What to Know in Washington: Democrats Take Impeachment Public

House Democrats this week are taking their effort to impeach Donald Trump into a risky new phase of public hearings that the president is eager to turn into a made-for-TV personal battle, echoing his successful White House run in 2016.

The hearings tomorrow and Friday feature three career diplomats who, in previous closed-door depositions, outlined attempts by Trump’s advisers to use the prospect of an Oval Office meeting and military aid to pressure Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation of Trump’s political rivals.

With these sessions, the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry moves into a much higher stakes phase for Trump and Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), both of whom will be struggling to direct the narrative of how the president’s first term ends.

Trump’s response has been defiance. He warned Republicans in a tweet Sunday that when discussing his July call with Ukraine’s president to not be “led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable. No, it is much stronger than that. NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!”

He and his allies also are scripting in villains — primarily Schiff and the whistleblower whose complaint about the Ukraine call triggered the current impeachment inquiry. “We’ve seen Adam Schiff and all of his lies,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Monday on Fox News. “We’ve seen they’re conveniently ignoring this whistleblower.”

It’s a well-tested strategy that Trump has been adept at using to keep Republican voters in his corner and GOP members of Congress in line through multiple controversies since he began running for office. Read more from Billy House.

Trump speaks at Veterans Day Parade, NYC - Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Trump speaks at the opening ceremony of the Veterans Day Parade in New York on Monday.

How to Watch: The public hearings start at 10 a.m. Washington time Wednesday. Democrats on the Intelligence Committee will try to make the case that Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the U.S. Constitution’s standard for impeachment by the House and a Senate trial on whether to convict and remove a president from office. Erik Wasson outlines how to watch, who’s testifying, and the hearing process.

Trump May Release Transcript Today: Trump said he’s prepared to release the transcript sought by House Democrats of his first phone call with Ukraine’s president, in April, as soon as today. “We’ll probably give it to you on Tuesday, Monday being a holiday,” Trump told reporters Saturday as he prepared to board Air Force One. “We have another transcript coming out, which is very important. They asked for it. And I’d gladly give it.” Read more from Jordan Fabian.

Republican Witnesses May Testify: Democrats signaled their willingness to let some witnesses requested by Republicans testify, but only those people with knowledge of the president’s actions. And not Hunter Biden or the whistleblower. Republicans gave the committee a list of witnesses they want called — including former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry.

Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), both members of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday morning political shows that there are Republican witnesses Schiff could call. Speier suggested former National Security Council official Tim Morrison and former U.S. special representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker could appear. Read more from Mark Niquette and Craig Torres.

All the President’s Yes Men: Trump’s effort to get Ukraine to investigate a top Democratic rival went largely unchecked by some of his closest advisers — setting in motion the impeachment inquiry now engulfing his presidency. Transcripts released by House impeachment investigators last week offer no evidence that Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney or Secretary of State Michael Pompeo tried to stop Trump from his bid earlier this year for a Ukrainian probe of Biden.

The Ukraine episode, depicted in testimony from current and former U.S. officials, illustrates the peril that lies in Trump’s preference for advisers who let him follow his instincts in making policy. And it puts a new light on recent comments from former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who said last month that he warned the president not to replace him with a yes man or he’d risk being impeached. Trump disputed Kelly’s statement. Read more from Steven T. Dennis.

More Coverage:

Elections & Politics

Impeachment Will Reshape 2020 Presidential Race: The start of public impeachment hearings in the House this week will push the race for the White House into a new phase, testing whether Democratic efforts to investigate Trump risk hurting the party in the 2020 election.

Democratic front-runner Joe Biden will also be a central figure in the proceedings, which will challenge his political resilience. And six senators in the running, including top contenders Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), will be jurors in a trial that may force them off the campaign trail at a crucial moment.

While U.S. public opinion has moved in favor of impeachment, the country is deeply divided along party lines and Trump remains highly competitive against top Democrats in swing states like Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania that played the key role in his 2016 victory. The House proceedings will pit the Democrats’ message that Trump gravely abused his power against his insistence that the impeachment effort is a political “coup” to remove him from office. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Economy Is Working in Trump’s Favor: Factories in Iowa are humming. Employment in New Hampshire is thriving. The giant tourism and hotel industry in Nevada is booming. And in South Carolina, more African Americans are finding jobs. This is the economic landscape less than a year from Election Day — and just months before those four states become the first in the nation to hold their 2020 primaries.

While Trump can point to the strength of the economy as a whole — as he likely will in a speech today on the economy — his Democratic rivals have seized on the everyday realities of millions who’ve watched good times pass them by. Candidates like Biden and Warren have zeroed in on issues such as income inequality, wage disparity or a lack of health care. Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou and Reade Pickert have a by-the-numbers look in each state.

Sanders Is Top Choice of Progressives: Sanders continues to lead as the preferred Democratic presidential choice of members of the influential grassroots progressive group Democracy for America, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has fallen off a list of the top five choices in the organization’s latest straw poll. Sanders had support of 35.17% of those surveyed by the group, a political action committee with more than 1 million members. Warren, the other leading progressive in the race, had 27.69%. Biden had 12.08%. Pete Buttigieg had 7.26%, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was picked by 3.72% of those surveyed. Read more from Laura Litvan.

Meanwhile, Biden has a small edge over other top Democrats among likely New Hampshire primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday, Jennifer Epstein reports. Biden has the support of 20% of those surveyed, while Warren is at 16%. Buttigieg is in third place at 15% and Sanders is in fourth at 14%. The margin of error for the poll, conducted Nov. 6-10, is 3.8%.

Cummings’ Widow to Run for His Seat: The wife of former House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said she would seek his seat following his death last month. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that she would announce today that she’s running in Maryland’s seventh congressional district, which includes parts of Baltimore. She said her late husband “wanted me to continue this fight.” Read more from Chelsea Mes.

N.Y. Rep. King to Retire: Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) announced his plan to retire from Congress after 14 terms, becoming the 20th member of his party from the House to plan an exit in 2020. King said in a statement yesterday that he made the decision to spend more time with his family. King, a moderate first elected to Congress in 1992, makes clear in his statement that he will vote against any impeachment articles against Trump, and will be supporting Trump’s re-election. Read more from Erik Wasson and Billy House.

Foreign Affairs

Trump Urged to Rescind Erdogan Invitation: House Foreign Affair Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) led a bipartisan effort to call on Trump to rescind an invitation for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the White House later this week, Megan Howard reports. “Erdogan’s decision to invade northern Syria on October 9 has had disastrous consequences for U.S. national security, has led to deep divisions in the NATO alliance, and caused a humanitarian crisis on the ground,” the lawmakers said in a letter. “Given this situation, we believe that now is a particularly inappropriate time for President Erdogan to visit the United States.”

Trump Expected to Delay Car Tariffs on Europe: The Trump administration may delay a decision on whether to slap tariffs on European automobiles after an intense lobbying campaign by German carmakers highlighted plans to shift global production to American suppliers, people familiar with the White House deliberations said. In May, Trump gave himself a deadline of mid-November to decide whether to impose levies on cars and auto parts from the European Union. The EU threatened to retaliate with tariffs on $39 billion of American goods if the president carried out his threat. Trump is expected to extend this week’s deadline again, according to people familiar with the plans, but the president has not yet made a final decision. Read more from Shawn Donnan, Jenny Leonard and Birgit Jennen.

Haley Says Tillerson, Kelly Sought to Undermine Trump: Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly tried to undermine Trump’s decisions because they said the president didn’t know what he was doing, former U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley said in excerpts of a new book. “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country,” Haley said, according to the Washington Post. “It was their decisions, not the president’s, that were in the best interests of America, they said. The president didn’t know what he was doing,” Haley wrote. She said Tillerson and Kelly tried to enlist her in their effort to work around Trump, but she refused. Read more from Steve Geimann.

Trump Says China Wants a Deal More Than He Does: Trump said trade talks with China are moving along “very nicely,” and said the leaders in Beijing wanted a deal “much more than I do.” Trump also described as “incorrect” reports about how much the U.S. was ready to roll back tariffs on China. “If we don’t make that right deal, we’re not going to make a deal,” Trump told reporters on Saturday as he prepared to board Air Force One for a trip to Alabama to watch a college football game. “A lot of positive things are happening.” Read more from Steve Geimann and Jordan Fabian.

Trump Applauds Exit of Bolivia’s Morales: Trump applauded the exit of Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales, saying it cleared the way for democracy in the South American country. “The United States applauds the Bolivian people for demanding freedom and the Bolivian military for abiding by its oath to protect not just a single person, but Bolivia’s constitution,” Trump said in a statement yesterday. Read more from Joshua Gallu.

Afghanistan to Free Taliban Leaders for Captives: Afghanistan will free three key Taliban leaders as part of a deal to secure the release of American and Australian citizens held captive since 2016 and open the door for talks with the militant group. Read more from Eltaf Najafizada.

What Else to Know Today

Kavanaugh Returns to Spotlight: Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has done his best to keep a low profile in the 13 months since one of the most polarizing Senate confirmation fights in U.S. history. From the bench, his questions have been evenhanded and his opinions have been measured. His public appearances have been rare. But Kavanaugh will be back in the spotlight when he gives the featured dinner speech on Thursday at the annual Washington convention of the Federalist Society, the powerful conservative legal group that helped put him on the court. Greg Stohr has more on what to expect.

Trump to Meet with Vaping Industry: Trump said he’s planning to meet with vaping-industry representatives and medical professionals as the White House considers new limits on the sale of e-cigarettes. The announcement appeared to catch federal regulators as well as pro-vaping groups by surprise. The debate over new restrictions has pitted health advocates concerned about teen nicotine habits against small businesses who say tighter rules would destroy a growing industry. Trump called the issue a “dilemma” in a tweet yesterday. “Children’s health & safety, together with jobs, will be a focus!” Trump wrote. Trump has said he’s planning to raise the age limit for vaping products to 21 or so. Read more from Gerald Porter Jr. and Josh Wingrove.

States Step Up Google Scrutiny: State officials investigating Google met yesterday to dive into competition issues surrounding the search giant as they press forward with an investigation into whether the company is violating antitrust laws, according to people familiar with the matter. The officials met privately in Denver with outside experts with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of Google’s businesses and the dynamics of the markets it operates in, including digital advertising, said one of the people. Read more from David McLaughlin, Ben Brody and Naomi Nix.

TikTok Revamps Lobbying Amid Washington Scrutiny: TikTok, the popular music-video app, is building up its fledgling lobbying operations to counter stepped-up pressure in Washington over its Chinese ownership and wage an escalating battle with Facebook for viewers. The company, which registered its first lobbyist in June, is seeking to add a U.S. policy chief, plans to further expand its internal policy staff and is reshuffling outside lobbyists, according to people familiar with its plans. The policy chief position is a new one and will help shape the company’s advocacy priorities and oversee its growing lobbying operations, said two people familiar with the moves. Read more from Ben Brody and Megan Wilson.

Trump to Appeal Ruling on Tax Subpoena: Trump’s lawyers told a judge they’ll ask the U.S. Supreme Court this week to block a subpoena from the Manhattan district attorney seeking his tax filings and other financial records. Lawyers representing Trump and District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a joint letter Friday that Trump will ask for high court review by Thursday and both sides will file legal arguments by Nov. 25, setting up a possibility of finding out quickly whether the Supreme Court will hear the case. If the court declines, that could clear the way for Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, to begin turning documents over to Vance’s office as early as next month. Read more from Bob Van Voris.

With assistance from Brandon Lee

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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