The Hill's Morning Report - Trump acquitted; Romney breaks ranks on impeachment

 

 

 

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!



The Senate on Wednesday acquitted President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE of abusing his constitutional authority, ending a political tug-of-war that lasted more than four months. The president is the first commander in chief to seek reelection after being impeached. 

 

The results of the historic proceedings were never in serious doubt. From the outset of the House impeachment inquiry last year, lawmakers believed it was highly unlikely Trump would be removed from office by the GOP-controlled Senate.

 

Republicans stuck by the president throughout, culminating with Wednesday’s Senate votes — 48-52 and 47-53, respectively — to acquit the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, respectively. Senate Democrats needed 67 votes to remove Trump from office.

 

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGranting cash payments is a conservative principle 7 things to know about the coronavirus stimulus package Scarborough rips Trump for mocking Romney's negative coronavirus test: 'Could have been a death sentence' MORE (R-Utah) sent shockwaves through the political sphere hours before the final votes when he announced his intention to support ousting the president based on evidence of Trump’s abuse of his office. Romney, the GOP nominee for president in 2012 and the former governor of Massachusetts, was the only senator to cross party lines. The Utah Republican, whose term runs until January 2025, voted to acquit Trump of the House charge that he obstructed Congress during its impeachment inquiry.  

 

Speaking with emotion on the Senate floor, Romney said that Trump’s actions were “grievously wrong” and discussed at length how he wrestled with a decision. At times, Romney invoked his Mormon faith and said he understood the potential political consequences of trying to remove Trump. 

 

“The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor. Yes, he did,” Romney said about two hours before the Senate vote (The Hill).

 

“The president is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust. What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault under electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values,” he said. “What the president did was wrong — grievously wrong.”

 

In a conference call with Utah reporters late Wednesday, Romney said he expected to be criticized for his stance. “I know there’s going to be a lot of blowback from leaders in my party here. I presume I’ll receive the same reaction from leaders in my party in Utah,” Romney said. “Of course, the animosity that might be leveled from people in the street is going to be real as well” (Deseret News).

 

Mark Leibovich: Romney, defying the party he once personified, votes to convict Trump.

 

The Hill: What the impeachment vote looked like from inside the chamber.

 

Donald Trump Jr. called for Romney to be expelled from the party and the Senate GOP conference. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDanielRonna Romney McDanielRNC brings in more than million in February GOP chairwoman negative for COVID RNC chairwoman recommended COVID-19 test after experiencing symptoms MORE, Romney’s niece, tweeted, “I, along with the GOP, stand with President Trump.”

 

The reaction was milder from his Senate GOP colleagues, though many were surprised by the move and believe it was a mistake. When asked by reporters about the comments by Trump Jr., many dismissed the possibility of expulsion. Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunDemocrats, Trump set to battle over implementing T relief bill Senate GOP looking at ,200 in coronavirus cash payments GOP divided on next steps for massive stimulus package MORE (R-Ind.) called the suggestion “silly.” 

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Trump says he wouldn't have acted differently on coronavirus without impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) also told reporters that Romney would not be in any “doghouse,” though he indicated he did not receive much of a heads-up from the Utah Republican.

 

“We don’t have any dog houses here. The most important vote is the next vote,” McConnell said.

 

As ABC News’s Ben Siegel noted, Romney became the first senator to vote to convict a president of his own party in U.S. history.

 

The president reacted hours later to Romney’s vote, posting a video on his Twitter feed panning the 2012 GOP presidential nominee as a “Democrat Secret Asset.” He also added shortly after midnight that if Romney “devoted the same energy and anger to defeating a faltering Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Obama urges voters to 'demand better' after Trump rolls back fuel standards Trump administration rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards MORE as he sanctimoniously does to me, he could have won” the 2012 election.

 

The president also tweeted that he will make a public statement at noon “to discuss our Country’s VICTORY on the Impeachment Hoax!”

           

With impeachment over, McConnell announced the Senate will resume trying to confirm conservative judges, which he has described as one of his party’s priorities. The GOP filed cloture on a number of circuit and district judges, which the Senate will consider on Monday. 

 

The Atlantic: Interview with Romney: How the senator decided Trump is guilty. “The president did in fact pressure a foreign government to corrupt our election process,” Romney said. “And really, corrupting an election process in a democratic republic is about as abusive and egregious an act against the Constitution — and one's oath — that I can imagine. It's what autocrats do.”

 

The Washington Post: Romney knew a storm was coming over his vote. How long it lasts will be up to Trump.

 

The Hill: Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP presses for swift Ratcliffe confirmation to intel post Campaigns pivot toward health awareness as races sidelined by coronavirus Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package MORE (R-Maine) asserts it is sexist to assume she got permission from McConnell on her vote in favor of trial witnesses and documents.

 

CNN: Quick acquittal: How McConnell orchestrated the end to Trump's impeachment trial in 15 days.

 

The New York Times: At the president’s Washington hotel, members of Trump’s legal team, at least one lawmaker and political advisers gathered to celebrate the Senate acquittal on Wednesday.

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & 2020 CAMPAIGNS: Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll The Memo: Political world grapples with long coronavirus shutdown The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE is ramping up the attacks against his 2020 Democratic rivals as he looks for a bounce-back performance in New Hampshire after an underwhelming showing in the Iowa caucuses on Monday. 

 

Appearing at a campaign event in Somersworth, N.H., the former vice president took aim at Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE (I-Vt.) for his left-wing proposals and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegReuters poll finds Sanders cutting Biden national lead to single digits Biden says he'll adopt plans from Sanders, Warren Buttigieg guest-hosts for Jimmy Kimmel: 'I've got nothing else going on' MORE for his lack of significant experience in public office. The attacks come amid an attempted rebound by Biden, who described Iowa as a “gut punch” for his campaign but vowed to battle back (The Hill).

 

“We need a nominee who can help Democrats up and down the ticket. But if Sen. Sanders is the nominee for the party, every Democrat in America up and down the ballot in blue states, red states, purple states, in easy districts and competitive ones, every Democrat will have to carry the label Sen. Sanders has chosen for himself,” Biden said of the Vermont Independent. “He calls himself a democratic socialist. Well, we’re already seeing what Donald Trump is going to do with that. Donald Trump is desperate to pin the socialist label … on our party. We can’t let him do that.”

 

“Mayor Pete likes to attack me as well. He’s a good man, calls me part of the old, failed Washington. ... Is he really saying the Obama-Biden administration was a failure? Pete, just say it out loud,” Biden told the crowd. “I do believe it’s a risk, to be just straight up with you, for this party to nominate someone who’s never held an office higher than a mayor of 100,000 people in Indiana.”

 

Biden added that Buttigieg has “enormous potential” but that the country needs more experience in the Oval Office. 

 

Politico: First head rolls after Biden’s weak Iowa finish.

 

The New York Times: What went wrong for Joe Biden in Iowa. 

 

CNN: Bernie Sanders raised a whopping $25 million in the month of January.

 

 

 

 

The Democratic field is still waiting for the full results to be released from Monday’s caucuses as the Iowa Democratic Party continues to release partial results. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg holds the narrowest of leads with 26.2 percent of the state delegate equivalents over Sanders’s 26.1 percent. 

 

The Associated Press: A deadlocked contest in Iowa between Buttigieg and Sanders with 97 percent of precincts reporting as of this morning.

 

The New York Times: Snail mail and nuisance calls: New details on the Iowa caucus problems.

 

Bloomberg News: Trump fans flooded Iowa caucus hotline, Democrats say.

 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Biden faces pesky enthusiasm challenge despite big primary numbers MORE (D-Mass.) continues to maintain third place with 18.2 percent of the delegate equivalents, while Biden takes only 15.8 percent.

 

After his strong showing in Iowa, Buttigieg is going all out to nab a second potential win in the first-in-the-nation primary, according to The Hill’s Amie Parnes and Jonathan Easley. The former mayor has events piled up across the state over the next few days, a strategic decision by his team to focus on the predominantly white state where he’s seen an uptick in the polls rather than Nevada or South Carolina as he continues to struggle winning support from voters of color. 

 

New Hampshire Democrats believe Sanders is the clear favorite in the state, but if Buttigieg finishes ahead of Warren, Biden and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Hillicon Valley: FCC chief proposes 0M telehealth program | Twitter takes down posts promoting anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus| Whole Foods workers plan Tuesday strike MORE (D-Minn.), his team believes he could claim the mantle of the centrist wing of the party.

 

Niall Stanage: The Memo: Iowa caucuses stoke Democratic anxiety.

 

Reid Wilson: 5 takeaways from the early Iowa results.

 

CNN: 5 takeaways from New Hampshire town halls.

 

Greg Ip, The Wall Street Journal: Trump wants a referendum on the economy — and Sanders may oblige. 

 

 

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL: Because of concerns that the pace of the spread of the mysterious China coronavirus has not yet peaked, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has asked for $675 million to help countries invest in preparedness to respond to the public health emergency (The Associated Press).

 

The virus has killed 565 people and infected 28,344 around the world, according to the most recent data. Nevertheless, WHO believes the number of people infected is actually higher, which would lower the rate of fatalities from the new virus. With the exception of two deaths, mortalities have occurred in China (Reuters).

 

Cruise liner passengers infected by the virus were led off a ship in Japan on Wednesday while passengers on another ship in Hong Kong were being tested for the coronavirus as concerns rose about the impact of placing people in two-week quarantines (The Associated Press). Today, 10 more passengers from that cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for the virus (Reuters).

 

 

> China trade: Retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. goods worth about $75 billion will be cut by Beijing from 10 percent to 5 percent, and from 5 percent to 2.5 percent on others, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Finance. The adjustments will take effect at 1:01 p.m. on Feb. 14, it said, without specifying a time zone (CNBC).

  

> Venezuela: Trump met for the first time with opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Wednesday, after hailing him during his State of the Union in the Capitol as the legitimate president of Venezuela. It has been more than a year since Trump promised to “use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power” to drive Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office (The Washington Post).

 

 

 

 

> Iran: Tehran has taken no further steps to violate its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal since it renounced all restraints imposed by the agreement last month, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency reported on Wednesday (Reuters).

 

> Vatican: Pope FrancisPope FrancisPope tests negative for coronavirus, Vatican says Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — US coronavirus cases hit 100,000 | Trump signs T stimulus package | Trump employs defense powers to force GM to make ventilators | New concerns over virus testing Pope Francis delivers special prayer for end to coronavirus pandemic MORE, a native of Argentina, on Wednesday urged the International Monetary Fund and finance ministers from across Latin America to work together to end economic “injustices,” saying Wednesday that new forms of solidarity can give hope to the poorest (The Associated Press).

 

> Syria: Today, the U.N. Security Council will meet to discuss the situation in the city of Idlib in Syria, where Syrian forces have advanced. The meeting was called by the United States, France and the United Kingdom (Reuters). Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan said he will not let Russian-backed Syrian government forces into Idlib province because of the number of civilians forced to flee into neighboring Turkey. "Syria is right now trying to buy time by driving those innocent and grieving people in Idlib toward our borders," Erdoǧan was quoted as saying by Turkish media. "We will not allow Syria the opportunity to gain ground there" (BBC).

 

> From space to Earth: Today, an international space station crew including NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who has spent more time in space on a single mission than any other woman (328 days), landed safely in Kazakhstan. The Soyuz capsule carrying Koch, along with station Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Alexander Skvortsov, touched down southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan (The Associated Press).



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



OPINION

What is next for Democrats? By former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden looks for end to Democratic primary The bad record of this national crisis Can Joe Biden save the economy? MORE (D-N.Y.), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/3biS4UC 

 

Trump's address was a success — but now the hard part starts, by Bradley A. Blakeman, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2OvinwS 



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Chuck Rocha, senior adviser for the Sanders campaign, on the lay of the land after Iowa and in New Hampshire; Charles Lehman, staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon, on the rise of the U.S. suicide rate; and Dalhi Myers, a member of South Carolina’s Richland County Council. Coverage at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube.

 

The House meets at 10 a.m. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: White House projects grim death toll from coronavirus | Trump warns of 'painful' weeks ahead | US surpasses China in official virus deaths | CDC says 25 percent of cases never show symptoms 14 things to know for today about coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Trump, telecom executives talk coronavirus response | Pelosi pushes funding for mail-in voting | New York AG wants probe into firing of Amazon worker | Marriott hit by another massive breach MORE (D-Calif.) holds her weekly press briefing at 10:45 a.m. The House Homeland Security Committee holds a 10 a.m. hearing about facial recognition technology and security. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens | Trump officials detail new small-business loan program | Outbreak poses threat to mortgage industry Infrastructure bill gains new steam as coronavirus worsens Trump backs infrastructure bill as next phase of coronavirus relief MORE (R-Calif.) holds at 11:30 a.m. briefing with the news media.  

 

The Senate will convene a pro forma session at 11:30 a.m. 

 

The president speaks at 8 a.m. at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Trump will participate in a credentialing ceremony for new ambassadors to the United States at 11 a.m. He will speak at noon in the East Room about his impeachment acquittal by the Senate. He is expected to have lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSusan Rice scolds Pompeo for using 'Wuhan virus' term Overnight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain pleads for help with outbreak | Pentagon shipment of ventilators delayed | Pompeo urges countries to be more 'transparent' with virus data US tells Maduro, Guaidó to 'step aside' in Venezuela MORE at 12:30 p.m. Trump and Pompeo will meet this afternoon at the White House with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. The president will receive a briefing about the coronavirus at 4:30 p.m. from a special government task force he established last week.  

 

The Hill’s Campaign Report newsletter is now daily, with reporting from our colleagues on the politics team. Sign up to receive the latest news in your inbox: http://www.email.thehill.com/thehillreg/thehillreg/pref.action



ELSEWHERE

Justice: Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, 81, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence, says he is dying from kidney disease and seeks early release from prison (CNBC). The Justice Department opened a federal civil rights investigation after a string of deaths in Mississippi prisons, officials said Wednesday. Federal prosecutors are looking into conditions at four state prisons after the deaths of at least 15 inmates since late December (The Associated Press).  

 

Baseball: Congress and Major League Baseball (MLB) are barreling toward a showdown over the league's plans to eliminate 42 minor league franchises across the country ahead of the 2021 season (The Hill). … Bad bet? Former Cincinnati Reds player Pete Rose, 78, asked MLB (once again) to end his 1989 lifetime ban. His last request in 2015 was denied (The Associated Press). 

 

Dogs are great: Canine sleuths, trained by scientists, can sniff out a crop disease called citrus greening months and even years before it shows up in orange, lemon and grapefruit orchards in Florida, California and Texas, according to research published this week. A bacteria is responsible but has no known cure, so early detection means grove owners can try to halt an epidemic by destroying infected trees. “This technology is thousands of years old – the dog’s nose,” said Timothy Gottwald, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (The Associated Press).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the Hawkeye State, we’re eager for some smart guesses about this week’s Iowa caucuses.

 

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

 

In what year did Iowa hold its first Democratic caucus to apportion delegates and help select a presidential nominee?

 

  1. 1968
  2. 1972
  3. 1980
  4. 1984

 

The Iowa Democratic Party could not immediately report results on Monday night because of _____?

 

  1. A defective smartphone app
  2. A massive blizzard
  3. Tabulation errors by an elderly election volunteer
  4. Hacking

 

Trump mocked Democrats for initially bungling the caucus tally in Iowa. Which of these did he tweet?

 

  1. “The Democrat Party in Iowa really messed up, but the Republican Party did not.”
  2. “It is not the fault of Iowa, it is the Do Nothing Democrats fault.”
  3. “When will the Democrats start blaming RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, instead of their own incompetence for the voting disaster that just happened in the Great State of Iowa?”
  4. All of the above

 

Why does Iowa go first among the states during the presidential nominating calendar?

 

  1. Iowa state constitution
  2. Litigation settlement in federal court in 2004
  3. Rules have been adopted by the national parties, strengthened by tradition (and state pride) over time
  4. Network TV contracts stipulate that the 2020 calendar must begin in a small-population state located in the Midwest