ASK YOURSELF THIS QUESTION after Tuesday night’s debate: Are you at all certain who will emerge from the Iowa caucus victorious? Did any candidate have a breakout moment that will absolutely wow voters with 19 days remaining? It seems equally probable that JOE BIDEN or BERNIE SANDERS could win Iowa, and possible that PETE BUTTIGIEG or ELIZABETH WARREN could place in the top two or pull out a victory — leaving an infinite number of scenarios for Democrats to ponder.
SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI’S DELAY in sending the impeachment articles to the Senate could have a tremendous impact, as SANDERS, WARREN and AMY KLOBUCHAR will have to be in Washington nearly all day every day for the next month or so — limiting their ability to connect with voters face-to-face in the days leading up to the caucus.
AND BEYOND IOWA: With two billionaires — TOM STEYER and MICHAEL BLOOMBERG — willing to spend a seemingly endless amount of their own money, the nominating process could take a very different path after the caucuses.
JOHN HARRIS’ ALTITUDE COLUMN: “It is something we learned long ago as young journalists, drilled into us by sage mentors like the late David S. Broder: An election belongs always to the voters. We must never imagine that it belongs to us the campaign reporters or the insular circle of operatives and analysts and horserace junkies who loom so large in our stories and expense accounts.
“Well, after two hours Tuesday night watching the latest presidential debate — live but not especially alive from Des Moines — the voters we all respect so deeply can rest assured they will get no argument from me. This election belongs to them. Take it. All yours, please. No, no, I insist.
“It is true we will never get those two hours of our lives back, but no complaints from this quarter. It’s our job to watch. It was not one of those moments, however, as sometimes happens in journalism, that left anyone thinking, ‘I can’t believe I get paid to do this.’” POLITICO
— RYAN LIZZA: “As expected, for the first time in a debate this cycle, foreign policy featured prominently. Presidents have far more latitude over foreign policy — where Congress can be virtually ignored — than any other area of responsibility, and yet it has been given little attention. That’s partly for political reasons. Polls show Biden, the former globe-trotting vice president and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, with an enormous advantage on the issue, and most of his opponents don’t see discussing it as beneficial to them.
“CNN’s Wolf Blitzer did an admirable job teasing out some of the subtle differences that have crystallized among Democrats in the post-Obama world. The party is now divided into two broad camps. The first, represented by Biden, is the Clinton and Obama era establishment that is deeply chastened by the failed military interventions of the last two decades, but that is insistent on preventing the debacle in Iraq and endless war in Afghanistan from turning Democrats into isolationists.
“The other camp, represented by Sanders, is defined by its opposition to the Iraq War, and sometimes struggles to articulate a foreign policy that extends beyond its righteousness about getting the war right.” POLITICO … More on the winners and losers of the debate
WARREN’S RESPONSE TO THE BERNIE WOMEN-CAN’T-WIN CHARGE … CNN’S ABBY PHILLIP: “So Sen. Sanders — Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Sen. Warren that a woman could not win the election?”
SANDERS: “That is correct.” PHILLIP: “Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”
WARREN: “I disagreed. Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But, look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on.
“And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women.”
NYT’S MAGGIE HABERMAN and ANNIE KARNI’S White House Memo: “Trump and His Aides Focused for Now on 2 Rivals (Neither Is the Front-Runner)”: “President Trump’s advisers see Senator Bernie Sanders as their ideal Democratic opponent in November and have been doing what they can to elevate his profile and bolster his chances of winning the Iowa caucuses, according to Republicans familiar with the plans.
“But their new focus on Mr. Sanders, independent of Vermont, comes at a time the president himself has been closely watching Michael R. Bloomberg, a late arrival to the Democratic primary race, unnerved by his campaign spending and his suggestion he might spend $1 billion of his own fortune on opposing Mr. Trump, even if he does not emerge as the nominee.”
POST-DEBATE BIDEN AD … THE BIDEN CAMPAIGN has a new ad in rotation in Iowa (Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities and Sioux City) called “United.” It’s a 30-second spot that makes the case that Biden has spent his career bringing people together to notch legislative accomplishments. The 30-second spot
— WSJ: Penny Pritzker endorses Biden
Good Wednesday morning.
INSIDE THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS … BURGESS EVERETT and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “McConnell courts GOP and Trump amid tensions over impeachment witnesses”: “On Tuesday, the GOP leader quietly invited Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah to his office to discuss strategy, according to people familiar with the meeting.
“During the 30-minute session, Cruz pitched McConnell on the idea of witness reciprocity — if Democrats want to hear from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton on the Ukraine scandal, then Republicans get to hear from Hunter Biden. McConnell was open to that message, said a source familiar with the discussion. Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) later raised the strategy to the broader Senate Republican Conference.”
IF ONLY IMPEACHMENT HADN’T WRAPPED UP … “House Dems release new impeachment evidence related to indicted Giuliani associate,” by Andrew Desiderio: “The House Intelligence Committee released new evidence on Tuesday related to the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, including information turned over by Lev Parnas, an indicted former associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. …
“The material released on Tuesday contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and other documents that underscore the close relationship between Parnas and Giuliani, who was actively pursuing an effort last year to push the Ukrainian government to announce investigations targeting Trump’s political rivals. The documents also complicate one of Trump’s oft-stated defenses of his actions toward Ukraine.
“A previously undisclosed May 2019 letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is among the tranche of documents the Democrat-led committee made public on Tuesday … Giuliani asked for a half-hour meeting with Zelensky … and Giuliani made clear that he was acting with Trump’s ‘knowledge and consent’ and in his capacity as a ‘personal’ attorney for the president.” The documents
— WOW … WAPO: “The text messages and documents … also show that before the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. A lawyer for Yovanovitch said Tuesday that the episode should be investigated.”
HAPPENING TODAY … PELOSI will announce the impeachment managers at 10 a.m. in the Capitol. … At 5 p.m., Pelosi will sign the bill, and printed copies of the articles will be marched to the Senate by the managers; Cheryl Johnson, who is the clerk of the House; and Paul Irving, the sergeant-at-arms.
WE WOULD BE REMISS not to speak out forcefully here about the restrictive rules being imposed on the Capitol Hill press corps for the pending impeachment trial. They are ridiculous. This is a big moment in American history, and the American people are getting shut out.
ROLL CALL’S KATHERINE TULLY MCMANUS lays it out: “When the articles of impeachment are delivered to the Senate, a procession full of pomp and circumstance, just one video camera and no still photographers will be allowed to document the historic moment. No audio recording at all will be permitted, leaving radio reporters empty handed. …
“During the trial, a single press pen will be set up on the second floor of the Senate, where lawmakers enter and exit the chamber. Reporters will be confined to the pen, unable to move with senators. No movement will be allowed outside of the corrals and reporters and photographers will need to be escorted to and from the pen. …
“Credentialed members of the media, who go through security screening to enter the Capitol each day, will be screened a second time to enter the Senate chamber to watch the trial proceedings. Magnetometers will be set up in the Senate Daily Press Gallery, requiring reporters to enter the chamber one by one after being cleared by Capitol Police operating the machine.”
NYT’S CARL HULSE, a veteran Capitol Hill reporter for the New York Times, put it this way: “Pretty much an outrage. Either Senate Republican leadership has no interest in recording history or perhaps they just want to play down the coming events altogether.”
BEHIND THE SCENES, via Marianne LeVine: Sen. ROY BLUNT (R-Mo.) used a PowerPoint presentation at lunch Tuesday to show how access to the Senate side would work during the impeachment trial, an attendee told LeVine. The presentation had pictures of different entry and exit points, including locations for media. According to the attendee, Blunt joked that based on the information, members who wanted to avoid reporters could do so, while others who wanted to talk to the press would know where to go.
— KLOBUCHAR post-debate told CBS: “No, I don’t support [the restrictions] and I have been in contact with both sides on this issue. I’ve made [that] very clear. I’ve talked with Sen. Blunt about this, that I thought we should have open access for the press.”
“I think this is a big mistake. I see no reason why you wouldn’t have an open hearing. I actually wanted to open the hearing more and allow laptops to be used in the press gallery. … I’m a staunch believer in the First Amendment, and I think this is wrong.” The clip
— WE’RE TOLD the rules are not yet 100% set.
FWIW … IT APPEARS NEARLY CERTAIN NOW that TRUMP will deliver his Feb. 4 State of the Union in the middle of the impeachment trial.
NEW … CHAD PERGRAM — a longtime fixture on Capitol Hill — is now a congressional correspondent for Fox News. He previously was a senior Capitol Hill producer at the network.
DCCC PICKS UP FROM KAMALA’S CAMPAIGN — The DCCC has hired Kirsten Allen as deputy comms director, Erica Kwiatkowski as regional political director, Pavitra Abraham for constituency organizing and as regional field director, Missayr Boker as deputy IE director and Emilie Pollock as regional field director.
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY — The president will greet Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office at 11:15 a.m. He will participate in the signing of the U.S.-China trade deal at 11:30 a.m. in the East Room. The two will have lunch in the State Dining Room at 12:15 p.m. Trump will meet with Defense Secretary Mark Esper at 2:15 p.m. in the Oval Office.
— THE EXPECTED ATTENDEES of the signing of the China deal, per the White House.
TRADE WARS — “Tech Tensions Simmer in Washington as U.S., China Near Trade Truce,” by WSJ’s Bob Davis and Katy Stech Ferek: “The U.S. and China are about to declare a pause in their trade war by signing an initial pact this week, but a continuing battle over technology is bound to keep relations between the two superpowers on edge.
“The Trump administration’s immediate focus is tightening restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co., the giant Chinese telecommunications company that the White House and Congress view as a national-security threat. The Commerce Department recently sent to the Office of Management and Budget regulations that would largely eliminate a loophole that allowed U.S. companies to sell to Huawei from their overseas facilities, people familiar with the matter said.” WSJ
NYT’S MICHAEL CROWLEY on A9: “Trump, Like Obama, Seeks Change in Iran. But He Differs in How to Do It”: “President Trump and his senior officials insist they do not seek ‘regime change’ in a military sense. But they clearly would not mind seeing their campaign of ‘maximum pressure’ against Iran, now reinforced by the killing of its most valued military leader, result in a drastic upheaval — and possibly even fall — of Iran’s theocratic government.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest remarks on Iran
— BACKSTORY: “How one Democrat convinced Republicans to vote to curb Trump’s Iran moves,” by Marianne LeVine
— “Poll: Majority supports Trump’s decision to not strike back against Iran,” by Quint Forgey: “An overwhelming majority of voters support President Donald Trump’s decision to not pursue military action against Iran last week after Tehran launched a missile strike targeting two air bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll found.
“The survey was conducted in the days after Trump addressed the nation in the wake of the assault on the Iraqi installations — which resulted in no American casualties — and sought to de-escalate tensions between Washington and Tehran that had steadily heightened since late last month.
“Seventy-one percent of those surveyed in the poll said they approved of Trump’s decision to not attack Iran, with 43 percent ‘strongly’ approving and 28 percent ‘somewhat’ approving. Only 14 percent disapproved of the president’s decision, and 15 percent said they did not know or had no opinion.” POLITICO … The poll
FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK … AP/NEW YORK: “Michael Avenatti arrested in court”
LATE BREAKING … “Michael Flynn seeking to withdraw guilty plea,” by Josh Gerstein: “Former national security adviser Michael Flynn — the only Trump administration official to face criminal prosecution in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — is seeking to withdraw the guilty plea he offered more than two years ago to a charge of making false statements to the FBI.
“The move, made just two weeks before Flynn is supposed to face his long-delayed sentencing, follows Flynn’s shift to more confrontational defense lawyers about half a year ago and an ensuing, acrimonious showdown with prosecutors over the retired Army general’s planned testimony in a related case.” POLITICO
NEW STEPHEN MILLER EMAIL DUMP — SPLC: “Miller Dismisses DACA in Emails, Mirroring Anti-Immigrant Extremists’ Views”
MURDOCH VS. MURDOCH … THE DAILY BEAST’S LACHLAN CARTWRIGHT: “In a long-simmering rift between factions of the Murdoch family over climate change, Rupert’s younger son, James, and his activist wife, Kathryn, are attacking the climate denialism promoted by News Corporation, the global media group, and also by the Fox News Channel overseen by James’ older brother, Lachlan.
“‘Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,’ a spokesperson for the couple exclusively told The Daily Beast as wildfires rage in Australia. ‘They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.’ Daily Beast
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOTTED at Esther Coopersmith’s 90th birthday party at her Kalorama residence Tuesday: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Joanna Breyer, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Franki Roberts, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Katherine Van Hollen, Anthony and Mary Kennedy, Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Pete King (R-N.Y.), Bill Keating (D-Mass.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) …
… Ann and Lloyd Hand, Susan Blumenthal, Kathy “Coach” Kemper, Ed and Marie Royce, Henry Waxman, Loretta Sanchez, Irish Ambassador Daniel Mulhall and Greta Mulhall, Judge William Webster and Lynda Webster, Chuck and Lynda Robb, Capricia Marshall, John and Diana Negroponte, Diana Enzi, Jim and Janet Blanchard, Janet Pitt, Lucky Roosevelt and Kathleen Kennedy.
TRANSITION — Brad Whitford, not to be confused with the “West Wing” actor, is now SVP and creative director at DDC Public Affairs. He previously was VP and design director at the Glover Park Group.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Lorraine Voles, VP for external relations at George Washington University. What she’s reading: “‘Midnight Assassin’ by Patricia Bryan and Thomas Wolf. It combines two of my passions, true crime and Iowa. Margaret Hossack was accused of killing her husband in 1900 in Indianola, Iowa (Warren County), as he slept in their bed. The story was big news in Iowa and famously reported by Susan Glaspell for the Des Moines Daily.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Dan Scavino … Hawaii Gov. David Ige is 63 … CNN’s Jeremy Diamond … Mark Penn, president of the Stagwell Group, is 66 … Sarah Kliff, NYT investigative reporter … New Yorker staff writer Jon Lee Anderson is 63 … Stuart Eizenstat, senior counsel at Covington and Burling, is 77 … Jonny Hiler, principal at Miller Strategies … Deesha Dyer … Robin Goldman … Scott Hall … Invernergy’s Andrew Wills (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … Chuck Babington … Carol Kellermann (h/t Jon Haber) … Pat White … Adam Levine … POLITICO’s Wesley Morgan … Valeri Vasquez … Lisa Zamosky … Lisa Garcia … Jaymi Light, health policy director for Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and the pride of Westchester, N.Y. (h/t Kevin Dowling) … Matthew Hoeck, scheduler for Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), is 26 (h/t Lauren French) … IPCC’s Jonathan Lynn is 65 … Jason Larrabee is 47 … Jeff Carroll, staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Dems (h/t Justin Davey) …
… Scott Stanzel, managing VP of corporate communications at Capital One … Sam Schulz … David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Inc., is 6-0 … Katherine LaBeau … Brookings Brexit expert Amanda Sloat … Dale Bishop is 3-0 … Don Sapatkin … Joe Fuld (h/t Teresa Vilmain) … Mina Hamblet … Alison Percich … Rebecca Haller … Claire DeMatteis, Delaware commissioner of correction, is 55 (h/t Michael Marquardt) … Sarah Svoboda, BBC North America producer (h/t Ben Chang) … WaPo’s Aaron Gregg is 3-0 … Airbnb’s Margaret Richardson and Christopher Nulty … Belgian PM Sophie Wilmès … Adam Sexton … Spencer Chretien … Erin Lardy … Daniel Arkin … Mike Hoffman … Stephen Lewis … Lisa (Burgess) Belot … Melissa Green, partner at Rational360 … David Agnew … Joe Coletti … Jordan Ray … Gregory Ehrlich … Alex Xu … James Thompson is 4-0 … Toni Verstandig … Todd McKinley … Israr Khan … Bruce Schneier is 57