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 John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus 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 EsperOvernight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy House Democrat optimistic defense bill will block Trump's Germany withdrawal Overnight Defense: Famed Navy SEAL calls Trump out | Yemen's Houthi rebels free two Americans | Marines fire commander after deadly training accident 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 MacronFrench high school teacher decapitated in possible terrorist attack France sets one-day record with more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases French ministers' homes searched in probe of response to virus 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 PelosiPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus 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 PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo warns any arms sales to Iran will result in sanctions as embargo expires Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of missile strike that killed at least 13 MORE, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelFormer Trump campaign adviser named to senior role at CIA: report CIA letting less intelligence on Russia reach Trump: report Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide 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 McConnellPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal 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 BoltonJohn Kelly called Trump 'the most flawed person' he's ever met: report Bolton: North Korea 'more dangerous now' Demand for Trump-related titles sparks expected record year for political books 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 MulvaneyTrump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? On The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security MORE, among others, to testify. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts The 2016 and 2020 Senate votes are about the same thing: constitutionalist judges Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking 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 RomneyThe Memo: Trump's second-term chances fade Romney slams Trump for refusing to denounce QAnon on national television Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy 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) GottheimerTrump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks Trump's illness sparks new urgency for COVID-19 deal House approves .2T COVID-19 relief bill as White House talks stall 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 BloombergA closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare Biden campaign swamps Trump on TV airwaves 2020 election already most expensive ever 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 WarrenPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Georgia senator mocks Harris's name before Trump rally: 'Kamala-mala-mala, I don't know' Warren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates MORE (D-Mass.) and top former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 Biden town hall questioner worked as speechwriter in Obama administration: report 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 Clinton Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw 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 RobertsSenate GOP's campaign arm releases first ad targeting Bollier in Kansas The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida National Republicans will spend to defend Kansas Senate seat 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 TrumpFauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Melania Trump slams 'salacious gossip' by ex-adviser who wrote tell-all book Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol 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 LewisWashington flooded with Women's March protesters ahead of Barrett confirmation vote HBCU in Alabama renames hall named after KKK leader Cedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins 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).