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The Hill’s Morning Report – Dem impeachment report highlights phone records

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

The House Intelligence Committee voted Tuesday night to advance the impeachment inquiry to the House Judiciary Committee after releasing a lengthy report detailing alleged abuse of power by President Trump in his dealings with Ukraine and laying out the case for his impeachment.


The long-awaited report, which was advanced by a vote along party lines, laid out a detailed basis for the panel’s allegations and portrays a harsh picture of the president, who has repeatedly claimed his call and dealings with Ukraine were “perfect,” and his actions with the European nation. 


The panel did not recommend any specific articles of impeachment, leaving those to the Judiciary Committee, which at 10 a.m. will kick off its phase of the history-making drama with a hearing titled, “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump:

Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.” 


READ: House Intelligence Committee impeachment report.


The Associated Press: In 300 pages, House lays out evidence for Trump impeachment.


As Olivia Beavers and Mike Lillis write, most of the report written by the majority was already known publicly after being detailed through public and private witness testimonies gathered since the Sept. 24 launch of the House inquiry. However, some new information surrounding the Ukrainian affair was included — namely, extensive phone communications between some of the key players in the saga.  


Notably, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) released call records showing that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the panel and a staunch ally of the president, had been in frequent contact with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, the White House and Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani’s. Schiff told reporters that it’s “deeply concerning” if any lawmakers were “complicit” in digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s potential 2020 general election opponent.


Schiff also released call records, obtained with a subpoena to AT&T, between Giuliani, Parnas and John Solomon, a former conservative columnist with The Hill who authored op-eds pushing debunked theories about U.S.-Ukraine relations. The report also detailed calls between Giuliani and the Office of Budget and Management, the agency responsible for withholding the military aid to Ukraine, leading House Democrats to argue that the records show coordination between Trump and his allies to push for action regarding Ukraine, including the ouster of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and the ensuing push for investigations by Kyiv. 


As for the White House, they criticized the report immediately, saying that it “reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger” (The Hill).


The Hill: Phone records detail extent of Rudy Giuliani, White House contacts.


The New York Times: Trump attorney Giuliani engineered a shadow foreign policy, according to records cited in House impeachment report.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Will impeachment hurt Democrats or Trump?


The Hill: Lawmakers to watch during Wednesday’s impeachment hearing.


The report emerged a day after Republicans released their own account to dispute allegations against Trump, claiming that the president was “entirely prudent” in his handling of U.S. policy with Ukraine (The Hill). However, shortly after the report was released, an attorney for Parnas took aim at Nunes after his name emerged on the phone calls with Giuliani and his client. Joseph Bondy, Parnas’s attorney, tweeted that the California Republican should have recused himself from his panel’s impeachment.


“Devin Nunes, you should have recused yourself at the outset of the #HIC #ImpeachingHearings. #LetLevSpeak,” Bondy tweeted (The Hill). 


Nunes declined to answer questions from the Capitol Hill press corps after the record of calls was revealed by Democrats, although Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) defended his colleague (PBS).


The next steps in the impeachment drama begin today as the Judiciary panel holds its first hearing. The committee is expected to rely on the evidence provided by the Intelligence panel to draft one or more formal articles of impeachment. The full House could take any indictments approved by the Judiciary Committee to the floor before Congress’s Christmas break (The Hill). 


Politico: Republican bomb-throwers prep impeachment spectacle.


Politico: “I’m not going to take any sh–”: Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) girds for battle.


Reuters: Trump says censuring him over Ukraine would be as unacceptable as impeachment.





POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: The 2020 Democratic field saw its highest-profile exit from the race thus far on Tuesday as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced her departure from the campaign after struggling to gain traction for months after being considered a top-tier candidate in the summer. 


Harris announced her exit from the 2020 contest amid a constant struggle for her team in recent months, headlined by battles within her campaign operation, her inability to stake out consistent positions in the field and most recently her inability to fundraise at a sustainable level, leading to her demise (The Hill). 


Harris’s announcement came ahead of a key deadline in late December to get off of the ballot for the California primary on Super Tuesday. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, the California Democrat was polling fourth in the field and a loss there would have been an embarrassment and a potentially devastating blow to her political career.


Politico: The spectacular collapse of Kamala Harris.


Los Angeles Times: California voters wanted Harris to drop out of the presidential race, poll found.


New York: Harris’s long road to an early exit.


Her exit from the race brought fallout on multiple fronts. Harris was the candidate with the second-most endorsements, according to FiveThirtyEight, and her departure frees those lawmakers and political figures — along with her donors — to support other candidates in the race. 


Harris’s presence as a high-profile Democrat and former candidate also puts her in a position to deliver a potentially important endorsement to one of her ex-rivals. Her support could be of help ahead of the California primary where 495 delegates (416 pledged, 79 unpledged) are up for grabs — the most of any state. 





Additionally, members of Harris’s staff are now considered free agents and can jump to other campaigns, with one having done so only days ago to join former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s nascent campaign. For example, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick hired multiple former staffers last week after former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) announced the end of his campaign earlier in the month.


Lastly, Harris’s announcement comes just more than two weeks out from the sixth Democratic debate and leaves only six candidates in the field. Without Harris, everyone who has qualified for the debate stage is white, as Andrew Yang, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro have yet to qualify. The deadline for qualification is Dec. 12.


Politico: Biden struts as his rivals bite the dust.


Morning Consult: Harris exit unlikely to shake up 2020 Democratic race.


WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Trump began a two-day NATO meeting in London on Tuesday with nearly an hour of back-and-forth with reporters, stealing the spotlight with musings that a U.S. trade deal with China might be best left until after the 2020 election and offering some surprising support for NATO while taking issue with criticism by French President Emmanuel Macron.


A bilateral meeting between Trump and Macron later in the day proved tense, in contrast with several years of amiable exchanges between the two leaders (The Hill).


“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters? I can give them to you,” Trump said while the two appeared together on TV. “You can take every one you want.”


Let’s be serious,” Macron replied sternly, while disputing Trump’s insistence that the Islamic State has been defeated.


Trump, who has another round of meetings scheduled today in London, returns to Washington tonight.





> Tariffs and taxes: Some of this week’s friction between Trump and Macron was sparked by the administration’s objections to a French digital service tax, which the United States argues is discriminatory against major U.S. tech companies. To respond, Trump is floating the imposition of $2.4 billion in tariffs on French imported goods, including wine, and Paris is vowing to strike back. The fight is raising pressure on international negotiators to develop a framework for taxing tech companies whose businesses span the globe. But as the complicated talks unfold, the U.S. is threatening to examine other countries’ actions. European Union regulators say they’ll go ahead with new tech taxes without an accord (The Hill).


> NAFTA & pharmaceuticals: The Trump administration is considering easing patent protections for certain drugs in order to secure support to help ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The proposal would cut patent protections to five years, rather than the current 10 years, and allow cheaper generic versions of biologic drugs to come to market more quickly. Democrats want the changes, and moderates are pressuring Pelosi to bring the trade agreement to a vote. Industry, however, is opposed to the drug patent changes (The Hill).


> Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Calls for structural reforms and even outright abolishment of the embattled ICE agency have escalated in Washington in the wake of revelations that the agency invented a nonexistent school to lure international students to violate immigration laws and face deportation (The Hill).




CONGRESS & OTHER INVESTIGATIONS: Congress is running out of time if it wants to pass and enact individual appropriations bills by a Dec. 20 deadline. It could decide on another stopgap bill to slide into next year or mix and match those options to wrap up 2019, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters on Tuesday. Realistically, some glimmer of a workable plan has to come together by the end of this week or early next week, he added (The Hill). The fiscal year began in October, but a dozen detailed appropriations measures remain on Congress’s to-do list.  





> Justice Department investigation: The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horo­witz, will release findings next week at the end of a lengthy internal investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Behind the scenes at the department, there is reported to be friction about the expected conclusion that the FBI had sufficient and credible information in July 2016 to justify launching a probe into the actions of members of the Trump campaign, The Washington Post reported.


Attorney General William Barr is said to differ with some of the IG’s findings and could decide to publicly challenge elements of the report or describe his reaction in writing. Trump, who considers Barr an ally, told reporters while traveling in London on Tuesday that he would be “a little disappointed” if Horowitz reports that the FBI was justified in investigating his former campaign associates. For years, Trump has described what occurred as “spying” on his campaign by the Obama-era FBI.


“The IG report is a very important report. If what I read is correct … that will be a little disappointing, but it was just one aspect of the report,” Trump said.


“We’ll see what happens,” he continued. “It’s coming out in a few days. I hear it’s devastating” (The Hill).


Last spring, Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the government’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in an effort to determine if intelligence collection involving the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate” at that time. In October, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Barr-Durham probe had become a criminal investigation, but the findings have yet to be released.


> Trump’s tax records: Citing “public interest,” a federal appeals court on Tuesday refused to block House subpoenas for Trump’s financial and tax records. The ruling orders Deutsche Bank and Capital One to comply with Congress’s request for records. The administration appears eager to take its arguments to the Supreme Court (The Washington Post).


> Trade: Congressional Democrats are under heavy pressure to strike a deal to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, in part to show progress on a major bipartisan bill in 2019 during a time when Democrats are being accused by Republicans of being obsessed with impeaching Trump to the detriment of legislating (The Hill).  


> Self-driving cars legislation: Advocates for passage of legislation to create federal standards for the rollout and testing of autonomous vehicles rallied on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as lawmakers continue to circulate draft legislation focused geared to self-driving cars (The Hill).


> Military justice: Some Senate Republicans, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, say they are concerned about Trump’s decision to pardon three soldiers accused of war crimes, circumventing the chain of command. However, Trump’s pardon power is absolute, leaving little room for Congress to intercede. The president’s decision to overrule Pentagon leaders was strongly resisted by senior military officials. The controversy resulted in the firing by Defense Secretary Mark Esper of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer (The Hill).


> Congressional crime: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the crime of misusing campaign funds. Hunter, who faces up to five years in prison, told reporters in San Diego, “I made mistakes, and that’s what today was all about” (The Hill). Hunter’s resignation was not part of a plea deal, but prosecutors said they expect the congressman to give up his seat soon. Hunter will be sentenced in March and prosecutors expect to seek a one-year prison sentence (The Los Angeles 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!


This is how to hold a corrupt president accountable, by Maria Cardona, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Don’t count out Michael Bloomberg — his unconventional strategy might work, by Red Jahncke, opinion contributor, The Hill. 


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Sayu Bhojwani, founder and president of New American Leaders, who discusses new citizens and battleground states; Trita Parsi, executive vice president of The Quincy Institute, analyzing unrest in Iran; and The Hill’s political reporter, Julia Manchester, who explains why Harris opted to suspend her presidential campaign on Tuesday. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube


The House gets to work at 10 a.m.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and resumes consideration of the nomination of Richard Myers to be a judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.


The president is in London at the conclusion of a two-day NATO summit. He returns to the White House this evening with first lady Melania Trump


Vice President Pence heads today to Michigan to make a three-stop bus tour through Grand Rapids, Portage and Holland to meet with faith leaders at 1 p.m. and community leaders at 4:10 p.m. and to headline a reelection GOP political rally at 4:45 p.m. Pence returns to Washington this evening.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will depart the United Kingdom later today for Portugal, where he will meet this evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister, with strong backing from the Trump administration, is fighting for political survival in the wake of two inconclusive elections and indictment on charges of corruption (The Associated Press).


Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles testifies at 10 a.m. before the House Financial Services Committee.  


Tech: Described as a move to “simplify” its management structure, Alphabet, the parent of Google, announced on Tuesday that CEO Larry Page will step down and Google CEO Sundar Pichai will take over as CEO of the parent company, in addition to his current role. Page, who formerly was a CEO of Google, became Alphabet’s chief executive in 2015 when Google reorganized to form the new parent company. He will serve on Alphabet’s board of directors (CNBC). Co-founder Sergey Brin also stepped down as president and the position will be eliminated (The Associated Press).


Jimmy Carter: The former president is “feeling better” after being hospitalized and treated for a urinary tract infection, according to a spokeswoman. Carter, 95, was admitted to Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus, Ga., over the weekend in the latest of a string of health-related incidents in recent months, including hitting his head in a fall and fracturing his pelvis in a separate fall. He was also released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta last Wednesday after surgery to relieve bleeding on his brain (The Associated Press).


More scooters in DC: The District Department of Transportation announced that Lyft, Skip, Spin and Jump (a subsidiary of Uber) will operate scooters in Washington next year, with the total number of popular transit alternatives set to double in 2020 from 5,000 to 10,000. Among those bidders not awarded permits to operate scooters were Lime and Bird, which are a presence throughout the city but will not be allowed in the District starting in January. Additionally, the District has issued e-bike permits to two companies, allowing 5,000 e-bikes at the start of 2020 (The Washington Post).


In The Know: Oprah Winfrey is among the executive producers of a documentary about sexual assault in the music industry from Impact Partners for distribution on Apple TV Plus next year, according to Variety. The OWN creator, who is an Oscar-winning actress, former TV talk show host and politically influential progressive, made headlines last year with an impassioned speech at the Golden Globes about sexual harassment (The Hill). The documentary will tell the story of a former music executive who grappled with whether to go public with her story of assault and abuse by a notable figure in the industry.   





And finally … A runaway elk recently became a social media sensation when its love of apples led it astray. One photo said it all. 


Property owner Jim Beaver told the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office on Thanksgiving that an elk with majestic antlers became tangled in his hammock while foraging and got stuck. The sheriff’s office said Cpl. Ken Stiles climbed on a roof to cut the hammock to free the red-draped elk (The Washington Post).


On Twitter, animal lovers opined that anyone in elk country should know enough to take their hammocks indoors when the season changes.




Tags Adam Schiff Andrew Yang Benjamin Netanyahu Cory Booker Deval Patrick Devin Nunes Donald Trump Duncan Hunter Emmanuel Macron Jerrold Nadler Jim Jordan Jimmy Carter Joe Biden John Durham Lisa Murkowski Marie Yovanovitch Mark Esper Melania Trump Michael Bloomberg Mike Pompeo Oprah Winfrey Richard Shelby Rudy Giuliani William Barr
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