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An explosive impeachment investigation intensified on Thursday with the release of a whistleblower’s assertions that President TrumpDonald John TrumpDems want tougher language on election security in defense bill Five aides to Van Drew resign ahead of his formal switch to GOP The myth of the conservative bestseller MORE used the leverage of his office to enlist his Ukrainian counterpart to help him dig up dirt on a political rival while the White House later tried to hide the president’s actions.
The detailed, unclassified version of the complaint made public on Thursday left a complicated trail of new questions and a long list of potential witnesses.
The whistleblower, later identified by The New York Times as a CIA employee, asserted that Trump may have abused his authority with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to bolster his reelection by trying to establish that former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden, Sanders lead Democratic field: poll Schumer asks McConnell for Mulvaney, Bolton to testify in impeachment trial Nadler: Giuliani trip to Ukraine shows ‘crime in progress’ is being committed against American democracy MORE and his son Hunter Biden had exploited their positions in Ukraine for personal gain. Within the allegations are detailed accounts of executive branch discussions questioning why Trump this summer held up the release of $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine.
ABC News: Ukrainians understood Biden probe was a condition for Trump-Zelensky talks, according to former Ukrainian adviser.
The Washington Post: Former Ukrainian prosecutor says Hunter Biden “did not violate anything.”
Additional officials mentioned in the complaint, whose roles were of interest to House Democrats on Thursday, are Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump rails against Fox News for planning interviews with Schiff, Comey Judge rejects DOJ effort to delay House lawsuit against Barr, Ross Holder rips into William Barr: ‘He is unfit to lead the Justice Department’ MORE, Trump lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiNadler: Giuliani trip to Ukraine shows ‘crime in progress’ is being committed against American democracy Impeachment nears: What would John McCain have done? Graham says he doesn’t need to hear impeachment witnesses: ‘I am ready to vote’ MORE, who served as Trump’s private liaison to Ukrainian officials, and White House advisers, including acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneySchumer asks McConnell for Mulvaney, Bolton to testify in impeachment trial The Hill’s Morning Report — Sponsored by AdvaMed — House panel delays impeachment vote until Friday Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial MORE.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump-Pelosi trade deal creates strife among progressives Trump: Pelosi’s teeth were ‘falling out of her mouth’ during press conference Schiff: I ‘hope to hell’ I would have voted to impeach Obama if he had committed same actions as Trump MORE (D-Calif.), a veteran former member of the House Intelligence Committee who helped revise the Whistleblower Protection Act, said information brought to Congress by the unnamed intelligence official described “a cover-up” by the White House and an effort to “lock down” a verbatim transcript of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky in July when West Wing advisers recognized the jeopardy the president put himself in.
The Hill: Whistleblower complaint says Trump sought to enlist Ukraine’s help in 2020 election.
The Hill: Some House Democrats view the whistleblower complaint as a smoking gun against the president.
The New York Times: House Democrats aim for a fast, focused impeachment process.
The New York Times: Phone call showed only a slice of Trump’s intense interest in Ukraine.
The Washington Post: White House effort to shield contents of Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president was part of a broader secrecy effort.
Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, told the House Intelligence Committee — which has now seized the reins of the impeachment inquiry — that he had no information to back up the whistleblower’s nine-page complaint, but believed the intelligence official “did the right thing and followed the law every step of the way.”
Trump, who has bristled at the independence of previous intelligence and national security chiefs, reacted to his accuser far differently than did Maguire, likening the case presented against him to “treason.”
Maguire, who has been the nation’s spy chief since mid-August, attempted to persuade lawmakers that while it took him a month rather than a week to provide the whistleblower’s information to Congress, as required by law, the delay was created by the “unprecedented” nature of the allegations rather than an intention to stonewall.
“It may have taken more time than I would have liked, or you would have liked, but you have the information,” Maguire said.
The New York Times: Maguire holds his ground during Capitol Hill testimony.
The Hill: Five takeaways from the hearing.
Trump on Thursday fumed that the whistleblower’s information was secondhand and false. The New York Times reported that the White House learned of the whistleblower’s concerns during the summer — soon after Trump’s call with Zelensky — from the CIA’s general counsel, Courtney Simmons Elwood.
Before leaving New York on Thursday to return to Washington, the president suggested the officials and witnesses from whom the whistleblower derived information were like government moles, and deserving of punishment. “This is war,” the president said (Bloomberg video of Trump’s comments).
The Hill: Trump: Official who furnished information to the whistleblower is “close to a spy.”
Reuters: White House scrambles to prepare for impeachment fight.
The Associated Press: Short-staffed White House dusts off Mueller playbook as pressure mounts.
Giuliani defended his actions and those of the president, but without refuting any specifics: “The complaint of the so-called whistleblower, tells you on the first page his information is questionable. He says `I was not a direct witness…’ and additionally states over 20 times `I was told’, `I am concerned’, `I learned’, and not once did he say `I know,’” the former New York mayor and prosecturor tweeted. “Under Anglo-American law, that is described as hearsay. Inadmissible because it is inherently unreliable. The definitive conclusion that this is somehow credible is impossible to make unless you’re entirely prejudiced.”
The Hill: Five most serious charges in the complaint.
The Hill: Senate Republicans batten down the hatches.
Reuters: Republicans see impeachment backfiring. Democrats fear they may be right.
LEADING THE DAY
CONGRESS: The Senate on Thursday voted to keep the government funded at current levels through Nov. 21, following in the footsteps of the House as the clock counted down toward a Sept. 30 deadline to prevent federal operations from screeching to a halt. The vote was 82-15. The Senate has failed to clear any of a dozen fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills, which means senators kicked big decisions off to November. The next stop for the continuing resolution is Trump’s desk (The Hill). The next big hurdle is a solution to break the impasses between the House and Senate, with time running out to do it (The Hill).
> Confirmed: The Senate voted on Thursday along party lines to make Eugene Scalia the next Labor secretary. The son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the newcomer to the Trump Cabinet will succeed Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaThe Hill’s Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats’ objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena Sanders calls Eugene Scalia’s Labor Dept. confirmation ‘obscene’ MORE, who resigned amid questions over a plea deal he brokered when he was a U.S. prosecutor in Florida for the now-deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (The Hill).
> Election security: Senate Democrats believe more can be done legislatively to increase U.S. election security, an argument that could be strengthened in Congress by the Thursday release of a whistleblower complaint alleging the president sought Ukraine’s help in defeating one of his U.S. political rivals. The whistleblower said in the complaint that Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine could pose a risk to the U.S. government’s efforts to bolster election security in 2020. Maguire, during his House testimony, said protection of U.S. election systems is “the most important job” of the intelligence community, while cyber threats are the most significant risks facing the United States (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
INTERNATIONAL: The Defense Department will deploy about 200 U.S. troops, one Patriot missile battery and four ground-based radar systems to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon said Thursday. Two more Patriot batteries and a THAAD missile defense system may be sent later, if needed. Trump announced last week the United States would send military aid to the region in response to what the administration says was Iran’s attack on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14 using a cruise missile and drones. Iran has denied responsibility. The administration this week at the United Nations repeated the United States does not want war with Iran and will continue to intensify economic sanctions (The Associated Press).
> Iran: Following a U.N. visit this week, Tehran faces diminishing choices, reports Aya Batrawy in an analysis for The Associated Press. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the United States on Thursday to “cease this policy of maximum pressure,” saying it diminished the potential for negotiations. Rouhani repeated that U.S. sanctions must be lifted before Iran would talk with Trump, although he did not totally rule out such a meeting (The Associated Press).
> Syria: The United States on Thursday announced its conclusion that President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government used chlorine as a chemical weapon in an attack on May 19 during a battle with insurgents in Idlib. “The Assad regime is responsible for innumerable atrocities some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump greeted with cheers at 120th Army-Navy game Judge orders State Dept. to search for and provide more Ukraine docs Pompeo launches personal Twitter account amid speculation over Senate run MORE said in New York. The Trump administration, which has bombed Syria twice following Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons, did not announce a response. However, the Treasury Department applied new sanctions to two Russian entities as punishment for providing fuel to Syria (CNBC).
> United Kingdom: Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has said he will refuse to seek a delay in the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline to withdraw from the European Union, has raised fears he could try to exploit a specific loophole in the legislation (Reuters).
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected]. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Democrats’ evidence-free rush to impeach Trump may hand him a second term, by Gregory J. Wallance, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2m5byqP
Only the ballot box can deliver a final verdict on President Trump, by Dan Mahaffee, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2nAB47H
WHERE AND WHEN
Hill.TV’s “Rising” at 9 a.m. ET features Rep. Tim BurchettTimothy (Tim) Floyd BurchettHouse Republican: Tariffs are ‘only way’ to change US-China relationship GOP lawmaker on Iran tensions: Military should always be ‘the last option’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Giuliani subpoenaed as Trump rages against Schiff, whistleblower MORE (R-Tenn.) on news of the day; Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progress Change Campaign Committee, who talks about the presidential campaign of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden, Sanders lead Democratic field: poll Advocates call for ObamaCare open enrollment extension after website glitches The Memo: 2020 Democratic tensions burst to surface MORE (D-Mass.); former white supremacist Arno Michaelis, now an anti-hate activist, and Mubin Shaikh, a national security and counterterrorism specialist, discuss U.S. extremism in 2019. Find Hill.TV programming at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m.
The House meets at 9 a.m. and last votes are scheduled at 3 p.m. prior to a two-week recess.
The Senate convenes at 11:40 a.m. for a pro forma session.
The president participates in a White House event at noon with Jewish faith leaders to mark High Holy Day. Trump will speak at 6:30 p.m. at a White House reception to mark Hispanic Heritage Month.
Vice President Pence is in Indiana where he will tour NeuroDiagnostic Institute in Indianapolis at 3:20 p.m. and participate in a roundtable discussion about mental health. He’ll return to Washington tonight.
Pompeo, who is in New York today, meets at 8:30 a.m. with Pacific Island leaders. At 10:30 a.m., the secretary meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the United Nations. At 11:30 a.m., Pompeo talks with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Economic indicators: Analysts are waiting for this morning’s reports on consumer spending and durable goods, both reflecting conditions in August.
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➔ E-cigarettes: The U.S. health hazards are bad and getting worse … The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 805 of the more than 1,000 cases of lung injury illnesses under investigation across the nation tied to vaping. Two more deaths were confirmed on Thursday, bringing the U.S. total to 12. The newest statistics point to a fast-moving and evolving epidemic that’s touched almost every state (NBC News).
➔ U.S. cities: In search of less expensive housing and better schools, tens of thousands of millennials and Gen-Xers (residents age 25 to 39) moved out of large U.S. cities for the fourth consecutive year, including pulling up stakes from Washington, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas and Portland, according to U.S. Census data released on Thursday (The Wall Street Journal).
➔ Migration: U.S. population growth among immigrants slowed to a trickle, according to an analysis of new census data. Experts believe the dramatic change — a net increase of just 200,000 people, according to 2018 data — is likely linked to the Trump administration’s restrictive migration policies (The New York Times). Separately on Thursday, the administration proposed slashing refugee admissions to 18,000 for fiscal year 2020, down from a cap of 30,000 in 2018. The administration has made curbing the number of migrants entering the country a priority (The Hill).
And finally … The 25th anniversary of “Friends” inspired our quiz this week and resulted in some smart guesses from readers about the award-winning NBC sitcom that ran for 10 seasons.
Kudos to the trivia masters who sent us five correct answers: Patrick Kavanagh, Lorraine Lindberg, Candi Cee, John Donato, William Chittam, Jerrica Mathis, Allyson Foster and Luther Berg.
“Friends” made the most of celebrity guest performances over the years. Although a musical appreciation for David Bowie was written into several episodes, the late singer, songwriter and actor never made an appearance on the show.
Sweetly loopy character Phoebe Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow in all 236 “Friends” episodes, worked as a masseuse and musician.
Character Ross Geller’s first wife (part of a running gag about his marriages) was Carol Willick.
Character Joey Tribbiani had seven sisters.
Phoebe gave birth to triplets on “Friends” and named one of them after character Chandler Bing, portrayed by Matthew Perry.
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