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US Monthly Headline News January 2020 Page 4

By Editorial Board

SENATE REPUBLICANS on Tuesday were laying the groundwork for a truncated trial of President Trump that would be a perversion of justice. Proposals by Democrats to obtain critical evidence were voted down. Unless several senators change their positions, votes to acquit Mr. Trump on the House’s charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress could come as soon as next week without any testimony by witnesses or review of key documents. That would be unprecedented compared with previous presidential impeachments. It would gravely damage the only mechanism the Constitution provides for checking a rogue president.

Yet the rigging of the trial process may not be the most damaging legacy of the exhibition Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is orchestrating in full collaboration with the White House. That might flow from the brazen case being laid out by Mr. Trump’s lawyers. The defense brief they filed Monday argues that the president “did absolutely nothing wrong” when he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations of Joe Biden and a Russian-promoted conspiracy theory about the 2016 election. It further contends that Mr. Trump was entirely within his rights when he refused all cooperation with the House impeachment inquiry, including rejecting subpoenas for testimony and documents. It says he cannot be impeached because he violated no law.

By Joseph Zeballos-Roig

President Trump ripped into critics of rising federal spending under his watch, according to leaked audio files of a lavish fundraiser held at Mar-a-Lago on Friday. "Who the hell cares about the budget? We're going to have a country," Trump said, according to The Washington Post, which published the remarks over the weekend. The Post reported that he bragged about increasing the defense budget by at least $2.5 trillion, a sum that could be attained after adding several years' of government defense spending. The Pentagon's budget for the 2020 fiscal year totals $738 billion.

He also spoke about the dramatic events surrounding the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani earlier this month and ridiculed environmental concerns, the report said. The freewheeling comments offer remarkable insights into the president's approach on federal spending and the debt, which barreled past $23 trillion late last year.

By Peter HUTCHISON

New York (AFP) - He became famous as the celebrity lawyer of a porn star who sued Donald Trump and even touted himself for president, but today Michael Avenatti sits in a notorious New York jail. The 48-year-old was brought Friday to the city's Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC), a high-security prison that housed Mexican drug lord "El Chapo" and wealthy sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Avenatti is awaiting trial on charges he allegedly tried to extort millions of dollars from the sports apparel giant Nike and embezzled funds from adult film star Stormy Daniels.

His attorneys say he is being held in solitary confinement in a freezing cell once occupied by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on a floor that houses detainees charged with terror offenses. "The temperature in his cell feels like it is in the mid-40s (Fahrenheit)," they wrote in a letter to the judge Monday. "He is forced to sleep with three blankets. Not surprisingly, he has been having great difficulty functioning," the lawyers added. Avenatti's situation is a far cry from the dizzy heights of February 2018 to March 2019 when he was the lawyer for Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He became a household name during her legal battles with Trump over hush money she received for an alleged affair with the president in 2006.

Conway argued that it wasn't "within King's vision to have Americans dragged through" the Trump impeachment process
By Matthew Rozsa

White House counsel Kellyanne Conway sparked outrage by comparing the impeachment of President Donald Trump to the tribulations endured by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he fought for the civil rights of black Americans. "Well, I can tell you that the president is preparing for Davos and agrees with many of the things that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for and agreed with for many years, including unity and equality," Conway told a group of reporters when explaining why Trump was not formally celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "And he's not the one trying to tear the country apart through an impeachment process and a lack of substance that really is very shameful at this point." Conway added that she did not believe it was "within Dr. King's vision to have Americans dragged through a process where the president is not going to be removed from office — is not being charged with bribery, extortion, high crimes or misdemeanors. And I think that anybody who cares about 'and justice for all' on today or any day of the year will appreciate the fact that the president now will have a full-throttle defense on the facts."

Bernice King, the daughter of the late civil rights activist, responded to Conway's comments by tweeting: "Until a person commits to better understanding and then better understands my father's teachings and methodologies, I REALLY wish they'd keep his name, and incorrect analysis, out of their conversations about current issues." Agreeing with King's sentiments, the tennis Grand Slam champion and LGTQ rights activist Martina Navratilova, added: "New rules- no white republican should ever surmise what any black person was or is thinking or feeling. Period." Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith also condemned Conway's remarks, tweeting that "this is so ignorant that it cannot be anything but deliberately cruel. It's like blackface on Halloween. You can count on this kind of rubbish every single Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This isn't merely gross co-option. It angers people, and she knows it." "I would laugh but the fact that this actually happened makes me want to cry," Daily Beast editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast wrote on Twitter.

By Shane Croucher

Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Lev Parnas, shared on Twitter a video showing his client at an event with Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence. The vice president has denied knowing Parnas after the Ukrainian American businessman accused him of working on an alleged scheme to pressure Ukraine's government. "I don't know the guy," Pence said last week, CNN reported, calling Parnas's claims "completely false." In the video clip, Parnas is seen holding the hand of Karen Pence and talking with her as the vice president stands by her side, speaking to someone else. Towards the end of the 23-second video, Parnas is seen reaching towards Mike Pence, waiting to shake his hand.

Over the footage plays the opening lines of "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire: "Do you remember the 21st night of September? Love was changing the minds of pretenders while chasing the clouds away." "Mike Pence does indeed know the guy," Bondy tweeted with the video, but gave no details of the context in which the vice president, his wife, and Parnas are together. Newsweek has asked Bondy for comment and further information about the video. Bondy also shared a quote from the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. "Everyone was in the loop," Sondland said in his testimony about the alleged Ukraine scheme to the House impeachment inquiry.

“And for what? Clickbait headlines, YouTube views?” former video editor Josh Owens writes in New York Times essay
By Igor Derysh

A former Infowars video editor admitted that the outlet fabricated lies about a Muslim community in New York to push host Alex Jones’ threats of sharia law in the United States. Josh Owens, who spent years working for Infowars, wrote an essay for The New York Times Magazine describing how Jones' media empire made up facts to fit its narrative and how employees were subjected to Jones’ angry, violent outbursts. The day before Jones interviewed then-candidate Donald Trump on his show in 2015, Owens wrote that he traveled to Islamberg, a Muslim community in rural upstate New York, where Jones had instructed him to investigate what he called “the American Caliphate.”

Though the Muslims that lived in the community had not been connected to any violence and some had publicly denounced ISIS, Jones wanted to push the far-right rumor that the community was a “potential terrorist-training center,” Owens wrote. Owens said he and a reporter tried to lie their way into the settlement but were unable to get in after the community had come under threat. Days before the trip, the FBI had issued an alert for a man named Jon Ritzheimer, who had threatened a terrorist attack against Muslims. After a law enforcement agent called to confirm their identities, Jones wanted to spin the incident as “an attempt to intimidate us into silence,” Owens wrote.

By Ariane de Vogue, Devan Cole and Eric Bradner, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Supreme Court is unlikely to consider the fate of the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 presidential election after denying a request Tuesday from supporters of the law to fast-track consideration of the case. The ruling sets aside the potential for another major shift in the political landscape prior to the election on an issue that has dominated American politics for the last decade. President Donald Trump's effort to repeal Obamacare was central to Democrats sweeping into power in the House in the 2018 midterms -- a victory that came eight years after Republicans had gained the House majority on their opposition to Obama's signature health care law. But in the decade since the Affordable Care Act became law, elements of it -- such as requirements that insurers cover those with pre-existing conditions -- have become popular, turning health care politics in Democrats' favor. - So sad now even the Supreme Court is trying to protect Republicans.

By Robert Costa and Rachael Bade

President Trump’s legal defense team and Senate GOP allies are quietly gaming out contingency plans should Democrats win enough votes to force witnesses to testify in the impeachment trial, including an effort to keep former national security adviser John Bolton from the spotlight, according to multiple officials familiar with the discussions.

While Republicans continue to express confidence that Democrats will fail to persuade four GOP lawmakers to break ranks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has opposed calling any witnesses in the trial, they are readying a Plan B just in case — underscoring how uncertain they are about prevailing in a showdown over witnesses and Bolton’s possible testimony.

One option being discussed, according to a senior administration official, would be to move Bolton’s testimony to a classified setting because of national security concerns, ensuring that it is not public.

By Cat Schuknecht

On Friday, President Trump added former independent counsel Ken Starr to the legal team that will defend him in the Senate impeachment trial. Starr is best known for leading an investigation into President Bill Clinton's affair with a White House intern during the 1990s. The investigation was aggressive, lengthy, and offered a window into Starr's approach to holding the powerful to account. But in the years that followed the Clinton impeachment, a different type of scandal provided another picture of Starr's approach. In 2016, almost two decades after Starr investigated the Clinton scandal, Starr was fired from his job as president of Baylor University, accused of ignoring sexual assault issues on campus.

"It seems very clear that he governed over a policy that was, at best, indifferent to what was happening to Baylor women," Jim Dunnam, a lawyer representing 15 women in an ongoing case against the university, told NPR. When Starr took over the presidency at Baylor University in 2010, he appeared to have quickly grasped the importance of athletics at the Division I school. As president, he oversaw the opening of the university's $250 million football stadium. Before some games, he even ran onto the football field and cheered alongside students. However, shortly after Starr's arrival on campus, Baylor athletics became marred by sexual assault allegations and convictions.

By Caroline Kelly

(CNN) Constitutional lawyer and Trump impeachment legal team member Alan Dershowitz said Monday that he is "much more correct right now" in his current views on what qualifies a president for impeachment than his near-opposite views during the Clinton impeachment. Dershowitz, a recent addition to President Donald Trump's team, said Sunday that the framers of the Constitution intended for impeachable conduct to mean "criminal-like conduct" and that both of Trump's charges of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power do not meet the constitutional criteria for impeachment.

But in 1998, Dershowitz said that a president could be impeached even without being accused of a crime. "It certainly doesn't have to be a crime if you have somebody who completely corrupts the office of president and who abuses trust and who poses great danger to our liberty, you don't need a technical crime," he said on "Larry King Live" at the time. When asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper on "Anderson Cooper 360" on Monday whether he was wrong back then, Dershowitz replied, "I was saying that I am much more correct right now having done all the research, because that's the issue."

"I didn't do research back then, I relied on what professors said ... because that issue was not presented in the Clinton impeachment," Dershowitz said. "Everybody knew that he was charged with a crime, the issue is whether it was a hard crime. Now the issue is whether a crime or criminal-like behavior is required." He continued, "I've done the research now -- I wasn't wrong (at the time), I am just far more correct now than I was then. I said you didn't need a technical crime back then. I still don't think you need a technical crime."

New Day
In an interview from 1998 about the Clinton impeachment, attorney Alan Dershowitz says it "certainly doesn't have to be a crime" to be impeachable. This is opposite of his defense of President Trump over the weekend. Source: CNN

By Robyn Dixon, David L. Stern and Natalie Gryvnyak

KYIV — Lev Parnas, the Ukrainian American businessman at the heart of the Trump impeachment, adopted a tone of hearty bonhomie when exchanging messages with Ukraine’s political elite, calling them “my brother” or “my friend,” or telling them “I missed you” or “I embrace you.” The Florida businessman whose family moved to the United States from the Soviet Union when he was a child, has said he was part of a multipronged effort led by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R), to help President Trump’s reelection campaign and damage a political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden. Parnas has said he and his associate, Igor Fruman, used their deep knowledge of a Ukrainian government known for functioning on secret inside deals — a reputation it is trying to change — to support Giuliani’s efforts. The two face federal charges over alleged campaign finance violations.

By Daniel Dale, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump is dishonest about a whole lot of things. But he is rarely as comprehensively dishonest as he has been about his dealings with Ukraine and the impeachment process. From the eruption of the Ukraine controversy in September to the Senate trial that officially began on Thursday, relentless deceit has seemed to be Trump's primary defense strategy in the court of public opinion. He has made false claims about almost every separate component of the story, from his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to the whistleblower who complained about the call, to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's own relations with Ukraine.

The President has been dissembling about so many different things at once that it can be difficult to keep track of what is true and what isn't. To help you fight Trump-induced dizziness as the trial gets underway, we've tallied his dishonesty on the subject of Ukraine and impeachment. Our original list from mid-November included 45 false claims he has made and a brief fact check of each one. We have since added 20 more for a total of 65.

Baltimore City State Attorney Marilyn Mosby gets a racist voicemail after rally.
By Christina Carrega

Days after Baltimore City's State Attorney Marilyn Mosby rallied around a fellow top prosecutor to speak out about the racially charged attacks they have experienced while in office, she received a 60-second voicemail flooded with "hateful rhetoric." The anonymous voice started by chastising Mosby for traveling to St. Louis, Missouri, to support St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner for filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city and their police union for allegedly coordinating racist conspiracies meant to force her out of office. Mixed with half-recited, profanity-laced proverbs and racially biased opinions, the caller ended the message with a shocking suggestion. "If we'd known you all were going to be this much f-----g trouble, we would have picked our own f-----g cotton," the caller said.

Searching the long quote trails of public figures often turns up interesting statements from days past.
By David Mikkelson

Alan Dershowitz said he was "not happy seeing Nixon's gang being tried by blacks and liberals" in D.C. In mid-January 2020, President Donald Trump announced that Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz would be part of his legal defense team for his upcoming Senate impeachment trial. Shortly afterwards, a quote meme made the rounds of social media holding the Dershowitz had once said (during impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon) that he was “not happy seeing Nixon’s gang being tried by blacks and liberals in the District of Columbia”:

A campaign memo warns against the spread of "malicious and conclusively debunked" theories about the Bidens by Trump allies.
By Heidi Przybyla and Mike Memoli

WASHINGTON — A day before the opening of President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign is issuing a pre-emptive strike, sending an unusual open memo to the media warning against disinformation pushed by the president and his defenders. The memo, first obtained by NBC News, is also a shot across the bow of Republican senators as they consider whether to entertain Trump's demands to call Hunter Biden, Joe Biden's son, as a witness in the trial.

Trump's attempts to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine while pressing it to investigate Joe Biden, a chief political rival, led Trump to become the third president to be impeached by the House of Representatives. Among the issues addressed in the memo is the past targeting of Biden's attempt as vice president to sideline Viktor Shokin, a Russia-aligned Ukrainian prosecutor general, at a time when Biden's son served on the board of Burisma, an energy company in Ukraine.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) Thousands of gun-rights advocates plan to descend on Virginia's state capital on Monday for "Lobby Day" to oppose legislation that would restrict access to firearms in the state. But the commonwealth is bracing for extremist and white nationalist groups to travel to Richmond on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and disrupt the peaceful demonstrations with violence and riots -- reminiscent of the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. According to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, law enforcement had learned of credible threats of violence surrounding Monday's rally, made from mainstream and alternative dark web channels used by violent groups and white nationalists outside of Virginia. That led the Democratic governor to issue a temporary state of emergency last week through Tuesday, banning open and concealed firearms and other weapons from the state Capitol grounds.

By Carol D. Leonnig and David A. Fahrenthold

The Trump administration is seeking to delay a Democratic effort to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting President Trump and his family when they travel — until after the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The issue has emerged as a sticking point in recent weeks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and key senators have been negotiating draft legislation to move the Secret Service back to his department, its historic home.

Mnuchin has balked at Democratic demands that the bill require the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to the travel of the president and his adult children within 120 days after it is passed, according to people with knowledge of the talks. Mnuchin has agreed to Democrats’ push for a requirement that the Secret Service report its travel expenses but wants such disclosures to begin after the election.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Washington (CNN) The National Archives on Saturday apologized and said it removed from display a 2017 photograph of the Women's March it had altered to censor signs referencing women's anatomy and President Donald Trump's name. "We made a mistake," the National Archives said on Twitter, acknowledging that it had obscured some words from protest signs seen in the image. The Archives said it will replace it with an unaltered image "as soon as possible." The original photograph, taken by Getty Images' Mario Tama, shows a sea of people marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2017 -- a day after Trump's inauguration. In changes to the original photo, Trump's name was blurred from signs that read "God Hates Trump" and "Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women," according to The Washington Post, which first reported the altered photo Friday.

The National Archives said the photo was not an archival record, but one that they licensed to use as a "promotional graphic" for the National Archives Museum's exhibit marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment's ratification. "Nonetheless," it said, "we were wrong to alter the image." The National Archives vowed to undergo "a thorough review" of its policies and procedures for exhibits. "We apologize, and will immediately start a thorough review of our exhibit policies and procedures so that this does not happen again," it said.

‘THEY USED ME’
In an interview from his lawyer's office, the ex-Giuliani ally talked cannabis, conspiracies, and one very weird meeting with the lawyers of an indicted Ukrainian oligarch.
By Betsy Swan

A dinner with Jared and Ivanka about cannabis, a phone call from Trump Hotel with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and a whole lot of theorizing about George Soros. Lev Parnas’ interactions with Trumpworld, in his words, went way beyond the Ukraine influence effort.

The former ally of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani spent more than a year embedded with some of the president’s close outside allies. In that time, he said he had an inside view of all sorts of eyebrow-raising interactions and conversations. He described several of them in an interview with The Daily Beast from his lawyer’s office in Midtown Manhattan.

Federal law enforcement officials arrested Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman on Oct. 9 at Dulles Airport. They were then charged with a number of election-related crimes, and accused of funneling Russian money into American political campaigns. Both men maintain their innocence. Fruman has kept quiet throughout the process; Parnas, meanwhile, has spoken out—a lot.

By Colby Itkowitz and David A. Fahrenthold

President Trump delivered a dramatic account of the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, joked that he doesn’t care if construction projects kill all the rattlesnakes and noted his indifference to the budget during a private dinner with deep-pocketed donors Friday night at Mar-a-Lago, according to audio files obtained by The Washington Post. Trump, his tone subdued and conversational, explained his motivation for attacking Soleimani and recounted listening to an anonymous military official countdown to the Jan. 3 strike.

The president said nothing about an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests or threats to four U.S. embassies as he previously has to justify the unilateral military strike that escalated tensions in the region and opened debate on presidential war powers. Instead, he spoke broadly about Soleimani as “the father of the road side bomb” responsible for “every young, beautiful man or woman who you see walking around with no legs, no arms.” Trump said he heard about two weeks ago that the United States had Soleimani under surveillance and he was “talking about bad stuff.”

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Washington (CNN) The National Archives admitted to altering a 2017 photograph of the Women's March to censor signs referencing women's anatomy and President Donald Trump's name, according to The Washington Post. The photograph, taken by Getty Images' Mario Tama, shows a sea of people marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2017 -- a day after Trump's inauguration. In changes to the original photo, Trump's name is blurred from signs that read: "God Hates Trump" and "Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women," according to the Post. According to the Post, the word p***y is also blocked out from one sign and the word vagina is no longer visible in another. CNN has reached out to the National Archives for comment. In a statement provided to the Post, the National Archives said the decision "as a non-partisan, non-political federal agency" to blur Trump's name was to avoid engaging in "current political controversy."

House Bill 2044, which was aimed at events such as "Drag Queen Story Time" in public libraries, caused controversy upon its introduction in January 2020.
By Dan MacGuill

HB 2044, a bill before the Missouri state House of Representatives, could lead to the imprisonment of librarians for failing to comply with its provisions.     A bill proposed in Missouri this month represents a transparent, shameful attempt to legalize book banning in public libraries within the state, PEN America said today. The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.”

   Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community. …

   Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

Groups are warning of gun grabs and internet blackouts. In reality, the new gun measures are widely supported by Virginians.
By David J. Toscano

After months of threats, hoaxes, and fury at the prospect that Virginia’s new Democratic majority might restrict gun rights, the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun group politically to the right of the NRA, is planning to descend on the state capital in a major rally on Monday. Since the fall election, the rhetoric around guns in Virginia has dramatically intensified. Memes appeared on the internet claiming that Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam was going to shut down the internet, cut off utilities, and seize guns. Since November 2019, more than 100 counties, cities, and towns in Virginia have declared themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” and have vowed to oppose any new restrictions on guns which they deem to be unconstitutional. Some proponents have even resurrected words like nullification and interposition, terms first used extensively by Southern secessionists prior to the Civil War and more recently during the “massive resistance” to federal laws requiring desegregation in the 1960s. Gun groups became further incensed in December when Democratic Congressman Donald McEachin suggested that if people did not follow the law, Northam should use the state’s National Guard to make them do so.

By Allison Gordon, CNN

Washington (CNN) The announcement that former independent counsel Ken Starr is joining President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team surprised many on Friday, but one person, apparently, had an especially notable reaction to the news. "This is definitely an 'are you f---ing kidding me?' kinda day," tweeted Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern whose relationship with former President Bill Clinton led to his impeachment in 1998.

By Clare Foran, CNN

Washington (CNN) The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will be an unusual event in more ways than one. It will mark only the third time in American history that a President faces a Senate impeachment trial. The trial is expected to interfere with -- if not halt entirely -- the usual business of the Senate and senators will have to comply with a set of rules that are not usually enforced and that may test their patience. To start, lawmakers used to giving lengthy speeches on the Senate floor to weigh in on the issues of the day will instead have to be quiet. Official decorum guidelines for the trial released by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's offices say that senators must refrain from speaking while the case is being presented.

"That's going to suck," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida told CNN when asked about the no-talking rule. "I guarantee you it's going to be hard," he said, adding sarcastically, "but I think we'll survive." "It's going to be devastating for some," Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said with a smile about the fact that senators won't be able to talk. But Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said the no-talking requirement "shouldn't be that difficult." "The rules are there for a reason. We spend the lion's share of every day yammering. The least we can do in order to respect this process is abide by the requirement that we sit there and keep our mouths shut," Schatz said.

Rep. Devin Nunes denies involvement in the Ukrainian scandal. New texts between his top aide and Lev Parnas say otherwise.
By Catherine Kim

The House Intelligence Committee released a new trove of evidence on Friday that appears to show extensive contact between the top aide for House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Lev Parnas, a former Rudy Giuliani ally and a key figure in the Ukraine scandal.

Following his arrest on campaign finance violation charges, Parnas began providing the committee with a body of notes, photographs, and cellphone data as part of President Donald Trump’s impeachment proceedings. These documents have been made public in tranches; earlier releases further defined Giuliani’s role in the push for a Ukrainian investigation into Joe Biden, and included messages that seemed to suggest a Republican congressional candidate had former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch under surveillance.

In recent days, Parnas has mounted a concerted push to shed light on outstanding questions related to the president’s pressure campaign — which sought to trade first a White House meeting, and later critical military aid for an investigation into Biden, his son Hunter, and the Democratic Party. Wednesday, he appeared on MSNBC to claim Trump knew “exactly what was going on” with respect to Giuliani’s efforts to advance a Biden investigation, and claiming that Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General William Barr were involved as well.

Parnas claimed last November that Nunes was also party to the pressure campaign, and that he’d worked with one of the lawmaker’s top aides, former White House official Derek Harvey, to keep the congressman in the loop about the progress of the quid pro quo scheme.

By Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) New documents released Friday evening by House Democrats show communications between indicted Rudy Guiliani associate Lev Parnas and an aide to the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee in which they arrange interviews with Ukrainian officials and apparent meetings at the Trump hotel in Washington, DC, including with Giuliani. The materials draw California Rep. Devin Nunes even further into the efforts undertaken by Giuliani and his associates to dig up dirt on the President's political rivals.

The WhatsApp exchanges show that Nunes aide Derek Harvey raised questions about foreign assistance to Ukraine in late March 2019. On March 29, 2019, Harvey asked Parnas, "Can we get materials?" Parnas told Harvey in an April text message that he would be interviewing "the general prosecutor that got fired by Biden," who is Viktor Shokin. Parnas also referenced Ukraine's then-prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko. Both prosecutors also spoke to Giuliani in his effort to dig up dirt on the former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. "Let's do our call at 12 and we can do the first prosecutor at 1 your time?" Parnas texted Harvey on April 17, 2019.

"Okay," Harvey responded. Two days later, Harvey texted Parnas: "Lev. I think we are best served by sending the official letter and receiving documentation before any more interviews." The text exchanges between Harvey and Parnas included multiple references to John Solomon, the former conservative columnist for The Hill who published columns attacking former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. In one text, Harvey told Parnas in April 2019 that "Solomon needs to get me the material."

Parnas says Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Bolton and Giuliani all knew. He is why no witnesses will testify in the Senate
By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Revelations this week by Rudy Giuliani's henchman Lev Parnas in interviews with MSNBC, CNN and the New York Times blew Iran out of the headlines and landed on Capitol Hill like a bomb. Here was an insider in the Ukraine conspiracy not only willing to talk, but to provide documents to back up allegations he has made about Trump's shakedown of Volodymyr Zelensky to get dirt on his potential Democratic opponent,  Joe Biden.

Parnas is the reason Republicans are so scared of opening the Senate trial of Trump to witness testimony. According to Parnas, everyone was in on the Ukraine scheme. Trump himself, of course, but also Vice President Mike Pence was in on it. So was Attorney General William Barr, so was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and so were Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and national security adviser John Bolton. At the very center of the scheme, according to Parnas, was the man he worked for, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Parnas has letters, text messages, contemporaneous notes, travel documents and more to back up his recollections of what happened as Trump tried to muscle Ukraine into aiding his re-election campaign by announcing an investigation of Biden. Trump was obviously getting ready to pound Biden with Ukraine conspiracy allegations the same way he pounded Hillary Clinton about her emails in 2016. Hey, it worked once! Why not?

By Katelyn Polantz, Gregory Wallace, Sara Murray, Caroline Kelly, Erica Orden and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) CNN has received another 176 pages of notes from major witness interviews during former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation -- this time spanning the interviews with more obscure but well-connected witnesses, as well as with some of Mueller's main targets, including George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Paul Manafort. This is the fourth 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.

The previous releases fleshed out details that Mueller summarized in his final report regarding President Donald Trump's and his campaign's actions. The memos so far have revealed, for instance, how top Trump campaign officials witnessed the candidate and other Trump campaign officials pushing for the release of stolen Democratic emails and supported a conspiracy theory that Ukraine had hacked the Democrats in 2016.

The memos, called 302s by the FBI, were typed up by agents or prosecutors after they questioned each witness. Friday's release landed with large chunks of the witness memos redacted and with several pages withheld from the public. The Justice Department has kept many of the memos heavily redacted as it continues to release them this year.

Kushner interview notes missing
Despite a court order, the Justice Department is holding back Mueller memos regarding the interviews conducted with the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. CNN and BuzzFeed have won access to thousands of pages of Mueller's witness memos. A judge ordered that the news organizations get access to the same group of documents the House saw, including the Kushner memos, this month.

By Evan Perez and David Shortell, CNN

(CNN) Attorney General William Barr briefly attended a meeting at the Justice Department last fall between top criminal prosecutors and President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, a department official said Friday. The meeting reveals a previously undisclosed interaction between two men the President depends on to defend him. Justice officials have sought to distance the department and Barr from Giuliani since it became clear in recent months that the former New York mayor is the subject of an investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors. Giuliani was a part of a team of defense attorneys representing a Venezuelan client when they met with Justice Department officials.

The two men are said not to be close despite their roles as top legal advisers to the President. Barr has kept a notable distance even while Trump mentioned them both together in a July phone call in which he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Barr to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden. Justice officials have said Barr has never spoken to Giuliani about Ukraine and hasn't taken any action to investigate the Bidens. The Giuliani meeting at the Justice Department in September became public months ago in the wake of the arrest of two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were working on Giuliani's Ukraine mission for the President.

By Lisa Eadicicco

On Monday, Attorney General Barr said Apple had not provided any "substantive assistance" with unlocking two iPhones belonging to a Saudi shooter who killed three people at Navy base in Florida last month. Now, a new report from The Wall Street Journal suggests that some in the Federal Bureau of Investigation disagree with those remarks.

Some officials within the bureau were surprised at Barr's words because they felt that Apple had provided adequate help with the investigation, the Journal reports. Another concern among some agents is that the push for Apple to create a backdoor that would enable access to private data stored on iPhones could also sour the bureau's relationship with the tech giant, the report also says.

The report comes after Barr held a press conference on Monday, where he called on Apple and other tech firms to help the FBI gain access to two iPhones used by the shooter, Mohammad Alshamrani. Apple has since pushed back against Barr's claims that the tech giant hasn't provided "substantive assistance," saying that it has shared "many gigabytes" of information with the FBI.

A ruling could come in the spring — just as the 2020 presidential race is heating up.
By Pete Williams

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up an issue that could change a key element of the system America uses to elect its president, with a decision likely in the spring just as the campaign heats up. The answer to the question could be a decisive one: Are the electors who cast the actual Electoral College ballots for president and vice president required to follow the results of the popular vote in their states? Or are they free to vote as they wish?

A decision that they are free agents could give a single elector, or a small group of them, the power to decide the outcome of a presidential election if the popular vote results in an apparent Electoral College tie or is close. "It's not hard to imagine how a single 'faithless elector,' voting differently than his or her state did, could swing a close presidential election," said Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor.

By Kate O'Flaherty

Equifax has promised a payout of up to $20,000 for customers affected by the massive breach that took place in 2017, which exposed information including 147 million people’s social security numbers. The opportunity to apply for an Equifax breach compensation payout was announced back in July 2019, and the deadline to file your claim is fast approaching. Also last year, it emerged that Equifax would be fined $700 million, with $425 million of that money earmarked for people affected by the 2017 breach. This week, an Equifax restitution fund for customers totalling $380.5 million was confirmed. An additional $125 million will be added if needed to cover out of pocket claims. The deadline to apply is January 22, so time is running out. Here’s how you can file your claim now.

How to claim your Equifax breach compensation

The first step is to find out if you are eligible for compensation. You can check using this simple tool set up by Equifax.

By Adam Bienkov

President Donald Trump's decision to assassinate Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani has exposed a growing rift between the US and its historically closest allies in Europe. The attack was met with a remarkable level of criticism by European leaders. The UK threatened to cut back on its long-standing defense alliance with Trump, and Germany suggested openly that the importance of its relationship with the US was declining. Trump responded by threatening European leaders with a new trade war if they remained committed to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

Yet rather than bring US allies into line, Trump's threats merely highlighted the declining importance that many European leaders now place in the transatlantic alliance. Here's how Trump's international allies are increasingly abandoning the president as his administration alienates them.

UK threatens to cut defense ties

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was endorsed by Trump when he entered office and has previously been keen to stay close to the Trump administration. Trump's order to kill Soleimani, however, has triggered a remarkable turnaround in the UK prime minister's approach to the US. In the immediate aftermath of Soleimani's assassination in a drone strike in Iraq, an operation the US did not warn the UK would take place, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declared that the conflict was "in none of our interests," adding that the only winners of an Iranian war would be the Islamic State terrorist group. Johnson also spoke out against the US policy, urging Trump to "dial this down" and warning that targeting Iranian cultural sites, as Trump threatened, would be a war crime.

By Kieran Corcoran

As President Donald Trump heads closer to becoming only the third president in US history to weather an impeachment trial in the Senate, a familiar pattern is emerging in the associations that got him in this position. At the same time, expectations that he could speed through the process with a fast, clean acquittal are beginning to evaporate. A striking interview with a figure from the Ukraine pressure campaign underpinning the case of impeachment helps illustrate how Trump finds himself in this bind.

Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, gave a long interview to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow this week in which he described at great length the mechanics and experience of enacting shadow foreign policy on behalf of the White House. Pursued by federal prosecutors on unrelated charges of campaign-finance violations, Parnas broke his silence for reasons he is yet to fully explain. According to Maddow, he seems motivated mainly by fear, and perhaps the prospect of lenient treatment.

Speaking out now, he told Maddow he felt like somebody who had just emerged, blinking, from a cult.
   —Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 17, 2020

He described a sense of unthinking idolatry when doing Trump's bidding and belief that the president would help protect him. He told The New York Times that he "thought by listening to the president and his attorney that I couldn't possibly get in trouble or do anything wrong." Parnas even had a shrine to Trump in his house.

By Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump is adding three seasoned lawyers to his impeachment legal defense team, people familiar with the matter said, including Kenneth Starr, the hard-charging prosecutor whose work led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Alan Dershowitz, the constitutional lawyer, and Robert Ray, Starr's successor at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration, are also joining the team, the people said. The three are expected to join a legal team headed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and outside attorney Jay Sekulow, who are still expected to deliver statements on the President's behalf on the Senate floor. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump's longtime personal counsel Jane Raskin will also supplement the President's impeachment legal team, a person familiar with the matter said.

Trump's impeachment trial over the Ukraine scandal officially began on Thursday. The outcome is all but determined, as the two-thirds vote required to remove the President would need 20 Republican senators to break rank. The White House did not mount a formal defense during the House's investigation as it refused to cooperate with the Democratic-led probe. A spokesman for Trump's legal team said Dershowitz will present oral arguments at the Senate trial.

By Evan Perez and David Shortell, CNN

Washington (CNN)Justice Department prosecutors are investigating a media leak tied to the FBI's Hillary Clinton email probe, a person familiar with the matter said, an unusually belated move that is prompting questions about political motivations since the new inquiry could involve one of the President Donald Trump's most vocal critics, James Comey. The former FBI director in 2017 told Congress about a piece of classified evidence that played a role in his decision to unilaterally announce no charges against Clinton in a press conference that usurped the role of his superiors at the Justice Department. Before that testimony, news reports had described the classified information.

But in recent months, investigators in the Washington US Attorney's office have been looking into possible legal violations in the disclosure of that information. Investigators have interviewed witnesses about the media disclosure, according to another person familiar with the matter. It's not clear who the target of the probe is. But Comey's role in the matter raises the prospect that prosecutors could end up examining his conduct as part of the probe. The New York Times first reported the new investigation.

By David Shortell, CNN

(CNN) The FBI arrested three alleged members of a white supremacist group early Thursday, including two men accused of possessing a machine gun, over 1,000 rounds of ammunition and body armor parts, according to the Justice Department. The three were arrested at residences in Delaware and Maryland and taken into custody without incident, FBI spokesman Dave Fitz said. The men, who the Justice Department says are members of the international white supremacist group known as The Base, were believed to be planning to attend a pro-gun rally in Virginia's capital of Richmond on Monday that is expected to draw a significant crowd of extremists, according to a law enforcement official. They're charged with multiple firearms and immigration-related offenses and are expected to make an initial appearance in Maryland federal court later Thursday. Brian Mark Lemley Jr., 33, is accused of transporting a machine gun, as well as transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony. Lemley and William Garfield Bilbrough IV, 19, are also accused of transporting and harboring an alien -- 27-year-old Patrik Jordan Mathews, a Canadian citizen and former combat engineer in the Canadian Army Reserve. Like Lemley, Mathews is charged with transporting a firearm and ammunition with intent to commit a felony. A criminal complaint filed in court also charges Mathews with being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.


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