The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Diplomat's 'powerful' testimony and 'lynching' attract headlines




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Wednesday! 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!

A top U.S. diplomat offered House impeachment investigators his notes, documents and lengthy testimony on Tuesday, which Democratic lawmakers described as potentially compelling evidence that President TrumpDonald TrumpClinton, Bush, Obama reflect on peaceful transition of power on Biden's Inauguration Day Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds MORE abused his powers while delaying U.S. military aid in an attempt to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on a political rival.


William Taylor, the U.S. chargé d'affaires in Ukraine and a veteran diplomat, testified under subpoena behind closed doors that he believed the Trump administration held up nearly $400 million in aid as leverage to encourage Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch politically motivated investigations sought by Trump, according to multiple sources familiar with his testimony (The Hill).


Democratic lawmakers said the ambassador, who appeared before them for nearly 10 hours, delivered the most damning and detailed information heard to date by members of three investigative committees focused on Trump’s actions this year tied to Ukraine.


"Without question the most powerful testimony we've heard," said Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchCOVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Top general negative for coronavirus, Pentagon chief to get tested after Trump result l Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.


“He drew a very specific direct line from President Trump to the withholding of foreign aid and the refusal of a meeting” between the president and Zelensky, said Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzHouse Democrats unveil resolution to censure Rep. Mo Brooks over Capitol riots Democrats poised to impeach Trump again House Democrats pick DeLauro to lead Appropriations panel MORE (D-Fla.) (The Washington Post).


The Washington Post: Taylor’s written opening statement.


A string of current and former U.S. officials with diplomatic roles in Ukraine and Europe have presented texts, conversations and concerns about Trump’s pursuit — referenced in publicly released notes of his July 25 conversation with Zelensky — of damaging information about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenKaty Perry and her 'Firework' close out inauguration TV special Arizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Tom Hanks: After years of 'troubling rancor,' Inauguration Day 'is about witnessing the permanence of our American ideal' MORE, his son Hunter Biden and as well as the 2016 U.S. election.


House investigators today will hear testimony from Laura Cooper, who oversees Ukraine and Russia issues at the Pentagon. Next week, the House committees may hear from five more witnesses who hold senior positions in the government.


The Hill: Democrats say Taylor testimony a game changer.


Trump denies any wrongdoing. “President Trump has done nothing wrong — this is a coordinated smear campaign from far-left lawmakers and radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution. There was no quid pro quo,” the White House said in a statement.


On Tuesday, the president created a new distraction while continuing to rail against House Democrats and the impeachment process.


Trump compared the inquiry to “a lynching” on Twitter (The Hill), immediately sparking outrage and rebuke in the Capitol, along with a few GOP expressions of sympathy for the president’s evident anger at Democrats’ efforts to build a case to try to remove him from office.


“I don’t agree with that language,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration Biden urges Americans to join together in appeal for unity MORE (R-Calif.) said.


“‘Lynching’ brings back images of a terrible time in our nation’s history, and the President never should have made that comparison,” tweeted Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP senators praise Biden's inauguration speech LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing The Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges MORE (R-Maine), who is up for reelection next year.


“Unfortunate,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.), when asked about the president’s tweet (The Associated Press).


The Hill: McConnell tells GOP colleagues to defend Trump on process.


The Hill: Public support for impeaching Trump climbs in new survey, especially among political independents.


The Hill: Supporters urge Trump to hire new West Wing chief strategist as impeachment inquiry intensifies.


Niall Stanage: From “coup” to “lynching,” a sign of things to come.


W. James Antle III: Trump's manic impeachment dance with the GOP.


Dan Balz: New testimony undercuts Trump’s claim of no quid pro quo on Ukraine. How will Washington respond?





INTERNATIONAL: Turkey & Syria: A five-day cease-fire negotiated between Turkey and Syrian Kurds ended Tuesday night, but Turkey signaled today it will not immediately resume its military offensive (The Associated Press). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden's first foreign leader call to be with Canada's Trudeau on Friday Gorbachev says Biden should work to 'normalize relations' with Russia A vision for Russia MORE negotiated a deal on Tuesday outlining what comes next inside a buffer zone sought by Erdoğan along Turkey’s border with Syria, to be jointly patrolled by Turkey and Russia following the expulsion of U.S.-allied Kurds (The Associated Press).


The agreement between Russia and Turkey, reached between the two leaders during a meeting in Sochi, removed the United States as a player in Syria’s future (CNN). It took just two weeks for the power dynamics in the region to shift dramatically following a telephone conversation between Erdoğan and Trump in which the U.S. president said he would pull American forces out of northeastern Syria while Turkey initiated military strikes against the Kurds.


Kurdish fighters on Tuesday completed their pullout from a section of the Syrian-Turkish border, as required by a U.S. brokered cease-fire (The Associated Press), only to discover there is no welcome mat for them in neighboring Iraq (CBS News). And there are pleas worldwide to rescue women and children tied to ISIS fighters and held in detention camps once controlled by Kurds near the border (The New York Times).


Putin on Tuesday called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to describe the agreement struck with Turkey. Assad, who has been waging a civil war against the Syrian people for more than eight years, voiced support for the deal and said Syrian guards are ready to deploy to the Turkish border along with Russian troops, a spokesman for the Kremlin said (The Associated Press).


A White House spokesman said Tuesday that Trump expected “the temporary cease-fire … to transition into permanent by the end of the afternoon.”





> Brexit: British lawmakers on Tuesday approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in principle. But they rejected the government’s fast-track attempt to pass the bill within three days. Johnson says he will “pause” the government’s planned Brexit legislation (The Associated Press) as an extension of days or up to three months is under consideration by members of the European Union as leeway for the British government to try to complete the legislative process after more than three years (The Associated Press).


> Chile: Chileans who believe they are not sharing in the advances of a country considered one of the wealthiest in Latin America have sparked five days of riots, arson and unrest that are crippling the economy, have caused 15 deaths and are undermining global confidence in the country (The Associated Press). Santiago is scheduled to play host in mid-November to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, at which world leaders annually convene, including Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping


POLITICS: Although 19 Democrats are wrestling in the 2020 presidential primary race, Republicans remain fixated on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader Clinton says it meant 'great deal' to hold inauguration weeks after riot MORE nearly three years after Trump defeated the former secretary of State in the Electoral College.


With Clinton back on the scene in recent weeks to promote a new book, rumors emerged from some GOP circles that she might run for president for a third time. Among those who have fanned that flame are Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonTrump expected to pardon Bannon: reports Trump has sought Bannon's consultation to overturn election results: Bloomberg Facebook's 'stop the steal' ban misses 90 groups promoting election misinformation: analysis MORE, the former White House chief strategist and Breitbart chief, and Michael Goodwin, a New York Post columnist; and with multiple members of Congress and GOP strategists.


However, Democrats and those in Hillaryland tell Amie Parnes that there’s no truth to the rumblings, arguing a 2020 bid by Clinton is a figment of the GOP’s imagination. Democrats dismiss it as Republican troublemaking.


"The Republican Party has made such a long-term investment in obsessing about Hillary Clinton that they literally can't stop," said Tracy Sefl, a 2016 Clinton campaign surrogate. "In some ways, she's all they know. 


“She's the permanent Mad Libs subject matter of the GOP,” she added.


The Hill: Biden apologizes for likening Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998.





Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that national Democrats are wondering if Clinton, former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden selects Gina Raimondo for Commerce chief: reports 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics NFL, politics dominate 2020 ratings MORE or another high-profile Democrat will launch a late 2020 bid if Biden continues to falter, with his lackluster third quarter fundraising serving as the source of much of the concern. 


As Jonathan Martin of The New York Times reports


“Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Bloomberg have both told people privately in recent weeks that if they thought they could win, they would consider entering the primary — but that they were skeptical there would be an opening, according to Democrats who have spoken with them.  


“Former Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who associates say has wondered aloud about whether he should have run and has found it hard to watch Mr. Biden’s missteps, has also been urged to get in. But he still thinks the former vice president, who was once his longtime Senate colleague, is the party’s best nominee.  


“Another Obama administration official who weighed a campaign at the start of the year, former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Joe Biden's continued 'Russian misinformation' defense of Hunter is conspiracy-level laughable Tyson fires 7 after probe into managers coronavirus betting MORE, is considering a last-minute entry but has conceded it may be too late, according to a Democrat familiar with his thinking.  Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Streamlining the process of prior authorization for medical and surgical procedures MORE (D-Ohio), who nearly entered the race earlier this year, said the pressure on him to reconsider from labor leaders, Democratic officials and donors has ‘become more frequent.’


“And Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor, who also weighed a campaign run before deciding not to, said he too has been nudged by friends to reconsider. ‘It’s nice to be rumored about,’ he said, before notably refusing to rule out a last-minute entry. ‘Don’t ask me that question,’ he said.”


The Wall Street Journal: Trump’s rallies aren’t a sideshow. They are the campaign.


The Hill: Red-state governor races put both parties on edge.


The Associated Press: Pennsylvania’s gas politics churn as Trump embraces industry.


Politico: Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO quietly tests presidential bid.


Elsewhere on the political scene: Biden will sit down for an interview with “60 Minutes” set to air on Sunday night, CBS News announced on Tuesday. Biden, along with his wife Dr. Jill Biden, talked to CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell at their home in Delaware and discussed “the state of his campaign.” … Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Overnight Energy: EPA rule exempts many polluting industries from future air regulations | Ex-Michigan governor to be charged over Flint water crisis: report | Officials ousted from White House after papers casting doubt on climate science Ex-Michigan governor to be charged over Flint water crisis: report MORE (D-Mich.) is expected to attend a campaign rally with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Sanders's inauguration look promptly gets a bobblehead Booker brings girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, to inauguration MORE (I-Vt.) in Detroit on Sunday and endorse the Vermont senator. With the endorsement, Tlaib will become the third member of “the squad” to support Sanders after Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Biden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation Facebook has no current plan to end the Trump suspension MORE (D-N.Y.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDemocrats poised to impeach Trump again Pence opposes removing Trump under 25th Amendment: reports Pelosi vows to impeach Trump again — if Pence doesn't remove him first MORE (D-Minn.) did so over the weekend (The Hill).




CONGRESS: Senators broke a months-long stalemate over funding the government on Tuesday, but major hurdles remain to avoid a shutdown next month. 


House and Senate lawmakers are stuck over issues related to a mammoth defense bill and GOP demands for Trump’s border wall, and the divisions are raising the prospect of another stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating once the current one runs out on Nov. 21. 


The package advanced in the Senate on Tuesday includes the funding measures for agriculture; interior; commerce, justice and science; and transportation and housing and urban development — four largely noncontroversial bills — and senators in both parties say they are optimistic the package will pass. The House, by comparison, has passed 10. Republicans are hoping that this week’s votes could help end the logjam over funding the government.   


“Hopefully the Democrats will play ball and we can actually get the appropriations process moving,” said John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment Yellen champions big spending at confirmation hearing MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican (The Hill). 


> Syria: McConnell and other top Republicans on Tuesday introduced a resolution warning the Trump administration against withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria. According to the GOP leader, the measure is backed by Sens. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeJustice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges Biden pick for Pentagon cruises through confirmation hearing McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Okla.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOn The Money: Biden extends eviction moratorium, student loan forbearance | Stocks hit record highs on Biden's first day as president | Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges MORE (R-N.C.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMcConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader Senate presses Biden's pick for secretary of State on Iran, China, Russia and Yemen MORE (R-S.C.) and Jim RischJim Elroy RischOvernight Defense: US sanctions NATO ally Turkey over Russian defense system | Veterans groups, top Democrats call for Wilkie's resignation | Gingrich, other Trump loyalists named to Pentagon board Will Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Idaho) — the chairmen of the Armed Services, Intelligence, Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, respectively.


"Withdrawing from Syria will invite more of the chaos that breeds terrorism and creates a vacuum our adversaries will certainly fill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.   


The resolution calls on Trump to halt the pullback of U.S. forces and warns that a “precipitous withdrawal” would “create vacuums.” It also urges Trump to rescind his invitation for Erdoğan to visit the White House next month and opposes Turkey’s military action.


"The Senate needs to speak up. We cannot effectively support our partners on the ground without a military presence,” McConnell added (The Hill).


The Hill: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-Ky.) blocks vote on House-passed Syria resolution for second time.


> Housing: A hearing Tuesday highlighted the deep divide between House Democrats and the Trump administration over housing policy as lawmakers pressed officials on their plans and accused them of ignoring what they said was a housing affordability crisis.


Three top Trump administration officials testified before the House Financial Services Committee to explain efforts to reform the federal housing finance system. But the hearing was a contentious affair, as Democrats challenged Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference MORE, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBen CarsonTrump's '1776 Report' released on MLK Day receives heavy backlash Biden has an opportunity to win over conservative Christians Ben Carson dismisses 25th Amendment talk: 'As a nation we need to heal' MORE and Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria over the rise in housing costs and its devastating results.   


“The Trump administration's housing finance reform plan would be disastrous for our housing system,” Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersCapitol Police report warned that Congress could be targeted three days before riot Democrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Lawmakers warned police of possible attack ahead of siege MORE (D-Calif.) said (The Hill). 

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!


Separation of powers requires impeachment's separation from politics, by J.T. Young, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2JgZzyW 


Americans must set aside their obsessions to fix immigration, by Peter Morici, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2W3ORRv 


The Health Insurance Tax would impact seniors on Medicare Advantage (MA). MA keeps costs low, provides additional benefits & protects seniors. Co-sponsor H.R. 1398 & S. 172. Talk to leadership. Learn more.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Rep. Mark DeSaulnierMark James DeSaulnierPelosi wins Speakership for fourth time in dramatic vote Dozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Rep. DeSaulnier leaves ICU after 3 weeks to continue treatment for pneumonia MORE (D-Calif.) to discuss the impeachment inquiry; Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi describes how Biden might be helped in his presidential bid by the Ukraine controversy; and Matt Karp, contributing editor with Jacobin magazine, about his piece, Is This the Future Liberals Want? 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 10 a.m. to consider a bill to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections. Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFacebook has no current plan to end the Trump suspension Ocasio-Cortez: Facebook, Zuckerberg 'bear partial responsibility' for insurrection 'Nationalize' Facebook and Twitter as public goods MORE testifies at 10 a.m. before the House Financial Services Committee about Libra, the company’s cryptocurrency project, and other issues (The Hill).


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. for possible consideration of fiscal 2020 spending bills.


The president heads to Pittsburgh this afternoon to speak at the ninth annual Shale Insight conference, the annual meeting of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association. The president returns to Washington this evening.


Vice President Pence will travel to Menominee, Mich., to tour the USS St. Louis while visiting Fincantieri Marinette Marine to speak about workforce development. He’ll then head to Waukegan, Ill., to speak about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Pence will return to Washington in the evening.


This morning, you’re invited to The Hill's newsmaker event, Innovation Runway: The Cutting Edge of Aviation, at the Newseum at 8 a.m. Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzArizona Republican's brothers say he is 'at least partially to blame' for Capitol violence Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear MORE (R-Texas), Rep. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenLIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore tests positive for COVID-19 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


Tell-all books: The Trump presidency has been a boon for authors and the publishing world, aimed at both critics and fans. “A Warning,” a book drawn from an anonymous op-ed written last year by an unnamed Trump critic working inside the administration, will hit bookstores next month. The author, known to the publisher and The New York Times but not publicly, has described trying to thwart the president’s agenda and “his worst inclinations” from inside the bureaucracy (The Washington Post). ...Separately, “Holding the Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis,” by former Navy Cmdr. Guy M. Snodgrass, who spent 17 months as former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Biden inaugurated as 46th president | Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief | Senate confirms Biden's Intel chief Trump administration official Norquist sworn in as acting Pentagon chief Top Senate Democrat backs waiver for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE's chief speechwriter and communications director before quitting four months before the secretary resigned, serves up a buffet of anecdotes about Trump and Mattis. "Seriously, who gives a shit about Afghanistan?" Trump is quoted as asking during a meeting in January 2018. "We should follow China's policy — just go into Afghanistan and take out all that wealth" (NPR).


Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterTrump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Biden says he spoke to Jimmy Carter on eve of inauguration MORE: The 95-year-old former president was hospitalized with a pelvic fracture after a fall on Monday night, the second such accident this month for the nation’s oldest living president, the Carter Center said. He expects to complete his recuperation at his home in Plains, Ga., when he is discharged from a hospital in Americus, Ga. (Reuters).


Black heritage: Award-winning journalist Gwen Ifill, who co-anchored “PBS NewsHour” for 17 years and was managing editor and moderator of WETA’s “Washington Week” during the same period, has been memorialized on a “forever” stamp to appear next year as part of the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage series. Ifill, a trailblazer in the news business, died in 2016 at age 61 of complications from cancer (Canvas).





And finally …  ⚾  Game 1 of the World Series is in the books, and the Washington Nationals took early control and a 1-0 series lead.


But for those in the District looking for where to watch Game 2 with fellow Nationals fans, you are in luck, as there are multiple options. Just as it did for Game 1 and during the first two rounds of the playoffs, Nationals Park will be hosting a watch party. The gates will open at 7 p.m., ahead of first pitch at 8:08 p.m. For parking information, WTOP is here to help.


If you don’t want to watch at the park, there are other options, including The Wharf, where a giant screen on the floating stage at Transit Pier will be showing the game. And if you’re looking for a bar with good specials, Washingtonian has the low-down.