January 27, 2017

A secret tape of Thursday's closed-door Republican meeting about the Affordable Care Act revealed that not everyone in the House and Senate is as confident about the repeal as they outwardly appear. The authenticity of the tape's recordings was confirmed with lawmakers by The Washington Post, and it catches Republicans expressing fear about the hasty repeal process and defunding Planned Parenthood.

"We'd better be sure that we're prepared to live with the market we've created [with repeal]," said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). "That's going to be called TrumpCare. Republicans will own that lock, stock, and barrel, and we'll be judged in the election less than two years away."

Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.) expressed similar concerns about the 2020 election: Defunding Planned Parenthood in the reconciliation bill, as proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan, would be "arming our enemy," he said. "Health insurance is going to be tough enough for us to deal with without having millions of people on social media come to Planned Parenthood's defense and sending hundreds of thousands of new donors to the Democratic Senate and Democratic congressional campaign committees. So I would just urge us to rethink this."

Others expressed fears about the breakneck pace of the repeal process, which President Trump launched this week with executive action. "Our goal, in my opinion, should be not a quick fix. We can do it rapidly — but not a quick fix," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). "We want a long-term solution that lowers costs."

"We're telling those people that we're not going to pull the rug out from under them, and if we do this too fast, we are in fact going to pull the rug out from under them," agreed Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.). Jeva Lange

4:20 p.m.

If something seems too good to be true, it's probably because it is.

President Trump congratulated his eldest child last week for hitting the top of The New York Times' bestseller list with his book Triggered. But as was pointed out at the time, Donald Trump Jr.'s rise to the top of the list was in part due to an unknown number of bulk sale purchases — leading some people to believe he bought his way into the ranks.

As Times reporter Nick Confessore noted Thursday, Trump Jr.'s book did in fact get a pretty hefty sales boost — from the Republican National Committee. A Federal Election Commission disclosure reportedly shows the RNC made an expenditure to Books-a-Million totaling $94,800 one week before Triggered was released. The disbursement, which was identified as being for "donor mementos," was reportedly connected to the promotion of Trump Jr.'s book.

Books-a-Million, which held a fundraiser at the beginning of the month for Triggered, is listing copies of the book for $23.09 online, which comes out to a little over 4,000 copies given the RNC's payment.

An RNC spokesperson previously told Confessore the committee had "not made a large bulk purchase" but was ordering copies of Triggered in order to "keep up with demand."

As Confessore points out, the situation is a sweet deal for both the RNC and Trump Jr. One makes $500,000 off of promotional deals with donors, and the other becomes a New York Times best-selling author. Marianne Dodson

3:54 p.m.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) just publicly rebuked President Trump amid the Ukraine scandal, but that's not to say he's boarding the impeachment train.

Hurd, a moderate Republican who isn't running for re-election in 2020, during the latest impeachment hearing Thursday slammed Trump for his July phone call in which he pushed for Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, with the Texas Republican saying asking Ukraine for a "favor" and mentioning Biden was "inappropriate, misguided foreign policy" and "certainly not how the executive, current or in the future, should handle such a call."

Hurd went on to say the events that have been outlined during the impeachment hearings "have undermined our national security," adding that he disagrees with Trump's "bungling foreign policy" on Ukraine.

But if Democrats thought all this was leading up to Hurd dramatically announcing his support for impeachment, they were about to be disappointed, as he then turned around to note he's yet to be persuaded.

"An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous, and it's not something to be rushed or taken lightly," Hurd said. "I've not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion."

CNN's Jim Acosta noted this was a "key moment" in the hearing, as Hurd was a Republican that Democrats "had hoped to sway" in favor of impeaching Trump. As of Thursday, it appears it didn't work. Brendan Morrow

3:47 p.m.

Fiona Hill has been in tougher spots than this.

While a panel of congressmembers staring down at you in an impeachment hearing seems undeniably intimidating, Hill, a former National Security expert on Russia, seemed unmoved throughout her testimony Thursday. But her unflappable attitude didn't come out of nowhere. As The New York Times reports and Hill confirmed Thursday, she's been issuing nonchalant responses to risky situations since her grade school days.

Hill often tells the story of a time when she was 11 years old and taking a test in her classroom. While she worked, a boy in her class set one of her pigtails on fire. But Hill didn't overreact; instead, she used her hand to put out the flames and turned back to her work.

After the story started circulating Thursday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) brought it up to Hill during her testimony. Hill confirmed it was true, and without a hint of a smile, said it was a story she "often tell[s] because it had some very unfortunate consequences." "Afterwards, my mother gave me a bowl haircut," Speier continued. "So for the school photograph later in that week, I looked like Richard the Third, or as if I'm going to be a permanent play." Kathryn Krawczyk

2:11 p.m.

Former Russia adviser Fiona Hill told Congress Thursday about her frustrations with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who got "involved in a domestic political errand."

Hill testified in the inquiry into President Trump's efforts to push Ukraine to conduct investigations that might benefit him politically. In her testimony, she described being angry that Sondland, who Trump put in charge of Ukraine relations, "wasn't coordinating" with other officials, noting that there's a "robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine."

She explained she was "upset with him that he wasn't fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having," which she chalked up to the fact that "we weren't doing the same thing that he was doing."

Trump throughout the inquiry has defended his interest in investigations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election as coming from a desire to see Ukraine crack down on corruption. But Hill told Congress that what Sondland got involved in was "a domestic political errand," whereas other officials were "involved in national security foreign policy."

Hill also revealed that at the time, she warned Sondland, "I think this is all going to blow up." She added, "And here we are." Brendan Morrow

2:05 p.m.

President Trump apparently put a man he doesn't know in charge of relations with a particularly volatile foreign country.

When U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland amended his impeachment testimony in a way that suggested the existence of a quid pro quo, Trump gave his appointee the "I don't know him" treatment. But as former National Security Council adviser Fiona Hill testified Wednesday, Trump didn't just know Sondland. He put him "in charge of Ukraine," Hill said.

When Sondland, a donor to Trump's inauguration, first emerged as a major player in U.S. relations with Ukraine after the ouster of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Hill told the Republicans' counsel Thursday that she had "concerns." Hill later confronted Sondland about those concerns, asking him "what was his role here?" she said. Sondland apparently said "he was in charge of Ukraine," and when Hill asked "who put you in charge?," Sondland said "the president."

Trump was looking to get at least two investigations started in Ukraine around the time of this conversation — a pretty big ask of someone he doesn't even know. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:13 p.m.

CNN's Chris Cuomo passed the time during a break of Thursday's impeachment hearing with a MythBusters-style experiment. It did not go well.

Thursday's testimony featured a witness, diplomat David Holmes, reiterating to Congress that he overheard President Trump on a phone call with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in July, with Trump speaking so loudly that he could be heard even while not on speakerphone. "I could hear the president's voice through the earpiece of the phone," he told Congress.

Trump in a tweet Thursday morning claimed this is impossible, which he would know because "I have been watching people making phone calls my entire life" and "my hearing is, and has been, great." Trump also wrote, "Try it live!"

So Cuomo decided to do just that by calling his mom live on the air to see if Dana Bash, who was sitting to his right, could hear her. But after a few seconds of awkward silence, Cuomo just put his mom on speakerphone, at which point she was audible. He then seemed to take her off speakerphone, and more awkward dead air set in as she couldn't be heard anymore.

Still, Cuomo declared victory and claimed Bash could, in fact, hear his mom while she was off speakerphone, though we'll just have to take his word on that, basically making the experiment a complete waste of time.

"She does constantly tell people I'm a mistake," Cuomo, for some reason, decided to add of his mom before the panel mercifully moved on. Brendan Morrow

12:35 p.m.

Israel's governmental unrest just got even more complicated.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, Israel's attorney general announced Thursday. The charges stem from multiple corruption cases into Netanyahu, and come just after Netanyahu's prime ministerial rival Benny Gantz failed to form a government, likely sending the country to a third election.

Netanyahu's charges come from years of investigations into allegations that Netanyahu performed political favors in exchange for media coverage or gifts from wealthy media owners. The charges will not force Netanyahu to step down but will likely increase calls for his resignation, The Associated Press writes. Netanyahu has denied the charges against him, borrowing a phrase to call them the result of a "witch hunt."

Earlier this year, Netanyahu was nearly voted out of office, and then failed to form a coalition government, launching Israel into a second election. After that one, Gantz failed to form a government as well. This leaves 21 days before a new presidential election must be called. Kathryn Krawczyk

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