ROUND 1 IS OVER … THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE on Thursday wrapped its public sprint through 12 witnesses in a week and change. OUR ASSESSMENT — as we voiced Tuesday — remains that this has not moved a single vote in the House of Representatives.
IN FACT, Republicans believe a few DEMOCRATS will vote with them against impeachment — although that might be wishful thinking. (We don’t know yet when an impeachment vote will happen, but we believe sometime between Dec. 9 and Dec. 22. For those following along closely, buy trip insurance, drive or spend Christmas in D.C. It’s nice. Trust us.)
BUT HERE ARE THE LAWMAKERS who have emerged from the Intelligence round with a newfound or increased profile.
— REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-N.Y.): You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed that Stefanik emerged as a chief defender of the president during the last few weeks. The 35-year-old Stefanik flipped a Democratic-held seat in 2014, but that district voted for DONALD TRUMP by 14 points in 2016, and Stefanik beat her Democratic opponent by the same margin in 2018, which was the best year for Democrats in a decade.
A FEW OF HER COLLEAGUES told us that it was a bit head-snapping to see her standing alongside Reps. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) and MARK MEADOWS (R-N.C.) at the post-hearing news conference. Take note: STEFANIK started working anecdotes about her district into her questions and committee speeches. She’s certainly become a target for Democrats through this process. But between her E PAC — a committee aimed at boosting female Republicans in primaries — and this, STEFANIK is already emerging as someone who will definitely be in the conversation for a big leadership slot in Congress — perhaps sooner than many think.
— REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OHIO): Turner — known as Mayor Mike from his days leading Dayton — was first elected in 2002, and until now, he’s been a nose-to-the-grindstone foreign policy and armed services man. The last time he popped his head up for something big was 2014, when he tried to win the House Oversight gavel, but was beaten by Jason Chaffetz, who abandoned that chairmanship for Fox News a few years later. TURNER had experience with impeachment. In 2008, he voted to impeach George W. Bush for the Iraq War.
THERE WAS SOME HOPE AMONG DEMOCRATS that Turner would flip against Trump. He expressed concern about the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a hearing in September — he called it “not OK.” But by the time the open hearings kicked off, he was all in. He forcefully took up the mantle of trying to show that GORDON SONDLAND was using his imagination to discern whether TRUMP wanted to hold up aid in exchange for a meeting. And on Thursday, at least one colleague accused him of “mansplaining” FIONA HILL during the appointed question-and-answer session.
— REP. JIM HIMES (D-CONN.): Himes, a Goldman Sachs banker turned congressman, is in his sixth term in Congress. Quite frankly, people have been waiting for a breakout moment or role for years. He probably found it this week. Himes is No. 2 to ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.), the chairman, and therefore was at the front end of every hearing, which means he got the prime questioning slot. Just this week, he grabbed headlines by getting Lt. Col. ALEXANDER VINDMAN to answer whether he was a “Never Trumper” — “I’d call myself a ‘Never Partisan,’” Vindman said. He raised the point that Republicans were accusing Vindman of dual loyalty. And on Thursday, he set HILL up to address some of the GOP criticism of the Ukrainians vis-a-vis 2016.
— REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-N.Y.): Maloney has been hanging around the top rung of the House Democratic Caucus for some time. He wrote the DCCC “autopsy” after the 2016 election and dropped out of the election for its chairmanship in 2018 after coming down with a bacterial infection. But this week, he had two notable exchanges that stuck with many on the Hill.
He tangled with SONDLAND about just who would benefit from an investigation into the Bidens, getting him to acknowledge the answer was Trump. When Maloney ribbed him a bit, Sondland said he resented the criticism because he had been forthright. “This is your third try to do so, sir. Didn’t work so well the first time, did it?” Maloney shot back. “We appreciate your candor, but let’s be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.”
MALONEY was the one who called Turner’s questions “epic mansplaining,” said it was inappropriate but added, “I appreciate your forbearance.”
THE OBVIOUS ONES … SCHIFF, of course, ran tight hearings — too tight for Republicans at times — and ended each day with closings that will be clipped time and time again. Schiff would be in the mix for an open Senate seat, if that came up, and could easily be in the mix for a top, top leadership slot in the House, if that’s the path he chooses. And JORDAN — House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY’S late addition to the panel — played his role: He loudly defended the president, and muddied the waters with his “ah ha” demeanor, even if it wasn’t clear at times what he was ah ha-ing.
BIG PICTURE … KYLE CHENEY and ANDREW DESIDERIO: “Impeachment surprises boost Dems, but Republican resistance holds”: “Throughout their rapidly unfolding impeachment inquiry, Democrats feared they would lose control of the moment.
“So they carefully choreographed two weeks of public hearings to avoid a derailment. And as the lights went out in the cavernous hearing room Thursday, it was clear that the few unplanned events — new testimony, recently discovered documents and a real-time Twitter broadside from President Donald Trump — were poised to have the greatest impact.” POLITICO
NYT, A1 … PETER BAKER: “The Impeachment Witnesses Not Heard”: “[A]s the committee wrapped up its public hearings on Thursday, House Democrats have opted for expeditious over comprehensive, electing to complete their investigation even without filling in major gaps in the story. It is a calculated gamble that they have enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump on a party-line vote in the House and would risk losing momentum if they took the time to wage a court fight to compel reluctant witnesses to come forward.” NYT
AP’S JULIE PACE: “Analysis: Mountain of impeachment evidence beyond dispute”
WHAT’S NEXT … JOHN BRESNAHAN, HEATHER CAYGLE and KYLE CHENEY: “Questions over next steps as Judiciary moves into impeachment spotlight”: “The Judiciary Committee will draft and vote on articles of impeachment and send those to the full House for debate, that much is clear. But how the Judiciary panel completes the already unorthodox impeachment process is still up in the air. Though lawmakers and aides expect the 1998 proceedings against former President Bill Clinton to be the model for the Trump case, they’re quick to emphasize they haven’t been told how the endgame will play out.
“In fact, Judiciary Committee members have received little guidance from party leaders on how the panel will conduct the proceedings or the timeframe for completing them, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides. They know that the Intelligence Committee will send a report to Judiciary, but beyond that, they don’t know the number of hearings, format, or the timeline for finishing up work.” POLITICO
THE SIDESHOW … “Selfies, live-tweeting and texts from mom: Lawmakers become impeachment spectators,” by Melanie Zanona and Sarah Ferris
L.A. TIMES: “House attorneys say Trump’s tax returns are needed for impeachment inquiry,” by David Savage: “Lawyers for the House, citing the ‘rapidly advancing impeachment inquiry,’ urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to reject President Trump’s bid to shield his tax returns and financial records from congressional investigators.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT … SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) seems to be prepping for a BIDEN/BURISMA investigation. He asked State for many documents detailing JOE BIDEN’S involvement with people related to Burisma. The letter … Ben Schreckinger’s story
SCOOP … MARIANNE LEVINE, BURGESS EVERETT and MERIDITH MCGRAW: “White House backs full Senate trial if House impeaches Trump”: “Top White House officials and Senate Republicans on Thursday agreed that a full trial should be conducted if the House impeaches President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. …
“Two attendees said that the White House wants the Senate to hold a trial of some length and not immediately dismiss any articles of impeachment with the GOP’s majority, as some Republicans have suggested. The White House and Trump’s GOP allies decided instead ‘they want some kind of factual affirmative defense on the merits,’ said one attendee.” POLITICO
Good Friday morning. THE PRESIDENT signed the stopgap government funding bill, which keeps coffers filled until Dec. 20.
CONGRESS is now out of session until after Thanksgiving — the week of Dec. 2, to be exact.
THE START OF A NEW INVESTIGATION? … “Justice Dept. inspector general draft report finds FBI lawyer altered document,” by WaPo’s Devlin Barrett, Ellen Nakashima and Matt Zapotosky: “The Justice Department inspector general has found evidence that an FBI employee may have altered a document connected to court-approved surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, but has concluded that the conduct did not affect the overall validity of the surveillance application, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
“The person under scrutiny has not been identified but is a low-level FBI lawyer who has since been forced out of the FBI, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss material that has not yet been made public.
“The allegation is contained in a draft of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report analyzing the FBI’s Russia investigation, which witnesses have in recent weeks been allowed to review, people familiar with the matter said. The report is scheduled to be released publicly Dec. 9.” WaPo
2020 WATCH … COURTING BLACK VOTERS EDITION …
— LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ and ALEX THOMPSON in Atlanta: “Warren challenges Biden in bid for black women”: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a full-throated pitch to black women in a much-hyped speech here on Thursday night as she tries to tear into former Vice President Joe Biden’s durability with black voters.
“‘The fighters I want to talk about tonight are black women,’ Warren said at Clark Atlanta University, a historically black school. ‘When I am president of the United States, the lessons of black history will not be lost. Those lessons will live in every part of my presidency — and I will ask you to hold me accountable for that promise every single day.’
“Warren cast her own campaign as learning from past worker battles led by black women, from washerwomen in 1881 to the formation of the National Domestic Workers of America in the 1960s and ’70s. ‘Black women — then and now — are no strangers to facing resistance when they fight for justice, and black women — then and now — don’t give up easy,’ she said.
“Black women, the Democratic Party’s most loyal voting bloc, led every part of the program on Thursday with the exception of Warren herself. Before the senator’s speech, several women spoke and appeared onstage, including Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Angela Peoples of the political group Black Womxn For, which recently endorsed the Massachusetts senator.” POLITICO
— WAPO: “In Atlanta, Democrats make urgent bid to court black voters,” by Chelsea Janes and Sean Sullivan in Atlanta: “[Pete] Buttigieg and [Cory] Booker were just two of the Democratic candidates fanning out across Atlanta and the South on Thursday, following Wednesday’s contentious debate in that city, in an increasingly urgent effort to court black voters. The multiple events highlighted a puzzle central to the Democratic primary: Can anyone chip away at black voters’ support for former vice president Joe Biden — and if not, what does it mean for the Democrats’ chances?”
— BOSTON GLOBE: “Few are giving Deval Patrick a chance, except South Carolina’s voters,” by Laura Krantz in Charleston, S.C.: “Other candidates have not campaigned as much here as they have in Iowa and New Hampshire, and voters seem more undecided. South Carolina’s primary, the fourth nominating contest in the country, isn’t until Feb. 29, affording Patrick extra days to introduce himself to voters here. …
“Patrick is familiar with the state, having campaigned here for Barack Obama in 2008, and two- thirds of Democratic voters in the state are African-American, which provides an opportunity for Massachusetts’ first black governor. South Carolina also does not have the complex caucus system of Iowa and Nevada, and its cheaper media market makes it easier to campaign with less money, something that will matter for Patrick, who launched his bid just last week.
“Still, he faces a steep uphill battle here as he does everywhere. Polls show former vice president Joe Biden ahead by 20 percentage points in South Carolina. And the two other black candidates in the race, Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, have struggled to gain support.” Globe
THE GUARDIAN: “Democratic forum organized by Teamsters and Guardian to focus on workers’ rights,” by The Guardian: “The [Iowa] event on Saturday 7 December, two months before the critical Iowa caucus, will feature candidates Joe Biden, Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders.” Guardian
— “Buttigieg campaign staffers join union,” by Daniel Strauss
NEW … REP. ANDY LEVIN (D-Mich.) and 106 Democrats wrote Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO to express “strong disagreement” with his decision to change U.S. policy when it comes to settlements in Israel. The letter
TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president will participate at 11 a.m. in the NCAA Collegiate National Champions Day at the White House. He will participate in a listening session on youth vaping at 1:45 p.m. in the Cabinet Room. The listening session is closed press.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Parents of late U.S. hostage chasing North Korean assets,” by AP’s Kim Tong-Hyung in Seoul, South Korea: “The parents of a former U.S. hostage who died after being released from North Korea in a coma in 2017 say they are committed to finding and shutting down illicit North Korean business assets around the world in efforts to hold its government accountable for widespread human rights abuses.
“In a news conference in Seoul on Friday, Fred and Cindy Warmbier also called for the Trump administration to raise North Korea’s human rights problems as it engages in negotiations to defuse the country’s nuclear threat.
“‘My mission would be to hold North Korea responsible, to recover and discover their assets around the world,’ said Fred Warmbier, who was invited to a forum hosted by a Seoul-based group representing the families of South Koreans abducted by the North during the 1950-53 Korean War.” AP
WAPO’S JOSH ROGIN, on his way to Canada: “From Hanoi to Halifax, everyone is worried about China”: “[W]hile there’s a consensus in Washington that more must be done to compete with China — especially in Asia — there’s no clear plan. There’s no clarity on how to marshal resources, what trade-offs will be needed and how we will bring others along. In short, there is no strategy.
“This weekend, the Halifax International Security Forum will convene in Canada to kick off a new effort to fill that gap. Trump’s new national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, will be in attendance. Halifax Forum President Peter Van Praagh told me the effort will focus on how democracies can come together to confront a rising authoritarian China.
“‘It is no longer a secret that Xi Jinping’s China wants to make the world safe for authoritarianism,’ he said. ‘We need a comprehensive strategy for the United States and its allies that makes the world safe for democracy.’” WaPo
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Georgia Gov. Kemp Resists Pressure From Trump on Senate Appointment,” by WSJ’s Cameron McWhirter and Lindsay Wise in Atlanta: “Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is resisting pressure from President Trump on who to appoint to an interim U.S. Senate post, according to people familiar with the selection process.
“In recent days, the president has spoken to Mr. Kemp at least twice — once face-to-face in Atlanta and once on the phone—urging him to pick Rep. Doug Collins (R., Ga.), a vocal supporter of the president in Congress, these people said. Mr. Collins, a white conservative from north Georgia, has pushed for months to get the seat that Sen. Johnny Isakson, 74 years old, is leaving at the end of the year because of health problems.
“But the governor is leaning toward appointing a female or minority candidate to improve the GOP’s chances in Atlanta’s burgeoning suburbs, key battlegrounds in the 2020 elections, they said.” WSJ
VALLEY TALK — “Democrats pound Facebook over Zuckerberg’s secret dinner with Trump,” by Cristiano Lima: “The escalating war of words between the company and Democrats like Warren has some in the party worried that Zuckerberg is throwing his lot in with the GOP to escape serious fallout in D.C. And they saw the Trump dinner as evidence that their fears are coming true, a development that could prove ominous given Facebook’s crucial role as a platform for reaching and persuading voters.” POLITICO
MEDIAWATCH — “Shepard Smith, Late of Fox News, Gives $500,000 to a Free Press Group,” by NYT’s Michael Grynbaum: “In his first public remarks since abruptly resigning from Fox News last month, the anchor Shepard Smith called on Thursday for a steadfast defense of independent journalism, while offering a few subtle barbs at President Trump’s treatment of the press.
“And in a surprise announcement, Mr. Smith said he would personally donate $500,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit group that advances press freedoms around the world.
“‘Intimidation and vilification of the press is now a global phenomenon. We don’t have to look far for evidence of that,’ Mr. Smith said at the group’s annual dinner in Midtown Manhattan, an appearance he signed up for before he left Fox News, his television home of 23 years.” NYT
— TOP-ED — JOEL SIMON, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in USA TODAY: “We met with Vice President Pence to talk about press freedom. Here’s why it’s important”: “On Monday, I went to see Vice President Pence with a group of courageous journalists from Pakistan, Nicaragua, Tanzania, India and Brazil. These journalists were in the United States to receive press freedom prizes from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the organization I lead. We are honoring them for putting their lives on the line to bring us the news. …
“The vice president was deeply engaged by these stories and reaffirmed his commitment to press freedom. That’s important, but the reality is that the impeachment inquiry is polarizing, and it’s hard to imagine our political leaders coming together again to defend this critical principle. That’s why the American people should.” USA Today
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
SPOTTED: Eric Bolling and Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on American Airlines 5529 from DCA to Charleston. Bolling and Graham were in coach.
SPOTTED at an event Thursday evening on Capitol Hill supporting No One Left Behind and the Special Immigrant Visa Program, sponsored by Amazon, cBrain and Uber: retired Gen. David Petraeus, Ryan Crocker, Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), Janis Shinwari, Brian Steblay, Major Garrett, Lauren Ehrsam and Jason Gorey, Matt Flynn, Katie Pavlich, Brad Blakeman, Nic Adams, Omar Qudrat, Sarah Millican, Anne Gearan, Ed Cash, Sergio Rodriguera, Lee Morris, John Kirby, George Bamford, Keith Saddler, Bill Shugarts and Richie Sands.
TRANSITION — Emily Davis will be VP of congressional and public affairs at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. She currently is deputy assistant USTR for public and media affairs.
WEEKEND WEDDING — Maria LaMagna, an editor at CNBC Make It and a MarketWatch and Bloomberg alum, and Carlos Morales, a director at Fitch Ratings covering Latin America sovereigns, got married Saturday in Monterrey, Mexico (his hometown). Instapic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. A trend he thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “This may sound wonky, but the steep decade-long decline in productivity, both here and abroad, gets almost no attention. That’s probably because it’s an abstract concept to most people. But productivity growth is key to increasing per-capita incomes and living standards, so there will be very tangible consequences if policymakers don’t start making it more of a priority.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) is 41 … Bettina Inclán-Agen … Scott Wong, senior staff writer for The Hill … Cassie Spodak, CNN digital video politics producer (h/t husband Matt Mowers) … Pat Cunnane … Josh Alcorn … ABC’s Matthew Mosk … Jacob Wood, strategic comms adviser at the Millennium Challenge Corporation … Shefali Razdan Duggal (h/t Jon Haber) … Matt Strawn … Hannah August … Jeff Tiller … Barney Keller, partner at Jamestown Associates, is 35 … Martin Burns … Robert Christie, partner at Brunswick Group … Marshall Schoenthal … Annie Shoup … POLITICO’s Sarah O’Neill, Elizabeth Powell and Abbie Fickes … BBC’s George Alagiah … Jonathan Kubakundimana … Sally Katzen … Craig Gilbert, Washington bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (h/t Teresa Vilmain) …
… Ned Price, director of policy and communications at National Security Action, Georgetown professor and NBC contributor (h/ts Richard Hudock and Ben Chang) … Andy Stern is 69 … Missy DeCamp … Michael Szanto … Meghan Dugan, deputy press secretary for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) (h/ts John Twomey, Gary Beck and Caitlin Oakley) … Josh Goldstein … IBM’s Sammy Jordan … Tim R. Cohen … Yarden Golan, COS of the Israeli Embassy … TheSkimm’s Jessica Turtletaub … Welles Orr … Natasha Lennard … Meena Ganesan … James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, is 36 … Alexa Lucas … Lauren Reamy, legislative director for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) … Brian Francis Kelley … Harry Siegel, senior editor at The Daily Beast … Ryan Fitzgerald … Tim Cameron of FlexPoint Media … Donny Deutsch is 62