Dec 19, 2019

Axios AM

Breaking: Russian President Vladimir Putin said today that President Trump's impeachment is far-fetched and that the Senate will acquit him: "The party that lost the election is continuing the fight by other means." (AP)

  • 🚨 Bulletin: Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, announced this morning that he won't seek re-election next year, reports Axios' Alayna Treene.
1 big thing: "Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors"
Screenshot via Fox News

With the House impeachment roll call underway at the Capitol last night, President Trump said at the "Merry Christmas Rally" thrown by his campaign in Battle Creek, Mich.: "By the way, it doesn't really feel like we're being impeached!"

  • It was very real. 151 years after President Andrew Johnson, and 21 years after President Bill Clinton, Trump became the third president to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
  • Not a single Republican joined the Democrats, and only a couple of Democrats peeled off. It was as stark a party-line vote as you get.

Axios' Jonathan Swan was in the arena for the surreal moment:

  • Somebody tells Trump the result mid-speech and he starts reading out the impeachment vote total as if it’s a lopsided Rasmussen poll or his 2016 electoral college victory.
  • The crowd starts cheering, while he describes his own impeachment as an amazing result because all Republicans stuck together.
Photo: Jonathan Swan/Axios

The Battle Creek crowd was composed of true Trump die-hards: Many of them lined up for hours outside the stadium in the ice and snow.

  • Tom and Barb Runels of Battle Creek (in the photo above) told Swan they waited outside the arena from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • "She was shivering," he said, but added it was worth the wait.

At the Capitol, members leaped out of their seats when it was time to vote, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • Several members cast their votes by hand, rather than electronically, and waved their red and green cards in the air as they swarmed the ballot box.
  • Reporters leaned over the press gallery rails as they watched the green Ys and red Rs light up on the wall next to members' names.
  • When the first article of impeachment ("Abuse of Power") was adopted, Republicans booed loudly. Some chanted “Four more years!”
  • Several members stared at the vote tallies on the walls of the House chamber, watching as the votes trickled in.
  • Republicans emptied from the floor before Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially announced that Article II ("Obstruction of Congress") had been adopted.

Several Democratic members wore black as a signal, they said, that it was "a sad and solemn day."

  • Most Republican members wore red ties.
  • Pelosi wore all black and a gold brooch in the shape of the House Speaker’s mace.
  • Her office said the brooch was given to her as a gift, and that she wears it on "big days."
  • As the day began, two people seated in the public House gallery were dressed in red devil costumes, with their faces painted white.
2. What's next: Drama on delivering the articles
Screengrab via CNN

Some House Democrats are pushing to delay sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate — a potentially powerful weapon that could delay President Trump's trial, Axios' Margaret Talev explains.

  • It's leverage to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree to provisions, such as witnesses, that Senate Democrats want and McConnell initially rejected.
  • More controversially, it could be a mechanism to keep an open impeachment — with no acquittal — hanging over Trump.

There are risks, including a backlash by undecided voters in swing states.

  • But some Democrats argue that once acquitted, he could be even more unleashed.

After last night's votes, reporters sprinted from the floor to the Rayburn Room for a press conference where Speaker Pelosi did not commit to a timeline, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • Pelosi said she was waiting until the Senate determines what the trial rules will be so she can get a sense of "the arena."
  • "We’re not sending them tonight," Pelosi said.
  • She said it would be difficult for the House to name impeachment managers until it's clear how the Senate intends to conduct the trial.
  • But she cited McConnell's comment that he's "not an impartial juror" as an example of what she doesn't consider a "fair trial."
Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

The trial in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump is expected to be acquitted (as President Clinton was after his impeachment), is expected to begin in January, and could be as short as two weeks.

  • McConnell tweeted that at 9:30 a.m. today, he'll speak on the Senate floor "about House Democrats' precedent-breaking impeachment of the President of the United States" — a sly hint that the wily McConnell may be considering breaking precedent himself.
3. Unsettling future for millions of American jobs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The U.S. economy is besting expectations for job growth, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest in several decades — but the other side of the story is that millions of jobs out there just aren't good enough, writes Axios' Erica Pandey.

  • Why it matters: Almost half of all American workers are stuck in low-wage jobs that often don't pay enough to support their lives, lack benefits and sit squarely inside the automation bullseye.

Keep reading.

4. Incredible photo for the history books
Photo: Justin Sink/Bloomberg

Justin Sink, White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, tweeted this incredible photo for the history books, taken as the White House staff and press pool boarded Air Force One last night:

  • Hogan Gidley, principal deputy White House press secretary, carries the sign with impeachment vote tallies that President Trump was shown onstage during his rally in Battle Creek, Mich.
5. The day in screens: How impeachment unfolded
Drudge Report
Screenshot via Fox News
Screenshot via CNN

The vote, via AP:

  • On the first article, abuse of power, two Democrats — Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who is expected to flip to the Republican Party, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota — voted against.
  • On the second article, obstruction of Congress, those two and freshman Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voted against.
  • Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is running for president, voted "present" on both.
6. Time capsule
7. Trump's Christmas spirit
Trump in Battle Creek last night. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump used his Michigan rally to mock the state's Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell for her impeachment vote, suggesting onstage that her late husband, former Rep. John Dingell, could be in hell.

  • Trump described an emotional call he received from the congresswoman, where she thanked the president for her late husband's funeral services and added that he was "looking down" over them.
  • "Maybe he's looking up," Trump said of the longest-serving member in the history of Congress, drawing groans in the audience. "Maybe, but let's assume he's looking down."
  • Video.

Dingell's response:

8. New data out today: Richer cities
The new Nashville. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Household income grew more in Democratic districts than Republican ones over the past five years, according to an AP analysis of census data out today:

  • Household income grew by an average of more than $12,000 in Democratic-leaning congressional districts, compared to more than $9,000 in Republican-leaning districts.

In Speaker Pelosi's district, in San Francisco, household income jumped by a third — from almost $110,500 to more than $150,000.

  • Why it matters: Republican districts tend to be more rural and have lower wages.
9. NBC preps for 2020

Image: NBC News

NBC News has created a new editorial team to report on issues related to U.S. election security and voting, reports Axios' Sara Fischer.

  • Why it matters: Most news organizations were caught off guard by the 2016 election manipulation attempts by foreign governments, prompting the outlet to try to get ahead of these issues before the 2020 presidential election.

Disclosure: NBC is an investor in Axios.

10. 🎬 1 film thing

Naomi Ackie as Jannah in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Photo: Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. via AP

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," out tomorrow, is on track to be one of the worst-reviewed films in the nine-picture saga, Bloomberg's Nick Turner writes.

  • The latest installment received positive reviews from 58% of critics tracked by Rotten Tomatoes.
  • "Only 'Phantom Menace,' released in 1999, received a worse rating" — 53%.

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