with Mariana Alfaro

With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: In the Age of Trump, even the extraordinary has become ordinary.

After he was impeached 21 years ago today, Bill Clinton spoke on the South Lawn of the White House. “We must stop the politics of personal destruction,” he said. “We must get rid of the poisonous venom of excessive partisanship, obsessive animosity and uncontrolled anger. That is not what America deserves.”

When President Trump was impeached on Wednesday night, he suggested during a campaign rally in Michigan that John Dingell, a Democrat who represented that state in Congress for six decades and stood behind Clinton on that December afternoon in 1998, might be in hell.

“This lawless partisan impeachment is a suicide march for the Democratic Party,” Trump told a crowd of 10,000 at an arena in Battle Creek, Mich. “After three years of sinister witch hunts, hoaxes, scams, tonight House Democrats are trying to nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans.”

Trump talked for two hours and one minute, a show of stamina that would have impressed Fidel Castro.

At one point, the president criticized Rep. Debbie Dingell (D), who holds her late husband’s seat, for voting to impeach him. “A real beauty,” Trump said, recounting how the widow thanked him for agreeing to provide special funeral honors when he passed away in February. “She calls me up. ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened. Thank you so much. John, would be so thrilled, he’s looking down,’” Trump recalled.

“Maybe,” Trump mused, “he’s looking up.”

Going to Michigan and suggesting that the longtime dean of the House might be in hell? Only Trump would do that.

The congresswoman responded:

It was a petulant coda to a momentous day that captured in miniature five hallmarks of the Trump presidency:

1) Governing as perpetual warfare

With us-against-them rhetoric, Trump consistently focuses more on inflaming his base than soothing the country or reassuring independents who don’t identify with either tribe.

Trump’s reelection campaign blasted out a barrage of fundraising solicitations on Wednesday, all under the president’s name, asking supporters to chip in to help him raise $2 million for the day. “Before the upcoming vote, I want to post another HUGE fundraising number to ensure that we have the resources to win this IMPEACHMENT WAR,” Trump wrote in one of the emails. “I’m calling on my most FIERCE and LOYAL defenders to step up. … Remember, this is WAR and America’s future depends on us winning.” 

A few minutes after he started speaking in Michigan, an aide held up a poster board to show him the final vote count in the House. “Whoa, every single Republican voted for us,” the president told the crowd, which roared with approval at what history will remember as a defining low point of his tenure, even assuming he’s acquitted in the Senate. “We didn’t lose one Republican! … The Democrats always stick together.”

Trump went out of his way to thank his diehard supporters who travel like groupies to all his rallies.

He has shown little or no desire to transcend the deep divisions of the country over the past three years. Trump wants to build a wall, not bridges. His deliberate disregard for customs and niceties also endears him to his most ardent boosters, even as it annoys a GOP establishment that tries to look the other way. He’s the disruptor-in-chief who took office with a mandate to shake up business as usual.

“Impeachment was so partisan that there were as many members who switched party over impeachment — two — as there were other crossover votes,” Aaron Blake notes. “Those party-switchers were Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), who went from Republican to independent, and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (N.J.), who is moving from Democrat to Republican. Van Drew remained a Democrat at least for Wednesday and was joined in voting against both articles by Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.), who represents the most Trump-friendly district (Trump won it by 31 points) of any Democrat.”

The only other crossover was Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), who “split the baby” by voting for the first article on abuse of power but against the second article on obstruction of Congress. Trump won his district by 10 points.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the struggling presidential candidate who failed to qualify for tonight’s debate, voted “present” on both articles because she prefers for Trump to be censured.

As a point of comparison, five Democrats voted to impeach Clinton and six Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.

After hours of debate on Dec. 18, the House of Representatives passed two articles of impeachment against President Trump. (The Washington Post)

2) Governing by exhaustion

“In the life of Trump, 10 months is an eternity,” Trump said at the rally. He was explaining why he’s “not worried” about suffering politically from impeachment.

Sometimes it feels as if Trump is waging a war of attrition against longstanding norms as he seeks to dismantle various guardrails on his power. Many of the president’s critics have been worn out or ground down. That was reflected with relatively paltry turnout at most of the pro-impeachment protests organized from coast to coast on Tuesday night.

The reality TV president supercharged the celebrification of politics, but people are changing the channel. This week’s Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 62 percent of Americans said they were closely following the impeachment story, down from 82 percent who said the same on the eve of Clinton’s impeachment. “At the other end of the spectrum, 18 percent say they are not following Trump’s impeachment too closely and 20 percent say they are not following it at all. In 1998, only 5 percent reported paying no attention,” Marc Fisher notes

“Chris Cannon, a former Republican congressman from Utah who served as a House impeachment manager during the Clinton proceedings, said the country is now divided into two dueling factions — the ‘I’m going to wear my MAGA hat and punch you in the face if you disagree’ group and the ‘I’m going to punch you in the face because of your MAGA hat’ group,” Marc reports. “That political and cultural gulf virtually guarantees that this impeachment cannot end with any consensus like the one that emerged after the proceedings against Nixon and Clinton — that the system had worked. … 

“Americans have become so jaded that misdeeds that once had the power to shock across ideological lines now seem to have little or no impact. ‘This time,’ Cannon said, ‘you have a guy who said he’d grab women by the privates, and America looks at that and says that’s locker room trash talk, and they elect him. So nothing can shock the American people about him. … There’s so much coarseness now, it makes you want to cry.’”

“Even I don’t watch this stuff,” retired congressman David Bonior, a Democrat from Michigan who was the House minority whip during the Clinton impeachment, told Marc. “If it bores me, and I’m a political person, it’s going to really bore a lot of other people.”

Republican lawmakers compared Trump’s impeachment to all manner of historical atrocities. While Democrats defended the measure as a defense to "democracy." (The Washington Post)

3) Governing by grievance (and hyperbole)

Trump seems to take every slight as a personal affront. His speech last night oozed with grievance and victimhood. The president noted that he once contributed to the campaign of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who has just replaced the late Elijah Cummings as chair of the House Oversight Committee. Then he said he wants her to refund his “damn money” after she voted for impeachment.

The president likes hyperbole. He’s always talking about how this or that is the BIGGEST or the BEST. He has set the tone for the tenor of his party’s defense of him, most notably with the six-page letter he sent on Tuesday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “More due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem Witch Trials,” Trump wrote.

During yesterday’s 11-hour debate on the House floor, two Republican lawmakers likened the impeachment of Trump to the crucifixion of Jesus. “Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind: When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.). “During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) responded: “The president was given the opportunity to come and testify, to send his counsel [and] to question witnesses. He declined to do so.”

Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.) recalled how Jesus, on the cross, asked God to forgive those who were about to kill him. “I want Democrats voting for impeachment today to know that I’ll be praying for them,” he said. “From the Gospel of Luke, the 23rd chapter, verse 34: And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” 

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) compared Trump’s impeachment to Pearl Harbor, when 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,143 more were wounded in a sneak attack on America that started World War II. Standing literally feet away from where Franklin Roosevelt told the country that December 7, 1941, was “a date which will live in infamy,” Kelly declared: “Today, December the 18th, 2019, is another date that will live in infamy.”

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said Democrats will be remembered as the “Senator Joe McCarthys of our time” for trying “to plunge America into darkness for raw political gain.” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) criticized Democrats for conducting depositions in a secure briefing room at the Capitol, which he referred to as “Chairman Schiff’s chamber of secrets,” a Harry Potter reference.

“I have descended into the belly of the beast,” added Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.). “I have witnessed the terror within. And I rise committed to oppose the insidious forces which threaten our republic.”

President Trump at a rally in Michigan on Dec. 18 said he had “tremendous support” from Republicans as he became the third U.S. president to be impeached. (Reuters)

4) Governing by defiance

When a reporter asked Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday whether he feels any responsibility for the part he played in creating this predicament, the president replied: “Zero.”

When was the last time Trump took personal responsibility for doing something wrong? 

No contrition. No apologies. No remorse. 

That’s his M.O.

One of the articles of impeachment that passed was for obstruction of Congress, something Trump certainly had a hand in. The president declared publicly that he would refuse to comply with any and all subpoenas, and he directed his aides not to testify. 

“We did nothing wrong, nothing whatsoever,” Trump said at last night’s rally, defending the July 25 call with Ukraine’s president. “This was just an excuse.”

Then he compared Ukraine-gate to Watergate. “With Richard Nixon, I just see it as a very dark era, very dark, very old,” Trump said. “I don’t know about you, but I’m having a good time!”

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) on Dec. 18 said President Trump’s alleged behavior is what the framers of the Constitution “intended to remedy" via impeachment. (The Washington Post)

5) Governing with “alternative facts

Muddying the waters has helped the president fight the public debate over impeachment to a draw. Studies show that, if you repeat disinformation enough times, people start to believe it, even if they’re told at the start that it’s totally false. We’ve seen that during this process

This pattern dates to the first days of the administration, when counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway defended Sean Spicer’s false claims about the inauguration crowd size by suggesting that the White House was entitled to its own set of “alternative facts.”

Every president is the storyteller-in-chief. They use their bully pulpit to weave a narrative as helpful as possible. Trump, who used a Sharpie to edit a weather map this summer, serves as his own White House communications director. He tweeted 49 times on Wednesday. The rally and the tweets reflect his adeptness at bypassing the traditional filters of the legacy media.

Dan Balz, our newspaper’s chief correspondent, reflects in a story today on everything that’s changed since the Clinton impeachment. “A consistent theme of analysis focused on the broken politics of the time, the rancor and rank partisanship that had taken hold in Washington,” Dan writes. “The stories that day provide an echo of what is being said and written about this moment, but few today see the period of two decades ago as equivalent to what the country is going through now. Whatever conditions existed then have grown worse. Many factors contribute to the mix: the velocity at which information moves; the endless news cycles; the fractured and more partisan media; the toxicity of social media. … America was certainly polarized two decades ago, but it is worse today.”

One of the most striking elements of the House debate washow few Republicans made an effort during their speeches to engage directly with any of the number of allegations related to Trump’s abuse of power, specifically the charge that he personally ordered the freeze on military assistance in an attempt to coerce a foreign government into announcing an investigation into a domestic political rival. 

“I’ve heard several of my colleagues in a row now, and it’s interesting to see how very few of them want to address any of the facts of the president’s misconduct,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said during his closing argument. “They don’t want to defend that conduct. So instead, they say, ‘Oh, Democrats really want to impeach the president,’ or, ‘Democrats don’t like the president.’ But what they can’t say is that this president’s conduct was ethical. What they can’t say was that this president’s conduct was legal. What they can’t say was this president’s conduct was constitutional.”

Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, responded to Schiff. “We’ve beat the facts back all the time,” he said.

The House of Representatives voted on Dec. 18 to impeach President Trump on charges that he abused his office and obstructed Congress. (The Washington Post)


-- Impeachment demonstrated how Pelosi has emerged as Trump’s most powerful political adversary. Paul Kane reports: “A caucus filled with younger Democrats who questioned the 79-year-old’s liberal bona fides now stands firmly behind her. … Pelosi presided over the chamber, wielding the gavel that Trump once doubted she could reclaim. … That power dynamic left the president fuming … ‘Will go down in history as worst Speaker,’ he tweeted. ‘Already thrown out once!’”

Most of the Democrats who opposed Pelosi becoming speaker at the start of the year now sing her praises. “I thought it was time for new leadership, and I’ve got to tell you: Thank goodness, thank goodness, that we have Nancy Pelosi speaking for the House of Representatives,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), who flipped a suburban seat long held by the GOP in the Twin Cities.

“I admit she has rehabilitated her image from 2006, 2008, 2010,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee last year. “I don’t know that I know exactly where all this goes, but I know that the bright spotlight is on her again. And sometimes that melts Icarus’s wings.”

-- The brooch Pelosi wore during the debate was a declaration: The Republic will survive this, writes fashion critic Robin Givhan: “The woman in charge, Madam Speaker, arrived on the House floor wearing a black sheath with bracelet sleeves and matching pumps. … As she spoke, it was impossible to miss the large golden mace brooch pinned to the left side of her chest. It is an eagle with its wings spread, perched on a pearl mounted on a sheath of gilded rods. … Pelosi dressed for a funeral and her tone was dire. But her glittery brooch made clear that it was not the republic she had come to bury.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Dec. 18 suggested House Democrats may not immediately submit articles of impeachment to the Senate. (Reuters)

-- Pelosi said after last night’s votes that the House could at least temporarily withhold the articles from the Senate — a decision, she suggested, that could depend on how the other chamber chooses to conduct its trial on Trump’s removal. “We cannot name managers until we see what the process is on the Senate side,” she said, referring to the House “managers” who will present the case for removal to the Senate. “So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us. So hopefully it will be fair. And when we see what that is, we’ll send our managers.”

Pelosi would not answer questions about whether she was entertaining an indefinite hold on the articles,” Mike DeBonis reports, which could push a trial until after the 2020 election.Under the rules the House adopted Wednesday for consideration of the impeachment articles, a resolution naming the impeachment managers — and authorizing the transmittal of the articles to the Senate — can be called up at any time by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) or a designee. There is no time limit on that authority; the House is expected to recess for the winter holidays as soon as Thursday and not return until Jan. 7. …

The withhold-the-articles gambit gained some traction inside the left wing of the House Democratic Caucus this week. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on Wednesday … said that he had spoken to three dozen Democratic lawmakers who had expressed some level of enthusiasm for the idea … ‘At a minimum, there ought to be an agreement about access to witnesses, rules of the game, timing,’ Blumenauer said of a Senate trial. The notion has been most prominently advocated by Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Law School professor who has advised the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment process. … Republicans have scoffed at the notion of the House withholding the articles, noting it hardly counts as leverage to deny the GOP the ability to remove a president that the party wants to keep in place.”

-- Mitch McConnell, who has resisted allowing any witnesses to testify, joked that the trial will be “good therapy” for senators: “Just one thing that may make senators impatient to get it over with is [that] in an impeachment trial, they can’t speak,” the majority leader told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “They have to sit there quietly and listen. … This’ll be good therapy for a number of them.” McConnell also pushed through the confirmation of 13 more federal judges as the House debated on Wednesday, CNN notes.

-- Meanwhile, a federal appeals court wants answers about what impact impeachment may have on the House’s ongoing legal efforts to obtain records and testimony bearing on alleged misconduct by Trump. From Politico: “Less than an hour after the first impeachment vote was gaveled to a close, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a pair of orders directing House lawyers to indicate whether lawmakers are still seeking testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn and portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report containing information gleaned from secret grand jury testimony. Both orders raised the issue of whether the pending appeals may be moot and whether the cases, set to be argued on Jan. 3, should still be considered on an expedited basis. The court is demanding answers, and views from the Justice Department, by Monday afternoon.”

-- More team coverage:

  • Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Josh Dawsey: “Inside the decision to impeach Trump: How both parties wrestled with a constitutional crisis.”
  • Seung Min Kim: “Senators are balancing their partisan roles with a desire to protect the integrity of the Senate.”
  • Katie Shepherd: “Conservative radio host wishes for a ‘nice school shooting’ to distract from impeachment.”
  • Ben Terris: “The impeachment vote felt like a funeral. But what died?”

-- Commentary from The Post’s opinion page:

  • Editorial Board: “Why the House’s impeachment of Trump was proper and necessary.”
  • Dana Milbank: “The House has impeached Trump. But in a sense, he won.”
  • Max Boot: “Impeachment isn’t Democrats vs. Republicans. It’s right vs. wrong.”
  • Karen Tumulty: “Impeachment is different this time. But the script is already written.”
  • Henry Olsen: “Partisan impeachment will only add fire to our ideological warfare.”
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: “Impeaching Trump is just the end of the beginning.”
  • Jennifer Rubin: “Trump is impeached and joins the ‘losers’ of presidential history.”
  • Former senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.): “Senators have a duty to keep an open mind on impeachment.”


-- Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his end-of-the-year news conference that Trump’s impeachment is “far-fetched,” predicted the Senate will acquit him and accused Democrats of trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election. “The party that lost the election, the Democratic Party, is trying to achieve results by other means,” Putin told reporters at the Kremlin. He likened Trump’s impeachment to the Mueller probe, which Putin downplayed as being meritless. Putin observed that “Republicans have a majority” in the Senate. “They will be unlikely to remove a representative of their own party from office on what seems to me an absolutely far-fetched reason,” the Russian leader said, according to the AP.

-- Putin also called the Olympic ban on his country unfair, boasted about Russia’s wheat exports and blamed other nations for worldwide pollution, Robyn Dixon and Isabelle Khurshudyan report.

-- Acting Ambassador Bill Taylor was directed to step aside ahead of a visit to Kyiv by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, per the Wall Street Journal: “That timing countered earlier suggestions that Mr. Taylor’s precise departure date was predetermined, and will allow Mr. Pompeo to avoid meeting or being photographed with an ambassador who has drawn [Trump’s] ire for his testimony … Mr. Taylor was named as the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine after [Marie] Yovanovitch was recalled from her post in Ukraine in May. Under the terms of the federal Vacancies Act, he could have retained his position in Kyiv until Jan. 8, and can serve longer in other capacities under his contract with the State Department. But Ulrich Brechbuhl, a key aide to Mr. Pompeo who serves as State Department counselor, informed Mr. Taylor on Dec. 11 that Mr. Pompeo had instructed him to hand over his responsibilities on Jan. 1.”

-- Rudy Giuliani appears to have flown into Ukraine on a budget flight but returned to the U.S. on a private jet. From BuzzFeed News: “It was the afternoon of Dec. 4 when Giuliani flew to the Ukrainian capital from Hungary with low-cost commercial carrier WizzAir. He was there to film a three-part video series for the staunchly pro-Trump OAN channel, which framed the trip as a mission to ‘destroy’ the Democrats’ impeachment narrative. Flying WizzAir, which demands that customers pay for everything à la carte and forces them to fight for unassigned seats and overhead bin space, often feels like a particularly chaotic Black Friday at Best Buy. After experiencing that, it’s no wonder Giuliani wanted to fly out of Kyiv on a private jet.”

-- The New York Times Sunday magazine looks at how Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas ingratiated himself with Trump: “The first time Mr. Parnas spoke with Mr. Trump, he wanted to make a personal connection. It was October 2015 ... Mr. Parnas and his 16-year-old son drove from their home in Boca Raton, Fla., to the Trump National Doral Miami ... for a raucous campaign rally ... Before the rally, Mr. Parnas shook hands with the candidate and told him about a long-ago, if tenuous, connection to the Trump family. As a young man in Brooklyn, he had sold co-op apartments built by Mr. Trump’s father, prompting the men to joke that Mr. Parnas’s son might one day work for Mr. Trump ... It was a brief but exhilarating encounter for someone born in Ukraine who had arrived in the United States at age 4.”

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-- An appeals court ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, sending back to a lower court the question of whether the rest of the law can remain without it. Amy Goldstein reports: “The long-awaited decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has little immediate practical effect on consumers because Congress already has removed the penalty for people who flout the insurance requirement. But the panel’s 2-to-1 ruling leaves the rest of the sprawling statute in limbo, catapulting questions of insurance coverage and consumer health-care protections to the forefront of the 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns. The panel’s one Democratic appointee dissented from the 98-page opinion, writing that the Republican states challenging the law did not have standing to do so. If they did, she wrote, she would find the mandate constitutional. The 5th Circuit decision almost certainly will bring the health-care law before the Supreme Court for a third time, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, leading a coalition of his Democratic counterparts fighting to preserve the law, said Wednesday night that he was prepared to ask the high court to take the case before the lower court rules again. But by sending a thorny legal question back to the Texas jurist who already has held the law unconstitutional, the judges may effectively slow the progress of the case, so that the high court does not take it during its current term and decide it before the November elections.”

-- The administration proposed new regulations that would deny asylum protections to immigrants with criminal convictions – including some low-level offenses and misdemeanors – measures that would make it harder for many to seek refuge in the U.S. Nick Miroff reports: “The proposed change from the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security would disqualify asylum applicants found guilty of serious offenses such as driving while intoxicated and domestic battery, as well as lesser violations such as the use of false documents and reentering the United States illegally. … If implemented after a public comment period, the new regulation would help the government sort through an immigration court backlog that exceeds 1 million pending cases, according to the Justice Department. … Current U.S. law already disqualifies major criminal offenders from obtaining asylum protection in the United States, but the new proposal would add several additional categories of mandatory bars. They would include any felony conviction at the federal or state level, and offenses such as driving while intoxicated, domestic violence — even when no conviction results — and any ‘federal, state, tribal, or local crime involving criminal street gang activity.’” 

-- The ACLU filed a lawsuit against a Nashville suburb to stop a zoning ordinance that effectively bans surgical abortions within the city’s borders. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Ariana Eunjung Cha report: “The suit, joined by the national ACLU and filed on behalf of the nonprofit national women’s clinic Carafem, calls the Mount Juliet City Commission’s zoning ordinance ‘unconstitutional.’ The ordinance is part of ‘the state’s relentless attack on abortion rights, enacting a multitude of restrictions designed to shutter clinics that have provided safe and affordable abortion care and impose unconscionable obstacles’ the lawsuit states. Two days after the Carafem women’s clinic opened, the city commission called a meeting in March with just one item on the agenda: to restrict surgical abortion clinics to industrial zones. Carafem, which provides a range of women’s health-care services, had opened its clinic in a commercial-zone complex with other medical offices.” 

-- The Trump administration is considering plans to reduce student debt. From the WSJ: “White House and Education Department advisers think a program to cancel a large portion of student debt would be unfair to taxpayers and unpopular among Republican voters, senior administration officials said. Instead, officials are looking at ways to help borrowers lower their debt. The proposals are in flux and would likely require approval by Congress, aides said. One senior official said a plan probably wouldn’t be completed until next year but the administration believes it can gain bipartisan support.”

-- Uber settled a sex-discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. From the Journal: “Uber will start a $4.4 million class fund to compensate victims of sexual harassment or retaliation from as early as Jan. 1, 2014, as determined by the EEOC ... The company has also agreed to have former EEOC Commissioner Fred Alvarez monitor Uber for three years ... The EEOC said the settlement ended its investigation where it ‘found reasonable cause to believe that Uber permitted a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment, in violation Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.’”

-- Coca-Cola internal documents reveal efforts to sell more soda to teenagers and to downplay their concerns about the health impacts of drinking sugary beverages, despite the obesity crisis. (Laura Reiley 

-- New Jersey’s governor and the mayor of Jersey City called for a school board member to resign after she called Jews “brutes” in a Facebook post the same week that three people were killed at a local kosher grocery store. Marisa Iati reports: “‘Where was all this faith and hope when black homeowners were threatened, intimidated and harassed by I WANT TO BUY YOUR HOUSE brutes of the Jewish community?’ Jersey City school board member Joan Terrell-Paige wrote..."

-- A teenage girl broke into the Fresno International Airport in California, stole a plane and crashed it. The 17-year-old managed to break through fencing and into a propeller-driven aircraft, which never became airborne but instead crashed into a fence. She was disoriented and uncooperative when officers arrested her. (USA Today)

-- A stabbing and carjacking rampage in Oregon left one dead and three injured. A 20-year-old was arrested after two people were stabbed at a Wells Fargo bank, one at a gym next door, and a fourth person amid a getaway attempt. (NBC News

-- A shooting at a mall in San Antonio last night has left at least four wounded. Authorities are searching for three suspects. One victim was in critical condition after being shot in the stomach, the city’s police chief said. (Fox News

-- Puppies may be behind an outbreak that’s sickened people in 13 states. Hannah Knowles reports: “Thirty people have reported infections as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says the outbreak seems to stem mostly from dogs purchased at pet shops. About 70 percent of those sickened who were interviewed reported contact with a pet store puppy. No single supplier has been connected to cases of the illness, which often involves bloody diarrhea and can be transmitted through animal feces. But investigations so far link 12 affected people to Petland, a national chain implicated in a previous spate of puppy-related illness involving the same kind of bacteria, campylobacter. Five of those 12 people were Petland employees, the CDC said.”

-- The surveillance footage from the outside of Jeffrey Epstein’s cell during his suicide attempt has gone missing, prosecutors revealed. From the New York Daily News: “Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Swergold admitted nobody can find the footage of the outside of the cell the multimillionaire ... shared with accused quadruple murderer Nick Tartaglione during a hearing in White Plains District Court. Tartaglione, a former Briarcliff Manor cop, faces the death penalty for the alleged murders in a drug deal gone bad.” 

-- Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a close Trump ally, won’t run for reelection next year but will instead stay “in the fight” with Trump in an unspecified job. John Wagner, Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis report: “‘For everything there is a season,’ Meadows said in a statement. ‘After prayerful consideration and discussion with family, today I’m announcing that my time serving Western North Carolina in Congress will come to a close at the end of this term.’… Meadows, 60, was considered for the position of Trump’s chief of staff last year, but Trump ultimately told him that he would like him to remain on Capitol Hill. … In his statement, Meadows praised Trump and said his work with him ‘is only beginning.’ ‘This President has accomplished incredible results for the country in just 3 years, and I’m fully committed to staying in the fight with him and his team to build on those successes and deliver on his promises for the years to come,’ Meadows said. He did not elaborate on what that work might entail. Meadows easily won reelection last year, receiving 59 percent of the vote against his Democratic opponent.”

-- A second Chinese national has been arrested at Mar-a-Lago. From the AP: “Jing Lu, 56, was confronted by the private club’s security officers and told to leave, but she returned to take photos, Palm Beach police spokesman Michael Ogrodnick said in an email. Palm Beach officers were called and arrested her. It was determined she had an expired visa, Ogrodnick said. Lu was charged with loitering and prowling and was being held late Wednesday at the Palm Beach County jail. … Lu’s arrest is reminiscent of the March arrest of Yujing Zhang, a 33-year-old Shanghai businesswoman, who gained access to Mar-a-Lago while carrying a laptop, phones and other electronic gear.” 

-- Scrutiny of the U.S. election system, spurred by Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, has landed Election Systems & Software, the company behind voting machines used by thousands of Americans, in the spotlight. From NBC News: “The source of the nation’s voting machines has become an urgent issue because of real fears that hackers, whether foreign or domestic, might tamper with the mechanics of the U.S. voting system. That has led to calls for ES&S and its competitors to reveal details about their ownership and the origins of the parts that make up their machines, some of which come from China. But ES&S still faces questions about the company’s supply chain and the identities of its investors, although it has said it is entirely owned by Americans. And the results of its government penetration tests, in which authorized hackers try to break in so vulnerabilities can be identified and fixed, have yet to be revealed.”

-- The Defense Department’s senior adviser for international cooperation left the Pentagon, the fifth top official to leave or announce their departure in seven days. (The Hill)

-- This is actually kind of funny: The U.S. Department of Agriculture removed the fictional Kingdom of Wakanda from its Agricultural Tariff Tracker, a government-operated tool that tracks the cost of importing and exporting goods from countries that have free trade agreements with the U.S. Reis Thebault reports: “Washington immersed in an impeachment imbroglio briefly turned its attention to issues of international trade with the Marvel Universe nation best known as the home country of T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther. … It’s unclear when Wakanda was added to the list — where it appeared alongside Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and other actual partners — but the fictional country disappeared after a reporter at NBC News first queried the agency about it. ... The tracker listed hundreds of data inputs for Wakanda ... Among the country’s commodity groups were fresh vegetables, unroasted coffee beans, essential oils and livestock. … An agency spokesman told The Washington Post that Wakanda’s public listing was a mistake from the start. The staff responsible for the tracker were ‘using test files to ensure that the system is running properly,’ Mike Illenberg said in a statement.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Seven Democratic presidential candidates will face off tonight in Los Angeles during a debate sponsored by PBS and Politico. The Associated Press raises the curtain: “The televised contest ahead of Christmas will bring seven rivals to heavily Democratic California, the biggest prize in the primary season and home to 1-in-8 Americans. And, coming a day after [impeachment], the debate will underscore the paramount concern for Democratic voters: Who can beat Trump in November? ... [It] could turn out to be the least watched so far. Viewership has declined in each round though five debates, and even campaigns have grumbled that candidates would rather be on the ground in early voting states than again taking the debate stage. … 

"There will be a notable lack of diversity onstage compared to earlier debates. For the first time this cycle, the debate won’t feature a black or Latino candidate. The race in California has largely mirrored national trends, with former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren clustered at the top of the field, followed by South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Andrew Yang and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer. Conspicuously missing from the lineup at Loyola Marymount University on Thursday will be former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who is unable to qualify for the contests because he is not accepting campaign donations.”

-- Politico founder John F. Harris recalls the biggest reveals from the Democratic debates so far: “One of the takeaways in a race dominated by candidates in their 70s is about how variable perceptions of age and infirmity can seem, depending on the politician and on the light in which he or she is viewed. … Another choice highlighted by the debates relates to the value voters will place on the power of the spoken word. … Buttigieg has vaulted into his current position — in the top tier of candidates and credibly positioned to win the Iowa caucuses — largely on the basis of something that no doubt became evident in elementary school. He is uncommonly articulate.”

-- California is home to millions of unregistered Latinos. From NBC News: “The latest report from California Secretary of State Alex Padilla's office says that some 25.2 million people in the state are eligible to vote. The state does not collect ethnicity on registrations, but in 2018, when about 15.7 million Californians were registered, 3.4 million Latinos were not registered to vote.”

-- Warren will hold a private meeting with tribal leaders in an effort to atone for her past claims. Annie Linskey reports: “Representatives from all of the roughly 40 federally recognized tribes in the state were invited to a round table meeting with Warren in Tulsa on Sunday morning, ahead of a town hall meeting she is hosting that evening in Oklahoma City. By Tuesday evening, about a dozen had indicated they will attend ... The previously unreported meeting will focus on Warren’s agenda for Native Americans and is part of a broader effort to highlight issues important to them. Warren is also trying to blunt the criticism she has faced over the years for appropriating Native American culture by identifying as such ... ‘It’ll be very heavy,’ said NickyKay Michael, a member of the tribal council for the Delaware Tribe of Indians. ‘I don’t think they’ll be jumping up and down like they’d be for someone who was in their corner for a long time.’”

-- More than 200 Obama alumni endorsed Warren, snubbing Biden. From CNN: The effort was “led by a pair of former senior Obama aides, Sara El-Amine and Jon Carson. Among other roles, El-Amine was national director of Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, while Carson was a national field director for Obama's 2008 campaign … The list of endorsers shared with CNN includes Robert Ford, ex-US ambassador to Syria, and Sean Carroll, a former senior official at USAID. It also features Obama alumni who are currently working on the Warren campaign full-time including in senior-most positions, like Warren chief strategist Joe Rospars."

-- Warren is diving into North Carolina with a list of new local endorsements and state headquarters in Raleigh. The campaign will also open offices in Durham, Charlotte and Asheville this week. (News & Observer)

-- Biden announced support from 100 faith leaders in South Carolina. From CBS News: “In a state where the black church has been a prominent institution for centuries, church leaders and congregations are seen as essential components of any Democratic victory. … South Carolina Senator Darrell Jackson, the pastor of Bible Way Church of Atlas Road in Columbia, is one of the faith leaders on Biden's list. Jackson, who formerly supported Senator Kamala Harris, (said) that while he was disappointed that she dropped out of the race, he is now supporting Biden because he thinks the country needs moral leadership.”

-- On the campaign trail, Biden is sounding more and more like a pundit, offering free-flowing analysis of the race he’s running in. From the Times: “He has taken to narrating the race with an unusual level of detail, assessing not only his standing in the primary race but also how he would fare in the general election in specific states around the country. Not surprisingly, he has a rosy view of a certain former vice president’s chances.”

­-- Bloomberg said he doesn’t believe any of his rivals have what it takes to be president and he doubled down on criticisms of Biden, noting that he “has never been a manager of an organization.” From the Daily Beast: “‘He’s never run a school system. His wife actually is an educator and has good experience there. .... The presidency shouldn’t be a training job. You get in there, you’ve got to hit the ground running.’”

-- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will keynote a Spanish-language town hall for Sanders. The event is scheduled for Sunday and she is expected to be join Sanders at a campaign rally the day before. (NBC News)

-- Harvard made Buttigieg into the moderate that progressives love to hate. From a profile by Politico's Michael Kruse: “At a moment when many in his generation turned away from a political system they saw as unresponsive at best and unscrupulous at worst, he not only stayed in the fray but upped his involvement. And this sensibility that has been surprisingly appealing to more middle-of-the-road Democrats in states like Iowa and New Hampshire emerged during his time here. … The Buttigieg increasingly evident on the campaign trail today, politically liberal, tonally and temperamentally moderate, by predisposition an idealist and institutionalist but ultimately a pragmatist, came into sharp relief for the first time through what he did at Harvard.”


-- Indian authorities clamped down on demonstrations against a contentious citizenship law, shutting down Internet access and detaining protesters. Joanna Slater and Niha Masih report: “A coalition of civil society groups called for rallies across the country on Thursday to voice opposition to the law, which opponents say is discriminatory and violates India’s constitution. The law creates a fast-track to citizenship for migrants from six religions who arrived in India by 2014, but excludes Muslims. In Delhi, hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered near one of the city’s major monuments to begin a march, but police imposed a measure that forbids gatherings of four or more people, effectively making protests illegal. Police detained protesters and took them away in buses. Internet service was also suspended in some parts of the city, said an employee of a cellular company who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to discuss the matter. India leads the world in the number of Internet shutdowns, which authorities say are a way to prevent violence and unrest. Protests have erupted against the law in recent days and some have turned violent. On Sunday, police stormed a university campus in Delhi, striking unarmed students and firing tear gas into the library. The protests are the most sustained show of opposition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014.”

-- Former Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said he grew estranged from his American allies during his 10 years in power. Pamela Constable reports from Kabul: “His version of U.S.-Afghan relations during his tenure is sharply at odds with the American version, and he has often depicted himself as the maligned victim of a Western juggernaut that used Afghanistan — and him — for its own ends. But a Washington Post series this month that exposed years of wasted or trouble-plagued U.S. efforts in Afghanistan — based on hundreds of previously classified interviews with U.S. officials — has partly vindicated Karzai’s arguments, even as it portrays his past government as a dysfunctional ‘kleptocracy’ that was unprepared for modern governance. ‘Much of it is true,’ Karzai said of The Afghanistan Papers during a wide-ranging interview Tuesday at his highly secure residence here. He cited new findings in the report that echoed two of his longtime assertions: that Afghan contracts with U.S. agencies were widely plagued by corruption and that U.S. military officials played down problems with civilian casualties. ‘A lot of effort was made to hide the facts, especially on civilian casualties,’ he said. He described a ‘major fight’ with U.S. military officials in 2007, in which he pressed them to stop raiding homes and bombing villages. ‘I told them so many times, "If you want to fight terrorism and bad people, I won’t stop you, but please leave the Afghan people alone,’’' Karzai said.”

-- U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti allegedly fathered children with women and girls before abandoning them. Michael Brice-Saddler reports: “As part of [a new] report, published Tuesday in the Conversation, researchers surveyed 2,500 Haitians about the experiences of local women and girls in areas that hosted the United Nations’ 13-year Stabilization Mission in Haiti, also known as Minustah. Of that group, about 265 people told stories featuring children fathered by U.N. personnel — stitching together a troubling stream of coercion and abuse that left girls as young as 11 to raise children by themselves in conditions of extreme poverty. Some participants alluded to instances of rape or sexual violence, but more often, the Haitians surveyed relayed stories describing a ‘common pattern’ where women received small amounts of money or food in exchange for sex.”

-- The Philippines convicted key members of a political clan for a 2009 massacre that left 57 dead. From the AP: “Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes acquitted several members of the Ampatuan family and police officers, citing a lack of evidence. Families of the victims and media watchdogs welcomed the convictions but said the fight for justice was far from over. … President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman said the rule of law has prevailed and urged those who disagree with the verdict to continue resorting to legal remedies up to the Supreme Court.”

-- U.S. and South Korea failed to reach a cost-sharing agreement for American troops. From CNN: “The current cost sharing agreement between Washington and Seoul is due to expire at the end of 2019, but the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and US State Department said a next round of talks has been scheduled for January." 

-- The new British Parliament is its most diverse ever. William Booth reports: “The House of Commons is dominated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s thick slab of Conservatives, who won 365 of 650 seats. The elected chamber also has record numbers of women, gay members and minorities, including Conservative Imran Ahmad-Khan, Britain’s first gay Muslim lawmaker. At least 45 lawmakers are gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to their public statements. One publication called it the ‘pinkest’ Parliament in the world. There are many new members, too, who attended state-run schools and universities — alongside the usual outsize number of graduates from posh Eton and Oxford, like Johnson. Plus: a former dolphin trainer, a reality TV star and a bodyguard.”

-- Days after Brexit became almost certain, Poland’s Supreme Court said the country could be at risk of leaving the E.U. too if its right-wing government pursues controversial judicial changes. Rick Noack reports: “The proposed judicial changes have been condemned by the European Union and the bloc’s Polish allies. If fully implemented, the measures would clash with E.U. rules. Government critics fear that the European Union may then have no other option than to suspend some of Poland’s membership rights, which could lead to Poland’s eventual departure from the bloc. If Parliament approved the changes, it would challenge the long-established primacy of E.U. law over Polish national law and stifle domestic dissent by independent judges, critics fear. The proposals — set to be debated in Parliament on Thursday — would make it possible for judges to be fired if they disagree with broader judicial changes that are facing intense scrutiny by the Polish opposition and democracy advocates across Europe.” 

-- Denmark denied refugees asylum by arguing that it’s safe for them to go home to Syria. Miriam Berger reports: “Denmark’s Refugee Appeals Board denied asylum requests by three Syrian women, arguing that they didn’t face any individual dangers in returning to their hometown of Damascus, the Syrian government-controlled capital. The board’s ruling upheld a decision by the Danish Immigration Service. Human rights and refugee advocates, however, condemned the decision, saying recent reports have documented a general danger to any Syrian returning to Damascus, where daily fighting has died down but returnees still face the threat of arrests, interrogations, torture, conscription and even death. … It’s unclear what will happen next to the three women, who include a Kurdish divorcée and a woman who is sick with lupus and already has family with asylum status in Denmark.”

-- Australia created fake horoscopes to discourage Sri Lankans from seeking asylum there. Miriam Berger reports: “A Cancer? ‘Family problems will occur,’ the Australian government predicted. ‘Luck is not in the cards for you. Do not try to travel illegally to Australia by boat, as you will be stopped and returned. You will lose everything your family owes to debt, and face family problems.’ A Sagittarius? ‘You will be in debt forever,’ read the result. ‘If you illegally travel to Australia by boat you will be returned. Everything you risked to get there will be in vain and you will end up owing everyone.’ The fake horoscope chart, first obtained and reported on by BuzzFeed News through a freedom of information request, paints a painfully foreboding future of shame, legal troubles, people smugglers stealing money, and even the loss of wives’ Jewelry (the latter afflicting Geminis).”


An aide showed Trump a poster with the final vote counts in the House as he spoke. Deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley carried it back to Washington aboard Air Force One:

Trump’s Michigan rally featured a Christmas tree that had a MAGA hat on top instead of a star:

Right after the impeachment vote, Trump was talking about toilets: 

A New York Times photographer captured this dramatic image of Trump arriving back to the White House after the Michigan rally:

A Trump campaign spokesman highlighted the turnout:

Trump had an interesting gift for members of the Senate:

And the Department of Homeland Security criticized impeachment:

Scenes from the circus at the Capitol:

Rep. J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.) delivered part of his floor speech advocating for impeachment in Spanish:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This isn't something he necessarily wants on his resume," said White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham of Trump on impeachment. (AP)


Trump criticized Pelosi during a 2008 interview for not trying to impeach George W. Bush over his conduct of the Iraq war, and he also told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Clinton should not have been impeached. A remarkable one-minute clip from just a decade ago that's worth watching:

Stephen Colbert noted the many times Nancy Pelosi was "sad" during the impeachment debate:

Seth Meyers wondered what Republicans need to change their minds about Trump:

"The Daily Show" wondered how the folks over at the Democratic National Committee reacted to the impeachment vote:

And Sam Bee woke up from a long Dickensian slumber: