September 13, 2019

Great news: President Trump's White House, it turns out, is an idyllic and extremely functional paradise full of sunshine, rainbows, and literally no problems whatsoever — at least, if we're to take Lou Dobbs' word for it.

The Fox Business host visited the White House and subsequently aired an absurdly glowing segment on his Thursday show that sure sounds like something written by Trump himself.

"The mood in that White House couldn't be more high energy," Dobbs declared. "...The joint is hopping. At every level, on every floor, this White House is energized. There's sunshine beaming throughout the place, and on almost every face."

Dobbs, who presumably surveyed every single White House employee on every floor in order to verify this totally objective analysis, went on to report that Trump is "at the top of his game" and his White House is "winning center." After this insanely laudatory segment that the president inevitably watched on his DVR, let's just say it wouldn't be surprising to see that list of potential next national security advisers expand by one.

Enjoy the indistinguishable-from-parody Dobbs segment below. Brendan Morrow

8:22 a.m.

Republicans have trotted out 17 defenses of President Trump's conduct with Ukraine since a whistleblower accused Trump of extorting the country's president for partisan political gain, according to The Washington Post's count.

The whistleblower's complaint has been mostly corroborated by impeachment witnesses, many of whom will testify over the next 10 days. But in an 18-page memo passed around Monday, Republicans boiled down their defense of Trump to four main points you can expect to hear frequently during the public impeaching hearings. Generally, the memo states, the transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky doesn't show a culpable "state of mind" on Trump's part.

Specifically, the GOP memo argues that Trump's call "shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure," says Trump and Zelensky both denied that Trump pressured him during the call, claims the Ukrainian government didn't know Trump was withholding aid when Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, and point out that Trump released the aid on Sept. 11 without any public announcement of an investigation he was seeking.

"Whatever you may think of the president or the case that he tried to extort Ukraine's president for political gain, there's a lot in these talking points which are just not true," Anderson Cooper said on CNN Tuesday night. For example, many of the arguments are contradicted or undermined by witnesses involved in Ukraine policy, he said, and "as many legal minds have also pointed out, attempted bribery and attempted extortion are still considered crimes." You can watch his entire fact-check below. Peter Weber

8:08 a.m.

The historic first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is about to begin.

The House Intelligence Committee is set to hold this first hearing Wednesday nearly two months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the opening of a formal impeachment inquiry. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. EST, with the witnesses being William Taylor, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.

The House is examining whether Trump improperly pressured Ukraine into opening investigations that he thought might help him in the 2020 presidential election, including involving former Vice President Joe Biden. One of Wednesday's witnesses, Taylor, previously testified that it was his "clear understanding" that Trump was conditioning the release of aid to Ukraine on the country committing to the investigations Trump sought.

Witnesses have testified that Trump was specifically looking for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to make a public announcement that these investigations were being pursued, and Kent previously told Congress that Trump "wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton."

The impeachment hearing can be streamed at 10 a.m. on YouTube via CBS, with coverage beginning an hour earlier. Brendan Morrow

7:34 a.m.

Much of the U.S., from the Great Plains to the East Coast, was hit with record-breaking cold and snowfall on Tuesday. Thirty percent of the continental U.S. is blanketed in snow, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates. The "arctic outbreak" was expected to reach the upper Texas coast on Wednesday. "The arctic airmass that has settled into the Plains will continue to spread record cold temperatures south and eastward into the Ohio Valley and down into the southern Plains," according to the National Weather Service. By Wednesday, temperatures in an estimated 300 locations will tie or break cold-weather records. Harold Maass

6:57 a.m.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is the new frontrunner in Monmouth University's poll of Iowa Democratic presidential caucusgoers. In the poll, released Tuesday, Buttigieg got support from 22 percent of likely caucusgoers, jumping 14 percentage points from Monmouth's last poll in August. Former Vice President Joe Biden lost 7 points, falling to second place with 19 percent support, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) lost 2 points, coming in at 18 percent. The only other candidate with double-digit support was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who gained 5 points to 13 percent support. When first and second choices were combined, Buttigieg led Warren 37 percent to 35 percent.

Buttigieg's support increased across all major demographics. At the same time, only 28 percent of likely caucus goers said they are committed to their candidate, and most said they are open to the possibility of switching contenders. Monmouth conducted the poll Nov. 7-11 among 451 likely Democratic caucus goers; its margin of sampling error is ±4.6 percentage points. Peter Weber

6:18 a.m.

The House Intelligence Committee will gavel into session at 10 a.m. (EST) Wednesday for the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump's Ukraine dealings. Wednesday's witnesses are William Taylor, the U.S. charge d'affaires in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.

The hearings, broadcast live on cable and network TV and online, will begin with 90 minutes of questioning by House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and the panel's top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and their staff; most of the questions are expected to come from former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman for the Democrats, Steve Castor for the Republicans. After Schiff and Nunes take their 45 minutes, the other committee members will each get five minutes to question the witnesses.

Taylor will likely testify about his alarm that the Trump administration was withholding crucial military aid for Ukraine until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announced investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Kent testified behind closed doors that Trump was insisting Zelensky say three words: "Investigations, Biden, Clinton." The Washington Post's Paul Kane previews the hearings.

Democrats have signaled they will try to keep the hearing focused on Trump and what they believe are his use of the U.S. government to extort Ukraine into targeting Trump's domestic political rivals. Republicans will try to keep the focus off of Trump and, according to their published talking points, argue that the witnesses have no first-hand knowledge of Trump's directives, and try to paint the impeachment inquiry as part of a long-running effort by Democrats to unseat Trump. You can watch The Associated Press give its overview of the historic hearings below. Peter Weber

4:57 a.m.

You may want to sit down for this one. Stephen Miller, the influential senior White House policy adviser who has steered President Trump's exclusionist immigration policy, sent hundreds of emails to a Breitbart News editor in 2015 and 2016 with links to white nationalist sites, successfully shaping Breitbart's coverage of race and immigration, according to a new report from the Souther Poverty Law Center. The former Breitbart editor, Katie McHugh, shared more than 900 emails from Miller with the SPLC's Hatewatch.

"What Stephen Miller sent to me in those emails has become policy at the Trump administration," McHugh told Hatewatch. Breitbart fired McHugh in 2017 after she posted an anti-Muslim tweet, and she has since renounced her white nationalist views. When McHugh worked at Breitbart, Miller sent her links to articles from VDARE, American Renaissance, and other sites tied to white nationalism, and he fixated on the "white genocide" conspiracy theory and touted the French anti-migrant novel The Camp of Saints, both of which are popular among white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

After lunch one day, "Miller asked me if I had seen the recent 'AmRen' article about crime statistics and race," McHugh told Hatewatch. "I responded in the affirmative because I had read it. Many of us (on the far right) had read it. I remember being struck by the way he called it 'AmRen,' the nickname." According to the SPLC, Miller got a piece he wrote for far-right site FrontPage Magazine republished in American Renaissance in 2005. Miller was also apparently upset that Amazon stopped selling Confederate battle flags after the 2015 Charleston massacre in a historic black church.

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said administration officials were not familiar with the new report and called the SPLC a "far-left smear organization" whose work is "beneath public discussion." Peter Weber

3:46 a.m.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz appears to be nearing the release of his findings on the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation. Horowitz told Congress last month that his final report was being reviewed, he did not anticipate a lengthy review process, and he expects to release his report with minimal redactions.

In recent days, Horowitz has invited some of the dozens of witnesses his team interviewed and their lawyers to review their testimony over the next two weeks, The Associated Press and The Washington Post report. The witnesses will be able to suggest revisions to the portions of the report that concern their testimony. Horowitz provided a draft of his report to Attorney General William Barr in September, and Barr and other Justice Department officials have been working to clear legal and classification hurdles to the report's release.

Horowitz's review covers the early stages of what later became Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and any role the Trump campaign played. It is one of three investigations of the Russia probe that Trump's Justice Department launched. Barr has been very actively involved in the investigation he assigned to U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is now reportedly considering unknown criminal charges.

Trump and his allies are hoping that the investigations will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the origins of the Russia investigations, which, under Mueller, led to criminal convictions of Trump's former campaign chairman and vice chairman, national security adviser, and other campaign aides. If Horowitz's investigation does not come out next week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted Tuesday, "I will be very disappointed & left to wonder WHAT THE GAME IS?? Is someone at FBI or DOJ tying IGs hands??" Peter Weber

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