with help from Sarah Ferris
WE’LL DO IT LIVE — Today marks a new chapter in Democrats’ impeachment probe — and in history. At 10 a.m., the House Intelligence Committee will hold the first impeachment hearings in 21 years, featuring testimony from a pair of high-level State Department officials who have told investigators in vivid detail about the effort to persuade Ukraine to probe President Donald Trump’s political rivals. In a sign of the rare and solemn nature of the proceedings, Democrats may even recess the House during the hearings. And further enhancing the drama, the televised hearings are being staged in the grand, theater-like Ways and Means Committee meeting room. Pic of the room where it happens (h/t NYT’s Nicholas Fandos.)
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Here’s a look at how all sides are preparing for the blockbuster showdown:
Democrats: Dems feel like they have the goods to impeach Trump. Now comes the sales job. But Democrats are anxious about a Mueller repeat and aware of the stakes. They have been plotting their messaging for weeks, including strategy sessions with a dozen senior members that staff refer to as the “strike team.” Democrats are advising the caucus to sharpen and simplify their language (use “extortion” over “quid pro quo”); don’t focus on “bit players” (focus on Trump, not Joe Biden or Rudy Giuliani); and don’t let the GOP seize the moment with procedural gambits (keep it about the witnesses.) Heather, Sarah and Bres with the dispatch: https://politi.co/2KiL2TF.
The House GOP: Republicans have been intensely preparing for today. They held a planning session and mock hearing with the House Intelligence Committee (we’re told the role of Chairman Adam Schiff was played by GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin); convened a full GOP conference meeting, where the top three leaders and Reps. Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes all gave a pep talk of sorts; and they rolled out an 18-page messaging memo, which represents the first real attempt to defend Trump on substance.
The White House: Tony Sayegh, one of the White House’s new impeachment messengers, attended two meetings on Tuesday with House and Senate press staff to map out a coordinated response to the impeachment hearings. And White House lawyers, the legislative affairs team and top officials from the press and communications shops have spent the week setting up a rapid-response team and developing plans to push back on witnesses’ testimony in real time. Trump, meanwhile, may use his Twitter feed or a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday afternoon to respond to the hearings. Nancy Cook and Gabby Orr with more: https://politi.co/2QlvYZc.
The Senate GOP: Even with an impeachment trial all but certain in the Senate, most Republicans aren’t even planning on watching the House hearings. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) called it “a big waste of time.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he’s going to “be paying attention to what we’re doing in the Senate.” And Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 GOP leader, said “not at all” when asked whether he’d watch. Some senators, however, have been invited to the White House for a meeting on “legislative engagement" at 2 pm. More from Burgess and Marianne: https://politi.co/36Yf2Ou.
Related reads: “Five things to watch for the first public impeachment hearing,” via CNN’s Jeremy Herb: https://cnn.it/2ObXgyA; and “C-SPAN goes big on impeachment hearings,” from WaPo’s Eric Wemple: https://wapo.st/34YvE6O.
INSANE IN THE UKRAINE — And you thought this week was crazy. Democrats lined up their second — and potentially last — week of impeachment hearings, announcing a lineup of eight witnesses spread over five hearings in three days. The aggressive schedule suggests Democrats are moving quickly to wrap things up, with the goal of voting on impeachment articles before Christmas.
The lineup: Jennifer Williams, Alexander Vindman, Kurt Volker, Timothy Morrison, Gordon Sondland, Laura Cooper, David Hale and Fiona Hill. Three of them were requested by the GOP, but Democrats unsurprisingly did not grant Republicans’ request to haul in the whistleblower, Hunter Biden or a DNC official. More on the marathon schedule from Andrew and Kyle: https://politi.co/2NJFVhG.
Related: “Schiff warns GOP that outing Trump whistleblower could violate ethics rules,” by Quint Forgey: https://politi.co/32HOnC8; and “'I'm on a mission to testify': Dem Ukraine activist eager for impeachment cameo,” via Natasha and Kyle: https://politi.co/2qTO9dR.
TRIAL TIMELINE — We’re starting to get more clues about how long a Senate impeachment trial would last — and it looks like it’s going to drag on for quite a while, which would really eat into 2020 candidates’ campaign time. According to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, the trial will likely last six to eight weeks. And the North Carolina Republican also said it will run six days a week, from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.. The deets from TPM’s Summer Concepcion: http://bit.ly/2KjG8FY.
Related: “Senate Republicans Hold Back Ahead of Likely Impeachment Trial,” via Bloomberg’s Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan: https://bloom.bg/2KhLyBg; and “Movie nights, baseball, phone calls: How Trump is uniting the GOP to fight impeachment,” via USA TODAY’s Christal Hayes, Nicholas Wu and David Jackson: http://bit.ly/2QhuDmm.
IMPEACHER’S PET — Stressed out by the impeachment hearings? Overwhelmed with the news cycle? Have no fear: therapy pets are here. That’s right, Pet Partners and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council have teamed up to bring therapy animals to Capitol Hill today. “Who better to bring comfort and relief to the hardworking folks on Capitol Hill than a furry group of loving, intuitive, and bipartisan Pet Partners therapy animals?” the groups said in a press release. Catch the furry creatures from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Hart Senate Office Building 902 or Rayburn House Office Building 2043 & 2044.
HAPPY WEDNESDAY! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this historic November 13. The D.C. bars are in full #thistown mode and hosting impeachment hearing watch parties, featuring drinks like “Subpoena Coladas” and “Impeachment Please.” Your host, on the other hand, will be chugging copious amounts of coffee and Red Bull, in no particular order.
TUESDAY’S MOST CLICKED: The big winner was POLITICO Magazine’s piece on how it would take just three Republican senators to turn the impeachment vote into a secret ballot.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CR-ISTMAS: Congressional leaders are hoping to scrape together enough short-term funding fixes to keep the government up and running at least through the end of impeachment. But there’s a big wild card: President Donald Trump. Lawmakers will punt this month’s funding fight to Dec. 20, with Congress poised to vote on another continuing resolution (CR) next week.
That new timeframe, though, could mean that Democrats are voting to impeach Trump in the same week -- or maybe even the same day!! -- as they vote to avert a shutdown. Some Democrats fear it’s a recipe for disaster, with a potential Trump tantrum sending Congress sputtering into yet another shutdown. Top spending leaders met Tuesday to try to set the groundwork for a broader deal, but there was no real breakthrough. More from Sarah and Bres: https://politi.co/2NMBanz.
HOLD YOUR FIRE — Republican senators are urging Trump not to fire the top intelligence official who determined the Ukraine whistleblower complaint was credible and reported it to Congress, sparking the entire impeachment probe. (The NYT reported yesterday that the president has mused about ousting intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.) Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said the move would be “counterproductive.” And Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said “it’s obviously something that I would oppose.” The latest from The Hill’s Alexander Bolton: http://bit.ly/2pe3RAa.
DEMS DO THE DACA DANCE — As the Supreme Court decides a case that could determine the fate of so-called “Dreamers”, Democrats have renewed their calls for legislation to protect Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and a number of congressional Democrats held a mini-rally in the Capitol Tuesday afternoon and then marched over to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office — with a poster of their bill in tow — to demand that the Senate take up their House-passed bill to protect Dreamers. The deets from Roll Call’s Camilla DeChalus: http://bit.ly/2Qci2Rg.
BERNIE SEEKS A BOOST — Bernie Sanders met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last night, report Laura Barrón-López and Holly Otterbein. Sanders, who has been trying to bounce back since a heart attack sidelined him from the campaign trail, has been aggressively courting Hispanic voters and recently unveiled a progressive immigration plan. And he already locked down a key endorsement from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “He was very comfortable with us. He impressed the caucus, to be honest,” said one lawmaker. “He really has learned from his past experiences with Latinos and Latino issues and the Latino caucus. It literally looked like a new Bernie.” The story: https://politi.co/37aXaAa.
FOR YOUR RADAR — Freshman House Democrats will meet early this morning to select a new leadership representative, following Rep. Katie Hill’s (D-Calif.) resignation. Reps. Susie Lee of Nevada, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey and Lauren Underwood of Illinois are all in the running … And Democrats will meet next week to elect a permanent chairman for the Oversight Committee and fill the two vacancies on the panel.
The House gavels in at 10 a.m., with first and last votes expected between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. Today’s agenda: http://bit.ly/2O6VOxr.
The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of Chad Wolf to be Homeland Security undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans. They will vote on confirmation of Wolf's nomination at 11 a.m. After, they will vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Steven Menashi to be a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. They plan to recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings.
The House Intelligence Committee holds a hearing on the impeachment inquiry into Trump. William Taylor and George Kent testify at 10 a.m. in 1100 Longworth.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Vice-Chair Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) hold a press conference at 10:15 a.m. in HC-8.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) holds his pen and pad briefing with reporters at 11 a.m. in H-107.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) hold a news conference on VAWA at 12 p.m. in S-325.
Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) launch the Venezuela Democracy Caucus at 3 p.m. on the House Triangle.
TUESDAY’S WINNER: Casey Burgat was the first person to correctly guess that the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations were formed in the 1860s. Prior to that, spending issues were handled by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.
TODAY’S QUESTION: From Casey: The House has initiated impeachment proceedings over 60 times in its history, but only one Supreme Court justice has been impeached (though acquitted by the Senate). Who was it and what was the charge against him? First person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your best guess my way: firstname.lastname@example.org
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