The TAKE with Rick Klein
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Did President Donald Trump commit a high crime or misdemeanor? Or is he guilty of being … Donald Trump?
There’s another potentially seismic day in Washington on Thursday. This one features a House Intelligence Committee hearing where the acting director of national intelligence will testify about a whistleblower complaint and could serve as the opening act of a long public impeachment trial.
Some fundamentals are already established, and speak to the contradictions of Trump and this era in Washington. Both of these things can be true: Trump engaged in an inappropriate conversation with the newly elected president of Ukraine and Trump was just being Trump.
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Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Maguire testifies during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing to be confirmed as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center on Capitol Hill, July 25, 2018, in Washington, DC.
“This was a shakedown,” the Democratic House committee chairs investigating the president wrote jointly. “This president operates in different ways than other presidents,” said the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune, offering a far more charitable assessment of the same memorandum.
As impeachment moves closer to becoming inevitable, events have far outpaced political calculations. The president is only training more fire on Democrats, including baseless allegations aimed at former Vice President Joe Biden, and even former President Barack Obama.
Between the impeachment push and Trump’s response it, the public is being asked to take sides. The process will amount to an extended education project, where no one can be sure of the lessons that will be learned.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
The very beginning of Trump’s July phone call with the Ukrainian president is worth a close read. Before Trump brings up his requested “favor,” before he mentions an American software company that potentially had information on the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails, before any mention of Biden, Trump takes time to remind President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that “the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.”
Germany, Trump alleged, has not been nearly as gracious as the U.S., which spends “a lot of effort and a lot of time.” He goes on to say — right off the top — that Ukraine has not yet “necessarily” reciprocated.
President Donald Trump, right, listens during a meeting with with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in New York City, Sept. 25, 2019.
Expect the entire prelude to receive significant scrutiny, as Democratic investigators on the Hill make their case that this call represents an abuse of power.
While several Republicans on Wednesday argued that they did not see explicit evidence of any quid pro quo in the notes of the call, does this scene-setter from the president imply it? Does it show that he was representing the weight and power of the United States government, before turning to arguably a more personal political matter?
The TIP with Beatrice Peterson
While her House colleagues move toward impeachment, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard remains a relatively lonely voice among the 2020 candidates in saying such a move would be “terribly divisive.” And that’s created a rift between Gabbard and Tom Steyer – the two candidates who have freshly qualified for the next round of Democratic debates.
Steyer, who has been vocal about impeachment, called out other Democrats on Monday for not supporting the measure. His press secretary Alberto Lammers told ABC News, “Anyone who doesn’t come out for impeachment now is playing political games.” And when it comes to facing Gabbard in the debate, Steyers team simply said, “Bring it. Bring it on.”
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate and Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard speaks at an LGBTQ presidential forum at Coe Colleges Sinclair Auditorium, Sept. 20, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Asked for comment, Gabbard’s press aide Cullen Tiernan said, “A billionaire who buys his way onto the debate stage has no business lecturing Tulsi about duty to country, when she has served our country in uniform for the past 16 years — volunteering to deploy twice to the war zones in the Middle East.”
We don’t know yet if the two candidates will face off on stage, but this is a dynamic to look for the lead-up to the next presidential debate in Ohio.
ABC News’ “Start Here” podcast. Thursday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief Legal Analyst Dan Abrams, who walks us through the White House record of the call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which has sparked an impeachment inquiry. Then, ABC News Senior National correspondent Terry Moran tells us how the White House is responding to the inquiry. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast. Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., joins ABC News Political Director Rick Klein to talk about how the evidence of President Donald Trump’s telephone call with the president of Ukraine was “so damning” that he had no choice but to support the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. http://apple.co/2vje5Oc
ABC News’ “The Investigation” podcast After a brief hiatus, “The Investigation” is back and diving into all angles of the launch of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. As six House committees continue their individual investigations under an impeachment inquiry umbrella, what does this mean for the president and the country leading up to the 2020 election. Senior Congressional correspondent Mary Bruce joins from Capitol Hill, along with senior national correspondent Terry Moran, who offers his perspective on the rough transcript released by the White House — a transcript described as “not verbatim” of Trump’s “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian president. https://bit.ly/2FMgHe3
FiveThirtyEight’s “Politics Podcast.” In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, the crew discusses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to formally launch an inquiry into whether President Donald Trump should be impeached. How did Democrats get to this point, and what might come next? https://apple.co/23r5y7w
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