Good morning and welcome back! Unlike Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, you can't add your own ending to this. But we will take your tips and recipes.
TRIAL BASIS: President Trump and his allies forged ahead with their strategy to deny and attack the charges against the president as his impeachment trial begins today in earnest in the Senate.
The legal brief filed by the White House on Monday, an organizing resolution released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and a desire to prevent former national security adviser John Bolton from testifying indicate a coordinated effort by the Republican Party to rally around Trump and push for his acquittal as quickly as possible -- with minimal public exposure.
The resolution: The first day of the trial, which begins at 1 p.m. today, will be spent debating McConnell's ground rules that enraged Democrats for "shrouding testimony and rushing the trial," according to our colleagues Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian.
- A compressed timeline: McConnell's rules "offers each side 24 hours to make its opening arguments, starting on Wednesday but compressed into two session days. It is unclear whether Democrats would press to use all their time, which could push testimony past midnight."
- For comparison's sake: During President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, the 24 hours of opening arguments were divided over the course of a four-day period.
- The questioning period: Senators will then be allowed to ask questions for 16 hours after House managers and Trump's lawyers argue their cases.
- "After that, the sides will debate for a maximum of four hours on whether to consider subpoenaing witnesses or documents at all, followed by a vote on whether to do so. If a majority of senators agree, then there will probably be motions from both sides to call various witnesses, with subsequent votes on issuing subpoenas."
- McConnnell's proposed 24 hours over two days for both sides all but ensures evidence will be presented late in the night, when many people may not be paying attention.
Let’s be 100% clear - the only reason to restrict the impeachment managers to 24 hours over 2 days is to make sure the evidence is presented in the dead of the night, when no one is watching.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 21, 2020
It’s not about finding the truth or honoring our duty.
It’s all about the coverup.
- Two other ground rules: "The resolution also allows Trump’s team to move to dismiss the charges at any time," Seung Min and Karoun report, though they would need 51 votes to do so, which they don't have.
- And "the Senate trial also won’t automatically admit evidence from the House process, according to GOP officials, a key difference from the impeachment trial of [Clinton] more than two decades ago. Though the material will be printed and made available to senators, it won’t be automatically admissible unless a majority of senators approve it."
- "It's clear Sen. McConnell is hell-bent on making it much more difficult to get witnesses and documents and intent on rushing the trial through," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement on Monday evening. "On something as important as impeachment, Senator McConnell's resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace."
- White House comment: “We are gratified that the draft resolution protects the president’s rights to a fair trial, and look forward to presenting a vigorous defense on the facts and the process as quickly as possible, and seeking an acquittal as swiftly as possible,” Eric Ueland, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, told Seung Min and Karoun.
The defense: Hours before McConnell circulated the ground rules, Trump's legal team submitted a 110-page brief calling on the Senate to "immediately" acquit the president and "swiftly reject" the impeachment charges.
The team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, argued that Trump did "nothing wrong," that his impeachment is politically motivated, and that articles of impeachment "allege no crime or violation of law."
Lawyers, constitutional experts, and Democrats quickly shot back:
- "In response to the White House’s argument that there was no underlying crime, Democrats are likely to cite an opinion issued after Trump’s impeachment from the Government Accountability Office that the administration’s withholding of aid was a violation of law," Seung Min and Karoun report.
- Lawfare's Bob Bauer responded to Alan Dershowitz's "constitutional argument" as a member of Trump's legal team that Trump's conduct is irrelevant because the articles of impeachment "do not allege impeachable offenses": "Under the Dershowitz view, a president who murdered her spouse would not have committed an impeachable offense. We would have in that instance a crime, and a very serious one, but just not the right type for purposes of impeachment or removal from office. The president would have to answer to the legal system, as would any murderer. Fortunately for the chief executive, the Office of Legal Counsel has opined that the accounting would be deferred to the end of her presidency when she once again joined the ranks of private citizens."
- "One Democratic aide working on the impeachment trial, who spoke to reporters in a briefing on the condition of anonymity, likened the brief to an 'extremely extended version of a presidential tweet,'" per Seung Min and Karoun.
WH confirms following House GOP lawmakers will join the president’s impeachment team: pic.twitter.com/eACvleFSBF— Meredith Lee (@meredithllee) January 21, 2020
The silence campaign: Behind the scenes, Trump's legal team and Senate GOP allies are quietly gaming out a plan B in case things don't go as planned.
Our colleagues Bob Costa and Rachael Bade report that if Democrats can corral enough votes to force witnesses to testify, "one option being discussed, according to a senior administration official, would be to move [John] Bolton’s testimony to a classified setting because of national security concerns, ensuring that it is not public."
- If Bolton does not heed White House orders not to testify -- including the president potentially asserting executive privilege -- officials might "appeal to federal courts for an injunction that would stop Bolton if he refuses to go along with their instructions, according to a senior administration official, who, like others interviewed for this article, was not authorized to speak publicly and so spoke on the condition of anonymity."
Republicans should tread carefully on the topic of witnesses, per CNN's new poll on impeachment:
- "Nearly seven in 10 (69%) say that upcoming trial should feature testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry," per CNN's Jennifer Agiesta.
- "And as Democrats in the Senate seek to persuade at least four Republican senators to join them on votes over allowing witnesses in the trial, the Republican rank and file are divided on the question: 48% say they want new witnesses, while 44% say they do not."
- An overall look: "About half of Americans say the Senate should vote to convict [Trump] and remove him from office in the upcoming impeachment trial (51%), according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, while 45% say the Senate should vote against conviction and removal."
THE LATEST FROM THE TRAIL: There are now two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. And most of the field was in South Carolina yesterday to mark the MLK Jr. holiday.
Biden is looking to capitalize: “Joe Biden’s campaign is hoping to take advantage of twin developments: the bitter back-and-forth between Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as the impeachment trial in the Senate that will keep them away from Iowa for much of the final two weeks before the Feb. 3 caucuses,” our colleagues Matt Viser and Chelsea Janes reported from Iowa.
Bernie goes after Biden: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Biden are tussling over the former vice president’s record on Social Security. Sanders escalated the fight on Sunday, but conceded one of his aides pushed out a misleading video of Biden’s past remarks on the topic, our colleague Sean Sullivan reported from New Hampshire.
- Bernie verbatim: “I think anyone who looks at the vice president’s record understands that time after time after time, Joe has talked about the need to cut Social Security,” Sanders said in response to a question from The Washington Post.
One for the Klob’: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) appears to be hitting her stride in Iowa at just the right time, which history shows can lead to some surprises on caucus night. But on the heels of some key endorsements, including that of a local newspaper, the senator is headed back to Washington for Trump’s trial. Our colleague Holly Bailey has more on her efforts not to lose her mojo.
Buttigieg struggles in South Carolina.: Eight presidential candidates descended on Columbia for now the two-decade-long tradition of marching to the steps of South Carolina’s state Capitol on MLK day. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was originally going to skip the event, but his last-minute schedule change did little to obscure his continuing struggle to appeal to black voters, our colleagues Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and David Weigel report.
We should wrap up: The New York Times’s proved over the weekend that you can have it all. (Wait, I’m now being told now that’s just for endorsements though).
- One last thing: Businessman Tom Steyer tried to say hello Sanders again. And well, …
Steyer added this later:
Outside the Beltway
VIRGINIA GUN RIGHTS RALLY REMAINS PEACEFUL: "Thousands of gun rights advocates packed the streets around the Virginia Capitol, bristling with weapons, flags and threats of insurrection but never erupting into the violence authorities had feared," our colleagues Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, Patricia Sullivan and Michael E. Miller report.
- More from Richmond: "Armed militias carrying assault-style weapons marched in formation until the crowds grew too thick," our colleagues write. "Protesters without firearms filed through 17 metal detectors at a single entrance to Capitol Square, where Gov. Ralph Northam had temporarily banned weapons, and cheered fiery speeches about the Second Amendment.
- There was only one arrest: ".... A 21-year-old woman charged with wearing a mask in public — despite the presence of numerous out-of-state militia and extremist groups that had threatened violence online and in social media."
The background behind the rally: "This was the aftershock of last fall’s elections, when Virginia voters gave majorities in the General Assembly to Democrats who promised to enact gun-control laws. The losing side of that equation thundered through this city’s streets."
- What newly empowered Democrats are looking to pass: Northam "has touted measures such as universal background checks, a limit on handgun purchases of one per month and a 'red flag' law allowing authorities to temporarily seize weapons from those deemed a threat," our colleagues write. "Democrats seem to be backing away from plans to ban assault weapons."
DAVOS FOUNDER PONDERS ITS HEART ON EVE OF GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY: "Once a beacon of international cooperation, Davos has become a punch line," the New York Times's David Gelles writes in his profile of Davos Klaus Schwab and his struggle to find meaning for his signature event in a world skeptical of both globalism and elites as the World Economic Forum nears its 50th anniversary this week.
- Shakers not stirred: "The forum has once again charged corporations a small fortune for the privilege to send their executives tramping around Davos in snow boots and suits," the Times reports. "Companies like Microsoft and Ikea have once again spent lavishly to transform ski town gift shops into glorified exhibition booths."
- Income inequality is again on the agenda: "As usual, the agenda will touch upon the litany of threats to the dominant world order, including the climate crisis, rising tensions in the Middle East and income inequality," the Times reports. "... Schwab said that the top concerns included rising debt, China’s rise, Brexit and climate change. In short, the elite are worried about the demise of the very ideology long espoused by Schwab: globalism — the notion that the open exchange of people, products, ideas and services across borders will benefit all."
Last year, a Dutch journalist made a crack about the level of concern for climate change and paying taxes: "Other dissenting voices will be in attendance this year, including the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who will attend for a second time."
... He's baaack: Trump is scheduled to give an address later today. He is expected "to crow about successful trade deals, a humming U.S. economy and his recent showdown with Iran," our colleagues Anne Gearan and John Hudson report.