Senate Republicans appear ready to fall in line on impeachment vote despite earlier concerns

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By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann  with NBC News Politics
Image: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to reporters at the Capitol on J
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks to reporters at the Capitol on Jan. 29, 2020.   -   Copyright  Samuel Corum Getty Images

DES MOINES, Iowa — It's so revealing how Republicans' attitudes about the Ukraine scandal have evolved in just four months.

We've gone from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., saying evidence of a quid pro quo would be "very disturbing," to GOP senators not willing to hear from John Bolton, who claims in a new book that President Trump told him he was linking Ukraine's security aid to investigating the Bidens.

We've also moved from some GOP senators being opposed to a president asking a foreign leader to dig up dirt on a political rival — "Look, it is not appropriate for any candidate for federal office, certainly, including a sitting president, to ask for assistance from a foreign country," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in September — to Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz now suggesting that a president could do almost anything to win re-election.

"If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment," Dershowitz said yesterday. "Every public official I know believes that his election is in the public interest."

That evolution tells you where we're likely headed: With Republicans wanting to wrap up the Senate impeachment trial — maybe as early as Friday.

But the rush to a resolution, especially with the Bolton news hanging over the trial, could end up ensuring that the final Senate vote becomes an indelible political moment in this nation's history.

Like the Iraq war vote. Or whether you supported or opposed Nixon's impeachment.

Republicans, eager to move on from this story, are gambling that President Trump will once again bend this controversy to his will, or that the public decides it simply doesn't care.

But what if there are more Ukraine revelations after the trial concludes? And what if the public concludes the trial—- and any prohibition of witnesses — was unfair?

Democrats, meanwhile, are gambling that history is on their side.

But what happens if Trump wins re-election? Will the impeachment exercise have backfired for them?

The political battle over Trump's impeachment might be coming to a conclusion.

But it's very likely the war will only continue in the months and years ahead.

Tweet of the day

Impeachment trial update

More Q&A: NBC's Capitol Hill team says that 93 (!!!) questions were asked on Day One of the Q&A between senators and the impeachment managers/Trump lawyers.

And on today's Day 2, the expectation is for another long day.

Where are we?

Last Tuesday: procedural jousting over the organizing resolution; rules passed around 2:00 a.m. ET

Last Wednesday: prosecution opening arguments, 8 hours

Last Thursday: prosecution, 8 hours

Last Friday: prosecution, 8 hours

Last Saturday: White House defense

Sunday: off

Monday: White House defense

Tuesday: White House defense

Yesterday: Senators' questions

Today: Senators' questions

Tomorrow: Vote on witnesses? Vote on acquittal?

Saturday: ???

Sunday: Off

Monday: Iowa caucuses

Tuesday: State of the Union

2020 Vision: Biden battles Trump as both stump in Iowa

With President Trump holding a rally this evening in Des Moines, Iowa, Joe Biden is using a morning campaign event in the Hawkeye State as a pre-buttal to Trump's visit, NBC's Marianna Sotomayor and Mike Memoli report.

"Trump and I have already gone one round with each other on health care," Biden is expected to say in Waukee, Iowa, per advanced excerpts his campaign released.

"In 2018, I went to 24 states for 65 candidates. I took on Trump all over the country — and beat him. In fact, we beat him like a drum — and in the process took back the majority in the House."

"We should remember that this year. I believe if we take the fight to Trump on Obamacare again — we'll beat him again. And we'll not only win the presidency — we'll win a majority in the Senate too."

On the campaign trail today

The activity in the Hawkeye State: President Trump holds a rally in Des Moines at 8:00 pm ET, while VP Pence makes multiple stops in the state… Joe Biden stumps in Waukee, Newton and Ottumwa… Pete Buttigieg holds town halls in Decorah, Independence, Marshalltown and Ankeny… Tom Steyer hits Burlington, Muscatine and Davenport… Andrew Yang is in Washington, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Cedar Falls… Elsewhere, Tulsi Gabbard and Deval Patrick are in New Hampshire… And Michael Bloomberg is in DC.

Dispatches from NBC's campaign embeds: Pete Buttigieg made a slight change to his stump speech after a swipe by Amy Klobuchar, NBC's Priscilla Thompson reports. "Buttigieg cut the line from his stump about wanting to turn the channel on impeachment in favor of cartoons (earlier today Klobuchar said she can't flip the channel because 'I have a job to do. I am in the arena and that's what I'm going to do). That being said, the mayor continued to lean into his message that the voters have the ultimate power over the president and the Senate. 'The senators are jurors when it comes to the president, but the Senate's on trial too," he said. 'And we're the jurors when it comes to the Senate and the presidency in 2020.'"

And less than a week before the Iowa caucuses, Andrew Yang is still receiving questions on his Universal Basic Income proposal, per NBC's Ben Pu. Pu reports that one town hall attendee asked if those who get federal subsidies would "have to choose between the federal subsidy and the universal basic income." Yang answered, "The only things that we ask people to make a choice between are cash and cash-like programs that are meant to be used for heating oil or something like that and anyone I've talked to is all those programs would prefer cash unconditionally."

Data Download: The number of the day is … $681,000

$681,000.

That's the amount of money the anti-Bernie Sanders group Democratic Majority for Israel is spending on ads in Iowa in the final week of the race (Jan. 28 to Feb. 3), according to data from Advertising Analytics.

The anti-Sanders ad the group is airing in heavy rotation - one of us saw it air twice within 15 minutes on local TV in Iowa - includes this line: "I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders' health considering he just had a heart attack," a woman says to camera.

Here is all of the ad spending for the final week of the Iowa contest (Jan. 28 to Feb. 3), according to Advertising Analytics:

  • Steyer: $1.4 million
  • Sanders: $1.2 million
  • Unite the Country (pro-Biden Super PAC): $992,000
  • Warren: $947,000
  • Buttigieg: $854,000
  • Klobuchar: $767,000
  • Democratic Majority for Israel: $681,000
  • Yang: $613,000
  • Biden: $530,000
  • Bloomberg: $51,000
  • Club for Growth: $34,000
  • Rick Scott: $19,000
  • Delaney: $19,000

The Lid: Raucous Caucus

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we reviewed exactly how this whole Iowa caucus procedure actually works.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

If you missed Day One of the Senate Q&A, here's what you need to know.

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Melissa Holzberg has the latest on that testy Georgia Senate race.

Almost all the 2020 action is in Iowa — but here's what's been happening in New Hampshire in the meantime.

Trump Agenda: Under Pressure

Trump allies really like the idea of a bipartisan acquittal in the Senate — and they're putting a lot of pressure on a few Senate Democrats.

John Bolton's lawyersays his book doesn't contain classified material.

Critics say that the Trump administration didn't do enough to save an American who died in an Egyptian prison.

So far, Trump has avoided becoming a big part of the coronavirus story in the U.S.

2020: Getting the frontrunner treatment

Sanders is getting the frontrunner treatment.

For the first time, bilingual English-Spanish satellite caucuses are being held in Iowa.

Joe Biden wants to win union support. But it's complicated.

And Biden has the edge in the latest Monmouth poll of Iowa.