with Brent D. Griffiths

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The Campaign

REALITY CHECK: An overwhelming majority of black Americans believe President Trump is a racist, according to a new Washington Post-Ipsos poll of African Americans nationwide. 

"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," according to our colleagues Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Vanessa Williams, Dan Balz, and Scott Clement. And 9 in 10 disapprove of his job performance overall. 

Big picture: "President Trump made a stark appeal to black Americans during the 2016 election when he asked, 'What have you got to lose?'" our colleagues write. "Three years later, black Americans have rendered their verdict on his presidency with a deeply pessimistic assessment of their place in the United States under a leader seen by an overwhelming majority as racist." 

  • "While personally optimistic about their own lives, black Americans today offer a bleaker view about their community as a whole," they write. "They also express determination to try to limit Trump to a single term in office."
  • This is bad news for Trump's outreach to black voters: "We’ve done more for African-Americans in three years than the broken Washington establishment has done in more than 30 years,” Trump said in his pitch in November. 
  • From our colleagues: Trump’s overall approval rating among black Americans stands at a mere 7 percent, with 90 percent disapproving. That includes 75 percent who disapprove "strongly."

Voters still thinking about Obama vs. Trump in 2020: Trump faces a difficult road ahead with black voters in November. 

  • Roughly three-quarters say the things that Trump is doing as president are “bad for African Americans.”
  • A similar majority says Barack Obama’s actions as president were good. 
  • “Donald Trump has not done anything for the African American people,” said one survey respondent, in response to how Trump's presidency affected them personally or African Americans in general.

Other Democrats vs. Trump in 2020: “Few black Americans appear open to supporting Trump’s bid for reelection at this point,” per our colleagues. “He receives between 4 and 5 percent support among black registered voters in head-to-head matchups against eight potential Democratic nominees.”

  • The level of support depends, of course, on the nominee: Support for former vice president Joe Biden is highest at 82 percent while support for former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg was at the low end at 57 percent.

Responses to the survey reflect the overwhelming disapproval of his actions that black Americans believe has "made racism a bigger problem in this country."

  • “One gentleman is waving the Confederate flag on the back of his pickup truck,” said Kenneth Davis, 48, a Marine Corps veteran and truck driver who lives outside Detroit, on a coworker who felt emboldened to publicly express racist thoughts. “He was very brave to say ‘Trump’s president, I’m going to get my window (painted).’”
  • “He has taken hatred against people of color, in general, from the closet to the front porch," one person said.
  • “He has created an atmosphere of division and overt racism and fear of immigrants unseen in many years,” said another respondent.

At The White House

INSIDE TRUMP'S EXPLOSION AT THE MILITARY'S TOP BRASS: "You’re a bunch of dopes and babies." That's what Trump told a room composed of then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, the leaders of each branch of the armed forces, his then-defense secretary and many of his top Cabinet officials. 

Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and  Philip Rucker give vivid new details on this explosive outburst, which came six months into his administration, during a Pentagon meeting at which Trump's top advisers tried to provide him with a "tailored tutorial" to "try to preserve the world under." It's part of a new excerpt of their book, "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America," which will be published Tuesday.  

"The episode has been documented numerous times, but subsequent reporting reveals a more complete picture of the moment and the chilling effect Trump’s comments and hostility had on the nation’s military and national security leadership," they write. 

Here are some highlights:

  • The setting: "There is no more sacred room for military officers than 2E924 of the Pentagon, a windowless and secure vault where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet regularly to wrestle with classified matters. Its more common name is 'the Tank,'" they write.
  • Trump was peeved over many things, including the war in Afghanistan: He "unleashed his disdain, calling Afghanistan a 'loser war.' That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at the table but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back wall behind their principals," they write. “'You’re all losers,' Trump said. 'You don’t know how to win anymore.'"
  • Yes, he brought up the oil: "Trump questioned why the United States couldn’t get some oil as payment for the troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. 'We spent $7 trillion; they’re ripping us off,' Trump boomed. 'Where is the f---ing oil?'"
  • After being told that the generals were just executing the Obama administration's strategy in Afghanistan, there was this blow up: "'I wouldn’t go to war with you people,' Trump told the assembled brass," they write. "Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, 'You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.'"

Why no one stopped the president: Former secretary of state "[Rex] Tillerson thought to himself, 'Gosh darn it, Jim [Mattis], say something. Why aren’t you saying something?,'" our colleagues write. "But, as he would later tell close aides, Tillerson realized in that moment that Mattis was genetically a Marine, unable to talk back to his commander in chief, no matter what nonsense came out of his mouth." 

  • As for Vice President Pence, who was also there: "One attendee thought, 'He’s sitting there frozen like a statue. Why doesn’t he stop the president?,'" they write.  "Another recalled the vice president was 'a wax museum guy.'"
  • Tillerson had enough: "His voice broke into Trump’s tirade, this one about trying to make money off U.S. troops," our colleagues write."'No, that’s just wrong,' the secretary of state said. 'Mr. President, you’re totally wrong. None of that is true.'" 
  • The big diss: And Trump left, Tillerson let his guard down standing in the hallway, letting loose his now infamous words about Trump: “He’s a f---ing moron."

This meeting was a turning point: "Rather than getting him to appreciate America’s traditional role and alliances, Trump began to tune out and eventually push away the experts who believed their duty was to protect the country by restraining his more dangerous impulses," our colleagues write.

On The Hill

IT'S GOING DOWN: We're another day closer to the start of the Senate's impeachment trial after a day of pageantry and formalities. 

A solemn day: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked senators to swear to do "impartial justice" in the trial. Then they signed the "the oath book" on the Senate floor. There was a dramatic reading of the impeachment articles. And the Senate formally issued a summons notifying Trump of the charges he faces. The president must respond by Saturday evening. On Tuesday at 1 p.m., the trial will "start in earnest," per Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

  • A dramatic beginning: “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye,” the Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Stenger said. “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.”
  • The threat of keeping silent "on pain of imprisonment" is a phrase America will become well acquainted with, as Stenger will repeat it aloud at the start of the trial every day. It's part of the arcane decorum that senators will have to abide by throughout the Senate trial.

"In an impeachment trial senators are supposed to show up and shut up," Alan Frumin, former Parliamentarian of the United States Senate, said on CNN.

  • Important note: "But no Senate has ever been forced to actually imprison one of its members," Roll Call's Katherine Tully-McManus reports. 
  • In case of rowdy behavior: A senator "would first be met by a gaveling down" by Roberts who "would then ask the senator to take a seat, and if the senator objected, the presiding officer could make a ruling that the sergeant-at-arms would carry out if necessary," per Tully-McManus. 
  •  A pistol was once drawn on the Senate floor, according to Tully-McManus, but it hasn't happened in 150 years: "In 1863, Delaware Sen. Willard Saulsbury Sr., a Democrat, called President Abraham Lincoln 'a weak and imbecile man' on the Senate floor and was ordered to take his seat by the presiding officer, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin. Saulsbury resisted, and Hamlin instructed the sergeant-at-arms to arrest Saulsbury," Tully-McManus reports. 
  • "'Let him do it at his own expense,' Saulsbury said, drawing a pistol and threatening to shoot the sergeant-at-arms. Days later, a more sober Saulsbury, facing a resolution of expulsion, apologized and the Senate dropped the matter, according to the Senate Historical Office."

Perhaps the most challenging guideline that lies ahead for the obsessive members of the Twitterati: "No use of phones or electronic devices will be allowed in the Chamber, according to the decorum guidelines released by the U.S. Senate. "All electronics should be left in the cloakroom in the storage provided."

  • “So they have to sit there quietly, which in 2020 is a nightmare for any human being,” constitutional expert Sarah Burns with the Rochester Institute of Technology told our colleague Amber Phillips
  • Some senators might even suffer from cell phone addiction withdrawal, according to psychiatrist Dr. Dale Archer: "Nomophobia is really means fear of being away from your cellphone, so yeah, that will be an issue for them," he told Power Up. "But that's on the continuum of smartphone addiction. I would be willing to bet that a good number of our elected officials not only have nomophobia but would be addicted to their phone. It could well be more than nomophobia. They'd have withdrawal symptoms."
  • There's also the FOMO: "The big thing with tech and being connected is the fear of missing out and not knowing something. So of course if you are an elected official and information is power and you deal with information... I think there will be real fears that things will be going on that they will not know about," he added.

How they'll communicate: In lieu of phones, the guidelines state that "pages will continue to be available to relay messages outside the Chamber, and the pages also will be responsible for relaying Senators' written questions to the Chief Justice through the staff of the parliamentarian." 

  • The pages are likely to get their steps in considering the president's tweeting habits: If you recall, Trump shot off a disparaging tweet in the middle of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's testimony to criticize her career. 
  • "White House aides are also gaming out how to manage Trump during the trial, which they expect him to watch and possibly tweet about while it is underway, as he did during the House impeachment hearings, according to the officials," per our colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey. 

MORE ON WHAT'S TO COME: As our colleague Amber Philips outlines, the opening arguments by the House managers will commence on Tuesday after the Senate "votes to start the trial with a resolution that sets up the rules of the trial, including how long it will last and how long everyone has to speak."

  • "This will not guarantee witnesses, and it is expected to pass with the support of Republican senators over the Democratic minority," Amber reports.
  • A few weeks into the trial, "senators will vote on whether to dismiss the trial or whether to keep it going and call witnesses and introduce new evidence."
  • "This will be split up into two votes and will be among the most consequential parts of the trial. That’s because there are Republican senators who could cross party lines and help Democrats subpoena Trump’s top aides, such as former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, to share what they know about Trump’s intentions on Ukraine. The Senate would be introducing new evidence that House Democrats couldn’t get access to because Trump prohibited his current and former aides from cooperating with House impeachment investigators."
  • "It will take four Senate Republicans to join all Democrats to get a majority vote and keep the trial going. Or, a majority of senators could vote to end the trial and hold a final vote to acquit or convict the president," according to Amber.

At the Pentagon

U.S. TROOPS WERE INJURED IN IRANIAN ATTACK ON U.S. BASE: "Several US service members were injured during last week's Iranian missile attack on Al-Asad airbase in Iraq despite the Pentagon initially saying that no casualties had taken place," CNN's Jake Tapper, Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr report

  • The coalition's statement: "While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed," the US-led military coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria said in a statement Thursday," CNN reports. "Out of an abundance of caution, service members were transported from Al Asad Air Base, Iraq to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for follow-on screening. When deemed fit for duty, the service members are expected to return to Iraq following screening," the statement added.
  • The Pentagon had previously said there were no casualties: "Following the attack the Pentagon said that no casualties had resulted from the 16 missiles fired by Iran. The US military defines a casualty as either an injury or fatality involving personnel," CNN reports.

How the lack of casualties was key to the administration: "The lack of casualties gave administration officials more confidence that the Iranians had intended to make a public show of force largely to save face at home," our colleagues previously reported of what a senior administration official told them.