With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: 

AMES, Iowa – “There are people being killed in Ukraine by Russian soldiers right now, as I speak to you,” Joe Biden said at a campaign event here on Tuesday afternoon. “As I speak to you!”

Also as the former vice president spoke at Iowa State University, the Senate debated the rules for the trial of President Trump. The president was impeached by the House for his alleged efforts to coerce the Ukrainian government into announcing an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden by freezing hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that Congress approved to help fend off Russia’s ongoing occupation of the Donbas region.

The Democratic presidential candidate brought up Ukraine to criticize Trump for appeasing Vladimir Putin and not supporting allies, which Biden says emboldens the revanchist Russians. “Look at what's happening in Hungary,” Biden continued, firing himself up. “When you live next to the bear, and the Americans don't look like they're going to take care of you, what happens? You make accommodations with the bear! It's just like in the Cold War.”

Biden never mentioned impeachment during his hour-long, town hall-style meeting, and no one in the audience asked about it, but the issue hovered. “One of the things that is on the ballot here is basically the abuse of power,” he said. “We've never seen a time, in my view, in modern history where we've seen such an abuse of power by a president of the United States of America, disregarding the truth and using the following tactic: If you lie enough … and you repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, repeat it, repeat it and repeat it, eventually the notion is that a number of people are going to think it's true.”

The split-screen between the impeachment trial and Biden’s event showcased a paradox that the next few weeks may put in even starker relief. The centerpiece of Biden’s pitch is that he can bridge the partisan divides and work with Republican senators to get big things done, yet those very Republican senators voted in lockstep on Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block witnesses and subpoenas, just as they banded together to block Merrick Garland from even getting a hearing four years ago when Barack Obama nominated him to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Biden’s much ballyhooed relationships did no good then, even when Obama picked a moderate judge he believed would appeal to Republicans.

Biden nodded to how discordant it might seem for him to talk about being able to work with the other side amid all the acrimony. He joked that his opponents have called him too old and too naive. “I thought they were contradictory notions,” Biden said, before rejecting the idea that he cannot work with the modern GOP. “I know this new Republican Party better than anybody. I've been the object of their affection for some time now," he continued, drawing laughter. "I fully understand the way they try to malign my only surviving son and the way they've gone after my family, even my grandkids.”

He explained that he doesn’t hold grudges, which he said is the key to compromise and even the survival of the republic. “Look, one of the things a president has to do is you have to be a fighter and a competitor, but a president also needs to be a healer,” Biden continued. “I can't keep a grudge in terms of the way they’ve gone after me. But it’s not about me. It's about you. It's about the American people. We've got to heal the country. … I'm convinced that it can be done. I've done it my whole career.”

-- I interviewed a dozen Biden supporters after the rally, and all of them cited without prompting either his ability to work with Republican lawmakers or appeal to traditional GOP voters as one of the reasons they’re planning to caucus for him on Feb. 3. “He’s the one Trump fears the most, so that’s why he’s been targeted,” said Bob Lorr, 82, of Ames. “Also, to straighten out this mess, Democrats are going to have to appeal to independents and Never Trumpers, and Joe is moderate enough that he can do that better than any of the other candidates.”  

-- To be sure, the Biden campaign remains on edge about the Ukraine topic generally and Trump’s allegations specifically. When an Iowa voter accused Biden last month of “selling access” by getting his son a job he wasn’t qualified for, he angrily called the questioner “a damn liar” and said he had nothing to do with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. The testy exchange overshadowed John Kerry’s endorsement at the same event.

As proceedings began yesterday, Biden’s rapid response director, Andrew Bates, posted a four-minute video on YouTube of himself drinking a beer at a Philadelphia bar as he argues, sometimes with profanity, that his boss did nothing wrong by trying to remove Viktor Shokin as Ukraine’s top prosecutor. While his father was vice president, Hunter served on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have promoted an unfounded allegation that Biden pushed for Shokin’s ouster to stop a corruption investigation into Burisma to protect his son. Hunter, 49, is no longer on the board and was not accused of wrongdoing.

Biden alluded to his children multiple times during the event, though he never mentioned Hunter by name. He often name-checks his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in his 40s, as he did again on Tuesday to express how proud he is that there’s a freeway named for him in Kosovo. Explaining why he opposes tuition-free college, Biden said he doesn’t think it would have been fair to make taxpayers foot the bill for his son to go Yale Law School. Hunter graduated from there in 1996.

-- As Biden talked in Ames, White House counsel Pat Cipollone took digs at the four senators running for president who needed to report to the Capitol for jury duty“Some of you are upset because you should be in Iowa right now,” he said on the floor, prompting several senators to glance toward Bernie Sanders.

The trial meant that Biden had Central Iowa to himself. This swelled the media throng that usually follows him. About 180 voters came to see Biden speak while 70 journalists, including 14 television cameramen, observed from a press pen. “You all have the keys to the kingdom here in Iowa,” Biden told the voters. The 77-year-old wears a full suit and tie on the trail, more formal than his Democratic rivals, and he tends to draw older crowds than his opponents.

-- The U.S. Capitol is 1,034 miles east of Ames, and Davos, Switzerland, is another 4,000 miles beyond that. Trump is there for the World Economic Forum. In an interview with CNBC this morning, Trump was asked which Democrat he’d prefer to face in November. After declaring that Mike Bloomberg has no chance of winning the party’s nod, the president ripped Biden. “I don't know if Joe's going to limp across the line,” Trump said. “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.”

-- A national CNN poll published this morning finds Sanders overtaking Biden, 27 percent to 24 percent.This is first time that the network’s survey has not had the former vice president in first place nationally. Elizabeth Warren is a distant third with 14 percent, followed by Pete Buttigieg at 11 percent, Bloomberg at 5 percent and Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang at 4 percent.

-- An Iowa poll released Monday put Biden in the lead with 25 percent among likely caucusgoers, followed by Warren with 17 percent, Buttigieg with 16 percent, Sanders with 14 percent and Klobuchar with 11 percent. The quarterly survey, conducted by a Democratic pollster for Focus on Rural America, also asked which candidate is “best equipped” to handle the tensions with Iran “and other global hot spots.” Biden led with 42 percent. The survey, in the field during the three days after last week’s debate, is different than the Des Moines Register poll, which put Sanders in the lead in this state.

-- Polls show that Biden’s foreign policy experience is one of his biggest selling points in the nominating contest, despite his vote for the Iraq War, so he’s leaning into it. He’s delivering a foreign policy speech this afternoon in Osage, Iowa. And the super PAC supporting Biden yesterday launched a new ad in the state called “The Storm” that shows footage of a choppy ocean as text appears onscreen that says Biden is “A President to Right the Ship” and “The Democrat Who Can Lead Through the Storm.”

-- On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, several Senate Democrats are privately discussing the possibility of calling Republicans’ bluff on witnesses by offering to trade the testimony of Hunter for the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton or another senior Trump administration official. “The discussions about the Bidens are being closely held, and the issue is fraught for Democrats, due to the differing levels of support for Biden in a chamber stocked with presidential candidates and the clashing views on impeachment strategy,” Rachael Bade, Bob Costa and Seung Min Kim report. “In private conversations in recent days, there has been much loathing of the Republicans’ spotlight on the Bidens among Senate Democrats, but also a fear that unless a witness deal is eventually struck, the trial could proceed without witnesses … That predicament has led to discussions … For now, Senate Democrats are being advised by their leadership to reject the idea of a trade-off out of hand, keeping the focus instead on the GOP’s refusal to subpoena key administration officials …

Inside Biden’s 2020 operation, there is little interest in publicly engaging with what Biden’s advisers and friends dismiss as ‘a stupid Republican talking point,’ said a person familiar with the campaign’s stance on the issue … Democrats interested in a possible deal said they would want an assurance from the president that he would not assert executive privilege over Bolton or whichever witness they choose. Most acknowledge that an agreement seems unlikely, even as they insist it isn’t off the table.

One Democrat argued it could be risky for the Biden campaign but said it could also give them a chance to steal the microphone from Trump. Additionally, some Democrats privately say Hunter, with his well-chronicled struggle with addiction, could come across as a sympathetic figure under GOP attacks. One idea that has been informally floated, according to two people close to the Biden campaign, is to instead offer testimony from Joe Biden in exchange for testimony from Trump.”

Delaware’s two Democratic senators, both Biden backers, are taking different tacks: “If you want to give Joe Biden an opportunity to sit in the well of the Senate and answer the question, ‘Do you think the president acted appropriately?’ go right ahead,” said Chris Coons, who holds Biden’s seat. “I can’t imagine a person more comfortable in the well of the Senate than a man who spent 36 years here as a United States senator.”

“Hunter Biden is not accused of withholding $391 million of congressional authorized defense spending for one of our allies who’s under attack by Russia. Donald Trump is,” said Tom Carper, who served alongside Biden for many years. “We need to keep that in mind.”

-- Biden doesn’t just have to worry about Trump. He’s been feuding for days with Sanders, fending off attacks from his left. Law professor Zephyr Teachout, a Sanders supporter who has lost races in New York for governor and Congress, accused Biden of having “a big corruption problem” that “makes him a weak candidate” in an op-ed for the Guardian on Monday. “I know it seems crazy, but a lot of the voters we need – independents and people who might stay home – will look at Biden and Trump and say: ‘They’re all dirty,’” Teachout wrote.

The “corruption” piece didn’t mention Ukraine, but a Sanders campaign staffer blasted it out to the press list. Sanders then publicly disavowed the op-ed. The senator from Vermont told CBS News that he doesn’t think Biden is corrupt. Biden said Sanders even made a point to personally apologize to him backstage during the Brown & Black Forum in Des Moines on Monday afternoon. “He said, ‘Joe, I’m sorry. I don’t subscribe to that. I don’t think that’s true,’” Biden recalled to WHO, the local NBC affiliate, after his event in Ames. 

-- But the two campaigns were attacking each other again last night, releasing dueling videos on Social Security:

-- “The Sanders style of campaigning has increasingly grated on Biden and his campaign, who view his tactics as unfair and out of bounds,” Matt Viser reports. “Some Democrats lamented that Sanders has not faced enough scrutiny, even as he has been repeatedly underestimated by some party leaders.”

-- “Before Biden entered the race last year, some rivals were quietly whispering about the bad optics of his son getting lucrative contracts based on family connections,” Politico’s Marc Caputo reports. “Some Democratic campaigns released opposition research about Hunter Biden, saying it was part of a pattern of him profiting off his father’s position as vice president and, before that, a senator. But then news of Trump’s efforts to leverage Ukraine broke … And Democrats quickly backed away from saying anything critical … ‘That line of attack is just off the table,’ said one Democratic consultant with one of the rival campaigns. ‘No one wants to look like Trump’s messenger boy. Trump screwed it all up.’”

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THE LATEST ON IMPEACHMENT:

-- In the 1 a.m. hour today, Chief Justice John Roberts rebuked House impeachment managers and Trump's defense lawyers over their decorum. “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,” the chief justice said. “One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse.” 

His comment came after an acrimonious exchange between House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Trump lawyers Pat Cipollone and Jay Sekulow. Roberts noted that a House manager was admonished for using the phrase “pettifogging” during a 1905 impeachment trial of a federal judge. Pettifogging is an archaic term that means placing undue emphasis on petty details. “I don’t think we need to aspire to that high of standard,” he quipped, “but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.” (Paul Kane and Elise Viebeck)

-- Speaking to reporters this morning, Trump said he’d like for some of his closest advisers – including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – to testify, but claimed that allowing them to do so would likely become a national security issue. The president said his former secretary of energy, Rick Perry, was very interested in testifying, but Trump wouldn’t allow him to do so for the same reason. Trump also told reporters he didn’t believe Bill Clinton should’ve been impeached and suggested that Rudy Giuliani couldn’t be a part of his defense team because “it could be that he’d have a conflict.”

-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was forced to revise his ground rules for the trial to avert a rebellion among Republicans. Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report: “In the end, the final parameters of the [trial were] approved on strictly partisan lines, but the measure passed only after revisions [to placate Republicans.] … Now, both the Democratic impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team will have up to three days each to make their case, and evidence from the House will be entered automatically unless there is an objection. The changes were so last-minute that there were handwritten scribbles in the legislation marking the revisions.” After those tweaks, the rules now largely mirror what the Senate used for Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999.

One of the senators most upset about the initial provisions was Susan Collins (R-Maine), who will be a key swing vote on procedural matters during the trial. But the concerns spread beyond a closely watched core of potential GOP swing senators, with Rob Portman (R-Ohio) also among those voicing objections in the closed-door lunch about the two-day timetable. That provision didn’t please Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), either. … Democrats seized on the changes as proof that a small clutch of GOP senators facing public opposition to any component of the highly contentious trial could force McConnell to reverse course, though the Republican leader ultimately won all 53 GOP votes in favor of his measure. … 

On other issues, Republicans killed attempts from Democrats to modify the parameters of the proceedings to allow for an assortment of documents and a slate of witnesses at the outset ... Earlier in the debate, Schumer and Senate Democrats forced an attempt to subpoena documents kept by the White House — including the National Security Council — as well as separate efforts to obtain records from the State Department, the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget. Democrats also pushed to summon [John] Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other administration witnesses that Democrats had demanded for weeks. All were rejected on party-line votes.”

-- A new Monmouth University poll found that a 57 percent majority of Americans believe that House managers should be able to introduce new evidence during Trump’s trial. Another 37 percent think the impeachment managers should be limited to sharing only what was revealed during the initial inquiry. In the poll, 53 percent said the House was correct to impeach Trump.

-- House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said intelligence agencies are withholding key evidence related to the Ukraine affair on “the instruction of others, or with the advice of others.” (CBS News)

-- The argument from Trump’s legal team that abuse of power is not an impeachable offense has been overwhelmingly rejected not just by constitutional scholars but also Attorney General Bill Barr. From the Times: “In summer 2018, when he was still in private practice, Mr. Barr wrote a confidential memo for the Justice Department and Mr. Trump’s legal team to help the president get out of a problem. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was pressuring him to answer questions about whether he had illegally impeded the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump should not talk to investigators about his actions as president, even under a subpoena, Mr. Barr wrote in his 19-page memo... Mr. Barr based his advice on a sweeping theory of executive power under which obstruction of justice laws do not apply to presidents … Even without the possibility of criminal penalties, he wrote, a check is in place on presidents who abuse their discretionary power to control the executive branch of government — impeachment.”

-- Slumber claimed its first impeachment victim – Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho). “Shortly after 5:30 p.m., Risch — chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees the State Department — could be seen from the press gallery motionless, with his eyes closed and head slumped against his right hand,” DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: For senators, the trial means no coffee, no cellphones and no talking. The lack of caffeine is already causing Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) some discomfort. "I drink coffee from the minute I wake up until bedtime," Cramer told the Wall Street Journal. "It’s the only drug that I use or abuse, with the exception of occasional ibuprofen. So my biggest challenge is to drink enough coffee to stay awake, but not drink so much that I, you know, that I’m, ah, uncomfortable in the chamber."

-- Impeachment witnesses from the State Department face staggering legal bills that they're forced to pay out of their own pocket. Six witnesses told the New Yorker's Robin Wright that they have accrued as much as half a million dollars in bills that are not being covered by the government. The diplomats and senior officials involved – most of whom have spent a lifetime earning modest government salaries – have had to tap into personal-liability insurance or relied on the generosity of friends and fellow diplomats who’ve built legal funds for them. The State Department will reimburse witnesses’ lawyers for only about a quarter of the charges for a single lawyer versed in government issues at a Washington firm. But key witnesses have each required teams of several lawyers to represent them in the past months.

-- Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) voiced “extreme concern and discomfort” about restrictions placed on members of the press covering the trial. In a letter to Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, who imposed the new security requirements, Heinrich said, “to place limitations on the press is to place limitations on the American people’s ability to learn about the character and conduct of their elected leaders.” (Michael Brice-Saddler)

-- Thomas Railsback, an Illinois Republican congressman who helped draw up articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon in 1974 as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, died on Monday at age 87. All the obituaries lead with his role in Watergate, a timely reminder that many lawmakers' legacies will be defined by how they conduct themselves during this process. From the AP's obit: “Railsback credited Nixon with getting him elected to Congress in 1966 by campaigning for him in western Illinois. ‘I feel badly about what happened to Nixon,’ Railsback told the Idaho Statesman in 2012. ‘On the other hand, after listening to the (White House) tapes and seeing all the evidence, it was something we had to do because the evidence was there.’ … Railsback said he believes he lost his seat in the 1982 Republican primary … in part due to his impeachment vote.”

-- Commentary from The Post’s opinion page:

  • The Post’s Editorial Board: “Trump’s impeachment defense is designed to destroy guardrails on presidential power.”
  • David Ignatius: “What does impeachment show the world? America’s stability.”
  • Dana Milbank: “And the White House defense is ... well, there isn’t one.”
  • Hugh Hewitt: “Anything other than a rapid acquittal will deeply damage the presidency.”
  • Greg Sargent: “Memo to vulnerable GOP senators: You’re already on video, and it’s bad.”
  • Gary Abernathy: “Impeachment is a race to the bottom. And no one really wins.”
  • Henry Olsen: “And so begins an impeachment trial that will change no one’s mind.”
  • Marc Thiessen: “Democrats are hoping John Bolton will bring down Trump. Good luck with that.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: 

-- Chinese health authorities are trying to impose a quasi-quarantine around the hotspot of a mystery pneumonia-like virus that has claimed nine lives in China and has been confirmed in the United States for the first time. Anna Fifield, Lena H. Sun and Lenny Bernstein report: “The U.S. case — a man in his 30s under observation in Washington state — had links to the area of most concern in China: the commercial center of Wuhan about halfway between Beijing and Hong Kong. In an attempt to contain the virus, Chinese authorities advised people in the city of 11 million not to leave. But the U.S. case showed how far the virus has moved beyond the Wuhan region. … The Geneva-based World Health Organization said it would hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to decide whether to designate the outbreak as an international public health emergency.”

-- U.S. officials added the Chicago and Atlanta international airports to the list of places where passengers arriving from Wuhan, China, will be screened for the coronavirus. Lori Aratani and Lena H. Sun report: “Enhanced screening is already taking place at John F. Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports. More than 1,200 travelers have been screened, but no one has been found to have the virus or been hospitalized through the screenings."

-- North Korea shut its borders to foreign tourists in an attempt to keep out the coronavirus. (Miriam Berger and Simon Denyer)

-- In Davos, Trump renewed his threat to put hefty tariffs on European goods, deepening the rift with longtime U.S. allies. Heather Long reports: “As part of this push Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Italy and Britain could face U.S. tariffs if they pursue taxes on large technology companies such as Facebook and Alphabet’s Google. French President Emmanuel Macron agreed in recent days to delay a similar tax to avoid Trump’s tariffs."

-- More U.S. troops left Iraq for medical treatment following Iran’s missile attack on military facilities there. Dan Lamothe reports: “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. The officials left open the possibility that the number could increase in coming days.” 

-- When asked about this story during his presser in Davos, Trump told reporters he’d heard they had suffered headaches and “a couple of other things” but insisted that "it’s not very serious.” The president added that he was not told about the injuries until “numerous days later." “I’ve seen people with no legs and with no arms, and I’ve seen people who were horribly, horribly Injured,” he added, referring to improvised explosive devices. “I consider them to be really bad injuries."

-- Iran confirmed that two Russian-made missiles downed the Ukrainian passenger plane. Paul Schemm reports: “While Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had previously admitted it shot down the plane, the report marked the first official acknowledgment that two missiles struck the aircraft, matching amateur videos that surfaced after the Boeing 737-800 went down. The report by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization did not immediately say the Tor M-1 missiles caused the crash but only that ‘the impact of these missiles on the accident and the analysis of this action are under investigation.’ Russia announced the delivery of the Tor M-1 system — also known as SA-15 — to Iran in 2007.” 

-- The Saudi crown prince has been implicated in the hack of Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of The Post. Marc Fisher and Steven Zeitchik report: “A United Nations investigation to be released Wednesday will report that [Bezos’s] cellphone was hacked in 2018 after he got a WhatsApp message that came from an account purportedly belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman … The Guardian newspaper, which first reported Mohammed’s alleged involvement Tuesday, said Bezos and the prince … were engaged in a friendly chat on WhatsApp on May 1, 2018, when Mohammed sent Bezos an apparently infected video file. It was unclear Tuesday whether the United Nations conducted its own forensic investigation or relied on work done by a consultant hired by Bezos or someone else.”

-- Lebanon formed a new Hezbollah-backed government amid mounting unrest. Liz Sly and Suzan Haldamous report: “The dominant role in the government’s formation played by Iranian-allied Hezbollah, which proposed the candidacy of Prime Minister Hassan Diab in December and has pushed forcefully in recent days for his lineup of ministers, risks alienating some of Lebanon’s traditional Western allies, including the United States, at a time when Lebanon’s collapsing economy urgently needs international assistance. … Supporters of the new government are hoping that Diab, a relative unknown, can win over the protesters and convince foreign donors that he represents a new breed of politician capable of implementing reforms.”  

-- An architect of the CIA's brutal interrogation and detention program defended the agency and its practices. From the AP: “James Mitchell … is facing questions now because lawyers for the five men accused of planning and providing logistical support for the Sept. 11 attacks are seeking to prevent the government from using statements the defendants gave to the FBI as evidence against them in a war crimes trial scheduled to start next January at the U.S. base in Cuba. … The five defendants, who include the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 hijacking plot, were subjected to waterboarding and other methods now widely regarded as torture. Mitchell, who helped develop the program with another private contractor and others, insisted the CIA feared ‘another catastrophic attack,’ possibly involving nuclear weapons, and was trying to stop it.” 

-- Mexico confirmed that 2019 was its most murderous year in recent history as homicides ticked up 2.7 percent. The National System of Public Security said that 35,588 people were victims of homicide last year. That includes 1,006 women targeted in “femicides.” (Mary Beth Sheridan)

-- American journalist Glenn Greenwald was charged with cybercrimes in Brazil for his role in bringing to light cellphone messages that have embarrassed prosecutors. From the Times: “Mr. Greenwald, an ardent critic of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, is a deeply polarizing figure in Brazil, where his work is lionized by leftists and condemned as partisan and heavy handed by officials in the Bolsonaro administration. The news organization Mr. Greenwald co-founded, The Intercept Brasil, published articles last year based on the leaked cellphone messages that raised questions about the integrity and the motives of key members of Brazil’s justice system.”

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULDN'T BE OVERLOOKED: 

-- The Supreme Court denied a motion to fast-track a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, punting a decision on the issue until after the 2020 election. Robert Barnes reports: “Without comment, the justices turned down a motion by the House of Representatives and Democratic-led states to expedite review of a decision last month by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The panel struck down the law’s mandate that individuals buy health insurance but sent back to a lower court the question of whether the rest of the statute can stand without it. But the lower courts have kept the Affordable Care Act in place as appeals continue, and a practical effect of the Supreme Court’s action is that it will stay that way at least through the November elections.” 

-- The Trump administration has drafted plans that would make it more difficult for pregnant women from foreign countries to obtain tourist visas. From BuzzFeed News: “A draft rule and draft guidance drawn up for State Department officers at embassies across the world would make it so anyone attempting to travel on a tourist visa to the US while they could give birth would be forced to clear an additional hurdle: convincing a consular officer they have another legitimate reason to come to the US. … Consular officers would be directed to determine whether the applicant will be traveling to the US for the primary purpose of giving birth ... The officers can have reason to believe this may be the case if the applicant states this in a form or in an interview. Officers, however, are told not to ask as a matter of course whether the applicant is pregnant or intends to become pregnant, or require an applicant to provide evidence that they are not pregnant.”  

-- The White House also plans on expanding travel restrictions for people from seven countries. The nations being considered for the new rules are Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Sudan, Tanzania and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. (WSJ)

-- An Iranian student who was set to attend Northeastern University in Boston was deported Monday night. From the Boston Globe: “Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi, a 24-year-old undergraduate student, had been detained by Customs and Border Protection at Logan after arriving Sunday. [His] lawyers filed an emergency petition to block his removal Monday night, and Judge Allison D. Burroughs ordered a 48-hour stay. But before a hearing took place, [he] was flown to France — in defiance of the judge’s order. … At the scheduled hearing Tuesday morning, Judge Richard Stearns said the case was now moot, since the student was already out of the country.” 

-- Harvey Weinstein’s defense team will cite “loving” email exchanges with some of his accusers in opening statements. Shayna Jacobs reports: “The contents of the emails are expected to be key to Weinstein’s defense that encounters with women who say he forced them into sexual acts were actually consensual. His attorneys have also suggested that women sought to advance their careers by getting involved with Weinstein sexually. … The email-related ruling Tuesday was something of a victory for Weinstein’s team. [Defense attorney Damon] Cheronis, out of the gate, will get to give jurors a preview of what is to come. He referred to the email exchanges as ‘devastating’ and said the accusers not only contradict their own claims but ‘bragged’ about their affairs with Weinstein.”

-- Most Americans want abortion to remain legal, but back some state restrictions, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Ariana Eujung Cha and Emily Guskin report: “A majority of Americans (59 percent) said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and about 7 in 10 said that Roe v. Wade should not be overturned … A clear majority (69 percent) of the public supports laws requiring abortions to be performed by doctors who have hospital admitting privileges, similar to the requirements in a Louisiana law challenged in a case that goes before the Supreme Court this term. Majorities of Americans also support laws that require women to wait 24 hours between meeting a health-care provider and getting an abortion (66 percent) and laws requiring doctors to show and describe ultrasound images to them (57 percent).”

-- Michael Avenatti was jailed in an isolation unit that once held El Chapo ahead of his trial on extortion charges. The warden said it’s “for his own safety.” The pugnacious lawyer has been in custody since last week, when a federal judge in California revoked his bail in a separate case. He was to stand trial this week in New York. (Shayna Jacobs

-- The Virginia Senate advanced a measure that will replace Lee-Jackson Day with an Election Day holiday. (Laura Vozzella

-- The Boeing 737 Max probably will not be allowed to fly again until mid-2020, the company announced. (Lori Aratani

-- So close: Derek Jeter fell one vote shy of becoming baseball’s second unanimous Hall of Fame selection. Jeter, a 14-time all-star, was polling at 100 percent in vote-tracking of publicly available ballots this week, but one voter, unidentified as of Tuesday evening, apparently saw something lacking in Jeter’s record. (Dave Sheinin

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump tweeted dozens of times before the sun rose over Davos this morning, focusing mostly on the impeachment trial and reposting statements made by several of his Republican defenders and sharing this video from the National Republican Senatorial Committee multiple times: 

"The flurry of impeachment talk at Davos belied White House efforts to project Trump as detached from the increasingly partisan impeachment fight and more focused on delivering results for the country," write Toluse Olorrunnipa and Anne Gearan. 

Hillary Clinton announced she will support whoever the Democrats nominate, trying to tamp down a day of backlash from the left for trashing Bernie Sanders in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter and declining to commit to support him:

The president of the College and Young Democrats of Iowa urged party elders to stop relitigating the Sanders v. Clinton fights of 2016:

Democratic senators lashed out on Twitter when Republicans voted against calling witnesses: 

From a former U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama: 

A top official at the National Republican Senatorial Committee embraced new nicknames for Mitch McConnell, who functionally controls the party's campaign arm:

A former prosecutor noted that the chief justice's hands are mostly tied on procedure:

Conservative lawyer and Never Trumper George Conway, husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, was not impressed by the president’s legal team's opening arguments:

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert joked that the Senate was getting to decide whether breaking the law is illegal, adding that the odds don't look great: 

Jimmy Kimmel went out and asked the public for their thoughts on impeachment: 

And Katie Sowers of the 49ers is the NFL's first female and openly gay Super Bowl-bound assistant coach: