The Hill's Morning Report — Trump broadens call for Biden probes

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump broadens call for Biden probes
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President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new tranche of endorsements DeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food MORE escalated his complaints about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden on Thursday and called on Ukraine and China to investigate them despite growing concerns about the president pushing a foreign power to investigate a political foe. 


“I would think that if they were honest about it they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked what he wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do about the Bidens following the July 25 call between the two leaders. “I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend they start an investigation into the Bidens. Because nobody doubts they weren't crooked."

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said before leaving for Florida, echoing unsubstantiated allegations that the Bidens engaged in corrupt behavior (The Hill).

House investigators teed off on the president’s remarks, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse Democrats want to silence opposing views, not 'fake news' White House defends not sanctioning Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi What good are the intelligence committees? MORE (D-Calif.) saying that Trump broke his oath of office by asking the Chinese to open a probe into Biden (Reuters).  

The president’s comments came as the fight continues to escalate between his administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill. House Democrats took their latest step on Thursday by bringing Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, before the committees leading the impeachment inquiry into the president. 

According to The Washington Post, Volker told congressional investigators during hours of voluntary testimony that he warned Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiState sanctions Ukrainian billionaire over alleged corruption Newsmax adds Andrew Giuliani as a contributor Trump sued by Democrat over mob attack on Capitol MORE, the president’s lawyer, that the former New York City mayor was “receiving untrustworthy information from Ukrainian political figures” about the Bidens, citing two people familiar with his testimony. Among those providing information to Giuliani was Yuri Lutsenko, Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, who Volker argued was an unreliable source. 

Volker also reportedly handed off encrypted text messages he exchanged between two U.S. diplomats regarding U.S. military aid the president wanted to see withheld from Ukraine, a decision Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, called “crazy.” Late Thursday night, House investigators released those messages, plus others that paint a troubling picture for the administration (ABC News).

In the Sept. 9 exchange, Taylor expresses concerns to Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, who tells Taylor that the charge is "incorrect."

"I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor said. 

“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind,” Sondland wrote. In other texts, officials believed that the president would not meet with Zelensky unless the new Ukrainian leader publicly launched investigations. 

“heard from White House — assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington,” Volker texted Andrey Yermak, Zelensky’s aide, on July 25, hours before the Trump phone call, which was released last week as a White House transcript (The Washington Post). 

The Wall Street Journal: Trump ordered Ukraine ambassador removed after complaints from Giuliani, others.

Reuters: Biden campaign: Trump is “melting down” with request to Ukraine, China to investigate the former vice president and his son.

Niall Stanage: Trump's rage may backfire on impeachment.

Meanwhile, Giuliani told NBC News that he gave Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoDeSantis, Pence tied in 2024 Republican poll Pompeo not ruling out 2024 White House bid Houthis: US sanctions prolonging war in Yemen MORE a trove of unverified documents alleging impropriety by the former vice president, which the State Department said it would investigate. The documents were handed over to the State Department’s inspector general, who included them in a 79-page packet to lawmakers on Wednesday. 

With Volker’s testimony completed, House investigators shift their focus today. The House Intelligence Committee will hear from Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general, who will testify behind closed doors about a whistleblower complaint filed in August and a delay in the administration’s release to Congress. Also today, the State Department is expected to officially respond to a subpoena from the key House committees for documents. Pompeo early this week set the stage for executive branch resistance or perhaps negotiations.  

The president says he continues to take heart with support from Republicans as the impeachment drama continues. Vice President Pence came to his aid on Thursday while traveling in Arizona, saying that the situation involving the Bidens is “worth looking into,” dodging a question about whether the president’s call for foreign nations to investigate the former vice president was appropriate. 

Trump also continues to benefit from support among Senate Republicans, who would play central roles if articles of impeachment are voted out of the House and come up for trial in the upper chamber. As Alexander Bolton writes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Paul Ryan to host fundraiser for Cheney amid GOP tensions Senate Democrats near deal to reduce jobless boost to 0 MORE (R-Ky.) is signaling that he’s prepared to dispose quickly of articles of impeachment against Trump, if approved by the House, and that any trial convened by the Senate would differ from the 1999 impeachment trial and acquittal of former President Clinton

Democrats would need to sway 20 Republicans in order to convict the president, a mountain likely too steep heading into an election year, based on current evidence.


POLITICS: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Senate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Democrats break COVID-19 impasse with deal on jobless benefits MORE (I-Vt.), who underwent emergency heart surgery days ago and is recuperating at a Las Vegas hospital, will return to the campaign trail and join 11 other contenders at the Oct. 15 Democratic primary debate scheduled in Ohio, his surrogates announced on Thursday.


For the next few days, the candidate expects to rest, according to his wife, Jane Sanders. “Bernie will be discharged and on a plane back to Burlington before the end of the weekend,” she said, describing the senator as recovering without complications. “He'll take a few days to rest, but he's ready to get back out there and is looking forward to the October debate.”  



Sanders blew past the competition on Monday to report his campaign raised $25.3 million in the third fundraising quarter. His haul turned out to be $10 million more than Biden reported raising during the same period. Biden’s campaign raised $15.2 million from July through September, compared with the $22 million raised in the second quarter as he launched what he hoped would remain a front-runner’s campaign. 


South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Senate begins marathon vote-a-rama before .9T COVID-19 relief passage The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote Biden turns focus to next priority with infrastructure talks MORE reported raising $19.1 million in the third quarter, also outpacing Biden. The former vice president, aware that Democratic supporters and donors are closely watching whether his momentum begins to sag in the current political climate, expects his team to invest in field operations and a $6 million television and digital advertising buy in early primary states, his campaign manager announced (The Hill). 

More political news: Former Rep. Pete SessionsPeter Anderson SessionsEx-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results National lawyers group seeks to have Gohmert disciplined over election suit MORE (R-Texas), who lost last year to Democrat Colin Allred in Texas’s 32nd District, announced on Thursday he’ll run to succeed retiring Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it MORE (R-Texas) in the 17th District, which includes Waco (The Hill). … Matt Lieberman, a small business owner and the son of former Connecticut Democrat and Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, is jumping into politics to compete for the open Senate seat in Georgia (The Hill). … Author and Democratic presidential candidate Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonRush Limbaugh dead at 70 Marianne Williamson discusses America's "soulless ethos" Marianne Williamson discusses speaking at People's Party Convention MORE reported raising $3 million in the third quarter and says she plans to stay in the race despite struggling to get on the debate stage this month (The Hill). … Seeking to defeat Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate holds longest vote in history as Democrats scramble to save relief bill Biden helps broker Senate deal on unemployment benefits Senate braces for 'God-awful,' 'stupid' session ahead of COVID-19 relief vote MORE of South Carolina, Democrat Jaime Harrison reported raising $2.1 million in the third quarter, the most raised in a single quarter by a Democratic challenger in a Palmetto State Senate race, breaking the $1.5 million record Harrison himself set this spring (Charleston Post and Courier).



INTERNATIONAL: North Korea: Pyongyang on Thursday said it successfully test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile from the sea to contain external threats and bolster self-defense, ahead of nuclear talks with the United States. The launch on Wednesday was the most provocative since North Korea resumed dialogue with the United States in 2018. It serves as a reminder by Pyongyang of the weapons capability it has been aggressively developing, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to analysts (Reuters).

> China: Trump on Thursday said a delegation from Beijing will arrive in Washington next week for trade talks ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline the administration set for potentially higher U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods. The president said U.S. negotiators have “a lot” of options. “We have tremendous power,” Trump said (Reuters). The U.S.-China discussions are expected to take place Oct. 10-11.

> Hong Kong: Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, instituted a ban to begin at midnight on face masks worn at public demonstrations by protesters who try to hide their identities from authorities. Lam ordered the crackdown as part of emergency powers announced today as pro-democracy protests continued in the semi-autonomous territory. "We've seen that almost all protesters who carried out vandalism and violence covered their face," she said. "We believe the prohibition on face covering regulation will be an effective deterrent to radical behavior and it will also help the police in enforcing the law.” Before the mask-ban was officially confirmed, protesters pushed back across the Asian financial hub as hundreds of office workers donned masks and gathered to march (NBC News).

> U.S. tariffs and Europe: The Trump administration’s trade office told industry there will be no grace period for goods that are still in transit when new U.S. tariffs on European Union imports take effect on Oct. 18, the Cheese Importers Association of America said on Thursday (Reuters). Cheese-loving U.S. consumers will pay about $2.50 more per pound for Italian parmesan cheese because of duties announced by the administration, the association complained (Reuters). Perhaps more alarming to many American consumers who enjoy affordable, drinkable wines from France: New U.S. tariffs will result in a sharp rise in prices on French wine sold in America (Reuters). The bulk of new U.S. tariffs on $7.5 billion of European products are poised to hit imports from France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom -— four of Europe's five largest economies (CNN).



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Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Republican presidential candidate Mark SanfordMark Sanford5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports South Carolina GOP votes to censure Rep. Rice over impeachment vote Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial MORE, a former congressman and ex-South Carolina governor, talks about the 2020 race and challenging Trump; Joe Dinkin, campaign director with Working Families Party, discusses Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate rejects Sanders minimum wage hike Philly city council calls on Biden to 'cancel all student loan debt' in first 100 days Hillicon Valley: High alert as new QAnon date approaches Thursday | Biden signals another reversal from Trump with national security guidance | Parler files a new case MORE’s plan for labor; and The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackTrump legal switch hints at larger problems The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Incoming lawmakers stress coronavirus relief, economy as first priority of new session MORE analyzes news this week with his DeBrief segment. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.

The House meets for a pro forma session at 10 a.m. and anticipates its next roll call votes will take place on Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. 

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

The president visits recovering soldiers being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., along with their families at 11 a.m. He will return to the White House and speak at the Young Black Leadership Summit at 4:30 p.m.

Vice President Pence joins Trump at the leadership summit in the East Room this afternoon.  

Pompeo is visiting Montenegro, a NATO ally, where he met this morning with President Milo Djukanovic in Podgorica, along with Prime Minister Dusko Markovic and Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic. The secretary and the prime minister gave a joint news conference. Pompeo drops in to see staff and families at the U.S. embassy in Podgorica at midday, followed by afternoon meetings with North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski, North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and cabinet ministers. The secretary and Prime Minister Zaev will deliver joint statements. Pompeo is scheduled to visit Holy Mother of God “Peribleptos” Monastery Complex in Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia at 4:45 p.m., after which he meets with staff and families at the U.S. Embassy Skopje at 6:10 p.m. Pompeo expects to travel to Greece this weekend before returning to Washington on Sunday.

Economic indicator: The Bureau of Labor Statistics at 8:30 a.m. will report on the employment picture in September. Concerns about slowing U.S. growth during the remainder of 2019 mean analysts are closely watching unemployment, wages, the manufacturing sector and consumer spending, among other indicators.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell gives opening remarks at 2 p.m. at the central bank’s event, “Perspectives on Maximum Employment and Price Stability.”


Las Vegas shooting settlement: MGM Resorts agreed to pay up to $800 million to victims of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. A heavily armed gunman took aim at victims from a suite in one of MGM Resorts’s hotels (The New York Times).

Higher education: Highly selective and well regarded universities worldwide have accepted at least $60 million in donations over the past five years from the family that owns the maker of OxyContin, even as Purdue Pharma became embroiled in lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic, financial records examined by The Associated Press show. At least nine schools accepted gifts since 2018, when states and counties across the country began efforts to hold members of the Sackler family accountable for Purdue’s actions.

Medicare: Trump flew to a senior community in central Florida on Thursday to criticize Democrats’ “Medicare for All” ideas while also signing an executive order he said would strengthen Medicare Advantage, the branch of Medicare administered by private insurers and targeted for extinction in proposals advocated by some Democrats seeking to defeat Trump next year (The Hill). 

State Watch: State legislatures across the country are racing to follow California’s lead to allow college athletes to earn money through endorsement deals. It has emerged as a surprisingly fast-moving bipartisan consensus around the country. Congressional legislation is expected by the end of the year (The Hill).


And finally … Kudos to winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz about the reunification of East and West Germany, which officially began 29 years ago on Oct. 3, 1990.

Of the several dozen quiz-takers who wrote to us, William Chittam and Patrick Kavanagh correctly identified all four tidbits tied to German history.

George H.W. Bush was the former U.S. president who 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.” 

All of the above” is the correct answer to our quiz question about the iconic images we associate with the reunification of Germany: The fall of the Berlin Wall began in late 1989 when East Germans authorities, overrun by crowds who had been told they could leave the East, opened sections of the wall to create more crossing points between East and West Germany. Exultant “wall peckers” and demonstrators used hammers and chisels to deface the wall and take home pieces. And the long, slow demolition of miles of wall between East and West Germany began and in Berlin, took a year to complete. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lived and worked as a young woman in East Germany at the time of unification. Our question about her occupation during that period proved to be tricky for quiz respondents. Merkel earned her doctorate in 1986 and worked as a chemist, but she was drawn to politics. In 1989, she joined the newly founded Democratic Awakening and in February 1990 became the party’s press spokesperson. East Germany held its first and only free election in March 1990, and Merkel became deputy spokesperson for the government of Lothar de Maizière, East Germany’s last leader. His party merged with its western counterpart days before the official reunification of Germany in October 1990. 

East Germans feared the state intelligence service known as the Stasi. After reunification, files and materials about millions of citizens became the Stasi Records Agency in Berlin, which welcomes researchers and allows citizens to inspect their personal files on request.