The Hill's Morning Report - Bolton charge ups ante in witness showdown




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Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Barr back on the hot seat The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE’s charge that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record MORE tied aid to Ukraine to investigations into a political rival has added a dimension of volatility to the impeachment trial as questions mount about whether the Senate will vote to hear from additional witnesses. 


Bolton’s claim, which he made in a draft of a book manuscript described by The New York Times, made waves in Washington. For Democrats, the national security hawk’s “bombshell” comments validate their call to seek additional witnesses. Across the aisle, they scattered Republican senators, who were not on the same page on Monday. 


As Jordain Carney writes, top Republicans did not see the tempest coming. Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills Senate votes to rein in Trump's power to attack Iran As many as eight GOP senators expected to vote to curb Trump's power to attack Iran MORE (R-S.D.) told reporters the news “caught everybody by surprise.” 


The trial’s focus now turns to a potential vote to debate seeking Senate witnesses and how moderate Republicans would line up. Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said the upper chamber could vote on Friday or Saturday on whether to add witnesses. Trump’s ultimate acquittal on two articles of impeachment was not in serious doubt on Monday.


Two GOP senators — Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsToward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump unleashed: President moves with a free hand post-impeachment Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit MORE (Maine) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDonald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina Yes, Democrats have to defend their African-American base against Trump MORE (Utah) — said they are likely to vote to include witnesses and trial documents, believing the report describing Bolton’s manuscript is relevant to the evidence the Senate is weighing. 


Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' Ocasio-Cortez blasts Trump as 'corrupt' for blocking Global Entry for New Yorkers MORE (R-Alaska) reiterated in a statement early Monday that she remains “curious” about what Bolton would have to say. 


In the halls of the Senate, there is speculation that retiring Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' The 8 Republicans who voted to curb Trump's Iran war powers MORE (R-Tenn.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsKobach says he discussed his Senate bid with Trump Republicans expect Trump to withdraw controversial Fed nominee Celebrating and expanding upon five years of the ABLE  Act MORE (R-Kan.) might support witnesses, although the two have largely kept their own counsel when questioned by reporters. 





To most Senate Republicans, Bolton’s leaked revelations were unwelcome, triggering shrugs and dismissals among those eager to move on. Thune said the information was not a “game changer,” while others panned The New York Times account as a marketing opportunity for Bolton and his memoir, with its March publication timeline. Some GOP lawmakers also said they doubted that any testimony by Bolton would change the basic facts behind the president’s defense. 


"Unless there's a witness who's going to change the outcome, I can't imagine why we'd want to stretch this out for weeks and months,” said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBooker, Merkley propose federal facial recognition moratorium GOP senators defend Sondland, Vindman ousters: They weren't 'loyal' McConnell displays mastery of Senate with impeachment victory MORE (R-Mo.). “And if we call any witnesses who are subject to privilege, it would take weeks and months.''


The Hill: McConnell struggles to maintain GOP unity post-Bolton.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Bolton furor raises stakes for GOP senators.


Politico: Republicans struggle to get on message after Bolton rocks trial.


Peter Baker, The New York Times: John Bolton’s account upends Trump’s denials, but will it upend Trump?


The trial continues today as the president’s legal team concludes its arguments. 


The president’s lawyers on Monday defended a key figure who is another member of Trump’s legal team. Trump attorney Jane Raskin delivered a 15-minute statement on the Senate floor focused entirely on Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSunday shows - Spotlight shines on Bloomberg, stop and frisk Giuliani hits Bloomberg on stop-and-frisk: He's 'turned on the program' Donald Trump: Unrepentant, on the attack and still playing the victim MORE. She said Democrats used the former New York City mayor’s involvement in Ukraine to distract from what Trump’s legal team argued is an impeachment case void of evidence (The Hill).


“The House managers would have you believe that Mr. Giuliani is at the center of this controversy,” Raskin said. “They’ve anointed him the proxy villain of the tale, the leader of a rogue operation. … But I suggest to you he’s front and center in their narrative for one reason alone: to distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims.”


Kenneth Starr, best known for his role in the Clinton impeachment in 1999, also made his debut on the Trump team on Monday. Starr warned against the repercussions of the growing use of impeachment in American politics, saying that the U.S. is living in an “age of impeachment” (The Hill).


The president’s team is expected to wrap up its defense without using all of the 24 hours allotted over a total of three days. Senators will soon have 16 hours to ask questions of the prosecution and defense teams in writing, posed through Chief Justice John Roberts, who presides. 


The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: The John Bolton Report: The former NSC adviser should tell the public what he knows.


The Hill: Bolton, publishers deny coordinating book leak with The New York Times.


CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is feeling the wrath of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE (I-Vt.).


As Jonathan Easley reports, Sanders’s supporters and various DNC members are venting frustration at Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE over his appointments to the committees that will oversee the rules and party platform at the Milwaukee national nominating convention this summer.


According to Sanders allies, the committees are currently packed with Democrats who have an anti-Sanders bias and were previously aligned with the Clintons. Among them are John Podesta, the former campaign chairman for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe 'Palmetto Promise': South Carolina will decide the race Alabama Senate contender hits Sessions in new ad: 'Hillary still ain't in jail' Worries grow as moderates split Democratic vote MORE in 2016, Maria Cardona, Alex Padilla and former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), a top Sanders critic who will co-chair the rules committee.


DNC members are also frustrated that the committee leaders are mostly "at-large" delegates, prominent lobbyists and big Washington names rather than state-elected members who represent the grassroots of the party. They also complain that the nominees were foisted on them at midnight only hours before a weekend vote.


As for Sanders, the Vermont Independent continues to hold a slight advantage in polls with less than a week to go until the Iowa caucuses. The possibility of Sanders taking home Iowa before going on the next week to win in New Hampshire is creating consternation within the Democratic ranks (NBC News).


The New York Times: In Iowa, the “Not Sanders” Democrats find voters torn.


The Hill: Sanders surges to first in New Hampshire: poll.


Politico Magazine: The Democrats’ Bernie bind.


Morning Consult: Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergBrazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Conway: Reported sexist Bloomberg remarks 'far worse' than what Trump said on 'Access Hollywood' tape MORE at 12 percent nationally, as Sanders’ popularity erodes among older voters.





> Georgia GOP fight: Senate Republicans are preparing for a bruising intraparty battle in Georgia between Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerProgressive group backs Senate candidates in Georgia, Iowa Overnight Health Care: Trump budget calls for cutting Medicaid, ACA by T | Trump proposes removing FDA authority over tobacco | Lawmakers frustrated by lack of emergency funds for coronavirus Anti-abortion group backs Loeffler's election campaign after opposing her Senate appointment MORE (R-Ga.) and Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify House to vote Thursday on removing ERA ratification deadline Anti-abortion group backs Loeffler's election campaign after opposing her Senate appointment MORE (R-Ga.), who is expected to announce plans to challenge her in November.


The looming GOP fight will be among the most high-profile on the 2020 calendar. For now, the two will face off in a jungle primary in November, with the top two finishers slated to compete in a runoff two months later. However, allies of Collins in the statehouse are angling to pass legislation to create a traditional primary in May (The Hill). 


Loeffler, who took over for former Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonProgressive group backs Senate candidates in Georgia, Iowa Overnight Health Care: Trump budget calls for cutting Medicaid, ACA by T | Trump proposes removing FDA authority over tobacco | Lawmakers frustrated by lack of emergency funds for coronavirus Anti-abortion group backs Loeffler's election campaign after opposing her Senate appointment MORE (R-Ga.) three weeks ago, remains a political unknown back home and has tried to rectify that in a few ways: Pitching herself as a close ally and backer of the president and running introductory ads. She has pledged to spend $20 million of her own money on the race, which some Republicans had hoped would ward off a GOP challenge.


“Collins is a talented politician who would be better off challenging an unpopular governor in 2022 than a $50 million dollar guillotine in this year’s Senate race,said one national GOP strategist. “I really wish he wouldn’t throw away a promising career like this. He’ll be unrecognizable to his own mother by November.”


Collins’s likely entrance also has not dissuaded top Republicans from supporting her. According to an NRSC official, the committee will continue to back her campaign. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Ky.) said in December that he would fully support her (Politico). 


Like many GOP primaries, the wild card continues to be Trump, who made it known to Gov. Brian Kemp (R) that he wanted Collins to get the appointment. Trump’s nudge for Collins came after he spent months as one of his top defenders on Capitol Hill throughout the House impeachment process, which he’s continued to do during the Senate trial. 


"Doug's been center stage. It's really hard, when you're getting all this attention, to get off the stage. So it's probably a little heady and I'm sure he’s enjoying that,” a Georgia Republican source said. “He's got a following. He goes on Hannity and Hannity calls him 'Sen. Collins.' I think some of that stuff is intoxicating."


"It's going to be a little messy,” the source said of the looming primary race. “Actually, it's going to be very messy."


NPR: Election officials from 50 states will meet in Washington this week amid historic focus on voting and interference.


The Hill: The Iowa Democratic caucuses, mapped.


CHINA VIRUS: Trump on Monday offered China any help necessary as a deadly coronavirus continued spreading near Wuhan, China, threatening to overtake efforts to stop it using travel bans, shuttered schools and new scheduling for public holiday celebrations (Reuters). 


The State Department advised Americans to “reconsider” traveling anywhere in China because of the new virus, which has killed 106 people (The New York Times). Mongolia closed its vast border with China, and Hong Kong and Malaysia announced they are barring entry to visitors from the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak (The Associated Press).


Financial markets, rattled by the outbreak and unsure if the epidemic will become a pandemic, took a hit on Monday (The Hill).


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on Monday the government is monitoring 110 individuals from 26 states to determine whether they have the coronavirus. Of those people, 32 tested negative, five tested positive and the remaining test results are pending. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials believe the virus is not spreading in the United States (ABC News).







WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump today at noon will release a long-awaited Mideast peace plan, he announced, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE at the White House (The New York Times).


“It’s the closest we’ve ever come” to an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, Trump said, challenging critics who believe the plan is weighted against Palestinians. The president also met on Monday with Israel’s Gen. Benny Gantz, who is campaigning to defeat Netanyahu in an unprecedented third election on March 2, and predicted that “we will ultimately have the support of the Palestinians.” 


Foreign policy analysts have suggested Trump’s peace plan — three years in the making and unveiled during his own impeachment trial and while Netanyahu battles charges of corruption — is a backdrop for an ally before Israeli voters head to the polls. 


The description of a peace plan in Washington takes place as Netanyahu’s bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution on corruption charges gets underway at home today.




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!


Iowa and New Hampshire highlight the crisis of local news — and its national importance, by Joe Ferullo, opinion contributor, The Hill.   


Is the coronavirus a global emergency? What we don't know can be dangerous, by Dr. Marc Siegel, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


The House meets at 10 a.m. 


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


The president welcomes Israel’s Netanyahu to the White House for a second day; the two leaders deliver joint remarks and discuss peace in the Middle East. This afternoon, Trump flies to the Garden State to rally for New Jersey Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, who recently switched his party affiliation to Republican and captured the president’s endorsement. Van Drew has been described in some news accounts as a flip-flopper after he left voicemail messages with constituents in November assuring them he would not vote for Trump (The Philadelphia Inquirer).  


Vice President Pence heads today to Madison, Wis., to speak at a midday event promoting school choice, organized by the group Hispanics for School Choice. Pence will appear in the rotunda of the Wisconsin State Capitol.


You’re invited to The Hill’s Thursday newsmaker event,A More Perfect Union?” from 8 to 11 a.m. in Washington. Speakers include Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdTrump to attend California fundraiser with Oracle chairman The Hill's Morning Report - Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses MORE (R-Texas), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarDemocrats call for Twitter, Facebook to take down Pelosi video posted by Trump El Paso Walmart shooting suspect charged under federal hate crime law The Hill's Morning Report - Icy moments between Trump, Pelosi mark national address MORE (D-Texas) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonLawmakers discuss how to work together in midst of impeachment fight The Hill's Morning Report - Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses MORE (D-Ariz.). Information is HERE.


Anti-Semitism: Close to 200 survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp traveled to Poland on Monday to mark 75 years since the Nazi atrocities came to an end there during World War II. Many of those who traveled to the camp where 1.1 million people perished were elderly Jews and non-Jews from Israel, the United States, Australia, Peru, Russia, Slovenia and elsewhere. Some sounded emotional warnings about rising hatred and anti-Semitism they see in the world today (The Associated Press). 


Courts: The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the Trump administration can withhold green cards sought by immigrants if the government believes they may need federal assistance to live in the United States. The ruling allows the administration to implement its controversial policy while a challenge proceeds in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals (The Hill). 


Jeffrey Epstein: New York prosecutors on Monday said they still want to question Britain’s Prince Andrew about his ties to Epstein, the late financier who committed suicide in a New York City jail while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking charges (The New York Times). During a damaging BBC interview last year, the Duke of York, who is a son of Queen Elizabeth II, denied knowledge of wrongdoing by Epstein. The prince, 59, pledged his assistance to U.S. investigators but has now been banished from royal duties and public appearances in Great Britain. He has delivered “zero cooperation,” complained U.S. prosecutor Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan.  


State watch: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Monday announced a proposal to raise the state’s gas tax by 4 cents a year for three years to replenish a $3.4 billion fund for infrastructure projects, including rail (The Washington Post).  


And finally … While we’re talking about infrastructure, a wily driver didn’t fool the Arizona Department of Public Safety while cruising the HOV lanes on Friday. A faux skeleton strapped to the passenger seat dressed in a camouflage hat looked a bit stiff zooming down the highway. Troopers ticketed a 62-year-old male driver and tweeted a photo: "Think you can use the HOV lane with Skeletor riding shotgun? You're dead wrong!" (Arizona Republic).