THE “TRANSCRIPT” IS THE SMOKING GUN. “President Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly-released transcript of the call,” the Washington Post reports.
“Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law.”
New York Times: “The director of national intelligence and the inspector general for the intelligence community each referred a whistle-blower’s concerns about the call for a possible criminal investigation into the president’s actions.”
House Intelligence committee Chair Adam Schiff said President Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s President was like a “classic mafia-like shakedown” and “far more damning than I and others had imagined,” BuzzFeed News reports.
“The chairmen of four of the U.S. House of Representatives committees involved in the impeachment investigation of President Trump called a summary of his call with Ukraine’s president ‘an unambiguous, damning, and shocking abuse’ of office on Wednesday,” Reuters reports.
“The four committee leaders, all Democrats, repeated that Congress needs full, unredacted access to the whistleblower complaint that fueled calls for the impeachment inquiry and threatened to subpoena the State Department and White House if they do not turn over related records for a Thursday deadline.”
DNI MCGUIRE THREATENED TO RESIGN. “The acting Director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president,” the Washington Post reports.
“The revelation reflects the extraordinary tensions between the White House and the nation’s highest-ranking intelligence official over a matter that has triggered impeachment proceedings against President Trump.”
“The officials said that Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress.”
REPUBLICAN TALKING POINTS INCOMPETENTLY SENT TO DEMS. “In the hours after the release Wednesday of the rough transcript of President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the White House circulated an email with proposed talking points for Trump’s defenders,” the Washington Post reports.
“Unfortunately for the White House, the email was mistakenly sent to not only Republicans but also Democratic lawmakers and their staff.”
GIULIANI WILL BE CALLED TO TESTIFY. Playbook: “Rudy Giuliani is going to be called on to testify on Capitol Hill. It’s a near certainty.” “The release of the notes from this call has absolutely solidified the House Democratic leadership’s impeachment position. A few Democratic leadership aides said a narrowly tailored impeachment resolution just on the transcript would pass at this point.”
WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT DELIVERED TO INTEL COMMITTEES. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) confirmed to NBC News that the whistleblower complaint about a conversation between President Trump and Ukraine’s leader has been delivered to the committee, which is now reviewing it. The Associated Press reports that members of both the House and Senate Intelligence committees would be able to access the complaint.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), after reading the classified whistleblower complaint, told CBS News: “Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons to say there’s no there there when there’s obviously lots that’s very troubling there.”
A Republican congressional source who has direct knowledge of the whistleblower report told Erick Erickson “it is really bad.” The report “paints a clear path to impeachment” with enough information that Democrats will be able to make appropriate document requests and subpoena witnesses for a focused effort.
“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,” the New York Times reports.
“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.”
TRUMP’S CRAZY BILATERAL WITH UKRANIAN PRESIDENT. Talking Points Memo: “Sitting next to Trump at their first in-person meeting, at the United Nations, [Ukrainian President] Zelensky was asked if he felt any pressure from Trump to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. […] Zelensky demurred, referencing the memorandum and saying he didn’t want to get involved.
“I think you read everything,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved to democratic, open elections,” he said, adding: “No, you heard that we had a good, I think, phone call. It was normal, we spoke about many things. So I think — and you read it — that nobody pushed me.”
Trump butted in: “In other words, no pressure, because there was no pressure.” He then turned to Zelensky and said “I appreciate the answer.”
Later, asked if he felt “obligated” to keep his promises to Trump, Zelensky responded in Ukrainian. Trump asked for a translation.
“Concerning the investigation, I want to underscore that Ukraine is an independent country,” the translator read back. “We have a new prosecutor general in Ukraine, a highly professional man with a western education and history, to investigate any case he considers and deems appropriate.”
TRUMP’S LOW ENERGY PRESS CONFERENCE. Daily Kos: “Donald Trump was due to appear for a 4 PM ET press conference. Instead, Trump shuffled out about 40 minutes late to stumble through a rambling list of items in a tone that would have to go up several notches to reach “sepulchral.” And in the process, he failed to answer the one question directed his way concerning the Ukraine scandal, while spending a lot of time attacking and attempting to discredit the whistleblower.
Trump spent much of his time going through his standard recap of how great the economy has been since he took over, how bad things were before he took office, and how everyone is mean to him. Trump not only blamed Democrats for conducting a “witch hunt,” but went into an extended list of senators and congress members that he claimed had really threatened the Ukraine. Trump also mentioned how that ever nonpartisan judge of things, Lindsey Graham, was impressed at how “nice” he was to the Ukrainian president. He also talked about the “great men,” like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, who were so impressed by him.
Trump repeatedly returned to claims about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden, declaring that he would only be transparent if Democrats were also transparent about … a scandal that never happened and has been long debunked. He also claimed that the press had covered up for Biden and was really part of the Democratic Party.”
THE IMPEACHMENT INVESTIGATION. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged fellow Democratic leaders in a private meeting Wednesday to keep the impeachment investigation narrowly focused on President Trump and his dealings with the president of Ukraine,” the Washington Post reports.
“Pelosi told colleagues that keeping the inquiry narrowly focused on the Ukraine allegations could help keep the investigation out of the courts, where a slew of investigative matters have been bogged down for months — though she did not rule out ultimately including other episodes in a potential impeachment package.”
Playbook: “The Judiciary Committee now is all but guaranteed to report out an impeachment package in the next few months — a set of articles charging the president with high crimes and misdemeanors. Our colleague John Bresnahan has been saying this for months, and our reporting shows that it’s true: If the House starts impeachment proceedings — hearings and the like, as they are — it will end up voting on impeachment articles on the House floor. Period.” “So, the full House will get a chance this year to cast a vote or a set of votes about whether the president committed crimes worthy of his removal.”
SOME REPUBLICAN PUSHBACK ON TRUMP. Asked if a U.S. president asking a foreign government to investigate the family of his American political rival is an abuse of power, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) told the National Review: “In general terms, American elections should be for Americans. And the idea that we would have foreign nation-states coming into the American electoral process, or the information surrounding an election, is really, really bad.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said on Wednesday that a transcript of a call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is “deeply troubling,” The Hill reports. Said Romney: “I did read the transcript. It remains troubling in the extreme. It’s deeply troubling. Clearly what we’ve seen from the transcript itself is deeply troubling.” He added: “There’s a process the House is pursuing. The Senate is also looking at the testimony of the whistleblower.”
“I can tell you this, one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.” — GOP strategist Mike Murphy, on MSNBC.
“Several Senate Republicans were stunned Wednesday and questioned the White House’s judgment after it released a rough transcript of President Trump’s call with the Ukraine president that showed Trump offering the help of the U.S. attorney general to investigate Joe Biden,” the Washington Post reports. “One Senate Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, said the transcript’s release was a ‘huge mistake’ that the GOP now has to confront, even as they argue that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment effort.”
AG BARR MUST RECUSE. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) called onAttorney General William Barr to recuse himself from the probe around President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Said Nadler: “The President dragged the Attorney General into this mess. At a minimum, Attorney General Barr must recuse himself until we get to the bottom of this matter.”
GIULIANI SHOWN THE UNDERCARRIAGE OF A BUS. “President Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev,” the Washington Post reports.
“The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports.”
“Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.”
Said Giuliani: “And you know who I did it at the request of? The State Department. I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it. And then I reported to every conversation back to them… I’m a pretty good lawyer, just a country lawyer, but it’s all here, right here. The first call from the State Department.”
He added that “they’re not going to intimidate me.”
WHY NOW? New York Times: “In contrast to the murkiness of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump, Democrats see the current allegations as damningly clear-cut.”
“His refusal so far to provide Congress with an intelligence official’s whistle-blower complaint as required by law, coupled with the possibility that Mr. Trump dangled American military aid as a bargaining chip to win investigation of a political rival by a foreign government, strikes them as a stark case of presidential wrongdoing. They consider it egregious enough that they expect many Americans who had been cool to the idea of moving to oust the president to recognize the imperative for the House to act.”
Washington Post: Why Pelosi changed her mind on impeachment.
POOR TRUMPITY TRUMP. “President Trump was incredulous Tuesday as he sat in Trump Tower and watched House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announce she was launching a formal impeachment inquiry against him,” CNN reports.
“Sitting in the same building where he launched his long shot presidential campaign four years ago, Trump said he couldn’t believe it, he later told people.”
“He had felt confident after phoning Pelosi earlier that morning. The drive for impeachment in her caucus had ramped up amid reports he pushed the Ukrainian President to investigate Joe Biden, and Trump was hoping to head off a clash. He figured he could de-escalate tensions by speaking with her directly.”
Politico: “In public, Trump world is casting the Democratic impeachment inquiry as more white noise.”
“In private, White House aides and allies say the impeachment momentum is now presenting a serious threat to the rest of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda, to his negotiating strength with world leaders and to his concentration.”
“A majority of the House now backs impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, a significant milestone as Democrats move rapidly on an impeachment inquiry,” Politico reports.
“As of Wednesday night, 218 lawmakers have indicated support for impeachment proceedings — 217 Democrats and independent Rep. Justin Amash.”
Roll Call: “Hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump after he admitted both discussing with Ukraine’s new president his desire for the country’s government to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and holding up a military aid package to Kiev, his White House threatened to shut down work on major legislation.”