The Hill’s Morning Report — Bloomberg is in; independents sour on impeachment

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Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Happy Monday! Our newsletter gets you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger is off eating turkey and celebrating the pilgrims; Al Weaver is The Hill’s up-early journalist in charge this week. Find him at @alweaver22 on Twitter and CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergSanders: Billionaires like Bloomberg ‘not going to get very far in this election’ Sunday shows – Democrats look forward on impeachment Conway: Bloomberg entry shows ‘Democratic field is underwhelming’ MORE made his 2020 intentions official on Sunday, kicking off his White House bid as the ever-changing Democratic primary took yet another major turn.

Bloomberg’s announcement came in the form of a two-minute video, pitching himself as an experienced hand in government, business and philanthropy and the necessary antidote to President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani associate prepared to testify Nunes aides scrapped Ukraine trip to avoid alerting Schiff Democrats pledge sharp turn in US ties with Saudi Arabia Schumer praises former Navy chief after ouster MORE, who he argued poses an “existential threat” to the country.

“We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage” (The Hill).

The New York Times: Michael Bloomberg joins 2020 Democratic field for president.

The Associated Press: Bloomberg entry into presidential race raises ethics issues.

More than anything, Bloomberg brings a financial might to the race that has perhaps never been seen on the national level. With his net worth sitting at $53 billion, putting him among the 10 richest individuals in the world, Bloomberg’s spending gives him an advantage that he is trying to use from the outset. Prior to his launch, Bloomberg’s team reserved north of $30 million in ads across most of the country starting Monday, one of the largest buys of all time (if not the largest).

In addition, Bloomberg has launched a $100 million ad campaign to criticize Trump and a $15 million voter registration drive across a group of key battleground states. As The Washington Post notes, the spending plans amount to double the total amount raised by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats pledge sharp turn in US ties with Saudi Arabia Democrats target housing shortage as advocates warn of crisis Sanders: Billionaires like Bloomberg ‘not going to get very far in this election’ MORE (I-Vt.) through the end of the third fundraising quarter.

Bloomberg also announced that, like his mayoral contests, he will forgo receiving campaign contributions and, as the previously revealed spending indicated, will self-fund his bid.

“He has never taken a political contribution in his life. He is not about to start,” Bloomberg chief adviser Howard Wolfson told The Associated Press. “He cannot be bought.”

However, with his entrance come attacks from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that has seethed at what it perceives as greedy billionaires who try to buy elections. Shortly after his announcement, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats target housing shortage as advocates warn of crisis The Memo: Impeachment overshadows 2020 race for Democrats Democrats have urgency, but no momentum MORE (D-Mass.) teed off on his candidacy, with the Vermont senator predicting that Bloomberg won’t “get very far” in 2020 (The Daily Beast).

“We do not believe that billionaires have the right to buy elections, and that is why we are going to overturn Citizens United. That is why multi-billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg are not going to get very far in this election. That is why we are going to end voter suppression in America,” Sanders said at a town hall in New Hampshire (CNN).

Adding another layer to Bloomberg’s bid is what becomes of Bloomberg News and its campaign coverage of its owner and the Democratic field. In an email to staff, the outlet’s editor-in-chief, John Micklethwait, laid out its plan, revealing that while it will report on the campaign like others in the Democratic field, it will not do any investigative work into Bloomberg or his primary competitors (CNN).

LEADING THE DAY

IMPEACHMENT WATCH: For two months, the House impeachment inquiry has taken its toll on Capitol Hill. Looking ahead, it’s also going to do so on the campaign trail as it threatens to overshadow the early primary contests and force up to six candidates away from voters in those states as they deal with a possible Senate trial.

Niall Stanage writes in his latest memo about the impact of the impeachment proceedings on the 2020 race and points out a problem that has grown since the inquiry launched in late September: The oxygen for 2020 candidates is limited.

While the top contenders have kept their footing through impeachment, mid- and bottom-tier candidates have found it increasingly difficult to break through, with the exception of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBlack leader on South Bend city council endorses Biden over Buttigieg The Memo: Impeachment overshadows 2020 race for Democrats SNL mocks Buttigieg campaign’s viral dance video as part of strategy to get ‘a negative percentage of the black vote’ MORE, who has found himself atop recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. The ratings for the debates are one example of this phenomenon as the first debate in June pulled in over 18 million viewers. However, the fifth debate, which took place last week in Atlanta, attracted only 6.6 million viewers.

For those senators, the problem becomes compounded, as they could miss about a month of valuable face-to-face time with voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Making matters worse, those candidates are unlikely to receive help from their Senate Democratic colleagues, according to The Hill’s Jordain Carney.

With a trial expected to start as early as January, that would put the Senate proceeding in the immediate run-up to the batch of early contests.

The Washington Post: Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats pledge sharp turn in US ties with Saudi Arabia Democrats target housing shortage as advocates warn of crisis The Memo: Impeachment overshadows 2020 race for Democrats MORE (D-N.J.) wins praise in presidential campaign. What he hasn’t won is much support.

The Hill: Independents souring on impeachment underscores risk for Democrats.

The Hill: Sunday shows – Democrats look forward on impeachment.

> Intel Committee heads: Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesGiuliani associate prepared to testify Nunes aides scrapped Ukraine trip to avoid alerting Schiff House Intelligence has video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate at center of Ukraine probe: report Nunes challenger says campaign raised nearly 0K after start of public impeachment hearings MORE (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee denied on Sunday that he met with ex-Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in Vienna last year, but declined to elaborate or offer any further details.

Nunes made the denial during an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” pushing back on an allegation made by the attorney for Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGiuliani associate prepared to testify Nunes aides scrapped Ukraine trip to avoid alerting Schiff House Intelligence has video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate at center of Ukraine probe: report Nunes threatens to take CNN, Daily Beast to court over story about meeting with Ukrainian prosecutor MORE, that Nunes met with Shokin as part of a push for information about former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani associate prepared to testify Nunes aides scrapped Ukraine trip to avoid alerting Schiff Democrats pledge sharp turn in US ties with Saudi Arabia House Intelligence has video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate at center of Ukraine probe: report MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

“I really want to answer all of these questions, and I promise you I absolutely will come back on the show … but I think you can understand that I can’t compete by trying to debate this out with the public media when 90 percent of the media are totally corrupt,” Nunes told host Maria BartiromoMaria Sara BartiromoNunes threatens to take CNN, Daily Beast to court over story about meeting with Ukrainian prosecutor GOP rep predicts watchdog report on alleged FISA abuses will find ‘problems’ Trump says Fox News ‘doesn’t deliver for US anymore’ after poll shows rising impeachment support MORE (The Washington Post).

The Washington Post: Top House Democrat says ethics probe of Nunes is likely over alleged meeting with Ukrainian about Bidens.

The Associated Press: What’s next in impeachment: Judiciary Committee up next?

On the other side of the aisle, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGiuliani associate prepared to testify Nunes aides scrapped Ukraine trip to avoid alerting Schiff House Intelligence has video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate at center of Ukraine probe: report Ocasio-Cortez fires back after Trump brands her a ‘Do Nothing Democrat’ MORE (D-Calif.) told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the panel will move forward with it’s forthcoming impeachment report despite the lack of testimony from multiple key potential witnesses.

The revelation from Schiff is another sign that House Democrats are rolling right along with their inquiry and not waiting on their testimony, arguing that the evidence against Trump is “already overwhelming.”

“Yes, we’d love to have these witnesses come in,” Schiff said. “But we’re not willing to simply allow them to wait us out — to stall this proceeding — when the facts are already overwhelming” (The Washington Post).

The Associated Press: Schiff says more hearings, witnesses possible.

ABC News: House Intelligence Committee in possession of video, audio recordings from Giuliani associate.

The Hill: Schiff says he wants to speak with constituents before deciding on impeachment.

The Washington Post: White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid.

The Hill: Schiff dismisses Trump’s call for him to testify: “What would I offer in terms of testimony?”

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

MORE CONGRESS: Congress is barreling toward a chaotic end-of-the-year scramble. Lawmakers have only have 15 working days to wrap up key legislative items, headlined by the ongoing push to fund the government as the impeachment effort continues to headline the work on Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate are technically scheduled to leave by Dec. 13, but members are already planning to be in town into late December as they try to wrap up their work prior to leaving town for the Christmas break.

Top appropriators took a big step toward a resolution on Friday as they agreed on top-line spending figures for the fiscal 2020 bills. The agreement marks a breakthrough in negotiations to fund the government and comes after days of behind-the-scenes haggling between Senate Republicans and House Democrats in search of a deal.

In order to prevent a government shutdown, lawmakers will need to pass either the fiscal 2020 bills or another stopgap spending measure by Dec. 20 (The Hill).

> Stefanik rising: Long touted as a future star for the party, Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikSunday shows – Democrats look forward on impeachment Stefanik: The left is ‘spun up’ after her impeachment hearing performance Live coverage: Impeachment spotlight shifts to Fiona Hill, David Holmes MORE (R-N.Y.) has taken the role of a chief defender for the president as the GOP continues to grapple with the House impeachment inquiry, launching her into the national spotlight in recent weeks.

While her profile continues to be on helium watch, House Democrats are hoping that her proximity to Trump helps their side politically and makes her a possible target on the House map in 2020 (The Hill).

The Hill: Democrats work to bring labor on board trade deal.

The Hill: Trump draws ire after retreat on drug prices pledge.

***

WHITE HOUSE & ADMINISTRATION: Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperSchumer praises former Navy chief after ouster Trump taps Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite to replace ousted Navy chief Defense secretary fires Navy chief over SEAL war crimes case MORE asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his handling of a war crimes case involving Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was also acquitted of murder in the same trial.

Esper said in a statement Sunday that he was “deeply troubled” by reports that Spencer had reached out to White House officials promising that an accused Navy SEAL would be allowed to retire as a SEAL despite his conviction for posing with the corpse of a slain enemy combatant.

“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said. “I wish Richard well.”

Spencer subsequently submitted his resignation later on Sunday, saying in a lengthy letter that he and the president disagreed on the nature of the rule of law.

“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,” Spencer said. He did not specify which order from Trump he was referring to (The Hill).

On Sunday evening, Trump weighed in on Spencer’s ouster, tweeting that he was terminated for not addressing “large cost overruns from past administration’s contracting procedures.”

“I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy. He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank. Likewise, large cost overruns from past administration’s contracting procedures were not addressed to my satisfaction,” Trump said. “Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. I thank Richard for his service & commitment.”

Trump added that U.S. Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated to replace Spencer.

David Ignatius, The Washington Post: In firing Richard Spencer, Trump recklessly crosses another line.

Politico: Forget the Oval. The real Trump action is in the residence.

The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!

OPINION

Impeachment will make some Senate Republicans squirm, by Albert Hunt, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/33hPLM9

Democrats have urgency, but no momentum, by Bill Schneider, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2KNuljK

WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Briahna Joy Gray, national press secretary for the Sanders campaign, for the latest news on Sanders; Matt Taibbi, reporter for Rolling Stone, for a weekend news update; and Dr. James Hamblin, staff writer for The Atlantic, to discuss his recent piece, “The President’s Cognitive Decline.” Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

The House meets on Tuesday at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session.

The Senate convenes for a pro forma session on Tuesday at 7 a.m. and is out of session otherwise.

The president will have lunch with Vice President Pence at 12:15 p.m. before welcoming Prime Minister Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria to the White House at 2 p.m. Trump will participate in an expanded bilateral meeting with Borissov at 2:15 p.m. He will also take part in a signing ceremony for H.R. 2423, the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, and H.R. 724, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act at 4:15 p.m.

First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpSaagar Enjeti rips Biden’s response to question on son’s paternity case Hillicon Valley: Senators ask Trump to halt Huawei licenses | Warren criticizes Zuckerberg over secret dinner with Trump | Senior DHS cyber official to leave | Dems offer bill on Libra oversight Trump visits Dover Air Force Base to receive troop remains MORE gets the White House holiday season rolling (literally, with a horse-drawn carriage) when she accepts the prize-winning 2019 Christmas tree at the North Portico at 1 p.m. Larry Snyder of Mahantongo Valley Farms in Pennsylvania will present the tree, which volunteers will decorate in the Blue Room.

ELSEWHERE

? Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition delivered a landslide victory in local elections over the weekend in a stinging rebuke to their leaders and Beijing. Wu Chi-wai, the head of the Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy party, said Monday that the opposition swept nearly 90 percent of 452 district council seats, handing the party control of 17 of 18 district councils due in large part to a record turnout (The Associated Press).

? Supreme Court: Associate Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgGinsburg released from hospital Ruth Bader Ginsburg hospitalized after fever, chills Ginsburg returns to Supreme Court after stomach bug MORE was released from the hospital on Sunday after being admitted on Friday with chills and a fever, according to a spokeswoman for the court. “She is home and doing well,” spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in a statement. The latest stop in the hospital for Ginsburg, 86, comes after she missed a day of work last week due to a stomach bug, but later returned to the court (The Hill).

? Going to the Movies: “Frozen 2,” the sequel to Disney’s animated box office hit from 2013, posted a record-breaking opening weekend, raking in an estimated $127 million domestically and $350.2 million worldwide. The latest Disney production set multiple records, including highest-grossing weekend for any animated film globally, new highs in the U.S. and Canada for an animated movie that was not released over the summer, and, finally, the largest opening for any Walt Disney Animation Studios release (The Associated Press).

THE CLOSER

And finally … It was a record night for Taylor SwiftTaylor Alison SwiftElizabeth Warren’s hypocritical and foolish attack on private equity Progressive Democrats ramp up attacks on private equity Ocasio-Cortez voices support for Taylor Swift in artist’s battle to perform her songs MORE, who smashed pop legend Michael Jackson’s record of 24 American Music Awards with 29 honors of her own, as she took home artist of the year and artist of the decade accolades at the award show on Sunday night.

Swift, who received honors for her seventh studio album “Lover,” also performed a medley of her music to go along with her artist of the decade title, although the performance was in doubt in the days leading up to the show thanks to a dispute with Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, who own her master recordings.

Also winning big on Monday were DJ Khaled and BTS with three wins each, and Billie Eilish, who took home two prizes, including for new artist of the year (Billboard).

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