The Hill's Morning Report - Worries about war in world capitals, Congress




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Tuesday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the daily co-creators, so find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and recommend the Morning Report to your friends. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Tehran’s highways were choked with masses of people on Monday in a public outpouring of mourning for a powerful general, Qassem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. drone last week. Amid the torching of American and Israeli flags in Tehran’s streets and a stampede that killed 35 people today in Soleimani’s hometown, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei openly wept, and his countrymen repeated their calls for revenge.


President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE remained largely out of sight at the White House, phoning world leaders, conferring with Vice President Pence and his advisers, and turning to Twitter to declare in all caps, “IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!” 


The odds, however, tilted in the other direction, toward Tehran’s rapid return to uranium enrichment and eventual status as a nuclear state following its decision on Sunday to abandon the battered 2015 international nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Trump assailed and unilaterally exited in 2018 (The Hill).


In world capitals, leaders on Monday held emergency meetings, dispatched envoys and issued public statements calling on Iran and Iraq to “de-escalate” threats of military action and retaliation voiced in the Middle East and in Washington. An alarmed NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg phoned Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report Female generals' promotions held back over fears of Trump's response: report Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command MORE as NATO convened an urgent meeting on Monday and U.S. allies worked to navigate through a crisis that poses risks in Iran, Iraq, the broader Middle East and the West.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronMacron urges US, EU to share vaccine doses Biden to champion alliances, democracy as he meets with foreign partners Overnight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq MORE issued a joint statement urging “all parties to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility. …We specifically call on Iran to refrain from further violent action or proliferation and urge Iran to reverse all measures inconsistent with the JCPOA.”


In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE reportedly advised his security cabinet that Israel was not involved in Soleimani’s killing, adding that “it is a U.S. event and we should stay out of it.”


At the United Nations in New York, more controversy emerged when the Trump administration reportedly blocked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from obtaining a visa to address the U.N. Security Council on Thursday (Foreign Policy). The decision is described as a violation of a 1947 U.N. headquarters agreement requiring Washington to permit foreign officials into the country to conduct United Nations business.


Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' Capitol review to recommend adding more fencing, 1,000 officers: report MORE (D-Calif.), who begins the second session of the 116th Congress today, is juggling a House effort to remove Trump from office at the same time Democrats want to check Trump’s authority to order military attacks against Iran. The House will vote on a resolution this week that would limit the president’s clout against Tehran if conducted in the absence of support from Congress. It’s a legislative effort that will go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate.


Nonetheless, senators from both parties are concerned enough about the escalating tensions with Iran and Iraq that they asked to hear directly from administration officials. Expected to be questioned Wednesday afternoon: Esper, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoUS intel: Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi killing Golden statue of Trump at CPAC ridiculed online Five things to watch at CPAC MORE, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community MORE (Politico).


Trump’s threats to target Iran’s cultural sites if Tehran retaliates for Soleimani’s killing sparked howls of outrage from international and legal experts (The Hill). Pompeo and senior White House aides have offered assurances that the United States would act lawfully and abide by international treaties, although Trump said on Sunday that “it doesn’t work that way.” Fearing Trump’s mercurial decision making, lawmakers are expected to discuss the controversy with the president’s advisers.


The killing of Soleimani has added to strains between the United States and its strategic ally, Iraq. Following the Iraqi parliament’s vote on Sunday ordering the expulsion of U.S. and foreign troops, the Trump administration offered a muddle of responses. Pompeo waved off the vote as unsupported by the Iraqi people, while the president lashed out at the government in Baghdad.


On Monday, Esper and Milley described as “a mistake” a letter from the U.S. Command in Baghdad to Iraq saying the United States would withdraw troops and reposition forces in the region. The communication was reported by Reuters and then quickly walked back by Milley as a poorly worded “draft” that “should not have been released” (The Hill). Esper said the United States has no plans to leave Iraq.


The Washington Post: Responding to Trump’s threat, administration officials began drafting potential economic sanctions against Iraq.





Perspectives & Analysis:


Lisa Monaco: We are in uncharted territory now. Are we prepared for that?


Elizabeth Cobbs and Kimberly C. Field: Why did the U.S. kill Suleimani?


Kathy Gilsinan: America’s self-sabotage in the Middle East.


Michael Brendan Dougherty: The unreassuring commander-in-chief.


Gerald F. Seib: Iran confrontation could draw in the United States — or push it away.


David Rosenberg: Soleimani fallout: What the price of oil tells us about war in the Middle East.


IMPEACHMENT WATCH: With a vote on war powers coming this week, Pelosi is showing that she is intent on pressing Trump on Iran and impeachment, a two-pronged fight that is certain to fan the flames between Congress and the White House. 


The war powers vote this week will happen as questions persist about when Pelosi will deliver the pair of articles of impeachment against the president. Pelosi has delayed naming managers for the impending Senate trial and transmitting the articles until she sees how the process is shaping up on the other end of the Capitol. 


Over the weekend, the Speaker accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Hawley gets boisterous ovation at CPAC for Electoral College objection   Why Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now MORE (R-Ky.) of being an "accomplice" to Trump's misconduct, creating more tension between the two leaders as they are both faced with issues on the Iran and impeachment fronts. As Scott Wong and Mike Lillis write, the dueling debates carry the highest stakes, raising questions anew about presidential war powers as Trump looks to fend off the impeachment issue for good in the upper chamber.


While McConnell continues to plot the Senate trial, former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump offered North Korea's Kim a ride home on Air Force One: report Key impeachment figure Pence sticks to sidelines Bolton lawyer: Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE threw a wrench into the proceedings when he revealed that he is willing to testify to senators after saying throughout the House impeachment effort that he wanted a judge to rule on whether a senior Trump adviser could be compelled to testify before Congress (The Hill).


“I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” Bolton said. 


Bolton’s announcement handed more ammo to Democrats who want the outspoken former adviser and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOMB nominee gets hearing on Feb. 9 Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit Financial firms brace for Biden's consumer agency chief MORE, among others, to testify. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill Budowsky: Cruz goes to Cancun, AOC goes to Texas MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that if Senate Republicans refuse to subpoena Bolton and others, they are “participating in a cover up” (The Hill). 


Four Republicans would need to break ranks and side with Democrats in order to issue subpoenas to Bolton, Mulvaney and others. For now, only one Senate Republican — Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Democrats scramble to rescue minimum wage hike Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden MORE (R-Utah) — has indicated that he wants to hear from Bolton. 


The Hill: Pelosi on Bolton saying he'd testify: Trump, McConnell “have run out of excuses.”


The Washington Post: Bolton’s willingness to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial ramps up pressure on Senate Republicans.


Despite Bolton’s announcement, McConnell is set to move ahead to have Senate Republicans unilaterally pass a resolution setting the rules for Trump’s impeachment trial. The Kentucky Republican said on Monday that the Senate should follow the “precedent” of former President Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial as lawmakers debate the rules for President Trump's proceeding (The Hill).


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Will Iran crisis sideline impeachment process?


The Hill: GOP senators introduce resolution to change rules, dismiss impeachment without House articles against Trump. 





> Centrists: Only a few weeks after voting to impeach Trump, moderate House Democrats are pushing to score some additional legislative wins they can tout back home ahead of November's election in the face of intense criticism from Republicans.


All but two of the centrist Democrats who represent districts the president won in 2016 voted to impeach him, with one of those two announcing that he planned to switch parties. The Democrats saw the votes as risky, but as Juliegrace Brufke reports, they’re switching gears and are pushing to nab legislative victories they can highlight in 2020, such as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, though Republicans plan to keep their impeachment votes in the spotlight.


“We need to keep putting points on the board and showing that we can get things done," said Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerBipartisan lawmakers call for immediate vote on COVID-19 vaccine distribution package Lawmakers say they are 'targets,' ask to boost security New Jersey lawmakers press for SALT cap repeal in next relief package MORE (D-N.J.), who represents a district that Trump carried by a single point.


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Boosted by his ever-present presence on the airwaves, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergOn The Trail: The political perils of Snowmageddon Five things to watch in the New York City mayoral race Florida Democrats mired in division, debt ahead of 2022 MORE is gaining traction in the Democratic primary race, particularly in new national polls, as he looks to overcome his late start to nab the party’s nomination.


In a recent Hill-HarrisX survey, Bloomberg hit double digits for the first time among Democratic primary voters, nabbing 11 percent, good enough to tie Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenExclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm MORE (D-Mass.) and top former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegExclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump, part II Chasten Buttigieg jokes about his husband biking home from work MORE. Additionally, Bloomberg sits fifth in the field according to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls, putting him squarely behind the top tier of candidates despite his plan not to compete in the early primary states.  


As Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley write, there is still deep skepticism among Democrats whether Bloomberg’s focus on states deeper in the primary, starting with those that vote on Super Tuesday, will pay off. Perhaps a bigger problem is that Bloomberg, who switched his party registration to Republican in 2001 to run for mayor, is disliked by progressives. According to the latest Morning Consult survey of the Democratic field, only 5 percent of liberal voters support Bloomberg, while his support levels among moderate and conservative Democrats rise to double digits. 


However, one thing Bloomberg definitely has: the resources needed to go all the way to the convention in July. Only two months into his campaign, he already has 800 staffers on the payroll, a sign of strength matched by no other campaign. By contrast, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm MORE’s 2016 campaign reached the 800-staffer mark only two months before the general election.  


The Atlantic: The real power of Bloomberg’s money.


Politico: Democratic distress casts shadow over primary.


The Washington Post: Biden touts his foreign policy credentials, but faces doubts.


Politico: More Dems face debate chopping block.





> Pompeo out … for Senate: After months of speculation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told McConnell that he will not be launching a bid for Senate in his home state of Kansas to replace retiring Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsPat Roberts joins lobbying firm weeks after Senate retirement Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes Window quickly closing for big coronavirus deal MORE (R-Kan.). 


McConnell had lobbied Pompeo for months to run, which would have potentially cleared the field as Republicans continue to fear Kris Kobach’s presence in the campaign. Kobach, known for his hard-right views on immigration and incendiary remarks, lost the race for governor in the state in 2018 and Republicans worry that if he is the party’s nominee, the seat could fall into the Democratic column (The New York Times). 


Despite the plan not to run, Pompeo still has time to change his mind. The filing deadline for the race is not until June (The Hill). 


The Hill: Trump to hold campaign rally in district of Rep. Jefferson Van Drew's (D-N.J.). 


Also on the 2020 scene … Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro threw his support behind Warren to take home the Democratic nod on Monday. Castro’s announcement came less than a week after he shuttered his own 2020 bid after he was unable to break through with primary voters (The Hill) … Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) announced that he will once again run for president but under the Libertarian banner this time. Chafee was one of five candidates who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016 but was not considered a major candidate, having said that one of his top stances was switching the U.S. over to the metric system (The Hill).

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Why Trump should fear Sanders much more than Warren in 2020, by James Barnett, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2sHeRYJ  


The perils of a bipartisan presidential ticket, by Brad Bannon, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2ZTqEPK 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Megan Svoboda, chairwoman of Democratic Socialists for Bernie; Scott Dworkin, co-founder of the Democratic Coalition, to discuss the ongoing impeachment debate; David Sirota, senior adviser and speechwriter for the Sanders campaign, to discuss Sanders’s bid for the Democratic nod; and Aaron Glantz, senior reporter for Reveal. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House will return to work at 2 p.m..


The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Jovita Carranza to be administrator of the Small Business Administration.


The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpJill Biden picks up where she left off The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden navigates pressures from Dems Former first lady launches 'Office of Melania Trump' MORE welcome Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece and his wife to the White House for an hour of Oval Office discussions.


Pence will be interviewed by CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell for broadcast on the “CBS Evening News” at 6:30 p.m. ET. The vice president is expected to discuss U.S. tensions with Iran and Iraq.


Carlos Ghosn’s escape: A security weakness at Osaka Airport allowed the former auto executive to flee from Japan with the assistance of many clandestine helpers while facing prosecution for alleged financial corruption. Having fled to Lebanon and resisting extradition, Ghosn now says he will speak publicly on Wednesday to defend himself (The Wall Street Journal). Japan issued an arrest warrant for Ghosn’s wife, Carole, seeking ways to bring the fugitive back for trial (Reuters).


A criminal trial of former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein begins today in New York City with jury selection (NBC News). On Monday, Weinstein, who is accused of rape, sexual assault and harassment by women stretching back decades, was also charged by the Los Angeles district attorney with sex crimes (NBC News). If convicted of the most serious charges against him, Weinstein faces life in prison.


Venezuela: A crisis in Caracas deepened on Monday following the seizure of Venezuela’s legislature by allies of Nicolás Maduro, who blocked opposition leader Juan Guaidó from entering the National Assembly on Sunday (The Associated Press). The Trump administration has strongly backed Guaidó, 36, as the country’s leader but Maduro has hung on for a year. Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative to Venezuela, told reporters on Monday that the administration “is looking at additional sanctions, personal sanctions, economic sanctions that we think will bring more pressure yet on the [Maduro] regime.”


➔ “Jeopardy!” The battle for “Jeopardy!” supremacy kicks off tonight among a group of record-setters: Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter. The first competitor to win three games will take home $1 million. The tournament will air on ABC and start at 8 p.m. As always, the competition will be hosted by Alex Trebek, who continues to battle pancreatic cancer. Trebek recently issued words of support for Rep. John LewisJohn LewisHarris holds first meeting in ceremonial office with CBC members Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Congressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' MORE (D-Ga.), who announced he was also diagnosed with the disease in late December (The Associated Press). 





And finally … Imagine being born in Japan in 1903 and living long enough to savor your birthday cake in 2020 at the record-setting age of 117. “Supercentenarian” Kane Tanaka of Fukuoka is the world’s oldest living person, according to Guinness World Records. She celebrated another birthday on Jan. 2 with fanfare, television coverage, balloons and what Tanaka called some “tasty” cake (Reuters).