Playbook: “The Gordon Sondland hearing — which is set for next Wednesday — now carries added weight. The political donor was the subject of so much of the questioning Wednesday afternoon. According to testimony, he spoke to the president repeatedly about what are being described as politically motivated investigations. Sondland even spoke with the president on his cellphone from a restaurant in Kyiv — he was surely spied on, experts say — and had the volume up loud enough that an aide to Taylor heard the phone call, during which the president quizzed Sondland about the Biden probes. Both sides tell us they will be sharpening their knives for Sondland, though one Republican cautions that he’s flaky and underwhelming, and will be good for neither party.”
New York Times: “It was not clear that minds were changed. Certainly they were not inside the room, and most likely not elsewhere on Capitol Hill, where Republicans and Democrats were locked into their positions long ago. Nor were there any immediate signs that the hearing penetrated the general public. While major television networks broke into regular programming to carry it live, there was little sense of a riveted country putting everything aside to watch à la Watergate.”
New York Times editorial: “And those Americans who tuned in also learned that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have set themselves a degrading task. Rather than engage the facts about Mr. Trump’s Ukrainian escapade, they are twisting them and eliding them and inventing new ones they’d prefer. They spent most of Wednesday stuffing straw men and then ostentatiously knocking them down.”
Playbook: “The GOP keeps talking about how no one has firsthand information — all while the administration is blocking almost everyone who has firsthand information.”
New York Times: “Well before Rep. Peter King announced that he would retire next year, enough evidence existed that his prospects for re-election on Long Island as a Republican were narrowing.”
“Democrats now outnumber Republicans on Long Island, a once unthinkable development in a traditional conservative stronghold where voters backed every Republican presidential candidate, bar two, from 1900 to 1988… The numbers on Long Island enumerate the challenges for Republicans. In 1996, registered Republicans in Nassau County outnumbered the Democrats, 360,000 to 257,000. By this year, the number of Democrats had rocketed to 411,000. The number of Republicans, by contrast, had dropped by more than 30,000.”
The first day of House impeachment hearings ended after nearly six hours.
The White House and Republicans tried to portray the hearing as a “boring” and a “waste of time,” however the news headlines are quite different:
- Washington Post: New testimony ties Trump more directly to Ukraine pressure
- Politico: Democrats land damning new evidence in impeachment testimony
- Wall Street Journal: Envoy reveals new call in impeachment testimony as GOP defends Trump
- New York Times: Impeachment witness cites new evidence of Trump pressure campaign on Ukraine
Mark Sandy, director of national security programs at OMB, is listed as a witness before the House impeachment inquiry on Saturday at 10 a.m., Axios reports.
Sandy was initially scheduled to appear before the committees on Friday, Nov. 8 but did not show.
It was not immediately clear why Sandy was put back on the schedule.
“Everybody has their impression of what truth is.”
— Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), on C-SPAN during a recess of the first impeachment hearing.
The White House shared a video of President Trump slamming the impeachment inquiry as the “single greatest scam in the history of American politics.”
He added: “They’re trying to stop me, because I’m fighting for you. And I’ll never let that happen.”
Ambassador Bill Taylor testified that one of his staffers overheard a phone call between President Trump and U.S. ambassador Gordon Sondland to the European Union in which the president asked about “the investigations,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Sondland told the staffer that Trump cared more about an investigation into Joe Biden than he did about Ukraine.
Taylor noted he was not aware of the conversation when he originally testified behind closed doors and was thus adding it to his opening statement now.
The House begins the public phase of its impeachment inquiry at 10 a.m. ET with Democrats and Republicans prepared to offer competing narratives of whether President Trump inappropriately pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, are scheduled to testify. Both will appear at the same time.
The hearings will be televised pretty much everywhere.
Leave your reactions in the comments.
First Read: “Most in Washington are already convinced how the public hearings in the impeachment inquiry, which begin this morning, will play out.”
“House Republicans will sabotage the proceedings and muddy the waters. Democrats will struggle to win the message war, as they often do. And everything — as it almost always does — will break along partisan lines. Maybe they’re right; it’s probably the smart bet.”
“But they also could be wrong, given how unpredictable President Trump can be; how unpredictable the witness answers could be; how these public hearings could play with the persuadable public; and how damning much of the available evidence already is.”
“Maybe the best news for Democrats entering today’s public hearing is how low the expectations are. There’s a good reason to have these low expectations. But it also creates a pretty low bar that becomes easier to clear.”
“The House Intelligence Committee announced a new slate of hearings for the impeachment inquiry late Tuesday, scheduling eight witnesses for public appearances next week,” Politico reports.
“The hearings — scheduled for next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — will feature current and former senior officials from across the National Security Council, the State Department and the Pentagon. All of the scheduled witnesses have already been deposed behind closed doors, and several provided explosive evidence that could be featured in articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.”
Rudy Giuliani, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
“Mr. Trump requested that Ukraine root out corruption; he didn’t demand it. His words were cordial, agreeable and free of any element of threat or coercion. Mr. Trump offered nothing in return to Ukraine for cleaning up corruption. If you doubt me, read the transcript. Allegations of Burisma-Biden corruption weren’t even a major part of the conversation. The focus was on Ukrainian corruption broadly speaking and out of a five-page transcript Mr. Trump spent only six lines on Joe Biden.”
Top House Republican sources tell Axios that one impeachment survival strategy will be to try to distance President Trump from any Ukraine quid pro quo, with Rudy Giuliani potentially going under the bus.
Said one: “This is not an impeachment of Rudy Giuliani, it’s not an impeachment of Ambassador Sondland. It’s an impeachment of the president of the United States. So the point is as long as this is a step removed, he’s in good shape… If it’s a step removed from the president, he doesn’t lose any Republicans in the House.”
John Harris: “The conventional appraisal of Trump’s prospects—the House will likely convict, the Senate will likely acquit and Trump will claim vindication—might well be true. But this glosses over a larger point: On the current trajectory, Republicans are engaging in a battle with their own long-term costs that they will be paying for the next generation.”
“Based on Clinton’s precedent, those costs will be paid against Trump’s agenda—things he wants to do but won’t achieve because of the distorting effects of impeachment on his political options and room for maneuver.”
“They will be paid by his associates—people whose reputations and ambitions will be permanently dented because of their proximity to him. And they will be paid by conservatives who follow him—who will discover their own principles have lost credibility and power in the public mind because of their connection to Trump.”
Playbook: “The House’s impeachment of President Trump is kind of like watching the newest season of “Jack Ryan” on Amazon Prime Video. Sure, the twists and turns are exciting. You know the dude is going to get chased, shot at or stabbed — and do it all in exotic locales. Every episode makes you sweat as Jack gets into one pickle or another. In the end, though, you also know the showrunners probably won’t kill him off.”
“Impeachment is kind of similar. Yes, the hearings these next two weeks are momentous and historic. They will highlight just how unusual this White House is: The president’s personal lawyer was running around the globe trying to get a foreign country to investigate a political rival, and the U.S. government was dangling meetings and money as enticements. We’ll hear from longtime foreign servants, a military official and White House insiders, all of whom have the same view of this administration’s behavior: improper, immoral and wrong-headed.”
“But, at the end of the day, we all have a pretty good idea how this movie is going to end: a nearly party-line vote, with most every Democrat voting to impeach the president, and nearly all Republicans voting against it. But in the middle — the next nine days — you’ll get nonstop, white-knuckle action.”
Axios: “Starting today, Democrats will do everything they can to put the most damaging testimony against President Trump in front of the public — while Republicans try to put as much distance as possible between Trump and the efforts to pressure Ukraine.”
“President Trump has been fulminating for weeks over the impeachment inquiry, which he sees as a persecution cooked up by Democrats and ‘Never Trumpers,'” the AP reports.
“In reality, a collection of witnesses that includes Still Trumpers, Once Trumpers and the apolitical civil service has put together a largely cohesive account of a president exerting pressure on a foreign power for political benefit at home.”