Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! 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!
By the time nearly ten hours of questions from senators had paused for the night during President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE’s impeachment trial on Wednesday, the notion of acquittal on Friday with no witnesses had gained altitude in the Senate.
The trial’s format calls for another day of questions. Senators from both parties, taking their cues from their colleagues’ queries late Wednesday, said the prospect of 51 votes to call witnesses and prolong the trial appeared to have dimmed. To seek new evidence would require at least four Republicans to join every Democrat in the Senate in support of a motion to begin debate on the issue later this week.
Jay SekulowJay Alan Sekulow57 House Republicans back Georgia against DOJ voting rights lawsuit The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - New video of riot unnerves many senators Trump legal switch hints at larger problems MORE, the president’s personal attorney, said that if witnesses are called, “We would be here for a very, very long time. And that’s not good for the United States.”
That’s a view shared by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeking challenger to McConnell as Senate GOP leader: report Budget chairman: Debt ceiling fight 'a ridiculous position to be in' Buckle up for more Trump, courtesy of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ky.), who believes calling witnesses would create a slippery slope for Trump, the Republican Party and for GOP senators, like himself, who will face the voters in November.
The Hill: On fascinating display on Wednesday: A struggle for influence between McConnell and Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyFive questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds MORE (R-Utah).
The Hill: Marathon question session put key senators in the spotlight.
Trump is all but assured of acquittal on allegations brought by House Democrats that he abused his presidential authority by soliciting help from Ukraine to try to dig up dirt on a presidential rival, then tried to stonewall Congress to cover it up. Senators from both parties do not dispute that two-thirds of the upper chamber will not vote to remove Trump from office on the basis of the arguments presented by the House prosecutors.
Motions that may be introduced on Friday to debate trial witnesses are expected to fall short of the support needed to try to depose former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' MORE or any other top Trump aide. Democrats want to fortify accusations of a quid pro quo, or what the House impeachment managers argue was the president’s “corrupt scheme” to enlist the help of a foreign government to improve his chances of reelection.
The Wall Street Journal: Democrats say they are stunned by a Trump lawyer’s stance on campaign help from a foreign government.
Retired Harvard University professor and legal scholar Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzHow to mess with Texas' anti-abortion bounty? Apply it to gun sales Those calls to impeach Biden: As wrong as they were with Trump Larry David, Alan Dershowitz get into verbal altercation at grocery store MORE, a member of Trump’s defense team, told senators on Wednesday that anything any president does to mix policy decisions with personal political considerations is in the public interest and cannot be impeachable.
The Hill: Some GOP senators are Bolton admirers. They’re in a tough spot.
As Chief Justice John Roberts fielded queries submitted in writing, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke prepping run for governor in Texas: report Support for Abbott plunging in Texas: poll White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE (R-Texas) asked if it mattered if there was a quid pro quo. No, responded Dershowitz, who maintained that presidents and politicians see the public good as an offshoot of their reelection. “That’s why it’s so dangerous to try to psychoanalyze a president,” he said (The Associated Press). The House impeachment managers, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOvernight Hillicon Valley — Hacking goes global Schiff calls on Amazon, Facebook to address spread of vaccine misinformation Spotlight turns to GOP's McCarthy in Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Calif.), dismissed Dershowitz’s expansive interpretation of presidential self-interest.
Senate Republicans said they are confident Roberts will not cast a tie-breaking vote to decide whether to allow additional testimony from witnesses. According to The Hill’s Jordain Carney, GOP senators believe such a move would go against how Roberts views his role in the trial: As ceremonial arbitrator, unlikely to insert himself in a political brawl of this magnitude.
“I certainly think it’s a very fraught topic,” said Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE (R-Mo.), noting that he had not talked to Roberts about the prospect. “I would guess that he would not break a tie.”
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (R-Mo.) added that a 50-50 vote would mean the drive to call witnesses failed.
The New York Times: From defense team’s broad version of Trump’s “public interest” to Democrats’ warnings of a toothless future Senate, 6 takeaways from Wednesday’s trial questions.
The Hill: Bolton lawyer disputes National Security Council assessment that classified secrets are included in his client’s pending manuscript and must be deleted before publication.
NBC News: White House objects to publication of Bolton’s book, demands classified information be deleted first.
The Associated Press: Impeachment trial became more pointed with senators’ detailed back-and-forth questions, which continue today.
The Hill: Dem senator to force vote requiring Roberts to weigh in on witnesses.
LEADING THE DAY
CAMPAIGNS & POLITICS: He might not be competing in the first four contests of the Democratic primary, but former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWithout drastic changes, Democrats are on track to lose big in 2022 Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary The tragedy of 9/11 — an inflection point in American history MORE is grabbing the attention of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE’s campaign.
As Jonathan Easley and Amie Parnes report, allies of the former vice president are growing anxious about Bloomberg’s presence in the race and potential effect on Super Tuesday, when 13 states (plus American Samoa) will hold their contests. Specifically, they argue the former mayor could siphon off support from Biden pave the way for Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin suggests pausing talks on .5 trillion package until 2022: report Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Sanders calls deadly Afghan drone strike 'unacceptable' MORE (I-Vt.) to nab the Democratic nomination.
Even if Biden successfully beats back challenges from centrists such as former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Blumenthal calls on Buttigieg to investigate American Airlines-JetBlue partnership LGBT film festival to premiere documentary about Pete Buttigieg MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharKlobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats Harris, CBC put weight behind activist-led National Black Voter Day MORE (D-Minn.) in early-voting states, headlined by Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll have Bloomberg waiting for him on March 3, when nearly 40 percent of convention delegates are up for grabs.
There is a lot of overlap between the supporters of the two septuagenarian candidates as they both have deep ties to the Democratic establishment and long relationships with some of the party’s premier donors.
The issue potentially facing the two mirrors the one faced by Republicans who opposed Trump in the 2016 GOP primary, where they were unable to settle on one alternative candidate or strategy and Trump rolled without issue toward the nomination.
The Washington Post: Biden, Sanders allies have spoken to Andrew YangAndrew YangAndrew Yang planning to launch third party: report Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Kings launch voting rights effort honoring John Lewis MORE’s campaign about caucus night cooperation.
The Associated Press: Biden under pressure to prove he can thwart new GOP attacks.
While Biden worries about the looming threat from Bloomberg, the danger is more immediate for Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (D-Mass.). She has seen her support levels fall in recent weeks, putting her in fourth place in both Iowa and New Hampshire according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average.
Her current standing is in stark contrast to only three months ago when she was riding high and could credibly claim the mantle as the front-runner for the Democratic nod.
In his latest memo, Niall Stanage examines Warren’s bid and what she needs to do in the coming weeks to survive the early states and eventually land her back into position to contend for the nomination.
The New York Times: Elizabeth Warren’s Iowa pivot: from her plans to her plan to win.
The Hill: Poll: Biden leads in Iowa, with Sanders in close second.
Jonathan Allen: Rival campaigns say Trump Ukraine hits are a warning to Biden.
The Hill: Minneapolis NAACP, Black Lives Matter call on Klobuchar to suspend campaign.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: The Trump administration on Wednesday evacuated about 200 U.S. personnel and citizens to California from China as the death toll from the coronavirus rose to 170 and the transmission rate continued to surge in a nation of 1.3 billion people.
The White House announced a domestic task force to monitor the situation with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in the lead (The Hill).
The health commission for Hubei Province said today that the virus is spreading by 1,000 confirmed cases per day (The Washington Post), pushing the total number of people sickened by the virus closer to 8,000. Patients are being treated in at least 16 countries (Reuters).
The World Health Organization will convene an emergency meeting today in Geneva to discuss whether the microscopic organism now poses a public health emergency because of its rapid spread.
“In the last few days the progress of the virus, especially in some countries, especially human-to-human transmission, worries us,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference on Wednesday, naming Germany, Vietnam and Japan. “Although the numbers outside China are still relatively small, they hold the potential for a much larger outbreak.”
Five cases have been diagnosed in the United States in patients who traveled to the epicenter of the outbreak in China. HHS is not handling the virus as a public health emergency domestically, but medical experts are concerned about the human-to-human transmission rate seen in China, according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (The Associated Press).
As countries assess their preparedness for any epidemic or potential pandemic, officials with America’s public health infrastructure in states and localities say their budgets are stretched thin (The Hill). Trump has been criticized by Democrats for eliminating a senior director position for global health security and biothreats at the National Security Council during his presidency and for repeatedly proposing budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes for Health (The Associated Press).
The Washington Post has mapped the ongoing spread of the coronavirus in China and around the globe HERE.
> Trade: Trump, with fanfare and an assembled audience on the South Lawn on Wednesday, officially signed the replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (The Hill).
The president praised the bipartisan ratification of the revised hemispheric pact, but limited his public accolades to Republican senators (Democrats weren’t invited), joking that in the midst of an impeachment trial, “Maybe I’m just being nice because I want their vote. I don’t want to leave anyone out.”
The New York Times: What’s in the USMCA trade pact signed by the president?
> Russia: The Treasury Department on Wednesday announced new financial sanctions related to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, targeting eight people. “The coordinated U.S., EU, and Canadian designations limit the ability of these illegitimate officials to do business internationally and highlights the strength of the transatlantic alliance in standing up to Russia’s continued aggression,” Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinMenendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election MORE said (The Hill).
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Why the Ukraine effort by Donald Trump was not business as usual, by Lawrence Friedman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2t8uacZ
Iowa is a test of whether Sanders’s surge will endure, by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/38IERSO
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Washington Monthly senior editor Phillip Longman for a discussion about Democrats’ health care proposals; attorney Hassan Zavareei, whose client is suing the company Ring following the hacking of her home’s security system; David Pakman, host of The David Pakman Show, who discusses the Senate’s impeachment trial and Trump’s Middle East peace plan; and Michael Lind, author of the new book, “The New Class War.” Coverage at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.
The House meets at 9 a.m. to debate a measure that would limit military action against Iran, including a resolution to repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against Iraq.
The Senate convenes today at 1 p.m. to continue the impeachment trial.
The president, eager to tout U.S. trade pacts and the economy, flies to Warren, Mich., to speak at Dana Inc. Trump then flies to Des Moines to headline a reelection rally tonight in Iowa.
Vice President Pence also is in Iowa for a bus trip beginning in Sioux City at 9:30 a.m., stopping in Council Bluffs at 1:30 p.m., and ending at the Trump-Pence rally at 6:30 p.m. at Des Moines’s Knapp Center.
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Christie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group America needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries MORE met with staff and families at the U.S. Embassy in London this morning before attending a technology and discussion event with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Pompeo meets with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 1:15 p.m. in London.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will report on U.S. gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2019 at 8:30 a.m. The longest U.S. economic expansion on record continued last year and analysts anticipate 2.1 percent growth.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgTo infinity and beyond: What will it take to create a diverse and representative judiciary? Justice Ginsburg's parting gift? Court's ruling on Texas law doesn't threaten Roe — but Democrats' overreaction might MORE tonight receives the LBJ Liberty & Justice for All Award from the LBJ Foundation during an event at the Library of Congress in Washington. Ginsburg will be interviewed on stage by foundation president and CEO Mark Updegrove. Singer and songwriter James Taylor will perform. Livestream: www.lbjaward.org and www.facebook.com/LBJFoundation.
The Council on Foreign Relations hosts “Election 2020: U.S. Foreign Policy Forum” tonight in New Hampshire ahead of the Feb. 11 primary. Location (+ livestream): University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., 6 - 7:30 p.m. Panelists include CFR president Richard Haass, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and former State Department senior policy experts, Kori Schake and Wendy Sherman. New York Times national security correspondent David E. Sanger is the moderator.
You’re invited today to The Hill’s newsmaker event, “A More Perfect Union?” from 8 to 11 a.m. in Washington. Speakers include Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFirst Democrat jumps into key Texas House race to challenge Gonzales Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel MORE (R-Texas), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarCourt rulings put Biden in tough spot with Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy Supreme Court ruling on Texas abortion law rattles lawmakers Sunday shows - Biden domestic agenda, Texas abortion law dominate MORE (D-Texas) and Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonRoof collapse, explosion leaves four injured in Arizona Arizona governor withholding grants to schools with mask mandates The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (D-Ariz.). Information is HERE.
➔ U.S. economy & Federal Reserve: Chairman Jerome Powell and the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) said on Wednesday that the central bank will hold interest rates steady. The widely expected decision comes after Fed officials closed out a turbulent 2019 expressing confidence in the U.S. economy’s outlook for 2020, an election year. Powell added that the coronavirus and its impact are new factors on the Fed’s radar. "There is likely to be some disruption to activity in China and possibly globally based on the spread of the virus today and the travel restrictions and business closures that have already been imposed," he said (The Hill).
➔ Brexit: The European Parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the departure on Friday of the United Kingdom from the European Union — the final major decision in the four-year Brexit saga. EU nations are already preparing for the possibility that talks on a new trade deal with Britain could collapse by the end of the year, concerned that no-deal contingency planning for a chaotic end to the transition period is necessary (The Associated Press).
➔ Winning footwear: Elite marathoners want to race in Nike’s Vaporfly shoes. That’s because they run faster when they do. The shoes were worn by 31 of the 36 top finishers at the six biggest marathons in the world, so World Athletics, the ruling body for international track and field, is investigating whether the $250 shoes with special foam soles and carbon fiber plates in each heel create an unfair advantage under the rules (NBC News).
➔ In the Know - sports betting: Americans are expected to wager a jaw-dropping $6.8 billion collectively on Sunday's Super Bowl, according to the American Gaming Association, which released a new survey this week ahead of the Miami contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers (The Hill).
And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the late Kobe Bryant, we’re eager for some smart guesses about the storied career of the longtime Los Angeles Lakers star.
Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.
After Bryant was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft out of Lower Merion High School, who did the Los Angeles Lakers trade to acquire his draft rights?
- Nick Van Exel
- Eddie Jones
- Vlade Divac
- Elden Campbell
Having worn No. 8 throughout the start of his NBA career, in which season did Bryant first wear No. 24?
On January 22, 2006, Bryant scored 81 points, the second most points in a single NBA game in league history, only behind NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain’s famed 100-point game. Outside of Chamberlain, which player has the next-highest single game total?
- Michael Jordan
- Elgin Baylor
- Larry Bird
- David Thompson
During his 20-year career, Bryant took part in 18 NBA All-Star games, the second most in NBA history. Who has the most NBA All-Star game appearances?
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Shaquille O’Neal
- LeBron James
- Michael Jordan