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Wake Up To Politics - January 22, 2020

Wake Up To Politics - January 22, 2020
Wake Up To Politics - January 22, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, January 22, 2020. 12 days until the Iowa caucuses. 286 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Senate approves impeachment trial rules after bitter debate

The Senate approved a package of rules for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump just before 2 a.m. ET this morning, after more than 12 hours of bitter debate. The package passed on a party-line vote, 53 to 47.

The rules resolution included two key changes from the draft version initially released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

  1. Both the House managers and presidential defense team will have 24 hours to make their opening arguments over three days, instead of just two.
  2. The findings from the House impeachment probe will be automatically accepted as evidence for the Senate trial, instead of requiring a separate vote later.

According to CNN, these changes were made after McConnell was pressured by about 15 Republican senators at a party luncheon on Tuesday. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rob Portman (R-OH) reportedly led the push, joined by moderate and conservative colleagues alike, worried that rushing the trial "could inadvertently give traction to Democratic complaints of an unfair trial." The White House had reportedly encouraged the original two-day requirement.

The final resolution was only passed after 12 amendments offered by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were all rejected. His proposals included attempts to subpoena testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as documents from the White House, State Department, Defense Department, and Office of Management and Budget.

Each of Schumer's amendments was rejected along party lines, 53 to 47, except for one that would have allowed the managers or defense team to take 24 hours to respond to motions, instead of just two. Collins voted with the Democrats on that proposal.

Although the Democratic attempts to subpoena witnesses and documents at the outset of the trial were roundly rejected, McConnell's organizing resolution does allow for the Senate to vote on subpoenas after opening arguments have taken place. Collins said in a statement on Tuesday that she is "likely" to support a motion to subpoena witnesses at that time, which follows the precedent set by the trial of Bill Clinton in 1999. Other moderate Republicans, including Mitt Romney (UT), have also signaled they would back subpoenas later in the trial. (Four Republican senators would be needed to approve any subpoenas.)

The partisan cleavages undergirding Trump's trial were on full display Tuesday, in its first full day. Amid hours of (mostly) party-lines votes, McConnell celebrated the successful resolution as a "fair road map for our trial" while Schumer painted it as an attempt at a "cover-up."

For the most part, the House managers and presidential defense team dominated the floor, as they debated the various procedural amendments. Their disputes were no less acrimonious. At one point after midnight, impeachment manager and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) traded insults with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the president's lead defense attorney.

Nadler accused senators opposed to the amendment calling for a subpoena of John Bolton of casting a "treacherous vote." Cipollone responded, "The only one who should be embarrassed, Mr. Nadler, is you for the way you’ve addressed this body."

The exchange earned a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, the trial's presiding officer, who had remained quiet for much of the day. "I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body," Roberts said. "Those addressing the Senate should remember where they are."

--- Senators adjust to trial life: "The first real day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial began Tuesday with all 100 senators in assigned seats, silently observing the historic proceedings — and it couldn’t have looked more different from the raucous, partisan battle that had consumed the House since September."

"The Senate chamber remained eerily quiet as lawmakers were forced to remain in their rigid, wooden seats as they took in hours of procedural arguments from each side’s designated speakers. No cellphones, no coffee and no staff to sit in their place for a brief reprieve."

. . . "The [trial] is a rare procedural spectacle that could last a week or more on the Senate floor. In a chamber where the average age is about 60, members will be stretching the limits of their abilities to remain silent, alert and awake for hours on end, day after day." (Politico)

Postscript: "[Idaho Sen. Jim] Risch was the first lawmaker seen by Washington Post reporters to clearly have fallen asleep, about four hours after the trial proceedings began Tuesday." (Washington Post)

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone addresses the Senate on Tuesday (Sketch by Bill Hennessy for CNN)

Biden, Sanders spar over Social Security

Tensions between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders seemed to reach their fiercest point of the presidential primary cycle on Tuesday, as the two leading Democratic contenders traded shots over Biden's record on Social Security.

The Sanders campaign began attacking Biden last week, claiming in an email that "Biden lauded [former Republican House Speaker] Paul Ryan for proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare." PolitiFact said the Sanders camp took Biden's remarks out of context, although the former VP then falsely claimed that his rival had circulated a "doctored video" of his remarks.

In the video in question, Biden went on to express opposition to Ryan's call for cuts to entitlement programs. However, Sanders and his allies have pointed out that Biden has backed freezes of Social Security spending over his decades-long political career.

The Biden campaign released a video on Tuesday accusing Sanders of engaging in "dishonest attacks." The Sanders team responded by calling the Biden spot "the first negative ad of the 2020 Democratic primary" and releasing a video of their own using a 1995 clip of Biden arguing for a federal spending freeze. "Let’s be honest, Joe," Sanders tweeted. "One of us fought for decades to cut Social Security, and one of us didn’t. But don’t take it from me. Take it from you."

The back-and-forth on Social Security came one day after Sanders apologized to Biden after a surrogate's op-ed alleging the former vice president has a "big corruption problem." Biden thanked the Vermont senator for the apology, but tensions quickly continued to rise after the apparent truce.  

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sanders' rival for the 2016 Democratic presidential nod, also joined the fray on Tuesday, as Clinton demurred when asked if she would back Sanders if he won the 2020 nomination. The interviewer, of the Hollywood Reporter, also revealed a fiery quote from Clinton in a forthcoming documentary. "Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done," she says of Sanders in the film.

The tensions between Biden and Sanders — and others in the extended Democratic stratosphere — come as the two contenders battle for votes ahead of Iowa's caucuses on February 3. Last week's CNN/Des Moines Register poll of the Hawkeye State, conducted by veteran pollster Ann Selzer, showed Sanders leading in the state by three percentage points. Additionally, a CNN national poll released this morning showed Sanders surging to the top of the presidential field, taking 27% of the vote to Biden's 24%. That result marked a 7-point gain for Sanders since CNN's December poll and the first time that Biden has not led in the network's polling of the nationwide 2020 race.


President Donald Trump spent the beginning of the day in Davos, Switzerland. Early this morning, he had breakfast with American CEOs and business leaders, met with President Nechirvan Barzani of the Kurdistan Region and President Barham Salih of Iraq. At 7:20 a.m. ET, he departed Switzerland for Washington, D.C., where he will arrive at 5:10 p.m. ET.

Vice President Mike Pence will depart Washington, D.C., for Tel Aviv, Israel, at 1 p.m. ET.

The Senate convenes at 1 p.m. to "sit as a Court of Impeachment for the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States." The House managers are expected to begin making their opening arguments today, continuing for about eight hours.  

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue at 10 a.m. ET. The "potentially landmark education case" could reinstate a Montana voucher program that would open the door to public funding of private religious schools.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will attend two community events in Iowa, one focused on foreign policy. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will hold a town hall in Iowa and a fundraiser in Washington, D.C. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney will make four campaign stops in Iowa. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will hold a town hall in New Hampshire. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will meet with local faith leaders in New Hampshire and host a community celebration in Massachusetts. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang will hold five town halls in Iowa.

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