1/ A White House budget official directed the Defense Department to “hold off” on sending military aid to Ukraine less than two hours after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to newly released emails. Roughly 90 minutes after Trump’s call with Zelensky, Michael Duffey, a senior budget official, told Pentagon officials that Trump was personally interested in the Ukraine aid and had ordered the hold himself. Duffey also told the Pentagon to keep the information “closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction” due to “the sensitive nature of the request.” The emails show Trump first became interested in the aid to Ukraine after seeing an article in the Washington Examiner on June 19 titled, “Pentagon to send $250M in weapons to Ukraine,” and that some officials were concerned that withholding the aid could be a violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. Democrats are citing the emails to fuel renewed calls for witnesses to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Reuters / CBS News)
2/ Mitch McConnell suggested that Republicans had not ruled out hearing witnesses at Trump’s impeachment trial, but wouldn’t agree in advance to the Democrat’s request for witness testimony. In a bid to pressure Senate Republicans to reach an agreement with Chuck Schumer on trial rules, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t transmitted the Senate the impeachment articles necessary to begin the trial, saying Democrats need to know “what sort of trial the Senate will conduct.” McConnell, meanwhile, called Pelosi’s position “absurd,” adding that he’s at an “impasse” with Schumer on the rules of the trial. (Reuters / CNN / Washington Post)
The White House is considering making the argument that Trump has not officially been impeached because Pelosi has not transmitted the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Officials plan to use the delay to argue that the Democrats have little faith in their own case for impeachment and are scared to trigger a trial they know they will lose. Officials also say Trump, while “angry” about what he views as an unfair process, is actually in a “very good mood,” and feels confident he can win the messaging war via Twitter. (CBS News)
The House Judiciary Committee said it could draft and recommend “new articles of impeachment” against Trump if additional evidence is revealed by former White House counsel Don McGahn. The committee wants a federal appeals court to order McGahn to testify as it examines potential obstruction of justice by Trump during Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. McGahn’s testimony is “relevant to the Committee’s ongoing investigations into Presidential misconduct and consideration of whether to recommend additional articles of impeachment,” the panel’s lawyers said, arguing that McGahn’s testimony is a “central” part of the impeachment investigation into Trump. Democrats have been trying for months to enforce a subpoena for McGahn to testify as part of the impeachment proceedings in Congress. (Politico / Associated Press / CNBC / Axios / CBS News / NBC News / CNN)
3/ U.S. military and intelligence officials are concerned that North Korea is poised to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching American shores in the next few days or weeks. Satellite photos indicate that North Korea has expanded a factory linked to the production of long-range nuclear missiles. Pyongyang, meanwhile, has promised a “Christmas gift” if no progress had been made on lifting sanctions. North Korea suspended its nuclear and long-range missiles tests in 2017 following diplomatic talks and two summit meetings between Kim and Trump. (New York Times / NBC News)
- Trump’s former national security adviser suggested that Trump is bluffing about stopping North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. John Bolton said he doesn’t think the administration “really means it” when Trump and top officials vow to stop North Korea from having deliverable nuclear weapons — “or it would be pursuing a different course.” (Axios)
4/ Trump complained that windmills are “very expensive” and claimed they “kill many bald eagles” during a speech to a group of young conservative supporters. “I never understood wind,” Trump told the crowd, claiming that the manufacturing process leads to “Gases […] spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe […] fumes are spewing into the air. […] it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything – right?” (Mediaite / The Hill / Politico / CNN / The Independent)
📌 Day 905: Trump said he refuses to jeopardize the wealth of the U.S. over climate “dreams” and “windmills” after skipping a G7 session on climate change. The Trump administration has rolled back several U.S. environmental protection policies put in place by the Obama administration, including weakening the Endangered Species Act. (Reuters)
poll/ 52% of voters approve of the House’s vote to impeach Trump, while 43% disapprove, and 5% have no opinion. 85% of Democrats support impeachment, while 12% disapprove. 16% of Republicans are in favor of impeachment, compared with 81% who are not. (Politico/Morning Consult)
Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will be on holiday break Dec. 24th and 25th (and possibly the 26th), depending on whether North Korea delivers its promised “Christmas gift.”
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