WE WERE ALL ATWITTER Monday when JOHN BOLTON popped up on his political action committee’s webpage to say that he would testify if subpoenaed in a Senate trial.
BUT, AT THIS MOMENT, why should we think he’ll testify?
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL seems to have his entire conference behind the Clinton rules for impeachment, which required 51 votes to subpoena someone for testimony — we’ll get to that in a second — and there was very, very little movement Monday.
AS OUR COLLEAGUES MARIANNE LEVINE and JOHN BRESNAHAN pointed out Monday night, moderate senators are siding with MCCONNELL over Democrats on Bolton’s testimony. Read their story here … (BTW: At the moment, House Dems don’t seem eager to subpoena Bolton on their own — which they could do — and they say it’s the Senate’s duty. If you’re a House Dem and want to hear from Bolton, why not subpoena him? By not subpoenaing him, you’re betting on the Republican Senate.)
EVEN IF, SOMEHOW, the Republican dam does break, don’t you think President DONALD TRUMP will first try to block Bolton by asserting executive privilege, and then try to go to court to prevent him from testifying? And if it goes to court, that could last a long time — much longer than the Senate trial.
AS OF NOW, we have Sen. MITT ROMNEY (R-Utah) — who said he’d like to hear from Bolton but wouldn’t commit to a subpoena. What do you believe is more plausible: Romney galvanizing the support of three other Republicans, or McConnell holding onto party unity?
WHAT LIES AHEAD? … MCCONNELL has hinted in recent days that if he is unable to strike a rules agreement on a trial with Senate Minority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER, he’ll go to the floor with something mirroring the Clinton impeachment rules. REMEMBER: That rule package only needs 51 votes.
SO … IT’S WORTH A REFRESHER about what the Clinton impeachment rules — passed 100-0 — called for back in 1999, because the rules are shaping up to look quite similar this time around:
— IN 1999: THE HOUSE’S impeachment managers had 24 hours to make their case, and the president’s team had 24 hours to respond on the Senate floor. Each side had as many people as they wanted to help make their case. Senators had 16 hours to question the parties. Only after that whole process could the Senate consider subpoenaing witnesses or entering information not already in the record.
— IF DEPOSITIONS were ordered, they were videotaped, and conducted by House managers and the president’s lawyers. Two senators presided over the depositions, and House managers and the president’s attorneys conducted the depositions — but no more than two from each side were permitted to participate. “Members of the Senate, one designated staff member per senator, and the chief justice” were permitted to watch the videotape and review the transcript, but all sides were bound by confidentiality. Read the rules
TEAM TRUMP IMPEACHMENT STRATEGY — “‘We’re ready to go’: Trump legal team readies for Senate trial’s start,” by Darren Samuelsohn and Melanie Zanona: “President Donald Trump’s lawyers have their strategy in place for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. All they need now is a start date. Coordinating over the last month, the White House counsel’s office and the president’s team of private lawyers have prepared a detailed legal brief pushing back against last month’s House-passed impeachment articles that seek Trump’s removal from office for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“That document, according to a person familiar with the Trump legal strategy, is modeled after one that President Bill Clinton’s lawyers submitted at the start of his 1999 Senate impeachment trial — which ended a month later with his acquittal. Trump’s lawyers have also been preparing their oral arguments — and who will give them.
“Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel who has written several blistering letters to Democrats critical of their efforts, is primed to have the lead speaking role and will be backed up by his top deputies, Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin. Jay Sekulow, Trump’s longest-serving personal attorney, also is expected to have a presence on the Senate floor during the trial, though it’s still unclear whether that includes making any public remarks.
“One thing still up in the air: Trump’s legal team hasn’t arrived at a final decision on whether to give House Republicans official speaking slots during the Senate trial, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.” POLITICO
Good Tuesday morning. CAPITAL WEATHER GANG is calling for snow tonight. Check out their projection
THE STEP BACK … BURGESS EVERETT and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Iran overshadows impeachment as Trump leaves Congress staggering”: “It’s hard to imagine anything eclipsing the imminent impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. But that’s where Congress finds itself with the United States on the brink of military conflict with Iran.
“Trump’s killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has utterly overshadowed the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, at least for now. But the twists are still coming at a breakneck pace: Not long after Trump issued new threats to Iran on Monday, John Bolton, his former national security adviser, said he’d testify about Trump’s Ukraine scandal if subpoenaed by the Senate. Meanwhile, the House could vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution asserting Congress’ authority alone to declare war.
“Lawmakers are left struggling to prioritize the two dramas — and could for weeks if Iran retaliates against the United States while the Senate considers removing Trump. It’s a microcosm of Trump’s frenetic presidency: The plodding pace of Congress has it barely keeping up as an institution.” POLITICO
— THE LATEST IN IRAN: “Iran TV: Stampede at procession for slain general, some dead,” by AP’s Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell in Tehran
WE’RE AT WAR … AMERICA PREPARES … NYT’S THOMAS GIBBONS-NEFF: “How U.S. Troops Are Preparing for the Worst in the Middle East”
— AP: “U.S. officials are also aware that Iran could try to strike a high-level American leader in a ‘tit-for-tat’ move, potentially a military commander. One official said some Iranian ships have spread out, and while the intent isn’t immediately clear, they could move rapidly to attack.”
IRAN PLOTS ITS REVENGE … FT’S NAJMEH BOZORGMEHR in Tehran: “During four days of mourning, huge crowds have demanded retribution for the assassination last week of their most revered military leader. Publicly, the regime has issued bellicose statements — threatening a ‘historic nightmare’ for the US and warning that it has ‘13 scenarios’ for retaliation.
“But in private, even hardliners have said Tehran must strike back but avoid a full-blown conflict. ‘We cannot ignore this aggression easily and have to prevent the US from repeating its rogue behaviour,’ said Hamid-Reza Taraghi, a politician close to Iran’s hardline forces. ‘But our strategy is retaliation in such a way that we do not go to a war.’ …
“On Tuesday, Iran’s top security official said that Iran was working to reach consensus on one of the ‘13 scenarios’ under discussion that could lead to a ‘historic nightmare’ for the US in response to the killing of a senior military commander.
“‘Even if we reach consensus on the weakest scenario out of these 13, its implementation can turn into a historic nightmare for Americans,’ Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, told domestic media, without giving further details. ‘I can only promise to the Iranian nation that the revenge operation … is not supposed to be in the form of one single operation.’” FT
— NYT’S FARNAZ FASSIHI and DAVID KIRKPATRICK: “In the tense hours following the American killing of a top Iranian military commander, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made a rare appearance at a meeting of the government’s National Security Council to lay down the parameters for any retaliation. It must be a direct and proportional attack on American interests, he said, openly carried out by Iranian forces themselves, three Iranians familiar with the meeting said Monday.” NYT
— WHAT A MESS: “Pentagon distances itself from letter announcing plans for Iraq withdrawal,” by Bryan Bender: “The Pentagon on Monday disputed that U.S. troops are preparing to withdraw from Iraq — after a leaked letter from a U.S. general suggested plans are underway to prepare troops to leave following the Iraqi Parliament’s Sunday vote calling for their removal.
“The misfire added yet another layer of confusion to an already murky situation days after the region erupted in response to the U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. It also raised new questions about the Pentagon’s intentions as it faces new threats from Iranian militias in Iraq even as it seeks to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Gen. Mark Milley took the usual step of holding an impromptu question-and-answer session with reporters at the Pentagon after media outlets reported a top US. general on Monday informed an Iraqi counterpart that American personnel are initiating steps for a possible withdrawal. The reported letter from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely to Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir outlined plans for ‘repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.’
“‘We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,’ the letter added. But Milley, agreeing the letter was a ‘mistake,’ told reporters it was only a draft and had not been sent. He said he had just spoken to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, about it.” POLITICO
WSJ ED BOARD: “Trump’s Post-Soleimani World”: “It may be true that no good deed goes unpunished, but only the ever-active Donald Trump could take it upon himself to punish his own good deed. …
“We think the President’s strike against Soleimani was justified on the merits, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent Sunday morning explaining on TV. A concurrent reality, however, is that we are starting a presidential election. To win, the Democrats desperately need to be able to run against Mr. Trump personally, as Mike Bloomberg’s ad blitz is making clear.
“If the President allows his Soleimani decision to look like a one-and-done event, with no follow-up beyond tweets and rhetorical barrages against the Iranian and Iraqi people, he’ll give his opponents an opening. … Targeting Soleimani was a bold act that other Presidents probably would not have attempted to restore a measure of deterrence against an enemy state. Most Americans appreciated its show of strength. But now Mr. Trump has to show he can manage the consequences in a way that proves it was a wise decision in America’s interests.”
POMPEO UPDATE — “Mike Pompeo Is Said to Decide Against Running for Senate in Kansas,” by NYT’s Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday told Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, that he does not plan to run for Senate in 2020, most likely ending Republicans’ hopes of securing a potentially dominant candidate for the open seat in his home state of Kansas, according to four people briefed on the meeting.
“Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman from the Wichita area, has quietly explored a campaign for months. But in the aftermath of the military operation last week that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran, Mr. Pompeo has told senior party officials that he is ruling out becoming a candidate, according to several people who have spoken with him directly. His conversation with the majority leader, which took place in Mr. McConnell’s Capitol office, touched on the events of the last few days in the Middle East, according to an aide to the senator.” NYT
2020 WATCH …
— JOE BIDEN at a NYC fundraiser Monday night described the next 10 months on the campaign trail as a “long slog.” “Though it will be an ‘ugly race,’ Biden said, ‘it has to be run.’” (via pooler Madeline Rivera of Fox News)
— “Democratic distress casts shadow over primary,” by David Siders in Davenport, Iowa: “The new year is taking the presidential primary to a dark place in the nation’s first caucus state. President Donald Trump’s impending impeachment trial and fear of war with Iran — as well as the Australia wildfires and their implications for climate change — quickly cast a pall over a contest in which Democrats are already wracked with uncertainty about which candidate has the best chance of defeating Trump. All across Iowa hangs an air of heightened distress, which the candidates are readily leaning into.
“‘I tell you all these things not to get you nervous, but to get you depressed,’ Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaking about climate change, said at a town hall meeting in Grundy Center, Iowa, over the weekend. Hours later in Des Moines, it was Joe Biden describing the state of Trump’s presidency more broadly as ‘extremely, extremely worrisome.’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren admonished supporters in Davenport that ‘this is a time of crisis in this country.’” POLITICO
— STATE OF PLAY: “More Dems face debate chopping block,” by Zach Montellaro: “The Democratic presidential debate stage is set to shrink again next week. Only five candidates so far have earned spots in the Jan. 14 CNN/Des Moines Register debate in Iowa: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang and Cory Booker will all watch from the sidelines unless they see polling surges before Friday’s deadline to qualify.
“Faced with this potential winnowing of the field, the Democratic National Committee has come under new criticism — especially from the candidates on the chopping block. They pointed to a smaller number of polls over the eight-week qualifying period — which included lengthy breaks over both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays — and a weeks-long early state polling drought, urging the DNC to make the polling thresholds more lenient.” POLITICO
TRUMP’S TUESDAY — The president and first lady Melania Trump will participate in the arrival of Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Mareva Mitsotakis at 2 p.m. in the South Portico. Trump and Melania Trump will participate in a meeting with the two in the Oval Office at 2:10 p.m. Trump and Mitsotakis will hold an expanded bilateral meeting at 2:40 p.m. in the Cabinet Room.
ANOTHER NATURAL DISASTER IN PUERTO RICO — “6.5 quake strikes Puerto Rico amid heavy seismic activity,” by AP’s Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico: “A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the U.S. territory in recent days and caused heavy damage in some areas.
“A tsunami alert was initially issued for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but later canceled.
“The Electric Power Authority reported an island-wide power outage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit at 4:24 a.m. just south of the island at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers. It initially gave the magnitude as 6.6 but later adjusted it.” AP
MEANWHILE, IN CARACAS: “Mike Pence Says Juan Guaidó Is the ‘Only Legitimate President’ of Venezuela,” by WSJ’s Andrew Restuccia: “Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone with Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó and reiterated the U.S. position that Mr. Guaidó is the country’s “only legitimate” leader, a senior administration official said.
“The 10-minute phone call on Monday afternoon came after President Nicolás Maduro sought to exert his control over the country on Sunday, with his allies trying to replace Mr. Guaidó as the head of the National Assembly with their preferred choice.
“In a chaotic scene, Mr. Guaidó and other congressmen who form the assembly’s opposition majority were barred from entering as Mr. Maduro’s allies in the body and some new converts who had previously opposed the regime chose Luis Parra as the body’s new president.” WSJ
BOOK CLUB … FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: Strong Arm Press is publishing “The Populist’s Guide to 2020” by Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti on Feb. 8.
VALLEY TALK — “Facebook Bans Deepfakes but Permits Some Altered Content,” by WSJ’s Betsy Morris: “Facebook Inc. is banning videos that have been manipulated using advanced tools, though it won’t remove all doctored content, as the social media giant tries to combat disinformation without stifling speech.” WSJ
MEDIAWATCH — VANITY FAIR’S JOE POMPEO: “‘The March to War Is a Hell of a Drug’: With Trump’s Iran Conflict, the Media Is Under a Microscope”
— Stephen Moore is now a columnist for the Washington Examiner.
— Megan McGrew is now a data graphics and visuals news assistant at PBS NewsHour. She is a recent UNC-Wilmington graduate.
— TV TONIGHT: Joe Biden sits down with NBC’s Lester Holt for an interview.
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOTTED: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at Fogo de Chão on Monday night. Pic
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Mara Rudman will take over as CAP’s EVP. Jacob Leibenluft, who currently holds the job, will be a senior fellow at CAP in New York. … Becca Glover is now a director at the Brunswick Group. She previously was director of public affairs at the Department of Commerce.
TRANSITIONS — Amanda Crane is now a senior account manager at Curley Company. She previously was principal media adviser for Australian Ambassador Joe Hockey and the Australian Embassy. … Rae Sheynberg is now a public policy manager at Facebook. She is the former director for international economics at the Obama NSC. … Peter Horst is now CEO at PSB. He previously was CEO of CMO Inc. …
… Catherine Hill is now on the corporate communications team at Twitter. She previously led communications at Meetup by WeWork. … Jennifer Moran is now director of advancement for the National Portrait Gallery. She previously was executive director for development at the Art Institute of Chicago.
ENGAGED — Liz Crampton, a POLITICO agriculture reporter, and Andrew Bahrenburg, a legislative assistant for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), got engaged at their Capitol Hill home just before Christmas. The couple met during 2018 farm bill negotiations. Pic
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Julia Ainsley, NBC News correspondent, and Newman Ainsley on Sunday welcomed Mary Wells Knight, who came in at 7 lbs., 11 oz and 19.5 inches. Pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Maura Keefe, founder of Keefe Strategies and former COS to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). A fun fact about her: “Years ago my family owned a haunted house on the coast of Maine and the ghost once wrote me a note on a fogged-up bathroom mirror. Skeptics abound, but it’s true!” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is 59 … Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is 57 … Katie Couric … Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) is 54 … Adam Entous, staff writer at The New Yorker … Jordan Karem … Dave Banks, chief strategist for the GOP on the House Climate Crisis Committee (h/t wife Chrissy Harbin) … John Reiss, EP of NBC’s “Meet the Press” … Jann Wenner is 74 … Stewart Verdery, Monument Advocacy founder and partner, is 53 (h/t Tim Punke) … The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, founding editor of the Best of Journalism newsletter, is 4-0 … POLITICO’s Jon Clark … Holly Shulman, New Hampshire Dems spokeswoman … Max Mallory, creative director at Hamilton Place Strategies … Alex Milofsky, DCCC Midwest/South finance director (h/t Alex Schechner) … Fox Business Network anchor Dagen McDowell … Adam Chernicoff, an Obama WH advance and NSC alum now at Penn Law (h/t #INTECON44) … Anthony Pritzker … Judge Paul D. Borman is 8-0 …
… Cherie Short, DHS deputy assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs (h/t husband Michael Bars) … Megan Clarke, SVP of booking at Fox News … Jamie Lovegrove … former Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) is 6-0 … Greg Bury (h/t Courtney Alexander) … Yohannes Abraham … Taylor Gee … Zoya Raynes … Peter Vaghi … Ashley Callen … Conor Skelding … Britta Ritter-Armour of WeWork … Monica Lee … CMS’ Ernie Tai is 66 … Rishi Sahgal … APCO’s Tim Kraus … Ira Berkow is 9-0 … Alex Pazuchanics … Meghan Cline … Cory Crowley … Garth Spencer … Michael Longo is 27 … Chris McCreight … Matt McKinney … Sarah Youssef Wright … Andrea Elizabeth Hailey … Eric Pfeiffer … Axios’ Ben Geman … Facebook’s Nick Clegg is 53 … Brianna Labuskes … Jim Bohannon … Jeff Gulko … William Flynn … Brett Shogren … Brian Summers … Neal Osborne is 31 … Yvonne Conza … Bill Shoehigh … Diane Roberts … Joel Rivlin (h/t Teresa Vilmain)