I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, December 9, 2019. 56 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 330 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com!
Published this morning: A trove of confidential government documents obtained by the Washington Post examining the failures of the war in Afghanistan, a modern-day answer to the Pentagon Papers. According to the Post, “The Afghanistan Papers” reveal that “U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” Read more here
- Key quote, via three-star Amy general Douglas Lute, who served as the Afghan “war czar” under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama: “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing. . . We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”
Judiciary Committee holds second hearing as Democrats draft articles of impeachment
The House Judiciary Committee holds its second hearing of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump today. At 9 a.m., the panel will meet to receive presentations from the majority and minority counsels of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
Judiciary Committee majority counsel Barry Berke and minority counsel Stephen Castor will offer opening statements for 30 minutes each, followed by presentations by Intelligence Committee majority counsel Daniel Goldman and minority counsel Castor for 45 minutes each. Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA) will then have unlimited 45-minute rounds to question the witnesses, followed by five-minute rounds for the other 39 members of the committee.
The Trump administration was invited to participate in the hearing but declined the opportunity. “House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Nadler on Friday. “You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.”
The Judiciary Committee on Saturday released a 55-page report laying out the legal and historical rationale for impeaching President Trump. “A president who perverts his role as chief diplomat to serve private rather than public ends has unquestionably engaged in ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’— especially if he invited, rather than opposed, foreign interference in our politics,” the report said.
Today's hearing kicks off another pivotal week in the investigation, as Democrats are expected to begin drafting articles of impeachment and vote on them in the Judiciary Committee by the end of the week. “We’ll bring articles of impeachment presumably before the committee at some point later in the week,” Nadler said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
A final House vote on the articles of impeachment is expected just before the House recesses for Christmas. Democrats are still debating precisely how to phrase the articles; Nadler added in the “Meet the Press” interview that they will certainly include one on “abuse of power,” with another on “obstruction of justice” possible.
Inspector general's report on Russia probe to be released
From the Washington Post: “A long-awaited Justice Department inspector general’s report examining the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia is expected to be released Monday, clearing the bureau’s top leaders of conservatives’ most serious allegations while providing some fodder for President Trump and his allies to renew their attacks on the probe.”
“The report, which spans hundreds of pages, is expected to conclude that the top FBI officials running the Russia investigation were not tainted by political bias and that they had adequate cause to open a probe ahead of the 2016 election, according to people familiar with drafts of the document.”
“But it will also find fault with applications FBI officials prepared to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, and it will allege that a low-level FBI lawyer doctored a document in connection with those applications, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the document before its public release.”
“Democrats and Republicans alike have eagerly anticipated the assessment from Inspector General Michael Horowitz, hopeful that the Justice Department watchdog with a reputation for being nonpartisan will validate their respective views on one of the most politically volatile investigations in FBI history.”
“The president and other conservatives have asserted that the FBI and the officials who once led it acted unfairly in investigating Trump’s campaign, motivated by political bias against him. On Sunday, Trump tweeted of the report, ‘That will be the big story!’ Liberals, meanwhile, have been hopeful that Horowitz will dismantle what they see as unfounded GOP theories about the bureau’s work.”
Warren, Buttigieg clash over transparency
From Politico: “Elizabeth Warren — under pressure from rival Pete Buttigieg to reveal her past compensation from corporate clients — announced Sunday that she's received $1.9 million from private legal work since 1986.”
“The Massachusetts senator and former Harvard professor made the disclosure amid a tit-for-tat with Buttigieg over previous career assignments: Her legal representation of corporations, and his work at the corporate consulting firm McKinsey. Vying for pole position in Iowa, Warren and Buttitieg have sought to put one another on defense by suggesting the other had something to hide.” . . .
“Buttigieg’s campaign has been calling on Warren to release her tax returns from before 2008, when she did private legal work for some large corporations similar to the ones she now rails against. The Warren campaign is not releasing her tax returns from 1986 onward, arguing that providing over three decades of tax returns after she already released 11 years' worth is an unreasonable standard that other candidates are not being held to.” . . .
“In total, Warren's campaign disclosed income from 42 cases, with the most money coming from a 2009 Travelers Insurance case concerning victims of asbestos poisoning.” . . .
“Friction between Warren and Buttigieg has been growing as he's surged in Iowa, a critical state for both of them. In addition to pressing him about his clients at McKinsey — which Buttigieg says he can't reveal because of a nondisclosure agreement, which he has asked the firm to nullify — Warren has criticized Buttigieg for holding closed-door fundraisers where media access is denied.”
Lawmakers are sprinting to ink bipartisan deals on a number of issues before leaving Washington for the year:
Spending legislation: “Democrats are optimistic that the House and Senate can speedily negotiate all of the [annual spending] bills and clear them by Dec. 20, when government funding dries up. While there are no signs that a dreaded government shutdown is in the offing, the biggest obstacles remain — top congressional leaders still have to wrestle with thorny problems, like funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall and his ability to shuffle around federal cash for his U.S.-Mexico barrier.” (Politico)
U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement: “House Democrats and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are nearing a deal for Congress to pass a modified U.S. trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, though hurdles remain, according to people familiar with the negotiations.” (Wall Street Journal)
Space Force, paid leave for federal workers: “Congressional lawmakers and the White House are on the verge of reaching a sweeping agreement that would extend 12 weeks of paid parental leave to federal workers in exchange for making ‘Space Force’ the sixth branch of the U.S. military, according to four people with knowledge of the tentative deal.”
“The deal is part of a defense authorization bill that is slated to pass this month. If consummated, the agreement could mark one of the biggest deals President Trump has cut with Congress. It would secure a massive expansion of benefits for federal workers, something Democrats have long sought, in exchange for a realignment of the U.S. military that Trump has sought to secure as part of his legacy.” (Washington Post)
Surprise medical bills: “Leaders of key Senate and House committees have reached a consensus on how to eliminate [surprise medical bills], increasing the chance that legislation on the issue will pass Congress this year.”
“The proposal would prevent doctors from sending unexpected bills to patients when they are treated in a hospital that accepts their insurance, and would establish a system for resolving related billing disputes between those doctors and insurance companies.” (New York Times)
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Today at the White House
--- At 12:30 p.m., President Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence. At 1:30 p.m., he participates in a roundtable on “empowering families with education choice.” At 4:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., the president and first lady participate in Christmas receptions.
--- In addition to joining President Trump for lunch and for the education choice roundtable, Vice President Pence participates in the ceremonial swearing-in of the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture at 3 p.m.
--- At 12 p.m., First Lady Melania Trump visits Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual Marine Toys for Tots program. She will deliver brief remarks before helping Marines and children sort toys and make Christmas cards for children in need.
Today in Congress
--- The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. today. At 5:30 p.m., the chamber votes to advance the nomination of Patrick J. Bumatay to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit.
--- The House convenes at 12 p.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to consider 16 pieces of legislation:
- H.R. 4372 – MSI STEM Achievement Act
- H.R. 4373 – Engineering Biology Research and Development Act of 2019, as amended
- H.R. 2051 – Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2019, as amended
- H.R. 5213 – NASA Enhanced Use Leasing Extension Act of 2019, as amended
- S. 737 – Building Blocks of STEM Act
- H.R. 4355 – IOGAN Act
- H.R. 4566 – Virginia Beach Strong Act
- H.R. 3669 – Weatherizing Infrastructure in the North and Terrorism Emergency Readiness Act of 2019
- H.R. 4761 – DHS Opioid Detection Resilience Act of 2019
- H.R. 4739 – Synthetic Opioid Exposure Prevention and Training Act
- H.R. 4727 – Department of Homeland Security Mentor-Protégé Program Act of 2019
- H.R. 3318 – Emerging Transportation Security Threats Act of 2019
- H.R. 4713 – Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Authorization Act
- H.R. 4402 – Inland Waters Security Review Act
- H.R. 3469 – Covert Testing and Risk Mitigation Improvement Act of 2019
- S. 256 – Esther Martinez Native Languages Programs Reauthorization Act
Today at the Supreme Court
--- At 10 a.m., the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr (question: “Whether a request for equitable tolling, as it applies to statutory motions to reopen, is judicially reviewable as a ‘question of law.’”)
At 11 a.m., the court hears oral arguments in Thryv, Inc. v. Click-To-Call Technologies, LP (question: "Whether 35 U.S.C. § 314(d) permits appeal of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision to institute an inter partes review upon finding that 35 U.S.C. § 315(b)’s time bar did not apply.")
Today on the trail
--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) campaigns in New Hampshire, visiting a high school in North Conway and holding a meet and greet in West Ossipee.
--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (D) holds meet and greets in Wapello and Fort Madison, Iowa.
--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) visits Nashua, New Hampshire, stopping at a rotary club and holding a town hall.
--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds town halls in Gardnerville and Reno, Nevada.
--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) attends a town hall hosted by a culinary union in Las Vegas, Nevada.
--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson (D) holds events in Perry and Des Moines, Iowa.
*All times Eastern