The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment tug-of-war expected to end soon

The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment tug-of-war expected to end soon
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The Senate is gearing up to kick off its impeachment trial next week as it continues to wait for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiWe need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen Florida Democrat hits administration over small business loan rollout The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update MORE (D-Calif.) to send the two articles of impeachment across the Capitol after holding onto them for more than three weeks. 

Three Senate Republicans told The Hill’s Jordain Carney that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFlorida Democrat hits administration over small business loan rollout The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Schumer says nation will 'definitely' need new coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-Ky.) told the Senate GOP conference during a closed-door lunch on Thursday that they should not plan on returning to their home states next weekend, an indication that the trial will get underway next week.

"We thought, we as the body, that the Speaker will ... shortly send that over, so [he] said next weekend don't go anywhere," said Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyFive things being discussed for a new coronavirus relief bill Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Coronavirus bill includes more than billion in SNAP funding MORE (R-Ala.), characterizing McConnell's message as a heads-up that the Senate would be in session. 

According to Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerInfrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens GOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC GOP senator apologizes for tweet calling Pelosi 'retarded,' blames autocorrect MORE (R-N.D.), McConnell said that he expects the two articles to be transmitted to the Senate in the “next day or two.” 

"There's no reason for us to stay this weekend, but don't expect to be home next weekend was the basic message," Cramer said following the lunch. 

McConnell’s remarks came shortly after Pelosi told reporters that she plans to send the articles to the Senate “soon,” but declined to say when that would happen specifically. 

The comment came after weeks of pressure by Democrats to McConnell and the GOP to allow witnesses to appear at the Senate trial. Instead of passing one resolution laying out the rules and an agreement on witnesses, McConnell announced that the Senate will follow the precedent laid out in the 1999 impeachment of former President Clinton to pass a resolution on the rules, with a subsequent resolution on witnesses coming later on. 

"I'm not holding them indefinitely," Pelosi said during her weekly press conference. "I'll send them over when I'm ready, and that will probably be soon."  

The Speaker has said throughout the week that she wants more details about the Senate trial before she sends the articles over, including potentially viewing the Senate resolution (The Hill). 

"We need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?" Pelosi added.

The Hill: McConnell backs measure to change Senate rules, dismiss impeachment without articles. 

The Washington Post: “Soon,” Pelosi promises, as some Democrats grow restless over delay in Trump’s impeachment trial.

The Hill: Senate GOP resolution calls Pelosi's impeachment delay a “flagrant violation.”

Pelosi’s remarks come after taking on criticism from some Democratic lawmakers in recent days who believe she should stop waiting and just send McConnell the impeachment articles now that the GOP leader has the votes to begin the trial. Among those who called on the Speaker to do so were Sens. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinCOVID-19 and the coming corruption pandemic Encryption helps America work safely — and that goes for Congress, too Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children MORE (D-Calif.), Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Testing struggles emerge as key hurdle to reopening country Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers MORE (D-Conn.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPoliticians mourn the death of Bill Withers Pressure mounts for national parks closure amid coronavirus White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package MORE (D-W.Va.).  

Strikingly, one prominent House Democrat agreed with the Senate Democratic trio, before almost immediately walking back his stance. After telling CNN’s “New Day” that it was “time to send” the articles to the Senate, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithNavy chief apologizes to aircraft carrier crew, former captain after leaked speech House Armed Services chairman calls for removal of Navy chief Trump says he 'may look into' dismissal of ousted Naval captain MORE (D-Wash.) issued a statement saying that he “misspoke” and would "wholeheartedly support" Pelosi if she feels continuing to withhold the articles would "help force a fair trial in the Senate” (The Hill). 

Despite having lost in the first round of negotiations over witnesses, Carney reports that Senate Democrats are preparing for a second battle on the topic. Democrats are planning to force votes on witnesses and documents multiple times during the opening phase of the trial.  

Something to watch when that happens is where key Senate Republicans fall in line as most of them have not taken a position on whether they will support witnesses after the initial phase.

The Associated Press: Analysis: Pelosi’s delay tests public opinion on impeachment.

 



LEADING THE DAY

CONGRESS: Pelosi, arguing there are “real teeth” in a House resolution that would rein in Trump’s say-so to order military action against Iran, led her caucus on Thursday to approve a war powers measure on a largely party-line vote of 224-194 (The Hill).

A concurrent resolution, which does not need Trump’s signature and is customarily seen as non binding, would direct the president to steer clear of military hostilities with Iran unless he has congressional authorization or unless the country faces an “imminent armed attack.” 

The language, approved a day after lawmakers in both parties complained about the administration’s intelligence behind Trump’s drone killing of an Iranian general last week, continues the debate since at least 2001 about the legislative underpinnings relied on by presidents to order military operations in an age when terrorists do the work of armies. 

The Hill: Here are the members who bucked their parties on the war powers resolution.

The House action on Thursday left Democrats vulnerable to criticism they want to pressure Trump in an election year and would weaken national defense. Some Republicans, including Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Dybul interview; Boris Johnson update Pelosi, McConnell clash over next coronavirus bill Pelosi scales back coronavirus infrastructure proposal MORE (R-Calif.), argued the Speaker took the side of the Quds Force leader killed more than a week ago. Pelosi is “defending a monster,” the president said. He repeated his criticisms hours later in Ohio.

Pelosi rejected the president’s assertion and said her aim, along with her Democratic colleagues, is to prevent war.

Reliance by the legislative branch on a nonbinding resolution to try to cut off military hostilities under the War Powers Act has not been tested in court. 

> Election security: The CEOs of the three largest U.S. voting equipment companies on Thursday said they support a list of disclosure and security requirements included in pending House legislation, marking a major step for Congress and for an industry that has come under close scrutiny because of concerns that voting machines are vulnerable to tampering and hacking as a means to alter elections (The Hill).

> Drug prices: McConnell won’t take up a House-passed bill that would let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices for beneficiaries. The majority leader also won’t consider a bipartisan bill dealing with drug prices supported by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySusan Collins: Firing of intelligence community watchdog 'not warranted' Burr says intelligence watchdog should be 'independent' after inspector general firing Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors MORE (R-Iowa) because he worries it could divide Republicans before November. In an election year, the GOP foot-dragging could become a political liability (The Hill).  

> Budget: Democrats who are looking for ways to avoid an intra-party fight are likely to skip passage of a budget resolution this year (The Hill).  

*** 

IRAN: The 176 people aboard a Ukrainian passenger jet departing Tehran bound for Kiev this week were killed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile that may have struck the Boeing 737 by mistake, U.S. and Canadian officials said on Thursday (The Hill).

Iran today denied a missile hit the plane and called on the United States and Canada to share any information they have (The Associated Press).

“What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department, told a press conference. “If they are really sure, they should come and show their findings to the world” in accordance with international standards, he added. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauCanadian province leader 'infuriated' Trump blocking medical exports despite 9/11 help Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves Canada's Trudeau says US blockage of medical exports would be a mistake MORE on Thursday said his country reviewed its own and allied intelligence to determine that the plane, with 63 Canadians aboard, did not have mechanical problems, as initially asserted by Iran, but instead became a fireball and dropped out of the sky after being hit by an Iranian missile. Trudeau said the conclusion was preliminary and he called again for a full aviation investigation “to be convinced beyond all doubt” (The Associated Press).

The Associated Press: Canadians grieve and some blame Trump.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump said he did not believe the plane crashed because of mechanical troubles, adding that he hoped Iran would agree to turn over the plane’s black boxes and cockpit recordings to Boeing, or to an intermediary country such as France for a full investigation. 

“It’s a tragic thing when I see that. Someone could have made a mistake on the other side,” he told journalists (The Hill).

Reuters reported that a U.S. review of satellite data by officials concluded with a high degree of certainty that anti-aircraft missiles struck the plane, which was seen on fire soon after takeoff. One U.S. official said the jet had been tracked by Iranian radar and was most likely hit accidentally.

The crash this week revives bitter Iranian memories of the 1988 downing of Iran Air flight 655 by a U.S. Navy surface-to-air missile, described as an accident that 290 people. The Associated Press reports how that tragedy continues to inflame anti-American sentiment in Iran today.

> New sanctions: The president also said on Thursday that in response to Iranian ballistic missile strikes against two U.S. bases in Iraq, additional sanctions he announced on Wednesday have been levied against Tehran. 

“It’s already been done,” Trump told reporters. ”We’ve increased them. They were very severe, but now it’s increased substantially. I just approved it a little while ago with Treasury.” He offered no details and said the department would unveil the latest sanctions (Reuters).

 

 

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Holding his first campaign rally since the escalation and subsequent de-escalation in tensions with Iran, Trump trained his fire on Democrats over their criticisms for him not going to Congress to approve the strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“The radical left Democrats have expressed outrage over the termination of this horrible terrorist. And you know, instead, they should be outraged by Soleimani’s savage crimes and the fact that his countless victims were denied justice,” Trump told supporters in Toledo, Ohio. 

Specifically, Trump went after Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWisconsin Supreme Court blocks governor's effort to delay election The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Trump discuss coronavirus response; Wisconsin postpones elections Wisconsin governor postpones Tuesday's election over coronavirus MORE (I-Vt.) and Pelosi, arguing that the latter figure isn’t “operating with a full deck” and sarcastically saying she is a “real genius.”

“And we have Bernie and Nancy Pelosi, we have them all, they’re all trying to say, ‘How dare you take him out that way? You should get permission from Congress. You should come in and tell us what you want to do. You should come in and tell us so that we can call up the fake news back there and we can leak it,’” Trump continued, saying he didn’t have time to notify congressional leaders due to the last-minute nature of the decision.  

“We had to make a decision. We didn’t have time to call up Nancy, who is not operating with a full deck,” Trump said (The Hill).

On top of his criticisms of Pelosi and Sanders, Trump tried to make the case to his supporters that his moves in the Middle East were the correct ones, saying they were (and continue to be) guided by a “peace through strength” philosophy.  

“Last week, the United States once again took the bold and decisive action to save American lives and deliver American justice," Trump said. “Soleimani was actively planning new attacks and he was looking very seriously at our embassies and not just the embassy in Baghdad. We stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold” (The Hill).

Reuters: Trump uses campaign rally to trumpet Soleimani killing as “justice.”

The New York Times: Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCNN's Jake Tapper takes aim at Trump over coronavirus response: Do you have a plan? Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report Decentralized leadership raises questions about Trump coronavirus response MORE’s global role shrinks as he tackles another: The 2020 election.

 

 

> Debate: The seventh Democratic primary debate is set to include at least six candidates after Tom SteyerTom SteyerProgressive advocates propose T 'green stimulus' plan Candidates want data privacy rules, except for their own campaigns Budowsky: Biden should pull together a 'dream team of rivals' MORE qualified by notching requisite support levels in a pair of early voting state polls that were released Thursday evening.

In Fox News polls in South Carolina and Nevada, Steyer earned support from 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively, qualifying him for Tuesday’s debate in Des Moines. The billionaire entrepreneur has been spending heavily on the airwaves in the two early vote states. 

“This campaign is not about me,” Steyer tweeted after the polls were released.. “It’s about the hard-working Americans who want clean air and water, a just economy, and a Washington that works for them. That’s who I’ll be talking about Tuesday night and who I’ll be fighting for every single day in the White House.”

Steyer is slated to appear alongside Sanders, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Health Care: US hits 10,000 coronavirus deaths | Trump touts 'friendly' talk with Biden on response | Trump dismisses report on hospital shortages as 'just wrong' | Cuomo sees possible signs of curve flattening in NY We need to be 'One America,' the polling says — and the politicians should listen 16 things to know today about coronavirus MORE, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds Overnight Energy: Trump floats oil tariffs amid Russia-Saudi dispute | Warren knocks EPA over 'highly dangerous' enforcement rollback | 2019 sees big increase in methane levels in air Ex-CFPB director urges agency to 'act immediately' to help consumers during pandemic MORE (D-Mass.), former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden hosts potential VP pick Gretchen Whitmer on podcast Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats MORE (D-Minn.). The deadline to qualify is Friday night at midnight (The Washington Post).  

The Associated Press: Steyer wants climate change refugees to enter U.S. legally.

The Hill: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Biden.

The New York Times: Around the country in 17 Hours with Michael BloombergMichael BloombergDNC books million in fall YouTube ads Former Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign MORE

ABC News: Bloomberg won’t release women who sued him from secrecy agreements.

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!

OPINION

China has a new SARS-like virus. How serious is it? by Amesh Adalja, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2QF2DsL 

The Iran crisis presents counterterrorism risks and opportunities, by Javed Ali, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2N8iVIk

Correction: Allan Lichtman is the American University professor and opinion contributor who wrote about impeachment in Thursday’s Morning Report.

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Fred Fleitz, former chief of staff in the White House National Security Council, talks about Iran. Fleitz is president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy. Jamie Finch, formerly with the National Transportation Safety Board, discusses the latest intelligence and investigative options tied to the Boeing 737 passenger jet that fell out of the sky this week in Tehran. Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump blends upbeat virus info and high US death forecast Hill's Editor-In-Chief: Is Washington establishment failing the test of this crisis? Democrat: Lawmakers need to approach opioid crisis as 'a chronic situation' MORE, editor-in-chief at The Hill, delivers his weekly DeBrief segment at the end of a decidedly newsy week. 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 meets at 9 a.m.

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. on Monday.

The president meets with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to label white supremacist group as terrorist organization for first time Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report Trump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad MORE at 1:45 p.m.

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. reports on U.S. employment in December. The nation in November saw the lowest level of unemployment since 1969, and labor conditions are expected to look similarly upbeat as 2019 ended.

ELSEWHERE

U.S. & North Korea: Trump sent Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnTired of worrying about the pandemic? There's always Pyongyang Overnight Defense: Pentagon orders bases to stop reporting coronavirus numbers | Hospital ship arrives in NY | Marines pause sending new recruits to boot camp | Defense bill work delayed North Korea: 'Reckless remarks' by Pompeo show US doesn't want nuclear talks MORE a birthday greeting that was delivered to North Korea’s leader on Thursday. Kim’s birthday is believed to be Jan. 8, and he is thought to be 36 years old this year (Reuters). 

Environment: The White House on Thursday unveiled regulatory changes tied to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, seeking to let federal agencies sidestep reviews of climate effects when calculating the environmental impacts of major infrastructure projects (The Hill). Democratic lawmakers and environmental advocates blasted Trump for the changes they argue put business and development interests ahead of species, habitat and environmental protections (The Hill). Asked on Thursday about climate change and whether it’s a hoax, the president said “nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject” (The Hill). In recent months, Trump has modified his rhetoric but not his policy approach to global warming and the effects of greenhouse gases (E&E News).

Politics & sports: Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter, 27, says he wants to try his hand at politics as he navigates roles as a defender of human rights and critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan of Turkey, leader in his home country. Kanter hopes to become a U.S. citizen in 2021 and tells The Hill he’s thinking about a career in American politics: “I’ve been talking to a lot of congressmen, congresswomen, presidential candidates. So I'm like, you know what, why not just become one?”   

State Watch: Kansas is expected to become the 37th state to expand Medicaid as Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and the top Republican in the state Senate announced Thursday that they have reached a deal to provide health care coverage to more than 100,000 people in the state with the expansion. State Sen. Jim Denning announced he endorsed Kelly’s plan, which she hopes to pass through the state legislature to take effect a year from now (NBC News). 

More “Jeopardy!”: What is victory? Ken Jennings, best known for his record 74-day run on the quiz show, is one match away from being crowned the greatest of all time after handily defeating James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter on Thursday night. Jennings won in a runaway on Thursday, setting up Friday’s fourth and potentially final match as he leads Holzhauer with two match wins to one. The winner of the competition takes home $1 million (The New York Times). 

Olympic news: Japan will furnish cardboard beds for athletes at this year’s Olympic games. Creators say the recyclable cardboard furniture is stronger than wooden beds and can support the weight of hefty competitors up to 440 lbs. Largely missing from the bed spin: endorsements about comfort (The Associated Press).

 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to the winners of the first Morning Report Quiz of 2020! In a nod to Puerto Rico’s building-toppling natural disaster this week, we explored earthquakes. 

These puzzle masters dug deep for some tectonic trivia — and the right answers: Patrick Kavanagh, Tim Aiken, Donna Nackers, John Donato, Ron Wolfarth, Luther Berg and Carol Katz. 

They knew that Puerto Rico is squeezed between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates, which create an undersea fault zone (The New York Times). 

California and Alaska have experienced the most recorded earthquakes in the United States since the 1700s (LiveScience.com).  

The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), where seismologists work around the clock, is part of the federal U.S. Geological Survey (Nature). 

Former President Obama never felt a magnitude-3.4 earthquake that hit Washington in July 2010 and a magnitude-5.8 quake that shook the nation’s capital in August 2011 because he said he was asleep for the first, and was playing golf on Martha’s Vineyard during the 2011 event (Christian Science Monitor).