LET’S STEP BACK FOR ONE SECOND AND TAKE STOCK OF WHERE WE ARE…
– IMPEACHMENT HASN’T WON ANY CONVERTS…Despite hours and hours of testimony, reams of coverage and enough background briefings to make your eyes bleed, nobody is changing any votes here. At least not on Capitol Hill, where both sides are dug in and digging deeper.
TOP HOUSE REPUBLICAN OFFICIALStold us Tuesday that not a single Republican is currently at risk of turning againstPresidentDONALD TRUMP.Again, may we repeat: As of right now, every single Republican would vote against impeachment in the House, multiple senior-level GOP lawmakers and aides told us. Internally, in the House GOP, there is exceeding confidence either thatTRUMPdidn’t do anything wrong, or that if he did, it’s not impeachable. (Although no one can say the latter, lest they risk ire from the president.) No endangered lawmakers are jittery, no retiring lawmakers are at risk of crossing over, and no one from the rank and file is, either. This is according to multiple people who are tracking public statements and private sentiments.
– HOUSE DEMOCRATShave long come to the conclusion that their Republican colleagues are not operating on the level, and believe the GOP’s sole goal is complete and total defense ofTRUMP.They find themselves having to blast through what they see as sideshows, misdirection and a smear campaign to keep the narrative they have worked to build. And, despite what SpeakerNANCY PELOSIsays publicly, every single Democrat we speak to is completely certain that they will impeachTRUMP.No more facts are needed, they say.
– BUT… THE HEARINGS HAVE BEEN A SLOG –important, but a slog. The hours upon hours of testimony have unearthed compelling evidence for Democrats, even if it’s not in the 30 – second bites that our contemporary politics demand. Democrats have been forced to compress the entire impeachment process into a few months, which makes for a dizzying amount of testimony in a short period of time.
EVEN SO,Democrats are methodically building a case, piling up evidence that will eventually be tested in the Judiciary Committee, where the articles of impeachment will come together. Sure, the hearings have proven dense, long and at times confusing – even for those who are steeped in the subject matter. But, even in a Washington that’s been chewed up and spit out byTRUMP,the hearings are a throwback, of sorts, to yesteryear. They have mostly gone off without a hitch. There’s been no storming the doors, no massive waves of interruption. Just hours of Democrats trying to prove their argument, and equal time of Republicans trying to dismantle those same points.
– STILL,the process has its challenges. Viewers might tune in and see both sides hearing whatever they want to hear in each testimony. For example, eitherLt. Col.ALEXANDER VINDMANwas a heroic war veteran who called out irregular behavior when he heard it. Or he was an attention-hungry résumé inflator who hatedTRUMPand undermined his policies.
SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT AND POTENTIALLY IMPACTFUL MOMENTShave come at the least opportune times. House Intel ChairmanADAM SCHIFF’S(D-Calif.) Closing Tuesday – which came late in the evening – was incredibly powerful. He made the case that Republicans haven’t defended the president’s behavior – mostly true – but, instead, have sought to out the people who ratted on him.SCHIFF:“That’s [Republicans’] objection. Not that the president engaged in this conduct, but that he got caught. Their defense is: Well, he ended up releasing the aid. Yes, after he got caught. That doesn’t make this any less odious. ”Clip, via ABC
ALL THIS SAID,so much comes down to today, whenGORDON SONDLAND,the ambassador to the EU, comes to the Capitol to testify. Theoretically, he should be a great witness for Democrats: He’s the man who, in their telling, was leading the effort to get Ukraine to commit to investigating the Bidens in exchange for aid and a visit with Trump.
HERE IS THE REPUBLICAN GAME PLAN TO DISCREDIT SONDLAND:The GOP will try to paint Sondland as a political hack who was carrying out what he thoughtTRUMPwanted, but not what the president told him directly.RUDY GIULIANI,Republicans will try to say, was making most of the orders, and maybe Trump was asking about them, but he was not directly giving them. Sondland’s testimony is full of holes; it’s already been corrected and questioned by other witnesses.REPUBLICANSfeel that if they can inject enough doubt about Sondland’s credibility, they can undermine some of the larger arguments about the substance. Republicans – especially in the White House – are exceedingly uncomfortable with Sondland, and unsure what he will say.
DEMOCRATS,of course, have a different game plan. That is to show that Sondland was, in fact, the agentTRUMPwas using to carry out his “shadow foreign policy.” He spoke to the president – there are witnesses to that. But it’s by no means clear how forthcoming he’ll be about those encounters, let alone whether he’ll make a compelling witness in general. (h / ts John Bresnahan, Kyle Cheney and Heather Caygle, who, as always, helped sharpen this top)
KYLE CHENEYbrings it all together on Sondland: “There’s a Gordon Sondland-sized gap in the House’s impeachment inquiry.
“The unconventional ambassador to the European Union– deployed by President Donald Trump to help squeeze Ukraine to investigate his political adversaries – has been the omnipresent shadow behind the series of witnesses who have testified publicly so far.
“In fact, across nearly 12 hours of testimony on Tuesday by four witnesses– in turns exhausting, exhilarating and excruciating – Democrats and Republicans really succeeded only in underscoring the growing set of unknowns that can be resolved by Sondland on Wednes
“He’s the inexplicable actor who confounded career diplomatsand seemed to push an agenda that wasn’t shared by the officials actually carrying out US foreign policy – but often seemed aligned with Trump’s own private views on Ukraine. He’s the force behind many of the moments that led more practiced foreign policy hands like Fiona Hill to alert national security lawyers. ”POLITICO
– QUOTE OF THE DAY,from a Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) Who clearly thinks Sondland is going to struggle for Democrats, via WaPo’s Aaron Davis and Rachael Bade: “‘ The impeachment effort comes down to one guy, Ambassador Sondland, ’said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Who like many Republicans has argued that only a first-person account of Trump leveraging U.S. power for personal gain could give Democrats grounds to impeach. ‘All the other testimony has a Sondland core to it and a Sondland connection.’ ‘WaPo
Good Wednesday morning.
WRAPPING UP TUESDAY IN TWO PARAGRAPHS,by NYT’s Nick Fandos and Mike Shear on A1: “Two White House national security officials testified before the House’s impeachment inquiry on Tuesday that President Trump’s request to Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic rivals was inappropriate, and one of them said it validated his ‘worst fear’ that American policy toward that country would veer off course.
“Hours later, two more witnesses – another former White Housenational security official and a former top American diplomat – charted a more careful course but said under oath that the president’s requests on a July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine were not in line with American national security goals. ”NYT
–NYT’S PETER BAKERon the White House dogging its own current staffers.
– WAPO: “Judge intends to rule by Monday on House subpoena to Donald McGahn,”by Spencer Hsu: “A federal judge said she intends to rule no later than the end of the day Monday on whether former White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify under subpoena to Congress, after the House Judiciary Committee asked her to accelerate a decision because it aims to call him after the current round of public impeachment hearings finish in December.
“US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington entered an orderTuesday about her deadline intent ‘absent unforeseen circumstances’ shortly after a filing from House General Counsel Douglas N. Letter arguing last week’s opening of the hearings before the House Intelligence Committee was grounds for urgency. ”WaPo
THEY’LL DO ANYTHING FOR TRUMP, BUT THEY WON’T DO THAT… MEL ZANONA:“Republicans reject Trump’s attacks on impeachment witnesses”:“While Republicans have shown zero signs of breaking with President Donald Trump when it comes to impeachment itself, GOP lawmakers are also making it clear they’re unwilling to fully embrace Trump’s scorched-earth defense tactics, which have centered – at least in part – on tearing down his critics, sometimes against the advice of his own allies and advisers. ”
– “Chris Murphy offers House investigators own account of Ukraine visit,”by Marianne LeVine: “Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter Tuesday night to House investigators offering his own analysis of his September visit to Ukraine.
“Murphy’s letter comes one day after Sen. Ron Johnson(R-Wis.) Sent a letter to House Republicans that recounted the same September visit and questioned the credibility of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine specialist with the National Security Council. ”POLITICO
STILL?!?!? … L.A. TIMES:“$ 35 million in Pentagon aid hasn’t reached Ukraine, despite White House assurances, ”by Molly O’Toole and Sarah Wire:“ [T] he defense funding for Ukraine remains in US accounts, according to the document. It’s not clear why the money hasn’t been released, and members of Congress are demanding answers. ”
STEPPING BACK INTO WHAT SEEMS LIKE ANOTHER CENTURY… “Boehner returns to Capitol transformed from heated partisanship to cauldron of constitutional standoff,”by WaPo’s Paul Kane: “Boehner, who turned 70 Sunday, returned on Tuesday to a very different Capitol, one that had transformed from the heated partisan battles during his nearly five years as speaker into a complete cauldron caught in a constitutional standoff. ” (WaPo)
DAILY RUDY – “Federal prosecutors to interview Ukrainian gas executive as part of probe into Giuliani and his associates,”by WaPo’s Tom Hamburger and Ros Helderman: “Federal prosecutors scrutinizing President Trump ‘ s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and two of his associates are to question a top executive of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company Thursday about his encounters with those associates as the pair pursued energy deals in Ukraine this year.
“The executive of the Ukrainian company, Andrew Favorov,an American citizen, agreed to meet with prosecutors for the Southern District of New York who had asked to speak with him about his experiences with the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. ”WaPo
2020 WATCH… DEBATE NIGHT EDITION…
NEW… POLITICO’S 2020 ELECTION FORECAST:“Introducing POLITICO’s 2020 Election Forecast: ratings for every national contest, from all 538 votes in the Electoral College, down to the 435 House districts – and everything in between. ”
– “’Everyone’s going to come for Pete’: Buttigieg faces debate spotlight,”by Elena Schneider in Atlanta: “Pete Buttigieg will take the stage at Wednesday’s debate as a serious threat to the top Democratic presidential candidates for the first time. And that makes the debate a serious threat for him.
“The South Bend, Ind., mayor, is riding his best poll numbersyet in Iowa and New Hampshire – running in a tight pack with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in many polls and even pulling into 10 – point leads in recent surveys from The Des Moines Register and St. Anselm College.
“But that surge in the early states comes) with the glare of additional scrutiny, including on his struggles appealing to African American voters in other states, and the growing likelihood of attacks from Democratic opponents eager to blunt Buttigieg’s rise and regain momentum of their own. ” (POLITICO…)NYT: “Next Democratic Debate: Top Four vs. Everyone Else ”
JOHN HARRIS COLUMN: “The question for Democrats: Why do you suck?”:“’Now,’ says the moderator, turning to the camera, ‘we’d like to turn this portion of the debate over to the people who matter most – that’s you, our audience.
“’We have a question via Facebook from a viewer who livesin Washington, DC, and says he’s really struggling. His kids go to Sidwell, which is, like, you know, not cheap. He served in the last two Democratic administrations and now is a self-employed consultant. He’s got a bunch of clients – mostly corporate, a little foreign, nothing too sleazy – for 10 grand each a month. It’s okay but dull and he’s desperate to return to government once Democrats are back in power.
“ ‘His question – for all the candidates please – is: “Why do you suck so badly?”’It’s possible, of course, that the candidates will refuse to accept the premise. After all, an NBC / Wall Street Journal poll last month showed 85 percent of Democrats actually are very or somewhat satisfied with the candidate field.
“Make no mistake, however, this imaginary debate questioneris not really a figment of imagination. More like a composite of real people in the Washington political class who generate skeptical static in phone calls and emails and lunches with other operatives and with journalists who write stories like this one. ”POLITICO
– NEW: CHRISTINA FREUNDLICHis joining Amy Klobuchar’s 2020 campaign as deputy director of early states. Freundlich served as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Iowa general election communications director and in 2014 as Iowa Democratic Party communications director.
TRUMP’S WEDNESDAY –The president will leave the White House at 10: 45 am en route to Austin, Texas. He will arrive at Flextronics International at 2: 05 pm Central time and will take a tour of the Apple manufacturing plant at 2: 20 PM Afterward, he will return to Washington.
NYT’S ANNIE KARNIandMAGGIE HABERMAN: “After Keeping a Careful Distance From Trump, Nikki Haley Is All In”:“Ms. Haley remains close with the president’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, and they warned her to be more careful talking about Mr. Trump, according to two people familiar with the conversation. A spokeswoman for Ms. Haley said she never received such a warning. ”NYT
UH OH… WSJ:“Stalled US-China Trade Talks Raise Threat of Another Impasse.”by William Mauldin and Josh Zumbrun
WAPO’S JOSH ROGINin Bangkok:“Esper: ‘We’re not the ones looking for a Cold War’ with China” :“In an interview, [Defense Secretary Mark] Esper told me that the region is waking up to Beijing’s use of its rising power and influence to bully smaller countries and abuse the international system – contrary to the Chinese government protestations that it aims for a ‘peaceful rise.’
“’When we talk about the rules-based order,they clearly want to change the rules of the game, to favor them. They don’t like what was set up in the aftermath of World War II, ’Esper said. ‘They are either trying to manipulate the rules-based order or use it against us and other countries to advance their own agenda.’ ”WaPo
UP IN SMOKE… “House panel approves sweeping vaping ban as Trump effort stalls,”by Sarah Owermohle: “A House panel on Tuesday advanced a sweeping ban on flavored tobacco – including vaping products – as Democrats condemned President Donald Trump’s decision to stall his plans for muscular restrictions amid lobbying from political allies and the vape industry.
“The bill approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committeeis far more aggressive than the ban Trump proposed two months ago to combat surging public health crises tied to vaping. The Democrats’ measure, approved on a 28 – 24 vote mostly along party lines, would ban all flavored tobacco products, raise the purchasing age to 21 nationwide, and ban online sales in a bid to curb teen tobacco use, particularly of vaping products.
“The legislation has gained momentumin the House as federal research showed teen vaping rates continuing to soar and as a vaping-linked lung disease swept across the country. Democrats also said the bill took on new importance in light of Trump’s refusal to move forward on the flavor ban he promised in September. That proposal is now in limbo as he reportedly weighs whether it would damage his election prospects. ”POLITICO
YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN… NPR:“US Arrests Money-Laundering Expert For Laundering Money ”
IMPEACHMENT COUNTER-PROGRAMMING –Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.) Will be honored with the 2019 Javits Prize for Bipartisan Leadership at 9 am today in the Capitol for their work on criminal justice reform. The late Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) Will also be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
MEDIAWATCH – BUZZFEED’S BEN SMITHon the quiet succession drama on Eighth Avenue:“What’s Really Happening At The New York Times”:“[Q] uestions about the future are playing out in the beginnings of an intense but decorous (that is, Timesian) campaign to replace Executive Editor Dean Baquet, whose retirement, per Times tradition, is due before his 66 th birthday, in September 2022. Baquet laid out some of the pressures in a recent interview with the Guardian: Young staffers who ‘want a more political New York Times than I’m willing to give them’ and empowered subscribers who are paying for the paper to ‘take a full- bodied side ‘against Donald Trump – and whose interest might depend on that.
“The decision whether to accommodate those pressures, or to resist them,is ultimately up to the publisher, AG Sulzberger. And the campaign for the top job is expressed, right now, primarily by the three leading candidates leading their sections in slightly different directions. …
“If you talk to people inside the building,the three main candidates… are three white men in their early- to mid-fifties who run major chunks of the publication: Joe Kahn, James Bennet, and Cliff Levy. They are classic Timesmen of their generation: East Coast – bred (Boston, Washington, New York), Ivy League – educated (Harvard, Yale, Princeton), star reporters and bureau chiefs (Beijing, Jerusalem, Moscow), whose ambition nobody doubts . ”BuzzFeed
–The Texas Tribune’sEmily RamshawandAmanda Zamoraare stepping down as editor-in-chief and chief audience officer to “to build a new national nonprofit news organization aimed at giving women – all women – the facts, tools and information they need to be equal participants in democracy and civic life.”Thread announcing their departure
– TRONC’D –“Tribune Publishing’s largest shareholder, Michael Ferro, sells 25% stake to hedge fund Alden Capital, ”by Chicago Tribune’s Robert Channick
– “Sarah Isgur joins conservative media startup as staff writer , ”by Daniel Lippman:“ Sarah Isgur, who served as top spokesperson for the Justice Department for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is joining the new conservative media company The Dispatch as a staff writer . … She will remain a CNN analyst. ”POLITICO
– “1A Host Joshua Johnson Is Leaving For MSNBC, ”by DCist’s Mikaela Lefrak:“ Joshua Johnson said Tuesday he would step down as host of WAMU and NPR’s national radio show 1A to join MSNBC as an anchor early next year. … His last time in the host chair will be on Dec. 20. ”DCist
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SPOTTED:Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) At Slipstream in Navy Yard.Pic
SPOTTEDat an advance screening of “Dark Waters” at the Motion Picture Association of America on Tuesday night: Mark Ruffalo, Rob Bilott, Gillian White, Jane Fonda, Marty Baron, Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) And Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Mark Favors, Urmila Venugopalan, Heidi Przybyla, Janice Page and Ann Hornaday.
SPOTTEDat an advance screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” at Sony Pictures Entertainment’s new DC federal affairs office Tuesday night: Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) And Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) And Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Pat Conroy, Lamar Smith, Cameron Normand, Keith Weaver, Terri McCullough, Sally Quinn, Heather Podesta, Rita Braver and Bob Barnett, Todd Dupler, Chris Crawford, Craig Roberts and Lauren Moore.
TRANSITION – Andrea Haileyis now acting CEO of Vote.org. She previously was founder and CEO of Civic Engagement Fund and was a longtime Vote.org board member.
ENGAGED – Colin Hart,VP of crisis and issues management at Fleishman Hillard, andRebecca Stevens,a first grade teacher at Brooklyn Arbor Elementary School, got engaged at their apartment in Brooklyn on Sunday. They celebrated at Have & Meyer in Williamsburg with risotto and champagne.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD – Sunlen Serfaty,a CNN congressional correspondent, andAlexis Serfaty,director of global public policy at Access Partnership, welcomed Exton Rhodes Serfaty on Monday night. He came in at 9 lbs, 1 oz, and 21 inches, and joins big sister Roosevelt.Pic…Another pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Cecelia Prewett,managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, a Hill and FTC alum and an ethics professor.A trend she thinks doesn’t get enough attention:“Aside from California, the U.S. is woefully behind on privacy. I work in crisis and litigation communications, and many of the problems we deal with stem from this issue. ”Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS:Joe Biden is 77… John Bolton , who just rejoined United Against Nuclear Iran, is 71… Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) Is 6-0… Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) Is 4-0 (h / t Randy White)… Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour… Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and an analyst for National Journal and NBC , is 66… Beth Foster (h / ts Teresa Vilmain)… POLITICO’s Sushant Sagar, Ian Kullgren, Dan Goldberg, Jing Sun, Mayo Rives and Jack Koppa… Ian Levin… Phil Ewing, national security editor at NPR… Jay Lefkowitz is 57… Ron Suskind is 6-0… CNN producer Ryan Struyk… Jayne Sandman, co-founder and co-CEO at the Brand Guild… Julie Hyman, Yahoo Finance anchor, is 43… Parita Shah (h / ts Ben Chang)… Shawn Hils… Devorah Adl er… Brand USA’s Peter Dodge…
… Robert Edmonson,COS of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional office, is 35… Beverly Hallberg, president of District Media Group… Emma Farnè… Aaron Harison of The Washington Free Beacon … Carlton Owen… Boyd Bailey… Brian Reisinger, president and CEO of Platform Communications and founder and president of Hilltop Strategies, is 35… Cassie Gerhardstein, staff assistant to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell … Emily Matthews, associate at SCRB Strategies … Courtney Corbisiero, national digital organizing director for the Biden campaign… National Geographic’s Jeff Amster … John Darnton … Ciara Torres-Spelliscy… Nikki Buffa Marutsos , counsel at Latham & Watkins… Alex Navarro-McKay, managing director at BerlinRosen … Edelman’s Alexis Weiss… New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro