I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, November 7, 2019. 88 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 362 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Impeachment: The latest
House Democrats on Wednesday released a transcript of the closed-door deposition of William Taylor, the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. In his testimony, Taylor confirmed to lawmakers that the Trump administration tied military aid for Ukraine to demands that the country open investigations into Trump's domestic political rivals.
"That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the President [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation [into Burimsa Holdings, the company tied to Joe Biden's son]," Taylor said.
"So if they don't do this, they are not going to get that was your understanding?" House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked.
"Yes, sir," Taylor replied.
"Are you aware that quid pro quo literally means this for that?" Schiff continued.
"I am," Taylor said. (President Trump has repeatedly denied that his administration's actions in Ukraine constituted a quid pro quo, despite the testimony of Taylor and others.)
Like other officials, Taylor also described the key role that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, played in pressuring Ukraine to pursue politically-motivated investigations. "I think the origin of the idea to get [Ukrainian] President Zelensky to say out loud he's going to investigate Burisma and 2016 election, I think the originator, the person who came up with that was Mr. Giuliani."
The full transcript of Taylor testimony reinforced the claims made in his bombshell opening statement, in which Taylor told lawmakers that "the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections," a condition that "was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani."
He added that he was later told by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, that "everything" was dependent on Zelenksy's public announcement of the investigations, including hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid.
Recommended read: "Impeachment transcripts reveal a consistent, damaging narrative for Trump" (Politico)
Schiff also announced on Wednesday that Taylor would be one of the first witnesses when the Intelligence Committee begins holding public impeachment hearings next week. Taylor, who has served as the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine since June, will be joined at the first hearing on November 13 by George Kent, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
The second public impeachment hearing will take place on November 15, featuring the testimony of Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May. A transcript of Yovanovitch's closed-door testimony was released on Monday; she told lawmakers that she was removed from her post after Giuliani led a smear campaign against her.
More impeachment news...
--- President Trump wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference declaring that the president broke no laws in a July phone call in which he pressured President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. Barr "ultimately declined to do so," according to the Post. In a late-night tweet, President Trump called the story "FAKE NEWS" and "totally untrue."
--- Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he has hired lawyers of his own to represent him, as his Ukraine-based efforts to dig up dirt on President Trump's rivals have come under greater legal scrutiny. According to the New York Times, Giuliani's search for legal representation took weeks, with multiple prominent attorneys declining to take him on as a client.
--- The White House is expected to add two new aides who will be tasked with coordinating the Trump administration's public response to the impeachment probe, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday: former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi and former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh.
--- Happening today: Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is expected to testify behind closed doors as part of the House impeachment inquiry. According to CNN, she will appear for her deposition, becoming the third witness in the probe who was listening in on the July call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky.
House investigators have also scheduled a deposition with John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, for today, although the chances are "slim" that he will appear, according to CNN.
Sessions to jump into Alabama Senate race: Jeff Sessions, President Trump's first attorney general, is expected to announce his campaign for his old U.S. Senate seat in Alabama today, according to multiple news outlets. Trump fired Sessions exactly a year ago, after spending months publicly complaining about Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, which led to the appointemnt of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Sessions joins a crowded Republican primary, which already includes Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. The winner of the GOP nod will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the general election; Jones is widely seen as the most vulnerable Senate Democrat on the ballot in 2020. According to the Washington Post, "Trump has repeatedly denigrated Sessions to allies and White House aides in recent days" and may openly campaign against him.
Bevin requests recanvass in Kentucky gubernatorial election: "Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is formally asking for a recanvass of Tuesday's gubernatorial election, in which vote totals show Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear ahead by just over 5,000 votes. A recanvass is a double-checking of the vote totals and rarely produces different results."
In a statement, Bevin's campaign manager said: 'The people of Kentucky deserve a fair and honest election. With reports of irregularities, we are exercising the right to ensure that every lawful vote was counted.'" (NPR)
Biden vs. Warren: "Joe Biden on Wednesday dug in on his assertion that Elizabeth Warren is 'elitist,' hoping to cast his fellow frontrunner as an Ivy League liberal out of sync with the middle class."
"Biden’s comment, made in a Medium post on Tuesday and reiterated in a radio interview this morning, underscores a theme central to Biden’s candidacy: that he is the lone Democrat who can win back the white working class voters who swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump." (Politico)
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Today at the White House
--- At 12 p.m., President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 2:15 p.m., he participates in a greeting in recognition of the National Day for the Victims of Communism. At 6 p.m., he presents the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian award in the United States. At 8 p.m., the president delivers remarks at a fundraising committee reception at Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C.
--- Vice President Pence travels to New Hampshire. At 11 a.m., he will file the paperwork at the State House in Concord to secure the Trump-Pence ticket's place on the ballot in the New Hampshire presidential primary. At 1:25 p.m., he delivers remarks at a "Politics & Eggs" event at Saint Anselm College's New Hampshire Institue of Politics in Goffstown.
Today in Congress
--- At 10 a.m., the Senate convenes. At 11:45 a.m., the chamber votes on confirmation of Lee Rudfosky to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Jennifer Wilson to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. At 1:45 p.m., the chamber votes on confirmation of William Nardini to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit.
--- The House is on recess this week.
Today at the Supreme Court
--- The justices of the Supreme Court have no oral arguments or conferences today.
Today on the trail
--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends a fundraiser in Boston, Massachusetts.
--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) attends fundraising events in San Francisco, California.
--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro appears on Power 105.1's "The Breakfast Club," a morning radio show known as a "must-stop" for 2020 Democrats.
--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) attends a meeting of local Democrats in Johnston, Iowa.
--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) campaigns in North Carolina, participating in a live taping of the "On One With Angela Rye" podcast in Greensboro and holding a town hall with Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) in Raleigh. Pressley endorsed Warren on Wednesday, breaking with her fellow members of "The Squad."
--- Entrpeeuner Andrew Yang visits New Hampshire, participating in a New Hampshire Public Radio forum in Concord and holding town halls in Exeter and Dover.
*All times Eastern