STOP US IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE … REUTERS: “Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, takes bigger role in China trade talks”
IT’S EASY TO SAY this hearing is boring — because it is. It’s an hourslong Con Law seminar, anchored by four professors who are arguing the history and finer points of impeachment. BUT THE LARGER QUESTION is this: Will there be clippable moments for Democrats, who are trying to make the case that voting to remove President DONALD TRUMP is airtight?
WE ARE TWO HOURS INTO THE HEARING, AND WHAT’S ABUNDANTLY CLEAR HERE is House Republicans on Judiciary are going to slow down the committee’s hearings with a flurry of motions. Democrats will likely win every procedural vote, but that takes time.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THE REPUBLICAN QUESTIONING … JONATHAN TURLEY is now up. The one glaring weakness in TURLEY as a GOP witness is he has said publicly that TRUMP’S behavior wasn’t perfect and deserves an investigation. That’s something few Republicans will concede.
HEARING HIGHLIGHTS …
— NOAH FELDMAN: “If we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a monarchy or we live under a dictatorship.”
— PAMELA KARLAN taking on ranking member DOUG COLLINS (R-Ga.): “Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing, because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts. So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor, I don’t care about those facts.”
— TURLEY: “I get it. You’re mad. The president’s mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad. And Luna’s a goldendoodle, and they don’t get mad. So we’re all mad. Where has that taken us? Will … a slipshod impeachment make us less mad? Will it only invite an invitation for the madness to follow every future administration? That is why this is wrong. It’s not wrong because President Trump was right. His call was anything but perfect.”
KYLE CHENEY and ANDREW DESIDERIO: “Nadler signals Mueller obstruction charges will feature in impeachment as witnesses assail Trump”: “[Judiciary Chairman Jerry] Nadler’s opening statement suggested that Democrats are strongly considering linking Mueller’s findings to the House’s impeachment inquiry, which has focused primarily on allegations that Trump abused the power of his presidency by pressuring Ukraine’s leaders to investigate his political rivals.
“Nadler emphasized that Mueller’s findings, too — on Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s efforts to thwart that probe — could be considered as Democrats draft articles of impeachment as soon as next week. … Nadler said both the Mueller investigation and the Ukraine probe were met with fierce ‘obstruction’ from Trump — a nod to a likely article of impeachment centering on obstruction of Congress.” POLITICO
TIMELINE — NBC’S @GeoffRBennett: “NEWS: Two House Democrats tell @LACaldwellDC and @AlexNBCNews they left this morning’s caucus meeting with the understanding the House would vote on articles before the December 20 recess. But one member says they were told to ‘not make plans’ on Dec. 21 and 22.”
WHAT PENCE TOLD HOUSE REPUBLICANS … VP MIKE PENCE returned to his old stomping grounds — the House Republican Conference — to rally House Republicans this morning. He thanked the INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE and Republican leaders by name for getting impeachment “facts out” and appearing on television.
PENCE URGED REPUBLICANS to talk about the legislative work that the White House has said is on hold as Democrats pursue impeachment. PENCE said that, as he travels, he is sensing the same level of enthusiasm he saw in 2016 — he specifically mentioned seeing thousands of people at an orchard near Charlottesville, which, as he noted, is not a Republican area. More from Mel Zanona
WHAT PELOSI TOLD HOUSE DEMS … SARAH FERRIS and HEATHER CAYGLE: “‘Are you ready?’: Pelosi preps Democrats for next steps on impeachment”: “In a sign of the moment’s gravity, Pelosi and her leadership team ensured that the members-only gathering was tightly controlled, even more so than Democrats’ weekly caucus meetings. Lawmakers were not allowed to bring phones and a sign on the door read ‘no entrance’ to keep out all staff, even senior aides who regularly attend caucus meetings. …
“About halfway through the hour-long meeting, Pelosi addressed the caucus, asking whether they were prepared to proceed with the impeachment process. ‘Are you ready?’ the California Democrat asked her caucus, according to multiple lawmakers in the room. Several lawmakers in the room verbally responded ‘Yes.’ … Much of the discussion focused on the sweeping Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday, with Chairman Adam Schiff providing an overview of the trove of evidence that Democrats have uncovered against Trump in their two-month inquiry.” POLITICO
Good Wednesday afternoon.
DAILY RUDY … “Giuliani, Facing Scrutiny, Travels to Europe to Interview Ukrainians,” by NYT’s Ken Vogel and Benjamin Novak: “[Rudy] Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, met in Budapest on Tuesday with a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has become a key figure in the impeachment inquiry. He then traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday seeking to meet with other former Ukrainian prosecutors whose claims have been embraced by Republicans, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, according to people familiar with the effort. …
“Mr. Giuliani is using the trip, which has not been previously reported, to help prepare more episodes of a documentary series for a conservative television outlet promoting his pro-Trump, anti-impeachment narrative. His latest moves to advance the theories propounded by the prosecutors amount to an audacious effort to give the president’s supporters new material to undercut the House impeachment proceedings and an eventual Senate trial.” NYT
TRUMP AT NATO …
— NOT STOPPING AT THE WATER’S EDGE! — TRUMP ON DEMS, per pooler Katie Rogers of the NYT: “You almost question whether or not they love our country, and that’s a very serious thing: Do they love our country?”
— TRUMP departed the summit a little after 4:30 p.m. local time in London, forgoing a planned closing news conference, which he tweeted he would skip since he had done so many in the previous two days. More on the sudden presser cancellation from Caitlin Oprysko
— TRUMP MET with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this morning to talk trade, Syria, energy and alliance commitments, per the White House. THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS POOL was not allowed into this unannounced bilat.
— WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT — “Trump calls Trudeau ‘two-faced’ after video surfaces of world leaders joking about him,” by Quint Forgey
… TRUDEAU’S EXPLANATION, via Andy Blatchford: “‘Last night, I made a reference to the fact that there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with President Trump, and I was happy to take part [in] it,’ he said, sidestepping the question. …
“Trudeau also said his remark captured on video that he saw ‘jaws drop’ among members of Trump’s team was in reference to the president’s announcement that next year’s G7 would be held at Camp David, the presidential retreat outside of Washington. ‘We were all surprised and, I think, pleased to learn that next G7 will be at Camp David — I think that that was an unscheduled announcement,’ he said.” POLITICO
ABC’S @alex_mallin: “NEW: Attorney General Barr is traveling to Mexico City this evening where he is scheduled to hold meetings tomorrow with Mexico’s President, Foreign Minister and Attorney General related to ‘a number of joint security interests,’ per a senior DOJ official.”
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION — “Trump Administration to Stiffen Food-Stamp Work Requirement,” by WSJ’s Jacob Bunge: “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 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.” WSJ
— WSJ: “Hospital Groups Sue to Block Price-Transparency Rule,” by Stephanie Armour: “Hospital groups sued to block a Trump-administration rule forcing them to disclose secret rates, for the first time laying out the industry’s legal strategy for defeating the president’s central health-policy initiative.
“The lawsuit filed Wednesday says the rule compelling the hospitals to publish their negotiated rates with insurers violates the First Amendment and goes beyond the statutory intent of the Affordable Care Act.” WSJ
HOT ON THE RIGHT — “New Georgia senator about to step into GOP firestorm,” by James Arkin and Alex Isenstadt: “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s months-long process to select a replacement for outgoing Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) has torn a rift in the Republican Party. By dragging the appointment on throughout the fall, Kemp has invited vocal opposition from skeptical conservatives who question the credentials of a choice allies hoped would expand the party’s base of support in a key battleground state. …
“Kemp on Wednesday announced Kelly Loeffler, a wealthy finance executive who will be just the second woman to serve the state in the Senate, as Isakson’s replacement … Loeffler faces the challenging task of proving herself as a sufficiently conservative ally of President Donald Trump — a distraction for a candidate Republicans hope can win back some of the suburban voters who have fled the GOP in the Trump era. Instead, Loeffler and Kemp are confronting vocal criticism from anti-abortion leaders, conservative media figures and other Trump allies who wanted an attack dog for the president in the seat.” POLITICO
— YOWZA! … “Loeffler will cut huge check for Georgia special election,” by Alex Isenstadt: “Soon-to-be Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler plans to spend $20 million of her own money on her 2020 Senate campaign in Georgia — a massive sum that could give potential rivals pause about trying to unseat her.
“Loeffler, a wealthy financial executive and co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team, was tapped Wednesday morning to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is resigning later this month due to health problems, on an interim basis. She has told advisers in recent days of her intentions to tap her vast fortune to win next year’s special election to complete Isakson’s term, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision. Loeffler will not solely rely on self-financing, however. Those close to her say she also intends to raise money from donors.” POLITICO
ASIA UPDATES …
— NORTH KOREA: “Kim Jong Un is back on his white horse, as North Korea flags a big decision,” by WaPo’s Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim in Tokyo: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is back on his white horse, inspecting ‘revolutionary battle sites’ in knee-high virgin snow on a sacred mountain, state media announced Wednesday, as Pyongyang foreshadowed a major policy decision later this month. The images of Kim on horseback, returning to Mount Paektu after a similar visit in October, were high on symbolism. But it was a second, more dryly worded announcement on Wednesday that was at least as significant. …
“Put simply, after giving the United States until the end of the year to change its approach to denuclearization talks and warning that North Korea would follow a ‘new path,’ Kim appears to have made his decision on what that path should be, experts said.” WaPo
— CHINA: “China and U.S. clash over Xinjiang, Hong Kong bills,” by AP’s Yanan Wang and Dake Kang in Beijing: “Already strained relations between China and the United States were further muddied after U.S. Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill targeting Beijing’s mass crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities Wednesday, less than one week after President Donald Trump signed separate human rights legislation on Hong Kong. …
“The bill ‘disregards the facts and mixes up black and white,’ said the Foreign Affairs Commission of China’s legislature in one among a slew of strongly worded rebukes from government departments.” AP
2020 WATCH — VOTEVETS endorsed Pete Buttigieg today, marking the first time the organization has issued a presidential endorsement. More
THE POLICY PRIMARY — “Biden to Target Tax-Avoiding Companies Like Amazon With Minimum Federal Levy,” by Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein: “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden plans to pay for $3.2 trillion in policy proposals with new and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, including a measure targeting companies like Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc. that have reported paying no federal income taxes in recent years. The so-called minimum book tax, which his team estimates would raise $400 billion over a decade, would be coupled with increases in the top individual and corporate rates …
“The plan also details his call to end loopholes worth hundreds of billions of dollars and other breaks … The document also outlines Biden’s plan to double the global intangible low tax income rate, known as Gilti, and capping the value of breaks for wealthy taxpayers. He also calls for $200 billion in sanctions on countries that ‘facilitate illegal corporate tax avoidance.’ With the proposal, Biden’s campaign is seeking to show a full list of taxes and other revenue-raising proposals that would pay for all of his spending plans.” Bloomberg
THE BLOOMBERG 50 — Bloomberg Businessweek is out with its list of “the people who defined 2019.” Notable politics and media names: Stephanie Kelton … Jacinda Ardern … Shari Redstone … Greta Thunberg … Jon Stewart … Jeff Zucker … Alex Blumberg and Matt Lieber … Ekrem İmamoğlu … Sabine Weyand … Stacey Abrams … Gita Gopinath … Hong Kong protesters … Mette Frederiksen. Bloomberg
MEDIAWATCH — SPOTLIGHT ON WASHINGTON LIFE: “Trump Is Oddly Obsessed With This D.C. Society Magazine: ‘I’ve Seen Every One of Them,’” by The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng
— “The Newseum Is Shutting Down. What Happens to its Artifacts?” by Washingtonian’s Luke Mullins: “It depends. The museum’s primary financial backer, the Freedom Forum, will continue to own all the items that have been donated outright to its permanent collection. Those will go into storage at a facility outside Washington. The Freedom Forum plans to loan them to other institutions when appropriate, and it hasn’t ruled out creating a new version of the Newseum in a different location at some point.
“But many of the artifacts had been loaned by their owners, and those are all head-ed back where they came from, according to the museum. That’s disappointing news for some of the media figures to whom they belong.” Washingtonian
— A THIEF IN THE WHITE HOUSE? … WASHINGTONIAN’S BEN WOFFORD: “It’s a Hardy Boys mystery for the MAGA age: A thief seems to be operating in one of the most secure buildings in the world—the White House. A rash of personal items have disappeared from designated press areas, where some reporters maintain desks, and the incidents are being treated as suspected thefts, according to senior members of the White House press corps. The White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) has reported the situation to the General Services Administration, which oversees the workspace.” Washingtonian
— Jane Bradley has joined the NYT as a reporter in London. She previously was at the BBC and BuzzFeed. Announcement
THE QUINCY INSTITUTE FOR RESPONSIBLE STATECRAFT, the anti-interventionist new think tank founded by Charles Koch and George Soros, has rolled out its roster of experts. The list is pretty heavy on skeptics of U.S. military action, from liberal professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt to CIA veteran Paul Pillar.
SPOTTED: Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) at Kraken Axes on Tuesday night. Pic … Joe Donnelly at Medium Rare on Capitol Hill on Tuesday night.
HOLIDAY PARTY CIRCUIT — SPOTTED at a holiday reception for ENGAGE, a bipartisan women’s group, hosted by Rachel Pearson on Tuesday afternoon at the General Dynamics office: featured speakers Robin Givhan, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.); Betsy Fischer Martin, Nancy LeaMond, Heather Podesta, Kristi Rogers, Gloria Dittus, Holly Page, Tammy Haddad, Betsy Schmid, Christine Burgeson, Linda Tarplin and Adrienne Elrod.
TRANSITIONS — Josh Ginsberg is now VP of public affairs marketing at Facebook. He previously was CEO and co-founder of Zignal Labs and is a Bush and Romney alum. Zignal Labs co-founder and president Adam Beaugh will become CEO, and Ginsberg will serve as a strategic adviser. PR Week
ENGAGED — Matt Kilfoyle, VP at Fidelity Investments, proposed to Laura Howard, VP of development at Sentinel Strategic Advisors and a Paul Ryan and AEI alum, on Tuesday, her 30th birthday, in London’s Hyde Park. The two met on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012. Pic
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Adam Piper, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association, and Meredith Custer Piper welcomed Charlotte Catherine Piper on Sunday. She joins big sister Paige and came in at 6 lbs, 2 oz and 19.75 inches. Pic