I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, February 25, 2019. 343 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 617 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Week Ahead: North Korea summit, Mueller probe, Cohen testimony
Here's what to watch for in Washington this week...
North Korea summit: President Donald Trump departs Washington today for Hanoi, Vietnam, where he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for their second face-to-face summit on Wednesday and Thursday. According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump will aim to build on the progress made in their Singapore meeting last year, urging Kim "to take his first irrevocable steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
The president has tamped down expectations in the days leading up to the summit. "I think it's going to lead to something good. But maybe not," Trump told a gathering of U.S. governors Sunday night, adding: "What's going to happen? I can't tell you... I'm not in a rush. I don't want to rush anybody. I just don't want [nuclear] testing. As long as there's no testing, we're happy." Pyongyang has not conducted any nuclear tests since September 2017, although NBC News has reported that North Korea has continued work on its ballistic missile program, despite President Trump's post-Singapore declaration that "there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."
In his Sunday remarks, Trump focused on his personal chemistry with Kim. "I've developed a very, very good relationship," he said. "We'll see what that means. But he's never had a relationship with anybody from this country, and hasn't had a lot of relationships anywhere."
According to the Washington Post, "wide gaps remain between U.S. and North Korean negotiators, who have yet to agree on a basic definition of what 'denuclearization' means to both sides." The Post adds: "Senior Trump aides have privately expressed skepticism over the prospects that a deal can be reached to significantly advance the largely symbolic agreement announced in Singapore. Some fear that Trump could feel pressure to make a major concession to Kim during face-to-face talks, including a one-on-one session, in hopes of securing a reciprocal commitment he can herald as a political victory" and "distract from mounting domestic political turmoil." Such as...
Cohen testimony: Trump's former longtime personal attorney and "fixer" Michael Cohen will testify before three different congressional committees on three consecutive days this week. Cohen is set to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, and the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Only the Wednesday session will be public; the others will be closed-door hearings.
In a memorandum, Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) outlined the scope of Wednesday's hearing, which will address issues including: "the President's debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election, "the President's potential and actual conflicts of interest," "the President's business practices," "the accuracy of the President's public statements," and "potentially fraudulent or inappropriate practices by the Trump Foundation."
Cohen's triple-header of congressional testimony will come before he is scheduled to report to prison in May, after receiving a three-year sentence for charges filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. According to the New York Times, Cohen has continued meeting with federal prosecutors, "offering information about possible irregularities within the president’s family business," where he worked for over a decade.
Mueller report: Special counsel Mueller's investigation continues to be the subject of intense speculation, after rumors that he was expected to hand over his final report to Attorney General Bill Barr this week have given way to new reports to the contrary. According to multiple news outlets, Barr is no longer expected to receive Mueller's final report this week, once again extending the timeline of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Meanwhile, the fight over the report's release has already begun, with six House Democratic committee chairmen penning a letter to Barr on Friday making clear their "expectation that the Department of Justice will release to their public the report Special Counsel Mueller submits to you -- without delay and to the maximum extent permitted by law." Mueller is required to submit a report to the Attorney General upon the conclusion of his investigation; Barr can then decide how much of that report is made available to Congress and to the public.
In a Sunday interview on ABC's "This Week," House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) threatened to "subpoena the report" and "bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress" if the special counsel's findings are not made public.
What you may have missed this weekend...
China talks: "President Trump delayed his own deadline to increase tariffs on Chinese goods on Sunday as his administration continues a monthslong effort to persuade Beijing to make significant structural changes to its economy that have so far proved elusive." (New York Times)
Climate panel: "The White House plans to create an ad hoc group of select federal scientists to reassess the government’s analysis of climate science and counter conclusions that the continued burning of fossil fuels is harming the planet, according to three senior administration officials." (Washington Post)
Manafort sentencing memo: "For over a decade, Paul Manafort 'repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,' according to a redacted sentencing memo released Saturday by special counsel Robert Mueller's office. The document added that his behavior 'remarkably went unabated even after indictment.'" (NBC News)
UN Ambassador nominee: "President Donald Trump on Friday night announced he will nominate current Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft as his next United Nations ambassador." (Politico)
White House schedule
POTUS: At 8:30 a.m., President Trump participates in a "business session" with U.S. governors. At 12:10 p.m., the president will depart the White House for Joint Base Andrews; at 12:30 p.m., he will take off for Hanoi.
VP: At 3:25 a.m., Vice President Mike Pence departed Washington, D.C. for Bogota, Colombia. At 9 a.m., the vice president arrives in Bogota. At 9:55 a.m., he meets with Colombian President Iván Duque. At 10:15 a.m., he meets with Duque and Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who has been declared Interim President of Venezuela by the National Assembly.
At 10:30 a.m., Vice President Pence delivers remarks to the Lima Group, a 14-country organization established to mediate the crisis in Venezuela. According to McClatchy, in his remarks, Pence will call for embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to step down in favor of Guaidó.
At 11:35 a.m., Pence meets with Venezuelan migrant families. At 1:20 p.m., he departs Bogota, arriving in D.C. at 6:40 p.m.
As noted by Axios, both President Trump and Vice President Pence will be overseas at the same time for about five hours today, a rare (but not unprecedented) occurrence.
Senate: The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. today. Following the prayer and pledge, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) will deliver Washington's Farewell Address, continuing a Senate tradition stretching back to 1862. Following the address, the Senate will resume consideration of S.311, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would require newborns who survive failed abortions to receive medical care. The chamber will hold a procedural vote on the bill, requiring 60 "yeas," at 5:30 p.m. If the vote fails, the Senate will hold a vote advancing the nomination of Eric D. Miller to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
House: The House meets for a pro forma session at 9 a.m. today. No votes are expected.
Supreme Court schedule
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck, a case involving free speech and public-access television channels. The justices will also release orders from their Friday conference at 9:30 a.m.
*All times Eastern