I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, December 4, 2019. 61 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 335 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Impeachment report accuses Trump of abusing office
The Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday voted to approve a sweeping, 300-page impeachment report accusing President Donald Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals.
"President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection," the report said.
In the document, House Democrats cited testimony and materials from more than two dozen current and former Trump administration officials to describe the "scheme" allegedly carried out by the president: conditioning a White House meeting and U.S. military aid on a public announcement by Zelensky of investigations into the 2016 election and Trump's potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
"The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage," the report concluded. "In doing so, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security."
The report also detailed the Trump administration's lack of cooperation with the impeachment inquiry, accusing the president of leading "an unprecedented campaign of obstruction," an allegation that will likely make its way into an additional article of impeachment.
While most of the report's findings had been previously disclosed, new revelations came from phone records produced by AT&T and Verizon. According to the records, President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who led the pressure campaign in Ukraine from outside normal government channels, spoke repeatedly with high-ranking officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser John Bolton, and Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-CA).
On the day former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was removed from her post — which Democrats have cited as a key turning point in Giuliani's efforts to persuade Ukraine to dig up dirt on Trump's rivals — Giuliani spoke to White House officials in eight separate conversations. He was also called three times by the Office of Management and Budget, the agency that would later place a hold on nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine at the president's request.
Giuliani also spent just under nine minutes that day on the phone with a caller only labeled as "-1." According to the New York Times, congressional investigators "are trying to determine whether the unidentified phone number belongs to" President Trump.
The phone logs obtained by the committee also show repeated conversations between Nunes, who led the Republican defense of Trump on the Intelligence Committee, and Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American associate of Giuliani's who was indicted in October.
The members of the Intelligence Committee voted 13-9, along party lines, to transmit the report to the House Judiciary Committee, where the next stage of the impeachment inquiry will take place. House Republicans also released a 123-page minority report defending President Trump and declaring that his delay in granting aid to Ukraine were based on "genuine and reasonable" skepticism of the country, not his own political interest.
After nearly two months of private depositions and public hearings, leading to those dueling conclusions from the two parties, the Intelligence panel will now cede the impeachment mantle. The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing of the impeachment probe at 10 a.m. today. The hearing will include testimony from four law professors, three called by Democrats and one called by Republicans, discussing the "constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment."
The Judiciary Committee hearing will take place in the same ornate room as the Intelligence Committee sessions, but the tone is expected to be markedly different. The Judiciary panel is almost twice as large as the Intelligence Committee and includes "some of Capitol Hill’s most aggressive and colorful characters" of both parties, as the Washington Post reported, "ready to inject new friction and hostility into the second phase of the inquiry," as well as a healthy dose of "partisan theatrics."
Unlike in the Intelligence Committee proceedings, the White House was offered the opportunity to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearing, but declined in a letter labeling the entire process "unfair." But filling the void of the absent White House attorneys will be some of President Trump's most ardent defenders in Congress, including Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA).
The Democratic side will feature a number of prominent characters as well, led by chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Republicans hope that they can score more points against Nadler than the unflappable Intelligence Committee leader Adam Schiff (D-CA), planning to gum up the process with a series of procedural roadblocks.
"I'm not going to take any s--t," Nadler promised his fellow Democrats in a closed-door prep session on Tuesday, according to Politico.
Kamala Harris ends 2020 presidential campaign
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), once considered a favorite for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, suddenly ended her White House bid on Tuesday.
After a promising January launch in Oakland — which was attended by more than 20,000 people — Harris' campaign was beset by difficulties settling on a message and considerable infighting among staff members. "In one instance after another, Ms. Harris and her closest advisers made flawed decisions about which states to focus on, issues to emphasize and opponents to target, all the while refusing to make difficult personnel choices to impose order on an unwieldy campaign," the New York Times reported in an extensive pre-mortem of her campaign last week.
"I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life," the California senator said in a video message to supporters. "My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue."
She added: "So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret — but also with deep gratitude — that I am suspending my campaign today. But I want to be clear with you: I am still very much in this fight."
Harris, who was running to be the first African-American female president, reached a high-water mark for her campaign in June when she delivered a bruising debate-night blow to former Vice President Joe Biden over his past opposition to busing.
"There was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day," Harris said at the time. "And that little girl was me."
The viral moment led to a brief spike in Harris' fundraising and polling numbers but was followed by months of decline for the Californian. Her early exit ensured that Harris would avoid poor finishes in the early-voting states, as well as an expected embarrasing loss in her home state.
Harris will likely remain a serious contender for the vice-presidential nod once the Democrats tap a nominee later next year.
With Harris out of the race, the December debate stage is currently slated to be occupied by six white candidates. Other minority contenders — such as Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang — have yet to qualify. (Castro reported having his best fundraising day of the quarter on Tuesday, in light of Harris' suspension.)
--- A note on the fluid nature of politics: Reporter Andrew Solender noted on Twitter that CNN's "2020 Power Rankings" one year ago listed Harris at the top of the prospective primary field. In second place? Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), who has also already left the race. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) and Yang, now two of the major candidates for the Democratic nomination, are not even on the list.
Georgia governor to defy Trump with Senate pick: "Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to tap business executive Kelly Loeffler for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), according to two people familiar with the matter, a move that has ignited an intraparty fight as allies of President Trump mount a last-minute campaign to pressure the governor to change his mind."
"The selection of Loeffler, a longtime Republican donor and financial executive, would defy the wishes of Trump as well as his congressional allies and supporters in conservative media, who have publicly lobbied for Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R) to fill the vacancy. He has been one of the president’s most ardent defenders throughout the House impeachment inquiry." (Washington Post)
The latest from London: "President Trump sat down in a gilded chair beside President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday, prepared for what has become a ritual of sorts on his home turf at the White House: He holds forth as another leader is left to smile stoically through his jokes, jabs and insults."
"But Mr. Macron changed the script. By the time their 45-minute appearance at the American ambassador’s residence in London was over, the French leader had managed a rare role reversal, putting Mr. Trump on the defensive about his vision for NATO and his handling of a military conflict involving Turkey, and swatting away the president’s joke about sending Islamic State fighters from Syria to France." (New York Times)
Appeals court rules against Trump in dispute over financial records: "A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that it would not block congressional subpoenas for President Donald Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One, affirming a lower court ruling and dealing the president another legal blow."
"Trump and several members of his family sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One this year seeking to block them from responding to the subpoenas issued by House Democrats, which they said had 'no legitimate or legislative purpose.' The Democratic-controlled House Intelligence and Financial Services committees issued the subpoenas in April as part of investigations into alleged foreign influence in U.S. elections." (NBC News)
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Today at the White House
--- President Trump is in London for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Leaders Meeting today. At 4:20 a.m., he participated in a welcome ceremony hosted by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. At 5 a.m., he participated in a NATO Plenary Session. At 7:30 a.m., he participated in a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
At 8:15 a.m., he participated in a working lunch with the "NATO 2%ers," the 18 other NATO members that have met the alliance's goal of spending 2% of their GDP on defense. At 9 a.m., he participates in a bilateral pull-aside with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. At 9:45 a.m., he participates in a bilateral pull-aside with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
Finally, at 10:30 a.m, President Trump holds a press conference, before departing London at 11:20 a.m. The president and first lady are scheduled to return to the White House at 8:40 p.m. tonight.
--- At 9 a.m., Vice President Pence participates in a House Republican Conference meeting. The vice president then travels to Kalamazoo, Michigan. At 1:10 p.m., he delivers remarks to a meeting of faith leaders. At 5 p.m., he delivers remarks at a Trump re-election campaign event. After the rally, Pence will return to Washington, D.C.
Today in Congress
--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. At 11:30 a.m., the chamber is scheduled to hold votes advancing three nominees: Richard Ernest Myers (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina), Sherri A. Lydon (to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina), and Robert M. Duncan (to be a Governor of the U.S. Postal Service).
At 2 p.m., the chamber votes on confirmation of five additional nominees: John L. Sinatra, Jr. (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of New York), Sarah E. Pitlyk (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri), Douglas Russell Cole (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio), R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama), and David B. Barlow (to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Utah).
--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to consider H.R. 2534, the Insider Trading Prohibition Act, and S. 151, the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act.
Today at the Supreme Court
--- At 10 a.m., the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Intel Corp. Investment Policy Committee v. Sulyma, a case on the window for filing claims against retirement-plan fiduciaries. At 11 a.m., the court hears oral arguments in Banister v. Davis, a case on state prisoners' ability to federal habeas petitions.
Today on the trail
--- Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) continues his "No Malarkey" bus tour through Iowa, holding events in Ames, Iowa Falls, Waverly, and Charles City.
--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) attends a meeting with community leaders in Birmingham, Alabama.
--- Former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) delivers remarks at the AME Church General Board's winter meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
*All times Eastern