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by Jacob Pramuk
The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint that has embroiled President Donald Trump in an impeachment inquiry and clouded his political future.The nine-page document details an “urgent concern” that the president is “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” It not only details Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president during which he asked his counterpart to investigate the Biden family, but also alleges administration efforts to “lock down” records of the conversation. The complaint, based on the accounts of more than half a dozen U.S. officials, implicates more than Trump. It calls his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani a “central figure” in the effort and says Attorney General William Barr “appears to be involved as well.” Concerns that the document would show Trump trying to get a foreign state to investigate one of his chief political rivals — and accusations that the White House improperly stonewalled efforts to see it — led House Democrats to accuse the president of abusing his power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the chamber would start impeachment proceedings into Trump, alleging a “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections.” Shortly after the document’s release, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified about the complaint at the House Intelligence Committee. Members of congressional intelligence panels had a chance to review the document Wednesday. In a statement Thursday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, which is nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings—all of which shows nothing improper.” She said the president released a memorandum summarizing the call Wednesday “because he has nothing to hide.”

By Jessica Campisi
A hacker broke into an electronic road sign in Seattle on Wednesday, changing the message to read “Impeach the Bastard.” The Seattle Department of Transportation said the sign was rented to the contractor National Barricade, and a spokesperson for the company said someone had hacked the sign’s system early Wednesday morning to change the message, local news station Q13 reports. The sign was changed back to its initial traffic message within a few hours, and additional locks were put in place to prevent another hacking incident, the station reports. The hack comes a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump amid scrutiny in recent days over reports that Trump urged Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

By Jordan Novet
George Kurtz, co-founder and CEO of cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, was at a meeting Wednesday morning when his email inbox was suddenly bombarded with news alerts. “I’m like ‘what, what? What’s going on?’” Kurtz told CNBC in an afternoon interview in San Francisco. “I had no idea.” Kurtz’s inbox was blowing up and he got bombarded with text messages from friends after CrowdStrike’s name appeared in the summary of a July call between President Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine. The White House released the summary amid pressure from House Democrats, who have placed Trump’s conversation with Zelensky at the center of an impeachment inquiry. “It was unintelligible, to be honest,” Kurtz said of Trump’s comments. “But it was a bit of a shock this morning.” CrowdStrike’s name was likely invoked by Trump because the company assisted the Democratic National Committee in investigating a 2016 hack by Russian operatives. Trump has previously suggested that the DNC should have turned over the email servers to the FBI instead of having CrowdStrike investigate, implying that the lack of cooperation should cast doubt on findings that the Russians helped him win the election. CrowdStrike responded on Wednesday by saying in a statement that it “provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI,” and that “we stand by our findings and conclusions that have been fully supported by the US intelligence community.” Kurtz told CNBC that government work makes up a significant amount of the company’s revenue, though he said it doesn’t break out the numbers. He said CrowdStrike works with governments on the local, state and federal level, both in the U.S. and abroad. And he emphasized that the company is “nonpartisan.” “We protect both Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

The secretary of state is facing scrutiny from lawmakers over his involvement in the unfolding scandal.
Lawmakers trying to unravel the controversy over President Donald Trump's discussions with the leader of Ukraine are increasingly homing in on exactly what role Mike Pompeo played in the drama. And few have as much to lose as the secretary of state, a man with huge political ambitions who has closely aligned himself with Trump. Questions about Pompeo and the State Department's role have spread thanks to Trump’s point man on Ukraine, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. A memorandum made public on Wednesday documented what appeared to be Trump's efforts to convince his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. "Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great," Trump tells Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at one point in the memo. On Tuesday night, Giuliani told Fox News that he had gotten in touch with Ukrainian officials at the behest of the State Department. It was one of several times Giuliani has claimed that State officials had tasked him with the mission. "I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it," the former New York City mayor told Fox News, without naming names. Democrats jumped on that to demand answers, even as some Hill staffers privately say they are leery of believing Giuliani. "Rudy Giuliani needs to explain this under oath. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call a hearing ASAP," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire tweeted while linking to the clip of Giuliani's interview.

By Laurence H. Tribe, Opinion contributor
Whatever additional evidence against Donald Trump the impeachment inquiry digs up, we already know enough to say: The president must be impeached. Let us count the ways. The White House readout of President Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows that the American president has committed a multitude of high crimes and misdemeanors, all of them impeachable. Even without considering the many prior offenses that were surfaced in the Mueller report and in the special counsel’s prosecutions of numerous Trump allies and associates, including in the Southern District of New York, this readout — which must be the least incriminating version the White House could compose despite its remarkable skills at shading the truth or falsifying it altogether — is utterly devastating. The “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the readout reveals — to use the Constitution’s term for impeachable offenses beyond “treason” and “bribery” (both of which the readout comes close to establishing) — begin with Trump abusing the foreign policy powers entrusted to the president by Article II in order to serve his own political interests rather than the interests of the American people. Ukraine pressed by Trump, Russia: Those interests were defined here by a bipartisan decision of the Congress we elected to represent us in world affairs using its Article I spending power: Congress decided that it was in our nation’s security interest to provide nearly $400 million in aid to the beleaguered patriots of an American ally fighting a bloody battle with an American adversary. The ally was Ukraine. The adversary was Russia, which had — not so coincidentally — tried to help Trump win office in 2016. Even if this action weren’t payback to Russian President Vladimir Putin and yet another indication of how beholden Trump is to that brutal dictator — which it may well have been — it was a blatant usurpation of Congress’ Appropriation Clause authority for Trump to withhold the aid the Ukranians needed. When asked by Ukraine’s president in this July 25 phone call to purchase more Javelin missiles from the United States for defense purposes, Trump respond that he would gladly do so, although — he actually used the word “though” — he would greatly appreciate that foreign president’s aid in, among other things, gathering evidence to effectively help prosecute Trump’s main rival for the presidency in the forthcoming election.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley on Wednesday described the whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump's communications with Ukraine as "deeply disturbing" after viewing the document. "I can't detail what it involves. Period," Quigley told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "I will tell people that it is deeply disturbing. It reinforces the concerns that what we previously learned and I think it is a blueprint for what we still need to know." Quigley asserted the whistleblower complaint "is the political equivalent" of Trump's claim during his 2016 presidential campaign that he could "stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody" without losing voters. "What the President said during the campaign, he said he could shoot someone on the street and his base would stay with him. I guess what I read, to me, was the political equivalent of that: defying the constitution, committing a criminal act and thinking, 'Well I can get away with it,' " he said. "Some sort of bizarre cult of personality. Deeply disturbing what we read this morning. Alarming." The whistleblower complaint -- which was hand-delivered to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for lawmakers to review -- deals, at least in part, with a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25. A transcript of the conversation released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Even before the whistleblower complaint was made available to lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday declared Trump had betrayed his oath of office and announced she was opening a formal impeachment inquiry intot he President.

Earlier this week, President Trump cited concerns about corruption as his rationale for blocking security assistance to Ukraine. But in a letter sent to four congressional committees in May of this year and obtained by NPR, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood informs lawmakers that he has "certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability." The certification was required by law for the release of $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine. That aid was blocked by the White House until Sept. 11 and has since been released. It must be spent before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.

By Justin Wise
Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), an Independent who formally left the Republican Party earlier this year, said Wednesday that a memo of President Trump
Donald John Trump Amash responds to Trump: 'It's not about the transcript of a call' Warren announces expansion of presidential campaign Colbert on Ukraine controversy: 'It might be the thing' that gets Trump's conversation with the leader of Ukraine was a "devastating indictment" of the president. "Again, it’s not just about a call, but even the call is a devastating indictment of the president," Amash, who previously argued that the controversy surrounding Trump was more so about his "continuing abuse of the office of the presidency," said on Twitter just moments after the White House released a memo of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelensky. Amash, an outspoken critic of Trump, zeroed in on a portion of the conversation in which the president asked for a "favor" immediately after Zelensky thanked the president for military support. The lawmaker highlighted sections of the discussion, noting that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate CrowdStrike, a U.S.-based Internet security company that initially examined the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s servers in 2016. Trump later called on the Ukrainian leader to work with Attorney General William Barr to look into allegations of corruption against Biden's son, Hunter Biden. Trump's phone call with Zelensky is said to be at least part of a whistleblower complaint that has embroiled his administration in controversy over the last week. Reports first surfaced last week that Trump allegedly pressured the Ukrainian leader to find dirt on a political rival, spawning increasing calls from Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings. The call occurred around the same time that the Trump administration withheld millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, raising additional speculation as to whether the aid was used as leverage in the leaders' talks. Trump has acknowledged speaking with Zelensky about Biden, but has denied addressing military aid during their conversations.

CNN Newsroom - CNN's Brooke Baldwin reacts to President Donald Trump saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is "no longer the speaker of the House."

To build his wall, Trump has been raiding funds from state projects. Members of his own party just voted to stop it.
By Li Zhou
Just one day after House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump was rebuked again — this time by members of his own party. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats forced a vote on a resolution terminating the national emergency Trump first declared in February to obtain money for a border wall, and it picked up a decent showing of Republican support. It’s the second time Democrats have pushed a vote on this specific declaration, something they have the ability to do every six months, as laid out in the National Emergencies Act of 1976. This time around, Democrats were joined by eleven Republicans, a decrease from the 12 Republicans who voted to terminate the emergency in March. While the resolution passed again with a vote of 54-41, it’s expected to get vetoed by Trump. The last time Democrats tried to advance a similar resolution, the measure also passed, but was stymied by a veto as well. Republicans previously disagreed with the precedent the declaration would set for a president’s use of executive power, and broke with Trump to express their opposition. Wednesday’s vote isn’t expected to stop the actual construction of more fencing; Trump began raiding military construction budgets in order to fund the wall earlier this month. But Democrats introduced the resolution at least in part to pressure Republicans — especially vulnerable senators in swing states — to make clear where they stood. And they weren’t able to avoid it: Because the 1976 law specifies that this resolution is “privileged,” a term that applies to measures the upper chamber must consider, Republicans were unable to prevent it from coming to the floor.

By Pete Gelling
The truth is, an impeachable offense is whatever the US Congress decides it is. That’s because impeachment isn’t really a legal response to perceived misconduct, it’s a political one.And House speaker Nancy Pelosi has finally decided. “The House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry,” she said this afternoon. “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”“ The catalyst was the news that Trump used military aid to Ukraine to leverage his efforts to uncover information that could be used against his potential Democratic rival for the presidency in 2020, former vice president Joe Biden. Impeachment is a thing because the framers of the Constitution created an avenue to remove presidents, judges and other federal officeholders, even if the offense they are accused of isn’t addressed by the legal code. That’s why the impeachment article of the Constitution is so insanely vague: Impeachment, it says, is limited to “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” To quote Benjamin Franklin: The articles of impeachment are needed to remove a president who has “rendered themselves obnoxious.” That’s hardly limited at all. The only thing Congress needs in order to begin the impeachment process is the political will. And unfortunately for Trump, the political will is now there. At latest count 172 members of the House of Representatives have publicly said they would support an impeachment inquiry. A simple majority in the Democrat-led House would force the president to stand trial before the Republican-held Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict. Lawmakers don’t usually think impeachment is a good idea, even when a president has clearly broken the law. Former president Bill Clinton, for instance, was dishonest in grand jury testimony about his sexual relationship with a White House intern. Perjury is a crime, of course. But many lawmakers didn’t think the offense rose to the level of impeachment and Clinton was acquitted by the Senate. Measured politically, impeachment ultimately becomes about proportional response. Lawmakers must decide if a presidential offense merits removal from office, and that the scale of it merits throwing the country into a political crisis. Usually, they don’t think so. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia was, for instance, while unseemly, not enough for the House to move toward impeachment. Trump’s most recent scandal, however, is changing some minds on Capitol Hill. And while it looks bad, it might just be the sum total of the offenses Trump has racked up that is changing the tide. The details of the latest scandal remain secret. And a lot of what the public does know is based on media reports quoting anonymous sources. What’s been confirmed by the Trump team’s own admission, however, could be enough. The reason for impeachment Here’s what is for certain: Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine at some point over the summer, blindsiding Ukrainian officials. A short while later, on July 25, he phoned up Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. The president pressured his counterpart to investigate Biden’s calls for Ukraine to dismiss one of the country’s notoriously corrupt prosecutors. Trump says he believes Biden—widely viewed as his most likely 2020 election opponent—was improperly trying to protect his son Hunter, who had business interests in Ukraine This theory, it’s worth noting, has been soundly disproved. So it looks a lot like the president was searching for dirt on his potential rival.

By Greg Miller, Shane Harris and Karoun Demirjian
The acting Director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The revelation reflects the extraordinary tensions between the White House and the nation’s highest-ranking intelligence official over a matter that has triggered impeachment proceedings against President Trump. The officials said that Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress, where he is scheduled to testify in open and closed hearings on Thursday. Maguire denied that he had done so. In a statement, Maguire said that “at no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019. I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now. I am committed to leading the Intelligence Community to address the diverse and complex threats facing our nation.” The White House also disputed the account. “This is actually not true,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a tweet. But other officials said that Maguire had pushed the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it was going to assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint, which centers on a call that Trump made with the leader of Ukraine in late July. Maguire has been caught in the middle of a fight between Congress and the executive branch over the contents of the whistleblower report since it reached his office late last month. He has at times expressed his displeasure to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others that the White House had put him in the untenable position of denying the material to Congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community.

By Greg Allen
The secretary of veterans affairs has told several members of Congress that he's evicting them from offices they've been using in VA hospitals. The House members use the offices to meet with vets and discuss everything from their eligibility for benefits to the quality of the care they receive. The VA says it wants the spaces back for clinical uses, but one of the lawmakers, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., thinks it's personal. Mast's district extends from Palm Beach North to Port St. Lucie, and like many of his constituents, he is a veteran. He lost both his legs working as a bomb disposal expert in Afghanistan. "I get all my health care from the VA," Mast says, "so I'm there regularly getting health care needs taken care of." Mast has been an activist on veterans' issues in Congress since he was elected in 2016. Last year, he became the first congressman to open an office inside a VA facility, the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach. Five other members of Congress, all Florida Democrats, followed suit. Last month, they received a letter from the VA telling them that their time was up and they would have to move out by the end of the year. Mast urged the VA to reconsider. On his Facebook page, he posted a video of a contentious hearing in April where he questioned VA Secretary Robert Wilkie over security issues and suicides at the West Palm Beach hospital. At the hearing, Mast pressed Wilkie on when he would visit.

BBC News - The Trump administration has released details of a phone conversation in July that has triggered a US impeachment inquiry against the president. According to the notes, Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to look into corruption claims involving the son of Joe Biden, Mr Trump's possible rival in next year's presidential election. Concerns about the call were initially raised by a whistleblower. The Democrats accused Mr Trump of seeking foreign help to smear a rival. Under the US constitution, a president can be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours" - a procedure that can lead to removal from office. In July, Mr Trump froze military aid to Ukraine but he has insisted that this was not used to put pressure on the new government in Kiev. What does Trump say about Biden in the call? Mr Trump discusses with his newly elected Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, the 2016 removal of a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, according to notes of their 25 July telephone conversation released by the White House. The US president is quoted as saying in the call: "I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. "A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved." He continues: "The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution [of Mr Biden's son] and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the [US] Attorney General would be great. "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me." Mr Zelensky says in response: "We will take care of that and we will work on the investigation of the case." Thanking Mr Trump, Mr Zelensky says he stayed in Trump Tower in New York City during a previous visit to the US. During the call, the US president also asks Mr Zelensky to work with US Attorney General William Barr and Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to look into the matter, according to the notes. The Department of Justice said on Wednesday that Mr Trump had not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate Mr Biden, and Mr Barr had not communicated with Ukraine.

By Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence on Monday defended his own and the president’s conversations with the Ukrainian president, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity that there was no quid pro quo when Trump brought up former Vice President Joe Biden during Trump’s congratulatory call to the newly-elected president in July. “He mentioned Vice President Biden and his son in the context of us wanting to see honest government,” Pence said on Hannity’s show. “That’s exactly what the American taxpayer would expect.” Trump himself denied Tuesday using military aid as a pressure tactic to get Ukraine to investigate Biden. "I didn't do it," Trump said in brief remarks with reporters before delivering a speech at the United Nations. Trump said he held up the funds because the U.S. was paying too much while other countries were not paying enough. Pence had his own conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a trip to Poland this month. He told reporters after the meeting that he had not discussed Biden with Zelenskiy. He did not directly respond when asked if he could assure Ukraine that the holdup of military assistance was not related to an effort to dig up dirt on the Biden family.

Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, The Washington Post
President Donald Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly released transcript of the call. Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law. In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials. The administration's disclosures underscore how the president's phone call has consumed the federal government in recent days, and how the White House is now scrambling to defuse the situation by offering more details of what the president said. White House officials said the transcript does not show the president seeking an investigation of Biden's son in exchange for providing aid to Ukraine. When the president reminds Zelensky of how the United States helps Ukraine, Zelensky responds that he appreciates the tough sanctions the United States has imposed on Russia. On Wednesday, the administration released a White House transcript of the call and detailed behind-the-scenes discussions about how to handle the accusations. As public reports emerged about the call and pressure mounted to impeach the president, prosecutors quietly considered whether they should again investigate whether the president committed a crime. They declined to do so. The call begins with Trump congratulating Zelensky on his election victory, but quickly devolves into the president pressing for an investigation of his political rivals and endorsing an apparent conspiracy theory. He seems to suggest Hillary Clinton's private email server is in Ukraine and asserts that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation started with that country. "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it," Trump says, according to the transcript. He adds later: "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. . . . It sounds horrible to me." Zelensky replied that "my candidate" for the prosecutor job "will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue." At the outset of the call, Trump also asks for Ukraine's help in finding the location of the Democratic National Committee server that U.S. officials say was hacked by Russian intelligence in the run-up to the 2016 election. "The server, they say Ukraine has it," Trump says according to the transcript. "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it."

By Zachary Cohen, Katelyn Polantz, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez and David Shortell, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 phone call, according to a transcript of the conversation released by the White House. Trump also asked the Ukrainian leader to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and US Attorney General William Barr on the issue, the call transcript reveals. "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me," Trump says, according to the document. Zelensky agreed to the request. "Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate," the Ukrainian president said. He later added: "He or she will look into the situation specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case." On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into the President, a dramatic and historic step as Trump faced outrage over reports that he pressured a foreign leader in an effort to target a political rival. "The fact is that the President of the United states, in breach of his constitutional responsibilities, has asked a foreign government to help him in his political campaign at the expense of our national security, as well as undermining the integrity of our elections," she said after the transcript was released Wednesday. "That cannot stand. He will be held accountable. No one is above the law." The transcript, which a senior White House official said was developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with note takers and experts listening, will likely amplify the Democratic impeachment effort. Democratic presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the document a "smoking gun. "If this is the version of events the president's team thinks is most favorable, he is in very deep jeopardy," Warren tweeted. The July 25 call, which took place one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about Russian interference in US elections, was also part of a whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, a source familiar with the situation previously told CNN, a revelation that has only raised more questions in the ongoing controversy. During the call, Trump suggested four times that Barr will call Zelensky and repeatedly mentions Giuliani, the Trump ally and former New York City mayor. Giuliani has long lobbied Ukraine to investigate Biden's call in 2016 to remove the country's top prosecutor, who at one point had been investigating a Ukrainian natural gas company connected to Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Trump insisted Wednesday there was "no pressure whatsoever" in his phone call with Zelensky.

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about idiot. You’re just lying…just keep your lying mouth shut.’
By Vincent Wood
Rudy Giuliani hurled abuse at a fellow Fox News guest, calling him a “serial liar” and a “moron” as the president’s opponents pledged to seek Donald Trump’s removal from office. With the threat of impeachment hanging in the air, Mr Giuliani’s outburst on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle came as he looked to defend Donald Trump and himself from allegations the president had offered to trade aid for political favours with the government of Ukraine. The lawyer lambasted fellow guest Chris Hahn, a former aide to senior Democrat Chuck Schumer, saying he should “sue him for libel” after the liberal commentator implied Giuliani was asked by the US State Department “to dig up political dirt on Trump’s opponent”. “Shut up moron, shut up” the president’s legal representative shouted over the left-wing pundit. “You don’t know what you’re talking about idiot. You’re just lying…just keep your lying mouth shut.” However in an earlier segment of the show Mr Giuliani admitted to making himself central to White House’s relationship between the US and Ukraine on order of the State department, and that digging into the history of Biden’s relationship with the country was part of his job as the president’s defence lawyer. When confronted with quotes from a US official who claimed the president’s lawyer had “inserted himself” into Washington’s relationship with the eastern-European nation, he said: “Man I really did, and you know who I did it at the request of? The State Department.

I used to be on the fence about impeaching Trump. Not anymore.
By Zack Beauchamp
Since the Democrats took control of the House, I’ve been deeply conflicted about the debate over impeaching President Donald Trump. There were very strong arguments on both sides, and it seemed genuinely difficult for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to chart the right course. That ambivalence ended this weekend. After worrying press reports about the president’s phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump all but openly admitted that he had pushed Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This changes everything. Impeaching Trump over Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation would have been an attempt to address past offenses; impeaching Trump over these calls would be an attempt to halt what sure looks like an ongoing attempt to hijack American foreign policy in service of the president’s reelection. Democrats have an obligation to try to stop this before it gets any further. There is now no question: It’s time to impeach Donald Trump. The best case against impeachment no longer applies The most compelling argument against impeachment, to my mind, was that it wouldn’t really accomplish anything. There’s a virtual guarantee that impeachment will fail in the Republican-controlled Senate, which means there’s no real chance of actually removing Trump from office. Public opinion about the Russia scandal became more set along partisan lines as time went on, making it unlikely that drawing attention to it would galvanize public opinion against the Trump presidency in 2020. Why risk distracting Democrats from the issues on which Trump is genuinely unpopular, and jeopardizing the House Democratic majority, when the gains were so marginal? This seems to be something like the reasoning that has guided Pelosi’s stolid opposition to impeachment. It’s not obviously correct, but it’s a serious argument — and one that pro-impeachment Democrats and commentators dismissed too easily.

White House preparing to release whistleblower complaint to Congress
Trump has approved releasing the document at the center of his latest standoff with lawmakers, a senior administration official said.
The White House is preparing to release to Congress by the end of the week both the whistleblower complaint and the inspector general report at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to a senior administration official, reversing its position after withholding the documents from lawmakers. The move shows the level of seriousness with which the administration is now approaching the House‘s impeachment proceedings, even as President Donald Trump publicly tried to minimize the inquiry as a “witch hunt,” “presidential harassment,” and even a move that will help him win reelection in 2020. The administration official stressed the decision and timing could change over the next few days, but as of Tuesday evening, the White House was planning to give the information to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The format of presentation, or process of viewing the documents, wasn't decided. The president has agreed to the move, the official added. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told POLITICO on Tuesday night that he’d received no word on whether the Trump administration would turn over the complaint. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The White House’s decision to give lawmakers any information on the whistleblower complaint marks a major change of strategy for the administration, which originally seemed intent on keeping the complaint private. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, so far, has declined to turn over the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees as required by law. The White House counsel’s office and Justice Department have spent the past few days reviewing whistleblower laws.

By Dana Bash, Manu Raju, Sunlen Serfaty and Clare Foran, CNN
Washington (CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, a dramatic and historic move that comes as the President faces outrage over reports that he pressured a foreign leader in an effort to target a political rival. The announcement marks the most direct step taken by the House Democratic leader to embrace impeachment proceedings and is a significant escalation in the fight between House Democrats and the President. "The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections," Pelosi said in a brief speech in the Capitol. "Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry." The House speaker, who has long pushed to keep her caucus away from the politically divisive issue, is signaling that she's responding to the seismic shift among Democratic members, following Trump's admission of discussing Vice President Joe Biden and his son in his phone call with the Ukrainian President. Dozens of House Democrats -- many from moderate or Trump-won districts -- have announced their support for an impeachment inquiry over the past 48 hours. In advance of that statement, Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also announced plans to vote on a resolution of disapproval on Wednesday for allegations "that the President of the United States sought to enlist a foreign government to interfere in our democratic process by investigating one of his political rivals -- and may have used the withholding of Congressionally-appropriated foreign assistance days earlier as intimidation." Their statement did not mention impeachment. Pelosi consulted Tuesday afternoon with the six House Democratic leaders to discuss their presentation to the caucus later in the day, Democratic sources familiar with the issue say. In that closed-door meeting before her public announcement, Pelosi said the six chairmen will continue to investigate under a powerful new umbrella of an impeachment inquiry. A separate source in the room said the speaker added, "Here we are. A moment of truth. Truth is what this has been about all along." She said, "The DNI has chosen to break the law. The law is clear" adding, "This is a betrayal of our national security. A betrayal of our election." "He's taken it to another level of betrayal therefore we're moving forward with another level of inquiry," Pelosi said. At an Atlantic Ideas Festival event in Washington on Tuesday, Pelosi declined to weigh in on specifics when asked about impeachment. "It's really sad to think that our President would perform an impeachable offense," Pelosi said at the event. "It's hard to say you've gotten to that place. But what would be an impeachable offense would be that which is proven in an investigation." Behind the scenes, Pelosi is encouraging members of her caucus to state their impeachment position now in order to show there is a groundswell in the caucus. She is also conveying that message to freshmen. Tide changing for Pelosi allies and vulnerable House freshmen Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis on Tuesday announced his support for impeachment proceedings, arguing that "now is the time to act" and any delay "would betray the foundation of our democracy." "We will never find the truth unless we use the power given to the House of Representatives and the House alone to begin an official investigation as dictated by the Constitution," the Georgia Democrat said in a speech on the House floor. "The future of our democracy is at stake."

By Shane Croucher
President Donald Trump appeared to mock Greta Thunberg after her emotional speech to the United Nations on Monday. Thunberg, 16, was tearful and her voice broke as she chided world leaders for having "stolen my dreams and my childhood" with their inaction on climate change. The Swedish activist founded the school strike campaign to raise awareness about the climate emergency and the urgent need for governments to take comprehensive action quickly. She has since traveled the world to campaign on climate change and recently sailed across the Atlantic to New York City so she could give this speech to the U.N. "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Trump wrote on Twitter alongside a clip of Thunberg's speech. He tweeted after a video of Thunberg glaring at him as he entered the U.N. headquarters went viral on social media. Trump has questioned climate change science and sought to roll back environmental protections, as well as encouraged greater production in the fossil fuel industry. But climate scientists are near-unanimous in the view that humans are the driving force of the current changes to the climate and that time is almost out for us to halt it and reverse its effects.

By Teo Armus
In late 2017, the New York Times received an urgent warning from a U.S. official. Egyptian authorities were looking to arrest Declan Walsh, the newspaper’s reporter in Cairo, according to its publisher. It’s not unusual for a large media organization to get tipped off about threats to its journalists overseas, particularly those reporting on authoritarian governments. But what was striking is what the official said next: The Trump administration had tried to keep the warning about Walsh from ever reaching the Times. Officials “intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out,” Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger wrote in an opinion column on Monday. This incident, described publicly by Sulzberger for the first time in a talk at Brown University earlier on Monday, adds a chilling new episode to the administration’s trend of attacking the press and diminishing the rights of journalists as they come under threat around the globe, the publisher wrote. Where the United States was once seen as the top defender of press freedom, Sulzberger suggested Trump has inspired the opposite around the globe, citing recent threats made in an address by the Cambodian prime minister, a social media blackout in Chad, and attempts to arrest foreign journalists in Egypt, whose autocratic president Trump once jokingly called his “favorite dictator.” “These brutal crackdowns are being passively accepted and perhaps even tacitly encouraged by the president of the United States,” Sulzberger said. President Trump has refused to acknowledge that the Saudi government ordered the assassination of The Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as international investigators have found. And the president’s frequent use of the phrase “fake news” has resulted in more than 50 foreign government leaders to adopt similar calls, the publisher charged.

By Paul LeBlanc, Jim Acosta, Jeremy Diamond and Kaitlan Collins, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump asked his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put a hold on millions in military aid to Ukraine roughly one week before a call with the Ukrainian president in which he pressured the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, two senior administration officials said on Monday. Trump, who was in the middle of a broad review of foreign aid programs when he singled out Ukraine specifically this summer, was primarily concerned with "corruption" in Ukraine and Europe shouldering more of the financial burden for supporting Ukraine's defense, according to one of the officials. News of Trump's order to withhold aid to the Ukraine ahead of his July 25 call may trigger questions -- and speculation -- about the President's motive in doing so. Trump had ordered a hold on nearly $400 million of military and security aid to Ukraine at least a week before the call in question, US officials familiar with the matter tell CNN. The Washington Post first reported the figure. The administration was looking at harnessing multiple foreign packages, several aides believed, when Trump took a special interest in Ukraine, at times railing about how the country wasted money in his eyes. This surprised several staffers because, as CNN has reported, Trump had not been interested in engaging with Ukraine in the past, believing Ukraine was a corrupt country that wasn't committed to reform. But his attentiveness to the country had ramped up in recent weeks as his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pushed muddled corruption accusations against Biden, who was leading in national polls against Trump, and his son Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. On Friday, CNN reported Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, according to a person familiar with the situation. On the day of Trump's call with Zelensky, word began to spread that Trump was reviewing a plan to cut foreign assistance to Ukraine.

The allegations would be tantamount to bribery if proved, something the Constitution clearly lists as cause for removing a president.
By Leah Litman, assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School
Here we go again. President Donald Trump once again stands accused of using a foreign government to influence American elections. Whereas last time he invited the Russian government, on public television, to try and find Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s “missing” emails, among other things, this time he has reportedly sought to have the Ukrainian government announce a criminal investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, perhaps by using U.S. financial and military support as leverage. But not everyone is singing the same tune this go round. Last time, Republicans largely defended the president even as special counsel Robert Mueller was named to investigate whether Trump or his campaign had colluded with Russia. And after Mueller avoided making an explicit statement of guilt, Democrats were hesitant to launch a full-fledged impeachment inquiry. This time, Trump’s actions on Ukraine have already drawn some criticism from Republicans (like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah), and they have also increased calls for impeachment from Democrats (such as from Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chair of the House intelligence committee). And rightfully so. So what’s changed? There are potentially significant legal differences and practical distinctions between the two situations. And these differences indicate that the allegations regarding Ukraine fit more clearly into the Constitution’s preconditions for impeachment — and that Congress will not only have an easier time making a case against the president, but also a greater legal imperative to do so. Using the office of the president for personal political benefit comports with both the standard understandings of bribery and the broader category of high crimes and misdemeanors. m

Trump's alleged meddling in the country's notoriously corrupt political system is setting its new president up for failure.
By Leonid Bershidsky
The scandal over Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival might ultimately have no consequences for the U.S. president. It could, however, undermine a historical opportunity for Ukraine’s new leadership to drain its own swamp. Various U.S. news outlets reported this week that Trump ordered his administration in July to withhold about $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. Later that month, he reportedly pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the alleged involvement of Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and his son Hunter in influence-peddling in Ukraine. This is a problem for Trump if someone can demonstrate corrupt intent — that is, that he was using the state’s resources as a lever to achieve his personal campaign goals. Naturally, Trump denies it. And he has valid arguments in his defense. For one, he can say he had legitimate reasons to delay the aid. At that time, for example, Chinese companies were about to buy a majority stake in Motor Sich, the Ukrainian maker of engines for aircraft and missiles — a deal that the U.S. had actively sought to block. That would be a credible motive for withholding aid. Also, Trump released the payment on Sept. 11, with no apparent conditions. So corruption will be hard to prove to any legal standard. That said, corruption often doesn’t operate explicitly. Faced with a U.S. military aid delay on the one hand and Trump’s demand for a Biden investigation on the other, Zelenskiy could have figured out what was required of him. The same goes for the Biden case. A wealthy Ukrainian businessman hired the U.S. vice president’s son to be on the board of his natural gas company. Could Ukraine’s leadership not understand, without being told, that pursuing a money-laundering investigation into that businessman might have repercussions for relations with the U.S. administration?

CNN Cuomo Prime Time - Former Ukrainian government official Serhiy Leshchenko fires back at Rudy Giuliani's claim that a Ukrainian court found Leshchenko guilty of producing a phony affidavit given to US officials.

By Louis Jacobson, John Kruzel
President Donald Trump for months has tried to draw attention to the connection between former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the younger Biden's ties to a Ukrainian energy company when he was vice president. But a complaint from an intelligence community whistleblower has made Trump a new focal point of the story, and news reports have zeroed in on interactions between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump and his allies have hammered away at Biden — a potential opponent in the 2020 presidential election — charging that he and his son Hunter had acted improperly in dealings with Ukraine when the elder Biden was vice president and the younger Biden was a paid director of a Ukrainian company. In May, PolitiFact and other fact-checkers found little substance to these allegations. Hunter Biden did do work in Ukraine, but we found nothing to suggest Vice President Biden acted to help him. Now, Democrats see the reported details about Trump’s interactions with Zelensky as efforts to bully a foreign country into doing something helpful for his re-election campaign, possibly using U.S. military aid to Ukraine as leverage. And that has them talking impeachment. "We may very well have crossed the Rubicon here," House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on CNN’s State of the Union. Much is unknown so far about what Trump may have said to Zelensky, since the whistleblower complaint has not yet been made public. Let’s take a look at two broad subjects: first, the actions taken by Trump and their possible legal risks, and second, the underlying allegations against the Bidens. (Skip to Hunter and Joe Biden, and Ukraine, explained) Trump's actions on Ukraine. What did Trump allegedly do regarding Biden and Ukraine? In a July 25 phone call, Trump reportedly asked President Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on a probe of the Bidens, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. The Washington Post and New York Times also published similar reports. It’s unclear if the discussion included a quid pro quo. The Washington Post on Sept. 18 reported that Trump’s interaction with a foreign leader, later identified in subsequent reports as Zelensky, included an unspecified "promise."

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted a video mocking Sen. Mitt Romney after the Utah Republican continued his call for the release of more information about Trump's July call with Ukraine's president where he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden. The video included a compilation of news clips from Romney's 2012 general election loss to Barack Obama paired with clips of Trump's own 2016 presidential election win over Hillary Clinton. Earlier Monday, Romney told reporters he believes a transcript of the President's conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, should be released. "Understanding exactly what he said would be very helpful I think to determine whether the allegations, which are quite serious, are allegations that will have consequence," he said.  On Friday, CNN reported Trump pressed Zelensky in a July 25 call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, according to a person familiar with the situation. That call was part of the whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, another person familiar with the situation told CNN. Trump on Sunday acknowledged that he discussed Biden with Zelensky but has denied doing anything improper, including that he threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine unless the country's leaders did his bidding and investigated the Bidens. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Romney also signaled interest in the administration making public the initial whistleblower complaint, saying, "I think it'd be very helpful to get to the bottom of the facts to follow the law to get us there. That would include the whistleblower as well as the transcript of the conversation." White House officials are now considering releasing a transcript of the call, multiple sources have told CNN, amid mounting scrutiny over the interaction. Still, some senior administration officials, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, are against the idea because of the precedent releasing it could set with future foreign leaders. Trump has suggested he hoped to release a transcript of his conversation.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump mocked Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter late Monday night after the 16-year-old excoriated world leaders for not doing enough to tackle the climate crisis. "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Trump posted on Twitter, replying to a video of Thunberg's speech at the United Nations climate action summit earlier in the day. Trump's penchant for Twitter insults and online confrontations with people he sees as political adversaries is well known, though Monday's tweet is a striking display of the President teasing a child. In the video shared by Trump of her speech, Thunberg is visibly frustrated and at times appears to be holding back tears of anger as she dresses down the UN General Assembly. "People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth," Thunberg said. She did not name Trump or any other world leaders in her speech, but her message was pointed. "How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight," she said. "You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act then you would be evil and that I refuse to believe." Trump briefly attended the UN climate summit on Monday in an impromptu stop on his way to his administration's priority event on religious freedom. But the US did not speak at the event and Trump -- who has repeatedly said he thinks climate change is a hoax -- left after 15 minutes.

The treasury secretary is not a big fan of “details.”
By Aaron Rupar
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin did a tour of the Sunday news talk shows, ostensibly to discuss the Trump administration’s escalation of sanctions on Iran. But he also faced questions about a growing scandal surrounding Trump’s efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate the Biden family — and his efforts to handle them did not go well. In particular, Mnuchin was unable to explain a mysteriously large foreign aid payment to Ukraine, one that came weeks after the administration held up aid payments to the country altogether. He also struggled to account for why it’s appropriate for the Trump administration to attack a son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for his international business dealings, while Trump and his children profit from businesses he still owns. One cringe-inducing moment came on Meet the Press, when host Chuck Todd asked Mnuchin to explain why Ukraine was provided with $140 million more in US aid than initially expected. Todd asked Mnuchin to account for “how all of the sudden, when the [Ukraine] aid got released, more money showed up. Where did [it] come from? ... they got an additional $140 million they didn’t expect.” Mnuchin hemmed and hawed for about 20 seconds before trying to move on. Todd was referencing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s announcement earlier this month that his country received $140 million more than they expected from the United States — one that came weeks after any US government aid to Ukraine was held up, and at the end of a summer in which President Donald Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, repeatedly asked the Ukrainians to open a “corruption” investigation aimed at implicating Hunter Biden, a son of the former vice president. The Treasury Department oversees foreign aid payments, but Mnuchin’s answer was underwhelming. “You’re getting into details,” Mnuchin said, declining to do so himself. He then alluded to Trump’s desire for Ukraine to investigate the Biden family and said, “these were not connected issues.”

“That is treason. It’s treason pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death,” Bill Weld told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe “That’s the only penalty.”
By Barbie Latza Nadeau
Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential challenger Bill Weld said Monday that President Donald Trump’s “acts of treason” in pressuring Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden deserved the death penalty. “That is treason. It’s treason pure and simple, and the penalty for treason under the U.S. code is death,” Weld told MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “That’s the only penalty.” Weld made the shocking statement in a joint appearance with fellow GOP presidential challengers Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford, who are protesting state Republican parties that have decided to cancel primaries to give the edge to the sitting president. “Obviously, canceling primaries undermines democratic institutions and democratic elections, but that’s far from the deepest dive crime that the president has committed here,” Weld said, referring to the growing calls for clarification about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine and the withholding of military funds in the weeks before a July 25 call in which he admitted to discussing an investigation of Hunter Biden. Biden’s son had business dealings in Ukraine at the same time then-Vice President Biden was tasked with overseeing the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. Trump made the call when he already knew Biden would challenge him in the 2020 presidential election. “He has now acknowledged that in a single phone call right after he suspended $250 million of military aid to Ukraine, he called up the president of Ukraine and pressed him eight times to investigate Joe Biden, who the president thinks is going to be running against him,” Weld said. “Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election.” The death penalty is the maximum punishment for treason, but federal law also allows for lesser sentences including five-year prison terms or fines starting at $10,000. The law also states that treasonous acts can prohibit one from holding public office. “The penalty on the Constitution is removal from office,” Weld said. “And that might look like a pretty good alternative to the president if he can work out a plea deal.” Weld then backed off calls for executing the president, but only slightly. “The grounds for removal of office, impeachment, are treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” he said. “We don’t have to worry about bribery anymore, we don’t have to worry about other high crimes and misdemeanors, although I think he committed many. We have treason and we can go right for the hoop.”

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - President Donald Trump accidentally told a whole lot of the truth over the weekend about his conversation with the Ukrainian president.
"We had a great conversation," said Trump. "The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine and the Ukraine has got a lot of problems." Which is, uh, interesting. Because, well, Trump and his allies spent the days since the news of the whistleblower complaint regarding his communication with a foreign leader denying there was any "there" there, at all. And now Trump is admitting that not only did he talk to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky but that he also raised the issue of "corruption" regarding the Bidens. (Sidebar: Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, did work for a Ukrainian gas company. A prosecutor looking into the company was removed. While Trump and his allies insist something nefarious is at play, fact-checkers have dismissed that claim.) So here's where the reporting and Trump's admissions -- despite his repeated invocation of "fake news" -- agree. 1) Trump and the Ukrainian president did talk in late July. 2) Trump did raise the issue of corruption in Ukraine vis a vis the Bidens. And, here's where the reporting and what Trump has admitted -- at least through Monday! -- disagree: 1) The Washington Post reported that the whistleblower complaint had been triggered by a "promise" by Trump. He denies there was any sort of promise or quid pro quo. 2) The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump asked Zelensky eight times on that phone call to look into the Bidens and their connections in the Ukraine. Trump hasn't specifically denied that number but has said only that the conversation with the Ukrainian president was "perfect." So what is in dispute at the moment is how aggressive Trump was urging Zelensky to look into the Bidens and whether or not the American president held some sort of promise out for his Ukrainian counterpart if there was an investigation opened into Joe and Hunter Biden.

The president’s latest attempt to keep his tax returns hidden is a novel one.
By Bess Levin
As you may or may not have heard, Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns while running for president, claiming, falsely, that an audit prevented him from doing so but that the public would see them just as soon as he got the green light. Two years and 242 days after moving into the White House that, of course, has not happened. Instead, Trump has sicced his Treasury secretary, attorney general, and various personal lawyers on anyone attempting to get their hands on the information, in a manner suggesting the details within could make a person look quite bad. Typically, Trump’s attorneys have argued that such requests, like the ones from various House committees, constitute “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT” or supposedly lack “a legitimate legislative purpose.” On Thursday, though, they came up with a novel new argument: It’s illegal to investigate a sitting president for any crimes he may have committed. In a lawsuit filed today against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who recently subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s tax returns to determine if the Trump Organization falsified business records relating to Stormy Daniels payments, the president’s lawyers claim such a request is unconstitutional because the founding fathers believed sitting presidents should not be subject to the criminal process. “The framers of our Constitution understood that state and local prosecutors would be tempted to criminally investigate the president to advance their own careers and to advance their political agendas,” the suit reads. “And they likewise understood that having to defend against these actions would distract the president from his constitutional duties.” Strangely, actual legal experts aren’t entirely convinced of this argument. “Even assuming that the president cannot be indicted while in office, it does not follow that his business and associates are likewise immune from investigation,” Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor, told Bloomberg. “The complaint makes light of the idea that ruling in their favor would elevate the president above the law, but it certainly seems as if the president views himself as above the law.” Vance, who agreed not to enforce the subpoena—issued to Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA—until a scheduled September 25 hearing, is investigating if executives at the Trump Organization filed false business records concerning hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both claim to have had affairs with Trump, charges he, naturally, denies. The president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, admitted to arranging the hush money payments and released audio of him discussing the Daniels payment with Trump.

By Christina Zhao
NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday grilled Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin over the whistleblower complaint, which allegedly is about President Donald Trump asking Ukrainian officials to probe 2020 Democratic front-runner Vice President Joe Biden. The Trump administration has been accused of pressuring the newly-elected Ukrainian president to open an investigation into the business dealings of Biden's son, Hunter Biden. Ukrainian leaders decided against opening the investigation and the Trump administration withheld military aid. Following bipartisan pressure from Congress, the military aid was eventually released, along with an extra $140 million. "Explain how, all of a sudden, when the aid got released, more money showed up. Where did that money come from?" Todd asked Mnuchin during a segment on NBC's Meet the Press. "There was $250 million and they got an additional $140 million that they didn't expect. Do you have any idea where that came from?" "It was appropriated money, it came through the State Department," the Treasury Secretary responded. "They didn't know they were getting this money. Is there any indication why they got the money when they did?" Todd pressed, to which Mnuchin shot back: "I'm not sure it's correct for you to say they didn't know they got the money." "The president said he was surprised to get it," Todd explained. "The president of Ukraine said he was surprised to get an additional $140 million dollars. He said it was a pleasant surprise but that he was surprised." "I think he was referring to his expectations as opposed to necessarily a surprise," Mnuchin said. "You're getting into details again. These are foreign policy issues. They've been discussed at the National Security Council at the principles level. These were not connected issues." "Do you have any problems with Congress looking into any of this?" Todd asked. "What I have a problem with is Congress asking for a transcript between world leaders," Mnuchin responded.

By Evan McMullin, Opinion contributor
Trump joins a cadre of corrupt Western leaders intent on undermining democracy to stay in power. One of the vital lessons I learned as an undercover CIA officer, and later as an adviser to Republicans in Congress, was how corrupt leaders escalate their abuses of power at the expense of their citizens’ freedom while trying to retain power. It motivated my service at the time and continues to drive my work to protect and improve American democracy now. It also informs my grave concern about recent reporting that President Donald Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pressured the government of Ukraine to help them dig up dirt on Trump’s primary political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Despite Trump and Giulani’s cajoling and claims to the contrary, Ukrainian prosecutors are not investigating Biden and do not have evidence of wrongdoing. Following in the footsteps of others. Some of the most extreme cases of such corrupt leaders are Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s Ali Khamenei and North Korea's Kim family dynasty. In recent years, aspiring authoritarian leaders and movements have also risen to power closer to home in Hungary, Turkey and Poland. Each is in a unique position on the spectrum of corruption, but they have many traits in common, including attacks on the independent news media, attempts to dismantle other power centers within their own governments, self-dealing and various efforts to weaken their people’s ability to vote them out of office.

by Susan Page, USA TODAY
The Russia investigation? Settled, more or less. Cue Ukraine. Once again, Donald Trump faces explosive allegations of encouraging foreign meddling to help him win a presidential campaign. Once again, the reports are fueling Democratic calls for his impeachment. And once again, the president is responding with a furious counter-attack on the Democratic rival involved. On Sunday, Trump confirmed that he had discussed Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden during a congratulatory phone call on July 25 with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The conversation was largely about corruption, he told reporters while en route to a Texas rally, "all of the corruption taking place, largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine." A still-unnamed administration official in an intelligence agency was so alarmed by Trump’s interactions with a foreign leader that he or she filed a whistleblower complaint. The Washington Post has reported the complaints concerns Trump’s communications with Ukraine, though the substance of it is shrouded in secrecy. The administration has enraged congressional Democrats by refusing to turn that complaint over to oversight committees in Congress, as the law requires. That has stoked new demands for the president's impeachment, including some from lawmakers who had resisted endorsing the idea in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. His report and his low-key testimony before Congress failed to galvanize public momentum for removing Trump from office, as some Democrats had hoped. In a remarkable bit of timing, Mueller's decisive congressional testimony was on July 24. Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president took place the next day.  

The president has reportedly told staff he’ll just pardon them.
By Bess Levin
As you might have heard once or twice, Donald Trump kicked off his bid for the presidency by proclaiming that he was going to build a wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it. Unfortunately for the supporters who voted for him based on that pledge, construction on the barrier hasn’t exactly panned out as the president promised, in that virtually none of it has been built, due to a combination of factors like Mexico shockingly declining to finance the thing, Democrats refusing to provide the billions in funding, environmental concerns, and logistical issues like people living where Trump wants the fencing to go. Sure, the president could just lie about the wall being built already, which he has many times. But he really wants to make good on an ineffectual passion project that the base can point to like a beacon of hope for racists. So he’s got a new plan to get it done in time for 2020: Break the law. Honestly, it’s so simple he’s probably kicking himself for not having thought of it sooner. The Washington Post reports that the president has “directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land, and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.” In the coming weeks, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to approve the White House’s request to reroute $3.6 billion in Pentagon funds to the project, money that the president decided to divert from apparently less important Defense Department projects after lawmakers refused to pony up $5 billion. When staffers have nervously suggested that Trump’s demands are unworkable or illegal, the president has apparently told them not to worry because he’ll pardon everyone who helps him get this thing done, and has “waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying ‘take the land,’” according to officials who sat in on the meetings.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - Some times when President Donald Trump talks, all you can do is shake your head in amazement. Take his comments Friday morning in the Oval Office, for one. Trump was trying to downplay the raging controversy over a whistleblower's complaint that deals with communication between Trump and a foreign leader. It didn't work. Start here: Trump described the complaint as filed by a "partisan whistleblower." And he referred to the complaint as a "political hack job." Which is interesting! Was Trump telling us that he knew the identity of the whistleblower? And did he have information that proved that this person was, in fact, a partisan out to get Trump? Man, big story! "I do not know the identity of the whistleblower," Trump then said. Wait, what? So: a) the whistleblower is definitely a partisan engaging in a "political hack job" b) Trump doesn't know who the whistleblower is. This all checks out! But, Trump wasn't done. Far from it. Remember that up until Trump started talking, all we knew for sure was that the whistleblower complaint centered on several interactions between Trump and a foreign leader. At that point, The New York Times and The Washington Post had reported that the complaint involved Ukraine. (Later on Friday, after Trump spoke, The Wall Street Journal reported that sources said Trump pushed Ukraine's president in a phone call to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, who was advocating for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter.) Enter Trump. Asked about whether the conversation in question was with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump said this: "I don't want to talk about any conversation. It was a great conversation. A totally appropriate conversation. It couldn't have been better." So, then, there was a conversation with the Ukrainian president. Which confirms the reporting of the Times and the Post! (Sidenote: Trump, in Friday's press availablity, said that the "media is laughed at all over the world," adding: "You're a joke." He then went on to take more than 10 minutes more of questions.)

OK, so the president can't be indicted. But Trump's lawyers are now arguing he can't even be investigated
By Igor Derysh
Lawyers for President Trump argue that the president is immune from all criminal investigations in a new federal lawsuit seeking to block New York prosecutors from obtaining his tax returns. Trump sued his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Thursday, after Vance's office subpoenaed the firm to demand eight years of the president’s personal and corporate tax returns. Department of Justice guidelines say a president cannot be prosecuted while in office, as former special counsel Robert Mueller made clear. But Trump’s personal attorneys are now going well beyond that by arguing that he also cannot be “investigated … or otherwise subjected to the criminal process.” The suit also quoted a decision by then-appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote in 2009 that investigations are “distracting” to the president, even though Kavanaugh himself was part of a years-long criminal investigation of former President Bill Clinton. Constitutional law scholars told The New York Times that Trump’s lawyers’ position, if accepted by the judge, would “set a sweeping new precedent” but added that the attorneys’ theory was “not based on established case law.” Of course, the Constitution does not actually say that a president cannot be indicted. When Mueller earlier this year said that his office was prohibited from bringing charges against the president, he cited only a memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as the reason a president could not be indicted. Mueller also said in May that the DOJ “explicitly permits” the investigation of a sitting president.

By Matthew Chapman
On MSNBC Saturday, former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah laid out all the ways that President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani could be breaking federal law with their apparent scheme to push Ukraine into digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. “Extortion, conspiracy to engage in extortion, and violating federal election law,” said host Alex Witt. “Do you agree with all those premises?” “I do, Alex, and I would add one to that, which is federal bribery,” said Rocah. “Here, Trump essentially was trying to get the Ukrainian president to bribe him, give him information about his political opponent in exchange for aid to the country. So, that is soliciting a bribe. And you know, look, we can get into this more. Obviously, this is my area of expertise, whether something violates federal criminal laws, but I do worry that we’re going down a path that we went down with the Mueller investigation, because for the president of the United States, that is not the standard.” “I think Rudy Giuliani should be investigated,” she continued. “I don’t know if this Department of Justice is independent enough to do that. He is a private citizen, though. He can be prosecuted. The president we know cannot be prosecuted, but this is something that Congress must take action on now. And one other point with respect to what you were saying in the prior conversation with the other panelists.” “You know, this isn’t about what Joe Biden’s son did or didn’t do,” added Rocah. “There are avenues to investigate United States citizens through a process known as mutual legal assistance treaties. The Department of Justice does it all the time. If there is reason for a U.S. citizen to be investigated and the aid of another country is needed, there are proper channels to do that through, and they don’t include the president of the United States calling up the leader of another country and demanding it in exchange for foreign aid. I think we’re going down a rabbit hole there.” “What kind of hot water could Rudy Giuliani be in for having gone over, and potentially at the president’s behest, have these conversations with the Ukrainian president and leadership?” Witt pressed her.

The president supposedly dangled millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kiev investigating Joe Biden. That looks a lot like old-fashioned corruption.
By Barbara McQuade
If the latest allegations about President Donald Trump’s conversations with the leader of Ukraine are true, his conduct may constitute a garden-variety public corruption crime: extortion and bribery. The Washington Post has reported that the subject of an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint relates to a “promise” made by Trump in a conversation with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Further reporting indicates that the conversation amounted to a threat to withhold $250 million in military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky investigates the family of Joe Biden, who is of course running to unseat Trump in 2020.

DES MOINES, Iowa – An angered Joe Biden on Saturday accused President Donald Trump of “using every element of his presidency to try and smear me,” and called for an investigation into Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president. “You should be asking him the question: why is he on the phone with a foreign leader, trying to intimidate a foreign leader?” Biden told reporters. “This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power. To get on the phone with a foreign leader who is looking for help from the United States and ask about me and imply things … this is outrageous. You have never seen anything like this from any president.” The Biden campaign is pushing back strongly against the president's claims that as vice president he demanded Ukraine fire a state prosecutor who was investigating a gas company where Biden's son held a board position. Multiple news organizations this week reported that Trump had repeatedly pressed Ukrainian authorities to investigate the allegations in a phone call. "Any article, segment, analysis and commentary that does not demonstrably state at the outset that there is no factual basis for Trump’s claims, and in fact that they are wholly discredited, is misleading readers and viewers," the campaign said in a statement. During the gaggle, Biden grew irate, pointing his finger at a reporter who asked the former vice president if he had ever spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings. Biden said he hadn’t. “You should be looking at Trump,” Biden said. “Everybody looked at this and everybody who’s looked at it said there’s nothing there. Ask the right question.” Biden briefly spoke to whether the episode was a possible preview of a general election battle against Trump.

Analysis: The president has a canned approach for trying to fend off bad news. This time, it's a whistleblower report.
By Shannon Pettypiece
President Donald Trump is turning to what's become a tried-and-true pattern of defending himself against scandal in the latest controversy over a whistleblower's accusation that he made a disturbing promise to a foreign leader. It goes like this: Step one: Deny the reports while arguing that even if true, there is nothing wrong with what was done. Step two: Divert attention to a subplot that implicates political rivals. Step three: Discredit investigators by accusing those involved of a deep state or partisan witch hunt. The playbook has been used by Trump and his surrogates repeatedly against various accusations, including whether his campaign held an improper meeting with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, that he paid hush money to an adult film actress, and that he is profiting off the presidency through his private businesses. The strategy played out in the Oval Office on Friday when Trump was pressed about a whistleblower report by an intelligence officer who raised concerns after learning of an alleged promise Trump made during a phone call to a foreign leader. Ukraine is at the center of the complaint, The Washington Post reported on Thursday evening. Trump denied knowing who the whistleblower is or the date of the conversation in question — but said he never did anything wrong anyway. "It was a totally appropriate conversation, it was actually a beautiful conversation," Trump told reporters. When Trump was asked about speculation he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, the president deflected. He tried to shift to his own accusation that Biden had been involved in a quid pro quo with Ukraine connected to the former vice president son's involvement in a Ukrainian gas company. It was the same pattern of defense Trump used when media reports came out about a meeting arranged between his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer, whom he believed had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. Trump initially denied knowing about the meeting and his lawyer denied he knew anything about his son's response to the media reports. When it was later reported, and eventually confirmed by Trump’s lawyers, that Trump helped his son write a misleading statement about the purpose of the meeting, the president and his lawyers shifted their defense to saying that there was nothing wrong with having such a meeting. Throughout the Russia investigation, Trump and his allies sought to discredit any findings saying they were a politically motivated "witch hunt," accusing Robert Mueller's investigators of being "angry Democrats." White House lawyers have since stonewalled subpoenas by House Democrats into the Trump campaign's connections with Russia. And now Trump's used a similar tactic to attempt to discredit the intelligence community whistleblower. "It’s ridiculous, it's a partisan whistleblower," he said. Like with the Russia investigation, where Trump tried to push a counter-narrative about Obama administration spying and rogue Justice Department officials, he is using the controversy to try to further his accusations that Biden was involved in nefarious deals in Ukraine. It was a pattern he also followed when reports came out that Trump paid hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an affair days before the election.

By Brett Bruen
We may see more love letters exchanged. There may even be another splashy summit in our future. I'm not ruling out a few clever twists and dramatic turns. But let's be honest: The chance of a nuclear deal with North Korea is pretty much dead. I don't doubt that President Donald Trump will dangle the possibility of peace in an attempt to drum up some positive publicity. He will continue to speak of a cringe-inducing, uncommon bond that has developed with his pal in Pyongyang. But it's time we take a step back. Let's take a hard look at where we are and what's actually happening on the ground. Hold the Champagne — this administration's most prominent play for the Nobel Peace Prize is going to come up way short. It never had much hope. I say that with great difficulty. It wasn't as though I wished it to fail. To the contrary, there was an early indication that this peace process was going to represent the revival of American diplomacy after its struggle for relevance with the "America First" crowd. Some thought that through these negotiations, Trump would perhaps come to learn the value of our foreign-policy experts. Nope. The president pretty much pushed past the diplomats. Even his favorite Cabinet member, Mike Pompeo, got shoved aside; the secretary of state was mercilessly skewered by the North Koreans and even coldly stood up on a visit to Pyongyang. Trump didn't much mind the slights. The president continued to lavish praise on Kim Jong Un and the process. This only served to further undermine the State Department's efforts to advance diplomatic discussions. The North Koreans knew they could just hold out for the man in the Oval Office. In diplomacy, you normally want to have the deal baked ahead of the summit. Get the oven heated to 425 degrees before you go to the trouble of putting on a big show.

The president reportedly sought the help of a foreign government against Joe Biden.
By Tom Nichols
The president of the United States reportedly sought the help of a foreign government against an American citizen who might challenge him for his office. This is the single most important revelation in a scoop by The Wall Street Journal, and if it is true, then President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office immediately. Until now, there was room for reasonable disagreement over impeachment as both a matter of politics and a matter of tactics. The Mueller report revealed despicably unpatriotic behavior by Trump and his minions, but it did not trigger a political judgment with a majority of Americans that it warranted impeachment. The Democrats, for their part, remained unwilling to risk their new majority in Congress on a move destined to fail in a Republican-controlled Senate. Now, however, we face an entirely new situation. In a call to the new president of Ukraine, Trump reportedly attempted to pressure the leader of a sovereign state into conducting an investigation—a witch hunt, one might call it—of a U.S. citizen, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden. As the Ukrainian Interior Ministry official Anton Gerashchenko told the Daily Beast when asked about the president’s apparent requests, “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison.” Clearly. If this in itself is not impeachable, then the concept has no meaning. Trump’s grubby commandeering of the presidency’s fearsome and nearly uncheckable powers in foreign policy for his own ends is a gross abuse of power and an affront both to our constitutional order and to the integrity of our elections. The story may even be worse than we know. If Trump tried to use military aid to Ukraine as leverage, as reporters are now investigating, then he held Ukrainian and American security hostage to his political vendettas. It means nothing to say that no such deal was reached; the important point is that Trump abused his position in the Oval Office. In this matter, we need not rely on a newspaper account, nor even on the complaint, so far unseen, of a whistle-blower. Instead, we have a sweaty, panicked admission on national television by Trump’s bizarre homunculus, Rudy Giuliani, that he did in fact seek such an investigation on Trump’s behalf. Giuliani later again confirmed Trump’s role, tweeting that a “President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job.”

By Simon Tisdall
The president’s misconceived Middle East policy has been laid bare, and few allies will rush to the rescue. They must be laughing their socks off in Tehran. The days following last weekend’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities, blamed by the US on Iran, have seen an almost comical display of indecision, confusion and bluster by the leader of the world’s most powerful country. As a result, Iran looks stronger … and Donald Trump looks like a clown. If Iranian leaders intended to call Trump’s bluff, they have succeeded – for now at least. The president’s immediate reaction to the attacks was to declare the US “locked and loaded” for retaliatory strikes. Then he remembered he’s opposed to fighting wars in the Middle East and hopes to be re-elected next year. Trump switched tack, saying the attacks were no big deal, even as global oil prices rocketed, because the US no longer needed Middle East energy. That’s not strictly true. Official figures show the US imported 48 million barrels of oil and petroleum products a month from the Gulf in 2018. Still dodging and weaving, he said what happened next was up to the Saudis – an extraordinary outsourcing of national security policy. Trump ended the week still trying to have it both ways. He imposed additional sanctions on Iran and ordered a limited number of troops to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for defensive purposes. But he did not rule out talks with Iran’s president at the UN this week – despite the US denial of visas to many of his officials. It had become painfully clear Trump simply had no idea what to do. With his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran backfiring and his bellicose threats ringing hollow, he is the emperor with no clothes, the president who speaks loudly and fears to wield the big stick. Trump, plainly, has no strategy, no back-up plan – and no clue. This White House farce, which included the appointment of uber-hawk Robert O’Brien to replace uber-hawk John Bolton as national security adviser, is of course no laughing matter. Trump could start firing off missiles at any moment. His unpredictability is part of the problem. The Iranians, emboldened, could overplay their hand. Another perceived provocation could jerk the meter back towards war. Yet this latest phase of the Iran crisis does have an upside. By supplying a much-needed reality check, it has driven home to all concerned the disastrous consequences a new, multi-dimensional Gulf war could have for international security and the global economy. And it has exposed Trump’s failure to think through his bid to force Iran to its political and economic knees.

By Richard Gonzales
President Trump has authorized the deployment of additional U.S. forces to the Middle East to strengthen air and missile defenses around Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon announced late Friday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the move a first step and said that the deployment would be defensive in nature. He said the deployment comes in response to requests for help from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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