It's Friday. And perhaps the last day of President Trump's impeachment trial … TBD. Regardless, we'll be covering the Democratic presidential primary from the road starting Monday. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
Lil' bit of 💰news: Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle hosted four fundraisers Sunday and Monday in Texas (Fort Worth, Amarillo, Waco and Abilene) and raised $1.5 million on those stops, per a Trump campaign source.
Breaking: "The Defense Department said Thursday that 14 more U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury since the Iranian missile attack targeting U.S. forces at two Iraqi bases this month, bringing the total number to 64," per NBC News's Courtney Kube, Mosheh Gains and Phil Helsel.
LAMAR! IS NOT A WITNESS STAN: The Republican senator from Tennessee delivered a potentially fatal blow to Democrats last night after announcing he will oppose allowing witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Now, that trial could abruptly end today with an acquittal for the president — or not.
Democrats need four Republicans to force witnesses in the trial and retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander had been closely watched as a potential swing vote. But the wild card shattered the suspense with a statement last night after the second long day of trial questions by saying he was a “no” vote.
Tied on? Now all eyes are on Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), who has yet to tip her hand on how she will vote on witnesses. Democrats need four votes to force witness testimony, but three votes could produce a tie that may put Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the hot seat.
Alexander's reasoning: Alexander argued House managers proved their case that Trump “withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.” He deemed Trump's actions inappropriate but said soliciting a foreign government to investigate a political rival does “not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense.”
- That's a no: “I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense,” he said.
- A scolding but no dice: “It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate,” Alexander added.
Then there were two: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced last night she would support bringing in witnesses, while Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) is expected to do so as well.
- “I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity,” Collins said. “Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed.”
Who we're watching: Murkowski, however, needed the remainder of the night to make her decision.
- “I'm going to go back to my office, I'm going to put some eye drops so that I can keep reading, and I've been forming a lot of thoughts and so that's going to be my job now at almost 11 o'clock,” she told reporters.
- During the question-and-answer session, Murkowski asked Trump's legal team: “Why should this body not call Ambassador [John] Bolton?” Deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin responded it was the responsibility of the House to get Trump's former national security adviser to testify — and it did not subpoena him.
- What about Portman?: Asked about his vote on witnesses today, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) provided Politico's Burgess Everett with a vague, “We'll see.”
ROBERTS IN THE HOT SEAT: If Murkowski decides to jump ship and vote with Collins and Romney, Democrats still lack the votes they need since a 50-50 tie would mean the witness motion has failed without a majority.
- “However, uncertainty remains surrounding what could happen if there is a 50-50 tie on the motion to hear more evidence, a vote that will occur Friday evening. Republicans have been warily eyeing [Roberts], hoping he would not weigh in to break a tie if three GOP senators side with Democrats on the effort,” our colleagues Rachael Bade, Paul Kane, and Karoun Demirjian report.
- Lunchtime gossip: “There was discussion about the scenarios of what might happen if there’s a 50-50 vote,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), according to Rachael. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in terms of what happens with the presiding officer, especially being the chief justice. … At that point, he’s got the prerogative of the chair.”
- “ … However, a precedent from the first presidential impeachment trial — the unsuccessful effort to remove Andrew Johnson in 1868 — would also seem to give [Roberts] the option of breaking the tie,” according to the New York Times's Charlie Savage. “The Senate’s general rules for impeachment trials are silent about what happens in a tie and whether the chief justice may cast tie-breaking votes on procedural motions, and the current version of them — last revised in 1986 — still does not address that question. A resolution that the Senate approved this month laying out specific procedures for the Trump trial is also silent on ties.”
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked a pointed question about Roberts's role thus far: “Does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?” she asked Democratic House managers.
What about John? While Democrats wrung their hands, Bolton advocated for his former colleagues who testified in the impeachment inquiry against Trump during a private luncheon in Austin, Texas on Thursday, according to KXAN's Phil Prazan. Bolton has written a book on his time in the administration that the White House is trying to block.
- “Sources tell KXAN Bolton defended former diplomatic and state department officials Fiona Hill, Tim Morrison, Alex Vindman, Bill Taylor, and Marie Yovanovitch,” per Prazan.
- “All of them acted in the best interest of the country as they saw it and consistent to what they thought our policies were,” Bolton told attendees.
- “The idea that somehow testifying to what you think is true is destructive to the system of government we have — I think, is very nearly the reverse — the exact reverse of the truth,” Bolton added.
SANDERS RELEASES DISABILITY RIGHTS PLAN: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is rolling out a wide-sweeping disability rights proposal this morning ahead of the Iowa caucuses designed to protect, reform and better enforce current existing disability laws. That includes:
- Expanding Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income programs to people at 125 percent of the federal poverty level and “putting a stop to SSI’s draconian asset test and marriage penalty.”
- Aggressively enforcing the Olmstead decision — which gives disabled people the right to live in the community with public support rather than in institutions.
- And on top of the slate of executive orders that Sanders intends to enact if he is president, first reported yesterday by our colleagues Jeff Stein and Sean Sullivan, Sanders will unilaterally move to “address the waiting list of hundreds of thousands seeking home and community based services by requiring any state applying for Medicaid demonstration authority to articulate a realistic plan to end their waiting lists within five years to receive approval.”
With 2020 marking the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Sanders joins Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who have all issued disability plans.
Former candidates Julián Castro, Beto O'Rourke, and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) also rolled out comprehensive disability policies, marking a sea change in the way candidates running for president are paying attention to an often overlooked constituency. Like his peers, Sanders also calls to:
- End sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities.
- Fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which guarantees free public education for children with disabilities and to fully fund additional costs of “serving students with disabilities in the general education classroom.”
- Like Warren's plan specifically, Sanders also wants to create a National Office of Disability Coordination — run by a person with a disability — to coordinate policy, protect civil rights and ensure compliance with the ADA. People with disabilities, along with disability rights advocates, contributed to the crafting of the proposal.
STATE DEPARTMENT ISSUES 'DO NOT TRAVEL' WARNING: “The State Department late Thursday issued a travel advisory urging Americans not to visit China, the highest level of caution that is in place against only a handful of countries including Iraq and Afghanistan, as the numbers of those infected by the deadly coronavirus continued to soar,” our colleague Shibani Mahtani reports.
- The announcement came just hours after the WHO's decision: “The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a 'public health emergency,' setting in motion a plan for global coordination to stem the spread of the virus, which originated last month in Wuhan, China,” our colleagues write.
The pressure is on Trump to do more: “Trump, a leading critic of the Obama White House’s handling of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, is under increasing political pressure to mount a coordinated federal response to the threat of the new strain of coronavirus — amid fears of a global health crisis with economic ramifications in an election year,” our colleagues David Nakamura, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey report.
- Democrats have hammered the administration: “Joe Biden ... [and Warren] have warned that the president’s policies have made the United States more vulnerable to an infectious disease crisis,” our colleagues write. “They pointed to the dismantling of a global health security team in 2018 during a reorganization of the White House’s National Security Council.”
- What the White House is doing: Trump presided over a Situation Room briefing late Wednesday. “He also announced a new task force of senior aides to lead the government’s response, including screenings at 20 U.S. airports, the repatriation of U.S. citizens from China and efforts to develop a potential vaccine to treat the novel virus."
The latest numbers for China: 15,000 suspected cases and 213 recorded deaths
First case of person-person transmission in the U.S.: “State and federal officials said the sixth infected person in the United States is married to the Chicago-area woman who contracted the virus when she traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak,” our colleagues Lenny Bernstein, Lena H. Sun, Siobhán O'Grady and Yasmeen Abutaleb report.
- What happened: “Officials suspect he picked up the virus in the couple’s home while his wife was symptomatic,” our colleagues write.
One thing not to forget: While officials expect to see more cases, which would mean a greater chance of the virus spreading, “the overall risk to people in the United States is still considered quite low,” our colleagues write.
- What you should do: Take the kinds of precautions you would to guard against seasonal flu — which already has killed at least 8,200 people in late 2019 and early 2020 — including frequent hand-washing and staying home when you are sick. There's also no need for face masks in the U.S., a CDC official told our colleagues.
Outside the Beltway
BORDER WALL MAY NEED OPEN GATES: “Trump's border wall probably will require the installation of hundreds of storm gates to prevent flash floods from undermining or knocking it over, gates that must be left open for months every summer during ‘monsoon season’ in the desert, according to U.S. border officials, agents and engineers familiar with the plans,” our colleague Nick Miroff reports.
- Such gates have already posed problems: “The open, unmanned gates in remote areas already have allowed for the easy entry of smugglers and migrants into the U.S.,” our colleague writes.
Why the gates are needed: Trump’s wall “effectively acts as a sewer grate that traps the debris; when clogged, the barriers cannot withstand the power of the runoff,” our colleague writes.
- This means the gates need to be left open, but there’s a catch: “Because the gates typically are located in isolated areas that lack electricity, they cannot be operated from afar. That requires the Border Patrol to leave the gates open for months, increasing the need for U.S. agents to monitor the sites.”
- And the potential flooding risks are a major problem: Those risks “are one of the biggest engineering challenges to the president’s vision of a linear man-made structure spanning hundreds of miles of desert, canyons and mountains.”
Border Patrol officials say there are ways to minimize the security risks: The gates, they say, “amount to a relatively minor challenge that can be compensated for using technology such as cameras and sensors — along with more agents,” our colleague writes of the need for gates to stay open all summer.
In the Media
Michael Bloomberg bought a Super Bowl ad. (He's not breaking the bank): Check out the other comparisons our colleagues calculated
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Will the expected acquittal vote be bipartisan? "Spotlight Falls on Democrats From Trump-Friendly States." By the Times's Sheryl Gay Stolberg
- What day is it? Brexit Day? "On Brexit Day, Britain’s ‘remainers’ to host sad dinner parties, while ‘leavers’ celebrate in Parliament Square." By The Post's William Booth, Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum
- If you ain't first ... "Iowa Democrats fear losing first-in-the-nation status." By Politico's David Siders, Laura Barrón-López and Maya King
- "$428 billion": "F-35’s Gun That Can’t Shoot Straight Adds to Its Roster of Flaws." By Bloomberg's Anthony Capaccio