The Hill's Morning Report - Witness transcripts offer new clues; Election Day

 

 

 

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The House impeachment inquiry took another step into the public consciousness on Monday as investigators released the first two transcripts from closed-door meetings with a pair of former and current State Department officials, with more transcripts from key witnesses set for release in the coming days.

 

Investigators released full transcripts of interviews with Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, and Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWatchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Trump's push for win with Sudan amps up pressure on Congress  Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize MORE. While neither transcript contained a bombshell, they shed more light on the pressure campaign led by Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting CIA found Putin 'probably directing' campaign against Biden: report Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate MORE, President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE’s personal lawyer, and followed through by members of the administration, which disturbed State Department veterans — in both Ukraine and Washington. 

 

As Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis report, Giuliani worked outside government channels in a multi pronged effort to oust Yovanovitch, help his business partners win contracts in Kiev and press Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida MORE. Yovanovitch described the pressure campaign as “unprecedented.”

 

“I thought that this was a dangerous precedent, that as far as I could tell, since I didn't have any other explanation, that private interests and people who don't like a particular American ambassador could combine to … find somebody who was more suitable for their interests,” she testified to investigators on Oct. 11. “It should be the State Department, the President, who makes decisions about which ambassador.” 

 

“And, obviously, the President did make a decision, but I think influenced by some who are not trustworthy,” she added.

 

The Hill: Yovanovitch says she felt threatened by Trump saying she was “bad news” during a July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s president.

 

Find the House witness transcripts released on Monday HERE.

 

Reuters: Exclusive: Giuliani associate Lev Parnas will comply with the Trump impeachment inquiry.

 

The Washington Post: Transcripts show Republicans’ scattershot strategy in early days of impeachment inquiry.

 

Two more transcripts are set to be released today: 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 special envoy to Ukraine, who stepped down in late September and testified on Oct. 3, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who appeared on Capitol Hill on Oct. 17. 

 

With the first deposition texts in the open, Cristina Marcos, Scott Wong, Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels give five key takeaways and lay out what to expect from investigators. Witnesses describe a heavily politicized environment at the State Department, which both Yovanovitch and McKinley discussed with three investigatory committees. 

 

The two diplomats spoke openly about the reluctance by State to issue a public show of support for the former Ukraine ambassador as she came under fire from the president’s allies and an environment in which people constantly worried about a rogue tweet from Trump that potentially could undermine all of their work. 

 

“What I was told is that there was concern that the rug would be pulled out from under the State Department if they put out something publicly,” Yovanovitch said.  

 

Investigators are widely expected to look closer at Pompeo and scrutinize his involvement in the Ukraine situation. While McKinley credited the secretary with bringing the State Department back from the “hollowing out” that took place during former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonGary Cohn: 'I haven't made up my mind' on vote for president in November Kushner says 'Alice in Wonderland' describes Trump presidency: Woodward book Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE’s tenure, he complained about the lack of support for career diplomats from State Department leaders.  

 

McKinley also told lawmakers that he had three conversations with Pompeo about issuing a statement in support of Yovanovitch — which never happened — and that the department’s silence hampered the good will Pompeo had worked to build in Foggy Bottom. 

 

“It had a very significant effect on morale. And the silence from the Department was viewed as puzzling and baffling,” McKinley said of the lack of any public response from the department following the release of a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

 

The New York Times: Pompeo faces political peril and diplomats’ revolt in impeachment inquiry.

 

Bloomberg: Impeachment panels can’t make officials testify, Justice Department says.

 

The Hill: White House lawyer says he will defy impeachment subpoena.

 

The Hill: During the president’s Kentucky rally Monday night, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRon Paul hospitalized in Texas The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Rand Paul says he can't judge 'guilt or innocence' in Breonna Taylor case MORE (R-Ky.) challenged the media to name the whistleblower while not mentioning his name.

 

Other investigations: A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Trump cannot block the Manhattan District Attorney's Office from subpoenaing his accounting firm for tax returns and financial records. The ruling ran counter to the president’s claim that he is immune to criminal investigations. Trump is expected to appeal the ruling (The Hill), but he faces headwinds with the Supreme Court (NBC News). … The Department of Justice is pushing for details to identify “Anonymous,” a senior Trump administration official, who is releasing a new book critical of the president, and is pushing the Hachette Book Group and Javelin, the author’s publisher and agents, respectively, for the information (The New York Times). … The trial of Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. The agony of justice Our Constitution is under attack by Attorney General William Barr MORE is set to begin today as the longtime confidant of the president faces charges of making false statements, obstruction and witness tampering in relation to allegedly misleading the House Intelligence Committee regarding his push to find out when WikiLeaks would release hacked emails from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Trump pledges to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, designate KKK a terrorist group in pitch to Black voters MORE’s 2016 presidential campaign (NBC News). 

 

 

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS: The president and Republicans are nationalizing gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana, setting the stage for a referendum on Trump and a test case to show his level of support in red states ahead of the 2020 presidential contest. 

 

While Trump and Vice President Pence have made a number of visits to support the states’ Republican gubernatorial candidates, the president has used the opportunities to address House Democrats’ impeachment probe as hyper-partisan, with the latest example coming last night during Trump’s appearance in Lexington, Ky., to support Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who is expected to have a close call one way or another tonight versus state Attorney General Andy Beshear.

 

Along with Kentucky, key races are taking place in Mississippi — another gubernatorial hotspot where Trump and company have campaigned in recent days — and Virginia, where the state legislature is the big prize (The Hill).

 

The New York Times: Virginia’s legislature is up for grabs. It’s a referendum on Trump.

 

The Associated Press: Elections in four states, including New Jersey, will offer test runs for 2020. 

 

The Hill: Trump faces challenging path one year out from the election.

 

Bloomberg: Trump looks to rev up supporters in the South.

 

> Buttigieg targeted: Having become the latest entrant in the top tier of the Democratic primary field, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBillionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November Buttigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice MORE is on the receiving end of attacks from rival campaigns, particularly as he climbs the polls in Iowa. 

 

Reid Wilson reports from Indianola, Iowa, that Democrats are questioning Buttigieg’s rise and his inability to attract African American primary support, which will be a major key for whoever takes home the party’s nomination. 

 

"Just look at his track record as mayor. He has a bad track record with African Americans on the issues, and he's almost acknowledged as much," former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro told The Hill about Buttigieg. "It is risky to nominate somebody that cannot appeal to one of our most important constituencies."

 

Additionally, he received criticism for telling Showtime that the race is coming down to a choice between him and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds On The Money: Half of states deplete funds for Trump's 0 unemployment expansion | EU appealing ruling in Apple tax case | House Democrats include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package Warren, Khanna request IG investigation into Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE (D-Mass.), with some candidates believing he got out ahead of his skis with the remark less than three months away from the Iowa caucuses.  

 

Niall Stanage: Trump's battleground ratings sound warning for Democrats.

 

Politico: Castro to lay off New Hampshire, South Carolina teams amid renewed focus on Iowa, Nevada.

 

The Hill: Progressives press Democrats to rethink Israel policy.

 

 

 

 

> Biden’s opportunity: The former vice president faces a major opportunity with what’s likely to be a full impeachment trial of Trump in the Senate as he continues to play a central role in the ongoing saga.

 

If Trump is impeached by the House, which many expect after the vote to expand the inquiry last week, it would lead to a Senate trial, where several of Biden’s rivals in the Democratic presidential race would sit as jurors, as Amie Parnes writes. There are obvious benefits to Biden and Buttigieg should Warren, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSirota reacts to report of harassment, doxing by Harris supporters Republicans not immune to the malady that hobbled Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election MORE (I-Vt.) and others find themselves pinned down in Washington ahead of the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.   

 

“Biden might have the best of both worlds,” one ally of the vice president said. “While [the senators] sit as jurors in Washington, he can be making the case about Trump's abuse of power out where caucus and primary voters live, and he can present himself as a calm, mature, grown up alternative to the mess in the Oval Office and the food fight in Washington.” 

 

Joshua Green and Bill Allison, Bloomberg Businessweek: Democrats cool on Wall Street donors, and the feeling Is mutual.

 

The Hill: Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTexas Democratic official urges Biden to visit state: 'I thought he had his own plane' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements A game theorist's advice to President Trump on filling the Supreme Court seat MORE (D-Calif.) becomes the fifth candidate to qualify for the December presidential debate in Los Angeles, the final debate of the year, which happens to be in her home state. 

 

Politico: How Harris went from “Female Obama” to fifth place.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: United States and climate change: Trump on Monday began a yearlong process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, acting on the first day the administration could officially begin to deliver on the long-promised vow (The Hill). Pompeo issued a statement, noting that withdrawal from the treaty signed by nearly 200 nations with commitments to reduce carbon emissions takes effect in one year. Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers,” the secretary said. In Germany, officials noted that the U.S. action was anticipated, but has not been emulated by other nations. “The rest of the world stands together on climate protection,” said German Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (The Associated Press).

 

 

 

 

> Immigration: The administration is drafting new restrictions for possible release this week that would bar asylum-seekers from applying for work permits in the United States for a year, a tougher hurdle than the current requirement to wait 150 days. The administration, wrestling with a backlog of immigration and asylum applications, seeks to deter asylum-seekers from entering the country (NBC News).



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

What to keep in mind during the coming phase of impeachment, by Kimberly Wehle, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/34ykbLk 

 

The Supreme Court should not take up Trump’s tax-return case, by Harry Litman, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/2NDleCE



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features The Hill’s Reid Wilson, who talks about his reporting in Iowa as he tracks the Democratic presidential candidates; Tim Black, host of “The Tim Black Show,” discusses which Democratic candidate could follow former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) out of the 2020 race; and Rep. John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthPelosi, Democrats unveil bills to rein in alleged White House abuses of power GOP, White House struggle to unite behind COVID-19 relief House seeks ways to honor John Lewis MORE (D-Ky.), who is interviewed by Krystal Ball about the impeachment inquiry. Watch at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

 

The House returns to work on Nov. 12.

 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of David Austin Tapp to be a judge with the United States Court of Federal Claims. Senate Republicans hold a policy lunch in the Capitol with Vice President Pence in attendance.

 

The president has no public events.

 

Pompeo meets this morning with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah. At 9 a.m., the secretary speaks at the PD Next: 2019 Global Public Diplomacy Workshop. He will meet with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir at 12:45 p.m. at the State Department. This evening, Pompeo delivers remarks at the National Museum of American Diplomacy to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

White House Fellows: The application process is open through Jan. 8 for the 2020-2021 White House Fellows program, founded in 1964. Selected individuals spend a year in Washington, D.C., working as full-time, paid government employees aiding Cabinet secretaries, senior White House staff and other top-ranking government officials. Application info: https://fellows.whitehouse.gov/. Program info: https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/fellows/. Contact for questions: whitehousefellows@who.eop.gov.



ELSEWHERE

Mexico: Drug cartels in Mexico are churning out “mass quantities” of potentially deadly fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills, the Drug Enforcement Administration said on Monday, warning the drug gangs target users throughout North America (Reuters). 

 

Canadian water: A yearlong investigation sent shock waves through Montreal and other Canadian cities and communities on Monday when tests showed that hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to lead in water at levels higher than experienced in Flint, Mich. The work of more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media organizations, including The Associated Press and the Institute for Investigative Journalism at Concordia University in Montreal revealed that out of 12,000 water tests since 2014 in 11 cities in Canada, one-third exceeded the national safety guideline of 5 parts per billion of lead exposure while 18 percent exceeded the U.S. limit of 15 ppb. Lead in water poses serious health hazards (The Associated Press). 

 

News media: College newspapers are wrestling with financially precarious conditions while prospective student journalists soldier on. A “Trump bump” is seen as an unexpected positive at some colleges and universities. Undergraduate enrollment in journalism programs went up nearly 6 percent between 2015 and 2018. “When Trump starts calling journalists the enemy of the people and fake news, these kids get ticked off,” said University of Maryland journalism school dean Lucy Dalglish (The Associated Press). 



THE CLOSER

And finally Pitching In: From affordable housing in California to children’s medical care in Maryland, tech behemoth Apple and a baseball player separately made headlines on Monday with donations aimed at good works and some good PR.

 

Apple committed $2.5 billion to work with state and local partners to combat California’s sky-high housing prices and housing shortages that have contributed to the state’s homeless population. Apple concedes that the company contributed to the problems and feels the impact within its own workforce (The Associated Press). 

 

Meanwhile, Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, 33, and his wife Jill Davis set a record with a $3 million donation to the University of Maryland’s Children’s Hospital, aimed at addressing congenital heart disease. It’s the largest contribution to the medical facility by a Baltimore sports figure (Yahoo Sports).