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Catch up on the latest from explosive testimony of top American diplomat to Ukraine

US top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor testified Tuesday that he was told US politics could hold up aid, contradicting US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

CNN obtained his opening statement. Here are the key points from Taylor’s bombshell testimony, along with other things that happened Tuesday and what’s on the docket for Wednesday:

1. Possible political hold on aid money

Taylor told impeachment investigators that aid to Ukraine could have been held up for political reasons. That essentially confirms the alarm bells he had raised in private text messages the investigators were given weeks ago.

2. Officials wanted Ukraine to publicly commit on political investigations

Taylor said he had been told by Sondland that the Trump administration wanted Ukraine to publicly announce an investigation that could help President Donald Trump politically. They wanted Ukraine “in a public box” and publicly committed to investigations before there would be any aid. One key GOP defense of Trump has been that he wanted an investigation of 2016, not 2020. Taylor may have destroyed that argument.

3. Inconsistencies with Sondland

Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida, said there are inconsistencies between Taylor’s and Sondland’s testimonies. Sondland said Trump had told him there was no quid pro quo. Rooney called it “asymmetry” with Taylor’s testimony. Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia said: “I think Gordon Sondland may very well have to come back. He’s got some explaining to do.”

4. The desired investigations included 2016 and Burisma, the company that paid Hunter Biden

Taylor said that the administration wanted investigations that included both Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election and Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, according to the sources.

5. Sondland will have a side

A source familiar with Sondland’s testimony last week said the GOP donor and Trump ally was only speculating when he referenced the political investigations into the 2016 election and Burisma, according to CNN’s reporting. In the text messages, Taylor had told Sondland it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

6. Democrats said Taylor’s testimony was damning for Trump

“All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress … it’s my most disturbing day in Congress so far,” said Rep. Andy Levin, a freshman Democrat from Michigan.

7. Republicans had the opposite view

Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said of Taylor’s testimony that there was “nothing new here, I think.”

8. Back to work

Taylor plans to return to Ukraine on Wednesday, according to CNN’s report. The previous ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was recalled by Trump. (Her testimony was also explosive.) The US special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, abruptly quit his volunteer role shortly after the whistleblower complaint was released. That leaves a man who may believe the US President was improperly involving US politics in Ukraine as the country’s point person there. After his testimony, it’s hard to understand how he represents the Trump administration. It’s also hard to imagine the optics of him being recalled.

Track every step of the investigation

CNN is tracking the requests and subpoenas from House Democrats as they collect documents and testimony and move toward drafting articles of impeachment against Trump. Bookmark this essential and user-friendly tool from CNN’s Marshall Cohen and Will Houp.

Anonymous has a book called ‘The Warning’

Before there was the whistleblower, there was Anonymous, the Trump administration official who wrote of a committed group of government workers doing their best to quietly subvert some of the more dangerous ideas of their boss, the President.

But instead of going through the whistleblower law, Anonymous went to The New York Times. In a new book, Anonymous — and it’s not clear if he or she is still working for the government — will keep their identity under wraps and argue against reelection for Trump. The proceeds will “substantially” go to charity, according to the publisher. Read Jake Tapper’s report

New poll: 50% support impeachment

From CNN’s polling director, Jennifer Agiesta:

Half of Americans say President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, a new high in CNN polling on the topic and the first time that support for impeachment and removal has significantly outpaced opposition.

As support for impeachment has inched upward, however, Trump’s approval ratings overall and for handling major issues have not taken a hit.

  • 41% approve of his handling of the presidency
  • 57% disapprove

The share who say Trump used his office improperly to gain political advantage against a potential 2020 opponent in his interactions with the President of Ukraine stands at 49%, about the same as in the September CNN poll.

The good news for Trump: At the same time, more now say Trump did not use the presidency improperly (43%, up from 39%), as the share who are undecided on the question dipped. That shift was largely driven by a 16-point increase in the share of Republicans who say Trump didn’t improperly use the presidency (from 71% to 87%).

Trump’s version of history is getting more perverted

It feels like Trump is invoking history, and trying to define his place in it, more and more. He’s placing himself alongside the titans of US history one day and comparing himself to the marginalized victims of the country’s collective sins the next.

His view of injustice

Trump feels like impeachment equals injustice, so hours after comparing himself to the greatest presidents, he said the effort to end his presidency is like a “lynching,” an incorrect and supremely insensitive historical comparison.

The word lynching, given its history, should be repulsive to anyone.

But it’s the word impeachment that repulses Trump, as he said on Fox News, when he told his friend Sean Hannity he should sue Democrats over their impeachment efforts.

His view of presidents

Of all the presidents to put on a pedestal, Trump chose the one that his predecessor, the first black man to hold the job, was trying to take off the $20 bill.

But now Trump has grander vision. He repeatedly put himself alongside George Washington before a Cabinet meeting Monday, and, later that day, compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, in an amazing interview with Fox News.

I wrote more about this Tuesday. So did CNN’s Brandon Tensley, who ties together Trump’s “witch hunt” claims with Tuesday’s lynching reference.

McConnell doesn’t recall telling Trump the Ukraine call was perfect

Earlier this month, Trump said the Senate majority leader, his protector in case of a Senate impeachment trial, had told him that the July 25 call where Trump pressured the Ukrainian President was “perfect.” It was notable since “perfect” is the way Trump has repeatedly described the call for which Democrats want to impeach him.

But it turns out McConnell doesn’t think the call was perfect. Or rather, he doesn’t recall telling Trump it was.

“We have not had any conversations on this subject,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday, according to The Hill.

Asked if Trump was lying, McConnell didn’t say no.

“You’d have to ask him. I don’t recall any conversations with the President about that phone call,” McConnell said.

Coming Wednesday

Testimony — After much testimony from the State Department, on Wednesday a Pentagon official, Laura Cooper, will have a turn. She’ll be asked how and when and why the aid to Ukraine was frozen by the Trump administration.

Arraignment — The Soviet-born Americans who made introductions for Rudy Giuliani with Ukrainian officials have a scheduled appointment with the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.

Impeachment Watch Podcast

CNN political director David Chalian gets a GOP point of view from former Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Mike Shields. Plus, CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny talks through the impeachment headlines of the day, including the testimony of the de facto US ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Listen here.

What are we doing here?

The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election.

Democrats want to impeach him for it.

It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.