What to Know in Washington: Trump Faces Historic Impeachment Vote

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Donald Trump’s legacy will be forever marked today by his impeachment at the hands of House Democrats, who say it’s a necessary rebuke for the president’s pursuit of a political vendetta. On the eve of the vote, Trump defiantly rejected the move as a predetermined partisan assault.

Trump is all but certain to become the third U.S. president in history to be impeached when lawmakers gather today in the well of the House, as their predecessors did when they voted to impeach Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.

But the president has managed to unite the Republican party fully behind him, and it’s unlikely that anyone in the GOP will join Democrats in voting for his removal. Nor is there any sign that Senate Republicans are considering convicting him when they hold a trial next year.

Trump fired off an angry, six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday, saying the impeachment vote would backfire and fuel his re-election bid.

“Any member of Congress who votes in support of impeachment — against every shred of truth, fact, evidence and legal principle — is showing how deeply they revile the voters and how truly they detest America’s Constitutional order,” Trump wrote. “Our Founders feared the tribalization of partisan politics, and you are bringing their worst fears to life.”

Trump contributed language and direction in the drafting of the letter, according to people familiar with the matter. White House aides, including Stephen Miller, were involved, as were Counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Pat Philbin.

Pelosi, in her own letter to lawmakers yesterday, wrote that their oaths “make us custodians of the Constitution.”

“If we do not act, we will be derelict in our duty,” she said.

Viewer’s Guide: How to Watch the Impeachment of Donald Trump

The day will unfold like this: After the House is gaveled in at about 9 a.m., lawmakers will debate for six hours before two votes, one on each article of impeachment. One charge is abuse of power, based on Trump’s efforts to force Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his family. The other is obstruction of Congress, based on Trump’s refusal to allow aides to testify or to respond to subpoenas for documents.

Both articles are expected to be adopted on mostly partisan lines, as vote tallies from the Associated Press and New York Times show a majority of House members in support.

Shortly after he’s impeached, Trump is expected to issue a public rebuttal at a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, a traditionally Democratic stronghold that helped win him the White House in 2016.

Voters are split on whether Trump should be removed from office, with about 47% in favor and 48% opposed, according to polling data aggregated by RealClearPolitics. Read more from Jordan Fabian.


Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Maine Democrat to Split His Vote on Trump: Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) said he will vote for the article charging abuse of power but will oppose the other one alleging obstruction of Congress, according to the Bangor Daily News. Golden said the House investigation “clearly” found evidence that Trump abused his power in an effort to damage a political opponent, the Maine paper quoted him as saying. “This action crossed a clear red line,” Golden said, but he added he’s opposing the obstruction article because he doesn’t believe it meets the constitutional threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Happening on the Hill

FISA Oversight: Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on his report released last week on the FBI’s use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to surveil the Trump presidential campaign in 2016. Horowitz last week testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the report, which found there was no political bias in the FBI’s decision to open an investigation into Trump campaign members, but did highlight 17 violations of FBI and FISA policy.

In response to that report, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court yesterday ordered the FBI to explain what it’s doing to ensure applications for wiretaps are legally sound and accurate. The FBI has until Jan. 10 to comply with the order issued by the court. “Wow!” Trump wrote in a Twitter post last night, “Means my case was a SCAM!” Read more from Chris Strohm.

Business Groups Warn Against Russia Sanctions: Two business groups are warning a key Senate committee against enacting sanctions on Russia, arguing the bill would be disruptive to business and counterproductive in advancing U.S. interests. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute separately wrote to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging members to proceed with caution on sanctions targeting foreign governments. The letters come as the Republican-led panel plans today to consider a long-stalled bill to sanction Russia for meddling in the 2016 election. Read more from Daniel Flatley.

Senate Readies Spending Bill Vote: The Senate is set to pick up two spending bills that would provide $1.4 trillion to fund the U.S. government through September and avoid a government shutdown after current funding runs out Friday. The House passed the two measures covering national security and domestic spending yesterday.

Senators are happy with the House-passed bills, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said yesterday before setting the measures up for a procedural vote. He filed for cloture, or to limit debate, on the spending packages and filled the amendment tree late yesterday. Those procedural motions mean the bills could be ready for a final vote tomorrow.

The deadline to fund the government is Friday night at midnight.

Lawmakers Rue Demise of Broad Year-End Tax Deal: A relatively narrow tax package sets up Congress to revisit several contentious issues in 2020, which has lawmakers lamenting the failure of a push for a more comprehensive deal. The bipartisan agreement would continue over 30 expired or expiring tax provisions, repeal nearly $400 billion in health care taxes, and fix some inadvertent impacts of the 2017 tax law. The package was attached to the government spending bill.

But negotiators failed to reach agreement on some of the biggest ticket items on each party’s wishlist, including major tax law corrections sought by Republicans and expanded refundable tax credits and renewable energy incentives sought by House Democrats. The deal also only extended many of the temporary tax breaks, known as extenders, through the end of 2020. Read more from Colin Wilhelm and Kaustuv Basu.

Manchin Opposes Mountaintop Removal: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a past supporter of mountaintop removal mining, said yesterday that he’s changed his mind about the practice. “I have come around on utilizing mountaintop removal mining methods and I think the method has exceeded its useful life,” said Manchin, top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and a staunch coal industry advocate. Read more from Stephen Lee and David Schultz.

Banks Pressed on Climate: Senate Democrats led by Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) wrote to the heads of nine of the largest U.S. banks to urge them to commit to the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative. Citibank is the only large U.S. bank to commit to the principles, the senators said. The banks that have not committed to the principles are JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, US Bancorp, PNC, TD Bank and Capital One. Read the letters here.

Democrats Quiz CFPB on Enforcement Director Hiring: House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is asking the CFPB to provide details on the hiring process for a Justice Department official said to be the top candidate to lead the bureau’s enforcement unit, to ensure a political appointee isn’t “burrowing” into the civil service. In a letter yesterday, Waters asked Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen Kraninger for communications between bureau employees and Thomas Ward, who leads the Justice Department’s tort litigation branch. Read more from Lydia Beyoud.

Pelosi Appoints Porter, Haaland to Oversight Committee: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added freshmen Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Chelsea Mes reports. “The leadership of these outstanding members will be vital in advancing the committee’s work at this important time in our nation’s history,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Elections & Politics

Buttigieg Sows Can-He-Win Doubts Even Where He Leads: Pete Buttigieg’s struggle to win over black voters is threatening to cut into his support in Iowa, where he holds a sizable lead and voters prize their reputation for picking presidents. Voters in Iowa, an overwhelmingly white state where the ritual of caucuses every four years opens the presidential election season, are getting worried that if they pick the young mayor of South Bend, Ind., he’ll falter in states where non-white voters hold more sway. The worries don’t seem to portend a collapse for Buttigieg’s Iowa campaign yet, but he is confronting those questions — sometimes even protests — more frequently on the trail. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Ex-Biden Backer Endorses Buttigieg: An Iowa state senator who withdrew his endorsement of Joe Biden after concerns about his operation in the state is now backing Buttigieg. Tony Bisignano, a longtime Iowa politician who now serves in the State Senate, supported Biden during his past presidential runs in 1988 and 2008. He endorsed Biden again earlier this year, before withdrawing the endorsement. Buttigieg’s campaign also announced the endorsement of State Representative Brian Meyer. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Real Estate Donors Tilt Democratic: Trump should be well ahead of his rivals in donations from real estate executives. They historically give to Republicans by a 2-1 margin and industries favor a candidate who’s one of their own. Yet Trump lags among people who work in real estate, even though they’ve enjoyed his regulatory rollback. Political tensions with China and the cap on deductions for state and local taxes have hit the lucrative coastal real-estate markets hard. Trump has received less from individual real estate donors this year than Democrats Biden and Buttigieg. Biden has raised $1.04 million from this group and Buttigieg $964,912 to Trump’s $902,723, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Read more from Jeffrey Taylor, Bill Allison and Linly Lin.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine Launches Reelection Bid: Sen. Susan Collins officially launched her bid for a reelection today, setting up an expensive and closely watched battle for the seat the moderate Republican from Maine has held for nearly 24 years, the Associated Press reports. Collins made her formal announcement in an email to supporters, saying her “bipartisan commonsense approach” has been key to many legislative successes and will be important in an era of bitter partisanship.

Defense & Foreign Policy

U.S. Rejects Relief for North Korea: The U.S. moved to head off a call by China and Russia to ease sanctions on North Korea despite threats of further provocations, with Trump saying he would “take care of” any threats the regime had in the works. A new U.N. Security Council proposal by China and Russia to lessen the economic embargo on North Korea is getting pushback in Washington. The proposal by North Korea’s historic allies said the changes were warranted because Kim Jong Un’s regime had complied with United Nations resolutions and needed “humanitarian and livelihood” relief, according to a draft provided by diplomats who asked not to be named. Read more from David Wainer and Jihye Lee.

U.S. Concedes Defeat on Gas Pipeline: The U.S. conceded it won’t be able to stop completion of the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, acknowledging the failure of a years-long effort to head off a perceived threat to European security. The massive $11-billion project is just weeks away from completion and has led Trump to call Germany “a captive to Russia.” He has criticized the European Union for not doing more to diversify imports away from the nation that supplies more than a third of its gas. Senior U.S. administration officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the administration’s take on the project, said sanctions passed by Congress yesterday as part of the defense policy bill are too late to have any effect. The U.S. instead will try to impose costs on other Russian energy projects, one of the officials added. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs, Nick Wadhams and Lars Paulsson.

Pentagon Eyes Buying Fewer Lockheed Copters: The Pentagon is assessing whether the Marine Corps should scale back its $31 billion program to buy new King Stallion helicopters from Lockheed Martin and opt for a combination with a modified version of the latest-model Chinooks built by rival Boeing. Officials from the Pentagon’s acquisition, sustainment, research and operational test offices are evaluating and expanding on a preliminary review completed in May by the Pentagon’s independent cost assessment office at the urging of lawmakers. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

Around the Administration

Energy Chief Shrugs Off Permian Oil Slowdown: The golden age of U.S. shale is far from over, with an expected slowdown in the Permian Basin likely to be temporary, according to the new Energy Department secretary. The shale boom helped transform the U.S. into a net exporter of crude and petroleum products in September from a major importer a decade ago. Even as growth is set to slow next year in the Permian and elsewhere as drillers respond to investor demands for capital restraint, Dan Brouillette said the shale boom has further to run. Read more from Stephen Cunningham.

Wall Street Banks Pass Living-Wills Test: Six of the eight biggest U.S. banks must fix “shortcomings” in the resolution plans they submit to show how they could proceed quickly and safely through bankruptcy after a collapse, regulators said yesterday. The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said they’ve approved so-called living wills filed by all eight banks, though Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Bank of New York Mellon and State Street weren’t able to produce certain data needed to execute their plans during a crisis. The shortcomings were deemed too minor to trigger sanctions. No shortcomings were found in the plans filed by Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. Read more from Jesse Hamilton.

U.S. to Block DNA-Sequencing Merger: U.S. antitrust enforcers moved to block the merger of two DNA-sequencing firms—Illumina and Pacific Biosciences of California—saying the deal would harm competition. The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint in the agency’s administrative court to stop the $1.2 billion merger, according to a statement yesterday. The FTC said that with the deal, Illumina is trying to illegally maintain its monopoly in the U.S. market for next-generation DNA sequencing systems “by extinguishing PacBio as a nascent competitive threat.” David McLaughlin and Kristen V. Brown have more.

Judge Says Snowden Can’t Profit Off Book: Edward Snowden can’t profit from his recently released memoir because he failed to get pre-publication clearance from U.S. security agencies, a judge ruled yesterday. The former CIA employee and National Security Agency contractor in 2013 exposed top-secret surveillance programs, including the hacking of private internet systems. In his memoir “Permanent Record,” which was released in September, Snowden reveals how he helped build the surveillance system and why he exposed it. The government sued to stop him from profiting from the book, although it didn’t try to prevent its publication. Read more from Andrew Harris.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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