A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
“Here we are. A moment of truth.” Those were the words of Nancy Pelosi as she spoke to House Democrats behind closed doors on Tuesday. Soon after that meeting, Pelosi walked before the press — in an announcement that networks interrupted regular programming to carry live — and announced to the American people a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
NYT’s story called it a “stunning turn that set the stage for a history-making and exceedingly bitter confrontation between the Democrat-led House and a defiant president who has thumbed his nose at institutional norms.” WaPo’s story noted that the confrontation “is likely to further divide a polarized nation ahead of the 2020 election.” And WSJ observed that Pelosi’s decision “represents a bet that voters, whom polls have shown to be wary of impeachment, can be persuaded once more facts emerge.”
>> Big picture: “For the fourth time in American history, a president faces a serious threat of impeachment by the House of Representatives,” tweeted Peter Baker…
“The story is moving very fast”
It can be hard to summarize a day like Tuesday, with the news moving at breakneck speed. As Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC, there are still a lot of open questions about the Trump-Ukraine story.
BUT, “What did become obvious” on Tuesday, Maddow said, “is that the story is moving very fast.” Maddow said she had “written and torn up many drafts” for her show before going on-air because of late-changing developments. And as I write this newsletter, I definitely relate. This is a fast-moving story, one that seems to be upended by new developments almost every hour…
Giuliani’s wild interview with Laura Ingraham
Rudy Giuliani lit up the discussion on Twitter with another wild interview on Tuesday night. Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s show, Giuliani responded to a WaPo report that said he “pursued [a] shadow Ukraine agenda as key foreign policy officials were sidelined.”
“You know who I did it at the request of?” Giuliani asked rhetorically. “The State Department. I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it.” Giuliani then picked up his phone and said “it’s all here, right here…”
Says he should sue liberal Fox guest…
Later in the hour, Giuliani appeared for yet another Fox segment, in which he said he should sue liberal network guest Chris Hahn. Hahn had gone after Giuliani earlier for his first interview with Ingraham, contending, “If the Bidens weren’t public figures it would be libelous.”
Giuliani then appeared on the same panel with Hahn, and things went entirely off the rails. Ingraham tried her best at the end to keep things on track, but that task proved difficult.
Meanwhile, Fox prime time (predictably) comes to Trump’s defense
This was perhaps the least surprising thing to occur on Tuesday: Fox prime time hosts predictably came to the defense of Trump. Sean Hannity, opening up his show, characterized outrage over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as “psychotic anti-Trump hysteria” that has “now completely overtaken the Democratic Party.” Hannity wasn’t alone. I tuned into Tucker Carlson’s show, and he also spent a good chunk of it casting doubt on whether Trump had behaved improperly.
>> Meanwhile, Trump spent his night tweeting out clips of his favorite Fox personalities coming to his defense…
Heilemann: Impeachment was dead, but Trump “with the defibrillator paddles” revived it
Who should Trump blame for the impeachment inquiry? John Heilemann argued on Tuesday during an MSNBC appearance that the president should perhaps look in the mirror. Heilemann referred to impeachment as a “dead body” after Robert Mueller’s report. “As we headed into this fall,” Heilemann said, “impeachment was dead. And Donald Trump was the guy with the defibrillator paddles, who’s now revived impeachment.”
>> Susan Glasser made a similar point: “However it turns out, this House impeachment inquiry turn to Ukraine is a scandal of Trump’s own making….”
Will this fire up Trump’s base?
That was a question which was asked repeatedly throughout the day. Sure, it could, as many analysts have noted. But, Dave Weigel also had a good point, noting that “it seems like there are endless issues/fights that are Firing Up Trump’s base.” Weigel tweeted, “By contrast, the Democrats’ base was watching them fold and whimper and clearly getting sick of it.”
Brian Stelter emails: There’s been a long list of potentially impeachable conduct stretching back 2+ years. Journalists have documented a lot of it, through investigations and interviews and monologues and columns.
Lawmakers are pulling on many of these threads, but as I watched the TV coverage on Tuesday, I wondered: Will the coming months be mostly about Ukraine or about the bigger picture? Newsrooms shouldn’t advocate for a political outcome, but should advocate for a well-informed public…
Wednesday planner: Trump to meet with Ukraine president
Block off 2.15 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Just one day after Trump’s interactions with the president of Ukraine touched off a formal impeachment inquiry, Trump will meet with the Ukrainian president for a bilateral meeting as UN week continues.
Also happening on Wednesday: House Democrats and House Republicans will hold their weekly caucus meetings, with press conferences afterward…
FOR THE RECORD
– Stephen Colbert: “Every time, people have asked, ‘Is this the thing? Surely, this must be the thing.’ And every time, it wasn’t the thing. But here’s the thing: There’s a new thing, and it might be the thing…” (Mediaite)
– Margaret Sullivan’s new column is all about Trump’s “Ukraine-scandal strategy.” Sullivan argues that it hinges on the media… (WaPo)
– Chuck Todd has a contentious interview with GOP Senator John Kennedy, telling him, “Don’t gaslight us…” (Daily Beast)
– Meanwhile, Erin Burnett confronted Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin: You’re making that up! (CNN)