The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment week

 

 

 

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. 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!



The Senate is preparing for the impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE to kick off in the near future as Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill No signs of breakthrough for stalemated coronavirus talks Governors air frustrations with Trump on unemployment plans MORE (D-Calif.) readies to send the pair of articles across the Capitol to the upper chamber nearly a month after the House indicted Trump on what it considered high crimes and misdemeanors. 

 

With the Senate set to start the trial soon, Trump and Pelosi engaged a public battle on Sunday as she sat down with ABC News’s “This Week” and the president watched on, tweeting before and after the interview as the Speaker defended making him the third president to be impeached.

 

“It’s about a fair trial,” Pelosi said. “We’ve done our job. We have defended the Constitution of the United States. We would hope the Senate would do that as well.”

 

Pelosi also said that no matter what the Senate does, Trump will be “impeached forever” and “for life” after the House action last month. The president reacted shortly thereafter, declaring for the umpteenth time that he did nothing wrong and saying that being impeached is a “stigma” (The Associated Press). 

 

“Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong?” Trump tweeted (The Hill).

 

While the trial is coming down the rails, there are many unknowns surrounding the process, which The Hill’s Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis examine in their preview of coming attractions in the Senate. Headlining the outstanding questions: when the trial will even start and what the rules will look like in the upper chamber.

 

Pelosi is expected to name managers and transmit the articles this week, but when exactly is up in the air. In her “Dear Colleague” note on Friday, she said that she will do so after meeting with the Democratic caucus to discuss it on Tuesday morning. Once the articles are transmitted, the Senate trial is expected to start almost immediately. 

 

As for the Senate resolution laying out the rules, Pelosi has said she wants to see it before revealing the managers for the trial. Sources told Beavers and Lillis that the resolution will help her determine whether she selects members with more prosecutorial experience or constitutional and appellate experience.

 

Axios: What to expect this week as Pelosi prepares to send articles of impeachment.

 

The Hill: Trump hits Senate for giving impeachment “credibility” by holding trial.

 

The Washington Post: Pelosi says Trump “impeached for life” despite McConnell’s “gamesmanship,” “coverup.”

 

Other unanswered questions center around the politics of impeachment, headlined by the ramifications on the 2020 Democratic primary race. Five candidates, including two frontrunners for the nomination, will be holed up in Washington for the impeachment trial and proceedings, taking them away from the campaign trail and costing them valuable time with voters (The Hill).

 

What will happen regarding witnesses also remains to be seen. Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonEx-Trump adviser, impeachment witness Fiona Hill gets book deal Hannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon Congress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity MORE unexpectedly announced a week ago that he is ready and willing to testify if the Senate calls him to do so. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill No signs of breakthrough for stalemated coronavirus talks State aid emerges as major hurdle to reviving COVID-19 talks MORE (R-Ky.) has made it clear he’d prefer no witnesses, some Republicans would like to hear from Bolton and others. 

 

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsState aid emerges as major hurdle to reviving COVID-19 talks Senators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority MORE (R-Maine), who is running for reelection this year, said in an interview Friday that she is working with a “fairly small” group of Republican senators to ensure that an initial resolution on the impeachment trial rules allows for witnesses. Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans MORE (R-Utah) also said last week that he wants to “be able to hear from” Bolton, but didn’t weigh in on the process to make that happen. 

 

Democrats need four Republicans to agree to hear from witnesses, though Trump floated invoking executive privilege over Bolton’s potential testimony and remains a wild card.

 

Pelosi’s plan to transmit the articles this week comes after she held off doing so for three and a half weeks after they passed the House on Dec. 18. While some Democrats criticized her over the past week for holding on to them too long, she has defended her handling of the situation.

 

During the ABC News interview, she argued that the time allowed the focus to zero in on McConnell’s plan for the trial in the Senate, the discourse about witnesses in the upper chamber to expand and more evidence to come to light, among other reasons. 

 

Jonathan Allen: Could Democrats be better off without impeachment witnesses?

 

The Washington Post: A pact with Trump on impeachment? McConnell’s Kentucky backers demand it.

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Campaign Report: LIVE: Trump from Gettysburg | The many unknowns of 2020 | Omar among those facing primary challenges Trump's personality is as much a problem as his performance Sierra Club endorses Biden for president  MORE (I-Vt.) has turned into the marked man of the Democratic primary race, having taken on the role of political piñata as he rises in Iowa three weeks before the state’s caucuses and faces attacks from all comers on the political scene. 

 

Though Democrats have been going after Sanders for months, he has suddenly become the target of the president and his allies. 

 

As Jonathan Easley writes, the most notable shot came on Thursday night during the president’s campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, as he panned Sanders for criticizing the U.S. strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani of Iran. A separate Trump campaign statement warned that the Vermont Independent “can’t be trusted to defend American lives.”  

 

Earlier last week, the Trump campaign attacked Sanders as a “wealthy, fossil fuel-guzzling millionaire” who “lectures Americans on how to live their lives while doing the exact opposite.” The same statement also referred to Sanders as the “Democrats’ leading candidate for president,” a nod to Sanders’s improved position in the Democratic primary fight. 

 

“You know you’re doing well when you get attacked in politics, and the biggest concern in politics is if you don’t get any attacks because then you’re irrelevant,” said Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaCongress must enact a plan to keep government workers safe Sanders supporters launch six-figure ad campaign explaining why they're voting for Biden Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package MORE (D-Calif.), a top supporter of Sanders, of the Trump attacks. 

 

The Associated Press: Rising in the polls, Sanders takes jabs from Trump, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Nearly 100,000 children tested positive for coronavirus over two weeks last month | Democrats deny outreach to Trump since talks collapsed | California public health chief quits suddenly On The Money: Administration defends Trump executive orders | CBO reports skyrocketing deficit | Government pauses Kodak loan pending review Harris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick MORE (D-Mass.).

 

FiveThirtyEight: Election Update: Sanders now leads a wide-open Iowa race.

 

The Washington Post: Bernie Sanders’s campaign goes on the attack as he seeks a victory in the Iowa caucuses.

 

Along with the Trump concern, there is rising consternation among Democrats about Sanders’s standing in the race and that he could hurt the party in 2020 just like he did in 2016, as Amie Parnes reports

 

Complaints about Sanders from Democrats, some of whom have histories with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick Ron Johnson subpoenas documents from FBI director as part of Russia origins probe Juan Williams: Older voters won't forgive Trump for COVID MORE’s 2016 campaign, center around rhetoric being employed by Sanders they believe goes too far in damaging his rivals. Among other things, they believe it will make it hard for the party to unify around an eventual nominee, with particular concern surrounding the idea that his supporters won’t back any non-Sanders nominee.  

 

 “He needs to stop,” said one Democratic strategist, who is not affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns. “It's not helpful, and it actually hurts the party. It’s like he didn't learn his lesson the last time. It’s incredibly shortsighted and terrible.”

 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Four Democrats race for Iowa prize.

 

The Hill: Warren: “Disappointed” to hear Sanders urging volunteers “to trash me.”

 

The Associated Press: Ex-prisoners who can vote sought for Wisconsin 2020 election.

 

 

 

 

> Battle Born Democrats?: Although Iowa and New Hampshire continue to garner the lion’s share of attention, the Democratic field is ramping up efforts to win over Latinos in Nevada, a key voting bloc that will prove critical for the nomination and the party's prospects in 2020. 

 

As Rafael Bernal writes, Nevada holds symbolic importance for Latino groups nationwide as a key state where Democratic political power relies on Hispanic inclusion. However, alarm bells are going off among those groups as they argue that Democrats are not investing enough to pursue the country's second-largest voting bloc even as it could prove critical in determining whether the party can defeat Trump.  

 

“We have seen in the past a lot of promises, and when it comes time to govern we have seen they forget about the Latino community,” said Héctor Sánchez, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, a grassroots organization dedicated to growing Latino voter engagement.

 

Reuters: Biden aims to keep Nevada on his side.

 

Dan Balz: Two polls frame the Democratic race and the power of African American voters.

 

The Hill: Buttigieg picks up Iowa congressman's endorsement ahead of caucuses.

 

Reuters: Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEverytown on the NRA lawsuit: 'Come November, we're going to make sure they're out of power, too' Hillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom Meme group joins with Lincoln Project in new campaign against Trump MORE: “I’m spending all my money to get rid of Trump.” 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

IRAN: Trump’s policy goals with Iran and his authority to carry out new military operations will continue to be debated this week, along with his future in office.

 

Some of the president’s top national security advisers spent Sunday publicly defending intelligence they said persuaded Trump that killing Soleimani was an effective addition to the U.S. “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran (The Hill).

 

This week in the Senate, a bipartisan resolution that would restrict the president’s ability to use military action against Tehran without congressional approval will be ready to come to the floor. Sponsored by Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets USAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency MORE (D-Va.) with backing from Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (R-Utah), the resolution is two votes shy of the 51 needed to try to curb Trump’s unilateral authority to wage war with Iran (The Hill). House Democrats last week adopted a similar resolution. Kaine’s resolution requires the president’s signature, which he will not grant; the House resolution about war powers does not rely on his assent (The Hill).

 

Future hostilities by Iran against the United States are hypothetical, but experts warn that Tehran excels at asymmetric warfare, including cyber battles, in which there are no clear rules of engagement. There’s no international definition about what type of cyberattack by a sovereign nation or its proxies is an act of war (The Hill).

 

Democrats in Congress suggest that intelligence offered to lawmakers last week to justify killing Soleimani to stave off an “imminent” threat to the United States was vague and unpersuasive.

 

Trump, when pressed by Fox’s Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Wisconsin Republicans raise questions about death of Black Trump supporter Cain given tributes after death from COVID-19 MORE on Friday, provided a new detail, saying he believed four U.S. embassies were in the crosshairs for Iran-ordered attacks.

 

Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Esper confirms plans to drop below 5,000 troops in Afghanistan | State Department says it's cleared of wrongdoing in emergency arms sales before investigation's release 400 'hard-core' Taliban prisoners to be released ahead of Afghan peace talks Esper says officials still don't know source of Beirut blast MORE, when asked about Trump’s surprising comment, said Sunday he “didn’t see” intelligence pointing to four embassy targets. White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien defended Trump, but without corroborating those details.

 

“The president’s interpretation of that intelligence is very consistent with it,” O’Brien said.

 

He described the president’s decision not to share all classified intelligence with most in Congress as “standard procedure” for recent presidents to prevent leaks, an assertion publicly disputed by House and Senate Democrats who are experienced members of the intelligence panels.

 

The Hill: Administration officials grilled about Iran intelligence, policy during Sunday talk shows. 

  

CIA officers described to The New York Times intelligence about Iran that formed a “mosaic effect” — dots connected suggesting Soleimani was organizing forces around the region, including in Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, to attack American embassies and bases. Several officials said they saw a pattern but did not have enough specific information to describe a threat from Iran as “imminent.” 

 

Trump advisers said Sunday that killing Soleimani and nine others in a drone strike at the Baghdad airport eliminated plots against U.S. interests that were under discussion between Tehran and Iraqis sympathetic to Iran.

 

The president, Esper (pictured below), O’Brien and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Esper confirms plans to drop below 5,000 troops in Afghanistan | State Department says it's cleared of wrongdoing in emergency arms sales before investigation's release State says it will be cleared by watchdog report US 'deeply concerned' over election in Belarus MORE insist Soleimani’s killing, along with tightened economic sanctions and Trump’s rejection of the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, will prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and could force the regime back to the negotiating table on Trump’s terms. But analysts who have decades of experience with Iran say the administration erased leverage to nudge Iran to “act like a normal country,” a phrase the administration uses to describe its policy goal.

 

The people of Iran are going to hopefully have the ability at some point to elect their own government and to be governed by the leaders they choose,” O’Brien said on Sunday.

 

When journalist Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” said Iran was behaving more aggressively, not less, under Trump’s policies, O’Brien disagreed. “Iran is choked off,” he said. “There is no other way for them to get the money … to fund their malign activities. … They’re going to have to come to the table to negotiate. I think that’s highly likely.”

 

U.S. officials said they were encouraged by weekend protests in Iran condemning the government for its admission that it mistakenly shot down a passenger jet, killing 176 people, including its own citizens. The demonstrators in Tehran and a dozen other cities demanded that Iran’s leaders step down (Reuters). 

 

Video soon emerged showing Iranian security forces using ammunition and tear gas to try to disperse critics who gathered and chanted “Death to the dictator!” (The Associated Press). Trump warned Iran in two tweets on Sunday not to kill protesters and to allow journalists to “roam free.” Iran’s police today denied shooting into crowds (Reuters).

 

The president has long said that toppling Iran’s government is not U.S. policy. “We’re not looking for regime change. I want to make that clear,” Trump said in May at a news conference. “We’re looking for no nuclear weapons” (The Washington Post).

 

 

 



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

Trump is wrong. The United States does need Middle East oil, by Julian Lee, opinion contributor, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/35MuEmj

 

Will we do better in the 2020s than we did in the last decade? By Robert D. Hormats, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/35SvsX7 



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program sits down with Nina Turner, the national co-chairwoman of Sanders’s presidential campaign; interviews Cassie Chambers, author of “Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains”; and looks at the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses with Dave Redlawsk, professor and chairman of the University of Delaware’s political science department. 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 noon.

 

The Senate convenes at 3 p.m.

 

The president has lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:30 p.m. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate GOP, House Democrats begin battle over trillion bill Melania Trump announces plans to renovate White House Rose Garden Trump tweets photo of himself wearing a mask MORE depart the White House at 4:10 p.m. to fly to Kenner, La., to attend the college football playoff national championship in New Orleans between the Louisiana State University Tigers and the Clemson University Tigers at 8 p.m. It’s the third college football game Trump has attended in person this season. CBS Sports has details about the game. The Trumps return to the White House after midnight.

 

Pompeo is in the San Francisco Bay area through Wednesday to meet with representatives from U.S. tech companies as well as counterparts from Japan and Korea. He will speak at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and at the Commonwealth Club of California at a gathering of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.



ELSEWHERE

U.S. economy: Trump is heading into the final year of his first term celebrating a stable job market, robust stock market, continued consumer spending and low inflation. Yet beneath the positive economic indicators are vulnerabilities that could impact November’s elections (The Hill). ... Businesses are concerned that Trump’s "phase one" trade deal — to be signed by the United States and China on Wednesday at the White House (finally disclosing 86 pages of specifics) — won’t immediately produce phase two, which would mean many tough tariffs remain in place. Trump says the next round of negotiations will begin immediately but may not conclude until after the election (The Hill).  

 

Supreme Court: Justices on Tuesday will hear oral arguments in a case involving New Jersey’s “Bridgegate” scandal. The high court will weigh whether public officials commit fraud when they lie about reasons for policy decisions. The case hinges on convictions of an aide to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and a Port Authority official and a scheme gone wrong to punish a local mayor who refused to endorse Christie (The Hill). 

 

Firefox patch: Quick! If Firefox is your browser, update it. Hackers are exploiting a serious bug in the browser to take over computers, reports PCMag. The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber division issued an alert on Wednesday to encourage users to review the Mozilla advisories and apply necessary updates.

 

Pigskin: The NFL’s conference championship slate is now set after a wild divisional round saw upsets, near-upsets, and favorites taking care of business. In the NFC, the Green Bay Packers will head out west to face the San Francisco 49ers. As for the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs, which came back from 24 points down on Sunday to defeat the Houston Texans, will host the upstart Tennessee Titans. The underdog Titans toppled the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night (The Associated Press). The president apparently tuned in to watch

 

Hollywood Australia: Devastating bushfires Down Under inspired Hollywood stars and international celebrities to open their wallets for Australia and join a global push to battle climate change (The Hill).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … We wonder if Democratic presidential candidates will pursue potential voters, selfies and viral news exposure on icy slides at a New Hampshire winter amusement park, Ice Castles, which opened this weekend, along with another location in Utah. 

 

The man-made ice formations usually last well into February, depending on weather. The Ice Castles chain, which sports frozen sculptures, thrones, fountains and tunnels, has six locations in North America. Each is made up of hundreds of thousands of icicles hand-placed and illuminated by “professional ice artists“ (The Associated Press).