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By Bobby Allyn

President Trump has come under fire after retweeting a post to his 68 million followers on Twitter that included a name linked to the alleged whistleblower whose complaint about the president's dealings with Ukraine prompted the impeachment inquiry. At the time of the complaint, the individual was an intelligence community official who sounded the alarm about Trump's pressure campaign with Ukraine that House Democrats cited in impeaching the president for alleged abuse of power.

For months, media outlets that back the president have circulated the name of a person suspected of being the whistleblower. Sen. Rand Paul, Don Trump Jr. and other supporters have either shared the individual's identity or called for the whistleblower to be outed. The retweet marks the first time the president himself has publicly promoted the name of the person believed by some to be the whistleblower at the heart of the Ukraine scandal.

“Just the presence of the American army on the territory of Ukraine, in my opinion, already scares the enemy — even without any other aid.”
By Mac William Bishop, Mariana Henninger and Oksana Parafeniuk

YAVORIV COMBAT TRAINING CENTER, Ukraine — This summer's delay in releasing nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine — allegations at the center of the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump— may have been temporary, but the incident is not far from the minds of those training on a wintry base in the west of the country.

Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden has also exposed the cracks in the West’s response to an emboldened Russia, inflicted permanent damage on Ukraine and heightened the risk of Moscow extending its influence in the country, according to democracy advocates and military experts.

U.S. support, in particular, is seen as essential in keeping what is widely seen as a bully in the East at bay. “Just the presence of the American army on the territory of Ukraine, in my opinion, already scares the enemy — even without any other aid,” said Ukraine Ground Forces Sgt. Maj. Yevhen Mokhtan, who works in this multinational training facility in western Ukraine.


New Day
A new report in the New York Times outlines acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's involvement in the Ukraine aid freeze, and also describes other top White House officials efforts to convince President Trump to release the aid.

By Brianne Pfannenstiel Des Moines Register

WASHINGTON, Ia. — The shadow of impeachment clouded Joe Biden's trip through eastern Iowa on Saturday after the former vice president confirmed he would defy a congressional subpoena if he didn't believe there was a legal rationale behind it.

Biden told the Des Moines Register's editorial board Friday he would not comply with a Senate subpoena during President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate. It confirmed a statement he made in an interview with NPR earlier in the month. He began the day Saturday clarifying those remarks on Twitter before making appearances in several Iowa towns.

"I have always complied with a lawful order and in my eight years as VP, my office — unlike Donald Trump and Mike Pence — cooperated with legitimate congressional oversight requests," Biden tweeted. "But I am just not going to pretend that there is any legal basis for Republican subpoenas for my testimony in the impeachment trial."


By Jennifer Doherty

During an appearance on MSNBC Saturday afternoon, retired U.S. Army General Barry R. McCaffrey said President Donald Trump's behavior was such that "if he was a general court martial authority, two-star general, we'd fire him." McCaffrey, who retired from the military in 2001 as a four-star general with three Purple Hearts, told journalist Richard Liu that Trump's behavior had caused the military trial of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher to become "a real mess."

The president intervened on Gallagher's behalf at multiple points in the court martial process, first ordering Gallagher release from pre-trial detention despite, as McCaffrey noted, allegations that Gallagher had threatened to have witnesses killed. Gallagher was demoted in July after the military court found him guilty of conduct unbecoming related to a photo he staged with the body of an ISIS fighter.

In November, as the Navy prepared to review Gallagher's status, Trump ordered the branch to restore his rank and publicly forbid commanding officers from discharging him. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer was forced to resign after he tried to negotiate a backchannel deal with the White House regarding Gallagher's fate.

"We're left with a question of—the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a law passed by Congress—it's not the White House's law. It's not the Pentagon's law. It's a congressional system of justice, and it works pretty well. And I think we've seen command influence by President Trump in a manner that if he was a general court martial authority, two-star general, we'd fire him. So we got a real problem," McCaffrey said on MSNBC.

Deeply conservative, they organize online and outside the Republican Party apparatus, engaging in more explicit versions of the chest-beating seen at the president’s rallies.
By Astead W. Herndon

GOLDEN VALLEY, Ariz. — Great American Pizza & Subs, on a highway about 100 miles southeast of Las Vegas, was busier and Trumpier than usual. On any given day it serves “M.A.G.A. Subs” and “Liberty Bell Lasagna.” The “Second Amendment” pizza comes “loaded” with pepperoni and sausage. The dining room is covered in regalia praising President Trump.

But this October morning was “Trumpstock,” a small festival celebrating the president. The speakers included the local Republican congressman, Paul Gosar, and lesser-known conservative personalities. There was a fringe 2020 Senate candidate in Arizona who ran a website that published sexually explicit photos of women without their consent; a pro-Trump rapper whose lyrics include a racist slur aimed at Barack Obama; and a North Carolina activist who once said of Muslims, “I will kill every one of them before they get to me.”

All were welcome, except liberals. “They label us white nationalists, or white supremacists,” volunteered Guy Taiho Decker, who drove from California to attend the event. A right-wing protester, he has previously been arrested on charges of making terrorist threats. “There’s no such thing as a white supremacist, just like there’s no such thing as a unicorn,” Mr. Decker said. “We’re patriots.”

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

(CNN) President Donald Trump retweeted an attack that included an unsubstantiated name of the intelligence community whistleblower at the heart of the Ukraine scandal as part of a series of rants and conspiratorial posts overnight. Trump or someone with access to his Twitter account removed the retweet Saturday morning. Other retweets were also reversed, including pro-Trump and anti-Democrat memes from suspicious-looking Twitter accounts. But his whistleblower-related post was the most noteworthy because nearly every public official involved in the impeachment inquiry agreed that the identity of the original complainant should be protected. Trump has shared more than 100 posts about the whistleblower since September, almost entirely critical, but until this week he had refrained from sharing any content directly pointing to a person's name.

By Steve Chapman

Decades from now, many Americans will have to consult history books to gain an appreciation of the lowest point of Donald Trump’s presidency: his impeachment. But they will be able to feel the effects of his highest point: the 2017 tax bill, which he signed into law two years ago Sunday. That’s because they will still be paying for it.

Trump and his party took great pride in enacting the biggest tax overhaul in a generation. “It’s going to be a tremendous thing for the American people,” the president exulted. But like most things he says, that claim was unfounded. The package turned out to be an extravagant mirage.

Americans thought they got a tax cut. What they really got was a tax increase that hasn’t yet taken effect. When you cut taxes but don’t cut spending to match, as the Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman often noted, you are not cutting taxes but merely delaying them. And total spending has not been reduced; it has been raised.

Several people close to the president, such as Ivanka Trump and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, had privately cautioned him against it.
By Asawin Suebsaeng

On Thursday evening, Donald Trump pushed out on Twitter the name of the alleged whistleblower whose complaint led to the president’s impeachment. Trump’s personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, retweeted a post by the re-election campaign’s official “war room” account that was aimed at the whistleblower’s attorney Mark Zaid. “It's pretty simple. The CIA ‘whistleblower’ is not a real whistleblower!” reads the tweet, which links to a Washington Examiner item. That piece, published Dec. 3, includes the alleged whistleblower’s name in the headline. The Daily Beast is declining to publish the name and has not independently verified the identity of the whistleblower.

As The Daily Beast reported last month, Trump had gossiped for weeks about this alleged whistleblower with various friends, media figures, and senior administration officials, and had asked some people if they thought it was a good idea for him to publicly announce or tweet the name. Several people close to the president, such as Ivanka Trump and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, had privately cautioned him against saying or posting the name in public, arguing it would be counterproductive and unnecessary.

Trump asked if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will face a primary challenge, blasting her San Francisco district as "filthy dirty."
By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump fired off a stream of post-Christmas tweets Thursday blasting Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her San Francisco congressional district amid the impeachment impasse.

"The Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats said they wanted to RUSH everything through to the Senate because 'President Trump is a threat to National Security' (they are vicious, will say anything!), but now they don’t want to go fast anymore, they want to go very slowly," Trump tweeted. "Liars!"

The president attacked Pelosi's congressional district as "filthy dirty" and "one of the worst anywhere in the U.S." Calling Pelosi "crazy," Trump also suggested she should face a 2020 primary challenge. The president then lamented how "much more difficult" it is "to deal with foreign leaders (and others)" amid impeachment. - The world’s number one liar calling some else a liar is the pot calling the kettle black. A known liar calling you a liar does not make you a liar.

By Alexandra Hutzler

Attorney General William Barr's defense of President Donald Trump amid impeachment is raising questions about potential conflicts of interest as legal experts accuse the Justice Department chief of ignoring his responsibility as the nation's top prosecutor. "This is a really strange situation with Barr, who has so many conflicts and is up to his eyeballs in all of the corruption surrounding Trump," attorney Nick Akerman told Newsweek. Akerman served an assistant special prosecutor in the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.

The attorney general plays no official role in impeachment, but that hasn't stopped Barr from coming to Trump's defense on multiple occasions. The Justice Department's top official often protected the Trump administration throughout the inquiry and went so far as to suggest that Democrats are "trivializing" impeachment by using it as a "political tool." Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor, asserted that Barr's loyalty to the White House is a "perversion" of his job as attorney general.

"There is an inherent conflict in Barr's designated role as the chief law enforcement officer of this country and his efforts to protect the man who gave him his job. It is unfortunate that Bill Barr never misses an opportunity to place his thumb on the scales of justice in favor of Donald Trump. That's not how it is supposed to be," Stern told Newsweek. Last week, Trump became just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. The House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Democrats allege that Trump put his personal interests over the country's by trying to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce a politically damaging investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as a probe of supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Republicans, on the other hand, say that Democrats are trying to remove Trump because they are afraid their party will lose the 2020 presidential election.

By Melissa Lemieux

During an appearance on MSNBC, Senator Christopher Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced that he'd asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into the charges against President Trump to determine whether or not he had violated the Impoundment Control Act. "We know from the mountain of evidence from the House that the president abused the powers of his office, right?" said Van Hollen, pointing out that the president stands accused of withholding aid to Ukraine in trade for information on a political opponent in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

"The withholding was illegal, and a violation of the law in a different sense as well. And that would hold true, I believe, even if we accepted the president's more fanciful view of events, where he claimed that this was just some sort of policy review," Van Hollen said. The Impoundment Control Act, as Van Hollen pointed out, sets out "narrow circumstances" under which the executive branch may withhold funds. Congress must be notified if funds are to be withheld, and no notification was given to Congress, said Van Hollen.

By Emma Newburger

President Donald Trump has taken historically unprecedented action to roll back a slew of environmental regulations that protect air, water, land and public health from climate change and fossil fuel pollution. The administration has targeted about 85 environmental rules, according to Harvard Law School’s rollback tracker. Existing environment regulations are meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions, protect land and animals from oil and gas drilling and development, as well as limit pollution and toxic waste runoff into the country’s water. The administration views many of them as onerous to fossil fuel companies and other major industries.

By ZEKE MILLER

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump lashed out Tuesday as his Senate impeachment trial remains at an impasse, with Republican and Democratic leaders at odds over its format and whether witnesses should be called. Speaking at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, after a teleconference call with troops stationed across the globe, Trump singled out Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is indefinitely holding up sending the articles of impeachment the House passed last week to the Republican-controlled Senate.

“She hates the Republican Party. She hates all of the people that voted for me and the Republican Party,” Trump charged on Christmas Eve. “She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country.” Trump has long seen a Senate trial, where he is almost certain to be acquitted, as an opportunity for vindication after he became the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached by the House.

Asked if the comments were made in jest, Giuliani told NBC News, "I'm more Jewish than half my friends."
By Allan Smith and Dareh Gregorian

Rudy Giuliani says he's "more of a Jew" than liberal billionaire George Soros, who survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary as a teen. In a remarkable interview with New York magazine, Giuliani, President Donald Trump's lawyer, painted Soros as a puppet master who has secretly been pulling the strings in Ukraine. Soros is a frequent target of conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the world.

"Don’t tell me I’m anti-Semitic if I oppose him," Giuliani said. "Soros is hardly a Jew. I’m more of a Jew than Soros is. I probably know more about — he doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t go to religion — synagogue. He doesn’t belong to a synagogue, he doesn’t support Israel, he’s an enemy of Israel. He’s elected eight anarchist DAs in the United States. He’s a horrible human being."

UM, WHAT?
By Emma Tucker

The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is facing backlash after falsely stating on his Facebook page that he is a “former attorney general of the United States.” In reality, Giuliani served as U.S. associate attorney general under President Ronald Regan from 1981 to 1983. In 1975, he was named associate deputy attorney general and chief of staff to the deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice. On Tuesday, Giuliani urged Twitter users to “connect” with him on Facebook, writing, “More to come on my investigation, soon!” The page also describes Giuliani as a “government official” who served as New York City mayor and Trump’s personal attorney. Giuliani told New York Daily News reporter Chris Sommerfeldt in a response by text to the false claim on his page, “If it says AG it was a mistake should be AAG. Will change it.”

Opinion by Elie Honig

(CNN) During the House Intelligence Committee's investigation of President Donald Trump's effort to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation of the Bidens, the committee issued 71 subpoenas and requests for information. The Trump administration, in response, produced nothing -- not a single piece of paper. So, it's only fair to ask: What are they hiding?

We just got our first small hint, and the answer is alarming. A federal judge ordered the administration to turn over documents subject to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Center for Public Integrity. And just one of those documents -- an e-mail from Michael Duffey, a Trump appointee who served in the Office of Management and Budget, to other OMB and Pentagon officials -- gives us a tantalizing look at the administration's efforts to withhold foreign aid to Ukraine, and to cover up its own conduct.

Duffey -- one of four witnesses requested by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Trump's upcoming Senate impeachment trial -- sent the e-mail roughly 90 minutes after Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Duffey e-mail is a prosecutor's dream, opening up various lines of potentially fruitful questioning. Duffey writes, "Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine... please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds."

By Michael Collins USA TODAY

PALM BEACH, Fla. – President Donald Trump has handed a promotion to a White House aide who refused to testify in the House impeachment inquiry against him. Trump, who is spending the holidays at his resort in Palm Beach, Fla., has named Robert Blair as the special representative for international communications policy, the White House announced Monday. Blair will lead U.S. efforts to promote a secure and reliable global communications system, the announcement said.

Blair currently serves as a senior adviser to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and assistant to the president. The White House said he would continue in those roles.

Blair refused to testify in November before House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry into Trump after the White House directed him not to appear for his deposition. Blair was one of a small group of officials who listened to Trump’s phone call last July with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Trump’s incoherent Turning Point rant about wind energy and “fumes,” decoded.
By Aaron Rupar

President Donald Trump has pushed a dizzying amount of misinformation about wind energy in 2019 — including, perhaps most memorably, his claim about wind turbines causing cancer — but if you’re looking for an encapsulation, you won’t find a better example than the speech he delivered on Saturday night to the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida.

During a rant about how bad the Green New Deal would purportedly be for the country, Trump made a series of false and bizarre claims about wind, including, among others, that the manufacturing of turbines creates “fumes” that “are spewing into the air;” making it sound as though wind turbines are pushing California’s bald eagle population to the brink of extinction; and, in an especially galaxy-brained moment, riffing that “you know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe.” Trump began his comments about wind energy on an incoherent note, saying, “I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much.” Things didn’t get much better from there. He continued:

By Colby Itkowitz

After three years in office, President Trump has remade the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative tilt for decades and cementing his legacy no matter the outcome of November’s election. Trump nominees make up 1 in 4 U.S. circuit court judges. Two of his picks sit on the Supreme Court. And this past week, as the House voted to impeach the president, the Republican-led Senate confirmed an additional 13 district court judges.

In total, Trump has installed 187 judges to the federal bench. Trump’s mark on the judiciary is already having far-reaching effects on legislation and liberal priorities. Just last week, the 5th Circuit struck down a core provision of the Affordable Care Act. One of the two appellate judges who ruled against the landmark law was a Trump appointee. The Supreme Court — where two of the nine justices are conservatives selected by Trump — could eventually hear that case.

The documents were obtained Friday by the Center for Public Integrity.
By Olivia Rubin

White House officials requested that aid to Ukraine be held within 90 minutes of President Donald Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to newly obtained documents. While the Trump administration has yet to release a single document subpoenaed by Congress during its impeachment inquiry of the president, the administration was forced to hand over a second round of communications between two government offices that helped withhold $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

According to a rough transcript released by the White House, the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy took place between 9:03 and 9:33 a.m. At 11:04 a.m., an official with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mike Duffey, sent an email to Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, the chief of staff to Defense Secretary Mike Pompeo and the Pentagon's chief financial officer telling them to withhold the aid to Ukraine, the documents showed.

"Based on guidance I have received and in light of the Administration’s plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process," the email from Duffey said, according to the documents.

By Tom Angell

In a statement attached to a large-scale funding bill he signed into law on Friday, President Trump said in effect that he reserves the right to ignore a congressionally approved provision that seeks to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference.

"Division B, section 531 of the Act provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds made available under this Act to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories," Trump wrote in a signing statement. "My Administration will treat this provision consistent with the President’s constitutional responsibility to faithfully execute the laws of the United States."

President Trump retweeted an article in which Putin derided impeachment, and added that the process has been a “witch hunt.”
By Katelyn Burns

Days after being impeached by the House of Representatives, President Donald Trump seemed to echo and endorse Russian President Vladimir Putin’s take on the impeachment process on Twitter. In his annual marathon press conference Thursday in Moscow, Putin argued Trump was impeached for “far-fetched” reasons. “It’s simply a continuation of internal political struggle,” Putin said. Echoing a Republican talking point, the Russian president continued, “The party that lost the [2016] election, the Democratic Party, is trying to achieve results by other means.”

Democrats, Putin claimed — again, as Republicans did during impeachment proceedings Wednesday — have always wanted to impeach Trump and had been looking for a reason to do so all year. “It turned out there was no collusion,” Putin said, referring to the conclusions of the Mueller report. “It could not form the basis for impeachment, and now there is this made-up pressure on Ukraine.”

The pressure on Ukraine is, of course, well documented, including in evidence released by the White House. Like Putin, however, Trump and his Republican allies have claimed the evidence does not show this. Trump, for instance, wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday, that the articles of impeachment “include no crimes, no misdemeanors, no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!”

By Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump made 99 false claims over the two weeks that ended last Sunday. Trump made 22 of the false claims at a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He made 16 of them in a lengthy exchange with reporters during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The economy was Trump's top subject of dishonesty, with 25 false claims. He made 22 false claims about military affairs, largely on account of his presence at a NATO summit. He made 15 false claims about NATO itself, 11 about impeachment.Trump is now averaging 63 false claims per week since we started counting at CNN on July 8, 2019. He made 38 false claims last week, 61 the week before. He is now up to 1,450 total false claims since July 8. A breakdown of the lowlights from the last two weeks:

The most egregious false claim: An imaginary restraining order
Trump has no shortage of factual ammunition for bashing former FBI senior counterintelligence official Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who exchanged anti-Trump texts while being involved in the investigation into the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia (and while having an affair). But Trump is rarely satisfied with accurate attacks when he can do more damage to his foes' reputations with inaccurate ones. At his December 10 campaign rally in Pennsylvania, he alleged that one of either Strzok or Page had obtained a restraining order against the other.

But key details of what they said to one another are again blacked out in documents released to the Center for Public Integrity under court order.
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity

When President Donald Trump ordered a halt to aid to Ukraine last summer, defense officials and diplomats worried first that it would undermine U.S. national security. Ukraine is, as some of them later testified before Congress, on the front lines of Russian aggression, and only robust American support would fend off aggressive Moscow meddling in the West. This worry eventually helped galvanize congressional support for one of the two impeachment articles approved by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18.

But there was also a separate, less-noticed facet of the internal administration uproar set off by Trump’s July 12 order stopping the flow of $391 million in weapons and security assistance to Ukraine. Some senior administration officials worried that by defying a law ordering that the funds be spent within a defined period, Trump was asking the officials involved to take an action that was not merely unwise but flatly illegal.

The administration so far has declined to release copies of its internal communications about this vital issue—the legality of what Trump had ordered. On Friday, in 146 pages of new documents provided to the Center for Public Integrity under a court order, the Justice Department blacked out —for the second time—many of the substantive passages reflecting what key officials at the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget said to one another.

By Michael Nuñez

Facebook announced on Friday it has removed more than 900 accounts, groups and pages on its own platform and Instagram for using fake accounts to mislead users, including with false profile photos generated by artificial intelligence.

The newly banned accounts, groups, and pages were associated with a network known as “The Beauty of Life” (or “TheBL”), which the social media giant alleges is an offshoot of the controversial conservative news publisher, The Epoch Times. The accounts in question often promoted an anti-communist, pro-Trump message across hundreds of accounts and pages.

“Our investigation linked this activity to Epoch Media Group, a US-based media organization, and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf,” Facebook said in a statement. “The BL is now banned from Facebook.”

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Washington (CNN) The federal prosecutor leading the probe into the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation has begun examining the role former CIA Director John Brennan played in how the intelligence community assessed Russia's election interference, according to The New York Times. John Durham, the US attorney tapped by Attorney General William Barr to investigate, has requested Brennan's emails, call logs and other documents from the CIA, the Times reported Thursday, citing a source briefed on his inquiry. Representatives for Brennan, the Justice Department and a spokesperson for the CIA all declined to comment to the Times. The CIA also declined additional comment to CNN on the matter. CNN has reached out to the Justice Department and Brennan's lawyer for comment.

Durham is interested in what Brennan told other officials -- including former FBI Director James Comey -- about his and the CIA's views of the infamous dossier compiled by retired British spy Christopher Steele of salacious allegations about Donald Trump, Trump associates and Russia, according to the newspaper. The Times reported that Durham is also looking into whether Brennan privately contradicted his public comments, including a May 2017 hearing before Congress, about "both the dossier and about any debate among the intelligence agencies over their conclusions on Russia's interference."

Sources stressed to the Times that Durham's inquiry into Brennan is continuing and it is so far unclear what he has uncovered. During a panel at the George Mason University in October, Brennan said that he has "no qualms whatsoever" and would be "happy" to talk to investigators he hopes are conducting the review "in a fair and appropriate manner," adding that Durham has a "good reputation." Brennan also said he's "very confident" the CIA "conducted its responsibilities appropriately, consistent with our legal authorities, and in the matter that was apolitical."

By David Jackson USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed a $738 billion defense bill into law Friday that hinged in part on two seemingly disparate issues: Paid parental leave and the president's treasured new "Space Force." The National Defense Authorization Act, which includes pay raises for troops, represents history's largest investment in military power, Trump told troops gathered for a signing ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in suburban Maryland.

"Our military is now dominant," Trump said. "Together we are protecting our people." Trump signed the bill before boarding Air Force One for a flight to his end-of-the-year stay at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. The legislation passed Congress after a deal that involved family and parental leave and the Space Force.

Justin Clark was recorded at a private event saying: “That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program.”
By Scott Bauer

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — One of President Donald Trump’s top re-election advisers told influential Republicans in swing state Wisconsin that the party has “traditionally” relied on voter suppression to compete in battleground states but will be able to “start playing offense” in 2020 due to relaxed Election Day rules, according to an audio recording of a private event obtained by The Associated Press.

“Traditionally it’s always been Republicans suppressing votes in places,” Justin Clark, a senior political adviser and senior counsel to Trump’s re-election campaign, said at the event. “Let’s start protecting our voters. We know where they are. ... Let’s start playing offense a little bit. That’s what you’re going to see in 2020. It’s going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”

In response to an editorial detailing his moral failings, Trump lashed out in a way that highlighted them.
By Aaron Rupar

President Donald Trump’s response to Christianity Today’s moral argument for his removal from office illustrated the very reason the prominent evangelical publication concluded he has to go in the first place.

The morning after the Christian magazine published an editorial written by editor-in-chief Mark Galli, titled, “Trump Should Be Removed from Office,” Trump hit back with tweets that didn’t try to rebut Galli’s reasoning, but instead offered smears and explicitly transactional self-defenses.

Trump began by falsely describing Christianity Today, which has a mainstream audience, as “far-left” and “very ‘progressive.’” (Although it’s true the publication has been critical of Trump for years, that’s very different from being “far-left.”) He claimed, without evidence, that the magazine “has been doing poorly.” He took gratuitous shots at the Democratic presidential candidates, comparing their faith unfavorably with his own — and ignoring the fact that if the Senate removes him from office, Vice President Mike Pence, not a Democrat, will take his place.

It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was.
By Mark Galli

In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The impeachment of Donald Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic. It requires comment.

Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

By Michael Linden for CNN Business Perspectives

This month marks the two-year anniversary of President Trump's major legislative accomplishment: his rewrite of the tax code. As we head into the election year, you can bet that taxes and the economy will be topics of debate. President Trump will, no doubt, want voters to give him credit for his tax law, which he promised would lead to more investment, more jobs, higher wages and faster growth. But none of those promises have been fulfilled. From a purely economic standpoint, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has been an enormous flop. Let's start with jobs. Has the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act created millions of new jobs, as was promised? In a word, no. In the four years prior to the passage of the GOP tax law, the economy added an average of 213,000 jobs each month, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the nearly two years since the law passed, average job creation has actually declined by an average of 11,000 per month.

The White House promised that the tax cuts would result in an annual wage increase of $4,000 per household. Again, not even close. In the two years since the law passed, wage growth, after accounting for inflation, rose only slightly, from 1% to just under 1.4% per year for nonsupervisory workers, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That difference — even if it were fully attributable to the tax cuts — amounts to less than $400 for a full-time worker. So much for your $4,000 raise. We have been told, over and over again, that tax cuts for the rich are good for the overall economy. However, there's not much solace to be found in gross domestic product either. In the four years before the law passed, real GDP grew by an annual average rate of about 2.4%, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the nearly two years since, the GDP growth rate has inched only slightly higher to an annual average of 2.5%.

By Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig

Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides: Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House. After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions.

The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

One  former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly  at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because  “Putin told me.” Two other former officials said the senior White House official described Trump’s comment to them.

President Donald Trump is blasting a prominent Christian magazine that published an editorial arguing that he should be removed from office.
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is blasting a prominent Christian magazine that published an editorial arguing that he should be removed from office. Trump tweeted that the magazine, Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham, is a “far left“ publication, which “has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years.” He adds that it “knows nothing about reading a perfect transcript of a routine phone call,” a reference to his July call with the president of Ukraine that led to his impeachment. Trump claims the magazine would rather have “a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”

In the editorial, titled, “Trump Should Be Removed from Office,” the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Mark Galli, writes that, “Democrats have had it out for” Trump “from day one.” But he says that, “the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”

He goes on to write that, whether Trump should be removed by the Senate or by popular vote in the 2020 election “is a matter of prudential judgment.” But, he says: “That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.”

By Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong

House Republicans on Thursday rebuked President Trump’s attacks on the late Democratic Rep. John Dingell (Mich.) and his widow, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), with several GOP lawmakers calling the remarks inappropriate and urging Trump to apologize. “It’s extraordinarily inappropriate,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former member of GOP leadership who has served with both John and Debbie Dingell, told The Hill.

“Anyone who served with John Dingell respected him, knew he was a very serious legislator and that he represented the House of Representatives with the highest personal and professional integrity.” During a rally in Michigan on Wednesday night, Trump took aim at the family following Debbie Dingell’s votes in favor of two articles of impeachment, suggesting the former dean of the House was “looking up” from hell after noting he lowered flags to half-staff in the wake of his death.

“She calls me up. 'It's the nicest thing that's ever happened. Thank you so much. John should be so thrilled. He's looking down. He'd be so thrilled,” Trump said. “'Thank you so much, sir.' I said, 'That's OK, don't worry about it.' Maybe he's looking up. I don't know.”  

By Jennifer Hansler and Zachary Cohen, CNN

(CNN) The Trump administration is pushing back on a wide-ranging piece of legislation meant to deter and punish Russian aggression and its interference in the 2016 election. In a 22-page letter to Congress dated Tuesday, a senior State Department official outlined a series of concerns about the bill, calling it "unnecessary" and in need of "significant changes."

"The Administration shares the goal of deterring and countering Russian subversion and aggression," Bureau of Legislative Affairs Assistant Secretary Mary Elizabeth Taylor wrote in the letter, which was obtained by CNN. However, she said the administration "strongly opposes" the bill in its current form. The Daily Beast was the first to report on the contents of the letter, sent exactly a week after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Russia sanctions have been an ongoing source of contention between the Trump White House and Congress, where there has been strong bipartisan support for measures to punish Moscow since its 2014 annexation of Crimea. The US intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to bolster Trump, and former and current administration officials' warnings that it will meddle again in 2020, have lent urgency to congressional efforts.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) A Chinese woman was arrested Wednesday and charged with trespassing on President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property, according to Palm Beach Police, in the second time this year that a Chinese national been arrested for intruding on the premises. Lu Jing, 56, allegedly trespassed on the Palm Beach resort and was asked to leave by security, Palm Beach Police spokesman Michael Ogrodnick said in a statement.

Lu returned to Mar-a-Lago and began to take photos when Palm Beach Police Department responded and arrested her, according to Ogrodnick. Lu made an initial court appearance Thursday morning and plead not guilty to all charges.During their investigation, authorities discovered Lu, a Chinese national, was in the US on an expired visa.

Echoing Republican talking points, the Russian president mocked the moves against his U.S. counterpart as a baseless bid by Democrats to reverse their 2016 defeat.
By Andrew Higgins

MOSCOW — Besieged in Washington, President Trump found an eager friend in Moscow on Thursday. At his annual end-of-year news conference, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia parroted Mr. Trump’s talking points, mocking Wednesday’s impeachment vote as a partisan effort by Democrats to reverse their defeat in the 2016 presidential election.

He also took up Mr. Trump’s argument that there was no solid evidence to justify his removal from office. Offering an analysis of American political dynamics, Mr. Putin said that Mr. Trump was unlikely to be removed for “highly speculative reasons” by the Republican-controlled Senate.

“This is nothing but a continuation of an internal political struggle, with the party that lost the election, the Democratic Party, trying to reach its goal by different means,” Mr. Putin said during the 15th edition of a news conference that has often tended to be more a carnival of flattery.

By Caroline Kelly and Allie Malloy, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump attacked Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell and her late husband, Rep. John Dingell, during a rally on Wednesday, implying the former congressman was "looking up" from hell. "Debbie Dingell, that's a real beauty," Trump said of the congresswoman, noting he was watching her on television during impeachment proceedings. Trump said that he gave the family the "A-plus treatment" after John Dingell died, and that the congresswoman, who now holds his seat in the House, told Trump during an emotional call following John Dingell's funeral that her husband would have been "thrilled" by the respect shown for him during his funeral and "he's looking down" on the ceremonies.

"Maybe he's looking up," Trump said, drawing some moans and groans from those in Battle Creek, Michigan, about two hours away from Debbie Dingell's district. "Maybe, but let's assume he's looking down." Trump's comment about John Dingell, the longest ever serving congressman, fell mostly flat on a crowd in an important swing state that has long revered the former dean of the House. John Dingell was an iconic figure in Michigan who was admired across party lines, and was one of the most popular political figures in the state during his lifetime.

By Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that U.S. Democrats had impeached President Donald Trump for "fabricated" reasons in order to reverse his 2016 election victory. Putin, speaking at his annual year-end news conference, said he expected Trump to survive the proceedings and stay in office. The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to impeach Trump, but Putin, like most observers, said he expected the Republican Senate to acquit him.

"It's unlikely they will want to remove from power a representative of their party based on what are, in my opinion, completely fabricated reasons," said Putin. "This is simply a continuation of the (U.S.) intra-political battle where one party that lost an election, the Democratic Party, is trying to achieve results using other methods and means. "They first accused Trump of a conspiracy with Russia. Then it turned out there wasn't a conspiracy and that it couldn't be the basis for impeachment. Now they have dreamt up (the idea) of some kind of pressure being exerted on Ukraine."

By Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner and Elise Viebeck

The House voted after nearly 12 hours of debate Wednesday night to impeach President Trump for his conduct toward Ukraine and his refusal to cooperate with the inquiry, making him only the third president in U.S. history to receive that sanction. Democrats had more than enough votes to approve the two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, even with two Democratic defections on the first, three on the second and presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) voting “present” on both. Wednesday’s action will lead to a trial in the Republican-led Senate, where a two-thirds vote would be required to remove the president from office.

'Romans 1:25'
By Clark Mindock

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has mocked Republican Barry Loudermilk, drawing attention to a bible verse on sacrilege after the congressman compared Donald Trump's impeachment to the persecution of Jesus Christ.

The New York congresswoman responded to Mr Loudermilk's remarks with a simple tweet, after he claimed during the impeachment debate that even the Romans trying Jesus Christ gave him a chance to defend himself.

Evoking the holiday season, Mr Loudermilk delivered the following remark ahead of the impeachment vote on Thursday: "Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, I want you to keep this in mind: When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than the Democrats have afforded this President in this process."

While House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler corrected Mr Loudermilk on the floor — noting Mr Trump was invited to testify, but declined — Ms Ocasio-Cortez emphasised the dangers of treating the president — who has referred to himself as the "chosen one" — like a demigod.

"Romans 1:25," Ms Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

On Tuesday, President Trump claimed he was tougher on Russia than his predecessor. At the same time, his subordinates strongly opposed a bill imposing new sanctions on Moscow.
By Betsy Swan

The Trump administration is quietly fighting a new package of sanctions on Russia, The Daily Beast has learned. A Trump State Department official sent a 22-page letter to a top Senate chairman on Tuesday making a wide-ranging case against a new sanctions bill. Sen. Lindsey Graham—usually a staunch ally of the White House—introduced the legislation earlier this year. It’s designed to punish Russian individuals and companies over the Kremlin’s targeting of Ukraine, as well as its 2016 election interference in the U.S., its activities in Syria, and its attacks on dissidents.

Graham said the legislation’s aggressiveness means it is “the sanctions bill from hell,” per Yahoo Finance. Trump World, meanwhile, says it is a mess. The administration’s letter says it “strongly opposes” the bill unless it goes through a ton of changes. It argues the legislation is unnecessary and that it would harm America’s European allies–potentially fracturing transatlantic support for current U.S. sanctions on Russia. The bill “risks crippling the global energy, commodities, financial, and other markets,” the letter says, and would target “almost the entire range of foreign commercial activities with Russia.”

By Marshall Cohen

Washington (CNN) Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz said Wednesday that his team did not find any evidence that Trump Tower was under government surveillance, after conducting an exhaustive review of FBI surveillance during the Russia investigation. Horowitz debunked a conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump invented weeks after taking office in 2017. Horowitz made the comment at a Senate Homeland Security hearing about his report into the early stages of the Russia investigation. "Did the report find that the FBI engaged in surveillance of Trump Tower?" Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, asked Horowitz. Horowitz replied, "We did not find evidence of surveillance on Trump Tower."

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN

(CNN) Hours before the House votes on whether to impeach President Donald Trump, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Times Square Tuesday night chanting "Tell me who's above the law? Nobody is above the law!" They weren't alone. Rallies sprang up from Oregon to Florida on the eve of the vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Democrats say Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals in exchange for security aid and that he obstructed a congressional investigation by refusing to allow key officials to testify. Trump has asserted that Democrats' attempt to impeach him is part of a larger effort to avenge the results of the 2016 election. Protesters in favor of his removal from office took to the streets by the thousands on Tuesday.

Thousands rally across US as House of Representatives prepares for Wednesday votes on Trump impeachment.

Thousands rallied across the United States on the eve of the House of Representatives' landmark votes on whether to impeach President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Rallies were held from Washington, DC, to New York City and St Paul, Minnesota to Phoenix, Arizona, with protesters demanding Trump be impeached over his dealings with Ukraine.

"No one is above the law," read one sign in Salt Lake City, Utah. "We already went over this, America does not want a king," read another in Chicago, Illinois. The rallies came as the House prepares to vote on Wednesday on two articles of impeachment - abuse of power and obstruction of Congress - against Trump. The votes are expected to largely play out along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House.

Source: Reuters

Demonstrators gather in New York, Colorado and California to call for US president Donald Trump's removal from office on the eve of the House of Representatives' expected vote to impeach him. Demonstrators who were gathered in Times Square chanted slogans like 'impeach Trump' and held signs that read: 'Impeach & Remove' and 'Traitor Criminal Lock Him Up!' The House will vote on Wednesday on two articles of impeachment against the president, which if approved, will send the matter to the Senate to hold a trial on whether to remove him from office. The Republican-led Senate is unlikely to vote to convict the president

Guardian News

Demonstrators gather in New York, Colorado and California to call for US president Donald Trump's removal from office on the eve of the House of Representatives' expected vote to impeach him. Demonstrators who were gathered in Times Square chanted slogans like 'impeach Trump' and held signs that read: 'Impeach & Remove' and 'Traitor Criminal Lock Him Up!' The House will vote on Wednesday on two articles of impeachment against the president, which if approved, will send the matter to the Senate to hold a trial on whether to remove him from office. The Republican-led Senate is unlikely to vote to convict the president.

By Griff Witte, Annie Gowen, Scott Wilson and Lori Rozsa

DETROIT — Demonstrators in big cities and small towns from coast to coast rallied Tuesday for President Trump's impeachment, celebrating the historic step the House is expected to take Wednesday while bemoaning that the push to oust him is almost certain to die in the Senate.

Protesters in the dark of a snowy New England evening chanted “Dump Trump,” while those marching in the warmth of southern Florida brandished signs reading “Impeach Putin’s Puppet.” In Republican-dominated Kansas, they repeated a mantra: “Country over party.” In Texas, they fretted that despite the House’s vote, Trump will get away with it all.

Organizers said that there were more than 600 protests nationwide — from Hawaii to Maine — with the goal of demonstrating “to our lawmakers that their constituents are behind them to defend the Constitution.”

By Kristine Phillips, Kevin Johnson - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A secretive court that approves sensitive surveillance issued a rare public rebuke of the FBI on Tuesday, saying the bureau misled the Justice Department and the court when it sought permission to wiretap a former Trump campaign aide.

The FBI's handling of the applications to wiretap Carter Page "was antithetical to the heightened duty of candor" expected of the bureau, Judge Rosemary Collyer of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court wrote in a public opinion released Tuesday.

"The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and with which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable," Collyer wrote.

The judge ordered the FBI to outline by Jan. 10, 2020, any changes it has made or plans to make to improve surveillance allowed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The law, enacted in 1978, outlines procedures investigators must follow when they ask judges for permission to conduct electronic surveillance of people suspected of acting as foreign agents.

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