The 2020 calendar squeeze is about to get real

Image: Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill on Jan. 8, 2020. Copyright Tom Brenner Reuters
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — President Trump took that exit ramp with Iran. Speaker Nancy Pelosi "soon" is sending those articles of impeachment to the Senate.

And so the squeeze on the 2020 calendar is about to get real.

We are now 25 days from the Iowa caucuses, and so if Pelosi decides to send those articles over as soon as today (she has a 10:45 am ET press briefing), that will:

  • Have consequences for Tuesday's Democratic debate in Iowa (does it even take place if the trial starts by then?).
  • Affect the future campaigning in Iowa for the Democratic senators who will have to be in attendance for the trial (Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar — as well as Cory Booker and Michael Bennet).
  • Give an advantage to the 2020 Dems who don't have to be attendance (Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg).
  • And reduce the 2020 race to the second-most important political story in America.

More than anything else today, Pelosi needs to offer Democratic politicians some clarity about the impeachment process.

Because senators are getting restless.

"We are reaching a point where the articles of impeachment should be sent," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters yesterday, per NBC News.

And when it comes to impeachment, Democrats are probably better off when the subject is the substance - rather than the process.

Worst. Briefing. Ever.

As for Iran, it's not every day when members of Trump's own party take the administration to task over an intelligence briefing.

But that's exactly what happened yesterday, when Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, lambasted the administration's classified intelligence briefing into its decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

"It was probably the worst briefing I've seen at least on a military issue in the nine years I've served in the United States Senate," Lee said.

He added, "I walked into the briefing undecided, I walked out decided specifically because of what happened in that briefing."

Lee's criticism underscores that Trump probably didn't have the political cover to take any MORE action regarding Iran.

And also that the administration did a poor job of explaining its actions - not only to members of Congress, but also the public at large.

On "Today" this morning, NBC's Savannah Guthrie asked Vice President Mike Pence why the administration couldn't convince even GOP senators about the intelligence over its actions to kill Soleimani.

Pence said the administration didn't want to reveal its intelligence "sources and methods."

"If we were to share all of the intelligence … it could compromise those sources and methods," he said.

But even in a classified setting?

2020 Vision: Party of five?

Well, it looks like just five Democrats will be participating in next week's Dem debate from Iowa (if it does end up taking place) - Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.


Those five Dems, according to NBC's Ben Kamisar, have meet the polling threshold (hitting at least 5 percent in four approved polls, or 7 percent in two early-state polls) and fundraising requirement (225,000 unique donors) to qualify ahead of tomorrow's qualification deadline.

Those on the bubble: Tom Steyer (who needs two more polls of 5 percent), Andrew Yang (who needs three more) and Cory Booker (who needs four).

On the campaign trail today

President Trump holds a rally in Toledo, Ohio at 7:00 pm ET… Cory Booker stumps in Iowa… And Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard are in New Hampshire.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds

In Ohio yesterday as he drew one of his largest crowds, Michael Bloomberg discussed the Democrats' debate process, per NBC's Jordan Jackson. As the qualification deadline for the next Democratic debate comes up on Friday, Bloomberg told reporters that while he thought he should be allowed on the stage (Bloomberg has met the polling threshold, but is not taking individual contributions), he knew the rules going into it. "I would love to be able to participate in the debate, but the fact that I say I don't want even the appearance of me taking money from anybody else, not even $1, why should that just take away my right to be in the debate? Or Cory Booker, he qualifies for one but not for the other. Why shouldn't he be able to do it? But you got to talk to the party. They make their rules and they have a right to their rules, and you know the rules before you go in."

In New Hampshire yesterday, Andrew Yang continued to call President Trump's decision to strike and kill Qassem Soleimani a mistake, and he said that if elected president he would push war power back to the Congress, per NBC's Julia Jester. "Who has the authority to declare war on another country and our constitution is very clear it is for Congress to declare war," Yang said. "So what has happened over the last 19 years such that Congress is not touching any of these military decisions it's because Congress has ceded the authority to declare war to the president in the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force. They essentially said it's all yours. As president, I would pull us back from the brink of war in Iran, the Middle East. De-escalate tensions. Reinvest in our alliances and partnerships abroad and then push the power to declare war back to Congress where it belongs in the constitution."


Data Download: The number of the day is … 64 percent

64 percent.

That's the median share of adults across 32 countries around the globe who say they do not have confidence in President Trump to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs, according to a new global survey from the Pew Research Center.

Just 29 percent worldwide said they do have confidence.

Those skeptical of Trump included majorities in Germany (85 percent), France (78 percent), Canada (71 percent) and the United Kingdom (67 percent).

Countries where majorities expressed confidence in Trump included the Philippines (77 percent), Israel (71 percent), Kenya (65 percent) and India (56 percent).


Tweet of the day

The Lid: We Are The World

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we delved into the new Pew Research Center survey of views of Trump around the globe.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

The House will vote today on a war powers resolution to limit Trump's actions against Iran.

Steve Mnuchin wants a delay in the disclosure of security costs for the presidential family's travel.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she's cancer-free.

Keep an eye on what the new Democratic majority does in Virginia.


We won't have a special election for the seat formerly held by Rep. Duncan Hunter.

Trump Agenda: "Strategic muddle"

The New York Times calls Trump's strategy "a cease-fire wrapped in a strategic muddle."

Jonathan Allen reports on what Trump might have missed with his Iran strategy.

The White House is trying to change environmental rules to fast-track major projects like pipelines.

Some Senate Democrats are getting impatient with Nancy Pelosi's strategy of hanging on to the articles of impeachment.


White House counsel Pat Cipollone is expected to lead Trump's impeachment defense.

2020: Sunrise on my shoulders … makes me happy

The Sunrise Movement is endorsing Bernie Sanders.

Joe Biden might be more worried about Sanders than he's letting on.

Pete Buttigieg won his first endorsement from a black member of Congress.

Cory Booker says the impeachment trial could be a "big blow" to his campaign.


How much does Iowa really matter? POLITICO argues that it's less important than ever.

The Washington Post looks at the lives of the 2020 candidates' spouses.

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