Oct 31, 2019

The impeachment story beyond the formal vote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presides over the impeachment vote today. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Thursday's big news was the party-line impeachment vote, but the story that could make the history books is the White House aide who described a quid pro quo.

The big picture: On the House floor Democrats passed their impeachment resolution, with Republicans unanimously in opposition.

  • Meanwhile, House investigators were interviewing White House official Tim Morrison, who confirmed parts of the explosive testimony from the administration's top diplomat to Ukraine, according to his opening statement.

Why it matters: Morrison was in the room for the July 25th phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • In his opening statement, the longtime Republican staffer said that he believes Trump and administration officials' actions were legal but "problematic for U.S. policy in supporting an ally in the region."
  • Morrison said he does not recall any NSC lawyers being on the call, so afterward he “promptly” asked the National Security Council lawyers to review the summary.

The big picture: Some Republicans are seizing on the section of Morrison’s opening statement in which he says he “was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed,” on the July 25 call as proof of Trump’s exoneration, Axios' Alayna Treene writes.

  • However, as many Democrats point out, whether Morrison thinks Trump’s actions were legal or not, he said that Trump administration officials made it clear to Ukrainian government officials that they would not receive security aide until the new Ukrainian prosecutor general committed to pursing an investigation into Burisma, the Ukrainian company whose board of directors included Hunter Biden.
  • Morrison also raised alarm bells for Democrats when he said that no NSC lawyers were present on the call.
  • This matters because Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine adviser at the White House, told House investigators earlier this week that NSC lawyers had directly handled the summary of the call that was eventually released to the public, per multiple sources familiar with his testimony.

Go deeper: Trump's new reality: the daily dump

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Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

4 hours ago - World

The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.