The Hill’s Morning Report – House to impeach Trump this week
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 374,329.
House Democrats plan to impeach President Trump for a second time, determined to indict him days before the end of his tenure as punishment for his encouragement to supporters last week to lay siege to the Capitol in a violent few hours that left five people dead and placed Vice President Pence and lawmakers in physical jeopardy.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday night in a message to House members that leaders will ask today for unanimous consent to impeach Trump, setting the stage for his second such repudiation as president, which would make history if approved by a narrow Democratic majority in a floor vote anticipated this week. That vote could attract Republican backing from colleagues who say they are deeply shaken by Trump’s actions, The Hill’s Scott Wong and Mike Lillis report.
Pelosi said she would prefer that Pence, working with a majority of Trump’s Cabinet, take the initiative to strip Trump of his presidential authority using the 25th Amendment. The House today will introduce a resolution that calls on Pence to take action.
The New York Times: House moves to force Trump out, vowing impeachment if Pence won’t act.
Reuters: Trump again may turn to Rudy Giuliani to defend him against impeachment.
The vice president, who was upbraided by Trump last week for not heeding his direction to violate the Constitution and overturn states’ electoral tallies to thwart President-elect Joe Biden, has no plans to declare the president unfit to fulfill his oath of office, according to news reports. Pence will attend Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, while Trump has announced he will not.
A few Senate Republicans openly condemned Trump and urged him to resign immediately, despite their expectations that he will refuse to step down. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring from Congress in 2022, said on Sunday that the president “spiraled down into a kind of madness” after his Nov. 3 defeat (NBC News and The Hill).
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), during an interview in her home state, excoriated Trump. “I want him out. He has caused enough damage,” she said (The Hill). Murkowski, who voted to acquit the president a year ago when he was impeached by the House, suggested she might leave the Republican Party if it continues to support Trump.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) told CBS on Friday that he would “definitely consider whatever articles they might move.”
But Senate conviction, either before Trump leaves office or after, would require support from every Senate Democrat and at least 17 Republicans — a tall order ahead of the 2022 elections, when 20 Republican seats are in play.
The impeachment strategy that some House Democrats have talked about could put any indictment of Trump adopted this week into a kind of cryogenic sleep while Biden races to get his Cabinet nominees confirmed and parts of his 100-day legislative agenda through narrow Democratic majorities in both chambers. Months from now, the House could send the Trump article of impeachment to the Senate for a trial. If the upper chamber convicts Trump by a two-thirds majority — bolstered by results from multiple investigations into the Capitol riots — that action plus a separate Senate vote by a simple majority could bar Trump from holding a federal elective office in the future. He is considering another presidential bid in 2024.
NBC News: “The Senate will decide later what to do with that impeachment,” House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said on Sunday. The House, he said, could vote on impeachment as early as Wednesday. Clyburn’s private office in the Capitol was vandalized by last week’s rioters, and his iPad was stolen.
However, as time passes under a new administration and as the 2022 elections draw closer, senators’ fear and revulsion could shift as Trump begins to operate as an ex-president without the trappings and clout of his office, even if he nurtures his sway among his loyal supporters.
The Hill: Democrats, GOP face defining moments after Capitol riot.
The Washington Post: Democrats split over how hard to push for impeachment.
The New York Times: For Trump and the nation, a final test of accountability.
Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.); Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) plan to introduce a Trump impeachment article today. Cicilline tweeted they have more than 200 House cosponsors.
The New York Times: Congress’s impeachment debate will turn on Trump’s remarks to followers gathered in Washington on the afternoon of Jan. 6. He told his supporters, “We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. … We are going to the Capitol, and we are going to try and give — the Democrats are hopeless, they are never voting for anything, not even one vote, but we are going to try — give our Republicans, the weak ones, because the strong ones don’t need any of our help, we’re try — going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”
The Hill: After the Capitol violence, a majority in a new poll say Trump should be removed from office before his term ends.
Other calls from allies of the president for his removal from office continued to pile up. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who describes Trump as a friend for two decades, joined the chorus on Sunday (The Hill).
“We had people killed, and to me there’s not a whole lot of question here,” said Christie. “I think if inciting to insurrection isn’t [an impeachable offense], I don’t really know what it is.”
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, predicted that conservative voters will move on from their support of the president in the coming years. He argued that “the ideas are bigger than the people” (The Hill).
The Hill: Sunday shows — Capitol riots, Trump future dominate.
Dan Balz, The Washington Post: For Trump, the end is coming swiftly and with stinging rebukes.
For now, the president has a more immediate concern: whether Republicans will stick by him for nine more days before he leaves Washington. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton notes, the number of GOP congressional lawmakers who publicly want Trump to leave office can be counted on two hands, and it remains an open question whether support in that area grows in the coming days.
National security concerns are behind some calls to remove Trump from office. As commander in chief, he has power to call up the armed forces to quell civil unrest, as well as nearly unfettered authority to launch a nuclear weapon. Some experts say tensions with global hotspots such as Iran could still flare up before Trump leaves office (The Hill).
Niall Stanage: The Memo: GOP and the nation grapple with what comes next.
The Hill: Trump faces new legal jeopardy.
Politico: Trump allies warn him not to run in 2024.
Meanwhile, the president is set to travel on Tuesday to Alamo, Texas, to visit the Rio Grande Valley where he will mark the completion of 400 miles of border wall and the Trump administration’s work on immigration. And first lady Melania Trump this morning issued a statement five days after the events at the Capitol calling for civil national healing.
LEADING THE DAY
MORE FALLOUT: The last five days have brought heavy scrutiny for Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) from top donors and lobbyists after leading the objection charge to the electoral count on Wednesday.
The two lawmakers, used to criticism from across the aisle, have been subjects of Democratic resignation calls. However, it’s now raining down from those in their own ranks, with the two potential 2024 candidates facing criticism from key givers and supporters.
Hawley, who also lost a book deal from Simon & Schuster late last week, saw two of his top donors vow never to support him again. Cruz has also eroded support, including from Chad Sweet, his 2016 campaign chairman.
“Donald Trump and those who aided and abetted him in his relentless assault on our Democracy – including Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz – must be denounced,” Sweet wrote. “In particular, I made it clear to Senator Cruz, whom I have known for years, before the Joint Session of Congress, that if he proceeded to object to the Electoral count of the legitimate slates of delegates certified by the States, I could no longer support him.”
The financial issues are expected to affect not just the two 2024 potentials. A steady stream of companies and organizations, including JPMorgan, Marriott, Citibank and Blue Cross, have said in recent days that they will not donate to lawmakers who objected on Wednesday (The Hill).
It remains to be seen whether those donations extend to committees, including the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is helmed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who objected to the results in Arizona and is a potential 2024 candidate himself, during the 2022 cycle. However, GOP operatives are skeptical the announcements from those companies will have a ton of impact moving forward.
“The fuel of modern campaigns is grassroots online fundraising and super PACs funded by mega donors. That will likely continue to grow regardless of corporate giving,” said Alex Conant, a top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential campaign.
The Wall Street Journal: Financial tech company Stripe stops processing payments for Trump campaign website.
NBC News: Hawley becomes a pariah on Capitol Hill.
John F. Harris, Politico: Trump’s effort to overturn the election should be investigated like 9/11.
Security has also grown as a paramount issue in the aftermath of Wednesday’s riot. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Sunday that he spoke with FBI Director Christopher Wray on Saturday about the potential issues surrounding security during next week’s inauguration as threats continue to crop up.
“The threat of violent extremist groups remains high and the next few weeks are critical in our democratic process,” Schumer said of the inauguration. “Given that the same incendiary, dangerous rhetoric online that occurred before January 6 … has only escalated since, I impressed upon Director Wray the vitalness of the FBI to work with other federal and state agencies to remain highly proactive and extremely vigilant to defend our democracy.”
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that two individuals who appeared at the Capitol on Wednesday with zip ties and handcuffs are under investigation by the FBI as questions rise over whether they were on scene to potentially kill or capture lawmakers or others.
Axios: House increases security for lawmaker travel.
Politico: “Inside job”: House Dems ask if Capitol rioters had hidden help.
The Washington Post: Mob driven by grievances and disillusionment.
The New York Times: How a string of failures led to a dark day at the Capitol.
Three days after Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick died, the White House finally lowered the flags across government to half-staff. The flags were lowered shortly before 2 p.m., well after the flags were lowered at the United States Capitol (NBC News).
Fox 5: Capitol police officer Howard Liebengood, 51, dead by suicide after responding to Capitol riot.
The Washington Post: Lawmakers may have been exposed to the coronavirus in Capitol lockdown, attending physician says.
Amazon, Apple and Google on Saturday cut off Parler, an app used by Trump supporters (The New York Times). … The president’s backers who stormed the Capitol openly relied on mainstream social media platforms to publicly plan the attack. As those platforms suspend communications by the president and his campaign arm, as well as other users because of rules against fomenting violence and peddling misinformation, Trump’s base of fans is shifting communications to alternative conservative-leaning sites and apps to try to mobilize future protests in Washington and elsewhere (The Hill). … Rioters are vowing to assault the Capitol building as well as government locations in states on Jan. 17 and return to Washington to stir up trouble on Inauguration Day (NBC News and The New York Times).
NBC News analysis: The internet as most people know it has decided that Trump is no longer welcome. It’s a turning point for digital speech that was years in the making, but it took just a few hours to happen.
> D.C. statehood: Mayor Muriel Bowser and others again call for Washington, D.C., autonomy following last week’s Capitol violence and the emergency call for help from the U.S. Capitol Police to the city and the National Guard (The Washington Post).
> Sports: The PGA announced Sunday night that in the wake of Wednesday’s mob attack, the 2022 PGA Championship will no longer take place at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., which was set to become the first major to take place at a Trump property.
“It’s become clear that conducting the PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster would be detrimental to the PGA of America brand and would put at risk the PGA’s ability to deliver our many programs and sustain the longevity of our mission,” said Jim Richerson, president of the PGA Tour of America, said after the PGA terminated its agreement. “Our board has thus made the decision to exercise our right to terminate the contract to hold the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump Bedminster” (ESPN).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
NEW ADMINISTRATION: Biden says he’s proud to have completed his Cabinet announcements just as the new Congress gets to work, but it appears unlikely that any Cabinet nominee will clear Senate confirmation by the afternoon of Jan. 20, as has been the case with past presidents.
Retired four-star Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, Biden’s choice to lead the Pentagon, requires a congressional waiver to serve, which has slowed the confirmation process. Both the House and Senate must agree to waive a requirement that Austin wait seven years after leaving active duty before he can become Defense secretary. He retired in 2016 (The New York Times). Former Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis secured such a waiver in 2017 (Politico).
> Biden announced Ambassador William Burns as his nominee to serve as CIA director this morning, calling him an “exemplary diplomat with decades of experience on the world stage keeping our people and our country safe and secure (The Hill).
Burns previously served as deputy secretary of State and ambassador to Russia. Unlike the Trump administration, the CIA post will not be a Cabinet-level position (CBS News).
> Nominations: Biden says he will unveil details on Thursday of his pitch to Congress to enact “trillions” of dollars in additional investments in pandemic relief and economic support for Americans. If enacted, it would follow the recent enactment of $900 billion in coronavirus relief, which Biden has called a “down payment.” On Friday, the president-elect said passage of Democrats’ relief bill will be the incoming administration’s immediate priority after he’s sworn in. He spoke with House and Senate Democratic leaders on Friday afternoon. “The price tag will be high,” he said (CNET).
CNBC: Biden will ask Congress to immediately cancel $10,000 in student debt per borrower in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and extend a federally ordered pause in borrower repayments, which is set to expire.
> Cyber czar: The annual National Defense Authorization Act, which recently became law over Trump’s veto, established a White House cyber czar position that could help the incoming Biden administration respond to the SolarWinds cyber attack on government departments orchestrated by the Russians (The Hill).
> Regulatory issues: The Trump White House weakened guidance drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency to ban imports of products that contain a cancer-linked compound, according to documents reviewed by The Hill. The agency wants to limit potential exposure to chemicals used as a nonstick coating on products ranging from raincoats to carpets to cookware. It’s a regulatory debate the Biden administration will inherit (The Hill). … The financial services industry expects stricter regulation and oversight under the Biden administration (The Hill).
> International relations: The Trump administration has maintained a hard-line approach to the Cuban government — a posture supported by primarily older Cuban American voters located in South Florida. The current policy may complicate efforts by the Biden administration to return to Obama-era relations with the people of Cuba (The Hill).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
America will achieve herd immunity to Trumpism. I hope, by Niall Ferguson, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/2LjuAX7
Releasing more vaccines for first doses could create more problems than it solves, by Leana S. Wen, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3q8D41U
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 11 a.m. Democrats are expected to introduce a resolution calling on Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump’s authority as president. A Tuesday vote on the resolution is expected. They will also introduce an article of impeachment.
The Senate convenes Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. for a pro forma session. Senators are not currently scheduled to return to Washington until the inauguration.
The president has no events on his public schedule.
Pence will lead a 2 p.m. meeting of the White House coronavirus task force.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition and economic advisers. The president-elect will also receive his second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
➔ CORONAVIRUS: Global COVID-19 infections over the weekend surpassed 90 million confirmed cases, as more countries brace for spread of virulent strains of a disease that has now killed nearly 2 million people worldwide. The number of infections around the globe doubled in just 10 weeks, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University on Sunday. The United States leads the world in the total number of infections (The Associated Press).
> Restrictions: In Kentucky, Republican lawmakers who oppose restrictions to try to contain rising COVID-19 infections and deaths voted on Saturday to limit the authority of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to close Kentucky commerce, sending six bills to his desk (WKYT). The state, with 4.5 million people, has repeatedly surpassed its own coronavirus records. Kentucky now has 300,000 confirmed cases of infection since early last year and more than 2,800 fatalities (The Associated Press).
> Vaccines and treatments: Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called on officials to “hit the reset” button on the U.S.’s vaccine rollout, which has been underwhelming over its first month in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22.1 million doses of the vaccines have been distributed, but just 6.7 million people to date have received the first of two doses recommended by drug makers Pfizer and Moderna (CBS News). … A new research study shows that convalescent plasma drawn from patients who contracted COVID-19 is effective as a treatment for the coronavirus if administered early in the course of illness (The New York Times).
> Great Britain & COVID-19: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the British government are under fire because of the rampant spread of COVID-19. More than 3 million people in the United Kingdom have tested positive for the coronavirus and 81,000 have died — 30,000 in just the last 30 days. The economy has contracted by 8 percent, more than 800,000 jobs have been lost and hundreds of thousands more furloughed workers are in limbo (The Associated Press). … Meanwhile, Johnson and his team want to ramp up the country’s vaccine rollout, aiming by the fall to inoculate every adult in the United Kingdom who wants the shot (The Associated Press). … Queen Elizabeth II, 94, and Prince Philip, 99, each received the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, Buckingham Palace announced (BBC).
➔ INTERNATIONAL: In Indonesia, authorities on Sunday said they determined the location of a crash site and black boxes of a Boeing 737-500, one day after the aircraft crashed into the Java Sea with 62 people on board after taking off from Jakarta headed for the capital of West Kalimantan province on Indonesia’s Borneo island, about a 90-minute flight. There was no sign of survivors and the cause of the crash has not been determined. Fishermen in the area reported hearing an explosion on Saturday afternoon in bad weather (The Associated Press).
➔ FINANCIAL MARKETS: The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened globally and in the United States. A mob attacked the Capitol, and five Americans lost their lives. The nation is navigating a fragile high wire between an outgoing and incoming government. Lawmakers want to impeach the president for the second time, unheard of in U.S. history. And another 140,000 Americans lost their jobs in December. Sounds horrific, right? And yet investors are showing signs of escalating exuberance. The Wall Street Journal and CNBC report why markets may be expecting a full-fledged economic recovery.
And finally … In a nail-biting environment in which Americans are keenly aware that the rich are getting richer and everyone else could tumble down the ladder tomorrow, there’s plenty of interest in Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing, worth $600 million for the fourth time in history, and the Powerball jackpot, worth $550 million during a drawing scheduled on Wednesday (6ABC).
Mega Millions tickets are sold in 44 states plus Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Powerball is played in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
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