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




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Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' MORE’s charge that President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump 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 ThuneSchumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B GOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff 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 CollinsLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike MORE (Maine) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight 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 MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate The Republicans' deep dive into nativism MORE (R-Tenn.) and Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsBob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain 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 BluntRoy Blunt has helped forge and fortify the shared bonds between Australia and America The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B 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 GiulianiThree Democrats call for investigation into Sidney Powell to move 'swiftly' Fox News bans Rudy Giuliani from appearing: report Alabama official dismisses Lindell claim that 100K votes were flipped from Trump to Biden: 'It's not possible' 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 SandersIn Washington, the road almost never taken Don't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble MORE (I-Vt.).


As Jonathan Easley reports, Sanders’s supporters and various DNC members are venting frustration at Chairman Tom PerezThomas 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 ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll 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 BloombergDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida Without drastic changes, Democrats are on track to lose big in 2022 Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary 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 LoefflerWarnock picks up major abortion rights group's endorsement in reelection bid Trump endorses Hershel Walker for Georgia Senate seat Herschel Walker's entrance shakes up Georgia Senate race MORE (R-Ga.) and Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor 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 IsaksonCritical race theory becomes focus of midterms Former Georgia ethics official to challenge McBath Loeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run 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 McConnellGOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble 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.




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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 HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (R-Texas), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarThree Democrats call for investigation into Sidney Powell to move 'swiftly' Court rulings put Biden in tough spot with Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy Supreme Court ruling on Texas abortion law rattles lawmakers MORE (D-Texas) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonRoof collapse, explosion leaves four injured in Arizona Arizona governor withholding grants to schools with mask mandates The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns 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).