Trump Remains The Focus

The week starts slow on Capitol Hill, with leaders returning from surprise visits to Afghanistan and Jordan, but there's a palpable feeling of danger for President Trump.


Speaker Pelosi's overseas trip has the effect of highlighting the fact that there is solidifying bipartisan opposition to Trump's foreign blunderings, reinforcing the scathing editorial Senate Majority Leader McConnell published Friday hammering the Syria retreat.


It would be quiet on that front Monday, except the Senate is voting late in the day on letting Macedonia into NATO, likely offering opportunity to comment on the Syrian activities of NATO ally Turkey in a manner not flattering to the president.


The top agenda item this week remains impeachment, and Pelosi's office dropped a "fact sheet" that it says lays out the case as we know it now. Read it here. (A video version is posted below.) The GOP counter is a bid to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff in a vote Monday evening, which will fail, but give Republicans a chance to be united over what they've labeled an unfair process against Trump.


Depositions continue in House under the direction of Schiff. Tuesday has the highest-profile witness scheduled, Bill Taylor, the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine. He's the guy who texted it would be "crazy" to withhold security aid for Ukraine to help domestic politics.


Wednesday has Philip Reeker, the acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department. He may be able to shed light on a campaign to discredit the Ukraine ambassador who Trump wanted removed, Marie Yanukovitch. Also set for Wednesday is Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs at the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which did the actual withholding of aid.


(Given Trump's declaration that the White House will not cooperate in the probe, it's always an open question whether various witnesses show up, with the odds going down the closer they are to the White House.)


Thursday has Alexander Vindman, the NSC's director for European affairs, Laura Cooper, a Defense official involved in Ukraine matters, and Kathryn Wheelbarger, DoD's acting assistant secretary for international security affairs.


Friday has OMB Director Russ Vought; State's Suriya Jayanti, a career official who was in Kiev and specialized in energy; and the NSC's Tim Morrison, who is in charge of Russian affairs.


Off the Hill, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman will be arraigned in New York on Wednesday. These are the men who were working with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine officials, but now face charges of funneling foreign campaign money from Russian and Ukraine sources into U.S. elections.


The House is also going to vote on the Shield Act this week, a package of steps to stop foreign interference in U.S. elections.


The other major issue threatening Trump remains Syria and Turkey, and whether the GOP rebellion continues -- McConnell's op-ed in the Washington Post Friday suggests it will, but it's not clear he still has a veto-proof majority if he wants to pass a Turkey sanctions bill.


And, oh yeah, Paul Kane points out in the Washington Poset that Nov. 21 is when the current government funding stopgap expires, and that none of the 12 appropriations bills have passed yet.

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