Today is the day....World Kindness Day! What's your random act of kindness? Also, the public phase of the impeachment inquiry begins. Tune in with The Posties here starting at 9:30 a.m. EST. Thanks for waking up with us.
ALL OF THE LIGHTS: The House will commence the public phase of the impeachment inquiry today, where Democrats and Republicans will make the case for and against impeaching President Trump for the first time live to the American public.
In front of the television cameras, House Democrats will seek to paint a clear picture of a president who sought to “bribe, extort condition or coerce a foreign government to improperly interfere in our elections by investigating his political rival,” a Democratic aide working on the inquiry said on a call with reporters.
The stakes are high: This kickoff is their first — and possibly best — chance to sway Americans' opinions. And Democrats know they need a big and viral moment.
And privately, some Democrats confessed to Power Up that they might not have one this week, with the testimony of three career diplomats who are not exactly household names. They all previously gave depositions to House investigators that were already released.
- “We're [screwed] this week on hearings — no bombshells, no revelations,” a Democratic aide told Power Up. “The onus is on us to wow some people this week.”
- The public line: “Expect that we will continue to make news every day,” a second Democratic aide working on the investigation said on the reporter call. “Just know something is on tap.”
'A very simple story': As my colleagues Toluse Olorunnipa, Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade note, “while much of the evidence in the impeachment probe is already public — from Trump’s July 25 phone call with [Ukraine's president] to text messages among key players to hundreds of pages of closed-door testimony by top administration officials — lawmakers face a critical challenge in presenting the complex case to voters through televised hearings.”
- Democratic lawmakers expressed confidence: “It’s time for these witnesses to go before the American people and lay out what they saw in this extortion scheme,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which will host the public proceedings.
“Our goal is to lay out the facts in a very thorough manner. Ultimately this is a very simple story,” a Democratic aide told our colleague Rachael. “The president abused his office and his presidential powers to force and pressure a foreign government to interfere with our elections on his behalf. Even though we don’t anticipate any additional information beyond that, what we have already made public, there is a real value in hearing directly from the witnesses so the American people can hear it from their mouths, firsthand.”
From House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.): “There aren’t many facts that are truly in dispute here. There may be a dispute about how we ought to respond to the facts, but so much of what the witnesses have had to say is consistent,” Schiff told NPR’s “All Things Considered” in an interview airing Wednesday.
Per my colleague Colby Itkowitz: “Schiff has attempted to preempt Republicans’ efforts to divert the conversation from Trump by limiting the scope of the hearing to three specific questions related to whether the president asked a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent, used his presidential power to apply pressure on a foreign government to help him politically, and whether he or his aides sought to conceal that behavior from Congress and the American people.”
- On deck: Lawmakers will hear today from William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Both have told lawmakers that the White House sought to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into Trump's political opponents by leveraging an Oval Office meeting and military assistance. Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testifies Friday.
Republican counterpoint: Republicans have worked hard thus far to muddy Democrat's message by complaining about the impeachment process and amplifying some bizarre conspiracy theories about Ukraine that Trump has propagated. And they will do their best today to defend Trump's actions, arguing that the president never conditioned aid to Ukraine on an investigation, despite the thousands of pages of testimony from witnesses who have suggested otherwise.
- Republicans are expected to flesh out Trump's “mind-set” to explain his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, per a memo written by GOP staff on the House Intelligence Committee.
- Some of Trump's biggest supporters doubt Democrats can make the case against Trump resonate with viewers. “I think impeachment is not only dumb, it's boring,” Fox host Tucker Carlson told our colleague Sarah Ellison.
- His take: “I’d like to open this evening with a breathless update on how some obscure diplomat you’ve never heard of said something forgettable to an even more obscure Ukrainian government official about a topic that has literally nothing to do with your life or the future of our country,” Carlson said on his show last week. “Then we are going to drone on about this non-story for the entire hour tonight, and every night this week, hoping that by sheer volume and repetition, we can give it the illusion of relevance. Hope you find it edifying.”
Democratic aides were quick to argue that Republicans have a limited number of options going forward.
“The pressure and the onus is now on the Republicans; they have to do one of two things: They either have to provide some evidence that’s going to exonerate the president — or they have to admit that what the president did was okay, to pressure a foreign government to interfere and taint our elections on his behalf, using the office of the president and the power of the presidency to do so,” per the second Democratic aide on the reporter call.
But they also admit that this is an uphill battle, in terms of convincing their colleagues to defect.
- “The fact is that when this is all over and done with, it will be a party-line vote in the House,” a senior House Democratic aide told Power Up. “We keep seeing these stories that maybe this Republican will vote to impeach Trump. But most of these guys still want to run for office in what will be Donald Trump's Republican Party. And even the ones who don't want to run for office probably want to work as a lobbyist or remain in politics. There's just no incentive for them to buck the party.”
Watch tmrw's historic 1st public impeachment hearing of the Trump presidency with @washingtonpost. We start at 9:30aET with a preview of 10am hearing. Guests @byamberphillips @shaneharris with me in studio @Rho_Co on Cap Hill. https://t.co/DHIDp0joi0 https://t.co/3nxTDAjZec— Libby Casey (@libcasey) November 12, 2019
WHAT'S TO COME: Democrats announced last night that eight witnesses are expected to testify over three days next week in the House impeachment inquiry, per our colleagues Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner, and Colby.
Lawmakers will hear from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council director for European affairs; Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union; and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.
Also: Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Pence on Europe and Russia; and Tim Morrison, a former White House national security aide; Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy; David Hale, the State Department’s third-ranking official; and Fiona Hill, former top Russia adviser to the White House.
"Of the numerous witnesses Republicans had requested, only three — Morrison, Volker and Hale — were greenlighted by Democrats, who control the majority on the panel," our colleagues write.
The House Intelligence Committee will continue to release transcripts of private depositions that have already been conducted.
THIS COULD COME UP TODAY: Trump interacted directly with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two associates of Rudy Giuliani who were indicted on campaign violations, on the topic of Ukraine. Rosalind Helderman, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Hamburger, and Josh Dawsey report:
At an April 2018 America First super PAC donor dinner with Trump: Parnas “described to associates that he and his business partner, Igor Fruman, told Trump at the dinner that they thought the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was unfriendly to the president and his interests."
“According to Parnas, the president reacted strongly to the news: Trump immediately suggested that then-Ambassador [Yovanovitch], who had been in the Foreign Service for 32 years and served under Democratic and Republican presidents, should be fired, people familiar with his account said.”
Key: “The president was updated regularly by Giuliani on what he was learning about Parnas’s and Fruman’s efforts in Ukraine, according to a former senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation."
On The Hill
YOUR GUIDE TO A HISTORIC DAY:
When does the hearing start?: 10 a.m. Eastern time
How to watch: The Washington Post will be live-streaming the hearings and our colleagues will also be writing their analysis in real time starting at 9:30 a.m. Watch it here. ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS will preempt their programing to cover the hearing. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN will also provide live coverage.
Who is holding the hearing?: The House Intelligence Committee. The panel, chaired by Schiff, was one of three House committees Speaker Nancy Pelosi tasked with leading the impeachment inquiry.
How will it work?: Schiff and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the committee, will each give opening statements as will the two witnesses. Following that time, Schiff and Nunes will be given 45-minute periods where they can delegate time to their respective staff attorneys. Finally, the remaining time will revert to five-minute questions from lawmakers on the committee alternating between Democrats and Republicans.
Republican to watch: Republicans swapped out committee member Rep. Eric A. “Rick” Crawford (R-Ark.) for Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), who as Colby notes, is a close ally of Trump and is expected to go hard in his defense of his actions.
What will Trump do today? Watching some of the hearing on TV, White House officials told CBS News's Fin Gomez.
And his staff?: “Staff will be set up to 'react in real time' with a 'rapid response,'" Fin adds. That team will include the White House press and communications team along with the White Houses counsel and legislative affairs office.
Talking points are being prepared: Trump is also fronting a charm offensive on congressional Republicans to maintain support: “Since the controversy with Ukraine surfaced in September, Trump has spoken directly or in groups with at least 120 House Republicans and by the end of the week, will have talked with 40 GOP senators to outline his defense against the impeachment accusations lodged by Democratic critics, two senior administration officials told USA TODAY,” Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu, and David Jackson report.
More on today's witnesses: A decorated Vietnam vet who spent decades in the Foreign Service, Taylor reluctantly came out of retirement after Trump ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Taylor reacted with a mixture of disgust and amazement in real time as he saw other officials, including Sondland, pressure Ukrainian officials to get involved in U.S. domestic politics to secure military aid and a possible meeting with the president, our colleague Amber Phillips reports.
- He has receipts: Taylor's text messages with Sondland are among the highest-profile evidence to come out during the probe. Behind closed doors, Taylor also offered a detailed timeline of the entire affair that enthralled lawmakers.
- Key caveat: Taylor was not in the room where the alleged quid pro quo orders were issued, as our colleague points out. Expect Republican lawmakers to raise this point often.
More on Kent: A seasoned diplomat, Kent privately told lawmakers that Trump wanted Zelensky to “explicitly announce he’d be investigating matters involving Democrats, and he wanted him to use the words 'Biden' and 'Clinton,'" Amber writes.
- With friends like these: Kent also detailed how Ukrainian politicians looking to score points were able to convince Trump's personal attorney Giuliani to spread misinformation about Yovanovitch that helped force her ouster.
THE TWO UNKNOWN ATTORNEYS: Behind closed doors, Democrats and Republicans have leaned heavily on two relatively unknown lawyers to question witnesses. The pair of attorneys are expected reprise their roles today a stark departure from tradition where lawmakers rarely cede the microphone and accompanying spotlight during high-profile hearings.
Who is Democrats' leading impeachment hearing lawyer?: Daniel S. Goldman spent a decade cutting his teeth as an assistant U.S. attorney in the infamous Southern District of New York (think Showtime's “Billions”), the Manhattan office once led by the likes of Preet Bharara, James Comey, and yes, Giuliani.
- During his time at SDNY, Goldman prosecuted “mobsters, stock swindlers and a multimillion-dollar inside trader” before leaving in 2017 for a brief stint as a legal analyst at NBC, our colleague Devlin Barrett writes.
Who is Republicans' point man on impeachment? Stephen R. Castor has amassed experience “in some of House's biggest probes of the last 15 years including inquiries related to Hurricane Katrina, a gun-tracking operation known as Operation Fast and Furious and the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya,” our colleague Elise Viebeck writes in her profile of Republicans's point man on impeachment.
- Unlike Goldman, Castor has tried to avoid media attention as rose through the ranks during seven different chairs of the House Government and Oversight Committee, where his time is shared with the Intelligence panel.
- Key quote: “I did ask him — I guess last night — ‘How do you feel about 11 million people watching you on television?’ And he said, ‘I’m going to look at the witness,’ ” former Oversight chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) told our colleague.
Breaking News: we will open at 9:50 AM tomorrow & will have the #ImpeachmentHearings on all TVs w/sound! Also, bears 💩 in the woods; Pope is Catholic.— Union Pub (@UnionPub) November 12, 2019
Specials during hearing:
$7 Impeachment cocktails.
$15 Bud & Bud Light buckets.#ThisTown #OnlyInDC #CapitolHill pic.twitter.com/Ze7Us2qWPJ
If you like subpoena coladas ...: As Washingtonians have come to learn, it's not a major hearing unless a bar tender tries to lift your spirits with a terrible pun. Today's impeachment-themed libations are no exception, the Hill newspaper's Judy Kurtz reports.
In the Media
IN NON-IMPEACHMENT HEARING NEWS: Trump is set to meet with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan today: The meeting comes after an October call between the pair that led Trump to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which sparked a bipartisan rebuke at home by those who saw it as forsaking Kurdish forces. U.S. military officials watched live drone footage at the time that showed Turkish-backed forces targeting civilians during attacks on Kurdish fighters which is evidence of possible war crimes, the Wall Street Journal's Dion Nissenbaum and Gordon Lubold report.
- Trump's concessions: The president is prepared to offer Erdogan virtually the same things he was going to before Turkey invaded Syria, our colleagues Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Kareem Fahim report. Among those offers are a $100 billion trade deal and a workaround to avoid U.S. sanctions after Turkey purchased a Russian missile system.
White House advisers tell Trump not to fire Mulvaney: Trump remains ticked off at acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's comments during a Oct. 17 news conference, in which he said military aid to Ukraine was withheld to pressure the government on investigations. But aides say axing Mulvaney now would only create more problems as he is a key potential witness in the impeachment inquiry who thus far has followed Trump's demands to not cooperate, our colleagues Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and John Hudson report.
Jared Kushner wants live webcams to capture the border wall being built. There's just one problem: few other people want them. Companies that are building the wall don't want their competitors to be able to view their proprietary techniques and government officials are worried of footage showing construction crews violating Mexican sovereignty because workers sometimes have to cross the border to maneuver heavy equipment, our colleague Nick Miroff reports.
The Supreme Court looks prepared to kill DACA: The court's conservatives showed no inclination to disagree with the Trump administration's defense that an Obama-era program for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children should end regardless of its legality, our colleague Robert Barnes reports of oral arguments in the closely-watched case.
- Roberts showed no signs of switching: Chief Justice John Roberts, who is widely viewed as the deciding vote in the case, “gave no indication that he found the administration’s actions troublesome or unusual,” our colleague writes, though he cautions that it's hard to predict the tea leaves simply by a justice's questions.
BEI BEI BYE BYE BYE: Washington's beloved giant panda Bei Bei, born in the District four years ago at the National Zoo, will leave for China next week as per the zoo's agreement with the country, our colleague Michael E. Ruane reports.