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The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo

The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo
© Greg Nash

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At the end of the second week of public impeachment hearings, House Democrats on Thursday described what they believe are President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE’s alleged obstruction and abuses of his office, while Republicans condemned the drama as devoid of persuasive evidence, even as they hinted they anticipate Trump will be impeached by the House and acquitted by the GOP-controlled Senate. 

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGreenwald slams Schiff over Biden emails on Fox Hillicon Valley: DOJ accuses Russian hackers of targeting 2018 Olympics, French elections | Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats | House Democrats slam FCC over 'blatant attempt to help' Trump Federal commission issues recommendations for securing critical tech against Chinese threats MORE (D-Calif.) gaveled the panel to adjournment after laying out opening arguments for one or more articles of impeachment, the evidence for which will be reported by his panel to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration in the weeks ahead.  

“If the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe a vulnerable ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — it will be up to us to decide whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency,” Schiff said as lawmakers turned their attention to Thursday’s witnesses. 

When more than six hours of testimony had concluded, Schiff said the committee had gathered clear evidence of a quid pro quo in which Trump leveraged his authority over foreign policy and dangled military aid for Ukraine as a lure to try to secure investigations of a political rival in order to help his own reelection. 

The president wouldn’t give [Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky] something without getting something in return… an official act for something of clear value … to help his campaign,” Schiff said.  

The chairman argued that withholding military aid authorized to an ally currently at war with Russian-backed forces was “worse than anything Nixon did,” referring to evidence of law-breaking and obstruction of justice that forced former President Nixon to resign in 1974 before he was expected to be impeached.  

“In my view, there is nothing more dangerous than an unethical president who believes he is above the law,” Schiff added. 

The Associated Press analysis: Impeachment hearings leave mountain of evidence beyond dispute.

Ranking committee member Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 Democrat Arballo gains on Nunes: internal poll Sunday shows preview: Trump COVID-19 diagnosis rocks Washington, 2020 election MORE (R-Calif.) denounced the inquiry as a partisan exercise built around two alleged offenses that never happened. Nunes and other Republican committee members protested that Ukraine did not investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE or his son Hunter, allegedly at Trump’s behest, and said nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid was withheld briefly as a safeguard against fears of Ukrainian corruption before it was released in September.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMcCarthy: 'I would think I already have the votes' to remain as House GOP leader Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats Republicans lash out at Twitter and Facebook over Hunter Biden article MORE (R-Ohio), a staunch Trump ally detailed by his colleagues to the Intelligence Committee to help communicate the GOP defense, said his party believes House Democrats have the votes to impeach the president, which he said progressives dreamed about since Trump’s election. 

“The real vote is the one that’s going to be in 11-1/2 months,” he told reporters.   

Jordan’s Republican colleagues in the Senate met privately with senior White House officials on Thursday to map out what they expect to be a limited, two-week impeachment trial in the GOP-controlled Senate. In comparison, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton'Democrat-run cities' fuel the economy, keep many red states afloat Late-night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study A closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare MORE’s trial in 1999 played out over 36 days before his acquittal on two articles of impeachment (The Washington Post).

The New York Times: Who didn’t testify, why Democrats will move ahead without them and what happens next? 

Following Wednesday’s testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandGOP chairman vows to protect whistleblowers following Vindman retirement over 'bullying' Top Democrat slams Trump's new EU envoy: Not 'a political donor's part-time job' Trump names new EU envoy, filling post left vacant by impeachment witness Sondland MORE, during which he affirmed a quid pro quo plan by Trump with Zelensky, Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the White House National Security Council, offered detailed, crisply delivered testimony on Thursday about what she called “facts” gathered inside the West Wing. 

She also refuted GOP claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, an assertion Trump seized following his election. 

Hill said in her opening statement that Republicans helped spread “falsehoods,” adding that the “fictional narrative” of Ukraine meddling continues to be pushed by Russia, which seeks to undermine Ukraine and aggravate conflict and mistrust in the United States (The Hill). 

“I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016,” Hill told lawmakers. “These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”

Reuters: Explainer: What is the “alternate narrative” to which Hill referred?

Nunes bristled at Hill’s remarks, pointing to the panel’s report last year concluding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Nevertheless, the ranking member, along with Trump and Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump remarks put pressure on Barr Trump demands Barr investigate Hunter Biden 50 former intelligence officials warn NY Post story sounds like Russian disinformation MORE, the president’s personal attorney, have continued to link Ukraine to supposed anti-Trump interference in the 2016 election.  

The Hill: Five takeaways: Witnesses Hill and David Holmes offered impeachment testimony damaging to the president. 

Mark Leibovich, The New York Times: They toil gladly offstage. Impeachment lands them in the spotlight.

Holmes, a career foreign service aide to William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, testified that he overheard a phone call between Trump and Sondland conducted at an outdoor restaurant in Kyiv. Sondland told Holmes after hanging up that Trump didn’t care that much about Ukraine but was instead interested in the “big stuff,” meaning probes into the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine.  

Late Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic Senate campaign arm outraises GOP counterpart in September Hug or heresy? The left's attack on Dianne Feinstein is a sad sign of our times Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s allies in opposing the impeachment inquiry, launched his own Biden investigation, writing to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoWar in the Caucasus: What happens without US leadership — but a chance to get it right Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats Taking aim at online anti-Semitism MORE to seek documents and information in its files tied to Biden’s activities in Ukraine and about the Ukrainian energy company Burisma (The Washington Post). 

In another indication that the White House is relying on the Senate to explore its defenses, a Trump spokesman said in a statement on Thursday night that a Senate impeachment trial may be the place to call a different slate of witnesses. 

“President Trump wants to have a trial in the Senate because it’s clearly the only chamber where he can expect fairness and receive due process under the Constitution, spokesman Hogan Gidley said. “We would expect to finally hear from witnesses who actually witnessed, and possibly participated in corruption — like Adam Schiff, Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the so-called Whistleblower, to name a few” (Reuters).  

The Hill: Diplomat testifies he heard Trump ask about “investigation.”

The New York Times: What we’ve learned from Hill’s and Holmes’s impeachment testimony.

The Washington Post: Sondland’s testimony advances likely impeachment charge of obstruction. 

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS:  The top tier candidates of the Democratic primary are engaged in a battle to win the support of African Americans, a key voting bloc that could potentially determine the party’s nominee, especially once the contest moves beyond the first-in-the-nation contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

As Jonathan Easley reports, that dynamic was on full display at Wednesday’s debate in Atlanta as candidate after candidate tailored both their policy proposals and appeals to African Americans, who make up about two-thirds of the Democratic primary electorate in South Carolina and will be a voting force on Super Tuesday.  

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Less than three months out from the first primary votes, former Vice President Joe Biden has seen his campaign remain upright due in large part to high levels of African American support, which has handed him leads nationally and in South Carolina. While Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez rolls out Twitch channel to urge voting Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Tipping point week for Trump, Biden, Congress, voters MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Mass.) have made some inroads with the voting group, Biden towers over the field with them still. 

As for South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Buttigieg says it's time to 'turn the page' on Trump administration Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE, while he continues to boast strong support levels in Iowa and New Hampshire, his support among African Americans is nonexistent.

The New York Times: After debating about black support, Democrats fan out to try to earn it. 

Amy Walter, Cook Political Report: In DNC debate, race played a starring role. 

The New York Times: Day after debate, Biden and Warren face protesters at events.

 

 

With the debate in the rearview mirror, Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Booker 'outs' Cruz as vegan; Cruz jokingly decries 'scurrilous attack' Why Latinos should oppose Barrett confirmation MORE (D-N.J.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Minn.), two candidates who turned in strong performances on Wednesday, are looking to capitalize on the debate and use it as a launching pad in the primary. 

As Amie Parnes writes, the two Democratic challengers are hoping they can somehow translate that into momentum for their campaigns, which have been overlooked by many voters so far. Klobuchar is in fifth place in the RealClearPolitics polling average in Iowa, but with just 5.3 percent — well behind the race’s top four candidates, all of whom sit at 17 percent support or higher.  

Booker is even further back, with just a 1.8 percent average in the Hawkeye State. Nationally, Booker has just a 1.3 percent polling average, compared to Klobuchar’s 1.5 percent. 

At the debate, Booker scored points when he talked about the black vote and later when he questioned Biden over whether he was “high” for his opposition to national marijuana legalization. In a statement that reflected the lack of attention he may feel his campaign has given, Booker, who rose to national prominence as mayor of Newark, N.J., noted to Buttigeig that he is the other Rhodes Scholar winning former mayor on stage. Klobuchar had her own breakout moment when she talked about her electability. 

The Associated Press: Former President Obama was both referee and elder statesman during a California fundraiser on Thursday for the Democratic National Committee. 

The Atlantic: What Biden can’t bring himself to say.

The Hill: Michael BloombergMichael BloombergEverytown hits GOP on gun safety in closing .5M battleground ad barrage A closing argument: Why voters cannot trust Trump on healthcare Biden campaign swamps Trump on TV airwaves MORE files paperwork to run for president. 

The Washington Post: Donald Trump Jr.Don John TrumpTrump Jr. returning to campaign trail after quarantining Trump Jr., UFC star launch anti-socialism bus tour through South Florida Donald Trump Jr. urges hunters to vote for his father MORE thanked the “Deplorables” for making him a bestseller. The Republican National Committee spent $94,800 on copies of his book.

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

MORE CONGRESS: The Senate passed a stopgap funding bill on Thursday to prevent a government shutdown that was set to begin today. Trump signed the measure just hours before the deadline.

Senators voted 74-20 on the spending measure that will fund the government through Dec. 20. Along with the funding extension, the measure also provides funding for U.S. census efforts, a 3.1 percent military pay raise and extends controversial surveillance programs from mid-December to March. 

As Jordain Carney reports, the vote capped off 24 hours of behind-the-scenes haggling that brought passage down to the wire. 

The new Dec. 20 deadline means lawmakers will be in Washington to hammer out a potential deal as the Christmas break looms. Last year, part of the government shut down due to a battle over border funding, which ultimately lasted 35 days before the president caved.  

> Trade: Only a week after she said that passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was “imminent,” Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate MORE (D-Calif.) changed her tune, telling reporters that she doubts an updated North American trade deal will pass by the end of the year.

“I’m not even sure if we came to an agreement today that it would be enough time to finish,” Pelosi said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE met with Pelosi and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Kudlow confident that Trump can 'round up' Senate GOP behind coronavirus relief deal | US deficit spikes to record .1T Top Democrat: Tax credit expansions must be in next coronavirus relief package Treasury withheld nearly M from FDNY 9/11 health program MORE (D-Mass.) on Thursday afternoon, but a final deal is still at large (The Hill). 

Shortly after, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy: 'I would think I already have the votes' to remain as House GOP leader Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Sunday shows preview: Coronavirus cases surge in the Midwest; Trump hits campaign trail after COVID-19 MORE (R-Calif.) criticized Pelosi for prioritizing impeachment ahead of the potential trade deal. The GOP leader pressed that Congress could have already completed its work on the trade agreement had Democrats not launched the inquiry into the president’s actions regarding Ukraine.

“I guess they were too busy with the only goal of why they wanted to win the majority — to impeach the president, because they can't do anything else,” he said (The Hill).

The Associated Press: President Xi Jinping of China says Beijing wants a trade deal, can “fight back.”

 

*** 

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Citing health concerns and Senate Democratic opposition since 2017, Trump’s choice to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration withdrew his nomination on Thursday. Barry Myers, the former CEO of AccuWeather, said he underwent treatment for cancer and would be unable to serve as NOAA administrator and undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (The Washington Times). Myers was nominated multiple times but was stalled in the Senate. Democrats recently pointed to reports that he was involved in a discrimination and sexual harassment settlement at his former company (The Hill).

> Trade secrets: The Justice Department on Thursday charged Haitao Xiang, 42,  a Chinese national in St. Louis, Mo., who worked for Monsanto before it was purchased by Bayer AG with stealing trade secrets for China. He was stopped by federal officials at the airport before he could board a flight to China carrying proprietary farming software. Xiang’s lawyer said his client will plead not guilty (Reuters). 

> Trump’s lunches, dinners: On Thursday, the president hosted two prominent and frequent GOP Senate critics, Maine’s Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll 51 percent want Barrett seated on Supreme Court: poll MORE and Utah’s Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPoll: Trump, Biden tied in Georgia McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate Trump tells Fox he wants bigger relief deal as Pelosi's deadline nears MORE, for lunch at the White House. Also in attendance: Sens. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Republicans: Supreme Court won't toss ObamaCare Barrett sidesteps Democratic questions amid high-stakes grilling MORE (R-Iowa), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoBill to expand support for community addiction treatment passes House Hillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G MORE (R-W.Va.), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordMcConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate Senators push for Turkey sanctions after reports Ankara used Russian system to detect US-made jets McConnell: Plan is to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick before election MORE (R-Okla.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Bottom line Bipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock MORE (R-N.D.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.). If one or more House articles of impeachment trigger a Senate trial, as expected, Trump is eager to stave off any Senate Republican defections in order to cast the entire Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as partisan (The Hill). 

Last month, the president hosted a private White House dinner with Facebook founder and CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHouse Republicans urge Democrats to call hearing with tech CEOs Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats MORE and Peter Thiel, a billionaire venture capitalist and Facebook board member. The White House get-together, at a time when the tech behemoth battles intense scrutiny from Congress and federal regulators, was not publicly disclosed, NBC News reports.   

Warren, who has criticized Facebook’s handling of user privacy and false political advertising on the platform, called the undisclosed White House event with Facebook “corruption, plain and simple.”

> Military justice: Trump on Thursday reversed and rebuked the U.S. Navy to say Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher would not lose his membership in the elite SEAL commando force in the wake of his trial for alleged war crimes. Gallagher was arrested and indicted in late 2018, but his court-martial ended in July with acquittal on all but one relatively minor charge — posing for a trophy photo with the corpse of a teenage captive. He was reduced by one rank, which Trump restored.  

On Tuesday, multiple Navy and Defense Department officials said the Navy had cleared its plan to start with the White House the revocation process of Gallagher’s SEAL membership, although they acknowledged the risk of seeking to punish a SEAL who counts Trump among his vocal supporters. They said they knew the president could easily reverse the decision. He did (The New York Times). 

“The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” Trump tweeted. “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” 

David Ignatius: Trump’s involvement in the Gallagher disciplinary case risks a collision with the Navy.

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

A forgettable debate for an exhausted nation, by Max Burns, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2riE5LD 

Wednesday's marijuana legalization vote was truly historic — here's why, by Justin Strekal, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2KXW6WX

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Joe Concha, media reporter and columnist for The Hill, on the size of the impeachment hearing’s television audiences; Aaron Maté, host of “Pushback Show” on the Grayzone, to react to Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate; Bill Bullard CEO of R-CALF USA, which advocates for ranchers, to discuss new Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation; and Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association -Trump enters debate week after NYT obtains his tax returns The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden asks if public can trust vaccine from Trump ahead of Election Day | Oklahoma health officials raised red flags before Trump rally Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE, editor-in-chief of The Hill, for his weekly DeBrief segment. Coverage starts 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 1:30 p.m.

The Senate convenes for a pro forma session at 9:30 a.m. and will be out of session next week. 

The president at 11 a.m. participates in the NCAA Collegiate National Champions Day, hosting various athletes at the White House. 

Economic indicator: The University of Michigan releases its survey of U.S. Consumer Sentiment for November at 10 a.m. American consumers are the engine for household spending and economic growth, which means their outlook about the state of the economy is closely watched.

ELSEWHERE

China: Beijing demanded on Thursday that Trump veto bills aimed at punishing China and supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy, pro-human rights demonstrators. The House overwhelmingly approved bills on Wednesday, a day after the Senate passed measures on voice votes. The bills are heading to the White House for Trump’s signature, and the White House signaled the president supports the legislation (The Associated Press). 

Israel: Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, for the first time for any sitting Israeli prime minister, was formally charged on Thursday in a series of corruption cases, throwing a government already in limbo into further disarray. Netanyahu, who accused prosecutors of staging “an attempted coup,” was charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals (The Associated Press).

 

 

Press freedom: Five U.S. journalists who allege they were separately detained and tracked by the Department of Homeland Security while conducting reporting at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018 and this year are suing the government, citing violations of their First Amendment rights (CNN). 

WeWork on Thursday cut nearly 20 percent of its workforce, or 2,400 people, in a move to restructure the company following its explosive growth into shared office spaces in 122 cities around the world. Ousted co-founder Adam Neumann secured a $1.7 billion payout to depart after the company sustained massive losses that ultimately soured Wall Street investors on the company and doomed its planned IPO. Tech conglomerate SoftBank now owns 80 percent of WeWork (The Associated Press).   

City Watch: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) enjoys strong job approval in the nation’s capital, according to a Washington Post poll released on Thursday. Fifty-two percent of respondents said she should seek a third term. Her low marks are for homelessness and the availability of affordable housing (The Washington Post). 

THE CLOSER

And finally … Kudos to this week’s Morning Report Quiz Masters! They guessed correctly about the British royals, playing along with our puzzle inspired by the third season of Netflix’s “The Crown.” 

Congratulations to those who knew a bit of royal trivia: William Chittam, John Donato, Luther Berg, Margaret Gainer, Patrick Kavanagh and Carol Katz.

They guessed correctly that Prince Charles had his investiture and crowning as Prince of Wales in 1969.

Princess Margaret’s separation from Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1976 followed her affair with Roddy Llewellyn.

Former President Lyndon Johnson did not host Queen Elizabeth II at the White House during his time in office.  

And finally, Prince Charles met his second wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, in 1971.