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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Starting today, Democrats will do everything they can to put the most damaging testimony against President Trump in front of the public — while Republicans try to put as much distance as possible between Trump and the efforts to pressure Ukraine.

Why it matters: The American public, which has largely been left out of the impeachment process so far, will get a front row seat to the fourth attempt in U.S. history to remove a president from office.

The Democratic point of view, per conversations with House Democratic aides working on the impeachment inquiry:

  • Their goal is to have Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, and State Department official George Kent — both apolitical career officials — lay out what they see as Trump's abuse of presidential powers to force a foreign government to interfere in U.S. elections on his behalf.
  • They will also argue that the witnesses make it clear that there was a quid pro quo, and that the actions carried out by Trump's top officials were not normal.

The bottom line: Democrats do not anticipate the Taylor or Kent to provide any new information that they haven't already described behind closed doors. However, they think it's imperative that the American people hear directly from the key figures involved in the Ukraine saga.

  • "The onus now is on Republicans," one Democratic aide said. "They have to either provide exculpatory evidence — or explain to the American people why it’s okay for a President to use the power of his office to taint our elections in his favor."

House Republicans prepped from 1-3:30pm Tuesday in the Capitol, and went over questions members plan to ask.

  • GOP leaders Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney, as well as Reps. Mark Meadows, Lee Zeldin and Scott Perry, attended in addition to all Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee (apart from Rep. Will Hurd).

The Republican point of view, per conversations with House GOP members and aides working on the impeachment inquiry:

  • Republicans don't think the evidence the witnesses have provided thus far have drawn a clear line to Trump. They acknowledge that some administration officials may have acted shadily toward Ukraine, but the president himself is the one on the line, not them.
  • "At the end of the day, this 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," a Republican member on one of the impeachment investigating committees told Axios.
  • "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."

The GOP member conceded that Democrats are "leading with their very strongest witnesses, the ones whose reputations are the hardest to impugn, the ones whose depositions draw a closer connection than most would like."

  • However, the member noted that this means it all gets worse for them after this week: "They've got to sell the story and have it shift public sentiment by high single digits in order for this to make a lasting impact."

Worth noting: The fact-finding phase of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry is still not over, despite the start of public hearings.

Go deeper: Yesterday, we told you about a GOP memo we obtained highlighting House Republicans' impeachment talking points. Last night, Democrats released their own memo, a direct rebuttal pushing back on each point. Read it here.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”