The Hill's Morning Report - Dem investigative blitz ignites impeachment debate




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Co-creators are Jonathan Easley and Alexis Simendinger (CLICK HERE to subscribe!). On Twitter, you can find us at @joneasley and @asimendinger.

Democrats will dramatically escalate their investigations into President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE this week, provoking new chatter about how far off impeachment proceedings might be in the House.

A half-dozen congressional committees are investigating the president and his associates, effectively strangling the administration and Trump Organization with requests for testimony and documents into the president’s policies, business interests and campaign.

On the menu this week…

> Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) will request documents from 60 people and entities tied to the president as part of broad investigation into allegations of corruption and obstruction of justice.

Reuters: House panel launches probe into possible obstruction by Trump.

Nadler’s aggressive investigation is notable because his committee would conduct a potential impeachment hearing.

"Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.” — Nadler

"I think Congressman Nadler decided to impeach the president the day the president won the election." — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyGOP lawmakers jockey for positions as managers On The Money: Trump, China announce 'Phase One' trade deal | Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records | House panel schedules hearing, vote on new NAFTA deal House panel to hold hearing, vote on Trump's new NAFTA proposal MORE (R-Calif.)

> Also on Monday, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCongressional investigation finds Coast Guard leadership fell short on handling bullying Trump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list Impeachment can't wait MORE (D-Md.) has set a deadline for the White House to respond to a voluntary request for documentation about the administration’s security clearance practices.

Senior White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump executive order aimed at combating anti-Semitism stirs up controversy Trump hosts pastor who says 'Jews are going to hell' at White House Hanukkah party Mark Levin calls Trump 'first Jewish president' MORE will be in focus here, following a report in The New York Times that Trump overrode a decision by his former chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, who recommended Kushner’s security clearance be denied over conflicts of interest.

The Hill: Dems ramp up scrutiny of Kushner’s security clearance.

> On Wednesday, Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen will return for a fourth day of testimony on Capitol Hill before he reports to prison in May.

Cohen, whose public testimony last week sent the Democratic investigative machine into overdrive, will appear for a second time to give private testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, which is led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Supreme Court takes up fight over Trump financial records Democrats approve two articles of impeachment against Trump in Judiciary vote MORE (D-Calif.), one of Trump’s chief antagonists on Capitol Hill.

Schiff is conducting an investigation that spans Trump’s 2016 campaign, the Trump Organization’s pursuit of a real estate deal in Moscow and the president’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank, among many other things.

The Washington Post: House, Senate Intelligence panels explore Cohen’s knowledge of discussions about potential pardons.

Trump business associate Felix Sater will give public testimony before the committee next week.

The president blasted back at “little shifty Schiff” during a two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday. Trump continued to defend himself on Sunday on Twitter, declaring, “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start.” 

“All of a sudden they’re trying to take you out with bullshit.” — Trump at CPAC

Schiff has ruled out a 2020 challenge to Trump.

The Associated Press: Looking beyond Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MORE, Dems cast investigative nets.

The Associated Press: House Democrats expand Russia probe.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUSMCA is nice but no model Anti-impeachment Democrat poised to switch parties Grassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks MORE (D-Calif.) is working to tamp down talk about impeachment.

The crush of new investigations underscores the anxiety and enthusiasm Democrats feel as they consider pursuing impeachment.

The Hill: Dems feel growing pressure on impeachment.

NBC News: The Democratic dilemma over impeachment.

Would Democrats dare to tackle that thorny and divisive issue during an election year when the president will be on the ballot? Are Democrats misreading the public’s interest in the Russia investigation? Can they make the case that allegations of corruption rise to the level for impeachment?

These are the questions the party will wrestle with in the coming days and weeks.

“The longer term trend is, the country sort of said they … decided what they think about Russia, and until there’s a heck of a lot more fact, this country is nowhere near where it needs to be to think you can impeach a president.” — GOP pollster Bill McInturff on NBC’s “Meet the Press”




POLITICS: It’s been a tough stretch for Trump, from the flood of new investigations to the disappointing outcome at the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Memo: Trump World faces sea of troubles.

But there is plenty of debate over just how bad things are for the president as the 2020 campaign cycle heats up.

A new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll casts Trump’s reelection bid as an “uphill” climb, with only 41 percent saying they’d vote to reelect him next year and a strong majority viewing the president as dishonest.

But the same poll found Trump’s approval rating tick up to 46 percent, which is about where former Presidents Clinton and Obama stood ahead of their successful reelection bids.

If CPAC taught us anything, it’s that there’s been no erosion in the ferocity of support for the president among his base.

Over the course of a two-hour speech, the president basked in the adulation of his supporters and secured his grasp on a base of voters that are certain to turn out for him in 2020.

Bloomberg: Trump’s base clings tight.

The Washington Post: Republicans rally around Trump as threats mount.



Meanwhile, the number of candidates lining up for the chance to take Trump on in 2020 will grow bigger this week.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to announce on Thursday, following another governor, Washington’s Jay Inslee, into the race.

The Associated Press: Dem governors look to break through.



Will former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNew York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Graham invites Giuliani to testify about recent Ukraine trip Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications MORE be next up after Hickenlooper?

Amie Parnes reported last week that Biden has arranged a campaign-in-waiting that is ready to switch into action. This week, Parnes reports that Biden is fishing around for major donors to fund his campaign (The Hill).

Scott Wong asked conservatives at CPAC which Democratic candidate they fear the most in a contest against Trump. Republicans there viewed Biden as the most formidable challenger (The Hill).

More on campaigns and politics … New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s case for 2020 (The Atlantic) … Democratic states are moving to bypass the Electoral College (The Hill) … Few candidates seek Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonCNN's Cuomo promotes 'Dirty Donald' hashtag, hits GOP for 'loyalty oath' to Trump Whether a rule is cruel or kind, regulatory analysis shines a light Moderate or left of center — which is better for Democrats in 2020? MORE’s 2020 advice (The Associated Press) … Pennsylvania Democrats wonder how far is too far left for 2020 (The New York Times).


CONGRESS: Just at the moment when political analysts said Trump is comforted by the unflagging support of his base, Senate Republicans on Sunday strung together enough votes to block the president’s emergency declaration to build more miles of border wall.

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSunday Talk Shows: Lawmakers look ahead to House vote on articles of impeachment, Senate trial Pentagon to take bigger role in vetting foreign students after Pensacola shooting Overnight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons MORE (Ky.) became the fourth Republican to publicly announce his opposition to the president’s executive maneuver, and there are more Senate Republicans in the wings, reluctantly weighing a move to challenge Trump on the floor within the next week or so, if pressed to choose (The Hill). The math means Trump could be forced into the first veto of his presidency by his own party, if some other solution is not found. 

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill MORE (R-Utah) is crafting legislation to make it easier for Congress to cancel national emergencies, while other Republicans want the president to back down and withdraw his declaration (The Hill).

They are increasingly uncomfortable politically that they may have to cast a vote on principle that rebukes the president (The Associated Press).

One compromise under discussion: Locate additional appropriations that could be reprogrammed for barrier construction with backing from both parties and Trump, if he agrees to rescind his declaration.

A Republican congressman who opposes Trump’s declaration of a border emergency said Sunday he believes Trump "is violating our constitutional system" (CNN). Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGroup of House Democrats reportedly attended the White House ball Group of Democrats floating censure of Trump instead of impeachment: report Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing MORE (Mich.), who declined to rule out a bid for the White House in 2020 as a Libertarian, says the hyper-partisanship means one thing: “Congress is totally broken” (Politico).

The clashes inside the Capitol worry lawmakers just as they begin to face a new showdown over the national debt and lifting the Treasury’s borrowing authority. The countdown began on Saturday to reach a bipartisan agreement by late summer (The Hill).

Democrats in charge of the House are mounting assaults against Trump and Republicans while at the same time bickering in the open within their own ranks. It’s a malady they cannot seem to cure and one the GOP is working with gusto to exploit.

Centrist Democrats are pushing back against a liberal surge experienced in Washington and nationwide (The Washington Post).

In the House, the lawmaker who embodies a loud, leftward tilt in the Democratic Party is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez to hold campaign rallies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas Overwhelming majority say social media companies have too much influence: poll MORE (D-N.Y.), who recently rebuked centrist colleagues for their votes on gun control (The Hill).

John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster, summed up his frustration with the 29-year-old democratic socialist:



Meanwhile, intraparty Democratic frictions go well beyond tactics and strategy to challenge foreign policy as well as beliefs about tolerance.

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarIlhan Omar responds to 'Conservative Squad': 'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery' Biden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, continues to agitate fellow Democrats with remarks they perceive as misguided slams against Israel and pro-Israel groups.

On Sunday, she tussled on Twitter with veteran Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Lawmakers strike spending deal to avert shutdown McConnell accuses Democrats of stonewalling funding talks with wall demands  MORE (D-N.Y.), who has risen to Omar’s defense while also challenging some rhetoric as hurtful and a mischaracterization of support in the Jewish community for Israel (The Hill).

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelBombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump MORE (D-N.Y.) called some of Omar’s remarks last week anti-Semitic (The Hill).

“It’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” he said of Omar’s remarks at a bookstore event in Washington (The New York Times).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Jonathan Easley & Alexis Simendinger. We want to hear from you! and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


We really need to worry about climate change – and act, by Lehigh University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences staff, The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call.

We must denounce the idea of speech as violence, by Jonathan Zimmerman, The San Francisco Chronicle.


The House meets at 11:30 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Allison Jones Rushing to be a judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

The president will host the North Dakota State Bison football team at the White House at 11:30 a.m. He’ll have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. Two hours later, Trump plans to sign an executive order about the transition of active-duty service members and military veterans into the Merchant Marine. At 4:25 p.m., the president speaks to the National Association of Attorneys General at the White House, joined by the vice president.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump greeted with cheers at 120th Army-Navy game Judge orders State Dept. to search for and provide more Ukraine docs Pompeo launches personal Twitter account amid speculation over Senate run MORE, who is from Kansas and recently said he would not run for a Senate seat in 2020, will pull out the diplomatic stops in Iowa today. He will meet with the Des Moines Partnership at 10 a.m. He’ll speak to the Future Farmers of America and Johnston High School students at midday. At 2 p.m., Pompeo visits the Corteva research facility in Des Moines and participates in a trade discussion there. The secretary talks with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) at 4 p.m., and an hour later speaks to the Iowa Farm Bureau at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates in Des Moines.  

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpWhite House on Greta Thunberg: Trump, first lady communicate differently The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Judiciary Democrats approve articles of impeachment setting up House vote next week Michelle Obama encourages Greta Thunberg after Trump attack: 'Ignore the doubters' MORE takes her “Be Best” initiative on the road today and Tuesday with events scheduled in Tulsa, Okla., Seattle and Las Vegas.

YOU’RE INVITED to upcoming newsmaker events with The Hill:



International: China and the United States are drawing closer to a trade deal, the contours of which are emerging (The New York Times) and a Trump summit with President Xi Jinping is expected around March 27 (Reuters) ... The Islamic State is making a final stand in Syria as U.S. fighters close in (Reuters) ... There was finally a lull in tensions over the weekend between nuclear powers Pakistan and India over the disputed Kashmir region (The Associated Press) … Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a fresh approach to governance, but now he’s embroiled in scandal and fighting for his political life (The New York Times).

Marijuana: Follow the money … Former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank (D) joins a local Boston marijuana group, Beantown Greentown (The Boston Globe), following in the cannabis-promotion stampede that includes former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (R-Ohio) and former Massachusetts Republican Gov. William Weld, who is formally exploring a GOP primary challenge to Trump (The Boston Globe); plus lifestyle-marketer Martha Stewart (The New York Times). 

Media: Top executives at Time Warner and HBO have departed after AT&T’s acquisition, raising questions about whether the new media behemoth can continue to produce high-quality creative content (The Wall Street Journal). Some are worried that the takeover will lead to the “Netflixification” of HBO, with a focus on quantity, rather than quality (The Week). Joe Nocera takes a look at the future of the new media conglomerate (Bloomberg).


And finally …  NASA and SpaceX made some big bets with Crew Dragon and a Boeing-built capsule called Starliner. Saturday’s successful launch of a test mission and Sunday’s seamless docking of an unmanned capsule with the International Space Station are big news.

NASA wants to start flying U.S. astronauts later this year and end the United States' years-long reliance on Russia to ferry crew to and from the space station (CNN).

Why the big excitement? Because NASA and the United States are poised for a new era in human spaceflight (The New York Times).