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At the White House

'INDEFINITELY SUSPENDED': Just one week ago, GOP lawmakers were discussing how they'd block President Trump's proposed tariffs on Mexico.

Now, they are praising the president — and even his tariff threat — as the ultimate dealmaker who made a breakthrough on the border crisis. 

Yet Trump's announcement of a deal with Mexico may have avoided another potential conflict — with his own party. GOP lawmakers' talk of issuing a resolution of disapproval to override tariffs against Mexico would have been their most dramatic act of defiance yet of the president.

The relief was palpable on the Sunday shows. “Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who had spoken out against Trump’s tariff threats, called the deal ‘a big win for both sides’ and said it sent a message to China, whose leaders are wrangling with Trump over trade,” per my colleagues Felicia Sonmez, Mike DeBonis and Nick Miroff.

  • “Even though I’m not a big supporter of tariffs, he is, and his willingness to use that probably helped produce a result,” Blunt said on “Face the Nation.” “I hope we don’t have to go back to that as an issue again with Mexico.”

  • The new party line: “While I generally do not support imposing tariffs … Mexico’s lack of commitment when it comes to addressing the unsustainable and dangerous migratory crisis at our Southern Border has left this administration no other choice,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a statement, per my colleague Ishaan Tharoor. While Rubio  broke with other Senate Republicans last week to defend Trump's plan, his quote encapsulates the new talking points:  “By exerting maximum pressure and demanding decisive action from the López Obrador administration, President Trump has secured an important victory on behalf of the American people.” 

There were hints opposition was softening even before the deal's announcement as Republicans were uneasy about challenging Trump on one of his key priorities. 

  • On Friday morning, just hours before the deal was announced, Senate communications directors were ready to book their bosses who had been talking about blocking Trump on tariffs on cable news to commend Trump’s brinksmanship. 
  • The change in heart was apparently because the stock market did not crater in the face of Trump's threat to impose a 5 percent, across-the-board tariff a top U.S. trading partner, Senate aides told me. 

But by Friday night, a series of Trump tweets gave them an escape hatch. Trump said tariffs were “indefinitely suspended” and offered vague outlines of a signed agreement with Mexico that will “stem the tide of migration through Mexico and to our Southern Border.” 

What’s in the deal?: Here's what the State Department officially says is in it. Mexico announced some measures they’d be taking on Friday night, including implementing “'strong measures' to reduce the flow of migrants across its territory toward the southern U.S. border, including the unprecedented deployment of thousands of Mexican national guard troops. It also agreed to expand a program allowing Central American migrants to stay in Mexico while they await the adjudication of their asylum claims,” per Felicia, Mike and Nick.

Some parts of the agreement between the U.S. and Mexico remain murky. Trump tweeted yesterday “some things . . . not mentioned in yesterday press release, one in particular, were agreed upon.” Trump said the full terms “will be announced at the appropriate time.” 

However, cracks in some of Trump’s claims about the deal quickly materialized over the weekend.

  • There are questions about how much is actually new: “The Mexican government had already pledged to [deploy more troops along its southern border] in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior,” the New York Times’s Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman reported.

  • “The centerpiece of Trump’s deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged.”

  • Trump's ALL CAPS tweet about an agricultural agreement with Trump also drew denials from Mexico. “Three Mexican officials said Saturday they were not aware of any side accord in the works, and that agricultural trade hadn’t been discussed during three days of negotiations in Washington that culminated in a joint communique late Friday,” per Bloomberg's Nacha Cattan and Eric Martin. 

Notable: There was no mention of agricultural trade as part of the agreement in the U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration released on Friday evening. 

  • Per Cattan and Martin: “The State Department didn’t respond to an inquiry made through its press department. The White House declined to comment or offer proof to back up Trump’s tweet. The Mexican foreign ministry’s press office declined to comment.”

On Face the Nation on Sunday morning, Martha Barcena, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S., demurred when pressed by Margaret Brennan on whether there would be any additional deal to buy agricultural products. She did say that agricultural trade “is going to grow without tariffs and with USMCA ratification.” 

  • “But there was no transaction that was signed off on as part of this deal is what I understand you're saying,” Brennan said. “You're just talking about trade.”
  • “I'm talking about trade . . . and I am absolutely certain that the trade in agricultural goods could increase dramatically in the next few months,” Barcena replied. 
  • But, as Felicia, Mike and Nick note, Barcena's later tweet underscores "Mexican officials’ hesitance to appear critical of the president so soon after avoiding a major trade war”: 
 

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The Investigations

DEMS RETURN TO THE MUELLER REPORT: Amid a very public debate over impeachment, House Democrats are turning their focus to Robert Mueller’s most critical conclusions at a 2 p.m. hearing today. The House Judiciary Committee’s star witness will be former Nixon White House counsel John Dean.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said last week that the hearing will “focus on President Trump’s most overt acts of obstruction.” Former U.S. Attorneys and legal experts are also expected to testify alongside Dean.
  • Why John Dean? Dean was and remains an ubiquitous presence on CNN, where he is a contributor, during the nearly-two year long investigation. He is among the many Watergate figures who received renewed attention given the frequent comparisons between the two probes. 
  • How Republicans will respond: You can bet that Republicans will bring up that Dean pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and later was disbarred and held for four months in Fort Holabird. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and Trump ally, made this apparent as soon as the hearing was announced:

 

  • Trump also attacked Dean on Sunday on Twitter as a “sleazebag.” Dean responded that someone should buy the president a dog, because Trump needs a friend so he "won't vent endlessly on Twitter.”
  • Play by the rules: Republicans are also seeking to limit the extent of just how scathing Democrats can be in their descriptions of Trump. Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, wrote to Nadler on Friday with a reminder of the House’s Rules for decorum when discussing the president. Collins said the testimony amounts to a “mock-impeachment hearing.”
  • Meanwhile: Nadler, our Post colleagues previously reported, is pushing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind the scenes to open an impeachment inquiry. More than one dozen Democrats on Nadler’s panel also support an inquiry. Keep an eye on this tension.
  • Where’s Mueller?: Mueller made it clear in his public statement that he would not testify beyond the contents of his 448-page report, but Nadler has said that he still wants him to appear with the possibility of subpoenaing him.

The rest of the week:

  • The House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the report’s counterintelligence implications. In case you forgot, the Mueller investigation began as an FBI counterintelligence investigation.
  • Who’s testifying: Former senior FBI officials Stephanie Douglas and Robert Anderson, who according to CNN did not work on the Mueller probe, will be the key witnesses.
  • Remember: The Intelligence panel, historically a bipartisan committee, was the site of bitter disputes over its Russia investigation when Republicans were in the majority and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif) was chairman. Nunes later recused himself from aspects of the probe.
  • Barr and McGahn face contempt: The entire House is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to hold Attorney General Bill Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in contempt. Barr was previously held in contempt by the Judiciary Committee on May 8, while McGahn was threatened with such a punishment at the time. With a procedural step, the House can skip the committee vote and move to a House-wide vote for McGahn too.
  • What they did: Barr and McGahn have thus far failed to turn over requested documents and information despite being subpoenaed to do so. Barr was subpoenaed to turn over the unredacted Mueller report and some of its underlying information. Barr has argued that legally he is unable to do so. McGahn has been told by the White House not to comply.
  • Possible talks: Nadler confirmed that he and the Justice Department had been talking about a way for Barr to avoid becoming just the second sitting attorney general to be held in contempt, after Eric Holder was held in contempt by House Republicans over the “Fast and Furious” investigation. But the DOJ wanted the House to cancel the vote before resuming talks, Nadler said, a proposal he rejected flat out.

On The Hill

FOLLOWING UP: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) released a new bipartisan bill seeking to block the Trump administration's controversial and unilateral arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He told us last week he's worried "the president is gradually erasing Article One of the Constitution." 

Murphy's bill with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) uses "a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act to request a report from the administration on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, which could eventually trigger a vote to halt billions in arms sales which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is moving forward despite congressional opposition," per Politico's Burgess Everett. 

  • GOP pushback on Trump: “Our arms sales to Saudi Arabia demand congressional oversight,” Young told Everett. “This bipartisan resolution simply asks the secretary of State to report on some basic questions before moving forward with them. The ongoing humanitarian crisis and complicated security environment in Yemen requires our sustained attention, and we cannot permit U.S. military equipment to worsen the situation.”
  • "The move runs parallel to an effort led by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to block 22 recent arms sales, an effort which is supported by both Murphy and Young. Despite congressional resistance, Pompeo has notified Congress that the Trump administration is declaring an emergency to move forward with those sales." 

In the Media

U.S. WOMEN’S TEAM SET TO DEFEND TITLE AMID EQUAL-PAY LAWSUIT: The U.S. women’s soccer team is set to begin its World Cup defense on Tuesday against Thailand. But the entire 28-player squad is suing its employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, with the allegation that they are not paid equal to their male counterparts and also suffer from inferior working conditions and investment. In case you missed it, our colleague Liz Clarke had an incredible report on the unprecedented fight during the sport’s biggest event.

  • Why now: “This isn’t what champion athletes normally do — launch a public fight with their boss at the most critical stage of their athletic preparation, when their focus is on shutting out distractions, rather than actively creating them,” Liz writes. “But increasingly, it’s what female athletes are doing — fighting one battle on the field of play, whether soccer pitch, ice hockey rink, wrestling mat or boxing ring, while taking on another battle off it to make their sport better, fairer and more equitable.”
  • What one player says: “'It’s wild, but I now have so many more skills than a lot of these male athletes, because they don’t have to think about anything, and they don’t think about anything!' said [Megan] Rapinoe, a co-captain of the U.S. team. “From age 14 or 15, these guys are not thinking about, nor do they have to think about, anything other than being an amazing soccer player. That’s their job; that’s their sole focus.”

The numbers don’t lie: “While the men’s team historically generates more revenue for U.S. Soccer, the women eclipsed them in the fiscal year encompassing their rout of Japan in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final, which was watched on television by 25.4 million in the United States, a U.S. record for any soccer match, men’s or women’s,” Liz writes.

  • “The women’s triumph and the 10-game victory tour that followed helped transform U.S. Soccer’s projected net loss of $429,929 that year to a $17.7 million profit, according to the organization’s own financial documents.”

Some more number's from Liz's story:

  • U.S. Soccer’s response: “U.S. Soccer has defended the inequity in World Cup bonuses by pointing to FIFA, which makes far more money from men’s World Cups than women’s. That imbalance is reflected in the lump sums FIFA gives participating nations based on their tournament performance.”
  • A company stepped in to even the playing field: “Heading into the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the maker of Luna nutrition bars announced it would cover the shortfall and pay the 23 women who made the squad $31,250 each — the difference between U.S. Soccer’s roster bonuses for men and women.”
  • In case you’re not a soccer fan: The U.S. women’s team is a juggernaut at the World Cup having won three tournaments and placed no lower than third in the only other four tournaments that ever been held. (The first women’s world cup was in 1999, which the U.S. won.) The U.S. is expected to compete for the title again with the nearest competition considered France, this year’s host nation.
  • How this is bigger than just soccer: “In many ways, the women’s soccer team’s “double-earn” mirrors the multiple roles and responsibilities that women shoulder in so many aspects of life as employees, managers, mothers and caregivers,” Liz writes. “So, it’s no surprise that Rapinoe uses familiar rhetoric to describe the juggling act she and her teammates are performing.”

In other headlines: 

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Correction: A previous version of this newsletter incorrectly stated that John Dean served time at a federal prison. He was held for four months at Fort Holabird.