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The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses

 

 

 

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy 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!



President TrumpDonald TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MORE’s legal team wrapped up its opening arguments on Tuesday, urging senators to end their impeachment trial rather than prolong it with debates about hearing from witnesses. 

 

The president’s team took only two hours on Tuesday to wind up its defense of Trump against charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, urging senators to move swiftly to acquittal. But a vote to debate witnesses could prolong the proceedings.

 

As Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels write, Trump’s lawyers portrayed the president as the target of a partisan attempt to overturn the 2016 election and argued he should not be removed from office in defiance of the Constitution.

 

“Overturning the last election and massively interfering with the upcoming one would cause serious and lasting damage to the people of the United States and our great country,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone (pictured above) said to rest the defense’s case. “The Senate cannot allow this to happen. It is time for this to end, here and now.” 

 

The president’s attorneys also argued that the claims made by former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump offered North Korea's Kim a ride home on Air Force One: report Key impeachment figure Pence sticks to sidelines Bolton lawyer: Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE in a manuscript for his upcoming book would be inadmissible in a normal trial and denied that the claims are true, echoing comments made by the president in recent days.

 

“It is not a game of leaks or unsourced manuscripts,” 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 (also pictured above), one of the president’s lead attorneys said on the Senate floor. “I mean, that’s what the evidence — if you want to call that evidence — I don’t know what you’d call that. I’d call it inadmissible — but that’s what it is” (The Washington Post).

 

The Hill: GOP scrambles to sidestep messy witness fight.

 

The Hill: Trump allies throw jabs at Bolton over book's claims. 

 

With opening arguments in the rearview mirror, the Senate will now move into two days of question for both the prosecution and the defense, with up to eight hours of questions being asked per day. The questions will alternate between the GOP and Democratic senators and will be read aloud by Chief Justice John Roberts (The Hill)

 

However, the main focus will be on the issue of witnesses. According to The Wall Street Journal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellJudiciary Committee greenlights Garland's AG nomination This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback Juan Williams: Hypocrisy runs riot in GOP MORE (R-Ky.) does not have the needed votes to block a push for witnesses. While most of the conference is behind McConnell and leadership members are confident they can avoid calling for more testimony, as Jordain Carney and company report, there remains a lot to hash out in the coming days before the expected witness votes. According to multiple GOP senators, no decisions were made during a caucus meeting on Tuesday.

 

It was “just a broad discussion like we had at all the meetings. No clear conclusions,” said Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (R-Ind.) as he left the meeting. 

 

At least five GOP senators — including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski says no decision after Tanden meeting Green New Deal's 3 billion ton problem: sourcing technology metals The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump teases on 2024 run MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill On The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax GOP says Ron Klain pulling Biden strings MORE (Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney released from hospital after fall over the weekend Kinzinger: Trump just wants to 'stand in front of a crowd and be adored' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE (Utah), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (Tenn.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump, part II Passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy MORE (Kan.) — have not said how they will vote on witnesses. 

 

Ultimately, as Alexander Bolton reports, the GOP remains confident it will be able to muster sufficient votes by Friday to block a motion to call witnesses, which would clear the way for Republicans to conclude the trial with Senate votes on the two articles against Trump.

 

The Hill: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerJim Jordan calls for House Judiciary hearing on 'cancel culture' House Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism George Floyd police reform bill reintroduced in House MORE (D-N.Y.) floats John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE as potential impeachment witness.

 

The Washington Post: Senate Republicans seize on Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzA victory for the Constitution, not so much for Trump Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers weigh in on Trump impeachment trial; Biden administration eyes timeline for mass vaccinations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Dems rest their case; verdict on Trump this weekend MORE’s constitutional law argument that Trump’s actions are not impeachable.

 

The Hill: Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-Okla.) says the Senate should get a copy of Bolton‘s unpublished manuscript.

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: By next Tuesday morning, political analysts will be dissecting the first voter-driven preferences in the 2020 presidential race. Yet, reliable predictions about the November elections will be tough. That’s because:

 

> Iowa caucus-goers — those passionate participants from a small, rural and mostly white state who face a large and well-financed Democratic field — are presented with a distinct voter experience compared with other states. Iowans choose first during presidential primaries, eye candidates in person and often take their measure multiple times;

 

> This year, the Democratic contenders are bunched in a pack, polls show, meaning Iowans will winnow the field, but White House wannabes will continue serious campaigning, some for many months;

 

> Iowa caucuses can point to a Democratic nominee but don’t always predict the next president. Since the caucuses began in 1972, 7 of 10 Democrats who won ultimately became their party’s nominee. (Just 3 of 8 Republican caucus winners became the GOP nominee.) The Iowa upshot: Fewer than 1 in 3 caucus winners from either major party captures the presidency (Des Moines Register).

 

With only five days until the first-in-the-nation caucuses, the latest questions in the Democratic primary continue to circle around Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOn The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax Sanders vows to force vote on minimum wage No. 2 Senate Democrat shoots down overruling parliamentarian on minimum wage MORE (I-Vt.), who has taken a slight but clear lead in polls of Hawkeye State Democrats. As Sanders continues to spend his week in Washington, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSenate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill Rural Americans are the future of the clean energy economy — policymakers must to catch up WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year MORE indicated Tuesday that it remains an open question whether the Vermont Independent will be able to unite the party if he takes home the party’s nomination, but added that uniting as a party will be a necessity.

 

"We have to unite. I'm not going to make judgments now but I just think that it depends upon how we treat one another between now and the time we have a nominee,” Biden said after an event in Muscatine, Iowa (NBC News).

 

 

 

 

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperTexas snowstorm wreaks havoc on state power grid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Dems rest their case; verdict on Trump this weekend No signs of demand for witnesses in Trump trial MORE (D-Del.), a top supporter of Biden, echoed the remark, saying that he isn’t sure if anyone outside Biden could do so. 

 

“I think at the end of the day, people are not just looking for someone who can unite our party, but someone who can unite our country. And after the impeachment we’re going through, we’re going to be looking for someone who can heal our country,” Carper said.

 

When pressed by The Hill on whether Sanders could do just that, Carper said, "I know Joe Biden can do it. I'm not sure who else can."

 

Dan Balz: Iowa opens the fight to be the last Democratic presidential candidate standing.

 

While all eyes are fixated on Iowa, an equally-as-important contest in New Hampshire sits just around the corner. As The Hill’s Cate Martel (along with Amie Parnes) reports from the Granite State, only months ago, Biden had written off winning New Hampshire given that Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: Senators push for changes as chamber nears vote on .9T relief bill | Warren offers bill to create wealth tax Sanders vows to force vote on minimum wage Warren's wealth tax would cost 100 richest Americans billion MORE (D-Mass.) hold a big advantage in hailing from neighboring states.

 

However, Biden has ranked in the top two in a string of recent polls, and his campaign has a renewed interest in performing well in the state. While Sanders has held a consistent lead in polls of New Hampshire, the Biden campaign is arguing that state remains within its reach.

 

"We feel good in New Hampshire," said a senior Biden aide. “We feel like we're in a very strong position to win New Hampshire." 

 

The Hill: Sanders under increasing pressure on funding for “Medicare for All.”

 

The Hill: Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan Perdue rules out 2022 Senate bid against Warnock Loeffler leaves door open to 2022 rematch against Warnock MORE’s (R-Ga.) Senate bid threatens a GOP rift in Georgia.

 

Jonathan Chait, New York magazine: Running Sanders against Trump would be an act of insanity. “Whatever evidence might have supported a Sanders-esque populist strategy for Democrats after the 2016 election, it has since collapsed. But in the ideological hothouse of the Sanders world, no setbacks have been acknowledged, no rethinking has taken place, and the skeptics are dismissed as elitist neoliberal corporate shills, as ever.”

 

> Down the shore: The Associated Press: Trump shores up support for newest GOP congressman in New Jersey

 

“Jeff had the guts to defy the left-wing fanatics in his own party.” Trump highlighted the economy during much of his speech, noting that 7 million jobs have been created since his election. He also continued to boast of the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iran’s most powerful general, Qassem Soleimani, on Jan. 3. He cited the strike while attacking his political rivals with language that was incendiary even for a Trump rally. “We stopped him cold, yet Washington Democrats like crazy Bernie Sanders and nervous Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRepublican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote Clinton, Pelosi holding online Women's Day fundraiser with Chrissy Teigen, Amanda Gorman What good are the intelligence committees? MORE, they opposed our actions to save American lives. They opposed it,” Trump asserted to a roar of boos.

 

The New York Times: A primary from the right? Not in Trump’s GOP.

 

The Hill: GOP leader warns lawmakers on fundraising: 'We’re getting our ass kicked.”

 

Thomas B. Edsall, The New York Times: Trump’s digital advantage is freaking out Democratic strategists.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: With embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE standing by his side in the East Room on Tuesday, Trump unveiled a long-promised Middle East peace plan that Palestinians immediately condemned as largely one-sided.

 

The president proposed creating a Palestinian state under strict conditions and advocated Israel’s control of long-contested West Bank settlements coupled with a four-year freeze on new settlement activity.

 

Protesting what they see as Trump’s pro-Israel stance, Palestinians are keeping their distance from the administration. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas mocked what Trump has called the “deal of the century,” describing it as the “slap of the century.”

 

White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerBiden to speak with Saudi king 'soon' as pressure builds for Khashoggi report Biden to speak with Saudi king ahead of Khashoggi report: report Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE, one of the architects of the plan, told Reuters Television the Palestinians “look quite foolish” for immediately rejecting the ideas and recommended they take some time to consider “a very strong opening offer” (Reuters).

 

Abbas held an emergency meeting with other Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to discuss a unified response (The Associated Press).

 

The Associated Press: Netanyahu on Tuesday said Israel will annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, including dozens of Jewish settlements. The International Criminal Court prepared to launch a war crimes probe of the settlements policy.

 

Politico: How Trump’s Middle East peace plan could matter, by tying future presidents’ hands. 

 

The New York Times: U.S. plan’s first result: Israel will claim sovereignty over part of the West Bank.

 

David E. Sanger: Two allies draw a map with voters in mind.

 

 

 



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!



OPINION

Kobe Bryant has left this earth — but his life lessons linger, by Sandeep Gopalan, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/310nwC6   

 

China's biological 'Chernobyl': Different country, same lies, by Bradley A. Thayer and Lianchao Han, opinion contributors, The Hill. https://bit.ly/36ynPFp 

 

Pompeo called me a `liar.’ That’s not what bothers me, by Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” opinion contributor, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2vt0FU1



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Noah Weinrich, Heritage Action for America spokesman, who is unhappy about CNN’s recent coverage of Trump supporters; Democrat Richard Goodstein, a former Clinton adviser, who sees some danger in Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton: Allegations against Cuomo 'raise serious questions,' deserve probe Clinton, Pelosi holding online Women's Day fundraiser with Chrissy Teigen, Amanda Gorman Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden MORE’s personal digs at Sanders; and Lee Drutman, senior fellow with the political reform program at New America, who has written a book titled “Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multi-party Democracy in America.” Coverage at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

 

The House meets at 10 a.m. 

 

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

 

The president at 11 a.m. on the South Lawn will sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact, which was ratified by Congress on a bipartisan basis. 

 

Vice President Pence will join the president this morning, then travel to Sioux City, Iowa, for political events in Iowa on Thursday.  

 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoTrump: 'I can't imagine' any Republican would beat me in 2024 primary if I run Green New Deal's 3 billion ton problem: sourcing technology metals US condemns arrests of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong MORE flies to London, where he will meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

 

The Federal Reserve concludes a two-day meeting this afternoon at 2 p.m.. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a news conference to discuss the central bank’s outlook for stable interest rates and take questions about its heavy balance sheet (MarketWatch). The Hill’s Sylvan Lane reports that new economic headwinds could put the Fed in a tough position before the November elections.

 

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 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 EscobarEl Paso shooting survivor deported to Mexico after traffic stop House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics 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.



ELSEWHERE

Coronavirus: The Trump administration offered to send medical researchers and health experts to China to help Beijing tackle the coronavirus epidemic there, and the World Health Organization said its own such offer was accepted by China on Tuesday.

 

While the virus has spread far beyond China to numerous countries, medical experts say the 132 known deaths from pneumonia and respiratory illness all occurred there. 

 

Japan (pictured below) and Germany reported cases of the virus on Tuesday, while France reported its fourth infected patient. The first known case emerged in the Middle East today (Reuters). U.S. and Japanese officials evacuated personnel from Wuhan, China, today and continue to screen for the coronavirus infection at airports and entry points. With airlines halting flights to China and private companies restricting employee travel into China, worries are mounting about the global economic impact tied to the contagion. 

 

U.S. medical specialists want to enter China to help confirm details about the virus, including the incubation period between infection and the development of symptoms and to clarify whether someone infected with the new virus but without symptoms of illness poses a risk of transmission.   

 

The number of known, confirmed cases of the virus appeared to leap dramatically again percent overnight, but because thousands of ill people have not been tested in China, experts worry the number of actual cases is higher than the 5,974 reported today (The New York Times).

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest information about the new coronavirus is HERE.

 

 

 

 

Congress watch: In the House, Democrats today will champion legislation intended to attract White House and GOP support for infrastructure spending. How to pay for any such plan in an election year remains a major divide (The Hill). … The Congressional Budget Office offered more bad news in a report on Tuesday describing the government’s ocean of red ink. Today, the House Budget Committee holds a hearing to learn more (The Hill).

 

Huawei: The British government’s decision on Tuesday to allow limited involvement of Chinese telecom group Huawei in its 5G networks raised concerns over intelligence sharing between the United States and Great Brain, particularly in light of ongoing American bipartisan opposition to the use of Huawei equipment (The Hill).

 

Law enforcement & intellectual property: Federal prosecutors on Tuesday arrested Harvard chemistry department chairman Charles Lieber, a nanoscale electronics expert, and charged him with making false statements about money he received from a Chinese government-run program, part of a broad FBI investigation focused on theft of biomedical research from laboratories in the United States. Lieber is one of three Boston-area scientists accused by the government on Tuesday of working on behalf of China (The New York Times). 

 

3M sheds more workers: A contraction in U.S. manufacturing and a trade war that slowed economic growth in China led to a second round of layoffs at Minnesota-based 3M. The decision to cut 1,500 jobs (or about 1.5 percent of the company’s global workforce) is in addition to 2,000 jobs the company shed less than a year ago (The Associated Press). 

 

News media: A Washington Post reporter’s tweet about Kobe Bryant this week did not break the company’s rules, the Post determined (The Hill). … A CNN analyst panel with Don LemonDon Carlton LemonFor myopic media, breaking up with Trump will be hard to do Don Lemon to ex-CNN colleague McEnany: 'Girl, bye' CNN's Don Lemon says Newsmax will 'never be as powerful as Fox News' MORE that mocked Trump supporters as uneducated was a magnet for criticism after going viral (Fox News). … BuzzFeed News editor Ben Smith jumps from the site he built in 2012 to The New York Times as a media columnist, following in the footsteps of the late David Carr (The New York Times).



THE CLOSER

And finally … With science, it’s clear there’s always a new marvel. Today’s more upbeat headline is about synthetic biology, or what innovators are calling “living concrete.”

 

Dr. Frankenstein would have loved a self-replicating primordial stew that springs from photosynthetic bacteria, a little Knox brand gelatin from the grocery store and the innovative minds at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

 

The researchers there came up with a new material that uses a photosynthetic process, plus bacterial microbes and gelatin for structure, which, when poured into molds, hardens into blocks or bricks within days but remains alive and able to build on itself for weeks. Researchers in synthetic biology believe such building material could one day automatically detect its own structural defects, raise the alarm about contact with toxic chemicals and be pretty darn handy on Mars (The New York Times).