What to Know in Washington: Trump Lashes Out Over Impeachment

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi is telling the White House to be honest and cooperate with an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, saying “don’t make this any worse than it already is.”

“Speak the truth. Honor your oath of office to the Constitution of the United States,” Pelosi said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” yesterday when asked what her message is to the White House. “And let us work together to have this be a unifying experience, not a dividing one for our country.”

Last night, Trump tweeted that he wants “to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information.”

The whistleblower who filed a complaint that sparked the inquiry is under federal protection out of fear for his or her safety, CBS said, citing a letter it obtained. The news program also said the whistleblower’s lawyers sent a letter to Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence, thanking him for activating “appropriate resources” to ensure their client’s safety — and saying that “certain individuals” are offering a $50,000 bounty for their client’s identity.

Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistleblower, said on Twitter that CBS “completely misrepresented contents of our letter” but didn’t say how. He posted a copy of the letter online, and said discussions remain ongoing for the whistleblower to testify to Congress while ensuring protections to keep the person’s identity confidential. 60 Minutes, in a subsequent tweet, said it stands by its sources and reporting.

Trump has disparaged the whistleblower and suggested that anyone who provided information is “close to a spy” and perhaps guilty of treason.

“It’s hard to describe how dangerous and loathsome that invitation to violence is,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on “60 Minutes.”

Trump loyalists have taken up the cause too; senior White House adviser Stephen Miller yesterday disparaged the whistleblower’s complaint as a “seven-page little Nancy Drew novel,” a reference to the fictional teenage sleuth. Read more from Mark Niquette and Billy House.

Trump called for Schiff to be questioned for treason and demanded to meet the anonymous whistleblower, Justin Sink reports. The series of Twitter posts last night is likely to prompt new questions about whether Trump is violating protections in place for government employees seeking to expose unethical behavior. Trump went on to say he wants the identities of individuals who provided information cited in the whistleblower report.

The president accused Schiff of lying “in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner” ever seen in the House. That came after Trump called for Schiff to “immediately resign” after the Intelligence Committee chairman began Thursday’s committee hearing with what he called a summary and what critics called an embellishment of Trump’s conversation with Zelenskiy.

Pelosi speaks with Texas Tribune CEO, Evan Smith during a panel at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday.
Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images
Pelosi speaks with Texas Tribune CEO, Evan Smith during a panel at The Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday.

Trump Revs Up a Campaign Fueled by Grievances: Trump solicited advice on heading off his impeachment from Republican lawmakers and confidants over the weekend, but made clear his main tactic will be publicly ratcheting up his grievances against opponents in the hope of exacting as much political damage as possible.

The approach was exemplified by this weekend’s tweets, a video in which he attacked Democrats, and allies who defended the president’s behavior while belittling the impeachment effort. Together, the efforts offered a preview of the approach the president plans to employ as the impeachment fight intensifies. Read more on Trump’s strategy from Justin Sink.

Senate Can’t Sidestep Trial: There’s no way the Senate can avoid receiving articles of impeachment on Trump if the House votes in favor of formal charges, according to a Republican Senate leadership aide. Under U.S. law, the House’s role is to consider articles of impeachment against an individual — in this case, the president. If approved, the Senate then considers whether to remove that person from office.

The aide laid out guidance on what may happen in the Senate, saying the GOP-led body and its leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), can’t simply ignore the outcome in the House, where Democrats hold the majority, and take no action — as some recent reports by the Washington Post and Politico have implied. Read more from Ros Krasny.

What to Watch This Week on Impeachment

Schiff said yesterday in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that Congress expects to hear “very soon” from the whistleblower. The timing will depend on how quickly the security-clearance process for his or her lawyers can be completed. “We’re moving forward with all speed,” he added.

Members of the Intelligence Committee, and two other committees, have scheduled early and potentially pivotal closed-door interviews this week with past and present administration officials. Most other rank-and-file members will be away from Washington for a two-week district work period through Oct. 15.

Kurt Volker, Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine who stepped down last week, is scheduled for a deposition on Thursday, according to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Schiff, and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of Oversight & Reform.

On Friday, Michael Atkinson, the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general, is expected to give a closed-door briefing to the Intelligence Committee. Atkinson is the official who told the committee on Sept. 9 of the existence of a whistleblower complaint.

Depositions have also been scheduled this week for five State Department officials, including Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a State Department counselor cited in the whistleblower complaint; George Kent, deputy assistant secretary; and Gordon Sondland, envoy to the European Union.

In addition, three House committees have given Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in a subpoena, until Thursday to turn over documents they’ve sought since early this month.

Impeachment Process: Pelosi on Saturday declined to estimate how long the process might take. “This is hard,” she said at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. “We have to be somber, we have to be careful. We have to be fair in judging the material.”

“We must consider the facts further to make a decision as to did this violate the Constitution,” she added. Read more from Paul Stinson.

Impeachment Politics

Trump Voters Unmoved, Doubt About Biden: Trump may have risked impeachment in an attempt to tar Joe Biden with scandal, but he appears to have accomplished two political goals — sowing doubts about a leading rival while incurring little damage among his most ardent supporters. Interviews with voters across the country in recent days found few have changed their minds about the president as a result of the Trump-Ukraine scandal.

As with previous controversies, Trump’s supporters said they were sure he had done nothing wrong, while his critics said they thought it was obvious that he had. It was Biden who may suffer the most, as even some who support the impeachment inquiry said they now had questions about what Biden’s son, Hunter, did in Ukraine.

Polls show that views of Trump have long been hardened. His Gallup approval rating has stayed within an 11-point range, compared to the 30-point average difference between highs and lows for every other president since World War II during the same time in office. And an average of surveys taken after Pelosi’s announcement last week of an inquiry show 46% of Americans support impeachment while 42% oppose it. Read more from Ryan Teague Beckwith.

Republicans Paint Impeachment as Election Ploy: Republicans yesterday rolled out a new defense of Trump: Democrats want to tank the economy and impeach the president because they can’t beat him in 2020. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House Republican whip, suggested that House Democrats are misusing impeachment as a pretext for denying Trump a second term that they wouldn’t be able to prevent at the ballot box. And Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said economic indicators through August were headed in the right direction until Pelosi’s announcement. Read more from Mark Niquette.

Biden Tries to Defend Electability: Biden has framed his campaign around the pitch that he’s the strongest Democrat to take on Trump. He’s now facing his toughest test yet to prove it. Biden, who entered the 2020 Democratic primary race late as its instant front-runner, enters a critical and unpredictable phase. He must look for a way to stop rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) surge, even as Trump and other Republicans try to paint him as corrupt, based on discredited claims about his involvement in stopping a probe into his son’s work in Ukraine.

Allies say Biden’s strategy is to fend off the allegations by repeatedly insisting there’s nothing to them, and retraining the focus on the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s behavior. The campaign even went so far Sunday as to write to television networks demanding they not interview Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani because they said he lies on air. The campaign also is trying to refocus on issues such as health care, but only by press release. Biden seems eager to talk about Ukraine in personal appear ances before reporters, voters and donors. Read more from Tyler Pager and Sahil Kapur.

More Political News

Warren and South Carolina: Warren on Saturday returned to South Carolina, where she faces an uphill battle to show she can win over a diverse Democratic electorate even as her support is rising in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally. She stumped at Clinton College, a historically black college in Rock Hill, aiming to chip away at Biden’s strength in the southern state, which holds its primary election on Feb. 29. Black voters overwhelmingly back Biden, who enjoys name recognition with a bloc that’s key to winning the Democratic nomination, helped by his eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president. But Biden’s biggest weakness is among young black voters, and that may be Warren’s best asset as she looks to broaden her appeal. Read more from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.

Warren Pitches ‘Accountable Capitalism’: Warren asked union workers in Detroit yesterday to embrace her sweeping progressive policy proposals, laying out her vision for “accountable capitalism” that has helped her rise to the top of the polls. “I’m tired of playing defense against the big money, I’m tired of playing defense against giant corporations that just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger,” Warren said at a forum hosted by the United Food and Commercial Workers, America’s largest private-sector union with 1.3 million members. “There’s a whole lot more of us than there is of them, and in a democracy that’s what ought to count.” Read more from Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou.

Booker Could Drop White House Bid by Tuesday: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he could end his presidential campaign by tomorrow unless he is able to reach his goal of $1.7 million in donations within the next 36 hours. Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday, he said that despite an “avalanche of support,” his campaign needed “some more help” from contributors. His campaign website shows he’s about $150,000 short of the amount he targeted on Sept. 21 to have a viable path to victory.

Although he has languished at 2% or 3% in most polls and is struggling in fund raising, Booker has qualified for the October debate of Democratic presidential candidates. In the CNN interview, Booker said he has also met the threshold of 165,000 unique donors required to participate in the November debate. Read more from Hailey Waller.

N.C. Voting Maps Challenged Again: North Carolina lawmakers are facing another lawsuit over the choices they made when drawing district maps. The state Legislature’s 2016 congressional map was intentionally and illegally drawn to maximize Republican advantage, and “may be the most extreme and brazen partisan gerrymander in American history,” according to a lawsuit filed Friday. The challenge, filed in the North Carolina Superior Court for Wake County, is backed by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, headed by Eric Ho lder, who was attorney general under President Barack Obama. Read more from Andrew M. Ballard.

What Else to Know Today

Abortion Appeals Waiting as Supreme Court Returns: Abortion cases are coming to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they’re only getting harder for the justices to avoid. The court next week starts a new term that will give the clearest indication yet of how eager the justices are to roll back the right to end a pregnancy. Rulings on major cases could come next June in the heat of the presidential campaign.

Abortion opponents are likely to get a more receptive audience now that Justice Brett Kavanaugh has replaced the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. The eventual goal is to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized the procedure nationwide. It will be a test for Chief Justice John Roberts, who probably holds the pivotal vote. Roberts often tries to steer the court away from divisive issues, an approach that may explain why the court largely ducked the abortion issue last term. Read more from Greg Stohr.

Officials Play Down Reports of China Investment Limits: The Trump administration has issued a partial — and qualified — denial to the revelation that it is discussing imposing limits on U.S. investments in Chinese companies and financial markets as China vowed to continue opening its markets to foreign investment. Bloomberg News on Friday reported that Larry Kudlow, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, was leading deliberations inside the White House over what some hawks have labeled a potential “financial decoupling” of the world’s two largest economies. In a statement emailed to Bloomberg over the weekend, a spokeswoman for U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there were no current plans to stop Chinese companies from listing on U.S. exchanges. Read more from Shawn Donnan, Jenny Leonard and Saleha Mohsin.

New Definitions For ‘Healthy’ and ‘Natural’: The FDA will be proposing new definitions for “healthy” and “natural” claims on food labels soon, an agency official said Friday. The FDA is “close” to proposing a new definition for “healthy” and is “working diligently” on the claim “natural”, Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at FDA, said in opening remarks at the agency’s public meeting to discuss food standards of identity. For years, the FDA has been seeking public comment on an updated definition for the term “healthy”, which was last defined by the agency in the 1990s. Read more from Teaganne Finn.

Removal of Illegal Migrants Stymied: The White House denounced a federal judge’s decision to halt Trump’s administration from expediting deportations of people who entered the U.S. illegally. Once again, a single district judge has suspended application of Federal law nationwide — removing whole classes of illegal aliens from legal accountability,” the White House said in a statement Saturday. Read more from Hailey Waller.

Border Wall Records Rightfully Withheld: Government documents related to border wall planning were properly withheld from the Center for Biological Diversity, the District of Columbia said Friday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Customs and Border Protection didn’t violate the Freedom of Information Act by withholding internal emails and drafts about its potential ecological impact, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said for the court. Read more from Porter Wells.

Trump Family Tax Returns Are With Deutsche Bank: Deutsche Bank said it has tax returns filed by two members of Trump’s family but declined to give their names, injecting an extra note of intrigue into a week that didn’t lack for it. The disclosure, made in a court filing in Manhattan on Friday, comes a month after a federal judge ordered Deutsche Bank and Capital One to say whether they had Trump’s returns. Read more from Gerald Porter Jr.

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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