Dems unload their Ukraine arsenal — with an eye on primetime

with help from Heather Caygle, Sarah Ferris and Marianne LeVine

THE TRIAL FILES Democrats know President Donald Trump is unlikely to be removed from office. But they are still hopeful they can convince enough GOP senators to support their push for witnesses and documents — and their opening arguments represent their best, and perhaps final, chance to make their case. So the House impeachment managers began unleashing a flood of Ukraine evidence yesterday, including transcripts, texts, emails and about 50 video clips. In fact, Democrats replayed some of the most devastating clips in primetime — a move that shows they’re gearing up arguments for the public as much as they are the senators. The dispatch from Kyle and Andrew:

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Even some Republicans sounded envious of the Democrats’ use of multimedia during the trial and wished Trump’s defense team would follow suit. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), one of Trump’s top defenders, told your Huddle host that Democrats have been presenting their case to the public like it’s “cable news” — but lamented that the defense team’s case presented more like “an 8th grade book report.” Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) — a manager during Clinton’s impeachment — gave Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) some props as they were exiting the Capitol. “Good job, you’re very well spoken,” Graham told Schiff, according to NBC’s Frank Thorp. Pic of them shaking hands.

So, how are things playing with Republicans? Well, for the most part, the GOP says they learned nothing new and don’t think Democrats moved the needle. While the mantra isn’t surprising — numerous Republican senators have already expressed deep distrust of, if not outright opposition to, Democratic efforts to oust Trump — it shows the difficulty Democrats will face when they turn to the toughest debate next week. “We’ve just come out listening to, what, six hours of testimony, and I didn’t hear anything new,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Bres with the latest:

Related reads: “Trump says he’d like Bolton, Pompeo to testify but will leave witnesses up to Senate,” per NBC News’ Shannon Pettypiece:; and “Collins walks impeachment tightrope,” by The Hill’s Julia Manchester and Scott Wong:

JABS AT JERRY — Senate Republicans quickly seized on House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s “cover-up” comments Wednesday, saying the controversial remarks — which prompted a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts — were a significant misstep that undermined House Democrats’ case against Trump. Democrats tried to defuse the situation, pointing out that Roberts admonished Trump’s legal team as well, not just Nadler.

Either way, Republicans said the blowback led to an obvious strategy shift for House impeachment managers. “I think that was an attempt to shift the tone, a lot of senators were offended last night,” GOP Sen. Josh Hawley said after Schiff delivered his first opening presentation. Heather and Bres with more:

Awkward…. CNN’s Manu Raju tried to ask Nadler about the controversy on Wednesday, only to be abruptly cut off by Schiff, who said, “I’m going to respond to the questions,” as Nadler awkwardly stood silent next to him. Republicans happily circulated the clip on Twitter and to reporters via email. Watch for yourself:

Related reads: “’Attack their own jury’: GOP says Nadler may have alienated senators during impeachment trial,” by USA TODAY’s Christal Hayes:; and “Senators urge House impeachment managers to tone it down after testy debate,” per WaPo’s Mike DeBonis, Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade:

THE FLOOD GAETZ — Gaetz is one of the president’s top defenders on Capitol Hill and was on the short-list to be one of Trump’s eight impeachment surrogates, but notably did not make the final cut for Trump’s impeachment team. Why? Well, the Florida Republican says he heard from someone at the White House that legislative affairs director Eric Ueland was “responsible for the brush back.” “I don’t know why it would serve someone in the White House to manufacture a divide between the president and one of his best communicators during impeachment,” he said.

When asked to respond, Ueland did not comment directly. But he did mention Gaetz’s support for a House resolution to halt further U.S. military action against Iran. “While the Trump administration was disappointed in Mr. Gaetz’s vote, the president’s successful policy to reduce Iranian terror and misbehavior proves the path laid out by the president is working,” Ueland said in a statement. To which Gaetz responded: “He knows it’s House Democrats, not Iran, who are impeaching the President, right?” The latest from your Huddle host and Marianne:

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Thursday, January 23, where your host is ready to pull a Joni Ernst and ditch her morning coffee for a Monster energy drink. (Although, Irish Goodbying like Dianne Feinstein also sounds tempting.)

WEDNESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: Roll Call’s story on senators bending the Senate rules by wearing Apple watches on the floor was the big winner.

CHUCK’S CHARM OFFENSIVE — There is a long-running joke that the most dangerous place in Washington is between Chuck Schumer and a microphone — and that’s never been more true than with the Senate impeachment trial. The minority leader is going on an unprecedented media blitz (even for him) as he pushes for witnesses and documents. Before 8 a.m. Tuesday, the first real day of the Senate impeachment trial, Schumer had already gone on NPR, Morning Joe and CNN. He then proceeded to hold a press conference and two gaggles. And on Wednesday, after a late night vote, he was ready to do it all over again.

But it’s not yet clear what impact his media push will have in the impeachment battle. Democrats argue the aggressive messaging is successfully shaping the debate. But Schumer is also irking the very Republicans the Democrats need to make their demands for witnesses and documents a reality. And Tuesday’s late night votes didn’t win many of them over. More from Marianne here:

GOT MILK? — Major props to the dairy industry, because it turns out that milk is among the few permissible food items allowed on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial. (Something to do with curing ulcers, per NBC News.) Sens. Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton both chose to drink milk instead of water for part of Wednesday, to the “udder” excitement of eagle-eyed reporters.

But even the most dairy-friendly senators had no clue about the little-known snack hack. “I didn’t know that!” Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), a long-time dairy advocate, exclaimed. He then turned to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who didn’t know either. “And I’m the Ag committee chair!” Roberts said. *Not* allowed, though, was Sen. Ben Sasse’s chewing tobacco, per The Hill.

Related: “24 hours in, senators flout quaint impeachment rules,” by The AP’s Laurie Kellman:

GRANGER DANGER — The conservative Club for Growth is throwing its weight behind a primary challenger to veteran Texas Rep. Kay Granger, who is the top Republican on the powerful House Appropriations Committee and has the backing of GOP leadership, the president and other party groups. And not to mention, Granger is one of just 13 women in the House GOP. But Club for Growth is hammering Granger for spending issues, and instead endorsing technology executive Chris Putnam in the race.

The organization is planning to launch a launch a seven-figure advertising offensive targeting Granger, which will include TV, digital and mailers. A Club for Growth digital advertisement set to begin airing Friday slams Granger for backing “wasteful spending on everything from a lobster institute in Maine to billions for the World Bank.” But David McIntosh, the Club’s president, acknowledges the push to defeat Granger might rub some people the wrong way: “We anticipate some people not liking what we’re doing, but we think it’s the right thing to do.” The story from Alex Isenstadt:

Other campaign reads: “An Ex-Spy Who Wants to Represent New Mexico Can’t Hide From Criticism,” via NYT’s Simon Romero:

CUE THE INFRASTRUCTURE JOKES — With impeachment out of the House, Democrats in the lower chamber are ready to move on to another “I” word: infrastructure. Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has agreed to start discussions with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — an administration official who was instrumental in the bipartisan budget talks last year — about a path forward on a major rebuilding package, reports the Statehouse News Service. “We need to agree on some numbers and proceed on the basis that the country badly needs it, and I think that it is doable,” Neal said.

Democrats have long said that infrastructure could be a rare area of compromise with Trump, who campaigned on building new roads, bridges and airports. But his proposal never came together when the GOP controlled both chambers. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), however, announced at a recent press conference that Democrats will unveil their vision for an infrastructure package after the recess, which could give new life to the long-stalled issue. But congressional observers are right to be skeptical. More:

MONEY CAN BUY BLOOMBERG LOVE — Endorsements aren’t the only thing that Mike Bloomberg is hunting on Capitol Hill. The former New York City mayor has been enticing staffers to come work for his presidential campaign by offering them fat paychecks and other lavish perks, reports The New York Post. Even some notable congressional staffers have made the jump, including Carlos Sanchez, who has worked for Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and former Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.).

The perks include outsized salaries, three catered meals a day and an iPhone 11 and a MacBook Pro. Sanchez, for example, makes $360,000 a year as national political director. By comparison, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s political director, made $240,000 in 2016. “We’ve put together an amazingly strong team that every day is getting closer to beating Donald Trump, and we are happy to pay staff well to do that,” said a Bloomberg spokesman. The story:


Javier Gamboa, former deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), joined the majority staff of the House Select Committee on the climate crisis as a senior professional staff member working under the chairmanship of Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).

Twitter DC has made some new hires. Reggie McCrimmon, who worked for IMPACT Strategies and the Congressional Black Caucus, recently joined the Public Policy Team. And Trenton Kennedy, who was deputy press secretary for Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), joined the policy communications team.


The House is OUT.

The Senate reconvenes at 1 p.m. and resumes sitting as a court of impeachment for the trial of President Trump. The House managers will resume presentation of their case against the president.


The trial of the century continues.


WEDNESDAY’S WINNER: No one correctly guessed that 17 Republican senators have served in the Senate under a Democratic majority.

TODAY’S QUESTION: From Sarah: In what year was milk first allowed on the Senate floor? And who was the senator who requested it? First person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess my way at

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