The Hill's Morning Report - White House escalates impeachment battle royal




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The impeachment inquiry battle kicked into overdrive on Tuesday as the White House declared it will not cooperate with the ongoing investigation by House Democrats, who responded by warning the White House that its lack of cooperation will be considered an act of obstruction as lawmakers move toward impeachment. 


In a letter to House Democratic leaders and investigators, the White House counsel argued that the ongoing inquiry violated the president’s due process rights and that the executive branch will not provide any testimony or documents for the investigation. Although the White House largely cooperated with the special counsel’s Russia probe, with the exception of granting an interview with Trump, the eight-page letter sent on Tuesday contends that the House investigation violates the Constitution and “every past precedent.” 


“Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice,” said Pat Cipollone, the top lawyer for the president and the presidency and the lone signatory of the letter. “In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the presidency, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” Cipollone wrote (The Hill).


Hours later, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) fired back in a statement of her own, panning Trump for “trying to make lawlessness a virtue,” adding that he “will be held accountable.”


The New York Times: White House declares war on impeachment inquiry, alleging effort to undo Trump’s election.


Politico: The shelter-in-place strategy to survive Trump’s impeachment.


The new standoff came after the State Department blocked Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, from testifying before House investigators earlier in the day shortly before he was expected to do so (The Hill). 


The move by State forced the hand of House Democrats, who responded in kind by issuing a subpoena for Sondland’s testimony. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn Trump pardons Michael Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters on Tuesday that the EU ambassador had messages on a personal device that the State Department is withholding from Congress, with Schiff issuing a formal subpoena on Tuesday evening.


The last-minute block of Sondland’s testimony caught Republican lawmakers off guard, with some going over to the White House to share their frustration over the lack of communication in advance (Bloomberg). 


While lawmakers made the push, the White House attempted to beef up its impeachment legal team, including a push to bring former House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyThe Hunter Biden problem won't go away Sunday shows preview: Joe Biden wins the 2020 election Sunday shows preview: Election integrity dominates as Nov. 3 nears MORE (R-S.C.) on board. Reports were conflicted as of Tuesday evening about whether he officially accepted a role after meeting with Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE, acting White House chief of staff, on Tuesday, but some expect him to ultimately join the team in some fashion. 


Elsewhere, more layers of the original whistleblower’s call were peeled back on Tuesday. According to ABC News, a White House official who listened in on the president’s infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described it as “crazy” and “frightening,” and was “visibly shaken” by the call’s contents,  according to notes taken by the whistleblower after speaking with the official and others. 


The notes were part of a two-page memo the whistleblower wrote a day after the call, during which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE and his son Hunter Biden


The Hill: China rejects Trump call to investigate Bidens.


The Hill: McConnell blasts House Democrats over handling of impeachment inquiry.


In the Senate, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Let's give thanks to Republican defenders of democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts MORE (R-S.C.) invited Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiKrebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race Krebs: I'm 'most upset' I didn't get to say goodbye to my team MORE, the president’s personal lawyer, to appear before the committee to testify about Ukraine, specifically pointing to the “corruption and other improprieties” that have taken place there. 


Giuliani indicated he is “very interested” in doing so but may bow to a claim of executive privilege (Bloomberg). He added that he will not take part in Schiff’s investigation on the House side (The Washington Post). Bottom line: Giuliani’s sworn testimony about his role as one of Trump’s personal lawyers is highly unlikely.


On the political side, polls are showing troubling signs for the president as the impeachment inquiry picks up steam and only 13 months stand between him and Election Day. As Jonathan Easley reports, new surveys show that independents and a growing share of Republicans warming to the inquiry 


While early shifts in support of impeachment appeared to be driven by Democrats, a Washington Post-Schar School poll released on Tuesday rocked Washington, finding that nearly 30 percent of Republicans said they support the investigation, while nearly 20 percent said they would support a Senate vote to remove the president if he is impeached in the House. 


According to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, support for impeachment among Republicans has increased from 8 percent last month to 16.2 percent presently, while support among independents has leaped from 33.9 percent to 44.4 percent. 


The New York Times: What Joe Biden learned at the last two impeachments.


Politico: Trump's Hill cheerleaders take center stage in impeachment defense.





INTERNATIONAL: Syria/Turkey: Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies will push into Syria “shortly,” a Turkish official said today. The targets — the Kurdish-led authority in northern Syria — declared a state of “general mobilization” across north and east Syria in light of the anticipated attack by Ankara (Reuters).


On Tuesday, Trump switched gears from his Monday threat to obliterate Turkey’s economy if it invades Syria to inviting its president to visit the White House on Nov. 13, a get-together Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first mentioned after speaking with Trump by phone on Sunday. Such a meeting had been under negotiation for some time (The Associated Press).


Trump’s praise for Turkey as a NATO ally added to criticism of the president’s awkward posture toward Erdoğan as the anticipated offensive in northeastern Syria loomed.


Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperActing Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley participated in the Sunday call between the two leaders, officials said (Reuters). Trump and Erdoğan this week both publicly raised the F-35 stealth fighter aircraft, made by Lockheed Martin, as important to both countries and a subject for discussion at their meeting next month. Trump tweeted on Tuesday that Turkey is “a big trading partner.”


Trump continued to defend his decision to relocate all 50 to 100 U.S. troops from the Kurdish-held territory ahead of Turkey’s offensive into Syria. Since 2014, the United States has treated Kurdish fighters as allies in the battle against ISIS.


The Hill: Trump faces growing GOP revolt on Syria.





> Brexit: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s representatives are pessimistic a divorce agreement with the European Union will happen by Oct. 31 following Johnson’s discussion Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Unless Great Britain agrees to let Northern Ireland continue to follow EU customs rules in order to maintain an open border with EU member Ireland, a deal is “overwhelmingly unlikely,” Merkel told the prime minister (The Associated Press). Talks between the U.K. and the EU continue today.


> China: Hopes for a breakthrough in trade talks with China scheduled for Thursday and Friday dimmed after the administration added 28 Chinese organizations to a blacklist tied to human rights violations. Chinese officials signaled they are open only to a narrow trade deal, and markets dipped on the news (The Hill). The administration began on Monday by placing eight Chinese tech companies on the blacklist (Bloomberg). … Separately, Trump has been silent about a showdown between China and the NBA, which began with a tweet supportive of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, written (and then deleted) by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey (CNN). U.S. basketball is hugely popular in China and lucrative for the U.S. sports world, but Beijing’s heavy-handed reaction may impact trade relations as well as basketball’s suddenly controversial “kowtowing” to China (CNBC). ...An NBA Cares event to benefit the Special Olympics and involving the Los Angeles Lakers was canceled today in Shanghai hours before it was set to begin. The NBA said it was not its decision (ESPN).


POLITICS: Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere MORE (I-Vt.) opened up some more on Tuesday about his recent heart attack, telling reporters that he was “dumb” to ignore warning signs that preceded it as he kept up his breakneck campaign schedule since launching his bid in February. 


“I must confess that I was dumb,” Sanders told reporters camped out in front of his Burlington, Vt., home, where he’s been recovering in recent days after leaving a Las Vegas hospital. “I, in the last month or two, just was more fatigued than I usually have been, and I should have listened to those symptoms” (Reuters). Video HERE.


While the 78-year-old said that he will maintain an active schedule, he admitted that he’ll have to make some adjustments to how he proceeds and may have to dial back the intensity of his day-to-day activity. 


"I certainly intend to be actively campaigning," he said, noting that he was participating “in five or six meetings a day, three or four rallies and town meetings and meeting with groups of people” ahead of last Tuesday. "I think we can change the nature of the campaign a bit, make sure that I have the strength to do what I have to do" (The Hill).


Sanders, who has remained off the campaign trail for a full week, is expected to make his first appearance since his heart procedure in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary debate, the fourth of the campaign season, alongside 11 other competitors in Westerville, Ohio.


The Associated Press: Sanders’s daughter-in-law dies at 46 after cancer diagnosis.


As Sanders and others look ahead to Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee announced plans for the fifth debate in November, which will take place in Georgia on Nov. 20. MSNBC will play host to the evening’s affairs, with the deadline for qualification via polling and fundraising set for the Nov. 13. 


Andrew YangAndrew YangMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Andrew Yang: Democrats need to adopt message that government is 'working for them' Andrew Yang moving to Georgia to help Democrats in Senate runoffs MORE announced on Tuesday that he qualified for the November debate after hitting 3 percent support in a new Quinnipiac University poll released earlier in the day. He is the eighth Democrat to qualify, with Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.) and Tom SteyerTom SteyerBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Late donor surges push election spending projections to new heights New voters surge to the polls MORE having done so over the weekend by netting 3 percent and 4 percent, respectively, in a Fox News poll in South Carolina (CNN).





> Small-dollar donors: Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks MORE (D-Mass.) have reshaped the traditional model for financing presidential campaigns, using vast networks of small donors to propel themselves to the top ranks of Democratic fundraisers, as Max Greenwood reports.


That reality became clear in recent days after the two leading progressive candidates announced third-quarter fundraising hauls that trounced those of their top rivals. The two top-tier candidates have eschewed the high-dollar fundraising circuit since early-on in their campaigns, a bet once considered risky given the outsize influence wealthy donors and bundlers have long held in presidential politics, but one that appears to have paid off.


The Hill: 2020 Democrats embrace aggressive step on drug prices.


The Hill: Louisiana GOP bring in big names to block Democratic governor.

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!


The tiger that didn't purr: For Xi Jinping, it's not personal, it's just business, by Joseph Bosco, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2p1AaSA  


The Contract with America turns 25, by Sheila Weinberg, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2oquAcq 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, on the president’s move in Syria; Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, and former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to discuss their new book, “Conservative: Knowing What to Keep”; Tim Black, host of “The Tim Black Show,” to chat about the 2020 race; and David Daley, journalist for The Intercept, to talk about gerrymandering. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.


The House is expected to return on Oct. 15 for votes.


The Senate convenes on Friday at 2:15 p.m. for a pro forma session.


The president signs executive orders dealing with federal guidance and enforcement at 3:15 p.m. 


Vice President Pence will travel today to visit Manning Agriculture in Waukee, Iowa, to deliver a speech advocating ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Later today, he will headline a reelection event for Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Peggy Noonan: 'Bogus dispute' by Trump 'doing real damage' MORE (R-Iowa) and then return to Washington. 


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE meets this morning with Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo and then gives a joint news conference with his counterpart at 9:30 a.m. at the State Department. The secretary will meet at 2 p.m. with Saudi Vice Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman.


Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is in Kansas City, Mo., where he will deliver opening remarks at 11 a.m. during “Fed Listens: A Community Listening Session.”


Washington’s Humane Rescue Alliance is preparing for its 32nd annual “Bark Ball” fundraiser on Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. at the Washington Hilton. Up first: Charitably minded online bidding opened on Monday to all comers for more than 200 donated items. Find ticket info for the black-tie ball (canine guests welcome), plus event details HERE.


State Watch: California's PG&E began shutting off power to nearly 800,000 customers across Northern and Central California starting just after midnight Wednesday in an effort to prevent and suppress wildfires in high wind conditions. The bay area is expected to be affected after noon. Michael Lewis, senior vice president for PG&E’s electric operations, apologized on Tuesday for the utility’s unusual decision, which had been publicly discussed for months as a fire-season option (San Francisco Chronicle).  


Red ink: The fiscal 2019 federal budget deficit — borrowed money spent in excess of revenue — is close to $1 trillion, a sum once considered by budget hawks to be politically and fiscally perilous (The Hill). At $984 billion, the deficit has climbed 50 percent since Trump’s inauguration and is the highest it has been in seven years. The Congressional Budget Office report is HERE


Health & sex: U.S. infections from three sexually transmitted diseases — chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis — rose for the fifth consecutive year. More than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia were reported last year, an increase in the infection rate of 3 percent from 2017 and a record for a single year. The rise may be the result of increased testing. About 580,000 gonorrhea cases were reported in 2018, the most since 1991. Scientists worry that antibiotic resistance may be a factor in the 5 percent hike in confirmed cases. And the syphilis rate rose 15 percent. About 35,000 cases of the most contagious forms of the disease were reported, the most since 1991 (The Associated Press).


Social media: 8chan, known widely as a breeding ground for white supremacists, has been offline since it was implicated in the El Paso, Texas, shooting in August. The platform's removal from the mainstream internet sparked heated debate about reckoning with online communities known for inciting violence. However, researchers have found that another social media platform, Berlin-based Telegram, which has layers of anti-surveillance features, is filling in where 8chan left off. House lawmakers say they are concerned (The Hill).





And finally … The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 and 2019 will be announced on Thursday and the recipient of the famed Nobel Peace Prize will be unveiled on Friday.


In the interim, bravo to the Nobel winners already announced for their discoveries that help explain how the world works, from the vastness of space to the intricacies of human cells.


This morning, the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry are John Goodenough of the United States, Stanley Whittingham of Great Britain and Akira Yoshino of Japan for the development of lithium-ion batteries (The Associated Press).


On Tuesday, cosmologist James Peebles shared the prize with two astronomers, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, for work that “transformed our ideas about the cosmos,” according to the judges.


Peebles, a professor emeritus at Princeton University, claimed the prize — and half the prize money of $918,000 — for his theories that help unpack 13.8 billion years of cosmological history, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced. He shared the award with scientists who discovered a planet circling a distant sun-like star. They are Mayor, a retired astrophysicist and professor emeritus of astronomy at the University of Geneva, and Queloz, a professor of physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, and at the University of Geneva (The New York Times).


On Monday, the Nobel Prize in Medicine went to William G. Kaelin Jr., Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza for discoveries about how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. Their research explains how cells function and may help treat diseases in which oxygen is in short supply — including anemia, heart attacks and strokes — as well as cancers.


Kaelin, a professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, said, “Like any scientist, I like solving puzzles.” Ratcliffe is the director of clinical research at the Francis Crick Institute in London and director of the Target Discovery Institute at Oxford, and Semenza is professor of genetic medicine at Johns Hopkins (The New York Times).