What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 1100: "What our framers feared most."

⚖️ Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial:

tl;dr Today marks the last chance for the Democratic impeachment managers to make their pitch to GOP senators on whether to subpoena new witnesses and documents. Democrats need four Republicans to vote with them in order to call witnesses. Trump’s legal team will also have 24 hours over three days for its opening arguments – starting tomorrow, Monday, and Tuesday. Senators will then get to ask questions. Trump is reportedly “bored” by the impeachment proceedings.

1/ House managers used their final day of opening arguments to conclude their presentation on the first article of impeachment, abuse of power. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said Trump “did exactly what our framers feared most: He invited foreign interference in our elections and sold out our country’s security for his personal benefit, and betrayed the nation’s trust to a foreign power.” Impeachment manager Jason Crow added that the hold on the aid “wasn’t lifted for any legitimate reason. It was only lifted because President Trump had gotten caught.” Impeachment manager Hakeem Jeffries, using witness testimony from the House proceedings, detailed what he called a “failed” effort to “coverup” Trump’s attempt to “cheat” in the 2020 election. Jeffries said the White House “tried to bury” the summary of Trump’s July 25 call on a secure server because it was politically damaging, adding that the military aid was released only “after the House launched an investigation and after Congress learned about the existence of a whistleblower complaint.”

2/ House managers then moved on to the second article of impeachment, Trump’s alleged obstruction of Congress by directing witnesses not to testify and refusing to allow the release of documents. Impeachment manager Val Demings called Trump’s refusal to cooperate “categorical, indiscriminate and historically unprecedented.” She added that under “Trump’s orders, the Office of the Vice President, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of State, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Defense all continued to refuse to produce a single document or record in response to 71 specific requests, including five subpoenas.” Further, Demings characterized “Trump’s attacks on whistleblowers and witnesses” who testified the House probe as “witness intimidation.” Impeachment manager Sylvia Garcia added that Trump had “orchestrated a cover-up” in “plain sight” and “should be removed.” Zoe Lofgren, another House impeachment managers, compared Trump to Nixon, saying “Not only did Nixon allow his staff to testify before Congress, he publicly directed them to testify without demanding a subpoena.” And, finally, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler called Trump “a dictator” during his presentation, arguing that Trump is “the first and only president ever to declare himself unaccountable.”

3/ Trump appeared to order two Rudy Giuliani associates to “get rid” of then-US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during a dinner in April 2018 at the Trump International Hotel, according to a recording made by Igor Fruman. “Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it,” Trump reportedly said of Yovanovitch after being told by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman that the career foreign service officer was “badmouthing” him in Kiev. Parnas turned over the recording to the House Intelligence Committee. Trump claimed in November that didn’t “know much” about Yovanovitch when he signed off on recalling her from Kiev. Pence defended Trump after the 2018 recording emerged, saying “All of the ambassadors for the United States of America serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.” (ABC News / New York Times / Daily Beast / Talking Points Memo)

  • 📌 Day 1092: Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine, according to Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani. Parnas said Trump was “aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.” While Parnas never spoke with Trump directly about his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, he met with Trump on several occasions, and was told by Giuliani that Trump was kept informed about his work. Parnas also said he warned an aide to then-Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky at the direction of Giuliani that the U.S. would halt aid to the country if it didn’t announce investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Parnas also implicated several senior officials in the scheme, including Mike Pence, John Bolton, Devin Nunes, and William Barr. Parnas claimed that Barr “had to have known everything” going on with Ukraine because “Barr was basically on the team.” Parnas also claimed that Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

4/ Trump complained that his impeachment defense “will be forced to start on Saturday,” which he called “Death Valley in T.V.” Saturday’s impeachment session will begin at 10 a.m. and will last for several hours. The White House wanted to present some arguments on Saturday to rebut three days of charges from Democrats and to provide fodder for Sunday shows. Trump’s defense team plans to save the bulk of its arguments for Monday and Tuesday, when viewers will be more tuned in. Trump also complained that it is “wrong” for House managers to use “ALL of their” allotted time for opening arguments. (Reuters / Politico / NBC News)

  • Witness testimony could hinge on Sen. Lamar Alexander, a retiring Republican senator who said it was “inappropriate” for Trump to ask foreign governments to investigate his political opponents. Three other GOP senators have expressed some level of support for calling witnesses, and if they joined all Democrats, the result would be a 50-50 tie. While Alexander has expressed no indication of how he will vote, both parties see him as a wild card and possible tie-breaker. (Politico)

  • Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said a so-called witness exchange with Republicans involving Hunter Biden is “off the table.” Schumer also criticized Republicans for not calling witnesses. (Reuters)

5/ Trump tweeted 54 times before noon, criticizing Democrats and the impeachment process. “The Do Nothing Democrats just keep repeating and repeating, over and over again, the same old ‘stuff’ on the Impeachment Hoax,” Trump tweeted at one point. (CNN)

poll/ 47% of Americans say the Senate should remove Trump from office and 49% saying they should not. 44% of Americans approve of Trump’s overall job performance and 51% disapprove. (Washington Post)

poll/ 66% of Americans say the Senate should call new witnesses to testify at the impeachment trial, while 27% say the Senate should not. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. The Pentagon said 34 U.S. service members were diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries after the Iranian ballistic missile attack in Iraq this month. Trump previously claimed that no U.S. troops were harmed and later downplayed the significance of the brain injuries, saying “I heard that they had headaches.” (CNN / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)

  2. The Trump administration threatened to cut off some federal funds to California unless it drops a state requirement that insurers cover abortion. The administration says the policy violates a federal law banning government entities that receive federal money from the Department of Health and Human Services from discriminating against healthcare organizations because they don’t provide abortion or abortion coverage. HHS is giving California 30 days to comply or face the loss of unspecified funds. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  3. Trump’s re-election campaign threatened the nonpartisan presidential debate commission that Trump may not participate if the process is not “fair.” Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, campaign operating officer, Michael Glassner, complained to Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, that the board of directors and moderators were all against the president. Trump privately told advisers that because his television ratings are so high, he can exert more control over the debates. (Washington Post)

Day 1099: "No president has abused his power in this way."

Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial: Senators reconvened in the Capitol for the third day of Trump’s impeachment trial with House impeachment managers making their case to both senators and the American people that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine for his own personal gain while hurting the national interest. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said “The charges set forth in the first article of impeachment are firmly grounded in the Constitution of the United States,” and that “No president has ever used his office to compel a foreign nation to help him cheat in our elections.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff added that Trump “is a president who truly feels that he can do whatever he wants.” Schiff concluded the day by urging senators to asked whether they believed that Trump would put the nation’s interests before his own, saying “If you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.” Democrats have used their 24 hours of opening arguments to target a small group of Senate Republicans they hope will cross the aisle and vote with them to issue subpoenas for documents and witnesses. Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Mitt Romney have hinted they could be open to the possibility of calling witnesses. Trump, meanwhile, is reportedly “very pleased” with how the trial is going and is eager to prove “he’s done nothing wrong.” (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • 👨‍💻 Live blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / The Guardian / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CBS News

  • ⚡️ Impeachment.wtf – The internet’s most comprehensive guide to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. Maintained by the WTF community. Updated daily.

  • Senate Democrats called on the White House to declassify a letter from a national security aide to Mike Pence related to Pence’s Sept. 18 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. House Democrats asked Pence to declassify the letter from Pence aide Jennifer Williams last month. He declined, claiming it “serves no purpose.” Schiff has indicated the letter “corroborates” other testimony in the impeachment inquiry. (Politico)

  • Senate Democrats believe acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is the “most important” potential witness in Trump’s trial. A procedural vote on whether to subpoena new witnesses and documents is scheduled for next week. (Politico)

  • Republican Sen. Richard Burr handed out fidget spinners to his GOP colleagues. (NBC News)

  • Trump, comparing his impeachment to Clinton’s, said the difference is that “with me, there’s no lying” – and then he made at least 14 false claims related to impeachment and Ukraine. (CNN)

  • Three House impeachment managers said the American public will view it as a “rigged trial” if the Senate votes to acquit Trump. Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Sylvia Garcia, and Val Demings also spoke about the need for witnesses in the trial, adding that even an acquittal won’t amount to an exoneration of Trump. (NBC News)

  • Senators are considering a short, morning-only impeachment trial session on Saturday to hear the beginning of the opening arguments from Trump’s defense counsel and then allowing senators to leave town for the weekend.

  • The Senate impeachment trial could end by next Thursday or Friday if the White House decides not to use its full 24 hours for opening arguments.


💬 Impeachment Quotables:

  1. Trump floated a “very specific conspiracy theory” that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. “This theory was brought to you by the Kremlin.” –House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff

  2. White House lawyers will not include “a refutation of the evidence,” but instead focus on complaints about process and the managers’ motives. –House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler

  3. “No president has abused his power in this way.”Nadler

  4. Trump’s conduct “puts even Nixon to shame.”Nadler

  5. “It wasn’t until Biden began beating him in polls that [Trump] called for the investigation,” adding that Trump “had the motive, he had the opportunity and the means to commit this abuse of power.” –Impeachment manager Rep. Sylvia Garcia

  6. “Acquittal will have zero value” for Trump without witnesses. –Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer

  7. Senators who don’t want to hear from witnesses are “afraid of the truth.”Schumer

  8. Trump wasn’t “bragging” about obstructing Congress when he told reporters “we have all the material. They don’t have the material.”White House spokesman Hogan Gidley


✏️ Notables.

1/ The Trump administration will strip federal pollution protections for rivers, streams, and wetlands. The new rule, which replaces the Obama administration’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, will remove protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, as well as hundreds of thousands of small waterways. It also allows landowners and property developers to dump pollutants, such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways — or to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects. A government advisory board of scientists, many of whom were appointed by Trump, wrote last month that the new rule “neglects established science.” (New York Times / The Guardian / NPR / Axios)

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin criticized 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, saying that “After she goes and studies economics in college, she can come back and explain [her call for a complete divestment from the fossil fuel industry].” In response, Thunberg said that “it doesn’t take a college degree in economics” to understand ongoing fossil fuel subsidies and our remaining carbon budget “don’t add up.” (CNBC / The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ The Director of National Intelligence failed to turn over a report to Congress on the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In December, lawmakers passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which Trump signed into law on Dec. 20. The bill included a provision ordering Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, to send the unclassified report identifying those responsible for Khashoggi’s death at a Saudi Arabian consulate in 2018 to four congressional committees: the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, and the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees. The legislation set the deadline for the report at 30 days, which passed earlier this week. (BuzzFeed News)

  • 📌 Day 1098: Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message from the personal account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A digital forensic analysis found it “highly probable” that an unsolicited video sent on May 1 by Crown Prince Mohammed infected Bezos’s phone with spyware that enabled surveillance. United Nations human rights experts suggested the hack was an attempt to “influence, if not silence” news coverage of the kingdom by the Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Six months after the hack, Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered after criticizing the Saudi crown prince in his columns. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered the assassination. Weeks after the murder, Bezos received a message from MBS that included a photo of a woman who strongly resembled Lauren Sanchez, who Bezos was having an affair that had not been made public. In Feb. 2019, the National Enquirer obtained and published private text messages and photos from Bezos’s phone showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship. The United Nations called on the U.S. and “other relevant authorities” to open an investigation into the hack of Bezos’s phone, citing a pattern of similar surveillance of perceived critics of the Saudi government. Trump and Jared Kushner have maintained close ties with the crown prince despite international outcry over Khashoggi’s death and the assessment by Trump’s own intelligence services that the crown prince was likely involved. (The Guardian / New York Times / TechCrunch / Wall Street Journal /Daily Beast / Washington Post / The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

3/ Trump will become the first sitting president to attend and address the anti-abortion March for Life, an annual anti-abortion event in Washington. In 2017, Pence became the first sitting vice president to attend the event, and in 2018, Trump became the first president to address the rally by video. In his speech, Trump vowed that his administration would “always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.” (Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN)

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos compared the abortion rights debate to slavery, saying President Abraham Lincoln “contended with the ‘pro-choice’ arguments of his day. They suggested that a state’s ‘choice’ to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it.” (Politico)

4/ Trump said he doesn’t consider concussion symptoms reported by American troops to be “very serious injuries,” suggesting they were just “headaches.” Following the Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, the Pentagon put a number of service members through medical examinations for possible traumatic brain injuries. (New York Times)

5/ Room rates at the Trump National Doral more than doubled just before the White House announced that Trump would address the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting. The rates raised from from $254 to $539, which is slightly below the maximum per-night rate federal government rules permit for a hotel in South Florida, and is triple the normal “per diem” rate employees are supposed to follow. (HuffPost)

Day 1098: "Protect our democracy."

1/ House Democratic managers began formal arguments in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, presenting the case for convicting Trump and removing him from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. During opening arguments, House managers outlined how “Trump solicited foreign inference” to “cheat” by abusing “the powers of his office” and “seeking help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home.” And, when Trump “was caught, he used the powers of that office to obstruct the investigation into his own misconduct.” Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead impeachment manager and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called Trump’s efforts to get a foreign government to announce an investigation into his political rival “a gross abuse of power,” urging Republicans to “protect our democracy” by joining Democrats in voting to remove Trump from office. Throughout the day, Schiff and impeachment managers methodically outlined Trump’s “corrupt scheme and cover-up,” calling on Senators to “decide what kind of democracy […] we ought to be” and what Americans can expect “in the conduct of their president.” Schiff closed the day by rehashing the facts of the case as presented over the last eight hours, urging senators to learn the “full truth” and warning that the “truth is going to come out.” (Associated Press / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / The Guardian)

  • WHAT’S NEXT: Starting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, the Senate will meet again to hear House managers present their arguments for why Trump should be removed from office. The managers will present their case for about eight hours.

  • READ: Adam Schiff’s opening argument at Senate impeachment trial. (Politico)

  • Trump tweeted more than 140 times as House managers presented their case in his impeachment trial, surpassing his mid-December record for the most daily tweets and retweets during his presidency. (Politico)

2/ Trump said he’s open to new witnesses at his impeachment trial, before immediately backtracking. At a news conference in Davos, Trump suggested he’d prefer his impeachment trial to go the “long way” with testimony from a “a lot of people,” including former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and his acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Trump then dismissed the idea, saying it could never happen because it would create “a national security problem” and that testimony by Bolton in particular could hurt his presidency, because “you don’t want someone testifying who didn’t leave on the best of terms.” The White House instructed many witnesses, including Bolton, not to testify in the House inquiry. (Politico / NPR / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump “bragged” about withholding materials from Congress during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, saying “we have all the material. They don’t have the material.” One of the articles of impeachment the House approved was obstruction of Congress, based partly on the administration’s refusal to provide documents or allow certain officials to testify. (Rolling Stone / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Vox)

  • Chuck Schumer said an impeachment witness trade is “off the table.” Some Senate Democrats had privately discussed trading the testimony of Hunter Biden for the testimony of John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. (NBC News / New York Times)

3/ The Office of Management and Budget released 192 pages of documents related to the withholding of Ukraine military aid, “including records that have not been produced to Congress in its impeachment investigation.” The night before Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy, emails show that OMB officials shared a “Ukraine Prep Memo” with Michael Duffey, a political appointee who played a role in Trump’s move to freeze the aid. That same evening, it appears the general counsel’s office prepared a footnote for budget officials – a mechanism officials at the budget office used to pause the funding. The documents also detail communications between Duffey and other OMB aides, including Mark Sandy and Paul Denaro, discussing the details on the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative in the emails — dated from early August to Sept. 30. Emails from acting OMB Director Russell Vought are also included. (American Oversight / CNN / Axios / New York Times / NBC News / The Hill)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Ukraine next week. Pompeo canceled a previously planned trip to Ukraine in early January amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran. During the previous plan, Pompeo was scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy. (CNBC)

poll/ 68% of Americans think Trump should allow his top administration aides to appear as witnesses at the impeachment trial, while 30% think he shouldn’t allow his aides to appear witnesses. (Associated Press)

poll/ 51% of Americans want the Senate impeachment trial to result in Trump’s removal from office, while 46% say the result should lead to Trump remaining in office. (Pew Research Center)


Notables.

  1. The District of Columbia is suing Trump’s inaugural committee and business, alleging that the committee violated its nonprofit status by spending more than $1 million to book a ballroom at the the Trump International Hotel – over the objections of its event planner – that its staff knew was overpriced. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  2. Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message from the personal account of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A digital forensic analysis found it “highly probable” that an unsolicited video sent on May 1 by Crown Prince Mohammed infected Bezos’s phone with spyware that enabled surveillance. United Nations human rights experts suggested the hack was an attempt to “influence, if not silence” news coverage of the kingdom by the Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Six months after the hack, Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered after criticizing the Saudi crown prince in his columns. The CIA concluded that MBS had personally ordered the assassination. Weeks after the murder, Bezos received a message from MBS that included a photo of a woman who strongly resembled Lauren Sanchez, who Bezos was having an affair that had not been made public. In Feb. 2019, the National Enquirer obtained and published private text messages and photos from Bezos’s phone showing that he was engaged in an extramarital relationship. The United Nations called on the U.S. and “other relevant authorities” to open an investigation into the hack of Bezos’s phone, citing a pattern of similar surveillance of perceived critics of the Saudi government. Trump and Jared Kushner have maintained close ties with the crown prince despite international outcry over Khashoggi’s death and the assessment by Trump’s own intelligence services that the crown prince was likely involved. (The Guardian / New York Times / TechCrunch / Wall Street Journal / Daily Beast / Washington Post / The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)

  3. Trump demanded that Apple unlock iPhones for investigators in criminal cases, complaining that Apple has refused to build a “backdoor” that would give law enforcement access to the devices. Yesterday, the Department of Justice and Attorney General William Barr criticized Apple for a lack of “substantive help” in its investigation of a shooting at a Florida Naval base. In a statement, Apple said it provided information to law enforcement related to the Pensacola case but that it would not build a “backdoor” or specialized software. (CNBC / CNET / USA Today)

  4. Trump claimed that U.S. economic growth would be closer to 4% if it weren’t for the Federal Reserve. Trump called the rate hikes “a big blip that should not have taken place,” and said the stock market would be even higher — “I could see 5,000 to 10,000 points more on the Dow” — if the Fed hadn’t raised rates so quickly before cutting them three times in 2019. (CNBC)

  5. The State Department imposed visa restrictions for pregnant foreign women in an effort to restrict “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a U.S. passport. (NBC News / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

Day 1097: "Deliberately designed to hide the truth."

1/ The first day of Trump’s impeachment trial began with more than 12 hours of contentious debate over the procedural rules that will guide the proceedings as senators repeatedly voted along party lines to reject efforts to subpoena new witnesses. Senate Republicans rejected 11 Democratic amendments to subpoena records from the White House, State Department, Defense Department, and the Office of Management and Budget related to Ukraine, which the White House blocked during the House inquiry. Senate Republicans also blocked amendments to issue subpoenas for testimony from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, Michael Duffey, a White House budget office official, and Robert Blair, a Mulvaney adviser who was involved in the decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine. Even an attempt to make a deal to shorten debate was rejected. At one point, Chief Justice John Roberts admonished the prosecutors and the White House legal team for the quality of their discourse, warning them about using inappropriate language. The Senate adopted Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for Trump’s impeachment trial after more than 12 hours of debate and discussion over the rules. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / NBC News / The Guardian / Axios / CNN / CBS News / ABC News)

2/ Mitch McConnell made last-minute, handwritten changes to the proposed impeachment trial rules following criticism from Democrats and key Republicans. McConnell initially circulated the proposed organizing resolution late Monday night, which would have provided House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team each 24 hours over two days to make their opening arguments. McConnell’s proposal would have also put the decision of whether to admit the House evidence to a Senate vote. Following complaints from lawmakers, however, McConnell revised the resolution, instead giving House prosecutors and White House lawyers each 24 hours over three days to present their opening arguments, as well as a provision to automatically enter evidence collected during the House impeachment inquiry. The change means the trial days, which start at 1 p.m., will likely now conclude daily around 9 p.m. – instead of after midnight. The condensed timeline also raises the prospect that the trial will conclude before Trump’s Feb. 4 State of the Union address. (CNN / NPR / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press)

3/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mitch McConnell’s proposed rules for the impeachment trial a “sham” that is “deliberately designed to hide the truth,” saying McConnell “has chosen a cover-up” with a “dark of night impeachment trial.” McConnell initially pledged to conform to the same standard the Senate used during Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial. The impeachment managers, however, said McConnell’s proposal “deviates sharply from the Clinton precedent — and common sense — in an effort to prevent the full truth of the president’s misconduct from coming to light.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, called the proposal “appalling” and accused McConnell of seeking to turn the trial into “a farce” and a “national disgrace.” (NBC News / Axios / The Hill / Daily Beast / Washington Post / The Guardian)

  • READ: Pelosi’s statement on McConnell’s resolution (Speaker.gov)

4/ Trump’s defense team and Senate Republican allies plan to block witnesses from testifying in public if Democrats manage to persuade four GOP lawmakers to break ranks. One option being discussed would be to move witnesses testimony, including potential testimony by former national security adviser John Bolton, to a classified setting for national security reasons. Trump has also previously said he would assert executive privilege if Bolton were called to testify, and the White House has indicated that it could appeal to federal courts for an injunction to stop Bolton if he refuses to go along with their instructions. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  • The White House appointed several prominent House Republicans to advise Trump’s impeachment defense team ahead of the Senate trial, which begins today. Reps. Jim Jordan, John Ratcliffe, Mike Johnson, Mark Meadows, Debbie Lesko, Lee Zeldin, Elise Stefanik, and Doug Collins have been tapped to help Trump with the trial. Republicans in the Senate warned against the appointments, saying that it would cast the Senate trail in a partisan light. (The Hill)

poll/ 57% of Americans say House managers should be able to introduce new evidence in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Another 37% say that the managers should be limited to sharing only what was revealed during the initial impeachment inquiry. (Monmouth University Poll)

poll/ 51% of Americans say Trump has encouraged interference in U.S. elections. 41% say the U.S. is not prepared to keep the 2020 election safe and secure from outside interference. (NPR)

poll/ Eighty-two percentage points separated Republicans’ (89%) and Democrats’ (7%) average job approval ratings of Trump in 2019 – the largest degree of political polarization in any presidential year. (Gallup)

Where is Trump? At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, repeatedly calling the impeachment trial a “total hoax” and touting his economic achievements, which what he described as a “blue-collar boom.” Trump called the impeachment trial “disgraceful” before insisting “I’m sure it is going to work out fine.” (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration plans to add seven countries to its travel ban list – three years after its original order, which targeted several majority-Muslim nations. A draft being considered would place immigration restrictions on people from Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania, but not necessarily ban all citizens from entering the United States. Some countries could face bans only on some visa categories. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / Reuters)

  2. The Supreme Court declined to expedite a legal challenge that could kill the Affordable Care Act, likely pushing the issue until after the presidential election. A coalition of states and the House of Representatives had asked the court to fast-track their appeal after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / The Hill)

  3. Lev Parnas asked Attorney General William Barr to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation. Parnas has been charged with federal campaign finance violations in New York and was also part of the team that helped Giuliani pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. Parnas claimed Barr “had to have known everything” about the effort and that he was “basically on the team,” rendering Barr unable to fairly prosecute the case against Parnas. (NBC News)

  4. Trump – again – threatened to impose tariffs on European automobiles if he can’t strike what he called “a fair deal.” Trump, however, declined to set a public deadline, instead saying “They know what the deadline is.” A previous deadline for auto tariffs lapsed on Nov. 13, 2019. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

Day 1096: "The Framers' worst nightmare."

1/ Trump’s legal team called on the Senate to “swiftly reject” the “flimsy” impeachment charges against Trump and that he “should immediately be acquitted” because of a “rigged process” by House Democrats. In a 110-page brief submitted to the Senate the day before Trump’s trial begins, Trump’s lawyer dismissed the two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – against Trump as a “charade” that is “frivolous and dangerous,” claiming the charges are “constitutionally invalid” and “deficient on their face” because they don’t involve any violations of law. The legal team maintained that Trump did “absolutely nothing wrong” and is the victim of a “brazenly political act by House Democrats.” The brief came after the seven House managers argued that Trump’s behavior amounted to “the Framers’ worst nightmare” and that his actions present a “danger to our democratic processes.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico / Associated Press / Bloomberg / Axios / CNN)

  • 👉 The Senate impeachment trial is set to begin tomorrow with Republicans and Democrats setting the rules for the trial. The trial will start Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET, running six days a week, and ending daily between 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. ET. (CNN)

  • Mitch McConnell is preparing a resolution that would give Trump’s lawyers the option to move to dismiss the impeachment charges. However, Republican Senate leaders – including McConnell – have already said members aren’t interested in a vote to dismiss. (Axios)

  • READ: The 110-page legal brief outlining Trump’s defense ahead of his impeachment trial in the Senate. (NBC News)

2/ House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff accused the White House of pressuring the NSA and CIA of withholding documents about Ukraine from Congress. “The NSA in particular is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial,” Schiff said, adding that there “are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course.” An Intelligence Committee official later confirmed that “Both the NSA and CIA initially pledged cooperation, and it appears now that the White House has interceded before production of documents could begin.” (Politico / New York Times / CNN)

3/ House Democrats released a third set of documents from Lev Parnas showing Devin Nunes was involved in efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Biden. The text messages between Parnas and Derek Harvey, an aide to Nunes, indicate Nunes’s office was aware of the months-long effort directed by Trump and Rudy Giuliani to obtain information from Ukrainian prosecutors that would be damaging to Biden. Nunes initially denied knowing Parnas but has since admitted that the two had spoken after phone records showed several calls between the two. The documents also included screenshots of text messages that appear to show Robert Hyde, a Republican congressional candidate in Connecticut, messaging with a number from Belgium, describing the apparent surveillance of former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. (Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1091: Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN/NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 1092: Ukraine opened a criminal investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Parnas. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced the investigation citing the documents released by House Democrats, which included several WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress, that discussed monitoring Yovanovitch’s physical movements and electronic devices. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 51% of Americans say the Senate should vote to convict Trump and remove him from office, while 45% say the Senate should vote against conviction and removal. 69% say that the trial should include testimony from new witnesses who did not testify in the House impeachment inquiry. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump recounted the minute-by-minute details of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani during remarks to Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago. Trump claimed that Soleimani was “saying bad things about our country” before the strike, which led to his decision to authorize his killing. Trump didn’t, however, describe an “imminent threat” to U.S. interests or four U.S. embassies – the justifications used by administration officials following the attack. Instead, Trump described Soleimani as a “noted terrorist” who was “the father of the roadside bomb” responsible for “every young, beautiful man or woman who you see walking around with no legs, no arms.” (Washington Post / CNN)

  2. The U.S. intelligence community is trying to persuade House and Senate lawmakers to drop the public portion of a briefing on global security threats so agency chiefs aren’t on-camera disagreeing with Trump on Iran, Russia, or North Korea. Last year’s session provoked an angry outburst from Trump. (Politico)

  3. The White House official responsible for Russia and Europe policy was put on indefinite administrative leave pending a “security-related investigation.” Andrew Peek, the third person to occupy the job in the last year, was escorted off the White House grounds on Friday. (Axios / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)

  4. Trump’s third homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser is expected to be reassigned after about six months in the job. Rear Admiral Peter Brown is likely to take on a new role overseeing Puerto Rico’s recovery from hurricane damage and recent earthquakes. (Bloomberg)

  5. Trump lashed out at Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar after polling showed the public trusts Democrats more than Republicans on health care and drug pricing. During a meeting with his political affairs team, Trump made an impromptu call to Azar, saying he regrets getting involved in that “fucking vaping thing” and that Azar is “not getting it done” and needs to “hurry up” on getting drug prices lowered. (Axios / Politico / Washington Post)

  6. The National Archives blurred signs held by protesters during the 2017 Women’s March that were critical of Trump. The Archives said the decision to obscure the words was “so as not to engage in current political controversy.” The photograph is part of an exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  7. Trump made 81 false claims last week and – three years after taking the oath of office – has made 16,241 false or misleading claims. In 2017, Trump made 1,999 false or misleading claims. In 2018, he made 5,689 more, for a total of 7,688. And in 2019, he made 8,155 false claims. (CNN / Washington Post)

👋 Today marks the start of Season Four of the Trump administration. I started this as a personal project to keep track of what was going on while becoming a better consumer of political news. It quickly turned into my full-time job, because, as it turns out, a lot of other people also wanted to be better news consumers. So this is my full-time job and I plan to keep doing this for as long as you keep supporting me. So, if you find my work valuable, please consider becoming a supporting member so I can continue to tell you wtf just happened today. –MATT

Day 1093: "Dopes and babies."

1/ Trump added celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz and former independent counsel Ken Starr to his Senate impeachment trial defense team. Starr investigated Bill Clinton, and Dershowitz’s past clients include Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson. The team will be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, and Starr’s successor at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration, Robert Ray. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump’s longtime personal counsel Jane Raskin will also supplement the impeachment team. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Politico / NBC News / Axios)

2/ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly committed to investigate allegations of surveillance of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, saying he believed the allegations would “ultimately prove wrong” but that he had an obligation to investigate the matter. Pompeo’s comments came more than 48 hours after evidence emerged that Yovanovitch was under surveillance and possibly threatened by associates of Lev Parnas – and more than 24 hours after Ukraine announced its own investigation into the matter. Pompeo added that “to the best of my recollection” he “had never heard of this at all.” (Associated Press / New York Times / CNN / Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 1091: Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN/NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 1092: Ukraine opened a criminal investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Parnas. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced the investigation citing the documents released by House Democrats, which included several WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress, that discussed monitoring Yovanovitch’s physical movements and electronic devices. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / BuzzFeed News)

  • Lev Parnas claimed that Trump ordered the firing of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine “at least four or five times” before her recall was publicly announced in April. Parnas also said Trump once tried to fire Yovanovitch at a dinner in a private area of a Trump hotel. (NBC News)

3/ The Trump administration proposed rolling back school nutrition standards, allowing schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts while giving them the ability to sell more pizza, burgers, and fries to students. The stricter nutritional standards for school meals were former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature achievement. The proposal was announced on her birthday. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ The Trump administration is exploring making changes to an anti-bribery law. Trump has reportedly complained about a 1977 law that makes it illegal for U.S. companies to bribe foreign officials. “It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” Trump said. “We’re going to change that.” (Bloomberg / The Hill)

5/ Eleven U.S. military service members were treated for concussions as a result of the Iranian missile strikes against the Iraqi bases where they were stationed. The report from U.S. Central Command contradicts earlier statements by Trump that there were no American casualties in the Jan. 8 attack. The injured troops were taken to military sites in Germany and Kuwait to undergo screening and treatment. They’re expected to return to Iraq once they are “deemed fit for duty.” (New York Times / NBC News / CNN)

6/ Trump reportedly called his top military officials “losers” and “a bunch of dopes and babies” during a July 2017 meeting at the Pentagon, according to the new book A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America. Trump told the assembled brass he “wouldn’t go to war with you people” because “You don’t know how to win anymore.” After Trump walked out, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “fucking moron.” (Washington Post / Military Times)

poll/ 83% of black Americans describe Trump as a racist. 65% of African Americans say it’s a “bad time” to be a black person in America. (Washington Post)

Day 1092: "Do impartial justice."

1/ The Senate opened the impeachment trial of Trump – the third presidential impeachment trial in history – with the swearing in of senators and the presentation of the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Chief Justice John Roberts, who will preside over the trial, administered the oath to “do impartial justice” to all senators in the chamber. The Senate also issued a formal summons for Trump, informing him of the charges and inviting him to respond by Saturday evening. The Senate will now recess the trial until Tuesday, Jan. 21. A two-thirds vote is required to remove Trump from office, meaning 20 Republican senators would need to break ranks. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted: “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!” (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

  • Chuck Schumer said he will try to force a vote on whether to call witnesses in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Democrats want to call acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and two other White House officials, and also are seeking documents the White House has withheld. Schumer added that the disclosures by Lev Parnas raised “serious questions.” (Bloomberg)

2/ Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine, according to Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani. Parnas said Trump was “aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.” While Parnas never spoke with Trump directly about his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, he met with Trump on several occasions, and was told by Giuliani that Trump was kept informed about his work. Parnas also said he warned an aide to then-Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky at the direction of Giuliani that the U.S. would halt aid to the country if it didn’t announce investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Parnas also implicated several senior officials in the scheme, including Mike Pence, John Bolton, Devin Nunes, and William Barr. Parnas claimed that Barr “had to have known everything” going on with Ukraine because “Barr was basically on the team.” Parnas also claimed that Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  • Democrats released more evidence obtained from Parnas, including voicemails, photos, and text messages between him and high-level Trump associates, including a top official at the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. The previously undisclosed documents, released by the House Intelligence Committee, show Parnas directly involved with efforts to get the Ukrainian president to announce investigations related to Biden. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • Ukraine opened a criminal investigation into alleged illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by Parnas. Ukraine’s interior ministry announced the investigation citing the documents released by House Democrats, which included several WhatsApp messages between Parnas and Robert Hyde, a Connecticut Republican who is running for a seat in Congress, that discussed monitoring Yovanovitch’s physical movements and electronic devices. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / BuzzFeed News)

  • FBI investigators visited both the home and business of Robert Hyde. The visit comes days after the House Intelligence Committee released texts Hyde sent Parnas suggesting he was surveilling then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. (NBC News / CNN)

  • Trump threatened to withhold more than just military aid from Ukraine if Zelesnky refused to announce investigations into the Bidens. “The message was: It wasn’t just military aid,” Parnas said. “It was all aid.” Parnas also said that Trump’s efforts in Ukraine were “never about corruption,” they were “strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.” (MSNBC / NBC News / The Hill)

  • Takeaways from Parnas’ interview with Rachel Maddow. A day after the House published evidence provided by Parnas for the Senate impeachment trial, Parnas unveiled his take on what has been going on behind the scenes with the White House’s Ukraine policy. (The Hill / Washington Post)

3/ Trump denied knowing Parnas while also dismissing a photo of himself with the Giuliani associate as just one of “thousands” he’s taken with his supporters. Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said: “I don’t know him at all, don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know nothing about him.” Trump added: “Perhaps he’s a fine man. Perhaps he’s not.” Trump also claimed he knew nothing about a letter in which Giuliani told Zelensky he was seeking a meeting with the Ukranian president with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 1091: Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

4/ The Trump administration violated the law when it froze military aid to Ukraine, according to a nonpartisan congressional watchdog. The Government Accountability Office said the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act when it withheld funds that had been appropriated by Congress for a “policy reason.” The Office of Management and Budget claimed it “withheld the funds to ensure that they were not spent ‘in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy.’” The GAO, however, rejected the argument, saying “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the President to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal)

  • READ: GAO concludes OMB violated law in withholding Ukraine aid. (CNN)

5/ The Senate passed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, Trump’s signature trade deal designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. The deal now heads to Trump’s desk for his signature. (Politico / Axios / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

6/ Trump’s 2017 tax cuts are being investigated by the Treasury Department. The Opportunity Zone tax break was meant to help poor communities by encouraging investment in new housing, businesses, and jobs. Instead, money that was eligible for the tax break has been used to fund luxury development projects in wealthy neighborhoods, including projects by friends of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and members of the Kushner family. (NBC News / New York Times)

Day 1091: Con job.

1/ The House of Representatives voted to send the Senate two articles of impeachment against Trump, initiating the third presidential impeachment trial in American history. The measure passed 228-to-193 with one Democrat – Collin Peterson of Minnesota – joining every Republican in voting “no.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi also announced the seven House Democrats who will serve as the “managers” in the trial, saying “The emphasis is on making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution to seek the truth for the American people.” The two articles, charging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, will be hand-delivered to the Senate with the trial expected to begin on Tuesday. It remains undecided if witnesses will be called to testify. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that his impeachment is a “Con Job.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / CNBC / NBC News)

  • A step-by-step guide to what happens when the House sends the impeachment articles to the Senate. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • Who are the impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Trump in the Senate trial? House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler will lead the House team, joined by Jason Crow, Val Demings, Sylvia Garcia, Hakeem Jeffries, and Zoe Lofgren (Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Rudy Giuliani requested a private meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky – then the president-elect of Ukraine – with Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” according to new documents released by House Democrats. The documents contains several handwritten notes, emails, encrypted messages, and text messages that show how Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, tried to set up a meeting between Giuliani and Zelensky, as well as efforts to “Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.” The documents also show that before Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. Democrats said the new records “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has “been concealed by the president himself.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Four Republicans will vote with Democrats to invoke Congress’ war powers and limit Trump’s ability to conduct further military actions against Iran. Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Todd Young, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul have joined 47 Democrats in support of the resolution, which was introduced the day after the Trump administration carried out the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani without seeking Congressional approval. (Washington Post)

  • Security footage shows that the Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 was taken down by two missiles, fired roughly 30 seconds apart. The missiles were launched from an Iranian military base approximately eight miles from where the plane was hit. Flight 752 was one of 19 planes that took off from Tehran in the hours after Iran launched missiles against military bases in Iraq that were housing U.S. troops in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Soleimani. (New York Times)

poll/ 49% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the situation with Iran, while 42% approve. 88% of Republicans approve of Trump’s actions, as do 44% of Independents and 10% of Democrats. (NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist)

poll/ 71% of voters support Trump’s decision not to pursue military action against Iran after Tehran targeted two air bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. 14% disapproved of Trump’s decision, and 15% said they did not know or had no opinion. 58% approved of Trump’s decision to level the new sanctions against Iran, while 22% disapproved. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn moved to withdraw his two-year-old guilty plea for lying to the FBI during the Russia probe due to “bad faith” actions by the Justice Department. Flynn asked a judge to withdraw his plea and to delay his sentencing by 30 days. Flynn’s defense team cited his cooperation with the Mueller probe and said the government’s “stunning and vindictive reversal of its earlier representations to this Court are incredible, vindictive, in bad faith, and breach the plea agreement.” (NPR / New York Times / NBC News)

  2. Putin replaced his prime minister and proposed constitutional changes, which would limit the power of a successor after 2024, when Putin is required by law to step down. As head of the State Council, Putin could also remain in control and guide policy after his presidential term expires. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  3. The Trump administration released its hold on $8.2 billion in disaster aid to Puerto Rico. The Department of Housing and Urban Development failed to release the funding in September, saying it needed to ensure financial safeguards were put in place in light of recent political unrest on the island. (Politico)

  4. Trump signed the “phase one” trade deal with China, which includes Chinese commitments to purchase an additional $200 billion worth of American goods and services by 2021. The initial trade agreement also includes new protections for trade secrets and intellectual property. (CNBC / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / New York Times)

Day 1090: "Deserve the truth."

1/ The House will vote on Wednesday to transmit articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate. “The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. Before the vote, Pelosi will appoint the team of impeachment managers who will prosecute the trial against Trump. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler are expected to be two of the impeachment managers. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, said Trump’s impeachment trial will begin next Tuesday – the start of Season Four of the Trump presidency. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico / Reuters / ABC News)

  • Rudy Giuliani asked Trump if he could join the White House impeachment team. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and outside lawyer Jay Sekulow are expected to lead the Trump’s defense. The White House declined to comment. (HuffPost / CNN)

2/ Senior Senate Republicans rejected Trump’s call to dismiss impeachment charges against him, saying “There is almost no interest” for a motion to dismiss the House charges. Republicans hold a 53-seat majority in the Senate and dismissing the articles of impeachment would require 51 votes. Multiple Republicans, however, have indicated they would oppose a motion to dismiss, arguing that both Trump’s legal team and the House impeachment managers should be able to present their case. (Washington Post / Associated Press / Reuters / The Hill / Politico)

3/ The Russian military hacked into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry. Using similar tactics to those used to obtain emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC, Russian hackers employed phishing emails to steal usernames and passwords from Burisma employees. It is still unclear what the hackers found or what they were looking for, but experts say the timing and scale of the attack suggest that they could be searching for information about the Bidens. The hacking attempts began in early November while reports about the Bidens, Ukraine, and impeachment were leading the news in the U.S. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

4/ Trump is preparing to divert another $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding to pay for his border wall construction this year — five times the amount that Congress authorized for the project in the 2020 budget. The Pentagon funds – enough to fund about 885 miles of new fencing by 2022 – would come from military construction projects and counter-narcotics programs. The diversion would bring the total amount of federal funding allocated for border fencing to $18.4 billion. (Washington Post)

5/ A former Trump campaign adviser and key witness in the Mueller investigation pleaded guilty to charges of child sex trafficking and possessing child pornography. George Nader admitted in court that he brought an underage boy to the U.S. for sex and that he possessed child pornography that depicted the sexual abuse of toddlers. Both crimes occurred before his time with the 2016 Trump campaign, where he worked as an informal foreign policy adviser and attended high-level meetings. The Justice Department has recommended that he receive the minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. (Courthouse News Service / Washington Post / CNN / Rolling Stone / Yahoo News)

📺 What to watch for during tonight’s Democratic debate. (New York Times / CNN)

Day 1089: Interpretations.

1/ Defense Secretary Mark Esper “didn’t see” intelligence backing up Trump’s claim that Iran was planning to strike four U.S. embassies. Trump previously told Fox News that Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was “probably” going to attack “four embassies,” including the “embassy in Baghdad.” While Esper agreed with Trump that additional attacks against U.S. embassies were likely, he said Trump’s comments were not based on any specific evidence. Esper also confirmed that he sent “thousands of American paratroopers to the Middle East to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and other sites” based on Trump’s evidence-free assertion. (Reuters / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 1086: Trump claimed Iran had targeted four American embassies before he ordered the killing of Soleimani. Yesterday, Trump claimed that Iran was “looking to blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, but did not mention the three other embassies under “imminent” threat. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  • U.S. Embassy security officials at the State Department were not made aware of any imminent threats to four U.S. embassies, contradicting Trump’s claim that assassinating Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was an act of self-defense. The State Department sent a global warning before the strike occurred, but no warnings were issued to any individual U.S. embassy and the global warning did not mention any imminent attack. One Senior State Department official said he was “blindsided” when the Trump administration attempted to justify the killing by saying Soleimani was behind an imminent threat to blow us U.S. embassies. (CNN)

2/ Senior administration officials declined to confirm Trump’s assertion that Iran was “looking to blow up” four U.S. embassies. Officials instead suggested that Trump’s “interpretation” of the threat was consistent with overall intelligence that justified the killing of Soleimani. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that “it doesn’t really matter” whether Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat to the United States. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump authorized the assassination of Soleimani seven months ago. Trump issued a presidential directive in June that the killing of Soleimani was “only on the table if they hit Americans,” referring to Iranian actions in the region. The directive also came with the condition that Trump would have the final say on any specific operation to kill the Iranian general. The Trump administration’s justification for ordering the drone strike, however, was that Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on Americans and had to be stopped. (NBC News)

  • The Trump administration’s shifting explanations for the Soleimani strike. (New York Times)

4/ The Trump administration warned Iraq that it could lose access to its central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank if Baghdad kicks out American forces. In response to airstrike that killed Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport, the Iraqi parliament voted to urge Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to work toward the expulsion of the approximately 5,300 U.S. troops. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 1086: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. to come up with a mechanism for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq. During a phone call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mahdi said Iraq rejects all violations of its sovereignty, including the assassination of Soleimani on Iraqi soil by the U.S. and the ballistic missiles fired at Iraqi bases by Iranians in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing. Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” according to a statement. The U.S. currently has more than 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq. (Associated Press / CNBC / Washington Post)

5/ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not rule out the possibility of a House subpoena for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, depending on whether the Senate seeks testimony in Trump’s impeachment trial. Pelosi called Trump “too afraid to let any of his top aides testify,” saying he’s been “impeached for life” regardless of “any gamesmanship” by Mitch McConnell, whom she accused of orchestrating a “coverup” of Trump’s behavior. Pelsoi also didn’t rule out the possibility of additional articles of impeachment against Trump in the future, saying “Let’s just see what the Senate does.” (ABC News) / Washington Post / NBC News)

  • The White House expects some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial. Senior White House officials increasingly believe that at least four Republicans will vote to call witnesses. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Cory Gardner, Rand Paul, and Lamar Alexander are all considered possibilities. (CBS News)

  • A Rudy Giuliani associate turned over thousands of pages of documents to House impeachment investigators. Lev Parnas provided investigators with documents, recordings, photos, text messages from his iPhone, a Samsung phon, and his What’s App account. (CNN)

poll/ 66% of Americans would like to see John Bolton testify in the Senate impeachment trial, including 39% of Republicans, 71% of independents, and 91% of Democrats. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 56% of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of Iran, while 43% approve. 52% of Americans think the airstrike against Soleimani made the United States less safe, while 25% said they felt more safe. (ABC News / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Department of Homeland Security placed a group of non-violent climate activists on a list of “extremists” alongside white supremacists and mass killers. Members of Climate Direct Action are known for acts of civil disobedience, like closing the valves on oil pipelines in four states. DHS described the group as “suspected environmental rights extremists” and listed them alongside people like Dylann Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers during a 2015 racist attack in Charleston, SC. (The Guardian)

  2. More than a dozen Saudi servicemen training at U.S. military installations will be expelled from the United States after an FBI investigation found connections to extremist rhetoric, possession of child pornography, and a failure to report behavior by the gunman who killed three people last month at a Pensacola, Fla., military base. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

  3. Attorney General William Barr called the December shooting by a Saudi national at the Pensacola Naval Air Station “an act of terrorism” that was “motivated by jihadist ideology.” (CBS News / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / USA Today)

  4. The official White House Twitter account tweeted a picture of snow falling around the White House with the caption, “First snow of the year!” even though it was 70 degrees in Washington, DC. The low was 49 degrees. The photo in the tweet was actually taken on Jan. 7 – the last time it snowed in DC. (Fox News / HuffPost)

Day 1086: Destabilizing activities.

1/ Nancy Pelosi will transmit articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate next week. The trial could begin as soon as next week. The House will also consider a resolution next week to appoint impeachment managers. Trump, meanwhile, said he would “have to” block his former national security adviser John Bolton from testifying in the Senate trial, “for the sake of the office.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • READ: Pelosi’s letter saying she is preparing for a vote next week to send articles of impeachment to Senate. (CNN)

  • Sen. Susan Collins said she’s been working with “a fairly small group” of Republican senators to ensure witnesses can be called in Trump’s impeachment trial. (NBC News / Bangor Daily News)

2/ The operation that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad was more ambitious and multifaceted than the Trump administration has disclosed. The U.S. military targeted but failed to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai in Yemen, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. A senior official said the two strikes were authorized around the same time and that the U.S. did not disclose the Shahlai mission because it did not go according to plan. Defense and State Department officials claimed the strike against Soleimani saved “dozens” if not “hundreds” of American lives from an imminent threat. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

  • Trump claimed Iran had targeted four American embassies before he ordered the killing of Soleimani. Yesterday, Trump claimed that Iran was “looking to blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, but did not mention the three other embassies under “imminent” threat. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

3/ The Trump administration announced new economic sanctions on Iran for “destabilizing activities.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions would target eight individuals involved in Iran’s construction, manufacturing, textile and mining sectors. The Treasury also designated 17 Iranian metals producers and mining companies, along with entities based in China and the Seychelles, for other penalties. (CNBC / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Iran accused western governments of “psychological warfare” for all claiming to have intelligence showing the Boeing jet that crashed near Tehran was shot down. Officials familiar with the intelligence said the aircraft was downed by two Russian-made SA-15 surface-to-air missiles that were detected soon after the Ukrainian jet took off. A spokesperson for the Iranian government, however, denied reports that Iran shot down the airliner, calling it “a big lie.” (Bloomberg / CNN)

5/ Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. to come up with a mechanism for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq. During a phone call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mahdi said Iraq rejects all violations of its sovereignty, including the assassination of Soleimani on Iraqi soil by the U.S. and the ballistic missiles fired at Iraqi bases by Iranians in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing. Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to Iraq to prepare a mechanism to carry out the parliament’s resolution regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq,” according to a statement. The U.S. currently has more than 5,000 troops stationed in Iraq. (Associated Press / CNBC / Washington Post)

  • The State Department said any delegation the U.S. sends to Iraq would not discuss the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. In a statement, department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. presence in Iraq was “appropriate,” but added that there does “need to be a conversation between the U.S. and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership.” (Reuters / New York Times)

6/ A New York judge rejected Trump’s effort to throw out a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll, who claims he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. Carroll sued Trump in November, claiming he defamed her by saying she lied about the rape and that she was motivated by money and a political agenda to make up the allegation. Trump argued that because he made those statements while in Washington, D.C. – and not in New York – he could not be sued for them in a New York court. Justice Doris Ling-Cohan, however, rejected the argument. (New York Times / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 883: Trump rejected an allegation by journalist E. Jean Carroll that he sexually assaulted her in a Manhattan department store dressing room in the 1990s, saying that he has “never met this person in my life.” According to Carroll, she met Trump inside Bergdorf Goodman when he told her he was buying a gift for “a girl” and needed help. While in the lingerie section, Carroll said Trump suggested a lace bodysuit, and encouraged her to try it on. “The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips,” Carroll writes. “He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coat dress and pulls down my tights.” More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Trump, meanwhile, said: “Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda.” (New York Magazine / Politico / Daily Beast)

7/ A Justice Department inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s business dealings has effectively ended with no criminal charges. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed John Huber to look into Republican allegations that donors to the Clinton Foundation had been given special treatment by Clinton when she served as secretary of state. Huber has largely finished and found nothing worth pursuing. (Washington Post / Reuters / CNN)

8/ The Trump administration is preparing to expand its travel ban. Draft documents of the plan – timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Trump’s January 2017 executive order – suggest the administration has been actively preparing media talking points, as well as a draft presidential proclamation. It’s unclear how many countries would be included in the expansion, but the proclamation includes seven slots that contain descriptors for each nation and varied restrictions. (Associated Press / BuzzFeed News)

poll/ 55% of U.S. adults support a full impeachment trial of Trump. 45% said they preferred to let voters decide Trump’s fate in the November election. (LX/Morning Consult)

Day 1085: Reckless.

1/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would send the articles of impeachment to the Senate “when I’m ready – and that will probably be soon.” Pelosi’s comments came after Democrats started pushing to end the holdout, believing that Mitch McConnell will never relent on the rules for the trial. Pelosi, however, reiterated her demand to McConnell that he first detail the rules for a Senate trial so she could choose a team of “impeachment managers,” who will prosecute the House’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress case, saying “Is that too much to ask?” McConnell, meanwhile, has signed onto a resolution seeking to change the rules of the Senate to dismiss articles of impeachment if they are not transmitted within 25 days of their approval – in this case, Jan. 12. (New York Times / Politico / Axios / CNN / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • McConnell told Republican senators that he expects Pelosi to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate as soon as Friday, setting up an impeachment trial that begins early next week. (Politico)

  • Trump met privately with McConnell at the White House to discuss the impeachment trial. McConnell’s office has been in discussion with the White House for weeks regarding the trial, working together on various ideas and proposals for how the trial should be set up. “We want this to start as quickly as possible,” said the White House legislative director. “We want the President to be acquitted as quickly as possible.” (CNN)

  • Trump said he doesn’t plan to block John Bolton from testifying at a Senate impeachment trial, but that he would need to protect his executive privilege. “When we start allowing national security advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can’t do that,” Trump said. (Bloomberg)

2/ Two Senate Republicans called the Trump administration’s classified briefing on the strike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani “insulting and demeaning,” and that Trump’s national security team failed to justify claims of an “imminent” attack. Mike Lee called it “worst briefing I’ve had on a military issue” while Rand Paul said “There was no specific information given to us of a specific attack […] I didn’t learn anything in the hearing that I hadn’t seen in a newspaper already.” During the briefing, which was led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, lawmakers were urged not to question Trump’s war powers and to stand down on attempting to provide a constitutional check to the executive branch. Trump, defending his national security team, told reporters at the White House that he’s “never seen [Mike Lee] like that,” before claiming that “numerous” lawmakers called it “the greatest presentation they’ve ever had.” Mike Pence, meanwhile, claimed that the administration could not provide Congress – in closed-door, classified setting – with the “most compelling” intelligence because doing so “could compromise” sources and methods. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / ABC News / Politico)

  • Trump suggested that he ordered the killing of Soleimani to disrupt a previously undisclosed plot to “blow up our embassy” in Baghdad. Trump declined to share details of the alleged plot and instead focused on how the administration had “caught a total monster. We took him out,” referring to Soleimani. (Politico)

3/ The House adopted a war powers resolution that forces Trump to go to Congress for authorization before taking further military action against Iran. The measure directs Trump to “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces” against Iran without congressional authorization under a section of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, except when necessary to “defend against an imminent armed attack.” The Senate is also expected to take up war powers resolutions related to Iran. (New York Times / NBC News / CBS News / Politico / CNN)

4/ U.S. officials have “high confidence” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board. One U.S. official said Iran may have shot down the aircraft by mistake. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada had “intelligence from multiple sources” that an Iranian surface-to-air missile brought down the jetliner, adding that “This may well have been unintentional.” The Boeing 737-800 crashed outside Tehran, Iran, shortly after take-off Wednesday morning. Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said it wouldn’t provide Boeing or the U.S. access to the recovered black box flight recorders. Trump, meanwhile, mused that the plane was flying in a “pretty rough neighborhood” and “Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / Bloomberg / CNBC / CNN / Yahoo News)

  • WATCH: Video appears to show an Iranian missile hitting a plane near Tehran’s airport – the area where a Ukrainian airliner stopped transmitting its signal before it crashed on Wednesday. (New York Times)

poll/ 52% of American called Trump’s behavior with Iran “reckless.” Separately, 69% agreed that the attack made it more likely Iran would strike American interests in the Middle East, 63% agreed that there would be a terrorist attacks on the American homeland, and 62% agreed that the U.S. and Iran would go to war. (USA Today / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration proposed changes to environmental rules that would make it easier to build pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects. The move would narrow the scope of the National Environmental Policy Act, reduce federal oversight, and exempt projects without significant federal funding from environmental reviews. The proposed regulations would also redefine “major federal action” to exclude privately financed projects with minimal government funding or involvement. (Washington Post / NPR / Politico / Associated Press)

  2. China’s chief trade negotiator will travel to the U.S. next week to sign the phase-one trade deal with the U.S. China’s Commerce Ministry confirmed the visit, marking the first official acknowledgment by the Chinese government that they plan to sign the agreement to help ease bilateral tensions between the world’s two largest economies. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. The New York City Bar Association asked Congress to investigate Attorney General William Barr for bias, saying his actions and statements have positioned the Justice Department as “political partisans willing to use the levers of government to empower certain groups over others.” The group said Barr has “disregarded” his fundamental obligations” as a government lawyer to “to act impartially, to avoid even the appearance of partiality and impropriety, and to avoid manifesting bias, prejudice or partisanship in the exercise of official responsibilities.” (Bloomberg)

  4. A federal appeals court lifted an order blocking $3.6 billion in military funds for construction of Trump’s border wall. Last month, a U.S. District Court judge blocked Trump from unilaterally increasing funding for his wall to a level above what he had first requested in his budget. Congress had authorized Trump to spend $1.375 billion for border wall improvements. (Politico)

Day 1084: Standing down.

1/ Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops Tuesday night in retaliation for the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. No U.S. or Iraqi casualties have been reported. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the strikes a “slap in the face” to the U.S. and not sufficient retaliation for the killing of Soleimani. (Washington Post / NBC News / NPR / New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

  • Trump met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the Iranian missile attack, tweeting “All is well! […] So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!” (NBC News)

  • Satellite photos of the Iranian missile strike. (NPR)

2/ The U.S. military had advance warning of Iran’s attack on the two American locations in Iraq. “We had intelligence reports several hours in advance that the Iranians were seeking to strike the bases,” a senior administration official said, giving military commanders time to move U.S. troops into safe, fortified positions. Meanwhile, some Trump administration officials believe that Iran’s missiles intentionally missed areas populated by Americans, suggesting that Iran chose to send a message rather than provoke a substantial U.S. military response. (Washington Post / USA Today / CNN)

3/ Trump said Iran appears “to be standing down” after the missile attack and signaled that no further U.S. military strikes were planned, because “The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.” Trump, in a nationally televised address from the White House, announced a new round of what he termed “punishing economic sanctions” against Iran, while calling on NATO to become “much more involved in the Middle East process.” Trump also called on world powers to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal so a new pact could be negotiated. (New York Times / NPR / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / USA Today / New York Times)

4/ The House will vote Thursday on a resolution to limit Trump’s military options for action against Iran, unless explicitly authorized by Congress. The war powers resolution says that without further congressional approval, Trump would have to end all military action against Iran within 30 days. The House could also consider repealing the 2002 authorization for the use of military force for the Iraq War, as well as blocking funding for military action against Iran not approved by Congress. (New York Times / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify in a hearing on Iran next week. Members of Congress want to know more about the decision to assassinate Iran’s top military commander. The hearing will take place on Jan. 14 and will include a panel of Iran policy experts. The State Department has not responded to the request or indicated whether Pompeo will agree to testify. (Reuters)

5/ Several Democratic senators want House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to submit the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, saying the party has little to gain from further delay. Pelosi called on McConnell to publish a resolution outlining rules for the impeachment trial before the House sends over the articles. McConnell, however, declined, saying “There will be no haggling” and that the House had no choice but to end “shameless game-playing” and transmit the two articles of impeachment. (Bloomberg / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ Across 32 countries surveyed, 64% say they do not have confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, while 29% express confidence. (Pew Research Center / NPR / Politico)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration wants to delay disclosing what the Secret Service spends on protection for Trump and his family when they travel until after the 2020 election. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been negotiating draft legislation with several senators to move the Secret Service back to his department - its historic home. Democrats, however, want the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to Trump’s travel and his adult children within 120 days. Mnuchin, however, wants such disclosures to begin next year. (Washington Post)

  2. New York state’s Court of Appeals will decide whether Trump must face a defamation case by former contestant on “The Apprentice.” Summer Zervos said Trump kissed her against her will at a meeting in 2007 and later groped her at a Beverly Hills hotel. Trump denied the claims, calling Zervos a liar. Trump has argued that he is immune from lawsuits, investigations, and criminal proceedings while he remains in office. (Reuters)

  3. The Trump Organization set a Jan. 23 deadline for bids on the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The company hopes to get more than $500 million for the lease rights to the historic Old Post Office building. (Wall Street Journal)

  4. Trump’s reelection campaign plans to spend $10 million to advertise during the Super Bowl. The campaign has purchased 60 seconds of commercial time during the Feb. 2 game. It is unclear whether the campaign will run a single minute-long ad or split the time between multiple, shorter ads. (Politico)

Day 1083: "Historic nightmare."

1/ Mitch McConnell told Republicans he has the votes needed to begin Trump’s impeachment trial without committing to calling new witnesses or admitting new evidence, rebuffing demands from Democrats. McConnell believes he has at least 51 votes from his 53-member Republican conference to start the trial, offering no guarantee that the Senate will issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents beyond what the House’s inquiry gathered. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has withheld the articles of impeachment since the House voted in December to charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in an effort to push Republicans to agree to fair rules for the trial. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / NBC News / CNN)

  • Minority Leader Charles Schumer said Senate Democrats will force votes on witnesses and documents at the start of the impeachment trial, putting Republicans on record about “a fair trial.” (Washington Post / The Hill)

  • 📌 Day 1082: Former national security adviser John Bolton said he is “prepared to testify” in Trump’s impeachment trial if subpoenaed by the Senate. Bolton, who so far has complied with a White House directive to not cooperate in the inquiry, has direct knowledge of Trump’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the impeachment case. A Senate subpoena requires at least 51 votes, which means four Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to call a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / ABC News / Axios / Associated Press)

2/ Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Trump’s threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites would constitute a war crime, which the U.S. has no intention of doing so. Trump twice threatened on Twitter he would strike Iranian cultural sites that were “very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” warning that Iran “WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD” if it follows through with its threats of retaliation in the wake of Gen. Qasem Soleimani’s assassination. Esper added that the U.S. is “not looking to start a war with Iran, but we are prepared to finish one.” (New York Times / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1081: Trump threatened – twice – to target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated. Trump tweeted a day earlier that the U.S. was prepared to strike 52 Iranian assets, including some “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” Two senior U.S. officials, meanwhile, described widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” Trump said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.” Destroying cultural sites could be considered a war crime under international agreements, such as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Associated Press)

3/ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani “the right decision, we got it right,” claiming there was intelligence showing an “imminent attack” on Americans and U.S. interests across the Middle East. Pompeo, however, failed to provide any evidence to show what might have been targeted, or how soon an attack was expected, which is required to legally justify the strike. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, called on Trump to declassify the White House notification to Congress of the drone strike, saying “It is critical that national security matters of such import be shared with the American people in a timely manner.” Pompeo also insisted that any retaliatory measures by U.S. forces against Iran would abide by the laws of war, contradicting Trump’s previous suggestion that he might target Iran’s cultural sites. Later, Trump told reporters he would avoid targeting cultural sites in any future military attacks, walking back his earlier threats. (New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Pompeo ordered U.S. diplomats to limit any contact with Iranian opposition groups, saying meetings with the groups could jeopardize U.S. diplomacy with Iran. (Bloomberg)

4/ Iran is considering 13 scenarios to inflict a “historic nightmare” on the U.S. for killing Soleimani. The Iranian parliament also designated the Pentagon and affiliated companies as terrorists. Iran’s foreign minister, meanwhile, accused the U.S. of engaging in “state terrorism” by assassinating Soleimani. Javad Zarif said Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and adopt a hardline approach toward Iran has “destroyed stability” in the Middle East, warning that things would get worse if the U.S. doesn’t change its approach. Zarif also said Iran plans to “respond proportionally not disproportionally” and “lawfully, we are not lawless people like President Trump.” (Bloomberg / Reuters / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

5/ The Pentagon mistakenly released a memo that said the U.S. would pull troops out of Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley told reporters that the letter was a draft and that its release was an “honest mistake.” The document was an unsigned draft memo from the U.S. Command in Baghdad notifying the Iraqi government that the U.S. planned to reposition some of its troops and suggested the removal of troops from the country. When asked about the memo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it was “inconsistent of where we are right now.” (Washington Post / CNN / The Guardian / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 1082: The U.S. military will reposition troops within Iraq in preparation for a possible withdrawal. In a draft letter to Iraqi military officials, U.S. forces will be relocated “to prepare for onward movement” and says that “we respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper, meanwhile, said the U.S. has not made any decision to leave Iraq. The letter was released a day after Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country. (Washington Post)

  • Russia offered Iraq an air defense system to “ensure the country’s sovereignty and reliable protection of airspace,” according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. (Al-Masdar News)

  • The Trump administration has begun drafting sanctions against Iraq after Trump threatened the country with economic penalties if it expelled U.S. troops. Iraq is an ally that the United States has spent almost two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars supporting. (Washington Post / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. A captain at a for-profit immigrant detention center in Nevada is a neo-Nazi. Travis Frey is currently employed at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, which is run by private prison giant CoreCivic and is contracted with ICE. Frey posted at least a dozen times on a neo-Nazi while serving as head of security at a different for-profit ICE detention center in Indianapolis. Using the screen name “In Hoc Signo Vinces,” Frey self-identified as a “fascist” in his profile and started putting out feelers in 2017 in an attempt to establish a white nationalist chapter in Nevada. (Vice)

  2. Mike Pompeo informed Mitch McConnell that he will not run for Senate in Kansas. Senate Republicans believed Pompeo would be the strongest candidate to win the seat being vacated by Pat Roberts, a Republican who is retiring at the end of the year after four terms. The filing deadline for the primary is in June. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  3. The Justice Department – in a reversal – no longer supports a lenient sentence for Michael Flynn. Instead, prosecutors recommend that Trump’s former national security adviser be sentenced for up to six months in prison for lying to investigators in the Russia inquiry, saying Flynn failed to accept responsibility for his actions and undermined a separate criminal case. A year ago, the government said Flynn deserved credit for admitting his misconduct and for cooperating with prosecutors in investigating his former business partner. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNN)

Day 1082: Get this done.

1/ Former national security adviser John Bolton said he is “prepared to testify” in Trump’s impeachment trial if subpoenaed by the Senate. Bolton, who so far has complied with a White House directive to not cooperate in the inquiry, has direct knowledge of Trump’s actions and conversations regarding Ukraine that could fill in blanks in the impeachment case. A Senate subpoena requires at least 51 votes, which means four Republicans would need to vote with Democrats to call a witness. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / ABC News / Axios / Associated Press)

  • Rudy Giuliani also said he is willing testify at the Senate trial, but that he “would do demonstrations. I’d give lectures. I’d give summations.” Giuliani said that while “I don’t know if anybody would have the courage to give me the case,” he would lead Trump’s defense and “prosecute it as a racketeering case, which I kind of invented anyway.” (ABC News / NBC News)

2/ Trump called for a quick end to the impeachment process, tweeting to “get this done.” Trump’s tweet came shortly before Bolton’s announcement. The House passed two articles of impeachment against Trump last month, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to formally transmit the charges to Senate – a requirement before the Senate can hold a trial. Pelosi has been holding the documents as Democrats seek guarantees about the scope of a Senate trial, including witnesses. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested that Republicans should change the Senate rules so they can hold a Senate impeachment trial within days if Nancy Pelosi refuses to submit the articles of impeachment against Trump. Graham said he would work with Mitch McConnell on a unilateral Republican move that would allow the Senate to proceed without the articles, which charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. A 51-vote majority is required to change the rules for the impeachment trial. (Washington Post / Reuters / NBC News)

3/ Leaked emails from the Pentagon show that Trump personally directed the hold military aide to Ukraine. An Aug. 30 email from Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget to Elaine McCusker, the acting Pentagon comptroller, stating “Clear direction from POTUS to hold” aid from Ukraine. Earlier the same day, Trump met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the hold on $391 million in military assistance for Ukraine. (Just Security / CNN / Talking Points Memo)

4/ The Trump administration is withholding 20 emails between a Mick Mulvaney aide and an Office of Management and Budget official discussing the freeze of military aid to Ukraine. In response to a court-ordered Freedom of Information Act request, the Office of Management and Budget said it would defy the order not turn over any of the 40 pages of emails, suggesting that the disclosure would “inhibit the frank and candid exchange of views that is necessary for effective government decision-making.” The FOIA request sought emails exchanged between Robert Blair, a top aide to Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, who was in charge of handling the process for releasing the security assistance to Ukraine. (New York Times)

  • Chuck Schumer demanded that the Senate call Mick Mulvaney and White House aide Robert Blair to testify about their roles in blocking aid to Ukraine, as well as insight into the effort by Trump’s national security team to get the hold lifted. Schumer’s comments came after previously undisclosed emails were released. He added: “these new revelations are a game changer.” Mulvaney and Blair, as well as John Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, have been blocked by the White House from testifying despite subpoenas having been issued. Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, has said he does not want any witnesses called. (New York Times)

  • Mitch McConnell defended his coordination with the White House over the Senate impeachment trial, calling it a “fantasy that the speaker of the House will get to hand design the trial proceedings.” McConnell added: “That’s obviously a non-starter.” (CNN)

  • Bill Taylor, who led the U.S. embassy in Ukraine and served as a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry, has left his post. Taylor twice testified as part of the House probe into Trump, providing testimony about an alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. (CNN)

5/ House Democrats will vote this week on a resolution to restrain Trump’s military actions. In a letter to House Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s airstrike “provocative and disproportionate” and that it had “endangered our servicemembers, diplomats and others by risking a serious escalation of tensions with Iran.” The war powers resolution would essentially end additional military operations in Iran unless there is the threat of an imminent attack. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that this tweets are sufficient “notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner.” The resolution is expected to pass the House as early as Wednesday, which would force a vote on the Senate floor soon after. (Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 1081: Trump authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander late Thursday.

6/ The Trump administration blocked Iran’s top diplomat from entering the U.S. to address the United Nations Security Council about the assassination of Iran’s top military official in Baghdad. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reportedly requested a visa a “few weeks ago” to enter the U.S. to attend a Jan. 9 Security Council meeting. A Trump administration official, however, informed U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres today that U.S. would not allow Zarif into the country. (Foreign Policy)

  • More than 60 Iranians and Iranian-Americans were stopped and held for additional questioning at the U.S.-Canadian border. Some were held for up to 10 hours and asked about their political views and allegiances before being released, while others were denied entry. Customs and Border Protection denied the claims that travelers were stopped or referred to “secondary screening” because of their country of origin. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News)

7/ The U.S. military will reposition troops within Iraq in preparation for a possible withdrawal. In a draft letter to Iraqi military officials, U.S. forces will be relocated “to prepare for onward movement” and says that “we respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper, meanwhile, said the U.S. has not made any decision to leave Iraq. The letter was released a day after Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country. (Washington Post)

poll/ 29% of Republican voters want Trump Jr. to be the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, while 16% support Ivanka Trump. (Axios / The Guardian)

poll/ 57% of Americans think Trump committed an impeachable offense, and 52% said they think Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry are enough evidence to remove him from office. (FiveThirtyEight)


Notables.

  1. A Trump administration plan would no longer require federal agencies to consider the environmental consequences of new infrastructure projects, weakening the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed changes would also limit the range of projects that require environmental review. (New York Times)

  2. The Trump administration will now deport asylum-seeking Mexican nationals – including families – to Guatemala. The program was implemented in late November and guidance was sent to asylum officials in recent days detailing how Mexicans were now to be included in the process. (BuzzFeed News)

  3. Paul Manafort said he used Sean Hannity to receive backchannel messages from Trump while prosecutors investigated him for financial crimes, according to a 2018 interview summary. Manafort told the Robert Mueller’s office that after FBI agents raided his home in July 2017, he spoke with Hannity, whom he understood to be passing along messages from Trump. (BuzzFeed News / Daily Beast)

  4. Trump asked a New York judge to throw out an advice columnist’s lawsuit accusing him of defamation after he denied her claim that he raped her in a department store dressing room two decades ago. Trump’s lawyer claimed that E. Jean Carroll can’t sue Trump in New York because the statements were made in Washington. Carroll, however, said in an earlier filing that Secret Service agents blocked her attempts to serve the complaint, prompting a judge to rule that she could serve it by mail to the White House. (Bloomberg)

  5. A former Fox News reporter claimed that Trump told her she was “the hottest one at Fox News” and urged her to come to his office “so we can kiss” before he became president. Courtney Friel said Trump called her after she expressed an interest in working on his Miss USA beauty pageant. (New York Daily News / The Guardian / Daily Beast)

  6. Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has been referred to the U.S. Treasury Department for possible sanctions violations related to a trip to Venezuela for a meeting with a top aide of President Nicolas Maduro. (Associated Press)

  7. Trump spent at least 86 days at a golf club in 2019. Since 2017, Trump has spent at least 252 days at a Trump golf club and 333 days at a Trump property as president. By comparison, Obama played 333 rounds of golf during his eight years in office. (CNN)

Day 1081: "Reign of terror."

1/ Trump authorized a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander late Thursday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon had taken “decisive defensive action” and killed Qasem Soleimani, who led the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, because he “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” Soleimani was the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades.Esper also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week. Speaking to reporters while on vacation at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday – hours after the attack on the American Embassy in Baghdad – Trump insisted that he did not want war, saying “I want to have peace. I like peace.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Associated Press / NBC News /

  • How Trump decided to kill Iran’s Soleimani. (Politico)

  • How Trump planned the drone strike with a tight circle of aides. (Bloomberg)

  • Soleimani posted memes antagonizing Trump on social media. (Washington Post)

  • Killing Soleimani was worse than a crime. (The Atlantic)

  • After killing Soleimani, Trump confronts a credibility gap: “The administration’s track record doesn’t inspire confidence.” (Vanity Fair)

  • The dangers posed by the killing of Qassem Suleimani. (New Yorker)

2/ Trump claimed he ordered the killing of Soleimani “to stop a war” – not start one – and that Soleimani’s “reign of terror is over.” In brief remarks from Mar-a-Lago, Trump said Soleimani had been caught “in the act” planning “imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, argued that the drone strike was a necessary act of self defense. (Associated Press / NBC News / ABC News)

  • Trump repeatedly claimed in 2011 and 2012 that Obama would start a war with Iran to win reelection. (CNN)

3/ Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed “severe revenge” and “harsh retaliation” in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the killing a “heinous crime” and said his country would “take revenge.” Trump, meanwhile, warned that he was “prepared to take whatever action is necessary” if Iran threatened Americans, despite insisting that he took action to avoid a war with Iran. Trump also defended killing the Iranian general, tweeting he “should have been taken out” years ago and that “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” (Associated Press / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / NBC News)

  • Security experts warned that Tehran’s retaliation options includes direct attacks on U.S. embassies, military facilities, and bases overseas, and cyberattacks against domestic or allied interests. (Wall Street Journal / The Guardian)

4/ Trump threatened – twice – to target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated. Trump tweeted a day earlier that the U.S. was prepared to strike 52 Iranian assets, including some “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” Two senior U.S. officials, meanwhile, described widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people,” Trump said. “And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way.” Destroying cultural sites could be considered a war crime under international agreements, such as the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Associated Press)

5/ Trump ordered the strike killing Soleimani without the consultation of Congress. The Trump administration still hasn’t explained the legal justification for the strike, prompting Democrats and some Republican lawmakers to question whether Trump had the authority to order the strike without Congressional approval. Trump, meanwhile, claimed that his tweets are sufficient notice to Congress of any possible U.S. military strike on Iran. Also at question is whether the Trump administration has international legal authority for the strikes. The U.S. is in Iraq with consent from the Iraqi government, but the attack was outside the scope of the U.S. mandate. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Israel had advance notice of the U.S. plan to kill Suleimani. (Los Angeles Times)

  • Trump told Mar-a-Lago associates and club-goers that he was working on a “big” response to the Iranian regime they would hear about very “soon.” Trump started telling people five days before launching the strike that killed Iran’s most important military leader. (Daily Beast)

6/ The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution calling on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. troops from Iraq following the U.S drone attack that killed Soleimani. Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi told lawmakers that the U.S. drone attack was a “political assassination” and that it was “time for American troops to leave” “for the sake of our national sovereignty.” About 5,000 American troops are in Iraq. The Trump administration tried to persuade Iraqi officials to stop the parliamentary vote to force the U.S. military out of Iraq. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, dismissed calls by Mahdi for a timetable for all foreign troops to exit the country. (USA Today / Axios / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

7/ Iran will no longer will comply with limits on uranium enrichment under its 2015 nuclear pact. “Iran’s nuclear program will have no limitations in production, including enrichment capacity,” the Iranian government said in an announcement, signaling the de facto collapse of the landmark agreement. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

8/ Trump threatened to put sanctions on Iraq “like they’ve never seen before ever” after its parliament passed a resolution calling for the government to expel foreign troops from the country. Trump told reporters that “If they do ask us to leave […] we will charge them sanctions” that will “make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” (CNBC)

9/ The U.S. is sending approximately 3,000 soldiers to the Middle East in response to threats from the Iranian government of a “harsh revenge” for the killing of Soleimani. The additional troops – about 2,800 soldiers – are from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Military.com / NBC News / CNN)

Day 1075: Admired.

1/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was warned by a senior adviser last summer that he should “expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House withheld security aid to Ukraine. In a June 27 email, Mulvaney wrote Robert Blair: “Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?” Blair replied that it was possible, but to “Expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House tried to rescind spending passed by the House and Senate. Blair also warned that withholding the aid could add to the narrative that Trump was pro-Russia. Mulvaney’s email came a week after Trump initially asked about holding back the Ukraine assistance and around the same time Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukraine to conduct internal investigations into Joe Biden and his son. (New York Times / CNN)

2/ Rudy Giuliani held a backchannel call in 2018 as part of a shadow diplomatic effort aimed at removing President Nicolas Maduro from power. Giuliani and then-Rep. Pete Sessions participated in the Sept. 2018 phone call with Maduro to negotiate his exit and reopen Venezuela to business. Giuliani also met then-national security adviser John Bolton around the time of the call to discuss a plan to ease Maduro from power. White House officials said they did not know why Giuliani was involved. (Washington Post / CNN)

3/ Trump’s tariffs backfired and led to job losses and higher prices, according to a Federal Reserve study. While the tariffs did reduce competition for some U.S. industries, the tariffs more than offset the effects of rising costs and retaliatory tariffs, the study found. (MarketWatch)

4/ The White House warned that it would “take action” if North Korea tests another long-range or nuclear missile, according to national security adviser Robert O’Brien. North Korea recently warned that failure to offer a new initiative regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program could result in an unwanted “Christmas gift” from Kim Jong Un. (Reuters)

5/ The Taliban agreed to a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan in hopes of reaching a peace agreement with the United States, which has demanded a ceasefire before any peace negotiations can begin. Taliban officials did not say when the ceasefire would begin and there has been no immediate response from Washington. (The Guardian)

  • 📌 Day 1047: Trump called for a cease-fire between the Taliban and U.S. forces in Afghanistan during an unannounced Thanksgiving visit with U.S. troops overseas. Trump told troops that the Taliban “wants to make a deal” and that “we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.” Trump claimed that he has made “tremendous progress” since he abruptly canceled his previous peace talks with the Taliban in September. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, however, indicated that a cease-fire wasn’t in progress or even part of the discussion with U.S. negotiators. Western diplomats and Taliban leaders were also confused by Trump’s remarks, since demanding a cease-fire would constitute a shift in the U.S. position and would require additional concessions from the Taliban. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Associated Press)

6/ Putin thanked Trump for helping to prevent a possible terrorist attack in Russia on New Year’s Eve. American intelligence agencies reportedly provided Russia’s Federal Security Service with information that led to the arrest of two suspects who were allegedly planning to carry out an attack on a crowd in St. Petersburg. Moscow’s version of the readout stated that Trump and Putin “discussed a range of issues of mutual interest” along with continued cooperation combating terrorism. No additional information about the planned attack was made public. This is the second time that Putin has called to thank Trump for helping to prevent an attack in St. Petersburg. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

poll/ Trump and Barack Obama tied for America’s most admired man in 2019. Both earned 18% of support among Americans as the man “living today in any part of the world” they admired most. It’s Obama’s 12th time in the top spot versus the first for Trump. (Gallup / ABC News / Politico)

  • Republican Sen. James Lankford doesn’t think Trump “as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth.” Lankford cited Trump’s tweets and “some of the things he says” as reasons why he doesn’t think Trump is someone who young people can look up to. Lankford, however, says he continues to support Trump because of his positions on abortion and religious liberty for Christians. (CBS News)

👋 Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will be on holiday break Dec. 31st through Jan. 2nd. We’ll return on Jan. 3rd, unless there’s a reason to return sooner. Special note: In the event there is no news between now and then (ha ha ha), WTFJHT won’t waste your time and fill space. Instead, we’ll return Jan. 6th.

Day 1072: Below average.

1/ Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she is “disturbed” by the coordination between Mitch McConnell and the White House for the Senate impeachment trial. Murkowski said McConnell has “confused the process” by declaring that he is acting in “total coordination” with Trump to set the parameters of the trial. “To me,” she continued, “it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense.” Murkowski, a moderate Republican, did not say how she will vote in the upcoming trial. (CNN / New York Times / ABC News / KTUU)

  • 📌 Day 1058: Mitch McConnell: There’s “no chance” that Trump will be removed from office as a result of the impeachment trial in the Senate. McConnell added that it “wouldn’t surprise” him if some Democrats broke ranks to vote in favor of Trump, calling the case “so darn weak.” McConnell and the White House have agreed to coordinate their plans for the trial, which McConnell has said he will end as soon as he has 51 GOP votes in place for a final vote. “We know how it’s going to end.” (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1064: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t commit to sending the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate until she sees “the process that is set forth” to ensure a “fair” trial. Democrats have questioned the impartiality of the Senate trial after Mitch McConnell said he’s coordinating with the White House to quickly acquit Trump. Senior Democratic aides suggested it was “very unlikely” that the House will send the articles to the Senate before January, effectively delaying the impeachment trial well into the new year, in order to pressure Republicans to allow new witnesses and evidence in the proceeding. “We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” Pelosi said. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us.” (New York Times / ABC News / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

2/ Trump retweeted an article that contained the name of the alleged whistleblower at the center of his impeachment. Trump, using his personal Twitter account, retweeted his reelection account, which had posted a link to a Washington Examiner story from Dec. 3 that named the alleged whistleblower in the headline. Several people close to Trump, including Ivanka and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, cautioned Trump against saying or posting the name in public. (Mediaite / Daily Beast)

3/ 45 immigration judges have left their positions, moved into new roles in the immigration court system, or died over the last year — nearly double the number who departed their posts in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is facing a backlog of more than 1 million cases, pushing many immigration cases years into the future. (CNN)

poll/ 41% of Germans consider Trump more of a threat to world peace than Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, or Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Kim came in second with 17%, followed by Putin and Khamenei with 8%, and Xi at 7%. (Axios)

poll/ 55% of Americans support Trump’s conviction by the Senate, while 40%, are opposed. (Yahoo News)

poll/ 49% of Americans approve of the decision to impeach Trump with 42% disapproving, and 9% unsure. (HuffPost)

poll / 49% of Americans said Trump will be remembered as a “poor” or “below average” president. 21% of those polled said Trump would be described as an “outstanding” leader, and another 12% said Trump was an “above average” president. (Newsweek / YouGov)


👋 Programming note: WTF Just Happened Today will be on holiday break Dec. 31st through Jan. 2nd. We’ll return on Jan. 3rd, unless there’s a reason to return sooner (or no reason to return at all).

Day 1068: Hold off.

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 804: Trump claimed that “the noise” from windmills “causes cancer.” Wind turbines do not cause cancer. (Esquire / New York Magazine / CNN / Washington Post)

  • 📌 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.”

Day 1065: "A near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused."

1/ Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is expected to leave his position after the Senate impeachment trial. Trump aides have been circulating a list of replacements and trying to nudge Trump to choose Mulvaney’s successor. Rep. Mark Meadows, who announced his retirement this week, is believed to be in the running to replace Mulvaney. Despite holding what has historically been one of the most powerful jobs in the White House, Mulvaney has largely been excluded from major personnel and policy decisions and he no longer holds much control over White House staff. (Politico / Talking Points Memo)

2/ Trump once told White House officials that he believed Ukraine — not Russia — interfered in the 2016 election because “Putin told me.” Trump, following a private meeting with Putin in 2017 at the G20 summit, repeatedly insisted that Ukraine tried to stop him from winning the election and that he believed Putin that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 campaign. As many as 15 former Trump and government officials said they’re confounded by Trump’s fixation on Ukraine despite the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. This fall, intelligence officials concluded that Russian propagandists spread the Ukraine theory on social media. (Washington Post / CNN / MSNBC)

3/ The federal prosecutor scrutinizing the Russia investigation is examining former CIA director John Brennan’s role surrounding the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian interfered in the 2016 election. U.S. Attorney John Durham requested Brennan’s emails, call logs, and other documents from the CIA, and wants to know what Brennan told other intelligence officials, including James Comey, about the Steele dossier and the relationships between Russia and Trump associates. Durham is also looking into whether Brennan privately contradicted his public statements and his 2017 testimony to Congress about the dossier and the debate within the intelligence community over their conclusions regarding Russian election interference. Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham to re-examine the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation. (New York Times)

  • Facebook removed more than 600 accounts tied to the pro-Trump conspiracy website that programmatically created false accounts to spread disinformation. (NBC News)

4/ A prominent evangelical Christian magazine called Trump “a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused” and that he “should be removed from office.” In an editorial, Christianity Today called Trump’s actions “not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.” Trump responded by lashing out on Twitter, calling it a “far left” magazine that “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call and would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.” Trump added – without evidence – that “No President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close. You’ll not get anything from those Dems on stage.” (Christianity Today / New York Times / Washington Post / Vox / NPR)

5/ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Trump to deliver the State of the Union on Feb. 4 – less than 48 hours after she gaveled in the votes making him the third president to be impeached in United States history. (NBC News / Politico)

6/ The Trump administration threatened to veto the spending legislation that passed the House and Senate Democrats unless Democrats stripped language requiring the prompt release of future military aid for Ukraine. The language was ultimately left out and the White House said Trump would sign the $1.4 trillion package before midnight to avert a shutdown. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1064: The Senate passed a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year. The House has already cleared the legislation. Trump needs to sign the bills by Friday to avert a government shutdown, which his advisors have said he will approve. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Politico)

poll/ 76% of Americans say the U.S. economy is very or somewhat good – the highest since Feb. 2001 when it was 80%. Among Republicans, 97% feel good about the economy, as do 75% of Independents, and 62% of Democrats. 68% expect the economy to be in good shape a year from now. 9% say the economy is good now but will get worse in 2020. (CNN)

Day 1064: Counterpunch.

1/ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t commit to sending the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate until she sees “the process that is set forth” to ensure a “fair” trial. Democrats have questioned the impartiality of the Senate trial after Mitch McConnell said he’s coordinating with the White House to quickly acquit Trump. Senior Democratic aides suggested it was “very unlikely” that the House will send the articles to the Senate before January, effectively delaying the impeachment trial well into the new year, in order to pressure Republicans to allow new witnesses and evidence in the proceeding. “We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” Pelosi said. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us.” (New York Times / ABC News / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

2/ Mitch McConnell mocked Pelosi’s threat to withhold the articles of impeachment, criticizing her as “too afraid” to transmit “their shoddy work product.” McConnell then called the impeachment inquiry “the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair” in modern history. (Politico / CNN)

  • Putin said Trump was impeached on “trumped-up charges” for reasons “far-fetched” and doesn’t believe the Senate will “vote him out of power.” Putin also likened Trump’s impeachment to the probe into collusion with Russia, which Putin played down as groundless. (Politico / Associated Press)

3/ A top State Department aide told the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to step down from his post and leave Kyiv before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits in January. Bill Taylor, a key witness in the Trump impeachment inquiry, has not had any direct contact with Pompeo since his testimony before Congress last month and will leave his post on January 2. The timing means that Pompeo will not have to meet, be seen or photographed with Taylor. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1062: The top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine will leave his post at the end of the year. Bill Taylor was a key witness in the congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump and described for Congress what he saw as Trump’s efforts to pressure Kyiv to go after political rivals. (New York Times / NBC News)

4/ The House passed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement – Trump’s replacement for NAFTA. The trade pact now heads to the Senate, which is expected to ratify it next year after Trump’s impeachment trial. Trump is expected to sign the legislation. (Politico / CNBC / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ The Senate passed a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year. The House has already cleared the legislation. Trump needs to sign the bills by Friday to avert a government shutdown, which his advisors have said he will approve. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Politico)

6/ Rep. Mark Meadows will not seek re-election to Congress in 2020. Meadows has been contemplating leaving office for months, but he finalized his decision this week. Meadows is a long-time Trump ally who says he will continue to work with the Trump administration. He is also being considered to join Trump’s impeachment defense team in preparation for the trial in the Senate. (Associated Press / Washington Post / NBC News / Reuters / Axios / The Hill / Bloomberg / Politico / Wall Street Journal)

7/ The Senate confirmed 12 more of Trump’s judicial nominees. The confirmations bring the total number of judicial confirmations for 2019 to 20 circuit judges and 67 district judges. (Politico)

8/ Trump implied that the late Rep. John Dingell is “looking up” from hell while also mocking his widow, Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell. At a rally in Michigan, Trump said he gave John an “A-plus” funeral and that Debbie, whom he called “a real beauty,” called to thank him, saying “John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down. He’d be so thrilled.” Trump then told the crowd: “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe. But let’s assume he’s looking down.” Dingell was the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. (NBC News / CNN / Axios / Washington Post / New York Times /Reuters / Bloomberg)

  • White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Trump’s attack on Rep. John Dingell, saying Trump was a “counter-puncher” who was “under attack.” (ABC News)

Day 1063: "He gave us no choice."

1/ The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump for abusing his power and obstructing congressional investigations, labeling him a threat to national security, recommending his removal from office, and marking him as only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. After six hours of debate, the chamber passed both articles of impeachment against Trump. Article I, Abuse of Power, was adopted 230-197, with one member voting present and three not voting. Article II, Obstruction of Congress, was adopted 229-198, with one member voting present and three not voting. The Constitution requires the Senate to now hold a trial, where a two-thirds vote would remove Trump from office. The House alleges that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, as well as a probe of a debunked theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened debate on the articles of impeachment against Trump, declaring that lawmakers are “custodians of the Constitution” and “If we do not act now, we would be derelict in our duty.” She added that Trump’s “reckless actions make impeachment necessary. He gave us no choice.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / CNN / ABC News)

  • ANALYSIS: The case for and against impeachment. (Washington Post)

  • LIVE BLOGS: New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / Bloomberg / CNN / ABC News / NBC News

  • Adam Schiff accused Mike Pence of refusing to declassify testimony that is “directly relevant” to the impeachment debate. Schiff sent a letter to Pence arguing that classified witness testimony from Jennifer Williams, Pence’s Russia adviser, “raises profound questions about your knowledge of the President’s scheme to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.” Williams’ testimony was provided to the Intelligence Committee on Nov. 26 and Schiff asked Pence to declassify it ten days later, but Pence’s office refused. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump sent 45 tweets before noon – hours before the House formally voted to impeach him – calling impeachment “a terrible Thing” and telling his 67 million Twitter followers “Can you believe that I will be impeached today […] I DID NOTHING WRONG!” At one point Trump urged his followers to “Say a PRAYER!” Meanwhile, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters that Trump “will be working all day” and that he “could catch some of the proceedings between meetings.” Less than 10 minutes later, Trump tweeted: “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” Trump ignored reporters’ questions about impeachment as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Michigan. (NBC News / Associated Press / Politico / The Guardian)

3/ The White House is exploring a way to feature Trump’s top House allies in the Senate impeachment trial. During the trial, only Trump’s defense team and the House Democrats’ impeachment managers will be allowed to debate on the floor. One idea being explored is to have House Republicans present a report on the Ukraine affair. Reps. Jim Jordan, John Ratcliffe, and Mike Johnson met with White House counsel Pat Cipollone yesterday to discuss joining Trump’s Senate defense team. Mark Meadows is also being considered to join the team, but wasn’t present for the meeting. (Politico / CNN)

4/ A group of House Democrats want to hold the articles of impeachment and delay sending them to the Senate to prevent the case against Trump from being discarded. Some legal scholars have suggested that Pelosi could delay sending impeachment articles to the Senate until Mitch McConnell agrees to a fairer process. The trial would effectively be delayed indefinitely and deny Trump his expected acquittal. McConnell has announced that he is coordinating the Senate trial with the White House. (Politico / Washington Post)

5/ The Trump administration is fighting a new package of sanctions on Russia, which is designed to punish Russian individuals and companies over the Kremlin’s targeting of Ukraine, 2016 election interference, its activities in Syria, and its attacks on dissidents. A State Department official sent a 22-page letter to a top Senate chairman, saying the administration “strongly opposes” the bill, because the legislation is unnecessary, would harm America’s European allies, and “risks crippling the global energy, commodities, financial, and other markets.” Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced the bill earlier this year, which passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week. (Daily Beast)

6/ A New York judge dismissed state mortgage fraud charges against Paul Manafort, ruling that the criminal case amounted to a double-jeopardy violation. Manafort was previously convicted in a pair of federal cases related to Robert Mueller’s investigation of election interference in 2016. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office brought its case in an effort to ensure that Manafort would remain in custody should Trump pardon him for the federal convictions. (Washington Post / New York Times / ABC News / CNBC / NBC News)

7/ A federal appeals court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, but did not invalidate the entire law. The court ordered a lower court judge to evaluate whether other provisions of the law can survive without the mandate. (Politico / Axios / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

poll/ 50% of active duty military personnel have an unfavorable or very unfavorable view of Trump. 41% said they have a favorable or very favorable view of Trump. Nearly 48% of the troops surveyed said they held an unfavorable view of the way Trump has handled military issues. (Military Times)

poll/ 45% approve of Trump’s job performance – up six percentage points since the impeachment inquiry was launched. (Gallup)

poll/ 47% of Americans say they support impeachment and 47% are opposed. 57% of Americans now think Trump committed an impeachable offense, compared with 56% in mid-November. (FiveThirtyEight / Politico)

poll/ 48% of Americans support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office, while 48% disagree. (NBC News)

Day 1062: An open war on American Democracy.

1/ Mitch McConnell rejected Democrats requests to have four White House witnesses testify during Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. McConnell called the request to have Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, and two others to testify a “strange request” and said the Senate will not volunteer its time for a “fishing expedition.” McConnell’s remarks came in response to a letter from Chuck Schumer, who outlined several procedural requests that he said would make an impeachment trial more fair. McConnell later said he’s “not an impartial juror […] I’m not impartial about this at all.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Axios / Bloomberg)

  • 👀 Impeachment Watch:

  • Tuesday: The House Rules Committee will set the terms for the debate on the House floor over the articles of impeachment.

  • Wednesday: The House is expected to vote to affirm the rules and then vote on the two articles of impeachment in the late afternoon. The House is also expected to vote to empower Nancy Pelosi to name impeachment managers.

  • Thursday: Your last chance to order gifts that will arrive by Christmas.

2/ Trump denounced what he called a “partisan impeachment crusade,” accusing Democrats of “perversion of justice” for their handling of impeachment. In a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump accused Pelosi of having “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment” and that she was “declaring open war on American Democracy” by pursuing his impeachment. He called it an “unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power” and a “spiteful” “election-nullification scheme.” Trump also claimed that “more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials.” Trump later told reporters in the Oval Office that he takes “zero” responsibility for the fact that he is about to be impeached. (NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Axios / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  • READ: Trump’s letter to Pelosi. (Washington Post)

  • ANNOTATED: Trump’s letter to Pelosi. (Washington Post)

  • More than 700 historians and legal scholars published an open letter urging the House to impeach Trump, denouncing his conduct as “a clear and present danger to the Constitution.” (Washington Post)

3/ Rudy Giuliani confirmed that he needed the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to get “out of the way,” because she “was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.” Giuliani said he told Trump “a couple of times” that Marie Yovanovitch was impeding efforts that could benefit Trump politically. Trump then put Giuliani in touch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. On March 28, Giuliani provided Pompeo with a dossier of evidence he had collected on the Bidens and Yovanovitch. Trump fired Yovanovitch in April. (New York Times / New Yorker)

  • Giuliani backtracked on his Yovanovitch assertion, instead claiming that she “needed to be removed for many reasons.” Giuliani – without evidence – accused Yovanovitch of “OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE” and for having “enabled Ukrainian collusion.” (NBC News)

  • A Russian disinformation campaign circulated false claims about Yovanovitch that led to her recall from the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. The disinformation campaign purported that Yovanovitch had given a “list of people whom we should not prosecute” to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko. The State Department has denied that such a list existed. (Washington Post)

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham invited Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his recent trip to Ukraine. Giuliani traveled to Ukraine earlier this month to gather information intended to discredit the House’s impeachment probe. Giuliani was spotted at the White House last week. (Politico)

  • Russian state media called Trump their “Agent” after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Trump in the Oval Office. The network aired a segment called “Puppet Master and ‘Agent,’” which sought to explain “How to Understand Lavrov’s Meeting With Trump.” (Daily Beast)

  • A convicted Russian agent will become the host of an online video program for Russia’s state owned network RT. Maria Butina was released from a U.S. prison and deported to Russia in October. The U.S. intelligence community has called RT part of Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine.” (CNN)

4/ Giuliani claimed that Trump has been “very supportive” of his continued efforts to dig up dirt on Democrats in Ukraine. Giuliani suggested that Trump is aware of everything he has done in Ukraine, adding: “We’re on the same page.” Giuliani, however, declined to say if Trump directed him to go to Ukraine earlier this month. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1049: Rudy Giuliani traveled to Europe to meet with several former Ukrainian prosecutors in an effort to defend Trump against the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani traveled to Budapest to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, before going to Ukraine to meet with a number of other former prosecutors, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk. It was Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainians that setup the impeachment inquiry in the first place and led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws. (New York Times / CNN)

  • A Giuliani associate will be allowed to remain free on bail despite allegedly concealing a $1 million payment from Russia. Lev Parnas was charged with violating campaign finance laws and has been living under house arrest in Florida since October. Prosecutors said Parnas and Igor Fruman illegally funneled money into a pro-Trump election committee and to other politician. Parnas denied hiding the payment and both have pleaded not guilty. (NBC News / Reuters)

5/ The top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine will leave his post at the end of the year. Bill Taylor was a key witness in the congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump and described for Congress what he saw as Trump’s efforts to pressure Kyiv to go after political rivals. (New York Times / NBC News)

6/ Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates was sentenced to 45 days in jail – to be served on weekends – and a $20,000 fine for conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to the FBI and Robert Mueller. Gates was also sentenced to three years of probation and 300 hours of community service. Gates cooperated extensively with the government after pleading guilty in February 2018. Federal sentencing guidelines recommend that Gates serve 46 to 57 months in prison. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Axios / New York Times)

  • Paul Manafort was hospitalized for a “cardiac event” while serving his seven-year sentence stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation. Manafort is slated to be released from prison Christmas Day 2024. (ABC News / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 819: Paul Manafort told Rick Gates to “sit tight” and not plead guilty because Trump is “going to take care of us.” Mueller’s report says “evidence […] indicates that the President intended to encourage Manafort to not cooperate with the government.” Gates ended up cooperating with Mueller.

7/ The House approved a $1.4 trillion spending package to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government through September. The spending legislation will now move to the Senate, which must act before midnight on Friday, when existing funding for government agencies expires. Trump has not said whether he would support the packages. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

8/ Trump now claims he doesn’t consider the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 to be a genocide after Turkey’s authoritarian president threatened to close an air base in Turkey that hosts U.S. nuclear warheads. In April, Trump called the genocide where 1.5 million Armenians were killed “one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century.” (BBC)

9/ A group of Republican Trump critics launched a super PAC to oppose Trump’s reelection. The Lincoln Project has reportedly raised more than $1 million so far to support their official mission, which is to “Defeat President Trump and Trumpism at the ballot box.” (CNBC / Associated Press)

poll/ 45% of Americans support impeaching Trump and removing him from office – down from 50% in November. 51% say Trump used the presidency improperly in his interactions with the President of Ukraine by attempting to gain political advantage against a possible 2020 rival. (CNN)

poll/ 49% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46% say he should not. 49% say Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, regardless of whether Trump committed an impeachable offense — 39% say Trump’s actions were not improper. (Washington Post)

poll/ 71% of Americans say Trump should allow his top aides to testify in the Senate trial, including 64% of Republicans, 72% of independents, and 79% of Democrats. 55% say Trump was treated fairly in the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee hearings that led to the articles of impeachment against him. (ABC News)

Day 1061: "Betrayed the nation."

1/ The House Judiciary Committee accused Trump of “multiple federal crimes” and argued that Trump “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office.” The 658-page report labels Trump’s behavior “both constitutional and criminal in character” and recommends two articles of impeachment: abuse of power for holding up nearly $400 million worth of security aid and a White House meeting until Ukraine agreed to announce investigations into Biden and 2016 election interference, and obstruction of Congress, saying “Trump’s obstruction of Congress does not befit the leader of a democratic society. It calls to mind the very claims of royal privilege against which our founders rebelled.” The House is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to impeach Trump. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / Politico)

  • READ: House Judiciary Committee report on impeachment. (Washington Post)

  • Trump suggested that Nancy Pelosi’s teeth were falling out while she was answering a question about why bribery wasn’t included as one of the articles of impeachment against Trump. (Washington Post)

  • The House told a federal appeals court that it still needs access to Robert Mueller’s confidential grand jury information for use in the impeachment proceedings. The House argued that the grand jury information allegedly contains “certain redacted materials [that] pertain to a Trump Campaign member’s dealings with Ukraine, and bear on whether the President committed impeachable offenses by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 Presidential election.” (CNN)

  • Two more vulnerable House Democrats plan to vote to impeach Trump. In total, 15 Democrats from 31 districts won by Trump in 2016 have publicly pledged to back articles of impeachment. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  • Rep. Jeff Van Drew announced that he is switching parties and will become a Republican after attending a personal meeting with Trump on Friday. Van Drew has long been a vocal opponent of impeaching Trump. Six of his aides announced their resignation from his office following the news. Van Drew helped flip his GOP district in southern New Jersey during the last election. (Politico / CNN)

2/ Sen. Chuck Schumer requested that former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney testify as witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial. In a letter to Mitch McConnell, Schumer outlined a number of procedural demands that Democrats say will make for a fair Senate trial. In addition to Mulvaney and Bolton, Schumer also called for testimony from Robert Blair, one of Mulvaney’s senior aides, and Michael Duffey, a top official from the Office of Management and Budget. Under Schumer’s proposal, the trial proceedings would begin on Jan. 6 and House impeachment managers would begin making their case on Jan. 9. (Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Axios)

  • Schumer called it “totally out of line” for McConnell to take cues from the White House for the Senate impeachment trial. McConnell and White House counsel Pat Cipollone have discussed plans to coordinate a strategy for the impeachment trial in the Senate. (CNN)

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham predicts Trump’s impeachment will “die quickly” in Senate, because he “will do everything I can to make it die quickly.” Graham added: “I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.” (CNN)

3/ The Trump administration plans to announce the withdrawal of roughly 4,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. currently has between 12,000 and 13,000 troops in Afghanistan and the withdrawal would leave between 8,000 and 9,000 troops in the country. The announcement is expected as early as this week, but officials have refused to say when the withdrawal will begin. (NBC News)

4/ Trump threatened to not participate in the presidential debates. Trump – without evidence – accused the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates of bias, claiming it’s “stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers.” (Wall Street Journal)

poll/ 43% of voters say they approve of the job Trump is doing – his best job approval rating ever – while 52% disapprove. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 50% of registered voters want Trump impeached and removed from office, 4% want Trump impeached but not removed, and 41% oppose impeaching him altogether. (Fox News)

Day 1058: "No chance."

1/ The House Judiciary Committee voted over Republican objections to advance two articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In back-to-back votes, the Democratic-controlled committee adopted each charge against Trump by a margin of 23 to 17. The Judiciary Committee spent two days debating the articles, including a marathon 14-hour hearing yesterday, which Chairman Jerrold Nadler abruptly recessed before midnight without a vote. Deliberations today lasted less than 10 minutes. A full House vote is expected next week, and if either charge is approved, Trump would become the third American president to be impeached. Trump remained defiant on Twitter, insisting he had done “NOTHING wrong” and called Democrats “the Party of lies and deception!” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / CNBC / Politico / NBC News / The Guardian)

2/ Mitch McConnell: There’s “no chance” that Trump will be removed from office as a result of the impeachment trial in the Senate. McConnell added that it “wouldn’t surprise” him if some Democrats broke ranks to vote in favor of Trump, calling the case “so darn weak.” McConnell and the White House have agreed to coordinate their plans for the trial, which McConnell has said he will end as soon as he has 51 GOP votes in place for a final vote. “We know how it’s going to end.” (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)

3/ Rudy Giuliani was seen entering the White House just as the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve articles of impeachment against Trump. Giuliani – unfazed by federal prosecutors probing his business dealings and the Trump impeachment inquiry – has escalated his push for Ukraine to conduct investigations. He recently traveled to Ukraine to interview officials and gather more information and has promised to create a “report” on the findings of his trip. It was not clear if Giuliani was meeting with Trump. (USA Today / New York Daily News / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌Day 1049: Rudy Giuliani traveled to Europe to meet with several former Ukrainian prosecutors in an effort to defend Trump against the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani traveled to Budapest to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, before going to Ukraine to meet with a number of other former prosecutors, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk. It was Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainians that setup the impeachment inquiry in the first place and led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws. (New York Times / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1054: Trump said Giuliani wants to testify before impeachment investigators about his recent trip to Ukraine. Trump added that Giuliani will “make a report” of his findings to submit to Barr and Congress. (Politico / Washington Post)

4/ Trump’s senior aides have further restricted the number of administration officials allowed to listen to his phone calls with foreign leaders since his July 25 call with Ukraine’s President was revealed. Transcripts of Trump’s calls with world leaders are also disseminated to a smaller group of people inside the White House than before. (CNN)

5/ More than $20 million of the military aid that was supposed to go to Ukraine still hasn’t reached the country. $20.2 million of the Pentagon’s $250-million portion of the aid is still sitting in U.S. accounts, undermining one of the key GOP arguments against impeachment: that Ukraine eventually received the aid despite the hold placed on it by the Trump administration. Letters from lawmakers to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other officials asking about the continued delay have gone unanswered. (Los Angeles Times)

6/ The Trump administration released a trove of heavily redacted documents that contain the first communications between government agencies when the military aid to Ukraine was withheld earlier this year. The documents include email conversations between the deputy comptroller at the Department of Defense and White House Office of Management and Budget staff, as well as spreadsheets of financial figures that appear to be related to Ukraine. The documents are so heavily redacted that most of the details about the conversations and exchanges remain unclear. (ABC News / Center for Public Integrity)

7/ Trump agreed to the limited “phase one” deal with China to halt the trade war. Trump said that a 25% tariff he placed on $250 billion of Chinese products will remain in effect, but the 15% tariff he put on $120 billion of products in September will be cut in half – to 7.5%. A round of tariffs scheduled for Sunday would also be canceled. In exchange, China will increase American agricultural purchases by $32 billion over previous levels over the next two years. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / CNN / New York Times)

8/ A federal judge rejected the Trump administration’s request to delay a lawsuit against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for defying congressional subpoenas related to the handling of the 2020 census. Barr and Ross were held in contempt of Congress in July, and the House Oversight Committee filed suit last month to try to force the administration to turn over the subpoenaed records. (The Hill / Politico)

9/ The Supreme Court will hear three separate cases over whether Trump can block the release of his financial records. Two of the cases involve subpoenas issued by House committees seeking financial documents from Trump’s accountants and two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One. The court will also decide whether Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, must comply with a grand jury subpoena obtained by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, which seeks nearly a decade’s worth of tax returns and other financial documents for an investigation of hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Arguments are scheduled for its March session with a decision expected by the end of June. (CNBC / Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times / CNN)

Day 1057: Crazy.

1/ After more than 14 hours of impeachment debate, the House Judiciary Committee abruptly postponed an expected party line vote on whether to approve articles of impeachment against Trump. The committee will now reconvene Friday at 10 a.m. ET to vote. Lawmakers spent the day debating the articles and multiple proposed Republican amendments intended to gut the impeachment resolution – including an amendment to remove charging Trump with abuse of power – which were all rebuffed in one vote after another. The panel, however, is expected to eventually approve two articles of impeachment against Trump: a charge that Trump abused the powers of his office by pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals while withholding U.S. security aid and a White House meeting; and a charge of obstructing Congress for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry into his conduct and for failure to respond to congressional subpoenas. Trump would become the fourth president in American history to face impeachment by the House for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Once the Judiciary votes, the full House is expected to debate and vote on the articles next week with a trial set to begin in the Senate in early 2020 – about 10 months before the next election. (New York Times / Washington Post / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Bloomberg / CNN)

2/ Senate Republicans are pushing for a short impeachment trial that would include calling zero witnesses. The plan contradicts Trump’s desire to stage a theatrical trial with public defense of his conduct by calling “a lot of witnesses,” including Joe and Hunter Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and the anonymous whistleblower, whose complaint about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky served as the catalyst for the impeachment inquiry. Mitch McConnell is also expected to hold a final vote to acquit Trump, instead of holding a vote on dismissing the articles of impeachment. (Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg)

3/ The White House Office of Management and Budget claimed in a new memo that it withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine as a temporary exploratory measure – not as part of a political effort to override Congress’ appropriation of the money. The OMB memo asserts that the office withheld the aid as a way of studying whether the spending complied with U.S. policy. The new memo says OMB extended the hold on the aid eight times in August and September until finally releasing the aid almost immediately after the last hold on September 10. (Washington Post)

  • Mike Pence rejected a request from House Democrats to declassify the details of a Sept. 18 call between Pence and Ukrainian President Zelensky. In a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Pence’s attorney claimed the request was illegitimate and claimed it “serves no purpose” because the impeachment inquiry is already over. (Politico)

4/ A Rudy Giuliani associate received $1 million from a Russian account in September – one month before he was charged with conspiring to funnel foreign money into U.S. elections. Lev Parnas spent most of that money “on personal expenses and to purchase a home,” according to a court filing. The money – deposited into an account in Parnas’ wife’s name – came during the same month that Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman received the first request for documents from the Congressional committees investigating the Trump administration’s actions in Ukraine. Federal prosecutors asked a judge to jail Parnas for understating his income and assets. Prosecutors also said that in the past three years, Parnas had received more than $1.5 million from Ukrainian and Russian sources. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Trump sent more than 100 tweets and retweets insisting that he committed “no crime” and “did nothing wrong,” while calling the impeachment inquiry “Crazy!” Trump also took time to promote Mar-a-Lago opening for the season, proclaiming: “I will be there in two weeks, The Southern White House!” (Politico / NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Congressional negotiators reached a “deal in principle” to approve $1.37 trillion in federal spending for 2020, likely averting a government shutdown next week. The House could vote on the spending bill as soon as Tuesday, with the Senate acting before the end of the week. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Politico)

  2. Trump signed off on the so-called phase-one trade deal with China. The arrangement would cut Trump’s tariffs on $360 billion of Chinese goods by half in exchange for Chinese commitments to purchase more U.S. agricultural goods. The “phase one” deal does not address the major structural changes to China’s economy that Trump has demanded, but will likely avert a new round of tariffs due to take effect on Dec. 15. (Bloomberg / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Washington Post)

  3. The Defense Department’s inspector general will review a $400 million border wall construction contract awarded to a company that members of the Trump administration have publicly and privately endorsed. Fisher Sand & Gravel was awarded the contract despite concerns that the proposal “did not meet the operational requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” The IG also said he has “concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence” exerted on the Army Corps of Engineers by members of the Trump administration. (NBC News / Associated Press)

  4. The Senate confirmed Trump’s 50th circuit court nominee despite the pick being rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. In three years, Mitch McConnell’s Senate has confirmed two Supreme Court justices, 50 Circuit judges, and 120 District judges. (Politico / The Hill)

  5. The Senate passed a resolution officially recognizing the Armenian genocide. Three previous attempts to pass the measure were blocked by GOP senators at the request of the White House. (NBC News)

  6. The Senate confirmed Trump’s pick to be the next ambassador to Russia. Senators voted 70-22 to confirm John Sullivan, who currently serves as the deputy secretary of State. Sullivan will replace former Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who left the post to run for governor in Utah. (The Hill / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

  7. Four months before Trump Jr. received special treatment from the Mongolian government for a hunting permit, the Mongolian ambassador and foreign minister visited Mar-a-Lago. Trump Jr. received his hunting permit on Sept. 2 to kill a threatened argali sheep – after he left the region following the August hunt. Trump Jr. also met with Mongolia’s president, Khaltmaagiin Battuiga, before the leaving the country. (ProPublica / USA Today)

  8. Trump mocked 16-year-old Greta Thunberg after she won Time magazine’s Person of the Year award. Trump, who was a finalist for the nomination, called her win “ridiculous” and suggested she should “chill” and work on her “Anger Management problem.” Meanwhile, #BeBest began trending on Twitter – a reference to Melanie Trump’s anti-cyberbullying campaign, which encourages people to be kind on social media and speak “with respect and compassion.” (CNN / Washington Post / NBC News / Axios / The Hill)

Day 1056: Scum.

1/ The Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Horowitz reaffirmed that the investigation was adequately justified despite “several errors,” which FBI Director Christopher Wray has promised to address. Horowitz also said he met with Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Durham, last month seeking information related to the opening of the Trump-Russia probe and the surveillance warrants the FBI obtained and renewed on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz said Durham’s information failed to convince him that the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Trump’s campaign was improperly opened. When the report was released, however, Durham issued a public statement saying he didn’t agree with Horowitz’s conclusion. Barr also said he disagreed with Horowitz’s conclusion and accused the FBI of having acted in “bad faith” by pursuing the case. The 434-page report concluded that while there were “serious performance failures,” the FBI had adequate cause to launch the investigation and was not motivated by political bias. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico / ABC News)

  • TAKEAWAYS: The Michael Horowitz hearing. (Washington Post)

  • READ: Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz’s Senate testimony. (CNN)

2/ Trump called the FBI “scum” at a rally in Pennsylvania, referring to members of the FBI who were involved in the investigation into his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump also reiterated his claim that the investigation into his campaign was launched by biased individuals within the intelligence community who were intent on undermining his presidency — a theory that was debunked by the report from the Trump-appointed DOJ inspector general. (MSNBC / NBC News / Vox / Daily Beast / Mediaite / Haaretz / Business Insider)

3/ The Justice Department inspector general confirmed that he’s still investigating possible illegal leaks by the FBI to Rudy Giuliani in 2016. Days before then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the criminal probe into Hillary Clinton’s email server, Giuliani claimed he heard about some “pretty big surprises” regarding Clinton that “should turn this thing around.” Inspector General Michael Horowitz told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his team was struggling, however, to prove that they were illegal leaks, because it’s “very hard is to prove the actual substance of the communications between the agents and the reporter, or the individuals, but we can prove the contacts.” (CNN)

4/ A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from using $3.6 billion dollars from the Pentagon to pay for the construction of Trump’s border wall. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the Trump administration from using the funds to pay for the 11 wall projects along the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNN / Washington Post) / NBC News)

5/ Betsy DeVos overruled Education Department officials on student loan forgiveness. After the department’s Borrower Defense Unit reviewed thousands of complaints against now-shuttered for-profit colleges, it recommended that student borrowers be granted full relief from their federal loan debt under a rule called “borrower defense.” Despite the recommendation, DeVos instead unveiled a new plan that would base relief on how much value a defrauded student had obtained from their school by comparing their median earnings to those of other students who attended similar programs at other colleges. (NPR / The Hill)

  • The University of Phoenix agreed to cancel $141 million in student debt to settle allegations of deceptive advertising. The deal settles a dispute over an ad campaign that suggested the school worked with companies like Microsoft, Twitter, and Adobe to create job opportunities for students. There were, however, no such agreements. (NBC News)

6/ Trump will sign an executive order to interpret Judaism as a nationality – not just a religion – which would allow the government to withhold money from colleges for what he perceives as anti-Semitism on campuses. The order comes in response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which aims to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” and boycott Israel for its activities in the West Bank and Gaza. By recognizing Jews as having a collective national origin, Trump’s executive order would trigger a portion of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 that requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to not discriminate based on national origin. Jared Kushner pushed for the executive order. (New York Times / CNN / NBC News / Slate / Jewish Insider)

Day 1055: We must act.

1/ The House Judiciary Committee introduced two articles of impeachment against Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. The articles – written in a nine-page resolution – accuse Trump of having “abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security” to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival and that Trump then engaged in “complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry” by directing the White House and other agencies to withhold documents and block officials from cooperating with the inquiry. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said Trump betrayed the country and his oath of office, engaged in a “cover up” of his own misconduct, and “ignored and injured the interests of the nation.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump tried to “corrupt our upcoming elections” and that he remains a “threat to our democracy and national security.” Trump, meanwhile, insisted that he did “NOTHING” wrong and that impeaching him would be an act of “sheer Political Madness!” The Judiciary panel will take up the articles of impeachment later this week with a full House vote likely next week, setting Trump up to become the third president to be impeached. The impeachment trial will be held in the Senate, where the Republican majority is expected to acquit him. Nadler added: “We must be clear: no one, not even the president, is above the law.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / NBC News / The Guardian / ABC News / NPR / Reuters / Associated Press)

  • 💬 Quotables: “Elections are the cornerstone of democracy and are foundational to the rule of law. But the integrity of our next election is at risk from a president who has already sought foreign interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections, and who consistently puts himself above country. That is why we must act now.” –House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler

  • 💬 Quotables: “The argument ‘why don’t you just wait’ amounts to this: ‘Why don’t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time?’” –House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff

  • 💬 Quotables: “WITCH HUNT!” –Trump

  • READ: Articles of impeachment against Trump. (NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • ANNOTATED: Articles of impeachment against Trump. (Washington Post)

  • How impeachment works. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump and Mitch McConnell are divided over the Senate impeachment trial. McConnell hopes to end the trial as quickly as possible. Trump, however, wants a spectacle with Hunter Biden, Adam Schiff, and the whistleblower all testifying live – not taped depositions –because he thinks it’s his best chance to hurt Democrats in the election. (CNN)

3/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said “politics can and should influence foreign policy.” The comments echo Mulvaney’s October statement that Trump’s quid pro quo exchange with Ukraine was “absolutely appropriate,” that “we do that all the time with foreign policy,” and “everybody” need to “get over it.” His comments came less than an hour after House Judiciary Committee announced two articles of impeachment against Trump related to the Ukraine controversy. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1001: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that Trump blocked military aid to Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his political rivals. Mulvaney called the quid pro quo exchange “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney added: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney also told reporters the funds were withheld in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted Democrats in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a quid pro quo arrangement linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC)

4/ Attorney General William Barr believes the FBI operated out of “bad faith” and “clearly spied upon” on the Trump campaign when it investigated whether the campaign colluded with Russia. Barr claimed without evidence that the Russia probe was based on a “completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press.” Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, however, identified some 272 contacts between the Trump team and Russia-linked operatives, some of which have never been explained. (NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 1054: The Justice Department inspector general’s report concluded that the Russia probe was justified. The 434-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, rejecting conservative allegations that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers. Trump called the evidence in the report “far worse than I ever thought possible” and the FBI’s actions a “disgrace,” because – he claimed – “they fabricated evidence and they lied to the courts.” Horowitz, however, “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions,” but noted “serious performance failures” by some FBI officials. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / USA Today / Axios)

5/ Trump attacked FBI Director Christopher Wray for embracing the Justice Department inspector general’s conclusions that the FBI was justified in opening an investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump tweeted that Wray “will never be able to fix the FBI” with “that kind of attitude,” adding “I don’t know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn’t the one given to me.” Trump appointed Wray in 2017 and White House officials said they don’t believe Trump is ready to fire Wray, because his decision to dismiss James Comey resulted in the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. (The Guardian / CNN / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News)

  • TAKEAWAYS: The inspector general’s report on the Russia investigation. (Politico)

  • ANALYSIS: The Russia probe conspiracy theories debunked by the DOJ inspector general report. (Politico)

6/ Mexico, Canada and the U.S. all agreed to sign the USMCA trade deal. Democrats endorsed the deal after the White House agreed to strengthen labor, environmental, pharmaceutical, and enforcement provisions. The pact will replace North American Free Trade Agreement when ratified and contains provisions aimed at creating more manufacturing jobs. (Politico / Bloomberg / Associated Press / NPR / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNN)

  • U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators are planning to delay tariffs set to kick in on Dec. 15, as the two continue to discuss Beijing’s commitment to purchasing more U.S. farm products. (Wall Street Journal)

7/ Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House today. Lavrov’s last meeting with Trump was in 2017, less than 24 hours after Trump fired James Comey. During that meeting, Trump shared classified information with Lavrov. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also attend today’s meeting. (NPR / NBC News / Axios)

Day 1054: Justified.

1/ The Justice Department inspector general’s report concluded that the Russia probe was justified. The 434-page report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI had an “authorized purpose” when it initiated its investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia, rejecting conservative allegations that top FBI officials were motivated by political bias and illegally spied on Trump advisers. Trump called the evidence in the report “far worse than I ever thought possible” and the FBI’s actions a “disgrace,” because – he claimed – “they fabricated evidence and they lied to the courts.” Horowitz, however, “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions,” but noted “serious performance failures” by some FBI officials. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN / USA Today / Axios)

2/ Attorney General William Barr rejected the conclusion that the FBI’s probe into Russian interference was justified, calling it “an intrusive investigation” into Trump’s campaign that was based “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.” Barr added that “the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory.” John Durham, the federal prosecutor Barr appointed to run a separate criminal investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, backed the attorney general’s assessment, saying “we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions.” FBI Director Chris Wray, meanwhile, called it “important that the Inspector General found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization.” (NBC News / ABC News / New York Times)

  • William Barr approved the public release of additional information about Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled a dossier on Trump. Steele was not given any additional details about which information the DOJ plans to release, nor was he told how the information would affect the report’s portrayal of him. Steele spent two days meeting with representatives of the Justice Department in London to voluntarily cooperate with their probe in June this year and followed up with further conversations via Skype.(New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 1050: Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked prosecutor told the Justice Department’s inspector general that he found no evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies had planted spies in the Trump campaign. Barr tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham with investigating the origins of the Mueller probe, as well as Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who conservative media outlets allege was a spy planted by the FBI or U.S. intelligence agencies. As part of a separate investigation, Durham was contacted by Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general, and asked whether Mifsud, who had early contact with the Trump campaign, was an intelligence asset. Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had produced no evidence to support the allegation. Horowitz’s report concludes that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its Russia investigation. (Washington Post / CNN / The Hill)

  • 📌 Day 1042: The FBI never placed undercover agents or informants inside Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a draft of the Justice Department’s inspector general report. Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation is due on Dec. 9. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly alleged that FBI officials not only spied on the campaign but that Obama had ordered Trump’s phones tapped. The report is also expected to debunk allegations that the FBI relied on information from Christopher Steele’s dossier of damaging, unverified information about Trump to open the investigation. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1037: A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general didn’t find anti-Trump bias at the FBI when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to look into Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. According to a draft copy of Michael Horowitz’s report, there were errors and omissions in the documents related to wiretapping Page and that a low-level lawyer altered an email used to seek a renewal of the wiretap. Kevin Clinesmith attached additional material to the bottom of an email from an official at another federal agency, which contained several factual assertions. Horowitz concluded that the altered document did not impact the overall validity of the surveillance application, but referred his findings about Clinesmith to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge. Clinesmith left the Russia investigation in February 2018. Overall, the draft report concludes that the FBI had enough evidence for opening the investigation, that Joseph Mifsud, a Russia-linked professor who told a Trump campaign official that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic emails, was not an FBI informant, and that none of the evidence used to open the investigation came from the CIA or dossier of Trump-Russia ties compiled by Christopher Steele. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Washington Post)

3/ The House Judiciary Committee held its last hearing before considering articles of impeachment. Lawyers for Democrats and Republicans presented the case for – and against – impeaching Trump. Democrats described four “critical” findings: 1/ Trump used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine’s newly-elected president to interfere in the 2020 presidential election for his personal and political benefit; 2/ Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden; 3/ Trump’s conduct undermined the U.S. election process; 4/ Trump directed an effort to obstruct Congress’ impeachment inquiry into his conduct. A lawyer for the Democrats called “Trump’s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.” The Republican counsel, meanwhile, accused Democrats of pursuing an “artificial and arbitrary political deadline” to overturn the 2016 election and impeach Trump’s before the Christmas holiday. The Judiciary Committee is expected to publicly debate and compose final versions of articles of impeachment as soon as Thursday, with a full House vote next week. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • TAKEAWAYS: From today’s House Judiciary impeachment hearing.

  • Attorney General William Barr told Trump that Giuliani has become a liability. Barr also warned that Giuliani was not serving Trump well as his personal attorney. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • Trump said Giuliani wants to testify before impeachment investigators about his recent trip to Ukraine. Trump added that Giuliani will “make a report” of his findings to submit to Barr and Congress. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1049: Rudy Giuliani traveled to Europe to meet with several former Ukrainian prosecutors in an effort to defend Trump against the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani traveled to Budapest to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, before going to Ukraine to meet with a number of other former prosecutors, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk. It was Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainians that setup the impeachment inquiry in the first place and led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws. (New York Times / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court left a Kentucky law in place that requires doctors to perform ultrasounds, show fetal images, and play audio of the fetal heartbeat to women before abortions. The justices did not offer an explanation for their decision to refuse to hear the challenge to a lower court ruling that upheld the Kentucky restrictions. The ACLU argued that the Kentucky statute had no medical basis and was designed only to coerce a woman into opting out of having an abortion. The law will now take effect. (NBC News / Politico / ABC News / Bloomberg)

  2. The U.S. government has taken more than 1,100 children from their parents since the end of Trump’s family separation policy. (The Intercept)

  3. Trump told a Jewish audience that they had “no choice” but to vote for him or else the Democrats will “take 100 percent of your wealth away,” referring to the proposed tax on the richest Americans. Jewish groups denounced Trump’s anti-Semitic tropes, calling the remarks “deeply offensive” and his use of stereotypes “unconscionable.” The Jewish Democratic Council of America said the remarks “only reinforce our belief […] that Donald Trump is the biggest threat to American Jews.” (USA Today / Washington Post / Rolling Stone / Times of Israel)

  4. The U.S. ambassador to Denmark prevented a NATO expert from speaking at an international conference because the expert was critical of Trump. Stanley Sloan was scheduled to give the keynote speech at a conference celebrating the 70th anniversary of NATO, but he was told the day before he was set to leave for Copenhagen that the U.S. embassy had vetoed his participation. As a result, the event was cancelled altogether. (New York Times)

  5. Amazon blamed Trump for exerting “improper pressure” on the Pentagon when it awarded a military cloud computing contract to Microsoft. The company argued that Trump has “made no secret of his personal dislike” for Jeff Bezos and his ownership of the Washington Post. Trump has blamed Bezos for unfavorable coverage of his administration, despite the Post operating with editorial independence. The complaint contends that Trump “used his office” to prevent AWS from winning the contract when he “intervened directly in the very final phases of the two-year procurement process.” (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)

  6. Trump complained that water conservation laws have resulted in Americans “flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once” and that “they end up using more water.” Trump said the EPA was investigating the “situation.” Use of low-flow toilets started in the 1990s after George HW Bush signed the Energy Policy Act – a 1992 law that required new toilets to have water-saving designs. (The Guardian / New York Times / CNN)

Day 1051: That's what impeachment is for.

1/ Trump repeatedly used unsecured cellphones to communicate with Rudy Giuliani and others involved in his campaign to pressure Ukraine. Phone records released this week revealed Trump’s extensive unencrypted communications that were vulnerable to monitoring by foreign spies, and his refusal to follow security guidance given to him by his aides. “It happened all the time,” said one former senior aide. Trump is not identified by name in the phone records, but House Intelligence Committee investigators believe he is the person with a blocked number listed as “-1” in the files. (Washington Post / CNN / The Independent)

2/ More than 500 legal scholars signed an open letter asserting that Trump committed “impeachable conduct.” The group noted that Trump’s attempt at affecting the results of the 2020 election was not a matter that could be left to voters at the polls. “Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all,” the professors wrote. “That is what impeachment is for.” (Washington Post)

3/ The White House rejected an invitation to participate in Monday’s impeachment hearings before the House Judiciary Committee. In a sharply worded letter, the White House called the process “completely baseless” and “a reckless abuse of power” by the Democrats, who “should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.” Trump had until 5 p.m. ET to decided whether to have his lawyers participate in the remaining House Judiciary Committee impeachment proceedings. Lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee are expected to present findings on Monday from the 300-page report that concluded Trump put his personal political interest above the national interest. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / NBC News / CNN)


Notables.

  1. More than 100 members of Congress have made 256 visits to Trump properties since he was elected. At least 122 visits were made to attend a political fundraiser or special interest group event. Since the impeachment inquiry was announced, 50 members of Congress have visited a Trump property. (CREW)

  2. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held an off-the-books meeting with group of wealthy conservative donors during the NATO summit in London this week. Pompeo attended a gathering of the Hamilton Society, which was held at the hotel where Pompeo was staying, without alerting members of the press who were traveling with him. Attendees were required to leave their cellphones outside of the meeting to ensure that nothing Pompeo said during the gathering would be recorded. (CNN)

  3. The House voted to restore protections of the Voting Rights Act that were rolled back by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling. The Voting Rights Advancement Act would amend the 1965 bill and restore protections for certain jurisdictions to obtain “pre-clearance” from the federal government before implementing any changes to voting practices. The bill passed 228 to 187, with all but one Republican opposed. (Politico / Associated Press / New York Times / The Hill)

  4. The Senate confirmed eight Trump court picks in three days. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has had 170 judicial confirmations. (The Hill)

  5. The Senate passed a bill to permanently fund historically black colleges and other minority-serving institutions. The FUTURE Act (Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education) will provide $255 million annually. Federal funding had expired on October 1. (CNN)

  6. The White House directed a Republican senator to block a bill acknowledging the Armenian genocide for a third time. Sen. Kevin Cramer was asked to prevent lawmakers from passing the bill by unanimous consent, even though he was a co-sponsor of a similar resolution during the last Congress. Cramer said he didn’t think it was “the right time” to pass the bill, which would formally recognize Turkey’s genocide against the Armenian people, because Trump had just returned from a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Cramer also said he does not intend to continue blocking the resolution in the future. (Axios / KTVZ)

Day 1050: Time to act.

1/ Speaker Nancy Pelosi instructed the key chairmen in the House of Representatives to begin drafting impeachment articles against Trump, signaling that the House will likely vote to charge him with high crimes and misdemeanors before Christmas. Pelosi said the facts of Trump’s alleged wrongdoing involving Ukraine “are uncontested” and that “the president leaves us no choice but to act.” By ordering the “chairmen” to draft the charges, Pelosi left open the possibility that the other five committees that have investigated Trump and his administration will be asked to make recommendations about articles of impeachment. Pelosi added that Trump “abused his power for his own personal political benefit” and that his alleged wrongdoing “strikes at the very heart of our Constitution.” (New York Times / Politico / NBC News / ABC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • 📅 The House Judiciary Committee will hold its next impeachment on Monday at 9 a.m. ET, when the panel will receive presentations from Democratic and GOP counsels to the Intelligence Committee on the evidence collected in the inquiry. (CNN / NBC News)

  • House Democrats are considering obstruction and bribery articles of impeachment against Trump. Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee believe Trump’s actions vis-a-vis Ukraine meet the definition of bribery. House Democrats have also signaled that they plan to include evidence from Robert Mueller’s investigation as part of the obstruction of justice articles. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • READ: Full text of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry update.

2/ Trump accused Pelosi of having “a nervous fit” after a reporter asked if she hated Trump. James Rosen, a reporter for a conservative television network, loudly asked Pelosi as she was leaving a news conference: “Do you hate the president?” Pelosi rejected the question, saying: “Don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.” (The Guardian / Washington Post / Bloomberg / New York Times)

  • Trump to Democrats: “If you are going to impeach me, do it now.” Trump suggested that he wanted the “Do Nothing Democrats” to move “fast” on impeachment “so we can have a fair trial in the Senate.” (ABC News)

3/ Attorney General William Barr’s handpicked prosecutor told the Justice Department’s inspector general that he found no evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies had planted spies in the Trump campaign. Barr tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham with investigating the origins of the Mueller probe, as well as Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who conservative media outlets allege was a spy planted by the FBI or U.S. intelligence agencies. As part of a separate investigation, Durham was contacted by Michael Horowitz, the DOJ’s inspector general, and asked whether Mifsud, who had early contact with the Trump campaign, was an intelligence asset. Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had produced no evidence to support the allegation. Horowitz’s report concludes that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its Russia investigation. (Washington Post / CNN / The Hill)

  • 📌 Day 1042: The FBI never placed undercover agents or informants inside Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a draft of the Justice Department’s inspector general report. Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation is due on Dec. 9. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly alleged that FBI officials not only spied on the campaign but that Obama had ordered Trump’s phones tapped. The report is also expected to debunk allegations that the FBI relied on information from Christopher Steele’s dossier of damaging, unverified information about Trump to open the investigation. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1037: A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general didn’t find anti-Trump bias at the FBI when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to look into Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. According to a draft copy of Michael Horowitz’s report, there were errors and omissions in the documents related to wiretapping Page and that a low-level lawyer altered an email used to seek a renewal of the wiretap. Kevin Clinesmith attached additional material to the bottom of an email from an official at another federal agency, which contained several factual assertions. Horowitz concluded that the altered document did not impact the overall validity of the surveillance application, but referred his findings about Clinesmith to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge. Clinesmith left the Russia investigation in February 2018. Overall, the draft report concludes that the FBI had enough evidence for opening the investigation, that Joseph Mifsud, a Russia-linked professor who told a Trump campaign official that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic emails, was not an FBI informant, and that none of the evidence used to open the investigation came from the CIA or dossier of Trump-Russia ties compiled by Christopher Steele. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Trump asked the Supreme Court to block a subpoena from House Democrats for his financial records, arguing that the House exceeded its authority when it ordered Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA to turn over his personal records. The petition is the second request in the last month concerning a similar subpoena for his financial records. In both cases, Trump sued to stop Mazars USA from complying with subpoenas for records. Federal appeals courts ruled against Trump in both cases. (Politico / Bloomberg / NBC News /CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1030: Trump asked the Supreme Court to block a House subpoena for his tax returns for the second day in a row. Yesterday, Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to reverse a lower-court ruling that allowed the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to obtain eight years’ worth of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns from his accountant, Mazars USA, as part of a probe into the payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Today, Trump’s lawyers asked the justices to temporarily block a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee compelling Mazars to provide Trump’s tax returns. Mazars has said it will hand over the records if it is required to. (CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

5/ The former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump before he was president sued Fox News for defamation. Karen McDougal alleged that Tucker Carlson falsely accused her of extortion when he said that she “approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money.” (New York Times)

6/ North Korea threatened to resume calling Trump a “dotard” if he keeps referring to Kim Jong Un as “rocket man.” The warning came after Trump remarked that Kim “likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him rocket man.” (Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 246: Following Trump’s United Nations speech, North Korea threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific. Kim Jong Un in a statement called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” who would “pay dearly” for his words, and that North Korea would enact the “highest level of hardline countermeasure in history.” The North Korean foreign minister clarified this phrase, suggesting it could refer to an H-bomb. (Financial Times / New York Times)

Day 1049: "Are you ready?"

1/ Trump committed impeachable offenses, according to three constitutional scholars who testified during the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing into Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political gain. Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard, Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina, and Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, all agreed that Trump was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for soliciting foreign assistance and withholding a White House meeting and military assistance from Ukraine as leverage for political favors. Gerhardt added that Trump’s actions toward Ukraine were worse than Richard Nixon’s misconduct during Watergate. Karlan also told lawmakers that Trump’s attempt to “strong arm a foreign leader” would not be considered politics as usual. Feldman, Gerhardt, and Karlan were invited to testify by the Democrats. Republicans also tapped their own law professor, Jonathan Turley, to testify, who suggested that the impeachment case is “slipshod” and premature. Turley also disagreed that Trump conditioning a White House meeting and releasing military aid on whether Ukraine would announce the investigations he wanted amounted to a bribe. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)

  • 💬 Quotable: “The very idea that a president might seek the aid of a foreign government in his re-election campaign would have horrified” America’s Founding Fathers. –Pamela Karlan

  • 💬 Quotable: “On the basis of the testimony and evidence before the House, President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency.” –Noah Feldman

  • 💬 Quotable: “The record compiled thus far shows that the president has committed several impeachable offenses, including bribery, abuse of power in soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader to benefit his political campaign, obstructing Congress and obstructing justice.” –Michael Gerhardt

  • “Are you ready?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked fellow Democrats during a closed-door Capitol meeting before the Judiciary Committee’s proceedings began. While Pelosi didn’t announce a firm decision or timeline for voting on Trump’s impeachment, Democrats responded with a standing ovation, indicating they wanted to continue to press the inquiry. (Washington Post / Associated Press)

  • Takeaways from the Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • Live blogs: New York Times / ABC News / The Guardian / CNN / NBC News)

2/ House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler suggested that Democrats could link Mueller’s findings to the House’s impeachment inquiry. Nadler’s opening statement outlined how Trump met both the Mueller investigation and the Ukraine probe with “obstruction.” Nadler added that “Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election,” “demanded it for the 2020 election,” and “In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.” (Politico)

  • A witness in the Mueller investigation was indicted along with seven other people on charges of conspiring to funnel $3.5 million in illegal campaign contributions. George Nader was charged along with a Lebanese businessman named Ahmad “Andy” Khawaja as part of a 53-count indictment for conspiring to secretly direct $3.5 million in campaign contributions to political committees associated with U.S. presidential candidates. Nader served as an adviser to the United Arab Emirates and an intermediary for members of the Trump campaign who wanted to make contacts in the Middle East. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump called the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report “a joke” and that “Everybody is saying it.” Trump then cited “reviews” of the report by Fox News’ opinion hosts who he had watched, saying that their takeaway is “a uniform statement pretty much right down the road” that the Democrats’ investigation is “of no merit.” (Politico / ABC News)

  • The Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry report, annotated. The House Intelligence Committee Democrats released a 300-page report outlining their impeachment inquiry into the conduct of Trump. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1048: The House Intelligence Committee concluded that Trump tried to “use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.” The 300-page impeachment report also asserts that Trump “placed his own personal and political interests” ahead of U.S. national interests, “subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign.” The report continues that “This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the president will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.” The Intelligence Committee is expected to approve the report along party lines Tuesday evening, ahead of the first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. (New York Times / Politico / CNN / Bloomberg / NBC News / ABC News / Washington Post)

4/ Rudy Giuliani traveled to Europe to meet with several former Ukrainian prosecutors in an effort to defend Trump against the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani traveled to Budapest to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, before going to Ukraine to meet with a number of other former prosecutors, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk. It was Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainians that setup the impeachment inquiry in the first place and led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws. (New York Times / CNN)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration approved a plan to end food stamp benefits for about 700,000 Americans. The new regulation will strictly enforcing federal work requirements and makes it harder for states to gain waivers from the requirement. It was the first of three rule changes that are expected to ultimately cut 3 million people from the food stamp rolls. (New York Times / NBC News / Bloomberg)

  2. Attorney General William Barr suggested that “communities” who don’t “respect” the police could lose “the police protection they need,” conflating protests of police misconduct with a disrespect for the police. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  3. The Department of Homeland Security is considering requiring all travelers be photographed entering or leaving the country – including American citizens – as part of an identification system using facial-recognition technology. (ABC News)

  4. Senate Republicans confirmed Sarah Pitlyk to a lifetime seat on the federal judiciary despite her unanimous “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. Pitlyk also believes fertility treatment is having “grave effects on society.” (HuffPost / Slate)

  5. The Trump administration is considering deploying an additional 14,000 troops to the Middle East to counter Iran. The additional forces would join the roughly 14,000 U.S. service members sent to the region since May. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. China warned the U.S that passing legislation criticizing the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China would affect negotiations to end the ongoing trade war. The UIGHUR Act of 2019 is currently awaiting approval in the Senate. The bill would require certain U.S. government agencies to report on the treatment of Uighurs at internment and re-education camps in Xinjiang. A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry told reporters that “any wrong words and deeds” by the U.S. “must pay the due price.” (Reuters)

  7. Trump met privately with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for an unscheduled meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in London. They discussed trade, energy, and the importance that both countries fulfill their alliance commitments. The meeting was not open to U.S. media. (Bloomberg)

  8. Trump abruptly canceled a planned news conference to cap NATO’s 70th anniversary meeting after being mocked by other world leaders. A video surfaced of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on a hot mic joking about Trump during a reception at Buckingham Palace. Trump responded by calling Trudeau “two-faced,” before adding, “honestly with Trudeau, he’s a nice guy.” (CNN / CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian / Politico / BuzzFeed News)

  9. Trump made at least 21 false claims during the NATO meetings and turned the public portion of each of the three sessions into his own impromptu press conference. (CNN)


Impeachment: What Happens Next.

  1. The House Judiciary Committee expected to announce a hearing for next week. The Democratic and GOP staff attorneys on the House Intelligence Committee are expected to present the findings of their investigations.

  2. The White House has a Friday deadline to decide about whether to participate in future hearings.

Day 1048: Clear and present danger.

1/ The House Intelligence Committee concluded that Trump tried to “use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.” The 300-page impeachment report also asserts that Trump “placed his own personal and political interests” ahead of U.S. national interests, “subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign.” The report continues that “This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the president will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.” The Intelligence Committee is expected to approve the report along party lines Tuesday evening, ahead of the first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. (New York Times / Politico / CNN / Bloomberg / NBC News / ABC News / Washington Post)

  • Trump called the impeachment inquiry “very unpatriotic” during the opening of the NATO leadership summit in London. He also called the inquiry a “performance” and said it was “a bad thing for our country.” (Associated Press)

2/ House Democrats are considering expanding their articles of impeachment to include charges beyond Trump’s alleged abuse of power related to Ukraine. Some members of the Judiciary Committee have discussed drafting articles for obstruction of justice and other “high crimes” outlined in the Mueller report, as well as allegations that Trump has used the presidency to personally enrich himself. Others on the committee support a more narrow approach that focuses solely on Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations into his political opponents. (Washington Post)

3/ Ukraine knew about Trump’s hold on military aid in July and attempted to keep the information from going public, according to the former Ukrainian deputy minister of foreign affairs. Olena Zerkal learned about the freeze from an incoming diplomatic cable and informed Ukrainian senior officials, who tried to prevent it from surfacing in order to avoid getting drawn into the impeachment discussion. Zerkal asked for a meeting with a senior aide to Zelensky to discuss it on July 30. The cable had been sent the previous week, but Zerkal could not confirm the precise date it had been transmitted. (New York Times)

4/ Rudy Giuliani repeatedly called the White House the same day that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly recalled, according to phone records released by the House Intelligence Committee. Marie Yovanovitch was recalled from her post in May following claims by Trump’s surrogates that she was undermining his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. Call records also show that Devin Nunes had multiple contacts in April with Giuliani and Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate indicted for campaign finance violations. The contacts came as the U.S. envoy worked with Giuliani to persuade Ukraine’s president to commit publicly to investigating Trump’s political opponents. Separately, phone records also show that Giuliani repeatedly called the White House Situation Room’s switchboard and other White House numbers on Aug. 8. Giuliani eventually spoke with someone from Mick Mulvaney’s Office of Management and Budget on Aug. 8 for nearly 13-minutes. The whistleblower complaint was filed on Aug. 12. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Axios / Daily Beast)

  • The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report accused Trump’s allies of coordinating with a conservative journalist to peddle “false narratives” about Trump’s opponents as part of his multi-pronged pressure campaign on Ukraine. The report indicates that journalist John Solomon’s articles throughout 2019 spread Trump-backed conspiracies about Ukraine. The phone records show multiple communications between Solomon, Giuliani, Parnas, Nunes, and the White House’s budget office. (CNN)

  • The Justice Department is “likely” to file additional charges in the case against two Giuliani associates indicted for campaign finance crimes. “We think a superseding indictment is likely,” said a prosecutor during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in the case of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are accused of violating federal campaign finance laws. An attorney representing Parnas asked that materials seized during his client’s arrest be released to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty. (NBC News / Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC) / ABC News)

5/ An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee found no evidence that Ukraine attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. The Republican-led committee was investigating claims by Trump and his allies that Ukraine tried to undermine Trump’s candidacy and boost Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump has used the claims to defend his demands for political investigations from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Politico / CNN)


Notables.

  1. A federal appeals court ruled that Deutsche Bank and Capital One must comply with a congressional subpoena for Trump, his children, and his company’s financial records. In August, a New York district judge declined to block the subpoenas, which were issued by the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees in April as part of an investigation into foreign influence. Trump is expected to appeal the case to the Supreme Court. (New York Times / Reuters / Axios)

  2. Trump said he has “no deadline” to finalize a trade deal with China and would be willing to wait until after the 2020 election to “see whether or not the deal is going to be right.” Stocks in Europe fell and Dow futures lost more than 100 points in response to Trump’s comments. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN)

  3. The Department of Defense awarded a $400 million contract to build sections of Trump’s border wall in Arizona to a company owned by a Republican donor. Fisher Sand and Gravel’s bid to build 31 miles of new barrier was initially rejected because it didn’t meet the required project standards. However, after CEO Tommy Fisher appeared on Fox News multiple times to promote his company, Trump urged the Army Corps of Engineers to award Fisher the contract. Fisher Sand and Gravel has previously been fined more than $1 million for environmental and tax violations, and the former co-owner of the company was sentenced to 37 months in prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to tax fraud. (Grand Forks Herald / Fox 5 San Diego / Washington Post / The Independent)

Day 1047: Entirely prudent.

1/ The White House will not participate in the Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing on Wednesday. In a letter to Chairman Jerry Nadler, White House counsel Pat Cipollone called the inquiry “baseless” and “partisan,” and that “all” of Trump’s due process rights had been violated by the impeachment inquiry. Cipollone did not rule out the possibility that the White House would participate in future proceedings. The White House has a Friday deadline to decide whether or not Trump will offer a defense as part of the broader impeachment proceedings. (Politico / CNN / NBC News / Washington Post / Reuters / ABC News)

2/ The House Intelligence Committee will circulate its report on Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations into his political rivals. Lawmakers will have 24 hours to review the report before a vote on Tuesday over whether to pass the impeachment inquiry over to the Judiciary Committee. The panel is expected to approve the findings on a party-line vote. The Judiciary Committee, which will begin scheduled impeachment hearings on Wednesday, is expected to then draft and vote on articles of impeachment around the second week of December with a full House vote before the Christmas recess. (Politico / NBC News)

3/ House Republicans prepared their own report, which claims Trump did “nothing wrong” and committed “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power.” The 123-page rebuttal report claims Trump was acting on “genuine and reasonable” skepticism of Ukraine and had “valid” concerns about corruption – not political self-interest – when he pressured Ukraine to open investigations to benefit his 2020 re-election bid by withholding nearly $400 million in security assistance and a White House meeting. Republicans called the move “entirely prudent.” The report, however, does not acknowledge any wrongdoing surrounding the core allegations in the impeachment inquiry and ignores or downplays testimony from career officials who raised serious questions and concerns about the conduct of Trump and his top aides. (New York Times / CNN / Daily Beast / Axios / Wall Street Journal)

poll/ 53% of Republicans think Trump is a better leader than Lincoln; 47% said Lincoln was a better leader. Overall, 75% of Americans believe Lincoln was a better leader than Trump. (The Hill / Economist/YouGov)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration released $105 million in military assistance to Lebanon after months of unexplained delays. The Office of Management and Budget has been holding the funds since September despite congressional approval. The White House has not explained the delay. (Associated Press)

  2. The Trump administration’s changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could cause millions to lose food stamps. Three proposed rule changes to SNAP by the Department of Agriculture would create stricter work requirements for eligibility, cap deductions, and “reform” the way 40 states automatically enroll families. According to a study by the Urban Institute, 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP in an average month, 2.2 million households would see their average monthly benefits drop by $127, more than 3 million others would see an average drop of $37 per month, and 982,000 students would lose access to free or reduced lunches. (NBC News)

  3. Trump called for a cease-fire between the Taliban and U.S. forces in Afghanistan during an unannounced Thanksgiving visit with U.S. troops overseas. Trump told troops that the Taliban “wants to make a deal” and that “we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.” Trump claimed that he has made “tremendous progress” since he abruptly canceled his previous peace talks with the Taliban in September. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, however, indicated that a cease-fire wasn’t in progress or even part of the discussion with U.S. negotiators. Western diplomats and Taliban leaders were also confused by Trump’s remarks, since demanding a cease-fire would constitute a shift in the U.S. position and would require additional concessions from the Taliban. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Associated Press)

  4. The Trump administration indefinitely detained a Palestinian man by citing an obscure provision in the PATRIOT Act. After serving 15 years in federal prison, Adham Amin Hassoun was taken into custody by ICE and detained in New York while he awaited deportation. After no country would accept him, the Trump administration declared Hassoun a threat to national security under section 412 of the PATRIOT Act, which permits indefinite detention of resident aliens on national security grounds. It’s the first time the government has invoked Section 412. (Daily Beast)

  5. The Trump administration moved to reduce its contributions to NATO. Previously, the U.S. provided about 22% of NATO’s direct funding, but the Trump administration plans to now reduce its contribution to about 16%. The U.S. expects other NATO members to make up the shortfall. (CNN)

  6. Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina, accusing the two countries of manipulating their currencies to hurt American farmers. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  7. The Trump administration proposed tariffs on roughly $2.4 billion in French products after a five-month investigation that concluded that a French digital services tax discriminated against American Internet companies, like Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon. Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s chief negotiator, proposed “additional duties of up to 100% on certain French products,” including cheese, yogurt, sparkling wine, and makeup. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  8. Trump’s 2020 campaign won’t credential reporters from Bloomberg News to cover Trump campaign events after the company said it wouldn’t investigate Democratic 2020 candidates while Mike Bloomberg – the owner – was in the race. (Wall Street Journal / Axios)

Day 1042: Dissenting opinions.

1/ Trump was briefed about the whistleblower complaint before lifting the hold on military aid to Ukraine in September. White House lawyers discussed the complaint with Trump in late august – after the inspector general for the intelligence community concluded that the administration needed to send it to Congress – and explained they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to lawmakers. The two lawyers, Pat Cipollone and John Eisenberg, told Trump they would ask the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine whether they had to disclose the complaint. A week later, the OLC concluded that the administration did not have to hand it over. In early September (either Sept. 7 or 9), Trump told Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, that he was not seeking “a quid pro quo” with the Ukrainian government by withholding the aid. Three House committees opened an investigation into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine on Sept. 9, and the administration lifted the freeze on $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine on Sept. 11. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN)

2/ Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget resigned over concerns about Trump’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine. Career OMB employee Mark Sandy told House investigators during a closed-door interview this month that one of the former OMB officials “expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold” before stepping down in September. A second official working in the legal division of OMB also offered a “dissenting opinion” over the legality of the hold before resigning shortly thereafter. Neither official has been identified, and it is unclear how closely their resignations were tied to the hold on U.S. military aid. (Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Rudy Giuliani was negotiating personal business with Ukraine’s top prosecutor while encouraging the same prosecutor to investigate the Bidens and allegations that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election. A February draft retainer called for Yuri Lutsenko to pay at least $200,000 to retain Giuliani Partners, and Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, a husband-and-wife legal team aligned with Trump, to help recover money allegedly stolen from Ukraine. Lutsenko also wanted Giuliani to help him get a meeting with Attorney General William Barr. Lutsenko said Giuliani told him he would have to hire a lobbyist to get the meeting, and that “They even offered me such a company.” Giuliani has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine and that none of the deals were finalized. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ Trump denied sending Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Bidens. Giuliani, however, publicly admitted earlier this month that he went to Ukraine on Trump’s behalf to conduct an investigation “concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption.” Giuliani also said the investigation was carried out “solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges.” Asked what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump said “you have to ask that to Rudy.” Meanwhile, Giuliani called Trump to reassure him that he was joking when he told the media that he had an “insurance policy, if thrown under the bus” by Trump. (Bloomberg / Reuters)

5/ The FBI never placed undercover agents or informants inside Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a draft of the Justice Department’s inspector general report. Michael Horowitz’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation is due on Dec. 9. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly alleged that FBI officials not only spied on the campaign but that Obama had ordered Trump’s phones tapped. The report is also expected to debunk allegations that the FBI relied on information from Christopher Steele’s dossier of damaging, unverified information about Trump to open the investigation. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1037: A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general didn’t find anti-Trump bias at the FBI when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to look into Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. According to a draft copy of Michael Horowitz’s report, there were errors and omissions in the documents related to wiretapping Page and that a low-level lawyer altered an email used to seek a renewal of the wiretap. Kevin Clinesmith attached additional material to the bottom of an email from an official at another federal agency, which contained several factual assertions. Horowitz concluded that the altered document did not impact the overall validity of the surveillance application, but referred his findings about Clinesmith to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge. Clinesmith left the Russia investigation in February 2018. Overall, the draft report concludes that the FBI had enough evidence for opening the investigation, that Joseph Mifsud, a Russia-linked professor who told a Trump campaign official that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic emails, was not an FBI informant, and that none of the evidence used to open the investigation came from the CIA or dossier of Trump-Russia ties compiled by Christopher Steele. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Michael Flynn’s sentence was postponed until after the release of the inspector general report about the FBI’s Russia investigation. Flynn was scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 18 after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’ ambassador to the United States. (Politico / CNN)

6/ The Trump Organization reported conflicting information to New York City property tax officials and a lender who arranged financing for Trump Tower in Manhattan. Documents show Trump’s company reported higher occupancy rates to lenders and lower ones to tax officials over three consecutive years. The discrepancy occurred while the Trump Organization was refinancing a $100 million loan. (ProPublica)

poll/ 47% of adults say Trump should be impeached, while 40% say he shouldn’t be. (Reuters)

Day 1041: Bleak.

1/ The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing next week on the impeachment of Trump. The Dec. 4 hearing on the “constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment” will feature a panel of expert witnesses who will testify “on the application of the constitutional framework of high crimes and misdemeanors to the very serious allegations regarding the conduct of the President.” Chairman Jerry Nadler has invited the White House to also question witnesses. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to release its report summarizing the findings of its investigation to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from its Thanksgiving recess next week. The report will also detail how the White House refused to cooperate with the inquiry and argue that the refusal may warrant an additional article of impeachment against Trump. (Politico / CNN / New York Times / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Reuters)

2/ A federal judge ruled that the Defense Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget must turn over hundreds of documents related to Trump’s decision to withhold security aid from Ukraine. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered OMB and the Defense Department to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for 211 pages of records containing communications between the Pentagon, the Pentagon’s comptroller, and OMB. The preliminary injunction requires the first half of the documents to be turned over by Dec. 12, and the second half by Dec. 20. (Axios)

3/ The Office of Management and Budget officially started withholding $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine on July 25 – the same day Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone. According to a summary of OMB documents provided to the House Budget Committee, the hold on the aid was initially placed at the beginning of July. Agencies were notified at a July 18 meeting that it had been frozen at the direction of the White House – a week before the Trump-Zelensky call. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 994: Trump gave a politically appointed official the authority to withhold nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine after career staff at the Office of Management and Budget questioned the legality of delaying the funds. Trump shifted the authority over the funds to Michael Duffey, who serves as associate director of national security programs at OMB. The aid in question is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry, and it was put on hold just days before the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky. Duffey was also allowed to oversee the apportionment of funds for other foreign aid and defense accounts. “It is absurd to suggest,” said an OMB spokesperson in a statement, “that the president and his administration officials should not play a leadership role in ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent.” (Wall Street Journal)

4/ The House Oversight and Reform Committee sued Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents related to the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Trump, Barr, and Ross previously asserted that the materials were protected by executive privilege. The 85-page lawsuit comes a day after a federal judge ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify under subpoena in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry. (Politico / Axios / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 909: The House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents about the Trump administration’s efforts to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census. Barr and Ross withheld documents that had been subpoenaed by the Oversight and Reform Committee as part of its probe into the origins of the citizenship question. The Trump administration claimed it needed the citizen question to enforce the Voting Rights Act. In May, however, evidence emerged that the question was intended to specifically give an electoral advantage to Republicans and whites. Ross also previously testified before Congress that he added the question “solely” at the request of the Justice Department. It later came out that he’d asked the department to make the request. While Barr and Ross face up to a year behind bars and a $100,000 fine, it’s unlikely the Justice Department will pursue the case, because Barr is the head of the Justice Department. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

5/ The Justice Department asked a federal judge to temporary pause a ruling that orders former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in the House impeachment probe. McGahn and the Justice Department also asked that the order be suspended while the appeal plays out. Meanwhile, a lawyer representing Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, and Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, said his clients would keep resisting congressional subpoenas, arguing that the decision didn’t apply to their situation. (Politico / CNN / New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1040: A federal judge ruled that the former White House counsel must testify before impeachment investigators about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson found no basis for Trump’s claim that Don McGahn, who spent 30 hours talking to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, is “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.” The ruling could also have implications for former national security adviser John Bolton and Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, were ordered not to appear by the White House. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NPR / Wall Street Journal)

6/ Trump put Jared Kushner in charge of overseeing the construction of his border wall. Kushner, who wants at least 400 miles built before Election Day, has reportedly been trying to convince U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the process of confiscating private land needed to build sections of the wall. (Washington Post)

7/ The Supreme Court blocked a House subpoena directing Trump’s accounting firm to turn over several years’ worth of financial documents after Trump’s lawyers agreed to an expedited review of a lower-court ruling granting access. The court ordered Trump’s lawyers to file a petition by Dec. 5 explaining why the court should accept the case. If the petition is denied, the lower-court ruling will go into effect and Mazars USA will turn over Trump-related financial documents from 2011 to 2018. If accepted, the case will likely be heard this term, with a decision before the end of June. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Axios)

8/ The White House deputy chief of staff is stepping down. Daniel Walsh was the chief operations officer for the White House. Walsh was in charge of coordinating foreign trips, making decisions about the use of government resources by White House staff, and overseeing the White House military office. Walsh is leaving the administration to take a job in the private sector. White House officials said they expect to announce Walsh’s replacement in the coming days but did not give a name. (Washington Post)

poll/ 50% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 43% say he shouldn’t. Trump’s approval rating, meanwhile, has held steady: 42% approve of the job he’s doing and 54% disapprove. (CNN)

poll/ 48% of voters support the impeachment inquiry, while 43% oppose the investigation. 81% of Democrats support the probe, while 81% of Republicans opposed it. (Politico)


🚨 Dept. of We’re all F*cked.

Global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to a new United Nations report on climate change. Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown by 1.5% every year over the last decade. To meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord and stay below 2 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels, emissions must decline by 7.6% every year between 2020 and 2030. The world already has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius. The “findings are bleak” the report concludes and that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.” (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 979: A United Nations report warned that ocean warming is accelerating and sea levels are rising “more than twice as fast” than in the 20th century – and faster than previously estimated. While sea levels rose by about a half-inch in total during the 20th century, they are now rising about 0.14 inches per year, driven by the rapid melting of ice in Greenland, Antarctica, and the world’s smaller glaciers. The report predicts that sea levels will “continue to rise” – possibly reaching around 1-2 feet by 2100 – even if countries curb emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, which was the Paris Agreement’s goal. Temperatures are already 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels However, “if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly,” then the world could see 3.6 feet in total sea level rise by 2100. The report concludes that the world’s oceans and ice sheets are under such severe stress that hotter ocean temperatures, combined with rising sea levels, threaten to create more destructive tropical cyclones and floods. (NPR / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 931: Climate change is putting pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself, according to a new United Nations report that was prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and, unanimously approved. The report warns that the world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates” and “the cycle is accelerating.” Climate change has already degraded lands, caused deserts to expand, permafrost to thaw, and made forests more vulnerable to drought, fire, pests and disease. “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases,” the report said. The report offered several proposals for addressing food supplies, including reducing red meat consumption, adopting plant-based diets, and eating more fruits, vegetables and seeds. As a result, the world could reduce carbon pollution up to 15% of current emissions levels by 2050. It would also make people healthier. (New York Times / Associated Press / Nature)

  • 📌 Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and “there is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 676: The National Climate Assessment concludes that global warming is already “transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The findings from the landmark scientific report, issued by 13 federal agencies, are at odds with the Trump administration’s environmental deregulation agenda, which Trump claims will lead to economic growth, and its plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The report predicts that the effects of global warming could eliminate as much as 10% of the U.S. economy by the end of the century, and warns that humans must act aggressively now “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.” The first report, released in November 2017, concluded that there is “no convincing alternative explanation” for the changing climate other than “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases.” Trump recently questioned the science of climate change, saying that “I don’t know that it’s man-made” and that the warming trend “could very well go back.” (New York Times / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 685: Global emissions of carbon dioxide have reached the highest levels on record. Global emissions grew 1.6% in 2017 with 2018 expected to increase 2.7%. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon emissions, but that hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from moving to roll back regulations designed to limit those emissions from vehicle tailpipes and power-plant smokestacks. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said this week at the opening of the 24th annual U.N. climate conference: “We are in trouble. We are in deep trouble with climate change.” (Washington Post / New York Times)

Day 1040: Without reason.

1/ A federal judge ruled that the former White House counsel must testify before impeachment investigators about Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson found no basis for Trump’s claim that Don McGahn, who spent 30 hours talking to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, is “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.” The ruling could also have implications for former national security adviser John Bolton and Bolton’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, were ordered not to appear by the White House. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NPR / Wall Street Journal)

2/ The White House engaged in an extensive effort to come up with an after-the-fact justification for Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine. The confidential review by the White House Counsel’s Office into Trump’s decision to hold the military aid revealed hundreds of documents that showed an internal debate over whether the move was legal. Among the documents are emails between acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials from early August – after the hold had already been ordered – attempting to find an explanation for why Trump had blocked the security assistance that Congress had previously approved. The review found that Trump made the decision to hold the aid in July “without an assessment of reasoning or legal justification.” (Washington Post / CNN / New York Times)

3/ The White House arranged a phone call between Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss Giuliani’s packet of unproven allegations about Joe Biden and former American Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Emails, released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, show that Giuliani and Pompeo first spoke on March 26 for five minutes. Giuliani then handed over the packet of material to the State Department on March 28 and spoke with Pompeo again on March 29, this time for four minutes. Giuliani’s office worked with Trump’s then-personal assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, to have the State Department put Giuliani in touch with Pompeo. Yovanovitch was recalled from her post weeks later. (CNN / McClatchy DC / CBS News / American Oversight)

  • 📌 Day 987: Giuliani personally gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a file of documents of unproven allegations against Biden on March 28th and claimed that he was told that the State Department would take up an investigation of those claims. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick gave Congress the 79-page packet Wednesday, which included nearly 20 pages of communications between State Department employees working to push back against the “fake narrative” that Giuliani was pushing. Linick told Congress that the department’s office of legal counsel had provided the documents to him in May, which he gave to the FBI. The documents were in Trump Hotel folders and included “interview” notes Giuliani conducted with Viktor Shokin, the former General Prosecutor of Ukraine who was pushed out at the urging of Biden because he didn’t prosecute corruption. (NBC News / CNN)

4/ The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office issued subpoenas for information about Rudy Giuliani’s consulting firm. The subpoenas listed more than a half dozen potential charges under consideration, including money laundering, obstruction of justice, and campaign finance violations. The subpoenas also seek information on Global Energy Producers, a company co-founded by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, which paid Giuliani for legal and business advice, as well as material related to two pro-Trump groups, America First Action and America First Policies. The Justice Department charges that Parnas and Fruman disguised the source of a $325,000 donation made in 2018 to America First by giving the money in the name of Global Energy Producers. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNBC)

5/ Devin Nunes met with the former Ukrainian prosecutor general last year to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden. Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate, is willing to testify that Nunes met with Victor Shokin in Vienna last December, who was removed from his position in March 2016 over concerns that he was not pursuing corruption cases. Nunes’ aides also reportedly called off a planned trip to Ukraine this year to interview two Ukrainian prosecutors – who claimed to have evidence that could help Trump get reelected – when they realized they would have to report the meetings to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Instead, Nunes’ aides asked Parnas to setup phone and Skype meetings with Ukraine’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky, and Konstantin Kulik, a deputy in Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office. Nunes called the claims “demonstrably false and scandalous” in an interview with Breitbart News. Later, on Fox News, Nunes called the reports that he met with Shokin part of a criminal campaign against him by a “totally corrupt” news media. Nunes also threatened to sue news outlets that reported on Parnas’s accusation, claiming they’re “likely conspiring to obstruct justice.” (CNBC / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)

  • Lev Parnas gave audio recordings, videos, and photos of Trump and Giuliani to the House Intelligence Committee. There are no specific details available regarding what is depicted in the tapes and photos. The House committees began reviewing the materials last week. Both Schiff and an attorney for Parnas refused to elaborate on the contents of the materials, but they did confirm that Parnas has been cooperating with House investigators. (ABC News / Rolling Stone)

  • The House Armed Services Committee chairman said it is “quite likely, without question” that Nunes will face an ethics investigation over allegations that he met with Shokin. (Politico / Washington Post)

6/ Trump ordered Defense Secretary Mark Esper to allow a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes to retire without losing his elite status. During a Pentagon briefing, Trump reportedly gave Esper a direct order to drop disciplinary action against Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, who was accused of murdering a captive teenage Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq, threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, and shooting two civilians from a sniper’s perch in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was convicted of posing with the corpse of the ISIS fighter. The Navy wanted to oust Gallagher from the commando unit, but Trump’s order means Gallagher will be allowed to retire with his Trident Pin and retain his status as a SEAL. The Navy previously demoted Gallagher from chief petty officer to petty officer first class. Trump then reversed the order earlier this month. Trump’s Sunday order also went against the advice that Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley had provided two days earlier, which was to let the Navy’s internal personnel process play out. (New York Times / Politico / NBC News / Associated Press / CNN)

  • SUNDAY: Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired the Navy secretary over the handling of a Navy SEAL’s war crimes case. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was fired after Esper learned that Spencer was privately negotiating a deal with the White House to let Gallagher retire as a Navy SEAL if they didn’t interfere with the Navy’s internal review board. Spencer’s proposal to the White House – which he never shared with Esper – also contradicted his public position on the case. (Washington Post / Axios / Reuters / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

  • SATURDAY: Navy Secretary Richard Spencer threatened to resign or be fired if Trump meddled in the administrative probe into the SEAL case. Spencer later denied that he had threatened to resign, but said disciplinary plans against Gallagher would proceed because he would need an order “to act” and that he didn’t “interpret (Trump’s tweets) as a formal order.” (New York Times / NBC News / Axios)

  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley raised concerns with the White House after Trump tweeted that “the Navy will NOT be taking away” Gallagher’s Trident Pin. (CNN)

7/ David Pecker spoke with the New York district attorney’s office as part of the investigation into the Trump Organization’s handling of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Pecker, the head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, could provide key details about agreements that were made with Michael Cohen, who is cooperating with the investigation. Prosecutors are investigating whether any state laws were broken, such as falsified business records relating to the Daniels payment. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 910: The FBI believed that then-candidate Trump was closely involved in the plan to the hide hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, according to previously redacted federal search warrants made public following the conclusion of the probe into Michael Cohen’s campaign finance crimes. The documents describe a “series of calls, text messages, and emails” between Cohen, Trump, Hope Hicks, Keith Davidson – an attorney for Daniels – Dylan Howard – the National Enquirer editor – and David Pecker, an executive of the company that published the National Enquirer. It’s the first time that the authorities have identified Trump by name regarding his alleged involvement in the scheme. Authorities previously referred to Trump in court filings as “Individual 1.” Last August, Cohen admitted to making $280,000 in illegal payments through a shell company to buy the silence of Daniels and McDougal. In April 2018, Trump claimed that he didn’t know anything about the hush money payment to Daniels. (NBC News / The Guardian / Washington Post / Reuters / CNN / Daily Beast / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 811: Federal investigators in New York have “gathered more evidence than previously known” from Trump’s “inner circle” about the hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who both claim they had affairs with Trump. Prosecutors interviewed Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller, Trump’s former security chief. Investigators also have a recorded phone conversation between Michael Cohen and a lawyer who represented the two women. Investigators also have calls between Schiller and David Pecker, chief executive of the National Enquirer, which admitted it paid $150,000 to McDougal on Mr. Trump’s behalf to keep her story under wraps. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 750: American Media entered into a deal with federal prosecutors last year where Pecker and Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard cooperate with authorities, and acknowledge that the Enquirer worked with the Trump campaign to kill stories “about the presidential candidate’s relationships with women”: the former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn star Stormy Daniels. (New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 1037: "Never took place."

1/ Impeachment Watch: What happens next. The House Intelligence Committee concluded public hearings for the impeachment inquiry into Trump after more than a dozen witnesses testified. With no other witnesses scheduled to testify, the committee and Chair Adam Schiff will now compile and submit a report of its findings to the House Judiciary Committee. The report will be sent to the Judiciary Committee, which will decide whether or not to draft on articles of impeachment. If it drafts articles, the committee would vote on them and send them to the House floor, where Democrats anticipate a vote by Christmas. If the House votes to impeach Trump, the case is sent to the Senate for a trial, which would start in the new year. It would require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to remove Trump from office. Senate Republicans and senior White House officials have discussed limiting a Senate impeachment trial to two weeks. Meanwhile, a federal judge is expected to rule on whether former White House counsel Don McGahn is required to obey a Judiciary Committee subpoena to testify in response to an earlier House subpoena in a previous matter. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton declined an invitation to testify and has not been subpoenaed, but said he won’t testify unless compelled by a court. Bolton is awaiting the result of a lawsuit filed by his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, asking a judge to decide whether he should listen to the House or the White House. (Vox / Politico / New York Times)

2/ Trump’s aides have discussed removing some impeachment witnesses from their White House posts ahead of schedule. National Security Council staffers, such as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison, are on loan to the White House from other agencies. Trump has reportedly suggested that Vindman and Taylor could be sent back to their home departments early despite advisers warning him that firing them could be viewed as retaliation. (CNN)

  • Trump accused Marie Yovanovitch of refusing to hang his photo in the Ukrainian Embassy and saying she “was not an angel.” Without offering any evidence, Trump claimed Yovanovitch –the former U.S. ambassador who Trump ousted in May as his associates began pressuring the new Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden – “wouldn’t hang it. It took like a year and a half, two years to get the picture up.” A member of Yovanovitch’s legal team said the embassy hung photos of Trump, Pence, and the secretary of state “as soon as they arrived from Washington, D.C.” (Politico / CBS News)

3/ Trump spent 53 minutes on the phone with “Fox & Friends” accusing an impeachment witness of lying, repeating a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and calling the details in the whistleblower complaint “fake.” Trump accused David Holmes, a political counselor to the American ambassador in Ukraine, of fabricating a phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, saying “I guarantee you that never took place.” Sondland, however, corroborated Holmes’s account in his own testimony. Trump also accused the Obama administration of spying on his campaign, claiming that “they were spying on my campaign and it went right to the top and everybody knows it and now we’re going to find out” and “they tried to overthrow the presidency.” (New York Times / Axios / HuffPost)

4/ A report from the Justice Department’s inspector general didn’t find anti-Trump bias at the FBI when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to look into Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. According to a draft copy of Michael Horowitz’s report, there were errors and omissions in the documents related to wiretapping Page and that a low-level lawyer altered an email used to seek a renewal of the wiretap. Kevin Clinesmith attached additional material to the bottom of an email from an official at another federal agency, which contained several factual assertions. Horowitz concluded that the altered document did not impact the overall validity of the surveillance application, but referred his findings about Clinesmith to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge. Clinesmith left the Russia investigation in February 2018. Overall, the draft report concludes that the FBI had enough evidence for opening the investigation, that Joseph Mifsud, a Russia-linked professor who told a Trump campaign official that Russia had damaging information on Hillary Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic emails, was not an FBI informant, and that none of the evidence used to open the investigation came from the CIA or dossier of Trump-Russia ties compiled by Christopher Steele. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Washington Post)

Day 1036: Weaponized falsehoods.

1/ The former White House adviser on Russia opened her testimony before the impeachment inquiry by accusing Republican lawmakers of weaponizing “falsehoods” with the “fictional narrative” that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Fiona Hill called Rep. Devin Nunes attempts to sow doubt that Russia interfered in the election a myth “perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.” She added that it’s “beyond dispute” that “Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions” in 2016. Hill and foreign service officer David Holmes appeared together as public impeachment witnesses, testifying about efforts by Gordon Sondland and Rudy Giuliani to convince Ukraine’s president to announce investigations that would benefit Trump politically around the time Trump froze security aid to Ukraine. Hill testified that she warned Sondland at the time that his efforts in Ukraine on behalf of Trump would “blow up.” She added: “And here we are.” (Politico / Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • MORE:

  • Hill said Sondland was “involved in a domestic political errand” and that he was “carrying out what he thought he had been instructed to carry out.” (New York Times)

  • Holmes testified that Russian intelligence was trying to “drive a wedge” between the U.S. and Ukraine to give the Kremlin more influence in the region. Hill added that Russia’s interest “is to delegitimize the president,” and that Russia’s goal in 2016 was to put the next president – Trump or Clinton – “under a cloud.”

  • Holmes explained that he was able to overhear Trump ask Gordon Sondland about getting Ukraine to launch an investigation, because Trump’s voice was “quite loud” and “quite distinctive.” Holmes said that when Trump came on the line, Sondland “sort of winced” and “held the phone away from his ear.” (CNBC)

  • READ: Fiona Hill’s opening statement

  • READ: David Holmes’ opening statement

  • READ: Adam Schiff’s opening statement

  • READ: Devin Nunes’ opening statement

  • LIVE BLOGS: Washington Post / Bloomberg / New York Times / CNN / Wall Street Journal / ABC News

2/ The deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia testified that Ukrainian officials asked her staff about the military aid on July 25 – the same day as Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Laura Cooper said Ukrainian officials were aware “there was some kind of issue” with the aid on July 25. Cooper testified that the military aid was critically important and that she had no idea why it was held up, despite Congress authorizing the money and the Defense Department having assured that Ukraine had met the qualifications for receiving it in May. Trump, White House officials, and Republican members of Congress, however, have argued that Kiev wasn’t aware of the delay until it was publicly reported in late August, insisting that there could be no wrongdoing if the Ukrainians weren’t aware the aid was being held up. (CNN / Axios / Washington Post / Politico)

3/ White House officials and Senate Republicans agreed that a full trial should be conducted if the House impeaches Trump. The White House reportedly wants Trump’s GOP allies in the Senate to hold a trial, but limit it to about two weeks as a way of showing a commitment to due process. Three Republicans, however, can block any impeachment vote on the Senate floor. Trump, meanwhile, is reportedly “miserable” about the ongoing impeachment inquiry and has pushed to dismiss the proceedings outright. (Politico / Washington Post)

⚡️ Public Impeachment Hearing Recap: More than a dozen witnesses have testified publicly before the House Intelligence Committee. No other witnesses are scheduled to testify and the committee will now write a report documenting its findings. The report will be sent to the Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of drafting and voting on articles of impeachment. A Judiciary Committee vote on impeachment would be followed by a vote in the full House vote to send the matter to the Senate for a trial, where it would require a two-thirds majority vote to remove Trump from office.


Notables.

  1. The Justice Department’s inspector general report about the FBI investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign ties to Russia will be released next month. The year-and-a-half long investigation examined whether the FBI violated surveillance laws or policies when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to look into Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

  2. Rudy Guiliani’s indicted business associate helped Rep. Devin Nunes arrange meetings and calls in Europe in 2018 related to Nunes’ investigative work into the origins of Robert Mueller’s probe. Nunes and three of his aides traveled to Europe from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, 2018 to attend meetings arranged by Lev Parnas. Nunes is the top Republican on the House committee in charge of the impeachment inquiry, where Parnas has been a recurring figure. (Daily Beast)

  3. Federal prosecutors in New York subpoenaed several Trump fundraisers as part of their investigation into Giuliani and his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Prosecutors sent subpoenas to Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm run by Brian Ballard, a top Trump fundraiser. One subpoenas was for communications and documents related to Parnas and Fruman, who were arrested last month on campaign finance charges, Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for America First Action, and Giuliani. (CNN)

  4. Trump signed a short-term spending bill to keep the government open through Dec. 20. The stop-gap spending bill came after the Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan 74-20 vote earlier in the day. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. Trump met privately with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for an undisclosed dinner at the White House in October – the second such meeting between Trump and Zuckerberg in a month. Facebook board member Peter Thiel also attended the dinner. Zuckerberg was in D.C. to testify before Congress about Facebook’s new cryptocurrency. It is unclear what Trump, Zuckerberg, and Thiel discussed or why the dinner was not made public. (NBC News)

  6. A federal judge blocked the scheduled executions of four federal prisoners set to begin next month. In granting the injunction, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan said that permitting the executions would deprive the inmates of their ability to pursue their legal challenges (Editor’s note: duh). In July, Attorney General William Barr announced that the government would resume executions of death row inmates after nearly two decades. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

  7. Trump overruled a decision by the Navy to strip a Navy SEAL accused of murder of his status as a member of the elite force. Earlier this year, a military court acquitted Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher of the majority of war crimes charges, including charges of murdering a militant captive. He was convicted, however, of posing for a photo with the man’s corpse. Trump recently rolled back other disciplinary actions against Gallagher and two other service members accused of war crimes. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

  8. Trump promised to “release my financial statement” “sometime” before the 2020 election. He called it “my decision” despite facing multiple lawsuits and political demands to release his tax returns and other financial information. (Reuters)

  9. The Secret Service spent more than $250,000 at Trump’s private businesses in the first five months of his presidency – paying Trump’s company an average of nearly $2,000 per day. (Washington Post)

Day 1035: "At the express direction of the president of the United States."

1/ The U.S. ambassador to the European Union testified that he and senior administration officials “followed the president’s orders” to work with Rudy Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into Joe Biden and the discredited conspiracy theory that the country helped Democrats in the 2016 election. Gordon Sondland testified that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and special envoy Kurt Volker coordinated with Giuliani at the “at the express direction of the president of the United States” to pressure Ukraine into launching the investigations. Sondland also said he directly communicated the “quid pro quo” arrangement to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Additionally, Sondland provided House impeachment investigators with emails and texts showing that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Perry, and others were all aware that Trump conditioned a White House meeting for Zelensky on his willingness to launch the investigations. “They knew what we were doing and why,” Sondland said. “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNN

2/ Sondland testified that he told Pence before his Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky that he “had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.” Sondland said Pence “nodded” in response, but didn’t ask what investigations he was referring to. When Zelensky raised the issue of security aid, Pence said he would speak to Trump about it. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, later claimed Pence “never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations.” (CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Sondland testified that he kept Secretary of State Michael Pompeo informed of the key developments in the campaign to pressure Zelensky into appeasing Trump and announcing investigations. Sondland and Pompeo discussed drafting a statement in mid-August regarding Zelensky’s public commitment to investigate Biden, which they hoped would persuade Trump to grant Zelensky an Oval Office meeting and “break the logjam” on providing the security funds. Pompeo expressed approval of the plan. Trump, however, canceled his trip to Poland. (New York Times / Bloomberg)

4/ The FBI asked to interview the CIA whistleblower over concerns with the Justice Department declining to investigate the complaint after a criminal referral was sent from the inspector general of the Intelligence Community. In late September, the Justice Department confirmed that the assistant attorney general – a Trump appointee – had reviewed the whistleblower’s complaint and determined there was no violation of campaign finance laws by Trump when he asked Zelensky to open an investigation into the gas company that once paid Hunter Biden to serve on its board. FBI counterintelligence officials were particularly concerned about the claims that Rudy Giuliani, Igor Fruman, and Lev Parnas may have been manipulated by Russian interests. The whistleblower has not yet agreed to an interview. (Yahoo News / NBC News / CNN)

5/ Trump described Sondland’s testimony as “fantastic” and said it proves he “did absolutely nothing wrong.” Trump also attempted to distance his relationship with Sondland, saying “I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much.” Last month, Trump called Sondland – who contributed $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee – “a really good man and great American.” Two weeks ago, Trump claimed to “hardly know the gentleman.” (Washington Post / Politico / NBC News)

What’s happening now: Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant defense secretary, and David Hale, the under secretary of state for political affairs, are testifying to the House Intelligence Committee. Information about their testimony will be included in tomorrow’s edition.


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration distributed talking points to discredit Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified that he had registered complaints about Trump’s call with the Ukraine president. White House aide Julia Hahn sent two emails to Trump surrogates questioning Vindman’s credibility and claiming Trump did “nothing wrong.” The Army, meanwhile, has increased their protection around Vindman and his family following the threats. (Daily Beast / ABC News / Reuters)

  2. In 2017, Nikki Haley lost her password for a classified communication system, so she used a system meant for unclassified material to send “confidential” information. (Daily Beast)

  3. The DemDebate starts tonight at 9 p.m. ET and will stream on MSNBC and the Washington Post. The Democrats who qualified based on polling and fundraising are: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang. Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker, and Kristen Welker will become the third ever all-female moderator lineup.

Day 1034: Duty.

1/ Two national security officials testified publicly that Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was “improper,” “unusual,” and overtly political. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine specialist on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Mike Pence on Russia and Europe, both listened in on Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump ignored official talking points about fighting corruption to instead “demand” an investigation tied to Joe Biden. Vindman told the House Intelligence Committee that “What I heard was inappropriate and I reported it […] out of a sense of duty,” because “the connection to investigate a political opponent was inappropriate and improper.” Vindman also testified that he interpreted Trump’s request that Zelensky open investigations as a demand, saying “the power disparity between the two leaders – my impression was that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.” In her opening statement, Williams said she found the call “unusual” because it “involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.” Vindman and Williams are the first White House officials to testify in public as part of the impeachment inquiry. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian / Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg)

2/ The former special envoy to Ukraine testified that he didn’t realize the push for a probe into a Ukrainian gas company was connected to Joe Biden and his son. Kurt Volker attempted to reconcile his previous closed-door testimony, which conflicted with subsequent witness testimony, saying “I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question.” Specifically, Volker said he “did not know of any linkage between the hold on security assistance and Ukraine pursuing investigations” while he was working with Rudy Giuliani and a Zelensky aide to pressure Ukraine into launching an investigation into Burisma, the gas company that employed Hunter Biden. Volker said that “In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently,” and that he now understands an investigation into Burisma was intended as an investigation into the Bidens. Volker called the allegation that Biden acted corruptly with Ukraine while he was vice president a “conspiracy theory” that is “self-serving and not credible.” Separately, Fiona Hill, then the senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council, and Vindman, previously testified that John Bolton, then the national security adviser, abruptly ended a July 10 meeting when Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, brought up the investigations. Volker never mentioned the exchange in his original testimony, but told lawmakers today that “as I remember,” Sondland made a comment about investigations into Trump’s political rivals, which “all of us thought it was inappropriate.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / The Guardian / CNN / New York Times / Politico / Vox)

3/ Tim Morrison testified that he was “not concerned that anything illegal was discussed” during Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, but worried it would cause a political storm if the transcript became public. Morrison, the former senior director for Europe and Ukraine at the National Security Council, told the committee that “I feared at the time of the call on July 25 how its disclosure would play in Washington’s climate.” He continued: “My fears have been realized.” Morrison also said Sondland told him that “the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement” about investigations as a “condition” for receiving security aid. When asked if he agreed that pressuring “a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival [was] inappropriate,” Morrison replied: “It is not what we recommend the president discuss.” (Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / CNN / New York Times)

  • Morrison approached White House lawyers after Trump’s July 25 call about restricting access to the rough transcript, because he feared that a leak of the conversation could be politically damaging. Morrison spoke to the top lawyer on the White House National Security Council, John Eisenberg, and his deputy, Michael Ellis, about closely guarding the transcript, but said it was a mistake that it wound up on the highly secure server. The whistleblower complaint references an effort within the White House to “lock down” access to the transcript of the call shortly after it ended. (Wall Street Journal)

👀 Impeachables.

  1. A counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine testified that the Ukrainians “gradually came to understand that they were being asked to do something in exchange” for a White House meeting or military aid. David Holmes overheard a call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, in which Sondland assured Trump that Zelensky “will do anything you ask him to,” including conduct the investigation that Trump wanted. (Washington Post)

  2. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman privately met with Rudy Giuliani and Trump at the White House last December. Parnas confided to two acquaintances after the meeting that “the big guy” (aka Trump) tasked him and Fruman with “a secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son. Trump publicly stated that he did not know Parnas and Fruman when the two men were arrested at Dulles International Airport last month and charged with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws that prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to U.S. campaigns. (CNN)

  3. An executive at Ukraine’s state-owned gas company is scheduled to meet voluntarily with the Justice Department as part of an ongoing probe into the business dealings of Giuliani, and his two associates Parnas and Igor Fruman. Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Giuliani and whether he failed to register as a foreign agent. (Associated Press)

  4. John Bolton met privately with Trump in August as part of an effort to release the $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine. Trump’s national security adviser attempted to convince Trump that it was in the United States’ best interest to unfreeze the funds so Ukraine could defend itself against Russia. (New York Times)

  5. More than $35 million of the roughly $400 million in aid to Ukraine has not been released. The defense funding for Ukraine remains in U.S. accounts, according to a Pentagon spending document. (Los Angeles Times)

  6. poll/ 65% of Americans said the impeachment hearings won’t change their position on impeachment. 30%, meanwhile, said it’s possible. (NPR)

  7. poll/ 48% of voters support the impeachment inquiry into Trump, while 50% oppose. (Politico)


✏️ Notables.

  1. A New York state judge denied Trump’s request to throw out a defamation lawsuit by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos. Trump’s legal team argued that a stay is necessary to prevent “irreparable harm” “given the novel and important Constitutional issues involved.” Zervos was among the more than 10 women who came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign and accused Trump of sexual assault and misconduct. Trump called Zervos and the other women “liars,” prompting Zervos to file a defamation lawsuit in 2017. (CNN)

  2. The Supreme Court temporarily blocked a ruling requiring Trump’s accounting firm from turning over his tax returns to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Trump’s attorneys petitioned the justices last week in a separate case involving his tax returns, seeking to overturn the ruling of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals requiring Trump’s accountants to provide his returns to the Manhattan district attorney. (CNBC / CNN)

  3. The U.S. broke off talks with South Korea over the cost of the military alliance. Trump demanded that South Korea pay nearly $5 billion to station 28,500 U.S. troops in the country – a fivefold increase in funding. The top U.S. negotiator, James DeHart, cut negotiations short, blaming South Korea for making proposals that “were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing.” South Korea responded by agreeing to a bilateral defense agreement with China. (Washington Post / Telegraph / Reuters)

  4. Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria allowed the Islamic State to strengthen its position, the Pentagon’s inspector general said in a new report. The withdrawal combined with Turkey’s subsequent assault on Kurdish forces, allowed ISIS to “reconstitute capabilities and resources within Syria and strengthen its ability to plan attacks abroad.” (Politico)

  5. The House passed a short-term spending resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 20. Mitch McConnell said the Senate will pass a stopgap measure and the Trump administration said it supports the continuing resolution. Government funding runs out after Nov. 21. (Politico / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

Day 1033: "Unusual and inappropriate."

1/ The House is investigating whether Trump lied to Robert Mueller. Former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates testified in last week’s trial that Roger Stone spoke with Trump in a July 2016 phone call, and that Trump then told Gates that “more information would be coming.” Trump, however, told Mueller in written answers that he did not recall discussing WikiLeaks with Stone. The House Judiciary Committee is seeking grand jury testimony from the redacted version of Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. House General Counsel Douglas Letter told a federal appeals court that investigators have an “immense” need for the material, because it will help House members answer the question, “Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?” (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Associated Press / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 678: Trump told Robert Mueller that Roger Stone did not tell him about WikiLeaks and that he was not told about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., campaign officials, and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump added a caveat that his responses were to the best of his recollection. For comparison, Trump also does not “remember much” from the meeting with George Papadopoulos, where Papadopoulos offered to arrange a meeting with Putin. Trump, however, has previously claimed to have “one of the great memories of all time,” using it as justification for not using notes during his meeting with Kim Jong Un, and blaming Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow when he stumbled over the solider’s name during a condolence call. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 664: Roger Stone claimed multiple times during the 2016 presidential race that he was in communication with Trump and his campaign. Stone and Trump spoke weekly, which is now being scrutinized by Robert Mueller. Stone repeatedly said during the campaign that he had communicated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through a “backchannel,” “intermediary” or “mutual acquaintance.” Mueller’s office is also exploring whether Stone tried to intimidate and discredit a witness who is contradicting his version of events about his contacts with WikiLeaks. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

2/ A U.S. official from the embassy in Kiev confirmed that Trump asked if Ukraine was going to move forward with “the investigations.” David Holmes testified privately that he was at the restaurant in Kiev with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, when he overheard Trump ask if Ukraine’s president was “going to do the investigation?” Sondland told Trump that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “loves your ass,” would conduct the investigation, and would do “anything you ask him to.” (New York Times / CNN)

  • READ: David Holmes’ opening statement

  • 📌 Day 1028: The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine testified that Trump asked about “the investigations” during a call with the U.S. ambassador to the European Union on July 26 – the day after Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son while he was holding U.S. military aid from Ukraine. Bill Taylor told the House Intelligence Committee that a member of his staff overheard Trump mention “the investigations” to Sondland, and that “Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.” Taylor called Trump’s decision to withhold “security assistance in exchange for help” with investigations to benefit his personal political interests both “alarming” and “crazy,” because Ukraine is a “strategic partner” and supporting them against Russian aggression is “clearly in our national interest.” Taylor also testified that “Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden” than Ukraine. The staffer who heard the conversation, David Holmes, will testify behind closed doors Friday in the House’s impeachment probe. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 1029: A second U.S. official overheard the July 26 phone call between Trump and the ambassador to the European Union discussing the need for Ukrainian “investigations.” Suriya Jayanti, a U.S. foreign service officer based in Kiev, was sitting at the table in a Ukraine restaurant when Sondland called Trump to tell him that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward” on the investigations. Yesterday, Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified that one of his staffers, David Holmes, could hear Trump on the phone asking Sondland about “the investigations.” Trump, meanwhile, claimed he doesn’t recall the July 26 conversation – “not even a little bit.” (Associated Press)

3/ A former top White House national security aide told impeachment investigators that Gordon Sondland was acting at Trump’s behest and spoke to a top Ukrainian official about exchanging military aid for political investigations. Tim Morrison testified that between July 16 and Sept. 11, Sondland had spoken to Trump about half a dozen times, and Sondland’s “mandate from the president was to go make deals.” Trump has claimed he doesn’t know Sondland well. (Washington Post / Politico)

4/ A top national security aide to Mike Pence told House impeachment investigators that Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponents were “unusual and inappropriate,” and “shed some light on possible other motivations” for Trump’s order to freeze military aid to the U.S. ally. Jennifer Williams also told investigators that she took notes while she listened in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky from the White House Situation Room and that she viewed Trump’s requests for investigations to be for his “personal political agenda.” Trump later tweeted that Williams – “whoever that is” – is a “Never Trumper.” (Politico / CNN / Politico)

  • U.S. State Department officials were informed that Zelensky felt pressure from the Trump administration to investigate Joe Biden before the July phone call. In early May, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev were told Zelensky was seeking advice on how to navigate the situation as Trump and his associates were pressing him to take action that could affect the 2020 U.S. presidential race. (Associated Press)

5/ Trump ignored Pentagon advice and pardoned three service members convicted or accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Trump ordered the full pardon of Clint Lorance, who was serving a 19-year sentence for the murder of two civilians, and Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker. Trump also reversed the demotion of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder charges but convicted of a lesser offense. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy argued that the pardons would undermine the military code of justice and serve as a bad example to other troops in the field. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / ABC News)

6/ Trump delayed his ban on flavored e-cigarettes following pushback from his political advisers and lobbyists over concerns of political fallout among voters. In early November, Trump refused to sign the one-page “decision memo” to move forward with the ban intended to curb teenage vaping after advisers warned that it could hurt the economy and lead to job losses. (Washington Post / New York Times)

7/ Trump had a “very good” and “cordial” meeting with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell about the economy, who he previously called a “bonehead,” a “terrible communicator” and an “enemy.” Trump claimed they discussed interest rate policy, among other things. Trump has repeatedly attacked the Fed, arguing that the economy and stock market would be performing better if rates were lower or even negative. The Federal Reserve, however, issued a statement saying Powell told Trump that the Fed will set interest rates “based solely on careful, objective and non-political analysis.” (Washington Post / CBS News)

8/ Trump made an unscheduled visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to “begin portions of his routine annual physical exam” that included a “quick exam and labs,” according to the White House. The two-hour appointment wasn’t on Trump’s weekend public schedule and medical staff at Walter Reed didn’t receive a staff-wide notice about the presidential visit. (Associated Press / Politico / CNN / New York Times)

poll/ 70% of Americans believe Trump asking the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rivals was wrong. 51% believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. (ABC News)

Day 1030: Rooting out corruption.

1/ The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine testified that Trump’s comment to the Ukraine president – that she was “bad news” and is “going to go through some things” – “sounded like a threat.” Marie Yovanovitch, testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, said she was “shocked, absolutely shocked, and devastated” when she read the rough transcript released by the White House of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Yovanovitch also testified that Trump and Rudy Giuliani ran “the smear campaign against” her in tandem with corrupt Ukrainians, which undermined U.S. national security and emboldened Russia. Yovanovitch said Giuliani’s “campaign of disinformation” was influenced by “individuals with questionable motives,” who believed their “political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.” Yovanovitch was recalled from her posting on April 24 – three days after Trump’s first call with Zelensky – while in the middle of hosting an event honoring an anti-corruption activist in Ukraine. Yovanovitch also criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the State Department’s failed efforts to publicly support her after Trump removed her as ambassador. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / CNN / NBC News)

2/ Trump attacked Yovanovitch on Twitter as she was testifying about how she felt threatened by his comments. Trump tweeted that “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” claiming that Zelensky had “spoke unfavorably about her.” Trump also called it his “absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” justifying his decision to recall Yovanovitch three months before the end of the normal three-year diplomatic tenure. When asked by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to respond to Trump’s tweets, Yovanovitch called it “very intimidating […] the effect is to be intimidating.” Schiff agreed that “it’s designed to intimidate” and that “we saw today witness intimidation in real time by the president of the United States.” Schiff added: “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.” House Democrats, meanwhile, suggested that Trump’s decision to attack Yovanovitch mid-hearing is another example of witness intimidation, which could be added as another article of impeachment. Trump later defended his tweets, saying “You know what? I have the right to speak.” And, when asked whether he believed his words could be intimidating, Trump replied: “I don’t think so at all.” (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / Wall Street Journal / ABC News)

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of committing “bribery” for withholding military aid from Ukraine while seeking a commitment to publicly investigate his political rivals. “The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into a political rival,” Pelosi told reporters. Bribery is specifically identified in the Constitution as an impeachable offense. (Politico / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Devin Nunes called Yovanovitch’s dispute over her early recall from Ukraine a “human resources” issue. (Washington Post / Politico)

  • A career Office of Management and Budget official plans to testify in the impeachment inquiry if subpoenaed. Mark Sandy would be the first OMB official to testify as part of the inquiry, defying Trump’s order that administration officials not participate in the House investigation. The OMB acting director and two other political appointees at the agency previously defied congressional subpoenas to appear. (Washington Post / CNN)

3/ The White House released the rough transcript of Trump’s first call with Zelensky and it does not match the White House readout from April 21. In the readout provided to reporters shortly after the call took place, the White House said Trump promised to work with Zelensky to “root out corruption.” The subject, however, was not mentioned in the transcript released today. The transcript instead shows Trump congratulating Zelensky on his election, promising a White House visit, and recounting how Ukraine was “very well represented” when he owned the Miss Universe franchise. Trump would later ask Zelensky during the July 25 call to publicly announce investigations into Trump’s political rivals. Trump’s first call with Zelensky was marked “Unclassified” and “for official use only.” The second call was classified as “Secret.” The White House, meanwhile, blamed the discrepancy between the official readout and the transcript on National Security Council Ukraine Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / Daily Beast)

  • Read: The White House transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. (CNN)

4/ Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Rudy Giuliani for possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent. Investigators want to know if Giuliani stood to personally profit from a Ukrainian natural-gas business pushed by his two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who also helped him push for investigations into Joe Biden and alleged interference by Ukraine in the 2016 U.S. election. The company by Parnas and Fruman pitched plans for a Poland-to-Ukraine pipeline carrying U.S. natural gas in meetings with Ukrainian officials and energy executives this year, claiming the project had the support of the Trump administration. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg)

5/ Roger Stone was found guilty on all seven counts of lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks, witness tampering, and obstructing the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Minutes after the verdict, Trump tweeted that the outcome was unfair despite his administration’s Justice Department leading the prosecution. Stone is the sixth Trump associate to be convicted on charges stemming from Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian activity in the 2016 election. He faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison – 20 years for witness tampering, and five years for each of the six other counts. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • Trump met with Attorney General William Barr and White House counsel Pat Cipollone to discuss the DOJ inspector general’s probe into the origins of the Mueller investigation. Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been examining applications submitted by the FBI in 2016 and 2017 seeking permission to surveil Trump’s then-campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Barr said Wednesday that the report is “imminent.” (CNN)

6/ Trump asked the Supreme Court to block a House subpoena for his tax returns for the second day in a row. Yesterday, Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to reverse a lower-court ruling that allowed the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to obtain eight years’ worth of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns from his accountant, Mazars USA, as part of a probe into the payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Today, Trump’s lawyers asked the justices to temporarily block a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee compelling Mazars to provide Trump’s tax returns. Mazars has said it will hand over the records if it is required to. (CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

Day 1029: Not even a little bit.

1/ A federal appeals court ruled that Trump’s accounting firm must comply with a congressional subpoena for eight years of Trump’s tax returns. The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. voted 8-3 to reject Trump’s arguments that Congress didn’t have the authority to request his business records because the House Oversight and Reform Committee only needed them to determine whether Trump broke existing laws – not whether to enact a new law. The House committee subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, in March demanding a broad set of Trump’s financial records. (Reuters / NPR / Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

2/ Trump asked the Supreme Court to block Mazars USA from turning over eight years of his tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors, who are investigating hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Trump has argued he has “temporary presidential immunity” not just from prosecution, but also from investigation while in office. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 1019: Trump’s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors. A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court Appeals unanimously ruled that Trump is not immune from investigative steps taken by state prosecutors. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance subpoenaed the documents from Mazars USA as part of an investigation into the pre-election payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Trump then sued the DA’s office to block the subpoena, arguing that as president he is immune not only from prosecution but from investigations. A district judge dismissed the argument in October, which Trump then appealed. Today, the appeals court said because Trump’s accounting firm – not Trump himself – was subpoenaed for the documents, it didn’t matter whether presidents have immunity. Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said Trump would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press / BuzzFeed News / CNBC)

  • 📌Day 970: The Manhattan District Attorney subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s “personal and corporate tax returns” as part of its investigation into hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. Trump and his company reimbursed Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen he paid Stormy Daniels just before the election to buy her silence about an affair she had with Trump. Cyrus Vance’s office is exploring whether the reimbursements violated New York state laws and whether the Trump Organization falsely accounted for the reimbursements as a legal expense. The subpoena was served last month to Mazars USA, which prepares Trump’s tax returns. (New York Times / NBC News / CNBC / Axios)

3/ A second U.S. official overheard the July 26 phone call between Trump and the ambassador to the European Union discussing the need for Ukrainian “investigations.” Suriya Jayanti, a U.S. foreign service officer based in Kiev, was sitting at the table in a Ukraine restaurant when Sondland called Trump to tell him that “the Ukrainians were ready to move forward” on the investigations. Yesterday, Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified that one of his staffers, David Holmes, could hear Trump on the phone asking Sondland about “the investigations.” Trump, meanwhile, claimed he doesn’t recall the July 26 conversation – “not even a little bit.” (Associated Press)

  • 📌 Day 1028: The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine testified that Trump asked about “the investigations” during a call with the U.S. ambassador to the European Union on July 26 – the day after Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son while he was holding U.S. military aid from Ukraine. Bill Taylor told the House Intelligence Committee that a member of his staff overheard Trump mention “the investigations” to Sondland, and that “Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.” Taylor called Trump’s decision to withhold “security assistance in exchange for help” with investigations to benefit his personal political interests both “alarming” and “crazy,” because Ukraine is a “strategic partner” and supporting them against Russian aggression is “clearly in our national interest.” Taylor also testified that “Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden” than Ukraine. The staffer who heard the conversation, David Holmes, will testify behind closed doors Friday in the House’s impeachment probe. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / NBC News)

4/ The Trump International Hotel in Washington’s sales pitch to investors suggests that new owners could “capitalize on government related business.” The Trump Organization has claimed that its refusal to solicit foreign business has cost it more than $9 million, though they project hotel to have operating revenues of $67.7 million next year – a 65% jump from 2018 to 2020. The hotel is also subject to multiple lawsuits accusing Trump of violating the emoluments clause by using the property to profit off his presidency. The company hopes to sell the hotel for more than $500 million. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 967: A federal appeals court revived a previously-dismissed lawsuit that accused Trump of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The lawsuit claimed that Trump’s “vast, complicated and secret” business arrangements violate the Emoluments Clause, which bars presidents from accepting gifts from foreign governments without the permission of Congress. The case was originally dismissed by a lower-level federal judge in December 2017. Earlier this year, Trump won a separate emoluments suit by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia when the case was dismissed by another federal appeals court’s. (Bloomberg / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / Axios)

5/ Trump suggested classifying all migrants who enter the U.S. without permission as “enemy combatants” and sending them to Guantanamo Bay, according to a forthcoming book by an anonymous senior Trump administration official. Trump proposed changing the classification as a way of deterring them from coming to the U.S. The book says Trump’s idea was quickly and quietly opposed “Before the president could make a public case for the concept.” (The Guardian)

6/ Lindsey Graham blocked a resolution in the Senate that would have formally recognized the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire hours after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey does not recognize the killing of 1.5 million Armenians. The resolution passed the House in a 405-11 vote. Graham claimed the bill was an attempt to “sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it.” (The Hill / Fox News / BBC)

7/ Trump made 67 false claims last week – 27 of them related to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. (CNN)

poll/ 47% of Americans believe it’s difficult to identify true and factual information, compared with 31% who find it easy to do so. 50% of WTFJHT readers love WTFJHT 100% of the time. (Associated Press)

Day 1028: "The investigations."

tl;dr The first public hearings in the Trump impeachment inquiry started today as the House Intelligence Committee heard testimony from Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official. Taylor, in closed-door testimony, previously linked Trump to the quid pro quo at the heart of the impeachment probe. Kent previously told investigators that he was uneasy with attempts by Rudy Giuliani to influence Ukraine policy and smear the now-ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.


1/ The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine testified that Trump asked about “the investigations” during a call with the U.S. ambassador to the European Union on July 26 – the day after Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son while he was holding U.S. military aid from Ukraine. Bill Taylor told the House Intelligence Committee that a member of his staff overheard Trump mention “the investigations” to Sondland, and that “Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.” Taylor called Trump’s decision to withhold “security assistance in exchange for help” with investigations to benefit his personal political interests both “alarming” and “crazy,” because Ukraine is a “strategic partner” and supporting them against Russian aggression is “clearly in our national interest.” Taylor also testified that “Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden” than Ukraine. The staffer who heard the conversation, David Holmes, will testify behind closed doors Friday in the House’s impeachment probe. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / NBC News)

2/ George Kent testified that Rudy Giuliani conducted a “campaign to smear” the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine by leading an effort to “gin up politically motivated investigations.” Kent testified that Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman tried oust Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, by “peddling false information” and that he “became alarmed” during the late spring and summer of 2019 as those efforts “bore fruit.” Kent also said that by mid-August, Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Zelensky to open investigations into Trump’s rivals were “infecting” the Trump administration’s relationship with Ukraine.” Kent – a career State Department foreign service officer – also rejected the notion that Joe Biden improperly interfered in Ukrainian domestic politics for the benefit of his son’s company. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico)

3/ Adam Schiff referenced Mick Mulvaney’s “get over it” admission of a quid pro quo during his opening statement. The House Intelligence chairman opened the hearing by laying out what he called a “simple” and “terrible” case that would show “impeachable conduct” by Trump, asking “must we simply ‘get over it?’” Last month during a White House briefing, Mulvaney told “everybody” to “get over it” while confirming that Trump blocked military aid to Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his political rivals. Mulvaney called the quid pro quo exchange “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” (New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico)

4/ Devin Nunes accused career diplomats testifying of working against Trump as part of a “politicized bureaucracy.” During his opening statement, Nunes also called the hearings a continuation of the “Russia hoax” that were one-sided and unfair to Republicans. Nunes claimed – without evidence – that the witnesses had been chosen after a “closed-door audition process in a cult-like atmosphere” and they had been convinced, “wittingly or unwittingly,” to be part of what he called a “televised theatrical performance, staged by the Democrats.” (Politico / New York Times)

5/ Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled to testify before the same committee on Friday. David Holmes, an official working at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and Mark Sandy, an official working in the Office of Management and Budget are also scheduled for closed-door depositions this week. The House Intelligence Committee also announced eight witnesses for public appearances next week: On Tuesday, Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Pence, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine aide on the NSC, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, and Timothy Morrison, a Europe and Russia aide on the NSC, will testify. On Wednesday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Laura Cooper, a senior Pentagon official who handles Russia and Ukraine matters, and David Hale, the under secretary of state for political affairs, will testify. And, on Thursday, Fiona Hill, the former Russia chief on the NSC, is expected to testify. (Politico / Axios)


😳 Impeachables.

  1. Trump attacked House Democrats on Twitter hours before the first public impeachment hearings were set to commence, complaining that Democrats have “stacked the deck” against him and accusing House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of being a “corrupt politician.” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, meanwhile, called the impeachment hearing “not only boring” but also “a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money” in a tweet. Trump later told reporters that he was “too busy” to watch the impeachment hearings. (Politico / Washington Post / NBC News)

  2. Rudy Giuliani wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wasn’t an impeachable offense. Giuliani argued that the focus of the call was only “Ukrainian corruption broadly” and that only a fraction of the call was spent asking Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son. “Out of a five-page transcript,” Giuliani wrote, “Mr. Trump spent only six lines on Joe Biden.” (Wall Street Journal / HuffPost)

  3. Republicans want to distance Trump from his association with Giuliani as one of their defensive strategies in the House impeachment inquiry. “So the point is,” said a Republican on one of the impeachment committees, “as long as [Giuliani] is a step removed, [Trump]’s in good shape.” (Axios)

  4. Trump’s senior advisers have been trying to convince him not to fire acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Trump, who has been threatening to fire Mulvaney for weeks, was especially upset by Mulvaney’s Oct. 17 press conference, during which Mulvaney admitted that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was withheld as a way to pressure Zelensky to launch investigations that could benefit Trump politically. (Washington Post)

  5. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Trump at the White House. It is the first time Erdogan has visited the U.S. since Turkey attacked U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria following Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region. Trump and Erdogan are expected to discuss how to maintain the tentative ceasefire that exists in Syria, as well as the fate of the Islamic State fighters who remain detained in that country. (NPR / Associated Press / NBC News / CNN)

  6. Erdogan threatened purchase Russian military fighter jets ahead of his White House meeting with Trump. Turkey, a NATO ally, discussed purchasing the fighter jets Putin two weeks ago in Sochi. The Trump administration previously banned the sale of U.S.-made F-35 jets to Turkey in response to Erdogan’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system. (NBC News)

  7. Jared Kushner wants to set up webcams along the U.S.-Mexico border so people can livestream the construction of Trump’s border wall. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials object to the plan because it will make contractor’s “proprietary” construction techniques visible to their competitors. Officials were also concerned that the cameras would show U.S. work crews violating Mexican sovereignty if they stray south of the border to maneuver vehicles and equipment. (Washington Post)

  8. poll/ 81% of voters say there’s little or no chance they’ll change their minds about impeachment after the public hearings. 50% of voters support the impeachment inquiry, compared with 41% who oppose it. (Politico)


📅 Timeline regarding Trump’s call with Zelensky:

Source: Washington Post

July 25

  • 7:54 a.m. – Sondland called U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who was in Ukraine having lunch with Andriy Yermak, a senior aide to Zelensky.

  • 8:36 a.m. – Volker sent a text message to Yermak to say he “Heard from White House,” and “Assuming President [Zelensky] convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck!”

  • 9:03 a.m. – Trump and Zelensky spoke with Zelensky promising Trump that “all the investigations will be done openly and candidly.” Trump replied “Good […] I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call […] Whenever you would like to come to the White House feel free to call.” The call ended about 9:30 a.m.

  • 10:15 a.m. – Yermak texted Volker to say the call “went well” and that Zelensky had picked three dates in September “for the White House visit.” Volker then updated Sondland to say he “think[s] everything in place.”

July 26

  • Sondland traveled to Ukraine and during a TV interview linked to the Ukrainian government said he spoke with Trump “just a few minutes before he placed the call” with Zelensky. Sondland called it “a nothing call.”

  • Acting Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor and Volker met with Zelensky, who said “he was happy with the call but did not elaborate.”

  • Sondland called Trump to tell him about the meetings in Kiev. A member of Taylor’s staff heard Trump on the phone asking Sondland about “the investigations.” The staffer, David Holmes, asked Sondlan what Trump thought about the meeting. Sondland, according to Taylor’s testimony, said that “Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.”

Day 1027: Another state of mind.

1/ Trump considered firing the intelligence community’s inspector general for reporting the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress after concluding it was credible. Trump reportedly doesn’t understand why Michael Atkinson shared the complaint, which outlined how Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals as he was withholding military aid from the country. Trump believes Atkinson, whom he appointed in 2017, has been disloyal. Trump publicly criticized James Comey, the former FBI director, and Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general, before he dismissed them for perceived disloyalty. (New York Times)

2/ House Republicans plan to argue that “the President’s state of mind” made it impossible for Trump to have committed an impeachable offense during his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to an 18-page staff memo outlining their strategic approach to the House impeachment inquiry. The memo highlights “four key pieces of evidence” to defend against impeachment: the lack of conditionality on the July 25 call; that Zelensky said there was no pressure from Trump; Ukraine didn’t know about the freeze on U.S. military aid; and that the aid was released without investigation into the Bidens. (Axios)

3/ Mick Mulvaney withdrew his request to join a federal lawsuit seeking a decision on whether top Trump officials can be compelled to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. Mulvaney’s legal team first notified the court that he planned to file his own lawsuit seeking court guidance on how to respond to a subpoena for his testimony. Mulvaney’s lawyers later said in a court filing that “after further consideration,” the acting White House chief of staff will instead obey the White House instruction to refuse to cooperate with the House of Representatives. (Reuters / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)


👀 Impeachment Watch FYI.

  1. The first public presidential impeachment hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee.

  2. Bill Taylor, the Trump administration’s top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs will testify.

  3. Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled to testify before the same committee on Friday.

  4. Watch on C-SPAN.


4/ Roger Stone first told one of Trump’s top aides as early as spring 2016 that WikiLeaks would release materials that could damage Hillary Clinton – and that the campaign viewed the materials as “a gift.” Rick Gates, who served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager, also testified that he was with Trump in July 2016 when he received a phone call from Stone. After Trump hung up, he told Gates that more information would be coming – in reference to additional email releases that would hurt Democrats. Gates also said his boss, Paul Manafort, told him to stay in touch with Stone about WikiLeaks and that Trump would need to be updated on WikiLeaks’ plans to release Democratic campaign emails — which authorities concluded were hacked by Russia. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / Washington Post)

5/ The Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the Trump administration can shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. At question is whether Trump improperly tried to end DACA by calling it illegal without considering how it would affect immigrants. Lower courts ruled that the administration’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” in violation of law. The court’s Republican-appointed justices, however, seemed to agree that the Trump administration had the authority to cancel DACA, which would affect the roughly 800,000 “dreamers” brought to the U.S. as undocumented children. On Twitter, Trump – without evidence – called DACA recipients “very tough, hardened criminals,” adding that he would be open to making a deal with Democrats. DACA provides enrollees a chance to work legally in the U.S. as long as they follow the rules and have a clean record. More than 90% of DACA recipients are employed and 45% are in school. (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News / NBC News)

  • Nearly 70,000 migrant children were held in U.S. government custody this year — up 42% in fiscal year 2019 from 2018. The U.S. government also separated 69,550 migrant children from their parents over the past year – more than any other country according to United Nations researchers. (Associated Press)

6/ The Trump administration is preparing to restrict the amount of scientific and medical research the EPA can use to inform public health regulations. A new draft of the Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science proposal would also require scientists to disclose all raw data, including confidential medical records, before the EPA could consider the conclusions of an academic study. The new proposal would also apply retroactively to all current public health regulations. (New York Times)

7/ Trump’s economic advisers are exploring a “tax cut 2.0” – a proposed 15% tax rate for the middle class. While any new plan is unlikely to pass Congress before the 2020 election, the proposal would provide Trump with a simple tax message for the campaign focused on the middle class. Tax cuts for individuals and families from the 2017 tax law will expire in a few years, but the reductions for businesses are permanent. (Washington Post)


🐊 Dept. of Swamp Things.

  1. Former national security adviser John Bolton suggested that Trump’s foreign policy is motivated by financial interests. During a private speech, Bolton said he believes there is a business relationship dictating Trump’s position on Turkey because none of his advisers are aligned with him on the issue. The Trump Organization owns a property in Istanbul and Ivanka Trump attended the opening with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2012. Bolton left the administration on Sept. 10. Erdogan is set to visit the White House this week. (NBC News)

  2. At least eight former White House, transition team, and Trump campaign officials were hired as contractors by Health and Human Services and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. The Trump allies were hired as contractors to provide “strategic communications” support, charging up to $380 per hour. (Politico)

  3. Trump claimed Ivanka Trump personally created 14 million new jobs – and then repeated the claim twice more. The entire U.S. economy has created fewer than 6 million new jobs since Trump took office. (New York Magazine)

  4. A senior Trump administration official embellished her resume with misleading claims and even created a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it. State Department official Mina Chang claimed to be a Harvard Business School “alumna” who ran a nonprofit that worked in 40 countries. (NBC News)

  5. Trump’s senior policy adviser promoted story ideas about white nationalism, “white genocide,” xenophobic conspiracy theories, and eugenics-era immigration laws to Breitbart News in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to a review more than 900 previously private emails Stephen Miller sent Breitbart editors from March 4, 2015, to June 27, 2016. Miller would later help architect Trump’s immigration policies, including setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, an executive order banning immigration from five Muslim-majority countries, and a policy of family separation. (Southern Poverty Law Center / Mother Jones)

Day 1026: "This issue."

1/ A senior defense official told House impeachment investigators that Trump directed the mid-July freeze in military aid to Ukraine through the Office of Management and Budget. Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, said she attended a meeting on July 23, where “this issue” of Trump’s “concerns about Ukraine and Ukraine security assistance” were shared by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Cooper also told House impeachment investigators that she discussed the frozen aid with Kurt Volker, the then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, on Aug. 20. Volker told her that he was attempting to lift the hold on the aid by having the Ukrainians publicly launch investigations being sought by Trump. Trump, meanwhile, accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of doctoring the transcripts from closed-door depositions conducted by House investigators. (Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / Politico)

  • Read: Laura Cooper’s testimony. (NBC News)

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman will be removed from his post at the White House National Security Council after testifying that “there was no doubt” that Trump was seeking investigations into political rivals. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said Vindman and several dozen other policy roles will be removed as a part of the White House’s “streamlining” efforts. (Talking Points Memo / Politico)

2/ The State Department had released some military aid to Ukraine days before Trump announced that he authorized the funds. In a classified memorandum to Mike Pompeo, State Department lawyers said they had determined that Trump and the White House Office of Management and Budget had no legal ground to freeze the money to Ukraine. On Sept. 11, Trump claimed that he had released $141 million in funds, but the process was started by at least Sept. 7, and that the State Department’s Legislative Affairs office told congressional appropriators on Sept. 9 that there was no hold on the money. Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton had also told the State Department on Sept. 9 that the funding could go through. (Bloomberg / Axios)

3/ A Rudy Giuliani associate told the incoming Ukraine administration in May that unless they investigated the Bidens, the U.S. would freeze aid and Mike Pence would not attend Volodymyr Zelensky’s swearing-in ceremony. Lev Parnas claimed that he traveled to Ukraine in May with his business partner, Igor Fruman, to pressure the Zelensky administration at Giuliani’s direction. While no one disputes that the meeting occurred, Fruman disagrees that the intention was to present an ultimatum to Ukraine’s new leadership. The meeting, however, occurred after Giuliani had canceled his planned trip to Kiev with the intention of urging Zelensky to pursue the investigations. Giuliani claimed at the time that he canceled his trip at the last minute because he was being “set up.” (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1023: Two Rudy Giuliani associates urged Ukraine’s prior president to announce investigations into Biden and 2016 election interference in exchange for a state visit to Washington. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman urged then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a late February meeting in Kiev. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 841: Rudy Giuliani is encouraging Ukraine to pursue an investigation into Joe Biden’s son and his involvement in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch. Trump’s personal lawyer is meeting with the incoming government in Kiev to press them to try to discredit Mueller’s investigation and undermine the case against Paul Manafort. “We’re not meddling in an election,” Giuliani said. “We’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do.” (New York Times / NBC News)

4/ Mick Mulvaney asked to join a federal lawsuit over whether Congress can compel senior Trump advisers to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry. One of Trump’s former top national security advisers, Charles Kupperman, filed the suit last month, saying that he faces conflicting orders from Congress and the White House regarding his obligation to participate in the inquiry. Mulvaney’s attorneys said the acting White House chief of staff faces the same dilemma, which is why he skipped his scheduled deposition last week and claimed that he was protected by “absolute immunity.” (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times)

  • John Bolton filed a motion to keep Mick Mulvaney from joining a separation-of-powers lawsuit filed against Trump and the House leadership. The former national security adviser’s lawyers argued that Mulvaney should not be allowed to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff because Mulvaney is considered a key player in the effort to get the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into Trump’s political opponents. Bolton previously said he’s willing to testify in the impeachment inquiry if the judge rules in favor of the House. (New York Times / Washington Post)

5/ Two supporters of Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured an energy and gas contract from Ukraine after Perry recommended one to be Zelensky’s energy adviser. Perry attended Zelensky’s inauguration in May, where he gave Zelensky a list of possible Ukrainian energy secretaries, which included longtime Perry supporter Michael Bleyzer. A week later, Bleyzer and his partner, Alex Cranberg, submitted a bid for a 50-year drilling contract in Ukraine, which was awarded to the two about a month after Perry’s visit. The recommendation was made as Zelensky was attempting to secure the nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid. (Associated Press)

6/ A federal judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit to block New York from providing his state tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee. Trump’s lawyers argued that New York officials were “co-conspirators” with Democrats in Washington when the state enacted a financial disclosure law that makes tax records available to certain congressional committees. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols ruled that his court in Washington was not the proper jurisdiction to sue New York officials and that Trump could continue his fight by filing the lawsuit in New York. (CNN / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 900: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing congressional committees to access Trump’s New York state tax returns. The bill requires state tax officials to release the state returns for any “specified and legitimate legislative purpose” on the request of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, or the Joint Committee on Taxation. Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, called the bill “more presidential harassment.” The House Ways and Means Committee has unsuccessfully tried to access six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns. The House sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service last week to try to force them to release the returns. (New York Times / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 915: Trump sued the House Ways and Means Committee and the New York state officials to block his state tax returns from being turned over to the committee. In May, New York passed a bill that allowed the Ways and Means Committee chairman to obtainTrump’s state tax returns. The lawsuit seeks an injunction to would block the application of the new state law. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / CNN)

7/ Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley claimed that two senior Trump advisers approached her about helping them “save the country” by undermining Trump, according to her new memoir, “With All Due Respect.” Haley said that former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to recruit her to ignore Trump and help them work around him. She refused. “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president,” Haley writes, “they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country.” (Washington Post / CBS News / ABC News / NPR / CNBC)

Day 1023: No doubt.

1/ The top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council testified that “there was no doubt” that Trump was seeking investigations into political rivals, according to a transcript of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s deposition. Within an hour after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, Vindman told White House lawyers that Trump had made a “troubling and disturbing” request for an investigation. Vindman also testified that “there was no ambiguity” that Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told him the idea of tethering a White House meeting to the Ukrainians investigating the Bidens “had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Politico)

2/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney refused to comply with a subpoena. Mulvaney informed investigators “one minute” before his scheduled deposition that he would not appear, citing “absolute immunity.” During an Oct. 17 press conference, Mulvaney admitted that Trump froze military aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to open a political investigation. Mulvaney is the highest-ranking White House official to be subpoenaed for testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry. (Axios / Politico / CNN / Reuters / Associated Press / The Hill / ABC News / NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ A State Department official testified that Trump wanted the Ukraine president “to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.” Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent’s assessment came from a summary of a conversation that Trump had with Gordon Sondland. (Axios / Washington Post)

  • Ukraine planned to publicly announce investigations into Trump’s political in an interview on Sept. 13. However, two days before the scheduled interview, the Trump administration released the assistance after news of the hold on military aid had leaked. Zelensky’s office then canceled the interview. (New York Times)

  • Two Rudy Giuliani associates urged Ukraine’s prior president to announce investigations into Biden and 2016 election interference in exchange for a state visit to Washington. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman urged then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during a late February meeting in Kiev. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

4/ A former National Security Council official testified that there was a “good chance” Russia had compromising materials on Trump during the 2016 election, according to closed-door testimony made public by House impeachment investigators. Fiona Hill, who served until July as the White House’s top expert on Russia and Europe, also told lawmakers that she was “shocked” when she read the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky. Hill also testified that then national security adviser John Bolton “repeatedly” told staff “that nobody should be talking to Rudolph W. Giuliani, on our team or anybody else should be.” (Washington Post / Politico / CNN)

  • READ: Fiona Hill’s testimony. (NPR)

  • John Bolton reportedly knows about “many relevant meetings and conversations” regarding the Trump administration’s campaign against Ukraine. The former national security adviser didn’t appear for his deposition scheduled on Thursday, because he and his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, are asking for a court ruling on competing demands by the executive branch and the legislative branch. (New York Times)

5/ Republicans intend to subpoena the whistleblower to testify in the House’s impeachment investigation. Democrats, however, have rejected the idea citing safety concerns. They also hold veto power over any GOP subpoena requests for witness testimony. The whistleblower’s attorney, meanwhile, issued a cease and desist letter to the White House due to Trump’s “rhetoric and activity that places” the whistleblower “in physical danger.” Trump has repeatedly attacked the credibility of the whistleblower, demanded to “meet his accuser,” and called for the identity of the whistleblower to be revealed publicly. (The Hill / CNN)

  • Ivanka Trump called the identity of the whistleblower “not particularly relevant” compared to the “motivation behind all of this.” (Associated Press)

  • Trump Jr. worried about “all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed” after visiting Arlington National Cemetery the day before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Trump Jr. wrote in his new book that his family had already suffered because they had to “voluntarily giving up a huge chunk of our business and all international deals to avoid the appearance that we were ‘profiting off the office.’” (Washington Post)

6/ House Democrats established three parameters for their public impeachment hearings, which begin next week. Investigators will follow “three interrelated lines of inquiry” to determine if Trump asked a foreign leader to initiate investigations to benefit his personal political interests, used the power of the Office of the President to apply pressure on Ukraine, and whether the Trump administration tried to conceal information from Congress about Trump’s actions and conduct. (Politico)

7/ Trump is “not concerned” about the impeachment inquiry. He called it a “hoax” because “I never even heard of these people. I have no idea who they are.” (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. Trump will not impose new tariffs on European cars next week. Trump previously argued that imports of European autos pose a national security threat to the U.S. (Sueddeutsche Zeitung / CNBC)

  2. The EPA’s chief of staff refused to disclose to the EPA inspector general how he obtained an advance copy of a witness’s testimony. The agency’s independent watchdog is investigating Ryan Jackson’s efforts to influence a scientist ahead of her congressional testimony. (Washington Post)

  3. Trump wants attend Russia’s military parade celebration in May, but his only hesitation is that the parade falls during the “middle of political season.” (Politico / Reuters)

  4. Senior Trump administration officials considered resigning en masse last year in a “midnight self-massacre” over concerns about Trump’s “misguided impulses.” In the new book, “A Warning” by “a senior Trump administration official,” officials ultimately rejected the idea because they believed it would further destabilize the government. (Washington Post / New York Times)

Day 1022: A campaign of lies.

1/ Trump asked Attorney General William Barr to hold a press conference and say that he didn’t break the law during his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Barr, however, declined. Trump’s request was made around Sept. 25 – shortly after the Trump administration released a summary of the July 25 call. Trump denied he asked Barr “to hold a news conference,” instead saying people “MADE UP the story” and that “the Justice Department already ruled that the call was good.” (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

2/ Former national security adviser John Bolton is willing to defy the White House and testify in the House impeachment inquiry. Bolton, however, skipped his scheduled deposition today, wanting a federal court to first rule on a lawsuit between the Trump administration and Congress. House impeachment investigators intend to continue their inquiry without delay and plan to use Bolton’s refusal to testify as evidence of Trump’s attempt to obstruct Congress. (Washington Post / Politico / NBC News)

  • A national security aide to Mike Pence testified behind closed doors in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry into Trump. Jennifer Williams is the first person from Pence’s office to testify and is one of a handful of U.S. officials who listened in on Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky in which Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to open an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The White House tried to prevent Williams from attending the deposition. (Washington Post / NPR / New York Times)

  • A State Department official told House investigators that he kept notes of the White House’s attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine. George Kent said he witnessed an “effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law.” Kent also accused Rudy Giuliani of conducting a “campaign of lies” about the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, that led to her early recall from Kiev. (NBC News / Politico / NPR)

  • A senior National Security Council official who attended meetings at the center of the congressional impeachment inquiry will leave his post this week. Earl Matthews traveled with John Bolton to Ukraine in August and Poland in September, sitting in on meetings with Zelensky and senior American officials, including Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and senior NSC Russia expert Tim Morrison. (Politico)

3/ The Government Accountability Office is reviewing the Trump administration’s hold on security assistance to Ukraine to see if the freeze violated appropriations law. At a Senate Budget Committee hearing last week, Sen. Chris Van Hollen asked the U.S. comptroller general if the administration’s failure to formally inform Congress about the hold ran afoul of legal notification requirements. The money was released in mid-September after bipartisan pressure on Capitol Hill, but lawmakers and aides never received a clear answer about the reason for the hold. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Intelligence officials want CIA director Gina Haspel to protect the whistleblower from Trump. Haspel has avoided making any statements about the whistleblower or the complaint. U.S. intelligence officials, meanwhile, say that while they have taken steps to protect the identity of the whistleblower, neither Haspel nor Joseph Maguire, the director of national intelligence, have urged Trump behind the scenes to stop trying to out the whistleblower’s identity. (NBC News)

4/ The $500,000 Rudy Giuliani was paid to investigate Trump’s political rivals came from a Long Island attorney investing in Fraud Guarantee, a company owned by a Ukrainian-American businessman. Charles Gucciardo, a Republican donor and Trump supporter, gave the money to Lev Parnas as part of a deal that would make Gucciardo an investor in Parnas’ company, Fraud Guarantee, which does not appear to have any customers. Gucciardo paid Giuliani $250,000 in September and October 2018 on behalf of Fraud Guarantee. Giuliani is currently under federal investigation for possible foreign lobbying violations, and Parnas has been indicted for alleged campaign finance and foreign money-laundering violations. (New York Times / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 999: Rudy Giuliani was paid $500,000 to consult for a company co-founded by the Ukrainian-American businessman arrested last week on campaign finance charges. Lev Parnas’ company – Fraud Guarantee (!) – engaged Giuliani Partners around August 2018 to consult on technologies and provide legal advice on regulatory issues. Giuliani said the money came in two payments made within weeks of each other, but that he couldn’t remember the dates. He also said most of the work he did for Fraud Guarantee was completed in 2018, but that he has been doing follow-up work for more than a year. Federal prosecutors have been “examining Giuliani’s interactions” with Parnas and Igor Fruman, who was also indicted on campaign finance charges, since at least early 2019. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are also investigating whether Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his efforts to undermine the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled on Trump’s orders in May. Giuliani also denied that he was planning to visit Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who is currently wanted on corruption charges in the U.S., during a trip to Vienna he planned last week. (Reuters / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / USA Today / NBC News / Axios / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 1013: An indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani can be questioned under oath about financial transfers he made to Republican political campaigns. Lev Parnas’ defense attorney previously argued that some of the evidence gathered in the campaign finance investigation could be subject to executive privilege. Parnas owes a family trust more than $500,000, which alleges that Parnas transferred the money to his corporate accounts, to the Trump PAC America First Action, to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and to Pete Sessions for Congress – defrauding the family trust in the process. (CNN)

5/ Trump must personally pay $2 million in damages for unlawfully coordinating with the Trump Foundation charity to further his 2016 presidential campaign. A New York state judge found that “Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation” by “allowing his campaign to orchestrate” a televised fundraiser for the foundation in January 2016, and then allowing the campaign to direct the distribution of the money raised from that event “to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.” The settlement included an admission of misconduct, including that he used the foundation to settle the legal obligations of his companies, including Mar-A-Lago and the Trump National Golf Club in New York. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

6/ A forthcoming book by an anonymous senior Trump administration claims that high-level White House aides were certain that Mike Pence would support using the 25th Amendment to have Trump removed from office. The author of “A Warning” – the same official behind the 2018 op-ed that declared there was a “resistance” within the administration – claimed that White House officials put together a list of Cabinet secretaries who were open to the idea of removing Trump because of mental incapacity and that “there was no doubt in the minds of these senior officials that Pence would support invoking the 25th Amendment if the majority of the Cabinet signed off on it.” Pence, meanwhile, said he never heard about any discussion of using the 25th amendment in the White House. (HuffPost / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 1019: The Justice Department is trying to “intimidate and expose” the anonymous author of “A Warning”– the same senior Trump administration official behind a 2018 op-ed who claimed cabinet members discussed removing Trump from office early in his presidency “given the instability many witnessed.” The DOJ claimed that the author may be violating “one or more nondisclosure agreements” by writing the book, which is set to come out on November 19. (CNN / New York Times)

7/ Trump and “The Apprentice” creator have discussed shooting “The Apprentice: White House” after Trump leaves office. Trump and Mark Burnett reportedly still keep in touch by phone with Trump confiding to close associates that he misses his job as a reality-TV host. (Daily Beast)

Day 1021: A clear understanding.

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)

Day 1020: Orchestrated efforts.

1/ A key witness in the impeachment inquiry acknowledged that there was a quid pro quo linking U.S. aid to Ukraine with an investigation into Trump’s political rival. In revised testimony, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, said he told Andriy Yermak, a Ukrainian national security adviser, that Ukraine “would likely not” receive military aid until it publicly committed to investigating the 2016 election and Joe Biden. Sondland told Congress that his memory was “refreshed” after reviewing the opening statements by Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a former adviser to Trump on Russian and European affairs. Sondland’s addendum also recounted a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw where Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky raised his concerns to Mike Pence about the suspension of military aid. Sondland said he believed that withholding the $391 million in security assistance was “ill-advised,” but claimed he didn’t know “when, why or by whom the aid was suspended.” The revelation comes after House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released transcripts of witness testimony by Sondland and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine. (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Analysis: Five takeaways from the Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker testimonies. (Washington Post)

  • Excerpts: Sondland’s and Volker’s testimonies. (New York Times)

  • READ: U.S. Ambassador to the European Union House testimony on Ukraine investigation. (CNN)

  • READ: Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker’s House testimony on Ukraine investigations. (CNN)

2/ House Democrats requested that Trump’s acting White House chief of staff appear for a deposition in the impeachment probe. Mick Mulvaney is unlikely to comply with the request, however, as the White House has directed senior officials to not participate in the impeachment investigation. Lawmakers leading the inquiry believe Mulvaney “may have been directly involved in an effort orchestrated” by Trump and Rudy Giuliani to withhold a “White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security assistance” in order to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations that would benefit “Trump’s personal political interests, and jeopardized our national security.” (CNBC / Politico / ABC News / New York Times)

  • A senior adviser to Mike Pence will likely comply with a request to testify. Jennifer Williams was listening to the phone call on July 25 in which Trump asked for a “favor” of his newly-elected Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky. Williams would be the first person on Pence’s national security team to appear. (CNN)

3/ An associate of Rudy Giuliani will cooperate with a subpoena issued by House investigators as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump. Lev Parnas, who helped Giuliani dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter at Trump’s request, initially ignored the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents last month, but now intends to comply with the subpoena. The change in strategy reportedly occurred when Trump denied knowing Parnas after he was arrested. Parnas was also charged last month with campaign finance violations. (Reuters / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Phone records show that Trump made at least six phone calls to a woman who says he sexually assaulted her at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Summer Zervos, a former candidate on “The Apprentice,” claims that Trump forced himself on her with unwanted kissing and groping while she visited him for lunch in his hotel room on Dec. 21, 2007. Trump’s Verizon cellphone bills over a three-month period in 2007 and 2008 shows that Trump called Zervos on the day that his private calendar said he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Trump called Zervos and other women who have accused him of sexual misconduct of being “liars,” prompting Zervos to sue him for defamation. That hotel stay is a key part of the defamation lawsuit against Trump in New York State Supreme Court. (Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 468: A former contestant on “The Apprentice” is suing Trump for defamation after he called her a liar for accusing him of sexual assault. Summer Zervos was among the more than 10 women who came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign and accused Trump of sexual assault and misconduct. He denied all of their claims. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 784: A New York appellate court ruled that a former contestant on The Apprentice can proceed with her defamation lawsuit against Trump. Summer Zervos is one of about a dozen women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct before the 2016 election. Trump called Zervos and the other women “liars,” prompting Zervos to file a lawsuit in 2017. The New York State Appellate Division’s First Department turned down Trump’s argument that the case should be delayed until he is out of office because, as a sitting president, he was immune from a lawsuit brought in state court. The decision means Trump may have to sit for a sworn deposition. (ABC News / Washington Post / Politico)

5/ Roger Stone’s trial began today. Stone faces charges related to his alleged efforts to exploit the hacked Hillary Clinton emails for his own political gain. Stone is accused of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses, and obstructing a House Intelligence Committee probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election. The indictment says a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone after WikiLeaks released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in July 2016 to find out about additional releases and “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign.” The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone. Jury selection began with an observer being taken out of the courtroom on a stretcher after appearing to have a seizure, followed by Stone leaving due to what he said was food poisoning. (Associated Press / NBC News)

poll/ 62% of Trump supporters say there is nothing Trump could do that would cause him to lose their support. Among those who disapprove of the job Trump is doing, 70% say there’s nothing the president could do to gain their support. (Monmouth University)

Day 1019: Threatened.

1/ Interview notes from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation were released after CNN and BuzzFeed News sued the government to see all the work that Mueller’s team kept secret. In response to a court order, the Justice Department released the first installment of documents, known as 302s, which memorialize interviews conducted by the office with witnesses and include hundreds of pages of FBI interview summaries. Per the judge’s order, the Justice Department will continue to release new tranches of Mueller’s investigative notes every month for at least the next eight years. (CNN / BuzzFeed News)

  • ⚡️ Takeaways from the memos:

  • Paul Manafort pushed the unproven theory that Ukrainians might have been responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee at least five months before the 2016 election. Deputy campaign manager Rick Gates told Robert Mueller’s office in an April 2018 interview that Manafort had shared his theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for hacking the DNC with him and other campaign aides shortly after the stolen emails were published in June 2016. Gates said Manafort’s theory echoed one that had been pushed by Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian businessman that Mueller’s office said had ties to Russian intelligence. Three years later, Trump brought up the same conspiracy theory during his July 2019 call with the Ukrainian president when he asked for a “favor,” which is now at the heart of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. (BuzzFeed News / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Michael Cohen “had to keep Trump out of the messaging related to Russia” in preparation for his testimony to Congress under oath and that the false testimony was “not his idea.” Cohen later pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to Congress about when discussions related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal had ended.

  • Rick Gates said the campaign was “very happy” when a foreign government helped release the hacked DNC emails. After the hacked DNC emails, Trump told Gates that “more leaks were coming.” (BuzzFeed News)

  • READ: Interview notes from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. (CNN / DocumentCloud)

2/ The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine told House impeachment investigators that she felt “threatened” by Trump and his suggestion to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the July 25 phone call that she would be “going to go through some things.” Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled by Trump in May, told investigators that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were working with Rudy Giuliani to smear her and had orchestrated her removal as ambassador to Kiev. The revelation comes after House Democrats released the first two interview transcripts with Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former senior State Department adviser. McKinley described to investigators how he pressed top State Department officials to publicly support Yovanovitch, but that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied the request because he did not want to “draw undue attention” to Yovanovitch. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / Politico / CNN / ABC News)

  • Excerpts and analysis from the first two impeachment inquiry transcripts. (New York Times)

3/ Four White House officials scheduled to give depositions today as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry refused to show up and testify. National Security Council attorneys John Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, along with Robert Blair, assistant to the president, and Brian McCormick, an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, did not comply with congressional subpoenas for their testimony. Eisenberg claimed executive privilege, while Blair, Ellis, and McCormick didn’t appear because they weren’t able to have a Trump administration attorney present. Two other officials from the OMB, Michael Duffey and Russell Vought, also plan to skip their depositions later this week. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is scheduled to appear for a closed-door deposition on Wednesday, but will not be participating either. (CNN / Politico / ABC News / Reuters)

  • One of Mick Mulvaney’s top allies is attempting to rally other administration officials to collectively defy Congressional subpoenas from Democrats involved in the House impeachment inquiry. Russel Vought, who leads the Office of Management and Budget, and two of his subordinates are attempting to demonstrate their loyalty to Trump while also creating a firewall around Trump’s alleged use of foreign aid to obtain political favors from a U.S. ally. The OMB is at the center of the impeachment inquiry because Democrats want information about why the office effectively froze U.S. military aid to Ukraine even though Congress had already appropriated for that country. (Washington Post)

  • The whistleblower’s attorney offered to answer written questions under oath and with penalty of perjury. Mark Zaid said his client was willing to respond in writing “in a bipartisan manner” so long as questions “cannot seek identifying info, regarding which we will not provide, or otherwise be inappropriate.” Trump, however, rejected the offer, tweeting that “Written answers not acceptable!” and that the whistleblower “must be brought forward to testify.” (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

4/ Trump’s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors. A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court Appeals unanimously ruled that Trump is not immune from investigative steps taken by state prosecutors. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance subpoenaed the documents from Mazars USA as part of an investigation into the pre-election payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Trump then sued the DA’s office to block the subpoena, arguing that as president he is immune not only from prosecution but from investigations. A district judge dismissed the argument in October, which Trump then appealed. Today, the appeals court said because Trump’s accounting firm – not Trump himself – was subpoenaed for the documents, it didn’t matter whether presidents have immunity. Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said Trump would ask the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press / BuzzFeed News / CNBC)

5/ The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. The withdrawal will not be finalized until a day after the presidential election in November 2020. The U.S. is now the only country to withdraw from the pact between nearly 200 countries. The U.S. is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases. (NPR / The Guardian / Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ 64% of Americans say their financial situation has not gotten better under Trump, while 35% say they’re better off. (Financial Times)

poll/ 53% of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president, while 45% approve, and 2% are not sure. (NBC News)

poll/ 49% of voters want Trump impeached and removed from office, 4% say he should be impeached but not removed, and 41% oppose impeaching Trump. (Fox News)

  • Trump called the Fox News poll “fake” and “lousy,” claiming that he has “the real polls,” and that the “people don’t want anything to do with impeachment. It’s a phony scam. It’s a hoax.” (Rolling Stone)

Notables.

  1. Trump attacked California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Twitter and blamed him for the wildfires in the state. Trump tweeted that Newsom has “done a terrible job of forest management.” Of the 33 million acres of forest in California, 57% is controlled by the federal government. (Los Angeles Times)

  2. The Justice Department is trying to “intimidate and expose” the anonymous author of “A Warning” – the same senior Trump administration official behind a 2018 op-ed who claimed cabinet members discussed removing Trump from office early in his presidency “given the instability many witnessed.” The DOJ claimed that the author may be violating “one or more nondisclosure agreements” by writing the book, which is set to come out on November 19. (CNN / New York Times)

  3. E. Jean Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump, saying he lied when he denied her claims that he had raped her in the dressing room of an upscale department store in the 1990s. After the writer and advice columnist came forward with the allegation in June, Trump denied raping Carroll, said he had “never met that person in my life,” and accused her of “totally lying” because she was “not my type.” (New York Times / Politico / CNN / BuzzFeed News)

  4. Children were encouraged to help “Build the Wall” at a White House Halloween party. Officials had been instructed to put together kid-friendly displays for trick-or-treaters that were supposed to be interactive and inspiring. Instead, the mural featured red paper bricks, each bearing the name of a child, with large letters on the display spelling out “Build the Wall” and signs alongside the wall that read “America First.” (Yahoo News)

  5. Smugglers have repeatedly cut through new sections of Trump’s border wall, opening gaps large enough for people to pass through. Trump has repeatedly called his $10 billion wall “virtually impenetrable” and likened the structure to a “Rolls-Royce” that border crossers cannot get over, under or through. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump would not commit to keeping the federal government open past a November 21 funding deadline, raising the possibility of a government shutdown as House Democrats expand their impeachment inquiry. Congress passed a short-term spending bill in September and would need to pass 12 appropriations bills to keep all federal agencies funded. (Washington Post)

Day 1016: Sensitive.

1/ A senior White House lawyer instructed the national security official who heard Trump’s July 25 conversation with the Ukraine president to keep his concerns secret. Following the call, in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” to investigate the Bidens, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman went to John Eisenberg to register his concerns about the call, who recorded Vindman’s complaints in notes on a yellow legal pad. Eisenberg also restricted access to the rough transcript of the call by moving it into the NSC’s top-secret codeword system. Eisenberg then directed Vindman to not discuss his concerns with anyone after the White House learned on July 29 that a CIA employee had anonymously filed a whistleblower complaint about the call. Vindman also testified that he conferred with his deputy Michael Ellis at the time about how to handle the conversation because it was clearly “sensitive.” (Washington Post / Politico)

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expects the impeachment inquiry to begin public hearings this month. (Bloomberg)

2/ Trump wants to host a live “fireside chat” and read the White House’s version of the transcript from his July 25 call with Zelensky. Trump said he would broadcast the reading on television in order to prove that he did nothing wrong and that the substance of the call was not cause for alarm. “At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television,” Trump said in an interview, “and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it’s a straight call.” (Washington Examiner / The Hill / Fox News / Reuters)

3/ Democratic leaders directing the impeachment investigation see the Trump administration’s stonewalling as obstruction of Congress. Trump and the administration have tried to stop subpoenaed witnesses from testifying, blocked the executive branch from turning over documents, attacked witnesses as “Never Trumpers,” badgered the anonymous whistleblower, and have tried to publicly discredit the investigation as a “scam” overseen by “a totally compromised kangaroo court.” Democrats argue that the efforts infringed on the separation of powers and undermines congressional oversight duties as laid out in the Constitution. (Washington Post)

4/ A judge is expected to reconsider whether an associate of Rudy Giuliani should remain on house arrest while awaiting trial for charges of illegally funneling money into a pro-Trump election committee and to other politicians. Igor Fruman’s attorney is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan to argue that Fruman should not be subject to house arrest or electronic GPS monitoring as conditions of his bail, calling the restrictions “onerous.” Fruman was arrested at the airport while attempting to leave the country with his alleged co-conspirator, Lev Parnas, but Fruman’s attorney argues that Fruman does not pose a flight risk because he has already paid his $1 million bond and agreed to have his travel restricted. (Reuters)

5/ Trump declined to defend acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. When asked if he is happy with the job Mulvaney is doing, Trump replied: “Happy? I don’t want to comment on it.” (Washington Examiner)

  • 📌 Day 1001: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that Trump blocked military aid to Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his political rivals. Mulvaney called the quid pro quo exchange “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney added: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney also told reporters the funds were withheld in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted Democrats in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a quid pro quo arrangement linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC)

6/ Trump nominated Chad Wolf to be the acting Homeland Security Secretary. Wolf served as the chief of staff to former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Kevin McAleenan, who most recently served as acting secretary, submitted his resignation letter to in early October and said he would leave by the end of the month. (Wall Street Journal)

7/ Trump’s personal pastor joined the Trump administration in an official capacity. Paula White is a Florida-based televangelist and a controversial figure even among evangelical Christians, but she will now be in charge of overseeing a White House division that conducts outreach to key parts of the president’s base. White’s work in the Public Liaison Office will include advising the administration’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative, which Trump established last year to give religious groups more of a voice in government programs involving religious liberty and fighting poverty. (New York Times)

8/ The White House is discussing a second round of tax cuts to announce during the 2020 presidential campaign. Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic aide, said the plan will be released next year to help Republicans run on the message of a strong economy and contrast their Democratic rivals, who are proposing tax increases to pay for expanded government services. (Bloomberg)

9/ The number of non-farm jobs rose by 128,000 in October, despite the loss of 42,000 motor vehicle and parts industry jobs. The growth of new jobs last month exceeded the 75,000 estimate by Dow Jones economists. The lost of 42,000 jobs was also less than the 50,000 or more that many economists had anticipated. The unemployment rate rose to 3.6%, but is still at its lowest rate in 50 years. (CNBC / New York Times)

10/ Trump changed his state of residence from New York to Florida, declaring that Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach was his permanent residence. Melania Trump also changed her residence to Palm Beach. Trump confirmed the decision on Twitter, saying “I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state,” and that moving to Florida would be “best for all concerned.” (New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ 49% of Americans agree that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 47% disagree. 82% of Democrats support removing Trump from office, while 13% are opposed. 18% of Republicans think he should be removed, while 82% say he should not be. (Washington Post-ABC News)

Day 1015: "Nobody comes to Congress to impeach a president."

1/ The House approved a resolution to formally authorize and set ground rules for its impeachment inquiry into Trump. The resolution passed 232-196 almost entirely along party lines and outlines how the House will make the investigation more public, authorizes the House Intelligence Committee to release transcripts from past interviews, and gives Republicans the right to call witnesses, though those requests are subject to approval by Democrats. Before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “Today, we are further down the path of our inquiry,” calling it a “sad day,” because “nobody comes to Congress to impeach a president.” Minutes after the vote, the White House press secretary denounced the resolution as “a sham impeachment” and “a blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the president.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / ABC News)

  • Two Democrats voted against the impeachment inquiry resolution. Reps. Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson both voted “nay” on the resolution. (CNN)

  • What is impeachment and how does it work? 10 facts to know. (NBC News)

  • The full Trump-Ukraine timeline. The House is engaged in a formal impeachment inquiry of Trump. It’s focused on his efforts to secure specific investigations in Ukraine that carried political benefits for him — with indications that there might have been an explicit or implicit quid pro quo involved. (Washington Post)

  • ⚡️ Impeachment.wtf – The historian’s guide to the Trump impeachment inquiry. Maintained by the community. Updated daily.

2/ Trump’s former top National Security Council advisor on Russia and Europe corroborated testimony by the acting ambassador to Ukraine that Trump tried to withhold military assistance until Ukraine committed to investigating Trump’s political rivals. Tim Morrison told impeachment investigators today that he spoke to Bill Taylor at least twice in early September. One call was about Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who told the Ukrainians that no U.S. aid would be released until they announced an investigation into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that had hired Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Morrison also spoke with Taylor on Sept. 7 to share his “sinking feeling” about a conversation between Trump and Sondland, during which Trump demanded that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announce investigations and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. Morrison, however, told impeachment investigators he “was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed,” but he did see the episode as problematic for U.S. foreign policy. Morrison’s testimony comes a day after he announced his resignation. (Washington Post / Politico / New York Times / NPR / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Associated Press / NBC News / Daily Beast)

  • 📌 Day 1006: The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told House impeachment investigators that Trump held up security aid and refused a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president until he agreed to investigate Tump’s political rivals. Bill Taylor said he was told that “everything” Ukraine wanted — a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and nearly $400 million in security aid — was dependent on publicly announcing an investigation into Burisma, the company that hired Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. Taylor provided an “excruciatingly detailed” opening statement that described “how pervasive the [quid pro quo] efforts were” by Trump and his allies, which they have denied. People in the closed-door deposition described Taylor’s testimony as a “very direct line” between American foreign policy and Trump’s own political goals. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 1008: Trump’s top envoy to Ukraine testified that the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. not only knew of a quid pro quo, but had also communicated the threat to Ukraine. William Taylor said he understood that on Sept. 1st, Gordon Sondland warned Andrey Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s aide, that security assistance “would not come” unless Zelensky committed to pursuing the investigation into Burisma, the energy company where Joe Biden’s son held a board seat. On Sept. 9th, Sondland texted Taylor to say there was “no quid pro quos” of any kind authorized by Trump. Sondland’s attorney added that his client “does not recall” such a conversation. By Taylor’s account, however, Sondland already knew the terms of the quid pro quo and had relayed them to Zelensky’s aide a week earlier. (Washington Post / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 1009: A top adviser on Trump’s National Security Council is expected to corroborate testimony that Trump pushed for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son, using the military aid as leverage. Tim Morrison’s testimony is expected to be significant because he was named 15 times during Bill Taylor’s deposition, which Democrats view as damning for Trump. Morrison was also listening in on the July 25th call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Morrison is also expected to say that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did with regard to Ukraine. Morrison would also be the first currently serving White House official to testify. (CNN)

3/ The deputy White House counsel moved the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky to the highly classified server after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman raised concerns about Trump’s behavior. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, had listened in on the call when Trump asked Zelensky to “do us a favor” by pursuing an investigation into Biden and the debunked conspiracy theory that a Democratic National Committee server was transported to Ukraine after it was hacked in 2016. After the call was over, Vindman, an ethics attorney on the National Security Council, and a deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council met with John Eisenberg to raise concerns about the conversation. Eisenberg then ordered the transcript of the call moved to the NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment, which is normally reserved for code-word-level ­intelligence programs, to ensure that people who were not assigned to handle Ukraine policy could not read the transcript. Vindman also told House impeachment investigators that the White House transcript of the July call omitted crucial words and phrases, including Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of Biden discussing Ukraine corruption and a mention by Zelensky about Burisma. Vindman was also given a hard copy of the rough transcript to make written edits, which he then gave to his boss, Tim Morrison. (Washington Post / New York Times)

4/ Two separate federal judges in Washington will consider whether to force two witnesses close to Trump to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry. The first hearing centers on former White House counsel Don McGahn’s refusal to testify this spring in the House Judiciary Committee’s criminal probe into whether Trump obstructed justice by attempting to impede the Russia investigation. The White House blocked McGahn’s testimony, claiming he was “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.” The second hearing involves former National Security official Charles Kupperman, who did not appear for his subpoenaed testimony on Monday. Last week, Charles Kupperman filed a lawsuit to resolve conflicting orders from Congress and the White House about his participation in the impeachment investigation. (CNN / Politico / Washington Post / Washington Post)

poll/ 61% of Americans say Trump has little or no respect for the country’s democratic institutions and traditions. 42% of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance. (Associated Press)

poll/ 54% of Americans say the Trump administration’s policies have made the United States less respected around the world, while 28% say the policies have made the U.S. more respected. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Rudy Giuliani needed an Apple Genius to unlock his iPhone after he was named Trump’s cybersecurity adviser in 2017. Giuliani was locked out of his iPhone because he had forgotten the passcode and entered the wrong one at least 10 times. (NBC News)

  2. The EPA will weaken regulation that limits heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury from coal-fired power plants. The new rules are expected to go into effect in November. (New York Times)

  3. The American Bar Association deemed Trump’s new judicial nominee “not qualified” for a spot on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The ABA found Lawrence VanDyke to be “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice.” When asked during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing about his past positions on issues such as gun control, environmental protections, abortion, and LGBTQ rights, he started to cry. (Washington Post)

  4. The Senate passed four spending bills to fund operations at the Agriculture, Transportation and Interior departments. Current government funding lasts through Nov. 21 and the majority of government spending is locked in a dispute over how to pay for Trump’s border wall. (Politico)

Day 1014: Out of step.

1/ Two career diplomats testified before House impeachment investigators behind closed doors that Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s view of Ukraine were out of step with other White House and State Department officials. Catherine Croft told lawmakers, who worked as an adviser to Kurt Volker, explained that “throughout” her time in the Trump administration she heard Trump “describe Ukraine as a corrupt country,” both “directly and indirectly.” Christopher Anderson, who served as assistant to Volker, told lawmakers that in a June 13th meeting, John Bolton had supported “increased senior White House engagement” with Ukraine, but was concerned that Giuliani “was a key voice with the president on Ukraine.” Anderson also testified that his attempts as a Foreign Service officer to show support for Ukraine were quashed by the White House. (Washington Post / CNN / Politico / ABC News / New York Times)

  • 📝 READ: Christopher Anderson’s written testimony. (NPR)

  • 📝 READ: Ukraine Specialist Catherine Croft’s written testimony. (NPR)

2/ House impeachment investigators asked former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify on Nov. 7th after Anderson and Croft testified that Bolton was concerned about America’s stance toward Ukraine. Fiona Hill testified earlier this month that Bolton was so disturbed by efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a “drug deal,” and that Bolton had told her to report the situation to John Eisenberg, the top lawyer for the National Security Council. Eisenberg and Michael Ellis, another lawyer for the NSC, are scheduled testify next Monday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Bloomberg)

3/ The National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert testified that a Devin Nunes associate “misrepresented” himself to Trump as the NSC’s Ukraine expert. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told lawmakers that Kashyap Patel circumvented NSC process to provide Trump with disinformation that Ukraine was corrupt and had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats. Vindman was also told not to attend a meeting following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration, because Trump’s advisers worried his perspective might confuse Trump. Patel is a longtime Nunes staffer who joined the White House in February. He has no Ukraine experience or expertise. (Politico)

  • 📌 Day 1007: House impeachment investigators are scrutinizing a National Security Council aide suspected of operating a second Ukraine backchannel. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, testified last week that she believed Kashyap Patel was improperly getting involved in Ukraine policy by sending information about Ukraine to Trump that could warp American policy. Senior White House officials reportedly grew concerned when Patel became so involved in the issue that at one point Trump wanted to discuss the documents with him, referring to Patel as one of his top Ukraine policy specialists. Patel is assigned to work on counterterrorism issues, not Ukraine policy, and was part of the Republican effort to undermine the Russia investigation. (New York Times / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 923: A former congressional staffer who tried to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation has been promoted on the National Security Council staff. Kash Patel spearheaded the efforts with Devin Nunes to call the court-approved surveillance of former Trump adviser Carter Page into question. Now, Patel has been promoted to a leadership position focused on counterterrorism at the NSC’s Directorate of International Organizations and Alliances. (Daily Beast)

4/ A former Republican congressman turned lobbyist repeatedly attempted to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine fired for her association with Democrats. Robert Livingston told Croft on multiple occasions that Marie Yovanovitch, the American ambassador to Ukraine, was an “Obama holdover” “associated with George Soros” who “should be fired.” Croft testified that she “documented” multiple appeals by Livingston to oust Yovanovitch while she was working at the National Security Council from mid-2017 to mid-2018. Croft also said she informed Fiona Hill, then the senior director for Europe and Russia on the council, and George Kent, a Ukraine expert at the State Department, about the efforts at the time. (New York Times / Bloomberg)

5/ Trump’s pick for ambassador to Russia told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it would not be “in accord with our values” for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan also agreed that Yovanovitch had “served capably and admirably” and that he believed Rudy Giuliani was “seeking to smear” Yovanovitch. Sullivan said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told him “the president had lost confidence with [Yovanovitch]” and that he was the one who informed Yovanovitch that she was being recalled early from her post as the ambassador to Ukraine. (Politico / Washington Post)

6/ Attorneys for the anonymous whistleblower at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry have received multiple death threats. At least one of the death threats led to an investigation by law enforcement. None of the threats, however, have been deemed credible. (Wall Street Journal)

7/ Bill Taylor is willing to return to Capitol Hill to testify publicly in the impeachment probe. Taylor documented how he believed the White House had linked Ukraine announcing an investigation that could help Trump to the U.S. releasing security aide and setting up a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Zelensky. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1006: The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told House impeachment investigators that Trump held up security aid and refused a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president until he agreed to investigate Tump’s political rivals. Bill Taylor said he was told that “everything” Ukraine wanted — a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and nearly $400 million in security aid — was dependent on publicly announcing an investigation into Burisma, the company that hired Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. Taylor provided an “excruciatingly detailed” opening statement that described “how pervasive the [quid pro quo] efforts were” by Trump and his allies, which they have denied. People in the closed-door deposition described Taylor’s testimony as a “very direct line” between American foreign policy and Trump’s own political goals. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  • 📌 Day 1008: Trump’s top envoy to Ukraine testified that the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. not only knew of a quid pro quo, but had also communicated the threat to Ukraine. William Taylor said he understood that on Sept. 1st, Gordon Sondland warned Andrey Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s aide, that security assistance “would not come” unless Zelensky committed to pursuing the investigation into Burisma, the energy company where Joe Biden’s son held a board seat. On Sept. 9th, Sondland texted Taylor to say there was “no quid pro quos” of any kind authorized by Trump. Sondland’s attorney added that his client “does not recall” such a conversation. By Taylor’s account, however, Sondland already knew the terms of the quid pro quo and had relayed them to Zelensky’s aide a week earlier. (Washington Post / Politico)


Notables.

  1. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney didn’t know about the raid to assassinate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi until after the raid was already underway. The White House chief of staff is typically central to any major action by a president, taking charge of coordinating logistics, public statements, and notifying congressional leaders and allies. Rather than sitting alongside Trump in the Situation Room as the raid unfolded, Mulvaney was at home in South Carolina when Trump tweeted that “Something very big has just happened!” Mulvaney was briefed on the raid later that night. (NBC News)

  2. Trump tweeted that “American troops” have “terminated” ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s “likely” replacement. The White House and the national security council did not say whether it is accurate that “American troops” were responsible for the death of Abu Hasan al-Muhajir. (CNN)

  3. The Senate rejected an effort to roll back a Trump administration rule that allowed states to ignore parts of the Affordable Care Act. The resolution would have overturned a Trump administration rule that made it easier for states to opt-out of certain ACA requirements and prioritize cheaper “junk plans” than ones offered under the ACA. (The Hill)

  4. Georgia will cancel about 315,000 voter registrations ahead of the 2020 presidential and the state’s Senate election, where both Senate seats are up for grabs. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office will send notices to inactive voters who and give them 30 days to return the notice if they don’t want their voter registrations canceled. The number of potential cancellations constitutes roughly 4% of Georgians on the voter rolls. (NBC News)

  5. Russian groups spent more than $87,000 on Facebook ads to test new disinformation tactics in parts of Africa. The three Russian-backed influence networks were linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch was indicted by the United States and accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Facebook said it removed the networks. (New York Times)

  6. Twitter banned all political advertisements. The new policy will go into place in November and applies worldwide. (Politico / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  7. The Federal Reserve reduced interest rates by a quarter-percentage point – the third time this year – but signaled that it will weigh incoming data before adjusting rates again. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / New York Times)

  8. Trump made 96 false claims last week – including 53 last Monday alone. (CNN)

Day 1013: "Extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing."

1/ House Democrats released their impeachment resolution, which outlines the next steps by the six committees that are pursuing investigations of the Trump administration. The resolution doesn’t limit the scope of their ongoing probes and does not set a timeline for potential articles of impeachment. Under the proposed rules, the House Intelligence Committee will take the lead on planning public hearings as the inquiry advances and establish rules for Republicans to hear testimony from certain witnesses, but that those requests will be declined or approved by Adam Schiff. The House plans to vote on the resolution Thursday. (New York Times / The Guardian / Bloomberg)

2/ The top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council registered objections on two separate occasions regarding Trump’s handling of Ukraine. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told impeachment investigators during a closed-door deposition that he heard Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son as a “favor” after Zelensky brought up the defense cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine. Vindman said he was so “concerned by the call” and that Trump’s request could be seen as “a partisan play” that could “undermine U.S. national security” that he reported it to the NSC’s lead counsel out of a “sense of duty.” Vindman is the first White House official to testify who listened in on the July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelensky, and reportedly told impeachment investigators that he took notes during the call and made recommendations to the White House to correct the memo summarizing the conversation. They weren’t used. Vindman said the White House transcript left out Zelensky saying the word “Burisma” — the name of the energy company that Hunter Biden had worked for – as well as Trump saying there were recordings of Biden. (New York Times / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / NPR / Associated Press / Wall Street Journal / The Guardian / NBC News)

  • READ: White House Ukraine expert’s opening statement, which says he reported concerns about Trump-Zelensky call. (CNN / New York Times)

  • Who is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman? A Ukrainian refugee who became a soldier, scholar, and official at the White House. (New York Times / CNN)

3/ Vindman’s sworn statement contradicted Gordon Sondland’s testimony, who told House investigators that no one had raised concerns about Trump’s actions. Vindman testified that he confronted Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, after Sondland, Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and then-national security adviser John Bolton met with senior Ukrainian officials at the White House about “Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president.” Vindman testified that he told Sondland “that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push.” Rep. Joaquin Castro, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, accused Sondland of perjuring himself during his closed-door testimony to impeachment investigators earlier this month. Vindman’s testimony also appears to contradict Perry’s denials that he ever heard the Bidens discussed in relation to U.S. requests that Ukraine investigate corruption. (Washington Post / The Guardian / New York Times / The Hill / Politico)

  • Acting House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney called Vindman’s deposition “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing.” (NBC News)

4/ Trump’s allies accused Vindman of being loyal to Ukraine because he was born there. Vindman came to the United States at age 3, was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq, and now serves as a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. Fox News host Laura Ingraham and her guests, however, suggested that Vindman had engaged in “espionage” on behalf of Ukraine against the U.S. Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, accused Vindman of being a “Never Trumper,” tweeting that the colonel “has reportedly been advising two gov’s.” Republicans, however, joined Democrats in defending Vindman, calling the attacks “despicable,” “absurd, disgusting, and way off the mark.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Politico)

5/ The White House has not made a decision on whether to make the details of Mike Pence’s call with President Zelensky public – three weeks after Pence said he had “no objection” to releasing a reconstructed transcript of the call. White House officials have debated whether releasing the call details will help or hurt their attempts to push back against accusations that Trump made U.S. military aid to Ukraine contingent on the country launching an investigation into his political opponents. (NBC News)

6/ A top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes has been trying to unmask the anonymous whistleblower at the heart of the House’s impeachment inquiry by releasing information about him to conservative journalists and politicians. Derek Harvey has provided notes to House Republicans identifying the whistleblower’s name ahead of the depositions of Trump appointees and administration employees in the impeachment inquiry. His goal is to get the name of the whistleblower into the records of the proceedings, which could then be made public. Harvey was also “passing notes [to GOP lawmakers] the entire time” during ex-NSC Russia staffer Fiona Hill’s testimony. (Daily Beast / Washington Post)

7/ The House Judiciary Committee argued that it has an “urgent” need for access to Robert Mueller’s grand jury secrets. The Trump administration appealed an earlier decision to grant the House access to the details, and is asking the courts to stop the handover of grand jury transcripts. The House argues it wants to see the details both for its Ukraine impeachment investigation and in examining whether Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1009: A federal judge directed the Justice Department to hand over Robert Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which Attorney General William Barr has withheld from lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the Trump administration’s claim that the impeachment probe is illegitimate, saying the material could help the House Judiciary Committee substantiate “potentially impeachable conduct” by Trump. The materials must be disclosed by Wednesday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico)

  • 📌 Day 1012: The Trump administration appealed a judge’s ruling requiring the Justice Department to give the House Judiciary Committee grand jury material related to Robert Mueller’s report. Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling granted the Judiciary Committee access to portions of Mueller’s report and underlying grand jury information that were redacted. (Politico / CNBC)

poll/ 78% of Fox News viewers say they agree that the impeachment inquiry is like a “lynching.” Overall, 66% of registered voters believe the White House should comply with House subpoenas demanding testimony and documents, while 26% disagreed, and 8% were undecided. (USA Today)


Notables.

  1. General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Toyota have sided with the Trump administration in its escalating battle with California over fuel economy standards for automobiles. The decision to intervene on behalf of the Trump administration puts them at odds with their leading competitors, including Honda and Ford, who reached a deal this year to follow California’s stricter rules for emissions instead of the much weaker federal auto emissions standards set by the Trump administration. The auto industry has “historically taken the position that fuel economy is the sole purview of the federal government,” said the CEO of the automakers association. (New York Times)

  2. An indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani can be questioned under oath about financial transfers he made to Republican political campaigns. Lev Parnas’ defense attorney previously argued that some of the evidence gathered in the campaign finance investigation could be subject to executive privilege. Parnas owes a family trust more than $500,000, which alleges that Parnas transferred the money to his corporate accounts, to the Trump PAC America First Action, to the National Republican Congressional Committee, and to Pete Sessions for Congress – defrauding the family trust in the process. (CNN)

  3. Attorney General William Barr issued two decisions limiting immigrants’ options to fight deportation. The decisions removes paths for legal immigration status people with old criminal convictions or multiple drinking and driving convictions. (NBC News)

  4. The United States will not admit any refugees in October. Travel for refugees who were told they could come to the U.S. was postponed through October 21st, and then later to October 28th. The moratorium now runs through November 5th. About 500 flights have been cancelled this month at the expense of federal taxpayers. (CNN)

  5. A federal judge temporarily blocked a restrictive Alabama law that prohibits almost all abortions and makes performing the procedure a felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison. The only exception allowed is for pregnancies that pose a “serious health risk” for women. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson granted a preliminary injunction, saying the law violated precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court that determines the right to an abortion before a fetus reaches viability, and that the measure also violated the Constitution and would leave many patients in the state without options. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

Day 1012: "Eliminate any doubt."

1/ The House of Representatives will vote on the Trump impeachment inquiry. The resolution “affirms the ongoing, existing investigation,” “establishes the procedure for hearings,” and “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. It will mark the first floor vote on impeachment since Democrats formally launched their inquiry. Representative Jim McGovern, chairman of the House Rules Committee, will introduce the resolution on Tuesday with a full House vote scheduled for Thursday. Pelosi added: “We are taking this step to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives.” (New York Times / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

2/ A former deputy national security adviser and one of Trump’s “closest confidential” advisers defied a congressional subpoena and failed to appear for a scheduled closed-door deposition before House impeachment investigators. Charles Kupperman filed a lawsuit seeking guidance from a federal judge about whether he should listen to the executive branch, which has invoked “constitutional immunity,” or to Congress. “Given the issue of separation of powers in this matter, it would be reasonable and appropriate to expect that all parties would want judicial clarity,” Kupperman said. Since there has not yet been a ruling, Kupperman declined to appear. Leaders of three House committees said his lawsuit is “lacking in legal merit and apparently coordinated with the White House,” and failure to appear for his deposition “will constitute evidence that may be used against him in a contempt proceeding.” Kupperman listened in to the July 25th call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN / NPR)

  • Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s Europe and Eurasia director, still plans to appear if subpoenaed. (Washington Post / CBS News)

  • 📌 Day 1009: A top adviser on Trump’s National Security Council is expected to corroborate testimony that Trump pushed for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son, using the military aid as leverage. Tim Morrison’s testimony is expected to be significant because he was named 15 times during Bill Taylor’s deposition, which Democrats view as damning for Trump. Morrison was also listening in on the July 25th call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Morrison is also expected to say that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did with regard to Ukraine. Morrison would also be the first currently serving White House official to testify. (CNN)

3/ The White House knew as early as mid-May — earlier than previously known — that Rudy Giuliani and the ambassador to the European Union were pressuring the new Ukrainian president. Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, was told in a White House meeting the week of May 20th about a campaign by Giuliani, two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and Gordon Sondland to pressure President Zelensky with unsolicited advice on who should be elevated to influential posts within his new administration. Sondland had no official role overseeing Ukraine, and Giuliani isn’t a government employee. (NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 999: The White House’s former top Russia adviser told impeachment investigators that Rudy Giuliani ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit Trump. Fiona Hill, who served as the senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, testified for about nine hours before three House panels regarding a July 10th meeting she attended with senior Ukrainian officials, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, and other U.S. officials in which the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who was working with Giuliani, raised the issue to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, Joe Biden, and his son. Hill said she confronted Sondland about Giuliani’s actions, which were not coordinated with officials responsible for U.S. foreign policy. Hill resigned days before Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Associated Press / The Guardian / NBC News / Vox / NPR)

  • 📌 Day 1000: A former top White House foreign policy adviser told House impeachment investigators that she viewed Sondland as a national security risk because he was so unprepared for his job. Fiona Hill did not accuse Sondland of acting maliciously or intentionally putting the country at risk, but described him as and Trump donor-turned-ambassador. (New York Times)

  • 📌 Day 1007: House impeachment investigators are scrutinizing a National Security Council aide suspected of operating a second Ukraine backchannel. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, testified last week that she believed Kashyap Patel was improperly getting involved in Ukraine policy by sending information about Ukraine to Trump that could warp American policy. Senior White House officials reportedly grew concerned when Patel became so involved in the issue that at one point Trump wanted to discuss the documents with him, referring to Patel as one of his top Ukraine policy specialists. Patel is assigned to work on counterterrorism issues, not Ukraine policy, and was part of the Republican effort to undermine the Russia investigation. (New York Times / Politico)

4/ A senior State Department official testified that he appealed to leadership for a public show of support for the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine when she was targeted in a smear campaign by Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for Europe, said he pushed State Department leadership to make a statement of support for Marie Yovanovitch to counter Giuliani’s push to get her recalled. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, however, wouldn’t back the ambassador to Ukraine. Reeker also testified that he did not find out the Trump administration’s efforts to push Ukraine into publicly announcing investigations into Joe Biden and the 2016 election until the whistleblower complaint was made public. (CNN / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

5/ The Trump administration appealed a judge’s ruling requiring the Justice Department to give the House Judiciary Committee grand jury material related to Robert Mueller’s report. Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling granted the Judiciary Committee access to portions of Mueller’s report and underlying grand jury information that were redacted. (Politico / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 1009: A federal judge directed the Justice Department to hand over Robert Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which Attorney General William Barr has withheld from lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the Trump administration’s claim that the impeachment probe is illegitimate, saying the material could help the House Judiciary Committee substantiate “potentially impeachable conduct” by Trump. The materials must be disclosed by Wednesday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico)

6/ Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died after detonating a suicide vest during a raid by U.S. special forces in northwestern Syria. Hours later, Islamic State spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, described as al-Baghdadi’s right-hand man, was killed in a separate raid by Kurdish-led and U.S. forces in northern Syria. Trump described al-Baghdadi’s death as a man “running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, screaming and crying all the way,” who “died like a dog” and a “coward.” al-Baghdadi was one of the most wanted suspected terrorists in the world, with a $25 million bounty issued by the U.S. for his capture. (New York Times / CNN / Associated Press / Reuters / Washington Post)

  • Trump did not give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Congress advance notice of the raid that killed Baghdadi. Trump, instead, informed Russia about the operation before telling congressional leadership. Trump said he knew about plans for the top-secret mission for three days, but claimed that he kept Congress in the dark because he worried they would leak the information to the public and put the lives of American forces at risk. (USA TODAY / Washington Post / ABC News / Associated Press)

  • Trump knew the CIA and Special Operations commandos were zeroing in on the location of Baghdadi when he ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria earlier this month. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order disrupted the planning and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies, and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Trump was booed during game five of the World Series in Washington D.C. The crowd chanted “Lock him up!” as Trump and several Republican lawmakers made an appearance during the fourth inning. (New York Daily News / Politico / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Washington Post)

  2. The Trump administration banned all flights to Cuba – other than those to Havana. The ban goes into effect on Dec. 10th. (NBC News)

  3. The White House explored cutting off taxpayer funding for charter schools affiliated with a political opponent of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The debate over funding for the schools came a few weeks ahead of Erdogan’s first visit to the U.S. in May 2017. (Bloomberg)

  4. Trump directed Defense Secretary James Mattis during summer 2018 to “screw Amazon” out of the opportunity to bid on a $10 billion contract to provide cloud computing services to the Pentagon. The contract was awarded to Microsoft last week. (CNN / CNBC / The Verge / New York Times)

  5. A company tied to Trump’s brother received a $33 million contract from the U.S. Marshals Service earlier this year. The contract to provide security for federal courthouses and cellblocks went to CertiPath that has been owned in part by a firm linked to Robert S. Trump since 2013. (Washington Post)

Day 1009: "Potentially impeachable conduct."

1/ A federal judge directed the Justice Department to hand over Robert Mueller’s secret grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, which Attorney General William Barr has withheld from lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell rejected the Trump administration’s claim that the impeachment probe is illegitimate, saying the material could help the House Judiciary Committee substantiate “potentially impeachable conduct” by Trump. The materials must be disclosed by Wednesday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Politico)

  • Attorney General William Barr’s review of the origins of the Russia probe is now considered a criminal investigation. Barr tapped Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham in May to review the FBI’s investigation and look at whether the U.S. government’s “intelligence collection activities” in the probe of possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia were “lawful and appropriate.” The shift gives Durham the power to issue subpoenas for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury, and to file criminal charges. Trump has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation, portraying it as a hoax and illegal operation conducted by an illegitimate special counsel. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / Reuters)

  • A Russian agent and gun rights activist was released from federal prison and is expected to be immediately deported to Russia after serving her 18-month sentence. Maria Butina pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with a senior Russian official to act as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the U.S. Justice Department after she tried to infiltrate conservative political groups and the National Rifle Association to promote Russian interests during the 2016 presidential campaign. Butina intends to return to her hometown in Siberia. (Politico / NPR / Washington Post / CNN)

2/ A top adviser on Trump’s National Security Council is expected to corroborate testimony that Trump pushed for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Joe Biden and his son, using the military aid as leverage. Tim Morrison’s testimony is expected to be significant because he was named 15 times during Bill Taylor’s deposition, which Democrats view as damning for Trump. Morrison was also listening in on the July 25th call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Morrison is also expected to say that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did with regard to Ukraine. Morrison would also be the first currently serving White House official to testify. (CNN)

3/ Lawyers for former national security adviser John Bolton have discussed a possible deposition with the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry. Bolton was reportedly so disturbed by efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a “drug deal,” calling Rudy Giuliani a “hand grenade.” Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, told lawmakers last week that she saw “wrongdoing” and that Bolton encouraged her to report her concerns to the National Security Council’s attorney. (CNN / CNBC)

4/ The House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas to three of Trump’s top officials. Acting budget director Russ Vought, Michael Duffey, a senior official in the Office of Management and Budget, and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, counsel at the State Department, all previously declined requests by investigators to testify voluntarily. (Politico / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • Federal prosecutors in New York subpoenaed the brother of one of the indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani. Since the October 9th arrests of Igor Fruman and his associate Lev Parnas, federal agents visited the New York home of Steven Fruman and served him with a subpoena from Manhattan federal prosecutors. (CNN)

5/ The Trump administration attempted to persuade a Pentagon official to not cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry. The day before Laura Cooper was scheduled to give voluntary, private testimony, she received a letter warning her that the White House had ordered executive branch officials not to give documents or testimony to Congress “under these circumstances.” Cooper nevertheless provided testimony to Congress about what she knew about Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals. (New York Times / Politico)

  • Lindsey Graham introduced a resolution condemning how House Democrats have conducted the impeachment investigation into Trump. The measure calls on House Democrats to hold a formal vote to open an impeachment inquiry to give the “same rights to Trump as Clinton and Nixon” had during their investigations. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said they will eventually release the transcripts of the closed-door proceedings and hold public testimonies. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said that such a vote, however, is unnecessary under House rules. (USA Today)

6/ The White House is looking for a communications specialist to lead impeachment messaging efforts. Two people are currently under consideration for the job: Tony Sayegh, a former top Treasury aide, and Pam Bondi, the former Florida Attorney General. Sayegh was previously a candidate to become White House communications director after Hope Hicks left the White House last year. (Politico / CNN)

poll/ 49% of Americans think Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 49% percent are against it. Nine in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are against impeachment and 89% of Democrats and Democratic-leaners are in favor of impeachment. (NBC News / SurveyMonkey)


Notables.

  1. A federal judge held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting loans from former students at a defunct for-profit college. Judge Sallie Kim of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco fined the Education Department $100,000 for violating a preliminary injunction against collecting loans from former students at Corinthian College. Money from the fine will be used to compensate the 16,000 people harmed by the Department of Education’s actions, which includes garnishing former students’ paychecks and seizing their tax returns. The Trump administration was forced to admit earlier this year that it erroneously collected loans from thousands of former Corinthian students despite being ordered to stop doing so. (Washington Post / Politico)

  2. The U.S. federal budget deficit jumped 26% to nearly $1 trillion in 2019. The $984 billion deficit is the highest level in seven years, and is projected to top $1 trillion in 2020. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  3. Trump has asked the full DC Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear his attempt to stop a subpoena of his accounting firm Mazars USA. Trump previously lost his attempt to stop the House subpoena for eight years of documents held by Mazars. (CNN)

  4. The Trump Organization is exploring selling the lease to the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The company leases the building, the Old Post Office Pavilion, from the federal government’s General Services Administration. The hotel could fetch more than $520 million. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. Rudy Giuliani butt-dialed a reporter and can be heard discussing overseas dealings and saying “The problem is we need some money” to an unidentified man during the three minute call. The Oct. 16th call came in at 11:07 p.m. and went to voicemail; the reporter was asleep. Trump, meanwhile, defended Giuliani, calling his personal attorney a “great gentleman” and a “great crime fighter.”(NBC News / Politico)

Day 1008: Human scum.

1/ House Democrats could take the impeachment inquiry public as soon as mid-November. Moving the largely closed-door investigation toward the public spotlight comes as the Trump administration has tried to block witnesses and withhold documents while his allies have cast the inquiry as a smear campaign against Trump. Yesterday, House Republicans delayed proceedings for more than five hours when about two dozen of them entered and refused to leave a secure room where Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper was set to testify about what happened to the military aid Trump ordered withheld from Ukraine. (Washington Post / Bloomberg)

2/ The White House’s trade representative withdrew Ukraine’s trade privileges as Trump was withholding $391 million in military aid and security assistance. In late August, Robert Lighthizer pulled Ukraine’s trade privileges from a global trade program after John Bolton, then-national security adviser, warned him that Trump would probably oppose anything that benefited Kiev. (Washington Post)

  • The White House trade adviser declined to say whether investigating the Bidens came up during trade talks with China. Peter Navarro said answering the question would “violate a principle here” and “I’m not going to talk about that stuff.” (CNN)

3/ Trump’s top envoy to Ukraine testified that the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. not only knew of a quid pro quo, but had also communicated the threat to Ukraine. William Taylor said he understood that on Sept. 1st, Gordon Sondland warned Andrey Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s aide, that security assistance “would not come” unless Zelensky committed to pursuing the investigation into Burisma, the energy company where Joe Biden’s son held a board seat. On Sept. 9th, Sondland texted Taylor to say there was “no quid pro quos” of any kind authorized by Trump. Sondland’s attorney added that his client “does not recall” such a conversation. By Taylor’s account, however, Sondland already knew the terms of the quid pro quo and had relayed them to Zelensky’s aide a week earlier. (Washington Post / Politico)

4/ Zelensky was concerned about pressure from the Trump administration to investigate Biden before before his July 25th call with Trump. Zelensky met with a small group of advisers on May 7th for a meeting that was supposed to be about Ukraine’s energy needs. Instead, the group spent three hours talking about how they were going to handle the calls for investigations coming from Trump and Giuliani, as well as how to avoid getting wrapped up in the U.S. election process. The meeting occurred before Zelensky was inaugurated, roughly two weeks after Trump called to congratulate him the night he won the April 21st election in Ukraine. (Associated Press / Axios)

5/ An inspector general report revealed that a Veterans Affairs office designed to protect whistleblowers instead stifled claims and retaliated against employees. The VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection – created by Trump in 2017 – had “significant deficiencies,” according to the report, including poor leadership, skimpy training of its investigators, a misunderstanding of its mission and a failure to discipline misconduct. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

6/ The White House said Trump would veto a bill requiring federal election campaigns to report “illicit offers” of campaign assistance from foreign governments and their agents. Earlier in the day, the House approved legislation to better protect the country’s elections from foreign interference. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans blocked three other election security bills. (Law and Crime / CBS News / The Hill)

  • The Department of Homeland Security warned that “Russian influence actors almost certainly will continue to target” the U.S. in 2020 election. The DHS Cyber Mission Center called the election a “key opportunity” to “advance Russian interests.” (Yahoo News)

  • Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said his intelligence services told William Barr that they played no role in the events leading to the Russia investigation, contradicting an unsubstantiated theory pushed by Trump and his allies that the Mueller probe was launched with the help of a Western intelligence asset working with the Obama administration to spy on the Trump campaign. “Our intelligence is completely unrelated to the so-called Russiagate and that has been made clear,” Conte told reporters. Prior to the briefing, Conte spent hours explaining Italy’s discussions with Barr to Italy’s parliamentary intelligence committee. Barr met twice with Italy’s intelligence agencies after asking them to clarify their role in a 2016 meeting between George Papadopoulos and a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud, who told Papadopoulos that Russia had obtained damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Trump plans to order all federal agencies not to renew their subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham claimed that “not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving – hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved.” (Wall Street Journal / Axios)

  2. 📌 Day 1006: The White House confirmed that it will cancel its subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Trump appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity,” calling the Times “a fake newspaper” and saying that “we don’t even want it in the White House anymore.” Trump added: “We’re going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post. They’re fake.” (Politico)

  3. Trump bragged that he’s building a wall along Colorado’s border with Mexico. Colorado does not share a border with Mexico. Trump told a crowd in Pittsburgh that the wall will be “a big one that really works — you can’t get over, you can’t get under.” Later, Trump tried to claim that he was only joking about building a wall in Colorado. (CNN)

  4. A senior student-loan official resigned and called for canceling most of the nation’s outstanding student debt. Arthur Wayne Johnson, appointed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, called the student loan system “fundamentally broken.” (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  5. The National Archives is investigating Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ use of private email for official business. Ross sent or received official correspondence about discussions with the European Commission for Trade, a U.S. ambassador’s meeting with German car manufacturers, a dinner with the ambassador of Japan, an event related to billionaire businessman Bill Koch, and meeting requests from a far-right Internet troll. The nonprofit watchdog Democracy Forward obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request and is asking the government for a direct search of Ross’s personal email. (Politico / Washington Post)

  6. Trump wants to nominate Ken Cuccinelli to be his next Homeland Security secretary, but doesn’t think Republican senators will support the nomination. Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia and an immigration hardliner, has made enemies within the GOP after leading a group that raised money to primary incumbent Republican senators, including Mitch McConnell. Cuccinelli has also supported some of Trump’s harshest immigration policies, including the new “public charge” rules, which would make it harder for immigrants to obtain legal permanent residency by denying green cards to people who use or are likely to use government benefits. (NPR)

  7. The White House press secretary agreed with Trump that those “against” him are “human scum.” Stephanie Grisham appeared on Fox & Friends to defend Trump, who had tweeted earlier in the day that “The Never Trumper Republicans […] are human scum” and “worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats.” (Daily Beast)

  8. Rudy Giuliani is looking for a defense attorney. Last week, Giuliani parted way with his previous lawyer, John Sale, saying, it would be “silly to have a lawyer when I don’t need one.” (CNN)

Day 1007: "This whole thing is about corruption."

1/ Ukraine knew that Trump had frozen $391 million in security assistance by early August. The disclosure that the Ukrainians knew of the freeze by early August corroborates the claim made by the CIA whistleblower complaint. Trump and his allies have repeatedly claimed there could not have been any quid pro quo because the Ukrainians didn’t know the assistance had been blocked. The Ukrainians, however, were advised by the first week of August to address it with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff. At the same time, Rudy Giuliani, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were pressing Zelensky to make a public commitment to the investigations for Trump’s political benefit. (New York Times)

2/ The Trump administration repeatedly tried to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine, according White House budget documents. In 2019, the administration tried, but failed, to cut $30 million in aid directed to Ukraine down to $13 million under a program called International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement. In the 2020 budget request, the administration again tried to cut the program’s spending on Ukraine down to $13 million. “I don’t care about politics, but I do care about corruption. And this whole thing is about corruption,” Trump told reporters earlier this month.” This whole thing — this whole thing is about corruption.” Trump, Mulvaney, and other administration officials have insisted that their goal in delaying the military aid package to Ukraine was to ensure corruption was addressed in that country — not to produce political benefit to Trump. (Washington Post)

3/ Roughly 30 House Republicans forced entry into a closed-door deposition and refused to leave the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility – a secure House Intelligence Committee space. The GOP lawmakers, who do not sit on the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry, demanded that they be allowed to see the closed-door proceedings. After five hours, the Republicans left and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper began her testimony. (Politico / CNN / Axios / Wall Street Journal)

4/ House impeachment investigators are scrutinizing a National Security Council aide suspected of operating a second Ukraine backchannel. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, testified last week that she believed Kashyap Patel was improperly getting involved in Ukraine policy by sending information about Ukraine to Trump that could warp American policy. Senior White House officials reportedly grew concerned when Patel became so involved in the issue that at one point Trump wanted to discuss the documents with him, referring to Patel as one of his top Ukraine policy specialists. Patel is assigned to work on counterterrorism issues, not Ukraine policy, and was part of the Republican effort to undermine the Russia investigation. (New York Times / Politico)

5/ A federal judge ordered the State Department to release Ukraine-related records within 30 days, including the communication records between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Giuliani. (CNN)

6/ Two of Rudy Giuliani’s associates pleaded not guilty to charges of illegally funneling foreign donations to U.S. political candidates. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman face charges of conspiring to violate the ban on foreign donations and contributions related to federal and state elections, and with making false statements and falsifying records. A defense lawyer for Parnas told the judge that some of the evidence gathered in the campaign finance investigation could be subject to executive privilege. Edward MacMahon Jr. said the potential for the White House to invoke executive privilege stemmed from the fact that Parnas had used Giuliani as his own lawyer at the same time Giuliani was working as Trump’s lawyer. (NPR / New York Times)

  • Federal prosecutors flagged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and their possible ties to a Ukrainian gas tycoon fighting extradition. Parnas had been working as an interpreter for the lawyers of Dmytro Firtash, who was charged with bribery in Chicago in 2013, since late July. At the same time, Parnas and Fruman were assisting Giuliani’s hunt for damaging information about Democrats in Ukraine. Firtash – at Parnas’s recommendation – hired Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, two conservative attorneys who frequently appear on Fox News to defend Trump. They have also served as informal advisers to Trump’s legal team, including Giuliani. (Washington Post)

7/ Trump’s lawyer argued that Trump is immune from prosecution while in office – even if he shot someone. William Consovoy, Trump’s lawyer, made the claim while arguing before a federal appeals court in their suit against Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who has subpoenaed for three years’ worth of financial records from the Trump Organization and for Trump-related business records, including his personal tax record from the accounting firm Mazars USA. Consovoy argued that while in office, Trump “enjoys absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind,” but conceded that “once a president is removed from office” he could then be subject to a criminal investigation. Judges on the three-member panel expressed skepticism about the argument, with Judge Denny Chin asking whether “nothing could be done” while Trump remains in office, to which Consovoy replied: “That is correct.” As a candidate in 2016, Trump claimed he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not “lose any voters.” (Vox / Politico / NBC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ 55% of voters support the impeachment inquiry, while 43% disapprove. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 45% of independents support impeachment, while 32% said they oppose it. (Reuters)


Notables.

  1. Russia and Turkey reached a deal to push Kurdish fighters out of northeastern Syria, allowing Russian ally Bashar al-Assad to regain control over more of the country’s territory. Under the agreement, Russia and the Syrian government will remove Kurdish militias from the border that extends from the Euphrates River to Iraq. Once completed, Turkey and Russia will control territory formerly held by Kurdish forces, who were allied with the U.S. before Trump ordered an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from the region. (Washington Post / Al Jazeera)

  2. Turkey halted its incursion into Kurdish-run Syria hours after reaching a deal with the Russian government to retake territory from the Kurds. “At this stage,” the Turkish defense ministry said in a statement, “there is no further need to conduct a new operation outside the present operation area.” The Kurds previously agreed to completely withdraw from a central stretch of the Syrian border with Turkey and allow Russian and Syrian government troops inside their area of control. (New York Times / Reuters)

  3. Trump will lift sanctions on Turkey, saying that the Turkish government promised to abide to a “permanent” cease-fire along the border with Syria. Trump called the agreement a “breakthrough” and that sanctions would be lifted “unless something happens that we’re not happy with.” (ABC News / Washington Post)

  4. Trump’s G7 and trade adviser is leaving the White House for a job in the private sector. Kelly Ann Shaw announced that she will be leaving her posts as deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council. Shaw played a key role in leading the U.S. through the G7 and G20 and was part of the team advising Trump during trade talks between the U.S. and China. “It just felt like the right time to go for me,” Shaw said. “I am ready for my next and new adventure.” Shaw will leave her post on Friday. (Reuters)

Day 1006: Direct line.

1/ The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told House impeachment investigators that Trump held up security aid and refused a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president until he agreed to investigate Tump’s political rivals. Bill Taylor said he was told that “everything” Ukraine wanted — a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and nearly $400 million in security aid — was dependent on publicly announcing an investigation into Burisma, the company that hired Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election. Taylor provided an “excruciatingly detailed” opening statement that described “how pervasive the [quid pro quo] efforts were” by Trump and his allies, which they have denied. People in the closed-door deposition described Taylor’s testimony as a “very direct line” between American foreign policy and Trump’s own political goals. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  • READ: Opening statement of Ambassador William B. Taylor (Washington Post)

2/ Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of that country by Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who reinforced Trump’s perception of Ukraine as corrupt. Trump met with Orban on May 13th – and 10 days before a key meeting on Ukraine – over the objections of his national security team, who believed that Orban – an autocratic leader who has been ostracized by many of his peers in Europe – did not deserve the honor of an Oval Office visit. Trump then met on May 23rd with Rick Perry, Kurt Volker, and Gordon Sondland, who had returned from Zelensky’s inauguration. They assured Trump that Zelensky was a reformer who deserved American support. Trump, however, claimed that Ukrainians were “terrible people” who “tried to take me down” during the 2016 presidential election. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • 📌 Day 845: Trump praised Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister Victor Orbán and called him “highly respected.” “Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that’s okay,” Trump said, because “you’ve done a good job and you’ve kept your country safe.” (Axios)

  • 📌 Day 1000: Mick Mulvaney put Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry in charge of managing the U.S.-Ukraine relationship instead of diplomats at the National Security Council and the State Department. The State Department’s Ukraine expert, George Kent, testified during a closed-door hearing before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees that Mulvaney was responsible for stripping control of the country’s relationship with Ukraine from those who had the most expertise. Kent also told lawmakers that he had been told by a supervisor to lie low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine. Current and former officials said Mulvaney met frequently with Sondland and that details of their discussions were kept from then-National Security Adviser John Bolton and other officials who were raising internal concerns about the hidden Ukraine agenda. Mulvaney was also the one who, at Trump’s direction, placed a hold on nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine leading up to Trump’s July 25 phone call to pressure Zelensky to pursue Giuliani’s agenda against the Bidens. (Washington Post / CNN)

3/ Trump compared the House impeachment inquiry to a “lynching.” Trump has previously called the investigation a “coup,” a “witch hunt” and a “fraud.” (The Guardian / NBC News / ABC News / Washington Post)

4/ Trump lectured reporters for more than 70 minutes during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, during which he made at least 20 false or misleading statements. Trump lied about the number of times Obama unsuccessfully attempted to call Kim Jong Un, crowd sizes at his rallies, his position on the Iraq War, and the ongoing impeachment. He also claimed that he was personally responsible for the capture of Islamic State soldiers, complained that people were criticizing him for receiving “emoluments” from foreign governments, and insinuated that Adam Schiff gave information to the whistleblower, who raised concerns about his administration’s actions toward Ukraine. Trump’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, later tweeted: “I hope we see honest reporting from today’s mtg.” (CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ 50% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Overall, 41% approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency while 57% disapprove. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Trump privately floated the idea of replacing Mick Mulvaney with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin or Kellyanne Conway. Trump has also tested the idea of replacing Mulvaney with Chris Liddell, a deputy chief of staff at the White House. For almost a year, Mulvaney has served as Trump’s “acting” chief of staff because Trump has withheld the permanent title from him. (Bloomberg)

  2. The Pentagon began drafting plans for an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in case Trump orders an immediate withdrawal, like he did in Syria. The contingency plan includes the possibility that Trump orders all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. (NBC News)

  3. Mitch McConnell will introduce his own resolution urging Trump to end the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Senate Republicans last week rejected a House resolution condemning Trump’s move, saying they should do something more substantial. (Politico)

  4. More than a million children disappeared from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program between December 2017 and June 2019. Some state and federal officials claim the 3% drop in enrolled children is a success story, arguing that more Americans are getting coverage from employers. State officials, however, have increased paperwork requirements. (New York Times)

  5. The White House confirmed that it will cancel its subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Trump appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity,” calling the Times “a fake newspaper” and saying that “we don’t even want it in the White House anymore.” Trump added: “We’re going to probably terminate that and the Washington Post. They’re fake.” (Politico)

  6. The anonymous senior Trump administration official behind a 2018 New York Times op-ed that declared there was a “resistance” within the administration is writing a book. The book – “A Warning” – will be published Nov. 19th and will list the author as “Anonymous.” (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News)

Day 1005: "We prefer peace to war."

1/ Mick Mulvaney – again – tried to deny his public assertion of a quid pro quo in which the Trump administration held up an aid package to Ukraine because Trump wanted an investigation that could politically benefit him. During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Mulvaney insisted that he “didn’t speak clearly maybe on Thursday” and that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo, because “the aid flowed.” Mulvaney also claimed that the administration only held up military aid to Ukraine because of the country’s corruption and because other countries weren’t giving more aid as well. On Thursday, however, Mulvaney told reporters to “Get over it,” calling quid pro quo “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney also claimed at the press conference last week that the Trump administration withheld military aid in part to secure cooperation with a Justice Department investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. (Washington Post / New York Times / Daily Beast)

  • Trump’s allies are assembling a list of possible Mulvaney replacements. Among those said to be on the list are former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and veteran political operative Wayne Berman. (Bloomberg)

  • 📌 Day 1002: Mick Mulvaney tried to walk-back his claim that Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was in exchange for an investigation of the hacked Democratic National Committee server. Trump has repeatedly claimed his decision to hold up the aid was due to concerns about corruption in Ukraine and that European nations weren’t doing enough to help Ukraine. Trump was reportedly “not happy” with Mulvaney’s press briefing, in which his acting chief of staff said “We do that all the time with foreign policy” and that every one should “Get over it,” because “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney later issued a statement, which was first reviewed by Trump, saying that “There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.” When Trump was asked to clarify Mulvaney’s statement, Trump responded: “I think he clarified it.” Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mulvaney’s comments a “confession.” (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1001: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that Trump blocked military aid to Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his political rivals. Mulvaney called the quid pro quo exchange “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney added: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney also told reporters the funds were withheld in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted Democrats in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a quid pro quo arrangement linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC)

2/ Rudy Giuliani asked the State Department and the White House to grant a visa to the former Ukrainian official who Joe Biden had pushed to have removed when he was vice president. Career diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators in his closed-door testimony that around January 2019 Giuliani requested a visa for Viktor Shokin, who had been pushed out as Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016 over concerns that he was not pursuing corruption cases. Giuliani, however, previously said he wanted to interview Shokin in person because the Ukrainian promised to reveal dirt on Democrats. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 987: Giuliani personally gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a file of documents of unproven allegations against Biden on March 28th and claimed that he was told that the State Department would take up an investigation of those claims. State Department Inspector General Steve Linick gave Congress the 79-page packet Wednesday, which included nearly 20 pages of communications between State Department employees working to push back against the “fake narrative” that Giuliani was pushing. Linick told Congress that the department’s office of legal counsel had provided the documents to him in May, which he gave to the FBI. The documents were in Trump Hotel folders and included “interview” notes Giuliani conducted with Viktor Shokin, the former General Prosecutor of Ukraine who was pushed out at the urging of Biden because he didn’t prosecute corruption. (NBC News / CNN)

3/ The Justice Department confirmed that Trump Jr. and former White House counsel Don McGahn were never called to testify in front of a grand jury as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. said it was perplexing why Trump Jr. and McGahn were never subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. “The reason is not that the individuals were insignificant to the investigation,” Judge Howell wrote, “To the contrary, both of the non-testifying individuals named in paragraph four figured in key events examined in the Mueller Report.” (Politico)

  • Instagram profiles originating in Russia since the beginning of the year have been building a network of accounts designed to look like political groups in swing states. The profiles are linked to the Internet Research Agency, the Kremlin-backed troll group indicted by the U.S. for its alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election. (CNN)

4/ Trump won’t host next year’s G7 summit at his Trump National Doral Resort after all. Instead, Trump said his administration “will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately.” Trump abandoned his plan to host the summit at his private golf club after the decision alienated Republicans and became part of the impeachment inquiry. During calls with conservative allies over the weekend, Trump was told that Republicans are struggling to defend him. (Washington Post / Associated Press / Daily Beast / NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Politico)

  • Trump claimed he’s the victim of the “phony emoluments clause,” as he defended his previous decision to host next year’s G7 summit at his Doral resort in Miami. (Politico / New York Times)

5/ Trump insisted that he’s “trying to get out of wars,” but that “we may have to get in wars, too.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, said “We prefer peace to war,” but Trump is prepared to use military force if “needed.” The confusing and conflicting statements come as Trump weighs a Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria to combat the Islamic State, and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s oil fields. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that nearly all of the troops ordered to leave northeastern Syria will move to western Iraq and conduct operations against the Islamic State extremist group from there. (Politico / CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

6/ Trump’s top two picks to fill the Homeland Security Secretary job aren’t eligible under federal law. Ken Cuccinelli, head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Mark Morgan, the lead at Customs and Border Protection are Trump’s two favorites for the job, but both men are serving on an acting basis and have not been confirmed by the Senate for a permanent role. The federal statute that governs vacancies states that acting officials in cabinet-level positions must either be next in line for a position or hold a Senate-confirmed position. (Politico / Wall Street Journal)

7/ The first House Republican expressed openness to voting to impeach Trump on Friday. On Saturday, however, Rep. Francis Rooney announced his retirement. (Politico / Washington Post)

poll/ 51% of Americans support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office – up from 47% in September before the impeachment inquiry was announced. (Public Religion Research Institute)

Day 1002: White House confessional.

1/ Mick Mulvaney tried to walk-back his claim that Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was in exchange for an investigation of the hacked Democratic National Committee server. Trump has repeatedly claimed his decision to hold up the aid was due to concerns about corruption in Ukraine and that European nations weren’t doing enough to help Ukraine. Trump was reportedly “not happy” with Mulvaney’s press briefing, in which his acting chief of staff said “We do that all the time with foreign policy” and that every one should “Get over it,” because “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney later issued a statement, which was first reviewed by Trump, saying that “There was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election.” When Trump was asked to clarify Mulvaney’s statement, Trump responded: “I think he clarified it.” Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mulvaney’s comments a “confession.” (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN)

  • 📌 Day 1001: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that Trump blocked military aid to Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his political rivals. Mulvaney called the quid pro quo exchange “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney added: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney also told reporters the funds were withheld in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted Democrats in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a quid pro quo arrangement linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC)

2/ Associates of an indicted Ukrainian oligarch tried to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for Rudy Giuliani helping the oligarch avoid extradition to the U.S. Dmitry Firtash changed lawyers in July to Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, who were supporters of Trump and associates of Giuliani. They hired Lev Parnas, also a Giuliani associate, as a translator. Parnas was arrested last week along with several associates and accused of conspiring to violate campaign finance laws. The Justice Department has described Firtash as an associate of “Russian organized crime.” (Bloomberg)

  • A career diplomat told congressional investigators he was ignored when he raised concerns in January 2015 about Hunter Biden working for a Ukrainian natural gas company that he believed could look like a conflict of interest. George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified that he had concerns that Ukrainian officials would view Hunter Biden as a conduit for currying influence with Joe Biden. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Rick Perry won’t comply with a subpoena from the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Relations committees, saying he would defer to Energy Department counsel, which said it was “unable to comply” with the subpoena for documents. (CNBC / Politico / CNN)

  • Trump will nominate Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to replace Rick Perry, who will leave at the end of the year. (Washington Post)

4/ The Trump administration imposed new tariffs on a record $7.5 billion worth of goods from the European Union, including Airbus, French wine, and Scottish whisky. The tariffs went into effect just after midnight after talks between U.S. and European trade negotiators failed to reach a deal. Civilian aircraft will now cost 10% more when imported to the U.S., while the cost of wine, olives, certain cheeses, butter, and other consumer goods will also rise. (CBS News / MarketWatch / CNBC)

  • Trump’s top economic adviser warned Trump that continued escalation of the U.S.-China trade war could hurt the economy and his chances for re-election. Trump instead the Federal Reserve should share blame for any economic downturn, and that it should be doing more to stimulate growth. (Wall Street Journal)

5/ The Kurds say Turkey is violating the ceasefire brokered by the U.S. in northeastern Syria. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said Turkish shelling and artillery fire has continued despite Pence’s announcement that he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had brokered a five-day ceasefire in the region. (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Mitch McConnell called Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria a “grave strategic mistake,” but never mentions Trump by name. (Washington Post)

6/ House Democrats are preparing a resolution to condemn Trump’s decision to select the Trump National Doral Miami for the next G7 summit, calling the selection inconsistent with the emoluments clause of the Constitution. (CNBC)

Day 1001: "Get over it."

1/ Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that Trump blocked military aid to Ukraine to force Kiev to investigate his political rivals. Mulvaney called the quid pro quo exchange “absolutely appropriate” and that “we do that all the time with foreign policy.” Mulvaney added: “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” Mulvaney also told reporters the funds were withheld in part because of a request to have Ukraine investigate unfounded allegations that foreign countries assisted Democrats in the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a quid pro quo arrangement linking his demand for an investigation that could politically benefit him to the release of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / CNBC)

  • 📌 Day 978: Trump admitted that he withheld military aid from Ukraine, but blamed it on the United Nations for not contributing more to the Eastern European nation, naming Germany and France among the countries that should “put up money.” Trump also suggested he did nothing wrong, because “As far as withholding funds, those funds were paid. They were fully paid.” Trump told reporters that in addition to Mulvaney, he also told Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hold the funds to encourage other nations to pay, but claimed, “there was no quid pro quo. There was no pressure applied, nothing.” Trump added that despite trailing the leading Democratic candidates in most polls, “I’m leading in the polls and they have no idea how to stop me. The only way they can try is through impeachment.” (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNN / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 977: Trump admitted that he discussed getting dirt on Joe Biden with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and that he is withholding the whistleblower complaint from Congress. Trump pressed Zelensky to dig up potentially damaging information against Biden during a July 25th phone call, baselessly accusing the former vice president of corruption related to his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine and whether they affected his diplomatic efforts. Trump said that “it doesn’t matter” what he discussed with Zelensky and that while the he would “love” to release a transcript of the call, “you have to be a little bit shy about doing it.” Trump’s phone call with Zelensky occurred while Ukraine was awaiting $250 million in security aid, raising the possibility Trump was attempting a quid pro quo arrangement. The phone call led to the whistleblower complaint from within the intelligence community due to a “promise” that Trump made to Ukraine. Trump eventually agreed to release the money after coming under bipartisan pressure from Congress and immediately before the existence of the whistleblower complaint was revealed. (New York Times / Washington Post / Axios / Bloomberg / CNN)

2/ The U.S. ambassador to the European Union told House impeachment investigators that Trump delegated American foreign policy on Ukraine to Rudy Giuliani. Gordon Sondland said he and other officials were “disappointed” by Trump’s directive for U.S. diplomats to work with Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine. Sondland testified that he contacted Giuliani at Trump’s direction after a May 23rd meeting at the White House and that Giuliani told him Trump wanted Ukraine’s new government to investigate both the 2016 election and a natural gas firm tied to Hunter Biden. (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / NBC News / The Guardian)

  • Sondland met privately with Ukrainian officials inside the White House, where he explicitly mentioned the Ukrainian gas company linked to Hunter Biden during negotiations over granting Ukrainian President Zelensky an audience with Trump. Sondland’s meeting just outside the Situation Room took place minutes after a larger West Wing meeting that included then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, who had been noncommittal about scheduling a meeting between Trump and Zelensky. Sondland directly contradicted Bolton during the larger meeting by telling the Ukrainians that Trump was in fact committed to meeting with Zelensky, but on the condition he open a corruption investigation. Bolton abruptly ended the meeting, but Sondland invited the Ukrainian officials to continue the conversation separately in a private room in the White House basement, where Sondland was overheard discussing Burisma Holdings and Hunter Biden. (NBC News)

  • Five more Trump administration officials are scheduled to be deposed next week as part of the impeachment inquiry: Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs, Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs at the National Security Council, Timothy Morrison, Russia adviser at the National Security Council, and Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer in Kiev. (NBC News)

3/ Rick Perry spoke with Giuliani at Trump’s direction earlier this year about Ukraine. Perry said he called Giuliani to get a better understanding of Trump’s concerns about alleged Ukrainian corruption. Perry said that while Giuliani didn’t make any explicit demands during the May call, Giuliani did blame Ukraine for the Steele dossier, claimed that Ukraine had Hillary Clinton’s email server, and accused Ukraine of helping send Paul Manafort to prison. Mulvaney confirmed that Trump asked Perry to work with Giuliani on policies related to Ukraine. (Wall Street Journal / CNN / MarketWatch)

  • Rick Perry informed Trump that he plans to resign. Perry had been expected to resign by the end of the year. (New York Times / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 993: Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to deal directly with Giuliani when setting up a May 23 meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump. Trump said that if Zelensky wanted to meet with him, they should circumvent official diplomatic channels and go strictly through Giuliani. Giuliani’s role in setting up Trump’s meeting with Zelensky was more direct than what was disclosed last week by one of the meeting’s participants in his statement to the House. (CNN)

  • 📌 Day 991: Trump blamed Energy Secretary Rick Perry for his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He told House Republicans that he made the call to Zelensky at the urging of Perry, claiming that he never wanted to make the call in the first place and that “the only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to.” Until now, Trump has repeatedly referred to his call with Zelensky as a “perfect phone call” and has insisted that he did nothing wrong. (Axios)

4/ The U.S. and Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire in Syria to allow Kurdish troops to withdraw. Trump sent Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Turkish capital to broker the deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Politico / The Guardian / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Erdogan tossed Trump’s letter in the trash. In the letter dated October 9th and sent after U.S. troops were pulled out of Syria, Trump urged Erdogan not to launch a military offensive against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, saying: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” (BBC)

  • Mitch McConnell said he wants the Senate to pass an “even stronger” resolution condemning Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria than the one that passed by the House. (CNN)

5/ Trump decided that the U.S. will host next year’s G-7 summit at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Club. The decision was announced by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who said Trump “has made it clear since he’s been here that he hasn’t profited since he’s been here.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR / Politico / CNN / Axios)

poll/ 54% of Americans support the House’s decision to open impeachment inquiry, while 44% disapprove. (Pew Research Center)

Day 1000: Meltdown.

1/ The White House is conducting its own investigation into why a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelensky was placed into a secret server for secure storage. Trump’s advisers and White House lawyers began the fact-finding review to find out why deputy White House counsel, John Eisenberg, placed the rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for the country’s most closely guarded secrets. Eisenberg has said he limited access to the transcript over concerns about leaks. It is unclear who asked for or initiated the review, though acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has encouraged it and his aids are helping with it. Some officials fear the review is intended to assign blame for the impeachment inquiry. (New York Times)

2/ Mick Mulvaney put Gordon Sondland, Kurt Volker, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry in charge of managing the U.S.-Ukraine relationship instead of diplomats at the National Security Council and the State Department. The State Department’s Ukraine expert, George Kent, testified during a closed-door hearing before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees that Mulvaney was responsible for stripping control of the country’s relationship with Ukraine from those who had the most expertise. Kent also told lawmakers that he had been told by a supervisor to lie low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine. Current and former officials said Mulvaney met frequently with Sondland and that details of their discussions were kept from then-National Security Adviser John Bolton and other officials who were raising internal concerns about the hidden Ukraine agenda. Mulvaney was also the one who, at Trump’s direction, placed a hold on nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine leading up to Trump’s July 25 phone call to pressure Zelensky to pursue Giuliani’s agenda against the Bidens. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • A former top White House foreign policy adviser told House impeachment investigators that she viewed Sondland as a national security risk because he was so unprepared for his job. Fiona Hill did not accuse Sondland of acting maliciously or intentionally putting the country at risk, but described him as and Trump donor-turned-ambassador. (New York Times)

  • Michael McKinley, who resigned as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified that he quit because career diplomats had been sidelined on Ukraine. During his closed-door deposition to the House Intelligence Committee, McKinley testified about how experts had been sidelined as Trump pursued his own agenda on Ukraine. McKinley also testified that he repeatedly asked Pompeo for a show of support for the Marie Yovanovitch after she was abruptly removed from her post following a monthslong push by Trump to get rid of her on the basis of “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.” Pompeo was silent. (New York Times / CNN)

  • House Democrats requested that Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor appear for a deposition in the investigation into Trump’s alleged misconduct involving Ukraine. (NBC News)

3/ The federal investigation into Giuliani’s business dealings with two men indicted last week on campaign finance charges in Ukraine includes a counterintelligence probe, suggesting that FBI and criminal prosecutors in Manhattan are looking at a broader set of issues. The counterintelligence probe relates to whether a foreign influence operation was trying to take advantage of Giuliani’s business ties in Ukraine and with wealthy foreigners to make inroads with the White House. New York attorney Kenneth McCallion said he was approached by federal investigators earlier this year about Giuliani’s connections to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two men indicted last week on campaign finance violation charges. McCallion said he was approached this spring about Giuliani’s business dealings again by FBI counterintelligence agents. (USA Today / CNN)

  • A Giuliani business associated was arrested and charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a recreational marijuana business. David Correia is the fourth defendant arrested in a campaign finance case involving Giuliani. The business relationship between Giuliani and Correia, Lev Parnas, and Igor Fruman is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by federal authorities in New York. (ABC News / New York 4 / Washington Post)

  • A grand jury issued a subpoena seeking documents from former Rep. Pete Sessions about his dealings with Giuliani. The subpoena seeks documents related to Giuliani’s business dealings with Ukraine, his involvement in efforts to remove the U.S. ambassador in Kiev, and any interactions between Sessions, Giuliani and the four Giuliani associates who were indicted last week on campaign finance and conspiracy accounts. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post)

  • Giuliani privately urged Trump in 2017 to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the U.S., a top priority of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Before he would go on to become Trump’s personal attorney, Giuliani repeatedly told Trump that the U.S. should eject Fethullah Gulen from the country. Gulen is a permanent U.S. resident who lives in Pennsylvania, and Turkey has demanded that the U.S. turn him over to Turkey to face charges of plotting a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan. Gulen denies any involvement in the coup attempt. (Washington Post)

4/ The House voted to condemn Trump’s withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria. The nonbinding resolution passed 354 to 60 – shortly before a bipartisan group of congressional leaders were scheduled to meet with Trump to discuss the incursion, and hours before Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were to travel to Turkey to call for a cease-fire. Trump, meanwhile, attempted to distance himself from the ongoing conflict “between Turkey and Syria” and his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region, saying that Turkey and the Kurds are fighting “over land that has nothing to do with us.” (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

  • Democratic leaders walked out of a White House meeting with Trump after he had a “meltdown” and called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “third-grade politician.” The White House called the meeting to discuss Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, which came shortly after House Democrats and Republicans voted to oppose his action and urge the administration to contain the fallout from Turkey’s incursion into Syria. (NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • Trump sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week urging him to make a deal with the Kurds, saying: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump also warned Erdogan not to “let the world down” by invading northern Syria. The letter was sent on October 9th – three days after the two had spoken by phone and the same day the Turkish incursion into Syria began. (CNN / Vox / CNBC / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Turkey dismissed a U.S. call for an immediate ceasefire in northeast Syria. (Wall Street Journal)

5/ Trump vetoed a bill that would have ended his national emergency declaration at the southern U.S. border. The veto, which was expected, sends the bill back to Congress, where it is unlikely to meet the two-thirds majority needed to override Trump’s veto. Trump vetoed a nearly identical version of the bill seven months ago. (New York Times / Reuters)

6/ The Trump administration has hired a lobbyist for every 14 political appointments made. The 281 lobbyists working in the administration is four times more than the Obama administration had six years into office. And former lobbyists serving Trump are often involved in regulating the industries they worked for. (ProPublica)

7/ Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits, and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings to make them appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the tax authorities. (ProPublica)

poll/ 52% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 46% say he should not be. (Gallup)

Day 999: An abomination.

1/ The White House’s former top Russia adviser told impeachment investigators that Rudy Giuliani ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit Trump. Fiona Hill, who served as the senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, testified for about nine hours before three House panels regarding a July 10th meeting she attended with senior Ukrainian officials, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, and other U.S. officials in which the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who was working with Giuliani, raised the issue to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, Joe Biden, and his son. Hill said she confronted Sondland about Giuliani’s actions, which were not coordinated with officials responsible for U.S. foreign policy. Hill resigned days before Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Associated Press / The Guardian / NBC News / Vox / NPR)

  • House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff indicated that the whistleblower at the heart of the impeachment inquiry might not testify over concerns about their safety. Schiff, however, said the whistleblower’s testimony might not be needed given that a rough transcript of the call with Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” is already public. (Politico)

  • House impeachment investigators questioned a senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy about his knowledge of the Ukraine scandal. George Kent was questioned behind closed doors despite being directed by the State Department not to do so. Earlier this year, Kent raised concerns to colleagues about the pressure being directed at Ukraine by Trump and Giuliani to pursue investigations into Trump’s political rivals. (New York Times)

  • A former State Department adviser who resigned last week is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the congressional committees leading the House impeachment investigation. Michael McKinley will meet with the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees conducting the impeachment inquiry into Trump. (CNN)

2/ John Bolton was so alarmed by Giuliani’s politically motivated activities to get the Ukrainians to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a “drug deal.” Hill testified that Bolton told her to report the situation to the top lawyer at the National Security Council, John Eisenberg, about the effort by Sondland, Giuliani, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on Trump’s behalf. Hill testified that she met with Eisenberg briefly on July 10th, and that she had a longer meeting with Eisenberg on July 11th. Bolton referred to Giuliani as a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” Trump fired Bolton in September. (New York Times / NBC News / Politico)

3/ The former U.S. ambassador to the European Union intends to tell Congress that Trump personally assured him that there was no quid pro quo relationship between military aid for Ukraine and Trump’s request that the Ukrainians open investigations including into Joe Biden and his son. Sondland plans to tell lawmakers he doesn’t know why U.S. military aid to Ukraine was held up, nor who ordered it, and that he has no knowledge of whether Trump was telling him the truth, and that he relied on Trump’s assurances when he told a State Department colleague that there were “no quid pro quo’s of any kind” linking U.S. security assistance to Ukrainian investigations. Sondland is scheduled to appear for a closed-door deposition today. He was originally supposed to testify October 8th, but the Trump administration initially blocked him from appearing. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Vox)

4/ Rudy Giuliani was paid $500,000 to consult for a company co-founded by the Ukrainian-American businessman arrested last week on campaign finance charges. Lev Parnas’ company – Fraud Guarantee (!) – engaged Giuliani Partners around August 2018 to consult on technologies and provide legal advice on regulatory issues. Giuliani said the money came in two payments made within weeks of each other, but that he couldn’t remember the dates. He also said most of the work he did for Fraud Guarantee was completed in 2018, but that he has been doing follow-up work for more than a year. Federal prosecutors have been “examining Giuliani’s interactions” with Parnas and Igor Fruman, who was also indicted on campaign finance charges, since at least early 2019. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are also investigating whether Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his efforts to undermine the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled on Trump’s orders in May. Giuliani also denied that he was planning to visit Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who is currently wanted on corruption charges in the U.S., during a trip to Vienna he planned last week. (Reuters / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / USA Today / NBC News / Axios / ABC News)

  • 📌 Day 995: Giuliani’s business relationship with the two men accused of running an illegal campaign finance scheme is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. The investigation by federal authorities in New York became public after Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested while attempting to flee the U.S. yesterday and named as witnesses in the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump. Parnas has also been working for the legal team of Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who’s currently facing bribery charges in the U.S. Both Parnas and Fruman had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s legal team. (ABC News / New York Times / Vanity Fair / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 994: Two men who worked with Giuliani to find damaging information about Biden and his son have been charged with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws that prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to U.S. campaigns. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are two key subjects in the House’s impeachment inquiry. They were indicted and accused of making “secret agreements” to hide the fact that they were laundering foreign money into U.S. campaigns through a range of corporate identities by using “straw donors” to make the contributions. The indictment alleges that on one occasion, they lobbied a then-sitting member of Congress at the request of “one or more Ukrainian officials.” (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Reuters / Associated Press / NBC News)

5/ Giuliani won’t comply with a congressional subpoena for documents related to the impeachment investigation. He called the impeachment inquiry an “abomination” and dared House Democrats to take him to court, saying “if they enforce it, then we will see what happens.” Giuliani’s lawyer, Jon Sale, sent a letter to Congress, saying Giuliani wouldn’t comply with the subpoena because it was “overbroad, unduly burdensome and seeks documents beyond the scope of legitimate inquiry.” Sale, however, is no longer representing Giuliani, because, according to Giuliani, it would be “silly to have a lawyer when I don’t need one.” (ABC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Daily News)

  • Trump told reporters that he doesn’t know if Giuliani is still his attorney. Trump, however, praised Giuliani, saying: “He’s a very good attorney, and he has been my attorney.” (Washington Post)

6/ Pence said he would not comply with a request from House impeachment investigators for documents related to Trump’s July 25th call with Zelensky. Pence’s lawyer accused the committees of requesting material that is “clearly not vice-presidential records.” The House investigators had asked for documents to be produced by October 15th. (New York Times / NBC News)

  • The Office of Management and Budget won’t comply with a congressional subpoena over documents about withholding military aid to Ukraine. The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees asked the budget office on October 7th to provide the documents by Tuesday. The official also indicated that acting budget director Russell Vought won’t comply with the committees’ request to testify on October 25th. (CNN / Bloomberg)

7/ Trump authorized “powerful” sanctions against Turkey for its invasion into northeast Syria and called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to implement an immediate ceasefire. The executive order also stated that the Commerce Department would suspend negotiations on an unknown trade deal worth $100 billion. (Politico / Axios / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News)

  • 📌 Day 991: Trump announced that he plans to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and allow the Turkish military to launch an attack against Kurdish militias in the area. Trump made the decision Sunday evening during a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Early Monday morning, the 50–100 special forces troops currently operating in northeastern Syria received an urgent, unexpected alert ordering them to pull back from their posts in preparation for “departing the field.” The move surprised not just U.S. Kurdish partners in the fight against ISIS in northeastern Syria, but also senior officials at the Pentagon, State Department, and White House, as well as U.S. lawmakers from both parties. U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe were also unaware of Trump’s decision until after he agreed to pull the troops out during his call with Erdogan. On Twitter, Trump warned Turkey not to do “anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits,” during any military incursion against the Kurds or he will “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).” (New York Times / NBC News / USA Today / Associated Press / NPR / CBS News / The Independent)

8/ Trump faces bipartisan criticism for his decision to order a withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria. Lawmakers in both chambers plan to put forward a joint resolution urging Trump to undo his decision and “to do everything he can to protect the Kurds, to do everything that we must do to prevent ISIS terrorists from escaping, and make sure that Turkey respects existing agreements related to Syria and with the United States.” (Washington Post)

  • Trump defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, saying he’d rather “let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land.” Trump added: “I hope they all do great.” Officials said Trump was “doubling down” and “undeterred” despite pushback from congressional Republicans. (Washington Post / Axios)

  • More:

  • Behind the scenes of the Trump bluff that kicked off Turkey’s invasion. (Axios

  • U.S. Forces Leave ‘High Value’ ISIS Detainees Behind in Retreat From Syria (New York Times)

  • Syrian troops enter towns in northeast as Erdogan warns of wider offensive. (Washington Post)

  • Military leader of Syrian Kurds tells US ‘you are leaving us to be slaughtered’ (CNN)

  • Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling ‘Ashamed,’ and Kurdish Allies Describing ‘Betrayal’ (New York Times)

  • Russia patrolling between Turkish and Syrian forces after U.S. troops withdraw. (Washington Post)

poll/ 46% of voters say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 48% say he should not be impeached and removed. 51% call the impeachment inquiry a legitimate investigation, while 43% call it a political witch hunt. 59% disapprove of the way Trump is responding to the inquiry, while 32% approve of the way he’s responding. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ The majority of likely Democratic primary voters in early voting states believe that Trump should be impeached and put in jail. 53% of respondents in Iowa, 50% in New Hampshire, and 54% in South Carolina agreed with the statement: “Some members of Congress have stated that President Trump should not only be impeached, but also imprisoned.” (Axios)


Notables.

  1. Trump – again – repeated his assertion that because he is president, he cannot be investigated by any prosecutor. Trump’s personal attorneys made the argument in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York, seeking to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of a suit Trump filed in an effort to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. from obtaining his tax returns. (Washington Post

  2. Trump wanted to release his taxes in 2013 as part of a presidential bid to show how smart he was for paying so little in taxes. Trump, however, changed his mind after an adviser convinced him not to release his taxes. Since then, Trump has spent years claiming he can’t release them because he’s under audit by the IRS. (CNN)

  3. Deutsche Bank told a federal appeals court that it does not have Trump’s personal tax returns. Trump sued the bank to block it from complying with congressional committees subpoenas for his financial records, his companies, and his family. For nearly two decades, the German bank was the only mainstream financial institution consistently willing to lend to Trump. (New York Times)

  4. Attorney General William Barr privately met with Rupert Murdoch days before Shepard Smith abruptly left Fox News. Smith’s departure followed attacks by Trump on Twitter in recent weeks and months. (New York Times / Politico)

  5. China wants to continue negotiating the details of Trump’s “phase one” trade deal before Xi Jinping will agree to sign it. China also wants Trump to cancel a planned tariff hike in December, as well as a scheduled hike for this week. (Bloomberg)

  6. A fake video depicting Trump shooting, stabbing, and assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents was played at a conference for his supporters at Trump National Doral Miami. The organizer of the event said that the video was part of a “meme exhibit.” (New York Times)

  7. The acting secretary of homeland security resigned. Kevin McAleenan – who spent his six-month tenure after Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in April trying to curb asylum seekers at the southwestern border – is the fourth person to serve in that post since the Trump presidency began. Trump said McAleenan resigned so he can “spend more time with his family and go to the private sector.” McAleenan complained last week about the “tone, the message, the public face and approach” of Trump’s immigration policy. Trump said he plans to name a new acting DHS secretary this week. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / Bloomberg / NBC News / PBS)

  1. The Trump administration proposed allowing logging on more than half of the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America. Trump instructed federal officials to reverse long-standing limits on tree cutting in Alaska’s 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest on the grounds that it would boost the local economy. About 40% of wild salmon along the West Coast spawn in the Tongass. (Washington Post)

  2. Manufacturing output in the U.S. shrank over two consecutive quarters, slipping into a recession. Numbers from the Federal Reserve match up with a separate index drawn from purchasing managers, which shows September’s contraction in manufacturing was the steepest since June 2009, with production, inventories, and new orders all falling. Manufacturing employment has also stalled after adding nearly half a million jobs during the previous two years. Layoff announcements have also surged this year, especially in battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, and Friday’s jobs report showed a slight drop in total factory jobs. (Los Angeles Times)

  3. Ronan Farrow claims in his forthcoming book that American Media, Inc. and the National Enquirer shredded sensitive Trump-related documents held in a top-secret safe right before Trump was elected in 2016. The book claims then-Editor-in-Chief of the National Enquirer Dylan Howard ordered a staff member to “get everything out of the safe” and said “we need to get a shredder down there.” The order came the same day a reporter from the Wall Street Journal asked for a comment for a story about how AMI paid $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep her story about having an affair with Trump quiet before the election. (Politico)

  4. Trump has made 13,435 false or misleading claims over 993 days. Check the WTFJHT archive for all of them. (Washington Post)

Day 995: "Repugnant to the American Dream."

1/ Trump lost his appeal to stop a House subpoena requiring him to turn over his tax documents to investigators. The 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. upheld a lower court ruling that required Trump’s longtime accountant Mazars USA to turn over eight years of Trump’s personal tax returns. The judges ruled that the courts “lack the power to invalidate a duly authorized congressional subpoena merely because it might have been ‘better [if]…the full House’ had specifically authorized or issued it.” Courts, the ruling continues, don’t get a say in how each chamber conducts itself unless Congress “adopts a rule that offends the Constitution.” The case is the first major dispute between Trump and the House to have reached the appeals court level – one level below the Supreme Court. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / Politico / BuzzFeed News / CNN / CNBC / Axios / Bloomberg)

2/ A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing the “public charge” rule, which would’ve made it easier to reject green card and visa applications from immigrants whom the government determines are or might become a financial “burden” on U.S. taxpayers. U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels in Manhattan issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the rule days before it was set to take effect on Oct. 15. Daniels said the government failed to explain why it was changing the definition of a “public charge” or why the change was needed. Daniels said the rule is “simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification,” calling it “repugnant to the American Dream.” (New York Times / The Hill / NPR / CBS News)

3/ A federal judge ruled that Trump’s national emergency declaration to fund construction of his border wall is unlawful. U.S. District Court Judge David Briones in Texas agreed with the complainants, who argued that the declaration doesn’t qualify as an “emergency” under the definition in the National Emergencies Act. They also argued that Trump overstepped his authority by issuing the declaration in order to gain access to additional funding for the wall from the military, even though his administration already received $1.375 billion in funding from Congress. Briones asked complainants to propose the scope for a preliminary injunction against the declaration. (CNN / New York Post / The Hill)

4/ Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that Trump personally pressured the State Department to have her ousted from her position. Yovanovitch defied Trump’s ban on cooperating with the House impeachment inquiry and spoke to Congress during a closed-door deposition. She said she was “abruptly” recalled in May and told the president had lost confidence in her. Yovanovitch said she’d done nothing to deserve her dismissal and that she was confused when Trump “chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” referring to Giuliani and a group of former Ukrainian officials who saw her as a political and financial threat to their interests. (Associated Press / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • More whistleblowers have come forward to speak with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Two congressional sources say these new whistleblowers were emboldened by the actions of the original intelligence community whistleblower who raised concerns about Trump’s dealings regarding Ukraine. Congressional investigators are currently vetting the new whistleblowers’ credibility. No information is currently available about the departments or areas of government from which these new whistleblowers originated or what they’ve said. (Daily Beast)

  • At least four national security officials raised alarms about Ukraine policy before and after Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood. (Washington Post)

  • The White House accidentally sent Democrats a list of talking points related to Yovanovitch’s deposition, the second time in a month that Trump administration officials have accidentally sent Ukraine-related talking points to Democrats. (The Hill / The Week)

5/ Giuliani’s business relationship with the two men accused of running an illegal campaign finance scheme is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. The investigation by federal authorities in New York became public after Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested while attempting to flee the U.S. yesterday and named as witnesses in the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump. Parnas has also been working for the legal team of Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who’s currently facing bribery charges in the U.S. Both Parnas and Fruman had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s legal team. (ABC News / New York Times / Vanity Fair / Reuters)

  • 📌 Day 994: Two men who worked with Giuliani to find damaging information about Biden and his son have been charged with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws that prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to U.S. campaigns. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are two key subjects in the House’s impeachment inquiry. They were indicted and accused of making “secret agreements” to hide the fact that they were laundering foreign money into U.S. campaigns through a range of corporate identities by using “straw donors” to make the contributions. The indictment alleges that on one occasion, they lobbied a then-sitting member of Congress at the request of “one or more Ukrainian officials.” (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Reuters / Associated Press / NBC News)

6/ Turkey accidentally attacked a contingent of U.S. Special Forces in northern Syria during its ongoing bombing campaign against U.S.-allied Kurdish militias in the region. U.S. troops operating in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani were bombarded by Turkish artillery fire. The Turkish Defense Ministry denied that its military intentionally targeted U.S. forces. A senior Pentagon official later confirmed the incident, saying Turkish forces should have precise knowledge of American positions. No injuries have been reported. (Newsweek / Washington Post / Yahoo! News)

7/ Trump is sending thousands of U.S. troops to protect Saudi Arabia’s oil fields days after withdrawing U.S. troops and allowing Turkey to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish forces. The U.S., European, and Saudi Arabian governments blame Iran for a September attack on Saudi oil facilities, but Tehran insists they had nothing to do with it. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the deployment of 3,000 service members, two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot Missile batteries, and one THAD missile defense system to protect the facilities. While plans for the deployment were first announced in Sept. shortly after the attack, they included “modest” reinforcements rather than the “thousands” announced today. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump’s former top aide on Russia and Europe will give testimony about Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland next week. Fiona Hill will testify about how Giuliani and Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and standard White House protocols in order to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine. The Trump administration is expected to attempt to prevent her from testifying, a key test for whether congressional committees pursuing an impeachment inquiry can obtain testimony from other former officials who have left the administration. (NBC News)

  2. A senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo resigned amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over Pompeo’s failure to support personnel who have become ensnared in the Ukraine controversy. McKinley was closely involved in the Trump administration’s policy on Venezuela, Mexico, Southeast Asia, and Afghanistan. (Washington Post)

  3. Shepard Smith announced that he is stepping down as lead news anchor and leaving Fox News. Smith seems to have signed a non-compete agreement. “Under our agreement, I won’t be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near feature,” he said. (CNN Business / New York Times)

  4. Trump said the U.S. has come to a “very substantial phase one deal” with China. “Phase two will start almost immediately” after the first phase is signed, Trump said while standing alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval Office. (CNBC)

Day 994: "Oh well, I’m president!"

1/ Two men who worked with Giuliani to find damaging information about Biden and his son have been charged with conspiring to violate campaign finance laws that prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to U.S. campaigns. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are two key subjects in the House’s impeachment inquiry. They were indicted and accused of making “secret agreements” to hide the fact that they were laundering foreign money into U.S. campaigns through a range of corporate identities by using “straw donors” to make the contributions. Parnas and Fruman allegedly used the agreements to hide their scheme from candidates and federal regulators. The indictment alleges that on one occasion, they lobbied a then-sitting member of Congress at the request of “one or more Ukrainian officials.” (BuzzFeed News / Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Reuters / Associated Press / NBC News)

  • Parnas and Fruman spent lavishly as they dug for dirt on Biden. BuzzFeed News obtained unprecedented access to scores of bank records from private business accounts controlled by Lev Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman as they carried out a campaign now at the center of the first presidential impeachment inquiry in a generation. (BuzzFeed News)

2/ Trump and Giuliani pressured then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting in 2017 to persuade the DOJ to drop a criminal case against one of Giuliani’s clients. The client was an Iranian-Turkish gold trader named Reza Zarrab, who was facing federal prosecution in New York on charges of evading U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. Zarrab also had ties to top Turkish government officials. Tillerson refused to help Trump and Giuliani make the case go away, arguing that doing so would be illegal and constitute interference in an ongoing investigation. Tillerson told then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about the incident during a conversation in the hallway after the meeting ended, emphasizing that following through with Trump’s request would be a crime. “Suppose I did talk to Trump about it,” Giuliani said after initially denying that he ever raised Zarrab’s case with Trump. “So what?” Giuliani was not Trump’s personal lawyer at the time Trump made the request. (Bloomberg / CNN / Esquire / Vanity Fair)

  • Lindsey Graham fell for a prank phone call in August from Russian pranksters posing as the Turkish defense minister. Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov are Russian comedians with suspected ties to Kremlin intelligence services who go by the stage names “Lexus and Vovan.” During the call, Graham labeled the Kurds a “threat” to Turkey, contradicting public statements he’s made in the wake of Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish strongholds in northeastern Syria. Graham also mentioned Trump’s personal interest in a “Turkish bank case” during the call, an apparent reference to the DOJ’s case against Giuliani’s client Reza Zarrab. (Politico)

3/ Trump gave a politically appointed official the authority to withhold nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine after career staff at the Office of Management and Budget questioned the legality of delaying the funds. Trump shifted the authority over the funds to Michael Duffey, who serves as associate director of national security programs at OMB. The aid in question is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry, and it was put on hold just days before the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky. Duffey was also allowed to oversee the apportionment of funds for other foreign aid and defense accounts. “It is absurd to suggest,” said an OMB spokesperson in a statement, “that the president and his administration officials should not play a leadership role in ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent.” (Wall Street Journal)

  • Zelensky said for the first time that Ukraine will “happily” investigate the conspiracy theory pushed by Trump that it was Ukrainians, not Russians, who interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He also encouraged U.S. and Ukrainian prosecutors to discuss investigating Biden’s son, despite the lack of any evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Biden or his son. (ABC News / Associated Press)

4/ Rick Perry was subpoenaed by the House as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump. The three House committees conducting the inquiry gave Perry until Oct. 18 to turn over “key documents” related to Trump’s Ukraine dealings. The committees want him to turn over a series of documents related to Perry’s knowledge of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, which Perry reportedly encouraged Trump to make. The House also wants to know whether Perry tried to press the Ukrainian government to make changes to the advisory board of its state-owned oil and gas company Naftogaz. (The Guardian / Fox News / Politico / Washington Post)

5/ Trump said he “does not endorse” Turkey’s military offensive in Syria, despite giving Turkey the green light to launch the attack and withdrawing U.S. forces from the region. Trump released a statem