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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

U.K. PM orders inquiry into Muslim lawmaker's discrimination claim

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London, England, last week. Photo: Ian Vogler/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a Cabinet Office inquiry into allegations from a Member of Parliament in his ruling Conservative Party that she was fired from a ministerial job due to her Muslim faith, per the BBC.

Driving the news: Nusrat Ghani told the Sunday Times she was informed that she was fired from her position as a junior transport minister in February 2020 after her "Muslimness was raised as an issue" and that it made her colleagues feel "uncomfortable."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

5 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.