November 6, 2019

House Democrats released hundreds of pages of transcribed impeachment depositions Tuesday, including testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a key player in President Trump's Ukraine policy. Sondland, who testified two weeks ago that he did not recall U.S. military aid for Ukraine being conditioned on Kyiv opening investigations on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, changed his testimony in a "supplemental declaration" submitted Monday.

Sondland declared Monday that he did in fact tell a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that "resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks." He said Trump had not directly told him to offer this quid pro quo, but there was no other "credible explanation for the suspension" of the military aid. Five other administration officials have described a similar no-cash-unless-investigation scheme in their testimony.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that he isn't going to read any of the transcripts being released by House impeachment investigators, including Sondland's. "I've written the whole process off," he told CBS News. "I think this is a bunch of B.S." That's too bad, because Graham had some questions that Sondland's testimony might answer.

Graham also told Axios' Jonathan Swan in October that "if you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing." And Graham isn't the only Trump supporter who would be disturbed if he read the revised testimony from Sondland, a Trump donor seen as more loyal to the president than the career diplomats and national security officials whose testimony he is now corroborating.

You can, of course, find something both "off the rails wrong" and not impeachable. Peter Weber

8:31 a.m.

Don't get your hopes up for a running mate announcement from presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden this week.

Although Biden last week said that he was "going to have a choice" for his vice president pick "in the first week in August," The Washington Post reports that his search has been "extended," and the campaign is "signaling that it will likely wait until the second week of August" to tap his running mate. ABC News similarly writes that "it's looking like" the announcement won't happen this week.

As the search continues, Biden is expected to interview "five or six finalists," but he seems to be "entering the final phase of the search without a clear favorite," the Post reports. Last week, Politico reported that Biden's "biggest concern is that there is nobody on his list with whom he has any previous deep relationship," with this report suggesting a dark horse could potentially emerge.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that although the buzz has recently centered around Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, one Biden aide claims that "11 women remain in the mix."

But as the knives come out for some of the leading contenders during Biden's extended search, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told the Post the situation has become "messier than it should be," and ABC News observes that "with just two weeks left before his convention, the coming time crunch could fray party unity at a moment his campaign needs it most." Brendan Morrow

8:00 a.m.

"Picture this Thanksgiving: turkey, football (maybe), tenser-than-usual interactions with relatives," media columnist Ben Smith writes at The New York Times. "And perhaps a new tradition: finding out who actually won the presidential election."

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to prompt a surge in mail-in voting, at a time when the U.S. Postal Service is grappling with service-slowing cost-cutting measures handed down by the new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, a major donor to President Trump. Key states like Pennsylvania may be counting those ballots for weeks after Election Day, and with Trump filling that time tweeting more "false allegations about fraud," Smith writes, "the last barriers between American democracy and a deep political crisis may be television news."

TV hosts, election analysts, network chiefs, and social media executives exude "blithe confidence" about their ability to handle an election that won't be decided for days or weeks, Smith writes, but there's "near panic among some of the people paying the closest attention."

"The nerds are freaking out," Brandon Finnigan, the founder of Decision Desk HQ, told the Times. "I don't think it's penetrated enough in the average viewer's mind that there's not going to be an election night. The usual razzmatazz of a panel sitting around discussing election results — that's dead."

Media companies can prepare their viewers and change how they report election results, "but what the moment calls for, most of all, is patience," Smith writes. "And good luck with that."

"Nobody I talked to had any real idea how cable talkers or Twitter take-mongers would fill hours, days, and, possibly, weeks of counting or how to apply a sober, careful lens to the wild allegations — rigged voting machines, mysterious buses of outsiders turning up at poll sites — that surface every election night, only to dissolve in the light of day," Smith said. But one war game of an election in which Joe Biden wins a big popular majority and tiny electoral college loss ended with the U.S. military casting the deciding vote. Read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

7:54 a.m.

John Hume, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work ending "The Troubles" in his native Northern Ireland, died on Monday after a short illness, The New York Times reports. He was 83. Hume, a moderate Roman Catholic politician, worked doggedly for peace, inspired by the late U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hume played a major role in peace talks that led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair called Hume a "political titan" who "refused to believe the future had to be the same as the past," the BBC reports. Hume's family said it seemed "particularly apt for these strange and fearful days to remember the phrase that gave hope to John and so many of us through dark times: We shall overcome." Harold Maass

7:39 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin doubled down on their clashing coronavirus relief packages ahead of fresh Monday talks. Pelosi repeated Democrats' calls to renew the $600 per week in extra jobless benefits that expired Friday, although she said the sum could be reduced as unemployment falls. Pelosi said Democrats were "unified" behind the $600 figure, but that Republicans are in "disarray." Senate Republicans have proposed lowering the figure to $200 per week.

Mnuchin said in an interview on ABC's This Week that Republicans had suggested a one-week extension of the $600 during negotiations, but ultimately payments "should be tied to some percentage of wages, the fact that we had a flat number was only an issue of an emergency." Harold Maass

6:23 a.m.

"Sadly, history isn't always fun, weird mummy ventriloquy — it can be painful, too, as America has recently been reminded," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Because George Floyd's murder has forced a hard national conversation about this country's present, which is impossible to do effectively without re-examining its past. And unfortunately, that's not a conversation that all Americans are well-equipped to have." Some attempts to explain the history of systemic American racism are aimed at persuadable skeptics. Oliver's meta-history lesson, peppered with NSFW language, seems designed more for people who already see the problem and want to learn more.

"With so many people misunderstanding our history, either by accident or very much on purpose," Oliver said, pointing at Fox News, "we thought tonight it might be a good idea to talk about how this history of race in America is currently taught in schools: What some of the gaps are, why they're there, and how we can fill them." The battle over how to teach history "has always been political," and it was especially "intense" after the Civil War, he noted. "You know the saying, 'History is written by the winners?' The South set out to prove that wrong," with some success. "The impulse to downplay the horrors of slavery has marked how schoolchildren have learned about it ever since," he said, and that's caused "real harm, because those kids grow up."

Oliver focused on "three big mistakes that many historians believe that we make and should correct in schools and beyond," including the role of white supremacy, viewing American history's progress as "constantly and inevitably upward," and the failure to "connect the dots to the present."

Just last week, Trump tweeted about keeping low-income housing out of the suburbs. "What's notable there is not that Trump's being racist, which is not remotely surprising, it's how neatly he fits in to a systemic racism that's been baked into this country from the beginning and which will still be here when he is gone," Oliver said. "And if kids aren't taught this, what chance do they have to understand what's happening right now?"

"History, when taught well, shows us how to improve the world," he said. "But history, when taught poorly, falsely claims there is nothing to improve." Peter Weber

3:37 a.m.

The Lincoln Project released a new ad Sunday praising the group of yellow-shirted mothers that sprang up after President Trump sent militarized federal agents into Portland, Oregon, forming a wall between anti-racism protesters and Trump's "faceless paramilitary thugs."

"Moms," the new ad says. "They're working moms, soccer moms, stay-at-home moms; Black, white, Latina, and Asian, straight, gay; moms who will fight for a country where their kids won't have their fundamental freedoms trampled by faceless paramilitary thugs just for speaking out against a country where random arrests and beatings are the rule of the day."

By the time the Lincoln Project released this ad, the federal agents had retreated from Portland's streets, the protests had grown much calmer, and the moms had started to break into factions. The original Wall of Moms group announced on Facebook Saturday that it had "fired" one of its primary organizers, Bev Barnum, for unspecified "violations of our social policies between Wall of Moms and the Black Lives Matter community." The tensions in the group bubbled to the surface as some moms left to form a second group, Moms United for Black Lives.

Demetria Hester, one of the Moms United for Black Lives leaders, suggested to The Oregonian that Barnum wasn't focused enough on Black Lives Matter.

Wall of Moms filed to become a nonprofit public benefit organization on July 24, then started paperwork to become a political action committee and 501c3 federal nonprofit, the Portland Tribune reports. Barnum, listed as Wall of Moms president in at least one filing, apologized on Facebook for "not being transparent" or including all "WOM voices" in "the decision-making process."

"WOM was formed out of necessity," Barnum wrote. "The 501c3 was formed out of necessity. And finally, the WOM PAC was formed out of hope — hope that we as WOM's could impact Oregon not only with our yellow shirts, but also by supporting candidates that support human rights — most especially Black human rights."

The Lincoln Project isn't necessarily wrong about the Portland moms, but as is always true, life is more complicated than it appears in political ads. Peter Weber

2:26 a.m.

Rep. Louie Gohmert's (R-Texas) daughter Caroline is disappointed her father "ignored medical expertise" and didn't wear a mask, and now has COVID-19, she said in a brief statement Sunday night. "This has been a heartbreaking battle [because] I love my dad and don't want him to die. Please please listen to medical experts. It's not worth following a president who has no remorse for leading his followers to an early grave."

Caroline Gohmert, who records music under the stage name BELLSAINT, may love her father but she revealed last year that she does not agree with him politically. A song she released last summer, "Much Like My Father," begins like this: "Everybody loves you, but there's poison in the water. You get away with everything. Much like my father."

Gohmert, 66, told his staff — in person — last week that he tested positive for the highly communicable coronavirus. His aides then told reporters that he and his GOP colleagues have pressured staff to work in the office and similarly eschew face masks. Gohmert may also have infected some of his Democratic colleagues. Peter Weber

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