There's not a lot that Republicans and Democrats in this political battlefield agree on, but the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump may have surfaced one: The public hearings aren't moving the needle.
"Everything they say, it's so repetitive. To me, it's like they're beating their heads against the wall," said Harry Rose, a 78-year-old retired factory worker and Trump supporter in Racine County, a swing county in the swing state of Wisconsin.
Nicole Morrison, a 36-year-old nurse who can't see herself voting for Trump in 2020, had a similar review.
"There's so much information that sometimes it's hard to decide which is the truth and which is just rumors," she said. "So I just don't pay attention to it."
After 30 hours of televised hearings, a dozen witnesses, at least a couple of major revelations and scores of tweeted rebuttals, voters in Wisconsin and nationwide aren't changing their minds about removing the Republican president. If they came into the inquiry defensive of Trump, they likely still are. And if they were inclined to think the president abused his power, they didn't need televised hearings to prove it.
"For the most part, most Americans already have pretty solidified views of the president," said Josh Schwerin, senior strategist for the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA. "There's a small segment of the population that can be moved, and they're not paying as close attention to the day-to-day ins and outs of the impeachment hearings."
It's a disappointing — if not unexpected — response for Democrats, who hoped to use the hearings to sway public opinion. Without that backing, it's virtually impossible to imagine Republican senators voting to convict Trump.
It's also a reaction that leaves the political impact of this dramatic chapter in American history remarkably uncertain. If the division on the question holds, and independents remain disengaged, it is possible that impeachment and Senate trial may ultimately play little role in Trump's reelection bid next year.
Two polls released this week showed the public remains roughly evenly divided over whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Although there was a one-time increase in support after the inquiry launched, polls have since remained stable.
A CNN survey conducted over the weekend showed 50% of Americans believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, roughly the same as in late October and in late September. Meanwhile, Trump's job approval has remained steady. A Quinnipiac University survey of registered voters nationwide also conducted this past weekend found a similar split on whether Trump should be impeached and removed, and just 13% of those who have an opinion say they might change their mind.
In Wisconsin, views on impeachment appear to be slightly more negative. A Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin registered voters that was conducted during the first week of the impeachment hearings showed 47% of registered voters approve of the job Trump is doing, and more expressed opposition than support for impeachment and removal, 53% to 40%, figures largely unchanged from October.
The poll was conducted before U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former top aide Fiona Hill offered testimony that largely corroborated allegations that Trump tried to pressure a foreign government into investigating his political rival Joe Biden.
The entrenched divisions are clear even in Racine County, a place with a history of shifting political winds. The county voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and then swung to support Trump in 2016.
The county, just south of Milwaukee, is divided between the Democratic-leaning electorate in and surrounding Racine, and the more conservative electorate in the rural and suburban areas. Most of the county's residents worked white-collar jobs in 2019, like administrative services and sales, and the median household income was just under $65,000, slightly above the state average.
If Democrats hope to win it back, they'll have to persuade voters like Jo-Ann Knutson to come back. The 70-year-old retiree lives in downtown Racine and voted for Trump in 2016 because she didn't like Democrat Hillary Clinton. She's been watching the impeachment hearings, but she's still not sure what to think.
Trump "is not my favorite person, and I don't care for how he talks about people, but I have not made a firm decision because I don't think all of the facts are out yet," she said.
Knutson remembered watching the impeachment proceedings for President Richard Nixon, when she said "you were sure" because there were taped recordings and other firsthand evidence of wrongdoing. Now, she thinks Democrats' case is based on overheard conversations — and she believes there's still a possibility Trump could be exonerated, she said.
Knutson said she has "no clue" who she'll vote for next year.
Morrison, the nurse, also says she's undecided, though she typically leans Democratic. Impeachment isn't swaying her, though, because she says she can't trust what she hears about the president anymore.
"I feel like we've been hearing since the second that he was elected president he needs to be impeached," she said. "So why waste my time to listen to it?"
Democrats will also have to reach some of their key constituencies that stayed home in 2016 — minorities and young voters. And there's some sign in Racine that the impeachment proceedings could have the opposite effect, if they further cement a sense of disillusionment with Washington.
Darius Nunn, the 40-year-old owner of Clarity Cutz, a barbershop that largely serves the city's black community, sometimes puts the news on the television in his shop, "but when it begins to get heated, we turn on some basketball."
On a recent day, the barbershop's TV showed a Chris Brown concert. Nunn said his clients are interested in what's going on in Washington but doubtful that Trump will experience any consequences for his actions — and he could see them staying home again next November.
"A lot of people (in 2016), they didn't have any faith in the voting system," he said. "To the urban community ... the disenfranchised people, they don't believe in the system at all. There's justice for few when there should be justice for all."
Republicans, meanwhile, will need to maintain their coalition of white working-class voters and suburban moderates to hold onto a swing state like Wisconsin. That means persuading those voters to focus on the economy.
There are signs of success for Republicans on that front. Several Republicans across Racine County said that though they didn't like Trump's tone and were tired of the controversies, they were happy with the economy — and expected nothing less from the president to begin with.
"He's probably guilty of something. … I thought he might run into problems because it's just the way he is," said Scott Davis, a 67-year-old landscaper from Sturtevant, a manufacturing town that's a key base for Republican votes in the county.
But Davis said his business has flourished, and he lauded Trump's handling of the economy. Controversies or not, Davis said he sees no reason not to support the president in 2020.
"In a lot of ways, (Trump's) not suited to be president, but he's done a lot of good for the country," Davis said. "I would probably vote for him again, just because of the economy."
David Titus, a 68-year-old retired banker from just outside Racine, said Trump "runs his mouth too much," but he's still satisfied with the president's performance.
"I like what he's done. I don't like the way he's doing it," he said.
Titus predicted, however, that the impeachment proceedings could backfire. He said he's heard from others who are fed up of the fighting and just want the president to be allowed to do his job.
"I think the longer it goes, the worse it gets for the Democrats," he said.
The House Judiciary Committee is set to take over the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, scheduling a hearing for next week as they push closer to a possible vote on actual charges of "high crimes and misdemeanors."
The Judiciary panel scheduled the hearing as the separate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released two last transcripts from its depositions, including from a White House budget official who detailed concerns among colleagues as Trump ordered them, through intermediaries, to put a hold on military aid to Ukraine.
Trump ordered the hold as he was pressuring Ukraine's president to investigate Democrats — the issue at the heart of the impeachment probe. Multiple government witnesses testified in impeachment hearings held by the Intelligence panel this month that Trump directed his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to take the lead on Ukraine policy and that Giuliani pushed an "irregular" diplomatic channel.
The Intelligence Committee is wrapping up the investigative phase of the probe and preparing its report for the next. Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has said the report could be released soon after the House returns from its Thanksgiving break.
The initial Judiciary hearing on Dec. 4, the day after lawmakers return, will feature legal experts who will examine questions of constitutional grounds as the panel decides whether to write articles of impeachment against Trump — and if so what those articles will be. Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that his panel's hearing will "explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct."
Democrats are aiming for a final House vote by Christmas, which would set the stage for a likely Senate trial in January.
Trump, meanwhile, tried to put distance between himself and Giuliani in a radio interview Tuesday. Asked by host Bill O'Reilly what Giuliani was doing on his behalf in Ukraine, Trump said, "I don't even know," adding that Giuliani had canceled one trip and had other clients as well.
Asked directly if he had directed Giuliani to go to Ukraine on his behalf, Trump said, "No."
In a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25, Trump had said several times he would have Giuliani contact Zelenskiy. "Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy," Trump said to Zelenskiy, according to a rough transcript released by the White House.
Trump and his lawyers are invited to attend the Judiciary hearing and make a request to question witnesses, according to Democratic rules approved by the House last month. The committee released a letter from Nadler to the president, saying that he hopes Trump will participate, "consistent with the rules of decorum and with the solemn nature of the work before us."
It's unlikely that the president himself would attend, as Trump is scheduled to be overseas on Dec. 4 for a summit with NATO allies outside London — a split screen showing leadership that Trump's allies might find favorable. The Judiciary panel gave the White House until Sunday evening to decide whether Trump or his lawyers would attend.
If Democrats stay on schedule, the committee will introduce articles of impeachment, debate them and then hold a vote, a process that could take several days. If charges are approved by the end of the second week of December, the House could hold a formal impeachment vote the third week of the month just before leaving for the holidays.
The charges are expected to mostly focus on Ukraine. Democrats are considering an overall "abuse of power" article against Trump, which could be broken into categories such as bribery or extortion. That article would center on the Democrats' assertion, based on witness testimony, that Trump used his office to pressure Ukraine into politically motivated investigations.
Democrats are also expected to include an article on obstruction of Congress that outlines Trump's instructions to officials in his administration to defy subpoenas for documents or testimony.
Though several government officials called by Democrats cooperated with the committee, several key witnesses — including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former National Security Adviser John Bolton — refused, following Trump's orders.
Lastly, Democrats could potentially include an obstruction of justice article based on special counsel Robert Mueller's report released earlier this year. Mueller said he could not exonerate Trump on that point, essentially leaving the matter up to Congress.
When and if the House approves articles of impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate would be expected to hold a trial in early 2020. Unless political dynamics change drastically, Trump would have the backing of majority Republicans in that chamber and be acquitted.
It's still unclear how long a trial might last, what it would look like and who might be called as witnesses.
While the matter remains in the House, Schiff said in a letter to his colleagues on Monday that his committee "will continue with our investigative work" and could still hold depositions or hearings. But Schiff said it would not prolong a fight to obtain documents or testimony in court.
"The president has accepted or enlisted foreign nations to interfere in our upcoming elections, including the next one," Schiff said in the letter. "This is an urgent matter that cannot wait if we are to protect the nation's security and the integrity of our elections."
In a transcript of closed-door testimony released Tuesday, Office of Management and Budget official Mark Sandy, a career employee, told lawmakers that his office was notified as early as July 12 by the White House chief of staff's office that Trump was withholding the military aid. That was two weeks before Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats.
Sandy testified that Trump himself requested additional information about the aid on July 19 after seeing an unidentified "media report." The office then started the official process of withholding the money on July 25, the day of the call between Trump and Zelenskiy, Sandy said.
He testified that he raised concerns about the legality of the holdup, but wasn't given a reason until September, when he was told that Trump was concerned "about other countries not contributing more to Ukraine."
Sandy said that in late July, political appointee Michael Duffey took from him his role of approving spending, a decision Duffey told him involved Mulvaney. Sandy, who has worked at OMB for more than a decade, said he was unaware of a political appointee ever previously being given that responsibility.
He also testified that he knew of two people who left the agency who had voiced concerns over the handling of the Ukraine aid.
The intelligence panel also released a transcript of the deposition of State Department official Philip Reeker, who detailed concerns about the removal of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Donald Trump is not going to like his Constitution 101 lesson: "Presidents are not kings",reports CNN.
A federal judge's stunning rebuke of the White House on Monday came as the result of a case by House Democrats to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify. But it serves as a thematic frame for an entire presidency that has never played by the rules.
All of Trump's scandals are fusing together into a momentous fight over his staggeringly broad claims of expansive presidential power. How it turns out will shape his personal political legacy, the nature of the office he has held for nearly three years and potentially the American political system itself.
The impeachment battle over Ukraine, Trump's efforts to keep Americans in the dark over his financial past, the lingering questions left over from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report and Trump's determination to rule as an unchallenged commander in chief now all boil down to two simple questions.
How much power does a President have? And how long can the governing institutions that he has incessantly challenged stand his wielding of instinctive yet often-erratic executive authority?
The White House on Monday walked away from its latest battles over presidential power with a loss, a temporary win and a bunch of new legal battles.
Kicking off a frenzied half hour in Washington on Monday night, federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ordered McGahn to testify before the House of Representatives, which has been trying to force his appearance since April over Mueller's findings that suggest Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation. Jackson dismissed the President's claim that McGahn was subject to blanket immunity.
Getting right down to the basics that most Americans learn in school, the judge quoted Founding Fathers James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville to explain the nature of the presidency.
"Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings," Jackson wrote.
"It is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," the judge added.
The Justice Department quickly said it planned to appeal the ruling, which has profound implications for the impeachment inquiry, since Trump has launched a similar effort to prevent administration officials from testifying under another sweeping claim of presidential immunity.
Minutes after Jackson's legal lecture emerged, Trump got a win of sorts -- as the Supreme Court blocked the immediate release of his financial records to a House committee, to allow his lawyers to file a brief arguing why the nine justices should take the case.
The legal fight is likely to create another reverberating precedent on the nature of presidential power, since it will test whether a president can refuse Congress' legally mandated request for the president's financial records -- a duty it can impose on regular American citizens.
Trump vs. the Pentagon
The legal drama erupted on a day when Washington was already waging a debate about the extent of presidential authority.
This time it was over a clash between a President who never plays by the rules and an institution -- the military -- that can't exist without them.
Trump's shielding of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who had posed with the corpse of a young ISIS fighter, led to a bewildering set of events that have yet to be explained and the firing of yet another senior official, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
This was a moment when it was the Pentagon's turn to get trampled by Trump, casting a shadow over the rule of law in pursuit of a big, personal, political base-pleasing win.
Like the State Department, the Justice Department and the intelligence community, the fortress across the Potomac found that traditions, rules and decorum mean little to the President. In one way, the controversy actually offered Washington some relief Monday from the incessant impeachment drama that has dominated the last two months.
But at its root, the new storm shares a theme with the allegations that Trump abused his power and went behind the backs of US diplomats to get a political payoff from Ukraine.
In both cases, Trump seems to have used his authority as President to benefit his reelection campaign rather than to safeguard a traditional interpretation of US interests. In the Gallagher case, he ignored the structure of military justice.
In Ukraine, he constructed a back channel to get a foreign power's political help in defiance of regular State Department channels.
Trump's entire time in office could be viewed as a struggle between the rules and customs that govern the presidency and his attempts to stretch such guardrails to their limits.
This has led to constant tension between the executive and the courts and Congress, especially as a Democratic-led House sought to honor its oversight and investigative function.
Trump claims his political reward
There is no doubt that Trump, as commander in chief, has the power to reverse the demotion of Gallagher, and to pardon two other soldiers accused of war crimes, as he did last week.
But the question becomes: Does his action serve the military, the reputation of America's servicemen and women, and the nation's image as a land of laws and military honor?
Gallagher was subject to a rigorous military legal process. He was acquitted of attempted murder, premeditated murder and obstruction of justice. It's hard to argue that he didn't get due process and fair treatment from the military.
But Trump left little doubt in an exchange with reporters Monday afternoon that he was seeking a political reward for ordering Defense Secretary Mark Esper to restore Gallagher's rank.
"I think what I'm doing is sticking up for our armed forces. And there's never been a President that's going to stick up for them and has, like I have," Trump said.
Trump has sharp political instincts. He knows that backing the troops is rarely bad politics. Critics of Trump's conduct risk being accused of siding with a dead terrorist over a certified American war hero.
"He was a great fighter. He was the -- one of the ultimate fighters. Tough guy. These are not weak people. These are tough people," Trump said Monday, driving the point home.
Yet there is dismay at Trump's action among senior military officers within the Pentagon, who see it as undermining the entire code of military justice, CNN's Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne reported.
It raises the prospect that Trump could choose to intervene anytime a US service member is accused of committing war crimes, leading to a culture of impunity in the ranks.
But no one could say Trump's support for Gallagher is out of character. All his life in business and his political career, he has treated the law and behavioral rules of the road as an inconvenience to be stretched for him to get his way.
"I don't think we ought to lose sight of the very central point here," Ray Mabus, who served as Navy secretary in the Obama administration, told CNN's Brooke Baldwin on Monday.
"None of this would have happened, not a bit of it, if the President had not inserted himself, absolutely inappropriately, in a way that undermines military justice in a way that dishonors the military that serves without committing war crimes," he added.
Spencer, meanwhile, left a blistering resignation letter in which he laid the extraordinary charge that the President is abusing his powers -- a warning that applies to any number of controversies raging in Washington.
"I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline," he wrote. "I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The secretary of the U.S. Navy said Saturday he doesn't consider a tweet by President Donald Trump an order and would need a formal order to stop a review of a sailor who could lose his status as a Navy SEAL.
"I need a formal order to act," Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said, and referred to the tweet. "I don't interpret them as a formal order."
Trump insisted last Thursday the Navy "will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's Trident Pin," inserting himself into an ongoing legal review of the sailor's ability to hold onto the pin that designates him a SEAL.
The Navy on Wednesday notified Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher that he will face a review early next month to determine if he should remain on the elite force.
Gallagher was acquitted of a murder charge in the stabbing death of an Islamic State militant captive, but a military jury convicted him of posing with the corpse while in Iraq in 2017. He was then demoted to chief.
Spencer, speaking on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, said if the president requests the process to stop, the process stops.
"Good order and discipline is also obeying the orders of the President of the United States," he said.
Despite the differing views with the president over the appropriate handling of the case, Spencer told reporters that he has not threatened to resign over the issue. But he acknowledged that he serves at the pleasure of the president.
"The president the United States is the commander in chief. He's involved in every aspect of government and he can make decisions and give orders as appropriate," he said.
Gallagher's lawyers have accused the Navy of trying to remove the SEAL designation in retaliation for Trump's decision last week to restore Gallagher's rank.
Gallagher filed a complaint with the inspector general accusing a rear admiral of insubordination for defying Trump's actions. Rear Adm. Collin Green is the Naval Special Warfare commander.
Under the review procedure, a five-person board will convene Dec. 2 behind closed doors. It will include one SEAL officer and four senior enlisted SEALs, according to the two U.S. officials. Gallagher can appear once before the board on Dec. 4 but without his lawyers. He can dispute the evidence given to the board that will include his conviction and call witnesses.
Gallagher can appeal any final decision that will be made by the Naval Personnel Board, which will take into account Green's input and the board's recommendations.
Trump's initial order in Gallagher only referred to restoring his rank, but it did not explicitly pardon the SEAL for any wrongdoing.
Green also notified three SEAL officers who oversaw Gallagher during the deployment — Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil — that they are also being reviewed, according to the officials.
Removing their Trident pins means they will no longer be SEALs but could remain in the Navy.
The Navy has revoked 154 Trident pins since 2011.
American-led forces and their Syrian Kurdish allies have carried out their biggest joint operation against the Islamic State in Syria since President Donald Trump ordered a pullback of U.S. forces there.
The U.S.-led coalition said Saturday that hundreds of U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish forces took part in Friday's action. Coalition officials say the operation captured dozens of militants.
The news comes on the same day Vice President Mike Pence visited Iraq and worked to reassure America's Kurdish allies in the region.
The Trump-ordered pullback of American forces in Syria opened the door for a cross-border offensive by Turkey last month, leaving Syrian Kurds to face a bloody Turkish assault.
Pence says the U.S. commitment to both Syrian and Iraqi Kurds remains unchanged.
The U.S. wants Iraq to show restraint as widespread anti-corruption protests in the country have killed more than 320 people in the past two months.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi from Al-Asad Air Base on an unannounced trip to the region.
Pence expressed support for a free, sovereign and independent Iraq — a subtle warning against Iranian influence in the country, which has weakened cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq.
According to one official, Mahdi expressed regret for the violence and cast it as growing pains for the country and its security services, more used to war than democratic protest.
Pence spoke by phone with Mahdi after the Iraqi leader declined an invitation to meet with Pence at the air base after security concerns prevented Pence from traveling into Baghdad.
Vice President Mike Pence is criticizing Washington's impeachment proceedings as he greets U.S. troops on a pre-Thanksgiving trip to Iraq.
Speaking at Al-Asad Air Base, Pence said the Trump administration is working to secure another pay increase for the armed forces and suggested the ongoing impeachment inquiry in Washington was slowing the way.
He says: "Partisan politics and endless investigations have slowed things down in D.C."
Accompanied by his wife, Karen, Pence is serving Turkey and traditional fixings to hundreds of troops at the air base and another base in Erbil.
Pence is praising service members, saying, "While you come from the rest of us, you're the best of us."
Vice President Mike Pence is making an unannounced visit to Iraq in the highest-level American trip since President Donald Trump ordered a pullback of U.S. forces in Syria two months ago.
Pence is meeting Saturday with Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani in a move meant to reassure the U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State after Syrian Kurds suffered under a bloody Turkish assault last month after the withdrawal.
Pence is also visiting Iraq's Al-Asad Air Base, from which U.S. forces launched the operation in Syria last month that resulted in the death of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Pence, joined by his wife, Karen, is also greeting U.S. troops ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Iraqi officials say Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Iraq on an unannounced visit.
The two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say Pence arrived at the Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar Province in western Iraq on Saturday. U.S. troops are based in the complex.
The visit is Pence's first to Iraq and comes nearly one year since President Donald Trump's surprise visit to the country.
It is not immediately known whether Pence will meet with Iraqi officials during his stay.