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By Audrey McNamara
President Trump on Monday doubled down on his unexpected decision late Sunday night to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, leaving America’s Kurdish allies to fend for themselves against ISIS and an imminent attack from Turkey. Despite widespread backlash for the snap decision—even from a Fox & Friends host—Trump declared his inimitable forethought and threatened to destroy Turkey’s economy if they attack the U.S. military’s Kurdish allies, as they intend to do. “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over... the captured ISIS fighters and families,” Trump tweeted. The president then reiterated his claims that the U.S. has taken out “100% of the ISIS Caliphate.” Trump also claimed caliphate obliteration in the official White House press release, but left Turkey to manage the aftermath. “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial “Caliphate” by the United States,” reads the press release. “It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory,” Trump tweeted Monday.

Scottish government says US president’s company has not accepted bill of tens of thousands of pounds
By Severin Carrell Scotland editor
Donald Trump’s family firm is refusing to accept a legal bill worth tens of thousands of pounds after he lost a lengthy court battle against a windfarm near his Aberdeenshire golf course, according to the Scottish government. A Scottish court ruled in February this year the Trump Organization had to pay the Scottish government’s legal costs after his attempt to block an 11-turbine windfarm in Aberdeen Bay ended with defeat in the UK supreme court in 2015. The Scottish government has said Trump’s firm has refused to accept the sum it had put forward or reach an agreement on costs, so the case is now in the hands of a court-appointed adjudicator. “As the amount of expenses has not been agreed, we are awaiting a date for the auditor of the court of session to determine the account. We expect payment when this has been completed,” a government spokeswoman said.

MAYBE SO, MAYBE NOT!, SYRIA EDITION: SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA.) to Sarah Ferris today in a quiet Capitol about President DONALD TRUMP’S plan to pull out of Syria: “I understand he’s reconsidering. I do not think we should abandon the Kurds.” IF YOU LISTEN TO THE WHITE HOUSE, and the parade of people who say they are close to TRUMP, the president does not want to be impeached, because he sees it as a stain on his legacy. BUT, at this point, the Republicans’ strategy is actually making it more likely the president will swiftly be impeached in the House -- though a conviction in the Senate is, of course, another story. AFTER U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. David Sondland was blocked by the Trump administration from testifying on Capitol Hill (read Kyle Cheney), House Intel Chairman ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) said this: “the failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress. A co-equal branch of government.” IN OTHER WORDS: Democrats feel like they can ring TRUMP up right now on charges that he is directing his administration to block Congress. TRUMP’S reason for blocking testimony and document production is that he doesn’t like the process Democrats are using -- a function of Democrats being in the majority. BUT … IF REPUBLICANS HAVE SUCCEEDED in anything in this impeachment process, it’s this: They have forced everyone to talk about process, not substance. REPUBLICANS WHO ARE TAKING THE LEAD in defending TRUMP say the reason the president won’t hand over witnesses is because Schiff’s process is akin to a kangaroo court. Democrats are being forced onto procedural grounds because of the president’s blocking of Sondland. “WE UNDERSTAND THE REASON why the State Department decided not to have Ambassador Sondland appear today,” Rep. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) said this morning. “It’s based on the unfair and partisan process that Mr. Schiff has been running. You think about what the Democrats are trying to do: impeach the president of the United States 13 months prior to an election based on an anonymous whistleblower with no first-hand knowledge who has a bias against the president.” -- KEEPING TRACK: The president had this team defending him today in the Capitol: Reps. Mark Meadows (N.C.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.). They answered questions. Schiff spoke to reporters, and didn’t answer questions this time. THE DANGER FOR THE PRESIDENT … NOT WHAT THE NRCC’S TOUTING! -- WAPO’S DAN BALZ and SCOTT CLEMENT: “Poll: Majority of Americans say they endorse opening of House impeachment inquiry of Trump”: “The poll finds that, by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent, Americans say the House was correct to undertake the inquiry. Among all adults, 49 percent say the House should take the more significant step to impeach the president and call for his removal from office. Another 6 percent say they back the start of the inquiry but do not favor removing Trump from office, with the remainder undecided about the president’s ultimate fate. The results among registered voters are almost identical. …

“Overall the staff of these agencies is down and continues to go down. I think you’re going to see a brain drain continue until the end of this administration," one former official said.
By Phil McCausland
The Trump administration announced in June that it would move two Department of Agriculture research agencies — the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture — and their 547 employees from Washington, D.C., to a rented office in Kansas City, Missouri, within three months. That sudden announcement and the aggressive timeline that accompanied it led hundreds of employees to resign or retire early, leaving the two critical institutions gutted. Now more than a dozen scientists, researchers, economists and experts who are currently or were formerly employed by multiple federal agencies, including the ERS and the NIFA, told NBC News the effective dismantling of these two agencies is only the latest hit, but it is the most illustrative of the administration’s intentions: to remove or neuter evidence-based research. As of now, only 16 from the ERS and 45 from the NIFA have made the move to Kansas City — a very small percentage of the total workforce. That has left the ERS, which publishes data and research about American agriculture, and the NIFA, an agency that manages $1.7 billion of science funding, effectively crippled. And despite the USDA’s insistence that they are hiring at a rapid clip, many remain skeptical that the two agencies will ever recover. The pace of the move, employees said, was frantic, leaving many to decide by the last Friday in September whether they would move their families and lives west or be fired the following Monday. Numerous current and former employees across multiple agencies, from the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management, pointed to a comment acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made in August that, they said, reveals the motivation for the moves. Mulvaney said relocating the two USDA offices out of Washington was an example of the administration circumventing the roadblocks to firing federal employees and “draining the swamp.” “By simply saying to people, ‘You know what? We’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C., and move you out into the real world into the real part of the country, they quit,” Mulvaney said at a South Carolina Republican Party dinner, noting the difficulty he had in firing federal employees. “What a wonderful way to kind of streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.”

By Brendan Cole
A former top White House adviser has joined the growing chorus of criticism surrounding the economic policies of President Donald Trump, claiming they will not just adversely impact the U.S. but also the wider world. Sources with close links to the White House and congressional Republican leaders have told The Washington Post they are concerned about internal forecasts showing the U.S. economy could slow over the next year, which would affect Trump's re-election chances. Officials have drawn up options for Trump, including lowering corporation tax and imposing a currency transaction to weaken the dollar to bolster the economy, with one Republican source telling the paper: "Everyone is nervous—everyone. It's not a panic, but they are nervous." The paper reported that U.S. growth is being hurt by Trump's trade war with China and other mixed messages. He rowed back on new tariffs against Chinese imports earlier this month and has also flipped his position on new tax cuts. His canceled visit to Denmark over a surreal spat regarding the sale of Greenland has also added to uncertainty. The former head of the National Economic Council (NEC), Gene Sperling, told the Post that Trump's unpredictability is causing economic uncertainty beyond American shores. "The irony here is that Trump's erratic, chaotic approach to the economy is probably the most significant economic risk factor in the world right now. "Their response is just to show even more erratic behavior. It's economic narcissism. It's economic policy by whim, pride, ego and tantrum." The White House has continues to tout the country's high employment levels and wage growth as vindication of Trump's policies. "The fundamentals of the economy are strong because of this president's pro-growth policies," White House spokesman Judd Deere said, repeating the message that the economy is strong. This is at odds with the Democrats, who say it is heading toward a recession. Economists this week have warned that the federal budget deficit is expected to spike considerably and was on an "unsustainable" course, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

By Shane Croucher
During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump made an aggressive promise on federal finances: He would eliminate the budget deficit within eight years. Now, three years into his presidency, the deficit is 68 percent higher than when he started. Trump inherited a deficit of $585 billion when he took office in January 2017. That was 58 percent lower than the $1.4 trillion former President Barack Obama inherited in 2009 following the financial crisis, a number his administration slashed over two terms. According to the latest Congressional Budget Office data released on Monday, the full-year deficit for 2019 is estimated to come in at $984 billion, just shy of the $1 trillion that many analysts were expecting. In 2018 the figure was $779 billion and in 2017 it was $665 billion. "Relative to the size of the economy, the deficit—at an estimated 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—was the highest since 2012, and 2019 was the fourth consecutive year in which the deficit increased as a percentage of GDP," the CBO said in its report. "He's got no hope of eliminating the deficit," Danny Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College and a former monetary policymaker at the Bank of England, told Newsweek. "The only possibility is for him to increase the deficit...This looks much like the policy on Syria: Uncoordinated chaos." During the last election, Trump said he could clear America's $19 trillion of gross federal debt within eight years. To do that would mean eliminating the federal deficit, the negative difference between income and expenditure which keeps adding to the debt pile. It is now $22 trillion. "We're not a rich country. We're a debtor nation...We've got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt," Trump told The Washington Post in April 2016, several months before the election he would win. "I think I could do it fairly quickly...I would say over a period of eight years," Trump added, and suggested he would do so by renegotiating trade deals and creating trade surpluses. Yet, since taking office, Trump's trade negotiations have provided little fruit for the economy and are instead hurting the pockets of American companies and consumers that are absorbing the financial burden of the tariffs. After scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trump administration agreed a new deal with Canada and Mexico called the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), but it is yet to be ratified by Congress. Negotiations with China are ongoing as mutual tariffs impact hundreds of billions of dollars in goods trading between the two. And talks also continue with the European Union as a similar tit-for-tat tariff war, a conflict opened by the Trump administration last year, rumbles on with no end in sight. It was initially over steel and aluminum imports but has now expanded to a range of products. These trade wars are hurting America's manufacturing sector and weakening the domestic economy. But they are also clipping global growth, which is feeding back to further dampen U.S. GDP. There is talk among economists of a possible recession coming down the line. Another major deficit issue is the Trump administration's $1 trillion package of tax cuts, which mostly benefited those with higher wealth and incomes, passed at the end of 2017. These tax cuts, the administration argued, would pay for themselves over time by fueling economic growth. But the Trump administration's spending continues to significantly outpace its receipts, widening the deficit and adding more money to the federal debt pile despite the president's claim that he could clear it. "I think the reality was that this was ideology over economics," Blanchflower told Newsweek. "I've always argued you needed stimulus, but the time they did it was wrong, how they did it was wrong, and surprise surprise this is what you get.
By Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – A federal judge will hear arguments Tuesday from the House Judiciary Committee, which is demanding the grand jury evidence behind special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The panel subpoenaed the evidence as part of the wide-ranging impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, who calls the inquiry a partisan witch hunt. The Judiciary Committee is focusing on potential obstruction of justice, as described in 10 episodes in the Mueller report. But Attorney General William Barr redacted grand jury evidence from the report and argued against disclosing it under the subpoena. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, chief judge for the D.C. district who oversees the grand jury, is hearing the case. Her ruling could resolve a key dispute about the status of the House's investigation of Trump. Six committees have been conducting investigations of Trump since Democrats regained control of the chamber in January. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Sept. 24 that all of the inquiries now fall under the umbrella of a formal impeachment investigation and that no floor vote is necessary. But Republicans have argued that only the full House can authorize an impeachment inquiry. Mueller’s 22-month investigation found no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia, despite that country's sweeping and systematic effort to influence the 2016 election. But the report released in April outlined potential obstruction when Trump tried to thwart the special counsel inquiry and have Mueller removed. Mueller made no decision about whether to charge Trump with obstruction because Justice Department policy forbids charging a president while in office. The Judiciary Committee subpoenaed grand jury evidence to explore Trump’s knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the election, the president’s knowledge of potential criminal acts by his campaign or administration, and actions taken by former White House counsel Don McGahn. The Mueller report described episodes when Trump directed McGahn to remove the special counsel, which McGahn ignored. “The full Mueller report provides an essential roadmap for the committee’s efforts to uncover all facts relevant to Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and to any attempts by the president to prevent Congress from learning the truth about those attacks along with their aftermath,” said the legal filing by Douglas Letter, general counsel for the House. “The committee’s interest in obtaining a limited disclosure of these materials far outweighs any interests in secrecy.” The House included a 1974 letter from the Watergate era as an exhibit. Rep. Peter Rodino, D-N.Y., who was then head of the Judiciary Committee, wrote to U.S. District Court Judge John Sirica asking for grand jury materials in the investigation of President Richard Nixon. Rodino cited a House vote of 410-4 to authorize an impeachment investigation. The Justice Department has argued against releasing the grand jury evidence behind Mueller's report. In a written filing, the department said a “minuscule” 0.1% of the report dealing with potential obstruction of justice was redacted. And the department said releasing the evidence could hurt pending cases that grew out of the Mueller investigation.

By Lauren Kent, Nina dos Santos, Zahid Mahmood and Chandelis Duster, CNN
Vilnius, Lithuania (CNN) - US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday that he "absolutely" asked President Donald Trump "multiple times" to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but about energy -- not the Bidens -- and said he is not leaving his role in the administration. Speaking at a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, Perry said that he told Trump that it was in the best interest of the two nations to have discussions regarding energy issues. His response comes on the heels of reports that Trump told lawmakers Perry urged him to make the July 25 call that has become a key focus of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into the President. "Absolutely, I asked the President multiple times. 'Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and in Ukraine's best interest that you and the President of Ukraine have conversations and discuss the options that are there,'" Perry said Monday. "So absolutely yes." Perry was not part of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, his spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes told CNN in an email Monday. Hynes also said that "Hunter and Joe Biden have never come up in the Secretary's conversations on Ukraine." CNN previously reported that some text messages released by former US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker showed that Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was working to set up the call with Zelensky. The texts also show that several other US diplomats, including Volker, were working to arrange the conversation. The Energy Department confirmed on Sunday that Perry "supported and encouraged" Trump to speak with Zelensky on matters related to energy and the economy. Energy issues, though, were not discussed during the July phone conversation between the two leaders, according to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House. The transcript instead revealed Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Joe Biden and the activities of the former vice president's son, Hunter, who had been on a board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department is withholding messages from the ambassador to the European Union that are relevant to the impeachment inquiry, the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday. “Not only is the Congress being deprived of his testimony ... but we are also aware that the ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device, which had been provided to the State Department, although we have requested those from the ambassador, and the State Department is withholding those messages as well,” Adam Schiff told reporters. “Those messages are also deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry,” Schiff added. Representatives for the State Department could not be immediately reached for a response. The Trump administration on Tuesday blocked the ambassador, Gordon Sondland, who had agreed to appear voluntarily, from testifying behind closed doors before three House panels, including Schiff’s.

By Niv Elis
The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday. The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis. The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent. The CBO has warned that the nation's debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs. Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year. Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO," said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks. "This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse," he added.

By Marc Champion and Henry Meyer
President Donald Trump said his decision to shift U.S. troops out of the path of a threatened Turkish military incursion in Syria will be regretted most by Russia and China. They “love to see us bogged down” in expensive military quagmires, he tweeted on Monday. To some Russian and U.S. analysts and officials, however, Moscow is likely to be a major beneficiary of the move. A complete U.S. pullout would remove Russia’s only military equal from the contest to shape Syria’s future, according to Trump’s former envoy for combating the so-called Islamic State, Brett McGurk. He has argued since resigning his post in December that in place of the U.S., Moscow would then have to deal with Turkey, a weaker and more compliant regional player. What’s more, with Syria’s Kurds no longer protected by the U.S., Russia will face less resistance as it tries to secure its main goal there -- a political settlement that returns the entire country to the control of President Bashar al-Assad. Having swayed the course of the Syrian conflict, Russia is now in the throes of a return to its Cold War days as a power in the Middle East. Unreliable Ally: More broadly, a White House decision to abandon the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Defense Force -- an ally which provided ground troops for the U.S.-led fight to defeat Islamic State in Syria -- risks deepening a narrative of American unreliability that began during the 2011 Arab Spring. The U.S. was widely seen in the region as having failed to give then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a long-time ally, the support he needed to survive the protests.

By Emily Tillett, Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket, Grace Segers
Washington -- U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was scheduled to be interviewed by Congress Tuesday as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, was ordered not to appear for his deposition by the the State Department, according to a statement issued by his attorney. Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and a key witness to the Trump-Ukraine dealings. Sondland's lawyer, Robert Luskin said in the statement that Sondland "is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today" and went on to say that the ambassador had traveled from Brussels for the testimony and made arrangements with the Joint Committee staff to appear. Sondland "believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States" and remains ready to testify "on short notice," Luskin said. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters on Tuesday that Sondland was in possession of documents on his "personal device" related to Ukraine which the State Department is withholding from the committee. "The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress," Schiff said. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee is considering "extraordinary moves" to protect the whistleblower's identity in a still-unscheduled upcoming interview, according to one lawmaker. "We have to take all precautions, because we cannot burn his or her identity," Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi told CBS News. The potential measures -- including obscuring the whistleblower's appearance and voice -- were first reported by The Washington Post on Monday.

By Audrey McNamara
Amid the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Attorney General William Barr has reportedly placed his focus on a conspiracy theory that the origins of the Russia investigation were corrupt, The Washington Post reports. Barr has allegedly used Justice Department resources in order to track down Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious professor from Malta at the center of the Russia probe. During the 2016 election, Mifsud allegedly promised George Papadopoulos, Trump’s then-campaign aide, that he could provide Russian intelligence on opponent Hillary Clinton. That interaction helped the FBI open the Mueller investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mifsud later applied for police protection in Italy after disappearing from Link University, according to Italian justice ministry public records. As part of the application, the professor gave a taped deposition to explain his need for protection. Last week, Barr was spotted in Italy meeting with Italian secret service agents, to listen to Mifsud’s tape, and potentially ask for information on his whereabouts. “It just seems like they’re doing everything they can to delegitimize the origins of that investigation,” one person involved the Mueller investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.

By Tareq Haddad
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been threatened with the possibility of jail after a judge deemed she was violating a court order for continuing to collect student debts on a now-defunct school. That ruling, handed down in June of 2018, was made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim and prevented DeVos and her Department of Education for going after former students at the bankrupt Corinthian Colleges Inc. However, Kim said she was "astounded" to discover that DeVos was violating the court order at a hearing in San Francisco on Monday after a filing by the Education Department earlier disclosed that more than 16,000 former students at Corinthian College "were incorrectly informed at one time or another ... that they had payments due on their federal student loans." At least 1,800 people reportedly lost wages or tax refunds according to the filing. "At best it is gross negligence, at worst it's an intentional flouting of my order," Kim said, reported Bloomberg. "I'm not sure if this is contempt or sanctions," she added. "I'm not sending anyone to jail yet but it's good to know I have that ability." The case traces its way back to 2015 when Corinthian had been among the largest for-profit college chains in the United States until a wave of investigations and litigation—including a complaint by the 2020 presidential hopeful and then California Attorney General Kamala Harris—alleged widespread deception and fraud. The company then filed for bankruptcy protection the same year and the federal government later ruled that as many as 335,000 former students could be entitled to have their debts cancelled under The Borrower Defense to Repayment program—an initiative started in 2016 to provide loan relief for students who had been defrauded by predatory schools. However once DeVos took over the Department of Education in 2017, numerous attempts were made to limit the scope of the program, in addition to effectively ignoring roughly 160,000 applications made for loan forgiveness, according to a New York Times report.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) know that what Trump says about Biden just isn’t true.
By Alex Ward
Two senators over the past five days have blown a major hole in one of President Donald Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories about Ukraine. Those two lawmakers are staunch Republicans. Here’s what Trump believes: Joe Biden improperly used the power of his office as vice president to get a Ukrainian general prosecutor fired, in order to stop him from investigating a Ukrainian gas company that Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of. The reality is that Barack Obama’s administration — as well as many other Western European officials — wanted the prosecutor, a man named Viktor Shokin, removed because he was believed to be trying to stymie anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. But you don’t have to take my word for it: Take what Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have recently said about Shokin’s 2016 departure. “The whole world felt that this that Shokin wasn’t doing a [good] enough job. So we were saying, ‘Hey, you’ve ... got to rid yourself of corruption,” Johnson told the radio program The Vicki McKenna Show on Thursday. And then on Monday, Portman told Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch the same thing. While the article doesn’t contain quotes to this effect, it describes Portman as “disput[ing] Trump’s characterization of an ousted Ukrainian as an aggressive battler of corruption,” saying he and other lawmakers “believed the prosecutor wasn’t doing nearly enough to root out corruption — not because he was doing too much.” This isn’t terribly surprising. Johnson and Portman were two of three GOP senators who co-signed a bipartisan 2016 letter to Ukraine’s then-president calling for him to “press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office and judiciary.” Four days later, Shokin resigned (although he didn’t officially leave until the following month when Ukraine’s Parliament voted him out).

By David Choi
The US is considering pulling out of a vital treaty with European allies and Russia, according to the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. In a letter sent to National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York on Monday said he was "deeply concerned" by reports that the White House was considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty. "I request your personal engagement on this matter to ensure that the United States does not unwisely and rashly withdraw from [the treaty], which continues to serve American national security interests and is particularly important as a check against further Russian aggression against Ukraine," Engel wrote. The Open Skies Treaty was signed by the US, Russia, and 22 other countries in an effort to promote transparency amongst nations. Thirty-four countries are now members of the treaty, which was initially signed in 1992. Under Open Skies, countries that are part of the treaty must notify other nations 72 hours in advance of missions to conduct an observational flight, to which the host country has one day to respond. Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, agrees that the treaty has been beneficial for the US, its allies, and even Russia. "The treaty provides information about Russian military activities for the US and allies in Europe," Kimball said to Business Insider. "And it also provides the Russians with some insight about some of our capabilities. And that transparency reduces uncertainty and the risk of conflict due to worst-case assumptions."

By Natasha Bach
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is racking up his lawsuits against the Trump administration. The state’s AG added yet another to his belt this week, challenging proposed legislation that would invalidate the Flores settlement, thereby enabling the administration to indefinitely detain undocumented children. President Trump and his administration have been sued by state attorneys general more times than any president since Ronald Reagan. As of late August, there are currently 88 ongoing multi-state lawsuits against the administration, according to the latest count from State Attorneys General Data, a database compiled by Dr. Paul Nolette, associate professor of political science at Marquette University. This represents more than double the next highest number, 38, which is the number of times the Obama administration was sued in the president’s second term. The lawsuits against the Trump Administration have been led mainly by Democratic AGs, while the lawsuits against the Obama Administration were mostly let by Republicans coalitions, according to the database. Nolette’s tally includes multi-state lawsuits against specific actions taken by various U.S. government departments. He defines multi-state lawsuits as those in which “multiple states filed an original complaint or petition,” instances in which “multiple states joined an existing non-state lawsuit as intervenors,” cases when “only one state appeared as a plaintiff...but a multi-state coalition filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the plaintiff state,” and “non-state cases in which a multi-state coalition sought to intervene, but the court denied the motion to intervene.”

By Rebecca Beitsch
Workers are suing over a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that allows pork processing plants to speed up production lines, something their union says could endanger employees. The USDA rule, announced in September, would remove a cap on the speed that inspection lines can run and also reduce the number of food inspectors who look over pork products. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which filed the suit on behalf of 30,000 pork plant workers nationwide, noted that meatpacking workers are injured more than twice the average for all private industries. “Thousands of our members work hard every day in America’s pork plants to help families across the country put food on the table. Increasing pork plant line speeds not only is a reckless giveaway to giant corporations, it will put thousands of workers in harm’s way,” said Marc Perrone, president of UFCW. “This new rule also would dramatically weaken critical protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day.” The USDA rule would give plants more power in overseeing the inspection of meat. The agency said reducing the number of USDA inspectors would save them $8.7 million. “This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a release when the rule was announced, calling it a modernization of a 50-year-old process.

NEW YORK — A federal judge has rejected President Trump's challenge to the release of his tax returns for a New York state criminal probe. Judge Victor Marrero ruled Monday. He said he cannot endorse such a "categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process." The returns had been sought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. His office is investigating the Trump Organization's involvement in buying the silence of two women who claimed to have had affairs with the president. Mr. Trump's lawyers have said the investigation is politically motivated and that the quest for his tax records should be stopped because he is immune from any criminal probe as long as he is president.

Noelle Yasso, Opinion contributor
Letting Trump face his accuser would be dangerous and discourage future whistleblowers. Protect the identities and safety of those now coming forward. President Donald Trump says that "like every American," he deserves to meet his accuser ("the so-called 'Whistleblower' ") from the intelligence community. Compared with his earlier statement calling the anonymous whistleblower “almost a spy” and making a thinly veiled reference to execution, the president’s most recent request seems tame — almost reasonable. In fact, it is anything but. As an attorney who represents courageous individuals who come forward to report fraud in a range of industries, I know just how essential confidentiality is to guarding the safety of whistleblowers and the integrity of the reporting process, and just how dangerous a precedent revealing the whistleblower’s identity could set. The president is not entitled to “meet my accuser” any more than the general public is entitled to rule on the whistleblower’s credibility. Retaliation and intimidation risks: As more information emerges on Trump's attempts to get Ukraine to do political favors for him, that notion seems to be up for debate even outside Trump's Twitter account. The New York Times, ignoring the chilling effect on future whistleblowers, revealed details about this whistleblower's employment history.

By Benjamin Fearnow
A former Republican congressman who voted to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998 told Fox News Saturday that the current claims against Donald Trump are far more damning. In conversation with Neil Cavuto, host of Cavuto Live, Bob Inglis, a former congressman from South Carolina, said today's Republicans need to "find the courage" to tell Trump and his base supporters the truth about his "embarrassing" alleged misdeeds. Though he warned that House Democrats may be making a mistake by pursuing impeachment against Trump, Inglis reminded viewers that "one way or another" Trump will leave office some day. He challenged Republicans to question "what legacy" their party is leaving. Inglis, who many critics say lost his congressional seat in 2010 for speaking out on climate change, acknowledged that Clinton "did perjure himself" and lie under oath in the '90s. But the former South Carolina lawmaker said the allegations regarding Trump's Ukraine and China alleged quid pro quo communications are much more pertinent to the functioning of the executive branch. "It is not OK for the president of the United States to hold up support for a country that is at war with Russia in order to achieve, if that can be proven, an advantage in an American political race," Inglis said. "Elected republicans need to find the courage to speak truth to the president, to his supporters and to our Republican base," he added.

By Jason Lemon
A former Reagan administration official blasted Republican lawmakers currently serving in Congress on Sunday, arguing that they were "absolutely abrogating their duty" by not holding President Donald Trump accountable. "It's like the invasion of the body snatchers," Linda Chavez, who served as former President Ronald Reagan's White House Director of Public Liaison, said during a segment of CNN's State of the Union. "I don't know who these people are, I mean they have so changed their tune. This is really serious," she asserted. Chavez then pointed out that she had previously been a Democrat prior to serving in the Republican administrations of Reagan as well as former President George H.W. Bush. She explained that she "became a conservative" because she "really believed that the Republican party was devoted to the truth, that we believed in ideals." "We were devoted to the Constitution," Chavez said. "And what I see happening now is people who are absolutely abrogating their duty. They are putting politics first and they're scared. They're scared of Donald Trump," she argued. Democrats opened a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump after an anonymous whistleblower revealed that the president had repeatedly pressured Ukrainian leaders to open an investigation to tarnish his political rival, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. The president also asked Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a probe into a conspiracy theory that Democrats worked with Ukrainians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Ahead of that conversation with Zelensky, the president ordered that $391 million in military aid to the Eastern European nation be withheld. Ukrainian officials have said that they were given the impression that the president's support for their government could depend on whether or not they opened the investigations he wanted. Text messages between U.S. diplomats and Ukrainian officials also appear to suggest that Trump did not want to release the aid, or meet with Zelensky, unless the probes moved forward.

By Jason Lemon
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace confronted Republican Congressman Chris Stewart with text messages between U.S. diplomats discussing what many critics of the president see as clear evidence of a quid pro quo after the representative insisted no such expectation existed. Stewart, who represents Utah and sits on the House Intelligence Committee, told Wallace during an interview on Fox News Sunday that Trump never linked his request that Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky investigated Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden to military aid. "It's never even mentioned," the representative said, referring to a controversial July 25 phone call between the two leaders. "He [Trump] doesn't ever offer a quid pro quo." But Wallace, later in the segment, pointed to text messages between American diplomats working with Ukraine that suggested Trump would only grant the $391 million in military aid and a meeting with Zelensky if the investigation into Biden was opened. "I want to pick up on what you said at the very top, which is that there is no quid pro quo, no linkage between President Trump's asking the Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and U.S. support, including [nearly] $400 million in military aid to Ukraine," Wallace said. "There are a number of documents that your committee received this week, and bear with me, I'm gonna go through just three of them and read them," he said. Wallace then read three of the text messages exchanged between the key U.S. diplomats involved in setting up direct communications between Zelensky and Trump.

By Tracy Wilkinson - LA Times
U.S. political leaders peddled ill-informed accounts about the situation in Ukraine, a top advisor to Ukraine’s president said in his first interview with a U.S. news outlet. Although he stressed that he did not believe the falsehoods ever threatened U.S.-Ukrainian relations, the accounts may have given President Trump cover for suspending military aid. “The fact is that some American politicians were not informed in the right degree about what is going on here,” Andriy Yermak said Saturday in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “This is both our problem and their problem,” said Yermak, who is a top advisor and longtime friend of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “Clearly, over the years,” he added, “President Trump had developed a negative impression of Ukraine, which was not what we wanted.” Yermak said he spent weeks this summer attempting to reassure U.S. officials that the United States had no enemies in the Ukrainian leadership, even before he learned of U.S. officials’ decision to suspend a military aid package to Ukraine, and was dismayed that the country had been dragged into Washington’s political fights and Trump’s possible impeachment. Yermak chose his words carefully to avoid overt criticism of Trump advisors. He clearly communicated a sense of hope that what some view as damage to Ukraine, which has depended on U.S. and European help against Russia, would be temporary. Yermak was asked if he could trust the U.S. under Trump after all that had transpired in recent weeks, and a lengthy pause followed. “We are pragmatic,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy slammed Republicans on Sunday, accusing them of being more loyal to President Donald Trump than the country amid a House impeachment inquiry centered on the commander in chief‘s efforts to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. "This entire country should be scared that at a moment when we need patriots, what we are getting is blind partisan loyalty," Murphy said in an interview on "Meet the Press."  Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, followed Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who made waves last week when he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the top U.S. diplomat to the European Union told him in August that nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine was being held up in exchange for Kiev probing U.S. elections, a charge Trump later denied in a phone call with the senator. But on Sunday, Johnson defended Trump, saying he was "sympathetic with what the president has gone through" and that Democrats were actually relitigating the 2016 presidential election. Other congressional Republicans also eschewed criticism of Trump. Though he called Johnson "a good friend," Murphy said he's "scared" by Republicans' posture after Trump called on the governments of Ukraine and China to investigate Biden, one of his chief political rivals in the 2020 presidential race.  

By Chris Mills Rodrigo
President Trump privately told House Republicans that he is worried about the effect impeachment would have on his legacy, Axios reported Sunday. Trump said impeachment is a "bad thing to have on your resume" in a call with House Republicans, a source on the call told Axios.  President Trump privately told House Republicans that he is worried about the effect impeachment would have on his legacy, Axios reported Sunday. Trump said impeachment is a "bad thing to have on your resume" in a call with House Republicans, a source on the call told Axios.

By Linette Lopez
When Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States, he promised to launch an economic experiment. Ignoring the past few decades of economic liberalization, multilateralism, and openness, Trump promised to close the economy, renegotiate our trade deals nation by nation, and refocus the US economy on a relatively small sector, manufacturing, which makes up less than 20% of the economy. To some, that experiment was a refreshing turn from the steady plod toward globalization that Americans have experienced for the past 50 years. To others — especially to economists — this was folly. Protectionism, as experts well know, is bad news. They reminded Trump that steel tariffs have only brought the US pain — but Trump slapped them on our allies anyway. He was warned about his tax policies; about disrupting the North American Free Trade Agreement, our trade deal with Canada and Mexico; about ripping up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal forged by the Obama administration and supported by members of both parties; and about confronting China alone. But Trump did it all anyway. And so the world found out what happens when the most powerful country in the world takes 100 years of economic knowledge and flushes it down the toilet. Experiment, on.

By Brian Naylor
While Congress mulls whether President Trump's phone call soliciting help from the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son is an impeachable offense, Trump's action raises another question. Did the president's requests violate campaign finance law? The Department of Justice doesn't think so. DOJ officials and career prosecutors in the department's public integrity section examined the text of the July 25 phone call and concluded there was not a potential campaign finance violation, according to senior Justice Department officials. The facts did not provide a basis for a predicated investigation, they said. In part, it depends on whether the president solicited a "thing of value" and how that term is defined. Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, believes there was a violation of the law. He says that "there is a long list" of examples of the Federal Election Commission finding that "intangible items like opposition research can constitute a thing of value for purposes of campaign finance law." Fischer noted that when looking into Russia intervention in the 2016 election, special counsel Robert Mueller investigated whether Donald Trump Jr. violated campaign finance law with his apparent willingness to accept dirt about Hillary Clinton. Mueller couldn't determine whether Trump Jr. knew that what he was doing violated the law, Fischer says, and furthermore, the information being solicited "appeared to be nonexistent." For a criminal prosecution, the worth of the "thing of value" must be more than $25,000 for a felony and $2,000 for a misdemeanor. The chair of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, tweeted the day after the transcript of Trump's phone call was released last month that "the Commission has recognized the 'broad scope' of the foreign national contribution prohibition and found that even where the value of a good or service 'may be nominal or difficult to ascertain,' such contributions are nevertheless banned." Former FEC senior counsel Dan Weiner says the question of whether intangibles such as opposition research is a thing of value is "fairly well-settled." He says because the FEC is the agency charged with interpreting and administering federal campaign finance law, getting the agency involved in this question "is crucial." There's only one problem: The FEC currently lacks a quorum and cannot take up any new investigations until additional commissioners are nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Fischer at the Campaign Legal Center isn't sure that even if there were a quorum, the FEC would act. The alleged violation, he says, "arose in the course of the president carrying out his foreign policy responsibilities and the president has wide latitude to conduct diplomacy. I would be very surprised if the FEC were to issue civil penalties against the president or his campaign."

The biggest beneficiary of the Ukraine scandal is, sure enough, the Kremlin.
A year ago, I was in Kiev when a young Ukrainian soldier was killed. Olesya Baklanova, 19, enlisted in the Ukrainian Armed Forces as soon as she was eligible and fought to be assigned a combat post. Deployed to the front lines of her country’s war against Russia, she was killed during the night while manning an observation post, shot by a sniper stationed among the Russian and proxy forces dug in a few hundred meters way. She was one of four Ukrainian soldiers killed at their post that night — one of the estimated 13,000 soldiers, fighters and civilians killed in eastern Ukraine in the past five years. Her story was a concise reminder of the realities of Ukraine’s forgotten war. Russian forces seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in early 2014; weeks later, Russia formally annexed the territory. This was an important strategic goal for President Vladimir Putin. To ensure that no one had time to do anything about it — and to further destabilize Ukraine — Russia then launched a war in eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas region, using nominal separatists with Russian backing. Five years on, it’s still a hot war, with Russia constantly pushing forward the line of occupation. Some 1.5 million people have been displaced. The shifting mass of regular and irregular Russian troops in eastern Ukraine — soldiers and mercenaries; “separatist” proxies and militias; a lot of guys with pseudonyms using advanced Russian weaponry that Russia claims must have been bought at the local corner shop (note: it is supplied from Russia) — constantly test and adapt new capabilities, especially electronic warfare capabilities, on the battlefield. Ukrainian forces, with Western support, have steadily developed new measures to counter whatever is thrown at them. The Ukrainian war effort is defined both by this ingenuity and by sacrifice. The army, left gutted by former President Viktor Yanukovych, was rebuilt entirely in wartime. New units are rotated through areas of heavy fighting to increase their combat experience — a wartime readiness strategy that contributes to spikes in casualties, but which has been enormously successful. The average age of Ukrainian recruits is officially around 36, though anecdotally it’s over 40 at the front, as the generation that remembers life before independence now leads the fight to keep it.

By KATE FELDMAN and Shant Shahrigian - New York Daily News
“Multiple” whistleblowers have come forward about President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, said a lawyer for the original whistleblower who set off the case roiling the nation. “I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General. No further comment at this time,” attorney Andrew Bakaj tweeted Sunday. One of the new whistleblowers was described as an intelligence official with “first-hand knowledge” of some of the allegations in the original complaint, which said Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr on digging up dirt about Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate. Attorney Mark Zaid told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that the new whistleblower has spoken with the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, That could help shut down Trump’s efforts to discredit the original whistleblower. The president has tried to depict the complaint as unreliable since it was based on second-hand accounts of Trump’s conduct. House Democrats have been moving full speed ahead with impeachment proceedings, demanding documents from a combative White House since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the inquiry Sept. 24. Trump has been on an off-the-rails rampage, suggesting that leading Dems are in fact the ones guilty of treason and trying to discredit the veracity of the whistleblower’s complaint.

2nd whistleblower comes forward after speaking with IG: Attorney
By james gordon meek and anne flaherty
Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the whistleblower who sounded the alarm on President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine and triggered an impeachment inquiry, tells ABC News that he is now representing a second whistleblower who has spoken with the inspector general. Zaid tells ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the second person -- also described as an intelligence official -- has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint and has been interviewed by the head of the intelligence community's internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson. The existence of a second whistleblower -- particularly one who can speak directly about events involving the president related to conversations involving Ukraine -- could undercut Trump's repeated insistence that the original complaint, released on Sept. 26, was "totally inaccurate." That original seven-page complaint alleged that Trump pushed a foreign power to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter, and that unnamed senior White House officials then tried to "lock down" all records of the phone call. "This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call," the first whistleblower stated, in a complaint filed Aug. 12. Zaid says both officials have full protection of the law intended to protect whistleblowers from being fired in retaliation. While this second official has spoken with the IG -- the internal watchdog office created to handle complaints -- this person has not communicated yet with the congressional committees conducting the investigation. The New York Times on Friday cited anonymous sources in reporting that a second intelligence official was weighing whether to file his own formal complaint and testify to Congress. Zaid says he does not know if the second whistleblower he represents is the person identified in the Times report. Zaid’s co-counsel, Andrew Bakaj, confirmed in a tweet Sunday that the firm is representing "multiple whistleblowers." Zaid later confirmed in a tweet that two are being represented by their legal team. According to the first whistleblower, more than a half a dozen U.S. officials have information relevant to the investigation -- suggesting the probe could widen even further.

By Marty Johnson
According to Axios, President Trump told House Republicans that he was urged by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to make his July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump told fellow party members "not a lot of people know this but, I didn't even want to make the call," a source who was on the call told the news outlet. "The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant," Trump added. The president's comments put a twist on the narrative surrounding House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Text messages between White House officials and former Zelensky aide Andrey Yermak were released earlier this week. None of the messages suggest that Perry was the reason behind Trump's phone call.

Opinion by Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky
(CNN) - On December 19, 1985, Secretary of State George Shultz rocked the Reagan administration by publicly threatening to resign. The matter was not over policy, but principle. Shultz was taking a stand against Reagan's plan to expand the use of polygraph tests to as many as 180,000 government employees — including 4,500 from the State Department — in an effort to crack down on leaks. Just one day after Shultz took a stand, Reagan backed down. Shultz represents the gold standard for a secretary of state defending his department. It's hard to see current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo taking a page from Shultz's playbook. It appears that if there's anything Pompeo learned from his predecessor Rex Tillerson, it's not to oppose President Donald Trump or make him unhappy. We have worked for a half dozen secretaries of state in both Republican and Democratic administrations and rarely if ever have we encountered one more ill-suited for the job. Pompeo, who seems to be motivated by his own political ambitions and his desire to keep his job, has produced little of real consequence to advance the nation's interest. If he continues on his current trajectory, Pompeo may end up being remembered as the worst secretary of state in modern times. To be fair, Pompeo works for a mercurial and undisciplined President who trusts and empowers no one, interferes in foreign policy when his vanity and mood swings move him, and sees everything through the lens of his own personal and political needs. It may well be that no secretary of state can navigate these turbulent waters. After John Bolton was ousted as national security adviser, Pompeo became the most influential foreign policy voice in Washington after Trump. And yet it appears Pompeo is either unwilling or incapable of using that influence to advise the President. There is no speaking truth to power here. Pompeo seems unwilling to apply any brakes on Trump's impulses and in fact seems willing to keep one foot on the accelerator — particularly when it comes to defending Trump's trade war with China and defending Saudi Arabia. Pompeo did not seem interested in getting in Trump's way as the President and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani went digging for dirt on political opponents in Ukraine. In fact, Pompeo sat in on the Trump-Zelensky phone call on July 25 and was a first-hand witness to the President asking the Ukrainian leader to initiate an investigation into Trump's leading 2020 political rival — and yet for days he made misleading statements to gloss over his participation. Pompeo failed to meet a subpoena deadline from the House and pushed back against the House Foreign Affairs Committee's request to interview five State Department officials.

Sometimes, yes—which is why Donald Trump’s potential impeachment hinges on his motive in doing so.
Here’s the big question on which the potential impeachment of President Donald Trump could turn: Is it ever appropriate for a U.S. president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival? Democrats seem to assume the answer is no, that this kind of request could never be proper, given the implications for our electoral system. “Smoking gun” is what they say about Trump’s urging Ukraine—and now also China—to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. Republicans, meanwhile, contend that it is perfectly normal, and justified, for Trump as president to ask the Ukrainians to look into potential corruption that involves Americans and could, in theory, affect U.S. relations with that country. “This is not about politics. This is about corruption,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday. But the real answer to this question is more complicated. History shows that a president sometimes might be justified in asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival, including a former vice president. So, the mere fact of Trump’s request for an investigation into the Bidens, without considering the circumstances of the request, is not enough to impeach him. In order prove that Trump abused his presidential powers to the point that he no longer can be trusted in exercising them—the constitutional standard for impeachment—Congress must establish Trump’s intent in making the request. Was it done in good faith, with U.S. foreign or domestic interests in mind, or in bad faith, merely for Trump’s personal and political benefit? To prove the latter, Congress can’t rely on Trump’s words alone; it must show that the charges of corruption against the Bidens are baseless and that Trump’s request to Ukraine is part of a pattern of bad faith demonstrating that the nation no longer can tolerate his incumbency.

A federal judge has ordered the White House to preserve a wide range of evidence about President Donald Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders, including his interactions related to Ukraine that have fueled an impeachment investigation in the House. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the order Thursday, directing that White House officials not destroy records of “meetings, phone calls, and other communications with foreign leaders.” The judge’s order also appears to specifically address reports that the Trump White House set up a special system to limit access to certain records of presidential conversations with foreign leaders. Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, instructed the White House to preserve “all records of efforts by White House or other executive branch officials to return, ‘claw back,’ ’lock down’ or recall White House records” about dealings with foreign officials. The order came in a lawsuit filed in May by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, as well as two history-focused organizations: the National Security Archive and the Society for the History of American Foreign Relations. The suit alleged that the White House was failing to maintain and putting at risk records of presidential actions required to be documented by the Presidential Records Act. While the suit predated the Ukraine controversy, lawyers pressing the case asked Jackson on Tuesday for a temporary restraining order, citing reports that records of Trump’s phone calls with the president of Ukraine and some other leaders had been removed from the usual database at the White House and moved to another one not typically used for those calls. Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing Wednesday that the White House had already taken steps to secure many of the records the plaintiffs expressed concern about. The filing also suggested that in response to the request for a restraining order, White House lawyers broadened an existing instruction to preserve records of Trump’s foreign interactions.

By Jordain Carney
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Saturday it was "completely inappropriate" for President Trump to urge China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. "I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent. ... It’s completely inappropriate," Collins told the Bangor Daily News. Collins's comments came after Trump suggested to reporters outside the White House on Thursday that China and Ukraine should investigate the Bidens. "China should start an investigation into the Bidens," Trump said in front of cameras on the South Lawn. The president added that he had not explicitly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to open such a probe but that it’s “certainly something we can start thinking about.” Collins — who is up for reelection in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 — is one of the few Republican senators who have publicly pushed back against Trump's comments. Most have remained silent as they are dispersed across the country and in the middle of a two-week recess. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement on Thursday night that "Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth" but also knocked House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for running a "partisan clown show in the House."

By Kevin Breuninger
The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog is investigating how the department handled House Democrats’ requests for President Donald Trump’s tax returns, CNBC confirmed Friday. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., asked acting Inspector General Rich Delmar in a Sept. 30 letter to investigate how the Treasury handled the House panel’s request to hand over tax returns for Trump and his businesses. “I want to be assured that Treasury, including the Internal Revenue Service ... is enforcing the law in a fair and impartial manner and no one is endeavoring to intimidate or impede government officials and employees carrying out their duties,” Neal wrote. Delmar told CNBC that Neal asked his office to “inquire into the process by which the Department received, evaluated, and responded to the Committee’s request for federal tax information.” “We are undertaking that inquiry,” Delmar said.

By Daniel Politi
President Donald Trump issued a proclamation that requires all immigrants to the United States have health insurance. The proclamation, which is set to take effect Nov. 3, details that the government will only accept visa petitions from abroad by applicants who can prove they will be able to secure health insurance within a month of their entry into the United States. Those who can’t prove that outright, must demonstrate they have enough money to pay “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” What “reasonably foreseeable” means isn’t quite clear as it isn’t defined in the proclamation. “The entry into the United States as immigrants of aliens who will financially burden the United States health care system is hereby suspended,” reads the proclamation. The document takes pains to emphasize that the measure is about costs. “While our healthcare system grapples with the challenges caused by uncompensated care, the United States Government is making the problem worse by admitting thousands of aliens who have not demonstrated any ability to pay for their healthcare costs,” notes the proclamation. “Immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our healthcare system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”

By John Bowden
President Trump called for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) to be impeached Saturday and argued that Republican voters in the state made a "mistake" nominating Romney for the Senate. In a pair of tweets, the president argued that the Utah Republican should be removed from office and that former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), another frequent Trump critic, was "better" than Romney. "I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their Pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree! He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the Do Nothing Democrats! #IMPEACHMITTROMNEY," Trump tweeted. "No Kevin, Jeff Flake is better!" he added, responding to Fox News reporter Kevin Corke's tweet questioning whether Romney was "the new #JeffFlake."

By Jessica Tarlov, opinion contributor
The oft-cited “Donald Trump tells it like it is” defense of the president is coming back to bite him and his ardent supporters. President Trump is now regularly saying the quiet part out loud. He has tried to use the office of the presidency to pressure foreign governments to investigate a political opponent, a clear abuse of power. On Thursday, a reporter asked the president, “What exactly did you hope the Ukrainian president would do about the Bidens?” Trump’s answer was stunning — and obvious at the same time. He replied, “I think if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation. … They should investigate the Bidens. … China likewise should start an investigation.” For those who have been paying close attention, this is, indeed, the exact thing Republicans have spent days denying that Trump asked in his July phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, though the president has upped the ante by adding a request to China to investigate the former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. A Monmouth University poll released this week found that only 40 percent of Republicans believe Trump mentioned Biden on the call with the Ukrainian president. What will they say now? The president is his own worst enemy — and I, for one, am thankful for it. He strikes a hole in the heart of any decent defense of his behavior on a regular basis. There have been no breaches in whistleblower protocol, no matter what accusations the president hurls at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) or the whistleblower himself. According to guidance on “protected disclosures” from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), communication of urgent concern can go to congressional intelligence committees. There is bipartisan consensus on this, with spokespeople for Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) saying that it would be standard practice for the “intelligence committee to tell a potential whistleblower to hire counsel and file a complaint with an agency IG or the IC IG.” There goes that argument. And with news trickling out about congressional testimony by Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine — which included a text message from Bill Taylor, the former top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, that read, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance to help with a political campaign” — the president’s story will continue to look more and more ridiculous. (The text message exchange reveals pushback on that assertion and then a suggestion to take the conversation offline.)

The DOJ’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe seems to be focusing on the intelligence community’s links with foreign sources.
For months, President Donald Trump’s allies have been raising expectations for prosecutor John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, predicting that he will uncover a deep state plot to stage a “coup” against the president. Durham “is looking at putting people in jail,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News host Sean Hannity in July. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said Durham is about to unleash “a pile of evidence” that will “debunk” everything House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has proclaimed for “the last two years.” “Stuff is going to hit the fan” when Durham is done “investigating the investigators,” said Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera. “If indictments are warranted, U.S. Attorney John Durham will be bringing them,” wrote conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt. But in the five months since Attorney General Bill Barr tapped Durham to investigate the origins of the Russia probe, and whether any inappropriate “spying” occurred on members of the Trump campaign, he has not requested interviews with any of the FBI or DOJ employees who were directly involved in, or knew about, the opening of the Russia investigation in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter. The omission raises questions about what, exactly, Durham—alongside Attorney General Bill Barr—has been investigating. Those not contacted include former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok; former FBI general counsel Jim Baker; former chief of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section David Laufman; and former head of DOJ’s National Security Division Mary McCord. Former CIA Director John Brennan, Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele, and former Trump adviser Carter Page—who was the subject of a surveillance warrant that is now under investigation by the inspector general—haven’t been contacted for interviews, either.

By Editorial Board
THE ROUGH transcript of President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prompted a debate about whether, in pressing for politicized investigations of alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and of Joe Biden, Mr. Trump dangled rewards for Mr. Zelensky as a quid pro quo. In our view, the transcript contained at least a hint that Mr. Trump was linking the “favor” he wanted to arms sales, and clear evidence that he was tying it to a White House invitation. That conclusion is now confirmed. Text messages among U.S. diplomats and a Ukrainian official released by House committees definitively show that not only did the Trump administration seek to extract Ukrainian promises of political probes in exchange for a summit meeting, but also they spent weeks negotiating the deal both before and after the Trump-Zelensky phone call. There was no lack of clarity on either side. “Heard from the White House,” U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker texted a top aide to Mr. Zelensky on July 25, just ahead of the call. “Assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate/ ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington.” There was no lack of clarity on either side. “Heard from the White House,” U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker texted a top aide to Mr. Zelensky on July 25, just ahead of the call. “Assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate/ ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington.” About two weeks later, amid negotiations over what, exactly, Mr. Zelensky would say in publicly announcing the probes, the aide, Andrey Yermak, texted Mr. Volker: “I think it’s possible to make this declaration and mention all these things. . . . But it will be logic to do after we receive a confirmation of date.” In the end, the deal did not go through. Instead, the record shows that Mr. Trump and his retainers kept raising their demands, like a casino developer squeezing a plumbing contractor. Mr. Zelensky was supposed to get his meeting date after promising the investigations in the July 25 phone call. Instead, the Ukrainians were told Mr. Zelensky needed to make a public statement committing to the probes. Mr. Volker told Congress Thursday that when the Ukrainians then offered a general statement about fighting corruption, it was rejected by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said Mr. Zelensky had to refer specifically to allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and to the gas company that employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter. In the end, the Ukrainians — to their credit — refused.

Trump Orders ‘Substantial’ National Security Council Staff Cuts: Report
The president made the reported request as House lawmakers intensify their impeachment probe into his communications with Ukraine.
By Amy Russo
As House lawmakers intensify their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged solicitation of election interference from Ukraine, he has ordered “substantial” staff cuts within the National Security Council, Bloomberg News reported late Friday. The outlet cited five individuals familiar with the plan, some of whom described it as an effort to downsize the administration’s foreign policy arm under Robert O’Brien, who was named national security adviser last month. The request was reportedly shared this week with senior NSC officials by both O’Brien and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The White House did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment on the matter. The news comes amid mounting scandal over Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he pressed Zelensky repeatedly to assist lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr with a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, based on unsubstantiated accusations. A whistleblower complaint filed in August by a member of the intelligence community states that Trump was essentially asking Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 election by investigating a political rival. There remains no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Bidens. The complaint also states that “multiple White House officials” said a transcript of the call was stored in a computer system managed by the NSC Directorate for Intelligence Programs, which is “reserved for codeword-level intelligence.”

Escalating Impeachment Inquiry Rattles State Department
The department is reeling from daily revelations in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, according to former senior officials.
Ben Fox, Matthew Lee and Lolita C. Baldor
WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department has been deeply shaken by the rapidly escalating impeachment inquiry, as revelations that President Donald Trump enlisted diplomats to dig up dirt on a political rival threaten to tarnish its reputation as a nonpartisan arm of U.S. foreign policy, former senior officials said Friday. A department where morale was already low under a president who, at times, has seemed hostile to its mission is now reeling from days of disclosures that place it at the center of an escalating political scandal, say former diplomats who fear that the turmoil will damage American foreign policy objectives around the world. “This has just been a devastating three years for the Department of State,” said Heather Conley, a senior policy adviser at State under President George W. Bush. “You can just feel there is a sense of disbelief. They don’t know who will be subpoenaed next.” The first blow was the release of a rough transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which the American president pressed for an investigation of the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. In the call, the president also disparaged the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was removed from her post in May amid a campaign coordinated by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Thursday saw the release of text messages between Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and two senior diplomats as they scrambled to accommodate Giuliani’s campaign to leverage American support for Ukraine in a search for potential political dirt. “This is only the latest in a large number of very damaging things that have been done to the State Department,” said Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Russia under President George H.W. Bush. “It represents a new low in basically ignoring and indeed punishing the people who have made a professional commitment to the country and Constitution.”

By David Welna
At a news conference in Kyiv on Friday, Ukraine's newly appointed top prosecutor announced a sweeping review of past corruption investigations that had been either shut down or split up. Fifteen of those cases, according to an official press release, involve the founder of the Ukrainian gas firm Burisma. Former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter was appointed to Burisma's board in 2014, while his father was leading policy on Ukraine during the Obama administration. The audit of earlier corruption probes follows a promise Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made to President Trump in a July 25 phone conversation: that a new prosecutor general would look into the closing of an investigation into Burisma's practices. Ukraine might appear to be bowing to pressure from Trump, who lifted his previously unannounced two-month hold on nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine on Sept. 11. Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department gave the green light for Congress to consider selling 150 Javelin anti-tank missiles worth nearly $40 million to Ukraine. Zelenskiy had mentioned his desire to acquire those weapons, which are intended to counter Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, in his phone call with Trump.

But the DOJ didn’t pick it up because the CIA’s referral came from a call, not in writing.
By Alex Ward - vox
The CIA’s top lawyer sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on the now-famous whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine. And no, that lawyer isn’t some deep-state conspiracist out to thwart the president: She’s a Trump appointee. According to NBC News on Friday, CIA general counsel Courtney Simmons Elwood and another top official called the Justice Department on August 14 to make a criminal referral — weeks before the whistleblower complaint had become public. “On that call, Elwood and John Eisenberg, the top legal adviser to the White House National Security Council, told the top Justice Department national security lawyer, John Demers, that the allegations merited examination by the DOJ, officials said,” NBC News reports. The DOJ, however, reportedly didn’t consider that to be an official referral because it came in a call, not in writing. (This is important, as you’ll see in just a minute.) As such, the DOJ didn’t look any further into the allegations that Elwood was so concerned about. In other words, they dropped it. The Justice Department would eventually look into the allegations made in the whistleblower complaint a bit later after receiving a different criminal referral, this one from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (and apparently in writing, luckily). That referral was “based solely on the whistleblower’s official written complaint.” This is a really important point, because, as NBC News explains, “Justice Department officials have said they only investigated the president’s Ukraine call for violations of campaign finance law because it was the only statute mentioned in the whistleblower’s complaint.” So DOJ looked into this whistleblower complaint and determined in September that there is no need for a full-blown criminal probe into Trump’s actions because that specific law — campaign finance — wasn’t broken, thus effectively closing the inquiry. Now here’s the kicker: The CIA’s criminal referral wasn’t about campaign finance law, according to NBC News. This means DOJ essentially ignored the CIA criminal referral — which apparently included concerns that other laws besides campaign finance law may have been broken — all because it was made over the phone. The episode calls into serious question just how thorough the Justice Department was when determining whether to start a formal investigation into the president’s actions on Ukraine.

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