HOW THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WORKS … From Jake, Sarah Ferris and Heather Caygle: AS YOU MIGHT’VE READ HERE, the USMCA was the TRUMP administration’s top legislative priority, and to its credit, the White House steered it through a Congress beset by partisanship by partnering with House Democrats. And on Wednesday, the WHITE HOUSE is hosting a big signing ceremony for the deal.
OF COURSE, IT IS UNDENIABLE FACT THAT DEMOCRATS played a big role in this deal — just ask the White House, which told reporters for months that the fate of the bill was in Speaker NANCY PELOSI’S hands. Her trade working group negotiated with USTR ROBERT LIGHTHIZER — and earned plaudits from many in the administration for being honest brokers.
BUT NOW THAT IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, DEMOCRATS are out in the cold. In a closed-door meeting Monday night, PELOSI briefly mentioned that President DONALD TRUMP would sign the trade deal this week, touting the provisions that Democrats helped get added. She mentioned the White House ceremony, and said, “not that Democrats were invited,” according to multiple people in the room.
WAIT. HOW ABOUT WAYS AND MEANS CHAIRMAN RICHIE NEAL (D-Mass.), whose committee was the center of gravity in getting the deal tweaked and passed? Not invited, sources told us. Rep. ROSA DELAURO (D-Conn.), a member of the trade working group? She said she didn’t get the invite.
REP. HENRY CUELLAR — one of the biggest champions of the trade deal in the House Democratic Caucus — said he was not included in the event. But two officials in his district — Laredo’s Democratic Mayor Peter Saenz, and a local county commissioner — did receive the invite to the White House. “It’s a little petty of him,” the Texas Democrat said in an interview, referring to the president. “Actually, there were more Democrats who voted in favor than Republicans in the House side.”
WE HEARD LATE MONDAY that the White House was considering a few invites to friendly Democrats. There was some internal tension, though, because, as several White House sources pointed out, there may be someone in the building who isn’t exactly interested in celebrating with Democrats because of impeachment.
LIKE AN OLD FAUCET, IT KEEPS ON LEAKING OUT … NYT’S MIKE SCHMIDT and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says”: “John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William P. Barr last year that he had concerns that President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.
“Mr. Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Mr. Barr mentioned conversations Mr. Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China. …
“Mr. Bolton wrote in the manuscript that Mr. Barr singled out Mr. Trump’s conversations with Mr. Xi about the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE, which agreed in 2017 to plead guilty and pay heavy fines for violating American sanctions on doing business with North Korea, Iran and other countries. A year later, Mr. Trump lifted the sanctions over objections from his own advisers and Republican lawmakers.
“Mr. Barr also cited remarks Mr. Trump made to Mr. Erdogan in 2018 about the investigation of Halkbank, Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank. The Justice Department was scrutinizing Halkbank on fraud and money-laundering charges for helping Iran evade sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department.”
— DOJ response: “While the Department of Justice has not reviewed Mr. Bolton’s manuscript, the New York Times’ account of this conversation grossly mischaracterizes what Attorney General Barr and Mr. Bolton discussed. There was no discussion of ‘personal favors’ or ‘undue influence’ on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the president’s conversations with foreign leaders was improper.”
THE LATEST ON WITNESSES … WE DID A ROUND OF CHATS with Republicans and Democrats late Monday — before the most recent NYT blockbuster — on where they saw the witness debate, and here’s what we gleaned: REPUBLICANS feel decent because they believe Monday should have been the day GOP senators broke toward demanding witnesses, and they didn’t. At this point, in their view, it’s still just Sen. SUSAN COLLINS of Maine and Sen. MITT ROMNEY of Utah. This might be wishful thinking, it might be reality.
BEHIND THE SCENES … BURGESS EVERETT and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Romney ‘made a strong pitch’ for witnesses during a closed-door lunch of Senate Republicans on Monday, according to Republicans familiar with the meeting. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his colleagues to wait until after Trump’s defense team finishes its presentation and senators go through a lengthy question-and-answer session to make a decision on what’s become the biggest issue of the trial.
“But Romney is already making his move. And though he serves on the Republican whip team, Romney is now effectively working against party leaders and arguing to colleagues that the proper way to test each side’s contention is to hear from people directly involved in the Ukraine saga.
“‘It has been pointed out so far by both the House managers as well the defense that there has not been evidence of a direct nature of what the president may have side or what his motives were or what he did,’ Romney said on Monday evening. ‘The article in the New York Times I think made it pretty clear that [Bolton] has some information that may be relevant. And I’d like to hear relevant information before I made a final decision.’” POLITICO
BUT, OF COURSE, as the NYT story showed, this is about as fluid of a situation as can be, so the caucus politics are impossible to predict — and even the sources we talk to cannot say with certainty how it will all shake out. Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) said Monday that Bolton might be relevant to hear from, and people like Sen. PAT TOOMEY (R-Pa.) are proposing witness swaps — if the pro-witness crowd is able to reach the four-vote threshold.
THE FLOW CHART OF POSSIBLE OUTCOMES HERE is complex, and this situation could break in so many ways. The overall vote on allowing witnesses could fail, or it could pass. If it passes, then what? Maybe a deal for witnesses never comes together, and in that case, maybe a bunch of individual votes on witnesses fail. Or maybe a deal does come together. Can you see Democrats accepting any deal that includes a Bolton-for-Biden swap? Now that we have the book leaks, is hearing from Bolton worth putting either Biden through testifying for Democrats?
ANOTHER ARGUMENT that Republicans are making: Why drag out the trial if the president will try to block BOLTON’S testimony, and he’ll eventually be acquitted?
HERE IS AN INTERESTING SCENARIO TO PONDER: Imagine if the vote for witnesses is tied 50-50 — so three Republicans join with all Democrats — and the tie-breaking vote went to Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS. What would he do?
WSJ EDITORIAL BOARD on frequent WSJ op-ed contributor JOHN BOLTON: “The report that John Bolton’s book draft implicates President Trump more closely to ordering a delay in military aid to Ukraine is hardly a surprise and won’t—and shouldn’t—change the impeachment result. It does, however, complicate the trial task for Republican Senators, and our advice is for Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser to tell the public now what he says in his book. …
“Whoever leaked the book’s contents wants to use Mr. Bolton to turn the Senate impeachment trial into a larger political drama. But we’ve known Mr. Bolton long enough to doubt that he’d want to sandbag Republican Senators or the President he worked for. He’s a straight-shooter, even if he sometimes aims right between the eyes.” WSJ
FOR TV PRODUCERS: Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER is doing a news conference at 11 a.m. with Sens. RON WYDEN (D-Ore.) and JACK REED (D-R.I.).
Good Tuesday morning.
NEW DEM FUNDRAISING NUMBERS, via JAMES ARKIN: SENATE MAJORITY PAC, the super PAC associated with Senate Democrats, raised $61 million in 2019. SMP has more than $47 million cash on hand. The fundraising haul is a significant uptick. SMP raised $21.8 million in 2017 and had $13.7 million cash on hand during the last off-year cycle.
BIDEN MAKES LAST PITCH TO IOWANS, via Zach Montellaro: “Former Vice President Joe Biden is launching his final television ad in Iowa ahead of the caucuses there, urging voters to imagine what a Biden administration could accomplish after President Donald Trump is defeated.
“The ad, shared first with POLITICO, will begin running on television in Iowa markets on Tuesday and makes an implicit electability argument for Biden. ‘Imagine all the progress we can make in the next four years,’ Biden, who is narrating the ad, says before listing affordable health care, fighting climate change and banning assault weapons. ‘What we imagine today, you can make a reality. But first we need to beat Donald Trump.’
“The campaign told POLITICO that the ad would run in five Iowa television markets and statewide on Hulu through the caucuses, which will take place next Monday.” With the ad: POLITICO
BERNIE SURGING — “Celebrity star-power fuels Bernie’s final Iowa sprint,” by Holly Otterbein in Iowa City, Iowa: “Inside the campaign, some aides call it ‘Bernchella.’ As Bernie Sanders attempts to surge to a first-place finish in Iowa, the Vermont senator is tapping famous politicians and celebrities to campaign for him in one final star-studded week before the caucuses.
“The luminaries cut across the culture, from politics to music to movies and more. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, filmmaker and liberal stalwart Michael Moore, actor Kendrick Sampson, and recording artists Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend — who inspired the Coachella-derived nickname — are among those who have or will be stumping for him.” POLITICO
PETE TRYING TO STAY IN IT … NYT’S REID EPSTEIN in West Des Moines: “How Pete Buttigieg Tailors His Message to Black and White Voters”
— “Bloomberg’s rise sets off alarms on the left,” by Christopher Cadelago and Sally Goldenberg: “Progressive allies of Elizabeth Warren have approached the Democratic National Committee to lobby for an unusual cause: including billionaire Mike Bloomberg in upcoming presidential primary debates.
“The move, described to POLITICO by a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, reflects the desire of liberal activists to pin down the former New York mayor, who has avoided verbal combat with his opponents by waging a self-funded campaign that plays by its own rules. But the entreaty also speaks to progressives’ growing unease with Bloomberg’s relative success: After spending hundreds of millions of dollars, he has vaulted into double digits in national polls and amassed a giant staff of A-level operatives.” POLITICO
BIG DOWN-BALLOT NEWS — “Rep. Doug Collins expected to run for Senate, setting up GOP primary clash,” by Melanie Zanona, James Arkin and John Bresnahan: “Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) is planning to announce a run for the Senate, according to multiple sources, challenging appointed GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and complicating Republicans’ path to holding onto a battleground Senate seat this year.
“Loeffler and Collins will both be running to complete the term of former Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned at the end of last year due to health concerns. The election is an all-party contest in November, with the top-two challengers facing off in a January runoff if no candidate tops 50 percent of the vote. The announcement is expected to come soon. Collins’ office declined to comment.” POLITICO
TRUMP’S TUESDAY — The president will greet Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in the Blue Room at 11:55 a.m. He will deliver a joint address with Netanyahu in the East Room at noon. Afterward, Trump will bid him farewell in the Diplomatic Reception Room at 12:35 p.m. Trump will receive his intel briefing at 2 p.m. in the Oval Office.
THE PRESIDENT will leave the White House at 4:40 p.m. en route to Wildwood, N.J. He will speak at a campaign rally at 7 p.m. at the Wildwood Convention Center. Afterward, he will travel back to Washington, and is expected back at the White House by 10:30 p.m.
BEN SCHRECKINGER: “Lobbyist bought tropical land from Biden’s brother”: “In 2005, Joe Biden’s brother bought an acre of land with excellent ocean views on a remote island in the Caribbean for $150,000. He divided it into three parcels, and the next year a lobbyist close to the Delaware senator bought one of the parcels for what had been the cost of the entire property. Later, the lobbyist gave Biden’s brother a mortgage loan on the remaining parcels.
“The Virgin Islands land deal, reported here for the first time, furthers a pattern in which members of the Biden family have engaged in financial dealings with people with an interest in influencing the former vice president.
“In this case, a Biden staffer left the Senate in the early ’90s to become a lobbyist. Both before and after the land transaction, his clients benefited from Biden’s support and appropriations requests. A firm the lobbyist co-founded — which features a testimonial from Biden praising his ‘emotional investment’ in his work on its website — specializes in federal contracts for niche law enforcement and national security programs for which Biden long advocated.
“After the land deal, Joe Biden vacationed elsewhere on the tiny island, which once protected a nearby submarine base before it became a tropical getaway, on at least three occasions.” POLITICO
HAPPENING TODAY … MIDDLE EAST PEACE PLAN AT THE WHITE HOUSE — “Trump’s Middle East peace plan expected to offer Palestinians conditional statehood,” by WaPo’s Anne Gearan, Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash: “President Trump said he will release details of his Middle East peace plan Tuesday, and the long-awaited package is expected to propose a dramatic remapping of the West Bank while offering Palestinians a pathway to statehood if they meet a set of tests. …
“The package is expected to propose a redrawn border between Israel and the West Bank that would incorporate large Jewish settlements into Israel proper, while continuing some forms of Israeli security control over the territory Israel seized in 1967 and has occupied since, according to two people familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal has not been released. …
“It is expected to offer limited autonomy to Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that would increase over about a three-year timeline if Palestinian leadership undertook new political measures, renounced violence and took other steps in negotiation with Israel, the people familiar with the plan said.”
— TIMES OF ISRAEL: “Settler leader on trip to D.C. ‘losing sleep’ over ‘horrible’ Trump deal,” by Jacob Magid: “The Jordan Valley mayor spoke to The Times of Israel at 3 a.m. local time, saying he was unable to sleep because he was worried about the plan, which he deemed as ‘horrible for settlements.’”
DIPLOMATIC DANCE … NYT’S ANNIE KARNI in Washington and DAVID HALBFINGER in Jerusalem: “Gantz Makes the Best of Being a Third Wheel at the White House”
CORONAVIRUS UPDATE … SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST: “Hong Kong government to drastically cut cross-border travel with mainland by closing railways, reducing bus services and cutting flights by half” … “Beijing Sars hospital to reopen as death toll passes 100, while medical shortage slows Wuhan efforts”
NEWS AND ADVANCE (Lynchburg, Va.): “Liberty University announces Pompeo as commencement speaker”
MEDIAWATCH — “Pompeo’s clash with NPR grows after journalist is barred from plane,” by Matthew Choi: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s quarrel with NPR escalated on Monday after one of the radio network’s reporters was barred from flying on the secretary’s plane during an upcoming trip to Ukraine.
“Michele Kelemen, a veteran reporter for the network, was removed from the list of reporters allowed to fly with Pompeo on a trip to Eastern Europe, only days after the secretary reportedly exploded at another NPR reporter for asking questions about Ukraine. The State Department Correspondents’ Association swiftly condemned the move in a statement on Monday.
“‘Michele is a consummate professional who has covered the State Department for nearly two decades,’ the statement said. ‘We respectfully ask the State Department to reconsider and allow Michele to travel on the plane for this trip.’ … The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” POLITICO
— THE STORY EVERYONE’S TWEETING ABOUT … “Washington Post Suspends a Reporter After Her Tweets on Kobe Bryant,” by NYT’s Rachael Abrams: “The Washington Post suspended one of its reporters, Felicia Sonmez, after she posted tweets on Sunday about Kobe Bryant in the hours after his death. Over 200 Post journalists criticized the paper’s decision on Monday. …
“Ms. Sonmez received an email from The Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, at 5:38 p.m., before she was told that she would be placed on leave. The reporter shared the three-sentence email with The New York Times.
“‘Felicia,’ Mr. Baron wrote. ‘A real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You’re hurting this institution by doing this.’”
— WAPO COLUMNIST ERIK WEMPLE: “The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets”
MEDIAWATCH — POLITICO’s Melissa Cooke, who has been managing TV and radio bookings, has been promoted to communications director. … Shalini Sharma is joining NBC News as editorial director for digital video, overseeing the features team. She previously was head of global video at Thrive Global and is a Fast Company and ABC alum. … CNN’s Noah Gray is becoming managing producer for field operations, overseeing live shots and logistics around D.C. He’ll continue to cover the campaign trail’s early states.
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOTTED at the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Monday to celebrate Walmart’s $5 million gift to the museum: Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Al Lawson (D-Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Steve Womack (R-Ark.), Dan Bartlett, Jessica Jacoby Lemos, Bruce Harris, Spencer Crew, Janet Murguía, Madalene Mielke, Matthew Spikes, Tasha Cole, Yolonda Addison, Donni Turner, Kwabena Nsiah, Darryn Harris, Paul Nicholas, Greg Mathis and Moyer McCoy.
TRANSITIONS — Daniel Penchina is launching Penchina Partners, a firm focused on progressive policy, philanthropy and political efforts. He was previously president of Voices for Progress, where he was recently succeeded by Sandra Fluke.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — John Dillard, principal at OFW Law, and Laura Dillard, associate at France Law LLC, welcomed Luke Philip Dillard on Jan. 9. He joins big brother George. Pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. How he got his start: “I had a crossroads decision after my first year of graduate school: accept a job offer to be a cub reporter at a major, big-city newspaper (now much shrunken in size) or accept a U.S. government scholarship to an Arabic immersion program at Middlebury College. Thankfully, I made the right choice, escaped a career in journalism and took the plunge into Middle East studies that has kept me solvent for 35 years.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is 73 … Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) is 43 … Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is 72 … Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) is 51 … Christy Gibson … Fed Gov. Lael Brainard … POLITICO’s Ray Gurganus and Peter King … Terry McNaughton … Nick Iacono is 3-0 … Jeff Selingo … Helen Kalla … Bloomberg columnist Justin Fox … Grant Campbell … former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) is 64 … former Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) is 71 … former Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) is 69 … Lynnette Johnson Williams, SVP at Edelman … Leslie Jones, VP for working lands at Environmental Defense Fund, is 51 … Maria Comella, global head of regional public affairs and policy at WeWork … Matt DoBias … Frank Purcell … Alexandra Thornton …
… Skip Rutherford, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service and longtime Arkansas politico, is 7-0 (h/t daughter Mary Rutherford Jennings) … Ted Greener, executive director of public affairs at the Association of American Railroads … Reginald Darby, deputy COS and legislative director for Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) (h/t Rachel Harris) … Sam Greene … Anne Manhart … Daniel Remler … Allison Barber … Katie Varoga … Jon Erpenbach is 59 … Roberta Gassman … Achim Bergmann (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … John Milewski … Susan Johannesmann … Jen Millikin … Missy Lieberman, manager of government relations at the Pew Charitable Trusts … Peggy Greenberg … CNN’s Jay McMichael … Ariel Bas Rick Warren is 66 … Fred Nation … Stephanie Adams