THE BIG IDEA: Steve Castor, the lawyer representing Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, advanced a novel argument as he cross-examined Bill Taylor.
The acting ambassador to Kyiv testified that he observed a shadowy campaign of off-the-books diplomacy conducted for President Trump by Rudy Giuliani, his personal lawyer, and Gordon Sondland, the megadonor-turned-E.U.-ambassador whose portfolio doesn’t include Ukraine.
“This irregular channel of diplomacy,” Castor said, “it is not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?”
Taylor couldn’t contain a little chuckle. “It is not as outlandish as it could be,” he conceded. “I agree.”
Even the most unrealistic thriller can always be more outlandish. It was the funniest moment of a surprisingly somber day – and a reminder that the first televised impeachment hearing was not nearly as much of a circus as it could have been.
Yes, there were raised voices and a few testy exchanges between members. Those fireworks are getting replayed on cable this morning. But the hearing was as civil, and substantive, as one could realistically expect from a Congress that’s become so polarized in the modern era.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) forced another Republican member off the Intelligence Committee so that Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) could get a perch to poke holes in and cast doubt upon the testimony of witnesses who will appear over the next few weeks. Jordan, as the ranking Republican on the Oversight Committee, has proved himself as one of the president’s most dogged defenders. He’s a scrappy former wrestling coach who doesn’t wear a suit coat and always looks like he’s ready to pick a fight. But Jordan didn’t get time to question Taylor or Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent until nearly four hours into the six-hour hearing.
Democrats felt they accomplished what they set out to do, even if no cracks emerged in GOP support for Trump. It made for a striking juxtaposition to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s circus-like appearance before the House Judiciary Committee two months ago. Five decisions made by Democratic leaders since that hearing on Sept. 17, which they widely conceded was a debacle, enabled this outcome:
1) Putting the Intelligence Committee in charge of the impeachment inquiry after the Lewandowski mess elevated Chairman Adam Schiff.
The California Democrat kept control of the hearing, just as he’s kept the inquiry on track. Schiff, a former prosecutor, has earned a reputation as both a more effective questioner than Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, who held the gavel during Lewandowski’s appearance, and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel. Both are New Yorkers.
Schiff, 59, exudes a more-in-sadness-than-in-anger demeanor than his counterparts, which makes it harder to paint the inquiry as overzealous. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a strong Schiff supporter and fellow Californian, has tried to set what she calls a “prayerful” tone. “I do think that we need to have a common narrative,” she told her members yesterday morning before the hearing, according to someone in the room. “This is a very serious event in our country. We wish it could have been avoided. None of us came here to impeach a president.”
Republicans are eager to paint impeachment as highly partisan and portray Democrats as obsessed with impeachment since Trump won the 2016 election. They displayed a poster board behind the dais yesterday to convey this message: It was a partial quote from Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), who said on television earlier this year that “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.”
2) Doing the closed-door depositions in advance meant that Democrats knew what to ask and didn’t waste time beating around the bush.
Remarkably, the hearing wrapped about half an hour earlier than television producers expected, something that’s rare in a chamber with so many loquacious members who seem to enjoy hearing themselves talk.
Some House Democrats were concerned going into the hearing that it would get covered by the print media as a nothing-burger if the witnesses simply repeated on camera what they had said during their closed-door depositions that have already been released. But Taylor made news by revealing a previously undisclosed July 26 phone call between Trump and Sondland, in which the president apparently asked about “the investigations” he had sought into political rivals. Taylor understood that they were following up on the matter a day after Trump spoke with Ukraine’s new leader, Volodymyr Zelensky. “Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward,” he said. Taylor added that, after the call, his aide asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine, and Sondland responded that “President Trump cares more about the investigations of [Joe] Biden.”
3) Letting the witnesses deliver long opening statements on their own terms made the hearing look less partisan.
Compare Taylor’s testimony to former special counsel Bob Mueller’s appearance before the very same committee this summer. Ironically, it was the day before Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky. Mueller clearly didn’t want to be there. He didn’t want to play along with the Democratic desire to get him to read aloud parts of his report for the benefit of a television audience. His opening statement was relatively short. And he kept his answers short.
Schiff was happy to give Taylor and Kent the floor for as long as they wanted to speak, which is unusual during a high-profile hearing like this. This allowed them to make a nonpartisan case for the importance of Ukraine to the U.S. national interest.
“Ukraine is important for our national security and we should support it — not to provide that would be folly,” said Taylor, who was appointed ambassador to Ukraine by George W. Bush and returned earlier this year at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Even as we sit here today, the Russians are attacking Ukrainian soldiers in their own country. I saw this on the front line last week.”
Taylor’s voice reminded many viewers of Walter Cronkite’s.
4) Giving a lawyer for each side 45 minutes to question the witnesses meant less grandstanding and more substance.
Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman, a former prosecutor, covered a lot of ground and kept the conversation on track. The members on the committee, meanwhile, each got five minutes. Many devoted a significant chunk of that time to offering commentary in lieu of posing questions.
Schiff, a former prosecutor as well, also gave himself the ability to redirect. After Republicans on the committee cited Zelensky’s public statements that he did not feel pressured by Trump as evidence that Trump didn’t pressure him, for example, the chairman coaxed Kent and Taylor into explaining the reasons why Zelensky might feel compelled to say that even if it wasn’t true. Both witnesses noted that Zelensky would understand that Trump could impose serious consequences should he publicly challenge his account of their interactions. They also agreed that Zelensky, still new in the job, is sensitive to domestic perception and would not want to tell his own people that he had felt like he had to capitulate to American demands.
A former George W. Bush White House press secretary spoke for many Republican strategist types when he faulted the performance of the GOP counsel:
Whatever the GOP counsel is doing, it's not working. I don't undertand where he's going.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) November 13, 2019
It will be interesting to see how the GOP members change up their strategy in the next few hearings. Marie Yovanovitch, the ex-ambassador who got recalled, is set to testify tomorrow for the second open session. The embassy staffer who Taylor said overheard Trump ask Sondland about the investigations, David Holmes, has agreed to a closed-door deposition on Friday. Sondland is slated to testify publicly next Wednesday. His lawyer said he’ll respond to Taylor’s testimony about the July 26 call with Trump at that time. The committees involved in the inquiry also announced that they expect Mark Sandy, who oversees national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, to testify behind closed doors on Saturday. That’s significant because no other OMB staff member has shown up yet to answer questions.
5) Not waiting for legal battles to play out allowed Democrats to emphasize the degree to which Trump is still stonewalling the investigation.
Schiff has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he’s not going to let the Trump administration go “rope-a-dope,” a boxing technique to describe moving around the ring to avoid clashing. He decided not to wait for depositions with key witnesses like acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney or former national security adviser John Bolton. There are court cases playing out related to the enforcement of subpoenas that Trump officials have refused to comply with. Schiff felt waiting on these to play out would delay the start of the public phase too much. Wednesday showed he didn’t need to wait.
Democrats yesterday repeatedly highlighted notes and other records that have not been turned over, including from Taylor and Kent, by the State Department. This undercut the White House talking point that there aren’t first-hand witnesses. There aren’t first-hand witnesses because they’re not being allowed to appear.
-- But, but, but: This process has already become the latest case study of the tribalism that threatens to tear the republic apart. If Democrats hold revelatory hearings but Republicans dig in and persuadable independent-minded people don’t pay attention, does it matter?
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a Trump ally on Capitol Hill who is reportedly angling to replace Mulvaney as White House chief of staff, defended the president on Wednesday by arguing that truth itself is subjective. “I think what happens is, when we start to look at the facts, everybody has their impression of what truth is,” Meadows told reporters at the Capitol.
Whatever you think of him and the prospect of impeachment, Trump has no doubt moved the bar for what kind of presidential behavior shocks the conscience.
-- “Like virtually everything else in Washington over the past three years, even without the president in the room, this was another episode of the Trump Show — the transformation of the U.S. government into a long-running drama about one outsize personality,” Marc Fisher observes. “Even as the hearing’s spotlight stayed fixed on Trump — his phone calls, his policy shifts, his quest to find usable dirt about a leading Democratic rival — the possible removal of the president seemed to lack the potency and gravity of previous impeachments. Committee members largely steered clear of the kind of dark oratory that launched impeachment debates in 1973 and 1998 … Trump’s remarkable ability to skate through crises that wreck other people’s lives — bankruptcies of his businesses, abandoned projects, divorces and accusations of sexual misbehavior — seemed again to be at work. …
“Public opinion hasn’t settled into any consensus about whether Trump’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart was a big deal. When a CBS News poll asked Americans this month whether Trump’s dealings with Ukraine were typical of how presidents work with foreign countries, 42 percent said Trump’s acts were ‘the kind of thing most presidents probably do,’ while 58 percent said he acted in a way that ‘few or no other presidents have.’
“On Google, searches for ‘impeachment’ topped the trending charts for much of the day, but the volume didn’t come close to the previous day’s leader: a nationwide quest for information regarding Sonic the Hedgehog, the video game character that is getting its own adventure movie next year.”
MORE TEAM COVERAGE:
- Fashion critic Robin Givhan: “For dignity’s sake, Jim Jordan, put on a jacket.”
- Karoun Demirjian, Toluse Olorunnipa and Rachael Bade: “Testimony heightens the stakes for Trump.”
- Robert Costa, Michael Scherer and Seung Min Kim: “Republicans discuss a longer Senate impeachment trial to scramble Democratic primaries.”
- Ellen Nakashima: “Ambassador’s cellphone call to Trump from Kyiv restaurant was a stunning breach of security, former officials say.”
- Glenn Kessler and Salvador Rizzo: “Fact-checking the opening day of the Trump impeachment hearings.”
- Josh Dawsey: “As impeachment hearings start, Trump lodges secondhand complaints about ‘thirdhand’ witnesses.”
- Anne Gearan and Elise Viebeck: “Republicans tried to make him impeachment’s ‘star witness.’ Bill Taylor became an Internet meme instead.”
- Shane Harris and John Hudson: “George Kent, top State Department Ukraine expert, helps Democrats debunk GOP theories.”
- Isaac Stanley-Becker: “Republicans’ conspiracy theories slam into sworn testimony in collision of divergent worlds.”
COMMENTARY FROM THE POST’S OPINION PAGE:
- The Post’s Editorial Board: “Kent and Taylor testify to Trump’s corruption. And more evidence is coming.”
- Karen Tumulty: “Impeaching a president requires both a lens and a mirror.”
- Dana Milbank: “In the big moment, Republicans go small.”
- Danielle Allen: “Giuliani wants ‘fair play’? Fine, let’s talk about fairness.”
- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “Nunes and Kent tell us everything we need to know about impeachment.”
- Gary Abernathy: “Neighborliness gets a little harder in Trump Country.”
- Marc Thiessen: “Incompetence is not an impeachable offense.”
- Former CIA officer Steven Hall: “I saw requests like Trump’s when I was in the CIA. But not in democracies.”
HOW IT’S PLAYING ON THE RIGHT:
- “If you thought Robert Mueller’s pathetic testimony … was bad, well, what we saw today was even more pathetic, more desperate and actually worse,” said Fox News host Sean Hannity. “Matter of fact, it was a total ‘Schiff’ show, if you know what I mean.” Hannity called Kent and Taylor “uncompelling” and “seemingly more important than they really are.”
- Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle thought the hearing fell short, calling it a “Democrat dud.”
- “In a healthier political culture, Democrats would be using the Ukraine episode as an argument against Mr. Trump’s re-election. How can you trust his foreign-policy judgment in a second term when he won’t have the check of another re-election?” writes the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board. “Instead Democrats have pulled out the constitutional bazooka of impeachment. … They are turning impeachment into a routine political weapon, and future Presidents of both parties will regret it.”
- “Trump’s hotels and golf courses are big, as are his rallies and his rhetoric. Too often, though, his vision of the presidency is way too small,” writes the Washington Examiner’s editorial board. “The public impeachment hearings have highlighted this myopia.”
HOW IT’S PLAYING ON THE LEFT:
- “Smears and attacks by America’s enemies brought against us by other Americans working with those corrupt forces, that’s a new level of wrong for our country,” said MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
- Republicans are living in an alternate reality, writes Mother Jones’ David Corn: “The committee’s GOP members spent much of the day trying to sidestep the core facts of the controversy and replace them with conspiracy hogwash to divert attention from the incriminating evidence.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I’m horrified. I’m appalled. If you had told me three years ago it would come to this, I wouldn’t have believed this. I don’t think I could have imagined a president, any president, engaging in this sort of conduct,” said conservative lawyer George Conway, the husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, in a rare appearance on MSNBC.
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- Prosecutors closed their case against Roger Stone by portraying him as a serial liar who repeatedly made false statements to Congress to protect Trump, and then engaged in a campaign to silence a witness who could expose him. Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Ann E. Marimow report: "'Roger Stone knew if this information got out, it would look really bad for his longtime associate Donald Trump,’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis told jurors set to begin deliberations Thursday over whether Stone lied to House investigators two years ago about an effort to find political dirt on Trump’s Democratic opponent. … Defense attorney Bruce Rogow told jurors that Stone had no reason to lie to protect Trump … Stone’s attorneys have argued that he did not intend to lie to the committee but saw much of what they asked for as outside the scope of a probe of Russian interference. Prosecutor Michael Marando called that claim ‘nonsense.’ Stone himself, he noted, repeatedly mentioned WikiLeaks and the exposed emails in his opening statement to Hill investigators. …
“Because of Stone’s lies, Kravis said, the committee never interviewed Stone’s intermediaries or saw his correspondence, and their ‘report is not accurate’ when it says there is no evidence that he got information from WikiLeaks. Stone did not take the stand or offer witnesses in his defense. But jurors listened in court to 50 minutes of the House testimony that sparked the case. Rogow urged them to listen to the entire three-hour hearing themselves. ‘This was not the voice of a man who was trying to lie, to mislead,’ he argued. His voice also came through in four days of government testimony featuring his profane boasts and apparent threats to Randy Credico, a talk-show host who could contradict Stone’s House testimony. Credico, Kravis said, was the ‘one guy out there who can knock down this whole house of cards,’ and Stone ‘knew that could never happen.’”
-- Congress can seek eight years of Trump’s tax records, a federal appeals court ordered, moving the conflict closer to the Supreme Court. Ann E. Marimow reports: “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit let stand an earlier ruling against the president that affirmed Congress’s investigative authority on a day when the House was holding its first public impeachment inquiry hearing. Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said in response to Wednesday’s decision that the president’s legal team ‘will be seeking review at the Supreme Court.’ The D.C. Circuit was responding to Trump’s request to have a full panel of judges rehear a three-judge decision from October that rejected the president’s request to block lawmakers from subpoenaing his longtime accounting firm. A majority of the court’s 11 active judges voted against revisiting the case. Three judges — Neomi Rao, Gregory Katsas and Karen LeCraft Henderson — indicated that they would have granted the rehearing and published dissenting statements. Rao and Katsas, both former Trump administration officials, were nominated to the bench by the president.”
-- Chad Wolf was sworn in as the new acting secretary of homeland security. Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services, will become acting deputy. Nick Miroff reports: “Cuccinelli had been Trump’s preferred choice for the top job, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dislikes Cuccinelli, and senior Republican senators have indicated that they will not confirm him for a permanent job. Wolf replaces Kevin McAleenan, who assumed the acting DHS chief role when Trump removed Kirstjen Nielsen in April. McAleenan received the president’s praise but was never nominated for the job, and he submitted his resignation Oct. 11. … How long Wolf and Cuccinelli will be in the acting roles is unclear. White House officials say Trump does not plan to nominate Wolf for the permanent position, and some of the immigration restrictionists who back the president have criticized Wolf’s prior lobbying work on behalf of foreign companies that sought employment visas.”
-- Trump’s political appointees inappropriately retaliated against a State Department career civil servant in part because of her ethnic background, her perceived political views and the fact that she worked in government during prior administrations, according to a new report from State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. From Politico: “Linick recommends that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo consider disciplining officials found to have violated policies that require they use merit-based factors in determining where to place career staffers. … The report focuses largely on events in 2017, under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and covers five distinct cases of individuals alleged to have been subject to unfair personnel decisions due to ‘politicized and other improper’ practices. … The report was fueled in large part by Democrats’ demands after a whistleblower shared with Congress emails in which Trump political appointees and outside conservative figures appeared to plot to sideline Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant of Iranian descent. Nowrouzzadeh, a U.S.-born staffer who joined government during the George W. Bush administration, was abruptly taken out of the Policy Planning division of the State Department in the wake of these conversations. One of the officials involved in curtailing her detail was Brian Hook, who led the Policy Planning division at the time and is now a top Iran aide to Pompeo.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump welcomed Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House with open arms, even though the Turkish president ignored his warning a month ago to not invade northeastern Syria. David Nakamura, Karen DeYoung and Seung Min Kim report: “Trump said a tentative cease-fire is holding in northeastern Syria and thanked Erdogan for ‘his cooperation.’ He said the two leaders ‘made tremendous progress’ toward more than quadrupling bilateral trade — to $100 billion — and ‘hopefully will be able to resolve’ a conflict over Turkey’s purchase of a sophisticated Russian missile defense system. … Erdogan shared Trump’s assessment of their talks as productive, but he also took the news conference as an opportunity to list outstanding grievances. Chief among them is the U.S. failure to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a permanent U.S. resident, who Erdogan’s government claims masterminded a 2016 coup attempt. …
“Erdogan also criticized the House’s passage last month of a resolution officially designating the 1915 Turkish slaughter of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as genocide, something Turkey had strenuously lobbied against for years. At one point during Wednesday’s talks, Trump invited a group of Republican senators critical of Turkey to join them. ‘We’re having a very good discussion,’ Trump told reporters as Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), James E. Risch (Idaho), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) sat on couches before him and Erdogan in the Oval Office. ‘The purpose of this meeting is to have an American civics lesson with our Turkish friends,’ said Graham, who last month called on Trump to ‘stand up to Erdogan’ and branded the Turkish leader as a ‘thug.’ … Several Democratic senators [called] Trump’s decision to host Erdogan … ‘absolutely shameful,’ and some Republicans voiced similar, if more muted, concerns. ‘This is an unfortunate time, in my opinion, for the visit,’ Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) … In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he ‘shared my colleagues’ uneasiness at seeing President Erdogan honored at the White House.’”
-- Outside the White House, demonstrators angry at Erdogan chanted “Turkey out of Syria” and “Turkey is a terrorist!” Marissa J. Lang and Peter Hermann report: “The gathering came amid heightened security to avoid a repeat of Erdogan’s last visit in 2017, when clashes broke out between his security guards and a group protesting him outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence at Sheridan Circle.”
-- The U.S.-China trade talks have hit another snag, this time over farm purchases. From the Journal: “Mr. Trump has said that China has agreed to buy up to $50 billion of soybeans, pork and other agricultural products from the U.S. annually. But China is leery of putting a numerical commitment in the text of an agreement, according to people familiar with the matter. Beijing wants to avoid cutting a deal that looks more favorable to the U.S. than to China, some of the people said, and also wants to have flexibility within the agreement should trade tensions escalate again. ‘We can always stop the purchases if things get worse again,’ said one Chinese official.”
-- The deadliest form of the pneumonic plague infected at least two people in China. Michael Brice-Saddler reports: “Local health officials confirmed the two cases of pneumonic plague on Tuesday, according to Xinhua News, China’s state-run news agency. The two patients, who authorities say received ‘proper treatment,’ hail from China’s Inner Mongolia region. Additional information on the patients and their health status was not available Wednesday, and it’s not clear when the cases were identified. Officials told Xinhua that ‘relevant disease prevention and control measures have been taken.’ … The pneumonic plague is the most serious form of the disease, according to the World Health Organization, and the only type that can spread from person to person through the inhalation of respiratory droplets. It is sometimes caused by untreated cases of the more common bubonic plague, and symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and rapidly developing pneumonia.”
-- An even scarier story about superbugs: Drug-resistant germs sicken about 3 million people every year in the United States and kill about 35,000, representing a much larger public health threat than previously understood, according to a long-awaited report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lena H. Sun reports: “The new estimates show that, on average, someone in the United States gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds, and every 15 minutes, someone dies. Bacteria, fungi and other germs that have developed a resistance to antibiotics and other drugs pose one of the gravest public health challenges and a baffling problem for modern medicine. Scientists, doctors and public health officials have warned of this threat for decades, and the new report reveals the top dangers and troubling trends. More pathogens are developing new ways of fending off drugs designed to kill them, and infections are spreading more widely outside of hospitals. No new classes of antibiotics have been introduced in more than three decades.”
-- A new report in the Lancet, a medical journal, warns that climate change -- if unchecked -- will badly compromise the health of children around the globe. From the Times: “The report compared human health consequences under two scenarios: one in which the world meets the commitments laid out in the Paris Agreement and reins in emissions so that increases in global temperatures remain ‘well below 2 degrees Celsius’ by the end of the century, and one in which it does not. The report, published Wednesday, found that failing to limit emissions would lead to health problems caused by infectious diseases, worsening air pollution, rising temperatures and malnutrition. … Children are especially vulnerable partly because of their physiology. … As a result, children absorb more air pollution given their body size than an adult would in the same situation.”
-- A separate Oxford Economics report reveals that climate change may devastate the global economy even sooner and harder than feared. From Bloomberg News: “In the absence of efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the earth could warm by 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, cutting global gross domestic product by 2.5% to 7.5%, Oxford estimates, with the worst affected countries being in Africa and Asia. Longer term, a rise in temperatures of 4 degrees by 2100 could cut output by as much as 30%.”
-- The rapidly warming waters in the Sea of Okhotsk, wedged between Siberia and Japan, have led to the collapse of northern Japan’s salmon population, which coincides with another alarming development: the loss of a unique blanket of sea ice that dips far below the Arctic. Simon Denyer and Chris Mooney are on the ground: “The area has warmed in some places by as much as 3 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times, making it one of the fastest-warming spots in the world ... The rising temperatures are starting to shut down the single most dynamic sea ice factory on Earth. The intensity of ice generation in the northwestern Sea of Okhotsk exceeds that of any single place in the Arctic Ocean or Antarctica, and the sea ice reaches a lower latitude than anywhere else on the planet. Its decline has a cascade of consequences well beyond Japan as climate dominoes begin to fall. When sea ice forms here, it expels huge amounts of salt into the frigid water below the surface, creating some of the densest ocean water on Earth. That water then sinks and travels east, carrying oxygen, iron and other key nutrients out into the northern Pacific Ocean, where marine life depends on it. As the ice retreats, that nutrient-rich current is weakening, endangering the biological health of the vast northern Pacific — one of the most startling, and least discussed, effects of climate change so far observed.”
-- Europe’s lax speed limits once appeared irrevocable, but climate change is changing that, as well. Rick Noack reports: “After a year of major global climate protests and groundbreaking court rulings, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Wednesday grudgingly announced that his government would lower maximum daytime speed limits on many highways from about 81 mph to 62 mph. The change is part of a broader — and potentially only temporary — set of measures that are supposed to curb emissions. But they could signal a growing momentum for similar proposals across Europe that would align European maximum speed limits more with their, on average, lower U.S. equivalents.”
-- Venice isn’t the only corner of Europe experiencing serious flooding. Parts of northern England are also knee-deep in some of the worst flooding that’s hit the island in years. Miriam Berger reports: “Amid the downpour, Britain’s embattled (remember Brexit?) prime minister, Boris Johnson, has been ruefully absent in the views of many affected residents. Opposition leaders have criticized him for not declaring the situation a state of emergency, which would have accelerated help to flooding areas. On Wednesday, people had the chance to tell him off — and they did so in very stern British style. As Johnson toured flood-affected areas, residents heckled and chastised him for not coming sooner. ‘It took you over five days,’ one woman scolded Johnson, as he sat, head bowed, nursing a cup of tea. ‘You should have been there Saturday morning, having a meeting, making sure that these people get the help and support. And I’m sorry, but your announcement yesterday was a pittance.’”
-- Bolivia’s deposed president Evo Morales rejected the self-proclaimed presidency of opposition senator Jeanine Añez, but police barred his lawmakers from entering the legislature to undo it. Rachelle Krygier reports: “Añez, the second vice president of the Bolivian Senate and a Morales critic, attempted to convene the upper house Tuesday to name an interim president and discuss a path toward new elections. Other opposition leaders urged support for Añez. But [members of Morales’s MAS party], who still hold majorities in the legislature, boycotted the session. In the absence of a quorum, Añez declared herself president of the Senate, which effectively made her interim president of the country. … Bolivia’s constitutional tribunal quickly released a statement saying it was constitutional, the heads of the military and national police declared their support, and a senior U.S. State Department official recognized Añez as ‘Interim Constitutional President.’ … Añez began work Wednesday at the presidential palace, meeting with military and police commanders. She insisted that her mandate was ‘strictly temporary’ and that her only objective was to call elections as soon as possible. Under the Bolivian constitution, new elections must be held within 90 days of Morales’s resignation.”
-- Añez’s surprise move to seize the Bolivian presidency prompted a closer look at racist remarks she’s made towards the country's indigenous majority. From the Guardian: “One tweet from 2013 – later deleted – describes indigenous Aymara new year’s celebrations as ‘satanic’ and concludes: ‘Nobody can replace God!’ In another post, she questioned whether a group of indigenous people were genuine because they were wearing shoes.” Also, in a clear sign that she intends to steer Bolivia away from Morales’s socialism, one of Añez’s first acts was to recognize the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, overturning Bolivia’s support for Nicolás Maduro.
-- A group of Guaidó supporters seized the Venezuelan Embassy in Brazil, claiming its employees defected and voluntarily let them inside. Marina Lopes reports: “But Freddy Meregote, the embassy chargé d’affaires representing the government of ... Maduro, said that the staff remains loyal to Maduro and that Guaidó supporters forced their way in. … The confrontation occurred as the leaders of Brazil, China, Russia, India and South Africa arrived in Brasilia for a summit to discuss the instability in Venezuela, among other issues. Brazilian police surrounded the embassy but did not enter. The standoff ended shortly after 5 p.m., as a group of at least 14 Guaidó supporters left the embassy under escort by police and members of the Brazilian Foreign Ministry. They had occupied the facility for more than 12 hours.”
-- Denmark will end its 60 years of hassle-free travel at its border with Sweden, establishing new border checks in the wake of bombings by Swedish gangs. From the Times: “The measures put in place on Tuesday are temporary and will be applied intermittently, but the Danish police said that most travelers should carry passports or national identification cards. Only air travelers from Sweden will be exempted. ... Sweden has had border checks on travelers from Denmark since 2016. But the Danish passport checks come as its neighbor has been rocked by more than 100 explosions in the first 10 months of this year. Officials have blamed the blasts — up from 39 at the same time last year — on criminal gangs. The explosions have spread to Denmark, where at least 13 have occurred in Copenhagen this year, although the police have not linked them all to Sweden.”
-- Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, joined the Democratic presidential race today. Matt Viser reports: Patrick “jumped into the Democratic presidential contest, asserting that he wanted to build ‘a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American Dream’ and acknowledging the difficulty his late start creates in achieving that goal. ‘I admire and respect the candidates in the Democratic field; they bring a richness of ideas and experience and a depth of character that makes me proud to be a Democrat,’ he said in a video released Thursday. … After registering for the ballot in New Hampshire later Thursday, Patrick plans to head to California, a state that falls early in the primary calendar and has a wealth of delegates. … Patrick has political strengths and an ability to deliver such soaring oratory that President Barack Obama was accused of taking lines from a 2006 speech of his. He became a two-term governor using an uplifting life story and an aspirational political brand, traits that his allies say could serve him well in a presidential campaign. … It was unclear whether Patrick had spoken with [Elizabeth] Warren, the U.S. senator from his home state and someone whose political rise he helped in 2012 when he defended her against questions about her claims of Native American heritage.”
-- Meanwhile, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg is still deciding whether to run for president, but he will definitely not appear on the primary ballot in New Hampshire. From CBS News: “Bloomberg does not plan to file to be on the ballot for the Democratic contest as in the first-in-the-nation primary in the Granite State, an aide [says]. ... There is no word yet on whether the former mayor plans to file to appear on the ballot in the other early contest states. Iowa, which holds the first caucus, doesn't have a ballot filing deadline because it uses the caucus system.”
-- Elizabeth Warren bought time on CNBC to run a commercial blasting billionaires. From the Times: “In a new TV ad, Ms. Warren singles out a series of billionaires who have spoken out against her, showing footage of them and repeating her call for a wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest Americans. The ad, set to air Thursday on CNBC in New York City and Washington, is the latest volley in the back-and-forth between Ms. Warren and the country’s billionaires — or at least an outspoken handful of them who have criticized her publicly. … ‘It is time for a wealth tax in America,’ Ms. Warren says in the ad, which shows her speaking at a recent town hall event. ‘I’ve heard that there are some billionaires who don’t support this plan.’”
-- Former housing secretary Julián Castro will miss the November debate. From Politico: “Ten candidates are projected to participate in the debate cohosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post on Nov. 20 in Atlanta, according to Politico’s tracking of public polling and donor figures: [Biden], Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, [Warren] and Andrew Yang. … Castro is not the only active candidate who missed out on the debate stage. Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, John Delaney and Marianne Williamson all participated in earlier debates but will not qualify for the November debate. Joe Sestak and Wayne Messam have never qualified for a debate and will not be on stage next week, either.”
-- After his heart attack, Bernie Sanders has adopted a more wholesome regimen, taking long walks and eating salads. From the Times: Jane "Sanders is ensuring that her husband is getting adequate rest, and he has been requesting fish for dinner instead of steak or ribs. ‘I’ve noticed him ordering a heck of a lot more salads,’ said Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager. Some allies, aware that Mr. Sanders can appear rumpled, have even urged him to dress better — he has been wearing more stylish sweaters — and to rein in his previously unkempt hair. In the six weeks since he suffered a heart attack while campaigning in Las Vegas, Mr. Sanders has been working hard to move past his health issues, adhering to a newly wholesome regimen that has included more exercise and a healthier diet.”
-- Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are introducing a Green New Deal bill for public housing. Renae Merle and David Weigel report: The legislation will “give the country’s public housing units an energy-efficiency overhaul, their first attempt at turning the Green New Deal’s broad framework into specific policy. The bill … would use seven grant programs to upgrade housing units into carbon-neutral communities with organic grocery stores, on-site child care and community gardens. Residents of public housing would be given preference in hiring to renovate those units. ... The bill would cost between $119 billion and $172 billion over the next decade, according to estimates developed by Data for Progress, a progressive think tank. It would create up to 240,723 jobs a year, the group estimated. … Ocasio-Cortez’s new legislation is far less expensive than an upgrade of all housing, or the other aspects of the Green New Deal that spooked Democrats. But it could meet resistance from [Pelosi], who has signaled she will adopt ‘pay-as-you-go’ rules requiring that any new spending be paid for or offset. Progressive Democrats have objected to that requirement and said deficit spending is sometimes necessary.”
-- Echoing Washington, the student body president of the University of Florida faces impeachment after bringing Donald Trump Jr. to campus for $50,000. Meagan Flynn reports: “The student body president, Michael Murphy, was served with the impeachment resolution and accused of malfeasance and abuse of power … For Trump, the key piece of evidence is his July phone call with the Ukrainian president — but for Murphy, it’s an email, a short exchange with a Trump campaign consultant that his critics say is proof of misconduct. The group of senators seeking Murphy’s impeachment argue that the Oct. 10 speaking engagement for Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle, his girlfriend, was funded with mandatory student fees in violation of rules banning the use of public students funds to support or oppose a ‘political party at any level.’ In the eyes of critics, Murphy’s correspondence with the Trump fundraising consultant ahead of the event bolsters their case that Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle’s appearance was a campaign event.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The White House press secretary complained that Democrats haven't called the whistleblower in for testimony. A Democratic congressman hit back with this:
It is true that key witnesses to the President's efforts to extort Ukraine - Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton - were blocked from testifying by the White House.— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) November 13, 2019
Thank you for highlighting one of the most suspicious and damning pieces of information about the President. https://t.co/BWwePQl3uh
A speechwriter for Condi Rice in Bush's State Department said the two diplomats who testified are a credit to everyone at Foggy Bottom:
On the bright side, today was a tutorial for the American people on USG efforts to promote the rule of law and anti-corruption around the world. My favorite quote of the day from George Kent: “You can’t promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing off corrupt people"— Elise Jordan (@Elise_Jordan) November 13, 2019
A drag queen named Pissi Myles came to the hearing:
Myles was there to report for open-source live news network Happs. (Nina Zafar)
This is why the witnesses pronounced Kyiv differently than we usually hear it pronounced in the U.S.:
Russians pronounce it KEY-ev. (Most Americans learned the pronunciation in the Soviet era.)— Mieke Eoyang (@MiekeEoyang) November 13, 2019
Ukrainians pronounce it KEEV.
It's a matter of Ukrainian patriotism to reject the Russian pronunciation. https://t.co/zliAMgFjRQ
A Buttigieg adviser and Stanford-educated historian shared a reminder of how Richard Nixon's stalwart defenders on the Hill were remembered for the rest of their lives:
A reminder today of how a lawless president’s diehard defenders were remembered. pic.twitter.com/Ng9G1PEIuB— Zev Karlin-Neumann (@zkarlinn) November 13, 2019
D.C. bars did their thing and came up with impeachment-related drinks:
"No politics." "No Miller Lite." pic.twitter.com/Vq3dvmheUf— Laura Hayes (@LauraHayesDC) November 13, 2019
During Erdogan's visit to the White House, Lindsey Graham made a joke that fell flat:
The joke is that Erdogan throws reporters who challenge him in prison. https://t.co/mJtKoJgBRy— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) November 13, 2019
Trump tells Erdogan to call on "only friendly reporters" and then jokes that a reporter might "work for Turkey."— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) November 13, 2019
Context: There are more reporters jailed in Turkey than anywhere else in the world. https://t.co/ZEC9M4Vjua
There was a hidden message in this tweetstorm about the hearing by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.):
Then he added this, which less subtly spells out Area 51:
𝐀ll of the tweets pertained to today’s hearing.— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) November 13, 2019
𝐑est assured, they are substantive.
𝐄very one of them.
𝐀ll of them.
𝟓 were brilliant.
𝟏 was okay.
And Cory Booker continues to do what most vegans do, which is talk constantly about being vegan. He praised Bernie's new diet:
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert reviewed the GOP's performance during the impeachment hearing:
Seth Meyers took a look at the GOP defense that the Trump team's actions weren’t as “outlandish” as they could have been:
Sam Bee said she can't wait to eat a piece of the impeachment cake she baked... three years ago:
And Jimmy Kimmel thinks Trump was not busy and had, in fact, a lot of time to watch the hearing: