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Speaker Nancy Pelosi will deliver an update on the impeachment process Thursday in the Speaker’s Balcony Hallway, a long, narrow space outside her office. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

DRIVING THE DAY

NEWS … Speaker

NANCY PELOSI will speak at 9 a.m. to deliver an update on the “status of the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry.” Pelosi will speak in the Speaker’s Balcony Hallway, a long, narrow space outside her office.

THIS COMES as House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have been told to stay in town this weekend for “prep,” a few sources on the panel told us.

WHAT THIS MEANS: THERE’S BEEN a good amount of guesswork about whether Pelosi’s House has the time this month to impeach the president, and this statement today could clarify the path forward for the chamber.

INSIDE THE D.C. BUBBLE, people were taken aback at the slow pace and relatively wonky substance of the hearings Wednesday. But here’s the frame through which tens of millions of Americans saw the day: Constitutional experts say President

DONALD TRUMP should be impeached, but there was one Republican witness who disagreed.

-- “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS,” Lester Holt open: “Breaking news tonight, the high-stakes new impeachment showdown. House Democrats moving their inquiry to a critical new phase. Three legal experts say Trump committed impeachable offenses with his conduct toward Ukraine. … The lone witness for Republicans denouncing the evidence as wafer thin.”

-- “CBS EVENING NEWS,” Norah O’Donnell open: “Breaking news tonight, constitutional clash. Partisan anger spills out as House Judiciary hearings on impeaching the president begin. Law professors giving lawmakers a crash course in the Constitution.”

-- ABC’S “WORLD NEWS TONIGHT,” David Muir open: “Tonight, the historic showdown on Capitol Hill, the impeachment inquiry takes a dramatic new turn today, the witnesses constitutional law scholars, they’re asked was the president’s conduct impeachable, they do not hold back, and the scholar who said the Democrats are rushing this. And the moment one witness brings up the president’s youngest son -- did she cross the line?”

NYT FRONT PAGE: “TENSION AS SCHOLARS DEBATE IF CASE WAS MADE TO IMPEACH”

KYLE CHENEY and

ANDREW DESIDERO: “Dems exhale as they dodge impeachment debacle”

THE NEXT IMPEACHMENT FIGHT … SARAH FERRIS and

HEATHER CAYGLE: “Moderate Dems warn against ‘kitchen sink’ impeachment push”: “A group of House Democratic centrists are warning their caucus that any case against President Donald Trump should steer clear of Robert Mueller — resurfacing an ugly internal debate on impeachment that could complicate the coming weeks.

“Multiple moderates — including freshman lawmakers deemed most at-risk in 2020 — have urged Democrats not to relitigate the issues in the Mueller report in their own investigation into the Ukraine scandal. But key Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, have suggested that it could be included in eventual articles of impeachment, with many in the caucus still eager to repudiate Trump for his misconduct outlined by Mueller.” POLITICO

WAPO, A1: SEUNG MIN KIM, MIKE DEBONIS, RACHAEL BADE and

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: “White House gears up for aggressive effort to defend Trump in Senate as House moves toward impeachment vote”: “The White House signaled Wednesday that it will aggressively defend President Trump in a near-certain Senate impeachment trial in the coming weeks, as legal experts called by House Democrats testified in a contentious hearing that Trump’s Ukraine dealings constitute an impeachable offense.

“Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters that Trump ‘wants his case made fully in the Senate,’ previewing a strategy that would include live witnesses on the floor, rather than videotaped depositions that were entered into evidence during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999.

“‘In this instance, we believe very strongly — given the fatally flawed process in the House — that if they were to elect against our better advice [and] send over impeachment to the Senate, that we need witnesses as part of our trial and a full defense of the president on the facts,’ Ueland said, gesturing toward the Senate chamber.” WaPo

-- MARIANNE LEVINE and

BURGESS EVERETT: “Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Wednesday that [Pat] Cipollone was emphatic that the impeachment inquiry against Trump was not worthy of being approved by the House, but that if it is sent over to the Senate, the president is eager to present his case.

“‘The president’s counsel said enough times that he wanted to be sure we heard it, that even though they’re talking about what they may do if it comes here ... they clearly don’t believe — based on what’s happened so far — that the House should send it here,’ Blunt said. …

“One attendee said the meeting was intended in part for ‘relationship building with Pat’ and that there were no new revelations about the Senate impeachment process. Cipollone, who was accompanied by White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland, was the only administration official who spoke at the lunch.” POLITICO

CNN: “Nancy Pelosi quietly gauges Democrats’ temperature over impeaching Trump,” by Manu Raju and Haley Byrd: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi is having a steady stream of private conversations with her colleagues to get their input about whether they're ready to impeach President Donald Trump and what they think should be included in articles of impeachment, according to multiple Democrats familiar with the matter.”

HEADLINERS TODAY … PELOSI will hold her weekly news conference at 10:45 a.m., followed by House Minority Leader

KEVIN MCCARTHY at 11:30 a.m. …

PELOSI will sit down with

CNN’S JAKE TAPPER tonight for a town hall in D.C.

TRUMP’S NEW DEFENSE, via Twitter: “When I said, in my phone call to the President of Ukraine, ‘I would like you to do US a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.’ With the word ‘us’ I am referring to the United States, our Country. I then went on to say that......

“....‘I would like to have the Attorney General (of the United States) call you or your people.....’ This, based on what I have seen, is their big point - and it is no point at a all (except for a big win for me!). The Democrats should apologize to the American people!”

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MUST READ … JOHN HARRIS: “Donald Trump, you're no Bill Clinton”: “Here is a subject — what Clinton was like during impeachment — I know well, from reporting at the time and extensive reconstructions with key players afterward. It is an arcane specialty that I had assumed was long since been filed away in the basement, exhumed occasionally over drinks and remember-that-one-time stories with aging sources and colleagues.

“In fact, people for the most part misremember that time. The mythology that Clinton was a disciplined compartmentalizer who kept public business rigorously insulated from his personal and legal problems, like many myths, has an element of truth. But it has an equal or greater element of fiction. Impeachment consumed a year of his public and private life, and by all evidence it is doing the same for Trump.” POLITICO

Good Thursday morning. NEWS JAKE -- AND CHUCK TODD! -- CAN USE … THE GW MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM capped off a 10-0 run with a putback at the buzzer to beat

KYLE CHENEY’S Boston University basketball team.

>Watch the buzzer-beater

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DURHAM PROBE SCOOP … WHAT THE RIGHT IS GOING TO HATE … “Barr’s handpicked prosecutor tells inspector general he can’t back right-wing theory that Russia case was U.S. intelligence setup,” by WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett: “The prosecutor handpicked by Attorney General William P. Barr to scrutinize how U.S. agencies investigated President Trump’s 2016 campaign said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, people familiar with the matter said.

“Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office contacted U.S. Attorney John Durham, the prosecutor Barr personally tapped to lead a separate review of the 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, the people said. The inspector general also contacted several U.S. intelligence agencies. ...

“The previously unreported interaction with Durham is noted in a draft of Horowitz’s forthcoming report on the Russia investigation, which concludes that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its Russia investigation, people familiar with the matter said. Its public release is set for Monday.” WaPo

STOP! … AP: “South Texas judge orders border wall fundraiser not to build”

TRADE WARS -- “Nancy Pelosi Pushes to Remove Legal Protections for Online Content in Trade Pact,” by WSJ’s John McKinnon and Brody Mullins: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pushing to strip out sweeping legal protections for online content in the new trade pact with Mexico and Canada, in what would be a blow for big technology companies.

“Internet firms lobbied hard to include the immunity language in the trade agreement, seeing it as a way to extend to Mexico and Canada the broad umbrella of legal protection they enjoy in the U.S.

“But the trade-pact language also could make it harder for Congress to withdraw the current federal online protections for internet firms in the future, some lawmakers fear. That is causing second thoughts about including the legal shield—regarded by tech firms as a pillar of the internet — in a trade pact.” WSJ

JOHN BRESNAHAN and

MELANIE ZANONA: “Duncan Hunter shows no signs of quitting House, despite felony guilty plea”: “Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is showing no signs of stepping down from office despite his guilty plea Tuesday on a felony campaign finance charge in federal court. When asked Wednesday about whether and when he intended to resign, Hunter blew off the question. ‘Good talk,’ Hunter told a POLITICO reporter.

“So far, neither Republican nor Democratic leaders have pressured Hunter to leave office, although there is precedent for expelling members who don't step down following a criminal conviction. Hunter is not scheduled to be sentenced until March 17. ‘Our patience is not unlimited,’ a top Democratic leadership aide warned.

“Hunter has yet to meet with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about his legal situation, according to GOP sources. Top Republicans would like to see Hunter resign quickly, although they are prepared to give him some time to ‘get his affairs in order,’ one GOP lawmaker said. ‘But not forever.’” POLITICO

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2020 WATCH …

-- ELIZABETH WARREN on Bloomberg TV talking Mike Bloomberg: “‘I don’t believe that elections ought to be for sale,’ Warren said. ‘And I don’t think as a Democratic Party that we should say that the only way you’re going to get elected, the only way you’re going to be our nominee, is either if you are a billionaire or if you’re sucking up to billionaires.’” Bloomberg

-- AP: “Booker’s critical test? Languishing campaign plots rebound,” by AP’s Alexandra Jaffe and Steve Peoples in Newark, N.J.: “The news of Kamala Harris’ sudden departure from the presidential race came during an all-staff conference call led from Cory Booker’s campaign headquarters in Newark, the New Jersey city that he led for seven years and that propelled him to national fame. Within hours, Booker dictated a message calling Harris ‘my friend and my sister,’ and a directive was issued to show her team respect at a difficult moment.

“The campaign also scheduled a high-profile speech in Iowa. Booker’s aides have been careful to emphasize that the New Jersey senator isn’t looking to capitalize on the collapse of his Senate colleague’s White House bid. But they’re also aware that for a campaign languishing in the polls, this may be one of their last opportunities to turn things around.” AP

-- “Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang teeter on debate bubble,” by Zach Montellaro

TRUMP’S THURSDAY -- The president will have lunch with the U.N. Security Council permanent representatives at 1 p.m. in the Cabinet Room. Trump and first lady Melania Trump will leave the White House at 4:35 p.m. en route to the Ellipse. The president will deliver remarks at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at 5 p.m. Afterward, they will return to the White House, and at 5:45 p.m. the president will deliver remarks in the grand foyer at a Christmas reception.

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Sign up today to receive exclusive coverage of the Summit.

PLAYBOOK READS

PHOTO DU JOUR: Security forces attend to an unidentified male outside the the main gate at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, following a shooting at the base. | Caleb Jones/AP Photo

ANOTHER RETIREMENT -- “U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, who represents Olympia and Tacoma, to retire at end of term,” by The News Tribune’s Abby Spegman

POLL DU JOUR -- “Divided we fall? Americans see our angry political debate as ‘a big problem,’” by USA Today’s Susan Page: “The divisive national debate over just about everything has convinced many that the country is heading in the wrong direction even as their own lives are going well, the inaugural Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll finds.

“By overwhelming margins, those surveyed said national leaders, social media and the news media have exacerbated and exaggerated those divisions, sometimes for their own benefit and to the detriment of ordinary people.

“More than nine of 10 ... said it’s important for the United States to try to reduce that divisiveness. Figuring out how to have a constructive conversation with folks on the other side would be a good start, most said.”

ACROSS THE POND … BRITISH ELECTION LATEST … POLITICO EUROPE’S EMILIO CASALICCHIO: “Tories breathe sigh of relief as Trump leaves U.K.”

>More from London Playbook

FOR YOUR RADAR -- “Little wiggle room as Ukraine, Russia leaders meet for crunch Paris talks,” by Reuters’ John Irish and Matthias Williams:

“Ukrainian and Russian leaders will try to seal a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and agree on prisoner swaps when they meet next week, but with Kiev politically constrained and Moscow unlikely to bend, the prospects for peace remain bleak, diplomats said.

“Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Vladimir Putin hold their first face-to-face talks on Dec. 9 in Paris with the French and German leaders more than three years since the countries’ heads of state last met. It comes after a slight easing of tensions.” Reuters

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WHAT MARC CAPUTO IS READING -- “Florida Keys Deliver a Hard Message: As Seas Rise, Some Places Can’t Be Saved,” by NYT’s Christopher Flavelle and Patricia Mazzei: “On Wednesday morning, Rhonda Haag, the county’s sustainability director, released the first results of the county’s yearslong effort to calculate how high its 300 miles of roads must be elevated to stay dry, and at what cost. Those costs were far higher than her team expected — and those numbers, she said, show that some places can’t be protected, at least at a price that taxpayers can be expected to pay. …

“The results released Wednesday focus on a single three-mile stretch of road at the southern tip of Sugarloaf Key, a small island 15 miles up Highway 1 from Key West. To keep those three miles of road dry year-round in 2025 would require raising it by 1.3 feet, at a cost of $75 million, or $25 million per mile. Keeping the road dry in 2045 would mean elevating it 2.2 feet, at a cost of $128 million. To protect against expected flooding levels in 2060, the cost would jump to $181 million.” NYT

MEDIAWATCH -- CANADIAN FIELD PRODUCER CHRIS RANDS caught PM Justin Trudeau laughing about Trump with other world leaders. Here’s how he did it: “I was looking for footage and there was a reception at Buckingham Palace that seemed to be happening live, or almost live, around 3:10 p.m. [Tuesday] afternoon.

“I was scrolling through, and there was a beautiful little grouping of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President of France Emmanuel Macron, the prime minister of Canada, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte ... and a little later, Princess Anne.

“It was this great little grouping and I thought, wait a sec, I see the prime minister’s face on the camera. He's animated. He's gesticulating. And I put on my headphones, and I can hear his voice.” CBC

-- Melissa Quinn is now a digital reporter at CBS News. She was previously a reporter for the Washington Examiner covering business and the Supreme Court.

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POLITICO Playbook co-authors

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Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at politicoplaybook@politico.com.

SPOTTED at a table in BLT Prime on Wednesday night: U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell and Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).

SPOTTED at the 25th anniversary dinner for the Center for the National Interest at the Four Seasons on Wednesday night: emcee Jacob Heilbrunn, Henry Kissinger and Adm. Mike Mullen in conversation onstage, closing speaker Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), Dimitri Simes, Drew Guff, Graham Allison, Gen. Chuck Boyd, George Beebe, Michael Crowley, Kylie Atwood, Julia Ioffe, Anne Rumsey Gearan, James Rosen, Gen. Norton Schwartz, Grover Norquist and Wolf Blitzer.

TRANSITIONS -- Madeline V. Twomey is launching Rufus and Mane, a boutique consulting firm. She previously director of training and fellowships at Priorities USA and is a Bully Pulpit Interactive and Obama 2012 alum. …

Anna Sproul-Latimer and

Kent D. Wolf are launching Neon Literary, a new agency with New York and D.C. offices. Sproul-Latimer previously was at Ross Yoon Agency, and Wolf previously was at the Friedrich Agency. …

Lauren Hancock is now an attorney on the government services and finance team at Barnes & Thornburg. She previously was counsel to the COS for Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.).

ENGAGED -- Taylor Mason, KPM Group senior director of public affairs, proposed to

Tyler Lane, director of special projects for the Trump reelection campaign, at Ashford Castle in Ireland over the Thanksgiving holiday. They met while working for the Carly Fiorina campaign in 2015.

>Pic

>Pic of celebration with friends and family in D.C.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD -- Agustina Pardal, scheduler for Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), and

Anthony Pardal, assistant director at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, welcomed Emilia Bea Pardal on Tuesday. She joins big brother Benjamin.

>Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Jamie Rhoades, president of Quartus Strategies.

What she’s reading: “I always enjoy John Kelly’s Washington column in The Washington Post. He recently wrote about when the Post and other outlets started using first names when referring to married women. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t until the 1970s. It is an interesting and frustrating look back at old newspaper style guides. He even cites a letter that Amelia Earhart had to send to The New York Times back in 1932 asking that their stories refer to her as ‘Amelia Earhart,’ not ‘Mrs. Putnam.’ Between kids and work, there is not a lot of time for leisure reading, but my book club holds me accountable.”

Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) is 45 … Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) is 63 (h/t Tim Griffin) … Roy Schwartz, co-founder and president of Axios, is 44 … POLITICO Europe Editor-in-Chief Stephen Brown … Eli Miller, managing director of government relations at Blackstone, is 37 … NYT media correspondent Mike Grynbaum … Jamie McCourt, U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco … photographer Paul Morse … University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Stuart Brotman … Evan Burfield is 43 … Andrew Williams, managing director of corporate communications at Goldman Sachs … WaPo’s Rachel van Dongen … Moira Mack Muntz … POLITICO’s Liz Crampton … Khorri Atkinson … Kaitlyn Cuevas … Chris Lawrence …

… Lisa Spies, president of the LS Group and a GOP fundraiser … “PBS NewsHour’s” Jeffrey Brown is 63 … Gray Johnson ... Yana Mayayeva, legislative director for Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) ... Jeremy Thompson ... Brai Odion-Esene, founder of SW4 Insights … Eric Posner is 54 … NBC’s Billy Koch is 25 ... Ruiyong Chen ... Alex Simon … Simon Jerome ... Adam Rosenberg ... former Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) is 73 … Mike Platt, principal at Platt Strategic Consulting … Chad Krilow ... Anne Trenolone ... Porter McNeil ... Ari Drennen ... Susan Scott Neal ... Alex Traub ... Nicole Drummond ... Angelo Turner ... Anthony Bedell ... Arthur Colby ... Calvin Trillin is 84 … Bob Beecroft is 79 ... Caroline Dierker Poe

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How raising a hand in robotics club led to an Amazon scholarship. With applications now open for Amazon Future Engineer scholarships, one of last year's recipients talks about her drive to excel and the difference Amazon's scholarship is making in her life.