November 20, 2019

Four witnesses testified in the House Intelligence Committee's marathon public impeachment hearings on Tuesday.

The witnesses — Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's Ukraine expert; Tim Morrison, the former NSC director for Russia and European affairs; Jennifer Williams, a Russia adviser for Vice President Mike Pence; and former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker — testified for a combined 9.5 hours over two separate hearings. Here's a look at five key moments:

White House attacks Vindman during his testimony

The White House, following Trump's lead, tweeted an attack against Vindman while he testified Tuesday. The White House tweeted that Morrison, briefly Vindman's boss at the NSC, testified he had "concerns" about "Vindman's judgment." Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) pounced on this quote, and Vindman responded by reading parts of a glowing evaluation written by his other former boss, Fiona Hill. "He is brilliant, unflappable, and exercises excellent judgment," Hill wrote.

Former Ukraine envoy revises earlier testimony

Volker had previously testified to House impeachment investigators that during a July 10 meeting with a Ukrainian defense leader, nobody discussed investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In his opening statement Tuesday, Volker said he now remembers that the meeting was "essentially over" when U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland "made a generic comment about investigations." He also backtracked on Trump's freeze of $400 million in military aid, saying he never told Ukraine there were strings attached to the money, but he "did not know" if others "were conveying a different message to them around that same time."

Former National Security Council official confirms Ukraine quid pro quo

Morrison revealed that Sondland told him that in a Sept. 1 meeting with Andriy Yermak, a Ukrainian official, he had informed Yermak that "the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted."

Vindman sends a touching message to his father

At the end of his testimony, Vindman — who came to the United States from the Soviet Union as a small child — praised America and spoke directly to his father: "Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision."

Williams and Vindman react to being called 'Never Trumpers'

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) gave Vindman and Williams the opportunity to respond to accusations — from Trump and some of his allies — that they are "Never Trumpers," out to get the president. Williams said she's not "sure I know an official definition of a 'Never Trumper,'" but she wouldn't classify herself as one and was "surprised" Trump characterized her that way. Vindman said he would call himself "Never Partisan." Catherine Garcia

11:08 a.m.

President Trump may have gotten a good response from his audience, but his latest speech offended many others.

President Trump delivered a 45-minute speech to the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday evening. Trump spoke about his administration's decisions to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2017, move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and eliminate funding for the Palestine Authority as he urged those in attendance to vote for him as he runs for a second term in the Oval Office. Trump was reportedly regularly interrupted by the crowd's chants of "four more years" during the speech.

But, the speech was not without controversy, with several observers noting that his words played into anti-Semitic tropes about wealth and loyalty, Haaretz reports. During the speech, Trump said there are Jewish people in the U.S. who don't love Israel enough, and added that if someone like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) gets elected to the presidency, instead, the people in the room would "be out of business in 15 minutes."

Read more at Haaretz and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

8:32 a.m.

Welcome to NATO High.

In the latest Saturday Night Live cold open, the NBC show parodied the hot mic situation from last week's NATO conference, in which several world leaders appeared to be gossiping about President Trump. Paul Rudd, Jimmy Fallon, and James Corden joined the sketch as French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Rudd's Macron and Fallon's Trudeau are clearly the cool kids at the NATO conference, and they've decided to let Corden's Johnson tag along with them during lunch (though it seems they mostly want him to help them throw a party at Buckingham Palace.)

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin returned as Trump, who — along with a tray filled with several cheeseburgers — tries to snag a seat at the table, but his continuously rejected by the trio, who eventually give their fourth seat to a shocked Angela Merkely (portrayed by Kate McKinnon). Baldwin's Trump is especally stung by Corden's Johnson, who he thought was his friend. After Baldwin's Trump gets fed up with his fellow leaders' antics, Cecily Strong's First Lady Melania Trump dropped by with a message about bullying. Watch the full skit below. Tim O'Donnell

8:09 a.m.

North Korea is at it again. But this time no one is exactly sure about what they're up to.

North Korean state media reported Sunday that Pyongyang conducted a "successful test of a great significance" Saturday at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket testing ground, but did not reveal what was tested. U.S. officials have said North Korea promised to close the testing ground, but it appears that won't be the case any longer as Pyongyang's year-end deadline to reach a denuclearization agreement with Washington nears after talks stalled earlier this year.

It likely wasn't a missile launch, since Japan and South Korea can usually detect those. Instead, missile experts said its possible North Korea tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow the country to field intercontinental ballistic missiles that are easier to hide and faster to deploy. "If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn't already" said Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year."

North Korea has promised to adopt a "new path" if the U.S. does not offer sanctions relief, which analysts believe could include launching a satellite that would allow Pyongyang to continue testing missiles more covertly. Read more at BBC and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) did not want to answer that one.

Warren on Saturday steered away from directly responding to a question about whether she would release her tax returns from before 2008 if her fellow Democratic presidential candidate South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg made his fundraisers open to the press.

The senator didn't say yes or no, but she made the argument she was focusing on the present. To her point, she has already released 10 years worth of her tax returns, which is more than President Trump or former President Barack Obama ever released. But Warren has also recently called for Buttigieg to release the names of his clients when he worked for the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. He began that job in 2007.

Buttigieg's camp responded to Warren already, and called for her to release the returns in a show of transparency. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

The FBI is keeping its investigation into the shooting that killed three people Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida, tightly wrapped, but some information has made its way through.

The New York Times, for instance, reports that the suspected Saudi Arabian gunman — identified as Second Lt. Mohammad Saeed Alshamrani, an aviation student at the base who served in the Saudi air force — appears to have been self-radicalized. There is no evidence he had any ties to international terrorist groups, an initial assessment from American intelligence and counterterrorism officials revealed.

A motive reportedly remains unclear right now, though the SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist activity, found a Twitter account that could not be independently verified, but had a name matching the suspect's. It contained posts criticizing U.S. foreign policy and quoting former al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, per the Times.

The FBI is still investigating whether the suspected gunman acted alone, as well. The Associated Press reports he had a dinner party with three other students earlier this week. They reportedly watched videos of mass shootings while there, a U.S. official told AP, and one of those students reportedly videotaped the building where the shooting was taking place, while the other two watched from a car. The official said 10 other Saudi students were being held on the base, while several others were unaccounted for.

As of now, though, there hasn't been any indication about whether the shooting was part of a larger operation, but that hasn't prevented some lawmakers from reaching their own conclusions. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

The House Judiciary Committee released a report Saturday geared toward defining what the Constitution's framers considered an impeachable defense.

The report comes after four legal experts testified about the subject Wednesday in the committee's initial hearing in President Trump's impeachment inquiry. The report, which traces impeachment's origins to monarchical England, doesn't conclude that Trump should be impeached, although Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) didn't mince words when announcing its release.

Ultimately, though, the committee is leaving that decision up to the House as a whole. Still, there's seemingly some hints at what future articles of impeachment — which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked committee chairs to draft — might look like.

Trump appears to have heard about the report and was quick as always to argue over Twitter that he was putting the U.S., not himself, first in his dealings with Ukraine. Tim O'Donnell

December 7, 2019

Congress is on the verge of implementing paid parental leave for all federal workers.

A tentative bipartisan agreement was struck during Congress' negotiations over its annual defense bill. Draft language includes a provision that would allow 2.1 million civilians who work for the U.S. government to take paid leave for 12 weeks to care for a new baby after birth, adoption, or the initiation of foster care, multiple people familiar with the agreement told The Wall Street Journal.

Currently, military members can take 12 weeks of paid parental leave, but civilian federal employees only receive unpaid parental leave and instead have to use accrued annual or sick leave to get paid during that time, per the Journal.

The White House is backing the deal, and Ivanka Trump reportedly played a role in the negotiations.

That has Democratic lawmakers optimistic the provision will pass.

Many lawmakers view this as a first step toward guaranteeing paid parental leave for all Americans, including those who work in the private sector, which Congress hopes will eventually match the same standard. "This will be a crucial win for federal employees and their families and a significant development in our ongoing fight for comprehensive paid family and medical leave for all Americans," Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

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