6:33 a.m. Impeachment is legally prescribed by the Constitution, but political in practice and therefore made for TV. The judges and jurors all hold elected office. They answer to the American voters, most of whom have better things to do right now, like make breakfast and get their kids out the door. Morning Joe talks about Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) saying Wednesday that the whistleblower allegations against Trump are “very troubling.” Fox and Friends plays clips of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) opposing President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. “It doesn’t matter about facts. It doesn’t matter about truth,” says Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in an appearance on the show. He means that Democrats have no scruples.
8:03 a.m. Starting the day at his Fifth Avenue penthouse, Trump fires off a fusillade of tweets, landing faster than they can be read. He wants people to know what his pundit friends, family and Republican operatives think. All seem to agree it is perfectly fine for Trump to ask Ukraine’s leader to help the Justice Department and his personal attorney investigate a rival candidate for president, as the phone call summary revealed Wednesday. First daughter Ivanka Trump is proud of her president. Vice President Pence thinks Trump “has been completely vindicated.” Former daytime talk show host Geraldo Rivera suggests Trump’s reelection is now more likely. “STICK TOGETHER, PLAY THEIR GAME, AND FIGHT HARD REPUBLICANS. OUR COUNTRY IS AT STAKE!” reads one Trump tweet, which is later deleted.
8:41 a.m. The House Intelligence Committee drops the whistleblower repo
rt. The complaint confirms, with detailed notation, the outlines of charges Democrats have leveled against Trump. The central allegation is that the president is “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” In a new disclosure, the document describes a political effort by unnamed senior White House officials to “lock down” all records of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president by moving paper records to a “codeword-level” computer system. It also describes separate alleged efforts by the Trump administration to get Ukraine to “play ball” in the spring. It provides a detailed analysis of the internal Ukrainian politics Trump has allegedly been trying to manipulate for months.
9:13 a.m. As everyone struggles to make sense of the document, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) opens a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. The witness is Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, who previously decided not to give the whistleblower report to Congress, as the law seemingly requires, after consulting the White House and Justice Department. Schiff wears his serious face. He says the Trump call to Ukraine “read like a classic organized crime shakedown.” Then, instead of reading from the document, he decides to dramatize it with made up words from an imaginary mob boss. “I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good,” Schiff says. “I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent understand.” This is, Schiff says, “the most consequential form of tragedy.”
9:22 a.m. The committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), congratulates Democrats on the “rollout of their latest information warfare operation against the president.” He talks about the “Democrat’s mania to overturn the 2016 elections,” and uses the words “hoax,” “fake story,” “hysteria,” “frenzy,” “gambit,” “charade,” and “grotesque spectacle.” He also falsely asserts that former vice president Joe Biden “bragged that he extorted the Ukrainians into firing a prosecutor who happened to be investigating Biden’s own son.” Biden did push to fire a prosecutor who had previously investigated a firm on where his son, Hunter Biden, worked. But Biden and other Western officials said the prosecutor was not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. The investigation into the firm was dormant at the time and Hunter Biden had not been accused of wrongdoing, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.
9:29 a.m. Maguire describes his work history, taking note that he has 11 times sworn an oath to the Constitution. “No one can take an individual’s integrity away,” he says. “It can only be given away.” Then he explains two reasons that he did not give the whistleblower complaint to Congress, after consulting with the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the White House. First, he said he was advised by the Justice Department that it could contain privileged information about the internal workings of the executive branch. Second, there was a question of whether the complaint fell inside his purview because it concerned behavior by the president who is “outside the intelligence community.” At the same time, he is pleased that the information is now public. He says the whistleblower has behaved lawfully and “acted in good faith.”
9:44 a.m. For the next several hours, Maguire takes questions from members of Congress, most of which consist of efforts by Republicans or Democrats to score points for their teams.
11:18 a.m. Pelosi takes the stage at the Capitol building to announce that she is sad, prayerful and patriotic. She tries to put a headline on the now-released whistleblower report. “This is a coverup,” she says, in reference to the claim that White House officials tried to move information to a highly classified computer system. She also says the acting director of national intelligence “broke the law” by not immediately turning over the whistleblower complaint. Then she quotes Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine.
11:45 a.m. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) takes the same stage before the same flags with another patriotic message. “America is too great for a vision so small of just impeachment and investigation,” he says. He attacks Pelosi for opening an inquiry before the records of the call to the Ukrainian president were released. “Let’s be very clear — the president did not ask to investigate Joe Biden,” McCarthy says. This is not clear at all. In the call summary released by the White House, Trump tells Ukraine’s president, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.” When a reporter points this out, McCarthy stands his ground. “What you’re reading and what you’re trying to — my belief is you are misstating,” McCarthy says.
11:50 a.m. The Associated Press moves a story saying Vermont Gov. Phil Scott just declared himself the first Republican chief executive in the nation to support impeachment proceedings against Trump.
12:47 p.m. The Los Angeles Times publishes a story quoting from a private speech Trump gave this morning at a New York hotel. In an audio recording taken from the room, Trump calls reporters “scum” and attacks the unidentified whistleblower, suggesting that he has committed a crime historically punished by death. “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” Trump says in the recording. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
12:48 p.m. The cable networks start showing a hallway news conference by Schiff, just as Air Force One, carrying the president back from New York, makes its final approach at Joint Base Andrews. Trump immediately tweets, “Adam B. Schiff has no credibility. Another fantasy to hurt the Republican Party!” On television, Schiff says his team will keep working on Trump’s impeachment over the next two weeks, when the rest of
Congress heads home for a recess.
12:52 p.m. A reporter at the Capitol asks Schiff about Trump’s four-minute-old, in-flight insult tweet. “I’m always flattered when I’m attacked by someone of the president’s character,” Schiff says, before ducking into an office.
1 p.m. With Schiff off television, Trump steps off the plane to address reporters. “Adam B. Schiff doesn’t talk about Joe Biden and his son walking away with millions of dollars from Ukraine, and then millions of dollars from China,” Trump says. This is an inaccurate statement. Hunter Biden did collect significant income from a Ukrainian company, but there is no evidence Joe Biden made money from either country, and Hunter Biden’s lawyer denies that he made any money from a China investment deal he advised. Trump says three times that his call with the Ukrainian president was “perfect.” “Absolutely perfect phone call,” he says.
1:54 p.m. The New York Times reports that the whistleblower is a CIA officer who was detailed to the White House.
2:21 p.m. The Washington Post updates its tally of House members who now support the opening of an impeachment inquiry. The new tally notches 219 Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who announced this summer that he had left the Republican Party. A simple majority of 218 members is required to adopt articles of impeachment and prompt a Senate trial of the president.
3:35 p.m. Joe Biden’s presidential campaign releases a statement quoting the former vice president’s appearance the night before on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Biden said then that Trump’s efforts were “18 out of 10” on the outlandish scale. Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, says Biden deserves indirect credit for Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “It is all borne from his deep, fully substantiated fear that Joe Biden will beat him in November 2020,” she says.
3:44 p.m. CBS News announces that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton called Trump a “corrupt human tornado” in a new interview. She supports an impeachment inquiry.
4:28 p.m. Former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., a longtime critic of Trump, says on CNN that the president’s morning comments comparing the whistleblower to a treasonous spy is “witness retaliation.” “What’s really bad about it is this is going to have a very chilling effect on any other potential whistleblowers,” Clapper says.
7:02 p.m. The evening spin time begins. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a candidate for president, appears on MSNBC to throw a bunch of punches. She calls Trump a “lawless president.” She calls the situation “outrageous.” She calls the White House “a racket.” She says there was a “coverup.” After a clip of Trump talking plays, she adds, “He sounds like a criminal.”
8:28 p.m. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich goes on Fox News to say that Democrats are making “a really bad decision” that will ultimately destroy Biden’s presidential campaign. Gingrich is qualified to make this claim because he lost his job running Congress after pushing the impeachment of President Clinton. What went wrong? “What happens is you get in a room, you are surrounded by your partisans, you only listen to yourself,” Gingrich tells Tucker Carlson and the primetime Fox audience.
9:01 p.m. Sean Hannity offers a coda on the day — a “Fox News Alert” — to say that everything that just happened didn’t matter. “The real story. The real corruption,” Hannity announces. “None of it, zero has to do with President Trump.” Stay tuned. He has a special report on Biden. We are just getting started.