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Power Up: Why Pelosi changed her mind on impeachment

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It’s happening. Wednesday and an impeachment inquiry. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.  

Also happening: “Climate change is already causing staggering impacts on the oceans and ice-filled regions that encompass 80 percent of the Earth, and future damage from rising seas and melting glaciers is now all but certain, according to a sobering new report from the United Nations,” per our colleagues Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis. 

On The Hill

WHY PELOSI CHANGED HER MIND: The speaker of the House “crossed the Rubicon,” in her words, when she announced late yesterday afternoon that Democrats would officially embrace an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

It was a defining moment for Nancy Pelosi and for the Trump presidency, one which was far from guaranteed. Just a week ago, Pelosi was cautioning restive members of her caucus to hold their fire on wielding impeachment, a blunt political tool brandished only four times in American history. But the speaker relented following allegations Trump encouraged the Ukrainian president to reopen an investigation into Joe Biden and his son.

  • “The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said. “Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”
  • What this means: “Pelosi’s move all but ensures that the House will vote on articles charging Trump with ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ in a matter of weeks, according to senior Democratic lawmakers and top leadership aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations,” my colleagues Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report
  • “Unlike any other caucus meeting, there was broad consensus — I did not hear one word of dissent, and that’s the first time that I recall that’s occurred in a discussion of the president,” House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) told reporters upon exiting a caucus meeting to discuss the historic move. 

The speaker’s change of heart was long in coming and fed by an array of new factors:

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Groundswell from Democrats in swing seats: Over 20 Democrats — many of whom sit in competitive districts won by Trump in 2016 — changed their minds and came out in support of impeachment over the last 48 hours.

‘Most understandable’: Pelosi pointed out in an interview yesterday with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that the new allegations — unlike, perhaps, the web of complicated charges in Robert S. Mueller III’s report — could be clearer to the American public, which is so far not behind impeachment.

  • She said: “This is about the Constitution of the United States and we have many other, shall we say, candidates for impeachable offense in terms of the Constitution, we would say … but this one is the most understandable by the public. And it’s really important to know this. It is — there is no requirement there be a quid pro quo in the conversation. If the President brings up he wants them to investigate something, that’s to — and — of his political opponent, that is self-evident that it is not right,” Pelosi explained. 
  • The bottom line: “We don’t ask foreign governments to help us in our elections,” Pelosi concluded. 

The Trump factor: Unlike other controversies plaguing the Trump White House, the president himself has suggested he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden multiple times. 

  • “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters on Sunday morning. “And Ukraine, Ukraine’s got a lot of problems.”
  • “NO quid pro quo”: In a series of tweets yesterday afternoon, Trump insisted his July 25 call with Zelensky was “very friendly and totally appropriate” and that there was “NO quid pro quo!” Pelosi, however, made clear in her Atlantic interview “the quid pro quo is not essential to an impeachable offense.” 
  • Key: “The president of the United States admitted that he spoke to the president of a foreign country — that would be Ukraine — about something that would assist him in his election, Pelosi told reporters, according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney, Heather Caygle, and John Bresnahan. “So that has changed everything.”

Behind the scenes: Rachael, Mike and Karoun report that Pelosi and Trump spoke on Tuesday morning in a conversation in which Pelosi informed Trump of her decision to launch an impeachment inquiry. 

  • “Trump insisted he had nothing to do with his administration’s refusal to share with Congress an intelligence community whistleblower complaint about his actions, according to individuals familiar with the call who spoke on the condition of anonymity to frankly describe the conversation,” per Rachael, Mike, and Karoun. 
  • Pelosi replied that Trump had the power to turn over the complaint and challenged him to do so: “I said, ‘Well, then undo it.’ Undo it. Because you are asking the DNI to break the law. I mean, it’s just outrageous.”

Public polling?: Voters, to this point haven’t been behind an impeachment inquiry. But the impact of the fast-moving Ukraine developments haven’t yet been tested, said one Democratic pollster.

  • Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told Power Up in an email that while he doesn’t have any new numbers “they wouldn’t mean all that much now anyway — this is a quickly moving target.” 

NEXT STEPS: “White House and intelligence officials were working out a plan on Tuesday to release a redacted version of the whistle-blower complaint that helped ignite the impeachment drive against President Trump and to allow the whistle-blower to speak with congressional investigators, people briefed on the matter said,” the New York Times’s Michael Schmidt, Julian Barnes and Maggie Haberman report. 

  • “People familiar with the situation said the administration was putting the complaint through a declassification process and planned to release a redacted version within days,” Schmidt, Barnes and Haberman report of the complain that was filed on Aug. 12. 
  • Even the GOP-controlled Senate — in a rare bipartisan moment — voted unanimously for the whistleblower complaint to be turned over to the Senate Intelligence Committee. 
  • The lawyers for the whistleblower, Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid, released a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on moving forward “to contact the congressional intelligence committees directly” to provide testimony.
  • “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff said Tuesday that the lawyers had contacted the panel and testimony could be ‘as soon as this week,'” per the Associated Press.
  • Reminder: One very important person hasn’t changed his mind. The Senate would ultimately have to try Trump if he is impeached by the House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was “dismissive,” saying “Speaker Pelosi’s much-publicized efforts to restrain her far-left conference have finally crumbled.”
  • About the transcript: The White House also announced plans to today release the transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky. 

At The White House

RUDY’S SHADOW UKRAINE AGENDA: “President Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani — to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev, current and former U.S. officials said,” my colleagues Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey, Paul Sonne and Ellen Nakashima report. 

  • “The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports.” 
  • “Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.” 
  • “Rudy — he did all of this,” one U.S. official told my colleagues. “This s—show that we’re in — it’s him injecting himself into the process.”
  • Read the full story here. 

From the mayor: Giuliani responded to the story in a memorable appearance on Fox News last night where he claims that the State Department directed him to contact Ukrainian officials about Biden. 

  • “I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it. And then I reported every conversation back to them. Laura, I’m a pretty good lawyer, just a country lawyer, but it’s all right here, right here. The first call from the State Department,” Giuliani told host Laura Ingraham, brandishing his cellphone to say he had proof of the contact.

How it all unfolded: Support for impeachment was not inevitable.

As our colleagues documented, the push began with the lonely Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) in 2017. Trump’s actions, Mueller’s Russia investigation and, finally, the whistleblower brought along successive waves of converts and increasingly a broader swath of the Democratic caucus.

Not even two years after Green’s first efforts, they are now almost 200 strong.

Prior to Mueller’s report being released, supporters were from some of the most liberal districts:

The redacted report’s release in mid-April, Mueller’s initial statement in late May and, finally, his testimony in late July began to broaden the base:

(JM Rieger, Kate Rabinowitz, Chris Alcantara and Kevin Uhrmacher for The Post)

But it was reporting about the whistleblower that changed everything. Just take a look:

(JM Rieger, Kate Rabinowitz, Chris Alcantara and Kevin Uhrmacher for The Post)

The Campaign

HOW THE 2020 CANDIDATES REACTED: Biden is not quite there yet, but he moved a lot closer toward endorsing an impeachment inquiry, our colleagues Matt Viser, Colby Itkowitz and Cleve R. Wootson Jr. report. As the early leader in the field, the former vice president’s opposition to impeachment has for months stood in stark contrast to nearly every other major 2020 hopeful — including the nine other candidates who joined him Sept. 12 on the debate stage.

  • “If he continues to obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment,” Biden said in a brief statement from Wilmington, Del. “That would be a tragedy, but a tragedy of his own making.”

The rest of the field mostly reiterated their previous calls for impeachment.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) “would not say whether he would vote to convict Trump if articles of impeachment were before the Senate, explaining that he wanted to review evidence before concluding how he would vote,” our colleagues write.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) wrote on Twitter, “The impeachment inquiry must move forward with the efficiency and seriousness this crisis demands.”
  • “To my former colleagues in Congress: Finish the job and impeach him,” former congressman Beto O’Rourke wrote on Twitter.

It will be interesting to watch the amount of pressure the group puts on Pelosi and House Democrats going forward. On Friday, Warren reiterated her call for impeachment that she first made in April by saying that Congress’ failure to act had made it “complicit,” a statement that was widely viewed as a shot at Pelosi’s leadership.

One last thing: Former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, who was the first in the field to call for impeachment, added this:

The Policies

HOUSE HOLDS HEARING ON ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN: The Judiciary Committee will meet later this morning to consider the possibility of renewing the federal assault weapons ban, a controversial law passed during the 1990s that banned 19 types of semiautomatic firearms and magazines which held more than 10 rounds. But the law contained a sunset provision and Republicans were perfectly content to let it expire in 2004 — Democrats also failed to make a serious push to renew it when they had control of Congress early in the Obama administration.

  • The witnesses: Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, whose city was the site of a mass shooting in August that left nine people dead; Alejandro Rios Tovar, a surgeon at the University Medical Center of El Paso, which experienced its own mass shooting just 24 hours before Dayton that left 20 people dead; and Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney. Dianna Muller, a former Tulsa police officer who works with a group focused on encouraging female firearm owners to tell their stories, will testify. As will Amy Swearer, a Heritage Foundation legal policy analyst who has criticized similar efforts to renew the ban. 
  • Who’s not appearing: Nobody from the NRA, which fiercely fought such legislation.

Uphill battle: Rep. David Cicilline’s bill to renew the ban has 211 Democratic co-sponsors and 1 Republican, Rep. Peter King (N.Y.), supporting it. That is tantalizingly close to the necessary 218, but as CNN’s Ronald Brownstein and Aaron Kessler pointed out many of the holdouts come from the majority makers that flipped Republican-leaning districts in 2018. And the GOP-controlled Senate is disinclined to action as long as Trump hasn’t put his cards on the table. (The White House has still not released its promised gun-control plan.)

The People

WEWORK CEO STEPS DOWN: “Barely a week ago, Adam Neumann was sitting atop the most valuable startup in the U.S. and getting ready for a blockbuster initial public offering,” the Wall Street Journal’s Eliot Brown, Dana Cimilluca, David Benoit and Maureen Farrell report. “Now he’s out of a job.”

  • What happened: “The charismatic, high-octane 40-year-old resigned under pressure as chief executive of WeWork’s parent Tuesday and will relinquish control of the shared-office company, a rapid fall from grace that is unusual in the startup world and bucks a trend of highflying founders with unchecked control,” the Journal reports.
  • Neumann’s reported behavior went viral: One notable Journal story is replete with examples of Neumann’s partying and just downright odd behavior.
  • Among the highlights: Neumann smoking marijuana on a private jet during an international flight; banning red meat, pork and poultry in the office, while still consuming it himself; firing 7 percent of WeWork’s staff to cut costs and then addressing it during a all-hands meeting that was followed by tequila shots and a performance from a member of Run DMC; and reportedly telling someone he wanted to be president of the world.





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