THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED on Tuesday.
SUBSTANTIVELY, SENATE REPUBLICANS defeated every effort by SENATE DEMOCRATS to alter the rules of the impeachment trial to allow for guaranteed access to witnesses and documents. This gave Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL the trial he wanted, save a few alterations that allowed the admission of evidence without a vote, and gave three days instead of two for oral arguments. Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan on McConnell’s retreat that allowed him to keep a firm grip on the trial
POLITICALLY, THOUGH, there is some upside for Democrats. If you accept the argument that President DONALD TRUMP is likely going to be acquitted, isn’t it better for Democrats to own no part of the trial, so they can call it a sham and beat Republicans over the head with it later this year? They will lose these procedural fights, complain loudly about it and wave the trial in the faces of vulnerable Republicans as an example of the party’s fealty to TRUMP.
REPUBLICANS, of course, believe they benefit from the way things have shaken out, too. A speedy trial that allows vulnerable Republicans to move on from impeachment to something — in fact, anything — else is a goal. Plus, Republicans stuck together, defeating all 12 of the Democrats’ attempts to influence the proceedings.
THE TRIAL IS AN ACUTELY PERILOUS ISSUE FOR MANY SENATORS, but perhaps for no one more than Sen. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine), who is up for reelection this fall and has built her brand around demonstrating independence from her party. She said she would likely vote for witnesses, but not until after both sides present their case.
SENATE MAJORITY PAC — the super PAC supporting Senate Democrats — has brand new polling in Maine that shows the following: 53% of Maine voters believe TRUMP has abused his office, 71% want documents and to call witnesses, and 51% say if COLLINS votes to acquit TRUMP, it’s for political expediency. The poll memo
TODAY: With the rules now in place, oral arguments in the impeachment trial begin as House managers present their case to remove the president from office. The proceedings will kick off around 1 p.m., and could last until 9 p.m. or a tad later.
TRUMP’S MOOD … NYT A1, by Annie Karni, David Gelles and Peter Baker: “Mr. Trump appeared to relish the escape offered by the World Economic Forum and the friendly — to his face, at least — crowd of elites in the snow-covered Alps. He was in a jovial mood, according to people who spoke with him, engaging in animated conversations with chief executives like Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet and Marc Benioff of Salesforce.
“He congratulated them on their companies’ stock performances and joked that he should have bought shares but that he had been forced to sell his holdings when he took office. As Mr. Trump and his family members darted among meetings in makeshift pavilions, they studiously avoided questions about the drama back home, where the Senate engaged in a fierce clash over the rules for putting the president on trial.” The NYT’s two-column headline: “GOP BLOCKS BID TO ADD EVIDENCE AT START OF TRIAL”
— NOTE: Benioff is also the owner of Time magazine, which he bought in 2018.
THE PRESIDENT will hold a news conference before leaving Davos, he said this morning, according to WaPo’s Anne Gearan, today’s pooler.
QUICK IMPEACHMENT LOOK AROUND …
— MARIANNE LEVINE: “Chief Justice John Roberts admonishes House managers and White House counsel”: “The Senate exploded in acrimony after midnight on Wednesday as the House impeachment managers and White House counsel traded insults, prompting Chief Justice John Roberts to scold their lack of decorum during President Trump’s impeachment trial.
“‘I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,’ Roberts said, in a rare comment. ‘Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.’
“Roberts’ remarks came after a sharp exchange between House impeachment manager Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, amid debate over Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s amendment to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton.” POLITICO
— SARAH FERRIS, HEATHER CAYGLE and MELANIE ZANONA: “Stuck in their seats, senators confront trial tedium”: “The Senate chamber remained eerily quiet as lawmakers were forced to remain in their rigid, wooden seats as they took in hours of procedural arguments from each side’s designated speakers. No cellphones, no coffee and no staff to sit in their place for a brief reprieve. …
“Senate rules also ban all talking on the floor — a rule flouted by Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who began whispering and chuckling after Sasse slipped his neighbor a handwritten note. Later, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) worked to stifle laughter as he received a note from Sasse and Scott.” NYT drawing of a snoozing Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
THE NEW YORKER’S SUSAN GLASSER on the scene in the Capitol.
NEW … TRUMP TO JOE KERNEN on CNBC’s “SQUAWK BOX,” from Davos: TRUMP said he watched “some of” the impeachment trial. …
… TRUMP on 2020 … KERNEN: “Do you have a preference for an opponent — I came up with the three Bs: Biden, Bernie and Bloomberg.”
TRUMP: “All very different. You have Mini Mike is spending a lot of money. He’s got no chance. But he’s got a tremendous — you know, he used to be a friend of mine until I ran for politics, and then he went a little off. You should see some of the nice things he said about me before I ran. They’re like the nicest. But he had a deal with Hillary Clinton that he was going to become secretary of State. It was very simple. People know that. And he — wasn’t going to happen. It was going to go to Terry McAuliffe. I mean, so they were playing with Michael.
“And it’s too bad, but he’s spending a fortune. He’s making a lot of broadcasters wealthy. And he’s getting nowhere. His ratings are terrible. His — you look at his numbers. I don’t know if Joe’s going to limp across the line, but you — I watch him. I watch him speaking. He can’t put together a sentence, but it could be him. And it could be Crazy Bernie. I don’t know who it’s going to be. Whoever it is, I’m ready.”
— IS THAT A THING? Do people believe Clinton was going to name Bloomberg to be secretary of State? We, for one, have never heard of that.
Good Wednesday morning. LEGENDARY D.C.-AREA HIGH SCHOOL basketball coach Morgan Wootten died at 88. ESPN
JAY SEKULOW spoke to The Forward, the Jewish magazine: “‘I always considered myself Jewish,’ he told me. ‘My heritage and my upbringing and my family’s faith, all of that plays a role in my view of justice.’” Forward
WAPO’S DAN LAMOTHE: “More U.S. troops leave Iraq for medical treatment after Iranian missile attack, Pentagon says”: “More U.S. service members have been transported out of Iraq for medical treatment and evaluations following Iran’s missile attack on military facilities there, the Pentagon said Tuesday, nearly two weeks after President Trump and defense officials initially said no one was hurt.
“The Pentagon said Friday that 11 service members required medical treatment outside Iraq. U.S. military officials declined to say Tuesday how many more are receiving care but said ‘additional’ personnel had been sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.”
NOT ONLY RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, BUT ALSO CLIENTS — “Biden, Sanders release competing ads on Social Security,” by Matthew Choi
BIG NEWS … ALLY MUTNICK, SARAH FERRIS and HEATHER CAYGLE: “Top progressives, DCCC reach ceasefire over ‘blacklist’”: “Top liberals have reached a détente with the House Democratic campaign arm in a dispute over a policy that inhibits primary challengers to incumbents — a move intended to unify Democrats in this year’s battle to protect their majority and defeat President Donald Trump.
“Some of the House’s most influential progressives, including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), said they will contribute tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, despite a contentious new rule that blacklists campaign consultants who work for candidates taking on sitting Democratic members.
“The decision by the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus represents a thawing of monthslong tensions with DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (Ill.), who had fiercely defended the policy over bitter objections from high-profile Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.).
“The group — Bustos and about two dozen progressive Democrats — sat down privately last week to discuss the 2020 cycle, during which she thanked liberals in the room who have agreed to pay their dues, according to people familiar with the meeting.
“‘I intend to pay the full dues. I have a view that, in 2020, we have to come together to ensure the defeat of Donald Trump and the retaining of our majority,’ said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), another sharp critic of the DCCC policy who began paying dues in January. … So far, Ocasio-Cortez remains the most prominent exception to the newly improved relationship between progressives and the DCCC.”
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY (all times Eastern) — THE PRESIDENT had breakfast with CEOs and business leaders, and met with the president of the Kurdistan regional government and was scheduled to meet with the president of Iraq. THE PRESIDENT will leave Davos for Zurich at 6:25 a.m., and arrives at 7:10 a.m. He’s scheduled to take off for D.C. at 7:20 a.m., and land at Andrews at 4:50 p.m. He’s expected back at the White House at 5:10 p.m.
JARED’S PAL MBS THE REFORMER SEEMS BUSY! … WHOA IF TRUE — “Jeff Bezos hack: Amazon boss’s phone ‘hacked by Saudi crown prince,’” by The Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner: “The Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone ‘hacked’ in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, sources have told the Guardian.
“The encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man, according to the results of a digital forensic analysis.
“This analysis found it ‘highly probable’ that the intrusion into the phone was triggered by an infected video file sent from the account of the Saudi heir to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.” Guardian
— FT’S MEHUL SRIVASTAVA has more: “The forensic analysis, led by Anthony J Ferrante, a cyber expert at the business advisory firm FTI Consulting, said that within hours of the video file being sent by WhatsApp to Mr Bezos ‘a massive and unauthorised exfiltration of data from Bezos’s phone began, continuing and escalating for months.’
“The amount of data hacked from the phone was in the dozens of gigabytes, compared to the few hundred kilobytes daily average in the months before the video file was sent, the analysis found. The report does not claim to have conclusive evidence and its findings could not be independently confirmed by the FT.” FT … Ferrante’s bio … Reuters: “Saudi involved in hacking of Amazon boss Bezos’ phone, U.N. report will say”
— @SaudiEmbassyUSA: “Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”
SCOOP … NAHAL TOOSI and ANITA KUMAR: “Trump weighs travel ban expansion in coming days”: “President Donald Trump may expand his controversial travel ban with an announcement expected as early as Monday, the three-year anniversary of the original order, which targeted several majority-Muslim nations.
“The list of countries is not yet final and could be changed, but nations under consideration for new restrictions include Belarus, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, according to two people familiar with the matter.” POLITICO
THE NEW YORKER’S ROBIN WRIGHT: “The Staggering (and Uncovered) Legal Bills Facing Impeachment Witnesses”: “Witnesses have accrued as much as half a million dollars in legal fees that are not being covered by the State Department, according to six witnesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lawyers, and others involved in helping with the soaring bills.
“The diplomats and other senior officials, most of whom have spent a lifetime in government service earning modest government salaries, have had to tap into personal-liability insurance or relied on the generosity of fellow-diplomats and friends who donated to a legal-defense fund. In some cases, major Washington law firms have slashed fees or, in one case, provided largely pro-bono assistance.” New Yorker
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK … BOOK CLUB — Garrett M. Graff is writing a new book titled “Watergate,” detailing the Richard Nixon administration scandal and offering “the first comprehensive history in a quarter century and the first written since the release of the final Nixon tapes and the identity of Deep Throat.” The book is set to be published in mid-2021 by Jofie Ferrari-Adler and Julianna Haubner at Avid Reader Press and is being represented by Howard Yoon at Ross Yoon.
MEDIAWATCH — MICHAEL BARBARO PROFILE … NEW YORK’S MATTHEW SCHNEIER: “The Voice of a Generation: Michael Barbaro made the New York Times podcast The Daily a raging success. Or is it the other way around?” N.Y. Mag
— YIKES: “Quibi’s CEO Meg Whitman Compared Reporters to Sexual Predators,” by The Information’s Tom Dotan and Jessica Toonkel
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOTTED: HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Reince Priebus having lunch at Ambar on Tuesday.
TRANSITIONS — Sarah Jenkins is joining global communications firm BCW as SVP of brand solutions. She was previously SVP at freuds. … Paige Lindgren is now deputy press secretary at the NRSC. She was previously press assistant for Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.). … Chad Yelinski is now legislative director for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.). He previously was legislative director for Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). …
… Rob Santos is now a director at Bully Pulpit Interactive. He previously was digital practice lead and strategist at Golin. … Lauren Ehrsam Gorey is now director of communications for the Commerce Department. She previously was director of strategic communications at the NSC. … Cody Keenan is now a senior adviser at Fenway Strategies. He previously was chief speechwriter for former President Barack Obama.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Rebecca Wasserstein, director of hotels and venues for the Republican National Convention. An interesting book she’s been reading: “I’ve always been a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan. I recently finished his latest book, ‘Talking to Strangers,’ and it did not disappoint. The premise of the book is that as humans, our natural operating assumption is that people are honest. Unfortunately, it’s these untainted assumptions that can lead to some of the largest corruption scandals.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) is 67 … Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) is 54 (h/t Tim Griffin) … Josh Earnest, chief comms officer and SVP at United Airlines, is 45 … Carol McDonald (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Jim Oliphant, national politics correspondent at Reuters … Jack St. John of GSA … Dave Schnittger, principal at Squire Patton Boggs, is 49 … POLITICO’s Brianna Ehley, Zach Warmbrodt and Jesse Shapiro … Dan Scandling, a senior director at APCO Worldwide … Ado Machida … Chris Lowe … Patrick Mendoza … Josh Riley, a partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner … Kian Hudson, Indiana deputy solicitor general, is 3-0 … Rob Collins, a partner at S-3 Public Affairs … Rajiv Chandrasekaran … Corinne Clark is 3-0 (h/t Laszlo Baksay) … Melissa Byrne, California grassroots director for Bernie Sanders’ campaign (h/t Eric Heggie) … Elizabeth Ashford … CNN’s Kevin Bohn …
… WaPo’s Julie Zauzmer … Ken Gross, Skadden’s political practice chair … Gregg Pitts (h/ts Tim Burger) … Christa (Bailey) Allen … Prosus Group’s Sarah Ryan … Francie Harris, director of scheduling for EMILY’s List … Tom Daffron … Bram Weinstein is 47 … Heather Kennedy, VP of government relations at the Home Depot … AHIP’s Adam Beck is 32 … Alexander Wells … Ashley Codianni, EP and global head of social and emerging media at CNN … Elise Flick, who last year married WSJ’s Nick Hatcher — pic … Chris Lavery … Derek Dye … Andrea Mucasey … Ginny Simmons … Mark Solomons is 59 … Charlie Meyerson … Nicholas Monck … Carla Jacobs … Laura Allen, press secretary at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation … Cara Baldari … Seema Ibrahim … Anna Sperling McAlvanah … Mike Simmons … Jason Forrester … Paul Roales … David Sanders … Chase Burgess
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