Trump's solid wall
Donald Trump's favorite Republicans are House Republicans, and they stood by him Thursday. Not one defected as the Democratic majority voted through procedures for the next steps in the impeachment inquiry and signaled the growing likelihood that they will draft articles of impeachment.
By doing so, the GOP gave itself a talking point. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said in March that impeachment wouldn't go forward "unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan." That was before the Ukraine scandal emerged and eclipsed allegations that Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation.
"The speaker should follow her own words on that bipartisan vote on that floor and end the sham," said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. But Democrats decided it was a clearer case about presidential abuse of power, and polls have shown more of the public agrees, though opinion on removing Trump remains split at or near the middle.
Thursday's vote was 232 to 196, with two Democrats breaking ranks. Trump responded to the historic Halloween Day action by tweeting: “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”
Democrats said they had created a fair arrangement that provides due process for the president and a role for Republicans in the proceedings. They insisted that they had not reached a determination on whether they would impeach Trump.
“These actions, this process, these open hearings, seeking the truth and making it available to the American people, will inform Congress on the very difficult decisions we will have to make in the future as to whether to impeach the president,” said Pelosi.
The resolution called for the inquiry led by the Intelligence Committee to provide a report containing its findings and underlying evidence to the Judiciary Committee, which will hold its own hearings to determine whether to draft articles of impeachment. For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.
Quid pro quo — so?
A former top White House official confirmed Thursday that military aid to Ukraine was held up by Trump’s demand for the ally to investigate Democrats and Joe Biden.
But Tim Morrison, who stepped down from the National Security Council the day before testifying, offered a not-that-there's-anything-wrong-with-that caveat.
Morrison testified he saw nothing illegal about the quid pro quo at the center of the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry. He just got a "sinking feeling" when he learned of Trump's demands because he didn't think it looked good.
He said he asked NSC lawyers to review the call because he had three concerns if word of the discussion leaked: how it would play out in polarized Washington, how it would affect bipartisan support in Congress for Ukraine and how it would impact U.S.-Ukraine relations.
Janison: Tread marks on Giuliani
The impeachment committee witnesses, even those friendliest to Trump, have been taking turns driving the bus over Rudy Giuliani.
Newsday's Dan Janison notes the testimony of John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state and nominee for ambassador to Russia, who said couldn't give Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch a good reason why she was being removed as the envoy in Ukraine after Giuliani railed against her.
"I can't offer a judgment that what he did was kosher or correct … because I'm not sure exactly what he [Giuliani] was up to in toto with respect to Ukraine," Sullivan said. Giuliani fumed on Twitter that Sullivan "doesn't know what he's talking about and shouldn't be incorrectly speculating."
CNN reports Giuliani is looking for a defense attorney as the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan reportedly investigates his finances. The prosecutors are proceeding cautiously, remaining aware of the upcoming election and the difficulty of acting on foreign lobbying violations, the report said.
Bolton on a long hold
Impeachment inquiry witnesses have depicted former National Security Adviser John Bolton as one of the strongest voices inside the White House objecting to Giuliani's rogue diplomacy.
The committees invited Bolton to testify next week, but he won't come voluntarily, and it's uncertain if he'll appear before the end of the year, if ever.
Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper, told a federal judge he may couple Bolton's case with that of another client, former Bolton deputy Charles Kupperman, who wants the court to resolve whether he can be forced to testify by a House subpoena. The judge, Richard Leon, has said he's aiming to rule by late December.
With House Democrats trying to keep their proceedings on a fast track, they may at some point have to decide if waiting for Bolton is worth it.
"Nothing matters" has become a standard cynical sum-up of the Trump era. When it comes to Trump's poll ratings, consistently around 40%, it's been apparent for some time that nothing matters much.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll found a majority of Americans say Trump deserves credit for the special forces raid that ended in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But only 44% see him as a strong leader — 54% don't. Also, 54% think Trump’s policies have made the United States less respected around the world.
In responses to an AP-NORC poll taken mostly before the raid and focused on the impeachment inquiry, 61% said Trump has little to no respect for America's democratic institutions and traditions, while 38% said he has at least some respect.
Overall, 42% of Americans approved of Trump's handling of the job, in line with where he has been throughout his tenure
E.T., phone Don Jr.
Donald Trump Jr., on a tour promoting a book skewering "leftist elites," fielded some off-center questions on Sirius XM Radio's Jim Norton & Sam Roberts show. Such as: Do you think the U.S. government is covering up the existence of Extra-Terrestrial life?
"It's the question I've wanted to ask my father for a very long time," he replied. "I’m almost too embarrassed to ask it. If you get one question, it’s probably the question, but I’m sort of embarrassed admitting that.”
The president's son was unembarrassed to make this comment to Fox News host Sean Hannity while echoing his dad's attacks on the Bidens: "I wish my name was Hunter Biden … I could go abroad, make millions off of my father's presidency. I would be a really rich guy."
What else is happening:
- At a private fundraiser, Politico reports, Trump reflected on the shooting of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise in 2017 and remarked how Scalise’s wife “cried her eyes out when I met her at the hospital that fateful day." He then added: "I mean not many wives would react that way to tragedy, I know mine wouldn't.”
- Three New York State House Democrats from swing districts that supported Trump in 2016 stuck with their party on the impeachment vote. They are Max Rose of Staten Island, Rep. Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck and Anthony Brindisi of Utica.
- Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, changed his primary residence last month from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Fla., The New York Times reported, citing documents filed with the Palm Beach County Circuit Court. So did Melania Trump. A person close to the president told the Times the primary reason was tax purposes.
- Trump's latest advice for handling harsh press coverage is a stiff upper lip. He didn't mean for himself — he was talking about the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, on British Brexit advocate Nigel Farage's radio show. "She’s taking it very personally … I guess you have to be a little bit different than that," Trump said.
- Trump tweeted that Conan, the canine hero of the raid on al-Baghdadi, "will be leaving the Middle East for the White House sometime next week!” What's in store for the dog isn't clear.
- Emails obtained by the University of Florida student newspaper show a Trump campaign official helped arrange a $50,000 paid speech on campus by Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. The campaign aide Caroline Wren, said she was acting personally and "mistakenly forgot to remove my Trump Victory signature” from the emails.