The Hill's Morning Report — Trump takes aim at whistleblower

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump takes aim at whistleblower
© Getty Images

Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Thursday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the up-early co-creators. Find us @asimendinger and @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE and House Democratic leaders continued trading accusations and threats on Wednesday, digging into the impeachment battlefield to distract from questions at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump dispensed with niceties in the Oval Office while seated next to the visiting president of Finland to declare that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy READ: Top NSC aide Tim Morrison's closed-door impeachment inquiry testimony Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump MORE (D-Calif.) is dishonest.

The president said Schiff, who has the investigative reins during the impeachment inquiry, is especially untrustworthy following a report on Wednesday that an Intelligence Committee staff member advised the unnamed intelligence community whistleblower to file a formal complaint. A lawyer for the whistleblower said his client filed a document that was drafted “entirely on their own” (ABC News).

The complaint asserted the president used a July conversation with the president of Ukraine to ask for the government’s help to investigate political rival Joe BidenJoe BidenBudget official says he didn't know why military aid was delayed: report Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide READ: Foreign service officer Jennifer Williams' closed-door testimony from the House impeachment inquiry MORE’s activities while in Kiev for the Obama administration (The New York Times).

The Hill: Biden said again there is “zero” evidence he or his son Hunter Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine, as argued repeatedly by Trump and his lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGrowing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump Bloomberg, Patrick take different approaches after late entries into primary race MORE.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLouisiana governor wins re-election Dynamic scoring: Forward-thinking budgeting practices to grow our economy Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' MORE (D-Calif.) and Schiff met with reporters to publicly warn Trump to expect a subpoena in the Ukraine investigation (The Associated Press). The president threatened a lawsuit tied to the Russia probe he approved, headed by former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE (The Hill).

The Speaker and her California colleague defended the whistleblower, who is weighing whether or how to speak to Congress after being publicly attacked by Trump as partisan, factually incorrect and a “spy” who merits punishment. The president has said he wants to face his “accuser,” something Pelosi and Schiff said would not happen (The Hill).

"Let's not make any mistake here; the president wants to make this all about the whistleblower and suggest people that come forward with evidence of his wrongdoing are somehow treasonous, and should be treated as traitors and spies," Schiff said. "This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses. It's an incitement to violence” (The Hill).

Against that venomous backdrop, House Democrats and staff members participated in a closed-door “urgent” briefing from the State Department’s watchdog on Wednesday. It was reportedly focused on documents disseminated to employees that were perceived  within the department as threats of retaliation should employees speak to Congress as part of impeachment fact-finding.

Relations between Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFive takeaways from ex-ambassador's dramatic testimony Pompeo: No US response ruled out in Hong Kong Ousted ambassador describes State Department in 'crisis' in dramatic impeachment testimony MORE, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, and Democrats in the House went from bad to worse after impeachment investigators subpoenaed him to provide information about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine by Friday.

Pompeo conceded for the first time on Wednesday that he had been listening to Trump’s July phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (The Associated Press). The secretary on Sept. 22 dodged a question from ABC News about his knowledge of the president’s conversation. Pelosi asserted to her caucus on a conference call that Pompeo, Giuliani and Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr defends Trump's use of executive authority, slams impeachment hearings GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report MORE have “gone rogue” to try to protect the president (The Hill). Democratic lawmakers want to question them all. 

In the meantime, House investigators today will depose former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who before his recent resignation met with Giuliani and Ukrainian officials. On Friday, House members expect to hear from Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who received the whistleblower complaint and sought to turn it over to Congress in August. Next week, lawmakers expect question former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump and Giuliani criticized before she was withdrawn from Kiev (The Los Angeles Times).

The bottom line: The White House and Trump’s allies favor a “this is war” public relations strategy practiced during the Russia probe. Shaping a narrative for voters, according to that playbook, involves shredding the investigators, throwing up roadblocks to slow the process, elevating Trump’s poll numbers and keeping Senate Republicans in the fold. House Democrats, on the other hand, say they need speed, clear-cut evidence, unblemished witnesses and a compelling justification for the pursuit of impeachment just 13 months before voters will speak for themselves. 

The Hill: Meet Atkinson, the Trump-appointed watchdog at the center of the whistleblower drama.

The Hill: GOP turns furor on media amid impeachment fight.

The Hill: House Republicans voice messaging frustrations tied to impeachment. “We have to do better.”

The Hill: The president rails about the impeachment inquiry before saying he “always” cooperates. 

The Hill: Here’s how the impeachment process works.

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSinger Neil Young says that America's presidents haven't done enough address climate change New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide MORE (I-Vt.) underwent a heart procedure in which doctors inserted two stents to clear a blocked coronary artery. Jeff Weaver, a top adviser to Sanders, said Vermont independent would be was postponing campaign appearances “until further notice.”  

The senator experienced chest discomfort during a campaign event Tuesday and was taken to a Las Vegas hospital. According to the campaign, the stents were “successfully inserted,” and Sanders “is conversing and in good spirits” (The Washington Post).

Sanders, who is one of three septuagenarians in the 2020 Democratic primary race, was set to campaign across California in the coming days, but those plans are now on hold while he recuperates. The news comes at a key time for Sanders, who announced on Tuesday that he raised $25.3 million in the last three months of his campaign as he looks to blunt the rise of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Bloomberg, Patrick take different approaches after late entries into primary race Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne MORE (D-Mass.) and cut into the lead held by Biden. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The news also comes less than two weeks before the fourth Democratic debate in Ohio and amid growing party concerns about nominating a candidate well beyond retirement age. Until this week, many of those conversations focused on Biden. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Overnight Health Care: Warren promises gradual move to 'Medicare for All' | Rivals dismiss Warren plan for first 100 days | White House unveils rules on disclosing hospital prices | Planned Parenthood wins case against anti-abortion group MORE (D-N.J.) alluded to age, mental dexterity and the party’s need for fresh ideas on and off debate stages this summer, which angered Biden’s campaign and allies. 

Sanders turned 78 last month and will be 79 on inauguration day in January, 2021. Biden is 76, and will be 78 on inauguration day, while Warren turned 70 in June (The Hill). 

Trump is 73 and would be 74 at the outset of a potential second term. 

The Hill: Booker struggles to sell unity as Democrats itch for fight.

The Associated Press: Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide Harris gets key union endorsement amid polling plateau MORE (D-Calif.) faces questions about whether Iowa focus is too late.

Politico: With Warren gaining, Biden builds a Super Tuesday fortress.

The Washington Post: Andrew YangAndrew YangNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide Saagar Enjeti: Yang's plan to regulate big tech misses the mark MORE raises $10 million, campaign says, outpacing two senators so far in the third quarter.

 

 

> 2020 Tech: The social media giants are in a vise as the 2020 presidential race heats up and both sides work the referees over fears the platforms are being abused by their rivals for political gain.  

As Jonathan Easley reports, on one side, Democrats are demanding that Facebook and Twitter censor Trump and his campaign, headlined by Harris’s call to suspend the president’s Twitter account. Democrats are deeply worried that the social media giants will tilt the election in favor of Trump by running ads filled with distortions, echoing concerns from 2016, when foreign agents flooded the platforms with divisive ads and misinformation aimed at harming Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy 'Too Far Left' hashtag trends on Twitter Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family MORE.  

On the other side are Trump and the GOP, who have long held that conservative voices are being suppressed by the Silicon Valley liberals running the tech conglomerates. This week alone, Warren and Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpResistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family George Conway and Trump Jr. trade personal insults during impeachment hearing Trump: 'Everybody knows who the whistleblower is' MORE renewed their calls for the government to dismantle Facebook and Twitter, though for completely different reasons.

“The prevailing view from both sides now is that these companies have become so large and so important in political and social life that there needs to be some sort of government intervention,” said Shannon McGregor, a professor of communications at the University of Utah. “What that looks like could depend on the outcome of the election.”

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION: With impeachment taking up all the oxygen in the political world, it was nearly a foregone conclusion that the next 13 months would be spent getting nothing done between Capitol Hill and the White House outside of must-pass legislation. 

Not so fast, says Pelosi. 

As Niv Elis writes, the hullabaloo surrounding impeachment seems to have had little effect so far on the potential passage of the U.S-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which Pelosi said on Wednesday could get done no matter the situation surrounding impeachment.  

“They have nothing to do with each other,” she said at her weekly press conference.  “The president has said he wants this U.S. Mexico Canada trade agreement to go forward, and we are awaiting the language on enforceability. Does it mean he can't do that? That's really up to him.” 

Democratic strategists argue that Pelosi has incentive to work with Trump and Republicans on the issue in order to show that Democrats can “walk and chew gum” at the same time.

The Hill: Hispanic voters push campaigns to address gun violence.

 

 

> Tariffs: The Trump administration announced plans to impose tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European goods, including Scotch and Irish whisky, gouda cheese, and aircrafts starting on Oct. 18 in retaliation for the illegal subsidies the European Union gave Airbus for 15 years.

The administration’s move came after the World Trade Organization gave the go-ahead to do so, ruling that the U.S. could impose the tariffs over the illegal aid EU gave to Airbus in its longtime battle with Boeing.

European aircrafts will face a 10 percent import tax, while the other products on the administration’s list will be taxed at a 25 percent rate (The Hill).

The Associated Press: Trump administration to expand DNA collection from migrants.

 

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



OPINION

On impeachment, Pelosi has many good options, by Rahm Emanuel, opinion contributor, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2oHhlUj  

Jamal Khashoggi reminds us all to never forget our fallen journalists, by former Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2n6Qhh6

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, investigative reporters for The New York Times, on their new book, “She Said;” and Gigi Sohn, a Benton senior fellow and public advocate, to discuss California privacy law, net neutrality ruling, and Yang’s proposal to turn data into a property right. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House anticipates its next roll call votes will take place on Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. 

The Senate convenes on Friday at 4:30 p.m. for a pro forma session.

The president travels to central Florida this morning to speak about Medicare and sign an executive order at a senior living development called The Villages at 2 p.m. He returns to Washington this evening. 

Vice President Pence is in Phoenix today where he will lead a roundtable discussion with Hispanic American leaders at the First Baptist Church of Scottsdale at 8:45 a.m. Flying to Tucson, Pence will advocate ratification of the USMCA in Congress during remarks at Caterpillar Inc.’s Tinaja Hills facility at 12:30 p.m. He returns to Washington in the evening.

Pompeo meets with Pope FrancisPope FrancisHillicon Valley: Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract in court | State antitrust investigation into Google expands | Intel agencies no longer collecting location data without warrant Pope Francis calls on tech companies to protect children from porn Bishop picked by pope to investigate sexual abuse faces accusations MORE in Vatican City at 9:30 a.m. He plans to visit Italy’s Pacentro World War Memorial and his family’s ancestral homes in Pacentro at midday. The secretary will attend a working dinner in Rome at 8 p.m. hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Italy Lewis Eisenberg and American and Italian business leaders. 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump to tour Apple factory with Tim Cook on Wednesday The Hill's Morning Report — Public impeachment drama resumes today On The Money: Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors | Pelosi says deal on new NAFTA 'imminent' | Mnuchin downplays shutdown threat | Trump hits Fed after Walmart boasts strong earnings MORE speaks at the German Embassy in Washington during its German Day of Unity celebration at 6:30 p.m. 

Attorney General William Barr will speak at 1:45 p.m. at the Securities and Exchange Commission Criminal Coordination Conference in Washington.



ELSEWHERE

Brexit: The United Kingdom offered the European Union a last-minute Brexit deal on Wednesday, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that the proposal represents a realistic compromise for both sides and calling for “rapid negotiations towards a solution” for finalized deal with the union. Johnson said in a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that not reaching a deal would be “a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible” as the British are scheduled to leave the EU at the end of the month (The Associated Press).  

Boeing: The Federal Aviation Administration is ordering new inspections of used versions of the Boeing 737 for potential cracks in the wings of aircrafts, delivering a fresh blow to the airplane manufacturer after a year of tumult. The order will force 2,000 planes to be inspected, with 165 of those coming in the next seven days. The announcement came months after the 737 Max was grounded after two crashes in five months (USA Today).

Ocean refuse: A giant boom device is working in the Pacific Ocean to capture and retain plastic garbage, including microplastics, in a current-driven waste field three times the size of France between California and Hawaii. The plan of the nonprofit Ocean Cleanup project is to perfect the design and fortify the device so it can retain plastic for up to a year before collection is necessary. The boom’s designers want it to be able to clean up at least half of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (The Guardian).

Commercial space travel: Virgin Galactic said Wednesday the Italian air force contracted with the company for a suborbital research flight aboard its winged rocket ship. The mission will be flown as early as next year, carrying three Italian payload specialists who will focus on the experiments while the craft is in space, the company said (The Verge).

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by the 29th anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany, which officially began on Oct. 3, 1990, we’re eager for some smart guesses about news and events in history.

Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.

Which U.S. president hailed Germany’s newly signed unity agreement during a White House event, saying, “When East Germans were punished for dissent, we shared your spirit of defiance. And when German people were shot for attempting to flee to freedom, we shared your outrage. And when West German leaders dared to hope for a Germany united in freedom, we shared your dream?”

  1. David D. Eisenhower
  2. Ronald Reagan
  3. George H.W. Bush
  4. Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonPrince Andrew says he regrets staying with Jeffrey Epstein Now for your moment of Zen from the Trump impeachment hearings The Hill's Morning Report — Public impeachment drama resumes today MORE

 

The fall of the Berlin Wall began almost a year prior to the official 1990 reunification of Germany. What took place in late 1989 that produced indelible images for the history books?

  1. East Germans authorities, overrun by crowds who had been told they could leave the East, opened the wall to create more crossing points between East and West Germany
  2. Exultant “wall peckers” and demonstrators used hammers and chisels to deface the wall and take home pieces 
  3. Demolition of the concrete and barbed wire barriers got under way and continued in Berlin for a year
  4. All of the above

 

As a young professional, German Chancellor Angela Merkel worked in East Germany at the time of unification. What was her job? 

  1. Professor of chemistry
  2. Newspaper journalist
  3. Mayor of Dresden
  4. Deputy spokesperson for the last leader of East Germany

 

East Germans once lived under the repressive watch of the feared state intelligence service known as the Stasi. After the reunification in 1990, what happened to the Stasi’s surveillance files and materials about millions of citizens?

  1. All Stasi files and records were destroyed
  2. All Stasi files and materials were sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague 
  3. Files and records are archived in Germany, but will not be made public until 2040
  4. The Stasi Records Agency welcomes citizens to inspect their personal files on request and the public can examine other materials online or conduct research in Berlin