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Where Things Stand: Davos Was The Only Thing Keeping Trump Quiet
This is your TPM mid morning briefing.

President Trump set a new personal record last night with the most posts to his Twitter feed in any single day. As we noted in our liveblog coverage, as of 8:30 p.m. ET, he’d tweeted or retweeted 140 posts about a litany of topics, from the impeachment trial, to immigration, to attacks on a favorite nemesis — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). The majority of these tweets were posted during the span of time that he was en route back from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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Why Was Ron Johnson Shaking His Head?

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), a witness to the late stages of Trump’s hold on Ukraine military assistance, visibly shook his head in apparent disagreement as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) described the major points of that phase of the pressure campaign.

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This Is Super Big and It’s Not Impeachment

Everything today is impeachment. We sit here listening to Adam Schiff make the House’s opening statement. But even with that I want to flag your attention to this story about the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the hacking of Jeff Bezos’s cell phone.

At one level it is a tabloid story. Bezos’s phone was allegedly hacked and the hackers discovered evidence of an affair. Evidence was later shared with The National Enquirer. They published it. Bezos’s was embarrassed and he and his wife announced they were divorcing.

But this is a much, much bigger deal than the marital embarrassment of the richest man in the world.

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Where Things Stand: Senate GOP Appears To Lean Toward Acquittal At Trial
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.

After a late night of proceedings in the Senate, in which the majority party shot down each and every one of the minority’s amendments to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) rules for the impeachment trial, we were expecting Senate Republicans to file procedural motions this morning, including a possible motion to dismiss. It’s just after 10 a.m. ET and we’ve seen nothing, meaning Senate Republicans likely lack the votes to support an outright dismissal. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following:

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What We Think Sekulow May Have Been Referencing With ‘Lawyer Lawsuits’ Tirade
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 21: Jay Sekulow, an attorney for President Donald Trump, arrives to the Capitol for the impeachment trial of Trump on Tuesday, January 21, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A very amped-up Jay Sekulow ended his argument against Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) latest amendment with a diatribe against what Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) had said about “lawyer lawsuits.” His repeated comments about “lawyer lawsuits” appeared to prompt confusion on the House managers table in the well of the chamber, where the House members are joined by lawyers who have been working on the House inquiry.

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Thoughts

So far, I would say Chairman Schiff has done a good job at putting Senate Republicans on trial. As I’ve suggested previously, I don’t expect this will shift their views. But it will put their participation in this cover-up in stark relief. And that is a story for the November election. Read More

Where Things Stand: Trump Will Have Loudest Cheerleaders On His Team During Sham Trial
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: Rep. Elise Stefanik, (R-NY),  left, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), right, speak with reporters following the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, before the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony during the fourth day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back U.S. military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigate his political rivals. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

The Senate impeachment trial will officially begin this afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) officially placing his rules for the trial on the Senate floor. The rules are designed to push the proceedings through the upper chamber quickly, with each side getting just 24 hours to make their opening arguments within two calendar days. McConnell is also barring any House evidence from entering the record automatically — everything must be approved by vote.

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Looking Back at the Trump/Stephanopoulos Interview in Context

This isn’t new news. But I at least had not really put the two things together until this afternoon. Remember back last summer ABC’s George Stephanopoulos did a White House interview with President Trump. It got a lot of attention because of a number of things the President said. But the biggest was the President saying that he would in fact work with a foreign government again trying to intervene in a US election. Even Trump’s staunchest allies and toadies had a hard time defending the comment.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” Trump told Stephanopoulos. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressman, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

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A Quick Explainer on Last Night’s News, Robert Hyde and Anthony de Caluwe

I updated you last night on the latest Parnas document dump. They are hard to make sense of – particularly the new information about apparent surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. So now that I have a better understanding of the details I wanted to walk you through them. They’re important.

On the first round we got those WhatsApp text messages from Robert Hyde to Lev Parnas, apparently passing on updates about surveillance he was running on Yovanovitch. We later learned that Hyde has a history of erratic behavior and was actually involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility a month or so after the texts were sent. So we had to consider the possibility that these claims were simply made up, wildly embellished or even the product of delusions.

Last night’s document dump makes clear that there was at least some truth to the claim Ambassador Yovanovitch was being surveilled by some group of feral Trumpers.

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A Particularly Wild Week In Review Prime Badge
Trump’s Legal ‘Dream Team’

President Trump’s decision to put Ken Starr, Alan Dershowitz and Robert Ray on his impeachment defense team is a good illustration of Trump’s mindset and strategy and the very different approach of Mitch McConnell.

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The Circus Is Coming To Town

TPM Reader SL brings the heat:

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Parnas Before Rudy

There’s an interesting catch here from Marcy Wheeler. I’m not sure I entirely agree with her on what it means. But I think she’s on to something. It has to do with Lev Parnas’ explanation of his efforts to get U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch fired. It’s a bit in the weeds but a pretty big deal.

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Where Things Stand: Even Trump’s Impeachment Team Is Reminiscent Of The Clinton Era
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.
on September 18, 2018 in Washington, DC.

The Republican majority in the Senate has maintained for weeks that it wants to conduct impeachment proceedings following the precedent set by the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton. Now President Trump’s legal team appears to be following suit. Multiple outlets are reporting this morning that Trump’s team will include Ken Starr, the independent counsel who led the investigation into Clinton, and Robert Ray, who eventually took over the probe. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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‘Three Way Attorney Client Privilege’

There’s a lot of big new information in the various documents given to Congress by Lev Parnas. His interview with Rachel Maddow is a little fuzzier. There’s at least a lot there that seems spun to the hopes of his current audience, which is largely people opposed to Donald Trump. This is hardly surprising. Parnas appears to be a conman, basically. He’s trying to save himself. So we should be cautious about any claims not backed by corroborating evidence, of which there is quite a lot. But here’s one passage worth watching in the second part of his interview that aired tonight on Maddow’s show.

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What It Looks Like Inside The Senate

On Thursday, the full Senate got its first taste of what the next several weeks of their lives are going to look like.

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Where Things Stand: Parnas Lights A Match
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02: Lev Parnas walks into the Southern District of New York Courthouse on December 2, 2019 in New York City. A business associate of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Parnas has been accused of conspiring to make illegal contributions to political committees supporting President Donald Trump and other Republicans, and wanting to use the donations to lobby U.S. politicians to support the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

In the last 24 hours, Lev Parnas, the indicted pal of Rudy Giuliani, made waves with the release of evidence he’s provided the House Intelligence Committee and explosive claims he made during two cable news hits on Wednesday evening. Among many, many other things, Parnas’ latest remarks place President Trump and his top officials directly in the center of the effort to get Ukraine to probe the Biden family. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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On To The Senate And Its New Press Restrictions

Wednesday felt like a calm before an impeachment storm on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol.

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What’s Parnas’s Angle Here?

Lev Parnas is apparently going to appear on Maddow tonight. So we’ll hear a bit more about him and how he’s presenting himself. Maybe he’ll break substantive new news. One fascinating question though is just what his angle is in all this.

You’re probably saying, “well to stay out of jail obviously!” And yes, 100%. He’s definitely trying to save himself. But just how isn’t completely clear, at least not to me. Let’s walk through this.

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WTF is the Deal With Robert Hyde?

I’m trying to get a handle on this question myself. But the big question from last night’s Parnas documents is just what the story is with Robert Hyde, landscaper, absolute biggest Donald Trump fan ever and longshot candidate for Congress who had already been disowned by much of the Connecticut GOP back in December. Was he really involved with surveilling and perhaps considering harming the US Ambassador to Ukraine or is he all talk or perhaps literally crazy? Here’s Josh Kovensky’s write up of what we know so far.

It seems like a stretch to think Hyde’s claims were totally made up. But a month or so after the text exchanges in question Hyde was taken into custody at Trump’s Doral resort in Florida and apparently involuntarily committed for roughly a week to a psychiatric facility after telling police he feared someone was trying to assassinate him.

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Where Things Stand: We’ll Know Impeachment Managers Shortly
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.

Happy Wednesday, January 15. At 10 a.m. ET House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will announce who she’s chosen as impeachment managers, just ahead of a House vote this afternoon to send the articles to the Senate. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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The Parnas Docs

Let me share some very preliminary thoughts on the documents and text messages released by the House Intelligence committee from Lev Parnas.

I stress preliminary. I’ve gone through them once. In Josh Kovensky‘s and Matt Shuham’s write up they caught a number of references, the import of which wasn’t clear to me until I understood the full context.

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