It’s Thanksgiving week, and someone’s getting pardoned for sure: Bread and Butter, a pair of turkeys. President Donald Trump’s fate? That’s still up in the air, as an impeachment hearing officially looms over his meal. Tasty!
To catch you up:
During a July 25 phone call, President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on his potential political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. Rumor has it that he dangled $400 million in aid to Ukraine and a personal meeting between the two leaders as leverage. This all led to a whistleblower complaint and an attempt by Democrats to impeach the president.
Multiple White House staffers resigned; and Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two associates of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who worked to dig up dirt on the Bidens, attempted to leave the country and were consequently arrested. Impeachment proceedings started in private, but didn’t stay that way for long: A bipartisan committee heard public testimony from witnesses including Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine; Fiona Hill, Trump’s top Russia advisor; Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union; Laura Cooper, the Pentagon’s top Russia and Ukraine official; and more.
We’ve seen dogs, we’ve seen drag queens, and we’ve heard about Kim Kardashian and A$AP Rocky. If we’ve done our jobs right, you’ll be able to explain all of this and more to any great-aunt twice-removed who asks while everyone else digs into their mashed potatoes. And if no one asks? You can dish it out anyway.
So what happened this (short) week?
Over the weekend (November 23 and 24):
We found out that Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House Chief of Staff, got a little spooked after Trump’s now-infamous July 25 call with Ukraine. According to a New York Times report from November 24, he asked officials in the budget office, where he used to work, if there was any sort of legal reason the U.S. should be withholding military aid.
Two separate news releases also showed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played a bigger role in this scandal than we previously thought, according to the Times. And Representative Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, is also further embroiled in the whole mess, CNN reported.
Remember Lev Parnas? Well, his lawyer said that he’s down to tell Congress that Nunes met with a former Ukrainian prosecutor in Vienna last year to talk about digging up dirt on Biden, according to CNN. Nunes said this is “demonstrably false,” according to the Washington Post, and, since the hearings are closed, it’s unclear if Schiff would even open them back up to hear from Parnas. But if he does, it could put Nunes in a bit of a pickle — even if it is a Congressman’s word against that of a guy who tried to flee the country weeks ago.
And things got even more interesting with the President’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who is not an official White House employee yet is still deeply entangled in the mess. He told Fox News that he has insurance if Trump betrays him, because we now apparently live in some weird fan-fic based on The Godfather. “You can assume that I talk with him early and often and have a very, very good relationship with him, and all these comments — which are totally insulting — I mean, I've seen things written like he's going to throw me under the bus. When they say that, I say, ‘He isn't, but I have insurance,’” Guiliani said. He later tweeted that he was kidding.
Monday (November 25)
A federal judge ruled that Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, will indeed have to testify, according to the Times. In the judges ruling, he wrote: “Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.” McGahn is just one of the witnesses the White House has blocked from cooperating with the inquiry, so this could have broader implications for those folks – like former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
We also found out that the president doesn’t seem to be backing down from supporting the former mayor of New York City, Giuliani. “Rudy is a great crime fighter, corruption fighter,” Trump said during an event with the Bulgarian Prime Minister. “Probably the best in 50 years. When he was here, and also when he was at the U.S. attorney in [the] Southern District, he was phenomenal. Rudy is a great person. And I think that maybe the press isn’t treating Rudy very well, and I think that's unfair. But Rudy was a great mayor and a great crime fighter.” And here I thought the Batman reboots couldn’t get any weirder.
Meanwhile, Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that they’ll have more information “soon” after Thanksgiving, according to the Times. But soon is relative, and if Schiff is anything like I am with deadlines, we might not want to get our hopes up. [Editor’s note: She’s great with deadlines. Really.]
After Schiff delivers his report on the inquiry, he’ll be handing the reins off to the Judiciary Committee. Then, the Judiciary Committee will likely announce public impeachment hearings and will begin drafting and debating the different impeachment articles recommended by Schiff. Eventually, Republican staff members will also put out a “minority views” report. This all happens before the House takes an official vote.
Tuesday (November 26)
Trump just had to talk about impeachment while he was participating in the traditional, annual pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey. None of this makes sense. “It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey,” Trump said, according to the Associated Press. Then he told the birds that, “Unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met. It’s very unusual.”
(He also told fans at a rally that people are trying to call Thanksgiving by any other name, which is false. Do activists want to educate people on the ways in which Thanksgiving celebrates a genocide of Indigenous peoples? Yes, absolutely. But this isn’t the next front in the showdown of Starbucks’s holiday cups. It’s just correcting revisionist history to accurately reflect what went down, which, again, was genocide.)
A bombshell report came out of the Times Tuesday night that showed Trump knew about the whistleblower report in August — before he explicitly told the Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that there was no quid pro quo, and well before the frozen aid was released.
Since Congress is on break for Thanksgiving, there likely won’t be much more impeachment news this week. But we’ll keep you updated right here if there is.