WE ARE ENTERING what could be one of the most momentous weeks in what’s left of DONALD TRUMP’S presidency, a week that could set the tone for the rest of his first term. Not only is former special counsel Robert Mueller testifying live on national TV for five hours, but his administration is trying to cut a budget deal that could avoid more than $100 billion in spending cuts come the beginning of next year, and dispense with the nettlesome debt limit until after the 2020 election.
— Speaker NANCY PELOSI and Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN have been negotiating for weeks to set budget levels for the next two years, and to raise the nation’s statutory borrowing cap. There are just four days left until the August recess — Democratic leadership has said it would not keep the chamber in session past this week.
WAPO’S DAMIAN PALETTA and ERICA WERNER report: “White House and congressional negotiators rushing to hammer out the final details of a sweeping budget and debt deal are unlikely to include many — if any — actual spending cuts, even as the debt limit is lifted for two years, people familiar with the talks said.” PALETTA and WERNER call the deal a “retreat” for the White House, since they called for spending cuts earlier in the negotiations. WaPo
THE QUESTION INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE is this: Will Mnuchin win, and get Trump to support the bill? Or will the fiscal hawks in OMB, backed by acting chief of staff MICK MULVANEY and urged on by mischief-making House Republicans, inject enough skepticism to make him wary and tank a deal?
THE QUESTION IN THE CAPITOL: How do members of Congress view this deal? A two-year debt limit hike coupled with a boost of budget caps is, broadly speaking, an attractive proposition for Congress in today’s day. But there are tripwires. There will still be a few Republicans who will balk at spending increases. And there will be Democrats who will be wary of any agreement that could allow Trump to enact policies they disagree with.
IT WOULD BE in Pelosi and Mnuchin’s interest to get this deal wrapped up, get Trump on board, get the votes in line, and have it posted as soon as possible, since the House is only in session until Friday. HOUSE DEMOCRATS have a rule that a bill must be posted 72 hours before it gets a vote. If this isn’t wrapped up this week, Congress will face a massive time crunch right after Labor Day to lift the debt limit.
— On WEDNESDAY, MUELLER will come to Capitol Hill to testify. There are two theories rattling around the town. One: that the hearing will be a bust, since Mueller has said he won’t say anything outside the four corners of his report. Two: that the hearing will be powerful no matter what he says. Mueller has been mostly silent for years, and his reading the report could be consequential enough — not least for the reaction it provokes from the TV watcher in chief. More from Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney on Mueller
DARREN SAMUELSOHN and NATASHA BERTRAND: “Inside the preparations for Mueller’s history-making testimony”
FOR THE VAST MAJORITY OF DEMOCRATS, the politics of being in favor of impeachment are much easier than the politics of being against it. Many lawmakers are simply looking for cover to come out in favor of proceedings. This could be that moment.
TO GIVE A SENSE OF JUST HOW MUCH coverage these hearings will get, take a look at how the networks are planning to handle them. They’re all wall to wall with their biggest names:
— FOX NEWS is pre-empting “Fox and Friends” on Wednesday morning, with Mueller coverage beginning at 8 a.m. BRET BAIER and MARTHA MACCALLUM are co-anchoring from D.C. Before the second hearing, Fox will broadcast a special edition of “Outnumbered.”
— NORAH O’DONNELL is leading CBS’ coverage. They will break into a special report around 8:30 a.m.
— NBC plans to break into a special report around 8:15 a.m. with LESTER HOLT, SAVANNAH GUTHRIE and CHUCK TODD in the anchor chair. BRIAN WILLIAMS and NICOLLE WALLACE will anchor MSNBC coverage.
Good Monday morning. SPOTTED: Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) joined Pelosi, DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) onstage Sunday afternoon at a DCCC fundraiser in Dearborn, Mich. Dingell organized the event.
OH MY … CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “Illinois Republicans pull social media aimed at four Democratic congresswomen who were subjects of President Trump’s ‘go back’ tweets, calling them ‘Jihad Squad,’” by Rick Pearson: “‘Political jihad is their game,’ the Facebook post said. ‘If you don’t agree with their socialist ideology, you’re racist.’ The post also displayed the logo of the association.” Chicago Tribune … The Illinois GOP graphic
FOR USMCA ADVOCATES: The general consensus inside the House is that every single tweet and fight with “The Squad” makes it less likely that Trump will get his new trade deal, which, as regular readers know, is the president’s top legislative priority. The cost of doing business with the president continues to skyrocket as he says things like duly elected members of Congress are “not capable of loving our country.”
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION … DANIEL LIPPMAN: “‘It’s a disaster over there’: Commerce reaches new heights of dysfunction”: “Constant infighting among top officials. Sudden departures of senior staffers without explanation. A leader who is disengaged and prone to falling asleep in meetings.
“The Commerce Department has reached its apex of dysfunction under Wilbur Ross, according to four people with knowledge of the inner workings of the department. The 81-year-old Commerce secretary, who has for months endured whispers that he is on the outs, spends much of his time at the White House to try to retain President Donald Trump’s favor, the sources said, leaving his department adrift.
“He’s hardly the only top Trump official to seek the president’s approval. But department insiders say they’ve rarely seen Commerce so rudderless — and they say Ross’s penchant for managing upward at the expense of his staff is leading to what one plugged-in observer described as ‘a disaster over there.’” POLITICO
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Puerto Rico prepares for massive protest to expel governor,” by AP’s Danica Coto in San Juan: “Puerto Rico braced early Monday for what many people expected to be one of the biggest protests ever seen in the U.S. territory as irate islanders pledged to drive Gov. Ricardo Rosselló from office.
“Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take over one of the island’s busiest highways Monday morning to press demands for the resignation of Rosselló over an obscenity-laced leaked online chat the governor had with allies as well as federal corruption charges leveled against his administration.
“The anticipated march in the capital of San Juan came a day after Rosselló announced that he would not quit, but sought to calm the unrest by promising not to seek reelection or continue as head of his pro-statehood political party. That only further angered his critics, who have mounted street demonstrations for more than a week.” AP
2020 WATCH — “Bernie Sanders might be losing his N.H. firewall,” by The Boston Globe’s James Pindell: “[W]ith a little more than six months to go until the 2020 New Hampshire primary, Sanders can no longer take the state for granted. He has gone from being the unquestioned front-runner to second place — and sliding.” Boston Globe
— “Sanders and Warren have a similar message, but they’re battling different weaknesses,” by WaPo’s Annie Linskey in Orange City, Iowa: “Both camps acknowledge that just one standard-bearer for the liberal wing of the party will emerge from the early primaries. Each is hoping for a victory here.
“Their trips highlighted that [Elizabeth] Warren and Sanders are betting their candidacies on divergent strategies, and they believe they can grow in different areas. Warren, faced with questions of electability, is trying to show her message appeals in unlikely places. Sanders, meanwhile, is fishing for votes among older Iowans more likely to support former vice president Joe Biden.” WaPo
TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president will meet with Pakistani PM Imran Khan at noon, followed by a bilateral meeting and a working lunch.
THE NEW YORKER’S JANE MAYER: “The Case of Al Franken: A close look at the accusations against the former senator”: “When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, ‘Oh, yeah. Absolutely.’ He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press.” New Yorker
THE MYSTERY CONTINUES — VP Mike Pence to CBS’ Major Garrett on why he abruptly canceled a recent trip to New Hampshire without explanation: “It was a circumstance on the ground in New Hampshire that made our — our trip there no longer appropriate.” (via @TakeoutPodcast)
KNOWING BOB MUELLER — “In 88 Trips to Capitol Hill, Mueller Grew Weary of Partisanship,” by NYT’s Noah Weiland: “Over decades of appearances before Congress, Mr. Mueller showed little patience for politics, and he grew weary of the partisanship that came with legislative oversight, according to interviews with former colleagues, law enforcement officials and lawmakers.
“Mueller has appeared before Congress 88 times dating back to 1990, according to the Senate Historical Office, among the most of any official ever … He was by turns forbidding and protective of the F.B.I.’s mission, yet sympathetic to Congress’s obligation to monitor the bureau’s transformation from a crime-fighting agency into a centerpiece of the government’s post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism apparatus.” NYT
THE ATLANTIC’S TODD PURDUM: “Adam Schiff Is Back From the Wilderness: The House Intelligence Committee chairman opens up about the Mueller investigation.”
RISING CHINA — “Deal for Naval Outpost in Cambodia Furthers China’s Quest for Military Network,” by WSJ’s Jeremy Page, Gordon Lubold and Rob Taylor in Sihanoukville, Cambodia: “The pact—signed this spring but not disclosed by either side—gives China exclusive rights to part of a Cambodian naval installation on the Gulf of Thailand, not far from a large airport now being constructed by a Chinese company. …
“U.S. and allied officials … said a deal had been done that, while stopping short of a full-scale Chinese base, would give Beijing its first dedicated naval staging facility in Southeast Asia and a second outpost in what the Pentagon sees as a Chinese quest for a global network of military and dual-use sites.” WSJ
— DATA DU JOUR: “[W]ithin the past 28 months, Chinese naval ships have made more port visits to more countries than in the previous 28 years.” Air Force Magazine
PUNDIT PREP — “Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet with President Trump this week. These 5 big issues will probably come up,” by Asfandyar Mir for WaPo’s Monkey Cage blog
CLIP DU JOUR — “Trump drops in on New Jersey wedding, as attendees chant ‘USA!’” by Fox News’ Gregg Re: “President Trump unexpectedly dropped in on the wedding of PJ Mongelli and Nicole Marie Mongelli on Saturday night at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, as enthusiastic attendees broke into chants of ‘USA.’
“Fox News is told the bride and groom are huge fans of the president, had dreamed of him attending their wedding and got engaged at the golf club in 2017. Flags and pro-Trump banners could be seen at the event. The bride said she’d sent numerous requests to the president in hopes he would attend — and that Trump ended up paying two visits to separate wedding events.” Fox News
THE TRUMP ERA — “This Transcript Shows How Trump’s Border Camps Have Thrown A Top Advertising Firm Into Internal Crisis,” by BuzzFeed’s Lam Thuy Vo and Nancy Vu: “‘This is about people, not just about money,’ an Ogilvy employee told CEO John Seifert.” BuzzFeed
MEDIAWATCH — YIKES: “Jeffrey Epstein Pitched a New Narrative. These Sites Published It,” by NYT’s Tiffany Hsu: “After Jeffrey Epstein got out of the Palm Beach County jail in 2009, having served 13 months of an 18-month sentence resulting from a plea deal that has been widely criticized, he began a media campaign to remake his public image.
“The effort led to the publication of articles describing him as a selfless and forward-thinking philanthropist with an interest in science on websites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost.” NYT
— “Cumulus Media Blocks Country Radio Stations From Airing Pete Buttigieg Interview,” by HuffPost’s Hayley Miller
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at email@example.com.
IN MEMORIAM — “Robert Morgenthau, Longtime Manhattan District Attorney, Dies at 99,” by NYT’s Robert McFadden: “In an era of notorious Wall Street chicanery and often dangerous streets, Mr. Morgenthau was the bane of mobsters, crooked politicians and corporate greed; a public avenger to killers, rapists and drug dealers; and a confidant of mayors and governors, who came and went while he stayed on — for nearly nine years in the 1960s as the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and for 35 more as Gotham’s aristocratic Mr. District Attorney.
“For a Morgenthau — the scion of a family steeped in wealth, privilege and public service — he was strangely awkward, a wooden speaker who seemed painfully shy on the stump. His grandfather had been an ambassador in President Woodrow Wilson’s day, and his father was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s treasury secretary. His own early political forays, two runs for governor of New York, ended disastrously.” NYT
SPOTTED: David Vitter at Audi Field for French Ligue 1 showcase games Sunday night. (h/t Matthew Cornelius) … Jaime Harrison, Steve Schmidt and Adrienne Elrod sipping drinks at the St. Regis during the DSCC weekend in Park City. … Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) on Sunday afternoon giving piggyback rides to his daughters at gate C-17 at the Charlotte airport.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: David Shulkin, former VA secretary, is 6-0. A fun fact that people might not know about him: “I was selected as the ‘designated survivor’ during Trump’s first State of the Union address in 2017. It was quite an experience, although I’m sworn to secrecy about the details.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Bob Dole, former Senate majority leader and Bipartisan Policy Center founder, is 96. He’s celebrating with chocolate milkshakes from the BPC (h/t Jordan LaPier) … Don Van Natta Jr. is 55 … Reid Cherlin … U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison is 76 … David Shuster … VoteVets’ Will Fischer … POLITICO’s Craig Howie, Amanda Kules, Seamus Dowdall and Jerry Smith … Vicki Nguyen … Tarun Chhabra … Alex Pappas … Buzz Brockway … Caleb Smith … Sarah Hummell … Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) is 71 … Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) is 54 … Whitney VanMeter … AJ Jorgenson … Annie Lowrey … former Rep. Mike Ferguson (R-N.J.) is 49 … former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) is 72 … Ella Mizrahi … Adam Finkel … Elise Shutzer … Kevin Cameron is 27 (h/t Lisa Costello) … Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness is 47 … Natacha Hildebrand … Liza Rodler … Sarah Litke of Plurus Strategies (h/t David Leiter) …
… WSJ’s Warren Bass … Erin Perrine, deputy communications director for the Trump 2020 campaign … Brandt Anderson, national security adviser for Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) (h/t Chuck Nadd) … Eugene Carpino … Amy Littleton … Anne Szkatulski … Breanna Chandler, who recently got engaged to Keith Pitcher — pic … Lauren AbuAli … Sandra Perez Hawthorne, VP of comms at LMI … Lindsey Neary … Michael DiRienzo (h/t Tim Burger) … Maor Cohen … The Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey … Emily Carpeaux … Joy Yunji Lee, counsel for the 2020 Republican National Convention (h/t Adi Sathi) … AP’s Peter Prengaman … Ceci Alvarez … CNN’s Terence Burlij … Shelly Porges … Nathan Naylor … Sarah Obenour … Soren Dayton … Mike Gibson … Mike Moffo … Kerry Allen … Travis Korson … Sam Chiron … Enrique Goñi … Arshi Siddiqui … Jeff Winmill … Andrew Feinberg … John Kim Cook … Les MacDonald … Maury Forman is 6-0 … Maria Westried … Christine Patronik-Holder (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Ben Leubsdorf