The Hill's Morning Report - Witness transcripts plow ground for public impeachment testimony




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House Democrats carried on with their impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE on Monday as they released transcripts of three witness interviews and prepare for public hearings to kick off on Wednesday.


While Congress was out of session for the Veterans Day holiday, investigators released a transcript for their behind-closed-doors deposition of Laura Cooper, a top Defense Department official who oversees Ukraine, along with two other former aides to Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP senators request details on Hunter Biden's travel for probe Yovanovitch retires from State Department: reports Live coverage: Senators enter second day of questions in impeachment trial MORE, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine (The Hill). 


Cooper, a longtime Pentagon official, expressed to investigators her dismay at the battle the Defense Department had to wage with the White House in order to secure military aid for Ukraine, which has been at the center of questions related to the president’s actions with Kyiv. She said that the aid to Ukraine was considered “vital to helping the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves” from Russian aggression.


Cooper, who testified in late October, said that she took part in the Pentagon’s review of Ukraine’s progress in combating corruption. Despite the assessment that there had been “sufficient progress” made, top officials in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) felt otherwise, adding that OMB was the only part of government that disagreed with the Pentagon’s stance. She added that OMB’s stance reflected the views of "higher-level" guidance, a likely reference to Trump (The Hill).   


“It was unanimous with the exception of the statements by OMB representatives, and those statements were relaying higher-level guidance,” she said, according to the transcript.


Along with Cooper, investigators also released transcripts of joint depositions with Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, two former assistants to Volker. As The Hill’s Olivia Beavers writes, while all three witnesses are relatively minor players, they offered information for House investigators who are trying to determine whether Trump used the aid or the promise of a White House meeting as leverage to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open probes into Trump’s political rivals. 


The Hill: Top diplomat said request for specific probes in Ukraine was “contrary” to US policy.


Politico: “Alarm bells”: What Cooper, Croft and Anderson told impeachment investigators.


The Washington Post: Republicans shrug off growing evidence, stand with Trump against impeachment.


With the public hearings looming, House Democrats are calling a last-minute audible on the messaging front, and are shifting their rhetoric and talking points, according to Scott Wong and Mike Lillis. Most notably, they are dropping their use of one term that has headlined the inquiry — "quid pro quo" — and are instead using terms like "extortion" and "bribery" they believe will be easier to message to voters as they push impeachment, with Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesDemocrats debate fate of Trump probes if Biden wins House Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Overnight Defense: Pentagon IG to audit use of COVID-19 funds on contractors | Dems optimistic on blocking Trump's Germany withdrawal | Obama slams Trump on foreign policy MORE (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, saying over the weekend that Democrats need to "forget quid pro quo." 


On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue and the messaging battles, the White House is continuing to have trouble getting into sync on the impeachment issue just over 24 hours before the impeachment inquiry enters Phase 2 and public hearings start on Wednesday. 


As Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels write, while messaging issues are nothing new since the inquiry opened in late September, there are few signs that anything is changing ahead of the testimony of William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, which is expected to be the recipient of wall-to-wall coverage on cable news and elsewhere. 


With eyeballs expected to be pinned to the hearing on Wednesday, Niall Stanage takes a trip down memory lane at some of the most dramatic and high-stakes testimonies on Capitol Hill in recent memory, including Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGroups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's Valadao unseats Cox in election rematch MORE’s appearance on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, and last year’s hearing on the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughFor Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty COVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Defusing the judicial confirmation process MORE


The Hill: Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Let's give thanks to Republican defenders of democracy MORE (R-S.C.) basks in the impeachment spotlight.


The Washington Post: White House infighting flares amid impeachment inquiry.


The New York Times: Feud between Trump advisers underscores a White House torn by rivalries.





More in Congress: Top appropriators are set to meet today as they push to break a stalemate over funding the government. The sit-down will take place as lawmakers remain deadlocked on the larger fiscal 2020 bills, including top-line spending figures and the border wall. An agreement must be reached by Nov. 21 to prevent a shutdown, with another stopgap measure expected to give negotiators until mid-December to hammer out a deal (The Hill). … Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) KingRundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Democrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Treasury withheld nearly M from FDNY 9/11 health program MORE (R-N.Y.) announced Monday that he will not seek reelection to Congress, ending his 28-year tenure in the House. Trump won King’s district in 2016, while former President Obama captured it in 2012. Democrats are expected to put up a fight to flip the Long Island district, although the seat is favored to remain in GOP hands. According to the Cook Political Report, New York’s 2nd Congressional District moves from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican” with King’s retirement (The Hill). 


POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Little more than a week ahead of the fifth Democratic presidential primary debate (and his 77th birthday), former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE is on a political journey without a map. Weighed down by Trump’s blistering accusations and surprised by the unpredictable gyrations of Democratic rivals on his left, Biden is challenged daily to run a nimble campaign while also sticking to a strategy.


Amie Parnes reports that the possible late entry into the Democratic race of former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBiden's great challenge: Build an economy for long-term prosperity and security The secret weapon in Biden's fight against climate change Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE, a billionaire businessman and politician who has claimed membership in both major parties over the years, could plow directly into Biden’s voter base.


Democratic assessments that Biden’s ship has begun luffing and that Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenInequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift In defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism MORE (I-Vt.) are no match for even a weakened Trump seem to have opened a door to aspirants who said they’d sit out the 2020 contest. The New York Times reports that former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a moderate, told Biden last week he may change his mind and run for the White House. Eleven months ago, Patrick announced on his Facebook page that the “cruelty of our elections process” was among the reasons he would not be a presidential candidate (The Boston Globe).


In American politics, expect the unexpected over the span of a year.


The Hill: Biden: 'I'm more of a Democrat from my shoe sole to my ears' than anyone else running.


The Hill: Biden not ruling out Senate voting to impeach Trump: “It will depend on what their constituency says.”


If the Democratic terrain does not already appear choppy enough, Reid Wilson describes how progressive groups are filing lawsuits in new and emerging battleground states, challenging election laws and procedures they say disproportionately impact young and minority voters. Seven lawsuits were filed in recent weeks, challenging election laws in five states, and more lawsuits are ahead.





INTERNATIONAL: Violence, protests, nuclear provocations. Governments and the governed are under strain around the world.


> Israel: Early today, an estimated 50 rockets were fired by Islamic Jihad fighters from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel after an Israeli airstrike targeted and killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza. The escalation in violence comes after Israel killed Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife. Some of the rockets reached as far as the Tel Aviv heartland (NBC News).


> Mexico: Without offering specific information on Monday, Mexican authorities said they made an unspecified number of arrests of suspects tied to last week’s massacre of three women and six children of dual U.S-Mexican nationality in the north of the country. Those killed are thought to be victims of warring drug cartels. The FBI is assisting the Mexican government (Reuters).


> Prisoner swap: American University professors Kevin King, a U.S. citizen, and Australian Timothy Weeks are expected to be released in a deal reached between Afghanistan and the Taliban and announced today on television by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The two men are to be exchanged for three Taliban commanders held at Bagram prison. King has been a captive since 2016 (NBC News). 


> Hong Kong: Police fired tear gas again today in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial district and at two university campuses to break up pro-democracy protests, which they said brought the Chinese-ruled city to the “brink of total breakdown” (Reuters). The U.S. State Department on Monday night issued a statement calling for restraint and for “dialogue” between Hong Kong officials and police and the protestors.


> Iran: In violation of the 2015 international nuclear accord, Tehran is enriching uranium at its underground Fordow site, according to findings reported on Monday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations atomic watchdog. The site was concealed from nuclear inspectors until a decade ago. The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the nuclear pact, and in turn, Iran is breaching the agreement as leverage to try to force an end to crippling economic sanctions (Reuters).





> Bolivia: The capital city of La Paz is braced against violence in a power vacuum left by Bolivia’s ousted leader Evo Morales, who stepped down after mass protests in his country (Reuters). Mexico granted Morales asylum, cementing the Mexican government’s emerging role as a bastion of diplomatic support for left-wing leaders in Latin America (Reuters).


> Chile: In a win for pro-reform protesters after weeks of demonstrations, Chile’s government announced the country’s congress will rewrite a Pinochet-era constitution and present a new document to Chilean voters in a referendum (Reuters). 

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!


Warren Buffett, taxing capital income is a bad idea, by Lee E. Ohanian, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/33E1tBM


We still owe LGBT veterans for their patriotism and service, by Steve Clemons, editor at large, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2K8lg4w


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump 2020 campaign, on the impact of impeachment; Micah Uetricht, managing editor of Jacobin, who discusses the unrest in Bolivia; and Jose Benitez, executive director of Prevention Point, who joins the program to talk about needle exchange policies. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. EST at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House returns to work at 2 p.m. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerProtect America's houses of worship in year-end appropriations package Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Inequality of student loan debt underscores possible Biden policy shift MORE (D-N.Y.) hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. supporting the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which is before the Supreme Court today.         


The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Chad WolfChad WolfBiden picks first Latino to lead Homeland Security Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' Judge says acting DHS secretary appointment unlawful, invalidates DACA suspension MORE to be under secretary for strategy, policy, and plans at the Department of Homeland Security.


The president delivers a speech at the Economic Club of New York at noon. Trump will join a roundtable of political supporters at 1:55 p.m. in a Manhattan hotel, then address a GOP fundraising reception at 2:30 p.m. He’ll leave the city at 4 p.m. to return to the White House with first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony MORE.


Vice President Pence heads to the Department of Health and Human Services at noon to mark National Adoption Month. Pence will meet with Jamie McCourt, the U.S. Ambassador to France, at 2:30 p.m. in the vice president’s West Wing office. In the evening, Pence and second lady Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceSpaceX capsule arrives at International Space Station The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - World reacts to news of second COVID-19 vaccine with 90 percent efficacy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down MORE attend the Kuwait-America Foundation annual dinner in Washington.


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE speaks at 10 a.m. about Veterans Day at the State Department. He meets with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani at noon. Pompeo will meet at 2 p.m. with Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide. In the evening, the secretary delivers remarks and receives the Kuwait-America Foundation Humanitarian Award.


The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments beginning at 10 a.m. The consolidated cases dealing with the DACA immigration program are Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California; Trump, President of the United States v. NAACP; and McAleenan, Secretary of Homeland Security v. Vidal. Justices will also hear Hernandez v. Mesa. SCOTUSblog has detailed coverage. The Hill: Five things you need to know about Tuesday's arguments.  


Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterFormer CIA head, Cruz trade jabs over killing of Iranian nuclear scientist: 'You are unworthy to represent the good people of Texas' Can Biden vanquish Democrats' old, debilitating ghosts? CNN acquires Joe Biden documentary 'President in Waiting' MORE: The former president is scheduled this morning to undergo surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding due to recent falls, his spokeswoman said on Monday night. Carter is 95 (The Associated Press).


Dancing With the Stars: The audience for the popular TV show “Dancing With the Stars” voted former White House press secretary Sean SpicerSean Michael SpicerRealClearPolitics editor corrects Giuliani on Pennsylvania claim: 'This is false' Job-seeking Trump officials likely to get chilly reception on K Street Trump challenges electoral process as hopes for victory fade MORE off the floor Monday night following eight weeks of low scores, frustrated judges, furious viewers and one unforgettable neon ruffled shirt, reports The Washington Post. Spicer’s versions of the tango and a fox trot spelled curtains. Trump later tweeted his encouragement: “A great try by @seanspicer. We are all proud of you!” (The Hill).  


Facebook: Progressive groups say they have been unfairly caught up in Facebook's efforts to crack down on fake accounts and election manipulation. They have formed a loose coalition to assert that Facebook harms their ability to organize and share their messages (The Hill).


Housing: Housing advocates and California lawmakers are skeptical the tech industry will expand affordable housing in Silicon Valley, as pledged. Apple, Google and Facebook are among the companies that have promised billions of dollars to address the housing crisis in California, where homelessness has skyrocketed and middle-class families are priced out of the home-buying market (The Hill). 





And finally …  Brrrrrr … There’s a rush to weather, winter weather! Grab those sweaters, mittens and insulated socks. 


Snowfall totals could reach up to a foot or more in some areas of Indiana, Michigan and Vermont, according to the National Weather Service. Wet snow is predicted in Washington this afternoon, a day after the thermometer hit 70 degrees (The Washington Post).


In Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, lows could drop today into the single digits or low teens  with highs climbing no further than the low 20s (long underwear is recommended for presidential campaigners and journalists trailing them). 


The forecast high of 21 degrees for Chicago would be seven degrees below the previous cold record set for Nov. 12. A flight with 38 passengers aboard slid off a snowy runway at O’Hare International Airport on Monday.


This is an air mass that’s more typical for the middle of January than mid-November,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Birk. “It is pretty much about the coldest we can be this time of year [and] it could break records all over the region” (The Associated Press).