The Morning Dispatch: We Watched Impeachment All Day So You Wouldn't Have To
Plus, Boris Johnson’s about to make his biggest non-Brexit decision as prime minister so far.
|The Dispatch Staff||16|
Happy Wednesday! We may not be coming to you live from beautiful Davos, Switzerland, but we did spend hours and hours staring at C-SPAN yesterday while our brains turned ever-so-slowly into mayonnaise. Who’s ready for a newsletter?!
Side note: Everyone who sent Declan this video of Mitch Trubisky repeatedly failing to complete a pass at the Pro Bowl last year, thank you. (Editor’s Note: Think about that. Mitch Trubisky …”at the Pro Bowl.” Too funny.)
Quick Hits: What You Need to Know
A man in Washington state was diagnosed with the enigmatic coronavirus, the first reported case in the United States. The virus appears to have originated in China, and at least nine people have died.
The United States birth rate dropped to an all-time low in 2018, according to a new CDC report. The expected number of births per woman fell to 1.73, down from a high of 3.77 in 1957. “Except for 2006 and 2007, the [total fertility rate] has been below the level needed for a generation to replace itself (2.10 births per woman) since 1971.”
The Guardian reports that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked by Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), crown prince of Saudi Arabia, through a WhatsApp phishing scheme back in 2018. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has been known to communicate with MBS over WhatsApp.
The Trump administration is planning to expand travel restrictions on Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania. As of publication, the move is not final and subject to change.
Boeing stock tumbled yesterday on news that the company’s much-maligned 737 Max planes will remain grounded until at least mid-2020, months longer than previously reported.
American journalist Glenn Greenwald was charged with “cybercrimes” by the Jair Bolsonaro-led Brazilian government for publishing leaked information that painted Bolsonaro’s administration in an unflattering light.
Longtime Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and Expos/Rockies outfielder Larry Walker were elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Impeachment Trial: A Slog of a First Day
In yesterday’s Morning Dispatch, we walked you through Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to keep President Trump’s impeachment trial moving along at a sprightly clip. If the first day of the trial taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to Congress, speediness is relative.
Tuesday’s first marathon day, which began shortly after 1 p.m. and stretched past 1 a.m., played out exactly as advertised, with Democrats and Republicans tussling over procedural questions about how the trial will be run. At issue: the question of whether the Senate should subpoena White House officials and documents the House was unable to obtain during impeachment. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has argued it is crucial to subpoena figures like former national security adviser John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, while McConnell insists that the Senate should not take up the question of further subpoenas until at least next week, after the opening arguments have been completed.
McConnell began the day with a concession to the moderates in his caucus. At their urging, he tweaked the rules resolution he introduced Monday ever so slightly, making two token changes requested by Senate Democrats. Instead of having two legislative days to make their opening arguments, each side will now have three, though their time will remain capped at 24 hours. Furthermore, the House’s evidence will now be automatically instead of requiring a majority vote to admit it.
Why did McConnell do this? At the Senate Republican lunch Tuesday, according to a report from CNN’s Michael Warren (an excellent reporter) several Republicans spoke out in favor of the concessions, including a group of conservatives. Further, the insignificant concessions allow McConnell to relieve the pressure on some of the moderates in his caucus, granting their wishes now on meaningless issues knowing that there are difficult votes ahead.
With the likes of Susan Collins firmly on Team McConnell, the day’s outcome was pretty much assured: Schumer and company simply lacked the votes to pass any up-or-down amendments to McConnell’s proposed rules. Most of Tuesday, then, was spent in a series of ultimately meaningless party-line votes, as Schumer proposed one subpoena amendment after another.
That’s not to say there was nothing of value discussed. In arguing for and against each subsequent motion, both the impeachment managers and the Trump legal team signaled how they intended to make their substantive cases: the House, by hammering over and over their findings about Trump and Ukraine and the White House’s repeated attempts to stifle their investigation; the White House, by sticking to an exceedingly simple script on substance—Trump did nothing wrong—and then subjecting impeachment managers to a blizzard of objections, accusations of bias, declarations that Democrats have no evidence to support their claims, and assorted non sequiturs.
Democrats’ desires to see additional evidence, according to deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin, was a “stunning” indication that Democrats “don’t have the evidence [they] need to support [their] case.”
“If the House has not done the investigation and cannot support its case, it’s not the time once it arrives here to start doing all that work,” Philbin said. “That’s something that’s the House’s role. So this is something that is important for this institution, I believe, not to allow the House to turn it into a situation where this body would have to do the House’s work for it.”
Impeachment managers responded that the evidence they had was more than enough to impeach—but that the Senate would not be doing its due diligence if it failed to fill in the gaps.
“The evidentiary record that we have built is powerful and can clearly establish the president’s guilt on both of the articles of impeachment,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries said. “But it is hardly complete … The American people agree that there cannot be a fair trial without hearing from witnesses who have relevant information to provide.”
At times, Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, had to encourage both sides to remain civil. As tempers started to fray shortly before 1 a.m., Roberts admonished the interlocutors to “remember where they are,” addressing “the greatest deliberative body in the world.”
And occasionally, things got weird. At one point, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow went on an indignant tirade in which he accused impeachment managers of complaining about “lawyer lawsuits,” his voice loaded with angry sarcasm each time he uttered the phrase. “The Constitution allows lawyer lawsuits. It’s disrespecting the Constitution of the United States to even say that in this Chamber—lawyer lawsuits … a dangerous moment for America when an impeachment of a president of the United States is being rushed through because of lawyer lawsuits.”
But Sekulow was mistaken. The impeachment manager who preceded him, Rep. Val Demings, had said nothing about “lawyer lawsuits”—rather, she had referenced “FOIA lawsuits,” attempts to obtain White House records under the Freedom of Information Act. (In a move that your Morning Dispatchers are struggling not to see as synecdoche for the whole trial, the White House continues to deny that Sekulow misspoke.)
Impeachment managers will kick off their case against the president after lunch today. Speedy trial or no, we’ve got a long way to go yet.
Stay Huawei From Them!
Moving away from impeachment and skipping across the pond, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing one of his most consequential (non-Brexit) decisions thus far: whether or not to let Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, build out the U.K.’s 5G infrastructure.
Huawei has long been a target of national security hawks within the Trump administration and in Congress. Companies in China maintain little to no autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party, and Huawei’s equipment—cell towers, phones, etc.—could easily be used for espionage purposes, transmitting sensitive information back to Beijing. (The company denies it would ever do such a thing.)
President Trump signed an executive order last May allowing the commerce secretary effectively to ban foreign information and communications technology companies that pose “an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States.” Later that same day, Wilbur Ross added Huawei Technologies to the Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List, mandating anyone wishing to do business with the company attain a license that the agency had no intention of doling out. “This will prevent American technology from being used by foreign owned entities in ways that potentially undermine U.S. national security or foreign policy interests,” Ross said.
Problem solved, right? Not quite.
Huawei remains the global leader in telecommunications network equipment, and it can generally provide the equipment at a much lower cost than its competitors. As the world prepares to upgrade to a 5G future, countries don’t want to be left behind. The self-driving cars, telemedicine, and smart cities 5G technology promises to unlock could generate billions and billions of dollars.
And that’s where the United Kingdom comes in. In an interview with the BBC last week, Boris Johnson said laid out the dilemma he’s facing quite clearly. “The British public deserve to have access to the best possible technology,” he said. “If people oppose one brand or another, then they have to tell us, what’s the alternative? Right? On the other hand, let’s be clear. I don’t want, as U.K. prime minister, to put in any infrastructure that is going to prejudice our national security or our ability to cooperate with Five Eyes intelligence.” (The Five Eyes refers to an intelligence-sharing alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Australia, New Zealand, and the United States have already banned the use of Huawei equipment, and the U.S.)
In case Johnson didn’t have enough to consider, the United Kingdom is officially Brexiting from the European Union on January 31. Whichever Huawei decision he makes will alienate either China or America, both of whom he’d like to forge new trade deals with.
According to NBC News, the United States sent a delegation to London in an effort to dissuade Boris Johnson from dancing with the telecoms devil. Marco Rubio wrote an op-ed in the Telegraph arguing that “opening the door to Huawei would effectively expose the inner-workings of British national security, industry, and society to Chinese ears for a generation,” and that it would be “a tremendous mistake.” A source at the GCHQ British intelligence organization told The Times a U.K. deal with Huawei would be akin to “letting a fox loose in a chicken coop.”
Rubio’s op-ed points to Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung as potential substitutes for the Chinese behemoth, and offers the U.K. a spot in a “coalition of like-minded countries determined to ensure effective, market-based alternatives to Huawei are available.” But some, including the Financial Times editorial board, continue to argue that “barring Huawei from Britain’s 5G is too costly to justify,” and that the U.K. should grant the Chinese company a role in 5G network buildout while limiting its access to “core” information. (The United States dismisses this intermediary option as too dangerous as well.)
The decision, ultimately, is Johnson’s to make. We should know soon whether or not the U.S.-U.K. Special Relationship™ has withstood the test of time.
Worth Your Time
The world may be getting hotter, but human beings are getting cooler—if the researchers Jo Craven McGinty writes about in this Wall Street Journal piece are to be believed. After a century and a half of treating 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit as the beau ideal of body temperature, today’s humans are clocking closer to 97.5 degrees, a sizable shift. “People are taller, fatter and live longer, and we don’t really understand why all those things have happened,” one researcher said. “Temperature is linked to all those things. The question is which is driving the others.”
Writing at The Undefeated, Rus Bradburd has a gripping profile of Tyresse Williford, a standout basketball player at small Division I school Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville who is also notable for another reason: Six of his former high-school teammates have died to gun violence back home in Chicago.
And finally, worth a lot of your time, Yuval Levin’s new book, just out yesterday. It’s called: A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream. Yuval, a scholar AEI and editor of National Affairs, is one of the most compelling thinkers of our time. We make a point to read everything he writes and you should, too. His piece for The Dispatch earlier this month is typical of the quality and depth of his work.)
Presented Without Comment
Billionaires, man. They’re just like you and me.
This year’s round of balloting represented former outfielder Larry Walker’s final chance to make the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame (after 10 years of failing to receive 75 percent or more of the vote, a player’s name is removed from consideration). He made it. He deserved to make it. And his reaction is priceless.
Toeing the Company Line
Declan is out with a Dispatch Fact Check on Lindsey Graham’s claim that House Democrats “chose not to” hear from high-level Trump administration officials in their impeachment inquiry last fall. Turns out the truth is more complicated than people on either side of the aisle would have you believe!
Jonah has a new Remnant podcast with Fox News’ Bret Baier. The pair talk about how Baier’s Special Report comes together every night, Twitter, the Democratic primary, and what Steve was like in college. Give it a listen here!
David’s Tuesday edition of the French Press provided a great curtain raiser on the impeachment trial before delving into some of Pete Buttigieg’s troubling recent comments on religious liberty. Plus, lots of Derrick Henry highlights. Check it out here!
On the web today: Christian Schneider looks at how the Republicans who didn’t oppose Nixon fared during his impeachment fared (spoiler alert: a couple of them were named Bush and Reagan). And Andrew Cline reports from New Hampshire on who’s leading the Democratic primary there (spoiler alert: oh, just click through).
Let Us Know
Yesterday, in light of Martin Luther King Day, we asked you to send us someone (or something) that is controversial today, but will be near universally beloved a generation or two from now. We’re not sure about all of these, but some of your answers below:
George W. Bush
The Intellectual Dark Web
The Dispatch! (awwww thank you guys)
Correction, Jan 22, 2020: The email version of this newsletter incorrectly said that Larry Walker and Derek Jeter were inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. They were elected.
Photograph of the Capitol by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.