with help from Sarah Ferris and Andrew Desiderio
THE TRIAL FILES -- And we’re off to the races, folks: today, the House impeachment managers will begin laying out their case against President Donald Trump on the Senate floor. After over 12 hours of debate, the Senate voted along party lines to approve a rules package that sets the guidelines for the trial. The GOP steam rolled a slate of Democratic-backed amendments, which included motions to subpoena documents and haul in first-hand witnesses like John Bolton — though some Republicans have signaled they want to turn to the question of witnesses later. But at least for now, the GOP stuck together.
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Notably, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made some last-minute changes to the organizing resolution after facing pushback from some members of his own party, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. The key deets from Burgess and Marianne: “Instead of cramming as many as 48 hours of opening arguments from House impeachment managers and the White House counsel into just four days this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s resolution will now give each side 24 hours to speak over three days. That could ultimately extend the trial by two days. And a controversial provision in the plan that would not have automatically included the House’s evidence was also scuttled from a previous draft.” The story: https://politi.co/2v89nXz.
For McConnell, the retreat was strategic: it allowed him to keep a firm grip on the trial. Or, as Bres and Burgess put it: ”It’s McConnell 101. The Senate majority leader plays by the rules, but he uses them as a weapon to help his cause as much as a restriction on what he can do. The only limits are based on what his members will agree to. And it’s nothing new to his adversaries.” Their analysis: https://politi.co/2NK3LcH.
The rules debate was mostly monotonous and rehearsed (minus the time when Adam Schiff said the word “ass backwards” or Hakeem Jeffries quoted Biggie Smalls.) But in the wee hours of the morning, there did come some fireworks when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts scolded House impeachment managers and White House counsel for trading barbs on the floor. It all started when Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler accused Senate Republicans of wanting to participate in a cover-up by blocking additional witnesses and documents. Marianne with more: https://politi.co/2NQJhix.
Related reads: “Senate Democrats privately mull witness trade in impeachment trial: A Biden for Bolton,” via WaPo’s Rachael Bade, Robert Costa and Seung Min Kim: https://wapo.st/2vbSGL2; and “Ted Cruz says White House unlikely to push for impeachment trial dismissal,” by Burgess: https://politi.co/37kPpqU.
STUCK IN THE SENATE WITH YOU -- The first real day of Trump’s impeachment trial began with all 100 senators forced to remain in their rigid, wooden seats and without cellphones or even coffee. So, how is the chamber — where the average age is about 60 — holding up? Well, some senators began trading handwritten notes to pass the time. Others sat watching the historic proceedings hunched with their arms crossed, twiddling pencils or rubbing their eyes. And at least one senator, Jim Risch of Idaho, was spotted dozing off.
During the first recess break — just two hours after the trial got underway — senators were reunited with their phones. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who has made several cameos in “Batman” movies and served in the Senate during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, did an impression of Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” to convey what the experience was like. “Oh, my precious,” Leahy said, stroking his phone. More color from in and around the chamber, via Sarah, your Huddle host and Heather: https://politi.co/2NLUSiA.
Related: “Pat Toomey’s Senate ‘candy desk’ may prevent hangry lawmakers during impeachment,” from Laura Olson of the Morning Call: http://bit.ly/3awhCNt; and “Senators bend the rules by wearing Apple Watches to Trump trial,” per Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus: http://bit.ly/38pYQFJ.
PICTURE PERFECT -- Cameras aren’t catching all the moments on the Senate floor — but luckily, reporters are. The New York Times even sent a sketch artist to cover the impeachment trial, including the moment when Risch fell asleep, which takes the cake (though your Huddle host has to give an honorable mention to HuffPo’s masterpiece.) Check out the rest of the NYT’s artwork here: https://nyti.ms/2v3yef9.
HAPPY WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this January 22, where this puppet of Rep. Jim Jordan is going to haunt you in your dreams (but maybe he can audition for the next season of Crank Yankers?).
TUESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The Hill’s report on Sanders and Warren battling for progressive endorsements on Capitol Hill was the big winner.
CASE VS COURT -- While Tuesday’s session was geared toward the rules and procedures of the trial, the House managers and Trump’s lawyers went pretty deep into the substance of the case in addition to the underpinning legal arguments. In defending Trump against the “obstruction of Congress” charge, however, Trump’s lawyers might have made DOJ’s life much harder in the Don McGahn case.
Jay Sekulow said the House should have waited for the courts to render judgments on the White House’s challenges to the House’s subpoenas — but the Trump administration has been arguing in court that the federal judiciary should have no role in resolving those types of disputes. In other words, Trump’s case against his removal from office on the obstruction charge relies on an argument that his DOJ has explicitly rejected — and the jarring reversal could spill into the ongoing battle between the House and the Trump administration over McGahn’s testimony. More from Kyle and Andrew: https://politi.co/30IfAVQ.
MAKE SCHIFF -- House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff appears to have mischaracterized a text message exchange between two players in the Ukraine saga, reports your Huddle host. The issue arose when Schiff sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler last week transmitting a trove of new evidence from Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
In one section of the letter, Schiff claims that Parnas “continued to try to arrange a meeting with President Zelensky,” citing a specific text message exchange where Parnas tells Giuliani: “trying to get us mr Z.” The remainder of the exchange — which was attached to the letter — was redacted. But an unredacted version of the exchange reveals that several days later, Parnas sent Giuliani a word document that appears to show notes from an interview with Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma, followed by a text message to Giuliani that states: “mr Z answers my brother.” That suggests Parnas was referring to Zlochevsky — not Zelensky.
While it doesn’t undercut the Democrats’ central claims in the impeachment trial — and a Democratic official maintains that Giuliani and Parnas were clearly seeking “high-level engagement with President Zelensky and his administration” — the GOP is already slamming the apparent error as another example of what they say has been a rushed effort to impeach Trump. The story from yours truly: https://politi.co/2RCEFgZ.
IN DUE TIME -- Top House progressives will pay their party dues in 2020 despite fierce opposition to the campaign arm’s treatment of primary challengers — a notable detente with DCCC after months of disagreement. The “blacklisting” rule — which effectively cuts DCCC’s ties with campaign consultants who help liberal challengers — will stay, at least this cycle.
But leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus say they’ve agreed to keep talking. And in the meantime, “We have to come together to ensure the defeat of Donald Trump,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, who is a primary challenger-turned-incumbent himself. The big exception, of course, is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has shunned DCCC because of the consultant policy and is now raising big bucks for her Democratic colleagues on her own. Her new PAC, launched Jan. 11, has already raised a staggering $229,000. More from Ally Mutnick, Sarah and Heather: https://politi.co/37kyN2G.
Related: “Taking his defense of Trump to the bank: Devin Nunes raising astronomical sums of money,” by David M. Drucker of The Washington Examiner: https://washex.am/2sLT3ej.
BOBBY 4 BLOOMBERG -- Mike Bloomberg is making some progress in his bid to win more 2020 congressional endorsements: yesterday, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) — a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus — endorsed the former New York City mayor. And Rush was also tapped to serve as a national co-chair. Rush told the Chicago Sun-Times he was impressed by Bloomberg’s approach to the “economic discrimination in the black community.”
Rush was previously backing Kamala Harris, but after she dropped out of the race, he was courted by several other 2020 contenders — including Bloomberg — seeking his endorsement. Last week, Bloomberg was on Capitol Hill where he made his pitch to several groups of House Democrats, including members of the centrist New Democrat Coalition and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The latest from Lynn Sweet: http://bit.ly/38sqC4n.
Related: “Biden picks up backing from 4 more black lawmakers,” per Nolan McCaskill: https://politi.co/36jw8Vm.
Paige Lindgren is now deputy press secretary at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She was previously Press Assistant for U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.) and is a Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) alum.
The House is OUT.
The Senate meets at 1 p.m. to resume the impeachment trial.
The trial of the century continues.
TUESDAY’S WINNER: Joe Bookman was the first person to correctly guess that there are 15 senators — eight Republicans, seven Democrats — who served in the Senate during Clinton’s impeachment trial.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Joe: How many current Republican Senators have ever been in the Senate with a Democratic majority? First person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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