TRUMP LEGAL TEAM URGES DISMISSAL OF IMPEACHMENT ARTICLES: President Trump’s legal team urged the Senate to swiftly reject the House’s two articles of impeachment against him, calling the case frivolous and dangerous while offering for the first time a detailed legal defense for why he shouldn’t be removed from office (Wall Street Journal). Mr. Trump’s team submitted a 171-page legal filing with the Senate Monday, a day before the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history kicks off in earnest and just hours before the president departed Washington for a global economic conference in Switzerland. The White House document argues the impeachment articles approved by the Democratic-controlled House last month included no violation of law and describes Mr. Trump as operating in the national interest in his dealings with Ukraine that are central to the impeachment articles. “The Articles themselves—and the rigged process that brought them here—are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, wrote in the filings, which include a 110-page brief and 61 pages of backup materials. “They debase the grave power of impeachment and disdain the solemn responsibility that power entails.”

PENCE HEADS OUT OF WASHINGTON AS TRIAL BEGINS: Halfway through Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, on the same day the Senate refused to dismiss two charges against him, Vice President Al Gore arrived at an airport hangar in St. Louis to greet Pope John Paul II before he returned to Rome. This time, Mike Pence is going straight to Rome himself (Politico). The current vice president will meet with Pope Francis in Vatican City this week while his own boss’ impeachment trial is underway — ditching Washington for a trip that will keep him thousands of miles away from the high-stakes saga threatening to upend not only Trump’s political future, but increasingly his own. Apart from Trump himself, few politicians have as much to gain or lose over the next few weeks as the man second in line for the presidency. Though the outcome of Trump’s trial has appeared preordained for weeks — conviction and removal from office would require an unrealistic 20 Republican defections— potential witnesses and new evidence released by House Democrats last Tuesday could entangle the vice president in a mess he has deliberately tried to sidestep as he considers a White House bid of his own in 2024. But despite his best efforts, Pence keeps getting pulled into the scandal at the heart of impeachment — that the president withheld financial aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to announce politically advantageous probes. “If there came a point where Mike was seriously forced to weigh his own career against his loyalty to Trump,” mused a person close to the vice president, “that would be one hell of a twist.”

51% IN CNN POLL FAVOR TRUMP'S CONVICTION; REMOVAL: About half of Americans say the Senate should vote to convict President Donald Trump and remove him from office in the upcoming impeachment trial (51%), according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, while 45% say the Senate should vote against conviction and removal. Nearly seven in 10 (69%) say that upcoming trial should feature testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry. And as Democrats in the Senate seek to persuade at least four Republican senators to join them on votes over allowing witnesses in the trial, the Republican rank and file are divided on the question: 48% say they want new witnesses, while 44% say they do not. The poll is the first major national telephone poll since the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate, formally launching Trump's trial there. Overall, 89% of Democrats say he should be removed from office, while just 8% of Republicans feel the same way. Among independents, it's nearly dead even: 48% say the Senate should vote to remove him, while 46% say that they should not. Nearly six in 10 women (59%) say the Senate should remove Trump from office; 42% of men agree.

BIDEN OPENS UP LEAD IN IOWA POLL: Joe Biden leads the Democratic field in Iowa, according to a new poll out Monday, two weeks before the Feb. 3 caucuses. The Focus on Rural America poll shows the former vice president with 24 percent and the next three top-tier candidates bunched behind him, with Elizabeth Warren at 18 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 16 percent and Bernie Sanders at 14 percent. Amy Klobuchar clocked in at 11 percent (Politico). The survey of 500 likely 2020 caucus goers, conducted January 15-18, and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. There’s some indication that Warren and Sanders suffered fallout from their recent spat — including during and after last week's debate — over whether a woman could beat President Donald Trump. Warren contended Sanders told her in a private 2018 conversation that he did not believe a woman could win, which Sanders denied. When asked if there was a candidate they would not support based on the debate, 12 percent of those surveyed said Warren and 11 percent said Sanders. The next highest was billionaire Tom Steyer at 4 percent.

BLOOMBERG'S MASSIVE TV AD BUY RAISING PRICES: Michael Bloomberg’s big-spending, shock-and-awe TV ad campaign has made politicking more expensive for everyone from his 2020 rivals to Senate, House and state legislative candidates around the country (Politico). Eight weeks into his presidential campaign, Bloomberg has already spent more money on advertising — $248 million — than most candidates could spend in years. That amount has squeezed TV ad inventory in nearly every state, lowering supply and causing stations to raise ad prices at a time of high demand, as candidates around the country gear up for their primaries. “I think we might have been one of the first campaigns to experience the ‘Bloomberg Effect’ on prices, but we certainly won't be the last,” said Eric Jaye, a California-based media buyer who purchased ads for Sylvester Turner, the just-reelected Democratic mayor of Houston. The last few weeks of Turner’s campaign overlapped with Bloomberg’s massive November ad buy that covered all of the lower 48 states. His spending in Houston, priced at $1.2 million, spiked ad prices there by 45 percent as the mayoral campaign was finishing up.

MORE THAN 40 STATES COULD HAVE LEGAL POT BY END OF 2020: More than 40 U.S. states could allow some form of legal marijuana by the end of 2020, including deep red Mississippi and South Dakota — and they’re doing it with the help of some conservatives (Politico). State lawmakers are teeing up their bills as legislative sessions kick off around the country, and advocates pushing ballot measures are racing to collect and certify signatures to meet deadlines for getting their questions to voters. Should they succeed, every state could have marijuana laws on the books that deviate from federal law, but people could still be prosecuted if they drive across state lines with their weed, because the total federal ban on marijuana isn’t expected to budge any time soon. The changes could usher in even more confusion for law enforcement and escalate the pressure on Congress to act. Federal bills are crawling through Congress, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell firmly against legalization. But at the least, hopes will be high that federal hurdles to researching the effects of pot and restrictions on banking in the cannabis sector will ease. “We’re cautiously optimistic that we can win more marijuana reform ballot initiatives on one Election Day than on any previous Election Day,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project. Schweich cited growing public support for the issue among both liberals and conservatives.

SEC. PERDUE EXPECTS 3RD ROUND OF 'TRADE AID' PAYMENTS TO FARMERS: Even though the first trade deal with China has been signed, Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says he still expects U.S. farmers to get a third-round of 2019 trade aid payments (Hoosier Ag Today). USDA hasn’t officially announced if and when the farmers would get those payments. Perdue tells Bloomberg that the move is still waiting for approval from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Perdue says the agreement won’t interfere with the final round of trade assistance payments made under the Market Facilitation Program. “My expectation is the third round will be issued immediately,” Perdue says. “I’m counting on it, but we’ve got to get that allocated through OMB. But I see no reason why we can’t get that done.”

HAZLETT SAYS OPIOID CRISIS PRESSING RURAL RESOURCES: For the first time in more than 30 years, the number of deaths from drug overdoses declined back in 2018. That number is estimated to be around 70,000 people a year, or 200 people a day, and rural America is not spared in that total calculation. Anne Hazlett, Senior Adviser for Rural Affairs of the White House office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), said rural communities are losing valuable resources for economic development combating the opioid crisis (Davenport, Hoosier Ag Today). “The impact that drug addiction has on any community is significant — whether it’s law enforcement or the need for healthcare access and social services — but particularly in a rural area where a county might not have the resources that an urban center would,” she said. “The impact is even more significant because the resources are more limited. The rural hospital infrastructure is challenging and in some of our areas—particularly those that are hard hit. We’ve had to look at other resources—accessing care through telemedicine or looking at some of the other providers that might be able to assist in an area.” Roughly 74 percent of farmers have been impacted by the opioid crisis. Hazlett said she has seen more communities step up and recognize the challenges that come with opioid addiction. The first step to taking action is acknowledging there is a stigma.

DIGITAL MEDIA TURNS A PROFIT: Digital publishing is doing something it hasn't done en masse since the dawn of the internet: Make money (Axios). Business Insider, Vox Media, The Information, Axios and Politico all turned profits in 2019 — in several cases, for the first time ever, sources tell Axios media-trends expert Sara Fischer. Howey Politics Indiana has turned profits for nearly two decades. Others — The Athletic, BuzzFeed and Vice — say they expect to this year. Among the trends working in digital media’s favor: A global wave of new copyright laws means that platforms are likely to have to start paying publishers for the right to carry their content, even if it's just a linked headline or bit of text. Some tech companies are getting ahead of it. Facebook is paying select publishers millions of dollars annually to distribute their content.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: That 51% in the CNN Poll, which mirrors the recent Fox News Poll, favor President Trump's removal from office via impeachment is ominous for Republicans. Not that it is a precursor to his losing Senate Republican support, but it bodes ill for his reelection and the party's prospects this November. That 69% (including 48% of Republicans) want witnesses is also fascinating and portends to danger for the GOP. In 1998-99, President Clinton enjoyed wide popular support. Gallup put his job approval at 60% in the summer of 1998 and it spiked to 73% after the December House impeachment vote. According to Pew Research, only 30% favored Clinton's removal from office prior to his Senate acquittal. As for President Nixon, in the spring of 1974 Gallup had just 44% who thought he should be removed from office, while just 41% disagreed. After the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to surrender the audio tapes, 57% favored his removal. - Brian A. Howey



Campaigns

HOLCOMB TO FILE AT 8:30 THIS MORNING: Gov. Eric Holcomb will officially file to run for reelection with the Indiana Secretary of State at 8:30 a.m. today, submitting thousands of certified petition signatures for ballot placement from Hoosiers across Indiana (Howey Politics Indiana). He will be joined by his campaign manager, Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer.

2 FIRST-TIME CANDIDATES ENTER 1ST CD RACE: Two political novices are joining the increasingly crowded field of candidates seeking to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, in Congress (Carden, NWI Times). Highland Democrat Scott Costello said he hopes Northwest Indiana voters will be attracted to his progressive values, while Michigan City Republican Dion Bergeron said it's long past time for a blue collar alternative to the Region's Democratic machine. Costello is a behavioral health director at a local hospital. If elected, his agenda includes enacting a $15 per hour minimum wage, Medicare for All, college debt forgiveness, free public education through college and sustainable energy policies. He describes himself as a working-class candidate fighting for the working class. As such, he's forgoing campaign donations from corporations or related interests.

REP. CAMPBELL KICKS OFF REELECTION BID: State Rep. Chris Campbell launched her re-election campaign on Sunday at the Democrat Headquarters in Lafayette (WLFI-TV). In the past year Campbell has worked on 13 bills. Among many of those bills were issues like seat belts on school buses, exotic or dangerous wild animals and paid family medical leave. If re-elected Campbell hopes to target mental illness, teacher wages and more. "I think it's so important that people vote. Your vote is your voice and I want to be their voice in the statehouse," said Campbell. At this time no one has filed to run against Campbell.

GOP CONGRESS OF COUNTIES TO OFFER TECH TRAINING: If you're running for office this year, in the future, or volunteering for a campaign -- it's crucial you're trained on the latest voter technology. Technology has been evolving and improving for decades and it will continue affecting all aspects of our lives, including campaigns and elections (Howey Politics Indiana). If you haven't yet, register now for Congress of Counties! We're offering personal, 30-minute demonstrations on the latest walk and phone apps for you/your county. The information provided during these sessions is critical to keep Indiana on the right track for the 2020 campaigns and elections.

PRIMARY FILINGS: Two more General Assembly rematches have taken shape in primary filings with the Indiana secretary of state's office (Howey Politics Indiana). Democrat Aimee Rivera Cole has filed in HD37, seeking a rematch with Speaker-elect Todd Huston. Democrat Mark Hinton has filed, seeking a rematch with State Rep. Gerald Torr. Hinton will face Ashley Klein in the HD39 Democratic primary.

Congress: John Henry Hall, D, CD1; Jayson Reeves, D, CD1; Ellen Marks, D, 2nd CD; Thomas Allan Schrader, D, 3rd CD; Joe Mackey, D, 4th CD; Howard Pollchik, D, 4th CD; Christina Hale, D, 5th CD; Dion Bergeron, R, CD1; Danny Niederberger, R, CD5.

Indiana Senate: Luke Bohm, D, SD5; Laura Fred-Smith, D, SD18; Stan Albaugh, D, SD24; Greg Taylor, D, SD33; Jean D. Breaux, D, SD34; Jason E. Fletcher, D, SD36; Ed Charbonneau, R, SD5; Ryan Mishler, R, SD9; Scott A. Baldwin, R, SD20; Eric A. Koch, R, SD44; Vaneta G. Becker, R, SD50.

Indiana House: Earl L. Harris, D, HD2; Ryan M. Dvorak, D, HD8; Terri Jo Austin, D, HD36; Aimee Rivera Cole, D, HD37; Mark Hinton, D, HD39; Ashley Klein, D, HD39; Joseph Christian Lehman, D, HD49; Cindy (Cynthia) Reinert, D, HD58; Cynthia D. Wirth, D, HD59; John Hurley, D, HD75; Ryan D. Hatfield, D, HD77; Kyle R Miller, D, HD81; Belinda Drake, D, HD89; Cherrish S. Pryor, D, HD94; Eugene P. Dooley, Sr., D, HD95; Gregory W Porter, D, HD96; Ed Soliday, R, HD4; Jake Teshka, R, SD7; Tom Wichlinski, R, HD12; Craig Snow, R, HD18; Julie Olthoff, R, HD19; Curt Nisly, R, HD22; John (J.D.) Prescott, R, HD33; Elizabeth Rowray, R, HD35; Heath R. VanNatter, R, HD38; Gregory E. Steuerwald, R, HD40; Tim Brown, R, HD41; Bruce Borders, R, H45; Christy Stutzman, R, HD49; Dennis J Zent, R, HD51; Brad Barrett, R, HD56; Sean Eberhart, R, HD57; Bruce Armstrong, R, HD58; Jay Hart, R, HD58; Shane M. Lindauer, R, HD63; Matt Hostettler, R, HD64; Mark Cox, HD73; Holli Sullivan, R, HD78; Matthew S. Lehman, R, HD16; Bob Morris, R, HD 84; Ryan C. Royer, R, HD87; Chris Jeter, R, HD88.

Presidential 2020

BUTTIGIEG SEEKS MODERATE SUPPORT: Pete Buttigieg likes to start off his stump speech by asking the crowd to envision the day when "the sun comes up" and Donald Trump is no longer president. The first potentially concrete development on this front takes place in two weeks, when Iowans go to caucus in the first Democratic voting contest on February 3 (CBS News). He has been hitting the trail hard, reminding Iowa caucus goers that it is "decision time." A campaign aide told CBS News that the former South Bend mayor will continue to emphasize his belief in the importance of building a broad coalition. He often mentions his campaign is reaching out to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, moderates and "future former Republicans."

PARSCALE SAYS VOTERS TUNING OUT DEMS: President Trump's reelection campaign manager Brad Parscale told Fox News' "Bill Hemmer Reports" Monday that the forthcoming Senate impeachment trial was unlikely to have any impact at the polls this November, and may even help the president's chances (Fox News). "From the campaign side, our numbers have gone up [since impeachment]," Parscale told host Bill Hemmer. "I told the president this right out of the gate. I said, 'If they try to impeach you and they try to do this [to you] for doing nothing wrong at all, you're the one that's going to come victorious out of this.' It's going to create lots of fundraising -- we have over $200 million in the bank between our committees -- our numbers have gone up, and independents see this farce, and this hoax." Parscale also dismissed the field of potential challengers to the president, saying most Americans had "tuned out" their arguments.

BIDEN CAMPAIGN WARNS MEDIA OF TRUMP DISINFORMATION: Joe Biden’s campaign issued a memo to media outlets on Monday warning them against spreading “false accusations” driven by President Donald Trump and Republicans against the former vice president (Politico). The memo, released a day before the start of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, says there is “no evidence” for disproven claims pushed by the president that Biden sidelined a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating an energy company that his son, Hunter, held a high-paid position with.

SANDERS APOLOGIZES TO BIDEN FOR OP-ED: Sen. Bernie Sanders apologized to Joe Biden late Monday for an op-ed a prominent supporter wrote accusing the former vice president of having a “big corruption problem,” and Sanders urged his backers to exercise civility on the heels of heated disputes with his rivals (Washington Post). In an interview with CBS News, Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed contrition for the op-ed, which was written by law professor Zephyr Teachout for the Guardian newspaper and was promoted by the Sanders campaign in a newsletter. Teachout endorsed Sanders last year, and his campaign touted her support. “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared,” Sanders said in the interview. A Sanders campaign spokesman confirmed his comments. Biden replied to Sanders on Twitter. “Thanks for acknowledging this, Bernie. These kinds of attacks have no place in this primary. Let’s all keep our focus on making Donald Trump a one-term president,” he wrote.



General Assembly

BILL WOULD PREVENT EMPLOYEE MICROCHIPPING: The Indiana House is poised to vote Tuesday on what may be the most significant piece of pro-worker legislation since Republicans took majority control of the chamber in 2011 (Carden, NWI Times). It's not an increase in state's $7.25 per hour minimum wage, unchanged since 2009. It's not a requirement that businesses provide employees with their work schedules a week in advance. And it certainly won't make it easier for workers to organize into unions and collectively bargain for wages and benefits. Instead, House Bill 1143 would expressly prohibit an employer from requiring an employee, or a job candidate, to have an identification or tracking device implanted in their body as a condition of employment. There currently are no employers in the United States that require employees have a device implanted or otherwise incorporated into their bodies as a condition of employment, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. But state Rep. Alan Morrison, R-Brazil, the sponsor, said one company in Wisconsin and several in Sweden are using employee microchips on a voluntary basis, and he's concerned about the trend coming to the Hoosier State.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOR ILEARN DECUPPLING BILL: A bill decoupling teacher evaluations from ILEARN scores still faces an uncertain future in the Senate, even after sailing through the House (Berman, WIBC). The House voted unanimously to stop linking teachers' paychecks to their students' test scores. But Governor Holcomb and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray have been noncommittal, and Speaker Brian Bosma says he hasn't discussed it with Senate leaders yet. Current law requires ILEARN scores to be part of the calculation of a teacher's effectiveness, which in turn is part of the formula in determining pay. Teachers have argued for years there are too many factors in those scores which have little to do with how good a teacher is. Bosma says even he expected more opposition among House Republicans when he made it part of the caucus's agenda for this year's session. There has been opposition, notably from the Indiana Chamber, which contends cutting test scores out of the equation for rating teachers would undermine schools' accountability for results. But in the House, that opposition didn't sway any votes.

REP. LUCAS ATTENDS GUN RIGHTS RALLY IN VA: Thousands of people on Monday filled the State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia. Some were packing heat (WISH-TV). In the crowd was Indiana state Rep. Jim Lucas, a Republican from Seymour. “It was just incredible. I’ve never seen so much ‘open carry’ in my life. Long guns, handguns, everything.” Holding signs and chanting, gun-rights advocates went to Richmond for Lobby Day. They protested plans by the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature to pass tighter rules on gun ownership. “A lot of the Democrat legislators out there, they’re really pushing to start eliminating a lot of the freedoms and rights. Well, I guess you can’t eliminate a right, you can infringe it. The rights they currently have, they’re going backward. People are upset and it showed,” Lucas said.

Congress

SENATE TRIAL SCHEDULE: Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's trial plan (Axios): The Senate will vote today on rules for the trial. Opening arguments start tomorrow. House Democratic managers and Trump's defense team will each be given up to 24 hours over two days. Senators will then have 16 hours to submit their questions to Roberts. After the Q&A period, the Senate will vote on whether to consider and debate witness subpoenas. If the Senate votes yes, each side can move to subpoena witnesses. Ultimately, the Senate will vote on whether to convict the president and remove him from office.

VISCLOSKY TO ADDRESS CROSSROADS CHAMBER: U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, will speak with Northwest Indiana business owners about what he has been up to lately (NWI Times). He addresses the Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce monthly member luncheon on Tuesday. In addition to talking about his action in Congress, Visclosky will talk about initiatives he's working on.

State

EDUCATION: IU DEDICATES SUPER COMPUTER - IU has dedicated one of the world's fastest supercomputers -- again. Big Red 200 is eight times faster than its predecessor, Big Red 2, which at seven years old is obsolete. It's 8,000 times faster than IU's first supercomputer, which came online in 2001 (Berman, WIBC). At 8,000 calculations a second, president Michael McRobbie says Big Red 200 will have applications across academic disciplines, from cancer and Alzheimer's research to modeling climate change. Informatics associate dean Kay Connelly says the computer's ability to expand its knowledge with each calculation enables detailed simulations which were impossible before. She says it instantly catapults IU researchers to the top of their fields. Big Red 200 arrived on campus two weeks ago, but the dedication was timed to fall on the date of IU's bicentennial.

EDUCATION: VU COMPLETES RESOURCE CENTER - Vincennes University has officially completed an $8 million renovation of its Curtis G. Shake Learning Resource Center. The university will tomorrow host an open house and rededication to commemorate the improved student hub (WISH-TV). Dr. Laura Treanor, VU Provost and Vice President of Instructional Services/Dean of Faculty, and Director of Architectural Services and Facilities Andrew Young will each make remarks at the ceremony. The Resource Center houses several support departments, including the Center for Teaching and Learning, Counseling Center, Office of Diverse Abilities and Accommodations, Knowledge Market, Shake Library and the Student Success Center and Testing Center. The center now offers group and individual study spaces. Moveable furniture, laptop chairs, computer stations and charging ports were also part of the update.

MEDIA: MOVIE EXTRAS WANTED FOR FRENCH LICK SHOOT -  Pigasus Pictures and 1804 Productions are looking for extras to be casted in their feature film in southern Indiana (WTHR-TV). The company is looking to fill 500 slots for a large festival scene that will take place on Jan. 25 from 4:30 p.m. to midnight. No compensation will be provided, however, they will offer refreshments and an unforgettable experience on a professional film set! If you are interested and available for this opportunity, please fill out the following form by 5 p.m. today.

Nation

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP HEADED TO DAVOS - On one of the most historic days of his presidency, President Trump will be 4,000 miles from the nation’s capital, huddling with world leaders and business executives in the snow-covered mountains of Switzerland (Wall Street Journal). Mr. Trump is scheduled to arrive in Davos on Tuesday to take part in the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering of global elites. Back in Washington on the same day, the Senate will commence a trial to determine whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office. The dueling events could make for an unusual split screen, but the president’s advisers believe the trip will give Mr. Trump an opportunity to show that he’s not letting the impeachment trial, which is viewed as unlikely to result in conviction by the GOP-led Senate, stand in the way of his duties as president. The president is slated to deliver a speech in Davos Tuesday. He will also be accompanied by a delegation of senior officials and cabinet secretaries, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

WHITE HOUSE: GIULIANI DISTANCES FROM PARNAS - Rudy Giuliani went on Laura Ingraham's prime-time Fox News show last night and tried to distance himself from close associate Lev Parnas, who has gone on camera to say President Trump authorized shenanigans in Ukraine: "Lev is someone I'm — I was close to. Obviously, I was misled by him. I feel very bad. I was godfather to his child and spent a lot of time ... I still feel sorry for him. I'm not going to respond to him for each and every one of the misrepresentations he's made, because there are so many. If I’m called as a witness, I’m prepared to do it."

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP, PENCE VISIT MLK MEMORIAL - President Donald Trump on Monday made an unscheduled, unannounced trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in recognition of the holiday honoring the civil rights icon (CNN). Vice President Mike Pence joined the President on the brisk January afternoon, just a couple hours before Trump is set to depart the White House for a quick trip to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum. Earlier Monday, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway told reporters in the briefing room that Trump "agrees with many of the things that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for and agreed with for many years, including unity and equality."

WHITE HOUSE: CONWAY SAYS 'NO COMPARISON' BETWEEN TRUMP, CLINTON TRIALS - Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway on Monday blasted the notion that President Trump’s impeachment is comparable to President Bill Clinton’s, asserting that “there is no comparison” based on the “substance of the facts” (Fox News). “He [Clinton] lied to the grand jury on August 17th, 1998 and then he was impeached,” Conway told “America’s Newsroom.” Conway went on to say, “[Clinton asked] his staff to lie, he’s lying to his staff, to his cabinet, to members of Congress, and then lying to the grand jury several times, including in front of the whole world in videotaped testimony.”

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE DESCRIBED AS 'MOST PERSECUTED CHRISTIAN' - Church leaders praised U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s Christian faith and conservative values upon his visit to Holy City Church of God in Christ in Memphis on Sunday (Memphis Commercial Appeal). “As the vice president of the United States, he came here as a brother in Christ,” said Bishop Vincent Mathews Jr., COGIC World Missions president. “He didn’t come here to campaign. He just said he wanted to worship as I came here to celebrate my hero, Martin Luther King.” Pence found a warm reception at the church, where he said President Donald Trump's administration has “made every effort to open pathways to the American dream for every American.” Church leaders noted commonalities between their faith and Pence’s, with Mathews calling Pence “one of the most persecuted Christians in America.” “The biggest criticism that he gets all over television and everywhere else is that he actually believes the Bible,” Mathews said. “People criticize him for believing the Bible. They hate him for believing.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump was slated to give an address in Davos in the 5 a.m. hour Eastern time. At 6:15 a.m., he is slated to speak with Klaus Schwab, who runs the World Economic Forum. At 6:35 a.m., the president is scheduled to participate in a reception with the International Business Council. At 8:30 a.m., he is scheduled to meet with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. At 10:15 a.m., he will speak with Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga. At 11:20 a.m., he will meet with Pakistani PM Imran Khan. At 12:30 p.m., he will have dinner with CEOs before heading back to his hotel.

VIRGINIA: NO VIOLENCE AT PRO-GUN RALLY - Thousands of gun-rights advocates packed the streets around the Virginia Capitol on Monday, bristling with weapons, flags and passionate shouts of “U-S-A! U-S-A!” but never erupting into the violence authorities had feared (Washington Post). Armed militias carrying assault-style weapons marched in formation in the streets until the crowds grew too thick. Protesters without firearms filed through 17 metal detectors at a single entrance to Capitol Square, where Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had banned guns and some 6,000 people cheered fiery speeches about the Second Amendment.

JUSTICE: PARNAS ASKS BARR TO RECUSE - An attorney for indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas on Monday filed a request for the recusal of Attorney General William Barr in connection with the prosecution of Parnas, alleging Barr has a conflict of interest and should be removed from the matter "in an effort to preserve the public trust in the rule of law" (CNN). In a letter sent to Barr and filed in New York federal court, where Parnas is facing trial for allegedly violating campaign finance laws, Parnas's attorney said Barr's involvement in the case has resulted in both harmful perceptions and "actual harm to Mr. Parnas."

Local

VALPARAISO: SCHOOL THREAT RECEIVED - A suspicious social media message being shared by local students was found to have no credibility or pose any threat of violence at this time, police said (NWI Times). "Police and school officials are confident that Valparaiso Community Schools are safe for normal operations," according to a statement issued Monday afternoon by police. The anonymous message comes just a couple weeks after police investigated false rumors of a potential bomb threat at Valparaiso High School.

FORT WAYNE: MAYOR HENRY SAYS ANCHOR COMING FOR ELECTRIC WORKS - Mayor Tom Henry told members of the downtown Rotary Club Monday that Electric Works may be on the verge of locking down a critical anchor tenant for the major development project (WPTA-TV). If it comes to fruition, that tenant could rescue the project from the scrap heap. The mayor's speech to the Rotary Club of Fort Wayne happens every January, a few weeks before his "State of the City" address. Henry told the gathering that the developers looking to transform the vacant GE campus into a $230-million "mixed use" project-- including offices, retail shops and places to eat-- are close to landing a large company interested in locating its headquarters in up to 200,000 square feet of space at the abandoned GE property. "And they're very serious. Wouldn't that be something for downtown Fort Wayne. We're probably talking in the area of 500 jobs," the mayor said. “We’ve got four or five new buildings that are going up and as well as the Phase Two of the Riverfront, so I think you’re going to see a lot of activity downtown,” Henry said (WANE-TV). “We’re going to be spending over 30 million dollars in our neighborhoods so there’s going to be a lot of activity from an infrastructure perspective in 2020.”

NAPPANEE: JOANNA GAINES INTERESTED IN AMISH ACRES - A popular northern Indiana attraction is gaining national attention as it gets ready to hit the auction block (WTHR-TV). Amish Acres will be auctioned off February 5 and the 50-acre property has a growing list of interested buyers. Among those who have inquired about the sale is celebrity designer Joanna Gaines, according to our partners at the Goshen News. The auction house that's handling the sale said Gaines' party is interested in log cabins on the property. The Nappanee tourist destination closed January 1 after 50 years in business. It will be sold in 16 tracts, including the Round Barn Theatre, a restaurant, a meeting house and Amish Acres' 62-room inn. Some of the tracts include land that could be developed or buildings that are slated for removal.

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: NEW SHERIFF MENTAL HEALTH LIAISON -  The St. Joseph County Police Department is adding a new liaison officer to help connect people with local mental health providers (South Bend Tribune). "There is a tremendous need for a dedicated officer to assist with ensuring that those that need mental health services are receiving those services, and that they are following through with their treatments," Sheriff Bill Redman said in a statement. After requesting applications last month from officers, Redman promoted Cpl. Daniel Banicki, a 24-year veteran of the department, to fill the position. In 2019, more than 1,000 people received a 48-hour or 72-hour mental health commitment at the order of a judge.

OWEN COUNTY: LIBRARY FINES ENDED: The Owen County Public Library’s trustees voted last month to end overdue fines on Jan. 1, and last week the Monroe County Public Library’s trustees voted both to end overdue fines and cancel patrons’ past debt (AP). Both counties had charged 25-cent daily overdue fines, although they had eliminated fines for overdue children’s books years ago, The Herald-Times reported. The Owen County Public Library’s director, Ginger Kohr, said her staff and board had been urging her to drop overdue fines. She decided the time had come after seeing that libraries from Martinsville to Chicago had dropped fines.