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🚨: Trump sat down with CNBC’s Joe Kernen at the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss trade and the economy. Asked about his preference for a 2020 opponent among “the three Bs” — Biden, Bernie, and Bloomberg — Trump had this to say: 

  • “All very different. You have Mini Mike is spending a lot of money. He's got no chance. But he's got a tremendous — you know, he used to be a friend of mine until I ran for politics, and then — he went a little off. You should see some of the nice things he said about me before I ran … but he's spending a fortune. He's making a lot of broadcasters wealthy. And he's getting nowhere. His ratings are terrible. His — you look at his numbers. I don't know if Joe's going to limp across the line, but you — I watch him. I s — watch him speaking. He can't put together a sentence, but it could be him. And it could be Crazy Bernie. I don't know who it's going to be. Whoever it is, I'm ready. "

Asked if entitlements will "ever be on your plate," Trump suggests that he might look at cutting them if re-elected: 

  • "At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I-- it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that." 

Programming note: Trump is expected to give a previously unscheduled "quick news conference" in about 45 minutes from Davos prior to his departure, per our colleague Anne Gearan who is on the ground with him. 

The Campaign

FUTURE FRONTLINERS?: A handful of incumbent House Democrats who helped win back the majority in 2018 are uniting to fundraise for a slate of Democrats aiming to capture Republican-leaning House districts in November. 

The “Second Service Coalition” is the brainchild of New Politics, an organization dedicated to recruiting candidates with backgrounds in the military and national security, will announce today that it's endorsing seven House candidates around the country. During the 2018 cycle, New Politics raised over $7 million for their breakout class, pulling off some of the biggest wins of the cycle. 

The organization’s class of candidates this time around is part of the broader push to grow the community of former veterans and intelligence officers serving in Congress making them an increasingly robust force in electoral politics during a time when President Trump’s foreign policy has threatened relationships with allies and destabilized America’s role on the world stage.

The Who: Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), and Max Rose (D-N.Y.) will co-chair the collective fundraising effort that will also include policy discussions, strategic advising, campaign support and mentorship between the candidates and incumbents. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Gil Cisneros (D-Calif.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) have also joined the coalition.

  • Cisneros, Crow, Houlahan, Luria, Sherrill, Slotkin, and Spanberger were among some of the most influential and politically vulnerable voices who called for Trump’s impeachment in September. Crow, an Army veteran who served in two wars, was tapped as one of the seven House Democrats impeachment managers in the Senate trial of Trump, whose arguments should begin today.

For Who: The group is now backing candidates running in some of the most competitive House races in the country. 

  • Army veteran Dan Feehan is again running to flip a seat in southern Minnesota after narrowly losing to Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) in 2018.
  • Gina Ortiz Jones, who was narrowly defeated by incumbent Republican Will Hurd in 2018, has also thrown her hat back in the ring to flip Texas’s 23rd district now that Hurd is retiring.
  • Kim Olson, an Air Force veteran, is running for Texas’s 24th district; Zahra Karinshak is running to flip Georgia’s 7th Congressional District; Jackie Gordon is running to pick up retiring Rep. Peter T. King’s (R-N.Y.) seat; and Nikki Foster is running to unseat Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st district.

The coalition’s collective support for impeaching Trump, a potential liability for Democrats in swing districts where Trump remains relatively popular with GOP voters, has not dissuaded Democrats from embracing their would-be colleagues.

  • “I don’t think any of us who have been in national security and have served for many years all over the world with friends and allies — I don’t think any of us have a hard time talking about this or explaining our decision” to impeach Trump, Sherrill said in an interview. “As long as we are putting the needs and interests of the country first, we are very confident in how we talk about that and we’re confident about voting on that as well.”
  • But, Sherill noted, her advice to the candidates endorsed by the coalition is to “be focused on whatever your district needs … and whatever it is in your district that keeps people up at night.”
  • Read the full story here. 

The Investigations

MCCONNELL'S INTERNAL DISSENT: Senate Republicans blocked every effort by Democrats to subpoena records and current and former White House officials during the start of the impeachment trial yesterday.

But the majority leader was ultimately forced to make some last-minute tweaks to the ground rules governing the trial to appease his moderate members. That was only after Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and others objected to some of the language privately: 

“The first substantive day of [Trump’s] impeachment trial opened Tuesday with unexpected internal GOP dissension over its structure, as [McConnell] was forced to revise his proposed rules at the last minute to accommodate a brewing rebellion in his ranks,” our colleagues Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report. 

  • “Two points in McConnell’s initial resolution that established how the trial would be run drew concern from several Republicans: a provision that would have compressed 24 hours of opening arguments into two days for each side, and language that would not automatically admit evidence from the House impeachment probe unless there were a formal vote to include it. In a closed-door party lunch before the trial day began Tuesday afternoon, a number of Republican senators protested those portions of the resolution, according to multiple officials familiar with the meeting,” Seung Min, Felicia and Mike report.
  • New: "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," my colleagues say.
  • Key: “The last-minute reversal underscored the outsize influence of a small group of moderate Republicans in the narrowly divided Senate whose interests and demands could prove decisive to shaping the impeachment trial, beginning next week in a more formal debate over witnesses and documents,” per the New York Times's Nick Fandos. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) forced amendment votes on the ground rules late into the night (although not without a pizza break for dinner) — one of the few powers the minority will have in its tool kit throughout this process. 

  • “I believe the most important decision in this case is the one you’ll make today,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead House impeachment manager, argued. “Will the president and the American people get a fair trial?”
  • “If the Senate votes to deprive itself of witnesses and documents, the opening statements will be the end of the trial,” Schiff added. 

The TL; DR of opening arguments: 

  • Per Schiff: “Does the commission of these high crimes and misdemeanors require the conviction and removal of the president? … We believe it does,” Schiff said.
  • Per Trump's lawyer Pat Cipollone: “We believe that once you hear those initial presentations, the only conclusion will be that the president has done absolutely nothing wrong and that these articles of impeachment do not begin to approach the standard required by the Constitution, and in fact they themselves will establish nothing beyond those articles,” Cipollone said.
  • Roberts speaks: The chief justice admonished both the House managers and the president's lawyers as debate stretched late into the night, the Associated Press's Jessica Gresko reports. Asking both sides to “avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse” marked the first time Roberts did anything beyond his perfunctory duties and could foreshadow future actions.
  • History happens: Democrats' impeachment veteran Rep. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) became the first woman to speak on the floor during a presidential impeachment trial. Later Rep. Val Demings (Fla.) became the first African American to do so and finally Rep. Sylvia Garcia (Tex.) became the first Latina.
  • Brooklyn in the House Senate: House Democratic Caucus chair and manager Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) slyly dropped a bar:

The first lawmaker to fall asleep? Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair James E. Risch (R-Idaho) who was spotted by our colleagues Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian "to clearly have fallen asleep, about four hours after the trial proceedings began Tuesday." 

  • "The apparent snooze ended about 15 minutes later, at 5:52 p.m., after [Rep. Valerie] Demings summarized a video clip.

Not afraid of reciprocity: A small group of Democratic senators and aides "are privately discussing the possibility of calling Republicans’ bluff on witnesses, weighing an unusual trade in President Trump’s impeachment trial: the testimony of Hunter Biden for the testimony of a key administration official," per our colleagues Rachael Bade, Robert Costa and Seung Min Kim.  

  • "These Democrats said they believe having Hunter — or possibly Joe Biden — testify could backfire on Trump and the GOP, giving Biden and the party a platform to strike back and paint Republicans and the White House as obsessed with trying to damage one of Trump’s 2020 presidential rivals."
  • 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 Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a Biden supporter. “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,” he added.

Global Power

HOW MUCH MORE CAN THE U.S. SAUDI RELATIONSHIP TAKE?: “A United Nations investigation to be released today will report that Amazon founder Jeff 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, according to a person with direct knowledge of the report,” our colleagues Marc Fisher and Steven Zeitchik report.

  • More details: “The Guardian newspaper, which first reported Mohammed’s alleged involvement Tuesday, said Bezos and the prince, often referred to as MBS, were engaged in a friendly chat on WhatsApp on May 1, 2018, when Mohammed sent Bezos an apparently infected video file,” our colleagues write. “Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, has alleged through his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, that the Saudi government had 'access to Bezos’s phone, and gained private information.'”

It's been a rough couple of years: The crown prince, according to our colleagues' report of CIA findings, ordered the killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018; thousands of civilians have been killed during the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen; and a Saudi-student killed three U.S. sailors on a Florida base last December. At all turns, Trump has defied even pressure within his own party to be tougher on the kingdom. 

  • Trump and Bezos: It remains to be seen how the White House will handle this latest episode, but the president has repeatedly attacked Bezos and Amazon on Twitter.

The People

DEMS FEAR FIGHTS WILL HELP TRUMP: “When Democrats had hoped to focus Americans squarely on [Trump’s] impeachment trial, many in the party were instead watching in alarm and dismay as a fresh spat erupted between Hillary Clinton and the candidate she defeated in 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders,” our colleague Matt Viser reports

It isn't just Bernie and Hillary: “Sanders (I-Vt.) has been engaged in battles with rivals on various fronts over the past week squabbling with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) over whether he once said a woman could not be president, attacking former vice president Joe Biden with an out-of-context video about Social Security and issuing a rare apology after a top surrogate called Biden corrupt,” our colleague writes.

  • Clinton attacked Sanders in a documentary premiering this weekend and then doubled down: “It’s “not only him, it’s the culture around him,” she told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink.”
  • But it was another answer that drove Democrats nuts: Clinton demurred when asked during the same interview if she would support Sanders if he becomes the nominee. Hours later, she issued a cleanup:

Meanwhile, Biden and Sanders continued to slug it out: The former vice president's campaign released this ad hammering the senator over the attacks.

And then Sanders retorted: 


IMPEACHMENT GETS SKETCHY: There are extremely tight restrictions on news coverage of the impeachment trial. This includes the C-Span footage we all love and taking of photos inside the Senate chamber. Enter the courtroom sketch artist who found some senators naturally draw attention to themselves: 

From falling asleep:

To showing us their tar heels:

And yes, the historic scene: