The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt'




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President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE engaged in a “corrupt scheme” last year to leverage U.S. national interests with Ukraine to gain personal political advantage over a rival and then impeded an impeachment inquiry in violation of the Constitution and his oath of office, members of the House told the Senate on Wednesday.


During Democrats’ eight hours of arguments as part of the third Senate impeachment trial in American history, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the prosecution’s lead trial manager, said Trump, leaning on emissaries including lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani again suspended from YouTube over false election claims Sacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Biden administration buys 100,000 doses of Lilly antibody drug MORE, set up a political “quid pro quo” by pressuring Ukraine’s new government and using U.S. military aid as leverage. When exposed, Schiff said, “the president offered multiple and shifting justifications for obstructing the House’s inquiry, each of them deficient, while his actions and statements powerfully reflect his own consciousness of guilt.” 


The former Los Angeles prosecutor (pictured above) spoke for nearly two and a half hours on Wednesday afternoon while summarizing what he called “uncontested” evidence to support two articles of impeachment alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. 


The seven House prosecutors are expected to fill up to 24 hours stretched over three days to try to persuade two-thirds of the Senate to remove Trump for what they describe as his corrupt motives and “lawless” actions.


The Hill: Democrats present their case to the Senate.


The New York Times: Two legal teams with contrasting strategies target a key audience (the public).


Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade A Biden stumble on China? MORE (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Wednesday that he hoped Schiff’s “tour de force” presentation, coupled with public opinion, might encourage enough Senate Republicans to join Democrats in seeking witnesses and documents blocked by Trump and the White House since September. “We’ll see,” he said. 


If Senate Republicans attempt to short-circuit a debate about calling witnesses after the president’s lawyers present Trump’s defense, Schumer said acquittal would be viewed by many Americans as a partisan cover-up. 


“The bottom line is this: The very first thing the American people saw when they tuned into the impeachment trial of President Trump was Republican senators voting against having a fair trial with relevant evidence,” Schumer said (The Hill).   


While Schiff made the case for the House managers, Senate Republicans directed their ire at House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse sets vote for George Floyd police reform bill Jim Jordan calls for House Judiciary hearing on 'cancel culture' House Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism MORE (D-N.Y.) after he accused them of “treacherous” behavior during an emotional speech early Wednesday morning. Senate Republicans said Nadler went too far and undercut the Democrats’ basic aim.


“I can tell you there was open gasping on the Senate floor when Nadler was saying those things,” Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks The Memo: Is Trump mounting a comeback — or finally fading? House plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal MORE (R-Mo.) told reporters. “If the goal was to persuade, they took a huge step back.”


The Hill: Democrats’ impeachment case lands with a thud with GOP — but real audience is voters.


The Washington Post: Senators urge House impeachment managers to tone it down after testy debate.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC MORE (R-Ky.) wants the shortest trial possible with no witnesses, but he is treading carefully. Some of his GOP colleagues have said they may want to hear from relevant witnesses after senators pose questions to the prosecution and defense teams, working through Chief Justice John Roberts, who presides. McConnell believes he can limit GOP defections on motions to secure new testimony from current or former Trump officials (CNN).


The Hill: Schumer vs. McConnell.  


Polling suggests that most Americans are deeply divided along party lines about whether Trump should be removed from office and are dubious they’ll hear anything during the trial to change their minds. The public’s confidence in the Senate to conduct a fair trial of Trump’s actions is limited, though Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the proceedings will be fair, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll released on Wednesday.


While few in Congress believe Trump will be convicted, there are hints in recent polling that the president’s reputation is not being helped by the swirl of House accusations. Because he’s so indelibly identified with the Republican Party, Trump’s low favorability and job approval numbers are of keen interest to GOP candidates this year. 


An astonishing 63 percent of Americans say the president has definitely or probably done things that are illegal, either during his time in office or while he ran for president. Seventy percent say he definitely or probably has done unethical things, according to a large survey conducted this month by the Pew Research Center.


The president’s defense team will soon get equal time to counter the prosecution, perhaps beginning on Saturday. Trump lawyer Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - New video of riot unnerves many senators Trump legal switch hints at larger problems Trump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates MORE (pictured below with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and attorney Eric Herschmann) said the defense case has been prepared but will incorporate specific rebuttals and detailed challenges depending on the presentations made by House members. The team is expected to raise a constitutional argument that a president cannot be impeached for abuse of power.


It’s unclear if Trump’s attorneys will use the entire 24 hours they have been given. The president has said he wants what Senate Republicans want — a speedy trial. 


The Hill: Pivotal trial day may be Wednesday.


Reuters: 72 percent of Americans favor trial witnesses, according to Reuters/IPSOS poll released on Wednesday.


The Hill: Fiery defense of Trump on Day One.


In comments to reporters before returning to Washington from Switzerland, the president said he watched some of the trial on Tuesday between meetings during a global gathering. 


“There’s nothing here,” he said of the Democrats’ case. “I got to watch enough. I thought our team did a very good job. But honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”


The Associated Press: Trump says he’s open to witnesses, but wants to protect national security.





CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe West needs a more collaborative approach to Taiwan Abbott's medical advisers were not all consulted before he lifted Texas mask mandate House approves George Floyd Justice in Policing Act MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Democrats cut deals to bolster support for relief bill Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE (I-Vt.) have started to separate themselves from the rest of the Democratic primary field and are going head-to-head as Iowa and other early voting contests draw closer.


According to multiple recent polls, the two are polling first and second both nationally and in early states and continue to lob attacks at each other as a week and a half stands between them and a potential victory in Iowa. At the national level, three polls showed Biden leading Sanders by 5 to 7 points, while another showed Sanders topping the former vice president by 3 points. In a poll of delegate-rich California, Sanders holds a 4-point advantage. 


As Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes write, Sanders has gone after Biden recently on myriad topics, including his record on race and his past remarks about an openness to cutting entitlement programs as he seeks to win over black voters and older voters who make up Biden’s base. 


On occasion, Sanders and his allies have gone too far. The Vermont Independent was forced to apologize after professor Zephyr Teachout, a supporter and surrogate for his campaign, alleged that Biden has a history of corruption. Since then, Biden’s campaign has responded with force as it launched a new attack ad against Sanders, accusing him of lying about Biden’s record on Social Security.


Biden indicated to CBS News’s Ed O’Keefe on Wednesday that Sanders should have withdrawn the attack over Social Security. 


"He apologized for saying I was corrupt. He didn't say anything about whether or not I was telling the truth about Social Security," Biden said after a campaign event in Mason City, Iowa.


The Associated Press: 2020 Democratic candidates vow unity, but conflict escalates.


The Wall Street Journal: Sanders aims for positive campaign, but allies don’t always follow.


The Hill: Biden wins Iron Workers union endorsement. 


The New York Times: Stuck in the Senate as their 2020 rivals have Iowa to themselves.


The Washington Post: What Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegHere's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Biden's COVID, border policies prove he's serious about neither Harris pushes for support for cities in coronavirus relief package MORE learned organizing for Obama in Iowa: “You can reach people.” And wear boots.


> Collins focus: Outside McConnell and Schumer, perhaps no one is under a brighter spotlight than Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy Republicans, please save your party Susan Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination MORE (R-Maine) given her standing as the preeminent moderate in the Senate GOP conference and a top target for Democrats on the 2020 map. 


The Maine Republican was part of a small group of Republicans who successfully pressured McConnell in a private lunch on Tuesday to change the impeachment trial rules to extend the number of days for both the prosecution and defense teams to make their arguments and to admit evidence from the House investigation.


Collins also was the only GOP senator to break with her party and join Democrats in supporting another rules change offered by Schumer. That and 10 other amendments offered by the Democrats on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning failed, as Julia Manchester and Scott Wong point out.


“Susan always does what’s best for her constituents, and then she explains it really well,” said Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE (R-N.D.), a Trump ally. “I’m sure it didn’t hurt her any; I’m sure it helped her. She’s a very courageous Republican.”


The Hill: Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers.


The Associated Press: Democrats not alone in soliciting votes in Iowa; GOP is, too.


The Texas Tribune: Michael BloombergMichael BloombergAs Trump steps back in the spotlight, will Cuomo exit stage left? 'Lucky': How Warren took down Bloomberg Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison MORE’s Texas strategy is expensive and unprecedented. Can it work?





WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump on Wednesday sparked a new controversy when he confirmed that U.S. forces were injured during Iran’s recent missile strikes against U.S. bases in Iraq — injuries he brushed off as “headaches.” He said he believes traumatic brain injuries suffered by military personnel are less serious than loss of limbs and other wounds he has seen in the military (Reuters).


From 11 to 23 percent of U.S. forces deployed since 2000 have suffered a traumatic brain injury, described by the Defense Department as a “signature injury” of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.


> Immigration: Trump reconfirmed on Wednesday to reporters that additional countries will be added to the administration’s travel ban, which he noted had cleared the U.S. Supreme Court after lower court challenges. He declined to list the additional countries, saying the policy expansion will be announced “very shortly” (The Hill).  


> Trade: The president on Wednesday said talks have begun with the World Trade Organization about reforming the institution, which he has long accused of treating the United States unfairly in its formal trade complaints (Bloomberg News).


 > Europe and digital tax: The United States and France reached a broad framework to turn to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for a plan to help set digital taxes. Talks are to continue today, said France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire. The announcement came a day after the two countries appeared to strike a temporary truce over the sensitive issue important to major U.S. tech companies that operate globally (The New York Times).




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!


The Senate should reject the Dershowitz argument on Johnson impeachment, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Rkdzwj


Who Will Speak Out Against China? By Tyler Cowen, columnist, Bloomberg View. https://bloom.bg/2ukWglz 


The House meets for a pro forma session on Friday at 2 p.m.


The Senate convenes today at 1 p.m. to continue the impeachment trial. 


The president flies to Doral, Fla., to speak at the Republican National Committee winter meeting at 6 p.m., a gathering held at Trump National Doral Miami. Trump returns to Washington tonight.   


Vice President Pence is in Israel. He and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceCan a common bond of service unite our nation? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - House boots Greene from committees; Senate plows ahead on budget Pence announces post-White House office, plans to move back to Indiana MORE join more than 30 heads of state and government to participate in the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. This evening, Pence meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoHouthis: US sanctions prolonging war in Yemen China plays the Trump card, but Biden is not buying it Trump: 'I can't imagine' any Republican would beat me in 2024 primary if I run MORE is in Bushnell, Fla., where he will speak at 4 p.m. about U.S. foreign policy at the Sumter County Fairgrounds. 


You’re invited to The Hill’s Jan. 30 newsmaker event,A More Perfect Union?” from 8 to 11 a.m. in Washington. Speakers include Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHere are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act Sunday shows - COVID-19 dominates as grim milestone approaches Former Texas GOP rep: Trump should hold very little or no role in Republican Party MORE (R-Texas), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarBill introduced to create RBG monument on Capitol Hill El Paso shooting survivor deported to Mexico after traffic stop House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump MORE (D-Texas) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonHouse Democrat to introduce bill requiring Capitol Police to use body cameras House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night MORE (D-Ariz.). Information is HERE.


Brexit: The United Kingdom is in the final stages of completing its withdrawal from the European Union as the House of Lords abandoned attempts on Wednesday to amend the Brexit bill, the final hurdle in Parliament on Wednesday. The move came after the House of Commons overturned changes to the Brexit bill made a day earlier by the House of Lords. The bill will be codified when it receives royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II, which could happen today (The Associated Press).


Supreme Court: Justices heard oral arguments in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue on Wednesday, a case focused on a since-disbanded voucher program in Montana that provided tax breaks for donors to scholarships for private schools, including religious schools. The court’s ruling could allow for more public aid in faith-based schools and education, with eyes on Roberts, who is expected to provide the key vote one way or another (Reuters).


State watch: Floridians are breaking out umbrellas, not for rain but for falling iguanas. Cold temperatures in the Sunshine State have temporarily stunned tree-loving iguanas, causing them to plummet from their tropical perches. Prank-loving Floridians, aware of weathercasters’ “Iguana Alerts,” put little costumes on the chilly reptiles, tweeted videos of the prone green bodies and warned residents not to bring the prehistoric-looking creatures indoors, where they swiftly revive and scamper for the exits (The Associated Press). 





And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! 


Attentive to international worries about a possible pandemic, we’re eager for some smart guesses about a deadly new virus confirmed by experts to be in at least five countries. It has killed at least 17 people and sickened hundreds since last month.


Answer these four questions drawn from this week’s headlines and email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners become newsletter stars on Friday.


The microscopic viral organism, which global health officials are closely tracking, causes which type of sickness in humans?


  1. Liver failure
  2. Excessive bleeding
  3. Pneumonia and respiratory illness
  4. Brain damage


How are humans contracting the mysterious new “coronavirus”?


  1. This question remains under study, including air and surface contact transmission
  2. Water supplies
  3. Direct contact with infected animals
  4. Mosquito bites


Where is the reported epicenter of the outbreak of the new virus?


  1. China
  2. Congo
  3. Brazil
  4. Russia


The first U.S. patient diagnosed with this strain of coronavirus was hospitalized in what city?


  1. Los Angeles
  2. Miami 
  3. Everett, Wash.
  4. New York