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Giuliani and Nunes star in latest Ukraine saga

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, looks on during testimony at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Nov. 20, 2019.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-CA, looks on during testimony at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Nov. 20, 2019.Erin Schaff / Pool via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The more we continue to learn from the Ukraine scandal, the more Rudy Giuliani and Devin Nunes continue to pop up.

That was the new revelation from the 300-page impeachment-inquiry report that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released on Tuesday.

The report contains call records — as early as from April — with Giuliani speaking with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, and with Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaking with Giuliani, plus recently indicted Lev Parnas.

“It's unclear what legitimate purpose the president's personal lawyer would have to speak at length with the White House Office of Management and Budget. But the revelation is likely to fuel arguments from House Democrats that Giuliani was intimately involved in a scheme to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to advance Trump's personal political interests,” NBC’s Josh Lederman writes.

As for Nunes, he didn’t deny he spoke with Parnas. “It’s possible,” Nunes told Fox News’ Sean Hannity when asked if he talked with him. “But I haven’t gone through all of my phone records. I really don’t recall that name. I remember that name now, because he’s been indicted.”


More than anything else, the phone records seem to undercut the GOP’s argument that President Trump and his administration were sincerely concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

If so, why was Giuliani — the president’s personal lawyer — speaking with folks at OMB?

Impeachment inquiry update: Today’s history lesson

Beginning at 10:00 am ET today, the House Judiciary Committee will hold its first impeachment-inquiry hearing – with four constitutional scholars discussing how the nation’s Founding Fathers viewed impeachment and impeachable offenses, per NBC’s Alex Moe.

NBC’s Geoff Bennett notes that three of the scholars are Democratic witnesses: Harvard’s Noah Feldman, Stanford’s Pamela Karlan, and the University of North Carolina’s Michael Gerhardt.

And one is a Republican witness: George Washington University’s Jonathan Turley.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: It’s the Top 4 Democrats — and then everyone else

Kamala Harris’ exit from the 2020 presidential campaign on Tuesday said as much about the current strength of the Top 4 Democrats in the race as it did Harris’ standing in the field.

Joe Biden has overperformed with African-American voters, as well as with centrist/establishment Democrats.

Elizabeth Warren — her plans and enthusiasm on the ground — caught fire with liberal Democratic voters (and we stress the word Democratic here).

Bernie Sanders has maintained his support from liberals and outsiders who aren’t attached to the Democratic Party.

And Pete Buttigieg — out of nowhere, really — has made a play among centrist/pragmatic college-educated white Democrats, and he’s owned the outsider space in the race.

So ask yourself: If those four Democrats aren’t going anywhere, where’s the space for anyone else to break through? That was Kamala Harris’ challenge before she suspended her campaign.

Indeed, just think about some of the recent departures from the 2020 race — Harris, Steve Bullock, Beto O’Rourke. They were all trying to grab a part of the space that either Buttigieg, Biden or Warren now own.

Now Michael Bloomberg, with all of his money, is still a wild card. And Amy Klobuchar has a pulse in Iowa.

But there’s a Top 4 in the Democratic race — and then everyone else.

On the campaign trail today

Joe Biden remains in Iowa, hitting Ames, Iowa Falls, Waverly and Charles City… Elizabeth Warren appears on Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show”… Pete Buttigieg stumps in Alabama… Tulsi Gabbard and Marianne Williamson are in New Hampshire… And Vice President Mike Pence campaigns for President Trump in Michigan.

Dispatches from NBC’s campaign embeds

After Kamala Harris announced she was ending her presidential run, Amy Klobuchar said Tuesday that she would miss having her “good friend” on the trail, and that the standards for women seeking the presidency are far higher, per NBC’s Amanda Golden. “Try and imagine a president and they just can't imagine someone who isn't either a tall guy or someone who isn't a certain look. I just think we have to get over that and we have to remember. That is not a reason to vote for me, but you just have to start thinking about it. The standard has got to be: Are you competent? Can you get things done? Are you going to be able to build trust and bring people with you?” Klobuchar said. “There's only two of us on there now, but I'm the one who is going to be able to look at Donald Trump in the debate and say you know what when you talk about the Midwest it is not fly over country to me.”

NBC’s Julia Jester flagged Cory Booker discussing the winnowing of diversity in the 2020 top tier while on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes:” “Today I'm a little angry, I have to say, that we started with one of the most diverse fields in our history giving people pride. And it's a damn shame now that the only African-American woman in this race, who has been speaking to issues that need to be brought up is now no longer in it, and we're spiraling towards a debate stage that potentially, we're still fighting to get on it, but could have six people with no diversity whatsoever.”

Data Download: The number of the day is … $562,000


That’s how much cash-strapped Kamala Harris spent on TV and radio advertising in the entirety of her campaign.

Compare that to what Elizabeth Warren ($8.2 million), Bernie Sanders ($7.7m), Joe Biden ($6.0m) and Pete Buttigieg ($5.9m) have spent to book broadcast ads so far, according to Advertising Analytics.

And that’s not to mention monster spending from Michael Bloomberg ($58.8m) and Tom Steyer ($45.0m).

A pro-Harris super PAC, People Standing Strong, had hoped to augment Harris’s TV advertising. The group booked half a million dollars’ worth of ads in the state yesterday, just hours before she dropped out of the race. The booking has since been canceled. Here’s the ad it was planning to air.

The Lid: Live and learn

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at new polling about how geography has a lot to do with Americans’ views of climate change.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

NATO leaders are bracing for more tension after a tough first summit day.

Phone call records show just how often Rudy Giuliani was in contact with the White House.

Democrats are fretting about what comes next for the diversity of their field after Kamala Harris’s departure from the race.

The new chair of the Democratic Governors Association is bullish on the party’s chances this cycle.

MSNBC will host a forum on education issues in Pittsburgh next weekend.

Trump Agenda: “Bunch of Brawlers”

The Washington Post notes that the Judiciary Committee’s “bunch of brawlers” are ready to do impeachment battle.

A key Mueller witness and major political donor has been charged with funneling $3.5 million in illegal contributions.

2020: What Kamala Harris’ exit means

What does Harris’s exit mean for the delegates up for grabs in California?

Pete Buttigieg is hoping to shore up support with black voters after swing through the Carolinas.

Michael Bloomberg says he “regrets” the impact of his hard-line policing policies on minorities.

Andrew Yang’s campaign notified the FBI about emailed death threats.

It looks like Tom Steyer will be in the December debate.

Joe Biden is feeling pretty good about his chances, POLITICO writes.

Here’s what expected Senate appointee Kelly Loeffler will be walking into in Georgia.