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'The country wasn't based on executive orders' president told campaign rally in 2016
By Kevin Freking
It wasn’t too long ago that Donald Trump derided presidential executive orders as “power grabs” and a “basic disaster.” He’s switched sides in a big way: In each year of his presidency, he has issued more executive orders than did former President Barack Obama during the same time span. He surpassed Mr Obama’s third-year total just recently. Back in 2012, Mr Trump had tweeted: “Why Is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?” That criticism continued once he entered the presidential race. “The country wasn’t based on executive orders,” Trump said at a South Carolina campaign stop in February 2016. “Right now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.” But Mr Trump appears to have learned what his predecessors discovered as well: It’s easier and often more satisfying to get things done through administrative action than to get Congress to go along, said Andrew Rudalevige, a professor at Bowdoin College who studies the history and effectiveness of presidential executive actions. “Most candidates don’t realise the utility of executive actions while campaigning,” Mr Rudalevige said. “When they become president, they quickly gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to get things done in government.” The White House declined to comment on Mr Trump’s use of executive orders. He surpassed Mr Obama’s third-year total when, in the last two weeks, he issued five executive orders relating to Medicare, government transparency, federal spending and imposing sanctions on Turkish officials. An executive order can have the same effect as a federal law — but its impact can be fleeting. Congress can pass a new law to override an executive order and future presidents can undo them. more...

Wallace repeatedly threw Mulvaney’s own remarks back in his face by playing clips from last week’s press briefing and at one point declared, “you said what you said.”
By Justin Baragona - the daily beast.
Days after his disastrous White House press briefing in which he admitted President Donald Trump was seeking out a quid pro quo with Ukraine before saying never mind, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney struggled to walk back his comments under the intense and relentless grilling of Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace. Almost immediately during the Sunday morning broadcast, Wallace pressed Mulvaney on his remarks, asking why he said during the press conference that military aid to Ukraine depended on investigating the actions of Democrats during the 2016 election, prompting Mulvaney to assert that he never actually said that. “Again, that’s not what I said, that's what people said I said,” he replied before saying there were “two reasons” why the United States would have held up aid: corruption and whether other European nations were helping with aid. Wallace, meanwhile, didn’t let Mulvaney’s spin go unchecked, telling the chief of staff that anyone listening to the briefing could “come to only one conclusion” before playing clips Mulvaney confirming that Trump withheld aid unless the Ukrainians investigated the Democrats. Mulvaney continued to insist that he had been misinterpreted and that aid was only contingent on corruption and additional European assistance, causing the Fox News anchor to fire back. “I hate to go through this but you said what you said,” Wallace stated. “And the fact is, after that exchange with [ABC News correspondent] Jonathan Karl, you were asked another time why the aid was held up. What was the condition for the aid? And you didn’t mention two conditions, you mentioned three conditions.” Wallace, once again, threw Mulvaney’s own remarks back in his face, playing yet another clip from the press briefing of Mulvaney claiming military aid to Ukraine was contingent upon them cooperating with the Trump administration and investigating the Democrats. The Trump aide, however, attempted to brush off his previous remarks by saying he didn’t actually use the words “quid pro quo,” prompting Wallace to point out that when Karl pressed him on whether or not there was a quid pro quo, Mulvaney said that “happens all the time.” more...

By Bobby Allyn
President Trump's acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday again tried to control the damage from his earlier acknowledgement that the White House used nearly $400 million in aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate the 2016 presidential election. Since Mulvaney made the stunning admission on Thursday, he has been walking the remarks back and assigning responsibility to the media, insisting his words have been misconstrued. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace, Mulvaney flatly denied what he had previously said during a televised news conference: that defense funding was frozen in part over the demand that Ukraine launch an investigation that could politically benefit Trump. "That's not what I said. That's what people said that I said," Mulvaney said. "Can I see how people took that the wrong way? Absolutely. But I never said there was a quid pro quo, because there isn't." Mulvaney told reporters Thursday that military aid to Ukraine that had already been appropriated by Congress was being used as leverage for Trump's demand that Kyiv investigate a debunked conspiracy theory. That theory places blame on Ukraine for election interference involving in 2016 the hacking of Democratic National Committee computer servers. The intelligence community has concluded that the effort was orchestrated by Russia. "Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about it. But that's it, and that's why we held up the money," Mulvaney said last week, telling reporters that "we do that all the time with foreign policy," referring to politics influencing foreign affairs. The statement reverberated across the Capitol, prompting denouncements from both sides of the aisle. more...

By Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign started selling T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “GET OVER IT” on Friday, seeming to embrace comments made by White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney the day before. During a rare White House press briefing, Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday, "Did (Trump) also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely... That's it. That's why we held up the money," acknowledging the White House had frozen military aid as leverage over Ukraine. “It happens all the time” Mulvaney told reporters, saying, “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.” The T-shirts come as Mulvaney has attempted to walk back his remarks, which were widely interpreted to contradict the president’s consistent claims there was “no quid pro quo" in his conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mulvaney blamed the media for "misconstruing" the comments “to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump.” Mulvaney was criticized by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity called the acting White House Chief of Staff "dumb." Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said in a statement Friday, “Americans should call their members of Congress and tell them: get over it and get back to work!” more...

For Russia, Trump’s presidency is a gift that keeps on giving. The Kremlin’s propagandists see no acceptable alternative among any viable presidential candidates in 2020.
By Julia Davis
President Trump has boasted he’s “getting a lot of praise” for his abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops out of northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds—America’s longstanding allies—to Turkey’s incursion. On the home front, the controversial move has been met with criticism on both sides of the political aisle, but the reaction in Moscow was far from mixed. As Trump uncorked chaos in the Middle East, champagne tops were likely popping at the Kremlin. “Putin won the lottery! Russia’s unexpected triumph in the Middle East,” raved Mikhail Rostovsky in his article for the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Those who were convinced of Trump’s uselessness for Russia ought to think again...What Washington got out of this strange move is completely unclear. To the contrary, what Moscow gained from this is self-evident...Trump’s mistake in Syria is the unexpected ‘lottery win’ that further strengthened Moscow’s position in the Middle East and undermined America’s prestige as a rational political player and a reliable partner.” Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the leading Russian business daily Kommersant, was amazed by the ongoing stream of inexplicable actions by the American president that benefit the Kremlin. “All of this benefits the Russian Federation,” Yusin marveled. “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent? He is laboring so hard to strengthen the international image of Russia in general—and Putin in particular...In this situation, Americans—to their chagrin and our enjoyment—are the only losers in this situation.” “This is such a pleasure,” grinned Olga Skabeeva, the host of Russia’s state television program 60 Minutes. “Russian soldiers have taken an American base under our complete control, without a fight!” Skabeeva’s co-host Evgeny Popov added: “Suddenly, we have defeated everyone.” Incredulously, Skabeeva pointed out: “This is an American base—and they just ran away! Trump ran away!” “It’s been a long time since America has been humiliated this way,” gloated political analyst Mikhail Sinelnikov-Orishak, “They ran away in shame! I can’t recall such a scenario since Vietnam.” He added: “For us, this is of great interest, because this is a key region where energy prices are being determined. That is a shining cherry on top.” Political scientist Andrey Nikulin concurred: “This is sad for America. A smaller-scale version of what happened in Vietnam.” Appearing on the nightly television show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, political analyst Evgeny Satanovsky recounted many ways in which Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria and abandon the Kurds has hurt the image and standing of the United States: “America betrayed everyone...Trump also strengthened the anti-American mood in Turkey, when he promised to destroy the Turkish economy.” Satanovsky opined that now any economic problems or currency fluctuations in Turkey can be blamed directly on the United States, prompting textile, tobacco, steel and other industries to turn away from America. “Anti-Americanism in Turkey is off the charts,” Satanovsky pointed out, “American politics are tangled in their own shoelaces... America is successfully self-eliminating from the region.” “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent?” — Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the Russian business daily Kommersant, The timing also struck the Russians as incredibly fortuitous and inexplicable. “They lost their only chance to remove [Syrian President] Bashar Assad,” exclaimed Russian lawmaker Oleg Morozov, appearing on 60 Minutes, “They were only half a step away!”

Donald Trump has his finger on the button. We now know he’ll push it, if he thinks it can get him re-elected
By Lucian K. Truscott IV
These are the most frightening words Trump has uttered since becoming president: “Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while. Sometimes you have to let them fight like two kids. Then you pull them apart.” He said this at a campaign rally, naturally. In Texas, naturally. He tossed out the remark like just another chunk of red meat, so we can assume he meant what he said, because that’s when Trump tells us who he is, when he’s standing before an adoring crowd and he goes “off script.” Trump’s entire presidency has been “off script,” but it’s telling when his excursions into the la-la land of his mind are this specific. He was speaking of the Kurds and the Turks, who have been engaged in bloody battles along the border between Syria and Turkey ever since Trump effectively gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the green light to invade Syria on Oct. 5. Kurdish forces have already lost as many as 11,000 since they began fighting ISIS alongside U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. Now hundreds more have died, and thousands may yet lose their lives. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced and are refugees. It’s a bloody disaster that Trump refers to as a fight between children on a playground. It isn’t just that Trump is a chickenshit draft-dodger who was famously exempted from military service because of bone spurs on his heels, and it isn’t just that he is famously disdainful of the advice of his own military commanders and foreign policy experts. Because he is the president of the United States, he is the man who as commander in chief has the power to use nuclear weapons, and for the first time since he took office, I am afraid that he would not hesitate to use them if he thought it would help him win re-election. more...

If U.S. Attorney John Durham is conducting a criminal investigation, it’s not clear what allegations of wrongdoing are being examined.
By Ken Dilanian, Julia Ainsley and Tom Winter
A review launched by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation has expanded significantly amid concerns about whether the probe has any legal or factual basis, multiple current and former officials told NBC News. The prosecutor conducting the review, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, has expressed his intent to interview a number of current and former intelligence officials involved in examining Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, Brennan told NBC News. Durham has also requested to talk to CIA analysts involved in the intelligence assessment of Russia’s activities, prompting some of them to hire lawyers, according to three former CIA officials familiar with the matter. And there is tension between the CIA and the Justice Department over what classified documents Durham can examine, two people familiar with the matter said. With Barr’s approval, Durham has expanded his staff and the timeframe under scrutiny, according to a law enforcement official directly familiar with the matter. And he is now looking into conduct past Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, a Trump administration official said. Although the probe did not begin as a criminal investigation, Justice Department officials won’t comment on whether it has morphed into one. When White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney sought Thursday to justify President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine, he called the Durham review “an ongoing investigation by our Department of Justice into the 2016 election.“ Mulvaney added: "So you’re saying the president of the United States, the chief law enforcement person, cannot ask somebody to cooperate with an ongoing public investigation into wrongdoing?” Mulvaney said. more...

By Justin Wise
2020 presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro on Saturday dismissed the significance of President Trump reversing his decision to hold next year's Group of Seven (G-7) summit at one of his properties in Florida, saying that the president will likely continue to use the White House for personal gain. "The G-7 may no longer be at Trump National Doral, but that won’t stop foreign nations from dumping money into Donald Trump's pockets by spending at his hotels," Warren, a Massachusetts senator, said on Twitter "And it won’t stop Trump from rewarding Mar-a-Lago members with ambassadorships." Castro, a former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, added: "Trying to be a complete crook of a politician didn’t quite work out for him this time, but I’m sure he’s not done trying. We need integrity back in the Oval Office." Donald Trump is corruption in the flesh—we must call it out, and I have a plan to fight back: https://t.co/k32fZwonHP — Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 20, 2019. Trying to be a complete crook of a politician didn’t quite work out for him this time, but I’m sure he’s not done trying. We need integrity back in the Oval Office. https://t.co/u7EUX84iQr — Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 20, 2019. Following a wave of backlash from Democrats, Republicans and ethics watchdogs, Trump said on Saturday that he would no longer host the 2020 G-7 Summit at the Trump National Doral in Florida. The decision came just two days after acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced that the annual event would be held at the Miami-area resort next June. Despite arguing that Trump would not profit from the gathering, Mulvaney's announcement sparked widespread concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest for the president. Many asserted the move represented a violation of the Constitution's Emolument Clause, which bars federal officeholders from accepting payments from foreign countries, U.S. states or the federal government. more...

By Kate Sullivan, CNN
(CNN) - President Donald Trump on Saturday night abruptly reversed course and announced next year's G7 economic summit of world powers would not be held at Trump National in Doral, Florida, in a rare departure after facing bipartisan backlash. The President tweeted the major change just over 48 hours after the initial announcement: "We will no longer consider Trump National Doral, Miami, as the Host Site for the G-7 in 2020. We will begin the search for another site, including the possibility of Camp David, immediately." The President called the rising criticism his administration was facing "Irrational Hostility," and wrote, "I thought I was doing something very good for our Country by using Trump National Doral, in Miami, for hosting the G-7 Leaders." The White House had been defending its decision to use Trump's own property as the site for the G7 in the face of mounting outrage and disapproval. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told CNN that the Doral site would be "significantly cheaper" than other options. The administration had argued the event would be run "at cost," or without profit, by the Trump National property because of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which largely prohibits the President from accepting gifts and money from foreign governments. But it is not clear that simply avoiding a profit would keep the administration from running afoul of the emoluments clause. The administration also had not clarified the details of how it would determine what "at cost" would be. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN on Friday that holding the G7 at Trump's property was "completely out of the question." The move to host the summit at Trump's property had added to deep fractures in the President's relationships with some allies in Congress already upset with his decision to pull troops out of Syria. However, several of Trump's staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill said they were not concerned about it. GOP Rep. Jim Jordan told CNN that "the American people are much more concerned about not where it happens, but what happens at the event." But some members of the President's party suggested otherwise. Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said he was "not happy about it." "I read the emoluments clause again yesterday," Kinzinger said on Friday, "and it talks about titles and nobility and all this. I don't know if it's a direct violation, but I don't understand why at this moment they had to do it." Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, weighed in on the President's reversal, calling it "a bow to reality." "President Trump's decision to award the G-7 Conference to his own property was outrageous, corrupt and a constitutional violation. It was stunningly corrupt even for a stunningly corrupt administration," Bookbinder said in a statement. "His reversal of that decision is a bow to reality, but does not change how astonishing it was that a president ever thought this was appropriate, or that it was something he could get away with." At a Thursday press briefing, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defiantly addressed the concern that hosting the G7 there already creates profit by highlighting the resort, asking reporters to "consider the possibility that Donald Trump's brand is already strong enough on its own." Mulvaney told reporters it was Trump who brought up the idea of hosting the G7 at Doral, explaining: "We sat around one night. We were back in the dining room and I was going over it with a couple of our advance team. We had the list, and he goes, 'What about Doral?' And it was like, 'That's not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense.'" more...

By Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels
The White House is slumping into the weekend after one of the most difficult 48-hour periods in President Trump’s tumultuous term of office. Wednesday and Thursday produced a slew of damaging headlines for an administration battling an impeachment push by Democrats and a revolt by Republicans over the president’s handling of foreign affairs. If all that wasn’t enough, the White House also announced long-anticipated plans to hold the next Group of Seven (G-7) summit at a Trump-branded property in Miami, dismissing criticism that doing so would raise emoluments issues.  The crescendo came Thursday when the White House’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in an on-camera press conference to announce the G-7 decision, said the president had held up security aid to Ukraine partly to pressure the country to investigate a conspiracy theory undermining the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Mulvaney walked back the remarks hours later, blaming the media for the storm. But in one swoop, the chief of staff had given Democrats fodder and undermined weeks of administration talking points that there had been no quid pro quo on Ukraine. “I didn't find it the least bit credible,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Friday when asked about Mulvaney’s walk-back. Mulvaney’s remarks came as witness after witness appeared behind closed doors with Schiff and other lawmakers to talk about the administration’s actions in Ukraine, despite a White House letter to Democrats last week that pledged an end to cooperation with the probe. Many of those testifying have served up more damaging headlines for Trump — including U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a donor to Trump whose testimony, it was thought, might be more helpful to the White House. Even as it dealt with the impeachment circus, Trump’s advisers were trying to sell skeptical Republicans on a cease-fire deal with Turkey as a win. This only churned up fresh criticism over the president’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, which various Republicans and outside observers have criticized as an abandonment of Kurdish allies, a ceding of U.S. power and an act that have given new energy to ISIS. In a rare rebuke of Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) penned an op-ed in The Washington Post on Friday afternoon labeling the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria a “grave strategic mistake.” “The combination of a U.S. pullback and the escalating Turkish-Kurdish hostilities is creating a strategic nightmare for our country,” McConnell wrote in the op-ed, which did not mention Trump’s name. “Even if the five-day cease-fire announced Thursday holds, events of the past week have set back the United States’ campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorists.”

The president is unabashed, unapologetic and out of control.
By Frank Bruni
The wonder of the Trump administration — the jaw-dropping, brain-exploding phantasmagoria of it — is that it doesn’t bury its rottenness under layers of counterfeit virtue or use a honeyed voice to mask the vinegar inside. The rottenness is out in the open. The sourness is right there on the surface for all to see. It’s at the president’s rallies, where he plays a bigot for laughs, a bully for applause. It’s in the ballrooms and beds at Mar-a-Loco, where he mingles official government business with free marketing for his gilded club. It’s in the transcript of his phone call with the president of Ukraine, for whom the quid, the pro and the Biden-ravaging quo couldn’t have been clearer. It’s at the microphone in the White House briefing room, where his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, showed up on Thursday, announced that President Trump would host the next G7 meeting at one of his own golf resorts, and conceded that, yes, aid to Ukraine had been tied to that country’s indulgence of the president’s political obsessions. “Get over it,” Mulvaney told the assembled journalists. “Elections have consequences,” he also said. Allow me to translate: American voters gave Trump the presidency, so it’s his to use and abuse as he wants. If you’re looking for an apology, you might as well be looking for the yeti. What you should really be doing is looking the other way. Mere hours later, Mulvaney changed his tune, whining that the media had “decided to misconstrue” his words as some kind of confession. Um, no. Our hearing was just fine, our construing was just right and our sole arguable failure was that we didn’t instantly grasp and immediately communicate the overarching import of his remarks: He was telling us that in the minds of the president and his unscrupulous minions, he from now on possessed and planned to revel in carte blanche. And the White House has a new public relations strategy, much evolved since the days of Robert Mueller.

The late Elijah Cummings, as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, had a valid reason for seeking the president's financial records, the judges said.
By Danny Cevallos
A federal appeals court ruled last week that President Donald Trump's accounting firm must turn over financial records requested by a House committee. In April, the House Oversight and Reform Committee subpoenaed the firm, Mazars USA, for documents related to Trump's accounts going back to January 2009. His lawyers fought back with a lawsuit in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that argued Congress had no legitimate legislative purpose for getting the materials. In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel of the court disagreed but put a temporary hold on the legal effect of its decision to allow Trump's lawyers to appeal. A large part of the court’s opinion, which runs more than 100 pages, can be distilled into three questions: Is the Oversight Committee pursuing a legislative, as opposed to a law-enforcement, objective? Is the committee investigating a subject on which constitutional legislation could be enacted? And does the subpoena seek information relevant to the legislative inquiry? If the committee is pursuing only a crime-fighting objective, that could exceed its authority because such missions are exclusive to the executive and judicial branches. On the other hand, observers of congressional hearings have long known that the legislative purpose is not invalidated just because some criminal activity is unearthed during the process. An April memorandum from Elijah Cummings, the longtime Baltimore congressman and chairman of the oversight panel who died on Thursday, identified four objectives of the subpoena: determine “whether the President may have engaged in illegal conduct before and during his tenure in office”; “whether [the President] has undisclosed conflicts of interest that may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions”; “whether [the President] is complying with the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution,” and “whether [the President] has accurately reported his finances to the Office of Government Ethics and other federal entities.” To the court, this and other supporting documents provided strong evidence that the committee has a valid legislative purpose. Trump's lawyers argued that the Oversight Committee's statements were disingenuous, concealing the panel's true — and improper — law enforcement purpose. They also contended that the first objective of the subpoena, to determine “whether the President … engaged … in illegal conduct," establishes that Congress is improperly engaging in law enforcement. In response, the court pointed out that the committee has gone beyond just saying insincere but validating words. As long as the panel's stated purpose is buttressed by references to specific past or future problems, and those problems could be the subjects of appropriate legislation, then it is not for the court to say that Congress has exceeded its broad power. As for the investigation into possible “illegal conduct" on the president's part, the court held that even a mere congressional interest in past crimes can qualify as a constitutional interest in remedial legislation. So broad is Congress' power that even an investigation into the prior bad conduct of a single person can be valid when the objective is to enact legislation to fix the problem, the court said.

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
(CNN) - When President Donald Trump invites world leaders to attend an official government summit at his Florida golf course, will it violate the Constitution? As with so many of Trump's actions in office, it falls into uncharted territory -- no one really knows. The Constitution has a rule against Presidents taking gifts. It's called the emoluments clause, and it's supposed to guarantee that America's top executive and commander in chief isn't swayed by gifts from foreign or domestic government officials. Previous officeholders have tried to avoid even the perception of undue influence. When Benjamin Franklin, the first US ambassador to France, was given a diamond-encrusted snuff box by the King, he followed the rules against "emoluments" to officials by foreign states and asked Congress if he could keep it. They said sure, and he did. When President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and got $1.4 million, he gave the money to charity. Those were official gifts given to officials. Less clear is whether the Trump's decision to hold a massive G7 summit at Trump National in Doral, Florida, in June, is accepting gifts. Certainly the Trump Organization will benefit from the President's decision. And clearly there are ethical concerns about him using his office to help his own properties. Read more about those issues here. Further complicating the issue is that Doral, according to a Washington Post report in May, has been facing financial hardship since Trump took office. Revenues at the property are down. But should he have to ask Congress every time a foreign government spends money at his hotels? An appeals court in Virginia has just this week decided to revive an emoluments lawsuit filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia against Trump over his ownership of the Trump International Hotel near the White House. It's just about impossible to separate Donald Trump the man from Trump the business, which was always the point. Trump is the brand. That was going to create some conflicts of interest when he became the President. The man whose sole job had been enriching himself and his business now had the power of the US government behind him and the responsibility of representing the American people abroad. It's a unique situation in US history, where the President is actively benefiting from his name while in office. And it turns out the Constitution guards against exactly this sort of thing. An emolument is a payment or favor: "Emoluments" are mentioned three times in the nation's founding document, an archaic term that, according to Merriam-Webster, is "the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites." The most important mention of emoluments in the Constitution is extremely clear in Article 1, Section 9: "No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." That makes total sense; as President, Trump is supposed to be representing the people, not himself, when he meets with foreign leaders. And it should be very easy for Trump the man to not take any emoluments from foreign states. The man and the business share the same name, however, and it's plastered on many buildings across the world, including one that houses a federally owned building Trump leases for his hotel a few blocks from the White House, where Trump carries out the nation's business.

By Philip Ewing
President Trump deputized lawyer Rudy Giuliani to run a shadow foreign policy for Ukraine outside the State Department, witnesses told Congress this past week — and the White House said people should "get over it." It's been a busy week. Here's what you need to know about the latest in the Ukraine affair and the impeachment investigation. Mister mayor: Giuliani has been an important figure in Trump world for years but what investigators heard was how central he was in the plan to get Ukraine's government to launch investigations that Trump wanted. Trump wanted Ukraine's new government, led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate a conspiracy theory of Trump's about the 2016 cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, ostensibly over "corruption." In exchange, it appears Trump was prepared to engage with Zelenskiy and continue the flow of military assistance, appropriated by Congress, that had been flowing to Kyiv since it was invaded by Russia in 2014. Although Trump may not have told many officials about that plan in real time, Trump did ask early for many of them to work with Giuliani in their dealings with Europe and with Ukraine, the witnesses said. The "hand grenade" Top aides including then-national security adviser John Bolton and Trump's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, may have worried about the Ukraine pressure strategy on its merits. Ukraine is a U.S. ally resisting a military incursion by an adversary, its neighbor Russia. Because the depositions are closed, it still isn't fully clear what witnesses have told Congress. But what has become clear is how unhappy the national security and foreign policy professionals were at being asked to involve someone they viewed as an interloper in Giuliani. Bolton warned he was a "hand grenade" in danger of blowing up and hurting everyone around him, Hill told members of Congress, according to people familiar with her testimony. She also was said to have flagged concerns within the National Security Council about what she considered departures from official process. Bolton and Hill resigned earlier this year. People still within the administration, however, also are said to resent what they considered the interference represented by Giuliani — along with what may have been incomplete awareness in real time about what Trump was orchestrating with U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Three top State Department officials — Michael McKinley, George Kent and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland — are understood to have told House investigators they thought foreign policy should be conducted by diplomats and professionals. McKinley said he resented the scourging — led by Giuliani — of then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich, which resulted in her being discredited inside the administration and withdrawn from Kyiv prematurely. Members of Congress earlier reviewed materials submitted by a State Department whistleblower that were described as "propaganda" about Yovanovich that led to her ouster. She testified on Oct. 11. Why did Trump sideline the diplomats? Kent told members of Congress that the White House wanted a reliable cadre of "three amigos" handling the Ukraine portfolio, according to one account of his testimony given by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. If correct, this suggests the president or Giuliani did not consider Yovanovich, Hill or others trustworthy enough as the White House was shaping its pressure campaign for Ukraine. Instead, Trump or acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney commissioned the "amigos:" Sondland; Kurt Volker, another State Department envoy to Ukraine; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

DONALD TRUMP was humiliated by two female astronauts after they fact-checked his lack of space knowledge during a live call.
By Joel Day
The embarrassing moment came when Trump contacted the International Space Station to congratulate Jessica Meir and Christina Koch for completing an all female spacewalk outside of the craft. Trump, however, congratulated the pair for being the “first ever female spacewalkers”. A delay in connection between Trump and the space station made for a short period of silence, before Ms Meir made it clear that she and Koch were not the first female spacewalker. The first female spacewalk, in fact, took place in 1984 and 14 more have since followed. The mistake came as Trump sat at a table in the White House with his daughter Ivanka Trump and Vice President Mike Pence sat either side of him, as well as a handful of NASA officials and a group of Girl Scouts in the background. Staring intently into the camera, Trump said: “This is the first time for a woman outside of the space station.” He added: “You are amazing people; they're conducting the first ever female spacewalk to replace an exterior part of the space station. “They're doing some work, and they're doing it in a very high altitude — an altitude that very few people will ever see.” Ms Meir can then be heard correcting the President, explaining that the event marked the first time two women had been outside the spacecraft at the same time. Ms Meir said: “We don't want to take too much credit because there have been many other female spacewalkers before. “This is the first time that there's been two women outside at the same time.” In 1984, Svetlana Yevgenyevna Savitskaya became the first woman to complete a spacewalk. In the 35 years since a total of 15 women have spacewalked. Ms Meir and Ms Koch spent seven hours outside the space station replacing a failed power control unit.

By Greg Miller
A multiyear State Department probe of emails that were sent to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private computer server concluded there was no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees, according to a report submitted to Congress this month. The report appears to represent a final and anticlimactic chapter in a controversy that overshadowed the 2016 presidential campaign and exposed Clinton to fierce criticism that she later cited as a major factor in her loss to President Trump. In the end, State Department investigators found 38 current or former employees “culpable” of violating security procedures — none involving material that had been marked classified — in a review of roughly 33,000 emails that had been sent to or from the personal computer system Clinton used. Overall, investigators said, “there was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” The report cited “instances of classified information being inappropriately” transmitted, but noted that the vast majority of those scrutinized “were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them.” The release comes as Trump continues to raise the Clinton email issue to attack Democrats, even as new evidence has emerged of apparent security lapses by senior officials in his own administration. Diplomats involved in pressuring Ukraine to pursue investigations that would politically benefit Trump used private phones and texting apps to trade messages about their efforts, according to records released by leaders of the House impeachment inquiry. The State Department probe focused on internal communications that were up to nine years old. Dozens of former State employees were brought back in for questioning in recent months after being notified that emails they had sent years ago had been retroactively classified. The renewed activity after a long stretch in which the investigation had seemed to go dormant sparked suspicion that the Trump administration was seeking to revive an issue that had been politically advantageous to Republicans. One former official who was questioned described it as “a way to tarnish a whole bunch of Democratic foreign policy people.” State Department officials denied any political agenda, saying the interviews were part of the final stages of an internal inquiry that the department was under pressure to complete this month. Among those applying press

Guardian News - The ex-defence secretary is laughing off an insult hurled at him by the US president. Speaking at a New York charity event a day after Trump demeaned him as 'the world's most overrated general', Mattis joked that he took it as a compliment. 'I'm honoured to be considered that by Donald Trump because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress,' he said. 'So I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals'

By Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly
As President Trump approaches his 1,000th day in office Wednesday, he has significantly stepped up his pace of spouting exaggerated numbers, unwarranted boasts and outright falsehoods. As of Oct. 9, his 993rd day in office, he had made 13,435 false or misleading claims, according to the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered. That’s an average of almost 22 claims a day since our last update 65 days ago. One big reason for the uptick: The uproar over Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president on July 25 — in which he urged an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 election rival — and the ensuing House impeachment inquiry. We’ve added a new category of claims, Ukraine probe, and in just a few weeks it has topped 250 entries. In fact, Trump earned his fastest Bottomless Pinocchio ever with his repeated false statement that the whistleblower compliant about the call was inaccurate. The report accurately captured the content of Trump’s call and many other details have been confirmed, yet Trump has repeated this Four Pinocchio claim 29 times. (It takes 20 repeats of a Three or Four Pinocchio claim to merit a Bottomless Pinocchio, and there are now 27 entries.) Another false claim — that Biden forced the resignation of a Ukrainian prosecutor because he was investigating his son Hunter — just barely missed the cutoff for inclusion. (Trump has said it 18 times.) We presume the falsehood will earn a spot on the Bottomless Pinocchio page in the next update. Trump crossed the 10,000 mark on April 26. From the start of his presidency, he has averaged nearly 14 such claims a day. Almost one-fifth of these claims are about immigration, his signature issue — a percentage that has grown since the government shut down over funding for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In fact, his most repeated claim — 218 times — is that his border wall is being built. Congress balked at funding the concrete barrier he envisioned, so he has tried to pitch bollard fencing and repairs of existing barriers as “a wall.” False or misleading claims about trade, the economy and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign each account for about 10 percent of the total. Claims on those subjects are also among his most repeated. Trump has falsely claimed 204 times that the U.S. economy today is the best in history. He began making this claim in June 2018, and it quickly became one of his favorites. The president can certainly brag about the state of the economy, but he runs into trouble when he repeatedly makes a play for the history books. By just about any important measure, the economy today is not doing as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson or Bill Clinton — or Ulysses S. Grant. Moreover, the economy is beginning to hit the head winds caused by Trump’s trade wars, with the manufacturing sector in an apparent recession.

By Daniel Dale, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump likes to declare that he has managed to accomplish things that other presidents had tried and failed to achieve. He did it again on Thursday -- baffling experts, who said his latest claim made no sense at all. The claim was about his deal with Turkey. The deal calls for Turkey to suspend its military operations in northeast Syria for five days; for Kurdish forces to move at least 20 miles away from the Turkish border, surrender their heavy weapons and dismantle their fortifications; for the US to avoid the additional sanctions on Turkey it had been planning to impose Monday; and for the US to remove existing sanctions on Turkey if what Vice President Mike Pence called a "ceasefire" holds. (Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was a "pause" and "not a ceasefire.") Trump tweeted that "people have been trying to make this 'Deal' for many years." Speaking to reporters in Texas after the tweet, Trump said previous administrations had tried to make this deal for "10 years." Later in his comments, he said they had tried for "15 years." Then he said he has heard negotiations have been happening for even more than 15 years. He credited his own personality for the outcome. "They couldn't get it -- other administrations. And they never would have been able to get it unless you went somewhat unconventional. I guess I'm an unconventional person," he said. Facts First: Trump's claim is baseless to the point of being nonsensical. The deal is a narrow agreement specifically tied to the Turkish offensive that followed Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from a Kurdish-held region of northern Syria, not an agreement that resolves longstanding regional disputes. Further, presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush never sought to give Turkey anything like the concessionary terms of Trump's deal. In addition, the Syrian civil war had not even started 10 years ago or 15 years ago. "I honestly don't have the slightest idea what he's referring to. It doesn't make any sense," Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser to Obama, told CNN. "Turkey has wanted to do this (move in, dislodge Kurds, set up their own buffer) for a while and we didn't want them to do it in 2016 and they didn't," Rhodes said. "So the only people who were trying to get this deal were the Turks, and only since the Kurds gained some quasi-autonomy with our support in 2015-16." It is not only former Obama officials who were bewildered by Trump's claim. Henri Barkey, an international relations professor at Lehigh University who studies the Kurds and the Middle East, said there was no basis for Trump's claim "whatsoever." "This does not make any sense at all," said David Romano, a Missouri State University professor of Middle East politics who studies the Kurds. Romano cautioned that we are still learning what the deal entails. But he said: "No one, absolutely no one, has been trying to get this sort of deal except Turkey. Ten years ago, the Syrian civil war wasn't even happening, much less 15 or 20. Trump seems to think he just solved Turkish-Kurdish conflicts in general, which if true would betray a stunning lack of understanding about the situation."

The corruption is becoming more and more brazen.
By Aaron Rupar
In one of the starkest examples of how the Trump administration is normalizing the sort of self-dealing that would have been unfathomable in previous eras, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced on Thursday that next June’s G7 summit will be held at a resort that President Donald Trump still owns and profits from in Doral, Florida. During a news conference, Mulvaney portrayed the decision as one based on holding the event at the best facility possible. But there are plenty of other suitable venues that the president doesn’t profit from — such as Camp David in Maryland, which hosted the G7 the last time it was in the US in 2012 — and there’s no denying that turning one of the world’s foremost annual gatherings of leaders into a free infomercial for Trump’s resort represents a major branding opportunity. Tellingly, Mulvaney himself didn’t even try to deny that. Instead, he argued that Trump is too rich and successful to care about branding opportunities since his “brand is probably strong enough as it is.” Trump “doesn’t need any more help on that,” Mulvaney added, alluding to the free promotion the G7 will provide. “It is the most recognizable name in the English language and probably around the world.” That Trump’s name is one of the most well-known in the English language might arguably be true — but “Trump National Doral Miami” is less so. And beyond the branding opportunity, it’s also a financial one, especially seeing as how Doral’s net operating income has declined by nearly 70 percent since 2015. Mulvaney promoted Trump Doral from behind the White House briefing podium as “far and away the best physical facility for this meeting” and “perfect for our needs.” The move perhaps isn’t surprising, given Trump’s willingness to break decades of precedent by refusing to divest from his business interests when he took office. And Trump has used the guise of diplomacy to promote his businesses before. He’s hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort and has repeatedly hosted Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo there as well. Those summits served as textbook examples of corruption, but hosting the G7 at a resort that Trump has described in federal disclosures as one of his biggest moneymakers takes things up a notch. While it’s on brand, Trump’s decision to have the next G7 meeting in a place where the US government and international governments would be forced to patronize his business is perhaps the starkest illustration yet of how he’s thumbing his nose not just at tradition and ethical standards but also the Constitution’s emoluments clause, a little-used provision aimed at guarding corruption of presidents by foreign interests. Mulvaney, however, dismissed concerns that Trump’s conflicts of interest are a bad look by insisting he “got over that a long time ago.”

In one of the starkest illustrations of his corruption, the president wants to have next year’s G7 at Trump Doral.
By Aaron Rupar
President Donald Trump wants to host 2020’s G7 meeting of international leaders at Trump Doral in Florida, a private club he still owns and profits from — a move that would serve as perhaps the starkest illustration yet of how Trump is normalizing corruption. Having the G7 at Doral would be tantamount to “a free, giant international promotion” for Trump’s business, said Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), in an interview with Vox. Trump first raised the idea of hosting next year’s meeting at his Doral, Florida-based golf resort during a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, the last day of this year’s G7 in France, saying of Trump Doral that “we haven’t found anything that could even come close to competing with it, especially when you look at the location right next to the airport” in Miami. Trump uses G7 to promote private Doral resort he still owns and profits from, which he says may host the G7 next year: "It's a great place. It's got tremendous acreage ... people are really liking it ... we haven't found anything that could even come close to competing with it." pic.twitter.com/MK2vY2inK1 — Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 26, 2019 . Trump’s comments raised some eyebrows, and during his G7-ending press conference a few hours later, he was asked by NBC’s Hallie Jackson to respond to people who are concerned he’s profiting from the presidency. He responded by plugging Trump Doral. “With Doral we have a series of magnificent buildings — we call the bungalows — they each hold from 50 to 70 luxurious rooms, with magnificent views. We have incredible conference rooms, incredible restaurants. It’s, like, such a natural,” Trump said, before adding, dubiously, that “in my opinion I’m not going to make any money.” Shortly after the press conference ended, the White House Twitter account seemed to make the announcement official in a tweet featuring video of the comments Trump made promoting Doral.

By Savannah Eadens, Louisville Courier Journal
Sen. Mitch McConnell published a blistering rebuke of the Trump administration's decision to pull military forces out of Syria. In a Washington Post op-ed published Friday afternoon, McConnell, R-Ky., explained the three lessons he's learned while working with three different administrations since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "Lesson No. 1.," he wrote, is that the "threat is real and cannot be wished away." "These fanatics threaten American interests and American lives. If permitted to regroup and establish havens, they will bring terror to our shores," he said. The second lesson, he said, is the importance of American leadership. "No other nation can match our capability to spearhead multinational campaigns that can defeat terrorists and help stabilize the region. Libya and Syria both testify to the bloody results of the Obama administration’s 'leading from behind,'" McConnell wrote. The third lesson, he said, is that the U.S. is not alone in the fight against the Islamic State and the Taliban — and that Syria had been a model for the "successful approach" of contributing "limited, specialized capabilities that enable our local partners to succeed." "Unfortunately, the administration’s recent steps in Syria do not reflect these crucial lessons," McConnell wrote.

By Rebecca Klar
The majority of Americans said President Trump’s decision to pull troops from northern Syria is damaging the U.S.'s reputation as a trusted ally, according to a new poll. Just over half, 54 percent, of those surveyed in the USA Today-Ipsos poll released Friday said Trump’s decision damages the nation’s reputation as a trusted ally. Even more respondents, 61 percent, said the U.S. had an obligation to protect the Kurds, whom the U.S. was fighting alongside before Trump pulled American troops out. Broken down by party, 72 percent of Democrats surveyed said Trump’s decision damaged the nation’s reputation as an ally, as did 50 percent of independents, based on the poll. Meanwhile, a little less than half of Republicans, 44 percent, agree with that, based on the poll. The decision to pull troops from Syria was harshly criticized by Democrats as well as some Republicans, including Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C).

By Dan Mangan
Three Democratic senators are asking the White House for a raft of information to justify what they called the “outrageous” decision to have the next G-7 summit held at President Donald Trump’s Miami golf resort. But even as they did so, a Republican senator said that the decision to have Trump National Doral Miami, which is owned by the president’s company, host the conference of world leaders shows Trump’s “integrity.” “I don’t have any concerns about it other than just politically how it appears,” Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said Friday. “It may seem careless politically, but on the other hand there’s tremendous integrity in his boldness and his transparency,” Cramer said. Cramer’s Republican colleague, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, had a completely different view that she expressed in a single word. When asked if it is appropriate to have the G-7 at the Doral, Murkowski said, “No.” White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday revealed that the Doral would be the site of next June’s G-7 summit. Mulvaney said the resort was clearly the best choice among a dozen or so sites eyed by a team that evaluated the locations. He also said that the Doral would charge the foreign entourages and other guests for goods and services “at cost,” which he said would eliminate the chance that the president would reap a profit from the summit. But in a letter Thursday night, three Democratic senators called the Doral pick “another outrageous example of the President using his office funnel money from American taxpayers and foreign sources into his own pockets.” The letter, from Gary Peters of Michigan, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, noted that Trump has traveled as president more than 20 times to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, “costing taxpayers millions of dollars with every trip.” The letter also noted that Vice President Mike Pence stayed at Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg, Ireland, during an official visit last month, and that the U.S. Air Force Inspector General is investigating stays by Air Force personnel at Trump’s resort in Scotland. “President Trump’s decision to host the 2020 G-7 Summit at his Miami property appears to have been a foregone conclusion,” the letter says.

By Aaron Blake
This post has been updated with Schumer’s and Esper’s comments. Sen. Mitt Romney delivered perhaps the most thorough Republican rebuke of President Trump’s Syria withdrawal Thursday, calling Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds there “a bloodstain on the annals of American history.” But while that line has gotten a lot of play, there’s something else Romney said that shouldn’t escape notice. He suggested Trump got bullied into the withdrawal by Turkey — and that he backed down. “It’s been … suggested that Turkey may have called America’s bluff, telling the president they are coming no matter what we did,” said Romney, of Utah. “If that’s so, we should know it. For it would tell us a great deal about how we should deal with Turkey, now and in the future.” Romney then returned to the idea that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might have given Trump an ultimatum that was met with acquiescence. “Are we so weak and inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey!?” Romney said. “I believe that it’s imperative that public hearings are held to answer these questions, and I hope the Senate is able to conduct those hearings next week.” Romney is elevating an idea that hasn’t gotten enough attention, though it appears to have been confirmed by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Trump himself in the days before Romney’s remarks. The Washington Post reports that Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump copped to this in their contentious Oval Office meeting on Wednesday. Schumer said Trump recalled Erdogan told everyone “we’re going to go in whether you want it or not.” Esper, too, seemed to indicate Sunday that Erdogan told Trump that Turkey was going in regardless. “The first thing that we understood — I’ve understood from my counterpart, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo … and certainly from President Erdogan, is they were fully committed to doing this, regardless of what we did,” Esper told “Fox News Sunday.” “We thought [the withdrawal] was prudent,” Esper added. “It was my recommendation. I know the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed as well. We should not put U.S. forces in between a Turkish advance.” Esper reiterated the point later: “I think they were fully committed. That was what I took from my conversations with my counterpart, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff took from his, Secretary Pompeo from his.” Most of the theorizing about what happened has focused on the idea that Trump got rolled by Erdogan, who has been pitching the idea that Turkey could take over the fight against ISIS in northern Syria for a long time. The possibility that Trump gave away the farm because Erdogan was particularly convincing or because of something else — Trump’s business interests in Turkey, his desire for Middle East withdrawals, etc. — is a well-trafficked theory among Trump’s opponents.

Many Senate Republicans disagree with the president. But they won’t be voting on a resolution that says so.
By Li Zhou
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a longtime opponent of “endless wars,” just blocked a resolution condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from northern Syria. “I object to this resolution because it does nothing to fix this problem,” Paul said, while pushing his own bill to stop arms sales to Turkey. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had called for the Senate to consider a vote on this resolution, which passed the House with a bipartisan 354-60 majority on Wednesday, with the goal of sending Trump a message about Congress’s disapproval of his recent actions. “Because of the president’s precipitous action ... ISIS prisoners are escaping,” Schumer said in a floor speech on Thursday. “The president’s incompetence has put American lives in danger.” Schumer is far from the only one who’s criticized Trump’s decision, which many Republicans also view as a betrayal of the United States’s Kurdish allies in the region, who’ve been forced to confront a Turkish military offensive. Despite their outcry on the subject, it’s still not clear just how much Republicans are willing to clash with the president explicitly on this issue. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to allow the non-binding resolution condemning Trump to come to the floor, and he has previously said it has some “serious weaknesses.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a prominent Trump ally, has questioned the president’s efforts in Syria and is also pushing his own legislation alongside Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), which would impose stricter sanctions on Turkey that target military transactions and energy resources. Paul, meanwhile, is taking specific aim at arms sales. The congressional backlash to Trump’s decision began last week when he announced that he’d be withdrawing American troops from the region, prompting concerns that the US was abandoning its Kurdish allies and offering an opening for the Islamic State. Since the decision, ISIS members have begun to break out of prisons in the region.

By Stefan Becket, Grace Segers and Kathryn Watson
Washington -- The acting White House chief of staff said Thursday that a delay in hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine over the summer was driven partly by a desire to pressure the country into cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into supposed Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 U.S. election. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Mick Mulvaney described conversations with President Trump, paraphrasing him as saying, "Look, this is a corrupt place. I don't want to send them a bunch of money, and have them waste it, have them spend it, have them use it to line their own pockets. Plus, I'm not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either." "Did he also mention to me in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that," Mulvaney said, referencing an unproven theory that Ukrainians framed Russians for hacking into the DNC's computer systems. "But that's it. That's why we held up the money." Mulvaney reiterated the rationale later in the briefing: "I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily, OK? Three issues for that: the corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in support of the Ukraine and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice. That's completely legitimate." After Mulvaney's briefing, a senior Justice Department official said the department was not aware of any connection between aid to Ukraine and the department's investigation into the origins of the 2016 counterintelligence probe. "If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation with any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us," the official said. Jay Sekulow, the president's outside counsel, also issued a terse statement in response to Mulvaney's comments about the delay of Ukraine aid, saying, "The President's legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mike Mulvaney's press briefing." Later Thursday, the White House released a statement from Mulvaney seeking to clarify his remarks, blaming the media for misconstruing his remarks and claiming "there never was any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server." Earlier in the day, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union told lawmakers he was "disappointed" that Mr. Trump had directed him and other diplomats managing U.S. policy toward Ukraine to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney. more...

By Scott Neuman
President Trump fired him (after he submitted his resignation) and earlier this week reportedly called him "the world's most overrated general," but former Defense Secretary James Mattis had a few barbs of his own to sling in a speech he gave in New York on Thursday. Delivering the keynote address at the 74th Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Mattis — a retired four-star U.S. Marine general — said he felt he had finally "achieved greatness." "I'm not just an overrated general, I am the greatest, the world's most overrated," he said to laughter. "I'm honored to be considered that by Donald Trump, because he also called Meryl Streep an overrated actress," Mattis continued. "So, I guess I'm the Meryl Streep of generals. Frankly that sounds pretty good to me." The jibes were a departure for Mattis, whose book Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, published last month, was met with criticism from some who said he had pulled punches in characterizing the president's erratic leadership style. In an interview with NPR promoting his book, Mattis declined to discuss his relationship with Trump. "I don't discuss sitting presidents," Mattis said. "I believe that you owe a period of quiet." Thursday's annual gala, named after the former New York governor who won the Democratic nomination for president in 1928, was hosted this year by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. Mattis said he had been asked what he thought of Trump's remarks, which reportedly came during a White House meeting with congressional Democrats on Wednesday. "I earned my spurs on the battlefield ... Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor," he said in a reference to a medical deferment for bone spurs that kept Trump from serving in the military during the Vietnam War. Although Trump's nickname for Mattis was "mad dog" — a nickname the former general despised — Mattis said these days he feels more like "an emotional support animal." more...

For decades, the two ambitious New Yorkers have found ways to use each other’s celebrity to stoke their own.
Long, long before he was Donald Trump’s personal attorney and devoted defender, Rudy Giuliani wasn’t exactly a fan. The first time, actually, he invoked Trump’s name in a high-profile, high-stakes setting, Giuliani was the prosecutor in a public corruption case. The setting was the federal courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1986. Giuliani was the top gun from the Southern District of New York. And the main defendant, accused of taking kickbacks from companies for whom he helped score contracts with the city’s Parking Violations Bureau, was Stanley Friedman—a former deputy mayor, the Democratic Party chair in the Bronx and a lobbyist who the year before had netted nearly a million dollars. He typically sported a goatee, pinstriped suits with a pocket square and glasses with his initials in rhinestones. He spent his days on the phone, chain-chomping cigars, a human hub of old-style favor-trading. “A bribe broker,” Giuliani called him. “A force to be reckoned with,” his own attorney would grant in his memoir. And the perch from which Friedman presided was his office at the law firm of one of his closest associates, Roy Cohn, and one of his most prominent clients was Cohn’s most noted mentee—Donald Trump. Trump wasn’t on trial but Giuliani didn’t do his reputation any favors. Giuliani sketched for the jury what he called this “cesspool of corruption,” this tale of “plunder,” this story of “the buying and selling of public office.” Knitting the men together, Giuiliani cast Trump as a preeminent beneficiary of Friedman’s expansive, crooked clout. “During the latter part of time that you were deputy mayor,” Giuliani posed, referring to Friedman’s official capacity in the late 1970s in the administration of Trump family friend Mayor Abe Beame, “You had meetings with Roy Cohn and talked about joining his law firm, isn’t that correct?” more...

Retired Adm. William McRaven says Trump doesn’t believe in the ideals that made America great
By Mike Murphy
The U.S. commander who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden says the U.S. is under attack again — “but from within,” and it’s the president doing it. In a scathing op-ed published Thursday by the New York Times, retired Adm. William McRaven, former chief of the U.S. Special Operations Command, said it may be time for the U.S. to get a new president, since President Donald Trump is not a capable leader. “The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within.” Retired Adm. William McRaven McRaven said he was struck by the men and women who serve — and have served — America who he said now harbor “an underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear” because of Trumps’s words and deeds. “As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, ‘I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!’” he wrote. McRaven said America’s greatness is reflected in its ideals. “We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, the protectors of the less fortunate.” “President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong,” he said. “And if this president doesn’t understand their importance, if this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.” more...

If President Trump doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.
By William H. McRaven
Last week I attended two memorable events that reminded me why we care so very much about this nation and also why our future may be in peril. The first was a change of command ceremony for a storied Army unit in which one general officer passed authority to another. The second event was an annual gala for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) Society that recognizes past and present members of the intelligence and Special Operations community for their heroism and sacrifice to the nation. What struck me was the stark contrast between the words and deeds heralded at those events — and the words and deeds emanating from the White House. On the parade field at Fort Bragg, N.C., where tens of thousands of soldiers have marched either preparing to go to war or returning from it, the two generals, highly decorated, impeccably dressed, cleareyed and strong of character, were humbled by the moment. They understood the awesome responsibility that the nation had placed on their shoulders. They understood that they had an obligation to serve their soldiers and their soldiers’ families. They believed in the American values for which they had been fighting for the past three decades. They had faith that these values were worth sacrificing everything for — including, if necessary, their lives. Having served with both officers for the past 20 years, I know that they personified all that is good and decent and honorable about the American military with genuineness of their humility, their uncompromising integrity, their willingness to sacrifice all for a worthy cause, and the pride they had in their soldiers. Later that week, at the O.S.S. Society dinner, there were films and testimonials to the valor of the men and women who had fought in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. We also celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, recognizing those brave Americans and allies who sacrificed so much to fight Nazism and fascism. We were reminded that the Greatest Generation went to war because it believed that we were the good guys — that wherever there was oppression, tyranny or despotism, America would be there. We would be there because freedom mattered. We would be there because the world needed us and if not us, then who? Also that evening we recognized the incredible sacrifice of a new generation of Americans: an Army Special Forces warrant officer who had been wounded three times, the most recent injury costing him his left leg above the knee. He was still in uniform and still serving. There was an intelligence officer, who embodied the remarkable traits of those men and women who had served in the O.S.S. And a retired Marine general, whose 40 years of service demonstrated all that was honorable about the Corps and public service. But the most poignant recognition that evening was for a young female sailor who had been killed in Syria serving alongside our allies in the fight against ISIS. Her husband, a former Army Green Beret, accepted the award on her behalf. Like so many that came before her, she had answered the nation’s call and willingly put her life in harm’s way. For everyone who ever served in uniform, or in the intelligence community, for those diplomats who voice the nation’s principles, for the first responders, for the tellers of truth and the millions of American citizens who were raised believing in American values — you would have seen your reflection in the faces of those we honored last week. But, beneath the outward sense of hope and duty that I witnessed at these two events, there was an underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear that echoed across the sidelines. The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within. more...

By Mark Joseph Stern
Donald Trump has flagrantly abused the power of his office to line his own pockets. Again. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney announced on Thursday that the president selected his own Trump Doral golf resort as the site of June’s G-7 summit. Heads of state and diplomats will congregate at his own property—which is in steep decline and needs extra business in June. The move ensures that other nations will spend millions of dollars housing hundreds of personnel at Trump’s resort, funneling money from foreign governments into the president’s business. There are myriad other potential locations, but Trump chose to award the contract to himself. The president’s decision to exploit the G-7 summit for personal enrichment is so obviously corrupt, so shameless and extortionary, that it seems strange to debate whether it is also unlawful. And yet, from the start of Trump’s tenure, his opponents have struggled to find an effective line of legal attack against his self-dealing. Government watchdogs have sued him in federal court, but their efforts have stalled—in part because judges have struggled with the unprecedented nature of the offense: No other president has bilked his office for so much cash. It seems implausible that the Constitution would provide no mechanism to halt such brazen corruption. And yet, here we are, well more than halfway through Trump’s term, and the president’s heists are only getting more blatant. Can anything or anyone stop his raid on the public fisc? One strategy, initiated shortly after Trump took office, has been to ask the federal judiciary to enforce the Constitution’s emoluments clauses. These provisions sound abstruse because nobody uses the word emolument in casual conversation. But the Framers intended it to mean a payment, gift, or service. The foreign emoluments clause bars any federal officeholder, including the president, from receiving an emolument from a foreign state without congressional approval. The domestic emoluments clause explicitly prohibits the president from receiving any emolument (beyond his official salary) from any state or the federal government. There’s no exception for congressional approval. It is pretty apparent that Trump has repeatedly violated both clauses. For instance, foreign diplomats routinely stay at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, in part to curry favor with the president. By accepting payments at his own property from another government—without obtaining permission from Congress—Trump likely violated the foreign emoluments clause. Or consider the allegations that Trump directed the Air Force to stop at his Turnberry resort in Scotland. By funneling federal money into his property, Trump likely violated the domestic emoluments clause. There isn’t anything especially complicated about this constitutional theory. Ample evidence indicates that the Framers intended the emoluments clauses to function as a safeguard against government corruption—and, in particular, foreign influence in affairs of state. But the numerous plaintiffs who’ve sued the president of accepting illegal emoluments keep getting tripped up on a preliminary roadblock. To successfully sue Trump for emoluments, these plaintiffs must prove they have standing, meaning they are actually injured by his actions. And it turns out to be quite difficult to prove that the president’s corruption negatively affects you in a concrete way. There a few possible routes around this barricade. In September, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that hotels and restaurants competing with Trump’s properties had standing to sue. The court held that the plaintiffs had plausibly argued that they faced unfair competition from Trump, because foreign and domestic government employees patronize his business to earn his favor. In 2018, a federal judge ruled that members of Congress also had standing to sue, because they were denied the opportunity to approve Trump’s foreign emoluments. (That decision is on hold as it’s appealed.) he District of Columbia and Maryland are also battling out their own emoluments suit. Their attorneys general argue that Trump’s D.C. hotel draws foreign and domestic government officials away from Maryland (which wants the tax revenue) and the D.C. convention center (which is taxpayer funded). A panel of judges for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found neither jurisdiction had standing, but the full court will reexamine its decision in December. more...

By Sonam Sheth
In the weeks since House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry into whether President Donald Trump used his public office for private gain, current and former officials have come out of the woodwork to testify against the president. At times defying orders from the White House itself, these officials' revelations paint a stark portrait of a concerted effort from the highest levels of the Trump administration to leverage US foreign policy for the president's political benefit. They also show how he employed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and top cabinet officials to bend federal agencies to suit his needs. Chief among those is the US State Department which, according to testimony from current and former officials, was used as part of an effort to circumvent career diplomats and policy experts and carry out a shadow foreign-policy agenda with respect to Ukraine. At least eight current and former officials have so far testified, or are planning to testify, about how the State Department was used as a vehicle for Trump and Giuliani's political goals: more...

By Karoun Demirjian and John Hudson
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters Thursday that President Trump blocked nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in part to force the government in Kyiv to secure a politically motivated investigation of Democrats, a startling acknowledgment after the president’s repeated denials of a quid pro quo. Mulvaney defended the maneuver as “absolutely appropriate.” “Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it, that’s why we held up the money,” Mulvaney said, referring to an unproven conspiracy theory that a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server was taken to Ukraine in 2016 to hide evidence that Kyiv, not Moscow, interfered in the last U.S. presidential election. But hours later, Mulvaney scrambled to walk back his comments in an official statement blaming the media for misconstruing his words “to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump.” “Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” he said in a written statement. “There was never any connection between the funds and the Ukrainians doing anything with the server ... there was never any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server.” In his press conference, Mulvaney said, too, that the funds had been withheld because European countries were being “really, really stingy when it comes to lethal aid” for Ukraine, and over whether Ukraine’s leaders “were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice.” But he also characterized the decision to leverage congressionally approved aid as common practice, citing other instances in which the Trump administration has withheld aid to foreign countries and telling critics to “get over it.” “I have news for everybody: get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney said. “Elections do have consequences and they should, and your foreign policy is going to change … there’s no problem with that.” Mulvaney’s bold defense of Trump’s Ukraine actions comes as the House’s impeachment probe is closing in on the president’s most senior advisers, to determine whether Trump abused his power and pressured a foreign government to conduct investigations that could help his chances of reelection in 2020. To the Democrats on the three panels conducting the impeachment probe, Mulvaney’s words marked a significant turning point. “We have a confession from the president,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, referring to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressured his counterpart to open investigations into the 2016 election and former vice president Joe Biden’s son, who sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma. more...

By Harper Neidig
The Department of Justice improperly redacted a court filing related to the Mueller investigation and must reveal the names of two individuals who figured prominently in the probe, a federal judge in Washington ruled on Thursday. Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said in her opinion that the department erroneously redacted a portion of a document after invoking grand jury secrecy protections, even though the two names that were concealed belonged to individuals who did not testify before a grand jury during the Mueller probe. “DOJ’s assertion that identifying individuals who did not testify before the grand jury as part of the Mueller investigation would reveal ‘a matter occurring before the grand jury’ is without merit and rejected,” Howell wrote. According to the judge, who was appointed by former President Obama, both of the people whose names were redacted “figured in key events examined in the Mueller Report.” Howell said that it does not appear that the same redaction error was made in the report that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller gave to Congress earlier this year. The redactions in question came in an affidavit submitted to the court by Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer, who reviewed Mueller’s report for classified information before it was transmitted to Congress. more...

A new ProPublica investigation found that Trump inflated and deflated his assets when convenient.
By Aaron Rupar
A new ProPublica investigation lends credence to a remarkable claim made by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former longtime personal lawyer and fixer, during his congressional testimony earlier this year. Cohen alleged that Trump “inflated his total assets when it served his purposes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.” And ProPublica’s Heather Vogell has receipts indicating Cohen knew what he was talking about. Property tax documents obtained by Vogell via New York’s Freedom of Information Law “show stark differences in how Donald Trump’s businesses reported some expenses, profits and occupancy figures for two Manhattan buildings, giving a lender different figures than they provided to New York City tax authorities. The discrepancies made the buildings appear more profitable to the lender — and less profitable to the officials who set the buildings’ property tax.” To cite one example from the story, Trump’s representatives told a lender that the occupancy rate in his building at 40 Wall Street in New York City was 59 percent as of the end of 2012. But that figure wasn’t the same as 81 percent occupancy rate for 2012 that was reported to tax authorities. Trump ultimately used the lower occupancy rate figure to create a perception of “leasing momentum” — his company reported that occupancy rates started to rise in 2013 — that was helpful in securing a refinancing. While there are reasons for such discrepancies that don’t necessarily involve fraud, the pattern that emerges from ProPublica’s analysis suggests that on numerous occasions Trump used one set of figures for lenders and another for tax officials — just as Cohen claimed during his testimony. If done intentionally, false reporting of this sort can have consequences. As ProPublica’s story notes, New York City’s property tax forms say that the signatory “affirms the truth of the statements made” and that “false filings are subject to all applicable civil and criminal penalties.” Trump of all people should know this — Cohen and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort are currently serving time for falsifying tax and bank records. more...

The U.S. ambassador to the EU will tell Congress that he was effectively forced to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine by the president.
By Jamie Ross, Betsy Swan and Spencer Ackerman
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, will tell Congress that President Donald Trump told him to help his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani with his plan on Ukraine. In his opening statement, which was obtained by The Daily Beast, Sondland wrote that any plot to encourage a foreign government to influence an American election would have been “wrong.” “I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President’s 2020 reelection campaign,” he will say, according to the written version of his opening statement. Sondland's role in the pressure campaign on the Ukrainian president was first revealed by The Daily Beast. He and Giuliani encouraged President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation into the Bidens. It has been alleged that there was a quid pro quo whereby Zelensky would be rewarded by the White House with a meeting between the presidents in return for launching an investigation into one of Trump's potential 2020 rivals. “Please know that I would not have recommended that Mr. Giuliani or any private citizen be involved in these foreign policy matters. However, given the President’s explicit direction, as well as the importance we attached to arranging a White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, we agreed to do as President Trump directed,” Sondland wrote. “Based on the President’s direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky, which we all believed was crucial to strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian ties and furthering long-held U.S. foreign policy goals in the region; or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the President’s concerns.” The testimony describes how Trump's obsession with investigating his political rival put on hold Sondland's efforts to strengthen U.S. ties with Ukraine. Sondland will say he was “disappointed” that Trump wouldn't commit to a meeting with Zelensky until he spoke to Giuliani. “It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the President’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani,” the statement reads. “It is my understanding that Energy Secretary Perry and Special Envoy Volker took the lead on reaching out to Mr. Giuliani, as the President had directed.” According to the testimony, when he spoke to Giuliani it was made clear that Trump wanted a public statement from Zelensky “committing Ukraine to look into anticorruption issues.” Sondland will say: “Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election (including the DNC server) and Burisma as two anticorruption investigatory topics of importance for the President.” more...

This is one of the most astonishing letters in diplomatic history.
By Alex Ward
President Donald Trump sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week urging him to make a deal with the Kurds, saying: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” The letter is dated October 9, which means it was written just three days after Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria. The goal of the letter, it seems, was to convince Erdoğan not to send his forces into Syria to attack the Kurds, who had been the American military’s strongest partner in the fight against ISIS. “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people,” Trump writes, before threatening to destroy Turkey’s economy if Erdoğan doesn’t heed his demands. Trump then calls on the Turkish president to make a deal with Kurdish leaders so they don’t fight each other. “History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” the letter reads. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen.” But, as we now know, Turkey did launch its offensive against the Kurds — on October 9. It’s unclear when Erdoğan received the letter. more...

By Katelyn Polantz, Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, CNN
(CNN) - US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was directed by President Donald Trump to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine, he plans to tell Congress Thursday, and was left with a choice: Abandon efforts to bolster a key strategic alliance or work to satisfy the demands of the President's personal lawyer. Sondland plans to say he wasn't aware until "much later" that Giuliani's agenda might have included an effort to "prompt the Ukrainians" to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter and to involve the Ukrainians in the President's campaign, according to his opening statement, which was obtained by CNN. The revealing testimony of the President's top diplomat showcases how Trump put on hold an effort to strengthen relations with the country until top US officials were in contact with Giuliani, who was pursuing an investigation into the Bidens, a potential political rival in Trump's reelection campaign. And Sondland said he was "disappointed" that Trump wouldn't commit to a meeting sought by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky until they spoke with Giuliani. "Based on the President's direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky, which we all believed was crucial to strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian ties and furthering long-held U.S. foreign policy goals in the region; or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the President's concerns," Sondland will testify. "We chose the latter path, which seemed to all of us -- Secretary (Rick) Perry, Ambassador (Kurt) Volker, and myself -- to be the better alternative," Sondland continues. "But I did not understand, until much later, that Mr. Giuliani's agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the President's 2020 reelection campaign." Sondland's testimony comes Thursday as he's under fire for his role in the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, in which Trump repeatedly urged Zelensky to open an investigation into the Bidens. Sondland's testimony is likely to ratchet up the Democrats' focus on the concerns top officials expressed about Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine — and how they disagreed with Trump's assistance on using his private attorney to negotiate diplomatic efforts. Sondland's text messages with top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, are a key data point for the impeachment investigation, in which Sondland told Taylor there was "no quid pro quo" after speaking to Trump about the matter. Sondland's testimony says that he knew of no arrangement tying US security assistance to Ukraine with an investigations into the Bidens — but also that it would be wrong to do so. "Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong," Sondland will say. "Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings. In my opinion, security aid to Ukraine was in our vital national interest and should not have been delayed for any reason." more...

By Zack Budryk
Energy Secretary Rick Perry said President Trump directed him to discuss Ukraine corruption concerns with Rudy Giuliani in the spring, according to an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Perry told the news outlet that he reached out to Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, to ask for help in arranging a meeting between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. Perry told the newspaper that he and other officials, including former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, had urged Trump to meet with Zelensky shortly after he took office, but Trump expressed reservations, citing the country’s history of political corruption, and told Perry to “visit with Rudy.” “And as I recall the conversation, he said, ‘Look, the president is really concerned that there are people in Ukraine that tried to beat him during this presidential election,’ ” Perry told the newspaper. “ ‘He thinks they’re corrupt and ... that there are still people over there engaged that are absolutely corrupt.’ ” Perry said that in his conversation with Giuliani, the attorney cited baseless claims, which have frequently been mentioned by Trump, including that Ukraine was in possession of Hillary Clinton’s email server, had fabricated evidence against Trump’s ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and was responsible for a former British spy’s dossier alleging that Russia had compromising information on Trump. “I don’t know whether that was crap or what,” Perry said, “but I’m just saying there were three things that he said. That’s the reason the president doesn’t trust these guys.” Perry said Giuliani “didn’t say they gotta do X, Y and Z. He just said, ‘You want to know why he ain’t comfortable about letting this guy come in? Here’s the reason.’ ” more...

Nearly everybody Trump promised to help is worse off
By Tim Mullaney
So you lost almost 2% of your money in stocks yesterday because President Donald Trump opened his fool mouth about trade again, threatening 25% tariffs on Chinese goods that free markets have decided they want. The president would like you to hold his beer. Tuesday night’s bombshell report that transcripts of his tax returns show Trump managed to lose more money than any other American businessman for nearly a decade between 1985 and 1994 — a $1.17 billion cascade of other people’s (mostly banks’) up-in-smoke cash — is more than embarrassing. Though it is that — it means he was having a cash bonfire even as Ronald Reagan was crowing about Morning in America — if Trump were capable of embarrassment. It’s of a piece with what happened in the markets Tuesday — to you, and to me. The New York Times report on Trump’s taxes showed what a clown Trump was in business — a history of pratfalling interrupted from time to time by deals where partners did the work, he stole from suckers, or he simply failed to make his usual catastrophic mistakes. The same clown he is now, with his policies hurting industries as often as they help. The mini-crash that followed Trump’s latest posturing on China trade talks also shows how clownish D.C. pundits are being in suddenly, again, heralding Trump’s economic leadership when, in fact, markets and the economy are not responding positively to his policies. The numbers: In fact, Trump’s beloved financial markets tells the story. Lay aside the fact that the Standard & Poor’s 500 SPX, -0.39%   is up 15% this year (after dropping last year) and up 27% since Trump was sworn in. Instead, look at the connection between the policies he brays about, and the constituencies he has promised that only he can fix their problems, and the stocks they’re supposed to help. Begin, naturally enough, with banks, which have played such an outsized role in Trump’s life. And which he has sought to grease by trying to repeal his predecessor’s Dodd-Frank law reining in excesses after the 2008 financial crisis (including, to be fair, a long list of practices connected only dubiously, or not at all, to that conflagration). Banks were also supposed to benefit from more borrowing amid the animal spirits (and higher interest rates) to be unleashed by Trump’s corporate tax cut. more...

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