The Hill's Morning Report - Busy week: Impeachment, Dem debate and USMCA




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Lawmakers are facing a monumental week on Capitol Hill as they prepare for a historic midweek vote to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE over his actions with Ukraine and to potentially pass a key trade agreement and an end-of-year funding bill to avoid a government shutdown ahead of the Christmas break.


As lawmakers brace for the Wednesday vote, which is expected to make Trump the third president to be impeached in U.S. history, the lines in the sand are being drawn by partisans on both sides of the aisle. House Republicans are expected to remain united without any defections in Wednesday’s vote. However, it remains an open question whether the same will ring true on the Democratic side. 


Making headlines over the weekend, Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.) is expected to announce this week that he will join the Republican Party, spurred on in part due to his popularity taking a nosedive in his southern New Jersey district and his opposition to Trump’s impeachment. Van Drew (seen below) is one of two Democrats who did not vote to advance the impeachment inquiry in late October. The other is Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to lay out impeachment case to senators next week House delivers impeachment articles to Senate Overnight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall MORE (D-Minn.), who represents a district with a bigger GOP tilt. 


Van Drew’s expected defection comes as a surprise to Democrats, who have seen little resistance within their own ranks since the inquiry was launched in late September, especially as Van Drew shot down speculation of such a move early last week. 


The news was also a surprise to those back in his district. One elected official with close ties to influential South Jersey Democrats told The Hill over the weekend that several longtime Democrats in the area were dismissive late last week that Van Drew would switch parties. The reason? Rumors about Van Drew switching parties have been circulating for over a decade.


Politico: Staff exodus in Van Drew office after party switch.


Sunday Talk Shows: Republicans, Democrats maneuver ahead of House impeachment vote. 


Politico: House Judiciary Committee impeachment report alleges Trump committed “multiple federal crimes.”


Outside of Van Drew, it is unknown how many Democrats will break with leadership and vote against impeachment on the two articles that will hit the floor, though many from battleground districts have already indicated their support. 


With the impeachment phase in the House set to wind down after Wednesday’s vote, eyes are starting to turn to the Senate, as a trial in the upper chamber is expected to start next month, with Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon Hillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips 'shameful' Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets Hill.TV's Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: 'CNN can see through this nonsense' MORE (D-Calif.) expected to decide on the managers for the Senate phase this week. Freshman Democrats have made a push for Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashOvernight Defense: Foreign policy takes center stage at Democratic debate | House delivers impeachment articles to Senate | Dems vow to force new vote on Trump's border wall House votes to send impeachment articles to Senate Amash: Trump claim about US embassy threats 'seems to be totally made up' MORE (I-Mich.) to be named one in recent days, though it remains unlikely that Pelosi will tap him, as the role is a coveted one that multiple Democrats are jockeying for.   


On the GOP side, a number of lawmakers are quietly expressing interest in being selected to join the president’s defense team as Republicans brace for proceedings to move to the upper chamber. Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsRepublicans criticize Pelosi for gifting pens used to sign impeachment articles Trump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (R-N.C.) has said Trump is looking to have a combination of lawyers and three or four House GOP members to defend him. According to Juliegrace Brufke’s reporting, among those being floated as possibilities are Reps. John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump's legal team gets set for impeachment trial Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate Graham: Not 'wise' for House Republicans to serve on Trump trial team MORE (R-Texas), Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump's legal team gets set for impeachment trial Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate Graham: Not 'wise' for House Republicans to serve on Trump trial team MORE (R-Ohio) and Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe five dumbest things said about impeachment so far Pelosi accepts Collins's apology for saying Democrats are 'in love with terrorists' Trump's legal team gets set for impeachment trial MORE (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee. 


“I don't know the extent of the lobby from Capitol Hill. I think there's a general consensus that there's a small group of members that would be, certainly, in the first tier, and another group would be in the second tier,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “Those people in the first tier, obviously, have been the ones who have been more engaged in this process from the beginning. Certainly, Jim Jordan is one of those.”


The Hill: Republicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy.


The Washington Post: Senate GOP defends Trump, despite oath to be impartial impeachment jurors.


NBC News: Schumer proposes former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonParnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine Parnas: Environment around Trump 'like a cult' Collins says she's 'likely' to support calling witnesses for impeachment trial MORE, acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyCollins says she's 'likely' to support calling witnesses for impeachment trial Schumer doesn't rule out calling Parnas to testify in impeachment trial Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump MORE testify in Senate impeachment trial.


On Trump’s side, although impeachment seems inevitable, the White House doesn't feel like he's having a bad month, with the president reveling in a series of legislative and executive victories, according to Brett Samuels and Morgan Chalfant.  


On Friday, Trump announced a "phase one" trade agreement with China that he hailed as a “phenomenal deal” on the heels of multiple key legislative deals for the White House. Among them: the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which will establish the Space Force, something Trump has been pushing to create for most of his presidency and paid parental leave for federal workers, which Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump scheduled to attend Davos amid impeachment trial Lawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash MORE pushed for. 


On top of those are big-ticket items such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and a stopgap spending bill (more on those below). The House is expected to sandwich impeachment with votes on the two measures this week. 


The Washington Post: “The grand finale”: Inside Trump’s push to rack up political victories as impeachment looms. 


Bloomberg News: James ComeyJames Brien ComeyNYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' MORE admits being “overconfident” in approving Trump probe.





CONGRESS/ADMINISTRATION: As the vote on the USMCA looms, progressive lawmakers and labor unions are facing divides among their ranks over whether to support the proposed update to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which would add a political win in the president’s column. 


Democratic lawmakers announced last week a deal to pass a revamped NAFTA deal after winning stricter enforcement processes for labor laws, with concessions on the president’s side being enough to win the backing of the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation and a fierce critic of the original NAFTA. 


Though the AFL-CIO's support was important for several Democrats, some House progressives and other labor unions aren't sold on the deal yet, as Sylvan Lane writes


“We haven't spent enough time putting together the apparatus of how you enforce this, and who's responsible for enforcing it,” said Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellHouse approves Trump's USMCA trade deal amid shadow of impeachment A solemn impeachment day on Capitol Hill Van Drew, set to switch parties, will vote as a Democrat on impeachment MORE (D-N.J.), a fierce critic of trade deals. “I don't trust what’s been written.”


Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroSome kids will spend Christmas in border cages On The Money: House approves Trump USMCA deal in bipartisan vote | Senate sends .4T spending bill to Trump's desk | Why budget watchdogs are howling over the spending deal House approves Trump's USMCA trade deal amid shadow of impeachment MORE (D-Conn.), a trade skeptic and member of the Democratic USMCA negotiating team, said the caucus’s main goal was “to staunch the outsourcing,” citing the vast industrial job losses in her district. Despite the new changes to the trade deal, she remains undecided on supporting the USMCA, and her concerns are resonating among progressives who seem powerless to stop the deal at this point given the level of support from the GOP for the trade pact.


Bloomberg News: Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE scores trifecta of wins for Trump’s trade agenda.


The Hill: ObamaCare shows resilience despite Trump attacks.


> Afghanistan: The Pentagon has kept quiet over the damning reports from last week that found U.S. officials lied about the progress in the 18-year war in Afghanistan, with little likelihood the documents will alter the administration's approach to America's longest conflict, according to experts. The reports have largely been sidestepped by defense officials when questions arose from lawmakers and reporters alike. 


“I haven’t read all the stories, frankly… but the stories spanned multiple administrations, multiple uniformed and civilian officials, and I think it’s good to look back. I think at this point, where I’m looking is forward,” Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon US military to soon resume training for Saudi students State Department cancels two classified congressional briefings on Iran, embassy security MORE said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday (The Hill).


Not helping matters was the timing. The reports initially emerged as the House Judiciary Committee considered and approved the two articles of impeachment. 


> North Korea: U.S. lawmakers are bracing for a North Korean provocation as the year-end deadline for the U.S. to change its policies draws near. In an escalation of rhetoric, North Korea once again called Trump a “dotard,” adding that U.S. actions it considers “foolish” have allowed it to make a “definite decision” on its next steps. Senators were loath to predict what the North Koreans may do after the deadline passes, but analysts believe long-range missile and nuclear tests could be in the near future (The Hill).


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Ex-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Parnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine MORE appears to be gaining some momentum in polls ahead of Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate as he and the other top-tier candidates plow ahead with their efforts to win support in early primary states. 


As Julia Manchester writes, an Emerson College poll released this week found the former vice president a point ahead of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegFormer insurance executive: 'Medicare for all' would eliminate jobs that are 'not needed' Buttigieg says he's proud to be a part of US system amid UK royal family drama Buttigieg asked about 'Mayo Pete' memes by New York Times ed board MORE in Iowa, while a WBUR survey released at the end of the previous week found Biden just a point behind the mayor in New Hampshire. 


Both figures represented strong showings for Biden, who in recent surveys had either fallen behind or been running even with Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenEx-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Former Vermont Governor: Sanders 'will play dirty' Hill.TV's Krystal Ball rips Warren over feud with Sanders MORE (D-Mass.). 


Biden’s true polling strength comes in contests in South Carolina, Nevada and states voting on Super Tuesday, meaning a victory in either Iowa or New Hampshire would be a true boon to his campaign and a severe blow to his opponents. 


Looking ahead to Thursday, Biden and Buttigieg were the targets of a speech delivered by Warren, which sets off a key week of the campaign, headlined by Thursday’s debate that could prove to be an exemplar of a tense and aggressive stretch of the campaign, as Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo


Dan Balz: Amid adversity and missteps, Biden’s resilience has been one theme of 2019.


The Hill: Democrats ask if they have reason to worry about U.K. result.





Speaking of attacks, Democrats have grown critical of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) ahead of Thursday’s debate, which will feature seven candidates and only one minority contender, amid cries from the front-runners and those being excluded from the debate that the process has been unfair.


Nine Democratic candidates signed a letter, organized by Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew Hampshire state lawmaker switches support from Warren to Klobuchar Here are the 10 senators who voted against Trump's North American trade deal Team Trump criticizes Sanders for vote against USMCA MORE (D-N.J.), who is being excluded from the Los Angeles debate, calling for the committee to allow entry into the debate for meeting either the polling or donor benchmarks instead of both. The DNC, however, has not budged.


“The DNC has led a fair and transparent process and even told campaigns almost a year ago that the qualification criteria would go up later in the year — not one campaign objected,” DNC spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement (NBC News).


The New York Times: The DNC chairman knows no one is happy. Neither is he.


The Associated Press: Turbulence shakes Democrats going into final debate of 2019.


The Hill: Seven years after Sandy Hook, the politics of guns has changed.

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Impeachment nears: What would John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE have done? By Albert Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


USMCA is nice but no model, by Kent Kaiser, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Michael Brooks, host of “The Michael Brooks Show,” for an update on the newsy weekend; and Lily Eskelsen García, a sixth grade teacher and president of the National Education Association, on the upcoming 2020 public education forum. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House meets at noon, although no votes are expected until Tuesday. 


The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. and will resume consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.  


The president has lunch with Vice President Pence and participates in a roundtable discussion on the Governors’ Initiative on Regulatory Innovation at 2 p.m. 


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo under pressure over threats to Yovanovitch Regardless of how the Iraqis feel, the US should leave Democrats clash at debate over keeping US troops in Mideast MORE will deliver remarks to the Foreign Affairs Policy Board at the State Department at 8:30 a.m.


Hong Kong: Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his support for Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, saying she has done well in the role given the “most difficult times” during a meeting in Beijing on Monday. With Lam’s meetings in Beijing also came more demonstrations back home as 31 more individuals were arrested by police at a shopping mall on Sunday, bringing the total to 6,100 over the past six months (The Associated Press). 





Boeing: Boeing is considering suspending or scaling back production of the 737 Max as uncertainty grows over the beleaguered aircraft’s potential return to flight, with a decision expected as early as Monday. Production of the plane was already cut once in April, and further cuts would likely inflate costs for the aerospace company, meaning a pause in production is the most likely course of action (The Wall Street Journal). 


Baseball: Despite having passed away 71 years ago, the legend of Babe Ruth continues to grow. The bat Ruth used to swat his 500th home run was auctioned off for more than $1 million on Saturday in Laguna Niguel, Calif. SCP Auctions did not identify the new owner of the lumber. Ruth hit his 500th homer on Aug. 11, 1929, becoming the first player in Major League Baseball history to reach the milestone. The bat was previously owned by the family of former Suffern, N.Y., Mayor Jim Rice. Ruth had autographed the bat and given it to Rice, a friend of his, in the 1940s, and the family has owned it ever since (The Associated Press). 


And finally … “Frozen 2” has been dethroned. After a three-week run atop the box office, the animated sequel fell to No. 2 as another sequel, “Jumanji: The Next Level,” raked in $60.1 million in the U.S. and Canada to take the top spot. The sequel was released two years after “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which earned $962 million worldwide in 2017.


As for “Frozen 2,” the Disney hit has pulled in $367 million in total since its release on Black Friday, including $19.2 million in the past week. Also of note: the disappointing opening weekend for “Richard Jewell.” The latest Clint Eastwood film, centered on the story of the security guard during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics who was hailed, vilified and ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing in the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park, pulled in only $5 million (The Associated Press).