NOT A GOOD LOOK: For the third time in modern history, the House held a vote to officially open an impeachment investigation into a sitting president.
It was a historic cherry on top of a dramatic week in which multiple witnesses testifying before Congress corroborated accounts of a quid pro quo exchanging money and access President Trump for political favors from Ukraine, despite Trump's claims otherwise.
The vote came as a new Washington Post-ABC News poll is out this morning: The poll shows Americans closely divided on the issue of impeachment, with 49 percent saying Trump should be impeached and removed and 47 percent saying he should not be. The stark partisan divide over impeachment lingers: 82 percent of Democrats favor impeachment and removal, while 82 percent of Republicans oppose it and independents are pretty evenly split.
? One warning sign for Trump, however: the survey recorded his lowest approval rating among Republicans at 74 percent.
Here's what you need to remember from another crazy week:
1. A historic vote: House Democrats delivered an anti-climactic but powerful statement on Thursday after formally authorizing guidelines for the next phase of the impeachment inquiry. Divided along party lines, the 232-to-196 vote signaled that a united Democratic caucus is on course to proceed with a public case to impeach Trump and bring charges against him later this year, our colleagues Karoun Demirjian, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Elise Viebeck report.
The move was also a rebuke of criticisms from Trump and his GOP allies who have grumbled about the secretive and allegedly unfair process:
- “I don’t know why Republicans are afraid of the truth,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “Every member should support the American people hearing the facts for themselves. That is what this vote is about. It’s about the truth. And what is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”
- Hypocrisy alert: “Though many of the rules are nearly identical to those Republicans adopted in 1998 when they impeached President Bill Clinton, party leaders insisted that supporting the resolution amounted to legitimizing what they view as an indefensible three-year campaign to undo the results of the 2016 election,” the New York Times's Nick Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report.
- A reminder: “The House’s resolution clears the way for nationally televised hearings as Democrats look to make their case to the American people that Trump should be impeached,” per Karoun, Rachael, Mike, and Elise.
2. Holes in the “No Quid Pro Quo” defense pressed by Republicans: Several administration officials who testified this week confirmed their view of an explicit quid pro quo exchanging aid and a meeting with the president for Ukraine opening an investigation into Trump's political rivals.
- Patriotism questioned: National Security Council aide Alexander Vindman, a lieutenant colonel and Iraq War veteran, testified before lawmakers that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland told Ukrainian officials during a July 10 session that a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky depended on the start of investigations.
- “Amb. Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations to secure the meeting with the President, at which time Ambassador [John] Bolton cut the meeting short,” Vindman said in his opening statement. “Following this meeting, there was a scheduled debriefing during which Amb. Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma.”
- Morrison: Then came the testimony yesterday of outgoing senior NSC aide and Bolton loyalist, Tim Morrison, who confirmed Sondland told him “a package of military assistance for Ukraine would not be released until the country committed to investigations the president sought,” per the Times's Nick Fandos.
- In the closed-door deposition, Morrison largely corroborated U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor's testimony. Taylor also told lawmakers that aid to Ukraine was “conditioned” on investigating the Bidens and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
- “Mr. Morrison said his recollection of Mr. Sondland’s proposal to the Zelensky aide was different in one respect from what Mr. Taylor testified. He said Mr. Sondland said it could be sufficient if the new Ukrainian prosecutor general, not President Zelensky, committed to the Burisma investigation,” per the Wall Street Journal's Natalie Andrews and Vivian Salama.
- Sondland himself has stated that “efforts by President Trump and his allies to press Kyiv to open investigations in exchange for a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president amounted to a quid pro quo, his lawyer said,” the Wall Street Journal's Rebecca Ballhaus reported earlier this week.
- “Sondland told House committees that the president told him: 'There’s no quid pro quo, but Zelensky’s got to get out there and do the right thing,' according to his lawyer.”
3. Attacks on Vindman backfire: The president and his allies went after Vindman — “a combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient who has served in the Army for more than 20 years” — calling him a “Never Trumper” with some even questioning his patriotism because he immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine when he was three-years-old.
The backlash followed:
- “Lt. Col. Vindman, who has served this country honorably for 20 years, is fully supported by the Army like every soldier, having earned a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq in 2004,” Matt Leonard, an Army spokesperson, told Task & Purpose's Jeff Schogol and Haley Britzky.
- Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third ranking Republican in the House, defended Vindman: “I think that we need to show that we are better than that as a nation,” she said. “Their patriotism, their love of country — we’re talking about decorated veterans who have served their country, who have put their lives on the line. And it is shameful to question their patriotism and their love of this nation.”
- Vindman's identical twin brother, Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an NSC lawyer handling ethics issues, might also be called to testify, scooped the Wall Street Journal's Salama.
4. The courts are incredulous: In the ongoing court battle that will eventually decide who can be forced to testify on Capitol Hill, a federal judge was incredulous of the White House's claim that top aides cannot be compelled by Congress to testify.
White House counsel Donald McGahn and deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman are the two former aides in court right now and the initial reaction to the White House defense does not bode well for Trump's stonewalling strategy.
- “It’s just so peculiar, I’m trying to wrap my mind around it,” U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson told McGahn's lawyer, who argued that the House “'as a general proposition' can never sue the executive branch, nor compel top White House aides to appear.”
- “You’re suggesting … out of respect for separation of powers, the judiciary is not going to answer what the law is when the executive and legislature are in dispute?” Jackson asked. “I had understood the whole system is such that is exactly what the judicial function is.”
- “We don't live in a world where your status as a former executive branch official somehow shields you or prevents you from giving information,” Jackson said at McGahn's hearing, per CNN's Kateyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen.
5. As always, the biggest news just might be what's to come. We don't know everything that has been said behind closed doors. And as Democrats bring the witnesses public, it's unclear what kind of effect their testimony will have on voters. And the big shoe to drop may be Bolton's possible testimony -- he was privy to, and reportedly angered by, Trump's Ukraine moves and some of the internal communications with the Ukranians. As a leading Republican, he will be hard to attack as a Never Trumper.
Eight additional administration officials are scheduled to testify next week:
- Robert Blair, a senior adviser to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Blair was on the July 25 phone call that sparked the whisteblower's report. Given that Mulvaney reportedly was the one who passed along Trump's order to freeze aid money to Ukraine, his testimony could be especially significant.
- Three NSC officials are being called, including: NSC lawyer John Eisenberg, who our colleagues reported pushed to move the transcript of the July 25 call to a highly classified server.
At The White House
TRUMP BECOMES A FLORIDA MAN: Start spreading the news he's leaving ... well, he left in September. "Trump — rich, bombastic and to many Americans the epitome of a New Yorker — was intertwined with the city he called his lifelong home. No longer," the New York Times's Maggie Haberman scooped before the president himself confirmed it.
- Welcome to Florida: Both the president and first lady changed their primary residences from Manhattan to Palm Beach, Fla. in late September, the Times reports. Their new permanent residence is Trump's Mar-Lago club in Palm Beach and no longer Trump Tower where Trump has lived since 1983.
- The Big Apple takes one last bite: "Good riddance," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo chimed in. "It’s not like @realDonaldTrump paid taxes here anyway... He’s all yours, Florida." "Don’t let the door hit you on the way out or whatever," added New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Why Trump might have left:
- In his own words:
....New York, and always will, but unfortunately, despite the fact that I pay millions of dollars in city, state and local taxes each year, I have been treated very badly by the political leaders of both the city and state. Few have been treated worse. I hated having to make....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 1, 2019
- The bottom line?: "Changing his primary residence could carry significant tax implications for Mr. Trump, although how much is unclear without seeing his returns," the Times reports.
- Or the next in line?: "Leaving New York could also save money for Trump’s heirs at the time of his death," the Times reports. "New York imposes a top estate tax rate of 16 percent for estates larger than $10.1 million."
Is this goodbye?: "In the longer term, the change could speak to Mr. Trump’s plans after his presidency ends. It has been an open question whether he would ever return full time to New York City," the Times reports. "In addition, Secret Service protection for Mr. Trump after his presidency ends would continue to snarl traffic in Midtown Manhattan — as would tourists and potential protests in front of Trump Tower — particularly if Mr. Trump chose to live there full time."
BUILDING A BETTER WOMEN'S PRISON: "The American prison system was built with men in mind. The uniforms are made to fit male bodies. About 70 percent of the guards are men. The rules are made to control male social structures and male violence," Keri Blakinger writes in The Post magazine's Prison issue. "It’s an outgrowth of necessity: Even though the female prison population has grown twice as fast as the male prison population over the past 35 years, about 90 percent of incarcerated adults are men."
- But there are very key differences: ".... Women are incarcerated for different reasons and bring with them different histories. They’re more likely to commit nonviolent crimes, involving theft, fraud and drugs," Blakinger writes. "They have slightly higher rates of substance abuse than men, are more likely to be the primary caregiver of a young child, and typically earn less money than their male counterparts before getting locked up."
- The current system does little to account for this: "Women tend to pose a lower risk of violence, but they’re still subject to the same classifications as men — so they’re often ranked at a higher security level than necessary, and, as a result, can be blocked from educational and treatment programs. And when violations do happen, they’re often nonviolent offenses, like talking back to a guard. Whereas men might alter their clothes to show gang affiliation, women might do the same for style or fit, yet both could result in disciplinary action."
And this is on top of the countless indignities women who are incarcerated face: "The cellblock toilets were visible from the hallway, allowing passing male inmates and guards to see as you sat down to use the bathroom or change a pad," Blakinger writes from her personal experience in a county jail in Upstate New York.
- "After I was transferred to a state prison, I watched male guards saunter around our dorms, sometimes peering into cells and cubicles as we changed clothes."
Some states are changing their approaches: "Sometimes the changes are small: supplying underwear and tampons or allowing small dignities like makeup and jewelry," Blakinger writes. "Sometimes they’re programmatic shifts, such as offering trauma-informed treatment or women-centered self-help programs."
This story is just part of the magazine's special issue: It is written, illustrated and photographed by currently and formerly incarcerated Americans. From artwork to touching short stories and poems. You can check out the rest here.
In the Media
DON'T BOO, VOTE: Here's just a few of our favorite Halloween costumes from the political world:
Sen. Mitt Romney's grandson as Pierre Delecto
Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens as South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg:
(Buttigieg tried his turn as Stevens, but guys it's an unfair advantage when you have a doppelganger)
But really, does anyone win anything Power Up related without dogs? Impawsible.