The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine




Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It’s Wednesday, and Washington is busy this morning! 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!

After weeks of private testimony, the House impeachment inquiry will move into the public sphere this morning as lawmakers question two top witnesses who can describe President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE’s dealings with Ukraine and his actions to gather information about a political rival.


The start of public testimony represents a key moment for Democrats, who have spent the majority of the first seven weeks of the inquiry behind doing work behind the scenes. All that changes today, as Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis write, with the stakes being sky high for Democrats to deliver regarding the witness interviews and ensuring that the hearings go on as smooth as possible as the GOP tries to derail them.


The House Intelligence Committee will hear from William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, in the afternoon. 


Taylor is a key witness for Democrats in the impeachment proceedings after telling investigators that it was “his understanding” that military aid for Ukraine was contingent on the country’s willingness to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Joe Biden should enact critical government reforms if he wins MORE and his son Hunter Biden. Ahead of his appearance, Taylor penned an op-ed for Novoye Vremya, a top Ukrainian news outlet, stating the United States “is firmly committed to Ukraine’s success.”


“The United States stands side by side with the people and government of Ukraine, ready to help Ukraine achieve its goals: halting Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and cementing Ukraine’s place in the Euro-Atlantic community,” he wrote.


Kent is expected to offer a firsthand account about 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, the president’s personal lawyer, and his influence over official U.S. foreign policy. Kent memorialized his concerns in a detailed memo for his files in August, noting that “there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions” that he believed were “injurious to the rule of law” (USA Today).  


William Taylor and George Kent: What you need to know about each witness.


The Hill: White House stresses “hearsay” in witness testimony ahead of public impeachment hearings.


The New York Times: Trump has considered firing the intelligence community’s inspector general, who found the whistleblower’s complaint “credible.”


Beyond the witnesses poised to testify, Cristina Marcos takes a look at the key lawmakers — the House prosecutors — involved in the impeachment hearings. Headlining the group for Democrats is House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff to subpoena top DHS official, alleges whistleblower deposition is being stonewalled Schiff claims DHS is blocking whistleblower's access to records before testimony GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power MORE (D-Calif.), and leading the charge for Trump’s political defense is Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHouse panel pulls Powell into partisan battles over pandemic Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election House passes resolution condemning anti-Asian discrimination relating to coronavirus MORE (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.


Led by Jordan, House GOP lawmakers privately held a closed-door mock hearing on Tuesday in advance of today’s main event. Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinDCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program Overnight Defense: House panel probes Pompeo's convention speech | UN council rejects US demand to restore Iran sanctions | Court rules against Pentagon policy slowing expedited citizenship The Hill's 12:30 Report: Republicans conduct in-person convention roll call MORE (R-N.Y.) — a top Trump defender and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee who took part in the practice session — played Schiff, while a staff attorney portrayed Taylor, according to Juliegrace Brufke.    


“We want to make sure all the truth gets out. We don't think there's any reason why the president should even move through this impeachment," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Ginsburg becomes the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol MORE (R-Calif.) said, labeling the prep as a "simple meeting.” 


With the three public hearings on deck this week, Schiff announced on Tuesday that eight witnesses will testify publicly next week before the committee, including key witnesses such as Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanImpeachment witness Alexander Vindman calls Trump Putin's 'useful idiot' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Trump, Biden renew push for Latino support Strzok: Trump behaving like an authoritarian MORE, a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC), 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, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a top NSC official (The Hill).


The Hill: Schiff: Trump could be impeached for bribery.


The Washington Post: Democrats’ impeachment lawyer cut his teeth prosecuting mobsters, Wall Street cheats.


The Hill: Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOn The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security Blockchain trade group names Mick Mulvaney to board Mick Mulvaney to start hedge fund MORE drops plans to file lawsuit on impeachment testimony.


The Hill: Appropriators agreed to a new Dec. 20 shutdown deadline during a late Tuesday meeting, turning to a short-term continuing resolution as a way to push the looming Nov. 21 deadline forward and continue working to find an accord to fund the government.


Across the Capitol corridors, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHawley warns Schumer to steer clear of Catholic-based criticisms of Barrett Senate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Harris slams Trump's Supreme Court pick as an attempt to 'destroy the Affordable Care Act' MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that he does not plan to watch today’s public hearings. 


“Tomorrow, I’m going to be paying attention to what we’re doing in the Senate,” McConnell said (The Hill).


Trump’s public schedule today doesn’t look busy until noon. Plenty of time to watch TV (The Hill). The White House hopes to deploy an “aggressive” social media defense today with an emphasis on reaching local and regional audiences supportive of the president (CBS News).


The Washington Post: At donor dinner, Giuliani associate said he discussed Ukraine with Trump, according to people familiar with his account.


CBS News: Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonDemocrats' cowardice must end: It's time to teach the GOP a lesson Juan Williams: Swamp creature at the White House Engineers say privately funded border wall is poorly constructed and set to fail: report MORE says Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Will Democrats attempt to pack the Supreme Court again? MORE's (D-Calif.) impeachment strategy is "actually quite brilliant."





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Concern continues to permeate Democratic circles as some within the party say they aren’t sure they have the right candidate who can topple Trump in next year’s general election while a cadre of potential candidates weigh entering the race.


The recent rumblings that former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergBloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida Democratic groups using Bloomberg money to launch M in Spanish language ads in Florida Bloomberg pays fines for 32,000 felons in Florida so they can vote MORE, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and even Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump furor stokes fears of unrest Bloomberg 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 MORE are considering entering the race have only added to the feeling of uncertainty among Democrats. Bloomberg went ahead and personally filed his papers for the Arkansas primary on Tuesday, while news of Patrick’s possible bid came on Monday.


As for Clinton, she revealed on Tuesday that she is under “enormous pressure from many” to enter the 2020 fray but added that a run is “absolutely not in my plans” at the moment. All of the machinations have opened the door to a late entrant and are largely in response to 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’s (D-Mass.) rise in the primary and worries that she cannot beat Trump in a general election, according to Amie Parnes


“There are still a lot of people out there who believe there isn’t one standout candidate,” said one Democratic strategist who has supported anyone because of the lack of appeal. “It’s a diverse field but that doesn’t mean it’s a strong field.”  


“All of this talk about new candidates is a reflection of that,” the strategist said regarding concerns about Warren.


The New York Times: Why Bloomberg and Deval Patrick changed their minds about 2020.


The Hill: Poll: 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 leads Democratic field in Iowa.


Raise your hand if you thought a guy named Buttigieg would haul in $44 million in contributions this year (so far) and be leading ANY poll in Iowa when he launched his bid in April. His rise in the Democratic Party has been the stunner of the year. 


The Washington Post: 133 foreign policy officials endorse Biden.





> The Outsiders: As a horde of well-known Democratic politicians continue to struggle on the polling front, Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardRepublicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Gabbard says she 'was not invited to participate in any way' in Democratic convention MORE (D-Hawaii) and businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangBiden's latest small business outreach is just ... awful Doctor who allegedly assaulted Evelyn Yang arrested on federal charges The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden weighs in on police shootings | Who's moderating the debates | Trump trails in post-convention polls MORE are showing a polling prowess that many of those in the former group would envy as part of the party pines for a political outsider. 


As Jonathan Easley writes, Gabbard and Yang could play a spoiler role in New Hampshire, where independent "undeclared" voters will play an outsize role. It's an additional hurdle for both Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Sanders tells Maher 'there will be a number of plans' to remove Trump if he loses Sirota reacts to report of harassment, doxing by Harris supporters MORE (I-Vt.) and Biden, as polls of New Hampshire show young people and registered independents giving Yang a serious look, while some moderate and conservative democrats are considering the Hawaii congresswoman.


According to a Quinnipiac University poll of the Granite State released on Monday, 6 percent of voters support Gabbard, while 4 percent back Yang. On the other side of the ball, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act What Kamala Harris' VP nomination means to us Harris slams Trump's Supreme Court pick as an attempt to 'destroy the Affordable Care Act' MORE (D-Calif.), Sen Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election The movement to reform animal agriculture has reached a tipping point Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump MORE (D-N.J.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro pull only 1 percent support each.


The Hill: McConnell protege emerges as Kentucky's next rising star.


More politics … Warren will appear in New Hampshire today to file her paperwork for the first-in-the-nation primary … Former Rep. Mark SanfordMark SanfordOn The Money: Business world braces for blue sweep | Federal Reserve chief to outline plans for inflation, economy | Meadows 'not optimistic' about stalemate on coronavirus deal Trump critic Sanford forms anti-debt advocacy group Republicans officially renominate Trump for president MORE (R-S.C.) announced Tuesday that he is ending his bid for the GOP nomination, citing his struggle to gain traction among primary voters. Sanford told reporters in New Hampshire that “you’ve got to be a realist,” pointing to his inability to gain steam with voters (The Post and Courier) … Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and Agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration, announced he’s seeking a rematch to try to represent Mississippi in the Senate (The Hill). 


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: During a prominent speech in New York on Tuesday, Trump wielded the strength of the U.S. economy as a selling point and a shield for his reelection bid, offering a glimpse of the political arguments Republican allies hope the president will repeat into 2020 (The Hill). Trump said the greatest risk to the U.S. economy is the presidential election a year from now because of progressive policies espoused by “crazy” Democrats who seek to unseat him.


Investors and corporate chiefs listened closely to the president’s remarks about trade at the New York Economic Club, eager to take the temperature of ongoing negotiations with China, which have dragged on for months. Trump said the current talks could produce a “phase one” agreement with Beijing (Bloomberg News).


"We're close. A significant phase one deal with China could happen," he said. "It could happen soon."


After preparations for a signing ceremony between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping this month and then possibly next month, it’s unclear if the two governments will nail down any mini-agreement this year.


Arguing his trade advisers thought they had worked out some differences with their Chinese counterparts months ago, Trump repeated his assertion that Beijing backtracked, forcing a pause and then a new start. “If we don’t make a deal, we’re going to substantially raise those tariffs,” Trump said. 


Those words about raising tariffs sent global stocks sinking today (The Associated Press). Oil prices also fell today as the prospects appear to fade for a trade deal with China (Reuters).


> U.S. and Turkey: Trump’s red-carpet treatment for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the White House today disturbs even the president’s strongest defenders on Capitol Hill and invites criticism from his voter base in the wake of Erdoğan’s harsh words for the United States last month and Turkey’s recent attack on U.S. allied-Kurds in northeastern Syria (The Hill). The U.S.-Turkey relationship is fraught, even if Trump and Erdoğan have a good working relationship, experts say (VOA). Trump will offer the NATO ally a package of trade and sanctions relief inducements nearly identical to the U.S. overture that failed to deter Turkey’s attack on Syrian Kurds, The Washington Post reports.


> Crime: In the United States, attacks motivated by bias and prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018, the FBI reported on Tuesday, with a significant upswing in violence against Latinos, which outpaced a decline in assaults that targeted Muslims and Arab Americans. Physical assaults against people rose last year, accounting for 61 percent of the 7,120 incidents classified as hate crimes by law enforcement officials nationwide, according to the available data (The New York Times).




The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: and We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!


Trump impeachment is a blueprint to overthrow government from within, by Jenna Ellis Rives, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Excitement over Bloomberg’s trial balloon should concern Democrats, by Democratic pollster Brad Bannon, opinion contributor, The Hill.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features David Sirota, a senior adviser and speechwriter for the Sanders presidential campaign; Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, and Michelle Segura, a “Dreamer,” who talks about immigration cases before the Supreme Court; and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges, who comments on impeachment. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. EST at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House gets to work today at 10 a.m. The House Intelligence Committee begins live, televised impeachment hearings with two witnesses at 10 a.m. The historic proceedings will be broadcast by the three major networks, cable outlets including Fox News, C-SPAN3 (with seven cameras in the room) and PBS stations (public television’s TV 26 and WETA in Washington, will also rebroadcast at 8 p.m. “PBS NewsHour” will stream proceedings online on and on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube).


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Chad WolfChad WolfSchiff to subpoena top DHS official, alleges whistleblower deposition is being stonewalled The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose Amnesty International USA calls for halt on Chad Wolf nomination MORE to be under secretary for strategy, policy, and plans at the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing at 9:30 a.m. to review a year of migration at the U.S. southern border. Witnesses scheduled: acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, acting Customs and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli and acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Derek Benner.


The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpWatchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump Ginsburg becomes the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol Rabbi memorializes Ginsburg: Her dissents were 'blueprints for the future' MORE welcome Erdoğan and his wife to the White House at noon. The president will host a series of meetings and a working lunch with Turkey’s president. Trump will meet in the Oval Office with “select senators” about legislation at 2 p.m. Trump and Erdoğan will take reporters’ questions at 3:10 p.m. in the East Room.  


Vice President Pence flies to California to headline a Trump reelection luncheon in Huntington Beach. Pence then heads to Monterey, Calif., to participate in a GOP political dinner. 


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 speaks at 9 a.m. at an annual awards ceremony at the department. He is scheduled to meet with Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod at 10 a.m. and will then join the president at the White House for meetings with Erdoğan and the delegation from Turkey.


Economy: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will testify at 11 a.m. to the Joint Economic Committee on Capitol Hill. … The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the U.S. Consumer Product Index for October at 8:30 a.m.


Invitation: The Hill hosts a newsmaker event at 8 a.m.,Aspirations: Arab Youth & the Modern Dream,” at the Newseum, bringing together congressional leaders with Arab youth community members and youth policy leaders. Information is HERE.


The National Retail Federation hosts its Committee on Employment Law meeting today and Thursday, joined by senior administration officials as guest speakers. The focus is on trends in employment litigation, workforce policy developments and compliance.


Supreme Court: A sharply divided court struggled with existing law and potential repercussions surrounding the Trump administration’s repeal of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) deportation relief program, appearing wary of court review of executive discretion in policy making. Questions posed by some of the five conservative justices during oral arguments on Tuesday suggest they believe the administration outlined legally sound reasons for eliminating DACA. A ruling is expected next summer (The Hill). ... In a blow to gun manufacturers, the Supreme Court  on Tuesday said a lawsuit can move forward against an assault weapons maker. The suit was filed in Connecticut state court by a survivor and relatives of nine victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012 (The Associated Press).


Unconstitutional: Random search and seizure of travelers’ phones and computers by the federal government violates the Fourth Amendment in all cases without specific suspicion the devices contain contraband, a federal court ruled on Tuesday (The Hill).   


Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterTexas Democrats roll out first wave of planned digital ads as Election Day nears Chris Matthews ripped for complimenting Trump's 'true presidential behavior' on Ginsburg Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina MORE: The former president is recovering at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital following a procedure on Tuesday to relieve pressure on his brain after several falls. Carter’s spokesperson said the 95-year-old experienced no complications during surgery (NBC News).


Tech: The Wall Street Journal’s report on Monday describing Google's work to help one of the nation's largest nonprofit health providers collect and analyze data about millions of Americans without their knowledge has attracted intense scrutiny. Google and Ascension insist there are safeguards to protect medical data and patients’ privacy. Some lawmakers say they want more answers (The Hill). … Microsoft’s Monday announcement that it will voluntarily follow the principles of California's tough online privacy law across the United States was greeted with accolades from Democratic lawmakers and privacy advocates. The company placed new pressures on other companies to follow suit and shifted the terms of the debate on Capitol Hill (The Hill).


And finally … It’s award season, the baseball variety. Major League Baseball is set to announce the winners of its two most prestigious awards today and Thursday: The Cy Young for the best pitcher and the Most Valuable Player, bestowed in each league (ESPN). 


Earlier this week, MLB handed out the hardware for Rookie of the Year to Pete Alonso (New York Mets) and Yordan Álvarez (Houston Astros) as well as Manager of the Year to Mike Shildt (St. Louis Cardinals) and Rocco Baldelli (Minnesota Twins).


Morning Report prediction: Expect Gerrit Cole (Astros) and Jacob deGrom (Mets) to take home the Cy Young titles in the American League and National League, respectively. And look for Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) and Cody Bellinger (Los Angeles Dodgers) to bring home the MVP awards on Thursday.