The Atlantic Politics Daily: Impeachment Comes to a Screen Near You

The witness to watch today was William Taylor, who showed up with new information. Plus, a new candidate for Obama’s heir—and for the 2020 Democratic primary?

It’s Wednesday, November 13. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was at the White House today visiting President Trump. Why do the two get along, though their countries are so at odds?

In today’s newsletter: ❖ A revelation from the first public-facing impeachment hearings. ❖ A new candidate for Obama’s heir—and for the 2020 Democratic primary? ❖ Finally, why Don Jr. was booed by trolls at his own book event.


(Erin Scott / Reuters)

Impeachment comes to a screen near you.

For the first time, hearings went from behind closed-doors to a televised spectacle, two months from when House Democrats first formally announced impeachment proceedings.

1. The Highlights

Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, was running the show (You can read his full opening statement here.)

The witness to watch today was William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. While some expected Taylor to deliver something of a snoozefest, hewing only to facts that are already known, he showed up with a surprise, as my colleague Russell Berman writes: He detailed a previously unknown phone call that bolsters the Democrats’ case.

2. The Drama

Robert Mueller? Robert Mueller who? Democrats have been wanting a riveting congressional witness to boost their case for impeachment.

Months before, some pinned their hopes on the former special counsel, but he didn’t exactly deliver for them the way they wanted. Taylor put on a surprisingly strong show, my colleague Todd Purdum argues, providing sheer entertainment value to match a made-for-TV impeachment.

Republicans for their part sought to counteract Taylor by depicting the Ukraine scandal as a strategy of some deep state. But that argument didn’t hold up well, my colleague David Graham argues:

The impeachment hearings are not about combating corruption or reorienting American foreign policy. Congress is instead investigating whether the president solicited bribes or extorted a foreign government to improve his domestic political fortunes. And a growing amount of evidence indicates that he did.

3. The Geopolitics

Ukraine-call-centered impeachment proceedings are consuming Washington, but what’s the scandal like for Ukrainians whose country has turned into a political football?

For government officials, the answer may just be, supremely confusing. As Uri Friedman writes, the Ukrainian government has been getting “mixed messages delivered by a shape-shifting cast of characters and sometimes by the same character in the same breath.”

Here’s what it’s like to be a foreign government trying to make sense of U.S. foreign policy in the Trump era.


(Jason Reed / Reuters)

Meanwhile, in the 2020 primary …

Another Democrat is reportedly joining the 2020 race. Our campaign reporter Isaac Dovere has noted that an entrance from former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick would signal the intense doubts Obama insiders have about Joe Biden’s candidacy.

When Biden was deliberating about whether to run for president in the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, people in the Obama camp were torn between wanting him to run because they loved him so much …. Feelings for Patrick tend more toward admiration—his intellect and his rhetorical skill inspire the same passion that Obama’s once did.

Read Isaac’s reporting here.

Meanwhile, Biden and Elizabeth Warren remain Democratic frontrunners fewer than 100 days out from the Iowa caucus, but each face all-too familiar challenges.

Biden’s campaign, like Hillary Clinton’s before him, doesn’t benefit from a staff that tends to shield him from hard truths or challenges his poorer decisions, Peter Beinart argues:

This insularity doesn’t make Biden and Clinton corrupt or criminal. But each has paid a heavy political price for failing to create a culture where aides could challenge their blind spots.

Read Peter’s full argument.

And Warren faces the perennial challenges of being a woman running for political office, Megan Garber argues, including being cast as “angry” by Biden and Pete Buttigieg.

The profound irony of Biden’s “angry, unyielding” accusation is that Warren herself is the first to admit to her own anger. A foundation of her campaign is that there is nothing wrong with being angry—and that, to the contrary, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

Read Megan’s essay here.


Donald Trump Jr. was shouted down recently at an event at UCLA, while on tour for his book Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us. But not by protesters on the left.

Don Jr. expected leftist protesters.

As it turned out, he and his girlfriend, the former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, were drowned out and forced off stage by chanting alt-right activists.

The forces of hatred that Trump stoked to benefit himself are spiraling out of control, Conor Friedersdorf argues.


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As always, you can reply directly to this newsletter with questions or comments. Today’s edition of our daily newsletter of political ideas and arguments was written by Saahil Desai and Christian Paz, and edited by Shan Wang.

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