The Atlantic Politics Daily: Where in the World is Rudy Giuliani?

Giuliani told our White House reporter he was planning to fly to Austria. Two of his business associates were arrested Wednesday attempting to do the same. Plus: China vs. the NBA.

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Our White House reporter finds Rudy Giuliani deep in the middle of scandal that’s getting more convoluted by the day. First, the players:

Who are Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman? As first reported in the Wall Street Journal, the two Soviet-born, naturalized American citizens were arrested at Dulles Wednesday night, en route to leaving for Vienna on a one-way flight. (The two reportedly assisted Rudy Giuliani in his alleged efforts to investigate the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election.)

And was Giuliani also planning a trip to Vienna? The plot thickens, as they say. From Elaina Plott:

Last night, when Rudy Giuliani told me he couldn’t get together for an interview, his reason made sense: As with many nights of late, he was due to appear on Hannity. When I suggested this evening instead, his response was a bit more curious. We would have to aim for lunch, Giuliani told me, because he was planning to fly to Vienna, Austria, at night. He didn’t offer any details beyond that.

→ Plott connects a few very strange dots. Read the rest here.

Christian Paz

Today in Politics

James Harden of the Houston Rockets (PAT SULLIVAN / AP)

It’s no secret that some sports leagues (and TV networks) fear politics.

Take the NFL: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started protesting police brutality during the national anthem before games. He’s no longer playing for the league.

But the NBA had leaned into letting players and employees speak their mind. Then China came along.

A tweet by a Houston Rockets executive expressing solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters has led to uproar in China, where the league has deep, deep business ties, and challenged the league’s apparent wokeness. A web of organizations suspended their affiliations with the NBA (adding to the entanglement: The Chinese Basketball Association is run by Yao Ming, a former Houston Rockets star).

The NBA has tried to have it both ways, trying to placate China while also saying it supports free speech. My colleague Jemele Hill has a scathing argument about the NBA’s positioning: “If the NBA buckles to China, that merely shows that the league will fight for its values only if no real sacrifice is involved.”

The NBA is just the latest to bend under China’s economic might. Companies from Mercedes Benz to Marriott have made gestures towards supporting humans rights and free speech, but any such concerns fall by the wayside when they run into the prospect of being shut out of China—billions of upwardly mobile consumers and $14 trillion GDP are on the opposing team.

— Saahil Desai

What Else We’re Watching

On impeachment, should Democrats hang together? Some pundits say Democrats in swing districts might be safer if they break with their party should an impeachment vote come to the House floor. But recent electoral results don’t back that up, Ronald Brownstein writes.

+ What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Impeachment chicken. Given President Trump’s apparent refusal to cooperate with Congress’ impeachment inquiry, these are the options that House Democrats, the courts, and the president each have.

A GOP contradiction: How can some Republicans denounce the administration’s latest strategy pivot in Syria as a betrayal, while still supporting the president? “Yet, in all likelihood, Graham, Cheney, Rubio, and McConnell will support Trump for the 2020 GOP nomination,” Conor Friedersdorf argues, “doing nothing to find a superior standard-bearer.”

Our Reporters Are Also Reading

Two Days in the Life of Nancy Pelosi, Political Grandmaster (Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair) (Paywall)

Lindsey Graham dishes on Trump in hoax calls with Russians (Natasha Bertrand, Politico)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. It’s written by our associate politics editor, Saahil Desai, and our politics fellow, Christian Paz. It’s edited by Shan Wang.

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