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Trump and Giuliani in 2016. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Top House Republican sources tell Axios that one impeachment survival strategy will be to try to distance President Trump from any Ukraine quid pro quo, with Rudy Giuliani potentially going under the bus.

What they're saying: A Republican member of one of the impeachment committees told Axios: "[T]his is not an impeachment of Rudy Giuliani, it's not an impeachment of Ambassador Sondland. It's an impeachment of the president of the United States."

  • "So the point is as long as this is a step removed, he's in good shape. ... If it's a step removed from the president, he doesn't lose any Republicans in the House."

A top House GOP leadership aide said: "Substance is focus. [The co-leadoff witness, Bill] Taylor says [he had a] 'full understanding.' But from who? Not POTUS. That’s big."

  • An uber-connected Republican added: "Rudy will be cut loose because he was rogue."

What the president is thinking: "Trump is frustrated with the slippery slope it creates [by] saying it's bad but not impeachable," the GOP member added.

  • "Then it gets to bad but impeachable. I think the real problem becomes the slippery slope. ... It's more just a function that he believes there ought to be a strong defense based on the merits of what happened, not on the process."

A top Democratic aide told Axios the party's goal for the hearings is "Mueller on steroids": "Simpler crime witnessed by credible people. Mueller did exceptional work but nobody read his 400+ page report (except a few of us masochists)."

  • A Democratic official who helped shape the strategy told me the narrative will be: "The president abused his power to rig and fix elections in his favor. Our challenge is to keep it that simple: What kind of democracy do we want?"
  • Look for Democrats to say Trump would do it again if not held accountable.

P.S. ... Republican senators are "too busy" to watch today, per AP's Alan Fram:

  • Millions of Americans will be watching. But of eight Senate Republicans questioned, seven said they wouldn't be watching or that it wasn't a priority.
  • "Tomorrow I'm going to be paying attention to what we're doing in the Senate," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

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Go deeper

Updated 27 mins ago - Sports

MLB enters first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is in a management lockout — the first work stoppage since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost reported Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.