IMPEACHMENT BUT FIRST, MADRID: Impeachment mania is about to hit the House. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is overseas touting another important Democratic priority: tackling climate change.
Timing is everything: The delegation of more than a dozen Democrats to the United Nations's Convention on Climate Change serves as evidence that Pelosi is serious about her promise to “walk and chew gum” on impeachment — and to not lose sight of issues that affect everyday Americans even as the House heads into one of the most intense weeks of the inquiry against Trump so far.
- Key: “Members are here because climate change is a critical issue for the U.S. and their constituents,” a House Democratic aide told Power Up. “It’s important for the rest of the world to hear from congressional climate leaders and for them to hear from the rest of the world."
- More: "The House is continuing its work as the impeachment inquiry continues, including taking important opportunities like this one to attend the annual UN climate conference.”
- Climate change has steadily climbed up U.S. voters' list of concerns: Some 72 percent of Democrats called climate change an issue that's “very important” to them personally — second only to health care — in a CBS News poll from September.
Eye on 2020: President Trump promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement to lower greenhouse gas emissions — but the pullout cannot take effect until at least a day after the 2020 presidential election. Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration submitted an official notice to leave the accord, making the U.S. the only nation to abandon the global effort to address climate change.
Democratic lawmakers say they want to be clear that U.S. leadership on this issue would return if one of their candidates is elected to the Oval Office.
- The message at the COP25 conference: “The U.S. is still committed to climate action, notwithstanding Trump,” Chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), told Power Up on Sunday evening from Madrid.
- Castor, whose panel will release a report advising congressional committees on potential climate action by March of next year, said it's possible that the delegation will meet with other world leaders on the sidelines of the conference.
Busy week ahead: Upon the Speaker's arrival back in Washington, she'll hit the ground running as the House moves at a breakneck pace to investigate the potential impeachment of Trump.
- Monday night: The House Intelligence Committee plans to review a report on the panel's investigation into Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
- Tuesday: The Committee is expected to approve the release of the report, which is then “expected to be forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration of articles of impeachment against Trump,” per our colleagues Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian.
- Wednesday: The House Judiciary Committee will begin hearings to “consider the historical and constitutional standards for impeachment,” Mike and Karoun report.
- Big picture: While Democratic leaders "have not committed to a firm timeline, Tuesday’s meeting keeps the House on a trajectory to possibly approve articles of impeachment on the House floor before Christmas, setting up a Senate trial on Trump’s removal early in the new year."
The agenda in Madrid is packed, too: Countries will be under pressure to make additional commitments to reduce their carbon emissions in the wake of a string of grim reports that show that the world is not on track to reach the Paris agreement's ambitious target.
- Just last week the U.N. released its annual “emissions gap” report which showed that the Earth's average temperatures is on pace to rise 3.9 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the Paris accord's agreement to keep temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
- "The point of no return is no longer over the horizon," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday in Madrid before the conference. “What is still lacking is political will... Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards. Political will to shift taxation from income to carbon. Taxing pollution instead of people.”
- It's a priority for Pelosi: “Taking action to protect our planet is a public health decision for clean air and clean water for our children, an economic decision for creating the green, good-paying jobs of the future, a national security decision to address resource competition and climate migration and also a moral decision to be good stewards of God’s creation and pass a sustainable, healthy planet to the next generation,” Pelosi said in a statement this weekend.
Castor told Power Up that some Republican lawmakers were invited to join the delegation but all declined. There will be a small, relatively low-profile team of diplomats who will also be attending the summit on behalf of the Trump administration. They will be focusing on what Pompeo has described as “a realistic and pragmatic model” on climate issues.
- “The U.S. team is set to be led by two career officials from the State Department: climate negotiator Kim Carnahan and Marcia Bernicat, a principal deputy assistant secretary,” per Bloomberg's Jennifer Dlouhy.
- “And, in another shift, political appointees from the Trump administration also won’t be attending, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named before a formal announcement,” Dlouhy reports.
Pelosi, who has made diplomacy a hallmark of her speakership in the Trump era, is not the only one who will be traveling abroad this week to keep a focus on policy.
- Not impeachment: Trump will head to London for a meeting to mark NATO's 70th anniversary. Advisers "see the meeting as an opportunity to show him as a leader delivering on the foreign-policy pledges he made during his campaign and in office," per the Wall Street Journal's Catherine Lucey.
- Trump also hit the road over the holiday, taking a page from former President Bill Clinton's playbook: to look hard at work especially on the economy even as impeachment loomed: "Trump has toured a manufacturing plant in Texas, boasted about economic gains and signed numerous bills. He served turkey to U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving and grieved with the families of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware," per our colleague Phil Rucker. This comes after Clinton's former chief strategist Mark Penn visited the White House last month.
THE WEEK AHEAD IN IMPEACHMENT:
The White House stays away: “White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone told the House Judiciary Committee in a five-page letter that Trump would not participate in its first impeachment hearing, scheduled for Wednesday,” our colleagues Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez report.
- The biggest question is how long this refusal lasts: “Cipollone did not rule out participating in future hearings,” our colleagues write. The counsel pressed Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to detail plans for future hearings and questioned whether the White House would be able to cross-examine witnesses, including those who have testified in the public hearings.
- What it means: “The decision indicates that [Trump] has listened to his allies and some congressional Republicans who argued that a White House presence at the hearing would validate a process they have harangued as illegitimate and partisan,” Politico's Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney report.
- What’s next?: The White House faces a Friday night deadline to detail what, if any, role they will plan in future proceedings.
Members of the Intelligence Committee will have 24 hours to review the report: It will be available to them starting at 6 p.m. tonight, Mike and Karoun report. “Their exact findings are not publicly known, but the report is expected to lay out a case for Trump’s abuse of his presidential powers — that he used the promise of a White House meeting and the withholding of military aid approved by Congress to compel Ukraine’s government to launch politically motivated investigations into his political rivals,” our colleagues write.
The Judiciary Committee is back in the spotlight: Wednesday's hearing will be the first from the panel that historically writes articles of impeachment since the Intelligence committee began its process. Four constitutional scholars are expected to testify on the standards for impeachment — three chosen by Democrats, one by Republicans, our colleagues Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez report. The names of the witnesses have not yet been released, much to Republicans' frustration.
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to slam the speedy timeline: Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), the top Republican on the Judiciary panel, "attacked the timeline that Democratic leaders are pursuing, one that appears aimed at concluding an impeachment vote in the House before Christmas rather, he argued, than providing appropriate due process for the president," per our colleagues.
- “They want to get this president right now before everybody completely sees through the process sham of the elections for next year,” Collins said. “So we’re rushing this."
- And one senator, John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), “said that both Russia and Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite the intelligence community’s assessment that only Russia did so,” our colleague Felicia Sonmez reports. NBC's “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd pressed the senator on the fact that this is an argument that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to see repeated by American politicians.
- Key exchange: "Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” Todd asked. “No, because you — just read the articles,” Kennedy replied.
Lisa Page breaks her silence: The former FBI lawyer spoke to Molly Jong-Fast for a Daily Beast profile that details the personal toll Trump's taunts have taken on her, Page's concern over the future of the FBI and, most importantly, why she feels an upcoming report from the Justice Department's inspector general report will show she did not act unprofessionally or show bias against Trump.
- Key quote: “But it's also very intimidating because he’s still the president of the United States," Page says of Trump's constant attacks. "And when the president accuses you of treason by name, despite the fact that I know there's no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all, let alone treason, he's still somebody in a position to actually do something about that. To try to further destroy my life. It never goes away or stops, even when he’s not publicly attacking me.”
- Why she's willing to talk now: “Honestly, his demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Page said. “I had stayed quiet for years hoping it would fade away, but instead it got worse,” she says. “It had been so hard not to defend myself, to let people who hate me control the narrative. I decided to take my power back.” Per Molly, "the president called out her name as he acted out an orgasm in front of thousands of people at a Minneapolis rally" in October.
At The White House
TRUMP TAKES ON NATO, AGAIN: Trump is currently set to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte at the NATO meeting, according to a senior administration official. Queen Elizabeth II is also hosting a reception to honor the occasion.
The top-tier spending club is growing: Trump as president has delighted in hammering fellow members for not spending enough on their militaries.
- Carrots ahead of the visit: “The top-tier spending club — with at least 2 percent of annual gross domestic product allocated for defense — expanded by one country and now includes Bulgaria, according to figures released by the military alliance," Our colleague Michael Birnbaum reports. "...NATO nations are increasing spending on defense, with nine of the alliance’s 29 members now meeting guidelines."
- The alliance also announced that it will spend less U.S. money: Leaders agreed to "reduce the United States’ contribution to the alliance’s relatively small central budget, a move aimed at ensuring a calm leaders’ meeting,” the New York Times's Steven Erlanger reports.
Do not endorse: Trump's appearance will occur just days before Britain holds its national election. "If past is prologue, the odds of Trump intervening in Britain’s electoral politics again in the coming days are high," our colleagues William Booth and Karla Adam report. The president is deeply unpopular in the country and his words could roil a campaign that is supposed to render the path forward for Brexit.
- Trump is not currently set to meet with Johnson: For his part, Johnson "tried to diplomatically dissuade the American president from offering his opinions on domestic affairs," our colleagues write. "What we don’t do traditionally as loving allies and friends, what we don’t do traditionally, is get involved in each other’s election campaigns," Johnson said.
UPDATE ON THE TRAIL:
Biden rides the bus: “Former vice president Joe Biden kicked off an eight-day, 18-county bus tour Saturday as he ramps up his campaigning in rural Iowa,” the Des Moines Register's Stephen Gruber-Miller reports. It's dubbed the “No Malarkey” bus tour after one of the most famous Bidenisms.
Warren's numbers tank after Medicare-for-all debacle: “Recent polling suggests Warren has sustained political damage from her health-care policy. After climbing to the top of the field by focusing on a message of overhauling Washington and Wall Street, Warren plateaued as her campaign became consumed with health care,” our colleagues Annie Linskey, Jeff Stein and Dan Balz report.
- Key graf: “The irony is that a candidate whose political identity has been built in part on her reputation as a policy wonk — a potential president who boasts of having a plan for nearly every challenge facing everyday Americans — has been tripped up by a policy issue that has dominated politics and defined her party for years,' our colleagues write.
Buttigieg goes on the offensive over college costs and gets slammed: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled a new ad attacking unnamed candidates (*cough* Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders) for wanting the government to cover the cost of everyone, “including the kids of millionaires.” The message fits perfectly with the more moderate tone Buttigieg is striking, but not everyone welcomed it.
- AOC blasts Buttigieg: “This is a GOP talking point used to dismantle public systems, & it's sad to see a Dem candidate adopt it,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently endorsed Sanders, wrote on Twitter.
Harris's campaign gets torched in scathing report: “In one instance after another, [Harris] and her closest advisers made flawed decisions about which states to focus on, issues to emphasize and opponents to target, all the while refusing to make difficult personnel choices to impose order on an unwieldy campaign,” the Times's Jonathan Martin, Astead W. Herndon and Alexander Burns report.
- Key observation: “The 2020 Democratic field has been defined by its turbulence, with some contenders rising, others dropping out and two more jumping in just this month,” the Times reports. “Yet there is only one candidate who rocketed to the top tier and then plummeted in early state polls to the low single digits: [Harris].”
The #YangGang breaks the bank: “Andrew Yang raised $750,000 on Nov. 30, his single best fundraising day to date of his campaign,” Politico's Zach Montellaro reports. The crazy part? The haul was not tied to a debate or one of those end-of-quarter pleas that flood inboxes.