The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial questions; civil Democratic debate




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Wednesday! 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 House is set to vote today to send the two articles of impeachment against President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE to the Senate after holding onto them for nearly a month as the upper chamber continues to prepare for the trial to get underway in earnest next week.


As part of that preparation, senators remain locked in a public back-and-forth over witnesses appearing at the trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.) decried calls from Senate Democrats for fresh witnesses, saying they want the chamber to go "fishing" during the trial (The Hill). 


The GOP leader also indicated that he is open to bringing Hunter Biden to testify about his dealings with Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company, if Democrats proceed with their push to have former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE, among others, testify. 


“We'll be dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial, and I think it’s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses that they wanted to hear from,” McConnell told reporters when asked about GOP senators who want the son of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE to testify.  “When you get to that issue, I can’t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called” (The Hill).


With the House vote coming down the rails today, one thing that remains unknown is which lawmakers will serve as managers for the trial. According to Cristina Marcos, Scott Wong and Mike Lillis, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Democrats accuse GSA of undermining national security by not certifying Biden win MORE (D-N.Y.) are widely expected to serve as managers, along with others from their committees. Among those whose names are being floated are Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDemocrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins Congress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act COVID-19 and the problem of presidential succession MORE (D-Md.) and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.). They declined to discuss their roles or the expected list of managers. 


The Hill: House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate.


The Hill: Senate braces for Trump impeachment trial.


On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president’s legal team is readying for the upcoming trial, which will take place in part while Trump and his aides are out of the country at an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland.


As Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels write, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his team of lawyers, as well as the president’s personal attorney Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowBiden faces politically thorny decision on Trump prosecutions Trump cannot block grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, court rules Now, we need the election monitors MORE, have planned for weeks in the event of a trial to challenge the pair of articles that charge the president with abuse of power.  


“We’ve been prepared to proceed as early as mid-December,” Sekulow told The Hill. 


GOP senators expect the trial to extend beyond Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4, meaning it could continue through the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 and possibly the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11. That would complicate the presidential bids of Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care Biden: 'Difficult decision' to staff administration with House, Senate members MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach No, the government cannot seize, break or 'bypass' pharmaceutical patents — even for COVID-19 MORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (D-Minn.) while they work to mobilize support in the early-voting states (The Hill). 


The Hill: GOP senators say impeachment rules won't include motion to dismiss. 


The New York Times: Trump’s impeachment trial a perilous duty for Chief Justice John Roberts


Roll Call: Impeachment trial security crackdown will limit Capitol press access. 


The wait is also on for the Senate to release the resolution that will lay out the rules from the outset of the trial. Some in the GOP are weighing whether to allow a vote to dismiss the trial because such a vote does not have sufficient support in the Senate. 


However, a growing number of senators want the opportunity to call new trial witnesses. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Maine) is leading such an effort with outreach to Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden teams to meet with Trump administration agencies Paul Ryan calls for Trump to accept results: 'The election is over' Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism MORE (R-Utah), Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump administration denies permit for controversial Pebble Mine Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R-Alaska) and others. 


“My position is that there should be a vote on whether or not witnesses should be called,” Collins said (The Associated Press).


Elsewhere, House Democrats released a load of new documents they obtained from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump calls into Pennsylvania meeting to renew election claims Watch live: Pennsylvania GOP holds hearing on voter fraud with Giuliani, Trump campaign A way out of Trump's continuing crisis: a President Pence MORE. The documents revealed new details about the push to oust former Ukraine ambassador Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchWhy it's time for a majority female Cabinet Giuliani associate Correia pleads guilty to making false statements Teenager who filmed George Floyd's death to be honored MORE and have Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky investigate the Bidens (The Hill). 


According to the documents, Giuliani requested a private meeting with Zelensky with the “knowledge and consent” of Trump. They also included handwritten notes by Parnas Ritz-Carlton hotel stationary from Vienna. Though the notes are undated, one refers to the need to “get Zalensky [sic] to Annouce [sic] that the Biden case will be Investigated,” ending with asterisks around Giuliani’s name (NBC News). 


The Washington Post: Ukraine prosecutor offered information related to Biden in exchange for ambassador’s ouster, newly released materials show.


Daily Beast: Meet the Trump donor who allegedly stalked America’s ambassador in Ukraine. And read his Tuesday text response on Tuesday to The Associated Press.


READ: House docs on Giuliani associate Lev Parnas's texts, notes.





CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: The 2020 Democratic primary field debating in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday night holstered their familiar weaponry against one another from the stump and largely took aim at Trump during the seventh debate of the primary process. 


While the four top-tier candidates are bunched together in polling in early voting states, none scored a breakout debate moment. And none of the six candidates on the stage stumbled badly during the final televised debate event before Hawkeye State Democrats head to the polls in 19 days.


In recent days, headlines have centered on the emerging feud between Sanders and Warren, the two most prominent progressives, particularly over a private meeting in December 2018 during which Sanders allegedly opined that a woman cannot win in 2020. The Vermont Independent forcefully denied the report this week, and did so again on Tuesday night. 


“As a matter of fact, I didn’t say it,” Sanders said. “Anyone who knows me knows that it is incomprehensible that I do not think a woman could be president of the United States.” (The Hill).


Warren gave no ground, saying that Sanders did make the remark. “Bernie is my friend, and I’m not here to fight with my friend,” she said after her point was made. She quickly pivoted from battling with the Vermont senator to talking up female candidates’ winning track record, pointing to the election success she and Klobuchar have enjoyed.


“Look at the men on this stage,” she added. “Collectively they have lost 10 elections.” 


The Hill: Warren: Women on stage the only ones undefeated in elections. “Thanks, Elizabeth,” Klobuchar responds in agreement.


The Associated Press: Warren makes debate case: Democratic women can beat Trump.


Biden showed a flash of emotion after a largely low-energy night when asked at the end of the debate whether he might wilt under Trump’s campaign barrage if he becomes the nominee. Arguing that Trump wants to run on the economy, Biden said he advocates for the middle class and those trying to climb.


“They’re being clobbered. They’re being killed,” he said, noting wryly that he’s been the “object of Trump’s affection” for months and has held up under the pummeling. “I’m looking forward to the economic debate.” 


For the second straight debate, it was a strong night for Klobuchar, who made her presence felt on a number of topics. On healthcare, she battled with Sanders over the strength of a public option compared with the expensive “Medicare for All” proposals he and Warren champion.


"If you want to be practical and progressive at the same time, and have a plan and not a pipe dream, then you have to show how you're going to pay for it," Klobuchar said. "And I would also note, practically, that the Affordable Care Act right now is 10 points more popular than the president of the United States."


Niall Stanage: Five takeaways from the Democratic debate.


The Hill: Sanders, Warren exchange underscores Iowa stakes.


The Associated Press analysis: Dems strain for civility, contrasts burst through.


The Hill: Biden, Sanders tangle on the Iraq vote.


The Hill: Sanders stands alone in opposition to U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.


The Hill: Biden slams Trump on Soleimani strike: “He flat-out lied.”


Candidates are scheduled to debate for the eighth time during the primary process on Feb. 7, just days ahead of the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11. Those who qualify will assemble on at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., for a broadcast anchored by ABC with partners WMUR-TV and Apple News. Next month, there are three scheduled debates during an 18-day span. 





> Trump in Milwaukee: The president rallied Wisconsin supporters on Tuesday night by defending his decision to kill a top Iranian general. At the same time in Washington, Democrats vowed to remove him from office, and Democratic presidential candidates used a debate in Iowa to argue that Trump has made the country less safe. The contrast on Iran in nearly real time was a stark reminder about the nation’s political divide, including on national security, the Middle East and terrorism (The Associated Press). 


The New York Times: Trump and his aides are focused for now on two rivals (neither is the front-runner).


The Hill: Trump touts killing of “son of a bitch” Soleimani. 


The Hill: Trump suggests LBJ is in hell. “He’s probably looking down — or looking up.”


ADMINISTRATION & WHITE HOUSE: After more than a year of fitful negotiations and uncertainty between the United States and China over trade and intellectual property, Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He are scheduled this morning to sign a “phase one” agreement and release 86 pages of details.


The two countries agreed that existing U.S. tariffs are to remain in place until after the November elections as an enforcement mechanism — and an unmistakable sign that Trump sees his approach to China as a reelection selling point (Bloomberg News).


Businesses remain concerned that commitments by Beijing, including purchases of U.S. agricultural products, will not be enforceable. News that tariffs will remain in place for at least another 10 months sent stock prices lower. China hawks remain dubious that the deal will resolve Beijing’s reputation for violating terms of such agreements (The Hill).


Barron’s reported five broad areas of progress in the phase one agreement, which is to be followed immediately with negotiations for a second phase that Trump has said won’t wrap up until after the elections. Trump initially predicted next phases of talks will be more difficult with China, which is why trade watchers are eager to see today’s details.


Meanwhile, the U.S. trade deficit with China shrank in 2019 (The Wall Street Journal).


The Associated Press: U.S.-China pact signing to ease tension but leave much undone.


> Mexico & Canada: A measure to implement the administration’s trade accord negotiated with Mexico and Canada to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement comes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning. The question among many businesses and labor groups is whether a Senate floor vote happens before an impeachment trial gets underway next week.


Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (D-Ohio), the ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee and a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said during an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday that he believes a vote by the full Senate on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will take place next week. The Senate may relegate the six-day-a-week impeachment trial to afternoons, he added, while other legislative business takes place in the mornings.


> Department of Justice: Trump, Attorney General William BarrBill BarrClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Five federal inmates scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day Redeeming justice: the next attorney general MORE and lawmakers from both parties have pressed tech giant Apple to unlock iPhones belonging to a Saudi national accused of fatally shooting three Americans on Dec. 6 at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., before he was killed by authorities (The Hill). Apple has refused to unlock the password-protected devices but says it is providing assistance to the federal government, which labeled the shootings as terrorism (CNBC). Experts argue the FBI can unlock the phones without Apple’s help as a years-old debate continues between the government and tech companies about providing “backdoor” access so that law enforcement can override encryption (Bloomberg News). 


Trump voiced his objections to the company’s long-established stance via a tweet on Tuesday night: “We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers  and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW!”




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!


DNC goof: Bloomberg should be on debate stage, by Liz Peek, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2RuoXEL 


Tehran could turn Trump into a regime changer, by Ilan Berman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3a9m0ll 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, with his reaction to the Iowa debate; Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 campaign communications director, also discusses the Democratic candidates and the debate in Des Moines; Cenk Uygur, host and founder of “The Young Turks,” joins with campaign analysis; and co-founder of Democracy at Work and Marxian economist Richard D. Wolff offers his take on the state of the U.S. economy. 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 10 a.m. At noon, lawmakers will debate and vote on authorizing managers for the Senate impeachment trial following transmittal to the Senate of two articles against Trump alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m.


The president joins Chinese officials at the White House for the signing of a long-negotiated trade accord at 11:30 a.m. He will have lunch with Vice Premier Liu of China. Trump meets with Secretary of Defense Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition Brennan takes final shot at Trump: 'I leave his fate to our judicial system, his infamy to history, & his legacy to a trash heap' MORE at 2:15 p.m.


The Hill hosts an event, Mayors Matter: Deepening the Generational Compact in Communities,” next Tuesday in Washington from 2 to 4 p.m. with influential mayors from Michigan, Kansas and Florida and community leaders who describe contributions of older adults and the societal benefits of intergenerational bonds. Find information HERE.  


Mystery virus warning: The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that a new coronavirus identified in China could lead to a wider outbreak. For the first time, the mystery strain that caused one known death on Saturday was identified outside of China in Thailand and a female patient was quarantined, according to the United Nations agency, which advised hospitals worldwide about infection prevention and control. There is no specific treatment for the new virus, which is thought to be tied to at least 41 cases of pneumonia in China (Reuters). Chinese health officials concurred today with the agency’s information (The Associated Press).


Boeing: American Airlines and United Airlines extended cancellations of 737 Max flights into June, while Southwest Airlines pulled the plane from its schedule until April. Boeing tasked its newest CEO, David Calhoun, who began work on Monday following the board’s December decision to fire his predecessor, Dennis Muilenburg, with getting the troubled plane back in the air in the midst of a regulatory and safety crisis involving the Federal Aviation Administration, investors and a troubled culture within the company (Reuters). Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday that Boeing approached a collection of banks handled through Citigroup to help the company with loans. 





UFOs: U.S. Navy Intelligence says “grave damage” could befall U.S. national security if top secret UFO files are released (CBS). In response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the government confirmed the Office of Naval Intelligence possesses several top-secret documents and at least one classified video pertaining to a 2004 encounter between Navy pilots and unknown aerial phenomenon over the Pacific Ocean, Vice reported.


➔ “Jeopardy!” It’s official: Ken Jennings is the greatest “Jeopardy!” competitor of all time. Jennings, best known for his 74-day win streak on the show in 2004, defeated James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter for the third time on Tuesday night in the show’s “Greatest of all Time” tournament, taking home the $1 million prize. After putting up a strong performance in the first half of Tuesday’s show, Jennings clinched his third match win after correctly answering the “Final Jeopardy!” clue, which asked which non-title character in a Shakespearean tragedy delivered the most speeches. Jennings correctly answered, “Who is Iago?” although he bet none of his points. Holzhauer could have won the match with a correct answer, but incorrectly wrote “Who is Horatio?” and bet all of his points (The Associated Press). 


And finally … The Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne continued to battle smoke and bad air on Tuesday caused by months of brush fires. Dalila Jakupović, a Slovenian player, quit her qualifying match after falling to her knees on the court in a coughing fit brought on by thick smoke that prevented her from continuing. Tournament managers are being criticized by some for holding the competition in environmentally precarious conditions (The Associated Press).