What to Know in Washington: More Whistleblowers Come Forward

President Donald Trump faces new peril heading into this week — not just from Democrats seeking to impeach him but from his own administration, as there are now at least two whistleblowers coming forward to talk about his actions.

There’s doubt over whether the Trump administration will let several witnesses speak to House panels this week as planned, and signs some Republican lawmakers are growing restive about what else might surface regarding Trump’s requests of foreign leaders.

Lawyers representing an intelligence official who filed a formal complaint over the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, in which Trump pushed the Ukrainian government to dig up damaging information about a political rival, said yesterday they’re now representing multiple whistleblowers. It wasn’t clear how many more there are.

A second whistleblower has first-hand knowledge that supports the complaint filed by the first official and has spoken to the inspector general for the U.S. intelligence community, said Mark Zaid, one of the lawyers representing the whistleblowers. The second individual hasn’t filed a separate complaint, Zaid said.

Revelations about multiple whistleblowers raise the stakes for Trump as House Democrats prepare to privately depose more current and former officials about the circumstances surrounding the call in which Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who’s running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Trump administration is still trying to form a strategy for how it’s going to handle the House investigation. The president has insisted he’s done nothing wrong, but he’s also made clear that he doesn’t trust the House Democrats running the impeachment inquiry and has been daring them to hold a vote on opening impeachment proceedings.

The House panels subpoenaed the White House for documents on efforts by Trump and Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to pressure Ukraine into opening a probe of the Bidens. Trump must decide whether to stonewall the various House panels — as he’s suggested — or provide the documents by the Oct. 18 deadline. The House and Senate remain in recess this week, with lawmakers set to return next Tuesday. Chris Strohm has the latest.

Trump at the White House on Friday.
Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg
Trump at the White House on Friday.

Lawmakers Take Sides on Sunday Shows: Sunday morning talk shows were dominated by the emergence of the second whistleblower and fallout from the president’s suggestion that China investigate his political rival Joe Biden. At least two Republican lawmakers suggested the president had been joking in remarks to reporters outside the White House on Thursday about China. Hailey Waller, Chris Strohm and Steve Geimann round up the weekend’s talking points.

Pompeo Says State Responded to Congress: The State Department has given Congress an “initial response” to a request for documents related to the impeachment inquiry, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said. “We’ll obviously do all the things we’re required to do by law,” Pompeo said Saturday at a press conference in Athens, where he met with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Andrew Davis and Eleni Chrepa report. Pompeo missed a deadline Friday to turn over Ukraine-related documents to congressional investigators, CNN reported.

Trump Blames Loyalist Perry: As an impeachment probe grows, Trump has offered a range of explanations for his conversation with Zelenskiy. The latest is that he only made the call at the behest of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, one of Trump’s original cabinet stalwarts who is now said to be planning his departure. Trump told Republican lawmakers in a phone call Friday that it was Perry who’d urged him to call Zelenskiy, an official familiar with the call said. Trump’s remarks were first reported by Axios, and were enough to get #RickPerryMadeMe trending on Twitter. Perry’s spokeswoman confirmed that the secretary urged Trump to make a call to the new Ukrainian leader to discuss energy issues. But there’s no indication Perry urged Trump to withhold military aid, float an investigation of Joe Biden, or kick off a hunt for emails related to the 2016 presidential race. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Ari Natter.

Elections & Politics

Biden Tells Donors He’s Ready to Battle Trump: Under attack from Trump and following a lackluster fundraising quarter, Joe Biden attempted this weekend to reassure his top donors while acknowledging he was slow to respond forcefully to the president’s accusations of corruption. Biden’s campaign gathered about 100 top donors for a summit in Philadelphia, where it delivered briefings from top campaign staff, a tour of its campaign headquarters, and a 90-minute visit with the former vice president. The campaign laid out its strategy with under four months until the first nominating contest, the Iowa caucuses, on Feb. 3. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Trump Plans Rally in Louisiana: Trump will hold a rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Oct. 11, one day before the state’s primary election for governor. Louisiana is the only state in the Deep South with a Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, who’s seeking re-election. Trump said on Twitter that he’s trying to force a run-off vote. “Going to Louisiana on Friday night for a big Republican Rally,” Trump tweeted yesterday. “Keep Democrat Governor Edwards under 50%, force a runoff, and have a great new Republican Governor! Voting on Saturday.” Read more from Chris Strohm.

Steyer Campaign Says It Qualified for Debate: Presidential candidate Tom Steyer’s campaign said he qualified for the Democratic National Committee’s debate in November. “Tom is excited to continue getting out there and meeting with voters all across the country, hearing their stories, and connecting with them personally,” campaign manager Heather Hargreaves said in a statement yesterday. Read more from Chris Strohm.

Warren Has Plans, Except on Health Care: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a plan for everything — but on the crucial 2020 issue of health care, she’s borrowing from rival and fellow progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The presidential candidate who made a mark with her signature “I have a plan for that!” is the only one of the five top-polling Democrats without a sweeping proposal of her own to remake the health care system. She has instead championed Sanders’ legislation to replace private insurance by putting every American in an expanded Medicare program.

Warren’s deference to a rival is unusual for a candidate who has styled herself as the policy wonk with a program for everything from cradle to grave. It has allowed her to attract many liberal voters who supported Sanders in 2016, leading her to a dead heat with Biden for the top spot in the Democratic field. And if Sanders were to eventually drop out of the race before Warren, her embrace of his most popular plan could keep his supporters in her camp. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Sanders Proposes Ending Corporate Election Giving: Sanders unveiled a plan to end all corporate giving in federal elections, as he leads all other 2020 Democratic presidential contenders in fundraising by amassing small, individual donations. Sanders, who’s recovering in Vermont after a heart attack last week, is proposing an election-financing system entirely funded by the taxpayers. The ban on corporate donations would also apply to national party conventions and to presidential inaugural activities. Individual donations to those events would be capped at $500. Sanders has long been a proponent of getting company influence out of politics, and the new plan would play to his strengths. Read more from Laura Litvan.

Foreign Affairs

Trump Orders Cut to National Security Staff: Trump has ordered a substantial reduction in the staff of the National Security Council, according to five people familiar with the plans, as the White House confronts the impeachment inquiry touched off by a whistleblower complaint related to the agency’s work. Some of the people described the staff cuts as part of a White House effort to make its foreign policy arm leaner under new National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.

The request to limit the size of the NSC staff was conveyed to senior agency officials by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and O’Brien last week. The whistleblower complaint has been followed by damaging reports on the president’s private conversations with other world leaders. Read more from Jennifer Jacobs and Justin Sink.

U.S. Won’t Stop Turkish Advance Into Syria: The U.S. said it will stand aside when Turkey’s military launches an operation against America’s wartime Kurdish allies in Syria, a significant shift in American policy that raises questions over the fate of tens of thousands of Islamic State detainees. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a close U.S. ally in the fight to defeat Islamic State. But Turkey considers Syria’s Kurdish militants a threat to its national security and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his forces were ready to begin a military operation against them in northeastern Syria imminently.

The decision represents a dramatic reversal for U.S. policy, which in 2015 provided air support for Kurdish militias to retake the critical town of Kobani from Islamic State and has since used Kurdish fighters as ground troops in the campaign to clear Syria of the group. Read more from Josh Wingrove and Selcan Hacaoglu.

China Narrows Scope for Trade Deal: Chinese officials are signaling they’re increasingly reluctant to agree to a broad trade deal pursued by Trump, ahead of negotiations this week that have raised hopes of a potential truce. In meetings with U.S. visitors to Beijing in recent weeks, senior Chinese officials have indicated the range of topics they’re willing to discuss has narrowed considerably, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Vice Premier Liu He, who will lead the Chinese contingent in high-level talks that begin Thursday, told visiting dignitaries he would bring an offer to Washington that won’t include commitments on reforming Chinese industrial policy or the government subsidies that have been the target of longstanding U.S. complaints, one of the people said. That offer would take one of the Trump administration’s core demands off the table. Read more from Shawn Donnan and Jenny Leonard.

North Korea Warns U.S. After Talks Stall: North Korea and the U.S. left their first nuclear discussions in eight months disagreeing about what was on the table and showing how far apart Kim Jong Un and Trump still are. North Korea’s nuclear envoy Kim Myong Gil said today that the U.S. had arrived “empty-handed” for the talks in Stockholm over the weekend. He hinted at Kim Jong Un’s threat to take the nuclear stalemate on a “new path” if the Trump team doesn’t ease up on sanctions choking the economy by the end of the year.

“It’s up to the U.S. whether to hold talks later on,” Kim Myong Gil told reporters in Beijing, the Yonhap News Agency of South Korea quoted him as saying. “If the U.S. is not well prepared, who knows what terrible incident could happen. Let’s wait and see.” Read more from Jihye Lee and Shinhye Kang.

What Else to Know

Impeachment Fight Hangs Over High Court’s Return: Even before the prospect of impeaching Trump arose, the U.S. Supreme Court term that opens today was going to thrust the justices into the nation’s political wars in the run-up to next year’s election. In its first full term with two Trump appointees, the court is planning to hear fights over gay and transgender rights, deportation protections and gun regulations. On Friday the justices added an abortion case, the first since Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation created a stronger conservative majority. Greg Stohr previews the new term.

Read more:

Trump Orders Ban on Immigrants Who Can’t Pay for Health Care: The Trump administration said it won’t admit immigrants who can’t cover their own medical costs, a policy criticized as likely to lead to separations for some families and that could quickly face legal challenges. Would-be immigrants will need to show they’ll be covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering the U.S. or have the financial resources to pay their medical bills, or be denied visas, Trump said in a proclamation issued late Friday. The move aims to reject those “who will financially burden the United States health care system,” according to the proclamation. Read more from Andrew Davis and Todd Shields.

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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