Jan 19, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Sunday!

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,197 words ... 4½ minutes.
1 big thing: Trump's concede-nothing defense
Scene for the history books: Chief Justice John Roberts swears in the Senate. (This is the opposite angle from the one we showed you Friday.) Photo: Senate TV via AP

President Trump's lawyers plan to make an aggressively dismissive case when the Senate impeachment trial opens this week.

  • "President Trump categorically and unequivocally denies each and every allegation in both articles of impeachment," Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, wrote in a seven-page response to Democrats released yesterday.
  • The document calls the articles of impeachment "constitutionally invalid on their face," and "a dangerous ... brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election."

The length and tone contrast with the 111-page, 319-footnote "Trial Memorandum" by the seven Dems who are House impeachment managers.

  • "The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty," the Democrats write. "The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths."
  • "President Trump's conduct is the Framers’ worst nightmare."

Why it matters, from Jonathan Swan: The Trump lawyers' blanket statements, and the brevity of their arguments, suggest they have confidence that the Senate Republicans won’t let the president down when their big loyalty test comes.

  • Smart brevity on the strategy: Concede nothing, admit nothing, apologize for nothing. Talk for TV. And don’t get into the weeds.

🥊 The most extraordinary line from the document, "THE HONORABLE DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, HEREBY RESPONDS":

  • "The President's actions on the July 25, 2019, telephone call with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine ... were constitutional, perfectly legal, completely appropriate, and taken in furtherance of our national interest."

Reality check: The Government Accountability Office found that the administration broke the law by withholding Ukraine aid — funds that impeachment witnesses said were in the interest of U.S. national security.

  • Witnesses argued that the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was a "domestic political errand," as Fiona Hill put it.
  • Rudy himself has said he was acting as the president's personal agent.

Go deeper: Read Democrats' 111-page brief. ... Read the 7-page Trump response.

2. Former Trump groupie raises pressure for Senate witnesses
Screengrab: CNN

⚡ Breaking: Alan Dershowitz, a member of the Trump impeachment defense team, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the trial will be delayed and take much longer if witnesses are called.

  • The president would invoke executive privilege, Dershowitz said.
  • Dershowitz argued on ABC's "This Week" that "abuse of power" is not in the "constitutional criteria" for impeachment: "If the allegations are not impeachable, then this trial should result in an acquittal, regardless of whether the conduct is regarded as OK by you or by me or by voters."

Lev Parnas, the indicted Giuliani associate who went public with new evidence about Trump allies' activities in Ukraine, "has sought to fashion himself as the Joe Pesci version of John Dean" — casting himself as a repentant participant in a subversive operation, the WashPost's Roz Helderman and Paul Sonne write.

  • Why he matters: "[T]he blizzard of new details in the documents Parnas ... turned over [to House Democrats] raised a host of questions about Trump’s efforts in Ukraine — ratcheting up the pressure on Senate Republicans to allow witnesses to be called during the coming trial."

The intrigue: "In his choreographed transformation from a selfie-snapping Trump devotee to a self-described truth-teller embraced by many on the left, Parnas has blazed a path similar to that of Michael Cohen," the Post adds.

  • "Parnas has said he felt abandoned and betrayed after his arrest, when Trump disavowed him and Giuliani failed to forcefully defend him."

📺 Rachel Maddow, whose MSNBC prime-time show has been on for more than 11 years, had her largest audience ever on Wednesday when 4.5 million people watched her interview with Parnas, per AP.

  • Maddow topped Fox News' Sean Hannity, who usually has the top-rated cable news show. He had 3.7 million viewers that night, according to Nielsen.
  • Maddow has frequently talked about Parnas on her show.
3. Sneak peek: Bloomberg to admit privilege
Mike Bloomberg kicked off his "Women For Mike" outreach campaign in New York this week. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

In a speech in Oklahoma today, Mike Bloomberg will say that white privilege has brought him advantages, Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: Bloomberg was the architect of "stop-and-frisk" in New York — a policy, found unconstitutional, for which he apologized just before launching his campaign. So he's asking the African American community for support from an uncomfortable position.

Bloomberg's speech in Tulsa is at the Greenwood Cultural Center, "the keeper of the flame for the Black Wall Street era" of the early 20th century.

  • The former New York mayor will speak on the racial wealth gap and economic mobility.
  • He'll release an economic plan to address the lasting legacy of discrimination.
4. Pic du jour
Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Above, thousands attend the 2020 Women's March in Washington.

  • Hundreds gathered in Manhattan, and rallies were scheduled in 180+ cities.

Crowds were noticeably smaller than in previous years, AP reports.

  • The first marches in 2017 drew hundreds of thousands of people to rallies in cities across the country on the day after President Trump was inaugurated.
  • That year's D.C. march drew close to 1 million people.

See more photos.

5. Capitalism heats up as 2020 issue
Illustration: The cover of this week's Barron's, "Why the Dow Won’t Stop at 30,000."

Inequality has become impossible to ignore both economically and politically — especially now that the U.S. is led by a billionaire president, and two billionaires are vastly out-spending the traditional 2020 Democratic candidates, Felix Salmon and Alexi McCammond write as part of our "What Matters 2020" series.

  • The 2019 Wealth-X billionaire census found the U.S. was the only major country to see an increase in the number of billionaires last year.
  • The U.S. now has more than 700 billionaires — more than the next four countries (China, Germany, Russia and the U.K.) combined.

Go deeper.

6. Scoop: Trump's Russia expert placed on leave

Andrew Peek, the senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council, has been placed on administrative leave pending a security-related investigation, Margaret Talev scooped.

  • Peek had been slated to go to this week's global gathering in Davos, where President Trump is expected to meet with world leaders as the impeachment trial takes place back in the Senate.

Why it matters: Peek is the third to leave the sensitive job in six months.

  • His last two predecessors, Tim Morrison and Fiona Hill, both testified in the House impeachment inquiry.
7. Harry and Meghan get their Megxit
On May 19, 2018, the newly married Duke and Duchess of Sussex leave Windsor Castle in a convertible for an evening reception at Frogmore House. Photo: Steve Parsons/Pool via AP

Drudge nails the headline: "FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE!"

  • Prince Harry, 35, and his wife, Meghan, 38, will no longer be working members of the royal family, and will give up their "Royal Highness" titles and U.K. taxpayer funding, as they begin a more independent life focused in North America — apparently Canada and California.
  • "[I]n what amounts to the abdication of the royal 'rock stars,' the couple will repay the £2.4m [$3m] of public funds used to renovate Frogmore Cottage, their home on the Windsor estate," The Sunday Times of London reports.

The couple will be known as Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — styled like the title of his mother, who gave up "Her Royal Highness" and became Diana, Princess of Wales, after her divorce.

  • The details:
Photo: Buckingham Palace via AP
8. ☃️ 1 chill thing
Photo: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press via AP)

If you were on one of the 314 flights that FlightAware shows are canceled today, as blizzards stalk the Midwest and Northeast, check out this Canadian scene:

  • St. John's, Newfoundland, had a one-day snowfall of 30 inches, breaking the previous record of 27 inches on April 5, 1999.
Mike Allen

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