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BRING IT ON: That seems to be the White House's new attitude now that it's all but certain the House will vote to impeach President Trump.
The White House is encouraging Republicans to aggressively defend the president at what's sure to be a rough and tumble impeachment trial in the Senate — and even bring in live witnesses who could counter inevitable accusations Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rivals.
- If you can't beat it, join it: "This isn't going anywhere," a source close to the White House working on impeachment told Power Up. "So [Trump's] leaning fully into it."
Strategy preview: GOP senators had a private lunch yesterday with White House officials, who briefed senators on the desired parameters for an impeachment trial. "The president wants his case made fully in the Senate," the White House director of legislative affairs, Eric Ueland, said after the lunch, per our colleagues Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis, Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian.
- The plan for live witnesses is a departure from "videotaped depositions that were entered into evidence during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999," our colleagues write.
- Key: “In this instance, we believe very strongly — given the fatally flawed process in the House — that if they were to elect against our better advice [and] send over impeachment to the Senate, that we need witnesses as part of our trial and a full defense of the president on the facts,” Ueland said.
- Also briefing senators: White House counsel Pat Cipollone. And two officials who recently joined the White House to steer the response to the inquiry: Pam Bondi, former attorney general of Florida, and Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department spokesman.
Sources familiar with the White House's thinking on impeachment dismissed the current focus in Washington on which Senate Republicans might break with Trump.
- "Everyone is focused on defections with Republicans but the more realistic outcome is that there are defections on the Democratic side," one source told Power Up, pointing to the most vulnerable Senate Democrats such as Doug Jones (Ala.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va).
- Even Democrats are not optimistic about the odds Trump will be convicted: "There will probably be less votes to impeach Trump in a trial than there was for Bill Clinton," a Democratic lawmaker told us.
There's also a political benefit: A public trial with headline-grabbing witnesses puts Trump exactly where he wants to be -- occupying valuable media real estate coveted by the Democrats running for president as they head into the first in the nation's presidential primaries early next year.
- Fighting with the media and Democrats "on the front page of every newspaper for the next few months guaranteed," a senior Republican aide on the Hill told us.
Key details are still murky, however: White House officials did not specify which witnesses should be called nor specifics of "how they would like the trial to be structured," our colleagues write. "Republican senators acknowledged they would not know much about how the trial would unfold until the House drafted articles of impeachment and voted on them."
- Mark your calendars (or not): The Senate floor schedule just released for 2020 doesn’t start until Feb. 1.
- “The only thing I know for sure is that nobody knows what we’re doing in January yet,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told them.
EVERYONE GETS A PEP RALLY: Trump could be impeached by the House before Christmas, if the aggressive schedule House Democrats are planning is any indication. Before an 8½ -hour public Judiciary Committee hearing, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) made that clear, even though they haven't announced any firm decision or timeline. From our Post team:
- "Are you ready?' Pelosi asked her colleagues, after describing constitutional circumstances posed by Trump’s alleged abuse of power surrounding his Ukraine dealings, as well as his subsequent decision to stonewall the House investigation into the matter."
- "The caucus, according to multiple members who attended, erupted with shouts of approval."
Expect to hear more from Pelosi today:
The Speaker’s Office has just announced the following: Speaker Pelosi will deliver a statement today, Thursday, December 5, at 9:00 a.m. E.T. on the status of the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) December 5, 2019
Vice President Mike Pence gave House Republicans their own pep talk, encouraging them to "turn up the heat" on Democrats.
- "The vice president was clear that he was proud of how the House Republicans have stood together on the impeachment inquiry but wanted to remind us that in our discussions back home, we need to talk about things that are not happening because House Democrats are consumed with impeaching the president,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told our colleagues. He pointed to legislation to curb prescription drug costs and a pending trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.
On The Hill
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THAT MARATHON HEARING: "After a more than eight-hour hearing with four constitutional scholars, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said [Trump’s] conduct with Ukraine rose to an impeachable offense," our colleagues Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner report.
From a Democrat's perspective: "I’m disappointed with our Republican colleagues who spent all day talking about process -- and it’s because they’ve been unwilling to confront the grave misconduct of Trump," Judiciary member David Ciccilline (D-R.I.) told Power Up after the hearing.
- "They complained about absence of witnesses? Well the single greatest cause of that has been from the president, who has been obstructing Congress," he added. "I think the American people are seeing right through this."
Back to (law) school: Our colleagues Dan Zak and Ben Terris described the atmosphere in the hearing room. "And now, here come the academics: Four of them, trailing their curricula vitae like billowing robes, ready to act as counsel for the Founding Fathers, who remain very dead but continue to haunt us. What would the founders think of us? What would they think of [Trump], and the effort to impeach him? To find out, the House Committee on the Judiciary held a sort of seance."
- “Some day we will no longer be alive, and we’ll go wherever it is we go — the good place or the other place,” said one of the Democrats’ witnesses, Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School. “And, you know, we may meet there [James] Madison and [Alexander] Hamilton, and they will ask us: ‘When the president of the United States acted to corrupt the structure of the republic, what did you do?’ ”
The hearing offered a hint at what possible impeachment articles might include: "Nadler’s opening statement accused Trump of obstructing both the Ukraine probe and the Russia investigation, and it included plenty on the latter, in a way that suggests it was a calculated choice," our colleague Aaron Blake reports.
What the GOP is talking about: "In one of the more heated moments of the day, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) confronted Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan for invoking Trump’s youngest son Barron when asserting that there are limits to Trump’s power," Politico's Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio report.
- What happened: Karlan when asked what the difference between a king and a president were quipped, "While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said before later apologizing.
- The White House seized on the moment: Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham slammed Karlan's joke, and first lady Melania Trump made a rare public and political statement about it, too.
What the Judiciary panel is like: Our colleagues Daniela Santamariña, Kate Rabinowitz and Kevin Uhrmacher illustrated what the committee that will lead this phase of the impeachment inquiry.
The political make-up:
The lawmakers to keep your eyes on:
What's next?: For now, the Judiciary panel does not has any more public hearings scheduled. But that could change should lawmakers still want a floor vote by the end of the year.
Our colleagues have a helpful breakdown on where this could go from here:
Should the Judiciary Committee write and approve articles, there would then be a floor vote on each article.
The magic number in the House could be 216, whether or not Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calf.) resigns, per Paul Kane.
If articles pass the House, we would move to a Senate trial:
Here's what the would entail:
In the Agencies
ANOTHER BARR-RELATED SCOOP: "The prosecutor handpicked by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize how U.S. agencies investigated [Trump’s] 2016 campaign said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, people familiar with the matter said," our colleagues Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report.
- More details: "Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office contacted U.S. Attorney John Durham, the prosecutor Barr personally tapped to lead a separate review of the 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, the people said," our colleagues write. "Among Horowitz’s questions: whether a Maltese professor who interacted with a Trump campaign adviser was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign, the people said."
- But there is no evidence the professor was an asset: The professor in question is Joseph Mifsud, who told Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos of possible dirt on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos was later overheard talking about this by an Australian diplomat who tipped off U.S. officials, which started what eventually became the Mueller probe.
This is could rebut conservative doubts "that Horowitz might be blessing the FBI’s Russia investigation prematurely and that Durham could potentially find more, particularly with regard to the Maltese professor," our colleagues write. Barr has expressed these feelings to associates in recent weeks.
- It also undermines a potentially GOP counter-theory: Trump allies and even some lawmakers have long questioned the origin story of the Mueller probe and hinted, if not, outright stated that Papadopoulos and others may have been set up. Part of this theory rests on Mifsud, a shadowy figure, being more than just a professor.
But we'll know a lot more soon: Horowitz's report is expected to be published on Monday, and he will testify in front lawmakers just days later.
▶️ 🎄 The Christmas tree in front of the U.S. Capitol was lit in Washington, Wednesday, December 4.— The Voice of America (@VOANews) December 5, 2019
👉 This year’s tree traveled over 2,414 kilometers from the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. (AP) pic.twitter.com/gipQLcJh3i
In the Media
OTHER BIG NEWS:
Shooting at Pearl Harbor: Two civilian Defense Department employees were killed and another was injured when the shooter, a sailor from the USS Columbia, opened fire. The gunman, whose submarine was docked at the still operational Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for repairs, killed himself and his motive remains unknown," the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports.
Some of Trump's closest employees were undocumented immigrants: As Trump's personal housekeeper long before he was president, Sandra Diaz would lay out his golfing outfits and even test out his make-up to make sure it didn't dry out. Diaz is just one of 48 people who worked illegally for Trump at one of his organization's 11 properties around the country. The workers say that their immigration statuses were not a secret to their managers. Trump, of course, would later start his campaign by denouncing illegal immigrants, our colleagues Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold report.
USMCA update: "Pelosi is pushing to strip out sweeping legal protections for online content in the new trade pact with Mexico and Canada, in what would be a blow for big technology companies," per the Wall Street Journal's John McKinnon and Brody Mullins.
The two-day summit celebrating NATO'S anniversary ended in drama: Trump lashed out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling him "two-faced" after video surfaced of Trudeau and other world leaders appearing to mock the president behind his back. Trump then abruptly cancelled a scheduled press conference via tweet and hastened back home, our colleagues Michael Birnbaum, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report from England.
Must watch: Seizing on the footage of gossiping leaders, former vice president Joe Biden's presidential campaign released this ad, which already has over 2 million views:
The world is laughing at President Trump. They see him for what he really is: dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 5, 2019
We cannot give him four more years as commander in chief. pic.twitter.com/IR8K2k54YQ
Stroop there it is: NBA players have a new favorite snack: the stroopwafel. The delicacy is typically Norwegian snack that is made by pressing a vanilla-cinnamon dough and a thin filling of caramel between flame-heated waffle irons. While it might be rare to find a player sneaking a bite during a game, but it's not against the rules, Jake Fischer reports for The Post.