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By Jane Arraf

Kurds in Syria have been U.S. allies but now they're making a deal with Russia. Russian flags are flying in Kurdish territory, a sign that the Kurds want a hedge in case the U.S. pulls out.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

America's allies in the fight against ISIS, the Kurds in Syria, have opened the door to a new friend - Russia. Russian troops and flags moved into Kurdish territory over the weekend. That's a part of Syria where U.S. troops also work with the Kurds. After months of mixed signals from the Trump administration, the Kurds seem to be hedging their bets on continued U.S. support.

NPR's Jane Arraf is in northeastern Syria. She joins me now. Hi, Jane.

JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: Hi, there.

KELLY: Hi. I know you've been out and about reporting today. Were you actually able to see these Russian flags flying? What's it look like?

ARRAF: We actually were able to see them on the side of the road just on the outskirts of this town called Amuda, which is a couple of miles from the Turkish border but outside of what's widely considered to be the agreement for Turkish-Russian patrols. So earlier today, the commander of Syrian Kurdish forces, General Mazloum Abdi, announced that he had reached this agreement. And it's with the commander of Russian forces in Syria for the deployment of Russian troops in three new areas, including this one.

And so we're going down the highway. And on one side, there is now a collection of buildings that has a Russian flag flying. And not only the flag, there were soldiers on the roof. And the weird thing about this also is, after driving past that new Russian base, we turned down a highway and there is a U.S. convoy - armored vehicles flying the American flag because, although the numbers of U.S. forces have been reduced here, they're not entirely gone. There's still 400 to 500 of them. So it makes for a very interesting space here.

By Elena Moore

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has released a report that outlines the findings from public hearings and closed-door interviews conducted by impeachment investigators since late September.

"The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection," Schiff wrote in the 300-page report.

The inquiry, formally launched in September after a whistleblower complaint, has centered on an effort to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

"[T]he President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security," Schiff wrote.

By Joseph Zeballos-Roig

President Trump announced on Monday that he's imposing new steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina. It's a stunning move that opens new fronts and widens his global trade war into two of the largest economies in South America. In a tweet, Trump blamed both nations for devaluing their currencies, and hurting American farmers in the process. Weaker currencies would make Argentine and Brazilian goods cheaper on international markets compared to US farm goods.

Economists, though, reject the idea that Argentina and Brazil have tried artificially weakening their currency. And they weren't highlighted on an annual Treasury Department report released in May which officially designates nations as currency manipulators. Some have said the President Trump is trying to dig himself out of a hole in the trade war with China instead, seeking to pressure Buenos Aires and Brasilia into limiting their cooperation with Beijing as it buys more of their goods.

But he’s still no champion of the alliance.
By Alex Ward

President Donald Trump fancies himself a marketing genius. On Tuesday morning, he undertook one of his greatest rebranding exercises of all time: making himself into a strong champion of NATO. Last week, ahead of the alliance’s 70th anniversary bash in London, French President Emmanuel Macron gave an interview to the Economist in which he said that Europe could no longer rely on the US to defend it. “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron said.

That apparently didn’t sit well with Trump — the man who once called the alliance “obsolete” — and led him to take the unusual position of supporting NATO. “Nobody needs [NATO] more than France, and that’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make,” Trump said alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in London. “That is a very, very nasty statement to essentially, including them, 28 countries.”

The alliance “has a great purpose,” the president continued, “especially with the fact that NATO is becoming much more flexible in terms of what it looked at.” Since before Trump was even elected, experts have openly worried that his skepticism of NATO could lead to its dissolution. Russia would take advantage of that weakness, and the security guarantees America has given its European allies for decades would fade away. But Trump in recent days has seemingly become a NATO fan. The day before the NATO birthday celebration in London, the president tweeted that alliance members have upped their defense spending due to his insistence.

By Kara Scannell and Erica Orden, CNN

New York (CNN)Two banks must turn over President Donald Trump's financial records to the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives, dealing another blow to the President's efforts to block Congress' move to obtain his financial records, a federal appeals court in New York ruled Tuesday. The House Intelligence and Financial Services committees had subpoenaed the banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, for records including Trump's tax returns and those of his family members.

"The Committees' interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive's distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions," the court said Tuesday. The split decision from the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals is another setback for the White House. Federal appeals courts have ruled House Democrats and a Manhattan grand jury can review Trump's tax returns from Mazars USA, his longtime accounting firm.

In this case, Trump sued to block a subpoena to Deutsche Bank and Capital One seeking financial records for Trump, his family and his business. A lower court judge denied Trump's request for a preliminary injunction and Trump appealed the ruling.

By Dave Goldiner - New York Daily News

A reporter was fired over her story that incorrectly claimed President Trump spent Thanksgiving golfing and tweeting — even though she says she was assigned the story in advance and told her editor that the president made an unannounced secret trip to Afghanistan. Jessica Kwong was terminated by Newsweek after Trump and Donald Trump Jr. mocked the botched story on Twitter.

“The story has been corrected, and the journalist responsible has been terminated,” a Newsweek spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. Kwong did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the snafu. She told reporters that she filed the story as instructed by her editors on Wednesday, based on Trump’s expected activities for the holiday. The story was headlined “How Did Trump Spend Thanksgiving? Tweeting, Golfing and More.”

Trump is destroying what commanders call "good order and discipline." It's malicious, stupid and destructive
By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Let me tell you why it’s so dangerous for Donald Trump to pardon or otherwise excuse war criminals. Because it makes the enforcement of lesser laws and regulations in the military much more difficult.

Trump has no idea what he’s dealing with in the military. The population on an average army post, say, isn’t like the population of the civilian town just outside the gates. To begin with, everyone on the army post is a trained killer. It doesn’t matter if a soldier is a front-line infantryman or a clerk in the division finance office or a wrench-twister in a motor pool or an information technology specialist or a quartermaster handing out olive drab underwear. Every single one of them went through basic training and qualified on a modern military rifle like the M-4, and many of them qualified on more weapons, like the 9mm pistol or the M-240 machine gun or the M-2 .50-caliber machine gun or the 81mm mortar.

Here is what military weapons training is intended to do. It makes soldiers comfortable around deadly weapons and gives them the ability to shoot them effectively without having to think about it. That’s who you’re dealing with if you are put in charge of soldiers in a platoon or a company or a battalion or a brigade. You’re dealing with a bunch of people who have gone through training that rewards aggression and gives them the skills to exercise it effectively.

The problem faced by military commanders has always been the same: to harness the aggression and killing skills of soldiers while maintaining what they call “good order and discipline.” It’s not easy. The primary way this is accomplished is with training. Training hones soldiers’ skills while instilling in them an instinct to follow orders and maintain discipline. It also builds esprit de corps and what they call “unit cohesion.”

By Tal Axelrod

A majority of Republicans say President Trump is a better leader than former President Lincoln, according to this week’s Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll. Fifty-three percent of Republicans said Trump was a better president than Lincoln, while 47 percent chose the Civil War-era leader. Lincoln still overwhelmingly beats Trump among all Americans, 75 percent to 25 percent, with the vast majority of Democrats and independents choosing the former president.

While impeachment and other controversies surrounding Trump continue to dominate headlines, polls have shown the president maintaining a strong approval rating among Republicans. The Economist/YouGov poll found that 87 percent of those in the GOP either somewhat or strongly approve of the job he’s doing as president.

Trump in the past has boasted of his approval rating within the party, comparing his popularity to Lincoln's. “You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party,” Trump said in a July interview with The Sun newspaper in the U.K. - Republicans have lost their minds; Trump is a crook, a criminal, a con man. Lincoln was a great man Trump is not nor will he ever be.

“SNAP is related to hunger and getting people the nutrition they need,” one food bank representative said. “Food shouldn’t be a luxury.”
By Phil McCausland

Three proposed rule changes by the Trump administration could cause millions of poor people to lose access to food stamps and decrease the size of the benefit for millions more.

Over the past year, the Department of Agriculture proposed three changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps. The new rules create stricter work requirements for program eligibility, cap deductions for utility allowances and “reform” the way 40 states automatically enroll families into SNAP when they receive other forms of federal aid.

A study by the Urban Institute released this week examined the three rules in combination for the first time and found that 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP in an average month, 2.2 million households would see their average monthly benefits drop by $127, more than 3 million others would see an average drop of $37 per month, and 982,000 students would lose access to free or reduced lunches.

“What we found is that overall the three proposed changes would reduce the number of households participating in SNAP by about 11 percent if this was implemented in 2018," said Laura Wheaton, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who conducted the study. "It’s about a 9.4 percent reduction in the number of people participating and about an 8 percent reduction in overall benefits.”

Ukraine only skims the surface of the former mayor's influence in the administration.
By Dareh Gregorian

All roads lead to Rudy.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is now President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, is in the news constantly for his role in the impeachment inquiry. But while Giuliani's efforts to have Ukraine launch investigations politically beneficial to Trump are much discussed, it's not the only way he and his associates have woven themselves into the fabric of Trump's world.

Asked in a text Wednesday by NBC News about how his circle has been able to be so influential in the Trump administration, Giuliani responded, "I don't know."

Here's a look at Giuliani's key players and how they intersect with Trump:
UKRAINE

Giuliani's ties to Ukraine go back to at least 2008 when he did consulting work for Vitaly Klitschko, a former boxer who is now mayor of Kyiv. While he's had other business dealings there over the years, Giuliani said he started focusing on Ukraine's alleged role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election as a way of countering special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian election interference.

This year, Giuliani seized on unfounded allegations that Ukraine had scuttled an investigation into Hunter Biden at the behest of his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential rival. Giuliani said his investigative efforts had the president's blessing, which has been confirmed by multiple witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.

But Giuliani had some help with his efforts.
LEV PARNAS and IGOR FRUMAN

Parnas, a Trump donor, told the New Yorker earlier this year that he became "good friends" with Giuliani after the 2016 election. The friendship was lucrative for Giuliani, who told Reuters that Parnas' company Fraud Guarantee paid his consulting company Giuliani Partners $500,000 for business and legal advice last year.


By Aris Folley

Fox News host Tucker Carlson called President Trump a “compulsive self-promoter” and a “full-blown BS artist” while seeking to defend him against negative media coverage during his show on Wednesday night.

During the segment on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the Fox News host noted that fact-checkers at The Washington Post have documented more than 13,000 false or misleading statements Trump has made since taking office in 2017.

“One of the reasons progressives say they hate Donald Trump is because he lies a lot,” Carlson said at the start of the segment. “Trump, they’ll tell you, is a committed liar.”

“As the Post points out, the lying began at the inauguration. Perhaps you remember this claim, which, at the time, deeply offended official Washington,” Carlson said before going on to play a clip of Trump claiming that his inauguration drew the largest audience “ever.”

“We’re not going to lie to you,” Carlson said. “That was untrue. The crowd at the 2017 inauguration was not the largest ever measured on the National Mall. Sorry, it wasn’t.”

“Why did the president claim it was? Well, because that’s who he is,” the Fox News host continued. “Donald Trump is a salesman. He’s a talker. He’s a boaster, a booster, a compulsive self-promoter. At times, he’s a full-blown BS artist. If Trump hadn’t gotten rich in real estate, he could have made a fortune selling cars.”

UNPRECEDENTED
Never in 18 years has the government used Section 412 of the PATRIOT Act, which permits indefinite detention of resident aliens on national-security grounds. Until now.
By Spencer Ackerman

For the 18-year lifespan of the war on terrorism, an obscure provision of the PATRIOT Act permitting the indefinite detention of U.S. non-citizens has gone unused. But to keep a Palestinian man behind bars even after he finished serving his sentence, the Trump administration has fired this bureaucratic Chekhov’s gun.

Adham Amin Hassoun, now in his late 50s, has spent nearly the entire war on terrorism in cages. First picked up on an immigration violation in June 2002, he ended up standing trial alongside once-suspected “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla. But Hassoun was never accused of any act or plot of violence. His crime was cutting checks to extremist-tied Muslim charities operating in places like Kosovo and Chechnya that Congress outlawed after the 9/11 attacks. Hassoun wrote all but one of those checks before 9/11.

Sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, Hassoun should have been a free man in 2017. Instead, he found himself in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which locked him up in western New York. It was there that Hassoun’s case turned extraordinary.

ICE wanted to deport Hassoun, but his statelessness as a Palestinian got in the way. No country—not the Lebanon of his birth, not the Israel that occupies the West Bank and Gaza—was willing to take him. Aided by attorneys at the University of Buffalo Law School, Hassoun in January won what should have been his freedom, on the grounds that his deportation was unlikely.

The Trump administration instead declared him a threat to national security. It did so at first using an also-obscure immigration regulation designed to sidestep a 2001 Supreme Court ruling imposing a six-month detention limit. And it was aided by a testimonial, under seal, of Hassoun’s alleged misdeeds behind bars as related by what his attorneys describe as jailhouse snitches who provided second- or third-hand accounts. But as the government fought what had become a habeas corpus case for Hassoun’s release, the Department of Homeland Security invoked, for the first time in U.S. government history, section 412 of the PATRIOT Act.

Legislative paralysis gripped Capitol Hill well before impeachment started.

By Ella Nilsen

There’s a pervasive sense of legislative paralysis gripping Capitol Hill. And it’s been there long before the impeachment inquiry began.

For months, President Donald Trump has fired off tweet missives accusing House Democrats of “getting nothing done in Congress,” and being consumed with impeachment.

Trump may want to look to the Republican-controlled Senate instead. Democrats in the House have been passing bills at a rapid clip; as of November 15, the House has passed nearly 400 bills, not including resolutions. But the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee estimates 80 percent of those bill have hit a snag in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is prioritizing confirming judges over passing bills.

Congress has passed just 70 bills into law this year. Granted, it still has one more year in its term, but the number pales in comparison to recent past sessions of Congress, which typically see anywhere from 300-500 bills passed in two years (and that is even a diminished number from the 700-800 bills passed in the 1970s and 1980s).

Ten of those 70 bills this year have been renaming federal post offices or Veterans Affairs facilities, and many others are related to appropriations or extending programs like the National Flood Insurance or the 9/11 victim compensation fund.

This has led to House Democrats decrying McConnell’s so-called “legislative graveyard,” a moniker the Senate majority leader has proudly adopted. McConnell calls himself the “grim reaper” of Democratic legislation he derides as socialist, but many of the bills that never see the Senate floor are bipartisan issues, like a universal background check bill, net neutrality, and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

After claiming victory over the war on Christmas, the president has now moved on to the ... war on Thanksgiving.
By Emily Stewart

Before we inevitably arrive at the alleged war on Christmas this holiday season, we’ve first got to tackle the … war on Thanksgiving? Which is supposedly a thing now, too. At least according to President Donald Trump.

Conservative media and some Republicans have for years claimed that Christmas is under attack, turning some people’s decision to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” during the month of December into a culture war touchstone to try to spark outrage on the right. Trump has embraced the “war on Christmas” narrative, and now he’s taking it a step further: he’s claiming liberals are out to get Thanksgiving, too.

At a rally in Florida on Tuesday, the president confoundingly reassured supporters that he wouldn’t let the “radical left” change Thanksgiving’s name. “As we gather for Thanksgiving, you know, some people want to change the name Thanksgiving. They don’t want to use the term Thanksgiving,” Trump said. He later continued: “People have different ideas why it shouldn’t be called Thanksgiving, but everybody in this room, I know, loves the name Thanksgiving. And we’re not changing.”

It’s not clear who on the left Trump believes is trying to change the name of Thanksgiving, which is a secular American holiday. It’s true there is some cultural strife surrounding the day, including its historical weight for Native Americans and its environmental impact, but there’s not some broad push to change the name of the holiday altogether.

Trump’s remarks quickly took off online, with the hashtags #WarOnThanksgiving and #WhatLiberalsCallThanksgiving trending on Twitter, largely ironically. Some conservatives, on the other hand, have tried to find ways to back up the president’s claims.

By Christina Wilkie

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied that he had directed Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, to travel to Ukraine, where Giuliani met with government officials about investigations that Trump wanted.

Trump’s claims are contradicted by months of statements from Giuliani and from Trump himself, as well as sworn testimony from nearly a dozen current and former national security officials in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry. It also prompted legal experts to question whether the president had waived attorney-client privilege.

During an interview, former Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly asked Trump what Giuliani was doing “in Ukraine on your behalf.”

“Well, you have to ask that to Rudy, but Rudy, I don’t, I don’t even know,” Trump replied. “I know he was going to go to Ukraine, and I think he canceled a trip. But, you know, Rudy has other clients other than me. I’m one person.”

“So, you didn’t direct him to go there on your behalf?” O’Reilly asked again.

“No, but you have to understand, Rudy is a great corruption fighter,” Trump said.

By Joel Rose

For almost three decades, Jared Taylor has been publishing his ideas about race at the American Renaissance magazine and now at a website called AmRen, which is considered a mouthpiece for white supremacist ideology. "The races are not identical and equivalent," says Taylor, who calls himself a "race realist" and rejects the white supremacist label. "There are patterns of difference. But this is now something that's considered a huge, hateful taboo in the United States."

The website is not well-known outside white nationalist circles — but it found an audience in White House adviser Stephen Miller. Miller has recommended articles on AmRen and another white nationalist site called VDARE. We know this because the Southern Poverty Law Center has uncovered hundreds of emails that Miller wrote to a reporter at Breitbart News before he worked in the White House.

Civil rights activists and more than 100 members of Congress — all Democrats — have called for Miller's resignation since the publication of the emails. But the White House is standing behind him. And Republicans have been largely silent. Critics say that this suggests the line of what's acceptable in public discourse has shifted. The latest batch of emails, released by the SPLC on Monday, shows Miller pushing a supposed link between immigrants and rising crime, an idea that has been debunked. Miller also flagged a story on AmRen written by Taylor, according to the Breitbart reporter, Katie McHugh.

Taylor frequently promotes ideas that are widely considered racist and cloaks them in the language of science. For example, he talks about black people having higher levels of testosterone and therefore being predisposed to commit more violent crimes — an idea that simply has no scientific support. In another email to McHugh, Miller suggested that she write about The Camp of the Saints, a French novel from the 1970s that depicts the destruction of Western civilization by immigrants. It has become a key inspiration in white nationalist circles.

To Miller's critics, the leaked emails — and the muted reaction on the right — suggest that the political dynamic around race and immigration has shifted to include ideas that were once beyond the pale.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump had been briefed on the whistleblower complaint that's now at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry when he released military aid to Ukraine in September, The New York Times reported Monday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The people told the Times that lawyers from the White House counsel's office briefed Trump on the complaint and explained that they were attempting to ascertain whether they were legally obligated to give it to Congress.

News of Trump's knowledge of the complaint before his decision to release the security assistance underscores a key question at the heart of the impeachment inquiry about whether the aid was tied to Trump's wish for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

CNN reported earlier Monday that the White House budget office's first official action to withhold $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine came on the evening of July 25, the same day Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone, according to a House Budget Committee summary of the office's documents.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN)A federal judge decided Monday that President Donald Trump's former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify to the House of Representatives in its impeachment probe. "However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the President does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires," Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote. The ruling is a blow to Trump and White House efforts to block parts of the impeachment inquiry. It could encourage resistant witnesses from the administration to testify and could bolster any case House Democrats make to impeach the President for obstructing its proceedings or obstructing justice.

By Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said President Donald Trump ordered him to allow a controversial Navy SEAL accused of war crimes to keep his status in the elite service, despite resistance from Navy leaders. Esper said that on Sunday Trump "gave me an order" that Eddie Gallagher would retain his Trident, the pin worn by Navy SEALS that symbolizes their membership in the elite military community.

"The case of Eddie Gallagher has dragged on for months and has distracted too many. It must end," Esper said Monday. "Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident as the Commander in Chief directed and will retire at the end of this month."

'Secret agreement'

Esper spoke a day after he fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over Gallagher, who has been implicated in war crimes whose case has raised tensions among the military leaders and the White House. "Contrary to the narrative that some want to put forward in the media, this dismissal is not about Eddie Gallagher, it's about Secretary Spencer and the chain of command," Esper said Monday.

Esper said he spoke to Trump "once or twice on Saturday" and been in contact with other military leaders, including the chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley. "I recall for certain on Sunday when I talked to the President to update him on the situation where he said, 'what about the pin, I want Eddie's' — he wanted Eddie Gallagher's pin restored and I said, 'Roger, I got it.' "

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent

(CNN) In an extraordinary move, the Pentagon chief "fired" the Navy secretary for going outside his chain of command by proposing a "secret agreement with the White House," according to a senior defense official. The agreement that led to Defense Secretary Mark Esper forcing Navy Secretary Richard Spencer's resignation involved the case of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher. The official said Spencer had proposed to the White House a review with a secret guarantee that Gallagher would be allowed to keep his status as a SEAL.

That would go counter to the ongoing review underway by the Navy to take away Gallagher's status. Gallagher was earlier convicted of bringing discredit to the armed services after posing next to a dead ISIS fighter's body, which is against regulations. He was then demoted in rank -- a decision President Donald Trump a week ago reversed in a move that went against earlier guidance from Esper and angered military officials. Military officials then moved ahead with the process to review Gallagher's status in the elite group.

Esper decided Gallagher would now keep his status because he "has little confidence that Gallagher would get a fair shake now from the Navy," the official told CNN. Gallagher is now expected to retire from the Navy on November 30. Spencer, the official said, was not "fired" for failing to carry out Trump's wishes, because the President had not wanted a review at all.

Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger

A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records.

The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after President Trump had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance, according to the three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear if the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly.

People familiar with the Office of Budget and Management’s handling of the holdup in aid acknowledged the internal discussions going on during August, but characterized the conversations as calm, routine and focused on the legal question of how to comply with the congressional Budget and Impoundment Act, which requires the executive branch to spend congressionally appropriated funds unless Congress agrees they can be rescinded.

By Daniel Politi

Rudy Giuliani seems to have a penchant for talking about insurance while dismissing the possibility that President Donald Trump would ever turn on him. The latest instance came Saturday, when Giuliani sat down with Fox News for an interview and at one point refused to give a straight answer to the question of whether he had spoken to Trump in recent days. “You can assume that I talk to him early and often,” he said. Giuliani then went on to dismiss those who speculate that he is on the outs with the president, saying the two have a “very, very good relationship.”

“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,” Giuliani went on to say. “This is ridiculous. We are very good friends. He knows what I did was in order to defend him, not to dig up dirt on [former Vice President Joe] Biden.”

By Kevin Liptak and Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) The White House helped arrange a phone call between Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day after the President's personal lawyer handed over materials with unproven claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to documents released by the State Department late Friday night. The documents show that Pompeo spoke with Giuliani briefly twice in late March -- both before and after he handed off a packet of information that included claims against the Bidens. Only the second conversation was facilitated by the White House.

The emails provide new insight into how Giuliani's efforts were coordinated through the White House. Pompeo had previously attempted to distance himself from the packet of information on Biden that Giuliani had compiled. Emails released Friday evening show Giuliani and Pompeo spoke first on March 26 for five minutes. Giuliani told NBC that he handed over the packet of material on March 28 and he spoke again to Pompeo on March 29, this time for four minutes.

That second phone call occurred after a senior manager in Giuliani's office reached out by email to Madeleine Westerhout, the then-personal assistant to Trump, to see if she had a phone number for Pompeo. "I've been trying and getting nowhere through regular channels," wrote Giuliani's assistant. Westerhout then asked the State Department how to get Giuliani and Pompeo in touch. The arrangement for the call happened even before the documents were given to Pompeo.

The emails released Friday also indicate Pompeo spoke with Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee ranking member, two days after his March 29 call with Giuliani. But like his calls with the former New York mayor, no topics are revealed. The documents were released to the non-partisan watchdog group American Oversight as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for State Department Ukraine records.

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