Merrick Garland for not complying. Republicans believe their focus on the audiotape could hurt the president with voters and help former President Trump, who faces federal criminal charges for retaining classified materials at his Florida club. House Judiciary Committee Republicans voted Thursday to hold Garland in contempt.

Democrats call the Republican move a stunt, but House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said his panel is undeterred, despite the uncertainty over whether the House GOP has the votes to hold the attorney general in contempt.

“Today’s Hail Mary from the White House changes nothing for our committee, Comer said.

The attorney general told reporters the contempt move was the latest in “a series of unprecedented and, frankly, unfounded attacks on the Justice Department” that included Republican efforts to defund the special counsel who is prosecuting Trump.

Biden’s many challenges in May include trailing polls he disputes, sticky inflation worries, a Middle East war without end and Russia’s revived heft against Ukraine. Ahead on June 3, which is first lady Jill Biden’s birthday, Hunter Biden’s trial is set to begin in Delaware on federal gun charges, an unprecedented event that will pain the president and renew unsubstantiated House GOP assertions that the elder Biden was a hidden partner helping his son arrange business with foreign governments. The president, his brother and his son have denied such allegations. Hunter Biden also faces three felonies in California related to tax evasion.

Politico: Biden has expressed fears to advisers and relatives about the possibility that his son will serve time in prison.

The president will briefly appear in mid-June in Italy for a Group of Seven summit and is expected to maintain a rigorous campaign schedule next month while preparing for the first of two debates with Trump on June 27 in Atlanta, hosted by CNN.


▪ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Appropriations Committee vice chair, are on a collision course with Democrats for spending parity. 

▪ Advocates warn that New York Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s artificial intelligence “roadmap” does not go far enough.

▪ The administration Thursday took its biggest step yet to end the U.S. mining of climate-altering fossil fuel coal.


Politics Trump 051624 AP Angela Weiss

© The Associated Press / Angela Weiss, AFP | Former President Trump on Thursday at the Manhattan courthouse.


DEBATE RISKS: Senate Republicans say Trump is making a mistake in setting expectations low for Biden at their initial debate next month by arguing the president “can’t put two sentences together.” The Hill’s Al Weaver reports they say Trump risks lowering the floor for Biden to the point that a decent performance, not a superlative one, will help the president. It’s a familiar refrain, as they noted how Trump also lowered expectations for Biden ahead of the first debate in 2020 — a move that backfired spectacularly. 

“It makes no sense,” one Senate Republican said on the condition of anonymity. “It was a catastrophe [in 2020], and I think he’s teeing himself up for the same thing… Biden is willing to debate him and will be prepared, and Trump will be Trump, and it didn’t work out well the last time Trump did that.”

VEEPS: CBS News will host a vice presidential debate in late July or early August, and Vice President Harris has agreed to participate, the Biden campaign said Thursday. Trump has suggested his choice of a running mate will be unveiled during or right before the Republican National Convention in mid-July. Two suggested dates for the VP candidate debate are July 23 or Aug. 13.

Reuters: From Kennedy-Nixon to Trump-Biden: a look back at six decades of U.S. presidential debates.

DOWN-BALLOT IMPACT: Kennedy’spossible presence on the Texas ballot in November is threatening to hurt Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) reelection chances, writes The Hill’s Hanna Trudo. The Cook Political Report rates the race as likely Republican.

Kennedy announced earlier this week that he had gained more than enough signatures to make the ballot in the Lone Star State, a major advancement for the independent candidate who appears to be drawing support from voters on both sides of the aisle. But the development has also raised questions about how Cruz will be impacted, with some observers arguing that voters who turn out to support Kennedy will likely back the senator’s Democratic challenger, Rep. Colin Allred.


▪ Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) will travel to numerous swing states later this year in an effort to bolster support for Biden among Black voters. The initiative comes amid recent polls showing Biden losing support among young voters and Black and Hispanic voters, groups that are crucial to his voting coalition. Clyburn was instrumental in Biden’s victory in South Carolina in 2020.

▪ Focused on improving his standing among Black voters, Biden will deliver the commencement address Sunday at Atlanta’s prestigious Morehouse College and fly to Detroit for an NAACP dinner. He and the vice president today at events in Washington are reaching out to Black sororities and fraternities.

▪ Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said he would back codifying Roe v. Wade abortion protections and called himself “pro-choice” as he seeks Democratic support in his match-up in Maryland’s Senate race against Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D).

▪ Former President Obama will headline a fundraiser in Maryland next month to benefit Democratic Senate candidates.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his supporters aim to check off the threshold criteria to debate Biden and Trump.

Nicole Shanahan, Kennedy’s running mate, has given the campaign $8 million to help with its efforts to make the ballot in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Editor Text


The House will meet at 9 a.m.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. Monday.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will speak at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at 11 a.m. and return to the White House, where he and Vice President Harris will meet at 3:30 p.m. with leaders of the “Divine Nine,” historically Black sororities and fraternities.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will participate at 3 a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony with Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino at the Department of State. The secretary and Mondino will hold a meeting fifteen minutes later.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.


Courts Warren 120623 AP Jose Luis Magana

© The Associated Press / Jose Luis Magana | The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Thursday, an independent consumer watchdog and the brainchild of now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).


THE FINISH LINE: After Thursday testimony from his former fixer, Michael Cohen, Trump’s New York hush money trial is scheduled to resume Monday. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche said Thursday that he doesn’t expect any witnesses he calls to extend beyond that day — with the exception of Trump himself, who has not yet made a final decision about whether to testify. Justice Juan Merchan told the lawyers for both sides to be prepared to begin closing arguments as early as Tuesday.

THURSDAY RECAP: The heart of Cohen’s testimony against Trump was damaged Thursday under cross-examination by Blanche, Trump’s lead defense attorney, who for hours attempted to paint Cohen as a liar, accusing Trump’s ex-fixer of being untruthful under oath in numerous venues. Blanche eventually accused Cohen of lying on the stand this week when he told prosecutors about an alleged call with Trump to finalize the hush money deal with adult film star Stormy Daniels. Instead, Blanche asserted the call was a conversation with Trump’s security director, when Cohen expressed concerns about harassing calls he was receiving at the time.

Cohen offered some of the most damaging testimony against his former boss when questioned by prosecutors earlier this week, tying Trump to key documents at the heart of the case and the broader election interference conspiracy alleged by prosecutors.

The Hill: Conservative Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who appeared Thursday in New York City alongside nearly a dozen Republicans to support Trump during his criminal trial, echoed the former president’s 2020 message to the extremist Proud Boys group with his own social media post evoking the phrase “stand back and stand by.” 

THE SUPREME COURT RULED 7-2 Thursday that the watchdog independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), enacted after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, does not violate the Constitution in the way it’s funded. It was originally conceived and promoted by then-academic, now Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), much to the consternation of big banks and conservative lawmakers. The bureau says it has saved consumers close to $20 billion since its creation (The Wall Street Journal and The Hill).

“The United States Supreme Court followed the law, and the CFPB is here to stay,” Warren said outside the Supreme Court after Thursday’s ruling. “When you have an agency that is this good at doing its job to protect consumers, then a lot of banks, a lot of payday lenders, a lot of Republicans come after it and try to shut it down.”


Intl ICJ 051624 AP Peter Dejong

© The Associated Press / Peter Dejong | The International Court of Justice on Thursday opened two days of hearings in a South African case to see whether Israel needs to take additional measures to alleviate suffering in Gaza.


THE ISRAELI ARMY will send more troops to Rafah, which has become the focal point in the war between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday, signaling that Israel intends to press deeper into the city despite international concerns about a ground invasion. Israeli tanks pushed into the heart of Jabalia in northern Gaza on Thursday, facing antitank rockets and mortar bombs from militants concentrated there (The New York Times and Reuters).

South Africa asked the International Court of Justice on Thursday to order Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza immediately, including in Rafah, with a lawyer describing the offensive as “part of the endgame in which Gaza is utterly destroyed” (The Washington Post).

▪ NPR: Trucks carrying aid for Gaza rolled across a newly built U.S. floating pier into the besieged enclave for the first time Friday as Israeli restrictions on border crossings and heavy fighting hinder food and other supplies reaching people there.

▪ The New York Times: As Russia advances, NATO is considering sending trainers into Ukraine.

Slovakian police charged a man, described as a politically motivated “lone wolf,” with the attempted murder of Prime Minister Robert Fico, who remains in the hospital after an assassination attempt Wednesday (CNN).


■ The view within Israel turns bleak, by Megan K. Stack, contributing writer, The New York Times.

■ Will Trump take the stand? by James D. Zirin, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Quiz poodle 051424 Julia Nikhinson

© The Associated Press / Julia Nikhinson | Sage, a miniature poodle, won best in show this year at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City.

And finally … 🐩 Congratulations to a doggone fine group of Morning Report Quiz winners! They showed off their agility through puzzling trivia tied to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which wrapped up Tuesday in New York City.

Here’s who went 4/4: Lynn Gardner, Harry Strulovici, Pam Manges, Stan Wasser, John Trombetti, Chuck Schoenenberger, Candi Cee, Bill Bennett, Carmine Petracca, Lou Tisler, Mark R. Williamson, Linda L. Field, Rick Schmidtke, Laura Rettaliata, TC Kirkham, John van Santen, Barbara Coen, Jack Barshay, Steve James and Jose A. Ramos.

They knew that a Miniature Poodle, very floofy and black, won Best in Show on Tuesday (her handler cried).

Three U.S. presidents have owned Scottish Terriers, a popular dog show-winning breed.

The Westminster competition is the second-longest continuously held sporting event in the United States, right behind the Kentucky Derby.

Wire Fox Terriers lead the pack after capturing Westminster’s top title 14 times in the event’s history.

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