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US Monthly Headline News February 2020 Page 1

In documents obtained by The Daily Beast, Fox’s research team advises colleagues to be wary of “disinformation” from several Trump-boosting on-air regulars, including Giuliani.
By Will Sommer, Maxwell Tani, Andrew Kirell

Fox News’ own research team has warned colleagues not to trust some of the network’s top commentators’ claims about Ukraine. An internal Fox News research briefing book obtained by The Daily Beast openly questions Fox News contributor John Solomon’s credibility, accusing him of playing an “indispensable role” in a Ukrainian “disinformation campaign.” The document also accuses frequent Fox News guest Rudy Giuliani of amplifying disinformation, as part of an effort to oust former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and blasts Fox News guests Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova—both ardent Trump boosters—for “spreading disinformation.” The 162-page document, entitled “Ukraine, Disinformation, & the Trump Administration,” was created by Fox News senior political affairs specialist Bryan S. Murphy, who produces research from what is known as the network’s Brain Room—a newsroom division of researchers who provide information, data, and topic guides for the network’s programming. The research brief is especially critical of Solomon, a former opinion columnist at The Hill whose opinion pieces about Ukraine made unsubstantiated claims about its government interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Solomon’s pieces for The Hill fueled Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine, which eventually helped lead to Trump’s impeachment. Trump has also frequently cited Solomon’s questionable reporting on Twitter in his own defense.

Analysis By Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

Washington (CNN)Sen. Mitt Romney's decision to break party ranks and vote to convict President Donald Trump of abusing his power in relation to his dealing with Ukraine was a deeply personal act. But whether the Utah Republican intended it or not, it was (and is) also a decision with potentially profound consequences for the future of his party. At the moment, that party is, largely, inseparable from Trump. The hostile takeover of the GOP that Trump conducted during the 2016 campaign is now virtually complete, with Republican members of Congress cheering on the President for fear of what it might cost them politically if they don't. There was no better example of that almost-total capitulation to Trump than on Thursday at the White House. The President ranted and raved for more than an hour -- casting doubts on the actual religiosity of Romney (and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi), decrying the top brass at the FBI as "top scum" and repeatedly calling his opponents "evil."

Opinion by Elliot Williams

(CNN) There is no question that Rush Limbaugh is a man of immense talent, wit and on-air charisma. There is also no question that he has devoted much of his career to belching out racist invective and dividing the country. He has a colossal audience and has been instrumental in fueling the vicious toxicity and knee-jerk partisanship that characterizes our moment. And so to some extent, we should be alarmed by President Donald Trump's choice to use this year's State of the Union to award Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Or, at this point, maybe we shouldn't. Established in 1963 by John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is widely considered the nation's highest honor bestowed on civilians. Certainly, all presidents send political messages through their choice of who gets an award. For instance, it can be no accident that George H.W. Bush chose to give an award in 1989 to George F. Kennan -- one of the early architects of the policy of containing Soviet expansion -- the same year revolution and change began to spread across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. However, for the most part, the roster of award winners reads as a who's who of figures who embody America's best angels -- those whose contributions to the human experiment were far more moral than anything else. The list includes Nobel laureates like Elie Wiesel and Mother Teresa, and once-in-a generation creative minds like Maya Angelou, Georgia O'Keeffe and Walt Disney. Or civil rights figures like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Add to that Neil Armstrong, the first human on the moon, and Jonas Salk, who saved entire swaths of the planet from certain paralysis by inventing the polio vaccine.

A memo tied to Bannon revealed the claim that Kushner “attempted to back channel for communications with Russia"
By Igor Derysh

The Department of Justice (DOJ) released a summary of an FBI interview with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner from November 2017, though it redacted nearly the entire memo. The significantly redacted release came after the DOJ refused to comply with a court order to release the memo on Kushner's interview along with dozens of others from the Russia investigation led by former special counsel Robert Mueller. A judge ordered the FBI to turn over the memos to BuzzFeed News and CNN by last month after the outlets filed a Freedom of Information Act request. The DOJ argued that "a member of the intelligence community" must review the memos and add "appropriate reductions." The DOJ finally released the Kushner memo on Monday, but BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold quickly found that it was "almost entirely redacted." In fact, only three lines of the document were left intact:

By Jordain Carney

The Treasury Department has handed over documents to a pair of GOP Senate chairmen as part of a months-long probe into Burisma Holdings, Ukraine and Hunter Biden, according to the top Democrat on one of the panels. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — the chairmen of the Finance and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, respectively — sent a letter to the Treasury Department in November saying they were investigating "potentially improper actions" during the Obama administration. The Treasury Department is complying with their request, according to a spokeswoman for Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, who noted that Democratic requests for information have been stonewalled. "For its part, the Trump administration refused to comply with all Democratic requests for documents and witnesses associated with impeachment. Applying a blatant double standard, Trump administration agencies like the Treasury Department are rapidly complying with Senate Republican requests—no subpoenas necessary—and producing ‘evidence’ of questionable origin," Ashley Schapitl, a spokeswoman for Wyden, said in a statement. The development was first reported by Yahoo News, with a source telling the publication that the Treasury Department began complying with the Grassley-Johnson request in less than two months. A spokesman for the Treasury Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. In the November letter — which was not publicly released by either of the committees but obtained by Reuters — Grassley and Johnson say that they are "conducting an investigation into potentially improper actions by the Obama administration with respect to Burisma Holdings ... and Ukraine."

By William Cummings - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who testified in the impeachment inquiry, said in an op-ed Thursday that President Donald Trump's administration has "undermined our democratic institutions." Yovanovitch, who retired at the end of last month, was pulled from her post in Ukraine last April after what some of her former State Department colleagues testified was a "smear campaign" against her by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. During the Senate impeachment trial, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said removing Yovanovitch cleared the way for Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations for Trump's political benefit. "When civil servants in the current administration saw senior officials taking actions they considered deeply wrong in regard to the nation of Ukraine, they refused to take part, When Congress asked us to testify about those activities, my colleagues and I did not hesitate, even in the face of administration efforts to silence us," Yovanovitch wrote in The Washington Post. "We did this because it is the American way to speak up about wrongdoing." Marie Yovanovitch testimony:Ex-Ukraine ambassador tells lawmakers Trump 'pressured' State Department to remove her The day after the Republican-controlled Senate voted to acquit Trump on two articles of impeachment, Yovanovitch said the U.S. political system was more fragile than many Americans realize and "the last year has shown that we need to fight for our democracy."

By Tyler Pager and Jennifer Epstein

Supporters of President Donald Trump flooded a hotline used by Iowa precinct chairs to report Democratic caucus results after the telephone number was posted online, worsening delays in the statewide tally, a top state Democrat told party leaders on a conference call Wednesday night. According to two participants on the call, Ken Sagar, a state Democratic central committee member, was among those answering the hotline on caucus night and said people called in and expressed support for Trump. The phone number became public after people posted photos of caucus paperwork that included the hotline number, one of the people on the call said. The phone call Wednesday night between the Iowa Democratic Party staff and state central committee, the party’s elected governing body, came as the party was still counting results.

By Caroline Kelly

(CNN) The acting secretary of Homeland Security announced on Wednesday that New York state residents can no longer participate in certain Trusted Traveler Programs, including Global Entry, due to provisions in the state's new "Green Light Law" supporting undocumented immigrants. The law, which went into effect in December, allows undocumented immigrants to apply for New York driver's licenses while protecting applicants' information from immigration enforcement agencies. "Today, we sent a letter to New York indicating, because they took these measures, that New York residents are no longer eligible to enroll in these Trusted Traveler Programs," acting Secretary Chad Wolf told Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Wednesday. New York state residents cannot "enroll or re-enroll" in the programs "because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements, so we need to do our job," Wolf added. The letter states that the Green Light Law will impede Immigration and Customs Enforcement's "objective of protecting the people of New York from menacing threats to national security and public safety," according to a copy obtained by Fox News and confirmed to CNN by a source familiar with the letter. Since the law "prevents DHS from accessing New York DMV records in order to determine whether a (Trusted Traveler Program) applicant or re-applicant meets program eligibility requirements, New York residents will no longer be eligible to enroll or re-enroll in CBP's Trusted Travel Programs," the letter adds. The letter lists four such programs that are managed by US Customs and Border Protection: Global Entry, which allows for faster clearance in customs for participants when they enter the US; NEXUS, which allows for quicker border crossing for qualified travelers between the US and Canada; Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI), another program that allows for quicker clearance for qualified travelers when they arrive in the US; and the Free And Secure Trade (FAST) program, which allows for quicker clearance for commercial shipments crossing the US border from Canada or Mexico.

A 2006 controversy resurfaced in 2020 after the conservative radio host was diagnosed with lung cancer.
By Dan Evon

Radio host Rush Limbaugh once claimed that actor Michael J. Fox was "exaggerating" his Parkinson's disease symptoms in a political ad. In February 2020, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. While U.S. President Donald Trump honored the controversial commentator with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, some social media users noted that Limbaugh had a history of making demeaning comments on his program. For instance, one widely shared video clip supposedly showed Limbaugh mocking actor Michael J. Fox and claiming that he was “exaggerating” symptoms of his Parkinson’s disease.

Just A Quick Reminder Of The Time Rush Limbaugh Mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's By Pretending To Shake Uncontrollably. pic.twitter.com/dX3L0jtnUv

— Austin (@austin63867) February 3, 2020

This is a genuine clip of Limbaugh describing Fox on his program. Media Matters archived the full audio of this segment, which originally aired during an Oct. 23, 2006, episode of Limbaugh’s radio show.

By Sarah Westwood and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump began his speech at the National Prayer Breakfast by taking veiled shots at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was on the stage with him as he spoke, and Sen. Mitt Romney, the morning after the GOP-controlled Senate acquitted him. Romney, citing his Mormon faith, was the only Republican to vote against his party and join Democrats in voting to convict Trump. Beginning his speech at the bipartisan annual event, Trump criticized "dishonest and corrupt people" who "badly hurt our nation" -- an apparent reference to Democrats who pursued his impeachment over what they claimed was an abuse of power in holding up aid in Ukraine. The President thanked "courageous Republican politicians and leaders (who) had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right." He then obliquely referenced Romney and Pelosi. "I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that's not so. So many people have been hurt and we can't let that go on," Trump said. Pelosi has previously said she prays for the President daily. "We have allies, we have enemies, sometimes the allies are enemies but we just don't know it. But we're changing all that," Trump later remarked. Trump walked into the annual, bipartisan breakfast and immediately picked up the newspaper laid on his place setting, a hard copy of USA Today, with the headline "ACQUITTED." He displayed the headline to the room and to the cameras, to laughter from the audience.

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN) Impeachment is over. President Donald Trump has been acquitted. One bruising chapter has ended, but another phase of the Ukraine affair is only now beginning. Because Senate Republicans blocked all efforts to hear from new witnesses and subpoena documents, the complete story of what happened between Trump and Ukraine still hasn't been told. They calculated that it was better to acquit and move on, even if a smoking gun comes out later. Over the past five months, new information about the Trump-Ukraine scandal has emerged from the House investigation, public comments from key players, reporting from news outlets, and public records lawsuits. Disjointed as they've been, these revelations have nonetheless painted a damning picture of how Trump used his powers to pressure Ukraine to help his 2020 campaign. Information will continue flowing long after Congress returns to business as usual. Former Trump adviser John Bolton's bombshell book comes out next month, and transparency groups are getting more Trump administration documents from their lawsuits. Here are eight big questions that still haven't been fully resolved. The answers, whenever they come out, could dramatically reshape how the public looks back at Trump's presidency.

Wray evaded the questions, saying the bureau would only investigate "the facts."
By Alexander Mallin

FBI Director Christopher Wray sought to reassure lawmakers on Wednesday, as he was pressed on whether the FBI was asked to open investigations that would politically benefit President Donald Trump. "No one has asked me to open an investigation on anything other than the facts, the law and proper predication," Wray said as he testified before the House Judiciary Committee.  His answer came after New York Rep. Jerry Nadler -- also a trial manager during the Senate impeachment trial -- said he was concerned that after the Senate's expected vote to acquit Trump Wednesday afternoon, the president would seek investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and others who he felt had wronged him during the impeachment probe. He asked the director if the administration -- the White House or Attorney General William Barr -- had yet approached the FBI about such investigations of his political rivals.  Wray would not directly answer Nadler's questions, saying the bureau would only investigate "the facts." "I can assure Congress today that the FBI will only open investigations based on the facts and the law and proper predication," he repeated.

Fred Guttenberg was escorted from the gallery by security officers after the president said, “So long as I am president, I will always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The father of a student killed in the 2018 Florida high school massacre apologized for disrupting President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address by shouting as the president said the rights of gun owners are under siege. Fred Guttenberg was escorted from the gallery by security officers after shouting about his slain daughter Jaime just after the president said, “So long as I am president, I will always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.” The audience turned and looked up at the ruckus as he was led out. “I let my emotions get the best of me,” Guttenberg tweeted early Wednesday. “I simply want to be able to deal with the reality of gun violence and not have to listen to lies” about the Second Amendment. “That said, I should not yelled out. I am thankful for the overwhelming support I am receiving. However, I do owe my family and friends an apology. I have tried to conduct myself with dignity throughout this process and I will do better as I pursue gun safety,” tweeted Guttenberg, who was a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Jaime Guttenberg, an aspiring dancer and gymnast, was 14 when she died with 16 others in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Her brother fled the shooting physically uninjured.

Rep. Adam Schiff says Prince impaired the House Intelligence Committee investigation of Russian links to the 2016 Trump campaign.

The Justice Department has begun reviewing a 10-month-old allegation by the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), that Erik Prince, an ally of President Donald Trump, repeatedly misled lawmakers during the panel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. In a Feb. 4 letter to Schiff from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, obtained on Tuesday by POLITICO, Boyd expressed regret for the lengthy delay in responding to the chairman’s April 30, 2019, request. “We apologize for the delay in responding to your letter,” Boyd wrote, adding, “[T]he Department acknowledges receipt of your letter and will refer your request for investigation to the proper investigative agency or component for review.” Schiff initially referred Prince to the Justice Department and sought “prompt” action for what he described as a series of “manifest and substantial falsehoods.” In that letter, delivered to Attorney General William Barr, Schiff said that Prince, the billionaire founder of a military contracting firm, intentionally misled the House Intelligence Committee and impaired its investigation of Russian links to the 2016 Trump campaign. It’s unclear what led the Justice Department to return to Schiff’s request 10 months later on the eve of the Senate’s decision to acquit Trump on two impeachment charges. The department and a Prince attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment. U.S. Attorney John Durham has been tasked by Barr with reviewing the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation, which later morphed into special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the election.

One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”
By Sherrod Brown

Not guilty. Not guilty. In the United States Senate, like in many spheres of life, fear does the business. Think back to the fall of 2002, just a few weeks before that year’s crucial midterm elections, when the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was up for a vote. A year after the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of members of the House and the Senate were about to face the voters of a country still traumatized by terrorism. Senator Patty Murray, a thoughtful Democrat from Washington State, still remembers “the fear that dominated the Senate leading up to the Iraq war.” “You could feel it then,” she told me, “and you can feel that fear now” — chiefly among Senate Republicans. For those of us who, from the start, questioned the wisdom of the Iraq war, our sense of isolation surely wasn’t much different from the loneliness felt in the 1950s by Senator Herbert Lehman of New York, who confronted Joe McCarthy’s demagogy only to be abandoned by so many of his colleagues. Nor was it so different from what Senator George McGovern must have felt when he announced his early opposition to the Vietnam War and was then labeled a traitor by many inside and outside of Congress.

By Dan Balz

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) sealed a place in history Wednesday with his announcement that he will to vote to convict President Trump of abuse of power, becoming a rare lone voice in a Republican Party that otherwise has marched in lockstep with the president throughout the impeachment proceedings. Romney said he will vote against the second article of impeachment, which accused the president of obstruction of Congress. But on the first article, the Utah senator said in a telephone interview that he found the evidence against Trump overwhelming and the arguments by the president’s defense ultimately unconvincing. “There’s no question that the president asked a foreign power to investigate his political foe,” Romney said ahead of the floor statement he delivered Wednesday. “That he did so for a political purpose, and that he pressured Ukraine to get them to do help or to lead in this effort. My own view is that there’s not much I can think of that would be a more egregious assault on our Constitution than trying to corrupt an election to maintain power. And that’s what the president did.” Romney said his decision to vote to convict the president was “the hardest decision” he has ever had to make and one that he hoped he would never have to make.

By William Cummings - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said it was "truly nauseating" to see President Donald Trump award the Medal of Freedom to conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh during his State of the Union address Tuesday.  In a video shared on Instagram, the first-term New York Democrat called Limbaugh – who revealed Monday that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer – a "virulent racist" who did not deserve the "extraordinarily sacred award." "We're talking about putting someone on the same level as Rosa Parks, for example, in terms of their contributions to American progress," she said. Ocasio-Cortez, who skipped the address in protest of the president and his policies, said giving the medal to Limbaugh was "red meat to his base." "He wants to assert that Rush Limbaugh is somehow on the same level as Rosa Parks. And it's truly nauseating," she said. "And this is one of the many reasons that I did not go."

Medal of Freedom: What is it and why did Trump award it to Rush Limbaugh during State of the Union?

What Limbaugh has said in the past

Limbaugh has sparked a great deal of controversy over the years, routinely referring to women's rights activists as "feminazis" and once calling law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for her support of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that covered contraception. He has also made a number of comments that have been derided as racist, several of them about former President Barack Obama. In 2007, he referred to Obama, whose father was black and mother was white, as a "halfrican-American." Later that year, he called him "Barack the Magic Negro." And during the Obama administration, he said: "The white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering." "Race riots are part of the plan that this regime has," he said in 2011. "That's next."

By Vivian Salama, CNN

Washington (CNN)Days before the July 2019 call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, US officials were still working to expedite the delivery of Javelin anti-tank missiles to the country, according to emails and other internal documents reviewed by CNN. The new information underscores how the July 18th decision to hold the military aid stunned officials, who had already assessed Ukraine deserved to receive it and were preparing a Javelin missile order as well. The decision reverberated across the government for weeks. Officials grew so concerned over the deferrals by the Office of Management and Budget that they noted the aid was at "serious risk," and questioned if the move was illegal. In an email to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who was in his first week on the job, a top Defense official communicated his concern over Trump's "reported view that the US should cease providing security assistance" to Ukraine and its impact on national security. Defense officials hoped Esper might be able to persuade the President to drop the hold, and included their rationale in briefing notes provided to him for an August meeting at the White House. The documents reviewed by CNN -- none of which revealed classified information on military operations or sensitive personnel matters -- are linked to communications and meetings from July and August last year related to the aid freeze that was at the center of efforts to impeach Trump. The documents paint a broad picture of bureaucrats scrambling to understand and push back against a sudden, unexplained White House directive that disrupted months of careful planning, contradicted Pentagon decisions based on US national security concerns and undermined Ukraine's efforts to defend itself against Russia. The revelations follow a refusal by the Department of Justice last week to disclose two dozen emails which it said should remain confidential because they describe "communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President's immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine." Democratic House impeachment investigators have repeatedly highlighted OMB's refusal to turn over any documents when subpoenaed during the probe and suggested that emails may exist showing acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's role in passing along the President's order to halt the aid to Ukraine.

By Justin Wise

President Trump reportedly dismissed Republican Sen. Susan Collins's (Maine) suggestion that he had learned a lesson from impeachment just a day before his expected acquittal. Asked about Collins's comment during a private lunch with news anchors ahead of the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump said that he'd done nothing wrong, The Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the meeting. “It was a perfect call," Trump added, an apparent reference to his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pushed the leader to announce investigations into his political opponents. Trump and his allies have repeatedly argued that his conversations with Zelensky were "perfect." The House in December voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after an inquiry into his alleged dealings with Ukraine. Trump is alleged to have withheld nearly $400 million in military aid in an effort to push for probes of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son and an unfounded conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election.  The Senate trial, which began last month, is expected to end in an acquittal on Wednesday. The end to the trial comes after Republicans blocked a motion to allow new witnesses and documents.

Human Rights Watch says 138 Salvadorans were murdered from 2013 to 2019 and 70 others were abused or sexually assaulted
By Nina Lakhani

At least 200 Salvadoran migrants and asylum seekers have been killed, raped or tortured after being deported back to El Salvador by the United States government which is turning a blind eye to widely known dangers, a new investigation reveals. Human Rights Watch has documented 138 deported Salvadorans murdered by gang members, police, soldiers, death squads and ex-partners between 2013 and 2019. The majority were killed within two years of deportation by the same perpetrators they had tried to escape by seeking safety in the US. The report, Deported to Danger: United States deportation policies expose Salvadorans to death and abuse, also identifies more than 70 others who were subjected to beatings, sexual assault and extortion – usually at the hand of gangs – or who went missing after being returned.

By Editorial Board

REPUBLICAN SENATORS who voted Friday to suppress known but unexamined evidence of President Trump’s wrongdoing at his Senate trial must have calculated that the wrath of a vindictive president is more dangerous than the sensible judgment of the American people, who, polls showed, overwhelmingly favored the summoning of witnesses. That’s almost the only way to understand how the Republicans could have chosen to deny themselves and the public the firsthand account of former national security adviser John Bolton, and perhaps others, on how Mr. Trump sought to extort political favors from Ukraine. The public explanations the senators offered were so weak and contradictory as to reveal themselves as pretexts. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she weighed supporting “additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings” of the House’s impeachment process, but decided against doing so. Apparently she preferred a bad trial to a better one — but she did assure us that she felt “sad” that “the Congress has failed.”

The newspaper said Americans “can take some comfort in the prospect that most or all of the evidence the White House is hiding will eventually come out.”
By Lee Moran

The Washington Post editorial board has called out “the cringing shamefulness” of Republican senators’ decision on Friday to block witnesses from testifying in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. The board wrote in an editorial ― titled “The cringing abdication of Senate Republicans” ― that GOP lawmakers who voted “to suppress known but unexamined evidence” of Trump’s Ukraine misconduct must have calculated “the wrath of a vindictive president is more dangerous than the sensible judgment of the American people” who polls showed wanted to hear testimony.

The famed Watergate journalist accused the GOP Senate majority leader of setting a dangerous precedent.
By Lee Moran

Carl Bernstein on Friday lamented “the violence done to the Constitution” by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) after Republican senators voted to block witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, all but ensuring his acquittal over the Ukraine scandal. McConnell and “his craven Republicans” established a precedent “in which the president of the United States can do almost anything without being held accountable,” the famed Watergate journalist told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Trump, says a source, wants Bolton to be criminally investigated for possibly mishandling classified information. Romney, Schiff, and Nadler are also in West Wing crosshairs.
By Gabriel Sherman

With Senate Republicans on track to acquit Donald Trump on Wednesday, Washington is bracing for what an unshackled Trump does next. Republicans briefed on Trump’s thinking believe that the president is out for revenge against his adversaries. “It’s payback time,” a prominent Republican told me last week. “He has an enemies list that is growing by the day,” another source said. Names that came up in my conversations with Republicans included Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and John Bolton. “Trump’s playbook is simple: go after people who crossed him during impeachment.” Several sources said Bolton is at the top of the list. Trump’s relationship with Bolton was badly damaged by the time Bolton left the White House in September. Trump has since blamed his former national security adviser for leaking details of his forthcoming memoir that nearly derailed the impeachment trial by pressuring Republicans to call witnesses. In the book Bolton reportedly alleges Trump told him directly that Ukraine aid was tied to Ukraine announcing investigations into the Bidens (Bolton has denied being a source of the leak).

By Kim Bellware

Among the guests at the Trump International Golf Club Super Bowl party Sunday night in West Palm Beach, Fla., its host, President Trump, was an unusually conspicuous presence. In an Instagram video taken by a guest and later shared with the Miami Herald, other attendees — including members of the first family — are seen standing calmly with hand over heart as “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays. The 20-second clip using the front-facing-camera mode shows Trump doing neither. Instead, the president is seen fidgeting, pointing around the room, straightening his jacket and at one point waving his fingers in the air as if conducting an invisible orchestra. Trump’s behavior during the national anthem cut against his frequent claim that his respect for the song, the flag and the military is superlative — and incidentally, this occurred on the biggest night for the National Football League, an organization whose players Trump has openly criticized as unpatriotic. In 2018, Trump called for consequences for players who don’t stand during the national anthem: “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” It was unclear who took the video Sunday. In the clip shared with the Herald, the face of the person holding the phone is blurred. It is also unclear if the golf club has a social media policy, but members and guests of Trump’s various clubs have for years tagged their locations in posts that often include the president or members of his family.

By Reed Richardson

President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly attacked athletes who protest police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem, was caught on video at his Super Bowl LIV watch party at Mar-A-Lago joking around, playfully pointing his finger at other guests, and waving his arms in the air pretending to conduct the band during the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” The president’s actions on Sunday night were captured on a video by a fellow Mar-A-Lago party attendee — a real-estate agent for a Russian-American firm — and posted on Instagram, and was subsequently re-published by the Miami Herald. Trump’s casual, jokey behavior in the clip stands in stark contrast to everyone else visible, including First Lady Melania Trump, who stand still during the anthem, most with their right hand over their hearts. Notably, Trump’s highly informal conduct comes at the same moment that conservatives are blasting Beyoncé and Jay-Z for remaining seated during the national anthem at Super Bowl LIV. Trump, of course, has a long history of angrily lashing out at kneeling athletes like Colin Kaepernick for, as he sees it, disrespecting the anthem and flag, at times calling for them to be immediately fired, saying NFL owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field.” He’s also strongly suggested anyone who doesn’t show proper respect during the “Star-Spangled Banner” might be worthy of deportation, saying in 2018: “You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” Tha hypocrisy was too much to take for online critics, who quickly fired back at Trump.

TYT Sports

Trump supporters are HUGE hypocrites! Rick Strom breaks it down.

The app was quickly put together in the past two months and was not properly tested at a statewide scale, according to people briefed on the matter.
By Nick Corasaniti, Sheera Frenkel and Nicole Perlroth

DES MOINES — The app that the Iowa Democratic Party commissioned to tabulate and report results from the caucuses on Monday was not properly tested at a statewide scale, said people who were briefed on the app by the state party. It was quickly put together in just the past two months, said the people, some of whom asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly. And the party decided to use the app only after another proposal for reporting votes — which entailed having caucus participants call in their votes over the phone — was abandoned, on the advice of Democratic National Committee officials, according to David Jefferson, a board member of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan election integrity organization. Late Monday night, that chain of events came to a head when results from the Iowa caucuses were significantly delayed. While vote counts in the past have typically been reported earlier in the evening, the Iowa Democratic Party held a conference call with representatives from each campaign at around 10:30 p.m. Eastern time to tell them that roughly 35 percent of precincts had reported, but that it would provide no other details about the results. A spokeswoman for the state party issued a statement late Monday denying that the delays were the result of the new app’s failure.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) The Democratic 2020 crusade to oust President Donald Trump could not have got off to a more disastrous and embarrassing start. The party couldn't even deliver a first-in-the-nation election night winner after a vote-reporting debacle in Iowa — where candidates spent months and millions of dollars vying for a glittering opening prize in their nominating duel. "Iowa, you have shocked the nation," said former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. It was a bold attempt to declare victory in the absence of a result, but the 38-year-old inadvertently cast an ironic judgment on a political train wreck. The big Hawkeye State miss will be agonizing for whoever comes out on top but for any candidates who under performed -- perhaps former Vice President Joe Biden -- it might turn into a priceless lifeline. The caucus nightmare also played right into the hands of a President spoiling for months to brand his rivals as weak, disorganized and even worse — plotting to rig the results to hand its crown to an establishment favorite. There's little doubt that Trump, who consistently erodes distrust in institutions and governing systems, will weaponize such a narrative if it looks like he will lose in November. Trump operatives are already spinning conspiracy theories and disinformation about what the Iowa Democratic Party said were "inconsistencies" in its results. Their aim is to create a narrative that tars the eventual nominee as illegitimate. And on the eve of his State of the Union address and two days before he's set to be acquitted in his impeachment trial, things cannot have worked out better for the President. "It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process. And these are the people who want to run our entire health care system?" Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said, gleefully wringing every last drop of political advantage out of the Democratic blushes.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) When President Bill Clinton was acquitted by the Senate following an impeachment trial in 1999, he apologized to the American public for his conduct. When President Donald Trump is almost assuredly acquitted on Wednesday in his own impeachment trial, he will take a victory lap. As CNN's Jeremy Diamond has reported, Trump is expected to claim the lack of votes in the Senate for his removal as a vindication of what he has been saying all along: That the entire Ukraine story is an attempt by partisan Democrats to overturn the 2016 election and unduly influence this November's race as well. "I don't see the President making a big statement one way or another that would indicate anything different than what he's been saying for many months," one Republican close to Trump told Diamond. Peter Baker made a similar point in The New York Times, writing: "Now Mr. Trump, who has said that the Constitution 'allows me to do whatever I want' and pushed so many boundaries that curtailed past presidents, has little reason to fear the legislative branch nor any inclination to reach out in conciliation." As did Axios' Jonathan Swan: "Everything we've heard from Trump's aides over the last month suggests he will give less and less credence to voices urging caution....Per a senior White House official, Trump feels every major gamble he's taken has succeeded despite advisers who were Chicken Littles." In short: If you thought the first three years of Trump's presidency was as far as he was willing to stretch norms of what a leader can say or do, well, buckle up. While the average person might see the last few months -- in which a series of revelations have come to light that make clear that Trump acted inappropriately in asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter -- as a moment in which the President might reflect on how he behaved and, if not apologize, then consider changing his conduct, Trump sees none of that. He has long viewed himself as a victim of an unfair system, biased against him for, well, whatever reason makes the most sense to him at the moment. Usually his ire fell on snobs and "elites."

By Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a moderate who is friendly with the White House, on Monday asked his colleagues to consider censuring President Trump as the Senate moves toward votes on impeachment. “I do believe a bipartisan majority of this body would vote to censure President Trump for his action in this matter. Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines,” Manchin said in a speech on the Senate floor. “His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate and censure would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms.” It is an effort that could put pressure on some Republican senators as they mull whether to reprimand Trump in coming weeks, even if they vote Wednesday to acquit him on the House’s two articles of impeachment — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. But Manchin’s proposal will face obstacles as lawmakers in both parties resist the idea and hew to their leadership’s position on how to respond to Trump’s conduct. Manchin has prepared a censure resolution for fellow senators to review in coming days, which would be a less severe rebuke than removal from office for Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine to investigate a domestic political rival, former vice president Joe Biden. “What the president did was wrong,” Manchin said in his speech.

By Katelyn Polantz, Marshall Cohen and Sara Murray, CNN

(CNN) The Justice Department has released another 300 pages of notes from major witness interviews in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The documents, include memos -- called 302s by the FBI -- from Andrew McCabe, Sean Spicer, Reince Priebus, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen and Steve Bannon. This is the fifth time CNN has gotten documents like these from the Justice Department regarding the Mueller investigation, as part of a lawsuit in conjunction with BuzzFeed News. So far, the previous releases have fleshed out details that Mueller summarized in his final report regarding the actions of President Donald Trump and his campaign. The memos have revealed, for instance, how top Trump campaign officials witnessed the President and other Trump campaign officials pushing for the release of stolen Democratic emails and supported a conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the Democrats in 2016.
The memos were typed up by agents or prosecutors after they questioned each witness. The Justice Department has kept many of the memos heavily redacted as they continue to release them this year.

Highly redacted Kushner memo reveals nothing
The Justice Department released, for the first time, notes from Mueller's team of their interview with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. But the five-page document is almost completely redacted, revealing nothing more about Kushner's role in the Russia scandal. There are a few snippets of text visible in the memo. "A few weeks after the election [REDACTED] Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak met together at Trump Tower," an apparent reference to the December 2016 meeting between senior Trump aides and then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The rest of that section is fully redacted, even though several pages of the Mueller report delve into the details of the meeting.

The US has become the key cog in the machine of modern kleptocracy worldwide. But it didn’t start with Trump.
By Casey Michel Feb 3, 2020, 7:20am EST

Critics of President Donald Trump frequently use the word “kleptocracy” to describe his leadership, administration, and imprint on American policy writ large. Before 2016 — before Trump’s election and presidency flipped assumptions about America’s liberal democratic project on its head — the word, which literally means “rule of thieves,” was mostly only used by academics and foreign policy wonks. Thanks to Trump’s reign, though, “kleptocracy” is having an unprecedented moment. It’s not hard to see why. As Vox’s Zack Beauchamp argued in 2017, “Trump’s kleptocratic instincts” share significant overlap with post-Soviet dictators and autocratic strongmen elsewhere, from his nepotistic corruption to his insistence on targeting opponents with all the levers of power at his disposal — as seen most obviously in his attempt to strong-arm a foreign government into trying to investigate a political rival. All of that is, of course, true: Trump’s illiberalism, and his predilection for inserting and expanding corruption wherever he can, is hardly a secret. But this administration is merely the culmination of the US’s decades-long slide toward becoming the center of modern kleptocracy. The US has become the world’s greatest offshore haven, allowing the crooked and the criminal to launder and stash their ill-gotten gains across the country — money ransacked from national treasuries and prone populations abroad. For despots and their families, human traffickers and gun runners, there’s no better friend than the US, at least when it comes to hiding their finances from prying eyes, both at home and abroad. All told, the US has become the key cog in the machine of modern kleptocracy worldwide, allowing illiberal regimes everywhere to flourish — and threatening America’s democratic experiment in the process.

How US states became masters of the shell game

The biggest single provider of anonymous shell corporations in the world isn’t Panama or the Cayman Islands. It’s not the financial secrecy stalwart Switzerland, or a traditional offshore haven like the Bahamas. It’s Delaware. And the main reason is federalism. Thanks to the US’s federal structure, company formation remains overseen at the state level, rather than in Washington.

By Max Boot

Forget “Saturday Night Live.” The best comic relief on television this weekend was Jared Kushner’s performance on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show. The 39-year-old senior adviser to President Trump was contemptuous of John Kelly, John Bolton, Rex Tillerson and other former officials with decades of experience in fields such as business, the military and government who have been scathing in their recollections of the Trump administration. “What I have seen is that the cream has risen and — I’m not going to say what the word is — but that has sank,” Kushner said, adding that Trump has “cycled out a lot of the people who didn’t have what it took to be successful here and a lot of the people who have come in and been excellent are not out there complaining and writing books because they’re too busy working.” Presumably Kushner thinks that he is emblematic of the “cream” that has risen to the top. He must be one of the “excellent” people who have what it takes “to be successful here” — although what that is beyond having married the boss’s daughter remains a mystery. He is the living embodiment of football coach Barry Switzer’s scathing quip: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” Kushner has spent his entire career working for his father and his father-in-law. As a real estate developer, he was primarily known for overpaying for an office building located at 666 Fifth Avenue and for buying and destroying the spunky New York Observer. He arrived at the White House with no obvious qualifications and so many conflicts of interest that he did not qualify for a security clearance until Trump overrode the concerns of career professionals.

By Jonathan Chait

Toward the end, the impeachment trial’s strategic purpose narrowed into an obsessive quest to produce evidence. Democrats have defined victory not as removal, but as winning a procedural vote to allow more testimony, especially by John Bolton. The House managers have designed their arguments not to reinforce Trump’s guilt but to underscore the need for more testimony. They seem to have given little attention to the question of whether such a victory would actually serve their larger strategic purposes at all. Republicans may have succeeded in blocking all new evidence and driving toward the rapid conclusion they seek, bu the tactical victory may well become a strategic defeat. If the several days that have passed since the Bolton revelation have proved anything, it is just how uninterested Republicans are in holding Trump to account for his misconduct. Initially, even Trump’s staunchest supporters conceded that pressuring Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals would be, if true, unacceptable. (Lindsey Graham: “very disturbing”; Steve Doocy: “off-the-rails-wrong.”) As evidence of guilt accumulated, their denial that this unacceptable conduct took place narrowed to a tiny, highly specific claim: No witness testified that Trump personally ordered them to carry out a quid pro quo. Bolton is the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle.

By Daniel Politi

Republicans are getting ready to flip the tables and launch their own investigations after the Senate acquits President Donald Trump. Sen. Lindsey Graham warned that the Senate Intelligence Committee will call the whistleblower whose complaint ended up launching the impeachment inquiry against Trump while the Foreign Relations Committee will investigate Joe Biden. “The Senate Intel committee under Richard Burr has told us that we will call the whistleblower,” Graham said on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “Why is it important? I want to know how all this crap started.” Graham went on to say that he wants to know what ties the whistleblower who first raised a red flag regarding Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has with Democrats. “If the whistleblower is a former employee of, associate of, Joe Biden, I think that would be important. If the whistleblower was working with people on Schiff’s staff that wanted to take Trump down a year and a half ago, I think that would be important. If the Schiff staff people helped write the complaint, that would be important. We’re going to get to the bottom of all of this to make sure this never happens again,” Graham said. - Republicans are the party of hypocrites, Republicans are ready to impeach Biden but refused to impeach Trump even while saying Trump did it and that the Democrats proved their case against Donald J. Trump.

Republicans are already hinting they'll impeach Biden — as a way to justify their shameless Trump cover-up
By Sophia Tesfaye

There's a decent chance that former Vice President Joe Biden will win the Iowa caucuses on Monday night, cementing his status as Democratic frontrunner. The Republican-controlled Senate will then vote to acquit Donald Trump, probably two days later, after blocking witnesses and direct evidence at his impeachment trial. Instead of paying attention to the case outlining Trump's public corruption, however, several Republican senators have spent the last two weeks slagging Biden in an effort to tarnish the potential Democratic nominee — using almost exactly the same playbook used to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. Demonstrating exactly why it's bad to have foreign governments smear a political opponent on your behalf, Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who faces a tough re-election battle this fall, appeared before reporters after a day of impeachment hearings last week and casually suggested that the airing of Trump's misdeeds might actually result in Biden's defeat. "Iowa caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Democratic caucus goers. Will they be supporting VP Biden at this point?" the first-term Republican asked.  The question came just before the GOP Senate voted to cover up Trump's crimes by refusing to hear witnesses. For months, Republicans argued that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine and pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into the activities of Joe and Hunter Biden because he was earnestly trying to root out corruption. In a classic case of projection, Republicans still vaguely deny that Trump's actions were politically motivated but now insist that Biden, not Trump, is the one who deserves impeachment. - Republicans are the party of hypocrites Republicans will not impeach Trump for what he did; but will impeach Biden for what Trump did.

By Aris Folley

A Republican state representative from Montana is coming under fire from his own party after he reportedly claimed earlier this weekend that the Constitution calls for socialists to be jailed or shot. According to the Billings Gazette, state Rep. Rodney Garcia (R-Mont.) first made the remark after expressing concerns about socialists he said were “entering our government” and their presence in his district at an event on Friday. He reportedly reiterated his remarks when pressed about his previous comments in an interview with a reporter for the local publication on Saturday. “So actually in the Constitution of the United States (if) they are found guilty of being a socialist member you either go to prison or are shot,” the Montana Republican said. Though he was reportedly unable to show what portion of the Constitution he was citing to back his claim, he continued to double down on his comments in the interview, saying, “They’re enemies of the free state.”

By David Knowles

House impeachment manager Adam Schiff called out President Trump’s defense team lawyer Pat Cipollone Friday, saying that in his capacity as White House counsel he was “in the loop” in the effort to persuade Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. That allegation originated in a forthcoming memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton. Details from Bolton’s manuscript have leaked over the past week. In an article published Friday, the New York Times reported on Bolton’s account of an Oval Office meeting in early May at which Trump directed him “to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials.” Bolton claims that Cippolone, who has led Trump’s defense team during the impeachment trial, attended the Oval Office meeting with the president, along with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. “You will recall Mr. Cipollone suggesting how the House managers were concealing facts from this body. He said all the facts should come out. Well, there’s a new fact which indicates that Mr. Cipollone was among those who were in the loop. Yet another reason why we ought to hear from witnesses,” Schiff, D-Calif., said as the Senate debated whether to call witnesses like Bolton and Mulvaney during Trump’s impeachment trial.

If made public, the emails would offer a rare glimpse into the president’s thinking on a central tenet of the House’s impeachment case.

The Justice Department revealed in a midnight court filing that two dozen emails shielded from Congress detail President Donald Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine — an acknowledgment Democrats said further vindicates their unsuccessful push to subpoena those documents in the Senate impeachment trial. The Justice Department filing contains the most detailed description to date of the documents the Trump administration continues to withhold from congressional investigators. Specifically, the emails reveal Trump’s justification at the time for ordering a hold on nearly $400 million in security assistance to the beleaguered U.S. ally. If made public, they would offer a rare glimpse into the president’s thinking on a central tenet of the House’s impeachment case. Heather V. Walsh, a lawyer in the White House Office of Management and Budget, wrote in the filing that the emails, which span from June to September 2019, “reflect communications by either the president, the vice president, or the president’s immediate advisers regarding presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine.” The acknowledgment also came hours after Senate Republicans blocked Democratic-led efforts to subpoena additional witnesses and documents as part of the Senate’s impeachment trial, which concludes on Wednesday, “Every single Republican senator voted to endorse the White House cover-up of these potentially important truth-revealing emails,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “Make no mistake, the full truth will eventually come out and Republicans will have to answer for why they were so determined to enable the president to hide it.”

The 200,000-member-strong Amalgamated Transit Union cited Biden’s electability against President Trump.

Joe Biden scored the endorsement Saturday of a major transit union that officially backed Bernie Sanders in 2016. “Joe has been very supportive of the labor movement for the last 40 years. He stands for working families. We recognize he’s a great candidate,” John Costa, international president of the 200,000-member Amalgamated Transit Union, told POLITICO. “We think Joe can beat Donald Trump.” The issue of Biden’s electability was the driving force behind the decision and a key concern of the union’s membership, which was randomly surveyed by phone in an “extensive poll” conducted by a professional pollster ATU hired, Costa said. “The numbers came back very strong for Joe,” Costa said, declining to discuss details of the “internal” survey. “Not only did people support him, but we asked who would be best to beat Trump, and he was overwhelmingly seen as the best to do it.“ The endorsement comes at a critical time for the two candidates ahead of Monday’s caucus in Iowa, where Sanders has a marginal lead in polling averages. Both men have also slugged it out with union endorsements, with Sanders scoring the support of the American Postal Workers Union Thursday. Sanders worked hard for the ATU endorsement as well, and on Jan. 23 tweeted heralded its successful 84-day strike in Virginia that ended Jan. 16. Four days after Sanders’ tweet, Biden also congratulated the union via Twitter. Costa said the union — the largest labor union representing transit and allied workers in the U.S. and Canada — can provide immediate support to Biden in Iowa, where ATU has chapters in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo and Des Moines.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Department of Justice revealed in a court filing late Friday that it has two dozen emails related to the President Donald Trump's involvement in the withholding of millions in security assistance to Ukraine -- a disclosure that came just hours after the Senate voted against subpoenaing additional documents and witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial, paving the way for his acquittal. The filing, released near midnight Friday, marks the first official acknowledgment from the Trump administration that emails about the President's thinking related to the aid exist, and that he was directly involved in asking about and deciding on the aid as early as June. The administration is still blocking those emails from the public and has successfully kept them from Congress. A lawyer with the Office of Management and Budget wrote to the court that 24 emails between June and September 2019 -- including an internal discussion among DOD officials called "POTUS follow-up" on June 24 -- should stay confidential because the emails describe "communications by either the President, the Vice President, or the President's immediate advisors regarding Presidential decision-making about the scope, duration, and purpose of the hold on military assistance to Ukraine." Trump's decision to withhold nearly $400 million in US military aid to Ukraine as he pressed the country to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential 2020 general election rival, are at the center of the President's impeachment trial. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine. The Senate on Friday defeated an attempt to subpoena documents and witnesses, which could have revealed more about the actions of Trump and the officials closest to him related to Ukraine. Senate leadership on Wednesday plans to hold the final vote to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

By Justin Rohrlich & Tim Fernholz

When Wei Sun, a 48-year-old engineer at Raytheon Missile Systems, left for an overseas trip last year, he told the company he planned to bring his company-issued HP EliteBook 840 laptop along. Sun, a Chinese-born American citizen, had been working at Raytheon, the fourth-largest US defense contractor, for a decade. He held a secret-level security clearance and worked on highly sensitive missile programs used by the US military. Since Sun’s computer contained large amounts of classified data, Raytheon officials told him that taking it abroad would not only be a violation of company policy, but a serious violation of federal law, as well.

By Brendan Cole

CNN host Chris Cuomo used a famous line from an Oscar-winning film from the 1970s to rail against the Senate vote which decided that witnesses would not be called in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Only two Republicans, Susan Collins (Maine) and Mitt Romney (Utah), backed the Democrat motion on Friday calling for evidence and witnesses The 51-49 defeat is likely to hasten the acquittal of Trump. Cuomo appeared to be angry and started his monologue on Friday night with an appeal to his viewers. "You should be mad as hell and you need to show these people you will not take it any more," he started, using a line from the 1976 film Network, in which a TV news anchor calls on people to fight against the political system. Cuomo said he could see there may have been a case for an acquittal for Trump, but that the American people had been denied a fair trial now that it would be the first in history where the public would not hear from witnesses. He criticized the Republican senators Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Marco Rubio (Florida), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), who voted along party lines despite indicating they had misgivings about Trump and the charges that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.

Fact Checks, Politics / By Kim LaCapria / January 31, 2020

On January 31 2020, the page “Labor 311” shared the following screenshot of tweets from anchor Soledad O’Brien and United States President Donald Trump, in which he vows to “protect Social Security,” while she claims that his 2020 budget proposes $25 billion in cuts to the program: Proposed Social Security cuts once again came to issue in January 2020 following Trump’s tweet. In addition, around the same time, Trump said he was “open” to Social Security cuts. In response, O’Brien and others pointed to Trump’s proposed FY2020 Budget. In short, it is true that Trump’s initial proposed budget for FY2020 included deep cuts to Social Security, a fact in direct conflict with his claim on Twitter that he “totally left it alone, as promised.”

By Rishi Iyengar, CNN Business

San Francisco (CNN Business)Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will stand up for principles like free expression and encryption, even if it means facing a backlash. "This is the new approach, and I think it's going to piss off a lot of people. But frankly, the old approach was pissing off a lot of people too, so let's try something different," Zuckerberg said at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Utah on Friday. The Facebook (FB) cofounder and CEO said his company's aim for a long time was to not do anything that would be deemed as "too offensive," but he is now changing that approach in the face of what he deems as excessive censorship. "Increasingly we're getting called to censor a lot of different kinds of content that makes me really uncomfortable," Zuckerberg said, while acknowledging Facebook's responsibility to purge its platforms of content related to terrorism, child exploitation and incitement to violence.

By Tony Semerad

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Friday it was more important for the social media giant to be understood than liked — and that new steps it is planning to protect free expression are “going to piss off a lot of people.” The 35-year-old Facebook founder told a Utah audience he’d done a poor job of communicating the company’s core missions of connecting people and giving them a voice, while acknowledging the global platform and other tech companies also faced some momentous challenges. “I really care about what we’re doing,” Zuckerberg said Friday in an hourlong appearance at this year’s Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City. “There are real questions the internet raises around the democratic process, its integrity, around free expression vs. safety, around privacy and competition and well-being,” he said. “And I mean, we need to get these right.” Zuckerberg also seemed to play down mounting claims that Facebook’s approach to personal privacy and a perceived reticence to filter deceptive information had worsened social divisions and posed a threat to democracy.

Crimes, conspiracies, and off-the-book ops—that’s just a taste of what an impeachment acquittal could usher in, U.S. officials and Senate Democrats fear.
By Sam Brodey - Congressional Reporter, Erin Banco - National Security Reporter

Late into Wednesday’s session of the Senate impeachment trial, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) asked a question of President Trump’s defense team: did they think foreign involvement in U.S. elections was illegal? The Trump team’s reply: nope. “Mere information is not something that would violate the campaign finance laws,” responded White House Deputy Counsel Patrick Philbin.  “The idea that any information that happens to come from overseas is necessarily campaign interference is a mistake,” Philbin calmly suggested. The question was asked with a focus on Trump’s open encouragement of Russian help in the 2016 election. And it was answered against the backdrop of Trump’s impeachment for abuse of power—his attempts to strong-arm Ukraine into investigating his political rival by withholding U.S. aid. The Government Accountability Office recently found that such withholding was illegal. And federal law prohibits U.S. political campaigns from taking a “contribution or donation of money or anything of value” from foreign entities. The information Trump sought in Ukraine would seem to be quite valuable indeed. To many senators listening, these arguments flung open the doors for Trump, or any future president or candidate for office, to engage in that kind of behavior again, knowing that it had been defended by White House lawyers on the Senate floor. Earlier that day, Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz had already gone even further, arguing that Trump could justify his actions with the reasonable belief that his re-election would be in the country’s interest.

By Dana Milbank

In the end, they didn’t even pretend to take their oaths seriously. Senators were instructed “to be in attendance at all times” during President Trump’s impeachment trial. But as the Democratic House managers made their last, fruitless appeals Friday for the Senate to bring witnesses and documents, several of the body’s 53 Republican senators didn’t even bother to show up. “A trial is supposed to be a quest for the truth,” lead manager Adam Schiff (N.Y.) pleaded. Thirteen GOP senators were missing as he said this. Sens. Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) chewed gum. Manager Val Demings (Fla.) reminded them that this would be the “only time in history” that an impeachment trial was held without witnesses or relevant documents. Twelve Republican senators were missing. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) joined in the chewing. “The American people deserve to hear the truth,” insisted manager Sylvia Garcia (Tex.). By now, 15 Republican senators were missing. Manager Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) spoke from the well. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), wearing cotton chinos for the occasion, perused a magazine. “Please don’t give up,” manager Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) urged. “This is too important.” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) stuck a finger in his left nostril. Johnson waved a hand dismissively and shared a chuckle with Cramer. Fully 20 Republican senators were missing. At the start of the impeachment trial, Trump’s Senate allies limited media coverage to hide from public scrutiny. Then they made sure the trial would end without a single witness called or a single document requested. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the clinching vote against witnesses, declared before Friday’s session began, “I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything.” It was all over but the shouting. And now several of those who had rushed Trump toward acquittal wouldn’t even grant the courtesy of listening to the House managers. (They returned, curiously, when Trump’s defenders had their turn in the well; Paul put away his magazine.) This was an ugly end to an ugly trial. It began with bold promises by the president’s lawyers to prove there was no quid pro quo in his dealings with Ukraine. When former national security adviser John Bolton’s manuscript, with firsthand evidence of the quid pro quo, made that impossible, key Republicans fell back to a new position: Trump’s guilt doesn’t matter. “There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) declared late Thursday. But the choice of “what to do about what he did,” Alexander said, should be “in the presidential election.” What an elegant solution! He accepts that Trump is guilty of cheating in the election — and, therefore, his fate should be determined by the very election in which he has cheated. It’s like a sprinter, caught doping before a competition, being told his fate would be determined by having him run the race.


Shortly before Alexander declared Trump guilty but unimpeachable, Trump lawyer Patrick Philbin made the same argument. “Even if John Bolton would say it is true, that is not an impeachable offense,” he told the senators.

By Dahlia Lithwick

Last year, I wrote that the United States is suffering from a collective action problem. The full extent of that problem should now be much clearer. One version of the Senate impeachment circus that has transpired these past two weeks holds that the greatest deliberative body in the world has now duly aired and considered the impeachment case against Donald J. Trump, and stands poised to issue a final decision on the merits. The better characterization of this whole sad spectacle is that in the world’s saddest game of constitutional chicken, nearly every single important player failed utterly to show up. Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton will say that he offered to testify before the Senate, but the Senate refused to call him. According to leaked details of his book that has been climbing up the Amazon charts, Bolton has material evidence of the conspiracy to withhold aid from Ukraine to bolster the president’s electoral fortunes, information the Republican-controlled Senate is refusing to hear. Bolton will enjoy very much his book tour, royalties, and talk show circuit this spring—if the White House’s efforts to cover up Trump’s high crimes don’t extend to blocking publication of that book, as the administration has suggested it will. Former chief of staff John F. Kelly, who now says he believes Bolton’s account of the conspiracy, will continue to live large off child detention policies he no longer oversees. Chief Justice John Roberts, who might have inserted himself into the proceedings to chide breaches of truth as opposed to lapses in civil discourse, will have a fun story to tell on the D.C. cocktail party circuit about the time he narrowly avoided having to break a tie or otherwise allow the stink of the political branches to sully his robes. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was briefly held out to be the last independent-thinking, old guard institutionalist, could have held out for witness testimony, as opposed to proclaiming that nobody needed to hear from witnesses to know that the president had engaged in misconduct that isn’t impeachable. Sen. Lisa Murkowski courageously grounds her refusal to stand up for the proposition that trials ought to have witnesses in the fact that John Roberts should not have to courageously stand up for the proposition that trials ought to have witnesses. All of this chatter for the goal of producing a trial unrecognizable as such, with even Murkowski herself acknowledging “there will be no fair trial in the Senate.”

By Jeremy Stahl

As Donald Trump’s impeachment trial drew towards a close on Friday with a 51-49 vote against the Senate hearing from witnesses or seeking documents, Republican Senators were coming out of the woodwork to explain why they’d refused to try to obtain any new evidence. Ultimately, only Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney broke party lines to vote with the 47 members of the Democratic caucus in favor of calling witnesses. This will be the first Senate impeachment trial in American history without witnesses called, and opinion polls show broad public support for witnesses, so the Republican decision to cut the proceedings short would seem to be hard to defend. Still, these Senators tried their best! Here are the five most pathetic excuses Republican senators have offered to avoid calling witnesses according to cravenness.

5. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado
Gardner, who is up for re-election in Colorado this Fall, came out against witnesses already on Wednesday. His statement to Colorado Politics was: I do not believe we need to hear from an 18th witness. I have approached every aspect of this grave constitutional duty with the respect and attention required by law, and have reached this decision after carefully weighing the House managers and defense arguments and closely reviewing the evidence from the House, which included well over 100 hours of testimony from 17 witnesses. While this statement doesn’t appear too craven, you have to recall that Gardner represents a state with the greatest opposition to Trump of almost any represented by a Republican in the Senate and that his coming out early against witnesses helped Majority Leader Mitch McConnell close ranks on the subject. Framing the question as whether to go from 17 witnesses to 18—rather than whether to go from zero to one—neatly captures the Senate’s majority’s decision to pretend it was the House’s job to gather all the facts, and that they were helpless to try to learn anything more on their own.

4. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida
Rubio, who was dubbed “Lil’ Marco” by the president the Florida senator now seeks to exonerate, released a video and issued a lengthy blog post on Friday explaining his decision. That statement read:  [N]ew witnesses that would testify to the truth of the allegations are not needed for my threshold analysis, which already assumed that all the allegations made are true. And from the video: Removing the president would in my opinion inflict extraordinary trauma on our nation, which is already deeply divided and polarized. Half the country would view his removal as nothing less than a coup d’etat and I ask you what scheme could Vladimir Putin come up with that would divide us more than that removal would. So I’m not going to vote in favor of tearing this country apart any further, or fueling a raging fire that already threatens our country.

By Elliot Hannon

Welcome to the absolute dumbness of it all. This is what happens when reality gets retrofitted to accommodate a bad idea. You end up with this, the Trump border wall, which apparently will need, essentially, to be left open for months at a time to accommodate flash flooding during the summer “monsoon season.” This episode of reality bites, the Washington Post reports, is brought to us by in-the-know border officials, agents, and engineers. Here’s the most maddening part from the Post: Along the more remote portions of the Southern border, large unmanned gates that need to be manually raised ahead of the seasonal flooding, and then left open for months to accommodate the large amounts of debris carried with it, are already being waltzed through by smugglers and undocumented migrants. Put more simply: The wall is already not working, so let’s build more! The flooding risks are not new, but they represent one of the most significant engineering hurdles to President Donald Trump’s campaign promise of a “big, beautiful wall” on the Mexican border. The Trump administration has been largely silent on how it intends to cope with the diverse environmental realities of the border region that spans desert, canyons, and mountains. “The border is so diverse,” Roy Villareal, chief of Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, told the Post. “You have to plan for water flow. … People think it’s just this monolithic wall, sort of like the Great Wall of China, where you drop it into place and that’s all there is to it. And that’s not the reality at all.” On the upside, Villareal said the wall, even with gaps, narrowed the area that required human-monitoring.

A former US Coast Guard officer has been jailed for 13 years for stockpiling weapons to carry out an alleged white supremacist attack. Officials said Christopher Hasson, 50, was planning to target liberal politicians and news broadcasters. Prosecutors said this was "domestic terrorism", but US law does not classify this as a distinct offence without an attack being carried out. Hasson pleaded guilty to firearms and drugs charges. When he was arrested last February, officers found a cache of 15 firearms - which, as a drug user, Hasson was banned from owning - and two illegal gun silencers. He was also in possession of the narcotic Tramadol without a prescription. Before and during his sentencing hearing, prosecutors and defence attorneys sparred on whether or not Hasson would have gone on to commit mass murder. The former lieutenant from Silver Spring was inspired by racist mass murderers, including Anders Breivik, and "intended to exact retribution on minorities and those he considered traitors", prosecutors told the court. He created an Excel spreadsheet with a list of targets, which included 12 prominent Democrats in Congress and a number of CNN and MSNBC journalists. US Federal Attorney Robert Hur added that if he hadn't been arrested when he was, "we now would be counting bodies of the defendant's victims instead of years of the defendant's prison time". Hasson's lawyers, however, argued that prosecutors had overstated the threat he posed.

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