Good morning! Welcome to 10 Things in Politics. I’m Brent Griffiths. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox each day.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Trump’s impeachment trial starts later today
- European spies are pleased that Trump may no longer get intelligence briefings
- The first sitting member of Congress has died of COVID-19 complications
1. IMPEACHMENT RETURNS: Former President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment trial is set to start later this morning. Senators will begin by debating the other historic nature of the proceedings: the constitutionality of impeaching a former president. The arguments themselves follow on Wednesday.
Here’s what will be the same and different, per my colleagues Sonam Sheth and Jake Lahut.
Same ending?: 45 of the 50 Senate Republicans are already on record saying it’s unconstitutional to impeach a former president. Democrats would need 17 of them to convict Trump of inciting the Capitol riot, meaning it is almost certain he will receive a second acquittal.
- The real punishment: If Trump is surprisingly convicted, House Democrats have said they want to see him barred from ever running for office again (i.e. bye-bye 2024). Such punishment has only been applied to judges in the past, but could be done by a simple majority vote provided senators convict Trump first.
WATCH: Columbia Law School’s professor of legislation Richard Briffault explains how the process works.
Can we get a witness?: Probably not. Democrats feel lawmakers already saw and experienced the brunt of their case. After all, the chamber where the trial will be held was literally overrun by rioters. Calling witnesses would also lengthen the trial, not to mention potentially provide an opening for Republicans.
Straight-to-video sequel: Both sides are promising to present more video during up to 16 hours of respective arguments. Democrats are reportedly planning to show scenes of the insurrection, and how rioters responded to Trump’s speech beforehand. Trump’s legal team has said it will counter with past statements of Democrats that they claim mirror the president’s language.
Silence is golden: Senators remain prohibited from speaking. They will once again be able to ask written questions later. Technically, they are under the threat of imprisonment, but none of the reported gabbers were nabbed in 2020. Some senators were also caught napping.
Still milking it: Thanks to a quirk from the Clinton impeachment trial, senators can request a refreshing glass of milk. Cookies are a no-no, but there is a place of pure imagination called the “candy desk” where they can find a temporary fix.
2. House Democrats reject efforts to rein in stimulus checks: Their plan maintains the previous limit of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples, but the legislation does increase the rates at which payments will diminish. The goal is to have a full House vote on the $1.9 trillion package on February 22.
3. European spies can stop holding back secrets from the US: Officials in three different intelligence services said they were reassured by Biden’s call to end intelligence briefings for Trump, a usual perk for former presidents. Insider’s Mitch Prothero has the exclusive details.
- Key quote: “There had been concerns about Trump based on his reputation for criminal behavior and close ties to Russian elements … considered suspicious at best …,” one official told my colleague.
4. Georgia officials are investigating Trump’s calls: The trial isn’t the only scrutiny the former president is facing. His call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to “find” votes is now under investigation by Raffensperger’s office. Separately, a Democratic prosecutor in the state is weighing a criminal inquiry. (The New York Times)
5. The top things for your calendar, all times Eastern:
- 12:45 p.m.: Press secretary Jen Psaki holds the White House’s daily news briefing.
- 1 p.m.: Trump’s impeachment trial begins
- 1:45 p.m.: Biden, Vice President Harris and Treasury secretary Janet Yellen meet with business leaders to discuss the stimulus plan.
Here’s who’s joining soon: Follow the full 13-person team here!
- Nicole Gaudiano: White House
- Warren Rojas: Politics
- Adam Wren: Politics features reporter
- Ryan Barber: DOJ and courts
- Camila DeChalus: Federal law enforcement, DOJ, and homeland security
6. More Republicans seek distance from Trump: Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, agreed with Rep. Liz Cheney’s desire to not embrace the 45th president. “I think if we want to speak to the issues that people in this country care about, the longer we’re tied to a personality — a cult of personality — I just don’t think that’s a good durable model for the future,” Thune told CNN.
- One House Republican is urging Trump’s conviction: “Convicting Donald Trump is necessary to save America from going further down a sad, dangerous road,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who was one of 10 House GOP lawmakers to vote to impeach Trump, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
7. Texas Rep. Ron Wright dies of COVID-19 complications: The Republican is the first sitting member of Congress to die of the coronavirus. The 67-year-old had also been receiving treatment for cancer these past two years. His wife Susan, who also tested positive, was hospitalized with him two weeks ago.
8. Democratic Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is running: He immediately becomes one of the top Democrats seeking what will be an open Senate seat in one of the most closely watched contests next year. True to his blunt-talking image, Fetterman immediately promised to gut the Senate filibuster aka a 60-vote requirement for most legislation (“hell yes”).
9. Sen. Richard Shelby will retire after 2022: The Alabama Republican’s departure will leave a void on the Senate’s powerful appropriations panel, which Shelby has used to help direct enormous funding back to his state. He is the fourth GOP senator to announce he’s calling it quits.
10. You can go your Conway: Claudia Conway, the daughter of former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and conservative Trump critic George Conway, will perform on the upcoming season of “American Idol.” The 16-year-old has built a massive social media following on TikTok.
One last thing.
Today’s trivia question: 10 Republican senators broke with their party and said President Clinton was “not guilty” on the first count of impeachment that he faced. Only two remain in power. Can you name either one? Email your response and a suggested question to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Yesterday’s question: Hamiltonians know history happens in New York, but America’s first National Bank was located in Philadelphia — right by Independence Hall. It’s closed to the public, but the building still stands.