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US Monthly Headline News December 2019 Page 1

By Scottie Andrew and Carma Hassan, CNN

(CNN) All of the West Virginia correctional cadets seen apparently giving a Nazi salute will be fired, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced. The image, discovered in early December, shows the members of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Basic Training Class 18 with one arm raised. The text above reads "HAIL BYRD!" in a reference to a training instructor for the class, according to the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

The governor condemned the training group's behavior in a statement on Monday. "We have a lot of good people in the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety," Justice said. "But this incident was completely unacceptable. Now, we must continue to move forward and work diligently to make sure nothing like this happens ever again." Three staff members at the training academy will also be fired. Four other instructors who failed to report the photograph will be suspended without pay, he said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, then-national security adviser John Bolton and Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Trump to release the aid, with Bolton saying it was "in America's interest," the report said.
By Dareh Gregorian

A new report revealing more of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's role in withholding aid to Ukraine — and efforts by top Trump administration officials to get that money released — is a "game changer" that shows the need for witness testimony in the president's impeachment trial, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday.

"This new story shows all four witnesses that we Senate Democrats have requested" were "intimately involved and had direct knowledge of President Trump's decision to cut off aid and benefit himself," Schumer, a Democrat, told reporters in a press conference at his New York office. "Simply put, in our fight to have key documents and witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial, these new revelations are a game changer." The New York Times reported Sunday that Mulvaney was flying with President Donald Trump on Air Force One in June when he emailed his senior adviser to ask, “Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?”

HERINGTON, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Herington Police Officer is no longer employed after admitting he "fabricated" a story a McDonald's employee wrote an expletive on his coffee cup over the weekend. Herington Police Chief Brian Hornaday confirmed in a news conference the officer resigned from the agency, calling it a "black-eye on the law enforcement community."

"McDonald's and its employees did not have anything whatsoever to do with this incident. This was completely and solely fabricated by a Harrington police officer who is no longer employed with our agency," said Hornaday. After initially standing by his story, Hornaday said the officer has since told him the note was "meant to be a joke."


Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer renewed his call Monday for White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial after The New York Times published new details about the effort to withhold aid to Ukraine. “Simply put: In our fight to have key documents and witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial, these new revelations are a game-changer,” Schumer said at a news conference in New York City.

The Times’ investigation shed new light on the extent to which President Donald Trump sought to freeze military assistance to Ukraine, despite pleas from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Bolton. The Times also offered new details of the role Mulvaney played in executing Trump’s request.

The ex-Giuliani associate asked for permission to send the contents of an iPhone to Hill investigators.
By Betsy Swan

Lev Parnas, a former Rudy Giuliani associate charged with financial crimes, is looking to share more material with congressional investigators, according to a letter his lawyer has sent to a federal judge. The letter, filed in court on Monday evening, indicates that the committee first tasked with helming the impeachment inquiry is gathering additional evidence about Trump World.

In the letter, Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondy said the Justice Department will share materials with his client on Tuesday that it seized from his home and at his arrest. The materials include documents and the contents of an iPhone. Bondy then asked Judge Paul Oetken of the Southern District of New York to allow him to share those materials with the House Intelligence Committee; a court order currently bars him from sharing them with anyone. The Justice Department has said it does not object to him giving the material to Congress. “Review of these materials is essential to the Committee’s ability to corroborate the strength of Mr. Parnas’s potential testimony,” Bondy wrote.

The potential new document dump comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi deliberates on when to send the House’s articles of impeachment to the Senate. The House voted largely along party lines to pass two articles of impeachment on President Donald Trump earlier this month. The next step, which Pelosi has not yet taken, is to send the articles to the upper chamber for trial. Trump’s relationship with Ukraine—in particular through his intermediary and personal lawyer Giuliani—is at the center of the impeachment process. Parnas had a front-row seat to much of Giuliani’s Ukraine-related activity.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit that former Trump national security official Charles Kupperman had filed challenging a House subpoena for him to testify in the impeachment inquiry after the chamber withdrew their subpoena. Judge Richard Leon wrote in a 14-page opinion that there is no expectation that the House will reissue the subpoena, therefore the lawsuit is unnecessary. Notably, by ruling the case is moot, Leon was able to sidestep the thorny issue of separation of powers and whether the White House could claim some administration witnesses have immunity. Leon, however, noted that things can change in the future.

"Have no doubt though, should the winds of political fortune shift and the House were to reissue a subpoena to Dr. Kupperman, he will face the same conflicting directives that precipitated this suit. If so, he will undoubtedly be right back before this Court seeking a solution to a Constitutional dilemma that has long-standing political consequences: balancing Congress's well-established power to investigate with a President's need to have a small group of national security advisors who have some form of immunity from compelled Congressional testimony." He added: "Fortunately, however, I need not strike that balance today!"

Trump promised to revive manufacturing with tariffs. A Federal Reserve study finds he did the opposite.
By Zeeshan Aleem

President Donald Trump has promised throughout his presidency to revive American manufacturing by putting punishing tariffs on foreign competition. But a new study from the US Federal Reserve suggests that his efforts have backfired — and that the manufacturing sector is worse off than it was before the president began his protectionist trade policy.

Economists Aaron Flaaen and Justin Pierce, who describe their study as “as the first comprehensive estimates of the effect of recent tariffs on the US manufacturing sector,” argue that the data shows that any benefits from protection from foreign competition have been more than canceled out by retaliatory tariffs from trading partners and an increase in the cost of components sourced from abroad. As a result, US manufacturing has seen job losses and higher prices for consumers.

“We find the impact from the traditional import protection channel is completely offset in the short-run by reduced competitiveness from retaliation and higher costs in downstream industries,” the authors say. The findings affirm predictions from trade economists across the political spectrum who have warned that Trump’s tariffs were more likely to damage the US economy than help it — particularly in a globalized economy, where any major departure from free trade norms comes with an array of costs.

By Melissa Quinn

Washington — Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma criticized President Trump for his tweets and language, saying he doesn't believe the president is someone who young people can look up to. "I don't think that President Trump as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth. That's just me personally," Lankford said on "Face the Nation." "I don't like the way that he tweets, some of the things that he says, his word choices at times are not my word choices. He comes across with more New York City swagger than I do from the Midwest and definitely not the way that I'm raising my kids."

Lankford is a member of a weekly prayer breakfast held in the Senate, where members of the upper chamber come together to pray, sing hymns and swap stories. The Oklahoma Republican has a masters degree in divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and served as the director of student ministry for the Baptist Convention of Oklahoma and director of a Baptist youth camp before he was elected to Congress. Lankford said he wishes Mr. Trump were more of a role model, but acknowledged he and the president are in lockstep on areas Lankford is "very passionate about," such as abortion and religious liberty.

By Bobby Allyn

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

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

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

CNN's Victor Blackwell used jars of gumballs to represent President Donald Trump's 15,413 false or misleading claims since taking office, according to a count by the Washington Post

By Christina Maxouris, Eliott C. McLaughlin and Sarah Jorgensen, CNN

Ramapo, New York (CNN)The suspect in a string of stabbings during a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's Monsey, New York, home was found with "blood all over him," a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the case told CNN on Sunday. Grafton Thomas was driving a Nissan Sentra across the George Washington Bridge into New York City when his car's tag was captured by a license plate reader at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday, authorities said. Police apprehended Thomas without incident after midnight, a New York Police Department spokeswoman told CNN earlier Sunday.

Ramapo officers picked him up and transported him upstate, the spokeswoman said. Monsey is a hamlet within Ramapo. Thomas, who is from Greenwood Lake, about a 40-minute drive northwest of Monsey, was arraigned Sunday on five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary, Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel told reporters. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. During arguments over bail, Rockland County Senior District Attorney Michael Dugandzic said Thomas had no ties to the community. The prosecutor also said that one of the victims has a skull fracture and that when police stopped Thomas he had blood on his clothes and smelled strongly of bleach.

By Jennifer Doherty

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

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

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

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

Government reports indicate a Florida election technology company was hacked in 2016. There’s plenty the public doesn’t know about the incident—but should—going into 2020.

On November 6, 2016, the Sunday before the presidential election that sent Donald Trump to the White House, a worker in the elections office in Durham County, North Carolina, encountered a problem. There appeared to be an issue with a crucial bit of software that handled the county’s list of eligible voters. To prepare for Election Day, staff members needed to load the voter data from a county computer onto 227 USB flash drives, which would then be inserted into laptops that precinct workers would use to check in voters. The laptops would serve as electronic poll books, cross-checking each voter as he or she arrived at the polls.

The problem was, it was taking eight to 10 times longer than normal for the software to copy the data to the flash drives, an unusually long time that was jeopardizing efforts to get ready for the election. When the problem persisted into Monday, just one day before the election, the county worker contacted VR Systems, the Florida company that made the software used on the county’s computer and on the poll book laptops. Apparently unable to resolve the issue by phone or email, one of the company’s employees accessed the county’s computer remotely to troubleshoot. It’s not clear whether the glitch got resolved—Durham County would not answer questions from POLITICO about the issue—but the laptops were ready to use when voting started Tuesday morning. Almost immediately, though, a number of them exhibited problems. Some crashed or froze. Others indicated that voters had already voted when they hadn’t. Others displayed an alert saying voters had to show ID before they could vote, even though a recent court case in North Carolina had made that unnecessary.

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

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

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

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

By Paul LeBlanc and Sarah Mucha, CNN

Washington (CNN) Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Saturday said he would "obey any subpoena" that is sent to him -- his most forceful statement yet to clarify a previous remark that he wouldn't testify in a Senate impeachment trial "First of all, I'm going to obey any subpoena that was sent to me," Biden said at a campaign event in Fairfield, Iowa. The former vice president's comments come one day after he reiterated to the Des Moines Register's editorial board that he wouldn't comply with a subpoena followed by a series of attempts to clarify what he meant.

Biden originally told the newspaper he wouldn't comply "because it's all designed to deal with (President Donald) Trump doing what he's done his whole life -- trying to take the focus off him." Biden told the newspaper his testimony would enable the President to "get away" from the trial's focus. "If I went, let's say I voluntarily, just said let me go make my case, what are you going to cover?" he asked, referring to the press. "You guys, instead of focusing on him, you're going to cover for three weeks anything I said. And he's going to get away." Biden first sought to clarify the comments earlier Saturday in a string of tweets, saying that "in my 40 years in public life, I have always complied with a lawful order."

He added: "But I am just not going to pretend that there is any legal basis for Republican subpoenas for my testimony in the impeachment trial. That is the point I was making yesterday and I reiterate: this impeachment is about Trump's conduct, not mine."

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

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

By Matthew S. Schwartz

More than 100 Gold Star families are suing several major defense contractors, alleging they made illegal "protection payments" to the Taliban — thereby funding the Taliban's insurgency efforts that killed or wounded thousands of Americans in Afghanistan.

It's illegal under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act to provide material support to the Taliban. The U.S. has warned defense contractors that protection payments are against the law, but according to the lawsuit, the practice has proliferated because defense contractors feel it's a cost of doing business.

"Defendants supported the Taliban for a simple reason: Defendants were all large Western companies with lucrative businesses in post-9/11 Afghanistan, and they all paid the Taliban to refrain from attacking their business interests," the complaint says. "Those protection payments aided and abetted terrorism by directly funding an al-Qaeda-backed Taliban insurgency that killed and injured thousands of Americans."

By Hannah Knowles

Georgia does not have to reinstate almost 100,000 voters removed from its rolls this month, a federal judge ruled Friday, backing the state over activists who said the purge violates people’s rights.

The decision is a victory for officials who called the removals routine and a blow to voting rights advocates who worry that such purges will disenfranchise Democratic-leaning low-income voters, young people and people of color. Georgia’s recent removal of more than 300,000 voters has launched a fight over registrations in a state where last year’s tight race for governor led to allegations of voter suppression and an investigation in Congress.

A group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, who lost the gubernatorial race, has sought to undo much of the latest purge, which came days after a judge backed cutting as many as 234,000 voters in Wisconsin, another state that will be closely watched in 2020. Abrams’s group, Fair Fight Action, argues that 98,000 voters who were cut should have stayed on the rolls for longer under a change this year to state law that extends the process leading up to a voter’s removal. It also contends that Georgia has violated the Constitution by removing voters over-zealously for inactivity, echoing others around the country concerned by “use it or lose it” policies.

By Chris Joyner, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Two Georgia men targeted earlier this year by online activists for their associations with radical white extremism have been kicked out of the Army National Guard, following months of investigation.

Army investigators started looking into Dalton Woodward and Trent East, both members of a neo-pagan sect called the Asatru Folk Assembly, earlier this year after the activist group Atlanta Antifascists published a report linking the two men to the controversial sect of paganism identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

At the time, Woodward was on active duty with the Georgia National Guard in Afghanistan. East, a member of the Alabama National Guard, was not on active duty when he was “doxxed,” or publicly outed, by the activist group.

Never-before-seen confidential video reveals shocking details from the war crimes investigation of a decorated Navy SEAL. In interviews obtained by "The Weekly," The New York Times' TV series, members of SEAL Team 7 told investigators they witnessed Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher stabbing a young ISIS fighter for no reason.

The SEALs call Gallagher "toxic," "evil" and a man who was "perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving," reports CBS News correspondent David Martin. "I think he just wants to kill anybody he can," one said. The testimony paints a chilling pattern of violence executed by their platoon chief.

"Did Eddie say anything when he did this or did he just literally pull out a knife and just start stabbing him?" one SEAL was asked. "He just pulled out a knife and started stabbing him," he replied. The evidence includes bodycam footage in which Gallagher is seen over the limp ISIS fighter's body before the camera is switched off.

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

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

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

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

Opinion by Ben Wikler

(CNN) Last week, a judge appointed by a Republican governor used an extreme and malicious interpretation of a Wisconsin state voting law to throw roughly 234,000 state voters off the rolls. The decision on a case brought by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, concerns a state law that requires the Wisconsin Elections Commission to keep voting rolls up to date. Under the law, the Commission sends letters to voters suspected of having moved based on "reliable information." Those who don't respond within 30 days are then purged from the rolls.

The legal dispute is over what constitutes "reliable information." In this case, the data is from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a useful but imperfect tool to compare voter registrations across states. The commission planned to spend the next 12 to 24 months assessing individual cases to gather enough "reliable information" on whether they had indeed moved. But the lawsuit demanded that the Commission not double-check, and simply de-register every voter flagged by ERIC. The judge agreed. The Wisconsin Department of Justice has already filed an appeal on behalf of the Commission.

That's how, by undermining what constitutes "reliable information," conservatives obtained a ruling that disproportionately targets Democratic voters and throws up needless barriers to voting in next year's presidential election in a state that President Donald Trump won by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. This voter purge is a barely disguised ploy to rig our democracy and win the 2020 election. It comes on the heels of remarks made by a top reelection adviser for Trump to fellow Republicans in Wisconsin, who said that "traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places." (The adviser later said his remarks were taken out of context.) It's part of a broader conservative playbook being implemented across the country in which the goal is not to win democratic elections but to destroy democracy in order to win elections.

New York’s current mayor blasts one of his predecessors over comments made in a magazine interview.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday accused one of his predecessors, Rudy Giuliani, of sinking to a new low with what he called a “particularly dangerous” “anti-Semitic rant.” De Blasio was responding to an interview in New York magazine in which Giuliani, now President Donald Trump‘s personal attorney, accused George Soros — a mega-donor to liberal causes — of acting as a shadowy puppet master. “I know Rudy Giuliani is determined to set new lows in pathetic, spineless behavior these days — but this anti-Semitic rant is particularly dangerous,” de Blasio tweeted Tuesday. “The attacks our Jewish communities have endured are fueled by this kind of loathsome hate. He’s an absolute disgrace.”

The magazine interview published Monday featured Giuliani making multiple accusations about Soros’ ability to control people and events, including various diplomats and FBI agents. “Don’t tell me I’m anti-Semitic if I oppose him,” Giuliani told Olivia Nuzzi. “Soros is hardly a Jew. I’m more of a Jew than Soros is. I probably know more about — he doesn’t go to church, he doesn’t go to religion — synagogue. He doesn’t belong to a synagogue, he doesn’t support Israel, he’s an enemy of Israel. He’s elected eight anarchist DA’s in the United States. He’s a horrible human being.”

By Melissa Lemieux

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

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

By Alexandra Hutzler

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

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

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

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

Kevin Liptak-Profile-Image
By Kevin Liptak and Manu Raju, CNN

Washington (CNN) Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she is "disturbed" by coordination between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House over the upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Senate leaders have yet to reach an agreement on the rules of the trial, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not sent the Senate the impeachment articles necessary to begin the proceedings. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for the Senate to pursue witnesses and documents, which McConnell opposes, leading to a holiday impasse and uncertainty as to when the trial will begin. But Murkowski said McConnell had "confused the process" by saying he was acting in "total coordination" with the White House on setting the parameters for the trial. "And in fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed," Murkowski told KTUU, a CNN affiliate.

"To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what Leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process," she went on. Murkowski's comments are notable because in the wake of House Republicans' unanimous vote last week to oppose the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Senate Republicans have given no public indication that there is any dissent among their ranks. As a moderate, Murkowski, who opposed Justice Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, will be closely watched during the upcoming trial, and she told KTUU she is undecided as to how she'll vote.

By Emma Newburger

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

Mashable - ToTok grew popular in the U.A.E. as an alternative to WhatsApp and Skype, which are blocked there. However, the app has now been removed from several services.

Published Tue, Dec 24 20192:04 PM ESTUpdated 4 hours ago
By Kevin Breuninger

Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg’s campaign hired a contractor that used prison labor to make phone calls for the former New York mayor’s White House bid. The Intercept first reported that ProCom, a New Jersey-based company hired by the Bloomberg campaign through a third-party vendor, operates two call centers out of state prisons in Oklahoma. In at least one of those prisons — a minimum-security women’s prison outside of Tulsa — inmates were contracted to make calls on behalf of the candidate, The Intercept reported. Stu Loeser, a longtime spokesman for Bloomberg, confirmed that the prison labor had been used by, as he put it, “a vendor of a vendor of a vendor.”


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

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

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

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

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

By Emma Tucker

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

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey

The decision by Christianity Today to publish an editorial describing President Trump as “immoral” and calling for his removal drew immediate rebuke from the president himself, who called the outlet “a far left magazine.” The piece drew nearly 3 million unique visitors to the magazine’s website and became the talk of TV news shows over the weekend.

At the same time, the longtime centrist-right evangelical magazine saw a rush of canceled subscriptions — and an even greater wave of new subscribers, magazine President Timothy Dalrymple said. Both he and the author of the editorial, retiring editor in chief Mark Galli, could also face personal and professional consequences, according to interviews with several other conservative Christian leaders and writers who in the past have spoken out critically about Trump. They described losing book sales, conference attendees, donors, church members and relationships.

Opinion by Elie Honig

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

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

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

The U.S. senator from South Carolina is not exactly known for the consistency of his positions.
By David Mikkelson

Lindsey Graham once said President Richard Nixon made himself subject to impeachment the day he failed to answer a congressional subpoena. In May 2016, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, famously proclaimed that, “If we [Republicans] nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it.” Since then, Graham has become one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders, making Graham the target of critics who paint him as a hypocrite for repeatedly contradicting his previously expressed stances.

In 2015, for example, Graham called Donald Trump a “race-baiting xenophobic bigot,” but by 2018 he was claiming that he had “never heard [Trump] make a single racist statement.” And in 1999, during impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton (a Democrat), Graham asserted that an impeachable offense “doesn’t even have to be a crime,” but then in 2019 Graham challenged those calling for the impeachment of Trump to “show me something that is a crime”:

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

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

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

By Colby Itkowitz

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

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

By Kat Tenbarge

One of President Donald Trump's top re-election advisers told a group of influential Wisconsin Republicans that voter suppression is "traditionally" part of the party's election strategy in battleground states, the Associated Press reports. Now, Justin Clark, an attorney and one of Trump's senior political advisers, says he was referring to the historic, false accusations that the Republican Party suppresses votes to win elections.

At a November 21 event meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Association's Wisconsin chapter, Clark spoke for about 20 minutes, and the speech was recorded by a liberal advocacy group and provided to the AP. "Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places," Clark told the group, which included Wisconsin State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and the executive director of the state's Republican party.

"Let's start protecting our voters," he continued, partly referring to Election Day monitoring of polling places. "We know where they are [...] Let's start playing offense a little bit. That's what you're going to see in 2020. It's going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program."

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

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

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

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

By Tom Angell

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

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

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Over 267 million Facebook users have had their personal information exposed by another massive data breach. Security researcher Bob Diachenko reportedly made the disturbing find on Dec. 14. Diachenko and U.K. technology research firm Comparitech believe the unprotected database was left open on the dark web for nearly two weeks. During that time, the names, phone numbers, and Facebook user IDs were exposed in the latest embarrassing mishap for the social media giant.

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

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

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

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

By Michael Nuñez

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

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

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

When I was coming of age, the Democrats were the moral relativists and the victims and the purveyors of sacrilege. Now, it’s the Republicans. It’s sickening to watch.
By Matt Lewis Senior Columnist

The impeachment of Donald Trump demonstrated what still feels to me like a weird new development: The Republicans are the evil party, while Democrats (presumably now the “stupid party”?) seemed much more sane, moderate, and honorable.

For most of my life, things appeared the exact opposite. For most of my life, it felt like the Democrats were the ones who were pandering, playing the politics of victimhood, insulting my intelligence, and saying borderline sacrilegious things. Today, the roles are reversed. Just as the parties seem to have switched positions on a myriad of issues like Russia, tariffs, and reverence for the Founding Fathers and American Exceptionalism, it is now the Republicans who are viscerally repellent.

If you watched the debates during impeachment day, you know these are not honest brokers. Their talking points—which I’m assuming are poll-tested—were maudlin, offensive, and manipulative.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

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

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

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

Some scholars want the inappropriate passage removed. Here’s why it should stay.
By Mark Joseph Stern

Partisan judges who impose reactionary policies from the bench often try to elevate their reasoning beyond the prattle of fringe-right talk radio. Not Jennifer Walker Elrod and Kurt D. Engelhardt of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both judges ruled on Wednesday that a key component of Obamacare—and perhaps the entire law—is now unconstitutional. Elrod (a George W. Bush appointee) and Engelhardt (a Donald Trump appointee) bashed the Affordable Care Act by parroting urban legends about its supposed threat to the republic. In the third footnote of an opinion that Engelhardt joined in full, Elrod suggested that the ACA’s passage was a “fraud”:

By Molly Olmstead

Matt Bevin, the former governor of Kentucky who has been criticized for pardoning relatives of his supporters before leaving office, said on Thursday that he pardoned one convicted child rapist because he didn’t believe he was guilty—because the 9-year-old victim’s hymen was intact.

Asked about his decision to pardon 41-year-old Micah Schoettle, sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2018 on charges of rape, incest, and sodomy, Bevin cast doubt on the victim’s testimony. The victim said she had been abused over two years and accused Schoettle of raping her on multiple occasions when her sister was in the room.

“Both their hymens were intact,” he told the radio station WHAS. “This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me, if you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biden’s poignant shoutout to a child who, like him, stutters, revealed one of his secret strengths.
By Aaron Rupar

A subtle shoutout former Vice President Joe Biden gave during Thursday’s Democratic debate to a child who stutters, like he has for much of his life, revealed one of his secret strengths — the ability to force people in the usually-shameless-orbit of President Donald Trump to apologize.

At the close of the debate, Joe Biden brought up a “call list” he and his wife Jill keep of “somewhere between 20 and 100 people” they regularly catch up with. He mentioned that one of the people on the list is a “little kid who says ‘I can’t talk, what do I do?’”

Though Biden didn’t explicitly say it, when he said “I can’t talk,” he impersonated the child’s stutter.

Even before the Atlantic’s feature article, Biden’s experience with stuttering was moderately well known. But one person who was apparently oblivious about it is former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. She responded to Biden’s closing comments by mocking him in a remarkably callous tweet.

Spokane, Washington — A Washington state lawmaker took part in "domestic terrorism" against the United States during a 2016 standoff at a wildlife refuge in Oregon and trained young people to fight a "holy war," according to an investigative report released Thursday.

The report prepared for the state Legislature said Representative Matt Shea, a Republican from Spokane Valley in eastern Washington, traveled throughout the West meeting with far-right extremist groups, condoned intimidating opponents and promoted militia training by the Patriot Movement for possible armed conflict with law enforcement.

Shea was suspended from the state House Republican Caucus Thursday evening, advised by members of both parties to resign and will be removed from his committee assignments.

By Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Juliegrace Brufke and Scott Wong

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

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

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

By Jennifer Hansler and Zachary Cohen, CNN

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

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

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

By Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Five current and former public officials and political candidates were charged Thursday with taking tens of thousands in bribes disguised as campaign contributions in return for steering lucrative legal work to an unnamed tax attorney working as an informant.

Envelopes and paper bags filled with cash and even a coffee cup stuffed with cash were delivered by the unidentified cooperating witness in restaurants, parking lots, a political fundraiser, and a campaign headquarters, according to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, all as part of an undercover sting that began in early 2018.

Trump's education secretary is "effectively funding an outside propaganda operation," says watchdog group
By Igor Derysh

The family foundation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her billionaire husband, Dick, gave more than $1 million to purportedly “independent” right-wing groups that have helped boost her assault on public education, according to a recent tax filing obtained by the government watchdog group Allied Progress and shared with Salon.

The 2018 filing shows that the couple put $5 million into the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation while doling out more than $11.6 million in contributions and pledges. As in previous years, much of the funding went to Christian charities and local initiatives in and around Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the couple’s home. But more than $1 million went to supposedly independent right-wing think tanks and groups like the American Enterprise Institute and the National Review Institute, which have heaped praise on Secretary DeVos and helped promote her agenda.

“Secretary DeVos is effectively funding an outside propaganda operation to help her bash teachers’ unions and promote private voucher schemes that undermine public education,” said Jeremy Funk, communications director for Allied Progress, a nonpartisan watchdog organization.

Upstart network seeks to outfox Fox, but media experts say it presents an ethical challenge.

Upstart conservative network One America News’ decision to turn over three hours this week to Rudy Giuliani’s conspiracy theories gleaned from his trip to Ukraine found a receptive audience in the White House — less so in major newsrooms and TV studios.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper said Wednesday that Giuliani brought back “dirt of questionable credibility” from his trip with a reporter from a “far-right fringe cable channel.” On MSNBC, national security correspondent Ken Dilanian said Giuliani floated a “bogus conspiracy theory” about Joe Biden on OAN, a network “which makes Fox News look like PBS.” The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake labeled the OAN series “a stunning piece of propaganda.”

But for much of the media world, OAN’s decision to give Giuliani a direct role in preparing its Ukraine report presents a troubling ethical development in the media landscape. Where once opinion shows began supplanting traditional news, now openly partisan content — presented largely unfiltered by the president’s personal attorney — is seeking to supplant content that’s opinionated but still independent.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

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

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

By Mike Cason | mcason@al.com

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop what he says is a belated and illegal attempt to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which was proposed by Congress in 1972 to prohibit discrimination based on sex but was not ratified by the required number of states. The attorneys general for Louisiana and South Dakota joined Marshall in the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Western Division.

The ERA Coalition, an organization formed in 2014 to promote ratification of the amendment, issued a statement calling the lawsuit “a disgraceful exercise in fear mongering.” “Alabama has filed this lawsuit to thwart the democratic process, and the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans to enshrine the fundamental right to sex equality in our Constitution,” the coalition said. “The Attorney General of Alabama has done a disservice to women, including the women of Alabama.” The coalition is supporting a bill by U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, that would repeal the deadline for ratifying the ERA.

For decades, anti-government and white supremacist groups have been attempting to recruit police officers – and the authorities themselves aren’t even certain about the scale of the problem.
By Maddy Crowell and Sylvia Varnham O’Regan

Ever since he was a teenager, Joshua Doggrell has believed that the former slave-holding states of the American south should secede from the United States. When he was a freshman in college at the University of Alabama in 1995, Doggrell discovered a group whose worldview chimed with his – the League of the South. The League believes that white southern culture is in danger of extinction from forces such as religious pluralism, homosexuality and interracial coupling. Doggrell wanted to protect that culture. In 2006, when he was 29 years old, he applied to be a police officer in Anniston, Alabama, a sparsely populated city at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, where more than half of the residents are people of colour. On his police application, Doggrell wrote that he was a member of the League. Shortly after, he was hired.

During nearly a decade on the police force, Doggrell was a vocal advocate for the League, working to recruit fellow officers to the group. He encouraged his colleagues to attend the League’s monthly meetings, which he held at a steakhouse not far from the police station. On Facebook, he posted neo-Confederate material, including a photo of an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and wrote that he was “against egalitarianism in all forms”. He often refused to be in the room when the department recited the pledge of allegiance in front of the American flag.

In 2013, Doggrell delivered the opening speech at the League’s annual conference, on how to “cultivate the good will” of police officers. “The vast majority of men in uniform are aware that they’re southerners,” Doggrell told the audience, which included the prominent neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach and another Anniston police officer Doggrell had recruited to the group. Doggrell added that most southern officers were “a lot closer” to joining the League than they were 10 or 15 years ago. “My department,” he added, “has been very supportive of me. I’ve somehow been promoted twice since I was there.”

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