The TAKE with Rick Klein
Maybe there's nothing worth covering up when it's all said out loud.
President Donald Trump squeezed down much of his party's wiggle room by saying in front of cameras that yes, he would like President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. And, he added on Thursday, "likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens."
If Trump's intent was to get people talking about the Bidens, it worked. Biden himself forcefully responded to the president's smears this week.
"I'm not going anywhere. You're not going to destroy me. And you're not going to destroy my family," he said.
Yet if the president's goal was to destroy the nascent impeachment investigation by relying on Republican allies to help delegitimize it, that task didn't go as well.
A first key deadline for document production and compliance with investigative committees arrives on Friday with more scrutiny on everyone from Vice President Mike Pence to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Rudy Giuliani -- key figures in defending the president publicly and privately.
Trump is still acting as if he did nothing wrong. Meanwhile, the impeachment inquiry continues at a breakneck pace -- pausing, so far, only for Democrats to add notes to their files.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
Escaping to friendly turf, Trump was in Florida on Thursday making a hard pivot to domestic issues and specifically talking about Medicare. He signed an executive order that in the preamble both criticized the "Medicare for All" legislation that many of his 2020 Democratic rivals support while also acknowledging that the government-run insurance program is extremely popular.
"America's seniors are overwhelmingly satisfied with their Medicare coverage. The vast majority of seniors believe that the program delivers high-quality health outcomes," the order reads.
Speaking to a crowd of seniors, the president repeated a line he used often on the campaign trail in 2016: "As long as I'm president, no one will lay a hand on your Medicare benefits."
However, earlier this year the White House's proposed budget request called for hundreds of billions of dollars to be trimmed from Medicare over the next 10 years. While the plan was dead on arrival in Congress, it called into question the president's commitment to funding the program as-is versus a desire by other Republicans to look for ways to streamline and pare it down.
Policy-wise, the president's executive order this week mostly called on agencies to propose possible regulatory changes to Medicare within a year. That is to say, it didn't have teeth, but it got him talking on the crucial political issue again.
The TIP with John Verhovek
While Trump's re-election campaign is in the midst of a $10 million push to combat an impeachment effort, two leading Democratic presidential contenders are ramping up their efforts on the airwaves in key early voting states.
Biden's campaign announced that he is pouring $6 million into a new paid media campaign across the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Per Advertising Analytics, a firm that tracks campaign ad spending, Biden has pre-booked almost $80,000 worth of airtime in Nevada so far in February of next year.
Meanwhile the candidate who is rising to challenge Biden's front-runner status, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has reserved $4.7 million worth of ads in the early states across January and February 2020.
Biden's latest spending indicates he is gearing up for a long primary campaign, despite his lackluster fundraising numbers announced on Thursday that put him behind fellow Democratic candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
ONE MORE THING
Last month, three top U.S. diplomats used encrypted texts to discuss what one saw as a particularly troubling development: President Donald Trump had put a hold on hundreds of millions of military aid to Ukraine around the same time he was asking Ukraine for help investigating his political rival. Here are five things to know.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features ABC News White House correspondent Karen Travers, who tells us how President Donald Trump's remarks about Ukraine, China and the Bidens are playing across Washington and beyond. Then, ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz previews the latest round of talks between the U.S. and North Korea. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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