Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden leaves Jan. 6 behind with high-stakes Middle East trip

President Biden heads to the Middle East as the House Jan. 6 select committee holds final public hearings designed to explain how President Trump and allies conspired to overturn the will of voters and Biden’s 2020 victory. 

The Jan. 6 committee will hold its latest public hearing this afternoon and is expected to focus on the ties between Trump and far-right extremist groups, including a Dec. 19, 2020, tweet it describes as a battle cry from the former president toward those individuals.

​​“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted. 

As The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch and Mike Lillis preview, investigators will examine the events before and after the tweet, using the public forum to further their findings that Trump’s allies inside and outside the White House worked with nationalist groups, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) is set to lead the questioning at the hearing, scheduled for 1 p.m. The Maryland Democrat noted on Sunday that the tweet came only hours after top Trump backers pressured the ex-president to seize voting machines in a number of key states — a move that did not ultimately come to fruition. Instead, a focus on the Jan. 6 certification emerged. 

“Donald Trump sent out the tweet that would be heard around the world, the first time in American history when a president of the United States called a protest against his own government, in fact, to try to stop the counting of Electoral College votes in a presidential election he had lost,” Raskin told “Face the Nation” on Sunday. 

“People are going to hear the story of that tweet and then the explosive effect it had in Trump World and specifically among the domestic violent extremist groups, the most dangerous political extremists in the country,” he added.

The panel has not revealed who will appear later today, but reports indicate that Jason Van Tatenhove, a former Oath Keepers spokesman who parted ways with the militia group in 2017, will do so (NBC News).

When the next public hearing will take place, however, is an open question. The committee on Monday announced that Thursday’s prime-time hearing was postponed, likely due to new information uncovered by investigators (PBS News). 

Axios: How the Jan. 6 committee plans to tie Trump to extremist groups.

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Jan. 6 panel looks to build on big Hutchinson moment.

© Associated Press / Maya Alleruzzo | U.S. flag prepared at the Israeli president’s residence on Monday ahead of President Biden’s visit this week. 

Meanwhile, Biden’s trip to Israel on Wednesday and later this week to Saudi Arabia with a focus on shared security against Iran is viewed as something of a landmark event.

The president is expected to encourage Arab nations to fortify security ties and relations with Israel. And the U.S. is stressing coordination of regional air defense systems as an early step in the alliance “so there really is effective coverage to deal with Iran,” White House spokesman John Kirby said recently (The Associated Press).

The New York Times reports that the aims of Biden’s trip were “unthinkable” when he was last in the region as vice president. The U.S. envisions a military and security system that allows participating armies to communicate in real time about aerial threats from Iran and its proxies. It has already been used to help bring down several drones.

“There is new closeness between Israel and the Gulf,” Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, told the Times. “The question is: Can the United States try to take all these different bricks and build something new with them?”

Biden will meet with Israeli leaders including former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Times of Israel).

In Saudi Arabia, Biden will hold talks already hotly criticized as a breach of his previous condemnations of Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” nation on human rights and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as responsible for ordering the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (bin Salman denies it) (CNN). At the end of June, the president said he would not directly ask the Saudis to pump more oil in response to soaring crude prices (Reuters).

On Friday in Bethlehem, Biden is expected to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian officials have expressed frustration over the wording that Washington sent about the meeting, saying it appears that the president will address only economic issues and not diplomatic concerns, Haaretz reported.


Related Articles

NBC News: What to watch for during Biden’s trip to the Middle East.

CNN: What not to expect from Biden’s Jerusalem trip. 

USA Today: Biden’s trip to the Middle East pits human rights against geopolitical reality.


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 LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS 

Senate math once again became an issue for Democrats on Monday as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) tested positive for COVID-19, adding fresh doubt to a Senate effort to confirm Steve Dettelbach to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Biden on Monday morning revealed Blumenthal’s positive result during an event to celebrate the recent enactment of a bipartisan gun reform law. Dettelbach’s nomination remains up in the air. 

As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton details, three Democrats — Blumenthal, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) — are largely unavailable to vote this week. However, assuming the other 47 Senate Democrats and Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — both of whom voted for Dettelbach in the Judiciary Committee — are in Washington, they could be able to clear his nomination by week’s end. 

“There’s a chance,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat, told reporters about voting on Dettelbach’s nomination, noting a number of Republicans out of town this week. “We gotta count noses now.”

David Carle, a spokesman for Leahy, added that the Vermont Democrat would be available to vote this week if necessary while he recovers from hip replacement surgery after a fall. 

© Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Steve Dettelbach, the nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, on May 25. 

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are increasingly turning their attention to a scaled down version of the Build Back Better agenda, with the goal of striking a deal before the August recess.

Just like they were last year, all eyes are on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who gave Democrats a confidence boost on Monday by decrying the tactics by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who said Republicans will not help to pass a bill aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness with China if Democrats plow ahead with a reconciliation bill. 

“I’m not walking away if anybody’s gonna threaten me or hold me hostage if I can help the country. And if they want to play politics and play party politics, shame on ‘em,” Manchin told reporters on Monday, adding that McConnell’s threat to tank the China bill is “so wrong” (CNN). 

As for the Kentucky Republican, he sought to tighten the screws on Manchin again on Monday, saying in a floor speech that the energy and tax policies that would be included in the Democratic-only bill would harm West Virginia (NBC News). 

Politico: McConnell gets GOP backup in his move to snarl bipartisan U.S.-China bill.

The Hill: Senate Democrats encounter obstacles in final sprint.

Across the Capitol complex, House Democrats are expected to move ahead with their legislative response to the Supreme Court’s striking down of Roe v. Wade. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will bring two bills to the floor: one that would protect the ability of women to travel for abortion services and another codifying abortion rights into federal law and giving health care providers and patients the ability to provide and obtain abortion services, respectively (The New York Times). 

The Hill: Doomsday political scenario takes shape for Democrats.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION

Biden on Monday again urged Congress to pass a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines — or, as a fallback, to require more stringent background checks and training before gun purchases. He also said Congress should pass legislation to hold gun owners legally accountable if their weapons are improperly stored and are used to commit violence. Biden noted that he owns four shotguns and said he keeps them secured at his home. Speaking at a South Lawn event to mark the recent enactment of a bipartisan gun safety law amid new mass shootings, the president said, “We’re living in a country awash in weapons of war” (The Hill and The Associated Press). 

🇲🇽 Biden’s meeting today with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is expected to be businesslike, if not warm, as the two leaders talk about migration, national security, economics and human rights, among many issues of hemispheric interest. Mexico’s president, known as AMLO, said last month that he would pitch Biden on crafting a joint anti-inflationary plan to tackle surging prices (Reuters and The Associated Press). 

🔭 Biden, who on Monday boasted that “America can do big things,” helped NASA build public interest in photos from space captured by the James Webb Space Telescope with the unveiling on Monday evening of a starry image, known as “Webb’s First Deep Field,” the deepest and highest-resolution infrared view of the universe ever captured, offering a glimpse of the universe 13 billion years ago (HERE). NASA says it will reveal more dazzling pictures during an event today (The Associated Press and The New York Times). The Atlantic writes, “This is the picture astronomers have been waiting for.”

⚕️The Food and Drug Administration is weighing possible approval of an over-the-counter birth control pill created by Paris-based HRA Pharma. The company announced on Monday that it asked the FDA to authorize its pill, which is available by prescription, for over-the-counter-sales in the U.S. For the agency, such a request is complicated amid the current jockeying about birth control and reproductive services among the three branches of government. Federal regulations allow insurers to require a prescription before paying for an over-the-counter product (The New York Times). … The administration on Monday told hospitals they “must” provide abortion services if the life of the mother is at risk, saying federal law on emergency treatment guidelines preempts state laws in jurisdictions that now ban abortion without exceptions (The Associated Press).

🌏 Biden’s pending decision on whether to lift tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by the Trump administration is due “soon,” according to administration officials, who say the president wants to weigh all angles before acting. He could lower the price of everyday goods that are subject to tariffs of up to 25 percent, but analysts and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have cautioned that erasing the tariffs would not dramatically dampen current inflationary pressures. Among constituencies Biden has in mind as he deliberates are his labor backers, who have urged the tariffs remain in place (The Hill and Time). 

First lady Jill Biden got into trouble on Monday with a speech in San Antonio that referred to Latinos and breakfast tacos. She said, “The diversity of this community, as distinct as the bodegas of the Bronx, as beautiful as the blossoms of Miami and as unique as the breakfast tacos here in San Antonio, is your strength.” She and her speechwriters were accused of insensitivity “to the diversity of Latinos in the region” (The Hill).


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OPINION

■ Elon Musk broke Twitter but probably won’t have to buy it, by Mark Gongloff, editor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3yXT8eg 

■ The biggest problem with remote work, by Derek Thompson, staff writer, The Atlantic. https://bit.ly/3yxoyGT 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 2 p.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Ashish Vazirani to be a deputy under secretary of Defense.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9:30 a.m. Biden will meet at the White House with Mexico’s president at 11:15 a.m. The president and the first lady will host the Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn at 4:30 p.m. (the first time since 2019). Biden will depart Joint Base Andrews for Jerusalem at 10 p.m. 

Vice President Harris will host the Mexican president for breakfast. Shewill attend the Congressional Picnic this afternoon. Harris will participate at 5:30 p.m. in a virtual meeting with the Pacific Island Forum where she will pledge to request $600 million from Congress for economic support and ocean resilience in the region (The Hill). 

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen istraveling through July 19 to Tokyo, Bali, Indonesia and Seoul. She holds a bilateral meeting Tuesday in Tokyo at 1:45 p.m. local time with Japanese Minister of Finance Shunichi Suzuki. Yellen will join a roundtable with Japanese business leaders accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel. The secretary will discuss supply chains that favor U.S.-friendly countries (The Hill) and will seek support for her idea of a Russian oil price cap (The Wall Street Journal).  

The first lady will host Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller de López Obrador of Mexico for a Library of Congress visit at 11:30 a.m. 

The White House coronavirus response team will brief reporters at 9:30 a.m.


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


ELSEWHERE  

INTERNATIONAL

Moscow sought to expand its footprint in Ukraine on Monday when Russian President Vladimir Putin fast-tracked the ability for all Ukrainians to receive a Russian passport. Putin had originally allowed those Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories to do so. Kyiv didn’t waste any time firing back at the move, with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Klueba calling it an example of Putin’s “predatory appetites” (The Associated Press).

The Kremlin also announced on Tuesday that Putin will travel to Iran next week for trilateral talks with Iranian and Turkish leaders. According to a Kremlin spokesman, Putin will have a separate meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (The Associated Press).

Mikko Hautala, Finland’s ambassador to the U.S., urged “steel” and determination among Ukraine’s allies, noting that Putin has shown no signs of abandoning his goal of seizing former Soviet territory in Ukraine and beyond (The Hill).

© Associated Press / Nariman El-Mofty | Ukrainian soldiers flee from a missile strike in Kramatorsk on Thursday. 

PANDEMIC & POX

The administration is expected to extend a COVID-19 public health emergency declaration that otherwise would expire on Friday, extending access to insurance and other benefits, according to Bloomberg News.

The U.S. is approaching 800 cases of monkeypox. The lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis are being put to the test with yet another unusual viral outbreak. Some experts see missteps reminiscent of 2020 as the country wrestles with a known, transmissible and treatable disease that has spread beyond Africa, primarily among a population of gay and bisexual men (The Hill). 

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,021,306. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 281, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

STATE WATCH

States that support abortion and reproductive rights are better for business, according to their boosters. “An extreme response is not in the state’s competitive interest,” said Sandy Baruah, president of the Detroit Regional Chamber, an influential business association in Michigan. “To the extent that the data shows today that young professionals care about this issue, I don’t want to give young professionals a reason not to come to Michigan to work for Michigan companies” (The New York Times). Texas businesses might be able to shrug off the abortion controversy over state laws without losing competitiveness, but “Michigan needs every advantage it can get,” he said.

A much-anticipated preliminary report examining the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 could soon be released by an investigative panel in the state House. The committee chairman wants the report to include 77 minutes of “hallway” surveillance video recorded during the events that left 19 children and two teachers dead, but he said on Twitter last week that he is barred from releasing the video because he signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Texas Department of Public Safety (CNN).

Texas weather in July is wicked hot. On Monday, the state’s Electric Reliability Council asked Houston-area residents to conserve power between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. to try to avoid a power grid disruption, and that move may be repeated. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) ordered city departments to prepare backup generators in the event that power fails. Temperatures in Houston, which reached 100 on Monday, are expected to continue in the high 90s for the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service (Houston Chronicle). Temperatures in Austin reached 110 on Sunday and 109 on Monday.


THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / Noah Berger | Firefighter protects a sequoia tree in Yosemite National Park on Friday. 

And finally … A mammoth wildfire in Yosemite National Park still poses hazards for some of the world’s oldest giant sequoia trees and triggered air quality alerts and evacuation orders after spreading fivefold over the weekend (Axios). A sprinkler system to dampen the ground around one of the park’s most famous trees and even reflective foil used to cloak a cabin are among preparatory firefighting efforts. 

The 2,340-acre Washburn Fire over the weekend entered Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove, over the weekend where more than 500 giant sequoias, some more than 20 stories tall — include trees thought to be more than 2,000 years old (CNN).

“They’re using a combination of removing fuel around the base of the trees and they’re putting in sprinklers to change the humidity around the base of the trees,” Jay Nichols, a spokesperson for the interagency fire response team in the park, told NBC News.


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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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