Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photos: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is the closest thing to a Ken Starr that exists for President Trump's impeachment inquiry — at least for now — lawmakers and committee staff tell Axios.

The bottom line: In the absence of an independent or special counsel to manage the Ukraine investigation, Schiff has taken on a dual-hat role, as both a key committee chairman and chief investigator.

  • Much like Starr, Schiff is there at the crux of key interviews behind closed doors and efforts to gather evidence that may further the impeachment inquiry.

What they’re saying: Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard and a Trump critic, told me Schiff would have been less likely to play this role — and might have had a harder time justifying it — if not for Attorney General Bill Barr.

  • "If Attorney General Barr had accepted [a CIA lawyer’s attempt to make a] criminal referral and opened a meaningful inquiry, presumably with the appointment of a special counsel, he would’ve been in a position to say that the current congressional inquiry had to be put on hold."
  • Tribe says, in hindsight, Trump may have wished that process had been put in place because it might have pre-empted the congressional inquiry and run out the clock between now and the election.
  • "Now it’s too late. The irony is that, by trying to play the role of Roy Cohn to Donald Trump, William Barr has basically screwed his boss. If Trump had half a brain, he would be, well, pissed."

The backdrop: Starr was named independent counsel during the Clinton administration to investigate a series of scandals involving the First Family. He eventually adapted the investigation to focus on President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and the president's eventual alleged perjury before a grand jury.

  • He quickly became the face of Republicans' impeachment efforts at the time.
  • Lanny Davis, then one of Clinton's lawyers, described Starr as the villain of Clinton impeachment, and said their team's war room strategy was to attack Starr as such.

What's next: It's unclear exactly how Schiff’s role and modus operandi will change if Democrats move forward with a formal impeachment vote, Democratic leadership aides say.

  • Although Speaker Nancy Pelosi has directed the caucus to keep their investigations narrowly focused on Ukraine, the aides say the findings that other committees have uncovered — such as potential obstruction of justice charges from the House Judiciary Committee's investigation — will likely also be part of the potential articles of impeachment.
  • The aides add that, as of now, there have not been talks as to who would ultimately lead the process of a formal vote, and they have not yet discussed bringing in someone from the outside, though that option remains open.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
30 mins ago - World

Alexey Navalny lands back in Moscow despite threat of arrest

Navalny during a march last February. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny returned to Moscow on Sunday, five months after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and despite being warned that he faced arrest upon his return.

Driving the news: Vnukovo airport — where Navalny was scheduled to land and a group of supporters had gathered — was closed to arriving aircraft shortly before his flight was set to land. He landed instead at Sheremetyevo airport. It's not yet clear whether he'll be allowed to leave the airport.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!