What to Know in Washington: Cohen Takes Aim at Trump in Hearing

President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen plans to tell a congressional committee about alleged misdeeds by his former boss, claiming that Trump knew during the 2016 presidential election that his ally Roger Stone was talking to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks about a release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails.

That and other dramatic assertions from Cohen are presented in his prepared remarks for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, along with descriptions of documentary evidence he said he would give the panel to back up some of his claims.

“I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is,” Cohen intends to tell the committee at a public hearing today, about the man who he once said he’d take a bullet for. “He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat,” Cohen said in the prepared testimony.

Cohen, who’s headed to prison after pleading guilty to nine felonies including lying to Congress, also is planning to tell the committee that Trump “did not directly tell me to lie to Congress” about the timing of talks to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. “That’s not how he operates,” Cohen said in the prepared remarks.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Tuesday that “it’s laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word, and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.”

Trump also dismissed Cohen’s remarks. “Michael Cohen was one of many lawyers who represented me (unfortunately). He had other clients also,” Trump tweeted last night. “He was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time.” Read more from Billy House.

Follow updates on the testimony throughout the day here with Bloomberg News.

GOP Lawmaker’s Warning: A top House Republican ally of Trump delivered a warning to Cohen last night. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) implied in a tweet that Cohen’s wife is “about to learn a lot” about Cohen, suggesting without offering any evidence that he’s had extramarital affairs — raising immediate accusations that Gaetz was trying to intimidate Cohen. Gaetz later deleted his tweet and said it wasn’t his intent to threaten Cohen. Read more from Billy House.

Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg
Michael Cohen departs from a closed Senate Intelligence Committee meeting on Tuesday.

Will Trump-Kim Summit Succeed?After their first meeting a year ago, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a 400-word statement long on goodwill and short on detail. Trump will need more than that this time to credibly claim a success.

At a two-day summit in Hanoi, experts are looking for specific commitments from North Korea toward halting its nuclear program, with deadlines and procedures to verify that Kim does what he says. Trump meanwhile must avoid giving up anything too valuable in return.

Ideas on the table appear aimed at building trust: Issuing a peace declaration, limited sanctions relief for Kim’s isolated regime, establishing diplomatic representation in each country. What’s key, though, is for North Korea to offer up something real that it hasn’t promised — and backtracked from — over the course of past negotiations. Nick Wadhams offers some guidelines to help gauge whether the summit meets expectations.

Trump has arrived at the historic Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel in Hanoi to meet Kim for dinner. Kim departed his hotel at about the same time. The two leaders came face-to-face for the first time since June, shaking hands in front of reporters, before entering a private meeting expected to last about 20 minutes. They’ll be joined by aides for the meal afterward.“

I think they’ll be very successful,” Trump said of their talks. “Great relationship.”

Asked whether the two leaders would declare an end to the Korean War, Trump said “we’ll see. We’ll be seeing.”

Trump answered “no” when a reporter asked whether he’d retreated from his expectation that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons.

Follow live updates throughout the day here.

Trump disembarks from Air Force One after arriving at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Tuesday.

U.S.-Korea Military Drills: The fate of joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea is a looming question as Trump meets with Kim. Further suspension of major joint exercises this spring and summer could soon start eroding the military’s ability to fight a potential war there, according to Gen. Robert Abrams, the top U.S. commander on the peninsula.

The exercises could be on the table as Trump enters a new round of nuclear disarmament talks with Kim. Trump agreed to halt what he called expensive war games last year during their first, historic meeting in Singapore.“

Unless the summit ends in disaster, everybody just walks out with absolutely no path forward, the prospects are probably that this ban or delay or cancellation of exercises continues,” said Thomas Spoehr, the director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation. Read more from Travis Tritten.

Also Happening on the Hill‘Medicare for All’ Bill Drops Today: Backers of expanded health care plan to formally unveil their “Medicare for All” bill today. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) plans to unveil legislation that would steer all Americans — not just those 65 and older — into the Medicare program in two years.

It would cover comprehensive health care services and, in a radical departure from the existing system, limit private insurance to supplemental benefits not provided by the government-run program. The measure would eliminate all premiums, deductibles and co-pays while guaranteeing universal health care access to “every person living in the United States,” according to a summary provided by Jayapal’s office. Read more from Sahil Kapur and John Tozzi.

For more on the bill see the BGOV Closer Look: ‘Medicare for All’ to Replace Most Insurance

House Votes to Block Trump’s National Emergency: Senate Republicans must now decide whether to stop Trump from using an emergency declaration to pay for his border wall, and support from just four GOP members might be enough to send him a measure blocking his plan. But Trump has promised to issue his first veto if a resolution of disapproval reaches his desk, and Congress appears far short of the votes for an override.

The Democratic-controlled House voted 245-182 yesterday for a resolution designed to stop Trump from taking billions from other parts of the federal budget to build his promised wall. Thirteen House Republicans backed the measure. In the GOP-majority Senate, three Republicans already back the resolution, just one short of the number needed to adopt it if the 47 Democratic caucus members stick together. Neither chamber is close to the two-thirds majority needed for an override. Read more from Anna Edgerton, Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan.

House Sends Conservation, Lands Package to Trump: The House yesterday passed a bill to permanently extend a $900-million-a-year conservation fund with overwhelming support from both parties, sending the measure to the White House for the president’s signature. The Senate earlier this month passed an amended version of the measure, which includes language to extend the Land and Water Conservation Fund, largely financed from receipts from oil and gas drilling along the Outer Continental Shelf, as well as a public lands package. Read more from Dean Scott.

Nominations: Eric Miller won confirmation yesterday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, becoming the first appeals judge confirmed this year and the first to clear the chamber without support of both home-state senators. Senators voted to send Miller, a private attorney and former Clarence Thomas clerk, to the San Francisco-based court that’s been the target of fierce criticism by Trump over its rulings against his policies. Miller’s appointment was predictably opposed by Democrats over his conservative pedigree. But the political fight over his nomination was elevated by the Republican majority’s decision to do away with the “blue slip” tradition for circuit nominees. Read more from Patrick L. Gregory.

Meanwhile, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said he’s throwing a Hail Mary in what may be his party’s last hope for delaying Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation to be the EPA administrator. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told Bloomberg Environment yesterday he’s been reaching out to Republicans who favor cuts in hydrofluorocarbons largely because their states are home to manufacturers of more climate-friendly alternatives to the refrigerant.

Carper thinks delaying Wheeler’s nomination by two weeks would provide leverage to get the Trump administration to say whether it would back efforts to cut HFCs, as the Obama administration agreed to under the 2016 deal. Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Republicans aren’t interested in talk of a delay and are moving forward with the confirmation this week. Read more from Dean Scott.

Grassley Preps Tax Extender Bill Release: Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is expected to release legislation this week that would renew temporary tax breaks called extenders, a Republican aide said. The bill would also include tax relief for disaster-hit areas, according to two lobbyists familiar with discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

All tax bills have to originate in the House, meaning that the Grassley bill would just signify his interest in the measure. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) hasn’t revealed his plans for the breaks, but some committee Democrats have talked about having a hearing on the issue. Read more from Kaustuv Basu and Allyson Versprille.

Climate Hearing Drama: Less than 15 minutes after the House Natural Resources oversight subcommittee’s hearing on climate change denial started yesterday, Republicans on the panel forced the hearing into adjournment and walked out. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), ranking member of the oversight subcommittee, led the motion to adjourn the hearing, arguing the subject matter wasn’t within the jurisdiction of the House Natural Resources Committee. Read more from Abby Smith.

Young Approaches Record Service: Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), an energetic and sometimes dramatic 85-year-old, is on track to become Congress’s longest-serving Republican ever, eclipsing legendary former Speaker Joe Cannon. Young has been the state’s at-large congressman since March 1973—the same month that the last U.S. soldier left Vietnam.

Remember the “bridge to nowhere” earmarks? That was Young. The guy who stuck his hand in a steel-jaw leghold trap during a Capitol Hill hearing to prove the pain was tolerable? And the lawmaker who showed up in committee with an oosik (walrus penis bone)? Also Don Young. As Young’s March 5 approaches, Chuck McCutcheon looks back at Young’s long road to congressional history.

Politics & Elections

Chicago Mayor’s Race: Chicago’s legendary Daley political machine failed to deliver victory in yesterday’s mayoral election as Bill Daley conceded the race to two black women who will make history when one of them becomes mayor after an April runoff. Former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle claimed the two top spots and Daley, the son and brother of two past Chicago mayors and a chief of staff to former President Barack Obama, finished third in a field of 14 candidates . Read more from John McCormick.

Harris Out of N.C. Race: Republican Mark Harris said health reasons will keep him from making another run for Congress in a new North Carolina election that was ordered after the prior results in November were beset by fraud claims. “There are several things that my health situation requires as a result of the extremely serious condition that I faced in mid-January. One of those is a necessary surgery that is now scheduled for the last week in March,” Harris said in a statement yesterday. The former pastor said he endorses Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing for the House seat. Rushing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Read more from Kim Chipman and Anna Edgerton.

Democrats Push Voting Changes: States with a history of voter discrimination would only be able to put new voting laws into place with approval from a judge or the Justice Department under a bill introduced yesterday by Democrats. The measure would require clearance if a state or localities have committed voting rights violations. States would need approval if there were 15 or more voting rights violations anywhere in the state in the last 25 years. Read more from Katherine Scott and Adam Taylor.

Election Bill Would Require Colleges to Aid Registration, Voting: Colleges would need to be more proactive in providing students with information on forthcoming elections and helping them register and vote under a provision added to a House elections bill. The Committee on House Administration included the mandates yesterday in approving the legislation on a 6-3 party-line vote. It’s a top priority of the newly installed Democratic leadership. The student participation provisions were included in a substitute amendment adopted in committee. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

What Else to Know Today

Venezuela’s Guaido at Risk: The safety of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is at risk as he prepares to return to his country and embattled President Nicolas Maduro remains in power, the top U.S. envoy for the crisis told the United Nations Security Council. Elliott Abrams, in charge of steering U.S. policy on Venezuela, told the council yesterday that the Trump administration is “deeply concerned” about Guaido’s well-being, hours after Maduro said in an interview with ABC News that the National Assembly leader “will have to face justice.” Read more from David Wainer.

Cuba Sanctions: Trump is expected to decide soon whether to activate a controversial section of American law toward Cuba for the first time ever, with other measures meant to tighten the screws on Havana likely to follow. The first move, known as Title III, would allow Cuban Americans to sue companies “trafficking” in property confiscated during the 1959 revolution in U.S. courts. That would complicate Cuba’s attempts to bolster its economy by attracting foreign investors.

The measure is one of the remaining pieces of leverage the U.S. has in its effort to pressure countries into paring support for Maduro’s regime, which has long depended on Cuban political and logistical backing that to some observers has more symbolic power than substantive impact. Read more from Stephen Wicary.

India, Pakistan Face Off in Escalation: India said an air force pilot was missing after Pakistan said it had shot down two Indian fighter jets, as relations between the arch rivals worsened amid the possibility of a full-blown war. India has yet to ascertain that the missing pilot is in Pakistan’s custody, said Raveesh Kumar, foreign ministry spokesman in a media briefing in New Delhi, in India’s first statement on today’s events. In an address to the nation this afternoon, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan only took action after assessing the damage done by India’s attack yesterday. He called for dialog, saying: “Better sense should prevail. We should sit down and talk.” Read more from Iain Marlow, Kamran Haider, Bibhudatta Pradhan and Faseeh Mangi.

Big Tech Scrutiny: U.S. antitrust regulators plan to ramp up their scrutiny of tech companies’ data practices, acknowledging rising concerns that consumer information can increase market power. The Federal Trade Commission’s new task force that will monitor tech industry competition, announced yesterday, plans to incorporate data collection and privacy as main variables in its oversight of companies, Bruce Hoffman, the head of the agency’s competition bureau, said in a call with reporters. Read more from Alexei Alexis.

Movers & Shakeups

Boeing Board to Add Nikki Haley: Boeing is poised to add an old ally to its board: Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Haley, who as South Carolina governor fiercely opposed unionization drives at a Boeing factory, has been nominated as a director ahead of the aerospace giant’s annual meeting April 29. Securing the post, which pays upwards of $315,000 annually in cash and shares, would be one of Haley’s first moves since leaving the Trump administration for the private sector. Read more from Julie Johnsson and Anders Melin.

Lawyer With Koch Ties Nominated as Interior’s Solicitor: Trump yesterday said he will nominate as Interior Department solicitor Daniel Jorjani, who has been principal deputy solicitor since May 2017. Before joining Interior, Jorjani worked as general counsel for Freedom Partners, a nonprofit funded by brothers David and Charles Koch, and headed up the research group at the Charles Koch Institute, according to government watchdog group Public Citizen and the Western Values Project’s Department of Influence, which tracks ties between interest groups and the Interior Department. Read more from Rebecca Kern.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images