Oct 22, 2019

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 520 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: Turkey's president traveled to Russia today to negotiate the future of northern Syria — highlighting the success of his offensive, Putin’s unmatched power in Syria, and America's absence from the table. Go deeper.

1 big thing: Career diplomat describes quid pro quo

Bill Taylor. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine claims there is a direct connection between congressionally approved military aid and Ukrainian interference in domestic U.S. politics — the quid pro quo that President Trump and his allies have long denied.

  • Why it matters: Career public servants are increasingly undermining the Trump administration's all-out efforts to stymie the impeachment probe.

The big picture: U.S. envoy Bill Taylor's explosive testimony to House investigators today relied largely on his conversations with U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, Axios' Alayna Treene and Zachary Basu report.

  • Taylor said the White House made clear that Ukraine wouldn't get military aid unless it promised to investigate natural gas company Burisma — aka investigate the Bidens — and alleged interference in the 2016 election.
  • From Taylor's testimony: "Toward the end of an otherwise normal meeting, a voice on the call — the person was off-screen — said that she was from OMB and that her boss had instructed her not to approve any additional spending of security assistance for Ukraine until further notice. I and others sat in astonishment. ... All that the OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the President to the Chief of Staff to OMB."

Between the lines: Taylor's testimony noted his concerns that there were two channels of U.S. policymaking toward Ukraine.

  • Of special concern was the "irregular, informal" channel operated by Rudy Giuliani, special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Sondland.

Go deeper: Read Taylor's full opening statement

P.S.: The anonymous senior Trump administration official who authored an infamous New York Times op-ed against Trump last year has written a book. The release date is Nov. 19.

2. Pic du jour

President Trump invoked lynching today, comparing the impeachment inquiry against his presidency to the ritualized torture and murder of thousands of African Americans.

  • Why it matters: This was the latest example of him comparing constitutional checks and balances to acts of violence and war, which isn't normal.

Below is a marker from Selma, Alabama, the site of multiple lynchings during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Go deeper:

3. What you missed
  1. Trump sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulating him on his 70th birthday and calling him "one of my closest allies," shortly after Netanyahu failed to form a government for the second time in six months. Go deeper.
  2. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will tell a House committee tomorrow that Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency project will help bring millions of people who don't use banks into the financial system. Go deeper.
  3. Parliament has now made Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pledge to take the U.K. out of the EU by Oct. 31 all but impossible. Go deeper.
  4. Fashion, food and media brands are using space industry buzz to market their products, shaping the way people on Earth understand and interact with the extraterrestrial sphere for years to come. Go deeper.
4. 📬 1 stamp thing

Courtesy USPS

The late Gwen Ifill will be honored with a commemorative stamp by the USPS, writes PBS NewsHour, where she served as co-anchor and co-managing editor.

  • "It is the 43rd stamp in the Black Heritage series and one of several new designs that will be issued next year."
  • "Ifill worked at the NewsHour for 17 years, covering eight presidential campaigns and moderating two vice-presidential debates."
Mike Allen