What to Know in Washington: Syria Raid Gives Trump Brief Win

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President Donald Trump scored one of the biggest successes of his presidency with the killing of an Islamic State leader, yet the battlefield victory isn’t likely to blunt the momentum of Democrats moving closer to impeaching him.

The inquiry led by three House committees resumes today with another slate of witnesses, even as the country absorbs Trump’s dramatic announcement of the death of Islamic State commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was cornered in a tunnel by U.S. forces.

History suggests Trump may enjoy a boost in public support after the raid, but it will likely be short-lived. That gives Democrats little incentive to slow down an impeachment inquiry, especially after testimony last week bolstered their main line of investigation into whether the president pressured the government of Ukraine for his personal political benefit.

“We will be doing public hearings, and I think we’ll being doing them soon” Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” program.

Lawmakers and officials familiar with committee plans say the aim has been to wrap up the impeachment probe by the end of the year. But with a long list of potential witnesses, House adjournments and holidays ahead, there are rising doubts that timetable can be met, even if White House roadblocks aren’t successful.

Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee conducting the inquiry with the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs panels, said last week he hasn’t been told of any official deadline to wrap up the inquiry, but getting it done by the end of the year would be “very challenging.”

“I don’t know if we can make that,” he said. “I would favor acceleration of the process of the evidence we have now, most of which is in the public domain.” Read more from Billy House.

Trump at the White House on Sunday
Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Sipa USA/Bloomberg
At the White House Sunday, Trump announced that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed after a U.S. military raid in northern Syria.

Maloney Makes Run for Top Impeachment Panel Spot: The New York City lawmaker whose district includes much of Manhattan and Trump Tower has the inside track to take over a key congressional watchdog committee with a leading role in the impeachment inquiry against Trump, according to multiple House Democratic officials. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has already taken over the Oversight and Reform Committee on an acting basis, following the Oct. 17 death of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the former chairman.

Maloney’s seniority on the committee gives her an advantage over other Democrats eyeing the top job on the panel involved in the impeachment process and other investigations of Trump’s administration and associates. Since the inquiry was sparked by a whistle-blower complaint from the intelligence community, the most visible leader of the impeachment process is still expected to be Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). This would give Maloney an important but mostly behind-the-scenes role in hearings to gather evidence on Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine, which could be the basis for articles of impeachment.

“I think it’s been decided,” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), an Oversight Committee member, who has also been suggested as a candidate. But Clay said he will not make a bid and understands that Maloney has it sewn up. Read more from Billy House.

Official Says He Wanted Pompeo to Back Envoy: The State Department’s top diplomat for Europe told impeachment investigators Saturday he was disappointed Secretary of State Michael Pompeo didn’t back the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine when she was targeted in a smear campaign by Trump and his associates, a person familiar with his testimony said. Speaking for more than eight hours Saturday, Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for Europe, said he pushed department leadership to make a statement of support for Marie Yovanovitch to counter the push to get her recalled, led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani had worked for months to have Yovanovitch removed, believing she was opposed to the president. She was recalled in May 2019. Read more from Erik Wasson, Billy House and Nick Wadhams.

McGahn Testimony Talks Ongoing: The Trump administration took issue with the House Judiciary Committee’s assertion that negotiations over the testimony of former White House Counsel Don McGahn are at an impasse. In a filing Friday in Washington federal court, Justice Department lawyers said there have been five discussions since Oct. 8 about possible terms and conditions of McGahn’s testimony and there was no need for a judge to get involved. Read more from Edvard Pettersson.

Elections & Politics

Buttigieg Addresses Black Church: Pete Buttigieg went straight to the heart of Joe Biden’s support in South Carolina yesterday, bringing a message of healing and unity to a black church. The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, dressed in a crisp blue suit, joined parishioners in prayer at an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church worship in Rock Hill, before introducing himself and highlighting his plan for black Americans.

This constituency is crucial, since African-Americans make up 60% of the Democratic electorate in the state that holds the fourth nominating contest. It’s also the first test of black support after primaries and caucuses in predominantly white Iowa and New Hampshire and Latino-heavy Nevada. Read more from Tyler Pager.

Rep. Hill Says She’ll Quit Congress in Sex Scandal: Rep. Katie Hill (D-Calif.), who’s apologized for an “inappropriate” sexual relationship with a female campaign staffer, announced her resignation from Congress, saying in a statement she was departing with a “broken heart.” The conservative blog RedState and some news websites, including the Daily Mail, had posted explicit photos of Hill online that were released without her consent. Some of the photos showed Hill with the campaign staff member.

Her departure will open up a swing district in the House that Democrats will have to defend. Republicans had held her Southern California seat — which includes part of Los Angeles County and part of eastern Ventura County — for 15 years before she won it in 2018, ousting Republican Steve Knight. Read more from Derek Wallbank.

Conyers, 26-Term Congressman Hit by Scandal, Dies: John Conyers Jr., a Democrat who was serving his 26th term in the House when he resigned from Congress after allegations that he sexually harassed employees, has died at age 90. Conyers’ death at his home in Detroit yesterday was confirmed by a family spokeswoman, the Washington Post reported. No cause of death of given.

The representative from Michigan’s 13th district entered the House in 1965. During his tenure, he introduced legislation on civil liberties, voting rights and violence against women while advancing the causes of black Americans by co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus in 1969. Read more from David Henry.

Foreign Affairs

Strike on Al-Baghdadi Built on Surveillance: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was under surveillance for weeks and evaded “two or three” American strikes before blowing himself up as U.S. special forces stormed his northern Syrian hideout. As described in unusual detail by Trump yesterday, the final moves to eliminate a man he described as the world’s most-wanted terrorist took shape while the president was at the Camp David presidential retreat Saturday morning, and ended with him and top officials following the raid via live video at the White House. David Wainer has more on how the raid played out.

Pompeo Calls for Second Round in Bolivian Election: Pompeo yesterday cited “irregularities” in an Oct. 20 election that would give Bolivian President Evo Morales a fourth term and urged authorities to hold a second round of voting between the incumbent and the main opposition candidate. “We are deeply concerned over irregularities in the vote-counting process of #Bolivia’s Oct 20 elections,” Pompeo said on Twitter. “We call on #Bolivia to restore electoral integrity by proceeding to a 2nd round of free, fair, transparent, & credible elections with the top two vote winners.” Read more from Shawn Donnan.

Around the Administration

Trump Denies Kelly’s Warning on Hiring ‘Yes Man’: Trump denied John Kelly’s assertion that he had warned the president he would be impeached if he replaced the former White House chief of staff with a “yes man.” Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general who was chief of staff from July 2017 to January 2019, said at an event sponsored by the Washington Examiner that he told the president he needed someone to keep him within the bounds of his authority to avoid impeachment.

“John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that,” Trump said in a statement. “If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does.” Read more from Laura Davison and Jennifer Jacobs.

Microsoft Pentagon Win Changes Cloud Game: Microsoft scored a major victory in securing a milestone, $10 billion Pentagon contract for cloud computing services. But the contract — unthinkable for Microsoft even a year ago — will likely come at a cost, legal and internal. Amazon, the market leader in cloud services, is considering a challenge to the award of the contract to Microsoft’s much smaller Azure business, citing Trump’s interference in the bidding process, according to a person familiar with the matter. Amazon had been widely considered the front-runner because of its superior size and previous cloud contract with the Central Intelligence Agency. Read more from Dina Bass.

Supreme Court Review Could Undercut CFPB Enforcement: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could lose leverage in enforcement negotiations as the Supreme Court considers whether its leadership structure is unconstitutional. The CFPB has said it will be business as usual as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge to the independent agency’s single-director, whom the president can only fire for cause, rather than at will.

But federal judges have already put stays on the bureau’s enforcement litigation or closed cases altogether pending a Supreme Court decision in Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau— which hasn’t been scheduled for oral arguments yet. That delay could give companies a leg up when negotiating the terms of CFPB civil investigative demands or even proposed settlements for alleged consumer law violations, regardless of how the Supreme Court eventually rules. Read more from Evan Weinberger.

Interior Issues FOIA Rule: The Interior Department has issued a new regulation to streamline public records requests under the Freedom of Information Act as it struggles with a spike in submissions. The rule makes several changes to the December 2018 proposed rule, which transparency advocates feared would make it more difficult to request documents and data from Interior under the act, commonly known as FOIA. Read more from Tiffany Stecker.

Border Patrol Buys 33 Million Bullets: The parent agency of the U.S. Border Patrol has purchased 33 million rounds of ammunition for its new handgun, and may buy more than 300 million additional rounds over the next five years. Customs and Border Protection agreed to pay $9.89 million for Winchester Ammunition Inc.’s special 9mm hollow point Luger rounds through a near-term contract made public Oct. 24. The bullets are needed by the CBP as it transitions to Glock Inc.’s new 9mm handgun. Another five-year contract for ammunition is expected to be awarded late next year, with its value estimated at between $80 million and $100 million. Read more from Pete Norman.

Cohn Adds Cybersecurity Gig: Gary Cohn is slow walking his way back to corporate life after leaving the Trump administration almost two years ago. The former Goldman Sachs president has begun advising a firm that plans to launch a secure mobile phone as global cybersecurity threats mount. He earlier joined the boards of a mobile gaming company and a blockchain startup, Sridhar Natarajan reports.

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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