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The Hill's Morning Report — Dems and Trump score separate court wins

The Hill's Morning Report — Dems and Trump score separate court wins
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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 is off eating turkey and celebrating the pilgrims; Al Weaver is The Hill’s up-early journalist in charge this week. Find him at @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

A federal judge ruled Monday evening that former White House counsel Don McGahn must comply with a subpoena from Congressional investigators as part of the ongoing impeachment effort, handing Democrats a big victory as they move forward with their inquiry. 

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U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington, an Obama appointee, said in her ruling that “no one is above the law,” that top administration advisers may not ignore Congressional subpoenas for information and that there is no basis for the White House’s claim that McGahn is “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony” (The Washington Post). 

The latest development sets up a high-powered clash between the White House and House Democrats, who are trying to overcome the White House’s continued stonewalling of the investigation. Democrats celebrated Jackson’s ruling. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerThis week: Congress races to wrap work for the year Top Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn MORE (D-N.Y.) said that the White House has “no grounds” to withhold testimony from McGahn and other witnesses investigators hope to hear from in their ongoing inquiry and that the former White House counsel should “promptly appear” before the committee.

The ultimate significance of the ruling remains to be seen as the Department of Justice is expected to appeal the ruling, with the White House vowing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary, meaning testimony from McGahn and others, including former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE, is likely not imminent (The Hill).

While he lost at the federal level, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE got a key court win elsewhere as the Supreme Court blocked a House subpoena directing his accounting firm to turn over financial documents. According to the court, the subpoena will remain on hold until Trump’s lawyers file their appeal by the Dec. 5 deadline the court handed down. As NBC’s Pete Williams writes, if the court agrees to hear the appeal, the stay would remain in effect for several more months (The Hill). 

As both sides wait on the final rulings from the courts, eyes are turning to next week, when the House Intelligence Committee is expected to send its report to the House Judiciary Committee as the ball continues to roll along on the impeachment front.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Trump pardons Flynn | Lawmakers lash out at decision | Pentagon nixes Thanksgiving dining hall meals due to COVID-19 Democratic impeachment leaders blast Trump's pardon of Flynn MORE (D-Calif.) said in a letter to his Democratic colleagues that the panels overseeing the impeachment inquiry are preparing a report for the House Judiciary Committee that they hope to send “soon after” the week-long Thanksgiving recess.

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Schiff said the committees will continue to investigate the president’s actions regarding Ukraine and declined to rule out additional hearings or depositions. However, he said that investigators do not want to allow the administration to delay the probe through the courts.

“Even as we draft our report, we are open to the possibility that further evidence will come to light, whether in the form of witnesses who provide testimony or documents that become available,” Schiff wrote. “If other witnesses seek to show the same patriotism and courage of their colleagues and deputies and decide to obey their duty to the country over fealty to the President, we are prepared to hear from them. We will follow up on any additional evidence, even as we proceed with the preparation of our report.” 

“But the evidence of wrongdoing and misconduct by the President that we have gathered to date is clear and hardly in dispute,” Schiff added (The Hill).

The Hill: Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy.

Across the Capitol, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBarr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel Democracy is the MVP in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms MORE (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, continued his calls for a probe into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump Cruz urges Supreme Court to take up Pennsylvania election challenge MORE and his son Hunter Biden. Speaking to reporters in South Carolina, Graham said that he still wants the former vice president to release his calls with the former Ukrainian president as part of an investigation into his son’s connection with the Burisma Holdings, an Ukrainian energy company. 

“My conscience is clear. I love Joe Biden as a person, he is a really decent man, he's had a lot of tragedy in his life, but I have a conscience very clear right now. And I have a duty, if the House is going to shut it down the Senate is going to pick it up,” Graham said on Monday. 

Graham added that Hunter Biden’s connection to Burisma “doesn’t pass the smell test” (The Hill).

Reuters: Trump says he still has confidence in acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyMick Mulvaney 'concerned' by Giuliani role in Trump election case On The Money: Senate releases spending bills, setting up talks for December deal | McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID deal | CFPB vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency Consumer bureau vet who battled Trump will lead Biden plans to overhaul agency MORE.

The Hill: Trump makes his mark on courts amid impeachment storm.

The Washington Post: The Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE-Ukraine allegations, explained.

 



LEADING THE DAY

POLITICS AND CAMPAIGNS: 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 made his first appearance on the campaign trail on Monday, appearing in Norfolk, Va., where he pitched himself as the one who can defeat the president next fall and highlighted his massive spending on key issues throughout the years, including to combat gun control and climate change (The New York Times). 

While he kicked off his bid, some of his rivals for the Democratic nod continued to knock his challenge. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOn The Money: McConnell offering new coronavirus relief bill | Biden introduces economic team, vows swift action on relief | Rare Mnuchin-Powell spat takes center stage at COVID-19 hearing Biden introduces economic team, vows swift action on struggling economy Louisville mayor declares racism a public health crisis MORE (D-Mass.) made a rare personal attack against a fellow Democratic opponent, ripping Bloomberg for wanting to “buy the nomination.” 

"I am here on day two of Michael Bloomberg's $37 million ad buy," Warren said at a community conversation in Ankeny, Iowa, on Monday afternoon. "Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020. He doesn't need people. He only needs bags and bags of money. I think Michael Bloomberg is wrong and that's what we need to prove in this election" (CNN). 

However, Bloomberg’s campaign chief, Kevin Sheekey, defended his boss’s entrance in the race during an appearance on CNN and argued that the president is “winning” in the key battleground states. He said that the election comes down to six states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Arizona. 

“That’s the whole general election. And right now, Donald Trump is winning. He is winning that election. It’s very tough for people who don't live in New York or California to understand that, but that is what’s happening,” Sheekey said. “Mike is getting in this race because he thinks that Donald Trump is an existential crisis and he thinks he’s on a path to victory and he’s getting in to alter that dynamic.”

Politico: Bloomberg bid haunted by GOP skeletons.

The New York Times: Did New Hampshire fall out of love with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDeVos knocks free college push as 'socialist takeover of higher education' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump Manchin: Ocasio-Cortez 'more active on Twitter than anything else' MORE (I-Vt.)? 

> Senate map: Senate Republicans say they expect to be outspent by Democrats in the battle for the upper chamber next year, in part because the ongoing impeachment push has fired up Democratic donors and given them a renewed push to flip the Senate.  

As Alexander Bolton reports, Sen. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungShelton's Fed nomination on knife's edge amid coronavirus-fueled absences Grassley quarantining after exposure to coronavirus Rick Scott to quarantine after contact with person who tested positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate GOP campaign arm, met with colleagues last week to urge them to open up their campaign coffers to help vulnerable Senate Republicans who are being outraised by their Democratic challengers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot MORE (R-Ky.), a major GOP fundraiser, is preoccupied by his own race, which now looks more serious in the wake of Democrats winning the Kentucky governor's mansion. 

NBC News: Democrats dream about defeating McConnell. Can they do it?

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

ADMINISTRATION/INTERNATIONAL: The situation continued to simmer within the Trump administration on Monday as Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperISIS Task Force director resigns from Pentagon post in continued post-election purge The perils of a US troop drawdown to the Afghan army and tribes Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia MORE said that the president ordered the Pentagon not to remove a Navy SEAL who is in the middle of a war crimes case. 

The Navy wanted to oust Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, who was convicted of posing for photos with the body of a teenage ISIS fighter the U.S. had captured. However, Trump and Esper fired former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, whom the Defense secretary accused of trying to cut a deal regarding Gallagher by going around him and right to the president, adding that he was “flabbergasted” that Spencer did so. 

Spencer admitted in an interview with CBS News on Monday night that he did not talk to Esper about it but only because the Defense secretary was out of the country, adding  that he talked to Esper’s chief of staff about it instead (The New York Times). 

During the CBS News interview, Spencer, whose last day at as Naval secretary was Monday, criticized the president for meddling in the situation involving Gallagher, adding that he doesn’t think Trump "really understands the full definition of a warfighter."  

"Uh, well, right now, we're not going to do [the review process], is what Secretary Esper says. What message does that send to the troops?" Spencer asked. "That you can get away with things. We have to have good order and discipline. It's the backbone of what we do, and the Trident review process with the senior enlisted reviewing fellow senior enlisted is critical. The senior enlisted of our military are the backbone of our military. They are the girder of good order and discipline. They can handle this. They can handle this in each one of their communities.”

The Associated Press: Trump’s actions raise concern about role in military justice.

 

 

> Syria: Nearly two months after the president’s withdrawal of troops from Northern Syria, U.S. troops resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against ISIS in the region that led to a battle between Turkish and Kurdish forces along the border of Turkey. According to military officials, U.S. troops are returning to the initial goal of battling ISIS fighters in the previously vacated region after Trump’s initial withdrawal and subsequent narrowing of the mission to protect Syria’s oil fields.    

“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., the commander of the military’s Central Command. According to McKenzie, about 500 troops — about half of what was in the region prior to Trump’s initial order — will remain. On Friday, the U.S. and Syrian Kurds conducted a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border (The New York Times).

The Associated Press: Iran Revolutionary Guard threatens U.S., allies over protests.

Gerald F. Seib: Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinScarborough says he'll never return to Republican Party after GOP supported Trump Will Biden choose a values-based or transactional foreign policy? Russian vessel threatens to ram US warship in disputed waters in Sea of Japan MORE’s good year keeps getting better.

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

How Democrats can build a better case to impeach President Trump, by Jonathan Turley, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/35ACa49 

Trump's monumental decision on Hong Kong, by Joseph Bosco, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2Dhl0fG 

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Murtaza Hussain, national security reporter for The Intercept, to discuss her recent story, “Leaked Iranian Intelligence Reports Expose Tehran’s Vast Web of Influence in Iraq”; Michael Tracey, journalist, on the latest impeachment news and the McGahn ruling’; and Zaid Jilani, a freelance journalist, on Bloomberg’s 2020 chances. 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 2 p.m. for a pro forma session.  

The Senate convenes for a pro forma session at 7 a.m. and is out of session otherwise. 

The president has lunch with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSchumer meets with Biden national security picks To promote human rights and democracy, Biden should start with China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms MORE at 12:45 p.m. Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpCapitol physician advises lawmakers against attending dinners, receptions during COVID-19 spike White House moves forward with holiday parties during pandemic The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Biden unveils batch of his White House team MORE take part in the annual turkey pardoning ceremony at 2 p.m. before departing the White House at 3:40 p.m. He will hold one of his signature campaign rallies at 7:10 p.m. in Sunrise, Fla., before departing for West Palm Beach, Fla., where he will spend Thanksgiving. 

The first lady will speak at the B’More Youth Summit at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County about opioids.

ELSEWHERE

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal involving Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist, who sued National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute for defamation. The conservative magazine and libertarian think tank had asked the court to intervene in the suit. The case, which pits climate scientists against the free speech rights of global warming skeptics, drew interest from lawmakers, interest groups, academics and media (The Hill).  

State Watch: McDonald’s agreed to a $26 million settlement in a lengthy class-action lawsuit over wages and work conditions at corporate-run locations in California. The two parties announced the agreement on Monday, which will affect nearly 38,000 individuals and will require the approval of a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. The seven-year-old suit against McDonald’s Restaurants of California Inc. made a number of claims, including failure to pay minimum wage or overtime wages and provide mandatory meal and rest breaks (The Associated Press).

In The Know: It was a day of welcoming for the White House. In a surprise, Trump brought Conan, the military dog known for playing a key role in the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former ISIS leader, into the Rose Garden for a hero’s welcome and heaped praise on the Very Good Boy. Conan, a Belgian Malinois Trump labeled the “world’s most famous dog,” was given a medal and a plaque for his heroics (The Associated Press). Additionally, the first lady welcomed the White House Christmas tree. Larry Snyder, of Pennsylvania, won the annual contest held by the National Christmas Tree Association to present his 22-foot Douglas fir. The tree is expected to be part of the holiday display in the Blue Room (The Hill).

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … Bread and Butter — that’s what on the menu at the White House later today as the president holds the annual turkey pardon in the Rose Garden. Just as they have in recent years, the turkeys were pampered prior to their arrival at the White House today, having arrived Sunday at the Williard Hotel to dabble in luxury.

On Monday, the White House released the tale of the tape on the two birds. Bread, who measures 32 inches and 45 pounds, is a big college basketball fan and is aiming to master aerial yoga. Butter, checking in at 31 inches and 47 pounds, enjoys some sweet potato fries and is pushing for a personal best in the turkey trot. 

Following their day in the sun, Bread and Butter will go to "Gobbler’s Rest," an agricultural education facility at Virginia Tech University (The Hill).