What to Know in Washington: Impeachment Fight Has Peril for All

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to launch a formal impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump will consume the nation’s attention, grind the work of government to a halt and ultimately determine whether the president heads into re-election damaged or emboldened.

Pelosi yesterday threw the weight of her office behind an impeachment she’s been reluctant to embrace — until allegations surfaced last week that Trump improperly pressured the government of Ukraine. That has set her on course for a constitutional clash with Trump, who quickly assailed the proceedings as “Witch Hunt garbage” and vowed a vigorous defense.

That defense will intensify today, when Trump will release an unredacted transcript of his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which the president says will rebut claims he leaned on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Adding to the moment, Trump will meet with Zelenskiy in person on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly before holding a news conference.

And according to the New York Times, the administration was preparing for the possible release of a redacted version of the whistle-blower complaint by an intelligence official that touched off the uproar over the phone call.

The blitz of activity allows the president to proclaim his innocence before scheduled congressional testimony tomorrow by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who has up to now refused to turn over the whistle-blower’s complaint.

The House plans to vote today on a resolution pressuring the intelligence community to release details of the complaint. Justin Sink and Billy House have the latest.

What to Know About Impeachment: What happened with Trump’s call, what could be wrong about it, how it could be an impeachable offense, and what happens now. All your questions about impeachment are answered here.

Pelosi Announces Impeachment Inquiry
Photographer: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg
Pelosi announces the formal inquiry on Tuesday.

Elections & Politics

Impeachment Fight to Overtake the 2020 Race: The impeachment fight is set to overtake the 2020 presidential campaign, no matter who becomes the Democratic nominee. If the House inquiry resulted in an impeachment vote, it would re-litigate the first three years of the Trump presidency. Such an action would also threaten to overshadow the campaigns of the Democrats hoping to run on health care, gun control and immigration. It would put every member of Congress — including freshmen Democrats from swing districts who have been most shy of impeachment — on record on an issue that will only excite partisan passions. Read more from Gregory Korte.

Sanders Won’t Say if Biden’s Son Is Off Limits: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said it was too early to say whether he’d refrain from criticizing Biden’s son for his business dealings with the Ukrainian energy company. “I don’t know enough to say at this point to make any definitive statement,” he said at a news conference in Iowa, when asked whether Hunter Biden should be off limits as a talking point for Democratic candidates on the campaign trail. Sanders’ attitude toward Biden could be a departure from his decision during the 2016 campaign not to go after Hillary Clinton for the email scandal over which she was assailed repeatedly by Trump. Read more from Emma Kinery.

Sanders, Warren Compete Over Billionaire’s Tax: Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) wealth tax proposal is big. Sanders’ is about 60% bigger. Sanders’ plan for a wealth tax attaches his name to one of the most salient tax ideas in Democratic circles that Warren, one of his main presidential primary opponents, has popularized.

Struggling to maintain his top-three position in voter preference polls, Sanders follows Warren in proposing a tax that has become a popular rallying cry of “2 cents” during her campaign speeches. The cries refer to the 2% levy that would kick in on the assets of fortunes worth more than $50 million. Sanders’ tax goes a few steps further — taxing wealth above $32 million at 1%, with an increasing rate that tops out at 8% over $10 billion. Read more from Laura Davison and Emma Kinery.

Warren Tied With Biden in New National Poll: Elizabeth Warren is essentially tied with Joe Biden nationwide, continuing a surge in surveys that showed her ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to a Quinnipiac poll released today. The survey will fuel questions about whether the former vice president is losing his perch as the front-runner in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination. The poll showed Warren with support from 27% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters, compared with 25% for Biden. That’s well within the margin of error of the survey of 4.9% but represents the first time a candidate other than Biden has held a numerical lead since Quinnipiac began its survey in March. Read more from Kathleen Hunter.

Decline of White Working Class is Trouble for Trump: The number of white working-class Americans dropped below 40% of the population for the first time last year, reflecting demographic shifts that could pose a challenge for Trump’s election in 2020. White Americans without a four-year college represented 71% of the population in 1975. Their decline as a share of the population is expected to continue and they will no longer be the largest demographic group by 2034, according to a blog post Tuesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. There’s no single cause for the decline. Read more from Katia Dmitrieva and Gregory Korte.

Happening on the Hill

El Paso, Dayton Witnesses to Testify: Democrats hoping to build a case for a ban on assault weapons are turning to witnesses from cities marred by gun violence this summer at today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing. Among those scheduled to testify are Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, Ohio, where 10 people were killed in an Aug. 4 shooting and Alejandro Rios-Tovar, resident physician at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso, where 22 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart on Aug. 3. Whaley has called for more gun control measures.

A measure to ban assault weapons from Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) had 211 co-sponsors as of yesterday afternoon including one Republican, Rep. Peter King (N.Y.). More than two-dozen Democrats who flipped GOP districts in 2018 have cosponsored the measure, and sponsors are working to reach the 218 threshold needed to pass the legislation. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

Pot Banking Bill Offers Hemp Relief: The booming hemp industry in Kentucky could be the linchpin to getting cannabis banking legislation through the Republican-controlled Senate. Hemp production is taking off in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state and elsewhere, particularly among farmers looking to replace tobacco crops. But that growth is being hampered by hemp’s association with cannabis and business loans and payments services have been hard to come by.

House lawmakers have added safe harbors for financial services companies doing business with the hemp industry to a bipartisan bill set for a floor vote today. The measure would affirm that banks can lawfully work with the industry and wouldn’t be subject to the heightened regulatory scrutiny and compliance necessary to work with the marijuana sector. Read more from Lydia Beyoud.

Panel Talks Funding to Fight Big Tech: Federal Trade Commission enforcers are likely to face a largely sympathetic audience before House lawmakers aiming to give the agency more money to examine big tech privacy and competition concerns. FTC Chairman Joe Simons and commissioner Rohit Chopra are set to testify today before the House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee to request more funds for the agency as it probes competition and privacy issues at Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

The hearing comes as lawmakers in both chambers are debating how much funds to give the FTC as it scrutinizes Big Tech. The agency has reached historic settlements this year with Facebook and Google for privacy violations. Read more from Daniel R. Stoller, Victoria Graham and Rebecca Kern.

Interior Solicitor Pick Gets Confirmation: Trump’s nominee for the Interior Department’s top legal job won Senate confirmation yesterday in a close vote mostly along party lines. The Senate voted 51-43 to confirm Daniel Jorjani as Interior solicitor, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in opposition as the lone senator to break party-line ranks. Jorjani was one of two department picks, along with inspector general pick Mark Greenblatt, whose nominations were actually voted on twice this year in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Read more from Dean Scott.

Puerto Rico Board Urged to Reverse Austerity: Senate Democrats, including 2020 candidates Warren, Sanders and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have sent a letter to the congressionally mandated fiscal oversight board tasked with reorganizing Puerto Rico’s debt, urging members to reverse austerity measures imposed on the island. In addition to calling for an end to cuts to social and public spending on the island, lawmakers also asked for a moratorium on debt payments until an independent probe is completed to root out alleged corruption. Read more from Michael Deibert.

UNGA & Foreign Affairs

Trump’s Schedule: Trump remains in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. He is scheduled to meet with Japan’s Shinzo Abe at 12:10 p.m., Ukraine’s Zelenskiy at 2:15 p.m., El Salvador President Nayib Bukele at 3:15 p.m. and then hold a press conference at 4 p.m. The president will deliver remarks at a fundraising committee dinner at a private residence in New York at 7:40 p.m.

Trump Uses U.N. Speech to Hit China: Trump used his speech at the U.N. General Assembly to reiterate complaints about China’s trade practices just weeks before negotiators from both sides are due to meet in Washington. After vowing to reach a quick trade deal with the U.K. following its departure from the European Union, Trump said two decades of expectations that freer trade with China would prompt it to be more market-friendly had failed.

The speech offered a reminder of the strategic tensions simmering between the world’s two largest economies, despite positive signs in trade talks. Chinese companies are preparing to purchase more American pork, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News, in the latest demonstration of good will ahead of another round of talks planned for next month. Read more from Bill Faries and Peter Martin.

Chinese companies are preparing to purchase the pork as the government battles against domestic shortages. The firms are inquiring about prices from pork exporters including Smithfield Foods, owned by China’s WH Group, and Tyson Foods, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing a private matter. Read more.

U.S., Iran Urged to Talk: The leaders of France and the U.K. urged Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Trump to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly in what appeared to be rapid-fire shuttle diplomacy aimed at easing tensions and possibly bringing the two leaders together. French President Emmanuel Macron met separately with both Trump and Rouhani into the evening as he continued to press for negotiations between the two antagonists on his final day at the United Nations. It was his second meeting with Rouhani in 24 hours.

“If he leaves the country without meeting with President Trump this is a lost opportunity,” Macron said of Rouhani, according to comments provided by U.K. officials. “Because he will not come back in a few months. And President Trump will not go to Tehran so they have to meet now.” Read more from Gregory Viscusi, Robert Hutton and Josh Wingrove.

Bolsonaro Gets Cufflinks From Giuliani: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro flew back home yesterday night with two new pairs of cufflinks and a picture frame, courtesy of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R). Giuliani, currently personal lawyer for Trump, was Bolsonaro’s singular scheduled meeting in New York. Bolsonaro, in town for the UN General Assembly, had a light schedule and a shortened trip as he recovers from a surgery earlier this month. Read more from Aline Oyamada.

What Else to Know

Supreme Court Not Politically Split, Roberts Says: Chief Justice John Roberts rejected suggestions that the U.S. Supreme Court is divided along partisan lines, saying he and his colleagues “don’t go about our work in a political manner.” Speaking yesterday before some 2,000 people at a New York synagogue, Roberts portrayed the nation’s highest court as a collegial institution that isn’t swayed by criticism or infected by the partisan rancor that has overwhelmed the other two branches of the U.S. government. Read more from Greg Stohr.

More ‘Extreme Vetting’ Info Sought: U.S. immigration officials must turn over more of the records they withheld or redacted from a Freedom of Information request over the Trump Administration’s tougher asylum and removal policies. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services were ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to reevaluate the exemptions it applied to withhold multiple memos requested by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute. Read more from David McAfee.

Trump Lawyers Head to Court: Lawyers for Trump are trying to convince a judge that the president can’t be investigated for a crime. They’re trying to block the Manhattan District Attorney’s subpoena for Trump’s tax records. But while Trump could succeed in his challenge, legal experts said they don’t expect the judge to rule in a way that grants the sweeping degree of immunity from prosecutorial scrutiny that Trump is claiming for himself, his companies and the people around him.

“Trump’s lawyers are arguing that because he can’t be criminally charged, he can’t even be investigated,” said Jed Shugerman, a professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York. “The argument, to boil it down, is that a president is above the law.” Read more from Bob Van Voris.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@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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