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




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President TrumpDonald John TrumpBubba Wallace to be driver of Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin NASCAR team Graham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Southwest Airlines, unions call for six-month extension of government aid 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 BoltonDiplomacy with China is good for America The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep DOJ launches probe into Bolton book for possible classified information disclosures 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 SekulowNow, we need the election monitors Judge denies Trump's request for a stay on subpoena for tax records Judge throws out Trump effort to block subpoena for tax returns 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 McConnellGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally The Memo: Dems face balancing act on SCOTUS fight 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 BraunPessimism grows as hopes fade for coronavirus deal McConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package Patient Protection Pledge offers price transparency MORE (R-Ind.) as he left the meeting. 


At least five GOP senators — including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Gardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year Tumultuous court battle upends fight for Senate MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Gardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year Tumultuous court battle upends fight for Senate MORE (Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election Gardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year Grassley, Ernst pledge to 'evaluate' Trump's Supreme Court nominee MORE (Utah), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGraham: GOP will confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda MORE (Tenn.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes 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 NadlerSchumer: 'Nothing is off the table' if GOP moves forward with Ginsburg replacement Top Democrats call for DOJ watchdog to probe Barr over possible 2020 election influence House passes bill to protect pregnant workers MORE (D-N.Y.) floats John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE as potential impeachment witness.


The Washington Post: Senate Republicans seize on Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzThe Hill's 12:30 Report: War over the Supreme Court Dershowitz suing CNN for 0 million in defamation suit Bannon and Maxwell cases display DOJ press strategy chutzpah MORE’s constitutional law argument that Trump’s actions are not impeachable.


The Hill: Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordMcConnell works to lock down GOP votes for coronavirus bill Charities scramble to plug revenue holes during pandemic Warren calls for Postal Service board members to fire DeJoy or resign MORE (R-Okla.) says the Senate should get a copy of Bolton‘s unpublished manuscript.





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 SandersJacobin editor: Primarying Schumer would force him to fight Trump's SCOTUS nominee Trump campaign plays up Biden's skills ahead of Cleveland debate: 'He's actually quite good' Young voters backing Biden by 2:1 margin: poll 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 BidenJoe Biden looks to expand election battleground into Trump country Trump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally Special counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report 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 CarperDemocrat asks for probe of EPA's use of politically appointed lawyers Overnight Energy: Study links coronavirus mortality to air pollution exposure | Low-income, minority households pay more for utilities: report OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium 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 WarrenJudd Gregg: The Kamala threat — the Californiaization of America GOP set to release controversial Biden report Biden's fiscal program: What is the likely market impact? 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 CollinsLoeffler paints herself as 'more conservative than Attila the Hun' in new campaign ad Vulnerable GOP incumbents embrace filling Supreme Court seat this year Georgia GOP Senate candidates cite abortion in pushing Ginsburg replacement 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 PelosiTrump puts Supreme Court fight at center of Ohio rally CDC causes new storm by pulling coronavirus guidance Overnight Health Care: CDC pulls revised guidance on coronavirus | Government watchdog finds supply shortages are harming US response | As virus pummels US, Europe sees its own spike 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.


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 KushnerAbraham Accords: New hope for peace in Middle East Tenants in Kushner building file lawsuit alleging dangerous living conditions Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing 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: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Kobe Bryant has left this earth — but his life lessons linger, by Sandeep Gopalan, opinion contributor, The Hill.   


China's biological 'Chernobyl': Different country, same lies, by Bradley A. Thayer and Lianchao Han, opinion contributors, The Hill. 


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.


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 ClintonJoe Biden looks to expand election battleground into Trump country Biden leads Trump by 12 points among Catholic voters: poll The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden goes on offense 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 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 PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: House Democrats unveil stopgap spending measure to GOP opposition | Bill includes .6B for new subs | Trump issues Iran sanctions after world shrugs at US action at UN Navalny calls on Russia to return clothes he was wearing when he fell ill US issues Iran sanctions to enforce UN action ignored by international community 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 HurdHillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE (R-Texas), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Races heat up for House leadership posts Ahead of a coronavirus vaccine, Mexico's drug pricing to have far-reaching impacts on Americans MORE (D-Texas) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonUS Chamber of Commerce set to endorse 23 House freshman Democrats Arizona lawmaker warns Pence state may end coronavirus testing due to shortage Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday MORE (D-Ariz.). Information is HERE.


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 LemonScaramucci to Lemon: Trump 'doubling down' on downplaying virus 'should scare' viewers Cohen: Trump is serious when he mentions staying for more than two terms Cohen: 'I guarantee that it's not going to go well for whoever' set up Woodward interview 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).


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).