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The Hill’s Morning Report – Icy moments between Trump, Pelosi mark national address

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President Trump did not shake Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand before he began his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. And when he was finished delivering one of the most partisan annual addresses by a president in recent memory, the California Democrat made a show of tearing up her copy of the prepared text of his address, which she later called a “manifesto of mistruths” (The Hill). Pelosi subsequently tweeted a photo of her extended hand (The Hill) and issued a statement that spoke of the “hand of friendship.” 


The icy manners in the Capitol ricocheted through social media. Republicans attacked Pelosi’s paper-shredding and cable TV zoomed in on frames of the president approaching the Speaker only to leave her hand dangling.


Just hours before a Senate impeachment trial ends today — an inquiry Trump has called “a hoax” — he delivered a 78-minute address that was a mix of annual tradition and unblinking braggadocio. GOP senators are expected to support the president’s acquittal today and leave a verdict up to voters in November. Trump stuck to his prepared text and did not mention the trial.


“Put America first,” he said while underlining his economic and culturally conservative themes along with made-for-TV theatrics he learned in business and brought to politics.


“Four more years!” his admirers chanted at one point, transforming a customarily staid event into a rally. “USA! USA!” 


Trump, his voice growing hoarse as the evening progressed, said he rescued the U.S. economy, lowered taxes, forged “fair” trade deals and made America safer in the wake of what he described as the “failed economic policies” of the Obama administration (The Hill). The White House called it the “great American comeback” speech.


“Our agenda is relentlessly pro-worker, pro-family, pro-growth, and, most of all, pro-American,” Trump said as he rattled off a list of what he described as best-in-history economic indicators. “We are advancing with unbridled optimism and lifting high our citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed.”


Democrats, he said, gazing around a House chamber filled with Democratic lawmakers who want to oust him from office or make him a one-term president, are too “radical” to be allowed to control Congress or the White House.


“One hundred thirty-two lawmakers in this room have endorsed legislation to impose a socialist takeover of our health care system, wiping out the private health insurance plans of 180 million Americans,” Trump said as members of the opposing party shook their heads in disapproval, stared straight ahead, and refused to stand or applaud.


“We will never let socialism destroy American health care!” the president continued while Republicans in the room cheered and stood to clap.


From crackdowns on “illegal aliens” to gun rights and from school prayer to ending abortions, Trump used his address to appeal to his conservative base and the GOP candidates he supports this election year. His choice of economic milestones, emphasis on criminal justice and welfare policies, and salute to African Americans in the gallery were intended to appear racially inclusive in a bitterly cleaved political climate in which Trump is described by his critics as a racist. 


Taking aim at Pelosi, seated behind him, he repeated his opposition to so-called sanctuary cities and community policies that provide public benefits to undocumented immigrants.


“If forcing American taxpayers to provide unlimited free healthcare to illegal aliens sounds fair to you, then stand with the radical left,” the president said. “This is what is happening in California and other states — their systems are totally out of control, costing taxpayers vast and unaffordable amounts of money.”


The Speaker, dressed in white along with other House colleagues to represent the women’s suffrage movement, pursed her lips, furrowed her brow and mouthed, “That’s not true.”


The New York Times: Trump, Pelosi exchange snubs.


The Hill: Democrats tear into Trump’s speech: “It was a MAGA rally.”


Continuing a practice begun by former President Ronald Reagan, Trump hailed invited guests seated in the gallery with first lady Melania Trump as examples of America’s greatness, the striving of its workers, the brave service of its military and its “blazing bright” future.  


The president invited Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to attend, along with conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the first lady during the speech. Limbaugh this week said he has late-stage lung cancer.


In passing nods to bipartisanship in an election year unlikely to produce much in the way of legislation with Democrats, Trump urged both parties to work with him to lower drug prices (“get a bill to my desk and I will sign it immediately”), and he endorsed GOP-sponsored legislation that would support a version of family leave and a bill that proposes to expand highway infrastructure.





The Hill: Trump hits highest job approval rating of his presidency with 49 percent in a new Gallup survey.


The New York Times: It was definitely a night for fact checking on all sides of the political spectrum. The Associated Press did it, too. And The Washington Post unpacked 31 statements, including “dubious claims.”


The Hill: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) put the focus on infrastructure during her official Democratic response.


The Hill: Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), during the Spanish-language response, attacked Trump’s rhetoric and policies.


The Hill: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called the president’s address “a disgrace” and said it was an event “I regret attending.”


The Hill: Other Democratic lawmakers opted to boycott the speech. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) walked out in the midst of Trump’s address.


Politico: Behind the curtain, Trump’s teleprompter man, Gabe Perez, keeps the president talking.


POLITICS & 2020 CAMPAIGNS: The first results of the Iowa caucuses have finally emerged and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has the inside track to take home the first-in-the-nation contest in the push for the presidential nomination.


The Iowa Democratic Party, after expressing remorse and embarrassment for the Monday night fiasco, released results from 71 percent of precincts, showing Buttigieg leading in the race for the state’s delegate equivalents with 26.8 percent, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) trailed narrowly behind with 25.2 percent. 


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sits in third with 18.4 percent, while former Vice President Joe Biden sits in a distant fourth with only 15.5 percent of the delegate share, a disappointing position for the longtime frontrunner for the party nod who was viewed as the potential victor in Iowa only weeks ago (The Hill). 


The result for the former vice president has heightened concerns among some of his supporters, who are well aware of the problems presented by this potential fourth place finish.


“I thought Joe would finish third, so disappointing,” one Biden supporter told The Hill, adding that he “really benefited” from the Monday night chaos. The Biden backer, however, remains bullish about the former VP’s chances in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday. 


“I just don’t see the numbers in South Carolina and Super Tuesday states changing based on this,” the Biden supporter said, adding that he must win handily in the Palmetto State. “Biden MUST win South Carolina solidly. Must.”


The Washington Post: Biden snags endorsement from electrical workers union.


Dave Wasserman: The Iowa caucuses’ muddled vote count was a debacle, but not for Joe Biden.


William A. Galston: Stop Bernie Sanders now.





While Biden’s struggles raised eyebrows, so did the strong numbers posted by Buttigieg in the early totals. According to a Buttigieg source, the former mayor was viable in the most precincts across the state and currently leads in 20 of the 31 counties that voted for former President Obama twice before flipping to Trump in 2016 — both positive signs for his team. 


It remains unknown when the Iowa Democratic Party will release the next batch or entirety of results. 


With the first numbers in, The Hill’s Niall Stanage laid out his early winners and losers of the caucuses. Among the winners, along with Buttigieg, Sanders and Trump is the next state on the calendar: New Hampshire. 


The Granite State has always had a rivalry with Iowa, and now it has the chance to show off its primary process on Tuesday night with expectations as low as can be after Monday. 


As Niall writes from the Hawkeye State capital, Iowans defend the idiosyncrasies of the caucuses and frequently note how the state has sometimes shifted high-profile contests itself, with Obama’s victory in 2008 serving as the prime example. The problems in Iowa could prove fatal to the state’s future on top of the primary and caucus calendar. No tears will be shed in Concord or Manchester.


Monday was a mixed bag for both Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Despite putting together solid showings, one main question will crop up regarding both campaigns: Where can they win with Iowa out of the way? While Warren has the necessary resources, it is hard to see where she defeats Sanders. As for Klobuchar, she doesn’t have the resources of Buttigieg or the name ID of Biden, making it tough for her to compete in the centrist lane, especially with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg looming for all three campaigns on Super Tuesday. 


On the losing end were Biden, the Democratic Party, and the state of Iowa. 


The Hill’s Reid Wilson reports that Iowa political experts and observers are worried their state’s first-in-the-nation status in presidential nominating contests is in jeopardy. The disastrous meltdown in reporting results on Monday was the third consecutive presidential election cycle during which there were problems with the Iowa caucuses. The Monday experience raised questions inside the party about procedures and the state’s demographics and status as first on the calendar as well as election integrity and security.


The Washington Post: Iowa Democrats kept their app a secret to prevent hacks. Instead, they got confusion and chaos.


CNN: Early Iowa turnout signs point to lagging Democratic enthusiasm.


The Daily Beast: James Carville rages over state of Democratic Party: “I’m scared to death.”


Roll Call: Kweisi Mfume, former Rep. Elijah Cummings’s (D-Md.) predecessor, wins Democratic nod in Maryland.





CONGRESS: The Senate is on the verge of voting to acquit the president on two articles of impeachment today as the tense battle between Democrats and Republicans is expected to wrap up after more than four months.


While impeachment itself will end, the consequences will be long-lasting as lawmakers are left frustrated and angry after the protracted fight that could affect legislative items in the future that will require bipartisanship and a requisite amount of cooperation. 


According to Alexander Bolton’s reporting, senators believe the trial is the latest sign that the upper chamber is behaving more like the House and has morphed into a more partisan body. 


Unlike the 1999 impeachment trial of former President Clinton, during which senators deliberated together for 25 hours behind closed doors, very little discussion occurred between Republicans and Democrats during proceedings about Trump’s actions.


On another front, Democratic chatter about potentially censuring the president is hitting a brick wall with Senate Republicans. The GOP leadership says the idea of a fallback punishment is a non-starter. 


As Jordain Carney writes, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) would need the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to get such a vote on the floor. The West Virginia Democrat has been discussing the idea with GOP senators. Potential supporters, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), said this week they were undecided on a censure motion. 


The Hill: Senate Republicans label Trump’s behavior “shameful” but not impeachable.


Immediately following Clinton’s acquittal in 1999, the Senate voted to defeat a similar censure effort designed to punish the 42nd president, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). 


The Hill: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will vote to acquit Trump.


The Associated Press: Senate so far split neatly along party lines on impeachment.


The Hill: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) declines to endorse censure of Trump.





Why Iowa may lose its first-in-the-nation status, by Sam Nelson of the University of Toledo, opinion contributor, The Hill.


If Bernie Wins, Where Will He Take the Democratic Party? By Thomas B. Edsall, columnist, The New York Times. 


Impeachment shows the ethical difficulties of foreign assistance, by Neil Narang of the University of California at Santa Barbara, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Paul Glastris, editor-in-chief of the Washington Monthly and a former Clinton speechwriter, to discuss Trump’s State of the Union speech; Democratic strategist Jennifer Holdsworth, who expands on what we know from the partial results tallied out of Iowa; and The Hill’s national political correspondent Reid Wilson, who reported from Des Moines as Iowans caucused on Monday. Coverage at or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.


The House will meet today at 10 a.m. FBI Director Christopher Wray will testify about oversight at 10 a.m. before the House Judiciary Committee. At 10:30 a.m., the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hear from executives with the five largest e-cigarette companies about marketing practices and the youth vaping epidemic (The Hill)


The Senate convenes at 4 p.m. to vote on two articles of impeachment against the president.


The president has lunch with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at 1 p.m.


Vice President Pence travels to Philadelphia to advocate for school choice at 12:30 p.m. and he will later headline a reelection event in Camp Hill, Pa., in the evening to mobilize female voters to support the GOP ticket.


Economic indicator: The Bureau of Economic Analysis will release the U.S. international trade report for December at 8:30 a.m. The U.S. trade deficit fell to its lowest level in November as imports fell.


The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter is now daily, with reporting from our colleagues on the politics team. Sign up here to receive the latest news in your inbox:


Coronavirus: The number of confirmed cases of the China virus continues to jump, but escalating fears of global economic contraction appeared to ebb on Tuesday as financial markets rebounded with optimism that an isolated China would weather the challenges.


The Wuhan coronavirus has killed 493 people, and infected at least 24,597 people, predominantly in China, according to the latest data. U.S. medical facilities are treating 11 patients with the virus and its respiratory symptoms, and the current patients are said to be recovering.  


In addition to responding to a public health emergency, the Trump administration is assessing the projected near-term economic impact in the United States. Travel restrictions ordered in China and by the administration could cost the United States $10.3 billion in lost spending by Chinese visitors, according to analysts (Reuters).


White House national economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox Business on Tuesday that the virus and its repercussions will impact the recently completed “phase one” of a trade agreement between the United States and Beijing. But he said the impact to U.S. growth should be “minimal” if the spread of the virus and various responses remain relatively contained and short-lived.


Maybe two-tenths of one percent in the first quarter. Maybe another two-tenths later in the year,” Kudlow said, acknowledging the many unknowns. “It’s not a catastrophe. It’s not a disaster. I mean people should really, I think, be very calm about this,” he added.


Hyundai said it will suspend its automobile production in a part of South Korea due to supply chain problems tied to the virus (The Hill). United and American Airlines are temporarily suspending service to Hong Kong as business plummets (The Wall Street Journal). 


Ten people aboard a Carnival cruise liner with 3,700 passengers docked in Yokohama in Japan have tested positive for the virus to date. The health screenings began on Monday evening after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man who sailed on the vessel last month tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus (Reuters).


In Hong Kong on Tuesday, more than 7,000 health personnel joined a strike in its second day in response to one patient’s death and four confirmed cases of the coronavirus infection, according to the Hospital Authority Employees’ Alliance, which organized the strike (The Associated Press).


Exposing fake photos: As false political content expands online, it’s hard to tell the difference between real and fake photographs. Jigsaw, a company that develops cutting-edge tech and is owned by Google’s parent, on Tuesday unveiled a free tool that researchers said could help journalists spot doctored photographs — even ones created with the help of artificial intelligence (The New York Times). … Twitter will begin to label and in some cases remove altered media including photos, audio and video if the material is likely to cause harm or is manipulated or synthetic with the aim of misleading people (The Hill).


Ireland: Discontent about housing and health care could bring Irish nationalists Sinn Fein to power on Saturday, or at least into a shared government in Ireland. The party has focused on inequality created by a five-year economic boom to win voters who shunned the Irish nationalists in the past (Reuters). 


And finally … All around the country, the U.S. Census Bureau is holding job fairs and recruiting events at libraries and community centers eager to staff up for the 2020 census count by offering paid positions. For example, the bureau will compensate workers $16 to $18 per hour in the Birmingham, Ala., area. In Concord, N.H., census workers can earn $18 to $20 an hour. In Anchorage, Alaska, it’s $25 to $28. In Washington D.C., workers can earn $22.50 to $25 per hour, while those in the suburbs could make up to $29. Here are the state-by-state details to get started.


According to the government, most positions are expected to last for “several weeks,” with some of the work required during evenings and weekends. 




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!

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