The House impeachment report on President Donald Trump will be unveiled Monday behind closed doors for key lawmakers as Democrats push ahead with the inquiry despite the White House's declaration it will not participate in the first Judiciary Committee hearing.
The Democratic majority on the House Intelligence Committee says the report, compiled after weeks of testimony, will speak for itself in laying out what Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the evidence of "wrongdoing and misconduct" by the Republican president over his actions toward Ukraine. It was being made available for committee members to review ahead of a vote Tuesday to send it to the Judiciary Committee for Wednesday's landmark hearing.
Late Sunday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone denounced the "baseless and highly partisan inquiry." In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., he also declined the invitation for the president's counsel to appear before his panel Wednesday.
Cipollone, in continuing the West Wing's attack on the House process, said the proceeding "violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness." Trump himself was scheduled to attend a summit with NATO allies outside London on Wednesday.
As the impeachment inquiry intensified, Wednesday's hearing will be a milestone. It is expected to convene legal experts whose testimony, alongside the report from the Intelligence Committee, could lay the groundwork for possible articles of impeachment, which the panel is expected to soon draw up.
Democrats are focused on whether Trump abused his office by withholding military aid approved by Congress and a White House meeting as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations into Trump's political rivals. The report also is expected to include evidence of possible obstruction of Congress by Trump's instructions that officials in his administration defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.
Trump maintains he did nothing wrong, and as the House presses forward on an ambitious schedule toward an impeachment vote, the president and his Republican allies are aligned against the process.
Cipollone's letter applied only to the Wednesday hearing, and he demanded more information from Democrats on how they intended to conduct further hearings before Trump would decide whether to participate in them. House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.
Republicans, meanwhile, wanted Schiff, the chairman who led the inquiry report, to testify before the Judiciary Committee, though they have no power to compel him to do so, as they joined the White House effort to try to cast the Democratic-led inquiry as skewed against the Republican president.
"It's easy to hide behind a report," said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "But it's going to be another thing to actually get up and have to answer questions."
Schiff has said "there's nothing for me to testify about," that he isn't a "fact" witness and that Republicans are only trying to "mollify the president, and that's not a good reason to try to call a member of Congress as a witness."
Democrats were aiming for a final House vote by Christmas, which would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January.
"I do believe that all evidence certainly will be included in that report so the Judiciary Committee can make the necessary decisions that they need to," said Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
Trump has previously suggested that he might be willing to offer written testimony under certain conditions, though aides suggested they did not anticipate Democrats would ever agree to them.
Democrats had pressed Trump to decide by Friday whether he would take advantage of due process protections afforded to him under House rules adopted in October for follow-up hearings, including the right to request witness testimony and to cross-examine the witnesses called by the House.
"If you are serious about conducting a fair process going forward, and in order to protect the rights and privileges of the President, we may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the Administration the ability to do so meaningfully," Cipollone said in the Sunday letter.
Collins called the hearing Wednesday "a complete American waste of time of here." He wanted the witness list expanded to include those suggested by Republicans. "This is why this is a problematic exercise and simply a made-for-TV event coming on Wednesday."
Still, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., a Judiciary Committee member, said he believes Trump would benefit if he presents his own defense. McClintock said he doesn't believe Trump did anything wrong in the July 25 call with Zelenskiy that is at the heart of the investigation.
"He didn't use the delicate language of diplomacy in that conversation, that's true. He also doesn't use the smarmy talk of politicians," McClintock said.
To McClintock, Trump was using "the blunt talk of a Manhattan businessman" and "was entirely within his constitutional authority" in his dealings with Ukraine's leader.
Collins appeared on "Fox News Sunday" and Demings and McClintock were on ABC's "This Week."
New Orleans police say 11 people were shot in an early morning shooting on the edge of the city's famed French Quarter.
A police release says two people are in critical condition and no arrests have been made. Police Supt. Shaun Ferguson tells The New Orleans Advocate/The Times-Picayune that a person of interest has been detained.
Police say 10 people were taken to two hospitals and another walked in. Further details haven't been released.
The shooting took place on a busy commercial block of Canal Street that has streetcar tracks and is near many hotels. Ferguson says police quickly responded to the scene as patrols were heightened for this weekend's Bayou Classic, the annual Thanksgiving weekend rivalry football game between Grambling State and Southern University at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
A blocked sewer main flooded basements Saturday with brown filth and left residents in the neighborhood near New York City's Kennedy Airport feeling sickened by the stench.
A water condition caused the backup, pushing human waste into about 300 homes in Jamaica, Queens, officials said.
Cynthia McKenzie said she woke up around 3 a.m. to an odor she thought was a gas leak, only to realize that sewage water was rushing into her basement.
As the water level rose, McKenzie said she raced to move furniture and other belongings — but some electronics couldn't be saved. After a few hours, she said, her whole neighborhood was awash in fetid fluid.
"It's messy," said McKenzie, who posted photos showing murky water covering the floor of a basement bedroom and the bottom of a staircase.
"When you open it, it just smells," she said. "It makes you want to vomit. We have to pack up all the clothes."
Mayor Bill de Blasio said crews were making repairs and bringing in pumping equipment to clear up the mess.
The city's water agency says drinking water is safe and unaffected, but de Blasio advised residents to reduce usage to cut down on water going into the blocked main.
McKenzie said she bought two pumps from Home Depot and ran extension cords and a hose to try and clear water from her basement, but the rig hardly kept up.
"There's still some at knee level," she said. "The odor is just unbelievable."
McKenzie said she called 911 and the city's 311 help line soon after discovering the sewage. A few firefighters eventually showed up, she said, but according to her, none of the city services could stop the flow of sewage.
Officials have a culprit in mind: cooking grease that's been poured down the drain.
It tends to congeal into big masses that slow or stop the flow of sewage, leaving it no place to go but back up the pipes. In some places around the world , the grease balls have gotten so enormous they've been described as "fatbergs."
"This time of year we get a lot of grease blockages in sewers from residents that discharge grease," city environmental protection chief Vincent Sapienza told reporters. "We're under the assumption that it's that."
Most residents in the middle-class neighborhood are non-white and about half are foreign-born, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
De Blasio says American Red Cross and city emergency management representatives are at the scene to help families displaced by the sewer back up. The city opened a service center for affected residents at a nearby public school.
De Blasio said the city is working to provide hotel rooms to anyone who was unable to return home Saturday night.
"It's unlivable," McKenzie said. "It's all around the neighborhood and farther down."
Joe Biden launched an eight-day bus tour of Iowa on Saturday projecting confidence, ignoring his many Democratic presidential competitors and pledging that he will unseat President Donald Trump in 2020.
The former vice president pledged first to win the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, despite recent polls suggesting his standing there has slipped in recent months.
"I promise you, I promise you," Biden told a few hundred supporters outside his Council Bluff campaign office, "we're going to win this race, and we're going to beat Donald Trump, and we're going to change America."
Behind the optimism, Biden aides acknowledge he must sharpen his message and bolster his voter outreach operation ahead of the caucuses that start Democrats' 2020 voting. But his advisers also insist he has wide support and remains well-positioned to recover any lost ground.
His chief argument — his perceived strength against Trump — was on clear display Saturday. Sidestepping his philosophical tussle with progressive Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over the party's direction, Biden struck a general-election posture. He added an emphasis on small town and rural America, an electoral swath where Democrats have struggled in recent elections but that could prove critical in both the nominating fight and November battlegrounds.
"We're going to touch on what we think is a forgotten part of this campaign," Biden said, bemoaning the effects of Trump's tariffs on Iowa farmers and highlighting his own rural policy plans shaped with the help of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. The former Obama agriculture secretary recently gave Biden his most high-profile Iowa endorsement.
Jill Biden, the candidate's wife, followed suit in Council Bluffs, introducing her husband as the "only candidate who can take on Trump in places like Florida and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Michigan."
Iowa polls suggest that Biden, while a front-runner nationally, is in a jumble near the top. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, of South Bend, Indiana, appears to hold a narrow edge over Biden, 77; Warren, 70; and Sanders, 78. The senators have animated the party's left flank, while Buttigieg joins Biden in Democrats' center-left wing but is calling for generational change.
Biden aides reject any framing of the bus tour as a reset; they see it as a way to drive home his potential strengths with Democratic voters consistently citing Trump's defeat as their top priority, even beyond the particulars of intraparty debates on issues like universal health care.
"As people get closer and closer to February, they become more and more practical about this," Vilsack said ahead of Biden's trip. "He can make the strongest case ... that he is in a position to get things done, and he is in a position to win."
Thus far, Buttigieg, Warren and Sanders have drawn consistently larger Iowa crowds than Biden, while some party activists criticize his campaign as insufficiently aggressive.
"In terms of people out there knocking on doors, who attend other campaign events, district events, I can't name a member of the southeast Iowa Democrats who's supporting Joe Biden," said Glenn Hurst, a leader of Iowa Democrats' Rural Caucus.
Bobbie Moore, a party volunteer and Biden supporters who came to see him Saturday, stopped short of criticizing the campaign. But she noted the crowd "isn't one-10th of what was here for Pete" Buttigieg just days ago.
Fairly or not, Biden's national staff has fueled skeptical assessments with pronouncements that he doesn't have to win Iowa to win the nomination. Iowa is overwhelmingly white; Biden's national advantage leans heavily on nonwhite voters who will help determine outcomes in Nevada, South Carolina and many March 3 Super Tuesday states.
Yet all the handwringing misses key variables in Iowa, Vilsack and other Biden backers contend. They argue his support is wider demographically and geographically than other leading candidates. They point to rural areas and Iowa's growing minority population that, while small, could prove important with many candidates dividing the overall caucus vote.
Moore, 70, said Biden is a "known quantity" whose support isn't as obvious as Buttigieg and others.
Another Biden volunteer, Phyllis Hughes Ewing, said outside media underappreciated Biden's appeal. "I'm on the phones with voters two nights a week for several hours at a pop," she said. "I'm a boot on the ground ... and everyone has good things to say about Joe."
The bullishness leans heavily on the way caucus votes are counted.
The Biden team is laser-focused on the viability threshold requiring candidates to get 15% support in a given precinct to have votes counted toward delegates. Biden's team believes he'll be viable in every one of the 1,679 precincts on caucus night, a reach other leading candidates may not match. Then, they believe Biden will be a top beneficiary of "realignment" — subsequent ballots that allow voters who supported a nonviable candidate to choose another who's still standing.
That process could be a double boost for Biden, their theory goes. First, top contenders like Warren or Buttigieg whose support might be anchored in more liberal cities and suburbs would get no practical benefit from first-ballot votes in more rural precincts where they fall short of 15%. Second, several of the lower-tier candidates running as moderates — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, for example — could fall short of viability across much of the state. Biden advisers confirmed they already are mapping out realignment ballot strategy.
They're also looking to organized labor for help. Biden won the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters at the outset of his campaign, and the organization already has tapped its locals across the state to canvass. Biden's second stop Saturday was a local fire station.
For minority outreach, the campaign recently hired state Rep. Ras Smith, a member of the Iowa Legislature's Black Caucus, and it has more than a dozen bilingual organizers, including deputy political director Claudia Chavez, focusing on Latino voters.
But beyond all the particulars, Biden's fundamental argument returns to political pragmatism.
Harold Schaitberger, the firefighters' national union president, compared the dynamics to 2004, another primary fight when Democrats were desperate to oust a Republican president. Howard Dean led in Iowa for much of 2003, wowing progressives and drawing large crowds. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry ultimately came back to win the caucus and nomination, though he lost to President George W. Bush in the fall.
Schaitberger, whose union backed Kerry, smiled as he recalled a newspaper headline from late 2003: "Kerry dead in the water."
Joe Biden's eight-day bus tour across Iowa comes with a message: Reports of his demise in the nation's first presidential caucus state have been greatly exaggerated.
Biden's aides acknowledge that he must sharpen his pitch before the Feb. 3 caucuses that launch Democrats' 2020 voting. Yet the former vice president's advisers reject any characterization of the 18-county swing that was beginning Saturday as a campaign reset, even with polls showing that Biden's standing in Iowa has slipped in recent months.
They frame the extended trip as an effort to demonstrate wide appeal and harden support across a Democratic electorate whose top priority is defeating President Donald Trump. Conversations with advisers and supporters reveal a quiet confidence that the 77-year-old candidate retains a broad base of support and is well-situated to recover lost ground.
"As people get closer and closer to February, they become more and more practical about this," said former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who recently gave Biden his most high-profile Iowa endorsement yet. "He can make the strongest case, among all the candidates, that he is in a position to get things done, and he is in a position to win."
Iowa polls suggest that Biden, while a front-runner nationally, is in a jumble near the top. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg appears to hold a narrow edge over Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78. The senators have animated the party's left flank, while the 37-year-old Buttigieg joins Biden in Democrats' moderate wing but is calling for generational change.
Biden opened November with an underwhelming speech at the state party's "Liberty & Justice" gala. While Buttigieg and Warren roused thousands of supporters in a Des Moines arena, Biden ticked through his standard applause lines as whole sections of seats purchased by his campaign sat empty.
In southeast Iowa, the state party's Rural Caucus vice chairman says Biden's footprint isn't visible. "I know the names of the people who are supporting various other candidates," Glenn Hurst said. "But in terms of people out there knocking on doors, who attend other campaign events, district events, I can't name a member of the southeast Iowa Democrats who's supporting Joe Biden."
Fairly or not, Biden's national staff has fueled skeptical assessments with pronouncements that he doesn't have to win Iowa to win the nomination. Iowa is overwhelmingly white; Biden's national advantage leans heavily on non-white voters who help determine outcomes in Nevada, South Carolina and many March 3 Super Tuesday states.
Yet all the handwringing misses key variables in Iowa, according to Vilsack and other Biden supporters.
They contend that, public enthusiasm aside, Biden has the broadest range of support both demographically and geographically, especially in rural and small-town Iowa and among the growing minority population that, while small, could prove important with so many candidates dividing the overall caucus vote. Those Biden organizers that get so much criticism, the campaign says, spend their days not with local party officials, but with volunteers knocking on doors and making calls. Their focus: reliable caucus participants, plus disaffected Republicans and independents.
"The media seems to have picked up this narrative that the Biden campaign is not doing well or not as well as it should," said longtime party activist and Biden supporter Phyllis Hughes Ewing, daughter of a former Iowa governor and U.S. senator. "I'm on the phones with voters two nights a week for several hours at a pop. I'm a boot on the ground, and that's not what I'm seeing."
Collectively, it's a wide-net strategy the campaign predicts will yield a surprising delegate haul from Iowa's complex caucus process.
The bullishness starts with the viability threshold requiring candidates to get 15% support in a given precinct to have votes counted toward delegates. Biden's team believes he'll be viable in every one of the 1,679 precincts on caucus night, a reach even other leading candidates may not match. Then, they believe Biden will be a top beneficiary of "realignment" votes — subsequent ballots that allow voters who supported a nonviable candidate to choose another who's still standing.
That process could be a double boost for Biden, their theory goes. First, top contenders like Warren or Buttigieg whose support might be anchored in more liberal cities and suburbs would get no practical benefit from first-ballot votes in more rural precincts where they fall short of 15%. Second, several of the lower tier candidates running as moderates — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, for example — could fall short of viability across much of the state. Biden advisers confirmed they already are mapping out realignment ballot strategy.
Two other key Democratic constituencies also are in play in Iowa, even if they aren't the dominant forces they are in other states: organized labor and minority voters.
Biden won the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters at the outset of his campaign, and the organization already has tapped its locals across the state to canvass. "We understand what needs to be done to get people out to caucus," said Harold Schaitberger, the union's national president, adding that he already has representatives on the ground and will have organizers in precincts across the state on caucus night.
For minority outreach, the campaign recently hired state Rep. Ras Smith, a member of the Legislature's Black Caucus. He plans to hold caucus training events and outreach for minority voters who may be first-time participants. The campaign also is making an aggressive play for Latino voters, with more than a dozen bilingual organizers, including deputy political director Claudia Chavez.
Beyond the complexities of caucus rules and the nuances of turnout, Biden is perhaps leaning most strongly on an Iowa precedent for moderation. His preferred model is 2004, when Howard Dean wowed progressives for much of 2003, only to watch John Kerry come from behind as voters embraced the establishment favorite as the ideal to take on Republican President George W. Bush. Kerry to Bush.
"History does indicate that Iowans start out with a very progressive-leaning focus early in the race but come home to a pragmatic, presidential choice at the end," said Matt Paul, who ran Hillary Clinton's successful 2016 Iowa campaign.
Among Kerry's key backers in 2016: the firefighters' union.
Schaitberger smiled as he recalled a newspaper headline in late fall of 2003: "Kerry dead in the water."