Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.
Tonight's newsletter is 1,922 words, a 7-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
John Bolton is the impeachment inquiry's biggest wildcard. People around the president say they are worried about what notes Trump's former national security adviser has kept and when he might divulge them.
Why it matters: These sources, including both current and former senior administration officials, tell me that the former national security adviser was the most prolific note-taker at the top level of the White House and probably has more details than any impeachment inquiry witness, so far, about President Trump's machinations on Ukraine.
The intrigue: Bolton's lawyer, Chuck Cooper, caught the attention of impeachment investigators and administration officials on Friday with a provocative line he dangled in a letter to the House's general counsel: that Bolton "was personally involved" in "many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed" in the impeachment testimonies.
Behind the scenes: This tease from Bolton's lawyer provoked this warning from a senior administration official:
To be clear, there is no evidence that Bolton has held onto classified information. But the unease inside the administration has been churning ever since staff learned that Bolton had signed a book deal to tell about his time working for Trump. Bolton's book deal is worth $2 million, per AP, which suggests he's willing to dish.
Between the lines: Unlike most of the impeachment witnesses so far, Bolton talked one-on-one with the president on numerous occasions. He has a degree of insight that the impeachment witnesses we've seen so far simply cannot offer.
The bottom line: All of this may come to nothing because House Democrats are rushing to vote on impeachment before the end of the year. Democrats have said they don't want to get sucked into a lengthy legal battle, and so they have not subpoenaed Bolton to testify. The courts, however, have shown they're willing to move faster than normal if Democrats were willing to delay their timeline and chase Bolton.
Marie Yovanovitch. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Three key witnesses in the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry will testify this week in a series of nationally televised hearings that Democrats are hoping will shock Americans enough to convince them that President Trump must be removed from office, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.
Why it matters: This public phase of impeachment is arguably the most important part of Democrats' efforts so far, as public sentiment will determine how this plays out.
What to expect: First up on Wednesday is the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor, whose explosive closed-door testimony last month has been described by many Democrats as the most damaging to Trump.
Democratic House aides told Alayna and me that House Intel chair Adam Schiff chose to present Taylor, Kent and Yovanovitch first because they believe each has "unimpeachable character," as one aide described it, and are apolitical career officials.
Schiff's team has asked Democratic members not to share any information about their preparations ahead of the hearings.
Behind the scenes: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not happy with how House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler — who, according to House rules, will eventually have to take ownership of the impeachment fight — handled the Russia hearings, particularly Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s hearing, two Democratic sources familiar with her thinking tell Alayna.
What's next: More public hearings will follow. One of the aides said they hadn’t settled on week two witnesses yet, but thought Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated military officer and the NSC's director of European Affairs, would be a natural closer.
Jim Jordan. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Republican members and staffers on the House Intelligence Committee spent the weekend planning how to undermine the witnesses' credibility and convince the viewing public that Democrats have wiped away their due process rights, Alayna reports.
A GOP committee aide said Republicans will focus on three main areas in their defense of the president. Two other GOP committee sources confirmed the first source's account:
1. Process arguments: Republicans plan to give "speeches" during their allotted time about what they will describe as the lack of due process rights for the House minority and the White House.
2. Counters to witnesses: They will argue that much of the evidence Democrats have gathered is largely based on "hearsay."
Worth noting: Democratic committee aides have already prepared a rebuttal to this attack.
3. Affirmative defense: Republicans will argue that the officials who had the most direct access to the president, such as former Ukraine adviser Kurt Volker, said there was no clear quid pro quo.
John Bel Edwards (L); Eddie Rispone. Photos: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images (L); Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Next weekend's Louisiana governor's race is "too close to call," according to the state's top daily paper. President Trump hopes he can use his popularity in Louisiana to push the politically inexperienced Republican challenger across the line.
Why it matters: Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards "is attempting to defy the laws of political gravity for the second time and remain as the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, and the only Democrat in Louisiana to hold statewide office," per The Advocate.
Between the lines: "[Eddie] Rispone has the biggest gun of all behind him" — President Trump, who remains popular in Louisiana. And, as the NYT notes, "Rispone has lassoed his fortunes to the president like few others: The candidate's first two runoff ads ... showed Mr. Trump speaking at a rally, with no footage of Mr. Rispone at all."
Photo: Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images
The House Intelligence committee kicks off its public impeachment hearings on Wednesday (as seen above).
The Senate will vote on the following nominees, per a Republican leadership aide:
President Trump's schedule, per a White House official:
James and Kathryn Murdoch, Sept. 20, 2018. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for National Geographic
Kathryn Murdoch, the wife of Rupert Murdoch's son James, saw last week's elections as a field test of what she hopes will become a $100 million-plus effort to reform electoral politics in America.
Two things happened last Tuesday that encouraged Murdoch to double down on her efforts:
The big picture: Murdoch and Unite America, the political reform group to which she's attached, say they are trying to reduce the hyper-partisanship and gridlock that define U.S. politics.
Why it matters: Murdoch brings a vast net worth and network to these efforts. She saw last week's elections as a small test of what's to come. Some observers, meanwhile, have voiced skepticism that her group's efforts — no matter how well-funded — can do anything more than tinker around the margins of hyper-polarized politics that have existed in America for decades.
As the New York Times reported in a long profile of Murdoch's political efforts, she and her husband James "are claiming their independence from the more conservative arm of the family."