with help from Melanie Zanona, Sarah Ferris and Daniel Lippman
AND SO IT BEGINS: President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial has officially begun, marking the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. The seven Democratic House managers on Thursday presented to the Senate the two articles of impeachment against the president — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Chief Justice John Roberts arrived to the chamber around 2 p.m., accompanied by four senators and wearing a plain black robe (no gold stripes). Senators then took their oath to “do impartial justice” and signed the oath book. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who had a family medical issue, was the only senator missing. He will be sworn in Tuesday when the Senate returns. More on Thursday’s ceremony from Marianne: https://politi.co/2FTZxuC
What’s next: Now that the ceremonial proceedings are over, the Senate will begin the impeachment trial in earnest Tuesday at 1 p.m., starting with a vote on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s organizing resolution, which will set up the trial procedures. Some senators have already seen the text of the resolution, but it has yet to be publicly revealed.
Senate Democrats have made it no secret they want the chamber to decide on witnesses at the outset of the trial. But the GOP plans to circle back to that decision later once the Senate hears arguments from House managers and the president’s defense.
GOP reluctance, however, won’t stop Democrats from forcing votes on the four witnesses they want, which include acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former Trump national security adviser John Bolton. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday he expects “that we will have votes on these witnesses on Tuesday but can’t be sure until we see the resolution that McConnell has put together.” Once the trial parameters are set, arguments will begin.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) issued a statement Thursday emphasizing that “prior to hearing the statement of the case and the Senators asking questions, [she] will not support any attempts by either side to subpoena documents or witnesses.” Collins noted it is likely she will “support a motion to call witnesses” after hearing the case and having questions answered, as she did during the Clinton impeachment trial.
There will still be impeachment news over the long weekend. The House has until 5 p.m. Saturday to file its trial brief and the president’s defense team’s brief is due Monday at noon. The House has until noon Tuesday to file its rebuttal. Follow our investibros @kyledcheney and@andrewdesiderio, who will be covering the ins and outs.
Related reads: “For the senators who will judge Trump, an incomplete story to consider” from the NY Times’ Peter Baker: https://nyti.ms/38bFZ0M; “Senate GOP hopes for a drama-free impeachment trial while bracing for Trump and his legal team” from the Washington Post’s Paul Kane: https://wapo.st/365o2Qa; and “Do chatty senators really face jail time during impeachment?” from Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus: https://bit.ly/38cvtGP
HAPPY FRIDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this January 17, where I am filling in for your wonderful Huddle host Melanie Zanona and wondering what the impeachment polka of 2020 will sound like.
Quick programming note: Huddle will take a break for the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, but we’ll be back January 21.
THURSDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The Associated Press’ report on how Trump’s defenders will play to many audiences in the Senate trial was the big winner.
GAO-WOAH: The Government Accountability Office released a damning report Thursday that concluded the Trump administration violated the law by freezing U.S. military aid to Ukraine. “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law,” GAO concluded. Trump’s decision to withhold $400 million in military aid from Ukraine was at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry and will be a focus of the Senate trial.
The GAO report, combined with an explosive interview from Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani’s, shook the Capitol Thursday, just hours before the impeachment trial began. Parnas suggested in an interview this week that Trump “knew exactly what was going on in Ukraine.” While Democrats are hopeful the latest revelations will increase pressure on Senate Republicans, so far they appear unmoved, report Kyle, Andrew and Burgess.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), when asked about the GAO report, said he didn’t think it “changes anything,” while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) attributed the conclusion to a legal misinterpretation. “I think they misunderstand the law. I think presidents withhold money all the time, move money around,” Paul said. Others questioned Parnas’ credibility. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday they had not yet reviewed the GAO report and didn’t comment on bringing in Parnas as a witness. More here: https://politi.co/2FYcLXk
Related read: “Lev Parnas: Trump tried to fire Yovanovitch multiple times” by POLITICO’s Matthew Choi and Darren Samuelsohn: https://politi.co/30sULO4
CHENEY CHOOSES — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has opted not to seek a high-profile Senate seat and will instead stay put in the House, where she has quickly risen through the GOP leadership ranks over the past few years. Cheney, who serves as chairwoman of the House GOP Conference, informed her Republican colleagues of her decision during a closed-door policy meeting yesterday and received a standing ovation, according to sources in the room.
Cheney is seen as someone on the path to the speakership one day. But she is already tamping down any speculation that she would leapfrog House Minority Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the top job, telling lawmakers she wants him to be speaker. “There isn’t a group of people anywhere in this country I would rather fight to victory with than all of you,” Cheney said during the meeting. “I will be staying right here with all of you in this incredible House that I love. Let’s go get our majority back and make Kevin McCarthy the next speaker of the House.” More from James Arkin and Mel: https://politi.co/2R1Yz61.
LATE BLOOMER — In some ways, Michael Bloomberg is a tough sell to Democrats: He’s a former Republican with a record many liberals have detested, plus, he’s not even on the ballot in early-voting states. Still, Bloomberg’s first big trip to Capitol Hill to schmooze with Democrats seems to have worked. “I came away thinking, you know, this guy could win,” said Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), who attended back-to-back meetings with Bloomberg. Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) endorsed Bloomberg in the last 24 hours.
Bloomberg’s message: Forget about Iowa, he’s focusing big on more delegate-heavy states. As for the general election, he’s got hundreds of staff in must-win states like Michigan – unlike his competition. Several Democrats who met with Bloomberg say his centrist views — and a personal fortune to spend in battleground states — could actually beat Trump. Sarah and Laura Barrón-López have more: https://politi.co/2TuJ7kj
USMCA PASSES THE SENATE: The Senate overwhelmingly passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Thursday, in an 89-10 vote, squeezing in a big win for President Donald Trump right before his impeachment trial. The passage of USMCA came one day after Trump signed the so-called phase one trade agreement with China. Sen. Rob Portman, a former U.S. Trade representative, said the latest trade developments were “like the World Series and Super Bowl all in one week.” But not everyone was on board with the new trade agreement.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who called USMCA “badly flawed,” was the only Republican to vote against the agreement. Nine Democrats voted no, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who voted against the agreement because “it does not address climate change, the greatest threat facing the planet.” More from POLITICO’s Sabrina Rodriguez here: https://politi.co/36XKcoK
Related read: “Angry Trump says focus should be on a trade deal, not a ‘hoax’” from NY Times’ Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman: https://nyti.ms/38dCsPJ
PRESSLEY OPENS UP ABOUT HAVING ALOPECIA: Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) opened up to The Root about living with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes baldness. Pressley grew aware of her hair loss last fall, when she had her hair retwisted, Jessica Moulite reports. The hair loss forced Pressley to try to hide her baldness, including by wearing a wig. She lost her last piece of hair the night before the House impeachment vote and on the anniversary of her mother’s death.
“I was missing her. I was mourning my hair. I was mourning the state of our democracy,” she recalled to the Root. Finally, from a desire “to be freed from the secret and the shame that that secret carries with it,” as she described, Pressley went public and revealed her bald head in a video. “I’m making progress every day,” she said. “It’s about self-agency, it’s about power, it’s about acceptance.” More here: https://bit.ly/2TxcToQ
PRESS CRACKDOWN: Reporters in the Senate faced a crackdown from Capitol Police Thursday, as the Senate impeachment trial began. The lack of written guidance only created more confusion. A Capitol Police officer told The Hill’s Jordain Carney to stop talking to a senator outside the Senate Republican lunch and some senators had note cards entitled with the title “Phrases to use when seeking assistance.” More here from Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus: https://bit.ly/2TyJFG6
Tensions also ran high between lawmakers and reporters. Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) snapped at CNN reporter Manu Raju, when he asked if the Senate should consider new evidence as part of the trial — a question almost all Senate Republicans were asked Thursday. McSally replied that Raju was “a liberal hack.” CNN responded saying it was “extremely unbecoming for a U.S. Senator to sink to this level and treat a member of the press this way for simply doing his job.”
McSally did, however, earn an attaboy from the @TrumpWarRoom, a campaign Twitter account, which tweeted the footage and praised her, while linking to her online fundraising portal. More from the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and Lateshia Beachum: https://wapo.st/2Ty2p8K
WEEKLY WINNERS AND LOSERS
W: The United States-Mexico- Canada Agreement, which finally passed the Senate
L: Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, which faced bipartisan blowback after instituting stricter press restrictions for the Senate impeachment trial.
Elena Brennan is joining Arnold & Porter. She most recently was a legislative assistant for Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and is a House Energy & Commerce alum.
The House is OUT.
The Senate is OUT.
Not a ton.
THURSDAY’S WINNER: Jon Deuser was the first person to correctly guess that Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress and later went on to cast the only “no” vote when Congress declared war against Japan, following the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Jon: Which current House impeachment manager won office by defeating another previous House impeachment manager, and who was the previous manager? First person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess my way at email@example.com.
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