Charges on a fast track
A Republican talking point during the unfolding impeachment drama is that Democrats are driven by hostility toward Donald Trump, not the evidence against the president in the Ukraine scandal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is having none of that.
As she wrapped up a news conference Thursday about the next steps toward a full House vote and left the podium, James Rosen, a reporter from the pro-Trump Sinclair Broadcast Group, called out: “Do you hate the president, Madame Speaker?” Pelosi stopped, pointed a finger at Rosen and said in a hoarse voice: “I don’t hate anybody.”
Pelosi returned to the dais. As Newsday's Tom Brune reports, she allowed that she judges Trump a “coward” on addressing gun violence, “cruel” toward undocumented Dreamer children and in "denial” about climate change, but those were issues for the election. Impeachment, she said, is "about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that leads to the president's violation of his oath of office.”
She wasn't done with the Sinclair reporter. "As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is … a heart full of love and always pray for the president,” she said. Before walking off again, Pelosi said, “So don't mess with me when it comes to words like that.” See it on video.
Earlier, Pelosi said testimony and evidence gathered in the past two months show “uncontested” facts that Trump betrayed his oath of office by using his power for his own political gain as the 2020 presidential election year nears. “The President leaves us no choice but to act, because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit,” she said.
Shortly after her remarks, Brune reports, the House Judiciary Committee sent out notices for a hearing Monday to allow Democratic and Republican lawyers for the Judiciary and Intelligence committees to present evidence formally for and against impeachment charges.
Democratic lawmakers are racing toward a full House vote to impeach Trump, possibly before Christmas. Trump said a quick timetable is fine with him. Branding impeachment a “big fat hoax,” he tweeted that Democrats should “do it now, fast, so we can get a fair trial in the Senate.” For more from the White House, see Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Janison: Up for the count
So far the White House seems to be offering a no-defense defense, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Why is Trump so ready to rumble with his hurry-up taunt to House Democrats moving toward impeachment?
For Wednesday's legal showdown before the House Judiciary Committee, Trump didn't even send his own attorneys to put up a fight. He is confident that the "fair trial in the Senate" he wants really means a forum rigged in his favor — one that will void the House proceedings tilted against him.
Unless Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues suddenly decide it's best for their party that Vice President Mike Pence become president before 2020, the outcome is fixed.
Rudy back in the hunt
Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was in Ukraine on Thursday, reviving the effort to build a case against Joe Biden that led to the impeachment inquiry.
Giuliani in Kyiv met with Andrii Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s parliament who has promoted unsubstantiated claims against the Bidens, The Associated Press reported. Derkach was formerly a member of a pro-Russian party.
An official in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said Zelensky was caught off guard by Giuliani’s arrival and “no official meetings” planned with him. Zelensky refused to meet with Giuliani in May, BuzzFeed reported.
A U.S. diplomat said there very likely would not be a meeting between Giuliani and Bill Taylor, who replaced former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and has provided key testimony in the impeachment inquiry, or with anyone else at the embassy, according to BuzzFeed.
Joe and the Volcano
Not that he's been around THAT long, but Biden went medieval Thursday on a retired farmer in Iowa who called him "too old" to run for the White House and questioned his son Hunter's business dealing in Ukraine.
The voter at a town hall event said the former vice president had "sent" Hunter to Ukraine and said accusingly: "You're selling access to the president just like" Trump. Biden erupted: "You're a damn liar, man. That's not true and no one has ever said that. No one has proved that."
When the voter, who wouldn't give his name but said he was 83, spoke of the 77-year-old Biden's age. Biden responded with put-downs. He suggested the ex-farmer looked "sedentary" and barked: "Let’s do push-ups together here, man. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test.”
When a reporter suggested to Biden afterward that he had lost his temper, Biden said, “I didn’t lose my temper. You want to see my temper, keep going.” As for the voter, he said he preferred other Democrats, especially Elizabeth Warren, 70. But he also hates Trump and if Biden became the nominee, he'd vote for him. Watch a video from the exchange.
Windsurfer in his sails
Biden on Thursday won the endorsement of John Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential candidate and a secretary of state during the Obama administration.
“I’ve never before seen the world more in need of someone who on Day One can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart,” Kerry wrote. The former Massachusetts senator went with Biden over a current one, Warren, and a former Bay State governor, Deval Patrick.
Hats off for Trump, or else
Undocumented workers at Trump properties — including some who once toiled as personal servants to Trump and family — spoke to The Washington Post about why his hostile rhetoric toward immigrants led them to speak out. They also dished a few unflattering stories about him, including a humiliation of his father-in-law.
Sandra Diaz and Victoria Morales recalled that Melania Trump's dad, Viktor Knavs, would wear Donald Trump's castoff clothing because he's the same size. One day in 2013, Knavs went out to play golf wearing one of Trump’s discarded red baseball caps. (These were pre-MAGA hat days.)
When Trump spotted him on the fairway, he blew up, and he ordered his father-in-law, in front of other golfers, to remove the hat and get off the course. “Nobody could wear the red hat but [Trump],” Diaz said. Knavs returned to villa, threw the hat on the ground and cursed Trump, the women said.
Trump also was specific about the amount of Tic Tacs he wanted in his bedroom bureau and a supply of face makeup imported from Switzerland called Bronx Colors, which left troublesome rust-colored stains on his collars.
Morales also recalled an act of apparent kindness. At 4-foot-11, while cleaning the windows at the Bedminster, New Jersey, pro shop, she couldn't reach the top even when she jumped. She sensed someone behind her. It was Trump. “He took the rag,” she said. “And he started to clean.”
What else is happening:
- Biden's campaign jumped on the video that caught NATO leaders apparently laughing about Trump, and he launched an ad themed, "The world is laughing at President Trump." It includes other clips such as the UN General Assembly laughing at a Trump boast. The ad had nearly 9 million views on Twitter as of Thursday afternoon.
- Bernie Sanders has moved past Warren into first place in a Los Angeles Times-commissioned poll of likely California Democratic primary voters. Dropping in support were Warren, Biden and home-state Sen. Kamala Harris, who quit the race Tuesday. California's primary on Super Tuesday, March 3, carries the biggest delegate prize.
- Michael Bloomberg unveiled a gun control plan in Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman killed 12 people in a movie theater in 2012. It calls for background checks on all gun buyers, force every gun buyer to obtain a permit before a purchase and reinstating a ban on assault weapons.
- The prosecutor picked by Attorney General William Barr to look at the origins of the Russia investigation told the Justice Department’s inspector general he couldn't support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, The Washington Post reported.
- Trump hosted UN Security Council diplomats Thursday. After China's ambassador noted lightly that the White House has a "China Room" (named for its porcelain collection, not the country), Russia's envoy remarked: "We didn't see the Russia room." Trump responded: "Oh, well, we'll have to take care of it."
- North Korea threatened Thursday to resume insulting Trump as a “dotard” — it means someone going senile — after Trump on Tuesday revived his "Rocket Man" nickname for Kim Jong Un.