WRAPPING YOUR MIND AROUND TODAY … JOSEPH MAGUIRE, the acting DNI who is denying a Washington Post story saying he threatened to quit, will testify in front of the HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE at 9 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn.
THE TITLE OF THE HEARING: Whistleblower Disclosure. Nearly the entire committee will have read the whistleblower report by the hearing, and will be well versed in its contents.
WE SPOKE WITH DEMOCRATS FAMILIAR with the game plan, and here’s the deal:
THIS IS NOT AN IMPEACHMENT HEARING, but rather an oversight hearing of the intelligence community. But obviously, the material here is highly relevant to impeachment. The Democrats’ goal is to understand what the White House and DOJ did to block Congress from getting the whistleblower’s complaint and IG report, and why. Was there a cover-up? Who ordered what, when, why and through what channels? The committee will also be pushing for the DNI to make more information about the complaint public — although there’s skepticism they’ll be able to do that.
NEW: THE ADVISERS … WHO HAS THE LEADERSHIP AND COMMITTEE’S EAR? The Democratic leadership and committee staff are relying on significant outside counsel as they try to keep the impeachment and oversight process on the tracks.
PHIL SCHILIRO, who ran leg affairs for President BARACK OBAMA and was a top Oversight staffer for Rep. HENRY WAXMAN (D-Calif.), is informally advising the Democratic leadership and key committees about the oversight process. He recently started Co-Equal, an organization dedicated to legislating. (The organization has compiled Oversight Committee precedent. So if someone says “No staff member has ever been able to question a witness!” Co-Equal can tell you when it’s happened.) Also advising the Democrats: FRED WERTHEIMER and LAURENCE TRIBE.
— ABOUT THE COUNTS: Every news organization with a major Washington presence — including POLITICO — has kept helpful counts of who is supporting impeachment. The counts have differed, because some people count those who supported an impeachment inquiry, others count people who supported impeachment itself. Several outlets alerted the number 218 last night.
THESE COUNTS don’t matter much in the Democratic leadership — very few people are paying attention to them at this point. LET US EXPLAIN: The House is already in the middle of an impeachment inquiry, so asking whether someone supports that is not exactly the most relevant question. Asking someone if they would vote for impeachment is also not really operative, since we don’t know what the impeachment articles will look like yet. A vote for what?
What you need to know is that the counts are going up. And, frankly, they might be most helpful in determining who is still skittish about impeachment. So don’t worry about the overall number just yet.
BIDEN SPEAKS, via a pool report from NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor in Bel Air, Calif.: “Biden stressed once again that there is no proof to the president’s allegations that he and his son Hunter Biden had conflicts of interest while he served as vice president.
“‘This is not about me and it really isn’t because not a single publication said anything he has ever said about me or my son is true. Everyone has gone and researched it and said it’s not true,’ he said.
“Biden suggested that Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate him and his son because ‘70-something polls show that I’ll kick his … toes.’”
Good Thursday morning. JOIN US … QUITE THE MOMENT FOR THIS ONE! JAKE and ANNA will be in Austin this weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival for a Playbook Exchange. We’ll be talking with House Freedom Caucus Founding Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. The full POLITICO lineup
THE POLITICO TICK TOCK … “Nancy Pelosi’s long road to impeachment,” by Heather Caygle, John Bresnahan, Sarah Ferris, Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi dialed her long-time deputy, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, on Monday afternoon to let him know she’d come to a momentous decision: she was going to endorse an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
“Pelosi was in New York City for a private dinner with members of the Acela Corridor elite — Fortune 500 executives, politicians and high-profile journalists — to kick off the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting. Hoyer was sitting in a rental car in South Carolina, after attending the funeral of Emily Clyburn, the late wife of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, earlier in the day. …
“While on a plane back to Washington that night, Pelosi scrolled through a Washington Post op-ed that had published minutes earlier from seven vulnerable Democratic freshmen — and long-time impeachment holdouts — backing proceedings to remove Trump from office. … In fact, Pelosi had spoken to the group on a conference call on Monday night, offering guidance before their op-ed went live.
“She then started jotting down notes, the first draft of her own speech endorsing an inquiry — words that would not only formalize the House investigation but potentially change the course of the nation and define her storied career. But there was a hiccup: ‘I put down some notes on the plane at 10 p.m. at night but then I left it on the plane,’ Pelosi said. …
“It was May 22 … That was when Rep. Cheri Bustos, an Illinois moderate who chairs the House Democrats’ campaign arm, made a pronouncement that stunned the room. ‘We just need to let all this Mueller stuff go,’ Bustos said, according to three sources who attended the meeting.” POLITICO
— WAPO TICK TOCK … “Seven days: Inside Trump’s frenetic response to the whistleblower complaint and the battle over impeachment,” by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Phil Rucker: “The helter-skelter way the administration handled the aftermath of the whistleblower complaint could be a harbinger of the coming impeachment fight, with the White House scrambling to respond to a mercurial and frustrated president, who is increasingly sidelining his aides and making decisions based on gut instinct.
“Even some allies of the president worry that his team may not fully understand the potential upheaval that an impeachment fight could wreak on Trump and his administration, especially as he heads into the 2020 election.” WaPo
WHAT MITCH MCCONNELL’S THINKING: “‘Ice in his veins’: McConnell steers GOP through Trump’s Ukraine scandal,” by Burgess Everett: “In the face of an earthshaking political storm, Mitch McConnell seems unmoved. The Senate majority leader has kept a sphynx-like pose during all manner of President Donald Trump controversies. But with an impeachment cloud settling over Washington, McConnell is revealing even less than usual.
“The GOP leader is saying very little to his members about either his mood or his own view of a political threat that could imperil not just Trump but his Senate majority, according to interviews with nearly a dozen senators. But on Wednesday evening McConnell dismissed criticism of the readout of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president and said it is “laughable to think this is anywhere close to an impeachable offense.”
“I’ve read the summary of the call. If this is the ‘launching point’ for House Democrats’ impeachment process, they’ve already overplayed their hand. It’s clear there is no quid pro quo that the Democrats were desperately praying for,’ McConnell said in a statement for this story.” POLITICO
IMPEACHMENT CLIP PACKET …
— NYT: “Whistle-Blower Is Said to Allege Concerns About White House Handling of Ukraine Call,” by Charlie Savage, Mike Schmidt and Julian Barnes: “The intelligence officer who filed a whistle-blower complaint about President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine raised alarms not only about what the two men said in a phone call, but also about how the White House handled records of the conversation, according to two people briefed on the complaint.
“The whistle-blower, moreover, identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who could corroborate the complaint, the people said — adding that the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, interviewed witnesses.
“Mr. Atkinson eventually concluded that there was reason to believe that the president might have illegally solicited a foreign campaign contribution — and that his potential misconduct created a national security risk, according to a newly disclosed Justice Department memo.” NYT
— THE APRIL PHONE CALL … NYT: “When Ukraine elected its new leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, on April 21, Mr. Trump seized on the moment as an opportunity to press his case. Within hours of Mr. Zelensky’s victory, Mr. Trump placed a congratulatory call as he was en route from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to Washington.
“He urged Mr. Zelensky to coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and to pursue investigations of ‘corruption,’ according to people familiar with the call, the details of which have not previously been reported.” NYT
— WAPO: “Justice Dept. rejected investigation of Trump phone call just weeks after it began examining the matter,” by Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett: “Justice Department officials took less than a month to abandon an inquiry into President Trump’s communications with his Ukrainian counterpart about investigating former vice president Joe Biden — reigniting concerns among Democrats and legal observers that the law enforcement agency is serving as a shield for the commander in chief.
“Just weeks after intelligence leaders asked the Justice Department and FBI to consider examining a summer phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the head of the department’s criminal division determined there was not sufficient cause even to launch an investigation, senior Justice Department officials said.
“Department officials and career public integrity prosecutors reviewed a rough transcript of the call and verified its authenticity, but — because a case was not opened — took no other steps, such as conducting interviews, the officials said. They looked only at whether Trump might have violated campaign finance laws, not federal corruption statutes, even though some legal analysts said there seemed to be evidence of both.” WaPo
— CNN: “Whistleblower tentatively agrees to testify, attorneys say, as long as they get appropriate clearances to attend hearing,” by Zachary Cohen, Pamela Brown, Paul LeBlanc and Manu Raju: “The anonymous whistleblower who filed a complaint with the intelligence community inspector general, which includes allegations about President Donald Trump’s conduct, has tentatively agreed to meet with congressional lawmakers, according to correspondence obtained by CNN.
“The meeting could take place on the condition that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire approves appropriate security clearances for the individual’s legal counsel so that they can accompany their client, the correspondence showed. Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter late Wednesday night that the complaint had been declassified but the document was not immediately available publicly.” CNN
NEW … NBC’S JOSH LEDERMAN and KRISTEN WELKER: “After President Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s president to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on a possible corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, the Ukrainians turned to another American to facilitate the introduction: Ambassador Kurt Volker, Trump’s part-time envoy for Ukraine.
“‘Ambassador Volker called me,’ Giuliani told NBC News in an interview Wednesday night. Although Volker has mostly stayed under the radar since taking the job in 2017, his unusual arrangement as Trump’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations is attracting new attention amid revelations of his role in the ongoing Ukraine saga.
“An unpaid volunteer, Volker spends most of his time engaged in outside projects, including his work at a Washington lobbying firm that continued to represent the Government of Ukraine for almost two years after Volker started as special envoy.” NBC
— THE RIGHT … WSJ: “The Ukraine Transcript Fizzle”: “The White House on Wednesday released the transcript of President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the news is that Mr. Trump was telling the truth about it. The conversation was largely routine diplomacy, and even the reference to Joe Biden was less than promoted by the press. Good luck persuading Americans that this is an impeachable offense. …
“The references to the Bidens are in the context of fighting corruption, not as a prerequisite of U.S. aid. Mr. Trump was unwise to mention Mr. Biden, but the tenor of the conversation is congenial. It’s amusing to hear the same critics who call Mr. Trump an oafish thug on a daily basis now say this was all a subtle masterpiece of extortion. When is Mr. Trump ever subtle?
“Democrats are making much of Mr. Trump’s references to Attorney General Barr, which were also imprudent in the Biden context. But the Justice Department says nothing came of it, that Mr. Trump never asked Mr. Barr to make that call, and Mr. Barr has never communicated with Ukraine, or with Mr. Giuliani about Ukraine.” WSJ
— THE LEFT … NYT: “Nancy Pelosi Is Sending a Message: Lots of them, in fact”: “The message for Mr. Trump is the most straightforward: Enough. After months of watching the president ravage democratic norms and taunt lawmakers about their inability to hold him accountable, Congress is making clear that there are lines that cannot be crossed without repercussion.” NYT
TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president will leave Trump Tower at 9:05 a.m. en route to the InterContinental New York Barclay, where he’ll participate in a meet-and-greet with the U.S. Mission to the U.N. He will then head to a breakfast fundraiser at 10:40 a.m. at Cipriani. Afterward, the president will fly back to Washington.
MUCK READ … BEN SCHRECKINGER: “Joe Biden’s brother told executives at a healthcare firm that the former vice president’s cancer initiative would promote their business, according to a participant in the conversation, who said the promise came as part of a pitch on behalf of potential investors in the firm. …
“Biden’s brother, James, made the promise to executives at Florida-based Integrate Oral Care during a phone call on or around November 8, 2018, according to Michael Frey, CEO of Diverse Medical Management, a health-care firm that is suing James Biden. At the time, James Biden’s business partners were pursuing a potential investment in Integrate, according to Frey and court records. Frey, who had a business relationship with James Biden and his associates, had introduced the group to Integrate.
“James Biden told the Integrate executives that he would get the Biden Cancer Initiative to promote an oral rinse made by the firm and used by cancer patients, Frey, who said he participated in the call, told POLITICO. He added that James Biden directly invoked the former vice president on the call. ‘He said his brother would be very excited about this product,’ Frey said. A spokesman for James Biden disputed Frey’s account.” POLITICO
SCOOP — “Trump Turnberry resort singled out in airport’s pitch to U.S. military,” by The Scotsman’s Martyn McLaughlin: “Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort is the only hotel named by Glasgow Prestwick Airport in promotional material distributed at private meetings with US military aircrews in an attempt to win their custom, The Scotsman can reveal.
“The document, prepared by the Scottish Government owned airport and handed out at ‘closed’ meetings with US Armed Forces personnel, emphasises the ‘five star’ status of the US president’s flagship Scottish property, even noting how it has been ‘newly refurbished.’
“Two sources familiar with the gatherings said Prestwick staff also delivered presentations in which they offered to arrange rounds of golf at Turnberry for visiting US Air Force (USAF) crews as part of their layovers.” The Scotsman
BIBI’S BACK, MAYBE … AP/JERUSALEM: “Israel’s Netanyahu begins coalition hunt amid deadlock”: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began Thursday the daunting task of trying to cobble together a coalition government amid political deadlock that emerged from this month’s repeat elections, which had no clear winner.
“He now has up to six weeks to attempt to resolve the political impasse, but his odds appear slim. Even with the support of smaller allies, both Netanyahu and his main challenger, Blue and White party leader and former army chief Benny Gantz, lack the support for the required 61-seat parliamentary majority needed to establish a government. That’s including the support of Netanyahu’s traditional ultra-Orthodox and religious-nationalist allies.” AP
— NOTE: Trump has been uncharacteristically silent about all this, aside from a rather cold Sept. 18 comment that the U.S. relationship is with the state of Israel, rather than any one leader.
WHAT THE PENTAGON IS READING — @SenatorDurbin: “I’m calling on the DoD OIG to investigate the withholding of Ukraine military aid appropriated by Congress, allegedly at the direction of the White House. The delay raises questions about whether DoD officials were involved in any scheme to target a political opponent.” The letter … Wes Morgan on how a rudderless Pentagon bobbled the Ukraine aid freeze
PIC DU JOUR — KCMO’s @PeteMundo: “Stopped by Kris Kobach’s fundraiser tonight in DC hosted by Steve Bannon. Very good crowd. #kssen” Pic of Kobach with Bannon from inside the ‘Breitbart Embassy’
R.I.P. — “Elizabeth Warren campaign volunteer dies in western Iowa traffic accident,” by the Des Moines Register’s Kim Norvell: “A volunteer for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign in Iowa was killed in a car crash on Monday, the campaign said.
“Zachary Crombie Presberg, 22, died in a collision involving his car and two semitrailer trucks at about 9:25 p.m. Monday in Pottawattamie County, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
“‘Zac’ Presberg joined the campaign in Iowa as a summer organizing fellow and chose to continue as a volunteer after his fellowship concluded, the campaign said.” DMR
MEDIAWATCH — “Al Franken Moves Back Into the Public Eye With a SiriusXM Talk Show,” by NYT’s Ben Sisario: “SiriusXM announced on Wednesday that the former United States senator from Minnesota will host a weekly program, ‘The Al Franken Show,’ starting Saturday. He will also contribute to 2020 election coverage on the broadcaster’s left-wing political channel, SiriusXM Progress.” NYT
— ON THE DRUDGE BEAT … CNN’S OLIVER DARCY: “Notably, the influential Drudge Report has continued to spotlight news critical of the Trump administration. The website, operated by recluse Matt Drudge, who was at one point extremely supportive of the president, highlighted critical commentary on Wednesday from George Conway and Judge Napolitano.” CNN
— HIGHBROW/DESPICABLE … VANITY FAIR’S JOE POMPEO: “Agita at New York Magazine as Pam Wasserstein sells to Vox” … WSJ: “New York Media Valued at About $105 Million in Vox Media Merger”
— “Revealed: how TikTok censors videos that do not please Beijing,” by The Guardian’s Alex Hern: “TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned social network, instructs its moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong, according to leaked documents detailing the site’s moderation guidelines.
“The documents, revealed by the Guardian for the first time, lay out how ByteDance, the Beijing-headquartered technology company that owns TikTok, is advancing Chinese foreign policy aims abroad through the app.” Guardian
— Francesca Chambers is joining McClatchy as a White House reporter. She previously was senior White House correspondent for the Daily Mail.
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at email@example.com.
SPOTTED: Common at Kith and Kin on Wednesday night. … Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) at the Lizzo concert at the Anthem on Wednesday night.
SPOTTED at the Republican Attorneys General Association’s 20th-anniversary celebration, featuring a reception, dinner and “(After) Party like it’s 1999,” at the Mayflower Hotel on Tuesday night: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Tom Corbett, Bob McDonnell, Haley Barbour, Adam Piper, Ken Paxton, Charlie Condon, Jane Brady, Alan Wilson, Kevin Clarkson and Leonard Leo.
SPOTTED at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Youth of the Year gala Wednesday night, which coincided with the launch of their “Agenda for America’s Youth”: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) and Greg Pence (R-Ind.), Misty Copeland and Taraji P. Henson.
SPOTTED at the third annual Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York on Wednesday: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Indian PM Narendra Modi, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, Colombian President Iván Duque, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Carney, Michael Corbat, Jamie Dimon, Bob Iger, Christine Lagarde, Cecilia Malmström, Hiro Mizuno, Hank Paulson, David M. Solomon …
… Dara Khosrowshahi, Federica Mogherini, Pharrell Williams, Tidjane Thiam, Andreas Utermann, Shemara Wikramanayake, Xie Zhenhua, David Rubenstein, Ruth Porat, Steve Schwarzman, Brian Moynihan, Anand Mahindra, Luis Alberto Moreno, Kevin Sheekey, Patti Harris, Kate Bolduan, Zanny Minton Beddoes, John Micklethwait, Francine Lacqua, Will Marshall and Mary Nichols.
TRANSITION — Catherine Costakos is joining Edelman’s financial communications team. She most recently was communications director for Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and is a House Financial Services alum.
WEEKEND WEDDING — Dale Bishop, chief of staff and senior director at Everfi, and Mike Stockert, senior manager of custom insights at 2U, got married Saturday at the Fells Historic Estate and Gardens in Lake Sunapee, N.H. The couple met while working at POLITICO in 2013. Guests spent the weekend boating around the lake, dancing and eating Texas barbecue, an homage to the groom and his family’s home state. Pic … Another pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Kathleen Parker, syndicated columnist for The Washington Post. How she’s celebrating: “I’m at the beach (Pawleys Island, S.C.) celebrating birthday week with a group of great women by eating and drinking too much and saying only true things.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Beto O’Rourke is 47 … WaPo’s Dave Weigel is 38 … Doug Sosnik is 63 … John Norris … John Law (hat tips: Teresa Vilmain) … former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is 75 … Elizabeth Arzt … Julia Slingsby … POLITICO’s Patterson Clark and Casey Miles … Jessica Bakeman … Nick Pompeo … Alexis Barranca … Josie Martin, SVP of corporate affairs and comms at Purdue Pharma … Bloomberg’s Henry Seltzer and Lucas Shaw … former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) is 49 … Bill Scher is 47 … Jordan Cohen, NYT’s director of comms … Risa Heller, CEO of Risa Heller Communications … Ben Freed … Sam Myers Sr. is 69 … Missy Edwards, founding principal of Missy Edwards Strategies … Jon Rosborough … Evan Hollander, comms director for the House Appropriations Committee, is 27 (h/t Eli Yokley) …
… Robert Kagan is 61 … photographer Stephen Voss is 41 … former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman is 73 … Goli Ameri … Hudson Institute Chair Emeritus Wally Stern is 91 … David Javdan … Kris Perry … Jeff Eshelman, SVP for operations and public affairs at IPAA (h/t Chris Tucker) … Tom Gannon, VP of public policy at Mastercard … Jen Chung, executive editor of Gothamist.com at WNYC Radio … Miguel Santana … Wells Thorne … Edelman’s Rebecca Herrigel … Parag Mehta … Stacy England … Mark Isakowitz … Greg Lorjuste … Erin Cunningham … Ian Rose … Mackenzie Smith … Alexander Howe … Sarah Crawford Stewart … Sam Drzymala … Matt McKillip … John Fitzpatrick … Dayne Cutrell
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine