Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Wednesday. We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators. Readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 374,329; Tuesday, 376,280; Wednesday, 380,796.
President TrumpDonald TrumpGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment YouTube temporarily bars uploading of new content on Trump’s channel House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump MORE is hours away from being impeached for a second time as Republicans in the House and Senate pointedly retreat from mounting strong resistance to Congress’s charge that the president incited violence against the government he swore to protect and defend.
Trump on Tuesday rejected any suggestion that he is either responsible or accountable for the Capitol siege last week that put Vice President Pence and lawmakers in jeopardy, resulted in damage and vandalism and left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. The president has yet to express remorse or condolences for the death of officer Brian Sicknick, who was beaten in the head with a fire extinguisher during the riots and later died.
Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump Republican Fred Upton says he’ll vote to impeach Trump MORE (Wyo.), the third highest-ranking Republican in the House, said she plans to vote to impeach the commander in chief.
“There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a Tuesday statement.
She will not be the only Republican in Congress to break with Trump in the final week of his presidency. But the president has turned a deaf ear to the members of his party who intend to hold him accountable. Impeachment advocates in the GOP caucus include: Reps. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump Republican Fred Upton says he’ll vote to impeach Trump MORE (N.Y.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump Republican Fred Upton says he’ll vote to impeach Trump MORE (Ill.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment Republican Fred Upton says he’ll vote to impeach Trump GOP lawmakers introduce resolution to censure Trump over Capitol riot MORE (Mich.) and Jamie Herrera Beutler (Wash.) (The Hill).
How many others will follow? The names will undoubtedly emerge from among the more than 60 House Republicans who did not join their conservative colleagues in efforts to overturn the electoral results in Arizona and Pennsylvania last week. There could be more than 10 House Republicans who are ready to buck the president today, according to sources. Recall that no House Republican voted for Trump’s impeachment last year.
The president on Tuesday dug in, offering no contrition and seemingly confident that his perspective would prevail.
“People thought that what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said during a trip to Texas.
“The impeachment hoax is the continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country and is causing tremendous anger and division and pain, far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the USA, especially at this very tender time,” Trump said during a visit to a section of border wall.
House Democrats were unsuccessful, as they knew they would be, in persuading Pence and Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to strip the president of his authority before he leaves office. Nevertheless, the House adopted a nonbinding measure by a party-line vote of 223-205 urging Pence to act, teeing up today’s second impeachment of the 45th president.
The president dismissed any threat from Pence or his Cabinet hours before the vice president publicly rejected calls to declare Trump unfit to discharge the duties of his office (The Hill). “The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me, but will come back to haunt Joe BidenJoe BidenGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump Disney, Walmart say they will block donations to lawmakers who objected to Electoral College results MORE and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for,” Trump taunted.
The New York Times: The president one week ago attempted to persuade Pence to overturn the electoral tally and the will of American voters. “You can either go down in history as a patriot,” the president said during a phone conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.” Pence refused. An agitated Trump tweeted the vice president lacked courage.
Politico: Pence is done with Trump’s “bulls–t.”
The Associated Press: The president turns aside any responsibility for the Capitol riot.
The Hill: The GOP finds itself at a crossroads amid growing anger over the siege of the Capitol last week.
The Associated Press: Alarmed and angry, members of the House and Senate face historic turmoil from within.
Across the Capitol complex, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump Trump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates Kinzinger says he’ll vote to impeach Trump MORE (R-Ky.) has reportedly told associates that he believes the president committed impeachable offenses last week and is pleased that House Democrats are moving ahead to impeach him. The news was first reported by The New York Times.
Accounts of McConnell’s stance rattled the Republican universe on Tuesday. One GOP official told The Hill’s Alexander Bolton that the Kentucky Republican has made it clear to his allies that he’s no longer defending Trump and that the Senate GOP leader hasn’t spoken to the president since December.
It’s an ominous sign for Trump’s future. Sources who back the president and others in Senate GOP circles believe McConnell must indeed have sufficient support in his caucus to remove Trump from office.
“At this point, where McConnell goes, the Senate GOP goes,” one conservative source told the Morning Report.
Senate Republicans perceive last week’s riot as a breaking point for McConnell, according to one Senate aide. The GOP aide also predicted that at least 20 Senate Republicans could jump on board to convict Trump in a potential trial.
“I think McConnell cares deeply about the Senate as an institution. Also, Congress as a whole. Last week’s events were incredibly offensive to him,” the aide said. “Trump supporters ransacked the Senate like it was a Walmart.”
Two-thirds of the Senate would be needed for a conviction. GOP sources also indicate that the possibility of barring Trump from running again for president in 2024 could be a motivating factor. After a hypothetical Senate conviction, the sanctions could include banning him from future office. That disqualification would be subject to a simple majority vote in the Senate following the conviction.
“It all factors in,” the aide added.
Sources also believe the timing of McConnell’s announcement, coupled with Cheney’s, could give cover to more House Republicans to vote for impeachment later today. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates Kinzinger says he’ll vote to impeach Trump McConnell has said he thinks Trump committed impeachable offenses: report MORE (R-Calif.) stands in opposition. According to reports, McCarthy tried to cut a deal with House Democrats to potentially censure the president — which the minority leader is open to doing — if Democrats agreed to hold off on today’s impeachment vote.
“The Senate majority leader might give House Republicans a shot in the arm before the vote tomorrow since the House minority leader isn’t much of a leader,” a second Senate GOP aide said.
Ahead of and again after the impeachment and acquittal of former President Clinton, some Democratic lawmakers proposed censure, only to find that Republican colleagues believed such punishment was not tough enough in response to a scandal about lying under oath about sex with a White House intern.
The Hill: House Republicans won’t whip votes on impeachment.
During an interview with The Hill’s Brett Samuels, Trump attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump, House GOP relationship suddenly deteriorates Vermont college revokes honorary degree for Giuliani Barr, White House counsel told Trump not to self-pardon: report MORE on Tuesday assailed McCarthy (“doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about”), skewered the FBI, and argued that Trump bears “no responsibility” for what unfolded after his speech to supporters last week. The former New York mayor blamed antifa for last week’s violence, repeating a right-wing assertion that the FBI quickly rejected last week as devoid of any evidence.
It remains an open question when the House may send the article of impeachment to the Senate. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump Trump told Pence he could be a ‘patriot’ or ‘p—-‘ when overseeing election vote: report Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers MORE (D-Calif.) declined to comment to The Hill’s Mike Lillis when asked when that would take place. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) floated waiting to send impeachment article later this year, while House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTensions flare between House Republicans, Capitol Police over metal detectors Trump impeachment collides with Biden’s agenda Manchin: House impeachment plan ‘ill-advised’ MORE (D-Md.) indicated he wants to send it to the Senate soon after it passes the lower chamber.
Moving with organizational speed, Pelosi on Tuesday night named nine House impeachment managers for a Senate impeachment trial, led by Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinGrowing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment House passes measure calling on Pence to remove Trump Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers MORE (D-Md.) (The Hill).
> Note: New York Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWoman interrupts Schumer press conference, calls him ‘racist anti-Semite’ Overnight Energy: EPA rule exempts many polluting industries from future air regulations | Ex-Michigan governor to be charged over Flint water crisis: report | Officials ousted from White House after papers casting doubt on climate science Senate to be briefed on inauguration security after Capitol attack MORE (D) will become the majority leader this month once the Senate runoff winners have been certified in Georgia and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisOn The Money: Sanders will be gatekeeper for key Biden proposals | Senate majority gives Biden path to student loan forgiveness | Confirmation hearing for Yellen expected next Tuesday McConnell has said he thinks Trump committed impeachable offenses: report Brown puts housing, eviction protections at top of Banking panel agenda MORE takes office on Jan. 20 and is able to cast a tie-breaking vote (The Wall Street Journal).
The Hill: Six House Republicans late on Tuesday introduced a lesser punishment of censure.
LEADING THE DAY
MORE FALLOUT: While investigating the violent events of last week, a question throughout the government is clear: What did they know and when did they know it? Was it a failure of imagination, mishandling of available intelligence, or denial of facts that contributed to poor preparation, weak precautions and the deaths of five people who were at the Capitol on Jan. 6?
U.S. intelligence agencies said last week they had no advance knowledge that massive pro-Trump protests could turn violent, although news outlets reported protesters’ violent ambitions in the days leading to Congress’s vote affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that on Jan. 5 an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit internal warning that extremists were preparing to commit violence and wage “war” in Washington, according to a vividly detailed internal document. It described a day before the crisis that the FBI had evidence of individuals sharing a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnels and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet up in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina to travel in groups to Washington. “Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal,” said one online communication referenced by FBI Norfolk.
During a news conference late Tuesday, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin (pictured below) said the FBI and investigators had assigned a strike force to probe what happened last week; opened more than 170 criminal case files on individuals who took part in the melee; criminally charged 70 people who rioted; and will likely charge some rioters with sedition and conspiracy, federal offenses carrying significant prison sentences (The Hill).
“The Capitol grounds outside and inside are… a crime scene,” Sherwin said (Reuters).
> Capitol fortress: Security worries extend beyond Washington, but in the nation’s capital ahead of the inauguration, the Secret Service is in charge of safety for Biden and Harris and the VIPs in attendance, including three former presidents. The Service will begin today to put in place plans for what’s designated a national security special event — a week earlier than anticipated. The swearing-in at the Capitol on Jan. 20 will be a ticketed event and the public is banned from the Capitol grounds.
Thousands of National Guard troops are stationed in the city to keep the peace (The Hill), and they will be armed for Inauguration Day. About 16 protest groups — some of them saying they will be armed and most of them made up of hard-line Trump backers — have registered to stage demonstrations in Washington, officials say (The New York Times).
The Hill: Using first-person accounts and oral history, reporter Reid Wilson put together a minute-by-minute recreation of last week’s Capitol chaos.
> Detection rejection: The House on Tuesday added new security for lawmakers on the House floor. Timothy Blodgett, the acting House sergeant-at-arms, said in a statement that magnetometers were placed at multiple entrances to the House chamber, requiring lawmakers to be screened before entering. Blodgett noted that guns are barred and members are only permitted to keep weapons in their offices. His efforts were greeted with howls of protest from some conservative lawmakers, who refused to be scanned, walked in defiance around the machines and blustered on Twitter about purported “unconstitutional” searches (The Hill).
Meanwhile in the Senate, Schumer called on the FBI to prevent some of last week’s identified rioters from traveling by air by adding them to the federal no-fly list, a designation that brands suspects as posing “a threat of committing terrorism” (Axios).
> Activity on alternative social media networks swelled in reaction to last week’s insurrection in Washington as well as crackdowns by Facebook and Twitter. Experts worry that peaceful Trump supporters will rub shoulders online with extremist groups. At the same time, mass deplatforming is a proven method for narrowing the radicalization pipeline, experts say (The Hill). … Twitter blocked 70,000 accounts tied to QAnon (The Associated Press). …YouTube on Tuesday suspended Trump’s channel for at least a week out of concerns about “ongoing potential for violence” (The Associated Press). … Right-wing extremists moved their communications to encrypted app Telegram, which is based in Dubai, and discussed violence against government officials on Inauguration Day. Some people on the app are sharing knowledge of how to make, conceal and use homemade guns and bombs. White supremacists, conferring in chat rooms, have increased their chatter since being forced off other platforms following violence at the Capitol (NBC News and Mother Jones).
> Arrests: On Jan. 7, the FBI arrested a Georgia man who had traveled to Washington, D.C., and was suspected of planning to kill Pelosi as part of the Capitol siege. After searching Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr.’s truck, trailer, hotel room and cellphone on a tip while Meredith was still in Washington, agents found handguns, an assault rifle and “hundreds of rounds” of ammunition, according to documents seeking charges of threatening to kill the Speaker and possession of illegal firearms (CBS News).
Aaron Mostofsky, the son of Kings County Supreme Court Judge Shlomo Mostofsky in Brooklyn, N.Y., was arrested Tuesday and taken into custody for his role among dozens of people who have been investigated by federal and local authorities in the days since the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol. Aaron Mostofsky was photographed inside the building wearing a vest that said “Police.” In a video from inside the Capitol that day, he told the New York Post: “We were cheated. I don’t think 75 million people voted for Trump — I think it was close to 85 million. I think certain states that have been red for a long time turned blue and were stolen, like New York.” The Justice Department and the FBI are pursuing more than 150 suspects for prosecution and sifting through tens of thousands of tips after asking for the public’s help in identifying those who forced their way into the Capitol (The New York Times).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
NEW ADMINISTRATION: Biden’s transition team briefed some Democrats on Tuesday about details of the president-elect’s proposed coronavirus stimulus measure, which Biden will publicly describe on Thursday.
The proposal, with a price tag in the trillions of dollars, is expected to include $2,000 stimulus payments, an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance, money for vaccine distribution and delivery, and funding for cities, states, schools, child care and more. Biden prefers to craft a bill that potentially could get bipartisan support rather than try to use budget reconciliation as a tool to push it through Congress with only Democratic votes (The Washington Post).
> Minimum wage: Biden on Tuesday encouraged Congress to expect a push to raise the federal minimum wage, currently at $7.25 an hour, after he takes the oath of office. “It’s long past time to raise the minimum wage, so hardworking people earn at least $15 an hour. I hope that Democratic control of the House and Senate will ensure prompt action to get it done,” he tweeted.
> Cabinet: Biden plans to appoint acting agency chiefs in top Cabinet and subcabinet posts temporarily after his inauguration because of Senate delays in confirming his nominees, The Wall Street Journal reports. … The Senate Finance Committee is expected to hold a confirmation hearing for Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money: Sanders will be gatekeeper for key Biden proposals | Senate majority gives Biden path to student loan forgiveness | Confirmation hearing for Yellen expected next Tuesday Confirmation hearing for Biden Treasury pick Yellen slated for next Tuesday Wall Street braces for tougher rules under new Democratic majority MORE, Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, on Tuesday. The planned hearing date is one day before Biden’s inauguration (The Hill). … The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will also hold a hearing on Tuesday to consider the nomination of Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasConfirmation hearing for Biden Treasury pick Yellen slated for next Tuesday Biden urges Senate to quickly confirm key Cabinet picks Mayorkas would prioritize FEMA when the nation needs it most MORE, Biden’s choice for homeland security secretary (The Washington Post). … The Senate Armed Services Committee appears poised to approve a waiver allowing retired Gen. Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinConfirmation hearing for Biden Treasury pick Yellen slated for next Tuesday Trump impeachment collides with Biden’s agenda Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops’ role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE to serve as the next Defense secretary, despite serious concerns on both sides of the aisle that lawmakers risk dismantling the tradition of civilian leadership of the Pentagon in the process. Austin has only been out of uniform since his 2016 retirement (The Washington Post).
> To lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, Biden is expected to nominate Gary Gensler, a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. On Wall Street, Gensler is viewed warily as a tough, experienced regulator who has a history of standing up to powerful interests in the financial industry (Reuters).
> Government emails obtained by The Hill show that a Trump administration rollback of the Endangered Species Act, which was implemented by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, stirred a disagreement between the two agencies (The Hill). The executive branch frictions around a significant law are another example of transition challenges faced by the incoming Biden administration.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Four former Homeland Security secretaries: We cannot afford one more day without a confirmed DHS leader, by Michael Chertoff, Jeh Johnson, Janet Napolitano and Tom Ridge, opinion contributors, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3sjpJG3
This time, Trump’s impeachment is warranted, by Jason L. Riley, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/2XB7Ap4
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will vote on an article of impeachment that accuses Trump of “inciting violence against the Government of the United States.”
The Senate convenes on Friday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Senators are not currently scheduled to return to Washington until the inauguration.
The president and vice president have no public events on their schedules.
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoState Department cancels travel amid transition efforts The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump’s first public event since Twitter ban Pompeo warns Iran is new ‘home base’ for al Qaeda MORE will travel to Brussels today and Thursday to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès.
Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will report on U.S. consumer prices in December. (Reflecting weak demand, inflation has been tame since the beginning of the pandemic.)
Biden and Harris will each receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition advisers. Harris will also participate in a virtual finance event to benefit the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
➔ CORONAVIRUS: The Trump administration switched gears on Tuesday and decided to speed up vaccine delivery by recommending that second doses of available inoculations no longer be held back nationwide, but instead be administered to anyone 65 or older and those considered medically at high-risk from infection (The Wall Street Journal). … Immunity to the coronavirus after vaccination may last years, even decades, according to a new study. The research, published online, has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. But it is the most comprehensive and long-ranging study of immune memory to the coronavirus to date (The New York Times). … Moncef Slaoui, the scientific adviser to the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, resigned on Wednesday at the request of Biden’s team, but will remain for 30 days under his contract to help with the transition (CNBC).
> The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require that international passengers arriving in the United States obtain a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding departing flights. The order will take effect Jan. 26. The change will take place weeks after the CDC issued a directive that all passengers flying to this country from Great Britain receive a negative test because of a new COVID-19 variant detected there (The Wall Street Journal).
> Infections: A third lawmaker, Rep. Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott Schneider7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics Election scrambles prospects for next COVID-19 relief bill Democrats call for IRS to review tax-exempt status of NRA MORE (D-Ill.), tested positive for COVID-19 following his experience sheltering during the riots last week along with Republican colleagues who rejected requests to wear masks during an emergency in which social distance indoors was impossible to maintain. “Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he said (The Hill).
> Variants: The highly transmissible strain of the COVID-19 virus identified in the United Kingdom appeared in Maryland and was identified by multiple labs, including at the CDC, according to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who said CDC Director Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldOvernight Health Care: Trump admin makes changes to speed vaccinations | CDC to order negative tests for international travelers | More lawmakers test positive after Capitol siege Trump administration to shake up state COVID vaccine allocation methods CDC to require negative COVID-19 tests from international passengers boarding US flights MORE told him the U.K. variant is likely to be spreading in all 50 states (The Washington Post).
> International: China has imposed new lockdowns in parts of the country and quarantined more than 20 million ahead of the Lunar New Year, one of the biggest holidays in the country, next month (The Wall Street Journal).
➔ JUSTICE & COURTS: The government used lethal injection in Indiana early this morning to put to death Lisa Montgomery, 52, as punishment for a grisly murder of a pregnant woman committed in Missouri in 2004. Montgomery was the 11th prisoner executed since July when Trump, a supporter of capital punishment, resumed federal executions following 17 years without one (The Associated Press). … The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Trump administration could enforce a rule requiring that abortion pills be obtained in person at approved health care facilities and not through the mail or delivery, even during a pandemic. Lower courts had previously sided with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued the Trump administration last year, arguing the longstanding Food and Drug Administration rule endangered the health of individuals seeking mifepristone, a medication abortion pill, during the pandemic (The Hill).
➔ POLITICS: Billionaire Republican donor, Israel supporter and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson died on Monday night at age 87. A cab driver’s son who was raised during the Depression in Boston accumulated a reported $35 billion in holdings in casinos and hotels by 2019. He died from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, his company, Las Vegas Sands, said on Tuesday. Adelson contributed $25 million to the 2016 Trump campaign and was its largest donor (The New York Times).
➔ STATE WATCH: Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and other top officials have been told they will be charged following a new investigation of the Flint, Mich., water scandal in which the city’s water supply was contaminated with lead, which spawned a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15. The exact charges are unknown (The Associated Press).
And finally … Despite America’s health challenges and medical sorrows in the past year, Tuesday brought some good news: The U.S. cancer death rate, which has been falling since 1991, notched another record one-year decline, primarily because of a drop in lung cancer.
The health benefits of not smoking are clear. And strides in lung cancer survivability come from refinements in surgery, better diagnostic scanning, more precise use of radiation and the impact of newer drugs, according to experts. Cancer of all types remains the country’s second leading cause of death, after heart disease (The Associated Press).