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Sondland tells Congress he acted at Trump's direction on Ukraine
Testimony from top ambassador ties Trump, Pompeo and other top official to Ukrainian pressure campaign

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee during a hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on Wednesday told Congress that the president directed him to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and, in turn, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The Trump donor and appointee stressed that the president never directly told him U.S. military aid to Ukraine was contingent upon the politically motivated investigations. But he testified, among other new revelations, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on a pressure campaign.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 20
Republicans push 2016 election Ukraine-Democratic collusion narrative in Sondland questioning

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testifies during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House Intelligence ranking member Devin Nunes began his questioning of Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Wednesday by highlighting instances where former Ukrainian government officials disparaged President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign and allegedly sought to boost Hillary Clinton.

Nunes and his fellow House Republicans have argued that Trump fervently believed Ukrainians are “all corrupt” and that he had legitimate cause to request that the new Ukrainian government launch anti-corruption investigations into allegations of wrongdoing by Democrats during the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Our offbeat debrief of the off-year elections: Trump ‘always makes it about him’
Political Theater, Episode 102

President Donald Trump concludes a rally at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, Pa., on May 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It is tempting to read into the 2019 campaign results, so-called off-year elections, for signs of what’s to come in next year’s big political brouhaha. Political prognosticators beware!

But while we don’t want to look too much into what happened in high-profile gubernatorial and special elections that President Donald Trump campaigned in, there are a few key data points to consider, particularly a growing rural-suburban partisan divide that showed up in places as disparate as Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky and Virginia. 

Women’s health political fights heat up in battleground states
Opponents and supporters of abortion rights gear up for record-setting advocacy campaigns

Control of state governments, Congress and the White House could depend on the ability of proponents and opponents of abortion rights to turn out core supporters. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Fights over abortion and birth control in all three branches of government are fueling record-setting advocacy campaigns by liberal and conservative groups ahead of the 2020 elections.

Control of state governments, Congress and the White House could depend on special interests turning out core supporters and elevating issues such as the Supreme Court’s consideration this term of a potentially landmark abortion case.

Democrats prepare to duel McConnell over year-end wish list
Amid push for legislation benefiting Kentucky constituents, Dems seek their own concessions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing several initiatives to benefit his constituents, including renewal of tax breaks for bourbon distillers, aid for retired coal miners and appropriations to bolster Kentucky’s hemp industry. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As former Sen. Wendell Ford often said, with small variations: “Kentucky is beautiful women, fast horses, bourbon whiskey, cigarettes and coal. I represent Kentucky, and that’s what I represent.”

The colorful Ford, a Democrat who died in 2015, had little else in common with Mitch McConnell, the stoic Kentucky Republican who served as the junior senator from the Bluegrass State alongside Ford for 15 years until the latter’s 1999 retirement. But the Senate majority leader is clearly taking a few pages from Ford’s playbook in the year-end legislative scramble as he heads into a potentially difficult reelection campaign in 2020.

Former ambassador calls Trump's efforts to investigate Bidens 'unacceptable'
Volker says he didn't realize probes into Ukraine company were actually code for a politically motivated investigation

Kurt Volker, left, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Timothy Morrison, former senior director for Russian affairs at the National Security Council, are sworn in at the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, told lawmakers  Tuesday that he should have surmised President Donald Trump's calls for a Ukrainian probe were actually code for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a chief political rival. 

During the fourth public impeachment hearing into Trump's dealings with Ukraine, Volker said he knew that Biden's son Hunter was once on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma but did not think investigations into the company were essentially probes into the Biden family. 

Weepy-eyed Boehner roasted at portrait unveiling
Grab the tissues

Former Speaker of the House John Boehner wipes away tears as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during Boehner’s portrait unveiling on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

‘I don’t know any of these people’: 3 takeaways as Trump watches impeachment saga
Williams gives VP cover after his spox noted ‘she doesn’t directly report to the vice president’

President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House via Marine One on Nov. 3. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

The third day of public impeachment hearings temporarily transformed President Donald Trump into a history professor as he and his surrogates tried to discredit government witnesses and panned House Democrats.

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who oversees European matters at the National Security Council, told the House Intelligence Committee that Trump’s talk on a July 25 call with Ukraine’s president of his government investigating U.S. Democrats was “inappropriate” and a “partisan play.” He also panned attacks on other witnesses as “callow and cowardly,” appearing to criticize his commander in chief. Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, called that telephone conversation “unusual” because Trump was focused on a domestic political matter.

Kamala Harris endorses Christy Smith in race to replace Katie Hill
Smith is consolidating support among California Democratic leaders

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is endorsing Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the 25th District race. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris has taken sides in the race to replace former California Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, endorsing Assemblywoman Christy Smith in the special election.

“In the State Assembly, Christy has been an effective leader and a fearless voice for the people she represents,” Harris said in a statement shared first with CQ Roll Call. “I know Christy will do the same in Congress — working to enact tougher gun safety laws, combat the climate crisis, fully fund public schools, invest more in emergency response and public safety, lower the cost of prescription drug prices and build an economy that works for everyone.”