Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell accuses Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer's letter of misquoting the Constitution and misunderstanding the impeachment process.
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On the roster: McConnell slams door on impeachment trial witnesses – Congress readies rush vote on porky spending plan – Dems settle union hash to save debate – House GOP stalwart Walker quits after redistricting – Next time, stick with the little trees
MCCONNELL SLAMS DOOR ON IMPEACHMENT TRIAL WITNESSES
WaPo: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday rejected calls from his Democratic counterpart to subpoena new witnesses in a Senate trial of President Trump, calling it ‘a strange request at this juncture.’ McConnell was responding to a letter from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) seeking testimony from senior administration officials, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who declined to appear in House impeachment proceedings. The House, meanwhile, was expected to move one step closer to impeaching Trump on Tuesday, as the Rules Committee prepared to meet to set the parameters for the historic debate on Wednesday over Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine. … Two Democratic aides said Tuesday that a procedural measure setting up debate on the articles will empower House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to name managers ‘at any point’ after the House votes to impeach Trump.”
Swing district Dems fall in, setting up Wednesday vote – WSJ: “More Democrats from competitive House districts said they will back the impeachment of President Trump, putting the effort on track to pass this week despite some fears that their position could put their seats at risk. The House plans to vote on Wednesday. With Mr. Trump’s impeachment looking likely, Democratic leaders are also to soon announce which members had been suggested as impeachment managers – essentially prosecutors – during the Senate trial, which is expected to kick off in January. Democrats have largely united behind impeachment. By Monday afternoon, at least 17 from the 31 Democratic-held districts that Mr. Trump won in the 2016 presidential race had announced they would support the abuse-of-power and obstruction of Congress charges, according to a Wall Street Journal survey, with two saying they are opposed.”
Voters not budging – WaPo: “As the House prepares to vote on two articles of impeachment against President Trump, Americans remain both deeply divided and locked into their positions over which course lawmakers should pursue, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. … Despite the stalemate, most Democrats and Republicans alike expect that a likely Senate impeachment trial will give Trump a fair hearing. Bipartisan majorities, including almost 2 in 3 Republicans, also say he should allow his top aides to testify, something he blocked during the House inquiry. On the eve of the House vote, 49 percent of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46 percent say he should not. Those are essentially identical to findings at the end of October, when 49 percent favored impeachment and removal and 47 percent opposed.”
Q Poll: Independents oppose impeachment – Quinnipiac University: “Republicans say President Trump should not be impeached from office 95 – 5 percent, independents say the president should not be impeached and removed from office 58 – 36 percent, while Democrats say President Trump should be impeached and removed from office 86 – 11 percent. Nearly 9 out of 10 voters who have an opinion, 87 percent, say their mind is made up about impeachment, while 12 percent say they might change their mind.”
CONGRESS READIES RUSH VOTE ON PORKY SPENDING PLAN
AP: “House leaders on Monday unveiled a $1.4 trillion government-wide spending package that’s carrying an unusually large load of unrelated provisions catching a ride on the last train out of Congress this year. A House vote is slated for Tuesday on the sprawling package, some 2,313 pages long, as lawmakers wrap up reams of unfinished work — and vote on impeaching President Donald Trump. The legislation would forestall a government shutdown this weekend and give Trump steady funding for his U.S.-Mexico border fence. The year-end package is anchored by a $1.4 trillion spending measure that caps a difficult, months-long battle over spending priorities. … The bill would also increase the age nationwide for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21, and offers business-friendly provisions on export financing, flood insurance and immigrant workers.”
THE RULEBOOK: PEN OR SWORD?
“It is a singular instance of the capriciousness of the human mind, that after all the admonitions we have had from experience on this head, there should still be found men who object to the new Constitution, for deviating from a principle which has been found the bane of the old, and which is in itself evidently incompatible with the idea of GOVERNMENT; a principle, in short, which, if it is to be executed at all, must substitute the violent and sanguinary agency of the sword to the mild influence of the magistracy.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 15
TIME OUT: DNA FROM ABC GUM
Smithsonian: “Some of the first chewing gums, made of birch tar and other natural substances, have been preserved for thousands of years, including a 5,700-year-old piece of Stone Age gum unearthed in Denmark. For archaeologists, the sticky stuff’s longevity can help piece together the lives of ancient peoples who masticated on the chewy tar. The ancient birch gum in Scandinavia preserved enough DNA to reconstruct the full human genome of its ancient chewer, identify the microbes that lived in her mouth, and even reveal the menu of a prehistoric meal. … Birch pitch, made by heating the tree’s bark, was commonly used across Scandinavia as a prehistoric glue for attaching stone tools to handles. When found, it commonly contains tooth marks. Scientists suspect several reasons why people would have chewed it: to make it malleable once again after it cooled, to ease toothaches because it’s mildly antiseptic, to clean teeth, to ease hunger pains, or simply because they enjoyed it.”
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DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 26.6 points (no change in points from last wk.)
Sanders: 18 points (↑ 0.6 points from last wk.)
Warren: 14.8 points (↓ 3.4 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 9.2 points (↓ 0.8 points from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 5.4 points (first listing)
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, USA Today/Suffolk University, NPR/PBS/Marist, Fox News and IBD.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 44.4 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -7.4 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 2.2 points
[Average includes: CNN: 44% approve – 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve – 52% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk University: 48% approve – 50% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 43% approve – 53% disapprove; IBD: 44% approve – 52% disapprove.]
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DEMS SETTLE UNION HASH TO SAVE DEBATE
Fox News: “A tentative agreement has been struck in a labor dispute between food service workers and their employer at Loyola Marymount University that threatened to derail Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate. The food services company Sodexo negotiated late into Monday evening with their employees at Loyola Marymount University to secure a tentative contract agreement. A formal vote is expected to take place on Tuesday. Unite Here Local 11 – the labor union representing the workers – said last Friday that they would picket the debate at the Los Angeles-area school if no agreement was reached with Sodexo. All seven Democratic presidential candidates who qualified for the debate said they wouldn’t cross a picket line to take the stage, which threw the debate into limbo. The three-year tentative agreement includes a 25 percent increase in salary, a 50 percent drop in health care costs, and increases in workers’ job security. All sides are expected to release more details at a Tuesday afternoon news conference in Los Angeles.”
Biden still rising in Q Poll – Quinnipiac University: “In the Democratic primary race for president, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the field with 30 percent of the vote among Democratic voters and independent voters who lean Democratic. Biden is followed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 17 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders with 16 percent, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 9 percent. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has 7 percent, while businessman Andrew Yang and Sen. Amy Klobuchar get 3 percent each. No other candidate tops 2 percent. There is still a lot of room for movement in the Democratic primary as 61 percent say they might change their mind, while 38 percent say their mind is made up.”
New scrutiny for old harassment claims against Bloomberg – ABC News: “Mike Bloomberg has on repeated occasions faced and fought allegations that he directed crude and sexist comments to women in his office, including a claim in the 1990s that he told an employee who had just announced she was pregnant to ‘kill it.’ …[O]ver the years a number of women have alleged in legal filings that Bloomberg’s use of lewd comments around co-workers fostered a frat-like culture at the company he founded and still owns. … Quotes attributed to him in court filings include, ‘I’d like to do that piece of meat,’ and ‘I would DO you in a second.’ Court records reviewed by ABC News indicate that at least 17 women have taken legal action against the company over the past three decades, with three of the cases specifically naming Bloomberg for his role in the company’s culture. None of the cases made it to trial…”
Can Warren and Sanders stay friendly? – NYT: “For center-left Democrats, that’s exactly their hope — that [Warren and Sanders] divide votes in so many contests that neither is able to capture the nomination. Moderates in the party fear that if Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders pull away — or if they ultimately join forces — the ticket would unnerve independent voters and go down in defeat against President Trump. Interviews with aides from both camps — who spoke on the condition they not be named because they warn their own surrogates not to criticize the other — produce a common refrain. The two candidates are loath to attack each other because they fear negativity would merely antagonize the other’s supporters. The only way to eventually poach the other’s voters, each campaign believes, is by winning considerably more votes in the first caucuses and primaries.”
HOUSE GOP STALWART WALKER QUITS AFTER REDISTRICTING
Politico: “Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) won't seek public office next year, backing off after threatening to primary GOP Sen. Thom Tillis and two members of his own delegation. He announced his decision Monday, a stunning outcome for the ambitious politician just weeks after court-prompted redistricting turned his reliably Republican seat in north-central North Carolina into safe Democratic territory. Walker, a member of House GOP leadership and former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, was first elected to an open seat in 2014. In the statement, Walker said he would seriously consider running for Senate in 2022, when GOP Sen. Richard Burr is expected to retire after finishing his current term. Walker initially seemed desperate to remain on the ballot in 2020.”
Dems play favorites in Texas Senate primary – Texas Tribune: “The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is endorsing MJ Hegar in the crowded primary to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The move by the DSCC, the political arm of Senate Democrats, is one of the biggest developments yet in the nominating contest, which has drawn a dozen candidates — some more serious than others but no decisive frontrunners. The endorsement drew pushback from at least four of Hegar's competitors, two of whom accused national Democrats of snubbing more diverse candidates for Hegar, who is white.”
Walter Russell Mead: A Burkean landslide in Britain – WSJ
GOP push to reform FISA gains momentum in wake of Horowitz report– Fox News
“Obviously his hair, obviously just how big he is, and just his eyes. I mean just everything about him.” – NYT photographer Doug Mills in an interview with CBS News explaining why President Trump is the most iconic president he’s photographed.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I saw you on [Special Report with] Bret Baier discussing the upcoming Democratic debate, and the qualification rules that are preventing some minority candidates from appearing on the debate stage. Aren’t Cory Booker and Julian Castro just asking the Democratic Party for a little affirmative action? It seems hypocritical to me for the Democrats to push affirmative action for everyone else, but not themselves. Your thoughts?” – Kevin Cook, Farmers Branch, Texas
[Ed. note: I don’t know about that, but I do know that the main purpose of political parties is choosing candidates to compete in and, they hope, win elections. It’s reasonable to argue that Democrats would be ill-served in the election to have a white, male nominee in his late 70s when mobilizing younger, female and minority voters is a party. It’s equally reasonable to argue, though, that it’s important for Democrats to have a candidate who can connect with working-class, older white voters who shunned the party in 2016. But those are debates between candidates and campaigns, not for the party itself. I also think the DNC is getting a raw deal here. Their debate thresholds have been, if anything, far too permissive, as evinced by the fact that we’re only seeing fewer than 10 candidates on stage for the first time in December.]
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NEXT TIME, STICK WITH THE LITTLE TREES
Fox News: “A driver in England accidentally blew up his car when he lit a cigarette after spraying air freshener inside, officials said. The unidentified man sprayed an ‘excessive’ amount of aerosol spray in his car, which was parked in Halifax, West Yorkshire, on Saturday when he decided to grab a cigarette. Witnesses told the Manchester Evening News they heard an ‘enormous bang’ — and saw the car's windows shatter and nearby buildings shake. The driver reportedly made it out of the car with minor injuries and was treated by first responders, but West Yorkshire Police said in a statement the situation ‘could have been worse.’ ‘The owner of a car parked on that street and had used an air freshener can but not ventilated his car before lighting his cigarette,’ West Yorkshire Police said in a statement. ‘The fumes exploded and blew out his windscreen, along with some windows at nearby business premises.’”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“A standardized math test was given to 13-year-olds in six countries last year. Koreans did the best. Americans did the worst, coming in behind Spain, Britain, Ireland and Canada. Now the bad news. Besides being shown triangles and equations, the kids were shown the statement ‘I am good at mathematics.’ Koreans came last in this category. Only 23% answered yes. Americans were No. 1, with an impressive 68% in agreement. American students may not know their math, but they have evidently absorbed the lessons of the newly fashionable self-esteem curriculum wherein kids are taught to feel good about themselves.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on Feb. 5, 1990.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.