with Brent D. Griffiths

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🚨: "The Trump administration is set to tighten work requirements for recipients of federal food aid, potentially rendering hundreds of thousands of people ineligible for the program by mid-2020," the Wall Street Journal's Jacob Bunge reports.

  • "The administration said Wednesday that it had completed a new rule curbing states’ ability to shield adults without dependents from federal work requirements tied to receiving assistance through the program formerly administered via food stamps. Officials say the rule, which takes effect April 1, 2020, will save the government billions of dollars and encourage more people to work at a time when jobless rates are near a 50-year low."

The Investigations

WE READ THE 300 PAGE REPORT SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO: Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee laid out an extensive case that President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by pressuring Ukraine to launch investigations into his political opponents — compromising America's national security for his personal gain. 

Democrats not only meticulously outlined Trump's alleged misconduct — based on “two months of testimony from diplomats and administration officials, in addition to call records and other evidence discovered by the committees” — but said a “campaign to conceal his conduct from the public" amounts to obstruction. 

A watershed moment: The House intelligence Committee approved the report in a partisan 13-to-9 vote on Tuesday night, sending it to the Judiciary Committee. The document will serve as an outline for Democrats on that panel, which is responsible for drafting articles of impeachment against Trump. 

  • The next phase of the impeachment inquiry begins today at 10 a.m.: Judiciary will host law experts to speak about the constitutional grounds for impeachment as the panel determines whether Trump's actions constitute high crimes and misdemeanors.

In the meantime, here's what you need to know from the report: 

1. Democrats laid out eight different episodes of how Trump propelled a "scheme" to condition a White House meeting and $400 million in military aid to Ukraine upon a public announcement by its government of investigations that would help his reelection campaign.  

  • The core of Democrats' case is this alleged quid pro quo for probes of of vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, according to our colleagues Karoun Demirjian, Rachael Bade, and Seung Min Kim.  
  • The report doesn't mince words on how this is an abuse of power: “President Trump used the power of the Office of the President and exercised his authority over the executive branch, including his control of the instruments of the federal government, to apply increasing pressure on the President of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government to announce the politically-motivated investigations desired by President Trump.”
  • From the Democrats: “The President’s actions have damaged our national security, undermined the integrity of the next election, and violated his oath of office,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), whose panels have overseen the inquiry, said in a statement to our colleagues.

2. Democrats are at least preparing to accuse Trump of obstructing Congress, though the report does not outline the specific articles of impeachment the president could face. The report found that a dozen witnesses “followed President Trump’s orders, defying voluntary requests and lawful subpoenas, and refusing to testify.” 

  • “This allegation is an entire section of the report, encompassing more than 50 pages. Democrats point out that an article of impeachment drawn up against Richard M. Nixon was for his failure to comply with subpoenas,” our colleague Amber Philips reports.
  • Dems allege Trump's obstruction is unprecedented: “Unlike President Trump, past Presidents who were the subject of impeachment inquiries — including Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton — acknowledged Congress’ authority to investigate and, to varying degrees, complied with information requests and subpoenas​​​​​,” according to the report.
  • And will cause serious harm to U.S. democracy: “The damage to our system of checks and balances, and to the balance of power within our three branches of government, will be long-lasting and potentially irrevocable if the president’s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked,” the report concludes. “Any future president will feel empowered to resist an investigation into their own wrongdoing, malfeasance or corruption, and the result will be a nation at far greater risk of all three.”

3. Whether House Democrats will impeach Trump for “bribery” is still an unknown. 

  • From Karoun: “The document concluded that Trump and his subordinates 'conditioned official acts on a public announcement by the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, on politically-motivated investigations, including one into President Trump’s domestic political opponent.' But it stopped short of recommending that Trump be impeached for what Schiff said those words constitute: bribery, which is one of the premises upon which the Constitution says Congress may remove a president from office.”
  • Schiff told Karoun in an interview "that’s exactly what’s gone on here" -- though it's up to Judiciary to recommend impeaching Trump on bribery: “This is certainly, I think, what the founders had in mind when they used that word in the Constitution."

4. Call records show extensive contact between Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the White House during key moments of the Ukraine episode. 

  • "The call records provide powerful circumstantial evidence that Giuliani was coordinating with the White House on his Ukraine gambit, something Giuliani has previously acknowledged. The records also show contact between a Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, and one of Trump’s key defenders in Congress, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.)," our colleagues Paul Sonne, Rosalind Helderman, and Greg Miller report. 
  • As just one example: "The records show several calls and text messages in early August between Giuliani and numbers associated with the White House and the Office of Management and Budget. At that time, U.S. diplomats were trying to set up an Oval Office meeting between Trump and [Zelensky] that the Ukrainians were eager to schedule. Giuliani’s calls and texts include a nearly 13-minute call with an OMB official and '-1' on Aug. 8. Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, is also simultaneously serving as the acting White House chief of staff."
  • Who is the owner of the '-1' phone line?: "Investigators are trying to determine whether the unidentified phone number belongs to Mr. Trump, said [Schiff]. If so, the phone calls with Mr. Giuliani could be further evidence of the president’s direct involvement in the Ukraine affair," the New York Times's Sharon LaFraniere and Julian Barnes report. 
  • AT&T and Verizon were likely subpoenaed: As our colleagues note, the report attributes the phone records to “document production” from the companies. "The report doesn’t say whose phone records were subpoenaed, but the text suggests the committee obtained extensive records of calls by Giuliani and Parnas."
  • Nunes responded to the call records on Tuesday night on Fox News:

5. Democrats say Trump's pattern of behavior requires urgent action the president potentially solicits another foreign government for help in the 2020 election:

  • First it was Russia, then Ukraine: “Democrats tried to place Mr. Trump’s conduct in a broader context of wrongdoing that they said dated to the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Trump, they argued, first accepted help from one foreign power, Russia, to win the presidency, and then turned around and tried to enlist another, Ukraine, to bolster his 2020 reelection campaign,” the New York Times' Michael Shear and Nick Fandos report. 
  • And take China as another example: The report notes that “on October 3, 2019, even as our Committee was engaged in this inquiry, President Trump publicly declared anew that other countries should open investigations into his chief political rival, saying, 'China should start an investigation into the Bidens,' and that 'President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens.'”
  • The thinking: “We do not intend to delay when the integrity of the next election is still at risk,” Schiff told reporters.

6. There could be more to come: Former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration Neal Katyal tweeted that the most important language is in the first sentence of the report. 

  • “The Committee Report details the evidence gathered 'THUS FAR.' They are clearly laying down a marker that the investigation continues and that the President is bent on obstructing it/trying to gag [executive branch] employees from telling the truth,” he added.

7. The report is likely to do little to sway Trump's Republican allies on the Hill, who released a draft of their own 123-page counter-report yesterday. 

  • From the White House: “Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “Chairman Schiff’s report reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”

On The Hill

HAPPENING TODAY: The Judiciary hearing today will feature “some of Capitol Hill’s most aggressive and colorful characters — Republicans and Democrats,” our colleagues Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis, and Rachael Bade report. 

What to watch: “There could be disruptions from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) … There could be conspiracy theories from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) … And there could be antics from Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a vocal Trump critic who brought a bucket of fried chicken to a hearing in May to highlight the absence of Attorney General William P. Barr, who was scheduled to testify." 

  • “It’s a bunch of brawlers sometimes on the Judiciary Committee, so it should get pretty hot under the collar as we go along,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a member of the panel, said on Fox News over the weekend.

Nadler used an expletive in a closed-door meeting to state clearly he was not going to put up with antics on either side of the aisle. From Politico's Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris: "[The] rare cuss word from the lawyerly Manhattan Democrat that prompted some lawmakers to sit up in their chairs, according to multiple people in the room.” 

  • All eyes will be on Nadler: “Nadler’s warning shot referred to likely GOP antics to try to undermine the first impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. But it wasn’t lost on Democrats that Nadler’s message could also apply to those in his own party who have closely scrutinized his role in the House's impeachment probe,” per Caygle and Ferris. 

Leading the impeachment fight for Republicans: Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.). "Known as a Southern spitfire among his colleagues, [he] steered the GOP through several rowdy Judiciary hearings related to the Russia probe earlier this year," Politico's Melanie Zanona reports. "During the impeachment proceedings, Collins and his band of Republicans on the panel are expected to hammer Democrats over their process and the breakneck pace of their impeachment probe."

  • Collins's star turn comes at a crucial time: Georgia will soon have an open Senate seat after Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson retires at the end of the year. Trump favors Collins to be appointed to the chamber, but the state's Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to tap business executive Kelly Loeffler instead, our colleague Seung Min Kim reported. Regardless, Collins will still be on national T.V. today defending the president, which could also further stoke the intraparty fight over the appointment.
Over the past three years, President Trump and some of his allies have at times mimicked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric on election interference. (The Washington Post)

The People

GOP TURNS TO DEBUNKED CONSPIRACY TO DEFEND TRUMP: A number of Republican lawmakers are pressing ahead with debunked claims about Ukraine as they defend Trump based on conspiracy theories that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has helped spread, our colleagues Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian report.

  • Key quote from a seasoned GOP foreign policy figure: “Historically, Republicans have been opposed to Russia, and they’re trying to do a narrative to help their guy,” Thomas H. Kean, a Republican former governor of New Jersey who served as co-chair of the 9/11 Commission told our colleagues. “It’s a very strange time where there isn’t a center to govern around.”
  • They're led by Sen. John Kennedy (La.), who is known for his folksy idioms and easy access to the press, though even he appeared to grow tired of talking about the subject, according to a Politico report.

The claims that seek to cast blame on Kyiv rather than Moscow for interfering in the 2016 election are debunked: We’re repeating this for the people in the back. 

  • If you want to dive further into the subject: There have been multiple detailed fact checks, including by our colleague Glenn Kessler who wrote there were “not enough Pinocchios” for one particular debunked theory about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails. David Hale, the No. 3 official at the State Department, also testified that he is not aware of any evidence Ukraine meddled in the election.
  • What is happening: Russia is actively trying to interfere in the 2020 election, former special counsel Robert Mueller testified in July and Hale reiterated yesterday. 

Some GOP members have had enough: “I saw no evidence from our intelligence community, nor from the representatives today for the Department of State, that there is any evidence of any kind that suggests that Ukraine interfered in our elections,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters. 

  • And Sen. Lindsey O. Graham said the strategy is hurting Trump: “It was the Russians. I'm 1,000% confident that the hack of the DNC was by Russian operatives, no one else,” the South Carolina senator told reporters on Capitol Hill, CNN’s Phil Mattingly and Chandelis Duster report. 
Once considered a front-runner, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) dropped out of the 2020 presidential race on Dec. 3. Here’s what happened to her campaign. (The Washington Post)

The Campaign

HARRIS IS OUT: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) “proved an uneven campaigner and was ultimately engulfed by low polling numbers, internal turmoil and a sense that she was unable to provide a clear message amid the roiling, impassioned politics of the moment,” our colleague Chelsea Janes writes in The Post’s postmortem.

Other possible implications: “The most diverse primary field in U.S. history is now one that may well be represented in its December debate by four white men and two white women,” our colleague Philip Bump writes.  

A number of activists are concerned about the very real prospect of this happening:  

  • More details: Entrepreneur Andrew Yang and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) are both one poll away from qualifying before the Dec. 12 deadline, according to Politico's handy tracker. Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro would need to make a major jump to meet the DNC’s donor and polling requirements. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) has met the donor threshold, but has yet to secure a single qualifying poll.
  • Part of the reason candidates of color have struggled is black voters have embraced other candidates, especially former vice president Joe Biden, as the Times’s Astead W. Herndon reported late last month.

Harris spent the evening with some of her staff:

President Trump on Dec. 3 called Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) a “maniac,” said Canada was “slightly delinquent” and backtracked on a comment about Iran. (The Washington Post)

Global Power

TRUMP MEETS WITH JOHNSON: “Boris Johnson and [Trump] snuck in a quick private meeting Tuesday evening with little fanfare ahead of a NATO leaders' meeting in London Wednesday,” Politico Europe's Emilio Casalicchio reports.

  • Why the hush-hush?: “Johnson wants to avoid appearing too close to his U.S. counterpart, who is deeply unpopular in Britain, for fear it could scupper his chances in the country's general election next week,” Politico reports. “That could explain why the meeting was not announced in advance.”
  • So much for do not endorse: Before the NATO summit, Johnson had diplomatically tried to hint that he wanted to Trump to avoid any involvement in the election. Trump seemed to get this telling reporters “I'll stay out of the election,” but shortly thereafter added “I think Boris is very capable and I think he'll do a good job.” Though those words are a far cry from July when Trump said people called Johnson “Britain's Trump.”

TRUMP APPEARS TO BE ALL THE TALK AT NATO: This comes after a free-wheeling day of comments from the president.