The Hill's Morning Report — Trump basks in acquittal; Dems eye recanvass in Iowa

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump basks in acquittal; Dems eye recanvass in Iowa
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpCDC updates website to remove dosage guidance on drug touted by Trump Trump says he'd like economy to reopen 'with a big bang' but acknowledges it may be limited Graham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill MORE threw a party and invited Republicans (minus Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyOutgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump selects White House lawyer for coronavirus inspector general Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE of Utah) to the White House on Thursday to celebrate the Senate’s decision that he won’t be removed from office for allegations he abused his powers and obstructed a congressional investigation (The Hill). 

The Senate’s vote on Wednesday was not a surprise, nor was Trump’s display of relief and resentment about the impeachment drama he declares was made up by congressional Democrats and devoid of any evidence of wrongdoing.

“This is really not a news conference, it’s not a speech. It’s not anything,” Trump said. “It’s just, we’re sort of, it’s a celebration because we have something that just worked out….It’s called total acquittal.”

Speaking to a cheering audience in the East Room for more than an hour without a script, the president held aloft newspapers with bold headlines that declared “Trump acquitted” (The Hill).

In 1999, after former President Clinton was acquitted by the Senate on impeachment charges, he spoke for 10 minutes in the Rose Garden and apologized to the American people for what he’d put the nation through. There was no apology from the 45th president, who suggested the country should be grateful he was willing to thwart what he called “tremendous corruption,” “evil,” “dirty cops” (a reference to former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyIs coronavirus the final Trump crisis? Full appeals court to rehear case over McGahn subpoena Tucker Carlson: Biden's 'fading intellect' an 'opportunity' for Democrats to control him MORE), and “dirty politics,” which he blamed on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Mattis defends Pentagon IG removed by Trump Overnight Health Care: Trump calls report on hospital shortages 'another fake dossier' | Trump weighs freezing funding to WHO | NY sees another 731 deaths | States battle for supplies | McConnell, Schumer headed for clash MORE (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHealth care workers account for 20 percent of Iowa coronavirus cases Pressure mounts on Congress for quick action with next coronavirus bill Schumer names coronavirus czar candidates in plea to White House MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic investigators. 

Trump’s grievances, familiar on Twitter and Fox News for months, roping in the Russia probe and his 2016 victory, were signs that he has no intention of turning the page as he seeks a second term.

Mark Leibovich: “We’ve been through hell,” the president said, victorious.

The president thanked his family and gave shoutouts to some of his more prominent defenders in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers outline proposals for virtual voting Overnight Health Care: Trump calls report on hospital shortages 'another fake dossier' | Trump weighs freezing funding to WHO | NY sees another 731 deaths | States battle for supplies | McConnell, Schumer headed for clash Phase-four virus relief hits a wall MORE (R-Ky.), Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court The relief bill and public broadcasting: A missed opportunity MORE (R-Ohio) and Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikBottom line Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors MORE (R-N.Y.), among others. 

Despite the historic black mark of being the third president in history to be impeached, it has been something of a high-five sort of week for Trump. As Scott Wong points out, the president delivered a State of the Union address on Tuesday that was hailed by GOP lawmakers and his loyal base of supporters. He and fellow Republicans took advantage of the Democratic Party’s debacle in Iowa on Monday, and U.S. economic indicators and the financial markets continued to soar. 

“Through a combination of unforced errors and political maneuvering, Trump had one of his best weeks,” one House Democrat involved with the impeachment effort acknowledged to The Hill.

Since his presidency began, Trump’s approval numbers have been consistently underwater and underwhelming. However, Gallup this week said Trump’s approval rating climbed to the highest mark of his presidency at 49 percent. The survey made headlines hours before Trump delivered his address to a combined audience of 37 million people on Tuesday night. 

According to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls, Trump’s approval rating sits at 45.3 percent, one of the highest marks of his presidency. 

McConnell said he’s eager to put impeachment behind the Senate and to shift back to confirming conservative judges and Trump’s executive nominees with a focus on getting Republicans reelected in November. 

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham backs Trump, vows no money for WHO in next funding bill UN biodiversity chief calls for international ban of 'wet markets' Graham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets MORE (R-S.C.), a staunch Trump defender, is flirting with investigating the activities half a dozen years ago of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump shakes up WH communications team The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic The Intercept's Ryan Grim says Cuomo is winning over critics MORE, his son Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian energy company Burisma (The Hill).  

House Democrats, desultory about the public’s opposition to ousting Trump months before an election, have promised to keep digging into the president’s actions and those of his associates. There are plenty of Democratic political analysts who have advised the Democratic Party to use legislative levers other than impeachment to focus on progressives’ goal of putting a Democrat in the Oval Office in January. 

“I’m sure they’ll try to cook up other things,” the president protested. “They want to destroy our country and we’re not going to let it happen.”

The Washington Post: Trump lambastes, reassigns critics who testified during the impeachment hearings. Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanTrump takes heat for firing intel watchdog during pandemic America's diplomats deserve our respect White House withdraws nomination for Pentagon budget chief who questioned Ukraine aid hold MORE, who had requested to move out of the White House National Security Council at the end of this month, will be moved out sooner than that at the president’s behest. 

The Hill: McConnell displays mastery of Senate with impeachment victory.

The New York Times: Democrats, knocked back by Trump’s acquittal, ponder their next steps.

The Hill: Pelosi defends her actions: Trump State of the Union address “beneath the dignity of the country.”

The Hill: House Republicans move Jordan to the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump shakes up WH communications team Kayleigh McEnany to take over as White House press secretary Grisham leaves role as White House press secretary MORE (R-N.C.) to the Oversight panel.

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & 2020 CAMPAIGNS: Unfortunately for all parties, the Democratic Party can’t get past Iowa. 

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom PerezThomas Edward PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE called Thursday for a recanvass of the Iowa caucuses as the state continues to deal with fallout from Monday’s debacle.  

By Thursday night, with 100 percent of Iowa precincts reporting, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDrugmaker caps insulin costs at to help diabetes patients during pandemic The Hill's Campaign Report: Wisconsin votes despite coronavirus pandemic Sen. Brown endorses Biden for president MORE (I-Vt.) emerged neck and neck (The Hill). While Buttigieg said he’d won, doubts about the integrity and accuracy of the Iowa data continue to undermine confidence in the tally.

“Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have emerged in the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to assure public confidence in the results, I am calling on the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvass,” Perez tweeted early Thursday afternoon. 

A DNC official told The Hill that a recanvass, distinct from a recount, would be a hand audit of caucus math worksheets and reporting forms to ensure they were properly tallied and reported. 

However, Perez’s call was met with resistance from the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP). Troy Price, chairman of the IDP, said in a statement that the campaigns, not Perez, could request a recanvass. The candidates have until noon today. 

The Hill: The Associated Press is unable to declare a winner in Iowa caucuses.

Dan Balz: Joe Biden’s campaign has a problem, and it begins with the candidate.

 

 

Looking ahead, the debacle in Iowa has only exacerbated tensions between Sanders and the DNC, which were already fraught to begin with after the tenuous 2016 cycle. 

As Jonathan Easley writes, Sanders’s supporters and allies have grown increasingly frustrated over the historic screw-up in Iowa, with many complaining that the Vermont independent has been deprived of momentum he should have had coming out of the first-in-the-nation caucus. They also argue that the chaos consuming the state party is emblematic of the establishment figures at the controls whose unchecked power has bred incompetence and laziness.

There has been no indication of any wrongdoing — on purpose or not — in the vote counting, but that hasn’t stopped Sanders supporters from getting agitated over the ongoing victory tour by Buttigieg in the aftermath of Monday’s caucuses. They believe the former mayor is the beneficiary of party processes, with the entire situation giving more fuel to their anti-DNC sentiment. 

With Iowa still fresh in the mind, one would be forgiven if it slipped the mind that there is a debate tonight, the eighth of the 2020 cycle and the only one to take place before Tuesday’s primary. Seven Democratic candidates will take the stage — Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation Warren releases plan to secure elections during coronavirus pandemic On The Money: Trump officials struggle to get relief loans out the door | Dow soars more than 1600 points | Kudlow says officials 'looking at' offering coronavirus bonds MORE (D-Mass.), Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar Klobuchar's husband recounts battle with coronavirus: 'It just suddenly hit me' Hillicon Valley: Schiff presses intel chief on staff changes | Warren offers plan to secure elections | Twitter's Jack Dorsey to donate B to coronavirus fight | WhatsApp takes steps to counter virus misinformation Wisconsinites put lives on the line after SCOTUS decision MORE (D-Minn.), Andrew YangAndrew YangJack Dorsey committing billion to coronavirus relief efforts Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Andrew Yang: Calling coronavirus 'China virus' only used to incite 'hostility' MORE and Tom SteyerTom SteyerProgressive advocates propose T 'green stimulus' plan Candidates want data privacy rules, except for their own campaigns Budowsky: Biden should pull together a 'dream team of rivals' MORE

The Hill’s Max Greenwood takes a look at five things to watch tonight in Manchester, N.H., including whether Sanders and Buttigieg clash, how the rest of the centrists treat Sanders, and the million-dollar question about the decision to hold the debate on a Friday: Will anyone watch?  

The Associated Press: Democrats prepare for New Hampshire debate with sense of urgency.

The Washington Post: His campaign on the line, Joe Biden went missing in New Hampshire to huddle with advisers at his home in Delaware. 

Notably, this debate could be the last one for a while to exclude former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergNew York City auctioned off extra ventilators due to cost of maintenance: report DNC books million in fall YouTube ads Former Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs MORE, who has not qualified for debates since he entered the race in November due to the need to reach donor thresholds. Starting with the Feb. 19 debate in Las Vegas, that threshold is no more, giving Bloomberg the chance to make the stage. 

Politico: Women of color bolt Warren’s Nevada campaign in frustration.

The New York Times: Bloomberg pursues wealthy donors, but not their checkbooks.

Bloomberg News: Trump 2020 manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE moves to Washington after criticism.

 



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

INTERNATIONAL: Yemen: The White House said on Thursday that the United States killed al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) founder Qassim al-Rimi in what it described as a “counterterrorism operation in Yemen.” Killing al-Rimi — who claimed responsibility for last year’s deadly shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola where a Saudi aviation trainee killed three American sailors — “further degrades AQAP and the global al Qaeda movement,” according to the statement. It did not elaborate about how or when the operation took place. In late January, a suspected U.S. drone strike destroyed a building that housed al Qaeda militants in eastern Yemen. Also, on Feb. 1, Trump retweeted several other tweets and media reports that seemed to offer confirmation that the strike had killed al-Rimi (The Associated Press).

 

 

> Coronavirus: From the death on Friday of eye doctor Li Wenliang, who communicated an early alarm about the virus in Wuhan, China, to the confirmed infection of a newborn just 36 hours old, the mysterious virus continues to challenge governments and medical experts (The Associated Press). 

It has killed 638 people and infected at least 31,515, according to the latest data. A dozen people with the virus are being treated in the United States.

President Xi Jingping assured Trump by phone that China can halt the epidemic with no long-term consequences for economic development, according to state television (Reuters). Trump confirmed their conversation on Twitter at 5:30 a.m. today: “Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation.

In Japan, another 41 people tested positive on a quarantined cruise ship (The Washington Post).

Scientists are racing to create a vaccine, but it may not come in time (The Associated Press).

Officials in China have told 11 million residents of Wuhan, which currently looks like a ghost town, that they must report their body temperatures daily to health officials (Business Insider).

Americans flown out of China because of the virus, and who are not expected to be ill, will be temporarily housed in Texas and Nebraska in military quarters. Officials said on Thursday that about 70 Americans will be flown into Omaha and quarantined at a nearby Nebraska National Guard training base. In Texas, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio was preparing to quarantine as many as 250 people who could arrive as soon as today (The Associated Press). 

Reddit is encouraging its users to combat sensationalist misinformation about the coronavirus on its platform, prompting medical experts on Reddit to take matters into their own hands. The unpaid curators of the website’s largest coronavirus-related discussion groups are working to ensure verified information rises to the top of the platform (The Hill).    

> United Kingdom: Trump had a heated conversation last week with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while discussing Chinese tech giant Huawei, reported the Financial Times. Trump’s “apoplectic” exchange with Johnson took place after the United Kingdom said it would allow Huawei to have a role in the country’s 5G cellphone networks, which the Trump administration sees as an intelligence risk (The Hill).

Meanwhile, Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrAppeals court sides with Trump on federal execution policy Barr tells prosecutors to consider coronavirus risk when determining bail: report Decentralized leadership raises questions about Trump coronavirus response MORE said at a conference on Thursday that the United States and its allies should be so determined to counter Huawei Technology Co.’s dominance in next-generation 5G wireless technology that they should consider taking a “controlling stake” in Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson, “either directly or through a consortium of private American and allied companies” (Reuters).

> Syria: President Bashar Assad’s forces entered a strategic town in the country’s last rebel stronghold Thursday after fierce clashes with opposition fighters, even as Turkey sent reinforcements seeking to curtail the offensive, Syrian state media reported. The push into the northwestern Idlib province has displaced more than a half million people in just over two months, compounding a massive migration and humanitarian disaster in the region that Turkey is eager to halt (The Associated Press).

> Venezuela: The Trump administration on Thursday condemned the “cruel and indefensible” detention in Caracas of executives from Houston-based refiner Citgo and also warned Russia over its support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (Reuters) Six American oil executives are now under house arrest in Venezuela after being rounded up by police hours after Trump met on Wednesday at the White House with Maduro’s chief opponent, Juan Guaidó, hailed by Trump as Venezuela’s true president (The Associated Press). 

> Trade: Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro escalated an administration feud with Amazon CEO Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosJeff Bezos gives 0M to Feeding America amid coronavirus pandemic Fired Amazon striker demands Bezos protect workers in open letter Hillicon Valley: Coronavirus deal includes funds for mail-in voting | Twitter pulled into fight over virus disinformation | State AGs target price gouging | Apple to donate 10M masks MORE (a favorite Trump target because Bezos owns The Washington Post). The Hill’s Emily Birnbaum interviewed Navarro on Thursday and reported on the latest rift, which ostensibly has to do with Amazon’s struggles to combat the sale of counterfeit merchandise, but also seems to be about R.E.S.P.E.C.T. and a meeting.

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

Seven things the Iowa caucuses taught us, may they rest in peace, by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/373pMKf 

Impeachment is over — or is it? by Andrew McCarthy, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2UysjcD

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features coverage at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. ET at Rising on YouTube. Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti co-authored "The Populist's Guide to 2020: A New Left and New Right are Rising," out this weekend.

The House meets at 9 a.m. Lawmakers are expected to consider bills on emergency disaster relief assistance for Puerto Rico and Medicaid funding.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. on Monday to consider the nomination of Andrew Brasher, 38, to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

The president heads to Charlotte today to address the North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit at 1 p.m., and he’ll be back at the White House three hours later. At 7:30 p.m., Trump will address the Republican Governors Association finance dinner in Washington while the National Governors Association holds its winter meeting. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS to label white supremacist group as terrorist organization for first time Trump administration eyes Afghan security forces funding for aid cut: report Trump says 40,000 Americans have been repatriated who were stranded abroad MORE meets at 9 a.m. at Foggy Bottom with Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and also the vice president of the European Commission. 

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will report on U.S. unemployment in January. In the midst of a remarkable stretch of robust employment and at the start of an election year, analysts are expected to take a close look at the latest data (The Associated Press).

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

Boeing: Boeing found a new software problem on the grounded 737 Max. The plane  continues to be plagued with problems as the company works toward getting its fleet into the air again. The airplane giant said the new problem will not set it back as it aims for return to service in mid-2020. Boeing said it notified the Federal Aviation Administration last month about the latest issue (Bloomberg News). 

Space: On Sunday, NASA plans to launch an orbiter into space to study the sun. The effort to capture images of the star’s poles with the probe requires a ride atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida (Fox News).

Hollywood: The Oscars are Sunday night, and based on the preliminary controversies, debates and complaints, an evening dedicated to celebrating the arts and sciences in film won’t please everyone. Female directors have been snubbed by the Academy (The Associated Press), and the films nominated in the Best Picture category launched much hand-wringing about the current direction of the industry (The New York Times). The nominees this year are HERE.  

One part of the evening sure to have Academy members recalling Hollywood’s golden age is the anticipated tribute for the late Kirk Douglas, 103, who died this week. In 1996, he was awarded an honorary Oscar and was the proud father of Oscar-winning actor and director Michael Douglas (The Associated Press).  

 

 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Congrats to the Morning Report quiz masters! 

With the efficiency of paper and pen, we counted the savvy readers who correctly answered our questions about the Iowa caucuses — and report our tally here: Daniel Bachhuber, Patrick Kavanagh, Phil Kirstein, Tim Aiken, Lawrence Keane, Steve Juarez, William Chittam, Chuck Schoenenberger, John Donato, Randall S. Patrick, Donna Minter, Rose Soriano, Enzo De Palma, Walter Pflaumer, Tim Burrack, Carol Katz, Dara Umberger, John Hayden and Lauren Bobek. 

They knew that the first Democratic caucus held in Iowa took place in 1972.

It was a defective smartphone app that delayed reporting of precinct results in Iowa this week. 

Trump tweeted many, many thoughts about the Democratic Party’s travails in Iowa and the correct answer among some lively choices: “All of the above.”

Iowa goes first among states during the presidential nominating calendar because of rules adopted by the national parties, strengthened by tradition (and state pride) over many years (The Des Moines Register).