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 John TrumpFauci says his meetings with Trump have 'dramatically decreased' McEnany criticizes DC mayor for not imposing earlier curfew amid protests Stopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest 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 BoltonHave the courage to recognize Taiwan McConnell says Obama administration 'did leave behind' pandemic plan Trump company lawyer warned Michael Cohen not to write 'tell-all' book: report 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 SekulowAppeals court rejects Trump effort to throw out emoluments case Supreme Court divided over fight for Trump's financial records   Meadows joins White House in crisis mode 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic For city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now 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 faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Republicans introduce bill to create legal 'safe harbor' for gig companies during the pandemic MORE (R-Ind.) as he left the meeting. 


At least five GOP senators — including Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas MORE (Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats gear up to hit GOP senators on DACA OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Unemployment claims now at 41 million with 2.1 million more added to rolls; Topeka mayor says cities don't have enough tests for minorities and homeless communities MORE (Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyCongress flying blind: Why now is the time to revive the Office of Technology Assessment Trump asserts his power over Republicans Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight MORE (Utah), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderSenate GOP chairman criticizes Trump withdrawal from WHO Trump: US 'terminating' relationship with WHO Soured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet MORE (Tenn.) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMemorial Day during COVID-19: How to aid our country's veterans Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns 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 NadlerHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutality House Democrats call on DOJ to investigate recent killings of unarmed black people  Gun control group rolls out House endorsements MORE (D-N.Y.) floats John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE as potential impeachment witness.


The Washington Post: Senate Republicans seize on Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzMoussaoui says he now renounces terrorism, bin Laden The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Frist says Manhattan Project-like initiative necessary to fight virus; WH to release plan for easing lockdowns The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden faces tough task of uniting Democrats MORE’s constitutional law argument that Trump’s actions are not impeachable.


The Hill: Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP senator calls on State Department to resume passport application processing GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Senate revives surveillance brawl 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 SandersJudd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Biden's 'allies' gearing up to sink his campaign Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support 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 BidenStopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest Trump slams Biden staff for donating bail money to protesters At least 4,400 people arrested in connection with protests: 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 CarperMail ballot surge places Postal Service under spotlight Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump threatens coronavirus funds for states easing voting 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: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Vogue's Anna Wintour urges Biden to pick woman of color for VP Biden should name a 'team of colleagues' 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 CollinsGOP women's group rolls out endorsements ahead of contested races Bossie, Lewandowski warned Trump he was in trouble in 2020: report The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP beset by convention drama 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 PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US Judd Gregg: Biden — a path to the presidency, or not Trump asserts his power over Republicans 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 KushnerTrump's strategy to stay in office Trump tries to soothe anxious GOP senators Press: King Donald's goal - no checks, no balances 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 ClintonJuan Williams: Bush could strike blow for Biden Zuckerberg expressed concern to Trump over rhetoric amid protests: Axios Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight 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 PompeoHouse, Senate panels to question ousted State Dept. inspector general on Wednesday: report National security adviser says foreign powers trying to exploit US race relations Britain and Europe need to step up their support for 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 HurdJulián Castro launches PAC to support progressive candidates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers MORE (R-Texas), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarThe DACA recipients protecting all Americans The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pence visits Orlando as all 50 states reopen The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin, Powell: Economy may need more boost; Trump defends malaria drug MORE (D-Texas) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonArizona lawmaker warns Pence state may end coronavirus testing due to shortage Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday The Hill's Campaign Report: Centrists rush behind Biden to stop Sanders 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 LemonBirdwatcher questions whether response to woman who called police on him was 'proportionate' Birdwatcher: Woman's call to police was 'definitely racist' #FireChrisHayes trends after MSNBC host covers Biden sexual assault allegations 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).