The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's impeachment jeopardy deepens

The Hill's Morning Report — Trump's impeachment jeopardy deepens
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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. TGIF! 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!

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyNew witness claims firsthand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes Trump files to dismiss lawsuit from Bolton aide on impeachment testimony OMB official to testify in impeachment probe if subpoenaed after others refused MORE told reporters on Thursday that 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 had withheld $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in an effort to force Kiev to investigate the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the 2016 election, a claim he walked back hours later, saying “there was absolutely no quid pro quo.” 

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Mulvaney, who had a rough afternoon in the White House briefing room, denied that wanting a probe into former Vice President 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 and his son Hunter Biden were factors regarding the withheld aid, adding that Trump did nothing improper as he was asking for help investigating a prior election rather than seeking help in a future contest. Video is HERE

“The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the things that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate,” Mulvaney said while appearing in the briefing room. 

However, his claim that Trump wanted to investigate the DNC reverberated all around Washington, bringing new denunciations from Democrats, with some saying that they want Mulvaney to testify before House investigators as part of their impeachment probe. It is unlikely that will happen as the administration has attempted to stonewall the investigation repeatedly, referring to it as “illegitimate” (The Hill). 

The Hill: Mulvaney admission deals blow to White House impeachment defense.

The Hill: 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.): Mulvaney comments on Ukraine aid have made things “much, much worse.”

Politico: “There can be no slowdown”: Dems keep up impeachment push while mourning the late Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMaya Rockeymoore Cummings reports surgery was a success, will return to campaign trail The Hill's Morning Report — Public impeachment drama resumes today Maloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump MORE (D-Md.).

Prior to Mulvaney’s walkback, multiple top figures in the administration and Trump’s world distanced themselves from the original remarks. A senior Department of Justice official told CNN that if the White House was withholding aid due to an investigation related to the DOJ, “that is news to us.” Additionally, Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowTrump asks Supreme Court to block House Democrats' subpoena for financial records Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors Giuliani considers launching impeachment podcast MORE, a top figure on Trump’s legal team, said they had nothing to do with Mulvaney’s press conference (The Washington Post). 

Trump said that while he did not watch Mulvaney’s appearance in the briefing room, he heard his chief of staff did a good job. 

"Mick is a good man," he said. "I have a lot of confidence in him."

Outside of their push to bring Mulvaney to Capitol Hill, House investigators motored forward with testimony. Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told the three House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry that Trump directed administration officials to work with 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, his personal attorney on matters pertaining to Ukraine.

"We were also disappointed by the President’s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani. Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the President’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine," Sondland said in his opening statement. 

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The ambassador to the EU maintained that the president stressed during phone conversations there was no quid pro quo for the Ukraine financial aid (The Hill). 

The New York Times: Sondland testifies that Trump delegated Ukraine policy to Giuliani.

The Hill: Survey: 54 percent of Americans support Trump impeachment inquiry.

The Washington Post: “All roads lead to Putin:” 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.) on Wednesday questioned Trump’s loyalty during White House clash.

Finally, Trump announced Thursday evening that Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryHighly irregular: Rudy, the president, and a venture in Ukraine White House releases rough transcript of early Trump-Ukraine call minutes before impeachment hearing Overnight Energy: Perry replacement faces Ukraine questions at hearing | Dem chair demands answers over land agency's relocation | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan MORE would be departing the administration by the end of the year, telling reporters that he already has his replacement picked out and will be announcing the choice “very shortly.”

“We already have his replacement. Rick has done a fantastic job. But it was time,” Trump said. “I knew six months ago. He told me at the end of the year he’d like to go and he’s got some ideas about doing something else. He’s a terrific guy.”

News of Perry’s impending departure comes as he has become ensnared in the ongoing Ukraine saga. House investigators subpoenaed him last week asking for documents and information related to his involvement in relaying messages to Kiev, where he spent time during his tenure as secretary (The Wall Street Journal). 

The Hill: Senate GOP braces for impeachment trial “roller coaster.”

More from Congress: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy On The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments MORE (R-Ky.) is making a new push for the Senate to pass a set of long-stalled appropriations bills. Speaking from the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell said the Senate will try to take up two packages of spending bills next week. The first will include domestic priorities, while the second will include a mammoth defense bill (The Hill) … Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyTop House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments Maloney primary challenger calls on her to return, donate previous campaign donations from Trump Appeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records MORE (D-N.Y.) will take over as acting chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee after Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee since 2011, died Thursday morning. There is no plan yet to replace Cummings on a permanent basis (The Hill). Funeral arrangements for the late Maryland Democrat will likely be announced today (The Baltimore Sun).

 

 

LEADING THE DAY

INTERNATIONAL & ADMINISTRATION: Vice President Pence on Thursday announced a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that would pause fighting between Turkey’s military and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds for five days while granting one of Turkey’s long-held ambitions: military dominance in a broad swath of northern Syria.

Pence, who flew to Ankara on Wednesday with 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, said the agreement that resulted from five hours of talks with Erdoğan was a diplomatic victory for President Trump after a week of bloodshed, and a ‘‘solution we believe will save lives.”

The Hill: The deal temporarily suspends Ankara’s incursion into northern Syria.

The agreement requires Kurdish fighters to vacate terrain they have held while battling ISIS, solidifying Turkey’s ambitions. It includes a conditional agreement to lift U.S. economic sanctions if the pause in violence holds and specifics of a “safe zone” Erdoğan favors across the Turkish border in Syria are achieved (The Associated Press).

"The Kurds are very happy. Turkey is very happy. The United States is very happy. And you know what? Civilization is very happy. It's a great thing for civilization," the president said following Pence’s news conference.

Trump, who traveled to Texas for a reelection rally on Thursday, embraced the deal as a diplomatic achievement he said his Oval Office predecessors attempted and failed to secure. The president’s detractors, however, argue that the violence the United States mediated on Thursday was sparked by Trump’s phone conversation with Erdoğan little more than a week ago and his announcement that U.S. forces in northeastern Syria would be redeployed in advance of Turkey’s military strikes against the Kurds.

The president conceded his approach to Turkey’s military assault in Syria sparked criticism among Republicans in Congress, but he said those misgivings had been allayed.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDeval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah MORE (R-Utah), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed to the Senate floor on Thursday to challenge the administration’s efforts to paint the U.S.-Turkey agreement as a breakthrough for Middle East peace. 

"The announcement today is being portrayed as a victory. It is far from a victory,” Romney said. “Serious questions remain about how the decision was reached precipitously to withdraw from Syria and why that decision was reached."

Pence said an agreement for 120 hours without fighting “ends the violence, which is what President Trump sent us here to do.”

But Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, immediately contradicted the description of the agreement, saying it was not a cease-fire, but merely a “pause for our operation.” He added that “as a result of our president’s skillful leadership, we got what we wanted” (The New York Times).

Mazloum Abdi, the commander of Kurdish-led forces in Syria, said they will abide by the cease-fire agreement announced in Ankara, but his comments on Kurdish Ronahi TV described a smaller “safe zone” than Erdoğan demanded. The discrepancy raised more questions about the specifics of the agreement and whether it will hold (The Associated Press). 

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate Foreign Relations chair: 'Best' not to pass Turkey sanctions bill 'at this moment' Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House MORE (R-Idaho) and ranking member Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGraham blocks resolution recognizing Armenian genocide after Erdoğan meeting Trump encounters GOP resistance to investigating Hunter Biden Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward MORE (D-N.J.) echoed Romney in saying they are not satisfied with Thursday’s developments in Ankara. They introduced legislation that would levy new sanctions on Turkey and compel the administration to develop a “comprehensive strategy” to deal with ISIS threats in the Middle East (The Hill). 

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Pompeo traveled from Turkey to Israel to offer reassurances in a meeting today with Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, who fears that Trump’s determination to pull U.S. forces out of the Middle East has made Israel more vulnerable to aggression from Iran, Syria and ISIS (The Hill). Netanyahu is in a politically vulnerable position less than a week before a deadline in Israel to form a unity government (Reuters).

 

 

More administration news: Howls of protest were heard in Washington on Thursday after Mulvaney officially confirmed Trump’s broad hints last month that June’s Group of Seven international summit will be hosted by the United States at Trump’s Doral resort property near Miami. The White House acting chief of staff said the president would not be in violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause because Trump would not profit from a gathering hosted at cost (The Hill). Republican 2020 presidential primary challengers immediately denounced the White House decision as “corrupt,” arguing it is a choice Republicans would have instantly condemned if a Democratic president attempted something similar (The Hill). Republicans for the Rule of Law accused Trump of using taxpayer funds for personal financial gain in a new ad set to air on Monday in Washington on “Fox & Friends.”

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS: The president appeared for one of his signature campaign events in Dallas on Thursday night and attempted to rally supporters in the face of the ongoing impeachment push by House Democrats, arguing they are “crazy” and don’t care about the United States.

“At stake in this fight is the survival of American democracy itself,” Trump said. “Don’t kid yourselves … I really don’t believe anymore that they love our country” (The Associated Press).

A day after his volatile meeting at the White House with Pelosi and congressional leaders, Trump derided the Speaker as “crazy Nancy” and “nuts,” playing to an audience of 20,000 placard-waving supporters with a spiraling motion next to his forehead. 

The performance was part of an active political day for the president, who is making an early play to secure the state’s 38 electoral votes after winning the state by 9 percentage points in 2016. Earlier, Trump toured a new Louis Vuitton leather workshop and raised $5.5 million at a fundraiser in Fort Worth, according to the Republican National Committee.  

Trump sees the Lone Star State as a reelection priority in 2020 and is working to bolster down-ballot Republicans at the same time. In total, he has made seven stops in Texas this year, including two appearances for campaign-style rallies. He also took part in a separate rally with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston last month.

For Democrats, the state has become ground zero for their success on the House map, especially as six GOP members have announced they will not run for reelection, with more such decisions possible in the coming weeks. 

Politico: Trump holds Dallas rally as impeachment fight messes with his lead in Texas.

The Hill: Trump accuses Biden of “quid pro quo” hours after Mulvaney’s White House remarks.

 

 

> Warren’s wealth tax: 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’s (D-Mass.) emergence as a front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary is bringing new attention, and scrutiny, to her proposed wealth tax.   

As Naomi Jagoda writes, Warren’s opponents tried to poke holes in the plan during Tuesday’s debate, which came as she started to edge out Biden in some Democratic primary polls. While the idea of a wealth tax polls well and continues to be pushed by progressives, others are starting to put the idea, as well as how she communicates the plan, under the microscope

“She clearly went into the debate the other day as the front-runner or the co-front-runner, which is why she was subject to so many attacks,” said Craig Varoga, a Democratic strategist who is unaffiliated with any presidential campaign.

The Massachusetts senator first called for the new tax in January, and it’s become the foundation for how she plans on funding some of her other policy proposals, including the cancellation of student loan debt and universal childcare. 

More politics: 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.) will celebrate her 55th birthday on Sunday.

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

Elijah Cummings, a servant and a leader, by Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman and former Maryland lieutenant governor, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2VOGetM

Defending an impeached president, by Nicholas W. Allard, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/33ElK9W

If it’s Trump vs. Warren, then what? by David Brooks, opinion columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/2J1Nu0p

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Rep. Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceGOP lawmaker calls impeachment inquiry a 'disaster' for American people House Republican: Impeachment vote timing 'up in the air' GOP Congressman weighs in on impeachment hearings MORE (R-Ga.), discusses impeachment; Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, host of Crooked Media’s “America Dissected,” shares his thoughts about Democrats’ “Medicare for All” ideas; Olly Thorn, a popular YouTuber with Philosophy Tube, talks about Reform or Revolution?; and The Hill’s editor-in-chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackHill editor-in-chief: Buttigieg could benefit if impeachment reaches Senate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Former Ukraine envoy offers dramatic testimony The Hill's Editor-in-Chief: Who's winning with Latinos and why? MORE dissects another news-packed week in Washington with his DeBrief segment. Watch at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv, or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

The House meets at 9 a.m. and will consider a bill seeking to curb the practice of outsourcing American jobs by requiring publicly-traded companies to disclose to the Securities and Exchange Commission the locations of employees in each state, U.S. territory and foreign country. 

The Senate convenes on Monday at 3 p.m. and resumes consideration of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 on the accession of the Republic of North Macedonia Treaty.

The president has no public events on his schedule. 

Pence arrived this morning at Joint Base Andrews from Ankara and has no other public events on his schedule.  

Pompeo met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem today. The secretary also met meet in Jerusalem with Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Michele Alkin, the center’s communications director. Pompeo flies to Brussels to meet with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at 7:45 p.m., followed by a meeting with the North Atlantic Council. At 8:40 p.m., the secretary and Stoltenberg hold a joint press conference in Brussels.

You’re invited to The Hill's upcoming newsmaker event, Innovation Runway: The Cutting Edge of Aviation, at the Newseum on Oct. 23 at 8 a.m. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House Senators confirm Erdoğan played 'propaganda' video in White House meeting MORE (R-Texas), Rep. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenAviation chairmen cite safety, new tech among concerns for the future The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Diplomat's 'powerful' testimony and 'lynching' attract headlines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump's impeachment plea to Republicans MORE (D-Wash.) and Daniel Elwell, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, will discuss changes in American aviation that affect consumers and the nation. Information is HERE

ELSEWHERE

E-cigarettes: Juul suspended sales of its popular fruity e-cigarette flavors ahead of a Trump administration policy that is expected to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market, the company announced on Thursday. Juul last year stopped selling its flavored e-cigarettes in retail stores amid pressure from the Food and Drug Administration (CNBC).

Spacewalk today: Let’s hear it for NASA spacewalk No. 421! For the past half-century, U.S. spacewalks have been all male, but NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir plan to end that streak today as all four male astronauts remain aboard the International Space Station to watch a little history out the windows. The mission for Koch and Meir will be the replacement of a broken battery charger. NASA is calling the event HERstory, and we’re calling it “about time” (The Associated Press). 

NBA/China: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview Thursday that the league has incurred “substantial” and “fairly dramatic” losses after the fallout from a tweet by Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets general manager, in support of protesters in Hong Kong. Silver, who spoke at the Time 100 Summit, also confirmed that the Chinese government wanted Morey fired from his position, which he said was never under consideration. “We said there's no chance that's happening. There's no chance we'll even discipline him,” Silver said (ESPN). 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally …   Kudos to trivia masters who polished off this week’s Morning Report Quiz! 

Here’s who knew or guessed the correct answers dealing with the television classic “I Love Lucy,” which debuted on Oct. 15, 1951: Patrick Kavanagh, Elizabeth Murphy, David E. Letostak, John Donato, Cynthia Bohannon, BJ Ford, Monica Mosimann, Candi Cee, Abby Alkire, Caitlin Musselman, Dara Erinashley, William Chittam, Karen Harling, Lorraine Lindberg, Karen Chabot, Sandy Walters, Ann Taliaferro, Regina Vaughn, Rose DeMarco, Anita Bales, Randall S. Patrick, John Hayden, Georgia Keightley, Luther Berg and Carol Katz.

The sitcom’s characters Lucy and Ricky Ricardo met Fred and Ethel Mertz when the Mertzes became their landlords.

Lucy promotes the Vitameatavegamin tonic, which is 23 percent alcohol, in the famous episode titled “Lucy Does a TV Commercial.” 

The show plowed fresh sitcom ground during its six seasons when it showcased a multi-ethnic marriage in primetime, featured a pregnant star and was owned and produced by its stars under the Desilu production company. The correct answer: “All of the above.” 

The most-watched sitcom of all time was the 1953 “I Love Lucy” episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” as measured by the percentage of American households with televisions that tuned in. Using that yardstick, the national audience for the episode about the birth of Little Ricky was nearly 72 percent of the country.