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US Monthly Headline News January 2020 Page 5

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) Opening arguments from the Democrats are over. They closed their case against President Donald Trump declaring he must be removed from office for upsetting the balance of power envisioned by the Constitution and for upsetting world order. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, the former federal prosecutor who presided all fall over the House inquiry into Trump's Ukraine pressure campaign, closed the arguments for Democrats by trying to head off some of what Trump's defenders will say in their rebuttal. The California Democrat chiefly focused on making the point that Republicans, regardless of their personal feelings about the President, should realize he'll put himself over the country again and again. "It doesn't matter whether you like him. It doesn't matter if you dislike him," Schiff said. "What matters is whether he is a danger to the country because he will do it again. And none of us have can have confidence, based on his record, that he will not do it again. Because he is telling us every day that he will.

Obstructing Congress

Most of today's arguments focused on the second article of impeachment, which argues Trump has obstructed Congress. The Democrats are arguing that, in the American system, no one should be above the law. But Trump's Department of Justice says he can't be indicted, which is at least part of the reason the Mueller report did not recommend charging him as part of the Russia investigation that consumed the first half of Trump's presidency before concluding last year.

ABC News broke news of the recording Friday.
By Andrew Prokop

When Rudy Giuliani’s fixer Lev Parnas publicly claimed last week that President Donald Trump knew everything he was doing with regards to Ukraine, he was greeted with some skepticism. And Trump has repeatedly denied even knowing who Parnas is. But ABC News has reviewed a recording that seems to back up one of Parnas’s claims — that, at a 2018 donor dinner, Parnas urged Trump to fire Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and Trump agreed. ABC News has not published the recording, only reviewed it. But per its reporters Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Allison Pecorin, and Olivia Rubin, Parnas can be heard disparaging Yovanovitch on it.

Then a voice that “appears to be President Trump’s” can be heard on the recording saying: “Get rid of her! ... Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.” This is just what Parnas claimed happened in his interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week. “He fired her actually at the dinner, which was the most surprising thing ever.” Parnas continued: I do remember me telling the president the ambassador was badmouthing him and saying he was going to get impeached, something to that effect. And at that time, he turned around to John DeStefano, who was his aide at the time, and said, “Fire her.” And we all — there was a silence in the room. As Parnas went on to explain, Trump’s order was not actually carried out then. It took another year for the firing to stick.

By Mike DeBonis

Rep. Adam B. Schiff spoke for nearly an hour closing the House’s case for the removal of President Trump, advancing and rebutting scores of arguments, but many Republican senators left the chamber talking about only one line: His reference to a news report that GOP senators were warned that if they vote against the president, their “head will be on a pike.” “Not true!” an indignant Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) bristled afterward, saying senators were “visibly upset” by the comment. “Nothing like going through three days of frustration and then cap it with an insult on everybody.”

The reference came from a CBS News report that had gone viral earlier Friday, quoting an anonymous Trump confidant claiming that senators were warned that “your head will be on a pike” if they vote against the president on impeachment. The report did not say who had delivered the threat or which senators had been so warned. “I don’t know if that’s true,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “I hope it’s not true. But I’m struck by the irony of the idea, when we’re talking about a president who would make himself a monarch, that whoever that was would use the terminology of a penalty that was imposed by a monarch — a head on a pike.”

And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) suggested in a tweet that Republicans were feigning outrage to distract from the rest of Schiff’s detailed argument for Trump’s removal. “I’m gonna let you in on a secret,” he wrote. “Republicans who don’t want to defend Trump’s corruption on the merits are instead going to complain about how mean the House managers are.” - Why the fake outrage from Republican Senators all Americans know comrade Don the Con threatens Republicans when they don’t do what he wants or say something he does not like. Republicans are mad at Schiff for what Don the Con said that is BS, they are using any excuse they can to protect Don the Con. History will not be kind to Moscow Mitch and the Republican Senators who give Don the Con a pass to f*ck over our constitution, our laws and the American people.

By Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) A reporter for National Public Radio said Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo screamed obscenities and demanded she prove she could find Ukraine on an unmarked map after she asked -- and Pompeo refused to answer -- whether he owed former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch an apology. The alleged incident took place after the taping of an interview that aired on NPR's "All Things Considered" Friday. Pompeo instead replied to NPR's Mary Louise Kelly question by saying, "You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran. That's what I intend to do. I know what our Ukraine policy has been now for the three years of this administration."

He then repeatedly tried to end the interview as Kelly continued to press him on the matter. To her last question on whether Ukraine policy had been hijacked, Pompeo replied, "I've been clear about that. I know exactly what we were doing. I know precisely what the direction the State Department gave to our officials around the world about how to manage our Ukraine policy." Kelly told listeners in a broadcast later on NPR that after the interview she was called back into Pompeo's living room at the State Department, where the outburst then unfolded.

"What is happening (at the end) there is an aide has stopped the interview, said, 'We're done, thank you,' and you heard me thank the secretary," Kelly said on air after the fact. "He did not reply -- he leaned in, glared at me, and then turned and with his aides left the room." Kelly said that moments later, "That same staffer who stopped the interview reappeared, asked me to come with her -- just me, no recorder -- though she did not say we were off the record, nor would I have agreed."

Heard on All Things Considered
By Jason Breslow

With the State Department facing continued questions over the treatment of Marie Yovanovitch before she was recalled as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not say on Friday whether he owed the career diplomat an apology. "I've defended every single person on this team," Pompeo said in an interview with NPR. "I've done what's right for every single person on this team." Pressed on whether he could point to specific remarks in which he defended Yovanovitch, Pompeo responded, "I've said all I'm going to say today. Thank you. Thanks for the repeated opportunity to do so. I appreciate that." The exchange with Mary Louise Kelly, co-host of All Things Considered, follows the release by House Democrats last week of messages suggesting that Yovanovitch may have been under surveillance in the days before she was told to return to Washington from her posting in Kyiv last year.

Possible surveillance of a U.S. ambassador

The State Department itself is now investigating the possible surveillance of Yovanovitch, who during testimony before House impeachment investigators in November said she had felt threatened by Trump. Before her recall, Yovanovitch had been accused of disloyalty by allies of the White House, and during his now-infamous July 25 call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump said of Yovanovitch, "She's going to go through some things."

The fauxtrage over Adam Schiff's "head on a pike" reference is meant to obscure the simple fact they're terrified to cross the president.
By Charles P. Pierce

WASHINGTON—Not long after Congressman Adam Schiff had wrapped up the prosecution’s case, and pretty much wrapped the administration* in heavy chains and barbed wire, Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, stepped up to a bank of microphones in the basement of the Capitol to announce that he was not afraid of the president*. Oh, no. Not him. Not Senator James Lankford.

One of the most remarkable moments of the night was when Adam Schiff said that Republicans were told that their head would be on a pike by the president if they vote against him. That is completely, totally false. All of us were shaking our heads saying, “Where in the world did that story come from?”

By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Delivering an ominous threat to members of his own party, Donald J. Trump warned congressional Republicans on Monday that if they vote for impeachment he would come to their states and campaign for their reëlection. In a series of intimidating, early-morning tweets, Trump made it clear that if Republicans wobble on impeachment, “I will hold rallies in your state and support you with everything I’ve got.”

By Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman

The Republican Party was at the brink of civil war on Sunday as Donald J. Trump signaled he would retaliate against lawmakers who withdraw their support from his campaign, and senior party leaders privately acknowledged that they now feared losing control of both houses of Congress.

Even before Mr. Trump’s second debate against Hillary Clinton, the party faced an internal rift unseen in modern times. A wave of defections from Mr. Trump’s candidacy, prompted by the revelation of a recording that showed him bragging about sexual assault, was met with boastful defiance by the Republican presidential nominee.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump attacked the Republicans fleeing his campaign as “self-righteous hypocrites” and predicted their defeat at the ballot box. In a set of talking points sent to his supporters Sunday morning, Mr. Trump’s campaign urged them to attack turncoat Republicans as “more concerned with their political future than they are about the country.”

It’s not impeachment that’s worrying Republicans. It’s the months of steady revelations about the Ukraine saga that could follow.

Republicans are already looking past impeachment, sensing a looming Democratic plot to gradually release more Ukraine bombshells as Donald Trump fights for re-election. Even with the president’s impeachment trial racing toward a swift acquittal for Trump, Republicans have seen a drip, drip, drip of information in recent days about Trump’s role in pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival. They liken it to the repeated allegations of misconduct lodged against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his 2018 confirmation fight, and fear they're witnessing an election-year repeat. Publicly, Trump appears agitated, lashing out in record-setting tweet storms that often targeted House Democrats, who have released more evidence about the Ukraine saga this week despite their portion of the impeachment process being over. On Friday, Trump started tweeting at 6:18 am. Less than two hours later, he already sent more than 50 tweets, including one lamenting that defense team was being forced to present its case Saturday during the “Death Valley” of broadcast time slots.

To persuade a judge to let him withdraw his guilty plea, Flynn could be called to testify under oath and be subject to cross-examination during a hearing.
By Pete Williams and Tom Winter

Federal District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan made clear Friday that Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Donald Trump's national security adviser, has a high hurdle to overcome in persuading the judge to let Flynn withdraw his guilty plea. Flynn pleaded guilty two years ago, admitting he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the Trump transition. A year ago, the government said he deserved credit for admitting his misconduct and cooperating with prosecutors in investigating Flynn's former business partner. But prosecutors said recently that he failed to live up to the bargain and no longer deserves leniency. Flynn's lawyers have accused the FBI of misconduct in how it has handled his agreement. That culminated in a motion filed earlier this month seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, which has delayed his sentencing.

By Morgan Gstalter

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano on Thursday penned an op-ed arguing that the articles of impeachment and the House managers' case against President Trump provide “ample and uncontradicted” evidence to support the Senate removing him from office. “What is required for removal of the president? A demonstration of presidential commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, of which in Trump's case the evidence is ample and uncontradicted,” he wrote. The piece from Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey and frequent critic of the president, came as the Senate began day two of opening arguments in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.

Napolitano wrote that the Constitution describes justification for impeachment as treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. “However, this use of the word ‘crimes’ does not refer to violations of federal criminal statutes. It refers to behavior that is so destructive of the constitutional order that it is the moral equivalent of statutory crimes,” the judge wrote. Napolitano declared that there are “valid, lawful, constitutional arguments for Trump’s impeachment that he ought to take seriously.”

By Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Washington (CNN) Thirty-four US service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq earlier this month, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday. Seventeen service members who were injured have since returned to duty in Iraq, sixteen of whom were treated locally in the country. Nine service members are still being treated in Germany. An additional eight service members who had been flown to Germany have since been sent to the United States for additional treatment. The eight service members, who arrived in the US Friday morning, will be treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or at hospitals in their home bases. Although traumatic brain injuries are not always apparent immediately after they've been suffered, the disclosure of injured US service members indicates that the impact of the attack was more serious than initial assessments indicated. The Pentagon and President Donald Trump had initially said no service members were injured or killed in the January 8 Iranian missile attack, which was retaliation for the January 2 US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.

Hoffman said Friday that the Defense Department will review its processes for tracking and reporting injuries suffered by service members. "The goal is to be as transparent, accurate and to provide the American people and our service members with the best information about the tremendous sacrifices our war fighters make," Hoffman told reporters Friday. Earlier this week President Donald Trump said he does not consider potential brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, downplaying the severity of the injuries suffered in Iraq.

By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump signaled this week that he's open to cutting federal entitlements to reduce the federal deficit, despite previously campaigning on protecting Medicare and Social Security. Asked by CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, whether entitlements would ever be on his plate, Trump responded, "At some point they will be." "We have tremendous growth. We're going to have tremendous growth. This next year I -- it'll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that," he added. Asked by CNBC whether he was willing "to do some of the things that you said you wouldn't do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare," Trump said: "We're going look." "I mean we've never had growth like this. We never had a consumer that was taking in, through -- different means, over $10,000 a family," he said. During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he wouldn't have to touch Social Security because his plan to boost economic growth to at least 4% would take care of the entitlement's long-term problems.

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) More than two months after announcing a review of his work, The Hill newspaper has yet to complete its promised evaluation of columns written by John Solomon, a former executive at the outlet who during his time at the publication pushed conspiracy theories about Ukraine into the public conversation.  It's unusual for a newsroom to take so long to review stories that have been so fiercely disputed by individuals with first-hand knowledge of relevant events. But in a statement issued on Thursday, The Hill Editor-In-Chief Bob Cusack told CNN Business, "I appreciate you checking in regularly and I understand your need to follow up on this. Our review continues with a collective intensity and thoroughness which is needed and expected on a subject of  importance."
"We cannot put an exact timetable to something this significant," Cusack added. "But we are confident it will be completed in the near future. Rest assured we'll be sharing it with you when it has been properly completed." Cusack first announced the review of work done by Solomon, who is currently a Fox News contributor, on November 18, 2019.

By Corbin Davenport

Huawei's battle with the United States over trade bans is still very much alive, nearly a year after the White House initially called Huawei a security risk. Several American companies have continued to sell components to Huawei under special licenses, and now the Commerce Department and the Defense Department are sparring over more limits on Huawei trade. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that new rules were in development that would further limit U.S. companies from supplying Huawei. "They are works in progress that will come out near-term," he said during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Abdulrahman Almutairi is a Saudi social-media influencer who criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. If not for the FBI, he says, he might’ve met Jamal Khashoggi’s fate.
By Spencer Ackerman

A suspected agent of the Saudi government attempted to kidnap a regime critic on American soil, according to the critic and multiple U.S. and foreign sources familiar with the episode. The young Saudi man says the FBI saved him from becoming the next Jamal Khashoggi. Abdulrahman Almutairi is a 27-year-old comedian and former student at the University of San Diego with a big social-media presence. After Almutairi used social media to criticize the powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman over the October 2018 murder and dismemberment of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi, an unidentified Saudi man accompanied Almutairi’s father on a flight to collect Almutairi against his will and bring him back to Saudi Arabia, according to The Daily Beast’s sources. “The Saudi government realized I was a threat,” Almutairi told The Daily Beast, revealing for the first time an ordeal that might have culminated in a whole new crisis: the kidnapping and rendition of a Saudi dissenter on American soil. Only timely intervention from the FBI broke up the plot, two sources say.  “If I go back to Saudi Arabia,” Almutairi said, “I’ll be killed in the airport.”  

By Rich Calder

New York City’s restaurants and other retail establishments will no longer be allowed to reject cash payments under legislation passed by the City Council on Thursday. Supporters of the bill say cashless businesses requiring credit cards and electronic payments like Apple Pay discriminate against poor people who may not have bank accounts or credit cards — as well as minors.

By Carey Codd

BROWARD (CBSMiami) –  NFL free agent Antonio Brown has officially surrendered himself to authorities at the Broward County Jail. Brown was wanted on an arrest warrant out of Hollywood on three criminal charges. The NFL free agent arrived just before 10 p.m. Thursday with his lawyers and an entourage. Brown did not respond to our questions, looking serious and determined. There seemed to be some confusion because he walked into the jail and then walked out a few minutes later. After speaking with his lawyer, Brown returned to the jail. The criminal charges stem from an incident at Brown’s Hollywood home on Tuesday when a delivery driver tried to deliver some of Brown’s items.

Lev Parnas was once so close to Rudy Giuliani, he named Giuliani his son's godfather. Now Parnas is cooperating with the Trump impeachment inquiry.
By Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY

The state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush in 2018 featured a who's who of U.S. political heavyweights. The nation's four living former presidents and their wives were in the first row of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Alongside were President Donald Trump and his wife. Bush's eldest son, former president George W. Bush, sat nearby with his wife and extended family. Among the mourners was the man once known to millions as America's Mayor and now Trump's personal lawyer: Rudy Giuliani. He was accompanied by — who?

The chubby man in the dark suit was Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman known to few at the time. Now, the 47-year-old Florida resident is famed as Giuliani's associate in pressing for an investigation that could discredit former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump rival in the 2020 presidential race, by digging up dirt in Parnas' native Ukraine.

By Rosie Perper

Intimate messages between Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez came into the possession of the National Enquirer tabloid via her brother, The New York Times reported Thursday. The Times said its reporting cast doubt on the notion that Saudi Arabia may have leaked the messages after hacking Bezos' phone. A forensic report made public earlier this week concluded that his phone was mostly likely implanted with malware sent by a phone number belonging to the de facto Saudi ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

According to the newspaper, Sanchez sent the messages, including photos, to her brother, Michael, who received $200,000 upon signing a contract granting the Enquirer's parent company exclusive rights to them. The deal was the prelude to the story of Bezos' relationship becoming public, which was followed by Bezos and his wife divorcing. The Times said it learned how the photos were transmitted via four unnamed sources and a written contract between Michael Sanchez and American Media Inc., which publishes the Enquirer.

CNN's Gloria Borger digs into President Donald Trump's history with truth and lies

CNBC - President Trump suggests taking guns from some people before actually going to court.

Red flag laws allow law enforcement agencies to act on court orders and remove guns from people considered a harm to themselves or others.
By David Mikkelson

Trump: We’re going to take the firearms first and then go to court, because that’s another system. Because a lot of times by the time you go to court … it takes so long to go to court to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida; he had a lot of fires [and] they saw everything. To go to court would have taken a long time, so you could do exactly what you’re saying but take the guns first, go through due process second.

By Elliot Smith

Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as President Donald Trump’s White House communications chief, accused his former boss of “bullying,” “gaslighting” and “nonsensical inanity” and predicted he’ll lose the election. With U.S. income inequality at a 50-year high and the gap widening, the managing partner of the Skybridge hedge fund told CNBC on Thursday that Trump “hasn’t done enough.”

In his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, Trump promoted his “America First” economic agenda and boasted about the health of the U.S. economy, which he claimed was down to a “whole new approach centered entirely on the well-being of the American worker.” Stock markets have repeatedly hit record highs over the past year, and the president has been keen to credit the sweeping corporate tax cuts his administration introduced in 2017.

By Michael HiltzikBusiness Columnist

With his penchant for saying the quiet parts out loud and assuming no one is paying attention, President Trump on Wednesday opened the door to cutting Social Security and Medicare later this year. The word came at the very end of an interview conducted by Joe Kernan of CNBC, in connection with Trump’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Here’s how it unfolded, according to the tape and transcript from CNBC: “KERNAN: Entitlements ever be on your plate? “PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I— it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a—"

Hillary Clinton is going to destroy your Social Security and Medicare. ... I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare. - Donald Trump, 2016

Trump then wandered off into a string of false and incoherent claims about the economy. “We’ve never had growth like this,” he said, even though economic growth during Trump’s term is nowhere near a record pace.

The bank says he made for a very unusual request for several services at the same time.
by Emma Ockerman

A black man in Detroit who’d just won a settlement from a racial discrimination suit against his employer is now suing his bank for refusing to cash that settlement check. Sauntore Thomas, a local 44-year-old, was attempting to deposit an undisclosed amount of money at a Livonia branch of TCF Bank Tuesday when the staff refused his check and called the cops instead, according to the local Detroit Free Press. In fact, the money came from a confidential settlement reached after Thomas sued his employer, Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit, for racial discrimination. Thomas explained that to the bank. But TCF Bank quickly initiated a fraud investigation anyway, and had multiple police officers question him inside the bank while two other cops stood guard.

TCF Bank did not immediately return a VICE News request for comment, but they told the Detroit Free Press the checks — and Thomas allegedly had three, each for several thousand dollars — read as void when scanned by the branch's computer, and the branch acted accordingly. Thomas closed his account with TCF Bank that day and later deposited the check at a local Chase banking branch, where he opened a new account. The check cleared about 12 hours after that, and Thomas used the money to buy a used car, since he’d previously walked to work, according to the Free Press. The incident adds to a decades-long conflict between financial institutions and black Americans, who have long been grilled over the most basic transactions. In December 2018, a Cleveland-area branch of Huntington Bank called the police on a black man attempting to deposit his paycheck. And in November 2017, a Fort Lauderdale branch of Wells Fargo suspected an elderly black woman of forging a check for $140, and similarly called the police. She later sued.

By Charles Riley, CNN Business

London (CNN Business) Having negotiated agreements of sorts on trade with China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea and Japan, President Donald Trump is now turning to his next target: the European Union. Trump made clear at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week that his administration will move aggressively to negotiate a trade deal with Brussels. And if progress isn't made quickly, he said he'll impose tariffs of up to 25% on cars made in the European Union. "I wanted to do China first. I wanted to do Mexico and Canada first. But now that we're all done ... we are going to do Europe," he said during an interview with CNBC on Wednesday. There may be a deal to be done.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, met with Trump in Davos, where both leaders pledged to work quickly toward a deal. Von der Leyen told German news agency DPA that an agreement could be reached within weeks. The transatlantic relationship produced $1.3 trillion in total trade in 2018, according to US government statistics. Counted together, the 28 countries of the EU were the biggest export market for US goods that year. Yet experts say that aiming for a quick deal means there won't be time to address thorny issues that have for decades prevented the United States and the European Union from completing a comprehensive agreement to boost trade. The latest effort, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, was declared obsolete before it could be finalized.

By Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson and D'Angelo Gore

White House lawyers distorted the facts on the impeachment process and other issues during the Jan. 21 Senate trial:

White House counsel Pat Cipollone falsely suggested Republicans were barred from the closed-door depositions conducted by the House intelligence committee. But members of three committees — both Democrats and Republicans — participated.

Jay Sekulow, President Donald Trump’s attorney, falsely said, “During the proceedings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, the president was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses … the right to access evidence and … the right to have counsel present at hearings.” The committee chair invited Trump and his lawyers to participate, but they declined.

Cipollone claimed Rep. Adam Schiff, the House intelligence committee chairman, “manufactured a false version” of the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president and “he didn’t tell” the American people “it was a complete fake.” Schiff indicated he was giving “the essence” of Trump’s remarks and about an hour later said it was “at least part in parody.”

Sekulow said the special counsel’s report on Russian interference during the 2016 election found Trump committed “no obstruction.” That’s not what the report said. While the report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” it said, citing “multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence.”

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his resolution outlining the impeachment trial procedures “tracks closely” with the rules of trials for other presidents. How closely McConnell’s resolution tracks with the procedures used in the past may be a matter of opinion. However, there are some differences between the rules for Trump’s trial and President Bill Clinton’s.

You can't return it if it was never gone.
By Bethania Palma

U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 16, 2020, stated at a gathering in the Oval Office that “we’re proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools.” The move resulted in queries from Snopes readers asking whether Trump had “returned” or “reinstated” prayer in public schools. Joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, televangelist and adviser Paula White, and students who said they faced religious discrimination in school, Trump stated his guideline would counter “a growing totalitarian impulse on the far-left that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression.”

But that is not the case. Students and student groups are free to pray at school, as well as participate in any number of religious activities, so long as those activities don’t disrupt school functions or impede the liberties of others. Trump’s guideline, in fact, largely restated one created by President George W. Bush in 2003. Because students were never barred from praying on their own in school, however, neither president “returned” prayer to public school.

(CNN) CNN Opinion is curating commentators' smartest takes on the second day of President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial. The views expressed below are their own.

Raul Reyes: He did not come to play

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff did not come to play. On Wednesday, he laid out a strong case for why senators should vote to impeach and remove Donald Trump from the presidency.  On a strategic level, Schiff's presentation was masterful: it was eloquent, thoughtful and -- most importantly -- restrained. While he invoked everyone from Alexander Hamilton to John F. Kennedy, he never slipped into histrionics or hyperbole, which any trial lawyer knows can backfire. Instead, he methodically went through a timeline of the President's alleged improper conduct. Given the sheer amount of ground that Schiff covered in two-plus hours, no senator can honestly claim to not know or not have heard about most aspects of the impeachment inquiry. Schiff laid it all out for the Senate and for the public (of which 51% favors impeachment, per a recent CNN poll).

Very smartly, Schiff appealed to senators' and viewers' best instincts, saying: "The American people want a fair trial. They want to believe the system of government is still capable of rising to the occasion. They want to believe we can rise about party and do what's best for the country." This statement, by the way, is supported by national polling that finds most Americans want witnesses and new testimony allowed into the impeachment inquiry. Notice that Schiff did not have to resort to demonizing those who perhaps did not agree with him (indeed, he comported himself with the dignity required in such a grave and consequential matter).

In fact, his presentation was especially strong when he played video clips of other people, including Trump, whose statements bolstered the House Democrats' case for impeachment. So just in case anyone had forgotten, we again got to see acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney basically admitting to a quid pro quo (regarding the withholding of Ukraine aid in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens) and telling reporters to "Get over it."

By Oliver Milman

Rollback of clean water protections for streams and wetlands. Obama-era rules have long been targeted by Trump. The Trump administration has completed its rollback of environmental protections for streams, wetland and other bodies of water, a process that has stripped pollution safeguards from drinking water sources used by around a third of all Americans. Clean water protections strengthened under the Obama administration have long been targeted by Donald Trump, who has called it a “very destructive and horrible rule”. Trump has been backed by ranchers, farming groups and golf course operators, who claim the so-called “Water of the United States” (Wotus) rule impinged upon landowners’ rights.

The Obama-era water rule was repealed last year and on Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a weakened replacement that removes millions of miles of streams and around half of America’s wetlands from federal oversight, potentially allowing pesticides and other pollutants to be dumped into them without penalty. The move has dismayed former EPA staff who worked on the expansion of protections to ephemeral streams that supply drinking water to an estimated 117 million people in the US.

By Coral Davenport

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens. From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections.

The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. That would for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects. “This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.” Mr. Holman also said that the new rule exemplifies how the Trump administration has dismissed or marginalized scientific evidence. Last month, a government advisory board of scientists, many of whom were handpicked by the Trump administration, wrote that the proposed water rule “neglects established science.”

By Anna M. PhillipsStaff Writer

Defying environmentalists and public health advocates, the Trump administration on Thursday will announce the replacement of Obama-era water protections with a significantly weaker set of regulations that lifts limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands. The changes to the Clean Water Act’s protections are expected to hit California and other Western states especially hard. Federal data suggest 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose long-held protections, including tributaries to major waterways that millions of people rely on for drinking water. Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to announce the new rules in Las Vegas at a conference of the National Association of Home Builders — one of the industry groups that pushed for loosening clean water rules.

James Madison wanted the Supreme Court to try impeachments. Maybe he was right.
By Noah Feldman

President Donald Trump is on trial in the Senate. But the Senate is on trial, too — to see if it’s capable of fulfilling its constitutional duty to hold a credible impeachment trial.

James Madison thought the Supreme Court, not the Senate, should try presidential impeachments. Until now, the other framers’ rejection of Madison’s idea seemed to have been wise. Yet the unprecedented degree of partisanship in Trump’s “trial,” and the possibility that for the first time there will be no witnesses, raises the possibility that the framers’ impeachment design has hit a dead end.

The Supreme Court trial option wasn’t an afterthought at the constitutional convention in 1787. To the contrary, it was the first idea about where impeachments should be tried, and prevailed throughout most of that long, hot Philadelphia summer. As late as August 27, some three months into the convention, the working draft of the Constitution’s impeachment provision called for “removing the President on impeachment by the House of Reps. and conviction in the supreme Court, of Treason, Bribery or corruption.”

As the leading member of a self-described “radical political party” in the 1970s, Bernie Sanders repeatedly compared Vermont workers to enslaved black people.
By Scott Bixby

In recent weeks, Sen. Bernie Sanders has criticized his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination for having too much “baggage” to win the diverse coalition needed to defeat President Donald Trump in November. But as the Vermont independent tops national polls for the first time, newly unearthed baggage from his own decades-long political career could call his own past statements and judgment into question.

As the leading member of a self-described “radical political party” in the 1970s, Sanders repeatedly compared Vermont workers to enslaved black people, according to archival interviews obtained by The Daily Beast. In one 1976 conversation, Sanders told a local newspaper that the sale of a privately held mining company by its founders harkened back to “the days of slavery, when black people were sold to different owners without their consent,” and compared the service economy to chattel slavery.

“Basically, today, Vermont workers remain slaves in many, many ways,” Sanders said in another interview in 1977, in which he compared the burgeoning service industry in the nearly all-white state to the enslavement of black Americans at the nation’s founding. “The problem comes when we end up with an entire state of people trained to wait on other people.”

The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the president has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship.
By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is coming out with new visa restrictions aimed at restricting “birth tourism," in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a coveted U.S. passport. The State Department planned to publicize the rules Thursday, according to two officials with knowledge of the plans who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The rules would make it more difficult for pregnant women to travel on tourist visas. In one draft of the regulations, they would have to clear an additional hurdle before obtaining the visas — convincing a consular officer that they have another legitimate reason to come to the U.S.

The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the president has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the U.S. is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. He has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it's not so easy to do.

The teen's family is from Trinidad, and he said that his dreadlocks are part of his heritage and that many men in their family wear them.
By Janelle Griffith

A black teenager in Texas said he had been suspended and told he can't walk in his high school graduation ceremony unless he cuts his dreadlocks to meet the school district's dress code. DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, about 30 miles east of Houston, told NBC affiliate KPRC in Houston that his hair always used to be in compliance with school rules. His mother, Sandy Arnold, said his family is from Trinidad and he's worn dreadlocks for years to celebrate that culture, always following the school's dress code by tying them up.

After Christmas break, three months before graduation, Sandy Arnold said the Barbers Hill Independent School District changed its dress code as it refers to hair. Now the rules stipulate "hair must be clean and well groomed" and not extend on male students, at any time, below the eyebrows, the ear lobes or the top of a T-shirt collar — including when let down.

By Aris Folley

A school district in Mont Belvieu, Texas, is facing backlash over its dress code after a student was reportedly told he wouldn’t be able to participate in graduation later this year if he didn’t cut his dreadlocks. According to a local NBC station, the controversy began shortly after DeAndre Arnold, who attends Barbers Hill High School, was told he would have to cut his dreadlocks to a certain length in order to walk at his graduation this year.  Arnold has reportedly refused to cut his hair, citing his Trinidadian culture, according to the station.

The policy was met with criticism from some local activists when the issue was addressed during a Barbers Hill Independent School District [ISD] board meeting Monday, which was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day. One activist, Ashton Woods, told KHOU that the “dress code is designed by white people for white people and is damaging to black bodies.” Another activist with the United Urban Alumni Association, Gary Monroe, called the matter a “black and white issue.” "DeAndre [and] his family should not have to go through this. But I expect it from a board that has zero diversity,” he said, according to KHOU. He also accused the school of being in “violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as it pertains to religious beliefs.”

Schumer accused McConnell of "totally, totally, totally going along with Trump’s cover-up, hook, line and sinker."
By Allan Smith

Democrats on Tuesday called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's initial proposal for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial "appalling," a "national disgrace," and "deliberately designed to hide the truth." "This is just appalling," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told MSNBC's "Morning Joe," adding that McConnell, R-Ky., was seeking to turn the trial into "a farce" and that under this proposal it would be a "national disgrace." The rules were later on Tuesday revised amid pressure from Democrats and some Republicans. Schumer had pledged to offer amendments to change the "most egregious things" McConnell proposed, pleading for four Republicans — the number needed to form a majority — to vote with the Democrats.

By Kate Sullivan and Sarah Mucha, CNN

(CNN) Former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would not make a deal where he would testify at the impeachment trial in exchange for the testimonies of former and current top Trump officials. "The reason why I would not make the deal, the bottom line is, I, this is a constitutional issue. And we're not going to turn it into a farce, into some kind of political theater," Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, said at an event in Osage, Iowa. The Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is underway in Washington. Democrats allege Trump abused his office by directing a pressure campaign for Ukraine to announce an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, in exchange for $400 million in US security aid and a White House meeting. Trump, Democrats say, then stonewalled congressional investigators to cover up the misconduct.

A voter asked Biden at the event in Iowa if the former vice president had considered agreeing to testify in exchange for procuring testimony from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "Have you ever thought of just calling (the Republicans') bluff, and maybe even you and your son (testify)? And that might just take the gas right out of them," Steve Delgado, a voter who said he had driven to Iowa from Arizona, asked Biden. Biden responded, "I don't think they've got much gas in the tank to begin with."

By Eric Litke

Witnesses have been a key point of debate in the lead up to President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial before the U.S. Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., delayed sending the Senate the articles of impeachment while seeking —among other things — a commitment to call witnesses from Republicans who control the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has vowed to force votes on witnesses and documents in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Democrats say avoiding witnesses would be tantamount to a cover-up. And Wisconsin’s Democratic senator, Tammy Baldwin, said it would also be breaking with centuries of tradition. "Every other impeachment trial the Senate has ever had, including those for other federal officials aside from the two presidential impeachments … has included witnesses," Baldwin said in a Jan. 19, 2020, appearance on WISN-TV’s ‘UpFront’ program.

Clinton said during a podcast interview last fall that one of the Democratic candidates is "the favorite of the Russians," leading Gabbard to lash out.
By Erik Ortiz

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against Hillary Clinton seeking $50 million in damages, claiming the former Democratic presidential nominee "carelessly and recklessly impugned" her reputation when she suggested in October that one of the 2020 Democratic candidates is "the favorite of the Russians." The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, says it aims to hold Clinton and other "political elites" accountable for "distorting the truth in the middle of a critical Presidential election." It also says Gabbard suffered an economic loss to be proven at trial. Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill responded: "That’s ridiculous."

Senators have a duty to conduct a fair and full trial. The Republican leader is trying to make sure they can’t.
By Noah Bookbinder

The removal of a sitting president is the last line of defense provided by the framers of the Constitution against the abuse of power by the leader of our country. When senators take an oath to uphold the Constitution, they assume the grave responsibility to conduct a thorough and fair trial on behalf of the American people. Dismissing this process set out in the Constitution, President Trump has called the impeachment process a “scam.” That’s his opinion, of course — but this week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing everything he can to ensure that the Senate trial actually is a scam. An impeachment trial is only meaningful if the American people can have confidence in the fairness of the process; only then will the trial’s verdict be worthy of respect. Mr. McConnell is advocating trial procedures that would undercut any possibility of that.

Americans understand the basic contours of a fair trial: Each side presents relevant evidence, in the form of documents and witnesses. But Mr. McConnell and President Trump’s allies in the Senate appear to think that the president should be allowed to play by his own rules. The impeachment procedural resolution that the Senate adopted early Wednesday morning appears designed to, among other things, prevent either side from introducing testimony and evidence about President Trump’s alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The strategy serves as a backup if the attorneys fail in the central thrust of their current plan.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn should get probation and no jail time if he’s sentenced next month on a felony false-statement charge he pleaded guilty to in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Flynn’s lawyers told a federal judge Wednesday. Attorneys for Flynn argued in a new court filing that he deserves leniency for his more than three decades of Army service before taking a top job in President Donald Trump’s White House. The former three-star general’s tenure in the Trump administration was short-lived after he wound up in the crosshairs of investigators for his statements to the FBI in the early stages of its investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Before leaving the internal gathering at Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, President Donald Trump held a hastily scheduled press conference. In it, he was asked about the clear discrepancy between his initial claim that no Americans had been harmed in Iran's retaliatory strikes against a US base in Iraq and reports of 11 military personnel diagnosed with concussions and an unnamed number of others also being treated in the wake of the attack. "No, I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it's not very serious," Trump said dismissively. When pressed about the potential for traumatic brain injury among those concussed, Trump added: "They told me about it numerous days later, you'd have to ask Department of Defense.

I don't consider it very serious relative to other injuries that I've seen. I've seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops. I've seen people with no legs and with no arms. I've seen people that were horribly, horribly injured in that area, that war. No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries, no." Which, well, yeah. Let's start with what we know about the injured soldiers. We know that the 11 soldiers initially injured were evacuated from the base in Iraq -- eight to Germany and three more to Kuwait. In addition, the Pentagon announced Tuesday that an unspecified number of other troops had been injured in the attack and evacuated to Germany.

By Tom McKay

The U.S. Department of Justice claimed in a letter to a federal judge this week that it took almost two months for the FBI to break into an iPhone 11 owned by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been sucked into the sprawling impeachment mess facing the White House, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. That the FBI managed to unlock the device at all may raise eyebrows, given that the DOJ and FBI have both recently ramped up pressure campaigns claiming they desperately need Apple’s assistance to unlock its devices and demanding Apple build backdoors into its encryption.

Parnas claims he acted as a fixer in Trump’s scheme to coerce the Ukrainian government into launching a sham investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by withholding nearly $400 million in defense aid—the matter at the center of the ongoing impeachment trial Trump now faces in the Senate. Parnas, who told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week that Trump and numerous other high-ranking White House officials had full knowledge of the plan, was indicted on separate charges of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections in October 2019. He is currently out on bail.

By Geneva Sands, CNN

(CNN) The attorney general for Washington, DC, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday alleging President Donald Trump's inaugural committee abused non-profit funds by overpaying for event space at the President's Washington hotel for events around his 2017 inauguration. DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed the suit against the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee, the Trump Organization and the Trump International Hotel in Washington in DC Superior Court. He accused the inaugural committee of coordinating with the Trump family to "grossly overpay" for event space at the Trump International Hotel.

The inaugural committee wasted approximately $1 million of charitable funds in overpayment for the use of event space at the Trump Hotel in violation of District law, according to the lawsuit. "The inaugural committee made exorbitant and unlawful payments to the Trump hotel to rent event space for inaugural activity," Racine said. Nonprofits are legally required to ensure that their funds are used for their stated public purpose, not private interest, he added. Racine alleged the inaugural committee was aware that it was paying far above market rates and "never considered less expensive alternatives." The attorney general said the group also paid for space on days when it did not hold events. The committee is accused of improperly using non-profit funds to throw a private party for the Trump family costing several hundred thousand dollars. The lawsuit seeks to recover the amount improperly paid to the Trump hotel, and to direct those funds to suitable nonprofit purposes.

ABC News

As the World Health Organization holds an emergency meeting on the coronavirus, a Washington state man has tested positive on his return from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started.

By Emily Saul

Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard has filed a defamation suit against Hillary Clinton for calling her a “Russian asset,” according to newly filed court papers. “Tulsi Gabbard is running for President of the United States, a position Clinton has long coveted, but has not been able to attain,” Wednesday’s Manhattan federal lawsuit reads. “In October 2019 — whether out of personal animus, political enmity, or fear of real change within a political party Clinton and her allies have long dominated — Clinton lied about her perceived rival Tulsi Gabbard. She did so publicly, unambiguously, and with obvious malicious intent.”

The former secretary of state has refused to walk back comments she made during an Oct. 17 appearance on a podcast, in which she referred to the Hawaii congresswoman as a “favorite of the Russians.” “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far,” Clinton told “Campaign HQ” host and former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. “And, that’s assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset,” added Clinton.

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump said he does not consider potential brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, downplaying the severity of US service members being treated for concussion symptoms from an Iranian attack as "headaches." During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump was asked to explain the discrepancy between his previous comments that no US service member was harmed in the January 8 Iranian missile attack on Al-Asad airbase in Iraq, and the latest reports of US troops being treated for injuries sustained in that attack.

"No, I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it's not very serious," Trump replied during the news conference. The reporter pressed, "So you don't consider potential traumatic brain injury serious?" "They told me about it numerous days later, you'd have to ask Department of Defense," Trump replied. The commander in chief continued, "I don't consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I've seen."

"I've seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops. I've seen people with no legs and with no arms. I've seen people that were horribly, horribly injured in that area, that war," Trump said. "No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries, no," he added. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a majority of TBI injuries are considered mild, and are also known as concussions, but they can leave long-term effects on cognitive functions.

By Jonathan O'Connell

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine sued President Trump’s inaugural committee and business Wednesday, alleging that the committee violated its nonprofit status by spending more than $1 million to book a ballroom at Trump’s D.C. hotel that its staff knew was overpriced and that it barely used. During the lead-up to Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, the committee booked the hotel ballroom for $175,000 a day, plus more than $300,000 in food and beverage costs, over the objections of its own event planner.

The committee was formed to organize the events around the inauguration, but Racine alleges it instead “abandoned this purpose and violated District law when it wasted approximately $1 million of charitable funds in overpayment for the use of event space at the Trump hotel.” “These charges were unreasonable and improperly served to enrich” Trump’s business, the complaint reads. He alleges that Trump and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, were likely aware of the charges, based on documents Racine subpoenaed from the committee and the Trump Organization.

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