👋 Away Message: So we had a little scheduling snafu here at WTF HQ, where both myself and Joe (voice of the pod) double-booked ourselves with personal and professional obligations next week. Oopsie! Not a very great job using a calendar on my part, I guess. On the other hand, it appears the government isn't going to be open for business anyway... Unless something truly WTF-y happens, I'll see you all again on Tuesday, October 10th, because Monday is a holiday (Indigenous Peoples' Day).
In the mean time, try our little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding and for being here. I'm going to miss you.
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1/ The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told House impeachment investigators that it was his “clear understanding” that military aid would not be sent to Ukraine until the country pursued investigations that could benefit Trump, according to a transcript of his testimony made public. Bill Taylor said he “sat in astonishment” during a July 18 call after a White House Office of Management and Budget official said that Trump had ordered a hold on military assistance to Ukraine. Taylor detailed how U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had told him that Trump was “adamant” that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announce the Biden and 2016 investigations. Taylor also testified that Rudy Giuliani was the “originator” of the idea to have Zelensky make the statement. (NBC News / CNN / Associated Press / Washington Post / New York Times/ Politico)
Trump promised “unwavering support” for Kiev in a May 29 letter congratulating Ukraine’s newly elected president. The letter also includes an invitation to the White House, held up as a sign of the United States’ enduring “commitment” to Ukraine. The letter was sent before the U.S. withheld nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine. (Daily Beast)
The State Department’s third-ranking official testified behind closed-doors before House impeachment investigators. David Hale told Congress that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was reluctant to defend his then-Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch because it would hurt efforts to get Ukraine military aid. Hale is the first administration official to appear as scheduled this week. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)
House impeachment investigators dropped their subpoena to compel a former National Security Council official to testify before Congress. Charles Kupperman served as a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton. Kupperman was subpoenaed in late October, but he did not appear for testimony because he wanted to wait for the courts to rule on whether he had to comply after Trump directed him to not appear citing immunity. (Talking Points Memo / The Hill)
Analysis: Four takeaways from Bill Taylor’s full transcript. (Washington Post)
Read: The full transcript of top diplomat Bill Taylor’s impeachment testimony. (NBC News)
2/ The House will begin holding public impeachment hearings next week. Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of State, will appear on Nov. 13. Marie Yovanovitch, who was pushed out as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after a smear campaign backed by Trump, will testify two days later, on Nov. 15. Both hearings are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET. (Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)
- The White House added two staffers to help coordinate a “proactive impeachment messaging” response to the House inquiry. Trump is temporarily bringing in former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and ex-Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh. (NBC News / New York Times)
3/ Senate Republicans are discussing whether to use the impeachment inquiry to scrutinize Joe Biden and his son. Some of Trump’s allies want to call Biden and Hunter to testify as witnesses in the inquiry to counter the Democrats’ scrutiny of Trump. Rand Paul and John Kennedy raised the idea at a private lunch last week to summon Hunter Biden to testify. Paul reiterated that call publicly at a rally in Kentucky earlier this week. (Washington Post)
Mitch McConnell said the Senate would acquit Trump if an impeachment trial were held today. McConnell also warned that the longer the impeachment process takes, the longer presidential candidates who are also senators would have to spend on the Senate floor instead of on the campaign trail. McConnell has yet to speak with Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about how the Senate would handle an impeachment trial, but he said they would likely model the trial off the Clinton impeachment. (Politico)
Lindsey Graham is refusing to read any of the transcripts released this week as part of the House impeachment inquiry despite demanding that they be made public. Graham said he has “written the whole [impeachment] process off” as “a bunch of B.S.” Graham also downplayed Gordon Sondland’s revised testimony, during which Sondland acknowledged that he told a Ukrainian official that the release of U.S. military aid to Ukraine would “likely not occur” unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announced an investigation into Joe Biden and his son. Last month, however, Graham said, “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.” Yesterday, Graham reiterated his blanket defense of Trump, adding: “I don’t think the president did anything wrong.” (Axios / WKYC)
4/ A federal judge overturned the Trump administration’s “conscience” rule that would have made it easier for doctors and other health care workers to refuse care on religious or moral grounds. The judge ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its authority, “acted arbitrarily and capriciously” in promoting it, and that the agency’s “stated justification for undertaking rule making in the first place — a purported ‘significant increase’ in civilian complaints relating to the conscience provisions — was factually untrue.” Under the rule, health care providers that forced workers to perform work, such as abortions, despite their objections would have been subject to having their federal funding withdrawn. (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post)
5/ Roger Stone lied to Congress about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign because “the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” a federal prosecutor said in his opening statement at Stone’s trial. Prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said the case wasn’t about who hacked the Democratic National Committee, or who communicated with Russians, but “about Roger Stone’s false testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in an attempt to obstruct the investigation and to tamper with evidence.” (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)
6/ Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodğan will visit the White House next week. The visit comes about a month after Trump withdrew U.S. forces from northern Syria, allowing Turkish forces to attack Kurdish forces – a U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS. (Bloomberg / Axios)
poll/ 56% of voters expect Trump to be reelected next year, including 85% of Republicans, 51% of independents, and 35% of Democrats. (Politico)
- A panel of Pennsylvania voters from swing districts said they’d still vote for Trump even “if he shot someone on 5th avenue,” because “you’d have to know why he shot him.” (Mediate)
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