Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.
Tonight's newsletter is 2,141 words, 8 minutes.
Kim Jong-un and Trump inside the demilitarized zone, June 30, 2019. Photo: Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images/Getty Images
White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien tells Axios that the Trump administration has "reached out to the North Koreans" to ask them to resume diplomacy that has been all but dead since October.
O'Brien sat down with Margaret Talev, Alayna Treene and me at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Friday to talk about a range of national security challenges at the start of a new year.
Between the lines: It appears President Trump is again trying to lean on what he has described as his warm personal relationship with the brutal North Korean dictator.
O'Brien indicated he was hopeful about the implications of Kim's decision — so far — to refrain from firing off a nuclear test in the Christmas and new year period.
The big picture: In four months in office, O'Brien has lived through fresh threats from North Korea, the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and the rolling crisis with Iran, the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Trump's controversial withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Turkish-Syrian border, abandoning America's Kurdish allies in the process.
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Taliban leaders during peace talks with the U.S. in July in Qatar. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images
O'Brien tells Axios "it is possible" Trump will cut a deal with the Taliban this year but that even if a deal can't be struck, the president is still poised to reduce troops in Afghanistan.
Behind the scenes: Trump has long said he wants to pull American troops out of Afghanistan. A source close to the president told me Trump views this as one of his biggest unmet promises. The source worries Trump would order a major drawdown before the 2020 election.
The bottom line: "The president said there has to be a reduction in violence prior to the signing of a deal and there needs to be a reduction of violence and immediate transition to inter-Afghan talks after a deal," O'Brien added. "Ultimately it's going to be up to the Afghans to bring peace to Afghanistan."
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
One of the hallmarks of President Trump's foreign policy has been his insistence that he can cut the deals that have eluded his predecessors: a durable peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and a deal that would not only stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb but would also stop Iran from projecting force across the Middle East.
On the Mideast peace plan, which Israeli officials believe could be announced before the Israeli elections in March, O'Brien said the Trump administration is under "no illusions" that "this will be an easy process."
I asked O'Brien whether it affected the Trump administration's planned timing of the peace plan's release when Benny Gantz, the main political opponent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said releasing the plan before Israel's March 2 elections would be "a harsh interference in the electoral process in Israel," per my colleague Barak Ravid's reporting.
On Iran, O'Brien said Trump would never consider doing the one thing the Iranians' have demanded he do before they begin negotiations with him: remove U.S. sanctions on Iran. (This is what the French had been trying to negotiate last summer, as intermediaries between the U.S. and Iran.)
Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images
As she prepares to finally send over the articles of impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is warning there could be a "cover-up" to protect President Trump in the Republican-led Senate — and Republicans are testing ways to use the trial as a wedge issue on Democrats.
Driving the news: Pelosi is expected to name House managers this week after consulting with her caucus at a meeting on Tuesday morning. She'll deliver the articles shortly after, though the precise timing is still unclear, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.
What's next: Once the articles are formally delivered to the Senate, the impeachment trial would begin almost immediately.
What they're saying: Pelosi told ABC's George Stephanopoulos this morning that "if we don't" see new witnesses or documents in the Senate trial "then it's a coverup."
Pelosi is poised to end the weeks-long impeachment standoff without two big commitments she has consistently pushed for:
The bottom line: Now the trial will begin on McConnell's terms.
As of now, the resolution is expected to broadly follow the contours of former President Bill Clinton’s 1999 trial.
Behind the scenes: Many Senate Republicans have said they think calling witnesses is a dangerous move that would unnecessarily drag out the trial, but a key GOP senator, Susan Collins of Maine, told reporters on Friday that she has been working with "a fairly small group" of GOP senators to ensure witnesses, such as Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton, are called.
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Democratic presidential primary debate at Loyola Marymount University, Dec. 19, 2019, Los Angeles, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
"Six Democratic presidential candidates have qualified for Tuesday's debate in Iowa, the final televised encounter before the state’s Feb. 3 caucuses," per WSJ.
Between the lines: As the Washington Post's Annie Linskey notes, "Only white candidates have qualified, ... the first time in this election cycle that no minority contender will make the stage."
The big picture: The most respected Iowa pollster, Selzer & Company, has Bernie Sanders leading a tightly packed Democratic field in its latest Iowa poll. Sanders, at 20%, leads Elizabeth Warren (17%), Pete Buttigieg (16%) and Joe Biden (15%).
What we're hearing: The first signs of tension between the two most progressive candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Photo: Phil Roeder/Getty Images
The House is expected to pass a resolution to appoint House managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate (as detailed in item 4).
The Senate will vote this week to confirm Peter Gaynor as FEMA administrator.
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
Bob Woodward. Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images
In his Friday interview with Ingraham, President Trump let slip he's been talking to Bob Woodward for an upcoming book. But it was what he said about Woodward that caught my attention.
Flashback: Before Woodward published his 2018 book on the Trump administration, titled "Fear," Trump expressed regret that he hadn't sat down with the legendary Washington Post reporter.
Woodward declined to comment.