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




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President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Congress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff 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 Bolton'Parasite' studio fires back after Trump criticism: 'He can't read' Trump swipes at 'little wise guy' Brad Pitt, Korean film 'Parasite' during rally Bolton on impeachment: 'My testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome' 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 SekulowWhat the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber Senate votes to acquit Trump on articles of impeachment Roberts emerges unscathed from bitter impeachment trial 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 McConnellTop GOP super PAC spent money on NC Democrat Everytown plans ad blitz on anniversary of House background check bill Kentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems 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 BraunOvernight Health Care: Ernst endorses bipartisan bill to lower drug prices | US partnering with drugmakers on coronavirus vaccine | UN chief says virus poses 'enormous' risks Senators, bruised by impeachment, hunt for deals Plan to probe Bidens sparks GOP divisions MORE (R-Ind.) as he left the meeting. 


At least five GOP senators — including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump budget includes proposal for US Consulate in Greenland Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe new American center Democratic Senate campaign arm raised more than .5 million in January On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump MORE (Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyProgressives hope Nevada offers roadmap for pro-union 2020 victory Texas woman sentenced for illegal voting faces deportation after parole Trump campaign buys top advertising spot on YouTube for Election Day MORE (Utah), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength The Hill's Morning Report — AG Barr, GOP senators try to rein Trump in MORE (Tenn.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe 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 (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 NadlerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Nadler demands answers from Barr on 'new channel' for receiving Ukraine info from Giuliani Trump predicts Ocasio-Cortez will launch primary bid against Schumer MORE (D-N.Y.) floats John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE as potential impeachment witness.


The Washington Post: Senate Republicans seize on Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzA disgraced Senate and president have no business confirming judges Dershowitz files defamation suit against Boies, alleging extortion Sunday shows - 2020 Democrats make closing arguments in New Hampshire MORE’s constitutional law argument that Trump’s actions are not impeachable.


The Hill: Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle The Hill's Morning Report - Trump defense rests, GOP struggles to bar witnesses GOP confident of win on witnesses 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 SandersPoll: Bloomberg stalls after Vegas debate Prominent Texas Latina endorses Warren Bloomberg campaign: Vandalism at Tennessee office 'echoes language from the Sanders campaign and its supporters' 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 BidenPoll: Bloomberg stalls after Vegas debate Bloomberg campaign: Vandalism at Tennessee office 'echoes language from the Sanders campaign and its supporters' Democratic strategist says Biden 'has to' get second place in Nevada 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 CarperOvernight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge EPA will regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water The Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children 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 Ann WarrenPoll: Bloomberg stalls after Vegas debate Bloomberg unveils billboards to troll Trump ahead of campaign stops John Legend joining Warren in South Carolina next week: report 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 CollinsTrump says he is considering four candidates for intelligence chief Doug Collins not interested in national intelligence role despite Trump interest The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday 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 PelosiCongress to get election security briefing next month amid Intel drama New York man accused of making death threats against Schumer, Schiff Twitter, Facebook split on manipulated Bloomberg video 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 KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats duke it out during Nevada debate Blagojevich heaps praise on Trump after release from prison The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms 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 ClintonComey responds to Trump with Mariah Carey gif: 'Why are you so obsessed with me?' Trump dismisses reports of Russian meddling, labels them Democratic 'misinformation campaign' The new American center 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 PompeoThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dem anxiety grows ahead of Super Tuesday Pompeo expects US-Taliban agreement to be signed on Feb. 29 The Hill's Morning Report — Sanders, Dems zero in on Super Tuesday 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 HurdGun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 Trump to attend California fundraiser with Oracle chairman The Hill's Morning Report - Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump 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.


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 LemonCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump Yang congratulates Romney for 'voting his conscience and character' in convicting Trump Jill Biden on Lindsey Graham: 'We used to be great friends, and now he's changed' 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).