Rise & shine, my Power people!!!! Week IV of the impeachment inquiry kicks into high gear today with the appearance of Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, on the Hill. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
At The White House
JOHN BARRON V. PIERRE DELECTO: President Trump's obsession with Mitt Romney — a.k.a. Pierre Delecto —reached new heights yesterday when the president described the former GOP presidential nominee as the poster boy dissident of a Republican Party that needs to ramp up its defense of him against House Democrats' impeachment investigation.
- “I think they're lousy politicians. But two things they have: They're vicious and they stick together,” Trump said of Democratic lawmakers during a 71-minute Cabinet meeting turned off-the-rails news conference. “They don't have Mitt Romney in their midst. They don't have people like that. They stick together. You never see them break off.”
“Republicans have to get tougher and fight,” Trump lamented to reporters. “We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher and fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election, which is something where we're doing very well.”
Trump singled out Romney after the new senator from Utah has recently turned up the dial on his criticism of the president. The senator blasted Trump's attempts to dig up dirt on Joe Biden "wrong and appalling" and lamented the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.
- Open to impeachment: On “Axios on HBO,” Romney said that Trump's calls to have China and Ukraine investigate Joe and Hunter Biden were “shocking” and that he remains open to removing Trump from office should the House pass articles of impeachment: “It was shocking, in my opinion, for the president to do so — and a mistake for him to do. I can't imagine coming to a different point of view.”
- On Syria: Last week, Romney delivered an impassioned speech on Senate floor calling Trump's “decision to abandon” the Kurds in northern Syria “a bloodstain in the annals of American history.”
- “Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?” Romney asked without mentioning the president's name.
- Not just foreign policy: In an interview with The Atlantic's McKay Coppins, Romney unloaded on Trump's character as well. “Berating another person, or calling them names, or demeaning a class of people, not telling the truth — those are not private things,” he told Coppins, adding: “If during the campaign you pay a porn star $130,000, that now comes into the public domain.”
- And on Trump's corrosive rhetoric, Romney had this to say on “Axios on HBO”: “The places where I would be most critical of the president would be in matters that were divisive, that appeared to be appealing to racism or misogyny. And those are the kinds of things I think that have been most, most harmful long term to the foundation of America's virtuous character.”
And lest you forgot about Romney's secret Twitter feed: Slate's Ashley Feinberg uncovered Romney's alter-ego Twitter account on Sunday after Coppins's profile revealed he used a “lurker” account.
- Delecto used the account to occasionally defend himself but mostly “like” tweets critical of Trump. (See below for a select screenshot).
- Romney confirmed ownership of the account to Coppins: “C'est moi,” he told him over the phone after Feinberg broke the news. Romey told NBC News the name means “pure delight.”
“Trump can never be Mitt Romney”: The notion that one of the GOP's elder statesman and best known names in U.S. politics — or a “pompous 'ass'” or “Democrat Secret Asset,” as Trump has recently referred to him as — is betraying the Republican Party by criticizing Trump is laughable to those that know Romney best.
Mike Murphy, a confidant and former adviser to Romney, told Power Up that Trump's attacks on the Utah senator boil down to the single idea that “Romney is a lot of things that Trump wishes he was.”
- “Mitt is one of the few guys in the Republican caucus who can look in the mirror every night and be proud that he's representing the country while the rest of them have to rationalize their cowardly positions,” Murphy told us last night. “So all in all, there is no contest who is the better man — Trump can never be Mitt Romney.”
- Murphy said that other Republicans would be well served to approach Trump with the same honesty Romney has exhibited as of late: “Everybody in the Republican Senate caucus has a complicated strategy for dealing with Trump and Mitt has a simple one, which is do the right thing for the country and I think others would gain from that simplicity,” Murphy added.
A family affair: In yesterday's televised Cabinet meeting, Trump claimed he has “great Republican support” and dismissed the idea he risks alienating his rank-and-file with his decisions on Syria and now-reversed move to host the G-7 at his own Florida golf resort.
But that didn't stop Donald Trump Jr. from tweet shaming Republican lawmakers who didn't sign on to the resolution to punish Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), which failed on the House floor Monday evening:
- “The president’s eldest son retweeted a list of 23 House Republicans who are not backing the resolution as co-sponsors. The Twitter thread urged Trump supporters to 'Check if your Representative is on this list and call them NOW!'" according to our colleagues John Wagner, Brittany Shammas and Michael Brice-Saddler.
- House Democrats ultimately blocked the GOP censure measure accusing Schiff of “purposely misleading the public in his comments on the Intelligence Committee’s interactions with a whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry,” according to Roll Call's Katherine Tully-McManus.
- “The American people want the truth. The House will proceed with our impeachment inquiry to find the facts and expose the truth, guided by our Constitution and the facts. This is about patriotism, not politics or partisanship,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House in May. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
PUTIN AND ORBAN HELP SOUR TRUMP ON UKRAINE: “Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for information he could use against political rivals came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of that country by its regional adversaries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, current and former U.S. officials said,” our colleagues Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima report.
- The details: “Neither of those foreign leaders specifically encouraged Trump to see Ukraine as a potential source of damaging information about [Biden], nor did they describe Kyiv as complicit in an unsubstantiated 2016 election conspiracy theory, officials said,” our colleagues write. “But their disparaging depictions of Ukraine reinforced Trump’s perceptions of the country and fed a dysfunctional dynamic in which White House officials struggled to persuade Trump to support the fledgling government in Kyiv instead of exploiting it for political purposes, officials said.”
- Key quote: “Over time you just see a wearing down of the defenses,” a former White House official told our colleagues, describing the struggle to contest the influence of [Trump's personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani, Putin and Orban.
Senior diplomats said they had limited insight into Trump and Orban's conversation: " … Let alone how Trump’s views of Ukraine have formed, our colleagues write. But one official familiar with the encounter said that it became 'clear that the meeting with Orban had solidified' Trump’s pessimistic view about Kyiv and [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky.”
- Orban visited the White House in May over the objections of many in the administration. The two leaders began the visit with an hour-long meeting in which no note-takers were present.
THE LATEST ON IMPEACHMENT: Bill Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, is schedule to testify behind closed doors on Capitol Hill this morning.
- Taylor's career: A West Point grad and longtime diplomat who came out of retirement to replace ousted U.S. ambassador Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch, Taylor soon found himself at the center of the controversy over the administration's Ukraine policy, CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood report.
And here's a look at how Taylor fits into it all:
Not so fast: Pelosi's goal of a House impeachment vote as soon as Thanksgiving may have been wishful thinking, the New York Times's Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos report. Instead House Democrats now think the prospect of public hearings could push impeachment into the Christmas season.
Depositions postponed: Several depositions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been rescheduled due to events honoring the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), our colleagues report.
- OMB chief says he's not testifying: Office of Management and Budget acting director Russ Vought tweeted he and another OMB official will be not be appearing for scheduled depositions in keeping with the White House blanket refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
Easy going: There may be no fight after all when it comes to replacing Cummings atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, Politico's Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris report. Worried about distractions from impeachment, they may leave the gavel in the hands Rep. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Cummings's interim replacement.
At the Pentagon
TRUMP'S SYRIA REVERSAL IS OFFICIAL: Trump said “that a limited number of U.S. troops will remain in Syria to man a garrison on the southern border with Jordan and 'to secure the oil' elsewhere in the country,” our colleagues Kareem Fahim, Karen DeYoung and Susannah George report.
- Trump changes his mind, again: “The decision to leave more than 20 percent of the U.S. force in Syria behind was the second time in less than a year that Trump announced a complete withdrawal, only to walk it back under heavy bipartisan criticism from lawmakers and disquiet within his own administration,” our colleagues write.
- More details on the proposal: It “calls for 200 U.S. troops to remain in the oil-producing area, both to keep it out of the hands of the Islamic State and to prevent it from being claimed by the Syrian government, which is steadily recovering territory with backing from Russia and Iran.”
“Contingency planning”: NBC News's Carol Lee and Courtney Kube report that “The Pentagon recently began drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in case [Trump] surprises military leaders by ordering an immediate drawdown as he did in Syria, three current and former defense officials said."
- “The contingency planning is ongoing, the officials said, and includes the possibility that Trump orders all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. Officials cautioned, however, that the planning is a precaution and there is currently no directive from the White House to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.”
TWO WORLD LEADERS FIGHT TO HANG ON: Canada's Justin Trudeau appears likely to remain prime minister after his country's elections, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be running out of chances to keep his job.
Trudeau survives: The Canadian prime minister "has survived scandal and missteps to win a plurality of seats in Parliament in Canada’s federal election, news media here projected, but he failed to retain his majority, leaving his government dependent on the support of smaller parties to advance his agenda," our colleague Amanda Coletta reports from Toronto.
- More on the minority government: “It will be Canada’s fourth minority government in 15 years, and a setback for Trudeau, the 47-year-old Liberal leader who swept to power in 2015 with a stunning landslide victory,” our colleague writes. “Without a majority, Trudeau could try to pass bills on a case-by-case basis, negotiating for the support of one or more of the other parties. He could also establish a formal coalition, in which parties share cabinet seats, but such arrangements are rare in Canada.”
- A telling scene: Canadians complained the campaign was too heavy on name-calling. Over the weekend, supporters of Andrew Scheer, the Conservative leader, “aimed a chant of 'lock him up' at Trudeau. Scheer tried to turn them to 'vote him out.'”
Bibi fails to form a government, again: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday gave up his struggle to form a governing coalition after last month’s dead heat national election, opening a possible path to power for his rival, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz,” our colleague Steve Hendrix reports from Jerusalem.
- What happens now: “Israeli President Reuven Rivlin immediately said he would give Gantz a chance to assemble a majority of lawmakers, making him the first person other than Netanyahu authorized to form a government in more than a decade,” our colleague reports. “Gantz will have 28 days to do what Netanyahu could not: entice at least 61 members of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, to support his bid.”
- If Gantz fails: Israel would have its third election in less than a year.