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By Savannah Behrmann USA TODAY

WASHINGTON- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that he will be in "total coordination with the White House counsel" as the impeachment into President Donald Trump presses forward.

During an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the Majority Leader said that "everything" he does "during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this, to the extent that we can."

"We don't have the kind of ball control on this that a typical issue, for example, comes over from the House, if I don't like it, we don't take it up," McConnell stated about an impeachment trial. "We have no choice but to take it up, but we'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the President in the well of the Senate." - Mitch McConnell and Republican do not give a shit about our laws or the constitution only power. Americans need to vote out the corrupt republicans before they do any more damage to our country.

By Greg Sargent

If Mitch McConnell goes through with his reported plan to hold a sham impeachment trial that acquits President Trump without calling witnesses, it will provide the perfect coda for the corrupt and farcical way Trump’s defenders have handled this saga all throughout.

In so doing, the Senate majority leader and other assorted Trump propagandists will be unabashedly enshrining their position as follows: We’ve already decided in advance that the full facts will not persuade us to turn on Trump, no matter how damning they are, so why should we listen to them at all?

This is how Trump’s defenders actually view the situation — and the awful implications of this should not be sugar-coated.

Yet the scheme may not prove as easy to get away with as they think. Handled properly, Democrats can use it to demonstrate that Republicans themselves know Trump’s substantive defenses are weak and his corruption is indefensible — and vividly show how Republicans are functioning as Trump’s full-blown accomplices. - Mitch McConnell and Republican do not give a shit about our laws or the constitution only power. Americans need to vote out the corrupt republicans before they do any more damage to our country.

Donald Trump’s allies are making an alarming argument in his impeachment defense.
By Jonathan Bernstein

Members of the House judiciary committee spent Wednesday night making opening statements in a hearing about two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstructing Congress — against President Donald Trump. Was there breaking news? Nope. But it was quite interesting anyway.

The Democrats were mostly matter-of-fact. Again and again, they pounded away at the basic facts of the case — that Trump had used public policy for private gain by pressuring Ukraine to announce corruption investigations that would help him win re-election in 2020. There was very little general Trump-bashing. That served as a rejoinder to Republican claims that the whole process is all about a party that hates the president; the Democrats didn’t sound like a bunch of haters Tuesday night.

A few tried framing impeachment within their own life stories, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Pramila Jayapal, Hakeem Jeffries and Hank Johnson all gave strong efforts, although no one threatened the gold standard for impeachment oratory. The biggest disappointment for Democrats must’ve been that they failed to capture the media’s attention: None of the broadcast networks aired the prime-time session live.

As for the Republicans? They had one sort-of reasonable argument: that Democrats are rushing to finish the impeachment proceedings on an arbitrary schedule. On the charge of obstructing Congress, they also reasonably contended that Trump is within his rights to assert privileges and fight for them in the courts.  But it went rapidly downhill after that. Republicans claimed that Democrats so loathe the president that they’d impeach him regardless of the facts, which is an easy way to avoid the record in front of them but suffers from the logical flaw that if Democrats actually didn’t care about the facts, they would’ve impeached Trump long ago over the Russia scandal or emoluments or how he wears his ties.

Then there was a series of attacks on Representative Adam Schiff, the chair of the House intelligence committee. Republicans are still complaining that his committee took depositions in private, even though transcripts were later released and most of the witnesses subsequently gave public testimony. And yes, they’re still complaining that Schiff paraphrased the president one time, and (a new one) that he gave a lot of documents to them before the last hearing. All this was meant to demonstrate that Schiff is the one actually obstructing Congress. I’m paraphrasing — horrors! — but it didn’t make much sense in the original either.

By Nick Miroff

The Defense Department’s inspector general’s office will audit a $400 million border wall contract that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded to a North Dakota construction company run by a GOP donor whom President Trump repeatedly urged military officials to hire.

Glenn A. Fine, the top official at the Pentagon office, authorized a review of the contract in response to a Dec. 4 letter from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, asking inspectors to take a closer look. Fine informed Thompson of the audit in a letter Thursday.

“You raised concerns about the possibility of inappropriate influence on USACE’s contracting decision, and questioned whether the bid submitted by Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. met solicitation standards,” Fine wrote in his letter to Thompson. “You also questioned whether USACE made the award in accordance with federal procurement law and regulations.

“In response to your request, we have decided to initiate an audit of the solicitation and award of this contract. We are assessing the methodology of that audit and will formally announce the audit soon.”

GOP lawmakers have treated the hearings like Fox New segments, delivering loud, rambling monologues in a deliberate attempt to wear down participants and viewers.
By Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor

If there’s one thing we’ve seen consistently from Republicans during the past few weeks of congressional impeachment hearings, it’s yelling.

The articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump have been drafted and the process is now moving steadily towards a vote in the House. But GOP lawmakers, especially GOP men, aren't going down quietly. Perhaps Democratic Coalition’s Jon Cooper put it best when he tweeted Monday, “Why is Doug Collins always yelling?” CNBC’s Christina Wilkie pointed out a similar phenomenon, noting that Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was "yelling about whether the rules of the hearing are, in fact, the rules of the hearing.”

Why is Doug Collins ALWAYS yelling? 😫pic.twitter.com/p8s0Ti5Kix
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) December 9, 2019

Indeed, in observing my former House GOP comrades over the many days of contentious House hearings, I am reminded of a scene from the classic Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman,” where the famed (and fictional) Channel 4 News team angrily confronts its news director over the hiring of a female reporter. In the scene, several of the male journalists take turns yelling their opposition to the addition. Steve Carell’s character, Brick Tamland, isn’t really smart enough to have a critique but wishing to be included, he screams, “I don’t know what we’re yelling about!”

Mitch McConnell plans to rush through a fake trial to a quick acquittal. So why did Democrats rush impeachment?
By Amanda Marcotte

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows Donald Trump is guilty. He just doesn't care — McConnell plans to cover it up and doesn't even really care how obvious that is All that was made clear from an article published late Wednesday in the Washington Post, in which Senate Republicans admitted that the plan is to rubber-stamp their acquittal of Trump, and their lack of desire to even try to dignify this travesty of justice by pretending to hold a real impeachment trial, as the Constitution demands. Senate Republicans want to hold "a short impeachment trial early next year that would include no witnesses," the article explains, because they believe "it would be better to limit the trial and quickly vote to acquit Trump."

The reason they believe this is no mystery, of course. As the impeachment hearings in front of the House have showed, Trump looks guiltier with every minute of discussion on his scheme to blackmail Ukrainian leadership into falsely branding his presumed 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, as a crook. Even when Republicans called witnesses during the impeachment hearings, those witnesses ended up giving testimony that made Trump look worse. When the GOP called a legal "expert" to critique the impeachment process his testimony was a confusing mishmash that only made the pro-impeachment witnesses look stronger.

Trump radiates guilt at every moment and with every public statement. So the only way for McConnell to conceal his guilt is to throw a blanket over the whole thing. Continuing to argue about it, even through the Republican methods of throwing tantrums and creating distractions, isn't really working — Trump's behavior pierces through all the noise like a laser stream of pure, red hot guilt. Looking away and refusing to discuss it as much as humanly possible is the best available option for Republicans. Trump was reportedly interested in staging a big spectacle in the Senate trial, and calling Hunter Biden, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the original Ukraine whistleblower and who knows who else. For once, Republicans may defy him, but only to safeguard his presidency.

By Jonathan Chait

President Trump is facing impeachment primarily for abusing his power for political gain, extorting a foreign country to discredit his political rivals. The secondary aspect of the plot is that the target of his extortion is hardly random. Ukraine is the victim of Russian aggression, and Russia’s continuing incursions into Ukrainian territory is the muscle that gave Trump’s threats leverage. Trump’s domestic interests are one intended beneficiary of his scheme. The other is Vladimir Putin.

Trump and his allies insist he has actually pursued a hawkish line in Ukraine. “Mr. Trump didn’t withhold military aid to Ukraine, and even if he had he would have merely been returning to Barack Obama’s policy of denying lethal aid,” argues a Wall Street Journal editorial. “No one has done more to limit Russia’s ability to engage in mischief than President Trump,” insists Representative Matt Gaetz in a Fox News segment retweeted by the president.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors charged yesterday evening that Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump who represented him in Ukraine, was wired $1 million from a Russian bank account weeks before his arrest. Which is to say, Trump’s Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia.

Parnas met repeatedly with Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Parnas claims Trump pulled him aside at last year’s White House Hanukkah party and personally directed his activities in Ukraine. That allegation remains unproven. What is proven, though, is that Parnas met with Trump numerous times (there are photographs), was Giuliani’s official business partner, and represented himself to Ukrainians as an agent of both Trump and Giuliani.

By David Jackson USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump attacked 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg on Thursday for being named Time magazine's "Person of The Year." "So ridiculous," Trump said on Twitter. "Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!"

Thunberg responded swiftly, changing her Twitter profile to read: "A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend." Trump, who was named Person of the Year after winning the 2016 presidential election, has criticized the magazine before for passing him up in the years since.

Trump mocked Thunberg back in September, when both were in New York City for meetings at the United Nations. Citing lines from Thunberg's address to the Climate Action Summit – the teenager said "people are dying" and "we are in the beginning of a mass extinction" – Trump issued a late-night snarky tweet.

"She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future," Trump wrote. "'So nice to see!"

By David Shortell, Evan Perez and Josh Campbell, CNN

Washington (CNN) Some federal law enforcement officials are warning of a chilling effect inside the FBI amid attacks by President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr over the bureau's handling of the Russia investigation.

Current and former FBI officials tell CNN they're concerned that the harsh rhetoric coming from Trump and Barr has only worsened the bureau's already tenuous standing with the President, leaving them wondering whether federal agents could be less aggressive the next time they have to pursue a sensitive investigation.

"We're constantly told to be agile and use all the legal tools available to us," said one FBI employee who works on counterintelligence matters. "But who is going to risk sticking their neck out now only to have DOJ chop it off?"

Barr this week seized on findings in a blockbuster inspector general report to scold the FBI for using "intrusive" tools with only "flimsy" evidence, and he questioned whether they'd been motivated by bias. Those attacks were particularly noteworthy given that the report found no evidence of bias or improper motivation in the FBI's decisions to use counterintelligence techniques. The report did however point out serious mistakes and mishandling of evidence by the FBI.

By Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley and D'Angelo Gore

During his first campaign rally after Democrats announced two articles of impeachment and the Justice Department inspector general released a report on the FBI’s Russia investigation, President Donald Trump distorted the facts on both topics.

The White House memo on Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine corroborated the whistleblower complaint’s description. Yet, Trump continued to falsely claim otherwise, and once again distorted the timeline of events to leave the false impression that his release of the memo exposed the Democrats as liars.

Trump accused the FBI of framing him, saying it “hid” evidence that showed his campaign “did absolutely nothing wrong.” The IG report found the FBI omitted some “exculpatory information” when obtaining a surveillance warrant for one campaign official, but it did not find any “intentional misconduct.”  The president claimed that the articles of impeachment showed Democrats are “now admitting there was no collusion, there was no obstruction of justice and there were no crimes whatsoever” related to the Russia investigation. But that’s not what the articles say.

Trump said he “heard” that former FBI lawyer Lisa Page requested a restraining order against former FBI senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, with whom Page had an affair. On Twitter, Page called Trump’s statement “a lie.”

By Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) The process for dealing with a President or other federal elected official who abuses their office is spelled out broadly in the Constitution. In Article I of the Constitution, it says the House shall have the sole power of impeachment and the Senate shall have the sole power to try impeachments. But the process has evolved over the years. The Constitution does not include the term "articles of impeachment," but a November 2019 Congressional Research Service analysis of the impeachment process explains what they are.

"The House impeaches an individual when a majority agrees to a House resolution containing explanations of the charges," according to the report. "The explanations in the resolution are referred to as 'articles of impeachment.'" Once articles of impeachment are approved in the House, the Senate takes those allegations and conducts a trial considering whether to remove a President from office. The Constitution mandates that the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides.

A President may be impeached and removed for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," according to Article II of the Constitution. There's no hard and fast definition of those, so Congress has the ultimate say. Democrats initially prepared two articles of impeachment against Trump, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. They will debate those and then proceed to a vote before their holiday recess.

By Christian Berthelsen

Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas got $1 million from an account in Russia in September, a month before he was charged with conspiring to funnel foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, according to U.S. prosecutors who asked a judge to jail him for understating his income and assets.

“The majority of that money appears to have been used on personal expenses and to purchase a home,” prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday. Parnas failed to disclose the payment to the government, prosecutors said.

The payment raises provocative new questions about the nature of the work Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman were doing and who they were doing it for. Much about what they did remains unclear.

The pair was charged, in part, with working on behalf of one or more Ukrainian government officials to seek the removal of then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. They have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

By Marshall Cohen

Washington (CNN) The Justice Department inspector general continues to investigate potential leaks by FBI officials in New York to President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani before the 2016 election. Inspector General Michael Horowitz told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing, and is broader than just Giuliani, but suggested his team was struggling to prove that there were illegal leaks.

Shortly before the election, Giuliani claimed that he heard about big problems coming soon for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. That was shortly before then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the criminal probe into Clinton's email server, which didn't lead to any criminal charges. The polls shifted after Comey's comments, and Clinton has said it was a main reason for her defeat. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont noted on Wednesday that Comey previously confirmed to him that the matter was under investigation, and asked Horowitz for an update about FBI "leaks to Rudolph Giuliani and others."

Horowitz replied, "we were very concerned about that," and he noted that he mentioned some of those potentially improper contacts in the report he put out last year reviewing the Clinton email probe.

Gen. Mark Milley also said he was not defending the president's actions.

The military’s top officer today defended efforts to maintain discipline in the ranks amid stiff questioning from lawmakers on whether President Donald Trump’s intervention in the cases of three service members accused or convicted of war crimes will create chaos on the battlefield.

“We do maintain, and we will maintain, good order and discipline,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee. “We will not turn into a gang of raping, burning and pillaging throughout … That is not going to happen as a result of this or anything else.”

Milley was responding to questions from Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who read the four-star general a text message from a Marine sergeant major who called Trump’s pardon’s “appalling” and said it would encourage troops to begin “burning villages and pillaging like Genghis Khan.”

The move would effectively allow the government to interpret Judaism under federal anti-discrimination law as both a religion and a nationality.
By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump planned to sign an executive order Wednesday that would effectively allow the government to interpret Judaism as both a race or nationality and a religion under federal law so that the Education Department can take direct action against what he views as anti-Semitism on college campuses, administration officials said.

The interpretation would allow the Education Department, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to withhold funding from college or educational programs it believes are discriminating in an anti-Semitic way. The law states that the Education Department can take such action against a program that discriminates based "on the ground of race, color or national origin" — but not on religion.

The order comes largely in response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the Israeli government for its treatment of Palestinians. The movement has become prominent on some campuses and resulted in actions that have left some Jewish students feeling targeted. In making the change, the Trump administration would be recognizing Jews as having a collective national origin.

It was one of his ugliest rallies yet — and put the stakes of 2020 in sharp relief.
By Aaron Rupar

As House Democrats prepare to vote on articles of impeachment related to his alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, President Donald Trump gave a speech at a campaign rally on Tuesday night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, that highlighted many of the reasons people feel that the country will struggle to withstand another year of this — even in the likely event that the Senate doesn’t end up removing him from office.

Over the course of a more than 90-minute delivery, Trump pushed conspiracy theories and blatant lies, trashed law enforcement officials that aren’t blindly loyal to him, exhibited thuggish tendencies toward protesters, made misogynistic remarks, and demonstrated that he fundamentally misunderstands the Constitution. It was one of his most troubling performances in recent memory and served as a stark illustration of just how ugly Trump’s reelection campaign will be.

By Sonam Sheth

The nonpartisan career officials who blew the whistle on President Donald Trump and testified against him are Time magazine's 2019 "Guardians of the Year." For more than two months, the magazine said, the president "attacked the public servants as 'traitors' and 'human scum.'" And in September, at the US Mission to the United Nations, he "suggested the proper response to the whistle-blower's complaint was the punishment historically reserved for 'spies' and for 'treason': the death penalty."

—Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) December 11, 2019

Among the people named were:

The whistleblower who first sounded the alarm on Trump's efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt on a rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in exchange for vital military aid and a White House meeting.

Marie Yovanovitch, the US's ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out of her position for refusing to go along with Trump's and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani's scheme.

Bill Taylor, the career diplomat who replaced Yovanovitch and testified about the extent of the quid pro quo Trump and Giuliani were engaged in.

Fiona Hill, the National Security Council's former senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs, who witnessed and reported what she described as the "domestic political errand" that had hijacked US foreign policy.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC's top Ukraine expert, who witnessed the July 25 phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry and reported his concerns up the chain of command.

"We are deeply concerned that so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate [teams]," said DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
By Ken Dilanian

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department should require high-level approval before the FBI opens an investigation into a major political campaign, the department's inspector general testified Wednesday as he briefed senators on his report into the probe of the 2016 Trump campaign.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that he found no evidence the FBI sought to insert informants into the Trump campaign. But according to the report he released Monday, the FBI did use "confidential human sources" (CHSs) to speak to and record members of the Trump campaign, including George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and an unnamed senior official.

"There is no applicable Department or FBI policy requiring the FBI to notify Department officials of a decision to task CHSs to consensually monitor conversations with members of a presidential campaign," Horowitz told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Before the inspector general testified, the committee chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., painted the IG's report in apocalyptic terms as he railed against what he views as an illegitimate investigation into his political ally, President Donald Trump. He said Horowitz uncovered "a massive conspiracy over time to defraud the FISA court, illegally surveil an American citizen," and keep an investigation going into a sitting president.

By Jeff Cox

Three months before he died, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker issued a scathing critique against President Donald Trump and the “movement to undermine Americans’ faith in our government and its policies and institutions.”

In an afterword to a paperback release of his autobiography, the legendary former central bank chief called out the president for his attacks on the Fed and said there is a general movement to undermine confidence in essential U.S. institutions.

“Nihilistic forces are dismantling policies to protect our air, water, and climate,” Volcker wrote at the end of “Keeping At It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government.” “And they seek to discredit the pillars of our democracy: voting rights and fair elections, the rule of law, the free press, the separation of powers, the belief in science, and the concept of truth itself.”

CBS News - The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from Michael Horowitz, the inspector general for the Justice Department, in a hearing on Wednesday. Horowitz will testify about his 434-page report on the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any possible ties to the Trump campaign.

By Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold

BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, N.J. — It was important for Sandra Diaz to be invisible. Before entering the Trump family villa, she would tie back her hair, pull on latex gloves and step into delicate paper shoe coverings. She knew not to wear makeup or perfume that might leave the faintest trace of her presence.

As Donald Trump’s personal housekeeper, Diaz was dealing with a fussy celebrity owner who presided like a monarch over the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster long before he was elevated to president. She was an immigrant from Costa Rica working illegally for Trump with a fake Social Security card she had bought for $50. Being invisible was her life’s work.

Moving quickly through the two-story house in the mornings, Diaz carried out Trump’s fastidious instructions. In his closet, she would hang six sets of identical golf outfits: six white polo shirts, six pairs of beige pants, six neatly ironed pairs of boxer shorts. She would smear a dollop of Trump’s liquid face makeup on the back of her hand to make sure it hadn’t dried out.

By Michael Collins USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump relentlessly ridiculed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada as the “worst trade deal ever” when he was running for office and promised to rip it up if he was elected. But instead of tearing the agreement to shreds, Trump mostly patched it up.

The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, known as the USMCA, that is supposed to replace NAFTA – and which appears headed for congressional approval following a deal this week between Trump and House Democrats – is in many ways similar to its quarter-century-old predecessor.

More than half of the new trade agreement simply modernizes provisions already contained in NAFTA. “The president didn’t rip up NAFTA, nor is this just a rebranding of NAFTA with the Trump and House Democrats’ names on it,” said Daniel Ujczo, an international trade attorney in Ohio.

Instead of demolishing NAFTA and starting over, “it’s a renovation of North American trade,” Ujczo said. “We put a fresh coat of paint on about 60 percent of the deal, so we kept what worked in the original NAFTA. But we have upgraded some applications and fixtures in terms of the technology chapters and customs chapters. And then we knocked down some walls.”

By Richard Gonzales, Mark Katkov

A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from using $3.6 billion in funds allocated by Congress for military construction projects to help pay for a wall on the southern border. U.S. District Judge David Briones of El Paso ruled that the administration's use of an emergency proclamation last February to divert those funds to the border wall is unlawful.

The ruling found that the administration was within the law in using an additional $2.5 billion intended for drug interdiction efforts for border wall construction. "The President's emergency proclamation was a blatant attempt to grab power from Congress," said Kristy Parker, counsel for the nonpartisan organization Protect Democracy, which represented the plaintiffs, in a statement. "Today's order affirms that the President is not a king and that our courts are willing to check him when he oversteps his bounds."

The suit was brought by El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights. It argued that the administration overstepped its authority by "declaring a national emergency and violating laws of Congress limiting funds for barriers at the United States-Mexico border." The county also argued that it would suffer reputational and economic harm from the border wall project because the president's emergency declaration created the impression that the border city was dangerous. In October, Briones, a Clinton appointee, ruled that such claims had merit.

By Leslie Marshall

President Trump and his defenders claim the decision by House Democratic leaders Tuesday to propose two articles of impeachment against him is all about politics. They say the misconduct he is accused of is a hoax and that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Don’t believe them. Democrats are acting in spite of politics. They know impeachment could hurt them politically and perhaps even give Republicans a House majority in elections next year.

And Democrats are acting even though they know the Republican-controlled Senate will acquit Trump in a trial and not throw him out of office. That’s because removing the president in a Senate trial takes 67 votes, and there are only 47 Democrats and allied independents in the Senate.

Sadly, Republicans are putting party loyalty over patriotism and circling the wagons around Trump to support him no matter what, closing their eyes to the overwhelming evidence of his impeachable conduct. There is no way 20 Republican senators will vote to remove Trump from office.

So what’s the point of holding a House vote before Christmas to impeach Trump, since the Senate will let him stay in office? Wouldn’t it be smart politics for Democrats to say impeachment would be a futile exercise and not engage in a losing battle? Maybe.

The inquiry will also look at the costs of the mission.

The Pentagon’s inspector general is launching an “evaluation” of the Trump administration’s military deployments to the U.S.-Mexico border, the watchdog office announced Tuesday.

"Based on several requests, we have decided to conduct an evaluation, in accord with our standard processes, to examine the use of military personnel along the southern border,” said Glenn Fine, who performs the duties of the inspector general, in a statement. “In this evaluation, we will examine, among other issues, what they are doing at the border, what training they received, and whether their use complied with applicable law, DoD policy, and operating guidance. We intend to conduct this important evaluation as expeditiously as possible." The inquiry will also look at the costs of the mission, according to the announcement from Fine’s office.

The Pentagon started sending active-duty Army and Marine units to the border in the fall of 2018 on orders from President Donald Trump, prompting accusations that he was using the military as a political prop ahead of midterm elections. Each of Trump’s four Pentagon chiefs has signed off on the mission, starting with Jim Mattis’s original authorization of a temporary deployment last October. Mattis’s successor, Pat Shanahan, as acting defense secretary, extended the mission through September 2019, and this fall, Defense Secretary Mark Esper extended it again into fiscal 2020.

Heard on Morning Edition
By Cory Turner

Documents obtained by NPR shed new light on a bitter fight between defrauded student borrowers and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. These borrowers — more than 200,000 of them — say some for-profit colleges lied to them about their job prospects and the transferability of credits. They argue they were defrauded and that the Education Department should erase their federal student loan debt under a rule called "borrower defense."

DeVos disagrees: She says most student borrowers still got value from these schools and deserve only partial relief from their federal loans. Now, internal Education Department memos obtained by NPR show that career staff in the department's Borrower Defense Unit came down firmly on the side of defrauded borrowers.

The memos show this unit reviewed thousands of borrower complaints against now-defunct, for-profit colleges, including Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute. Just weeks before DeVos was sworn in as secretary, the unit recommended to the department's political leadership that these borrowers deserve no less than full relief from their student debts.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump is looking to survive impeachment the same way he built his powerful presidency -- by assaulting facts and seeking to expand the limitations of the office he is accused of abusing. On the day that Democrats proposed two articles of impeachment against him, the President and his courtiers laid down a fresh fog to obscure the evidence that incriminates him. The President also issued a mocking defense of his conduct at a rally Hershey, Pennsylvania, Tuesday night -- arguing that the charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress are "not even a crime."

"Everyone said this is impeachment-lite. This is the lightest impeachment in the history of our country, by far. It's not even like an impeachment," Trump said. Attorney General William Barr, meanwhile, reprised his role spinning his boss out of trouble, dismissing his own department's watchdog report that debunked Trump's repeated claim that a "Deep State" coup tried to bring him down. Barr also breathed fresh life into another of Trump's conspiracy theories -- that the FBI's Russia investigation was unjustified and rooted in political bias by Obama administration officials.

"I think our nation was turned on its head for three years, I think, based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press," Barr said Tuesday in an interview with NBC News. The comments reflected the tendency of the Trump administration to deflect damning facts and to create new narratives that the President and his fans find more appealing. Trump's never-ending stream of misinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories seems designed to confuse voters and to create ambiguity and uncertainty about the outcome of investigations in a way that leaves even the closest observer unsure about the facts.

One expert in the work of such propagandists is former World Chess Champion and Russian political dissident Garry Kasparov. "They know that, you know, they can get people exhausted, they exhaust critical thinking," Kasparov told CNN's Anderson Cooper last week. "I always call Putin (a) merchant of doubt. But now seeing what's happening in America, it's when just Republicans managed to turn the whole political process in this alternative reality. It's like a post-truth world."

By Amy Goldstein and Jeff Stein

The Trump administration is proposing a sharp slowdown in Medicaid spending as part of a broad reduction in the government’s investment in health care, calling for the public insurance for the poor to morph from an entitlement program to state block grants even after a Republican Congress rejected the idea.

The budget released by the White House on Monday also calls for a sizable reduction for Medicare, the federal insurance for older Americans that President Trump has consistently promised to protect. Most of the trims relate to changing payments to doctors and hospitals and renewing efforts to ferret out fraud and wasteful billing — oft-cited targets by presidents of both parties.

In keeping with Trump’s promise in last month’s State of the Union address to halt the spread of HIV over the next decade, the budget includes an initial installment of $291 million next year targeted to communities where the virus is continuing to infect people not getting proper treatment — the rural parts of seven states, including Mississippi; the District of Columbia; Puerto Rico and 48 hot-spot counties scattered throughout the country.

By Matthew Chance and Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump is planning to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday in Washington, an encounter that is sure to draw significant scrutiny amid several ongoing controversies involving Trump and Russia. Trump will meet with Lavrov alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the state of their bilateral relationship, a senior administration official told CNN. The State Department had previously announced that Lavrov would travel to Washington this week for meetings with Pompeo to "discuss a broad range of regional and bilateral issues."

CNN reported earlier Monday that Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Lavrov and Trump would meet. Lavrov's last official visit to Washington in May 2017 was notable because Trump reportedly shared highly classified information in the Oval Office with the foreign minister and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.

This week's meeting will take place amid the backdrop of Democrats' ongoing impeachment inquiry, which centers on whether Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine -- at a time when it has been fighting Russian aggression -- in exchange for political dirt to aid his reelection bid. And on Monday, a highly anticipated report into the early days of the Russia investigation is set to be released.

Trump has striven to improve relations between Washington and Moscow during his time in office, but he's often been pushed to punish the Russian government for conducting destabilizing actions around the world. In August, Trump imposed long-overdue, legally mandated sanctions on Russia for its poisoning of an ex-spy in the United Kingdom.

Rick Gates was a fountain of information for Robert Mueller’s investigators, testifying against both Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.

Rick Gates should be rewarded with probation after serving as a critical high-profile government witness whose testimony helped net convictions against two of President Donald Trump’s campaign aides, the Justice Department and an attorney for the former Trump deputy campaign chairman said in a pair of new court filings. Gates — who pleaded guilty in February 2018 to financial fraud and lying to investigators — quickly became a fountain of information for Robert Mueller’s investigators, eventually testifying against both former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, Trump’s long-time political whisperer.

The 47-year-old GOP operative spent more than 500 hours with federal and state prosecutors, both before and after he officially flipped on Trump and his allies. He also responded to three congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony. Gates’ voice dominates final Mueller report, as he recounts details about how Trump and his 2016 campaign coordinated and planned for the release of stolen Democratic emails at critical moments of the White House race.

In a filing Monday, Gates’ attorney pleaded with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to give his client probation and impose no fines when she sentences him Dec. 17.

By Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju and Lauren Fox, CNN

(CNN) Democratic leaders announced Tuesday they will bring two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress to set in motion the third impeachment of a US president in history. The announcement marks the culmination of an intense, fast-moving investigation into the President's dealings with Ukraine and represents a historic choice for lawmakers with less than a year before the next election.

The six House Democratic chairs who have led the investigations against the President this year formally unveiled the impeachment articles on Tuesday morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the President of the United States Donald J. Trump with committing high crimes and misdemeanors," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said.

Democrats charge that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals ahead of the 2020 election while withholding a White House meeting and $400 million in US security aid from Kiev. And they say that Trump then obstructed the investigation into his misconduct with a blanket blockade of subpoenas and refusing to allow key senior officials to testify before Congress.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) A virus of misinformation and mistrust rages in America. On a melodramatic Monday, an independent report debunked Donald Trump's claims that the FBI was biased in its investigation into his campaign's 2016 links to Moscow. But the US President nevertheless bent the facts to say his suspicions had been vindicated. And the US Attorney General William Barr -- who is supposed to be an independent arbiter of justice, not act as Trump's personal lawyer -- excoriated the bureau anyway.

Meanwhile, the day's impeachment hearing -- into a scandal partly spawned by Trump's bid to prove that it was in fact Ukraine that meddled in the election three years ago -- descended into choleric feuding. In the looking glass world of Capitol Hill, Republicans -- once the most hawkish of Cold warriors -- are now using Kremlin talking points to shield a President whom Moscow wanted to help elect.

Washington feels like a fever dream. There's no agreement on common facts or assumption of goodwill between political adversaries in the nation's capital, which makes an honest assessment of Trump's actions impossible. It also means America may never heal from the recriminations and infectious doubts that stained the last presidential election -- and are already threatening the next one.

With its meddling operation in 2016, Russia had planned to inject the nation with bad blood, setting Americans against one another, fanning divisions and undermining confidence in US democracy. It worked better than President Putin can have dared hope. - Trump is Putin man in the white house.

Amazon says it lost to Microsoft because of 'improper pressure' from the President.
By Christine Fisher

Last month, Amazon said it would formally challenge the US Department of Defense's decision to award the $10 billion JEDI contract to Microsoft, instead of Amazon Web Service (AWS). The lawsuit, unsealed today, reveals the details behind Amazon's argument. The company claims that "AWS was the consensus frontrunner" and that not only was the Pentagon's decision based on "egregious errors on nearly every evaluation factor," it was "the result of improper pressure from President Donald J. Trump."

According to Amazon, Trump "launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI Contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy-Jeffrey P. Bezos."

"Throughout the final year of the multi-year award process, the President of the United States and Commander in Chief of our military used his power to "screw Amazon" out of the JEDI Contract as part of his highly public personal vendetta against Mr. Bezos, Amazon, and the Washington Post," the lawsuit states.

In a statement provided to The Guardian, Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith said the decision to select Microsoft "was made by an expert team of career public servants and military officers" without external influence.

By William Cummings USA TODAY

A conference celebrating the 70th anniversary of NATO was canceled after the U.S. ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, objected to a speaker who has made statements critical of President Donald Trump, the Danish think tank co-sponsoring the event announced Sunday.

Stanley Sloan, a former CIA analyst and author of "Defense of the West," had planned to deliver an address on the challenges facing the transatlantic alliance, and the West in general, at the conference, which was scheduled to take place Tuesday at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen.

A day before Sloan left for Denmark, he said he was informed by the Danish Atlantic Council that the U.S. Embassy "vetoed my participation due to my critical evaluation of Trump's impact on transatlantic relations."

"Stunned and concerned about my country," Sloan said in a tweet.

The next day, the Danish Atlantic Council announced the conference had been canceled altogether.

By Sonam Sheth

The Justice Department's inspector general, Michael Horowitz, uncovered a series of text messages between two FBI agents expressing support for President Donald Trump right after the 2016 US election. In his report, published Monday, on the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation, Horowitz detailed texts between a handling agent and a co-handling agent on November 9, 2016, rejoicing over Trump's victory the previous day.

"Trump!" the handling agent said.

"Hahaha. S--- just got real," the co-handling agent replied.

"Yes it did," the handling agent said.

The co-handling agent responded: "I saw a lot of scared MFers on ... [my way to work] this morning. Start looking for new jobs fellas. Haha."

Horowitz's report, which was highly anticipated by both Democrats and Republicans, debunked many of Trump's conspiracy theories about anti-Trump bias among top brass at the FBI and the Justice Department.

By Justine Coleman

Former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg said it is “deeply disturbing” that Attorney General William Barr “is more concerned with protecting the president than protecting our country from Russia."

It's deeply disturbing that the Attorney General is more concerned with protecting the president than protecting our country from Russia.
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 9, 2019

Bloomberg called out the attorney general after Barr said Monday’s inspector general report showed the FBI started an “intrusive” examination into President Trump’s 2016 campaign based “on the thinnest of suspicions.”

Barr’s comments followed the release of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report, which found the FBI was justified in launching an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

In his remarks Monday, Barr countered Horowitz’s conclusions that the bureau had an “authorized purpose” to start the investigation, saying the FBI had an “insufficient” basis for the probe.

By Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent

The Justice Department’s inspector general has released his long-awaited report on the FBI investigation of Russia’s 2016 effort to help elect Donald Trump president. Though it identifies serious errors and omissions in the FBI’s work — many related to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants to surveil Carter Page, an informal Trump campaign adviser — the report torpedoes the endless claim by Trump and his propagandists that the entire Russia investigation was a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.”

It’s important to reiterate right up front the actual argument that Trump World made for literally years. Not just that mistakes were made in the launching of the investigation. Not just that applications for this or that wiretapping warrant were mishandled. No, the Trump argument has been that the entire investigation was built on top of deeply nefarious motives — that is, that the “deep state" was corruptly conspiring to prevent Trump from being elected president — and that it all was illegitimate. This was the argument of the president of the United States: that a law enforcement investigation into a foreign attack on our democracy was a “hoax" and a “witch hunt.”

Implicit in this position is the idea that when law enforcement officials learned that Russia was trying to sabotage a free and fair U.S. election, they shouldn’t have done anything. But it’s worse than that: Trump World’s story has been that law enforcement was riddled with corruption from top to bottom, and that they were the ones trying to corrupt and rig the election — that is, the real crime wasn’t Russian sabotage of our election, but the effort to investigate it. The I.G. report just wrecked numerous claims that Trump and his propagandists have made to justify that narrative.

By Annie Palmer

Amazon says President Donald Trump launched “behind-the-scenes attacks” against the company, which led to it losing out on a major contract for cloud services. In a heavily redacted, 103-page document made public on Monday, Amazon Web Services lays out why it’s protesting the Department of Defense’s decision to award Microsoft the JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) contract. AWS claims it didn’t win the JEDI contract, which could be worth as much as $10 billion, as a result of President Donald Trump’s repeated public and private attacks against Amazon and, specifically, its CEO Jeff Bezos.

“The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends,” the filing states. “DoD’s substantial and pervasive errors are hard to understand and impossible to assess separate and apart from the President’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the President himself, ‘screw Amazon.’ Basic justice requires re-evaluation of proposals and a new award decision.” AWS is now calling for the Defense Department to terminate the award and conduct another review of the submitted proposals.

Donald Trump likes to call his opponents traitors — but if he’s looking for treasonous behavior, he should look within his own party
By Rick Wilson

America once used the words “treason” and “traitors” only in cases of actual betrayal of our nation’s most vital secrets or interests. They were profound words, deep with meaning, grim in import, carrying with them the knowledge that the penalty for treason was death. Be honest: The words “traitor” and “treason” don’t have the sting they once had; they’ve been devalued from mis- and over-use by this president. For Donald Trump, any opposition, either personal, ideological, or political is treason. Anyone who stands in his path betrays the Great Leader. Anyone who fails to take the knee is a traitor.

Like hearing an insult too many times drains it of its potency, Trump has diluted the power of that approbation. He has labeled loyal, dedicated Americans who served this country in the military and law enforcement as traitors, so much so that we could almost give in to the temptation to excuse it as “Trump being Trump” and let it slide like any of the other insults he vomits forth on the daily. Which is a shame, because America is in the midst of a treason boom right now, and more than a few people in Trump’s immediate orbit — and Trump himself — richly and actually deserve the title of traitor, and the treason inherent in their acts and words is apparent.

Traitors from Benedict Arnold to Klaus Fuchs to Aldrich Ames to Robert Hanssen sold out this country for a host of reasons, all explicable and unforgivable. The intelligence community even has a handy acronym for the motivations of traitors, and one that applies readily to known cases. The acronym is MICE: Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego. Pick a traitor and one of those reasons will underpin their betrayal. Add a new one to the acronym. Call it, MICE-T, with the “T” naturally standing for Trump. Their treason isn’t executed in the old ways of secret meetings, furtive brush passes, or encrypted messages. No, the traitors of today show us their cards on cable TV, laughing and giggling over their betrayal of the oath they swore, and the security of this country, all for the political service of Donald Trump.

The attorney general said the investigation was launched on the "thinnest of suspicions."
By Adam Edelman

Attorney General William Barr on Monday rejected a key conclusion of an investigation conducted by his own agency's watchdog that a probe into Russian interference into the 2016 election was justified. Barr, in a lengthy statement, called the FBI's investigation into Moscow's interference "intrusive" and said it had been launched "on the thinnest of suspicions" — even though the Justice Department's inspector general report released Monday concluded that the overall probe was justified and not motivated by politics.

"The Inspector General's report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken," Barr said. He added that "the evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory."

The report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that the FBI and the Justice Department launched their investigation into the 2016 campaign not for political reasons, but because of evidence the Russian government was using cutouts to reach out to the Trump campaign as part of its efforts to influence the election.

The report found the FBI mishandled parts of its application to monitor a Trump campaign aide as it was probing possible Russian interference in the 2016 race, but that the overall probe was justified. That last conclusion rebuts President Donald Trump's claims that the probe was launched as part of a politically biased plot against him. - Despite the evidence, Barr will protect Trump until the end. Barr’s job is to the constitution not to Donald J. Trump.

By Dakin Andone and Elizabeth Joseph, CNN

(CNN) Denuclearization is off the table in negotiations with the United States, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations said in a statement Saturday. In the statement, the ambassador, Kim Song, said the United States' pursuit of "sustained and substantial dialogue" was a "time-saving trick" to benefit a "domestic political agenda." "We do not need to have lengthy talks with the US now and the denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiation table," he said. CNN is reaching out to the State Department, the White House and the National Security Council for comment.

By Em Steck, Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott, CNN

(CNN) A senior adviser at the State Department once said he thought then-President Barack Obama was a Kenyan and called House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi a Nazi whose Botox had worn off. Frank Wuco, a former conservative speaker and radio host who is now a senior adviser at the State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, also said it would be tough for a "solid, practicing" Muslim to be a good American and made unfounded claims that some Muslims in America were practicing Sharia law to create "Muslim land."

Wuco's comments, which span from 2009 to 2016, were unearthed by CNN's KFile during a review of his media appearances and public writings. Wuco has a history of peddling conspiracy theories, pushing for extreme American action in warfare and spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric. CNN's KFile previously reported that Wuco interviewed authors promoting birtherism and pushed other conspiracy theories on prominent Obama administration officials.

Wuco had a career as a radio host and pundit before joining the Trump administration in 2017. During that time, Wuco frequently cited his past experience in the Navy to promote himself as an expert on jihad and military matters, such as when he expressed his personal belief that nuclear weapons should have been used in Afghanistan the day after 9/11.

Wuco was previously a White House adviser at the Department of Homeland Security. His new role at the State Department was first reported by the Washington Post last month. The State Department's Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance mission statement says it is responsible for "deterring conflict" and working to build "cooperation among allies and partners in order to control the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction."

Posting from somewhere in Ukraine, Trump’s lawyer tweets the quid pro quo.
By Aaron Rupar

President Donald Trump and his Republican defenders in the House continue to argue there was no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine (despite a White House call summary and testimony from numerous Trump officials indicating otherwise).

It took Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, all of two tweets to blast that talking point to smithereens.

On Thursday, Giuliani — apparently posting from somewhere in Kiev, where he’s currently traveling as part of his ongoing international effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens — posted tweets explicitly acknowledging a link between ongoing US assistance to Ukraine and investigations into the Biden family.

“The conversation about corruption in Ukraine was based on compelling evidence of criminal conduct by then VP Biden, in 2016, that has not been resolved and until it is will be a major obstacle ... to the US assisting Ukraine with its anti-corruption reforms,” Giuliani claimed, despite the fact that no such evidence has emerged.

In short, Giuliani tweeted the quid pro quo.

By Paul Sonne, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller

President Trump has routinely communicated with his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and other individuals speaking on cellphones vulnerable to monitoring by Russian and other foreign intelligence services, current and former U.S. officials said.

Phone records released this week by the House Intelligence Committee revealed extensive communications between Giuliani, unidentified people at the White House and others involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine, with no indication that those calls were encrypted or otherwise shielded from foreign surveillance.

The revelations raise the possibility that Moscow was able to learn about aspects of Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival months before that effort was exposed by a whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry, officials said.

Trump is not identified by name in the House phone records, but investigators said they suspect he may be a person with a blocked number listed as “-1” in the files. And administration officials said separately that Trump has communicated regularly with Giuliani on unsecured lines.

By Steve Benen

The House Intelligence Committee this week released a new report on Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal, which included phone records that pointed to a familiar concern: the president continues to use unsecured telephones. That includes frequent communications with Rudy Giuliani – while the former mayor was abroad – that the Washington Post reported were “vulnerable to monitoring by Russian and other foreign intelligence services.”

   The revelations raise the possibility that Moscow was able to learn about aspects of Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival months before that effort was exposed by a whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry, officials said. […]

   The disclosures provide fresh evidence suggesting that the president continues to defy the security guidance urged by his aides and followed by previous incumbents – a stance that is particularly remarkable given Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign for her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state. The problem, of course, extends beyond breathtaking hypocrisy. By willfully ignoring security guidance, Trump has created a vulnerability that Russia could exploit to advance its interests over ours.

The Post spoke to John Sipher, former deputy chief of Russia operations at the CIA, who said the Republican president and his lawyer have effectively “given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information.” He added that it’s so likely that Russia tracked these calls that the Kremlin probably knows more now about those conversations than impeachment investigators. The same article noted that Trump has “absolutely” created a security issue by using lines vulnerable to interception and blowing off aides who’ve tried to steer the president in more responsible directions.

And in case that weren’t quite enough, the Post reported that after White House officials made “a concerted attempt” in 2017 to have Trump use secure White House lines, the president came to realize this meant officials such as then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly would know to whom Trump was speaking. The president considered this unacceptable and “reverted to using his cellphone.”

By Brian De Los Santos Palm Springs Desert Sun

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — A video taken by a Mexican citizen shows the newly replaced border fence in Mexicali being scaled by two men with a rope ladder, one of whom makes it over to the United States. The 38-second video shows a pair of men climbing the ladder while another holds it on the Mexico side of the border. After one man successfully slides down the railing to the U.S. side and starts running toward a second structure, another begins yelling in Spanish, "Hurry, hurry, jump the fence."

A vehicle that appears to belong to U.S. Border Patrol then pulls up and officials emerge, prompting the other men to gather the ladder and slide back down the fence into Mexico. The 16-year-old Mexican citizen who ran into the U.S. was apprehended by Border Patrol, Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Joshua Devack said in a video statement posted to Twitter.

by Karen Chávez USA TODAY

The nation's top national parks official said Wednesday he was in the dark about President Donald Trump's ongoing efforts to use national parks rangers to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. National Park Service Deputy Director David Vela, who has served as acting director for the National Park Service since Oct. 1, told lawmakers during a U.S. House National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee hearing that he did not know much about his own agency’s deployment of park law enforcement rangers to assist the Border Patrol with illegal immigration.

Vela was responding to U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland, D-NM, chair of the subcommittee, who questioned the chief of the parks system about a story published Nov. 23 by the USA TODAY Network that exclusively revealed the extent of the NPS border deployments. The story reported that the Trump administration ordered rangers from national parks around the country, from as far as Alaska and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as from the Rocky Mountain and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, to travel to the U.S.-Mexican border to fight illegal immigration and drug traffickers.

Top administration officials have been tracking Giuliani’s venture through Europe, wondering if he’s going to cause yet another major headache for the president.
By Asawin Suebsaeng White House Reporter, Erin Banco National Security Reporter

Rudy Giuliani’s decision to travel to multiple European countries this week, during the height of an impeachment probe involving his client President Trump, was so startling to senior administration officials and national security brass that they began tracking his movements in an effort to get a read on his objectives abroad.

Other officials in the West Wing and numerous Trump associates learned about his latest foreign adventure, which included a stop in Ukraine, by reading the news. Many of them expressed exasperation at the thought of Giuliani—himself reportedly in the crosshairs of federal investigators—continuing to cause headaches for the White House. Others feared he would cause tangible damage to U.S. foreign policy.

“I do not see why [any] lawyer would see this as serving the best interests of their client,” said a senior White House official. “Especially now.” Senior U.S. officials in the State Department and in the national security apparatus were concerned that Giuliani was speaking with politicians in both Budapest and Kiev who have interests in domestic American politics. According to five sources with knowledge of the situation, there is renewed fear that the president’s lawyer is still shopping for dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as speaking with foreign officials who, against all evidence, have promoted the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

The concerns about Giuliani’s trip to Kiev were so pronounced that they reached officials close to President Volodymyr Zelensky, who were advised by Americans and politicians in Ukraine not to meet with Giuliani when he was in town, according to an individual familiar with those conversations.

The president’s attorney, who has been defiant in the face of criticism for his prior efforts to target the Bidens, was similarly unmoved by the idea that his current expedition was both unseemly and unwise.

“I would hope they have more important things to do than intrude on the work being done by a lawyer defending his client against another set of false and contrived charges,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast on Wednesday, while still overseas.

by William Cummings USA TODAY

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not happy with President Donald Trump's remark at the NATO meeting in London that the U.S. would use force against his regime if necessary. In a statement published by the state-run North Korean Central News Agency, army chief of staff Pak Jong Chon said Kim was "displeased" with the "undesirable remarks" and warned that North Korea and the U.S. "are still technically at war and the state of truce can turn into an all-out armed conflict any moment."

"One thing I would like to make clear is that the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the U.S. only," Pak said. When asked by reporters about North Korea's continued missile tests on Tuesday, Trump said the U.S. has the most powerful military in the world and that he would use it against Kim's regime "if we have to."

North Korean 1st Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hu said Thursday that her ministry "cannot contain its displeasure" at Trump's remarks and warned that if Trump keeps it up, he "will again show the senility of a dotard." In September 2017, Kim vowed to "tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard," referring to Trump.

By Elliot Hannon

Attorney General Bill Barr suggested in a speech Tuesday night that continued police protection for certain “communities” in the United States could ultimately depend on those communities showing more “respect and support” for law enforcement. Barr’s comments were made as part of speech at a DOJ award ceremony for “distinguished service in policing.” The meaning of the potentially incendiary remarks isn’t totally clear, so let’s start with what the attorney general actually said.

“I think today, American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers,” Barr told the crowd. “And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves―and if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

One way to read Barr’s comments is as a not-so-thinly-veiled threat to communities, particularly communities of color, that have serious and legitimate issues with how they are treated by law enforcement. The “respect and support” portion of the comment is pretty straightforward and a common refrain among law enforcement that bristles at criticism. Barr is America’s top cop, after all, and has said similar things in the past. “There is another development that is demoralizing to law enforcement and dangerous to public safety,” Barr said in a speech earlier this year. “That is the emergence in some of our large cities of district attorneys that style themselves as ‘social justice’ reformers, who spend their time undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook and refusing to enforce the law.”

The president has been accused by dozens of women of sexual misconduct. Mr Trump has denied those allegations
By Clark Mindock

Years after women first came forward to accuse then-presidential candidate Donald Trump of sexual assault or harassment, the issue is once again at the forefront of political discourse after another 26 incidents of "unwanted sexual contact" and 43 instances of inappropriate behaviour were detailed in a new book. The book, All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, draws on over 100 interviews — many exclusive — and adds to a list of nearly two dozen women who had previously accused him of sexual assault or misconduct.

The allegations were noted in an excerpt of the book published in Esquire, including a new interview with Karen Johnson, who said she was touched in an unwanted manner by mr Trump at a New Year's Eve part in the early 2000s. "When he says that thing, 'Grab them by the pussy,' that hits me hard because when he grabbed me and pulled me into the tapestry, that's where he grabbed me — he grabbed me there in my front and pulled me in," Ms Johnson said.

The accusations comes more than two years after the MeToo movement prompted women to come forward to accuse powerful men in entertainment and media of sexual assault or harassment. As those accusations surfaced, reports indicated that the president had sought to backtrack from his apology over the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he made vulgar comments about women. He also reportedly told aides that it wasn’t him in that video. He has also previously denied assaulting anyone or kissing anyone without consent.

But, the man on the bus who laughed along with Mr Trump in that tape, Billy Bush, pushed back on Mr Trump’s denials. Bush said that it most certainly was the man who would later become president speaking in the video.

By Allyson Chiu

On Wednesday, President Trump slammed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “two-faced” and abruptly canceled a scheduled news conference at the NATO summit in London after a video surfaced appearing to show several world leaders, including Trudeau, laughing and gossiping about him. Now, one of Trump’s domestic political opponents has capitalized on the hot-mic moment to create his own viral video.

Former vice president Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, released a new campaign ad late Wednesday highlighting the NATO video in a blistering critique of Trump’s ability to lead on the global stage. Biden’s campaign also mocked Trump’s repeated insistence that the United States requires a president who isn’t a “laughing stock,” ending the ad with a graphic that read, “We need a leader the world respects.” By early Thursday, the roughly minute-long video had been watched more than 4 million times.

“The world is laughing at President Trump,” Biden tweeted. “They see him for what he really is: dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.” The pointed ad marks the continued fallout after Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other dignitaries were caught on camera Tuesday engaging in a brief exchange apparently about Trump that quickly spiraled into an international incident. On Wednesday, Trudeau, Macron and Johnson were forced to field questions about the candid conversation and Trump was described as “the scorned child on the global playground” and “a sulking, brooding president,” The Washington Post reported.

By Christina Zhao

Conservative attorney George Conway, who's also the husband of Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, on Wednesday afternoon accused Melania Trump of "amplifying" an insignificant reference after the first lady lashed out at an impeachment witness for invoking the name of her teenage son.

Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan, a witness for House Democrats, earlier today mentioned President Donald Trump's youngest son, Barron Trump, during her impeachment testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

"The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can't make him a baron," Karlan said.

In response, Melania Trump quickly condemned the witness for making a joke involving her 13-year-old son. "A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics," the first lady tweeted. "Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it."

Although Karlan later apologized following further backlash from the White House and supporters of the president, Conway took to Twitter to criticize the first lady for focussing on an allegedly insignificant reference. "So therefore you're amplifying what was a nothingburger reference a hundred-thousand-fold. Got it," he tweeted.

By Rod Ardehali For Mailonline

The parents of Harry Dunn have accused President Trump and Dominic Raab of lying that they are trying to bring a US diplomat's wife to justice over the hit-and-run death of their son. Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn said despite Trump's assurances - made to them in the White House in October - they had heard nothing from US officials since. 'President Trump said he was trying to sort something out in October, I don't believe him or have any hope in him at all,' Harry's grieving mother told Piers Morgan and Susana Reid on Wednesday.

By Matt Egan, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says President Donald Trump's love affair with tariffs is backfiring. And he's not surprised at all. Breaking from decades of US presidents lowering trade barriers, Trump is waging a global trade war that spread this week to Argentina, Brazil and France. Trump's tariffs are aimed at protecting American workers, but Summers argues it's the US economy that will suffer.

"We are engaged in a stop or I'll shoot myself in the foot strategy," Summers told CNN Business. "It's hard to know just how adverse the impact will be. But the direction is clear." Summers, who served in the Clinton and Obama White Houses, said tariffs will hurt the competitiveness of US producers that rely on imported goods. That includes everything from car makers to wine distributors. Summers said this will lead to higher prices and lower incomes for American consumers.

Already, the US manufacturing industry is in recession. Factory activity contracted in November for the fourth month in a row. The downturn is being driven by trade tensions as well as weak global growth, which the trade war is exacerbating. US manufacturing jobs declined by 6,000 in November, according to ADP. The factory job losses contributed to the second weakest private sector payroll growth since March 2010. "Uncertainty can paralyze economic activity," Summers said.

By Joshua Berlinger, CNN

(CNN) North Korea will send a "Christmas gift" to the United States, but what that present contains will depend on the outcome of ongoing talks between Washington and Pyongyang, a top official has warned. The ominous comments, which some have interpreted as a sign that North Korea could resume long-distance missile tests, comes as the clock ticks closer to the country's self-imposed end-of-year deadline for nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration. Talks between the two sides have appeared to be in a rut in recent months, with North Korea conducting several shorter-range missile tests.

In a statement translated on the state news agency, Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry working on US affairs, accused US policy makers of leveraging talks with Kim Jong Un for domestic political gain. "The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US," Ri said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get," added Ri.

In 2017, North Korea referred to its first test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a "gift" for the US on the Fourth of July holiday. That launch sparked what became a tense, months-long standoff between the two sides. What happens in the coming weeks will likely determine if Washington's next so-called "Christmas gift" turns out to be similarly volatile. "It's hard to predict because it could go either way," said Duyeon Kim, senior adviser on Northeast Asia and nuclear policy t

By Krishnadev Calamur

President Trump has responded to a video that appeared to show Justin Trudeau and other world leaders mocking him, calling the Canadian prime minister "two-faced." Trump's remarks follow the president's meeting Tuesday with the Canadian leader in which the two men appeared to get along, though Trump needled Trudeau over Canada's defense spending.

"Where are you at? What is your number?" Trump asked Trudeau during their meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit outside London. Trudeau responded that Canada had, in fact, increased its spending on defense over the past few years. That did not appear to placate Trump who pressed on: "Where are you now in terms of your number?"

Canada, a NATO member, spends about 1.4% of its gross domestic product on defense. Trump, and indeed past U.S. presidents, have urged the alliance's members to spend 2% or more on defense. At present, seven of NATO's 29 members have reached that target. The U.S. is by far the largest contributor to the alliance, which was set up during the Cold War to protect Western Europe from Russian and Eastern bloc aggression.

By Leada Gore | lgore@al.com

As many as 750,000 will be cut off from food stamps under a new regulation set to be announced Wednesday. The change will make it harder for states to receive waivers for requirements that certain able-bodied adults work or be enrolled in vocational training programs in order to receive benefits, Bloomberg reported.

Currently, states can request a waiver for work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, if an area’s unemployment rate is at least 20 percent above the national rate. The national unemployment rate in October was 3.6 percent. Alabama’s preliminary unemployment rate for October was 2.8 percent.

Polls show that 19 percent of Britons have a positive opinion of Trump, while more than two thirds say they have no confidence he will do the right thing.
By Alexander Smith

LONDON — During previous elections in the United Kingdom, political parties have actively courted the endorsement of the president of the United States. But Donald Trump, in town for a NATO meeting on Tuesday, is so unpopular in the U.K. that his traditional enemies are hoping he will say something — anything — to denigrate them or the causes they support.

The president's visit comes ahead of a pivotal nationwide election on Dec. 12 that could shape the U.K.'s Brexit path for decades to come. "Obviously he is very unpopular with British people, and I don't think he does Boris Johnson any favors," said Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former spokesman for opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is seeking to unseat Johnson as prime minister.

"I don't think Trump is proficient enough not to land Boris Johnson in it by accidentally saying something" damaging about the National Health Service, Zarb-Cousin added, referring to Britain's publicly funded health care system, which has become a central issue in the campaign. Brits have reason to expect fireworks.

During past visits, Trump has made controversial comments about the NHS, repeatedly insulted London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, and given a surprise newspaper interview humiliating his host, then-Prime Minister Theresa May. Meanwhile, just 19 percent of Brits have a positive opinion of Trump, according to the pollster YouGov. More than two thirds say they have no confidence in him to do the right thing, a study by the Pew Research Center found last year.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) The stunningly consequential accusation spelled out in the Democrats' impeachment report represents the most sweeping effort yet to capture the span of President Donald Trump's alleged offense and to boil it into a crisp indictment. In effect, the 300-page House Intelligence Committee summary of witness testimony, timelines and phone records accused Trump of perpetrating one of the most serious political crimes in the history of the United States.

The report is a roadmap toward formal articles of impeachment -- an argument to a nation split in two on Trump's political fate that there is no alternative but to remove him from office 11 months before the next general election over his pressure on Ukraine for political favors. The stark charge that the House Judiciary Committee will take up in its first impeachment hearing Wednesday fits the gravity of Congress' most somber duty -- deciding whether to end a presidency.

It is that the 45th President presents an immediate, clear and future threat to American national security, the Constitution and the resilience of the republic's democratic self-governance itself.

By Tom O'Connor

Iran's top judiciary has ordered the United States to pay up $130 billion in damages about a year after the United Nation's top court ruled that President Donald Trump's administration should ease sanctions against Tehran to ensure the continued flow of humanitarian goods.

Iranian Judiciary spokesperson Gholam Hossein Esmaeili told a press conference Tuesday that the country's courts responded to up to 360 complaints filed by ordinary Iranian citizens who have allegedly suffered from the tight restrictions imposed on the Islamic Republic since the U.S.' decision last year to exit a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal. He accused Washington of having committed "crimes against the nation," according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

The spat is only the latest in a decades-long series of legal battles between the U.S. and Iran, foes since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the latter's West-backed monarchy in favor of the clerical leadership in charge today.

Such measures taken at home and abroad have often turned out to be largely symbolic as the two countries refuse to recognize unfavorable rulings, though the U.S. does have a history of paying out—but never apologizing—in response to its wrongdoing.

By Tom O'Connor

The United States' top diplomat has bragged about the government's decision to defy an international court's attempts to investigate potential U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

In a speech delivered Tuesday to veterans at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed the various ways that President Donald Trump's administration has instilled a sense of "Americanism" in his foreign policy. In addition to taking a hard-line against adversaries abroad, Pompeo said that "Americanism means taking care of our own" overseas.

"We've stopped international courts from prosecuting our service members," Pompeo said. "It was an outrage."

The remark was a likely reference to the Hague's International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda ill-fated attempts "to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity" committed by all sides of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, including by U.S. troops, allied Afghan forces and their mutual foe, the Taliban Islamist militant group.

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) Armed with never-before-seen phone records, Democrats on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump's allies of coordinating with a conservative journalist to peddle "false narratives" about Trump's opponents as part of his multi-pronged pressure campaign on Ukraine. The House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report -- which was made public Tuesday -- says the committee's top Repubican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, was linked to that effort. The records, according to Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, were subpoenaed from third-parties.

"Mr. Solomon was not working alone," the report said of conservative journalist John Solomon's articles throughout 2019 that spread Trump-backed conspiracies about Ukraine. "As further described below, there was a coordinated effort by associates of President Trump to push these false narratives publicly, as evidenced by public statements, phone records, and contractual agreements." The phone records, which are labeled in the report's endnotes as coming from AT&T, show a web of communications between Solomon, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Ukrainian American businessman Lev Parnas, Nunes and the White House's budget office. CNN is owned by AT&T.

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