The first business day of the New Year arrives with President Donald Trump still at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, and most lawmakers in the Congress back home with their constituents - but there was still some news which bubbled up over the Christmas break which could certainly impact the 2020 elections.
President Trump was very active as usual on Twitter, gouging Democrats over their effort to force a Senate impeachment trial, and reprimanding the press.
"The Fake News said I played golf today, and I did NOT!" Mr. Trump tweeted on New Year's Eve, as he spent the day at one of his Florida golf courses.
Here's a few updates as we swing into 2020.
1. Impeachment articles still in the House. The situation remains the same with the impeachment effort by Democrats in Congress against President Trump. Two articles of impeachment were approved by the House back on December 18 - but the actual papers have not been walked across the Capitol to the Senate. And until that happens, no Senate impeachment trial can begin. Democrats are trying to use that as leverage to force Republicans to call current and former White House officials who refused to cooperate during the House investigation. Look for Republicans to continue to make the argument that the longer Democrats hold back the papers in the House, it's an admission their case is weak.
2. The battle over the Obama health law continues. Just before Christmas, a three judge panel in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the individual mandate of the Obama health law was unconstitutional, but sent the ruling back to a federal district judge for more work. It still leaves the Affordable Care Act in legal limbo on the mandate - which requires people to buy health insurance coverage - as the Trump Administration has refused to defend it against this legal challenge by a group of states opposed to the law. Democrats believe it's a big opening for them, as they plan to remind voters that almost three years into his term, President Trump still has not put forward a plan to replace the Obama health law - and yet he's trying to repeal it in the courts.
3. Trump ally passes on Senate bid in New Hampshire. Let's be honest. No one with any political chops that I know of expected former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2020. Lewandowski had talked last summer about challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen D-NH in the Granite State, but announced this week that he would not enter the race. Even though New Hampshire is considered a swing state, Shaheen seems to be in a strong spot for re-election, as only three GOP candidates are in the race, and all of them have raised little money. One would think that Lewandowski will continue to do media work for the President, and maybe reappear on the 2020 campaign.
4. Trump says he will sign China trade deal January 15. The "Phase One" trade deal between the U.S. and China will evidently have a White House signing ceremony in mid-January - while we have the bullet points of what this deal is about, it's still not clear what exactly the two sides have agreed to - like, how much new agricultural purchases will the Chinese make from U.S. farm producers, what crops, when, and how much money is involved? Those details are still somewhat squishy, and we will see whether they get hashed out further by January 15.
5. Federal Reserve gives thumbs down to Trump tariffs. In a report released over the holiday break, the Federal Reserve found that President Trump's 'unprecedented' push over the last two years to slap tariffs on imports from other countries has not been a good thing for the U.S. economy. "We find that tariff increases enacted in 2018 are associated with relative reductions in manufacturing employment and relative increases in producer prices," the Fed report states. In other words, the President's plan was to use higher tariffs to boost U.S. manufacturing - but the Fed says the tariffs didn't do that, and only resulted in higher prices.
6. Putin blames Poland for starting World War II. Talk about fake news, this was a doozy in recent days from Russian leader Vladimir Putin, who has said multiple times that Poland caused the start of WW II. We all know that isn't true, as the Nazis invaded Poland, and then the Soviet Union joined in occupying the eastern part of Poland. But the Russian leader has been aiming barbs at the Poles. "Essentially they colluded with Hitler," he said recently. One must wonder - why is Putin turning up the public rhetoric against Poland? The Polish Prime Minister said, "President Putin has lied about Poland on numerous occasions, and he has always done it deliberately." We have learned one thing - Putin doesn't say stuff, just because. So what is this about?
7. Get ready - the 2020 campaign is about to accelerate. It's probably not what you want to see, after dealing with family and the relatives over the break, but the political temperature is definitely going to go up a bit in coming weeks, as the 2020 race for President is only a month away from the first votes being cast. The Iowa Caucus is the first Monday in February. New Hampshire comes eight days later. And then we have two straight contests on the final two Saturdays of February, followed immediately by a big Super Tuesday contest. After those four weeks, we should have a very good idea who has a chance, and who is going home, when it comes to the Democratic Party nomination for President.