A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Impeachment Watch newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill tried to seize the narrative of the impeachment inquiry on Thursday as Democrats revealed they’re already formulating their articles of impeachment and Republicans previewed their plan to seize control of President Donald Trump’s defensive messaging.
Here’s the latest from the impeachment inquiry:
Drafting the articles
CNN’s Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox report that while Democrats have a lot of work to do – like finishing their investigation and writing a report – they are already considering what articles of impeachment will look like.
Lawmakers and aides tell CNN that the focus – at the moment – is on the investigation itself with the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees taking the lead in almost-daily interviews with witnesses.
But for members not part of those investigations, there is plenty of speculation about how to approach the next phase of the process: drafting the formal Articles of Impeachment.
“It is reasonable to say that it would be staffer malpractice not to have some of this stuff ready with the facts we already have in hand,” one Democratic aide told CNN.
Bottom line: It’s going to get real very quickly.
Corroboration of Taylor testimony?
Tim Morrison, a top Russia and Europe adviser on Trump’s National Security Council, is slated to testify next week and corroborate key elements of the account from Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, that Trump was pressing for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the Bidens before he would greenlight US security assistance, sources tell CNN.
Morrison’s testimony is expected to be significant because not only is he a current White House official whose name was cited 15 times in Taylor’s powerful opening statement, but he’s also one of the first people to testify who listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s President.
But two sources also tell CNN that Morrison will contend that he didn’t see anything wrong with what the Trump administration did, while one of the sources said there will be “nuance” over what Morrison intends to say.
Trump’s lawyer wants a lawyer
There have been a crush of stories about Rudy Giuliani in the past 48 hours.
CNN reported Wednesday that he’s considering hiring a criminal defense lawyer as his activities come under scrutiny by federal investigators.
There’s the report that the Ukrainian President felt pressure to investigate the Bidens weeks before he took office.
And here’s a feature about how two businessmen sought to profit from access to Rudy Giuliani and Trump administration.
Key impeachment witnesses have put Giuliani at the center of a rogue foreign policy operation on Ukraine, and testimony has supported key claims about the President’s personal lawyer in the whistleblower complaint.
CNN’s John King went through the many ways Giuliani has been mentioned in testimony so far. None of them have been flattering. You can watch it below.
Where in the world is Mike Pompeo? In Kansas
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brushed off questions about the impeachment inquiry in an interview with The Wichita Eagle.
“I don’t think about that stuff. I work hard. I do the right thing as best I can tell every day. I try to make sure my team is similarly focused,” Pompeo told the paper. “You all talk about this noise an awful lot, that you all are fixated on this. The State Department, you should know, is not.”
Pompeo’s ability to navigate this scandal is nothing short of incredible.
- He is or was the boss of nearly everyone who has given damning testimony about President Trump’s pressure on Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani’s shadow foreign policy operation.
- He was on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky
- He is theoretically overseeing US foreign policy with regard to Ukraine
And yet, despite criticism that he hasn’t stood up for State Department employees, Pompeo has remained something of a bit player. He’s not mentioned in text messages and has not emerged as a focus of congressional inquiry.
Relatedly, Pompeo has said he isn’t running for Senate in Kansas this year and his focused on his day job. His trip to Kansas won’t quiet speculation he could jump ship from the Trump administration.
’Fed up and tired’ but not in public
CNN’s Jamie Gangel and Veronica Stracqualursi report that while most Republicans have sided publicly with the President, they’ve been privately grumbling that they’re “fed up and tired” of being asked to defend him in the impeachment investigation.
Republican sources on Capitol Hill told CNN there’s a “growing unease that there is no defense” of the President’s actions.
“How do you defend the indefensible?” one source told CNN. “We can’t defend the substance, all we can do is talk about process.”
This is important context, but it’s important to point out that Republicans are not saying these things on the record.
House Republicans take control of damage control
CNN’s Capitol Hill team reports that there’s a fear among Republicans on the Hill is that the White House is not consistent nor organized enough to lead the President’s defense.
So congressional Republicans are beginning to coalesce around a strategy aimed at discrediting key witnesses and taking a more confrontational stance against the Democratic-led impeachment process.
Elements of their strategy could be seen in their effort Wednesday to barge in on testimony in a secure room.
They’ve also got three main talking points, according to the report.
- attack on the closed-door process and leaks
- criticizing House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff personally
- arguing that the allegations against Trump don’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense
Graham wants Senate vote to condemn House process
Sen. Lindsey Graham proposed a resolution condemning the process of the House impeachment inquiry and called it “dangerous to the future of the presidency” during a press conference on Capitol Hill.
He also said he’s “not here to tell you that Donald Trump’s done nothing wrong,” but that the House needs to change course on process.
Attacking the impeachment process means attacking … John Boehner
Judge Andrew Napolitano pointed out on on Fox News that he has read the House rules and “as frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors,” the rules allow it.
“When were the rules written last? In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner. And who enacted them? A Republican majority,” Napolitano told the Fox hosts.
Don’t forget China
At CNN’s CITIZEN conference in New York, Jim Sciutto asked White House trade adviser Peter Navarro if political investigations about the Bidens have come up during China trade talks. Remember, Trump himself said publicly that he’d consider asking Beijing to investigate Biden.
Navarro declined to respond to the question. Then things got testy.
Here’s the latest on the administration’s trade negotiations with China.
It’s notable that Vice President Mike Pence took a confrontational tone with regard to China during a speech in Washington and also launched broadsides at the NBA, which he said was like “a wholly owned subsidiary” of Beijing.
Working weekends – The impeachment inquiry will be hearing testimony Saturday from Philip Reeker, a career foreign service officer who tried to help shield then-Ambassador Yovanovitch from conspiracies peddled by conservative media outlets beginning in March.
Trade as leverage – The Washington Post reports that the White House also delayed a Ukraine trade decision in August, suggesting that more than security funds were held up as Trump sought investigations.
Cancel the subscriptions – The Wall Street Journal reports Trump will tell all federal agencies to end The New York Times and Washington Post at federal agencies.
Too inept to impeach? – The Journal also argued, in an op-ed calling for public hearings, that “it may turn out that while Mr. Trump wanted a quid-pro-quo policy ultimatum toward Ukraine, he was too inept to execute it. Impeachment for incompetence would disqualify most of the government, and most Presidents at some point or another in office.”
CNN reported last night that Giuliani’s Soviet-born associates and Ukraine fixers said they were arrested when they were on their way to set up an interview for Sean Hannity with former Ukraine prosecutor Victor Shokin.
Hunter Biden in Romania? -- NBC reports on Hunter Biden’s work in Romania while his father was vice president.
On the podcast
On the Impeachment Watch podcast, CNN national correspondent Athena Jones guest hosts and speaks to Senior Writer and Analyst for CNN Politics Harry Enten about how chaos ensued as Republicans stormed into a secure room to stall the impeachment inquiry. CNN Legal Analyst Elie Honig weighs in by explaining that President Trump’s Ukraine dealings may exceed impeachable acts – he may have committed crimes.
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election.
Democrats want to impeach him for it.
It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.
CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to reflect that Morrison’s testimony would be one of the first from someone on the call between the president and the Ukrainian leader. Another person who reportedly listened on the call, Charles Kupperman, could testify next week too.