A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Impeachment Watch newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
If you think something like the sensational killing by US Special Forces of the world’s most wanted terrorist is going to quiet calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, you are going to be sorely mistaken.
Far from shying away from criticism of Trump as he announced the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out the President didn’t officially brief Congress as is the custom, but did tell the Russians something was coming.
This will do nothing to ease tensions.
Donald Trump now vs. Barack Obama in 2011
We’ll hear a lot in the coming days about whether Trump should have done more to keep Congress in the loop and what the law actually requires. Before the Osama bin Laden raid, key members of Congress knew about surveillance of the al Qaeda leader and knew something might be coming, but did not know specific details as the raid was happening.
The difference now is that impeachment has poisoned any kind of relationship Trump has with Democrats, meaning two branches of government essentially aren’t talking to each other.
Some Republicans were informed
It emerged that Republicans in the Senate knew the operation was coming, including Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a key Trump ally who gave a press conference at the White House Sunday.
Trump has faced criticism in his own party for his strategy of pulling US forces from Syria and giving space to Russia and Turkey. The Baghdadi killing likely won’t fundamentally change the US retreat from its Kurdish allies or the growth of Russian control in Syria. But it might, for now, quiet some of the Republican frustration with Trump. Graham, who had been extremely critical of Trump on Syria, was all in as a cheerleader during his press conference from the White House briefing room Sunday.
Other Republicans, like Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, were praising Trump over the weekend.
The Russians were also informed
The President said the following:
“We spoke to the Russians. We told them we were coming in. And they said thank you for telling us. They were very good.”
He said the US did not tell the Russians WHY the special operators were coming in.
“We did tell them, we think you’re going to be very happy because, you know, again, they hate ISIS as much as we do. You know what ISIS has done to Russia. So, no, we did not tell – they did not know the mission, but they knew we were going over an area that they had a lot of fire power. “
Democrats were not informed
Trump on telling Congress:
“We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before. There’s nothing – there’s no country in the world that leaks like we do. And Washington is a leaking machine. And I told my people, we will not notify them until the – our great people are out. Not just in, but out. I don’t want to have them greeted with fire power like you wouldn’t believe. So we were able to get in. It was top secret.”
Former official challenges impeachment subpoena in court
The White House has made clear that it won’t be cooperating with the impeachment inquiry. That hasn’t stopped current and former officials from complying with congressional subpoenas.
That’s about to change.
Charles Kupperman, the former acting national security adviser scheduled to testify Monday, has been subpoenaed by House Democrats, who are threatening to find him in contempt of Congress. But he’s been instructed not to testify by White House lawyers.
Kupperman filed a lawsuit essentially asking courts for guidance.
The arguments – Is he “immune from congressional process” as White House lawyers contend or can he testify and avert a “contempt of congress” citation?
Test case for John Bolton – The implications are bigger than Kupperman. He shares a lawyer with John Bolton, the former national security adviser who compared Trump’s shadow foreign policy operation to a “drug deal.”
Democrats shot back in a legal filing over the weekend that Kupperman was trying “to delay and obstruct the lawful constitutional functions of Congress and conceal evidence about his conduct from the impeachment inquiry.”
The upshot of this weekend’s investigative moves
From CNN’s Kylie Atwood and Jeremy Herb: Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker testified in the impeachment inquiry on Saturday that he did not find out there was a push by Trump administration officials for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election until the whistleblower complaint was made public, according to a source familiar with his testimony.
Who’s on deck?
Impeachment investigators are set in the coming days to hear from several State Department officials and, later in the week, Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top expert on Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s top adviser on Russian issues.
John Kelly says he tried to prevent all of this
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Washington Examiner he gave Trump an important piece of advice before leaving his old post.
“I said whatever you do, don’t hire a ‘yes man,’ someone who won’t tell you the truth – don’t do that,” Kelly said. “Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.”
Kelly’s successor, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is at the center of Trump’s decision to freeze US funding to Ukraine in exchange for launching political investigations that could benefit Trump.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham responded, in part: “John Kelly ‘was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President.”
How’s it polling?
CNN’s Harry Enten writes: The bottom line is that the electoral implications of impeachment are currently far less favorable to Democrats in the swing states that are likely to determine next year’s presidential election than the national polls indicate. For Trump, this is good news. For the Democratic presidential candidates, it suggests more caution may be needed in articulating an impeachment position than the national polls indicate.
More weekend headlines
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.