Senate Republicans work to block witnesses

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On the roster: Senate Republicans work to block witnesses - I’ll Tell You What: Wang dang doodles - Bernie raises big off negative super PAC ad - Conservative group to air ad attacking Collins - What can a little Dolly Parton not do?

SENATE REPUBLICANS WORK TO BLOCK WITNESSES
NYT: “The White House and Senate Republicans worked aggressively on Wednesday to discount damaging revelations from John R. Bolton and line up the votes to block new witnesses from testifying in President Trump’s impeachment trial, in a push to bring the proceeding to a swift close. As the Senate opened a two-day, 16-hour period of questioning from senators, Mr. Trump laced into Mr. Bolton, his former national security adviser, whose unpublished manuscript contains an account that contradicts his impeachment defense. The president described Mr. Bolton on Twitter as a warmonger who had ‘begged’ for his job, was fired, and then wrote ‘a nasty & untrue book.’ On Capitol Hill, Mr. Trump’s aides circulated a letter informing Mr. Bolton that the White House was moving to block publication of his forthcoming book, in which he wrote that the president refused to release military aid to Ukraine until its leaders committed to investigating his political rivals.”

Bolton’s lawyer says book does not contain classified material - WaPo: “An attorney for John Bolton has pushed back against the White House’s assessment that his book manuscript contains classified material and asked for an expedited review of a chapter about Ukraine in case the former national security adviser is called to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. The Jan. 24 email to the White House from Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, was in response to a letter from the National Security Council a day earlier warning that the manuscript contained ‘significant amounts’ of classified material that could not be disclosed publicly. … He added that Bolton is ‘preparing’ for the possibility he could be called to testify in the ongoing Senate trial, writing that it was ‘imperative that we have the results of your review of that chapter as soon as possible.’”

Justice Roberts blocks Sen. Paul from naming whistleblower - Fox News: “Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts blocked Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul from posing a question during the Senate impeachment trial Wednesday that would have named the alleged whistleblower at the center of the case, Fox News is told — and Paul may try to force the issue during the question-and-answer session that begins Thursday afternoon. Roberts, for now, has ball control because he actually receives the questions in note cards from senators, then reads the question aloud in the Senate chamber to be answered by either House Democratic managers or Trump's defense team. But Fox News has learned Roberts may soon lose his grip on the proceedings amid a torrent of criticism both inside and outside the Senate.”

The Judge’s Ruling: A primer on the separation of powers - This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano breaks down the separation of powers and explains how the three branches are constitutionally equal: “[James Madison] and his colleagues had just rejected a monarchy that put all the power in the hands of the king and a subservient Parliament. That system was not designed to preserve personal liberty. But the separation of powers was. It produced tension and even jealousy among the branches, and the constitutional interplay among them prevented one from dominating the other two at the price of personal freedoms. The federal government simply would not work without each branch respecting the others. And any two branches could prevent the third from usurping power. That theory animated Madison and his colleagues.” More here.

THE RULEBOOK: HEAR, HEAR
“Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: ‘For forms of government let fools contest That which is best administered is best,’ yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 68

TIME OUT: THE ‘MASKED RIDER OF THE PLAINS’
History: “With the stirring notes of the William Tell Overture and a shout of ‘Hi-yo, Silver! Away!’ The Lone Ranger debuts on Detroit’s WXYZ radio station. The creation of station-owner George Trendle and writer Fran Striker, the ‘masked rider of the plains’ became one of the most popular and enduring western heroes of the 20th century. Joined by his trusty steed, Silver, and loyal Indian scout, Tonto, the Lone Ranger sallied forth to do battle with evil western outlaws and Indians, generally arriving on the scene just in time to save an innocent golden-haired child or sun-bonneted farm wife. Neither Trendle nor Striker had any connections to or experience with the cowboys, Indians, and pioneers of the real West, but that mattered little to them. The men simply wanted to create an American version of the masked swashbuckler made popular by the silent movie actor Douglas Fairbanks in The Mark of Zorro, arming their hero with a revolver rather than a sword.”

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SCOREBOARD
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKI​NG
Biden: 28 points (↑ 2.4 points from last wk.)
Sanders: 23.2 points (↑ 5.4 points from last wk.)
Warren: 14.2 points (↓ 2.4 points from last wk.)
Bloomberg: 7.8 points (↑ 2.2 points from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 6.8 points (↓ 1.6 points from last wk.)
[Averages include: Quinnipiac University, ABC News/WaPo, Fox News, CNN and Monmouth University.]

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE 
Average approval: 44.6 percent
Average disapproval: 51.8 percent
Net Score: -7.2 percent
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.8 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; ABC/WaPo: 47% approve - 50% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 54% disapprove; CNN: 45% approve - 51% disapprove; Monmouth University: 43% approve - 52% disapprove.]

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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: WANG DANG DOODLES
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss what impact Iowa will have on the 2020 Democrats, the latest on the impeachment trial and their predictions for what President Trump will cover in next week's State of the Union address. Plus, Chris answers Failed Democrat Trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

BERNIE RAISES BIG OFF NEGATIVE SUPER PAC AD
NYT: “A Democratic super PAC wanted to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential candidacy just days before the Iowa caucuses. It may have handed him a gift instead. Mr. Sanders’s campaign said on Wednesday that it had raised more than $1.3 million since it began fund-raising the day before off a negative ad produced by the super PAC that targets Mr. Sanders by name. The ad, backed by the political action arm of the group Democratic Majority for Israel, argues that Mr. Sanders, of Vermont, would be unable to beat President Trump in the November general election, citing his heart attack nearly five months ago and his left-wing ideology as evidence that he would be too risky a choice for Iowa caucusgoers focused on winning back the White House. The ad was scheduled to begin airing in Iowa on Wednesday, but the Sanders campaign sent an email to supporters on Tuesday warning that Mr. Sanders was being targeted by negative ads and alluding to an ‘outside spending group’ without citing Democratic Majority for Israel.”

Team Biden pitches caucus night deals to Steyer, Yang - Politico: “Joe Biden and other leading candidates are actively courting lower-polling campaigns in the final days before the Iowa caucuses, hoping to forge election night alliances designed to pick up the supporters of candidates who fail to move past the first ballot. Biden’s campaign has approached at least two rival primary campaigns, seeking to broker agreements ahead of the Monday night’s caucuses, according to sources familiar with his overtures. And an aide to Tom Steyer said Wednesday that his campaign had been approached by ‘multiple candidates.’ The Biden campaign reached out to Andrew Yang staffers, according to sources familiar with the conversation, and three Biden aides also approached a senior adviser to Amy Klobuchar’s campaign, Pete Giangreco, this week about a potential deal, sources said. The New York Times first reported the meeting. In each case, the campaigns said they rebuffed advances.”

Steyer, Sanders spending big to carpet-bomb Iowa airwaves in final caucus stretch - Fox News: “Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and billionaire environmental advocate Tom Steyer are carpeting Iowa airwaves with TV ads in the final week leading up Monday’s caucuses, the first contest in the presidential nomination calendar. The two are the biggest spenders on that front in the final stretch, according to figures provided by ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. Steyer – the former hedge fund manager who transformed into a major political organizing player – is spending nearly $1.4 million to run ads starting Jan. 28. Sanders – the populist independent lawmaker who’s making his second straight run for the White House – is shelling out just over $1.2 million. Steyer’s using his vast wealth to bankroll his ad buys, while Sanders is dipping into his massive war chest, raised almost entirely through small-dollar grassroots contributions from supporters. Sanders raised an eye-popping $34.5 million the final three months of 2019, far ahead of the rest of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Bloomy’s Super Bowl ad to focus on gun violence - WaPo: “Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, who has flooded the airways with ads attacking President Trump, is trying a different approach with a spot during the Super Bowl: His newest ad will focus on a mother whose son was shot and killed. Bloomberg, who founded the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, is predominantly relying on ads to propel his presidential candidacy. On Sunday — a day before the Iowa caucuses, where Bloomberg is not on the ballot — he will reach his biggest audience yet. More than 100 million people watched last year’s Super Bowl, according to Nielsen ratings. Long the domain of high-priced and highly produced commercials hyping cars and beer, this year’s game in Miami will have a dose of politics, with spots from Bloomberg and President Trump’s reelection campaign.”

CONSERVATIVE GROUP TO AIR AD ATTACKING COLLINS
Politico: “The conservative Club for Growth plans to air a massive ad campaign attacking Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), adding fuel to the intraparty battle that kicked off after the GOP congressman launched a Senate campaign this week. Collins announced Wednesday he is challenging Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who was sworn in this month to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson after he resigned due to health issues. Collins is a top ally to President Donald Trump, but his decision to run for Senate sparked significant blowback among some Republicans who expressed concern it could jeopardize their hold on the seat and cause problems elsewhere on the Senate map. The Club for Growth is the first group to launch an ad war aiming to knock down Collins' image as he gears up for the statewide run. The anti-tax organization plans to spend $3 million on TV, starting next week, with issue-based ads going after Collins' record.”

Late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ sisters endorse Mfume, Spikes in Maryland race - Baltimore Sun: “The three sisters of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings have made endorsements in the crowded race to succeed him ― with two sisters supporting his friend, Kweisi Mfume, and one endorsing his longtime aide, Harry Spikes. According to a news release from the Mfume campaign, Cheretheria Blount and Diane Woodson have endorsed the former NAACP president in Tuesday’s special primary. ‘We stand with Kweisi 1,000 percent and will be working to ensure his victory on Election Day,’ Woodson said in a statement. Meanwhile, Yvonne Cummings endorsed Spikes, who is also supported by the late congressman’s two daughters. ‘Harry would make a great legislator,’ Yvonne Cummings told The Baltimore Sun. ‘He has the compassion for the community.’ Among the 32 candidates seeking to succeed Elijah Cummings in the 7th Congressional District are Mfume, Spikes and Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the congressman’s widow.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to endorse Bloomy - WaPo

Trump administration to renew Iran sanctions waivers amid worries over US nuclear supply - Fox News

Report: U.S. economy grew 2.3 percent in 2019 - WaPo

Hillary Clinton and lawyers refuse legal documents from Tulsi Gabbard - NY Post

AUDIBLE: SHOW YOUR CARDS
“There’s this mistaken assumption in politics, like we’ve got this really good message, let’s save that till the end. I don’t think there’s much empirical evidence that there’s much value in saving something that’s good.” – Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, talking to the NYT.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

WHAT CAN A LITTLE DOLLY PARTON NOT DO?
Fox News: “British police jumped on the social media bandwagon Tuesday by taking part in the viral Dolly Parton Challenge, creating memes of suspects wanted for a number of offenses, including burglary. Cleveland Police UK in northeastern England shared four images of 32-year-old Scott Mizsei, deeming each appropriate for his profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Tinder. ‘Have you seen wanted man Scott Mizsei, 32? He is wanted in connection with a number of offences including aggravated burglary,’ the tweet said. ‘Do not approach him if you see him & call 101 with info RE his whereabouts. Thanks @DurhamPolice for inspiring our post!’ The department nodded to the Durham Constabulary in the neighboring county, which used the Dolly Parton Challenge last week… Police departments on both sides of the pond in the United Kingdom, the United States and even Canada have participated in the social media craze by sharing images of police dogs in their K9 units.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Note that the issue is not the filibuster itself. There’s nothing sacred about it. Its routine use is a modern development — with effects both contradictory and unpredictable.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Feb. 2, 2017.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.