TMD: What is Rudy's "Insurance"?
Plus: Impeachment’s next phase begins to take shape, and a look at Trump’s health going into 2020.
Happy Wednesday! Today’s newsletter was filed from Columbus, Chicago, and Maryland as we make our respective pilgrimages home for Thanksgiving. Fun fact: everyone involved in The Morning Dispatch hails from the Midwest. No wonder all our jokes are either cheesy or corny.
Quick Hits: What You Need To Know
The impeachment inquiry is moving to the House Judiciary Committee, which will hold panel hearings with constitutional experts next week. (More on that below.)
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the White House did not release military aid to Ukraine in September until after Trump had been briefed about the whistleblower complaint against him, dealing a blow to presidential defenders who have argued Trump’s conduct was blameless because the aid ultimately flowed.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy on Tuesday backed off from his earlier claims that he didn’t know whether it was Ukraine or Russia that hacked DNC servers in 2016, telling CNN, “I was wrong. … I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.”
More bad news for Elizabeth Warren: A new Quinnipiac poll has her support at 14 percent nationally, good enough for third place behind Biden and Buttigieg—a staggering fall from her 28-point support in the same poll last month. And it’s not just one survey—Warren’s standing in the race has fallen precipitously in the RealClearPolitics polling average since reaching a statistical tie with Joe Biden last month.
Several of the young celebrity progressive lawmakers known collectively as “the Squad” are currently facing campaign finance investigations.
Rudy’s Insurance Plan
On November 14, lost amid the flood of news coming out of the public impeachment hearings, Rudy Giuliani gave an interview to the Guardian, a left-leaning British newspaper. Asked whether he was worried President Trump, his top client, might “throw him under a bus,” Giuliani, “with a slight laugh,” offered a curious answer. “I’m not, but I do have very, very good insurance. So, if he does, all my hospital bills will be paid.” At which point, according to the paper, Giuliani’s own lawyer, Robert Costello, interjected “he’s joking.”
Giuliani stands at the center of two separate but possibly related controversies. First, his well-known efforts to encourage investigations in Ukraine that would benefit President Trump, running what impeachment witnesses described as an “irregular” foreign policy operation with Donald Trump’s interests, not the national interest, as its primary objective. Senior U.S. diplomats detailed Giuliani’s role in the Biden caper, with most witnesses telling Congress they were uncomfortable with his efforts.
Giuliani is also under investigation for his close connections to Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, Soviet-born businessmen determined to build and leverage relationships with senior Trumpworld figures and currently under indictment for campaign finance violations.
The emerging picture of Giuliani’s activities points to considerable overlap in these efforts. And Parnas is apparently talking. The New York Times reports that Parnas offered to help a Russian oligarch, Dmitri Firtash, currently wanted in the U.S. on bribery and racketeering charges, if Firtash would agree to work with two lawyers Giuliani had already enlisted in his Ukrainian-Biden conspiracy chasing for Trump. The sources on the Times story? Both sides of that alleged offer: Firtash and Parnas’ lawyer, Joseph Bondy.
Giuliani has accused Parnas of making claims that are “provably wrong” and says he doesn’t understand why Parnas is talking. “I don’t know why he wants to do this,” Giuliani has said of Parnas. “He didn’t do anything wrong.” Giuliani added: “I used him to find people in Ukraine because I couldn’t trust anyone else.”
It’s no wonder that many Republicans advising the White House have privately urged Trump to distance himself from Giuliani. Congressional Republicans working with the White House have strategized about how they might disentangle Trump from Giuliani’s activities, at times allowing their efforts to surface in public.
“You testified Mr. Giuliani’s requests for a quid pro quo for the White House meeting—you indicated that you believe that he was evincing President Trump’s interests, correct?” GOP counsel Stephen Castor asked Gordon Sondland during his impeachment testimony last Wednesday. “But how did you know that? Who told you?”
On Tuesday, Trump himself seemingly tried to put some distance between himself and his lawyer, telling Bill O’Reilly that he “didn’t direct” Rudy to look for dirt on the Bidens, that “you have to ask that to Rudy” why he was doing that in the first place, and that “Rudy has other clients other than me.”
The trouble: It’s pretty clear that Trump directed some of what Giuliani was doing on his behalf and appears to have been aware of much of it. And in case Trump missed his warning the first time, Giuliani reiterated it during a recent appearance on Fox & Friends weekend. Asked by host Ed Henry if he’s talking to Trump throughout the impeachment hearings, Giuliani responded: "You can assume that I talk with him early and often and have a very, very good relationship with him, and all these comments—which are totally insulting — I mean, I've seen things written like he's going to throw me under the bus. When they say that, I say, 'He isn't, but I have insurance.’”
And, for a second time, Giuliani offered a “clarification.” He tweeted: “TRUTH ALERT: The statement I’ve made several times of having an insurance policy, if thrown under bus, is sarcastic & relates to the files in my safe about the Biden Family’s 4 decade monetizing of his office.”
Giuliani’s explanation makes no sense, of course, as files about alleged Biden family corruption wouldn’t provide “insurance” for Giuliani if Trump turned on him. (And if he has such documents, it’d be odd if he hadn’t already provided them to his client.) The obvious explanation: Giuliani is threatening trouble for Trump if the president seeks the separation that so many are urging him to try. What kind of trouble? We won’t speculate. But it’s clear Giuliani knows more about what Trump was up to than anyone other that Trump. And even without the public declarations, that’s pretty good insurance.
Impeachment’s Next Chapter
After several grueling weeks of impeachment inquiry depositions—both behind closed doors and very much out in the open—the next phase of the process is beginning to take shape.
In a letter to his colleagues Monday, Adam Schiff reported that the relevant committees “are now preparing a report summarizing the evidence we have found this [sic] far, which will be transmitted to the Judiciary Committee soon after Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess.”
Notably, he also left the door open to additional testimony (*cough* John Bolton *cough*). “If other witnesses seek to show the same patriotism and courage of their colleagues and deputies and decide to obey their duty to the country over fealty to the President, we are prepared to hear from them.”
And on Tuesday, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler announced a hearing to be held next Wednesday to “explore the framework put in place to respond to serious allegations of impeachable misconduct like those against President Trump.” In a letter inviting Trump and/or his counsel to participate in the hearing, Nadler expounded upon its purpose: “The Committee intends this hearing to serve as an opportunity to discuss the historical and constitutional basis of impeachment, as well as the Framers’ intent and understanding of terms like ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’”
If all else plays out as predicted, the committee will likely vote on articles of impeachment—related to abuse of power and obstruction of justice, at least—the second week of December, with a full House vote expected around Christmas.
Trump’s ‘Unprecedented’ Trip to Walter Reed
President Trump held a Keep America Great campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida, last night on his way to Mar-a-Lago for Thanksgiving. He spoke for more than an hour and a half, airing his grievances with the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and defending his recent pardons of military members. But Trump also spent more than 10 minutes harping on the media’s coverage of a more obscure development from the past few weeks, his November 16 visit to Walter Reed Hospital.
“They said I had a massive heart attack, I had a heart attack. And it wasn't true. They knew wasn't true. They were with me,” Trump told the crowd of 20,000 fans, referring to the White House press pool that travels alongside the president. “And then they said, like a little bit later, he is staying over in the hospital. But they knew I came back. They were with me. They were with me. They saw me get into the car.”
Only they didn’t. For better or worse, TMD is on the press pool distribution list and receive an email pretty much any time the president does or says anything. It’s a lot! But here’s what we got last Saturday, when Trump made his unannounced trip to Walter Reed.
2:51pm: The president arrived at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at 2:47 pm. Pooler did not see POTUS enter.
2:55pm: The WH passes along this statement from the press secretary:
“Anticipating a very busy 2020, the President is taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, D.C., to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam at Walter Reed.”
— Stephanie Grisham
5:10pm: Motorcade is on the move from Walter Reed medical center at 5:03 pm. A photo pooler spotted POTUS departing the hospital moments earlier- shirt open, no tie.
5:13pm: White House passes along this statement from the press secretary:
“After a quick exam and labs, the President is headed back downtown.
“The President remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands of Americans several times a week.
“The President also stopped by to say hello to the medical staff of Walter Reed, to share his thanks for all the outstanding care they provide to our Wounded Warriors, and wish them an early happy Thanksgiving.
“Before leaving he met with the family of a special forces soldier injured in Afghanistan.
“This was the President’s 9th visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.”
5:43pm: Motorcade arrived back at the White House at 5:41 pm after an uneventful ride. Pooler did not see POTUS enter residence.
5:46pm: White House called a travel / photo lid at 5:44 pm. Good night!
Riveting stuff! But certainly not “they said I had a massive heart attack” or “he is staying over in the hospital.” Now, of course once word got out about the trip to Walter Reed, opponents of the president began to speculate. But a search through verified Twitter users mentioning “Trump” and “heart attack” turned up the likes of actor Tom Arnold, former House GOP Oversight Committee spokesman Kurt Bardella, and Tennessee Democrat Christopher Hale—not mainstream media outlets. In fact, they didn’t start mentioning “heart attack” until Trump himself denied having one in a Cabinet meeting three days later.
That’s not to say there weren’t stories highlighting the irregularity of Trump’s unplanned visit—but that’s because it was irregular! Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Dick Cheney’s cardiologist dating back to before his time as vice president, told The Dispatch in an interview that presidential physicals are typically choreographed “down to the minute,” with various consultants—a dermatologist, a medical imaging professional, a neurologist, etc.—lined up and ready to go. “A last minute trip up the up the road to Walter Reed without prior planning, would be distinctly uncommon, unprecedented.”
The president’s physician, Sean Conley, released a memo at nearly 10 p.m. on November 18 denying Trump experienced any chest pain or that he was “evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues,” saying the trip was kept off the record “due to scheduling uncertainties.” The statement also revealed some of the results of blood work the president had done.
But Reiner told us the tests disclosed by the White House wouldn’t have required a trip to Walter Reed. “The White House medical unit is now a very large organization that provides the president and vice president and their families with 24/7, 365 care,” he said. “There's no reason to go to Walter Reed to have his blood drawn.”
And, according to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, an “institution-wide notice” goes out to Walter Reed employees if the president is planning to visit. “That didn't happen last weekend.”
Due to the HIPAA privacy rule, all we will know for sure about Trump’s health records is what he agrees to disclose. And he very likely didn’t have a heart attack, given he was back out in public just three days later.
But what we do know, is that presidents have been obscuring details about their health throughout American history. FDR’s struggles with polio are well-documented now, but the extent of the ailment’s debilitating effects were far from public knowledge during his presidency. John F. Kennedy was heavily medicated throughout his time in office, shielding his chronic back pain, digestive issues, and Addison’s disease from the public. Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke toward the end of his second term, and his wife Edith essentially ran the government from the shadows.
President Trump is 73 years old, loves KFC and McDonalds, and has said that golf is “his primary form of exercise.” His health—just like Joe Biden’s, Bernie Sanders’s, and Michael Bloomberg’s—will be a factor in the 2020 race. Just like he made Hillary Clinton’s one in 2016.
Worth Your Time
There’s a new Harriet Tubman movie in theaters this month, chronicling the life of America’s most celebrated abolitionist—but alas, the filmmakers were seemingly more interested in molding the rough idea of Tubman onto a canned Hollywood plot than in actually exploring the historical woman herself. The good news is that the movie occasioned this piece, from Carolyn Stewart in The American Interest, a beautiful essay about Tubman’s incredible life and her antebellum world. Give it a read.
Remember that $100 graphing calculator you had to buy for middle school algebra? Maya Kosoff took a look at how Texas Instruments cemented a monopoly on math spanning multiple decades.
Presented Without Comment
You’ve probably heard of Schrödinger's cat, a thought experiment in which a cat is both dead and alive at the same time. But how about Delta Force’s dog, whereby a military canine is both male and female at the same time?
President Trump on Monday honored Conan, the Belgian Malinois who played a role in the capture and killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month. But there have been about 13 gazillion reports asking whether the dog is male or female. Trump referred to Conan as “he” in his remarks, but a White House official later told reporters the dog is a female. About an hour later, a different White House official disputed the earlier claim, confirming that Conan was, in fact, a boy. The saga dragged into Tuesday, when a defense official told ABC News Conan was a girl, but then two more defense officials corrected that report after “triple checking” that Conan was a boy. Let’s leave it at that.
Toeing the Company Line
Yesterday’s French Press took a look at Trump’s pardon of convicted war criminals, why Michael Bloomberg is “the worst candidate for civil liberties,” and a recent SCOTUS brief that could shift the balance of power in Washington. Plus, the Bulls got a shout out! Give it a read here.
Jonah had Eli Lake on The Remnant to talk national security: China, Ukraine, Russia, the Deep State, and much more.
Let Us Know
This Thanksgiving, we at The Dispatch are incredibly grateful for all our early subscribers who took a chance on something new and have provided us feedback along the way to help us do the best we can. And we’d be more grateful still if you took the time to share The Dispatch with your friends and family. The single most effective way to grow our efforts is word of mouth from current readers. So, forward this email to a handful of friends or send them here: thedispatch.com/subscribe.
And tell us, as Mom always asks right before you start eating dinner, what are you thankful for this year?
Reporting by Declan Garvey, Andrew Egger, and Steve Hayes.