POLITICO Playbook: How to think about impeachment this week

THIS WEEK WE’LL SEE KINETIC ACTION on impeachment for the first time in a while. And here’s what you can expect:

— THE HOUSE will come into session tonight, but the weekly caucus meeting will be TUESDAY morning. It is there that Speaker NANCY PELOSI will discuss the next steps on impeachment with House Democrats. We anticipate a vote to send the impeachment articles and name the managers sometime Tuesday or Wednesday.

— ONCE THE SENATE GETS THE ARTICLES, expect three or four days of housekeeping and logistical work before the trial actually begins.

— SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL anticipates keeping the Senate in SIX DAYS A WEEK until impeachment is over. In closed meetings, McConnell has been pressed on this, and he’s been consistent that he wants to keep the chamber in all week, save Sundays — in line with the Senate’s guidelines for impeachment. MLK Day is also probably an off-day.

— IN RECENT DAYS, MCCONNELL allies have told us multiple times that we should expect a robust conversation in the Senate GOP about calling witnesses in the trial. We’ll see just how robust the debate is, and what the rules call for.

IF THIS TRIAL DOES MIRROR BILL CLINTON’S in its rules, the opportunity to call witnesses will come after the presentation of the trial and the senators’ questioning of both sides. This makes the managers incredibly important for those seeking witnesses.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S team is coming together, per NYT’s MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Some aspects of how Mr. Trump’s team will approach the trial have yet to be determined, including whether it will seek witnesses and how much time it will ask for to argue its case. But the basic configuration of the team defending the television-savvy president in a made-for-TV congressional event has been established.

“The two constants will be Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, who has been Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer since 2017. Both are expected to have speaking roles during the trial. … There will be other lawyers involved, primarily Mr. Cipollone’s two top deputies, Patrick F. Philbin and Michael M. Purpura, two people familiar with the plans said. Neither was authorized to speak publicly about the formation of the president’s defense. …

“Last week, Mr. Trump’s lawyers met at the White House with Stephen R. Castor, who served as the Republican counsel in the House impeachment hearings, according to people briefed on the discussions.” NYT

BURGESS EVERETT and MARIANNE LEVINE on Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER: “How Schumer might get the last laugh on impeachment trial”: “Schumer will force a series of votes designed to squeeze vulnerable Republicans and harm them on the campaign trail if they side with Trump.

“Democrats argue the half-dozen at-risk GOP senators will need some daylight between them and Trump to get reelected. And if they vote against Schumer’s motions to hear new evidence and witness testimony, they’ll be seen as Trump sycophants — undermining their bids and boosting Schumer’s odds of becoming majority leader.

“Support for obtaining new documents at the trial is ‘even stronger than we thought, with large numbers of Republicans supporting it,’ Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview. ‘And when you go against what the American people feel strongly about, on an issue they’re paying attention to, it’s not a good idea.’”

NYT’S SHERYL GAY STOLBERG on SCHUMER: “Schumer, Eyeing Senate’s Top Job, Navigates Tricky Impeachment Terrain”: “For Mr. Schumer, who has spent three years as the Senate’s top Democrat in the shadow of his House counterpart, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump is both an opportunity and a risk.

“It is no secret in the capital that the job Mr. Schumer really wants is that of Senate majority leader — a post he thought would be his with Hillary Clinton in the White House, before Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory unleashed a political earthquake. A schmoozer and a deal-maker, he is more suited to the politics of getting things done than to the partisan knife-fighting culture of Mr. Trump’s Washington.” NYT

WAPO’S GRIFF WITTE on MCCONNELL, from Florence, Ky.: “A pact with Trump on impeachment? McConnell’s Kentucky backers demand it”: “[F]or now, McConnell — who can afford to lose up to three votes while retaining a working majority — has the support he needs to call the shots. The political calculus on McConnell’s home front offers him little room to compromise, even if he wanted to.

“To Trump’s backers here in northern Kentucky — the small cities, affluent suburbs and rolling hill country that fans out just across the muddy Ohio River from Cincinnati — that is just how they like it. Many have long been wary of McConnell, deeming him overly willing to cut a deal and insufficiently committed to the president’s agenda. His management of the president’s trial, they say, will be a test.” WaPo

THE PRESIDENT suggested Sunday that maybe the Senate should not even hold an impeachment trial, something MCCONNELL has rejected … @realDonaldTrump at 2:55 p.m.: “Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, ‘no pressure’ Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!”

DARREN SAMUELSOHN: “Meet John Roberts’ Senate impeachment whisperer”

TRUMP READING … DAILY MAIL: “Meghan Markle’s REAL dream is to move to Los Angeles… but only after Donald Trump’s presidency ends, say pals”

Good Monday morning.

SPOTTED: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) having brunch at Dacha Navy Yard on Sunday with her boyfriend and new French bulldog. Pic

NEW: “Trump authorized Soleimani’s killing 7 months ago, with conditions,” by NBC’s Carol Lee and Courtney Kube: “President Donald Trump authorized the killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials.

“The presidential directive in June 2019 came with the condition that Trump would have final sign off on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said. That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump last week for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq that killed an American contractor and wounded four U.S. service members, the officials said.

“The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration’s stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.” NBC

“Video: Iran police shoot at those protesting plane shootdown,” by AP’s Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

2020 WATCH …

— HOLLY OTTERBEIN in Iowa City: “Sanders surges as progressives flock to him over Warren”: “Something’s happening with Bernie Sanders that looked unlikely to many a few months ago: Progressive leaders and organizations are lining up behind him, not Elizabeth Warren, in the lead-up to voting.

“Two groups run by young people — the Sunrise Movement, which seeks to combat climate change, and Dream Defenders, which advocates for people of color — endorsed him last week. He’s also won the backing of People’s Action and the Center for Popular Democracy, which together claim more than 1.5 million members, as well as three lawmakers in the so-called “Squad” and liberal-minded labor unions.

“The consolidation of left-wing support is a remarkable turnaround for Sanders. In September, the Working Families Party became the first major national progressive group to endorse a candidate when it picked Warren — despite siding with Sanders in 2016. Warren was surging at the time, and looked poised to overtake Sanders as the leader of the progressive movement and a frontrunner for the nomination.” POLITICO

— WAPO’S ANNIE LINSKEY in Marshalltown, Iowa, and SEAN SULLIVAN in Iowa City: “Bernie Sanders’s campaign goes on the attack as he seeks a victory in the Iowa caucuses”: “Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign has suddenly gone on the attack as he seeks to secure an opening victory in the early February caucuses, engaging in a rare dispute with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, tussling with former vice president Joe Biden and drawing an insult from President Trump.

“Although Sanders (I-Vt.) mostly had resisted comparing himself with other candidates, over the weekend, his surrogates and aides intensified their attacks on Biden, targeting his past positions on racial issues and his vote to sanction the Iraq War.” WaPo

— POLL … DES MOINES REGISTER: “More than three-quarters of Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers use the word ‘optimist’ to describe themselves, according to the latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. When offered a selection of a dozen potential self-descriptions, 78% of poll respondents picked the word ‘optimist,’ making it the label most often picked by respondents.”

— TIMELY! … NYT’S ‘THE LONG RUN’ SERIES: “Joe Biden’s Vote for War,” by Katie Glueck and Tom Kaplan, on A1: “‘At each pivotal moment,’ Mr. Biden said of Mr. Bush, ‘he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation, and I believe he will continue to do so. At least that is my fervent hope.’

“On Oct. 11, he was one of 77 senators to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. Twenty-three colleagues, some of whom harbored grave doubts about the danger Iraq posed at the time, refused to back the president’s request.

“Nearly two decades later, Mr. Biden, who by 2005 was calling that vote a mistake, is running for president in part on his foreign policy experience, emphasizing his commander-in-chief credentials at a moment of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran. Yet the Iraq war vote is part of the extensive record he cites, and he has struggled to accurately account for it on the campaign trail, repeatedly suggesting he opposed the war and Mr. Bush’s conduct from the beginning, claims that detailed fact checks have deemed wrong or misleading.”

“Judge Judy Has Issued Her Decision: She Likes Michael Bloomberg,” by NYT’s Lisa Lerer

— THE TEXAS TRIBUNE’S ABBY LIVINGSTON: “With its 228 delegates and Super Tuesday slot, Texas looms in the presidential primary”: “A sleeping giant looms over the Democratic presidential campaign, even as excitement continues to build toward the first-in-the-nation contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“That behemoth is Texas. Slowly but surely, Democratic presidential campaigns are taking breaks from the early state presidential primaries and are making their cases to Texans. The March 3 Texas primary will deliver 228 delegates on a proportional basis, the third-largest delegate count of the primary season. But for now, the top priorities are clearly Iowa, which will host its caucuses Feb. 3, and the succeeding contests in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.”

— JAMES CARVILLE is endorsing Sen. MICHAEL BENNET (D-Colo.) for president, and will travel to New Hampshire to campaign for him.

TRUMP’S MONDAY … THE PRESIDENT will have lunch with the vice president at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time, and at 4:10 p.m., they’ll leave the White House for Andrews, where they will fly to New Orleans for the college football national championship. At 9:05 p.m., they’ll leave New Orleans for Washington. They are slated to arrive at Andrews at 12:40 a.m., and get back to the White House at 1 a.m.

HAPPENING TODAY … AP/LONDON: “Queen prepares for royal family summit over Harry and Meghan”

THE DISASTER IN AUSTRALIA — “‘If We Stayed Outside We Would Have Died’: Australia’s Fires Devour Farms and Forests,” by WSJ’s Jon Emont, James Glynn and David Winning: “Fires have ravaged Australia in recent weeks, burning an area roughly 10 times the size burned in California’s historic 2018 wildfire season. The flames have spread with stunning speed, cutting off roads in and out of towns and flushing coastal residents to beaches where they were rescued by sea.

“Thousands of homes have burned and more than 25 people have died, with blazes expected to keep burning through Australia’s summer into February, if not longer.

“Beach towns, ski resorts, and dairy farms have fallen to fires that have eaten more than 26,000 square miles of land—an area larger than West Virginia. Some experts have said the fires could shave as much as 0.4% off economic growth, mainly in the current quarter, and insurance losses are already estimated at around $686 million, based just on claims made so far, according to the Insurance Council of Australia on Friday. That total is sure to rise as more than 100 fires raged Sunday in New South Wales, the southeastern part of the continent, which has borne the brunt of the disaster.” WSJ

FOR YOUR RADAR … TAIWAN ELECTION FALLOUT — “China could flex military muscles to pressure Taiwan post-election,” by Reuters’ Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee in Taipei: “His policies rejected by Taiwan voters in a landslide re-election for President Tsai Ing-wen, Chinese President Xi Jinping will most likely continue to tighten the screws on the island, with state media already floating shows of force. …

“Options for increasing pressure post-election include many of the actions China was taking before: stepped up military drills around the island or picking off more of Taiwan’s 15 remaining diplomatic allies. It could also withdraw from a key trade agreement reached a decade ago.

“Widely read Chinese state-backed tabloid the Global Times said in a Monday editorial that military flexing may be the next step.

“‘We need to plan to crack down on Tsai’s new provocative actions, including imposing military pressure,’ it wrote.” Reuters

TRADE WARS … THE STAKES OF THIS WEEK’S CHINA DEAL — “Trump Trade Deal Raises Issue of Trusting China to Deliver,” by Bloomberg’s Shawn Donnan and Jenny Leonard: “After three years of tweets and tariffs, President Donald Trump has arrived at his China moment.

“The phase one deal to be signed Wednesday is expected to include China’s commitments to respect American intellectual property and not manipulate its currency. U.S. officials also anticipate $200 billion in new purchases that should help reduce a yawning trade deficit and repair some of the damage suffered by farmers. It hands Trump at least a partial agreement many skeptics doubted was ever possible.

“But even that political victory leaves Trump confronting the same China conundrum that has plagued his predecessors. The broad and bipartisan agreement in Washington is that American presidents have for decades been hoodwinked by a China that has often failed to deliver on its promises.” Bloomberg

HAMBY READING — “The Dangers of the Twitter Primary,” by Helen Lewis in The Atlantic

MEDIAWATCH — Cuneyt Dil will join the AP’s California statehouse bureau in Sacramento. He currently is a reporter for The DC Line and Washington City Paper and author of the District Links newsletter.

— A new publication, Rest of World, is naming WaPo and BuzzFeed alum Anup Kaphle executive editor. He previously was editor-in-chief of the Kathmandu Post. (h/t Brian Stelter)

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at politicoplaybook@politico.com.

TRANSITION — Vanessa Day is now a VP on Targeted Victory’s public affairs team. She most recently was a senior adviser at the nonprofit Urban Specialists and is a Paul Ryan alum.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Pete Bisbee, executive director of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, and Audrey Bisbee welcomed Beatrice Virginia Bisbee on Friday. She came in at 7 lbs, 7 oz and 19 inches, and joins big sister Penny. Pic Another pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Rod Rosenstein, partner at King & Spalding and former deputy A.G., is 55. How he got his start: “I joined the Department of Justice in 1990 because the virtue of the mission eclipsed the financial sacrifice. I stayed because it is an extraordinary honor to represent the United States and work with men and women of great integrity. Patriotism is not merely about pride in your country. Patriotism is about gratitude for your country.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Nate Silver is 42 (what are the odds?) … Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) is 49 … Marc Thiessen is 53 … Julia Tishman (h/ts Ryder and Josie) … Natasha McKenzie … Nick Butterfield, deputy assistant to the president and deputy WH policy coordinator … Andrew Riddaugh of the WH advance office … Brian Scarlett … Jason Chung, nominee to be U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank and current alternate executive director … Andrew Kossack, state director for Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) … Monica Notzon … WTOP alum Mike McMearty … Ginger Zee … Tali Stein Elleithee … POLITICO’s Tim Noah and Alexandra Velde … Dick Sheffield … Joseph Rodota, California political consultant and writer … National Journal’s Mini Racker … Chandra Hardy … Fox News’ Christina Robbins … Ryan Murphy of The Texas Tribune … Britt Bepler, COO of Monument Advocacy (h/t Stewart Verdery) … Abigail Seldin … Rich Gold …

… Kristina Schake … Deloitte’s Mollie Bowman … Antony Phillipson, the U.K.’s consul-general in New York and Her Majesty’s trade commissioner to North America … Rebecca Cathcart … Jordan Bell, president of American University’s College Republicans, is 21 (h/t Inuri Abeysekara) … Maria Gavrilovic … Will Baskin-Gerwitz … Sam Cohen … Allan Rivlin … John Cole … Michelle Mowery Johnson … Mia Walton … Liz Swiker … Laurence Wildgoose … FEMA’s John Allen … Katie Murtha … New England Center for Investigative Reporting/WGBH’s Paul Singer … Robin Bravender … Liana Guerra … Carly Freedman … Heidi Krizer Daroff … BGR’s Kristin Strobel … Ali Tulbah … Max Sanders … Rashid Dar … Ian Gilley … Kevin Kiley … Vincent Pan … Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Taylor … Lisa Caputo … Anna Lidman … former Iowa Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson … Dave O’Brien (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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