Buckle up for impeachment trial
Mark the calendar. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House will vote Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expects preliminary proceedings for the Senate trial this week, and the big show to start on Tuesday.
Heard it all already? There could be surprises.
The House dropped one just hours after Pelosi's announcement. The intelligence committee released new evidence passed along by Lev Parnas, the indicted Rudy Giuliani associate who took part in the Ukraine scheme and has since turned on President Donald Trump.
It includes a previously undisclosed formal May 2019 letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requesting a meeting "in my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent." There's also a handwritten note by Parnas: “Get Zalensky [sic] to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.”
A statement from four House committee chairs said, "All of this new evidence confirms what we already know: The President and his associates pressured Ukrainian officials to announce investigations that would benefit the President politically.”
McConnell shot down a late White House attempt to get the charges speedily thrown out. “There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss,” he said. “Our members feel that we have an obligation to listen to the arguments.”
Pelosi said she will announce the House impeachment managers Wednesday. For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune.
Janison: Starring Rudy Giuliani
Giuliani has been openly pining for a shot at presenting Trump's case at the impeachment trial. Among the problems with that: He's central to the Democrats' case against Trump.
Besides, writes Newsday's Dan Janison, it hasn't always been clear at any given moment who the ex-mayor was working for. In Ukraine and elsewhere, he was paid big bucks to represent private business interests while purportedly defending the president's political interests for free.
His own finances are under investigation by the Manhattan U.S. attorney. Wouldn't he be expected to make sure — before anything else — that he defends his own actions against potential blame or prosecution?
It's not likely that Giuliani will be heard in the Senate, unless he's a late addition to a wish list of witnesses. But his name certainly will reverberate off the walls.
Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine ousted by Trump, is demanding an investigation into whether she was placed under surveillance by the president's political allies, as suggested by texts and other messages released by Parnas.
Targeted by a Giuliani smear campaign, she was recalled from her post. Parnas' released documents include screenshots of WhatsApp messages in which he and Republican operative Robert Hyde appear to discuss details of her movements in Ukraine.
"Needless to say, the notion that American citizens and others were monitoring Ambassador Yovanovitch's movements for unknown purposes is disturbing," Yovanovitch's lawyer Lawrence Robbins said in a statement.
Hyde communicated in the type of spiteful and name-calling language endemic to Trump and his insiders. "The guys over there," Hyde said in discussing her location, "know she's a political puppet. They will let me know when she's on the move."
Reached by CNN, Hyde said by text that there was "No effing way" he was offering to harm Yovanovitch. Hyde, a Connecticut congressional candidate, also posted on his campaign Facebook page, dismissing the document release as "laughable."
"For them to take some texts my buddy's and I wrote back to some dweeb we were playing with that we met a few times while we had a few drinks is definitely laughable."
Debate, like Iowa, kinda flat
Three Democratic candidates — Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar — will decamp soon from Iowa to sit as jurors in the impeachment trial, which is expected to go up to six days a week, through and past the Feb. 3 date for the Iowa caucuses. It didn't look like Tuesday night's debate in Des Moines gave voters there much new to remember them by.
There were no roundhouse punches and no obvious winners and losers. In the most anticipated potential confrontation, Sanders and Warren chose restraint to cool off their fight of late over whether he told her a woman couldn't win. However, the flare-up gave Warren a moment. She pointed out that neither of the women onstage had ever lost an election while the men there had lost a combined total of 10.
Joe Biden, taking a repeat hit from Sanders for his initial support of the Iraq War, owned up to it but portrayed war skeptic Barack Obama's choice of him for veep in 2008 as vouching for his overall record and judgment.
Trump's actions in the recent showdown with Iran were denounced, but there were differences over the U.S. military's future role in the Middle East. Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Klobuchar would leave reduced numbers there. Warren would withdraw them all.
Buttigieg and billionaire Tom Steyer also touted their outside-the-Beltway resumes.
Sanders and Warren again took hits from the moderates on their "Medicare for All" plans. Sanders, as usual, wouldn't specify what his would cost. Klobuchar suggested the progressives’ health care overhauls would go nowhere because only a minority of Democrats in Congress support them.
Warren's magic wand
A President Warren wouldn't seek approval from Congress for her plan to cancel student loan debt for 42 million Americans. Warren said Tuesday that she'd just do it herself through executive action.
“I will start to use existing laws on Day One of my presidency to implement my student loan debt cancellation plan that offers relief to 42 million Americans," Warren said Tuesday.
She contended that existing law empowers the Education Department secretary to "modify" existing loans.
Sanders' price tags
Sanders' campaign proposals would at least double federal spending over the next decade, according to a CNN analysis.
A variety of estimates put the likely 10-year cost of his "Medicare for All" single-payer health care plan around $30 trillion or more.
Other elements of Sanders' agenda — ranging from his "Green New Deal" ambitions to student debt cancellation to a guaranteed federal-jobs program that has received almost no scrutiny — could add up to that much or even more.
For perspective on those sums, the Congressional Budget Office projects that over the next decade, the federal government will spend almost exactly $52 trillion on all existing programs.
Is Buttigieg past peak?
Buttigieg, riding high for months in Iowa, is struggling to hold on to voters having second thoughts about his age, his lack of Washington experience and his difficulty attracting minority voters, The Washington Post reported.
“I honestly think he peaked a little bit too early, unfortunately, and people are kind of having buyer’s remorse,” a Democratic county chair said of the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor.
More than any other candidate in the Democratic field, Buttigieg has been seeking out disgruntled Republicans to nudge them into crossing over and backing him in the Democratic caucuses.
Trade war taken down a notch
A deal set to be signed Wednesday by Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will de-escalate the trade war that began almost two years ago, but it won't end it.
The “phase one” deal offers little relief for many American businesses, including chemical makers, apparel retailers and auto parts manufacturers that have faced China's retaliation, The Washington Post reports.
But Trump has convinced supporters that he is winning, The New York Times reports. “You can’t get everything at one time,” said Jeff Colwell, 54, a car parts manufacturer at a Trump rally in Toledo, Ohio, last week. “Anything we can do to equalize trade with China is a good thing.”
What else is happening:
- Senate Democrats said they've lined up enough Republican support for a resolution that seeks to curb Trump’s authority to wage war on Iran without congressional approval.
- McConnell said the Senate is on track to pass the new North American trade pact this week, handing Trump a win before his impeachment trial.
- Iowa's Democratic Party expects to use a new smartphone app to calculate and transmit results from the Feb. 3 caucuses, NPR reports. The reaction of some cybersecurity experts: Yikes.
- Trump is planning to divert another $7.2 billion in Pentagon funds for his Mexican border wall at the expense of military construction projects and drug-war enforcement, The Washington Post reports. A challenge to his previous rerouting of military funds is still moving through the courts.
- Andrew Yang says that if he is elected president, he'll be the first to use a PowerPoint presentation in a State of the Union speech.
- Indian and U.S. officials are discussing a potential visit by Trump to New Delhi as early as next month, The Washington Post reported.
- Michael Bloomberg's campaign staff now exceeds 1,000 spread across 33 states, Politico reported.