The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial

The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial
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Note to Morning Report readers: Please look for the next newsletter on Tuesday and enjoy the weekend!

The Senate opened its impeachment trial against President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE on Thursday as the chamber continues to consider taking testimony from new witnesses and wrestles with new allegations surrounding Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. 

The trial will not begin in earnest until Tuesday when the Senate passes a resolution to lay out the rules and procedures. According to The Hill’s Scott Wong and Cristina Marcos, the Senate will then notify the president’s defense team, which must be given at least two days’ notice, meaning opening arguments by Trump’s team and the House managers will not kick off until later in the week. 

The Senate formally accepted the articles of impeachment and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTop intelligence community lawyer leaving position Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Calif.), the lead manager, read the resolution that named the seven impeachment managers and the pair of articles from the well of the Senate. 

Chief Justice John Roberts was escorted with ceremonial flourishes to the Senate floor on Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators and was sworn in to preside over a trial predicted to consume weeks in the Senate.

The Associated Press: Trump’s trial begins, senators vowing “impartial justice.” 

While the upper chamber dealt with procedural matters on Thursday, new evidence and documents relevant to charges that Trump abused his powers emerged from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiWe should listen to John Bolton The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength MORE’s who has ties to Ukraine. 

Separately on Thursday, a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) accused the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of breaking the law by withholding military aid to Ukraine in 2019. Impeachment witnesses have testified to the House that they believed the order to block the aid, which was authorized by Congress, was given by Trump, who allegedly sought to pressure Ukraine to do him a political favor. 

GAO, an independent government watchdog, said the Budget Office withheld the appropriated funds last summer in order to advance Trump’s agenda, not as a programmatic delay, which violates a law governing Congress's role in setting the federal budget (The Hill).

“The timing is interesting, but the good news is we’re going to have a trial soon and I assume people will bring it up,” said Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTrump Fed nominee stirs controversy ahead of hearing Senators, bruised by impeachment, hunt for deals Plan to probe Bidens sparks GOP divisions MORE (R-N.D.) of the report, which he noted he had not read in full. 

The president and his advisers maintain the administration held up the money for a period of time because Trump worried about corruption in Ukraine. Others accuse Trump of using the foreign aid as a pry bar to get Ukraine to dig up dirt about a political rival, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination Meghan McCain to Joy Behar: 'You guys have done a piss-poor job of convincing me that I should vote for a Democrat' MORE.

Parnas accused the president of being in the know from the start about Giuliani’s pressure campaign with the Ukrainians. It allegedly included an effort to remove then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchDemocrats worried about Trump's growing strength Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment MORE and nudge Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into Biden and his son Hunter Biden

Asked about Parnas during an appearance in the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump said he doesn’t “know him at all.” Parnas was interviewed on Wednesday during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowTlaib says she held Omar's hand during 'triggering' moments at Trump's State of the Union speech Schiff: Bolton 'refused' to submit affidavit on Trump's involvement in Ukraine controversy Tlaib says mention of Kavanaugh was 'trigger' to walk out of Trump speech MORE (The Hill).

“I don't even know who this man is, other than I guess he attended fundraisers so I take a picture with him,” Trump told reporters. “I take thousands and thousands of pictures with people all the time. Thousands during the course of a year.”   

“I don't know him at all,” Trump repeated. “Don't know what he's about. Don't know where he comes from. Know nothing about him. I can only tell you this thing is a big hoax.” 

Among documents released was a message from Trump’s attorney Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment Roberts emerges unscathed from bitter impeachment trial MORE to a former Trump attorney, John Dowd, saying the president consented to allowing Dowd to represent Parnas.

The Hill: New allegations, watchdog report complicate GOP position on impeachment trial. 

Dan Balz: The Senate trial will shape the president’s legacy and also that of his Republican Party.

The Hill: Vice President Pence denies Parnas allegations: “I don't know the guy.”

The Senate has not voted on whether to call additional witnesses during its impeachment trial. Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Toward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates MORE (R-Maine), who is running for reelection, said on Thursday she is “likely” to support witnesses following the first phase of the trial. She has not made decisions about which individuals should be questioned (The Hill).  

Senate Democrats are looking for a few Republican colleagues to buck Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request MORE (R-Ky.), who faces the voters in his state this year and says he wants a quick trial before what he expects will be Trump’s acquittal. Democrats particularly want to hear from former White House national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWe should listen to John Bolton The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Bolton decries White House 'censorship' in rare public remarks on his book MORE, who has signaled he would cooperate if subpoenaed. The president has sought to block all top advisers from providing depositions, arguing it would violate executive privilege. 

The Hill: GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff.

The Hill: Trump trial poses toughest test yet for Roberts. 

The Hill: Collins displaced McConnell as the most unpopular U.S. senator, according to Morning Consult poll. 

Senate Republicans appear to be coalescing around a fallback idea floated by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz takes aim at Alabama vasectomy bill: 'Yikes' 'Medicare for All' will turn into health care for none Cruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting MORE (R-Texas) for witness reciprocity. If Democrats want to call Bolton, for example, Republicans say they would seek to call Hunter Biden as a witness.  

“I think it’s a pretty reasonable approach,” Cramer said. “Clearly, we don’t want this to be what the House was. We want to demonstrate the seriousness that it deserves. We want it to be fair and look fair. It makes some sense, but not every witness is equal either.” 

Trump has done little to assertively defend his actions after it was disclosed last year that he sought a favor from Zelensky at the same time that U.S. foreign aid to Ukraine was held up. The president, who last year released notes from a July phone call with Ukraine’s president, on Thursday repeated his view that their conversation was routine. He has said his suspicions about Biden and his son are warranted and that the House impeachment was a “hoax” and the Senate trial is a sham.  

“I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!” Trump tweeted on Thursday afternoon as senators took oaths to render impartial justice in the third Senate trial of a president in American history.



CONGRESS: Trade: The Senate, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 89-10, approved a hemispheric trade pact negotiated by the Trump administration, working in a rush on Thursday before the Senate impeachment trial got underway (The Hill). The accord, described as a new and improved version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now heads to the president’s desk but must still be approved by Canada (Reuters).

Among the Democrats and one independent who opposed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) were Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (N.Y.); Independent presidential candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Warren: Bloomberg making debate will show how other candidates handle 'an egomaniac billionaire' HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination MORE (Vt.); Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency Lobbying world MORE (N.Y.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBloomberg set to debate in Nevada after qualifying in new poll Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Conway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments MORE (N.J.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHow the media fall in and out of love with candidates Conway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina MORE (Calif.), who sought the presidency and dropped out; plus Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMassachusetts Democrats question deployment of Border Patrol teams to sanctuary cities Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Senate Dems blast Barr for 'clear violation' of duty in Stone case, urge him to resign MORE (Mass.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats pan Trump's budget proposal as 'dead on arrival' Trump unveils .8 trillion budget that backtracks on deal with Congress End of impeachment trial to leave deep scars in Senate MORE (R.I.), Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedLawmakers wary as US on cusp of initial deal with Taliban Pavlich: The Senate defends its integrity Five Senate Democrats make impeachment case in Spanish MORE (R.I.), and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzBooker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium Poll: Majority of Democrats say Electoral College delegates should cast ballots based on popular vote Democrats praise Romney for breaking with GOP on convicting Trump MORE (Hawaii). Also voting against the deal was Republican Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (Pa.) (The Hill).

> Intelligence: Worried that annual testimony about global threats before Congress could spark Trump’s wrath, as it did last year, intelligence officials have quietly approached lawmakers and Capitol Hill staff members about putting the information-sharing behind closed doors (CNN). Schiff requested on Wednesday that acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireTop intelligence community lawyer leaving position Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump considering Utah GOP lawmaker for top intelligence post: report  MORE appear before the panel next month, but Maguire has not responded (The Hill). During public questioning at last year's hearing, top intelligence chiefs appeared to counter several of Trump’s claims about his foreign policy. The president the next day blasted his top intelligence advisers, complaining they were soft on Iran. 

> Facebook: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Lawmakers push back at Trump's Pentagon funding grab for wall Malaysia says it will choose 5G partners based on own standards, not US recommendations MORE (D-Calif.), whose misgivings about Facebook are unstinting, on Thursday called the global tech behemoth “irresponsible” and accused the California-based company of purposely misleading its billions of users (The Hill).

The Facebook business model is strictly to make money,” she said at a news conference. “They don't care about the impact on children, they don't care about truth, they don't care about where this is all coming from, and they have said even if they know it's not true they will print it.” 

Pelosi last year was the victim of a manipulated video (known as a deepfake) created by a conservative prankster. It went viral on social media platforms and Pelosi immediately called on Facebook to remove the clip, which was altered to make the Speaker’s words appear slurred. Facebook refused, saying its rules do not require content on the platform to be true. Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergSoros: Zuckerberg, Sandberg should be removed from control of Facebook The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Facebook white paper calls for 'new type of regulator' for the good of its business MORE also told Congress last year that political advertising on Facebook does not have to be truthful or accurate.

I think they have been very abusive of the great opportunity that technology has given them,” Pelosi added (The Hill).




CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Biden allies say the squabble between Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren: Bloomberg making debate will show how other candidates handle 'an egomaniac billionaire' Klobuchar campaign gets first super PAC HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination MORE (D-Mass.) and Sanders could help them as the race for the Democratic nomination inches closer to the Iowa caucuses, which are just over two weeks away. 

According Amie Parnes’s latest report, Biden supporters argue that while the Vermont independent has been ascending in the polls and remains formidable financially, the ongoing brouhaha with Warren could hamper his support levels with women as they may see the battle as petty and sexist. 

“This proves that once again, even on our side, he's above all the pettiness that we see in politics today,” said one longtime ally who has spoken to the former vice president in recent days. “And he doesn't have to do a thing. He just needs to kick back and let them prove his point. 

Despite going out of their way not to attack each other throughout the campaign, the two progressive leaders have butted heads repeatedly in recent weeks, with the most explosive back-and-forth coming after Tuesday’s Democratic debate when they accused one another of lying about the contents of a meeting in December 2018., Warren claims that Sanders said during the meeting that a woman couldn’t be elected president. 

The New York Times editorial board: The Joe Biden interview. (The Times’s endorsement in the Democractic primary will be announced on Sunday).

The Washington Post: Sanders-Warren rift highlights liberal divide: purity versus pragmatism.

The Hill: Sanders and Warren haven’t spoken since debate clash on sexism allegation. 

The Washington Post: Impeachment trial will test Democratic senators with higher ambitions.

The Hill: Democrats plan major investments in state legislative races.



> Bloomberg on Capitol Hill: Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergBloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Warren: Bloomberg making debate will show how other candidates handle 'an egomaniac billionaire' HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination MORE appeared on Capitol Hill on Thursday as he looked to gain support from lawmakers as he continues his unprecedented bid to nab the Democratic nomination.

Bloomberg met with Democrats across the spectrum during his appearance, sitting down with members from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Blue Dogs, New Democrats and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus throughout the day. 

Bloomberg’s visit comes as he continues to ramp up his operation, which includes more than 1,000 staffers across the country. His operation is aimed at defeating Trump in key battleground states. Recently, he earned his first endorsements from members of Congress as Reps. Max RoseMax RoseVulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders Rose, former FBI agent pen op-ed about the danger of global white nationalism: 'Terrorism is terrorism' MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues MORE (D-N.Y.) and Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphySan Francisco mayor endorses Bloomberg Rep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements MORE (D-Fla.) threw their support behind the former mayor (Politico). Rep. Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaLet engineers make engineering decisions on local infrastructure projects EPA pushes back on Oversight review of ethics program House holds moment of silence for Kobe Bryant MORE (D-Calif.) followed suit this morning. 

Following his appearance in Washington, Bloomberg is slated to campaign in California, Utah and Oklahoma in the coming days as he continues to court voters outside of the four early voting states and spend big dollars on television ads.  

The Wall Street Journal: The Bloomberg Effect: Huge spending transforms 2020 campaign dynamics.

The Hill: Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHouse passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia House rejects GOP resolution condemning Pelosi for ripping up Trump's speech MORE (R-Wyo.) decides against Senate bid.

The Associated Press: New rules could muddle results of Iowa caucuses

The Hill: House GOP campaign chief: Members “need to get their act together and raise more money.”



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



Half a cheer for Trump's China trade deal, by Desmond Lachman, opinion contributor, The Hill. 

Expect the unexpected from Iran, by Cynthia E. Ayers, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaOmar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Democrats call for Twitter, Facebook to take down Pelosi video posted by Trump The Memo: Sanders supporters sense victory in Iowa MORE (D-Calif.) on the day’s events and the 2020 race; Jim Carroll, Office of National Drug Control Policy director, on U.S. drug problems; Misty Rebik, the Iowa State director for the Sanders’s presidential campaign; and Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackHill's Editor-In-Chief: Are Joe Biden donors panicking? The Hill's Editor-in-Chief: Nightmare week for Democratic establishment Lawmakers discuss how to work together in midst of impeachment fight MORE, editor-in-chief of The Hill, with his weekly DeBrief segment. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

The House meets at 10:30 a.m.

The Senate convenes on Tuesday at 1 p.m. to begin the Trump impeachment trial.  

The president, joined by Vice President Pence at 11 a.m., will welcome to the White House East Room the 2019 College Football National Champions, the Louisiana State University Tigers. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpNASCAR postpones Daytona 500 due to rain after Trump visit Trump greeted with applause, cheers from NASCAR fans upon arrival at Daytona 500 NASCAR star Hailie Deegan poses with Trump at Daytona 500 MORE depart the White House at 2:30 p.m. to spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. At 6:30 p.m., the president speaks with donors at a Palm Beach political roundtable event. At 7 p.m., Trump speaks to a joint GOP finance committee fundraising dinner.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDemocratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment MORE meets with Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi at 8:30 a.m. at the State Department. The secretary speaks at the Organization of American States at 11 a.m. Pompeo will officiate at 3 p.m. back at the department at the  ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun.  

The Hill on Tuesday hosts an event, Mayors Matter: Deepening the Generational Compact in Communities,” 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.


Puerto Rico: Subsisting in tent shelters, families in Puerto Rico are reckoning with uninhabitable homes in the U.S. territory after damages caused by a major earthquake and more than 1,000 aftershocks this month. The temblors keep children out of school and nerves on edge, and Puerto Rico's Office of Emergency Management estimates that more than 8,000 people have sought refuge in outdoor shelters. Fewer than half are in government-run shelters; the rest are in informal shelters or in shelters run by non-governmental organizations (NBC News). Trump on Thursday approved a federal disaster declaration that unlocks more aid for the island, which has a population of more than 3 million people (The Hill). 

Ukraine: Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk submitted his resignation today after audio surfaced in Ukraine in which he is heard criticizing Zelensky’s understanding of economics. Honcharuk said the damaging audio was a compilation of “fragments of recorded government meetings” and he blamed unidentified “influential groups” for the disclosure (The Associated Press).  

MLK Jr. events: The National Park Service waives entrance fees at 110 park sites for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, the first of five fee-free days at national parks this year (USA Today). From Everglades National Park in Florida, to Acadia National Park in Maine and Yellowstone National Park in Idaho, the savings and enjoyment are out there! Check the list HERE. … On a more somber note, civil rights icon Rep. John LewisJohn LewisHouse passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum NAACP to honor John Lewis 10 Democrats to boycott Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Ga.), who first met Martin Luther King Jr. as a teen and is now battling pancreatic cancer, was to be the keynote speaker for a Monday speech with the MLK Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan, but Lewis, who will be 80 next month, is limiting his travel ( Speaking in his place will be a roster of officials, including Michigan Democratic Sens. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersState officials press Congress for more resources to fight cyberattacks Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyberattacks on state and local governments Senate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle MORE and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowGAO launches investigation into Trump aid for farmers Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength GAO to review Trump administration's billion farm bailout MORE, and Rep. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinThe Hill's Campaign Report: Buttigieg, Sanders ahead in Iowa debacle Vulnerable House Democrats benefit from fundraising surge amid impeachment Mixed feelings on war power limits: Lawmakers and vet candidates MORE, a Democrat (The Hill). 

Mets: Carlos Beltrán’s 10-week tenure as New York Mets manager ended Thursday before he spent a single game on the bench, the latest fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal that has rocked Major League Baseball. The Mets announced the decision in a news release, saying Beltrán and the team “agreed to mutually part ways.” Beltrán was the only Astros player mentioned on Monday when MLB issued its findings from an investigation into the club’s conduct. The report said Beltrán was among the group involved in the team’s illicit use of electronics to pilfer signs used by opposing catchers with pitchers. The scheme was to help batters during Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship (The Associated Press). Another pressing matter for baseball is how technology continues to affect the sport in the wake of this scandal, examined by The Associated Press.


And finally … Kudos to the winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! 

These baseball experts (and perhaps smart Googlers) aced the trivia puzzle about the history of high-profile Major League Baseball suspensions: Patrick Kavanagh, Donna Nackers, Allyson Foster, Barry Reich, Margaret Gainer, BJ Ford, Michael Palermo, Elizabeth Murphy, William Chittam, Luther Berg, Mike Roberts, Phil Kirstein and John Donato. 

In 1990, George Steinbrenner was the MLB owner who was permanently banned (although eventually reinstated) after hiring a gambler to dig up dirt on future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. 

In the summer of 1989, Bart Giamatti was the MLB commissioner who permanently banned Cincinnati Reds legend Pete Rose for betting on baseball.  

In 1921, eight members of the Chicago White Sox — dubbed the “Black Sox” — were banned from baseball for life for allegedly throwing the 1919 World Series. Decades later, the suspended players were the subjects of two movies: “Eight Men Out” and “Field of Dreams.”

Less than five months after he appeared before Congress in March 2005 to declare, “I have never used steroids, period,” Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was suspended for 10 days.