With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: After the 8 1/2-hour impeachment inquiry hearing wrapped up last night, Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.) joined the other GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee for a news conference. “All I got to say is: If you love America, mamas, don't let your babies grow up to go to Harvard or Stanford law school,” Gohmert said. 

Constitutional scholars from those two institutions, invited to testify by the Democrats, had just finished laying out arguments for why President Trump’s conduct warrants impeachment. 

Gohmert’s quip was a play on the country song popularized by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1978: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys. … Let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such.”

It was a fitting coda to a day that showcased a virulent strain of anti-elitism, even anti-intellectualism, that has flared up as Trump hijacked the GOP from the establishmentarians who once called the shots.

Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, set the tone in his opening statement. “America will see why most people don’t go to law school,” he declared. “No offense to our professors. But please. Really? We’re bringing you in here today to testify on stuff … that we already know, out of the classrooms that maybe you're getting ready for finals in, to discuss things that you probably haven't even had a chance to [read or watch].”

Collins, who just got passed over for a Senate appointment despite Trump pressuring the governor of Georgia to pick him, pooh-poohed a sober-minded discussion about when the Founding Fathers thought impeachment would be advisable as “esoteric.”

Paul Taylor, the chief counsel for Republicans on the committee, suggested as he began questioning the four witnesses that the legal profession as a whole is somehow controlled by the left. He claimed at the start of his questioning – without any citations – that 97 percent of campaign contributions from lawyers during the 2016 presidential campaign went to Hillary Clinton while Trump received only 3 percent. “And the situation is essentially the same at law schools around the country, including those represented on the panel here today,” Taylor said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who told reporters at the start of the day how much he disliked attending lectures in law school, told Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan that she was unable to see from “the ivory towers of your law school” how condescending she was being to “actual people in this country.” 

And so it went.

-- The attacks on law schools and the legal profession in general reflect the broader focus on process and style over substance in Trump’s defense strategyThere is little dispute about the underlying facts of the case, even as a growing body of evidence directly ties Trump to an alleged conspiracy to coerce the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into a 2020 challenger, former vice president Joe Biden, in exchange for transferring nearly $400 million of military aid, which Congress had already approved, and scheduling a coveted meeting with a neophyte president who was desperate to project strength in the face of an ongoing Russian occupation in his country.

-- Marginalizing experts and debasing expertise have been hallmarks of the Trump presidency. Trump doesn’t just reject climate science. His administration has suppressed research. He’s purged nonpartisan experts from an array of government agencies. He still refuses to accept the consensus of the professionals in the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost his candidacy. 

The manager of Trump’s reelection campaign, Brad Parscale, referred to the scholars invited by Democrats to testify as “the Three Stooges” on Twitter. “Just more of the same old sham!” he wrote.

-- The criticism of the professional class offers another proof point to illustrate why so many white-collar suburbanites who have traditionally supported Republicans have defected during the Trump era. But Trump has proven to also be a magnet for non-college-educated whites in the Rust Belt who are ancestrally Democratic, accelerating a once-in-a-generation realignment.

-- Karlan replied forcefully to Collins’s suggestion that she knew not of what she spoke. “I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts. I’m insulted by the suggestion that, as a law professor, I don’t care about the facts,” Karlan said. “I spent all of Thanksgiving vacation sitting there, reading these transcripts. … I ate, like, a turkey that came to us in the mail that was already cooked because I was spending my time doing this.”

-- Rank-and-file Republicans have soured considerably on the value of colleges and universities in recent years. A Pew Research Center study published in August showed that only 33 percent of Republicans see value in higher education, down from 53 percent in 2012. “Roughly eight-in-ten Republicans (79%) say professors bringing their political and social views into the classroom is a major reason why the higher education system is headed in the wrong direction (only 17% of Democrats say the same),” according to Pew. “And three-quarters of Republicans (vs. 31% of Democrats) point to too much concern about protecting students from views they might find offensive as a major reason for their views.”

-- The criticism of the legal profession came even though 15 of the 17 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee hold law degrees. Overall, 161 House members and 53 senators earned juris doctorates, according to the Congressional Research Service.

-- House Democrats signaled there will be at least one article of impeachment related to the 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice outlined in Robert Mueller’s report. “President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020 election. In both cases, he got caught,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

-- University of North Carolina Law Professor Michael Gerhardt, one of the witnesses, testified that an obstruction case against Trump is a slam dunk, citing the administration’s stated refusal to comply with any subpoenas for documents and depositions. “In our law schools, we would teach our students this is an easy, straightforward situation,” he said. 

Gerhardt also argued that what Trump asked of the Ukrainians is impeachable, as well. “I just want to stress that if what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable," he said. “This is precisely the misconduct that the Framers created a Constitution including impeachment to protect against. … If we cannot impeach a president who uses his power for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy.”

-- Even the witness that Republicans invited to testify, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, said that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “anything but perfect.” But Turley argued that it’s not impeachable and accused Democrats of rushing to impeach without the testimony of key witnesses like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo – who are refusing, at Trump’s direction, to appear.“If you rush this impeachment, you’re going to leave half the country behind,” he said.He later called the Democratic case “not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous.”

-- “Impeachment goes to college” is how Dan Zak and Ben Terris framed the hearing in their write-up for the Style section: “After last month’s testimony from bow-tied diplomats and stone-faced bureaucrats — ‘fact witnesses’ who actually saw or heard Trump’s inciting behavior — the impeachment process has reached the peer-review phase. During this hearing, professors referenced a 1640 sermon by John Winthrop and a 1792 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. There were multiple odes to forgotten founder William Richardson Davie, the onetime governor of North Carolina who argued fiercely for an impeachment provision in drafts of the Constitution. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) had in front of him a tattered college copy of the Federalist Papers, scrawled with marginalia.” 

-- When he got a chance to question Karlan, Gaetz noted that the professor has given campaign contributions to Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He asked her about a comment she made on a podcast that suggested liberals cluster in tighter communities while conservatives tend to spread out. “Do you understand how that reflects contempt on people who are conservative?” Gaetz asked. “No, what I was talking about there was the natural tendency -- if you put the quote in context – the natural tendency of a compactness requirement to favor a party whose voters are more spread out,” she answered. “I do not have contempt for conservatives.”

Karlan later apologized for “getting a little overheated.” She also apologized for quipping earlier in the day that “the president can name his son Barron,” but he can’t make him a baron. “It was wrong of me to do that,” she said, after Republicans attacked her. “I wish the president would apologize, obviously, for the things that he's done that are wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

“That does not lend credibility to your argument,” Gaetz told her. “It makes you look mean.”

-- One Republican on the committee also floated a new defense of the president: Everybody does it. Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said that basically every president could have been impeached under the standards cited by Democrats for abuse of power. “When Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when he was president, directed the IRS to conduct audits of his political enemies ... would that be impeachable conduct?” Buck asked Turley. “How about when President Kennedy directed his brother, Robert Kennedy, to deport one of his mistresses as an East German spy?”

“Turley said he couldn’t rule it out, nor could he do so when Buck asked about allegations that President Lyndon Johnson used the CIA to plant a spy in the campaign of his 1964 Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater,” Mike DeBonis notes. “Buck ultimately landed on Obama, pointing to his interpretation of the recess appointments power that was later rejected by a unanimous Supreme Court, as well as his response to the 2012 Benghazi attack.”

“Can you name a single president in the history of the United States — save President [William Henry] Harrison, who died 32 days after his inauguration — that would not have met the standard of impeachment for our friends here?” Buck asked.

“I would hope to God James Madison would escape,” said Turley, who has written about Madison. “Otherwise, a lifetime of academic work would be shredded. But once again, I can’t exclude many of these acts.”

Buck reasoned that, if Democrats impeach Trump for his conduct toward Ukraine, Republicans will impeach the next Democratic president if they have control of the House because the concept of what’s in the “national interest” is so open for debate. 

“Some people live in an ivory tower and some people live in a swamp,” Buck said. “And those of us that are in the swamp are doing our very best for the American people, but it’s not pretty.” 

“Well, actually, I live in an ivory tower in a swamp because I'm at G.W.,” Turley replied. “But it's not so bad.”


-- Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a brief speech this morning that she’s asked House committee chairs to proceed with articles of impeachment, saying lawmakers have “no choice but to act.” “The president has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections,” she said. “His actions are in defiance of the vision of our founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our Founders and our heart full of love for America, today I’m asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.” She didn’t give any indication of how quickly the process would move.

-- Attorney General Bill Barr’s handpicked prosecutor, John Durham, told Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that he can’t back up the right-wing conspiracy theory that the Russia investigation was a setup by American intelligence. Horowitz’s office contacted Durham, “the prosecutor Barr personally tapped to lead a separate review of the 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia,” Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett scoop. “The inspector general also contacted several U.S. intelligence agencies. Among Horowitz’s questions: whether a Maltese professor who interacted with a Trump campaign adviser was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign … But the intelligence agencies said the professor was not among their assets … And Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had not produced any evidence that might contradict the inspector general’s findings on that point. … That could rebut conservatives’ doubts — which Barr has shared with associates in recent weeks — that Horowitz might be blessing the FBI’s Russia investigation prematurely and that Durham could potentially find more, particularly with regard to the Maltese professor.”

-- Rudy Giuliani, trying to poke holes in the case against his client, is in Kyiv and Budapest this week to talk with former Ukrainian prosecutors. From the Times’ Ken Vogel and Benjamin Novak: “Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, met in Budapest on Tuesday with a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has become a key figure in the impeachment inquiry. He then traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday seeking to meet with other former Ukrainian prosecutors whose claims have been embraced by Republicans, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk … Mr. Giuliani is using the trip … to help prepare more episodes of a documentary series for a conservative television outlet promoting his pro-Trump, anti-impeachment narrative. His latest moves to advance the theories propounded by the prosecutors amount to an audacious effort to give the president’s supporters new material to undercut the House impeachment proceedings and an eventual Senate trial.”

-- The White House is preparing for an aggressive effort to defend Trump in the Senate. Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis, Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian report: “Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters that Trump ‘wants his case made fully in the Senate,’ previewing a strategy that would include live witnesses on the floor, rather than videotaped depositions that were entered into evidence during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. … Ueland was among a quartet of top White House officials, including Counsel Pat Cipollone, who met with GOP senators on Wednesday as the administration continues to strategize with Republicans on the Senate proceedings. The private session … underscored the extent to which Trump has largely blown off the House inquiry and is focusing on a likely trial in the GOP-controlled Senate, where the White House says he would get a fair defense and can easily win an acquittal.”

-- But Trump opted against having legal advisers present for the House Judiciary Committee’s first hearing, unlike Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon. Paul Kane reports: “Some Republicans have quietly wondered whether this is a mistake, that it leaves out another combatant in the room who would be on Trump’s side.”

-- Joe Biden said he would not voluntarily appear as a witness in a Senate impeachment trial if called to testify. Colby Itkowitz reports: “‘No, I’m not going to let them take their eye off the ball,’ Biden said [in Iowa]. … ‘The president is the one who has committed impeachable crimes. And I’m not going to let them divert from that, I’m not going to let anyone divert from that.’ Biden added that he’d released 21 years of his tax returns, so if Trump is worried about corruption, ‘let him release some of his.’”

-- Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) announced he will not seek reelection. From Politico: “Heck, 67, was first elected in 2012 to represent a [solidly blue] district southwest of Seattle. He said in a Medium post he had time over the Thanksgiving recess for ‘rest and reflection,’ which led to his retirement decision. … Heck also wrote that the process of compiling the intelligence committee's recent impeachment report had left him ‘discouraged’ about continuing to serve in Congress. ‘The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary,’ Heck wrote. ‘I will never understand how some of my colleagues, in many ways good people, could ignore or deny the president’s unrelenting attack on a free press, his vicious character assassination of anyone who disagreed with him, and his demonstrably very distant relationship with the truth.’”

-- From Time's cover story: Trump's campaign has raised millions off impeachment, using Facebook as one of its most powerful tools.

-- Notable commentary from The Post's opinion writers:

  • Elizabeth Holtzman, a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate: “Here’s how broad the House should go in framing articles of impeachment.”
  • Jennifer Rubin: “Republican squawking can’t distract from Democrats’ key points in hearing.”
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: “The moral imperative of impeachment.”
  • Dana Milbank: "No wonder Jonathan Turley’s dog is mad.”
  • The Post’s Editorial Board: “Jonathan Turley is half-right.”
  • Henry Olsen: “Progressives are going after a Democrat for voting against impeachment. Moderates should be nervous.”
  • Max Boot: "The Republicans have become the party of Russia. This makes me sick.”
  • Margaret Sullivan: "Wall-to-wall impeachment coverage is not changing any minds. Here’s how journalists can reach the undecided."
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-- Undocumented workers who served Trump recall his habits and outbursts: Joshua Partlow and Dave Fahrenthold have interviewed 48 people this year who worked illegally for the Trump Organization at 11 of its properties in Florida, New Jersey, New York and Virginia: “They have seen poolside tantrums and holiday arguments. They’ve laughed with the in-laws and watched after the grandkids. Their recollections also show how Trump’s entrance into presidential politics — denouncing illegal immigrants as criminals and job-stealers — upended their lives and prompted some of them to publicly confront their former boss.” Here are choice nuggets from their must-read piece: 

“It was important for Sandra Diaz to be invisible. Before entering the Trump family villa, she would tie back her hair, pull on latex gloves and step into delicate paper shoe coverings. She knew not to wear makeup or perfume that might leave the faintest trace of her presence. As Donald Trump’s personal housekeeper, Diaz was dealing with a fussy celebrity owner who presided like a monarch over the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster long before he was elevated to president. She was an immigrant from Costa Rica working illegally for Trump with a fake Social Security card she had bought for $50. Being invisible was her life’s work. Moving quickly through the two-story house in the mornings, Diaz carried out Trump’s fastidious instructions. In his closet, she would hang six sets of identical golf outfits: six white polo shirts, six pairs of beige pants, six neatly ironed pairs of boxer shorts. …

“Those who cooked and served Trump knew that he liked … his Diet Coke in small glass bottles with a plastic straw that no one could be seen touching. Trump loved Tic Tacs. But not an arbitrary amount. He wanted, in his bedroom bureau at all times, two full containers of white Tic Tacs and one container that was half full. The same rule applied to the Bronx Colors-brand face makeup from Switzerland that Trump slathered on — two full containers, one half full — even if it meant the housekeepers had to regularly bring new shirts from the pro shop because of the rust-colored stains on the collars. A special washing machine in the laundry room was reserved for his wife Melania Trump’s clothing. Donald Trump liked Irish Spring bar soap in his shower. But his housekeepers quickly learned not to throw out his soap even if it had worn down to the tiniest sliver: Trump decided when he wanted something discarded. When that happened, with clothes or newspapers, he would toss them on the floor.

“A regular recipient of Trump’s castoff clothing was Melania’s father, Viktor Knavs … ‘They’re the same size and everything,’ [said Victorina Morales, Diaz’s successor as Trump’s housekeeper at Bedminster]. Knavs and his wife, Amalija Knavs, were favorites of the Bedminster staff, even if much was lost in translation from Slovenian to Spanish. … One day in 2013, Viktor Knavs went out to play golf wearing one of Trump’s discarded red baseball caps. When Trump spotted him on the fairway, he blew up, and he ordered his father-in-law, in front of other golfers, to remove the hat and get off the course. … Diaz and Morales were in the villa when Knavs returned, threw the hat on the ground and cursed Trump. The housekeepers pieced together the story from what Amalija Knavs told them in English and what they heard from the caddies who were on the course at the time. ‘Nobody could wear the red hat but [Trump],’ Diaz said.”

-- The Post’s year-long investigation on Trump’s employment of undocumented workers has led to these five additional findings:

  1. At least 11 Trump properties hired undocumented workers, some who said they started working for Trump 17 years ago.
  2. Trump said in July he wasn't sure if his company employed undocumented workers. But many former workers said it's hard to believe that the managers didn't know.
  3. The Trump Organization didn’t face many legal consequences for using undocumented labor.
  4. The workers, however, have lost their jobs and have found it hard to get back on their feet after being fired by the organization. Some have also been ostracized by other undocumented workers who fear that the attention might put them at greater deportation risk.
  5. While some of the undocumented workers entered the country by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, others arrived on flights with tourist visas that they overstayed. In those cases, Trump’s promised border wall wouldn’t have mattered.

-- A South Texas judge ordered a group of Trump supporters not to build their planned border wall on a section of land near the Rio Grande. (AP)

-- A gunman opened fire at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam near Honolulu, killing two and injuring a third before killing himself, base officials said. Reis Thebault and Marisa Iati report: “The shooter was identified as an active-duty U.S. Navy sailor and the three victims as civilian Defense Department employees working on the base’s shipyard. The surviving victim is at a hospital in stable condition, Rear Adm. Robb Chadwick said in a Wednesday evening news conference. The shooter’s motive is still unknown, Chadwick said, and it wasn’t yet clear whether the attack was targeted or random.”

-- Birds are getting smaller, and scientists believe it’s because of global warming. Ben Guarino reports: “So shows an analysis of migratory birds that died after colliding into buildings in Chicago and were collected as specimens for the Field Museum of Natural History. David Willard, a Field Museum ornithologist, has measured the Windy City’s dead birds since 1978. Data from his calipers and scales reveal decades-long trends in bird bodies: Their legs, on average, are growing shorter. They have lost weight. Their wings are getting slightly longer. These changes are present in nearly all of the species he measured, according to a study of 70,716 bird specimens from almost 40 years published Wednesday in the journal Ecology Letters. Morphing birds, Willard and his colleagues say, reflect a changing climate. ‘Warming temperatures seem to be having a pretty consistent and almost universal effect on a large number of different species, regardless of other aspects of their biology,’ said study author Benjamin Winger, who studies the evolution and ecology of birds at the University of Michigan.”

-- The freak storms of the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season have left behind a trail of destruction. Matthew Cappucci reports: “Both Dorian and Lorenzo, which became the strongest hurricane to develop so far northeast in the Atlantic, attained Category 5 strength. The storms brought the count of Category 5s in the Atlantic since 2016 up to six, and marked the fourth year in a row with at least one Category 5, the longest stretch on record. The historic intensity of both Dorian and Lorenzo, along with the record-setting rains produced by storms Barry and Imelda in the United States, exhibited influences consistent with warming ocean waters and climate change. … This year had an above-average season. It was only the seventh season since the 1930s to rack up multiple Category 5s over the Atlantic Basin. Across the board, 24 percent more ‘accumulated cyclone energy’ than average was expended by storms this season. It also brought about one of the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfalls on record. But many in the United States view the season as a reprieve for the storm-beleaguered country, noting that only two hurricanes made landfall in the United States this season, along with one tropical storm. Both hurricanes were at Category 1 strength when they did so. The year was still incredibly active; the contiguous United States just got lucky.”


-- The Trump administration is considering sending 14,000 more troops to the Middle East to counter Iran. From the Wall Street Journal: “The deployment could double the number of U.S. military personnel who have been sent to the region since the start of a troop buildup in May. [Trump] is expected to make a decision on the new deployments as soon as this month … There is growing fear among U.S. military and other administration officials that an attack on U.S. interests and forces could leave the U.S. with few options in the region ... By sending additional military resources to the region, the administration would be presenting a more credible deterrent to Tehran, which has been blamed for a series of attacks, including one in September against oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Iran has denied involvement.”

-- U.S. intelligence officials believe Iran is secretly moving missiles into Iraq. From the New York Times: “New intelligence about Iran’s stockpiling of missiles in Iraq is the latest sign that the Trump administration’s efforts to deter Tehran by increasing the American military presence in the Middle East has largely failed. The missiles pose a threat to American allies and partners in the region, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, and could endanger American troops ... Both Iran and Iraq have been gripped in recent weeks by sometimes violent public protests. In Iraq, some are protesting against Iranian influence.”

-- German authorities said they suspect that Russian agents were behind an execution-style killing in Berlin in the summer and expelled two Russian diplomats in connection with the case. Loveday Morris reports from Berlin and Robyn Dixon reports from Moscow: “The federal public prosecutor said there was ‘sufficient factual evidence’ that the Aug. 23 killing was carried out by Russian intelligence agencies or those of Russia’s Chechen Republic. The German Foreign Ministry declared two employees of the Russian Embassy in Berlin ‘persona non gratae,’ saying that Russian authorities have not cooperated with the investigation ‘sufficiently’ despite repeated ‘high-ranking’ requests. The killing compounds concerns about Russia’s efforts to assassinate political opponents on European soil less than two years after Britain accused Moscow of attacking former Russian agent turned informant Sergei Skripal with nerve agent in Salisbury, England. … [This] would represent the first such slaying on German soil since the end of the Cold War. It threatens to stymie relations between Berlin and Moscow, a fragile bond for Germany, which tries to balance political differences against its energy needs.

Berlin prosecutors named the victim, who was shot in the head in a central Berlin park, as ‘Tornike K.’ — a 40-year-old Russian-Georgian citizen … Between 2000 and 2004, he commanded a Chechen militia that fought Russian forces during the Russian-Chechen war … The slain man also fought with a Georgian unit defending South Ossetia during the 2008 Georgia-Russia war … He survived a 2015 assassination attempt, despite being shot four times, and later fled to Germany, where he claimed asylum. … [H]e was tailed by a man on an electric bicycle before being shot with a Glock-26 pistol.” This is right out of the Kremlin's playbook.

-- Ukranian and Russian leaders will try to seal a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and agree on prisoner swaps when they meet next week. From Reuters: “With Kiev politically constrained and Moscow unlikely to bend, prospects for peace remain bleak, diplomats said. … Relations between Ukraine and Russia collapsed following Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, which prompted Western sanctions. Key to the accords are elections in the disputed eastern Donbass region of Ukraine. But both sides accuse each other of failing to stick to the deal, which includes restoring Ukrainian state control over the entire border with Russia and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the conflict zone.”

-- As the NATO summit concluded, "Trump abruptly canceled a planned news conference, saying that he had already answered so many questions from reporters in other settings during his visit to Britain. He took off for Washington," Michael Birnbaum, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report from London. "Though his conduct here fit his pattern of disruption at international summits, Trump did not make the fiery threats that have punctuated previous gatherings. NATO leaders were almost giddy as they survived another encounter with Trump with their alliance intact. Trump’s canceled news conference — eliminating one last chance for him to take aim at them — was to many the departure gift.”

-- The British Conservative Party breathed a sigh of relief after Trump left the U.K. without smashing its election strategy. From Politico: “It means [Boris Johnson] survived the Trump visit without any extra obstacles being put in his way ahead of the December 12 vote. … Johnson spent two days working hard to avoid being pictured with Trump, who is deeply unpopular in the U.K. He did not greet the president at the door of Downing Street when world leaders arrived for a reception on Wednesday night. The only photos of Johnson and Trump together were the full NATO group shot and the obligatory opening handshake snap.”

-- Four Brexit party members of Parliament are expected to leave the party and urge voters to support the Tories instead. (The Guardian)

-- France is bracing for massive transportation disruptions starting today as trade unions launch a strike in response to changes Emmanuel Macron wants to make to the country’s retirement system. James McAuley reports: “Much of the Paris Metro will be shut down, as will many national and international train lines, including certain Eurostar services. Flights also will be canceled, as air traffic controllers say they will join the protests through Saturday. Strikes and protests, of course, are a well-known fixture of French life, from the student uprisings of 1968 to the ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations against inequality that stunned the French government last year with their vigor and violence. No other Western democracy seems to have as high a tolerance for burning cars and broken windows. But these protests could be bigger and more destabilizing than most.”

-- Australia is blocking asylum seekers held offshore from seeking medical care in the country. Siobhán O’Grady reports: “Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claims the policy has helped people migrate into Australia ‘through the back door.’ Physicians and refugee advocates say it has saved sick asylum seekers’ lives. And Wednesday, Australian lawmakers voted narrowly to revoke the policy, in what Doctors Without Borders described as a move that ‘endangers patients in need and ignores the ethical framework of the entire medical profession.’ At least 135 asylum seekers have sought treatment or assessment in Australia since the policy was approved this year. The law required physicians to deem their transfer to Australia necessary. It is unclear whether these asylum seekers are still in Australia.”

-- A 23-year-old Indian woman was set on fire while on her way to a rape case hearing. (BBC)

2020 WATCH:

-- The Democratic candidates have joined a new race – courting supporters of Kamala Harris. Annie Linskey, Chelsea Janes and Holly Bailey report: “Harris’s abrupt departure from the 2020 Democratic contest unleashed a massive scramble among the remaining candidates for her vast field of organizers, local leaders, staff and donors. And it prompted soul searching among her backers and her fans about who they might back next. … The competition for her backers, especially African American women, is particularly fierce given the delicate racial dynamics of the remaining Democratic field, which polls show is now led by four white candidates. All are trying to either cement or make inroads among African American voters. At least initially, the campaigns of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and [Biden] appeared likely to benefit. Biden already has strong support among black voters, and Warren has been seeking to expand her reach, particularly among African American women. The competition to pick up Harris’s campaign apparatus was so intense that Sue Dvorsky, the former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and a Harris backer, blasted other campaigns for targeting the soon-to-be-unemployed Harris staffers.”

-- Democrats were once excited about their diverse candidate field. That thrill is gone. Michael Scherer reports: “A party that began the presidential cycle having elected more women and minorities to Congress than at any point in history has largely shunned those candidates so far in the presidential campaign, pushing several from the race or the debate lineup. Some activists worry that the Dec. 19 debate could be all-white. … The Republican debate in December 2015 included Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who are Latino, and Ben Carson, the current secretary of housing and urban development, who is black. … The most common explanation, however, has focused on a fear that pops up regularly in focus groups and voter interviews. Both black and white voters regularly express concern that a white man would be best able to take on Trump, given that the general election campaign could awaken the same explosive racial and gender dynamics that characterized the 2016 campaign. Clinton’s loss, which some Democrats blame at least partly on sexism, remains fresh in many minds.”

-- Biden said he would consider Harris as a potential running mate. From CNN: “‘Of course I would,’ Biden said. ‘Look, Sen. Harris has the capacity to be anything she wants to be. I mean it sincerely. I talked to her yesterday. She's solid, she can be president someday herself, she can be vice president, she could go on to be a Supreme Court justice, she could be attorney general. I mean she has enormous capability.’”

-- The former vice president has not been energizing voters during his week-long bus tour around Iowa. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports: “The ‘No Malarkey’ tour, which continues through Saturday, is intended as a show of stamina for Biden, 77, who has fallen behind in early state polls after some shaky debate performances and rising concerns about his strength as a candidate. In Iowa, where the all-important caucuses are less than two months away, Biden was the acknowledged leader when he entered the race in April — but now he trails [Pete] Buttigieg and has been locked in a tight race with Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Then, in stop after stop this week, Biden sought to pump new life into his campaign. He has told voters who braved freezing temperatures and icy roads that he is the most palatable option for a diverse coalition of Democrats, and that he is the best choice to woo Republicans and independents wary of President Trump. His crowds have been small and low-key, a contrast to the more energetic events orchestrated by his competitors..."

-- Camping out in New Hampshire: Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard rented a small house outside of Manchester, N.H., for the last months before the primary. From WMUR9: “‘We had a town hall in Rochester and then in Gilford right before the storm hit, and people said, 'You must be getting out of town,' and nope, we're here for the duration,’ Gabbard said. Gabbard tweeted out a photo of a snowbound yoga session at her new place Tuesday.”

-- A Republican House candidate called for Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) execution. Katie Mettler and Hannah Knowles report: “In a fundraising letter sent last week and first reported on Tuesday by the Tampa Bay Times, the campaign of George Buck, a St. Petersburg Republican running for Congress, repeated falsehoods about Omar’s alleged ties to foreign nations. ‘We should hang these traitors where they stand,’ the email said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. In an initial comment to that newspaper, Buck denied writing the campaign email, which arrived in the form of a letter and bore his signature. ‘That was not me. I did not see that,’ Buck told Times reporter Steve Contorno. ‘I would never talk like that.’ But Buck sent another statement later in the day that cited the federal punishment for treason, which includes death, prison time of at least five years and a fine of not less than $10,000. … House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (La.) disavowed Buck’s words in a statement Wednesday, saying ‘there’s no place for inciting violence in politics.’”

-- Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) shows no signs of voluntarily resigning from the House, despite his guilty plea to a felony campaign finance charge. From Politico: “When asked Wednesday about whether and when he intended to resign, Hunter blew off the question. ‘Good talk,’ Hunter told a Politico reporter. So far, neither Republican nor Democratic leaders have pressured Hunter to leave office, although there is precedent for expelling members who don’t step down following a criminal conviction. Hunter is not scheduled to be sentenced until March 17.”


Nancy Pelosi lit up the Capitol Christmas tree:

And New York celebrated the lighting of their famous spruce:

Jonathan Turley, the law professor who appeared as a GOP witness at yesterday's hearing, changed his tune dramatically from 1998, when he appeared before Congress as a GOP witness to justify impeaching Bill Clinton:

A National Journal editor pointed out that Republicans could have found good ammunition in Turley's testimony, had they played their cards differently: 

Turley also made this leap in his testimony: 

A Post reporter summed up Wednesday's witness testimonies with one meme:

The House Judiciary Committee is packed with impeachment veterans:

Turns out there's a pretty solid reason for why the impeachment hearing room is so cold:

An observation from an alumnus of Barack Obama's White House:

Trump's campaign manager lashed out against White House adviser Kellyanne Conway's husband after he mocked Trump:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don't understand how we've gotten to this place where there's more billionaires in the race than there are black people,” said Cory Booker while lamenting Kamala Harris’s exit from the 2020 race. (Politico)



Trevor Noah pointed out that the viral conversation between world leaders talking about Trump proves that they’re just as gossipy as the rest of us: 

And the Biden campaign highlights foreign leaders laughing at Trump in a new ad:

Who would have imagined this a few years ago?

Stephen Colbert had a few ideas about what Rudy Giuliani’s conversations with “-1” were like: