What to Know in Washington: Impeachment Timeline Accelerates

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The explosive testimony of senior U.S. diplomat William Taylor handed Democrats a key to unlock their impeachment case against President Donald Trump, which soon will be brought into public view.

Even as the Trump administration attempts to block witnesses and withhold documents, the inquiry has managed to snare testimony that sketches out a back-channel outreach to Ukraine by the president and his closest advisers that appears to have focused on leveraging U.S. foreign policy to dig up dirt on a political rival.

“We have smoking gun sitting on top of smoking gun at this point. And there is no alternative story,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said yesterday. Taylor’s statement on Tuesday “has dramatically accelerated the investigation.”

Taylor’s testimony was a crucial piece of a puzzle that had already been partly assembled through other testimony, including from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich and Fiona Hill, who had been Trump’s top Russia and Europe adviser.

Taylor’s chronology, based on firsthand conversations and contemporaneous notes, helps fill in a picture of the president using congressionally allocated foreign aid and an Oval Office visit to pressure Ukraine for a political favor.

The defense mounted by the president and his Republican allies so far mainly has focused on criticizing Democrats for keeping testimony private and selectively leaking the most damaging aspects — and denying there was any quid pro quo sought by Trump in a July conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Read more from Billy House.

William Taylor arrives for Testimony - Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
Taylor arrives to testify for a closed-door deposition before House committees on Tuesday.

Bolton Silence Hangs Over Inquiry: Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, is likely to be called as a witness in the intensifying House impeachment inquiry, and no one — including the president — can be sure what he’ll say. Multiple witnesses have testified that Bolton — who was ousted from the White House last month — expressed open contempt for efforts to seek politically motivated investigations from Ukraine that are now the heart of the House investigation. The testimony underscores that a pivotal witness remains waiting in the wings. Read more from Justin Sink.

National Security Figures to Testify: Meanwhile, more present and former Trump administration officials have been scheduled to testify, an official working on the impeachment inquiry said late last night, Billy House reports. The witnesses include Charles Kupperman, a former deputy national security adviser, who is expected to appear on Monday. He has long been associated with Bolton. Timothy Morrison, the senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, is to testify next Thursday. Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs at the State Department, will appear at a Saturday session, according to an official familiar with the plans.

There will be no hearings today and tomorrow because of the tributes and funeral for Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, who died last week.

Happening on the Hill

Cummings Memorials: The Capitol Building will open the South entrance of the Capitol Visitor Center to the public from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m today, where Cummings will lie in state. Top leadership including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others from both chambers will participate in the formal arrival ceremony at 11 a.m. with Cummings’ family and other congressional colleagues in Statuary Hall.

Former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton will speak at Cummings funeral tomorrow at New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, the Washington Post reports.

Foreign Assistance to Campaigns: The House passed a bill that would require campaigns to alert the FBI about their foreign contacts, prohibit the sharing of internal information with foreigners, and require online political ads to identify sponsors. Lawmakers passed the measure on a 227-181 vote. Other provisions would require disclosure of online ad sponsors, seek to clamp down on foreign-controlled campaign spending, and outlaw providing false information to voters about the voting process.

McConnell has said the bill would hurt free speech rights and he objects to it, Catherine Dodge and Kenneth P. Doyle report. Trump yesterday issued a veto threat on the bill, Jordan Fabian reports. The measure’s “ambiguous language would ensnare American citizens and entities acting in good faith in its web of requirements and prohibitions,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.

Panel Endorses Taxing Vaping Like Tobacco: The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation that would tax e-cigarettes, such as vaping devices, the same as tobacco products. The bill would place an excise tax equivalent to the $1.01 federal levy per pack of cigarettes on tobacco alternatives. The legislation is a response to a rapid increase in the use of vaping devices, particularly among teenagers and young adults. The measure is estimated to raise nearly $10 billion over a decade, according to the the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. Read more from Laura Davison and Kaustuv Basu.

Zuckerberg Hears Lawmaker Grievances: Mark Zuckerberg was ready for a congressional interrogation on Facebook’s cryptocurrency project. On the stand for more than six hours yesterday, he got a lashing on every other controversy facing the social media giant, too.

The 35-year-old chief executive officer arrived on Capitol Hill prepared to defend the company’s plans for Libra, describing the advantages of a global digital coin that would help open up financial systems to the poor and underbanked around the world. From the start of his testimony to the House Financial Services Committee, however, lawmakers made it clear that beyond the questions they had over the new currency, they are skeptical that Facebook should be trusted with the tremendous power it h as amassed over 2.7 billion global users. Read more from Kurt Wagner and Sarah Frier.

Alaska Mine Permit Process: House Democrats will be asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide details on how it reached a preliminary finding that the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska won’t be harmful to the environment. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) will follow up with the Corps in person and in writing to evaluate the mine’s permitting and to explore apparent gaps in the process, according to a Democratic aide. Read more from Stephen Lee.

Expedited Visa for General Mazloum: A group of senators asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to help secure a visa for Syrian Democratic Forces General Mazloum Abdi to visit the U.S. and discuss the path forward in Syria. “To say we are extremely concerned with the situation unfolding in northern Syria is an understatement,” Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and others wrote in a bipartisan letter. In a tweet directed at Mazloum, Trump said: “I look forward to seeing you soon.”

Rep. Hill Gets House Ethics Probe: The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation of Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.) amid allegations she had an improper relationship with a congressional staffer. “The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Katie Hill may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff in violation” of House rules, said Chairman Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and top Republican Kenny Marchant (R-Texas). Read more from Billy House.

‘Future’ Workplace Protection Ideas: House Democrats plan to craft a list of legislative recommendations to update protections in the modern workplace, informed by a series of hearings. A pair of House Education and Labor subcommittees yesterday held the first of a planned trio of “future of work” hearings. The amorphous phrase is often used to refer to automation on the job, the use of artificial intelligence tools for hiring and recruiting, and gig economy worker rights, among other issues. Read more from Jaclyn Diaz.

Elections, Politics & Policy

Biden, Warren See Two Paths to Win 2020 Voters: Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are pitching prominent Democrats on two very different paths to winning voters the party lost to Trump in 2016: He says he can recreate the Obama coalition, while she says her anti-corporate-greed message will appeal to struggling Americans.

The choice is heightening a clash over the party’s future along ideological and generational lines. Biden reflects older and center-left voters’ desire to return to a moderate governing style, as Warren channels a rising young left that wants to remake a political system that she says has become unresponsive to the working class. The internal debate comes as the race for the Democratic nomination narrows essentially to Biden and Warren with Bernie Sanders in third place and the rest polling in single digits. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Four Women to Moderate Debate: Democratic candidates will be grilled by a four female journalists at the next presidential debate on Nov. 20, MSNBC said yesterday. The forum in Georgia will be co-hosted by The Washington Post and MSNBC. It will feature Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell and Kristen Welker from the network, and Ashley Parker from the Post. Read more from Max Berley.

Trump’s Real Opponent Is Recession Risk: The real peril facing Trump’s presidency isn’t Biden or Warren or even impeachment. It’s the possibility that the current mood of economic pessimism could intensify and push the country into a full-blown recession. Historically, a shrinking economy has been a near guarantee of turnover in the White House. In the last century, all the incumbent presidents who lost reelection—George H.W. Bush in 1992, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and Herbert Hoover in 1932—presided over a recession.

Trump doesn’t have that problem—yet. Bloomberg economists predict the U.S. economy will grow 2% next year. But forecasts are trending in the wrong direction. Read more from Joshua Green.

Around the Administration

Trump to Appoint Mitman to Be Executive Secretary of NSC: Trump has tapped Matthias Mitman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who most recently served as chief of staff to special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, as executive secretary of the National Security Council, the White House said in emailed statement. Mitman was previously the principal officer in U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah and in Erbil and Basrah, Iraq. The White House said it’ll be Mitman’s third detail to the National Security Council, having earlier served as senior duty officer in the White House Situation Room and as director for Iraq, Ben Livesey reports.

Government Employs H-1B Workers: An attempt by the Labor Department to shine a light on companies that bring on board foreign workers with the help of oft-criticized, third-party placement firms has outed an unexpected employer—the federal government. Under new data collection rules, the government is now able to identify the ultimate employers of workers with H-1B specialty occupation visas, who are essentially leased to companies via these staffing firms. The practice has raised the ire of the Trump administration, which would prefer that American companies hire American workers, even though such H-1B workers are largely tapped for highly technical, tough-to-fill vacancies. Read more from Laura D. Francis, Jasmine Ye Han and Christina Brady.

Warship Could Deploy Six Years Late: The Navy’s costliest warship, the $13 billion Gerald R. Ford, is now scheduled for combat deployment in 2024, six full years later than originally planned, which assumes it demonstrates all serious deficiencies have been fixed, Navy officials have told lawmakers. The carrier was originally scheduled for a 2013 delivery with deployment expected around 2018, but it actually was delivered in May of 2017 with numerous deficiencies with its aircraft launch and recovery equipment and none of the 11 elevators for equipment and munitions. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

Trump Sued Over Waters Rule Rollback: Environmentalists have taken their first legal shot at the Trump administration’s repeal of a landmark Obama-era water regulation. The National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and nine other groups sued yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, accusing the federal government of breaking the law in its rollback of the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The EPA and Army Corps finalized their decision this week to repeal the regulation. Read more from Ellen Gilmer.

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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