Day Three: Democrats try to make the Trump link clearer

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IMPEACHMENT LATEST Rep. DIANA DEGETTE (D-Colo.) continued the House impeachment managers’ case today, highlighting quotes from rioters who said they were at the Capitol on Jan. 6 at the direction of former President DONALD TRUMP. “Their own statements before, during and after the attack make clear the attack was done for Donald Trump at his instructions and to fulfill his wishes,” she said.

Rep. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.) followed, showing a slew of clips of Trump praising violent acts by his supporters since the 2016 campaign. “Jan. 6 was not some unexpected radical break from his normal, law-abiding and peaceful disposition. This was his state of mind, this was his essential MO,” Raskin said.

Rep. TED LIEU (D-Calif.): “I’m not afraid of Donald Trump running again in four years. I’m afraid he’s going to run again and lose. Because he can do this again.” Lieu went on to cite the resignations of former Trump Cabinet members and officials following the events of Jan. 6, including Transportation Secretary ELAINE CHAO, Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL’s wife. “They saw the clear link between Trump’s conduct and the violent insurrection,” Lieu said.

MORE FROM DAY THREE, via Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio: “[Sen. Tommy] Tuberville’s recollection is a new and potentially significant addition to the timeline of Trump’s reaction to the violent mob of his supporters as it stormed the Capitol. Aides to the House impeachment managers, entering the second day of opening arguments, indicated the new details may come up before they rest their case Thursday and turn the trial over to Trump’s defense team. …

“Tuberville’s recollection of the call is the first indication that Trump was specifically aware of the danger Pence faced as the mob encroached on the Senate chamber. Just as significantly, the call occurred at virtually the same moment Trump fired off a tweet attacking Pence for lacking ‘courage’ to unilaterally attempt to overturn the presidential election results.”

“Trump’s defense team expected to finish its arguments in one day,” CNN

“Justice Department says an Oath Keepers leader waited for Trump’s direction before Capitol attack,” CNN

YIKES! — REPORTER COVID SCARE MID-IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: A reporter covering the impeachment trial this week has tested positive for the coronavirus, raising alarms among the congressional press corps that often finds itself in close quarters on Capitol Hill. The scare is a reminder that while lawmakers and Hill staff have been vaccinated, reporters have not — despite daily trips to the Hill covering pandemic relief talks, the inauguration and impeachment. The Hill press corps has been sharing quotes and color in order to limit exposure for everyone, but the news this morning is a reminder that the danger that continues. To all our reporter brethren up there, stay safe!


— OUT: President JOE BIDEN doesn’t talk about impeachment because he’s not a “pundit.”

— IN: Biden is talking about impeachment* because he had an “emotional reaction” to the dramatic footage Wednesday.

*Biden told reporters this morning: “I think the Senate has a very important job to complete. And I think — my guess is some minds may have been changed.”

HE SAID, XI SAID — Biden said in the Oval Office this morning that his Wednesday phone call with Chinese President XI JINPING lasted two hours. Biden told senators he wants Congress to move fast on a big infrastructure plan to keep up with China.

Biden also sent a letter to Speaker NANCY PELOSI announcing he’s terminated the national emergency on the southern border that Trump declared in February 2019. More from Quint Forgey

SPEAKING OF PELOSI — The speaker made some news at her weekly news conference today, announcing that she would award the Congressional Gold Medal to Capitol Police officers and other law enforcement who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6. This is the highest honor Congress can bestow on someone — or in this case, someones — as our Sarah Ferris noted.

On the minimum wage debate, Pelosi was asked point-blank whether the increase would be in the Covid relief bill that the House sends to the Senate. “Yes, it will. We’re very proud of that,” she replied. Pelosi also reiterated that she’s aiming for the House to pass it by the end of February.

THE UNEMPLOYMENT PICTURE — “U.S. jobless claims fall slightly to 793,000 with layoffs high,” AP: “Thursday’s government report also showed a sizable rise in the total number of Americans who are receiving jobless aid, including through extended benefit programs — a sign that long-term unemployment may be growing. All told, 20.4 million people were receiving benefits in the week that ended Jan. 23, the latest period for which data are available.”

CLICKER — “Where $10K Per American in Covid Relief Has Gone, and What Might Come Next,” NYT

COVID RELIEF LATEST — “Democratic leaders dig in on minimum wage amid Senate resistance,” by Sarah Ferris and Marianne LeVine: “But privately, many senior Democrats in both chambers are skeptical that the minimum wage hike will pass muster under the Senate’s strict rules. Some members and aides are already discussing other opportunities to muscle the increase through both chambers, such as a jobs package that is expected to be Biden’s second major legislative priority, or another reconciliation bill this fall.”

“Biden under pressure to go nuclear to get minimum wage hike,” by Laura Barrón-López and Natasha Korecki: “Biden’s team is leaning heavily against the idea of having Vice President Kamala Harris use her powers as president of the Senate to keep the minimum wage provision inside the relief package. … The White House’s reluctance to consider that step has set up the possibility of an early confrontation between the president and a progressive base that has — to this point — been pleased with his work in office.”

NBC: “Some moderate House Democrats worry that it would be a strategic mistake to keep it in the bill, especially given the chances of its being removed in the Senate. They have privately expressed concerns that it may slow down the package and highlight party divisions.”

TICK TOCK — “Building the big one: Behind the scenes of Biden’s $1.9 trillion bet,” CNN’s Phil Mattingly: “[T]here would be no negotiating from Biden’s team. That was the number, and while there was room to bargain over marginal side items, the topline wasn’t moving. … [T]he Biden team has remained unfazed, and congressional and White House officials are targeting early March for the bill to land on Biden’s desk, which would mark it as the largest piece of spending any president has enacted in his first 100 days.”

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — D.C. announced today that the U.K. and South African variants have now been detected in the city.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK, via Daniel Lippman: The State Department is elevating a coordinator for an interagency task force that is helping U.S. officials and their families who have been affected by the so-called Havana Syndrome, a State Department spokesperson said. A number of State Department diplomats in Cuba and China as well as other CIA agents have experienced brain injuries, likely because of directed microwaves that some suspect Russia to be behind.

The official “will be empowered to advise senior Department leadership, coordinate the Department’s interagency response to the health security incidents, and provide continuing support to affected personnel,” the statement added. “This advisor will be positioned in a senior role and report directly to the Department’s senior leadership to ensure that we continue to make significant strides to address this issue and to ensure our people are receiving the treatment they need.”

PANDEMIC DEEP DIVE — “‘Overwhelm the problem’: Inside Biden’s war on COVID-19,” AP: “The meetings begin each day not long after dawn. Dozens of aides report in, coffee in hand, joining by Zoom from agency headquarters, their homes or even adjacent offices. The sessions start with the latest sobering statistics meant to focus the work and offer a reminder of what’s at stake: new coronavirus cases, people in hospitals, deaths. But they also include the latest signs of progress: COVID-19 tests administered, vaccine doses shipped, shots injected. …

“His team seemingly day by day rolls out an almost dizzying array of new efforts and appeals large and small — everything from building a surgical glove factory in the U.S. by year’s end to asking Americans to wear masks while walking their dogs. The central question for Biden and his team, one that can’t be answered yet: Will it all add up to enough?”

RULES FOR THEE BUT NOT FOR ME … “Rep. Kevin McCarthy attended his son’s wedding in California amid deadly COVID-19 surge,” L.A. Times: “Early in the morning on Dec. 5, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy mockingly alluded on Facebook to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s widely criticized attendance at a party the month before at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant, a maskless gathering that drew accusations of hypocrisy and elitism.

“But hours after publishing his post, McCarthy attended his own maskless gathering — a wedding for his son, Connor, who got married that afternoon at a venue in San Luis Obispo County, The Times has learned. … Two videos of the outdoor nuptials at the Cass House in Cayucos show that the dozen or so attendees visible in the images were not wearing masks, the Republican congressman from Bakersfield included.”

GOING NUCLEAR — “Air Force prepares for budget battle over nuclear weapons,” by Bryan Bender: “The battle lines are being drawn for what is expected to be the biggest clash over the Pentagon budget this year: whether to keep pursuing a new $100 billion replacement for the nuclear missiles now on standby across three Western states.

“The Air Force and its allies in Congress, think tanks and defense contractors are sharpening their arguments for why any delay or reversal in replacing the 400 Minuteman III missiles that were first deployed in 1970 would weaken the U.S. nuclear deterrent … But progressive lawmakers and disarmament advocates are lobbying allies in the Biden administration for a pause in the program, arguing that holding off could save billions.”

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION — “HUD to pursue gender identity-based discrimination complaints, reversing Trump policy,” by Katy O’Donnell: “The new policy, to be announced Thursday, applies to all complaints filed after Jan. 20, 2020 … The directive requires state and local jurisdictions that receive funding through HUD’s Fair Housing Assistance Program ‘to prohibit discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation.’ The agency cited the Supreme Court’s ruling last June that gender identity and sexual orientation are protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination on the basis of sex.”

ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Biden Wants More Stable Diplomacy. An Abortion Fight Is a Test,” NYT: “[M]embers of Congress who oppose the Mexico City policy — mostly Democrats and abortion rights activists — have a narrow but rare opportunity to abolish it. The Democratic House previously approved a measure to block the policy, also known by critics as the global gag rule, but it was stalled under Republicans in the Senate.”

MEDIAWATCH — “Bloomberg News has begun layoffs, and insiders expect about 100 people to be affected,” Insider

— NYT DRAMA PART XXCCXXXIX: NBC reports that NYT columnist BRET STEPHENS wrote a column Monday taking issue with DEAN BAQUET’S controversial and much-maligned statement that “We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.” The statement shocked Times staffers, especially since last Sunday the Times published a long magazine piece that included the use of the N-word when quoting from an autobiography of Frederick Douglass. In his column Stephens reportedly wrote, “Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.”

In an email obtained by NBC, Stephens included the column and revealed, “I wrote the following column on Monday morning. If you’re wondering why it wasn’t in the paper, it’s because AG Sulzberger spiked it.” (The Daily Beast reported that while Sulzberger was consulted, it was editorial page editor Kathleen Kingsbury’s call.)

On the same day the spiked column was revealed, Baquet backtracked on the intent statement. “In our zeal to make a powerful statement about our workplace culture, we ham-handedly said something that some of you saw as threatening to our journalism,” he reportedly said in a meeting with Times staffers. “Of course intent matters when we are talking about language in journalism.”

— Eleanor Mueller will be a labor reporter for POLITICO. She currently is a Legislative Compass reporter for POLITICO Pro.

MEENA WATCH — “Meena Harris has a personal brand. Some fear she’s profiting from her Aunt Kamala’s office,” L.A. Times: “She has used that publicity to promote her lifestyle brand, which has over time capitalized on Kamala Harris’ name, likeness, life history and political slogans to produce clothing, videos, bestselling children’s books and designer headphones. Her promotional activities and close involvement in her aunt’s career have long raised eyebrows among Kamala Harris’ aides and advisors. …

“There is increasing concern that the personal branding endeavors will bring the vice president unwanted scrutiny now that her stature is at a new high. … ‘Some things can’t be undone,’ said [a] White House official, who would only speak anonymously to discuss one of the most sensitive and personal issues in the Biden-Harris White House. ‘That being said: Behavior needs to change.’”

KNOWING SETH ABRAMSON — “Thread Man,” Columbia Journalism Review: “How you see Abramson is a kind of Rorschach test. He is either a rogue pundit or a media darling. Over emails with me, he claimed that he’d been offered a job by Politico as a researcher and that he’d advised Cuomo Prime Time, Chris Cuomo’s CNN show. (Matthew [Kaminski], the editor in chief of Politico, said that ‘rings no bells’ and that he didn’t know Abramson. A CNN source replied, ‘Absolutely not.’) …

“[I]t falls short of proof. Journalism, of the meta or curatorial sort, isn’t worth much if it can’t meet that standard. And that’s the trouble with Abramson’s interpretive threads. Pull on any one of them, and the whole tapestry unravels.”

TRANSITIONS — Robert Simmons is now managing director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Share Our Strength. He previously was executive director of Urban Teachers’ Black Educators Initiative and senior equity adviser for Strategic Community Partners. … Adi Sathi has joined the Michigan Army National Guard and will leave in March for Basic Combat Training followed by Officer Candidate School. He currently is chief of staff to the Young Republican National Federation, and is an RNC, Orrin Hatch and MIGOP alum. … Andrew Walker is now a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He’ll remain an associate professor of Christian ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.