With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Moments before the start of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history on Thursday, the Senate voted 89 to 10 to approve President Trump’s landmark trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
This rewrite of the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows Trump to deliver on a signature campaign promise from 2016, is one of the most significant trade votes in a generation. It passed with overwhelming bipartisan support from a coalition of strange bedfellows, including the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Final passage came a day after Trump signed a partial economic deal with China, another political victory for a White House that’s eager to defuse trade tensions in an election year.
The subsequent reading of the two articles of impeachment and the swearing-in of the senators as jurors soon overshadowed these hard-fought triumphs for Trump. But the trade vote nevertheless gives cover for lawmakers in both parties to reassure constituents back home that they’re getting results, even amid contentious deliberations over whether the president abused the power of his office to coerce a foreign government to boost his reelection prospects by announcing an investigation of Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Trump has boasted that the specter of impeachment, and the desire of Democrats not to look like they’re doing nothing, got this deal across the finish line. Last month, one day after voting almost entirely on party lines to impeach Trump, the House also passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on a lopsided vote of 385 to 41. With their eyes on the fall elections, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have separately pointed to the USMCA as proof that their side is focused on the pocketbook issues that voters care most about.
-- Eight Senate Democrats and Bernie Sanders voted against the deal. But only one Republican broke with the president: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), perhaps the most outspoken advocate for free trade in Congress. Toomey unsuccessfully raised procedural concerns about the USMCA on the Senate floor before the vote. “I was very disturbed to see a new trade agreement that's designed in part to diminish trade – very much the wrong direction,” he explained afterward in an interview. “I felt it was important to make a stand and make the case that this certainly shouldn't be a template for future agreements.”
Toomey called me last night as he drove home to Pennsylvania for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend at the end of one of the most surreal days of his nine years in the Senate. “It’s just very strange,” Toomey said. “There were moments that seemed surreal to me today in the Senate. It's just such an unusual moment.” Now sworn in as a juror, Toomey will spend the weekend at home and return for proceedings to begin in earnest on Tuesday.
He has complained that Republicans got “rolled” because the Trump administration made too many concessions to Democrats in a desire to get something done. He said “the worst provisions” in the new deal relate to automobiles. For example, there’s now a requirement that at least 30 percent of cars – and 40 percent by 2023 – must be made by workers who earn at least $16 an hour. This will raise wages in Mexico, but Toomey said it will also raise prices to buy lower-end small cars that are assembled south of the border. The deal also sunsets after 16 years, meaning that the three countries will need to go through another renegotiation process, which Toomey fears will chill business investment by introducing a cloud of uncertainty about the future terms of trade.
The USMCA was initially signed a year ago by Trump, but the requirement that it must first be ratified by the House gave Pelosi leverage to demand changes and concessions, including higher labor standards in Mexico, higher environmental standards and stronger enforcement mechanisms. A team of nine House Democrats worked with U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and his staff for months to reach a compromise. At Pelosi’s behest, the renegotiated deal also killed a provision pushed by pharmaceutical companies that would have guaranteed them 10 years of market exclusivity for biologics, a class of drugs that are especially costly.
-- Toomey isn’t as flashy about it as some of his hardline colleagues who love to go on television, but the vote underscored his record as one of the most reliable fiscal conservatives in Congress. The 58-year-old served in the House for three terms until 2004. After narrowly losing a primary challenge that year against then-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, Toomey served as president of the Club for Growth, the conservative group created to support open markets and oppose regulations. As Toomey geared up for a rematch against Specter in 2010, the incumbent changed parties after being promised Barack Obama’s endorsement. But Specter lost in the Democratic primary to Joe Sestak. Toomey then won the seat that fall. He got narrowly reelected in one of the marquee races of 2016, as Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the Keystone State since 1988.
Toomey has picked his fights carefully in the Trump era. All told, he’s voted with the president’s position 83 percent of the time in the current Congress, according to the running tabulation by FiveThirtyEight. But he’s twice supported efforts to overturn Trump’s declaration of a national emergency for border wall funding, and he backed the resolution of disapproval last February for withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria.
Since Trump took office, the junior senator has voted against all the major omnibus spending bills and the bloated farm bill. He’s opposed raising the debt ceiling and joined small groups of senators in voting against hurricane relief packages that weren’t paid for with spending cuts elsewhere. Many Republicans insisted on this throughout Obama’s presidency but have reversed their approach under Trump. Toomey has stayed consistent on these kinds of votes.
Throughout, trade has remained Toomey’s signature issue. “I've been very, very candid with everyone in the administration – from the president to the vice president and the trade representative – they know exactly where I stand,” he told me. “I tried hard to persuade them of my point of view. I obviously failed, but to their credit, they always heard me out.”
Trump campaigned four years ago as a protectionist, rejecting decades of Republican orthodoxy. The president’s support for old-fashioned industrial policies and a reflexive inclination to impose tariffs on other countries – something he threatened to do against a trio of European leaders just last week if they didn’t cave to his demands on Iran – appear to be among his longest and most deeply-held beliefs.
But Toomey said he believes “there’s generally still very broad support” for the concept of free trade in his party. “If you asked the Republican senators if they consider themselves ‘free traders,’ I think the vast majority would say they do, but I acknowledge that there has always been a protectionist element,” he said. “There are protectionists among Republicans who would like to further restrict trade, and I do think it's important for free traders to push back on that.”
McConnell said last month that the final deal was “not as good as I had hoped” but better than nothing. He and the vast majority of the GOP conference are loath to oppose Trump, especially on what he’s described as his top legislative priority.
-- Toomey’s ultimate support for the president at the end of this impeachment trial is not in doubt. But the lone holdout among Senate Republicans on the USMCA offers a timely reminder that it’s still possible to hate the sin (protectionism, in this case) but still love the sinner (Trump). “Look, I do support the president,” he said. “I'm going to fully support his reelection campaign. I'm going to campaign for him. I think his policies have generally been terrific for the economy, and I think his foreign policy has made us more secure. But I have a separate election certificate. I was elected by the people of Pennsylvania to serve them in the Senate, and I have a responsibility to reach my own judgments and conclusions about policy, so occasionally I'm going to disagree with the president. When I do, I've got an obligation to take that stand.”
-- Chuck Schumer was one of the Democrats who voted no. The minority leader seems worried about a primary challenge from his left in 2022 by someone like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. That also seemed to be a motivating factor for Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.), who voted no after his primary challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III opposed the deal last month. Schumer insisted that he voted no because the deal “does not address climate change” and includes “handouts for the oil and gas industry, such as lifting tariffs on tar sands.” Markey, a sponsor of the Green New Deal, also cited environmental concerns.
Former, and perhaps future, presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) had essentially boxed themselves into voting no while still in the running. The remaining three Democratic opponents were Rhode Island’s senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, plus Hawaii’s Brian Schatz.
One of the most interesting clashes during the Democratic debate on Tuesday night in Des Moines was over this USMCA pact. Sanders expressed his opposition while rivals Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg endorsed the deal, at least partly, to help Iowa farmers who have suffered from Trump’s trade wars.
Trying to sell the package to Democrats who traditionally oppose trade deals, Pelosi bragged during a closed-door meeting with her caucus last month about the concessions that her team of negotiators got. “We ate their lunch,” the Speaker said, according to multiple people in the room.
For his part, Trump boasted that he gave little away. “We left a little stuff for the union because we figured to get it signed, we will give a little bit and we did it, and then we have one great deal, and now you have the Democrats trying to take credit for this deal and that is okay,” the president said during his rally in Michigan on the night that he got impeached by the House. “Whatever it takes.”
-- Programming note: The Daily 202 will not publish on Monday in honor of MLK Day.
WHILE YOU WERE IN MORNING MEETINGS:
-- Leading Friday prayers in Iran, Iran’s supreme leader said Trump is a “clown” who will push a “poisoned dagger” into the backs of the Iranian people. From the AP: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “lashed out at Western countries, saying they are too weak to ‘bring Iranians to their knees.’ He said Britain, France and Germany, which this week triggered a dispute mechanism to try and bring Iran back into compliance with the unraveling 2015 nuclear agreement, were ‘contemptible’ governments and ‘servants’ of the United States.”
-- The Pentagon belatedly acknowledged that 11 U.S. troops are being screened for traumatic brain injuries as a result of the Iranian missile attacks on Jan. 8 against two bases in Iraq, according to the Wall Street Journal.
-- And the Taliban just signaled that some kind of agreement with the United States may be near. Susannah George reports: “'The two sides ‘discussed the signing of the agreement and the ceremony for it,’ Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted Friday. It’s unclear what agreement Shaheen is referring to. Neither Shaheen nor the State Department responded to requests for comment. … Friday’s announcement comes after statements from Pakistani and Taliban officials that the insurgent group is prepared to reduce violence in an effort to reboot stalled peace talks. But those statements lacked specifics on how long it would last, where it would apply and whether it would include the cessation of attacks on both Afghan and American forces.”
MORE ON IMPEACHMENT:
-- Trump expanded his legal team to include Harvard emeritus law professor Alan Dershowitz, former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and former independent counsels Ken Starr and Robert Ray. Josh Dawsey and John Wagner report: “In an interview with The Washington Post, Dershowitz said he would present arguments at the Senate trial that obstruction of Congress and abuse of power do not reach the constitutional standard to impeach a president for high crimes and misdemeanors. Starr and Ray, who investigated Bill Clinton, are also joining the team, as well as Bondi, who had been helping Trump with messaging during the impeachment proceedings. Trump wanted Dershowitz and Bondi on the team because he thinks they are talented on TV and convincing, a White House official familiar with the selections said. Starr, he thinks, gives him credence because of his role in the Clinton impeachment. Trump’s team is being led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and also includes Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer to the president.”
-- The trial opened yesterday with rancor over a swirl of new evidence and allegations about Trump's dealings with Ukraine brought forth by Rudy Giuliani's former associate Lev Parnas. Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Toluse Olorunnipa report: “Republican lawmakers appeared unswayed by the new information, focusing on attacking the Democratic-led investigation in the House for not uncovering the evidence before sending the impeachment articles to the Senate. … Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said it is the responsibility of the House, not the Senate, to gather evidence and present a case for impeachment. … The chorus of Republicans unwilling to consider additional evidence served as an indication that Democrats will face an uphill climb in their attempts to further build a case ... Democrats accused their Republican colleagues of turning a blind eye to incriminating evidence and staging a political coverup … Republicans sought to challenge his credibility by highlighting that he had been indicted on campaign finance charges last year. ...
“Roberts then asked the senators to 'solemnly swear' to 'do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.' While each senator said 'I do,' Democrats and Republicans immediately clashed over what constitutes a fair trial. The key point of division was whether to hear from witnesses who could shed additional light on Trump’s Ukraine dealings. ... Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) was among a group of senators pushing the idea of ‘reciprocity’ whereby the Republican and Democratic sides would each get to call witnesses. … Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said it was ‘likely’ that she would vote for additional witnesses after the initial arguments. ... But some senators sought to dodge the question of witnesses altogether, aiming to avoid reporters and underscoring the tense atmosphere surrounding the case."
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"Hear ye! Hear ye! Here ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, president of the United States," Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger announced as formalities began. (Felicia Sonmez)
-- The Senate trial will shape not only the president’s legacy but also that of Republican senators and their party, writes Dan Balz: “Will they follow the lead of their House colleagues, who in the face of damning testimony embraced the president’s explanations, that his interactions with Ukraine were ‘perfect,’ and that he was acting in the interests of the country rather than for personal political gain? Or will they judge him more independently, and critically, even if eventually stopping short of casting guilty votes?”
-- Parnas told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last night that he and former national security adviser John Bolton “could fill in all the dots” about Trump’s alleged abuse of power in Ukraine. (Colby Itkowitz)
-- Parnas’s attorney keeps posting images and footage of his client with Trump. One of the most recent posts features Parnas introducing former Ukrainian politician Roman Nasirov to Trump at Mar-a-Lago three years ago. Nasirov is currently fighting abuse of office charges in Ukraine. (Paul Sonne)
-- “Trump hotel’s mix of GOP insiders and hangers-on helped give rise to impeachment episodes,” by David Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Jonathan O'Connell: “They are key locations in the drama that led to [impeachment]: the steakhouse table where Trump’s private lawyer set out a nameplate, ‘Rudolph W. Giuliani, Private Office.’ The upstairs hideaway, where Giuliani’s team planned its outreach to Ukraine. And the expensive bar, where Giuliani’s team met an odd figure: Robert F. Hyde, a big-talking ex-Marine who claimed to have the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine under surveillance. … For three years, Trump’s hotel near the White House has been a loose, anybody-welcome hangout for Republicans. … ‘POTUS doesn’t know, or maybe doesn’t care, but that hotel is the root of many of his problems,’ said one Republican who is close to Giuliani and Trump …
“One former Trump hotel staffer said that Giuliani was so comfortable there that he sometimes left without paying — ‘like he was at home.’ The restaurant often had to eat the bill, the former employee said … At that table, Giuliani met repeatedly with Parnas and Igor Fruman, a pair of Soviet-born Americans who were seeking influence in Republican politics — and helping Giuliani pressure Ukraine to provide dirt on Biden. On the day Parnas and Fruman were arrested, charged with campaign-finance violations unrelated to Ukraine, they had previously had lunch at the Trump hotel.” Parnas told Maddow: “It was like a breeding ground at the Trump hotel.”
-- A federal judge’s delay may help Trump dodge a subpoena for his federal tax returns, House Democrats claim. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden said he would not rule in the matter until an appeals court decides whether to uphold another judge’s order that former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena to testify in Congress’s impeachment probe. … However, attorneys for the House … strongly objected because the subpoena will expire when this term of Congress expires at the end of this year. They said the delay thwarts the House’s ability to ensure White House compliance with urgent legislative oversight, including whether Trump took inappropriate advantage of tax laws to engage in decades-long tax avoidance schemes.”
-- Vice President Pence was dangled as a bargaining chip — perhaps unwittingly — to exert leverage over a foreign government, according to Parnas. Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Sonne report: “Parnas said he arrived for his May meeting in Kyiv with a top aide to Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelensky, with a clear directive from [Giuliani]: Unless Zelensky announced an investigation into [Joe Biden], his country’s relationship with the United States would sour. Among the consequences he threatened, Parnas said in interviews this week: that [Pence’s] expected attendance at Zelensky’s inauguration later that month — a high-level recognition that the Ukrainians urgently sought — would be canceled. When Ukrainians were unresponsive, Parnas said he relayed the bad news to Giuliani. ‘Okay, they’ll see,’ the president’s lawyer responded, Parnas told MSNBC. The very next day, Trump instructed Pence to cancel his trip to Ukraine for Zelensky’s inauguration, according to a whistleblower complaint and congressional testimony from one of Pence’s own aides."
-- In an op-ed for today's Wall Street Journal, Pence celebrates Sen. Edmund Ross (R-Kan.) for voting against the removal of Andrew Johnson as president in 1868. Ross was a character in John F. Kennedy's book "Profiles in Courage," Pence notes. “Once Johnson was impeached, Ross was determined to render a fair judgment, resisting his own party’s stampede. After he told a colleague he wouldn’t let his political leanings affect his decision, word spread throughout the caucus that Ross was ‘shaky.’ The Republicans came down on him hard.”
-- Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk offered to resign after he criticized Zelensky in leaked audio. Isabelle Khurshudyan and David L. Stern report: “Zelensky’s office tweeted that it received Honcharuk’s resignation offer and ‘will consider it.’ … In the recordings that leaked earlier this week, Honcharuk says in a closed-door meeting with several ministers that Zelensky ‘doesn’t understand how the economy works.’ Honcharuk didn’t deny that it’s his voice in the audio, but said on Facebook that the recording was doctored from ‘snippets of government meetings’ to give the impression ‘that I and my team do not respect the president.’ … Ukraine’s Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper reported that Zelensky will reject Honcharuk’s offer, citing unnamed sources in the presidential office.”
-- Being stuck in Washington for jury duty poses logistical challenges for the four senators running for president. Michael Scherer reports that Elizabeth Warren’s husband and surrogates, including former housing secretary Julián Castro and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), will hold events on her behalf in Iowa during the trial. Amy Klobuchar’s husband and daughter Abigail, along with Minnesota’s governor Tim Walz, will stump for her. Michael Bennet, bypassing Iowa to focus on New Hampshire, plans satellite and radio interviews to keep in the mix. “I’d rather be in Iowa today,” Bernie Sanders told reporters yesterday at the Capitol. “There’s a caucus there in two and a half weeks. I’d rather be in New Hampshire and Nevada and so forth. But I swore a constitutional oath.”
Klobuchar is the most likely to suffer because of the impeachment trial since she has a smaller organization than Sanders and Warren. Right now, she’s polling under the critical 15 percent threshold required to win delegates from Iowa. The state is next door to Minnesota, so her campaign will be functionally over if she underperforms.
Biden and Pete Buttigieg are both trying to capitalize on the absence of their rivals: “Buttigieg’s campaign has argued that staying out of the polarized impeachment conversation will bolster his pitch as the candidate who can mollify partisan tensions and disrupt the traditional Washington ways of doing things. He held five events in Iowa on Thursday … and has planned another five town halls on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week … Biden will also host events in the state during those days. After playing defense in the early days of the impeachment saga, Biden’s campaign has recently pivoted to embrace its complicated presence, arguing that the president’s alleged efforts to find disparaging information on the Biden family in Ukraine is a reflection of the candidate’s strength...”
We don’t know how long the trial will go. Mitch McConnell says he’s using the Clinton impeachment as a blueprint, forcing the senators to work every day but Sunday after taking MLK Day off. “That trial set aside three days for House prosecutors to present their case, three days for a White House defense, and three days for Senate questions and answers before debate and a vote on a motion to dismiss which took two days,” Scherer notes. “If the current Senate follows the same format and votes promptly to end the proceeding, the presidential candidates would be forced to stay in Washington through Saturday, Feb. 1, two days before the Iowa caucuses.
“But Democrats, including the presidential contenders, continue to argue for the Senate to accept the testimony of new witnesses, a precedent that was followed in 1999. The vote to hear witness testimony that year led to a five-day break to take depositions, another day to prepare and present evidence, and seven more days of trial on the Senate floor. A repeat of that schedule … could disrupt campaigning before the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary.”
-- The rupture between Warren and Sanders over who called whom a liar has laid bare the central fight among liberals: Is the Trump era of scorched-earth politics a moment for purity or pragmatism? Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan report: “On Thursday, as an array of left-leaning groups urged a truce, some acknowledged the difficulty of bridging the gap between two figures who, despite their shared status as liberal icons, have sharply different personalities and approaches. … The two have not spoken since Tuesday evening, Sanders said … and his campaign officials said the campaign sent emails to surrogates this week encouraging them not to escalate the conflict with Warren. … Leaders of six liberal groups that have endorsed either Warren or Sanders issued a joint statement Thursday saying the senators’ campaigns and supporters ‘will need to find a way to cooperate.’ … Similarly, on Wednesday, 18 liberal groups launched an effort that includes a pledge to ‘focus our fight for the nomination against candidates supported by the corporate wing, instead of fighting each other.’”
-- Jill Biden is trying to close the deal for her husband, one tiny Iowa town at a time. Holly Bailey reports: “Jill Biden is a relentless charm machine, with a jammed schedule of half a dozen or more events a day here as she seeks to win over voters. On a swing through rural Western Iowa this week, she spoke to small rooms of mostly undecided voters, including a group of about 10 people who had gathered inside a Mexican restaurant on a frigid Monday afternoon. … The group, which included mostly older voters, looked embarrassed to admit to the wife of a candidate that they were still undecided, but Biden sought to reassure them."
-- The Trump campaign is trying to make inroads among women and communities of color, including blacks and Hispanics. From the AP: “The operation was in full force Thursday when the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, senior campaign adviser Mercedes Schlapp and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany began a two-day ‘Women for Trump’ bus tour through Iowa aimed at engaging women with training sessions, round tables and panel discussions. … Meanwhile, in must-win Florida, Vice President Mike Pence headlined a ‘Latinos for Trump’ event in Kissimmee at Nación de Fe, an evangelical church with a mostly Latino congregation as part of his own bus tour. … Around the same time in battleground Pennsylvania, a few dozen people filled the pews of First Immanuel Baptist Church in Philadelphia for a ‘Black Voices for Trump’ discussion focused on Trump’s impact on the African American community ahead of a volunteer training session. The church’s pastor opened with a call to ‘make Pennsylvania great again.’”
-- Fresh Washington Post-Ipsos polling, released this morning, shows how much work the president has cut out for him: More than 8 in 10 black Americans say they believe Trump is a racist and that he has made racism a bigger problem in the country:
-- Evelyn Yang revealed she’s a survivor of sexual assault by an OB-GYN who has been accused of abusing dozens of patients. From CNN: “His name was Dr. Robert Hadden. … Hadden started asking her inappropriate, unsolicited questions about sexual activity with her husband, which were unrelated to her health or the health of her unborn child. Looking back, she now believes he was prepping her for sexual abuse. … ‘The examinations became longer, more frequent, and I learned that they were unnecessary most of the time,’ she recalled, but she told herself, ‘I suppose I just need to trust him.’ Yang says Hadden violated that trust in an unthinkable way when she was seven months pregnant. … ‘I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted,’ she added. …
“Yang found a lawyer, who discovered that the Manhattan district attorney's office had an open case against Hadden. Several other women had come forward with similar stories of being assaulted by Hadden while he was their OB-GYN. … The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is the same one that was lenient with Jeffrey Epstein over registering as a sex offender and had initially failed to prosecute Harvey Weinstein after allegations of sexual abuse … In 2016, the Manhattan district attorney's office agreed to a plea deal with Hadden. He pleaded guilty to two of nine charges against him … As part of the deal, Hadden would lose his medical license and register as the lowest-level sex offender, but he would not go to jail.”
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULDN'T BE OVERLOOKED:
-- A Circuit Court judge upheld Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s temporary ban on firearms on the state capitol grounds ahead of Monday’s gun rights rally. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “From Friday night until Tuesday, weapons of any kind will be prohibited on the grounds of the Capitol under a state of emergency. Northam (D) said the precaution was necessary because of ‘credible intelligence’ that militias and gun rights advocates are threatening violence at the rally. ‘This is the right decision,’ Northam said in a statement about Richmond Chief Judge Joi Jeter Taylor’s ruling Thursday afternoon. ‘These threats are real — as evidenced by reports of neo-Nazis arrested this morning after discussing plans to head to Richmond with firearms.’ Gun rights groups filed an appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday evening.”
-- Hours before the judge’s decision, the FBI arrested three alleged white supremacists believed to be headed to the pro-gun rally. From the AP: “The three men, members of The Base, were taken into custody on federal felony charges in Maryland and Delaware … A criminal complaint charges Canadian national Patrik Jordan Mathews, 27, and Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, of Elkton, Maryland, with transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony. William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, of Denton, Maryland, is charged with ‘transporting and harboring aliens.’ … In encrypted chat rooms, members of The Base have discussed committing acts of violence against blacks and Jews, ways to make improvised explosive devices, their military-style training camps and their desire to create a white ‘ethno-state,’ according to an FBI agent’s affidavit. … Mathews illegally crossed the U.S. border near Minnesota in August and Bilbrough traveled 600 miles … each way in a car to pick him up and bring him to Maryland, authorities said. Mathews, who appeared in court Thursday with a bushy beard, was a combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve. Lemley was a ‘cavalry scout’ in the U.S. Army, court papers show.”
-- Bill Barr's Justice Department is investigating years-old disclosures of classified information about a Russian intelligence document, a backward-looking inquiry that appears to be targeting former FBI director Jim Comey with the goal of chilling press oversight of the government. From the Times: “Law enforcement officials are scrutinizing at least two news articles about the F.B.I. and Mr. Comey, published in The New York Times and The Washington Post in 2017, that mentioned the Russian government document ... Hackers working for Dutch intelligence officials obtained the document and provided it to the F.B.I., and both its existence and the collection of it were highly classified secrets ... The document played a key role in Mr. Comey’s decision to sideline the Justice Department and announce in July 2016 that the F.B.I. would not recommend that Hillary Clinton face charges in her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state.” Trump has previously called on his loyalists to use the levers of law enforcement to pursue his perceived enemies.
-- The House voted to overturn a Trump rule that makes loan forgiveness harder, setting the stage for a Senate fight. Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports: “The 231-to-180 vote fell largely along party lines, with six Republicans endorsing a resolution to scrap the administration’s overhaul of a 1995 law known as ‘borrower defense to repayment.’ The law gives the Education Department authority to cancel the federal debt of students whose colleges misled them about graduation or job placement rates to get them to enroll. … The Trump administration finalized its rewrite of the Obama rule in September, limiting the time borrowers have to apply for relief and requiring them to prove financial harm. The rule will take effect July 1.”
-- A panel of aviation safety experts assembled by the Department of Transportation defended the Federal Aviation Administration system that approved the deadly 737 Max jets. Ian Duncan and Michael Laris report: The panel dismissed “criticisms that the agency gives manufacturers too much authority to oversee their own work. Instead, the panel warned against overhauling the system the FAA uses to review new aircraft. The group, led by Lee Moak, the former head of a major pilots union, found that the current system of allowing Boeing and other manufacturers to oversee much of their own work both ‘promotes safety’ and allows ‘industry and innovation to thrive.’ … Boeing, whose standing has been badly hurt by the crashes and subsequent internal messages, said in a statement that it appreciated the committee’s work and would study its recommendations.”
-- A coalition of 14 states and D.C. sued to stop the Trump administration’s plan to take away food stamps from 700,000 unemployed people. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “In the lawsuit, attorneys general from the District, Maryland, Virginia, New York, California and other states … asserted the justification for the cuts were based on no evidence and ignored local labor market conditions. … In the lawsuit, states along the northeastern U.S. corridor joined by California, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada and Oregon said their governments would face heavy new administrative and financial burdens, economic damages and increased costs from ‘the negative health effects of malnutrition and instability.’”
-- The New York Mets parted ways with Carlos Beltrán before he oversaw a single game amid the sign-stealing scandal that has roiled Major League Baseball. Dave Sheinin reports: “Beltrán, 42, was implicated Monday in the Astros’ scheme, in which players, along with then-bench coach Alex Cora, used a center field camera and a video monitor behind their dugout to steal the signs of opposing catchers. Beltrán, a designated hitter for the 2017 Astros, who won the World Series that fall, was the only player from that team named as a participant in the scheme.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman makes these five predictions in his quarterly PowerPoint presentation for clients:
As the Senate accepted the articles, Trump tweeted an instantly iconic message:
I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2020
The president seems to often turn to a county-by-county map of the 2016 election results for reassurance in difficult moments:
I have also spotted this there. People were carrying it around the Oval Office the day he was impeached, at dusk, & then took it on his helicopter. Seems like a security blanket? When you feel insecure about your 3-million vote deficit, & your poll numbers, just look at the red. https://t.co/xIywNxdG6I— Dan Zak (@MrDanZak) January 16, 2020
Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) lashed out at a CNN reporter who asked her about whether witnesses should be called in the impeachment trial:
Sen. Martha McSally, a Republican facing a difficult election race, lashed out when I asked if she would consider new evidence as part of the Senate trial. “You’re a liberal hack - I’m not talking to you. You’re a liberal hack.” She then walked into a hearing room.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 16, 2020
The lawmaker, who was appointed to fill John McCain's seat when he died after she lost a Senate race in 2018, shared a staffer's video of the encounter and soon after her campaign was fundraising off the controversy -- with support from the Trump campaign. "The attack on a veteran congressional reporter might have been considered out of character for McSally as recently as two years ago, when she was known as a moderate House member focused on national security matters and reticent to comment on Trump’s controversial remarks," Mike DeBonis and Lateshia Beachum note. But McSally has chosen to fully hitch her horse to Trump's in a bid to win a full term this November in a state that's trending away from Republicans.
The president's daughter-in-law talked about Trump's love for money in a room full of Iowa women:
Lara Trump in Des Moines, Iowa: “It doesn’t matter what you look like... The only color that Donald Trump cares about has always been green.”— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) January 17, 2020
Put into this historical perspective, the American election doesn’t sound so bad:
Buttigieg just started his speech in Emmetsburg Iowa by talking about how he has been watching the royal family lately and thinking about how for centuries deciding who would lead included inheritance, murder and mayhem and that meeting with people in Iowa rooms is better. So.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) January 16, 2020
And a presidential candidate won a push-up contest in New Hampshire:
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert reviewed Parnas’s evidence:
Trevor Noah went through a list of Trump’s “friends”:
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) revealed for the first time publicly that she has alopecia:
"My twists have become such a synonymous & a conflated part of not only my personal identity & how I show up in the world, but my political brand. And that's why I think it's important that I'm transparent about this new normal & living with alopecia." — @AyannaPressley pic.twitter.com/jqraqZeiKr— The Root (@TheRoot) January 16, 2020
“I’m ready now because I want to be free from the secret, and the shame that the secret carries with it,” Pressley said in an interview with the Root. (Michael Brice-Saddler)
Washington Conservatory of Music piano fellow Michael Adcock talked to The Post about "Impeachment Polka," written during the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson: