EDITORS' BLOG
Perfect

From Daily Beast:

Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, helped arrange meetings and calls in Europe for Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018, Parnas’  lawyer Ed MacMahon told The Daily Beast.

The travel came as Nunes, in his role on the House Intelligence Committee, was working to investigate the origins of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling.

There’s No Honor Under the Bus
Prime Membership Required

There’s been a lot of talk today about Gordon Sondland underbusing the President or the Vice President or the Secretary of State. Only that’s not entirely right. Close but not quite. You’ll notice this in his insistence that he had no recollection of telling Kyiv Embassy official David Holmes that all Trump cared about was “Biden”. Perhaps Holmes misremembered it. But I doubt it. When it came to key conversations with the President his memory seemed to fray, though he generally wouldn’t dispute the recollections of others.

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Quid Pro Quo, The Critical Backstory

Clarifying many points in the Ukraine scandal drama requires simply stating the obvious. And nowhere more so than in this now notorious Trump/Sondland phone call in which the President barked “no quid pro quo” to Sondland multiple times and said he wanted “nothing” from President Zelensky of Ukraine. The President and his supporters have rather implausibly put this forward as total exoneration. After all, in a private call, when asked what he wanted he said “no quid pro quo.”

But of course the timing and even the contextual logic is key.

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When The President Does It, That Means It’s Not Rogue
Prime Membership Required

When everything a government official does is directed and authorized by the president, does that really make it rogue?

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Photos for the Ages

A short time ago President went out on the White House lawn before boarding Marine One and read out selective portions of testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Photographers were there.

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Boom

If you saw this morning’s testimony, I don’t have much to add. It speaks for itself. From every direction, Sondland confirmed the existence of a corrupt enterprise, directed expressly by the President. According to Sondland, everyone was in the loop – the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, the President, the Vice President, everyone. If you didn’t see or want to review it more closely, here are the prepared remarks. We’ll have more as we go on the key revelations from this morning.

The Testimony

The Sondland testimony seems historic and shattering. We’re all taking it in. Here’s the text to read directly.

There will be much to discuss. It basically seems to be throwing everyone in sight under the bus. Here are some highlights we’ve identified from the prepared remarks.

Today’s Agenda: This Is The Big One
Prime Membership Required

Happy Wednesday, November 20. In perhaps the most highly-anticipated day of the impeachment inquiry hearings so far, Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland will testify this morning. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.

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We’re All Kurt Volker
Prime Membership Required

The “we” in the title is admittedly doing a lot of work, as they say. “We” applies to some of us more than others. Indeed, I should say I found much of Amb. Volker’s testimony far short of credible. But if we take his claims at face value he found himself, to use his words, trying to “thread the needle.” He could see that the requests from Rudy Giuliani (and the President) were at least problematic, specifically the focus on the company Burisma and what he now says he should have understood was targeting the Bidens. But if he could interpret these demands in such a way that they seemed facially legitimate (just a general restatement of the need to root out corruption in Ukraine) then he could provide what they were asking for in good conscience and advance the policy aims he genuinely seems to have believed in.

Burisma did have a reputation of corruption and even though he thought the claims about the 2016 election were baseless, what harm would there really be in looking into them? In other words, by adopting a kind of willful blindness to what was actually happening he could try to address Giuliani and Co’s demands with a clean conscience.

This is a microcosm of what the whole country is facing, and especially those involved in running the federal government and its national security functions.

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The Underbelly of ‘Unified Executive Authority’
Prime Membership Required

One of the interesting themes of these hearings is the question of who controls US foreign policy: the President or the sum of the “interagency” or bureaucratic policy making process. In a narrow sense it is absolutely right that if all the President’s advisors (in the sense of the sum of everyone at State, DOD, the NSC, Intelligence Community, etc) decide on one policy and the President disagrees, the President’s choice governs. This is elementary. And if you listen to the various testimonies no one who has spoken as a witness has said otherwise. But there’s a part of this that bears closer examination. Because it gets at the underbelly of so-called theories of “unitary executive” power.

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The atmosphere of the fifth Democratic debate stage on Wednesday evening was remarkably more quaint and noticeably more jovial than previous debates. While candidates’ attacks on one another were direct and blunt, the 10 on stage voluntarily offered each other support on several occasions and even traded their fair share of lighthearted jabs.

| Prime

11:24 p.m. 
John Light: Next time around, the floor for qualifying in the debates rises once again: Candidates must have four percent support in at least four polls approved by the DNC. This may be our last ten-person debate, and good riddance.

Thanks for following along with us. You can read some more in-depth takeaways here.

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| News

As the cast of characters expands and evidence grows, it’s become hard to keep track of who has spoken to investigators and who is refusing to cooperate. So we’ve created an infographic to keep track of who’s testified, who’s handed over documents — and who’s refused.

TPM'S IMPEACHMENT TRACKER
Ep. 93: Inside The Impeachment Hearing Room
Ep. 93: Inside The Impeachment Hearing Room
TPM investigative reporter Tierney Sneed joins Josh, Kate and David to talk about the first public impeachment hearing this week. Tierney was inside the (free...
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