The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Witness dismisses 'fictional' GOP claims of Ukraine meddling

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The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Impeachment testimony shifts to Fiona Hill, David Holmes | Diplomat says he heard Trump ask about Biden 'investigation' | Fiona Hill knocks GOP's 'fictional narrative' of Ukraine meddling |  Dem debate takeaways | Sights and sounds from Atlanta | Buttigieg's rise targets Biden | Congress faces spending deadline today | Netanyahu indicted on corruption charges | United unveils 'Star Wars'-themed plane



Next two, you may enter:

Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, and David Holmes, an embassy staffer in Kyiv, are testifying on Capitol Hill today in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

Hearing livestream:

Live blog of hearing highlights:



Hill on Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiParnas says he has turned over tape of Trump calling for diplomat's firing Pompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map ABC: Recording apparently captures Trump discussing Yovanovitch ouster with Parnas, Fruman MORE: "[Fiona Hill] says John BoltonJohn BoltonSenate Republicans must stand up for the rule of law and ensure a fair, open proceeding Democrats cap impeachment arguments with focus on Trump stonewalling Lindsey Graham will oppose subpoena of Hunter Biden MORE told her 'Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade going to blow everyone up.' [Daniel Goldman, the lead counsel for Democrats]: 'Did you understand what he meant?' Hill: 'I did.' "

Holmes says he heard Trump asking about the investigation: "I sat directly across from Ambassador Sondland. The president's voice was loud and recognizable." The full back-and-forth:

Holmes says Ukraine felt pressure to stay in Trump's good graces: "Whether the security systems hold continued or not, the Ukrainians understood that was something the president wanted, and they still wanted important things from the president, and I think that continues to this day," Holmes said. "I think they're being very careful, they still need us now going forward."

Read Fiona Hill's opening statement: The interesting part starts on page 5. Read:  

From her opening statement: "Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country--and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves." The comments are a reference to Republican claims that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in 2016.

Read David Holmes's opening statement:


It's Thursday of a busy, busy week in Washington. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait tweeted, "I watched cable news from 9:00 am to 11:15 PM, how does Trump do this every day?"

Here's the cover of today's New York Times:

And here's today's cover of The Washington Post:



Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesDemocratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' House Democrats release second batch of Parnas materials Democratic lawmaker says Nunes threatened to sue him over criticism MORE is not having it: "Like clockwork, @DevinNunes exits the hearing room as Dem counsel begins his questioning. (Just missed photo of him walking out the door)" (Via Vice's Cameron Joseph) Photos:

Watching the hearing: "The chairs of the other two committees leading the #impeachment probe – Rep. Engel of Foreign Affairs and Rep. Maloney of Oversight - attend today's hearing." Photo from Reuters's Patricia Zengerle:

I cannot keep up with the Kardashians...: "Words just uttered at an impeachment hearing: 'You can tell the Kardashians you tried.' " Details:



Here are five bombshells from Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandPompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map Pompeo to meet with Zelensky in Ukraine amid impeachment trial Video becomes vital part of Democrats' case against Trump MORE's testimony:

  1. Sondland refutes Trump: Clear quid pro quo
  2. Instruction came from Trump himself
  3. Everyone was in the loop
  4. Diplomats saw Giuliani as toxic
  5. Sondland airs frustration with higher-ups 

Details for each:

David Hale did not have a prepared opening statement: The Hill's Olivia Beavers noted that, "Hale is the first witness we've seen who did not come prepared with an opening statement."

Hot mic: During the hearing, Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdThe Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' House Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts MORE (R-Texas) asked what the U.S. can do to help Ukraine. Another person was overheard on the microphone saying, "that's a good question."



The famous 'if the debate happened in the woods and no one listened, did it really happen?': 

After a long day of impeachment hearings against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE, 10 Democratic presidential candidates took the stage in Atlanta for the next presidential primary debate.



  1. Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegPoll: 68 percent of Democrats say it 'makes no difference' if a candidate is a billionaire CNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary Poll shows tight general election battle between Trump and top Democrats MORE benefits from a lack of game-changing moments
  2. Joe BidenJoe BidenSchiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Conservative reporter on Sanders: He's not a 'yes man' Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE stumbles yet again
  3. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE shines, but is it too late?
  4. All-female panel of moderators makes an impact
  5. Heat gets turned down in left vs. center fight

Context and details for each from The Hill's Niall Stanage:

Interesting read -- How Biden is still the target of Buttigieg's rise: Via The Hill's Reid Wilson.



The most awkward moment of the night: "Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed ... that his 2020 bid had been endorsed by the only black woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate." The problem: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), another black woman and rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, was standing just a few feet away from him. And she certainly hasn't offered Biden her endorsement."

Harris-Booker selfie before the debate:

Throwback to this incredible gif of The Washington Post's Ashley Parker, who co-moderated the debate last night:

Lol, this behind-the-scenes video of the debate setup:

What a practical takeaway for the evening: The Huffington Post's Matt Fuller tweeted, "Gonna start using Maddow's 'I'm sorry to interrupt, but I need you to answer the question' on Members of Congress."

CNN's Betsy Klein put it well: "me at the beginning of this debate vs me at the halfway point" Video to explain:

Yes, this: " 'My friend' -Joe Biden referring to people he hates."

What Trump's team Snapchatted during the debate:

Did you notice the Fox News ad?: "A Fox News ad just played on MSNBC during the Democratic debate." (Via The Hill's Joe Concha

Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson says she supports Yang in Iowa caucuses Patrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' Marianne Williamson drops out of 2020 race MORE, who did not qualify for the debate, tweeted at 11:53 p.m. last night: "Miss me?"


From Andrew YangAndrew YangJohn Leguizamo joins the 'Yang Gang' CNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary Joe Rogan says he's probably voting for Bernie Sanders MORE this morning:


OMG -- MEANWHILE AT Deval PatrickDeval PatrickCNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary Patrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' Buttigieg to attend MLK Day event in South Carolina after facing criticism MORE'S CAMPAIGN EVENT:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who recently announced his bid for president, canceled a campaign event yesterday because only two people showed up. Photo of the empty venue:  :(




Let's make this a Christmas problem:

The Senate is voting today on a measure today to fund the government through Dec. 20, punting the spending fight until the holidays. 

Is it expected to pass?: Yes.

What next: The House already passed the continuing resolution, so it will head to President Trump's desk for a signature. 

Livestream of the Senate vote:  



Netanyahu is indicted: 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

From Netanyahu: "Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a politically orchestrated "witch hunt" by the media and the left."  

What this means:



Gordon Sondland made his flight!:

Via CNN, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland made his flight to Brussels right after his congressional testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

The funny part: When Sondland boarded his flight, he put his luggage in the wrong overheard bin and when he realized the mix-up, he admitted, "My whole day has been like this." 

Photo to prove it:



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A must-have for the holiday season:



The House and Senate are in. President Trump is in Washington, D.C. Vice President Pence has no public events on his schedule.

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. EST: Votes in the House. The House's full schedule today:

11:30 a.m. EST: Roll call votes in the Senate. The Senate's full schedule today:

11:45 a.m. EST: President Trump received an intelligence briefing.

3:30 p.m. EST: President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump beefs up impeachment defense with Dershowitz, Starr Trump welcomes LSU to the White House: 'Go Tigers' The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE present the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal in the East Room of the White House. 



10:45 a.m. EST: Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Social Security emerges as flash point in Biden-Sanders fight | Dems urge Supreme Court to save consumer agency | Trump to sign USMCA next week Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (D-Calif.) held a press conference. Livestream:

11:30 a.m. EST: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Cheney's decision not to run for Senate sparks Speaker chatter Mark Mellman: A failure of GOP leadership MORE (R-Calif.) held a press conference. Livestream:



Today is National Gingerbread Cookie Day.


This is brilliant:

United just launched a "Star Wars"-themed plane to celebrate "The Rise of Skywalker."

Where it flies: Around the U.S., Central America and the Caribbean

How to find a Star Wars flight: "Passengers can book a flight by looking up the aircraft's tail number, N36272." 

Photos of the decked-out plane -- it looks pretty cool:


And because it's been a long week of news, here are best friend dogs who love to give each other hugs: