The Hill's Morning Report - Week 2: House impeachment witnesses pick up the pace




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

Four current and former Trump administration officials will kick off the second week of public impeachment hearings today before the House Intelligence Committee as Democrats look to boost their case in the ongoing inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE’s dealings with Ukraine.


Today’s testimony features four key witnesses before the panel: National Security Council (NSC) Director for European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander VindmanAlexander VindmanImpeachment sets up Ukrainian Americans for 2020 political role Director of National Intelligence Maguire should stand for the whistleblower Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings MORE; Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer and adviser to Vice President Pence; Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerPush to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary How Democrats' missing witnesses could fill in the Ukraine story MORE, the former special envoy to Ukraine; and Tim Morrison, an outgoing member of the NSC. 


As Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis write, while the four witnesses are by no means new to investigators, they are to the public. With cameras rolling, the hearings will give voters and viewers a peek at the deliberations as both parties wage a high-wattage public relations battle over whether Trump’s actions should force his removal from office.


Throughout the first week of public hearings, Republicans on Capitol Hill and Trump allies repeatedly argued that the first round of witnesses were only passing along “hearsay” to investigators and that none had any firsthand knowledge, including what the president said in various phone calls. However, that argument could be a tougher sell this week. Vindman and Williams were on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Vindman in October privately testified to lawmakers about that conversation. 


The Hill: House committees release transcripts of previous testimony from U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale and David Holmes, an official with the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Hale’s transcript is HERE. Holmes’s transcript is HERE.


The Washington Post: Lt. Col. Vindman to describe his alarm over president’s call with Ukrainian leader, girding for Republican attack.


Meanwhile, Republicans believe Volker is one witness who could ultimately help Trump’s case. Appearing in private last month before the three investigatory committees, Volker said the White House decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine was “not significant” and that Ukrainian leaders “never communicated a belief that there was a quid pro quo” surrounding the investigations Trump sought. However, The New York Times reports that Volker, seeking to square his earlier testimony with information provided to the House by other witnesses, will tell lawmakers today he was out of the loop and did not realize others working for Trump had tied Ukraine military aid to a commitment to investigate Democrats.


The Hill: Impeachment guide: The nine witnesses testifying this week.


Axios: Inside Republicans' defense strategy for Week 2 of impeachment hearings.


The Hill: Democratic impeachment investigators are looking at whether Trump misled former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE.


The president said Monday that he will "strongly consider" testifying as part of the House inquiry. This comment comes as his administration continues to stonewall investigators and not cooperate with what they consider a “sham” investigation. Democrats expressed skepticism that Trump might appear (Reuters). 


Trump’s tweet was in response to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats seek leverage for trial The Memo: Pelosi-Trump trade deal provokes debate on left MORE's (D-Calif.) suggestion on Sunday that the president should "come right before the committee” to give testimony (The Hill).


Elsewhere on the investigation front, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDemocrats seek leverage for trial Overnight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Senate panel advances Turkey sanctions bill despite Trump objections MORE (R-Wis.), a key player on the Ukraine front, responded to a letter from Reps. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today Controversy on phone records intensifies amid impeachment MORE (R-Calif.) and Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanHorowitz to appear before second Senate panel next week Top Republican requests House hearing with DOJ inspector general Trump, first lady take part in National Christmas Tree lighting MORE (R-Ohio) to provide any firsthand information that is relevant to the ongoing inquiry. In a letter of his own, the Wisconsin Republican, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, took the opportunity to assail Vindman, arguing he is trying to sabotage the president (The Hill). 


Joe Concha, The Hill: 3 reasons why impeachment fatigue has already set in.


The New York Times: House Democrats adopt a sharper, simpler vocabulary.


CNN: Trump’s aides eye moving officials who are impeachment witnesses and detailed to the White House back to home departments. Trump has discussed potential dismissals.


More in Congress: The House will vote today to keep the government funded through Dec. 20. Top appropriators are negotiating to allocate funds among 12 spending bills, aiming to strike a deal by Wednesday. The short-term measure postpones final decisions about funds for a border wall, a contentious issue many lawmakers believe will force another stopgap measure into the new year (The Hill). Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Pelosi, Trump tout deal on new NAFTA | McConnell says no trade vote until impeachment trial wraps up | Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday Lawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday Doug Loverro's job is to restore American spaceflight to the ISS and the moon MORE (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Monday there are "impediments" inside the spending talks and that lawmakers need a “breakthrough” on top-line spending figures (The Hill).  





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 The Memo: Pelosi-Trump trade deal provokes debate on left MORE (D-Mass.) is trying to recapture her mojo after losing some polling steam in Iowa amid the rise of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 Krystal Ball warns about lagging youth support for Buttigieg MORE, who sits atop recent surveys of the first-in-the-nation caucus state.


As Julia Manchester reports, Warren will arrive at Wednesday’s Democratic primary debate under heavy attacks from her rivals over her “Medicare for All” plan and continued questions over her viability in a general election setting. Along with the Iowa polling slip, these areas represent a moment of concern for the campaign, which had been riding high in the primary until recently. 


However, it’s her health care proposal that has given her opponents an opening, which they’ve exploited in recent weeks. 


“I think her announcing the specifics on the health care plan hurt her, and created an opportunity for Biden, and now also Buttigieg,” said Michael Gordon, a Democratic strategist. “Arguably the best moment for Biden’s campaign thus far was when Warren released her payment plan for Medicare for All. That combined with some of the polls that showed her not doing as well as Biden against Trump in key swing states feels like some of the gas has been taken out of her campaign.


With Warren’s momentum ebbing slightly, the centrist wing of the Democratic Party has found itself on the rise, headlined by Buttigieg’s newly-minted spot as the top dog in the Hawkeye State.


As Niall Stanage says in his latest memo on the race, along with Buttigieg’s polling rise, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate Booker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Krystal Ball: New Biden ad is everything that's wrong with Democrats MORE entered the race last week, and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Krystal Ball warns about lagging youth support for Buttigieg Bloomberg unveils proposal to increase earned income tax credit, federal funding for housing programs MORE is poised to do so in the near future. In addition, former President Obama issued a warning to his party against overestimating the American public’s appetite for sweeping change.


Those developments, all coming in quick succession, have changed the mood music around a primary that had previously been dominated by Warren’s rise and questions about whether Biden’s centrist policies were out of step with the party’s progressive base.


The Hill: Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock.


Politico: Impeachment trial crashes into Senate’s 2020 plans.





Centrists, capitalists and 1 percenters: Warren, who made a reputation in and out of politics as a ferocious critic of large financial and tech firms, weighed in again on Monday, taking on private equity firm Blackstone for what she said was its decision to “shamelessly” profit from the financial crisis in 2008.  


Warren is an outspoken advocate for consumers, middle- and lower-income borrowers and families, and students who she says are undercut by corporate profiteering, excessive CEO compensation and Wall Street’s focus on satisfying stockholders and investors. The senator has been publicly critical of Facebook, Amazon, Wells Fargo and many of the Democratic-leaning financial titans who bristle at her zeal while she describes them as bad actors.


Her assertion that Blackstone took advantage of real estate foreclosures to turn a profit during the financial meltdown served as a backdrop for her tenants’ rights plan, which Warren unveiled. It was the latest instance of the Democratic 2020 presidential candidate singling out Wall Street companies and investors by name for actions she says contribute to inequality (Bloomberg News).


Bloomberg, recoiling at the anti-capitalist policies and rhetoric of Warren and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 The Memo: Pelosi-Trump trade deal provokes debate on left MORE (I-Vt.), may soon enter the Democratic race in part because he’s so opposed to their approach.


Patrick, a self-made millionaire and a managing director at Bain Capital, is a late entrant in the presidential race who has endorsed super PACs and has not shied from his advice to wealthy clients.


Wall Street and other influential CEOs who consider themselves open to Democratic causes and candidates have made no secret of their alarm that Warren has become a top-tier presidential contender in part because of her worries about the influence of big banks and behemoth tech firms.


Lloyd Blankfein, a former Goldman Sachs chief executive who is now a senior chairman, was targeted by Warren in one of her campaign ads as a CEO who “earned $70 million during the financial crisis.” Blankfein shot back, “Vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not the country. Maybe tribalism is just in her DNA” (Reuters).


JPMorgan Chase CEO and chairman Jamie Dimon told CBS News’s “60 Minutes” that he’s not enamored with Warren’s rhetoric but doesn’t want to single her out: Anything that vilifies people I just don't like. I think, you know, most people are good, not all of 'em. I think you should vilify Nazis, but you shouldn't vilify people who worked hard to accomplish things. And so my comment is, I think it's American society — we're just attacking each other all the time” (CBS News).


Pressed to comment on his recent JPMorgan raise to $31 million, Dimon called America’s wage gap a “huge problem.”


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: 'No mistake' Trump warned Russian diplomat about election tampering Trump admin hits Iranian shipping network, airline with new sanctions The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - An unusual day: Impeachment plus a trade deal MORE announced on Monday that the United States is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the latest administration decision that weakens Palestinian claims to achieve statehood. “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” Pompeo said. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.” U.S. actions that have eroded Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood include Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the movement of the U.S. Embassy to that city and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington (The Associated Press).


Prisoner release: Pompeo and the State Department helped facilitate the prisoner swaps completed today of American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, who were kidnapped by the Taliban in 2016 outside the American University of Kabul, where they were instructors. They were released today after days of delay, completing an exchange with the Taliban for three rebels commandos who had been held at Bagram prison (The Washington Post).


Trump and Federal Reserve: The president met at the White House on Monday with Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. Trump’s frequent critiques of the central bank’s monetary choices and Powell’s leadership are well known, but the president hailed a “cordial” exchange to start the week (The Hill). 


Electromagnetic pulse risks: Worries about nuclear weapons zapping America's electric grid will return to the administration’s policy fringe following recent staff turnover at the National Security Council. The utility industry has resisted hardening the grid against potential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks because of the high cost of addressing what the industry (and mainstream scientists) consider an unlikely threat (Politico). 


Commerce Department & tech: The Trump administration has extended for 90 more days a limited reprieve on U.S. technology sales to Huawei, the Chinese tech company blacklisted as a national security risk by the U.S. government in May. U.S. firms aren’t allowed to sell technology to Huawei without government approval. The limited reprieve renewed on Monday applies to technology sales and transfers necessary for existing networks and services to continue to operate. It was not unexpected and represents the second such extension (The Associated Press). Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on proposals to halt purchases by U.S. telecom companies of Huawei equipment using the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (The Hill).




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!


Political purity tests are for losers, by Jessica Tarlov, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Why Democrats and Republicans should think about independents, by Shermichael Singleton, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Josh Orton, national policy director and senior adviser for Sanders’s campaign, to discuss immigration and Medicare for All; Peter Coffin, a YouTuber, to talk about his latest video on Sanders; and Adolph Reed Jr., professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and a columnist for the New Republic, to expand on his recent article on “The Myth of Class Reductionism.” Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.


The House meets at 10 a.m. 


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m.


The president holds a Cabinet meeting at 11:30 a.m. He’ll have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:45 p.m. 


Hong Kong: About 100 defiant protesters remained today in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which has been surrounded by police, after more than two days of violence. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader, said today she hoped a standoff between police and the protesters could be resolved, instructing police to respond humanely after clashes with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. More than 200 people have been injured (The Associated Press). 


Planet Earth: Last month, sea ice coverage in the Arctic was the smallest ever recorded for October, a month that that proved to be exceedingly hot around the world, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. … Elsewhere, Brazil said deforestation in the vast, irreplaceable Amazon rainforest is the worst seen in a decade (The Associated Press). 





➔ “Jeopardy!”: The popular television game show is out to settle the question once and for all: Who’s the GOAT? The question will be answered in January when the three most prolific performers in the show’s history — Brad Rutter, Ken Jennings and James Holzhauer — take part in a battle royal for the title. The first contestant to win three matches in the seven-game series will take home $1 million, while the runners-up will win $250,000. ABC will host the event, which will start on Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. Holzhauer, who put up eye-popping totals during his 32-game win streak earlier this year, won the show’s “Tournament of Champions” last week ahead of Monday’s announcement (The New York Times).  


And finally … Along a quiet country road in Kansas on Sunday, authorities spied a camel, a cow and a donkey roaming happily together, reminding observers of a mid-November nativity scene. 


The Goddard Police Department asked the public for help to locate owners of the “three friends traveling together (towards a Northern star).” It was a message made to go viral, sparking Facebook and Twitter witticisms about three wise men, etc.


Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Myers later said the animals belonged to an employee of the nearby Tanganyika Wildlife Park (closed for the season) and were headed home after a brief fling with freedom and fame (The Associated Press).