I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, November 22, 2019. 73 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 347 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com!
Public impeachment hearings come to a close
Here's what happened at the final impeachment hearing on Thursday:
"Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, said President Trump’s demands for Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the 2016 elections amounted to a 'domestic political errand' that diverged from American foreign policy goals."
"Her testimony made it clear that Dr. Hill, a longtime Russia expert, saw the pressure campaign on Ukraine as a purely political effort that had nothing to do with confronting corruption in Ukraine, the explanation that Mr. Trump and Republicans have frequently given for his actions."
"Under questioning from the top Republican counsel on the House Intelligence Committee, Dr. Hill said she confronted Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union about his failure to coordinate with other members of the administration and later realized he was 'being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security, foreign policy.'"
. . . "Dr. Hill criticized Republicans on Thursday for propagating a 'fictional narrative' embraced by President Trump that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 elections."
"In an implicit rebuke to the president she once served, she argued that the story was planted by Russia and dangerously played into Moscow’s hands, by sowing political divisions in the United States that adversaries are eager to exploit."
. . . "David Holmes, a top aide in the United States Embassy in Kyiv, told lawmakers on Thursday that he became convinced by the end of August that Mr. Trump had frozen security aid for Ukraine because he was seeking to pressure the country to commit to an investigation into Mr. Biden."
. . . "Mr. Holmes provided the first public testimony about a now-infamous July cellphone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland, a conversation that Democrats believe establishes that the president was preoccupied with persuading Ukraine to publicly commit to investigations that benefited him politically. (New York Times)
Here's how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) closed Thursday's hearing, a preview of his closing arguments as the probe wraps up:
"In my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes they are above the law. And I would just say to people watching here at home and around the world — in the words of my great colleague [the late Elijah Cummings], we are better than that. Adjourned!"
After two weeks of hearings, both parties seem united behind their chosen paths in the impeachment inquiry:
"Two weeks of televised hearings have cemented House Democrats’ determination to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump, according to interviews Thursday with more than 20 lawmakers across the party’s ideological spectrum, with most saying they had heard enough evidence to proceed to a vote." (Washington Post)
"But even as Democrats felt that they had made an ironclad case that Trump had abused the power of his office by pressuring a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election, they were no closer to persuading even a single House Republican to join them in voting to impeach the president. (Politico)
What happens next?
The House Intelligence Committee, which conducted the fact-finding hearings, will write a report detailing their findings to send to the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary panel will then hold proceedings of its own before drawing up articles of impeachment and then voting to send them to the House floor. According to CNN, the full House is expected to vote to impeach Trump by Christmas. He would be the third president to be impeached in U.S. history.
The Senate will then hold a trial before voting on either acquiting or convicting the president. President Trump hosted a group of Republican senators for lunch on Thursday; according to the Washington Post, the group discussed a plan to limit the length of the Senate trial to two weeks. The trial is expected to be held in January, just before the Iowa caucuses, which could pose issues for the Democratic senators waging presidential campaigns.
According to the New York Times, President Trump "is eager to see Senate Republicans aggressively argue that he did nothing wrong," but many GOP senators hope a two-week trial "would limit the political damage to Mr. Trump and quickly lead to his acquittal, allowing him and the Republican Party to focus on winning the 2020 election."
Shutdown averted: "President Trump signed a short-term spending bill Thursday, hours before the government was set to run out of money, as disagreements on border-wall funding have again stymied progress on the full-year funding bills."
"Earlier in the day, the Senate approved the stopgap measure, which keeps the government funded through Dec. 20. The House passed the bill Tuesday." (Wall Street Journal)
USMCA deal unlikely in 2019: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she doubts Congress has enough time left to pass the USMCA this year, but Democrats and the Trump administration will continue talks next week to work out a compromise on remaining issues."
"U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with Pelosi and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) midday to discuss the last sticking points of the deal. Democrats want President Donald Trump’s trade chief to deliver on stronger enforcement mechanisms in the USMCA before a House vote is held. But lawmakers emerged without any announcement." (Politico)
Recommended read: "What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say" (The Atlantic)
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Today at the White House
--- At 11 a.m., President Trump participates in the NCAA Collegiate National Champions Day. At 1:45 p.m., he participates in a listening session on youth vaping and the electronic cigarette epidemic.
--- Vice President Pence has no public events scheduled.
Today in Congress
--- The House and Senate are both holding brief pro forma sessions today. No business will be conducted.
Today at the Supreme Court
--- The Supreme Court justices meet for their weekly conference today.
Today on the trail
--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (D) and former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) participate in a presidential forum hosted by the National League of Cities in San Antonio, Texas.
--- Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) makes a campaign stop in Abbeville, South Carolina, and holds a town hall in Winterset, Iowa.
--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) campaigns in New Hampshire, holding a "Conversation with Cory" event at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and a meet and greet in Portsmouth.
--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) attends a house party in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) holds a meet and greet in Muscatine, Iowa.
--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-NH) visits New Hampshire, holding a town hall at New England College in Henniker and participating in a "Stay Work Play New Hampshire" event in Manchester.
--- Former Gov. Bill Weld (D-MA) visits Portsmouth, New Hampshire, participating in an event hosted by the Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth and hosting a "Night Out with Bill Weld."
--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson (D) participates in the World Women's Summit at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.
--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang holds a rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
*All times Eastern