Welcome to Sneak Peek, our weekly lookahead for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, plus our best scoops.
Tonight's newsletter is 1,748 words, < 7 minutes.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Last May, then-White House counsel Don McGahn wanted to withdraw Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director. McGahn told colleagues that Haspel's role in the CIA's controversial "enhanced interrogation" program could kill her in her Senate confirmation.
Driving the news: President Trump disagreed. Trump actually liked this aspect of Haspel's resume, according to three sources who spoke to the president at the time. In fact, Trump told aides that Haspel's support for "torture" or "waterboarding" (Trump uses these words interchangeably in his private conversations) was an asset, not a liability.
A CIA spokesperson declined to comment for this story, but pointed Axios to a section of Haspel's confirmation testimony in which she said the CIA "learned some tough lessons from that experience" interrogating suspected terrorists after 9/11.
Why it matters: Trump has held the same views about war crimes and torture for years — and being commander in chief has not changed him. He believes that previous presidents have been far too eager to send Americans to war, but that once they've been deployed, these soldiers should be free to treat enemies brutally.
Trump has told advisers that the U.S. military became too politically correct under President Obama and that he wanted to unleash them to fight with "toughness," without these burdensome rules of engagement.
Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes listen to testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Nov. 15. Photo: Alex Wong/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, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.
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.
Kurt Volker appears for a deposition In the impeachment Inquiry, Oct. 3, 2019. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Republicans' goal this week is to create as much distance as possible between President Trump and the witnesses and make the case that Trump himself never specifically ordered a halt on aid to Ukraine with the intention of forcing a political investigation.
Behind the scenes: Republicans think Trump's former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former NSC official Tim Morrison will be their star witnesses, though some are griping that Schiff has tucked their hearing into Tuesday afternoon, Republican officials working on impeachment tell Alayna.
And while Democrats think Sondland will be a damaging witness for the president, Republicans think they can use him to their advantage.
Meanwhile, White House communication with the Hill has tightened over the past week, according to people involved. Trump has made clear to aides he wants them to fight on substance — "he's done nothing wrong" — not just process, a senior administration official said.
Pete Buttigieg, Rochester, New Hampshire, Nov. 11. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Top Republicans are taking Pete Buttigieg seriously as a potential general election candidate after his breakout poll in Iowa. The respected Des Moines Register poll, released Saturday night, has Buttigieg at the top of the Democratic pack in Iowa.
"He'd be a fresh face with a message of unity and a more traditional Democratic program that's not as scary to suburbanites," Karl Rove told me. "His weaknesses would be in motivating African Americans and connecting with blue-collar middle America that's dubious of any Harvard-educated elites."
What they're saying:
Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city, has defended himself against charges of inexperience by saying he has more executive experience than Trump.
What's next: Buttigieg has had a huge surge of support in Iowa, but he has never had to face the scrutiny and attacks that come with frontrunner status. This week, that will likely change. Watch for the other candidates to turn on him in Wednesday's Democratic debate in Atlanta.
Photo: Trevor Carpenter/Getting Images
The leading Democratic presidential candidates will take part in the sixth Democratic debate on Wednesday. The debate will be moderated by MSNBC and the Washington Post at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, Alayna reports.
The House Intelligence Committee will hold a series of public impeachment hearings:
The House will vote on a short-term spending bill to fund the government through Dec. 20 (the current continuing resolution expires on Nov. 21).
The Senate will process a short-term continuing resolution and vote on the following nominees, per a Republican leadership aide:
Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images
President Trump's public schedule next week is designed to keep him distracted from the televised hearings — and to counterprogram Week 2 of those hearings, Axios' Margaret Talev writes.
Trump's schedule for the coming week shows him governing, promoting U.S. jobs and highlighting the arts and pop culture.
The bottom line: Trump, who'll cap the week by welcoming college athletes, will have built-in opportunities to address the cameras at all of these events. If he shows discipline, he can convey that he is carrying out the range of duties of the presidency while Democrats are focused on impeachment. But if last week is any guide, that's a big if.
Roger Stone leaving the courthouse, Nov. 15. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
A big question swirling through Trumpworld: Will President Trump pardon his old friend Roger Stone? Some of Trump's closest advisers told me the president would be making a huge political mistake if he does.
What we're watching: Fox News host Tucker Carlson is pushing hard for Trump to pardon Stone and interviewed his daughter Adria Stone on his Friday night show. She pleaded with President Trump to pardon her father. "Donald Trump, if you can hear me, please save our family," she said.
Why it matters: Trump watches Carlson's show religiously and values his opinions.