As the impeachment hearings got back underway on Capitol Hill Thursday, President Trump called Democrats participating in the proceedings "human scum." In a morning tweet, Trump wrote that "corrupt politician Adam Schiff’s lies are growing by the day," and he urged Republicans to stay united in his defense. Soon, he added, the matter will be on "our turf," referring to the Senate. (That could wind up being a two-week trial; more on that below.) The day's witnesses were Fiona Hill, a former White House adviser who worked at the National Security Council, and David Holmes, a staffer at the US embassy in Ukraine. Coverage:
- Hill: She criticized Republicans for pushing the "fictional narrative" that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, reports Politico. "These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” she said, asking GOP members to “not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.” Trump, too, has said Ukraine meddled in the election to benefit Hillary Clinton, notes the Washington Post, but Hill says it is not true and is actually Russian propaganda. "The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions," Hill says. "It is beyond dispute." Read her opening statement here.
- Her warning: Hill said diplomat Gordon Sondland was "involved in a domestic political errand" on President Trump's behalf and was operating outside the normal channels of diplomacy. "I did say to him, 'I think this is all going to blow up'—and here we are," per NBC News.
- The big picture: Think of Thursday as Democrats' "closing arguments" before the Thanksgiving break, per Axios. But they don't appear to have swayed any Republicans. Notably, GOP Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who has been known to criticize Trump, said Thursday he was in the "no" camp.
- Overheard call: Holmes told lawmakers he heard Trump ask Sondland whether Ukraine was going to do "the investigation" during a phone call. Sondland made the call while he and Holmes were sitting together at a restaurant in Kyiv. Holmes recounts that overheard phone call in this video via NBC News. He said Trump's voice was "quite loud" and "quite distinctive," allowing him to identify the president. Holmes also demonstrated how Sondland moved the phone away from his ear. (Read about Sondland's big-news testimony on Wednesday.)
- Trump skeptical: The president tweeted his doubts about Holmes' ability to overhear that conversation. "I have been watching people making phone calls my entire life," he wrote. "My hearing is, and has been, great. Never have I been watching a person making a call, which was not on speakerphone, and been able to hear or understand a conversation. I’ve even tried, but to no avail. Try it live!"
- In the Senate: GOP senators met with top White House officials Thursday to talk strategy. No decisions were made, but the Washington Post says one favored option is to conduct a trial that lasts two weeks. The thinking is that two weeks is long enough to be credible, but not too long. The assumption is that the Trump would be cleared in the end.
- Slam on Giuliani: During Thursday's testimony, Holmes recalled a moment when someone wondered aloud why Rudy Giuliani was such a public presence in regard to Ukraine. He remembered Sondland saying, "Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f---s everything up," per CNN.
- Devin Nunes: The top Republican on the House panel conducting the hearing used his opening statement to celebrate the "merciful end" to the proceedings. "Whether the Democrats reap the political benefit they want from this impeachment remains to be seen," said Nunes. "But the damage they have done to this country will be long-lasting." Read his statement in full via US News & World Report.
- What Putin thinks: "Thank God, no one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore," he said, per the AP. "Now they’re accusing Ukraine."
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