Nov 17, 2019

Inside Democrats' Week 2 impeachment strategy

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff hears from staff members during a break in Friday's impeachment hearing. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Democrats are approaching Week 2 of impeachment hearings with one key goal: show more of President Trump's direct involvement in the scheme to tie Ukrainian aid to an investigation of Joe Biden's son.

What to watch: Of the eight officials testifying next week, the one with the most known direct interactions with Trump is EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland. The Trump megadonor already had to amend his testimony once. He may be the most legally vulnerable, and he has spoken with Trump about the investigations.

  • At least two others — National Security Council top Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and former Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill — also have the potential to offer key details from within the White House, with one Democratic official describing them as this week's star witnesses.
  • Vindman, who will appear on Tuesday, was on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He says acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was responsible for withholding aid to Ukraine.
  • And Hill will close out the week on Thursday. "She can put an entire bow on this thing ... and speak to the president's actions directly," a Democratic aide said.

In addition to showing a more direct tie to Trump, Democrats also want to use Week 2 to fine-tune messaging that can reach persuadable independents and Republicans.

  • One Democratic official said they saw "great penetration" this week on Fox News, with Bret Baier calling Trump's tweets disparaging former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch "a turning point," and Chris Wallace stating that "you don't have a pulse" if you're not moved by her testimony.

The layout: Democrats know Republicans are going to continue pressuring House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff to allow them to ask more questions, but he will continue to gavel down any distracting narratives from the right.

  • Officials say they think the organization of the hearings so far has been effective at ensuring the substance of the witnesses' testimony gets out at the top, and they plan to keep the same layout for the majority of hearings this week.

Worth noting: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been commandeering Democrats' impeachment strategy behind the scenes, and her team have not yet said whether they'll announce more public hearings beyond this week.

  • But some Democratic aides say they hope David Holmes, an official in the U.S. Embassy in Kiev who told House investigators in a closed-door deposition on Friday that he overheard Trump question Sondland about investigating the Bidens, will have a chance to testify publicly.

Go deeper: Inside Republicans defense strategy for Week 2

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Autopsies say George Floyd's death was homicide

Police watch as demonstrators block a roadway while protesting the death of George Floyd in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Preliminary results from an independent autopsy commissioned by George Floyd's family found that his death in the custody of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was "homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain," according to a statement from the family's attorney.

The latest: An updated official autopsy released by the Hennepin County medical examiner also determined that the manner of Floyd's death was "homicide," ruling it was caused by "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdued, restraint, and neck compression."

The Biden-Trump split screen

Photos via Getty Images: Jim Watson/AFP (L); Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency (R)

The differences between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump are plain as day as the two respond to recent protests.

Why it matters: Americans are seeing firsthand how each presidential nominee responds to a national crisis happening during a global pandemic.

Louisville police chief fired after body cameras found inactive in shooting of black man

Louisville police officers during protests. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired the city's chief of police Steve Conrad after it was discovered that police officers had not activated their body cameras during the shooting of David McAtee, a local black business owner who was killed during protests early Monday morning.

Why it matters: Mandatory body camera policies have proven to be important in efforts to hold police officers accountable for excessive force against civilians and other misconduct. Those policies are under even greater scrutiny as the nation has erupted in protest over the killing of black people at the hands of police.