Good morning and welcome back to another day of Trump's impeachment trial. We're headed to Iowa at the end of the week, by the way, so tips, comments, suggestions... Send then my way at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for waking up with us.
SLOW BURN: The GOP divide over calling witnesses to testify in President Trump's impeachment trial is threatening to widen, with a handful of senators signaling they might oppose the president in what's shaping up as one of the most high-stakes vote of their careers.
The usual suspects — and then some: Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters yesterday they expected more of their colleagues to join their push for new evidence and witnesses after revelations about the president's behavior detailed in former national security adviser John Bolton's unpublished book.
Republican senators who could side with them spoke out: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she is “still curious” about Bolton's account, while Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) declined to weigh in on Bolton's book.
Reciprocity is back: But our colleague Bob Costa reported that at least one influential Senate conservative was privately mulling calling two witnesses to Trump's trial, one drafted by Republicans and one by Democrats.
- “Toomey has confided to GOP senators that proposing a 'one-for-one' deal with Senate Democrats may be necessary at some point, particularly with pressure mounting for witnesses to be called, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations,” Bob reports.
- “I think it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,” Romney told reporters.
- Not just Toomey: “Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) also raised concerns” during Monday's Senate GOP lunch, according to our colleagues Erica Werner, Paul Kane and Seung Min Kim. “Cassidy noted that the White House has argued that there were no direct witnesses to any allegation of a quid pro quo, but that now a potential direct witness in the form of Bolton has emerged … Cassidy declined to comment about his remarks.”
Publicly, Trump's legal team hardly acknowledged Bolton's allegations — that he has direct knowledge of Trump denying aid to Ukraine until that country opened a probe into his political foes — during their time defending Trump on the House floor.
- Alan Dershowitz was the first member of Trump's legal team to specifically address Bolton's book at the very end of the day: “If any president had done what the [New York] Times reported about the content of the Bolton manuscript, that would not constitute an impeachable offense,” Dershowitz argued.
- “Let me repeat: Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense. That is clear from the history. That is clear from the language of the Constitution,” Dershowitz continued.
- Instead, Trump's lawyers “pivoted into a sharp line of attack on former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter over their involvement in Ukraine,” per our colleagues Erica, Paul, and Seung Min.
- Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi delivered a presentation that “centered on Hunter Biden’s work on Burisma’s board, an obviously problematic role from a political standpoint but not a role that violated any laws on his or his father’s part,” our colleague Philip Bump writes. Instead, Bondi elevated “specious or debunked claims against someone who may end up facing Trump in this year’s presidential election.”
- And Trump lawyer Jane Raskin downplayed Rudy Giuliani's role, calling Trump's personal lawyer a “minor player” and “shiny object.”
Privately, the White House scrambled to staunch the bleeding even as more damaging information trickled out.
- Trump “and his allies are moving to undermine the credibility of [Bolton], while also preparing to fight his ability to testify during the Senate impeachment trial, according to White House aides and outside advisers familiar with the strategy,” our colleagues Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky report.
- Drip, drip: The New York Times's Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report that Bolton “told Attorney General William P. Barr last year that he had concerns that President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.”
- “Mr. Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Mr. Barr mentioned conversations Mr. Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China,” per Haberman and Schmidt.
And there were those GOP senators who continued to defend the president.
- “I don’t think it changes the facts. … I don’t personally see it as a game changer,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) of Bolton's manuscript.
- Saying the quiet part out loud: “Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucuses voters, those Democratic caucusgoers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who is up for reelection this year, told reporters last night.
- “In my view additional witnesses are not necessary,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) told reporters. “The president was entirely justified in asking for an investigation of corruption concerning Ukraine and potentially Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.”
Voters at the Biden event say they saw this. “She gave it away,” one told me. “This is all about hurting Biden in the election.” https://t.co/chGhPojRcX— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) January 28, 2020
Interestingly, the RNC is footing the bill for some of these lawyers: “The Republican National Committee is picking up the tab for at least two of Trump’s private attorneys in the ongoing trial, an arrangement that differs from the legal fund then-president Bill Clinton set up, only to see it fail to raise enough to cover his millions of dollars in bills before he left office,” our colleagues Ann Marimow, Beth Reinhard and Josh Dawsey report this morning.
- The current total is $225,000: That's what the law firms of Trump’s lead lawyer, Jay Sekulow, and Raskin, have received from the RNC through November, according to the most recent campaign finance reports, our colleagues write.
- “The party will pay the duo for their work this month and likely into February as the trial continues, according to people familiar with the arrangement who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal financing. "
U.S. STEPS UP TO CONTAIN CORONAVIRUS: “Hong Kong’s leader has announced that all rail links to mainland China will be cut starting Friday as fears grow about the spread of a new virus. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday that both the high-speed rail station and the regular train station would be closed," the Associated Press's Joe McDonald reports.
- “China’s increasingly drastic containment efforts began with the suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. That lockdown has expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed."
- “But China’s government can’t afford to shut the economy down indefinitely — not least because its political legitimacy and its expensive system of societal control rest squarely on economic growth and tax revenue," our colleagues Gerry Shih and Simon Denyer report.
- The latest: “The number of deaths from the coronavirus has risen to 106 in China with more than 4,565 cases of infection, even as countries in the region are also reporting more and more infected — nearly all of them tourists from China," per Gerry and Simon.
From the U.S.: “The U.S. government warned Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China and planned to boost airport staff to screen nearly all passengers from there,” our colleagues Gerry, Lena H. Sun, Simon and Joel Achenbach report.
Officials are unhappy with the information China is providing: “A top U.S. health official criticized Chinese authorities for not inviting U.S. and other international investigative agencies to join them in researching the new virus,” our colleagues write. 'While China has been more transparent than it was during the 2003 SARS outbreak, U.S. officials are still getting their information through press briefings rather than from direct transfer of scientific data.”
- The CDC is expanding airport screenings: The Centers for Disease Control will in the next few days boost staffing at 20 airports with quarantine facilities. “Vice President Pence said that those airports receive 90 percent of airline passengers from China.”
- The situation is much less dire here: “110 people in 26 states are being tested for possible infection, but only five so far — all people who traveled from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in central China — are confirmed to have the infection, the CDC said.
- No one in the United States has died, and there is no known case yet of the virus spreading here at home.
The biggest fear is Chinese containment: "Among the most urgent questions is whether the unprecedented quarantine around the outbreak’s epicenter, in Hubei province, will be effective,” our colleagues write. “Widespread suspicions on Chinese social media that government officials mishandled the early stages of the crisis were fanned dramatically on Monday by the Wuhan’s mayor’s interview.”
- "Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang, speaking with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, said his city did not release 'timely and satisfactory' information at the start of the epidemic, and he appeared to blame higher-ups in his chain of command."
The markets react: “Global markets took a steep drop as investors grew increasingly anxious about the swift spread of the coronavirus beyond China’s borders,” our colleague Rachel Siegel reports. “The Dow Jones industrial average fell 454 points, or 1.6 percent."
At The White House
TRUMP EXPECTED TO OFFER PALESTINIANS CONDITIONAL STATEHOOD: Trump has promised to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan today, spearheaded by son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, which “is expected to propose a dramatic remapping of the West Bank while offering Palestinians a pathway to statehood if they meet a set of tests,” our colleagues Anne Gearan, Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash report.
- More on the plan: “Trump described his proposals for Middle East peace in private meetings Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the veteran Israeli leader’s challenger in upcoming elections, Benny Gantz. No Palestinians attended the White House preview of what is described as a highly detailed proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that dates from Israel’s founding in 1948.”
The details: “The package is expected to propose a redrawn border between Israel and the West Bank that would incorporate large Jewish settlements into Israel proper, while continuing some forms of Israeli security control over the territory Israel seized in 1967 and has occupied since,” our colleagues write.
- As for conditional statehood: “It is expected to offer limited autonomy to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that would increase over about a three-year timeline if Palestinian leadership undertook new political measures, renounced violence and took other steps in negotiation with Israel, the people familiar with the plan said.”
- Such a proposal would fall short of longstanding goals: “The Kushner package essentially assesses that the Palestinian bargaining position is poor and getting worse, and it asks Palestinian leaders to negotiate for part of a loaf rather than watch the whole loaf disappear, said people who have heard Kushner and other authors describe the proposal,” our colleagues write.
IT'S 75 YEARS SINCE AUSCHWITZ'S LIBERATION: “Holocaust survivors gathered at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Monday to mark 75 years since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp — and perhaps the last major anniversary for which many of them will be alive to share their stories,” our colleague Loveday Morris reports.
- A political dispute overshadowed some of the commemoration: “Although the Soviet army is credited with liberating Auschwitz, Russian President Vladimir Putin boycotted [the] event, and Polish President Andrzej Duda skipped last week’s ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, as they dispute the role of each other’s country in collaborating with the Nazis,” our colleague writes.
- A striking quote from a survivor: “Where was everybody?” Sheva Dagan, 94, asked speaking next to preserved railway tracks that brought cattle cars of victims to Auschwitz. “Where was the world, who could see that, hear that, and yet did nothing to save all those thousands?”
New history is uncovered of another camp: “Historians in Germany have unearthed hundreds of photos of the notorious Sobibor death camp and other key sites in the Nazi extermination machine,” our colleagues Debbie Cenziper and Loveday report this morning.
- Previously, only two photos of Sobibor existed in the archival record: The new images were found “in albums belonging to the camp’s deputy commandant and in the attic and cupboards of the family home,” our colleagues write.
Out of all the Kobe stories in the last day, this one hit differently.— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) January 28, 2020
Elle Duncan on Kobe “being a dad. A girl dad.” pic.twitter.com/tggiEmzIKc
In the Media
IN OTHER NEWS:
Fog may have played a large role in the crash that killed Kobe: "The weather 55 miles south in Orange County, where the helicopter had departed less than an hour earlier, had been fine — four miles visibility," reports the Times's Dave Phillips, Tim Arango and Louis Keene. "But now, up ahead, a fog so thick that it nearly blinded drivers on the freeway enveloped the hillsides near their destination. Visibility was so poor that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its fleet of helicopters."
SCOTUS hands Trump another victory: “The Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to begin implementing new 'wealth test' rules making it easier to deny immigrants residency or admission to the United States because they have used or might use public-assistance programs,” our colleagues Robert Barnes and Maria Sacchetti report.
Pompeo retaliates: "The State Department on Monday removed an NPR reporter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's upcoming trip abroad after a dayslong spat with a different NPR reporter, who said Pompeo berated her and cursed after an interview," NBC News's Dartunorro Clark reports.
"The State Department Correspondents' Association confirmed the decision to remove NPR correspondent Michele Kelemen from Pompeo's plane on his upcoming trip to Europe and Central Asia, calling the move "retaliation" after Pompeo's public attack on NPR's Mary Louise Kelly."
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