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US Monthly Headline News November 2019 Page 2

Former CIA officer sentenced to 19 years for conspiring with Chinese spies
Jerry Chun Shing Lee is the third former U.S. intelligence officer to be convicted in less than a year of conspiring with the Chinese to give them national defense information.
By Pete Williams, Tom Winter and Ken Dilanian

A former CIA case officer was sentenced Friday to 19 years in prison for conspiring to provide American intelligence secrets to the Chinese government, in an espionage case that some current and former officials say dealt a devastating blow to U.S. intelligence operations. Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 55, served 13 years as a Central Intelligence Agency case officer in several locations overseas, including China, where prosecutors said he had firsthand knowledge of some of the agency's most sensitive secrets, including the names of covert CIA officers and clandestine human sources in China.

But many aspects of the case remain a mystery. Lee was never charged with actually giving any secrets to the Chinese. While the Justice Department told a federal judge that "it is all but certain" he did so, his lawyer said that "the government has offered only conjecture as a basis for these claims." Although the extent of his cooperation with the Chinese is apparently unknown, the case illustrates how aggressively China works to get its hands on U.S. secrets. Lee is the third former U.S. intelligence officer to be convicted in less than a year of conspiring with the Chinese to give them national defense information.

Lee pleaded guilty in May to a single of charge of conspiracy to provide national defense information to a foreign government. He was arrested nearly two years ago after FBI agents searched his hotel room and found notebooks and a thumb drive containing the names and phone numbers of covert CIA employees and informants, details of a sensitive CIA operation, and information about covert facilities.

Lee admitted that in 2010 he met in Shenzhen with two Chinese intelligence officers who offered to pay him and "take care of him for life" if he would provide secrets he learned as a CIA officer. Over the coming months, he said, the Chinese gave him at least 21 separate requests for intelligence secrets. Full Story

Charges of Ukrainian Meddling? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says
Moscow has run a yearslong operation to blame Ukraine for its own 2016 election interference. Republicans have used similar talking points to defend President Trump in impeachment proceedings.
By Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg

WASHINGTON — Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit.

The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating “a fictional narrative” — and that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which themselves propagated it.

In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair.

The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries — and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points. American intelligence agencies believe Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies. The classified briefing for senators also focused on Russia’s evolving influence tactics, including its growing ability to better disguise operations.

Russia has engaged in a “long pattern of deflection” to pin blame for its malevolent acts on other countries, Dr. Hill said, not least Ukraine, a former Soviet republic. Since Ukraine won independence in 1991, Russia has tried to reassert influence there, meddling in its politics, maligning pro-Western leaders and accusing Ukrainian critics of Moscow of fascist leanings.

“The Russians have a particular vested interest in putting Ukraine, Ukrainian leaders in a very bad light,” she told lawmakers. But the campaign by Russian intelligence in recent years has been even more complex as Moscow tries not only to undermine the government in Kyiv but also to use a disinformation campaign there to influence the American political debate.

The accusations of a Ukrainian influence campaign center on actions by a handful of Ukrainians who openly criticized or sought to damage Mr. Trump’s candidacy in 2016. They were scattershot efforts that were far from a replica of Moscow’s interference, when President Vladimir V. Putin ordered military and intelligence operatives to mount a broad campaign to sabotage the American election. The Russians in 2016 conducted covert operations to hack Democratic computers and to use social media to exploit divisions among Americans.

This time, Russian intelligence operatives deployed a network of agents to blame Ukraine for its 2016 interference. Starting at least in 2017, the operatives peddled a mixture of now-debunked conspiracy theories along with established facts to leave an impression that the government in Kyiv, not Moscow, was responsible for the hackings of Democrats and its other interference efforts in 2016, senior intelligence officials said. Full Story

Hill says Trump ignored warnings on Ukraine conspiracy theory
CBS News - National Security Council expert Fiona Hill confirmed during her testimony on Thursday that President Trump ignored his top advisors when they informed him that the cospiracy theory that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 U.S. election interference was indeed false. Asked if she believed President Trump "instead listened to Rudy Giuliani's views," she responded: "That appears to be the case, yes." State Department official David Holmes said Russia wanted to deflect responsibility for its own interference and drive a wedge between the U.S. and Ukraine. Video

Exclusive: Former FBI lawyer under investigation after allegedly altering document in 2016 Russia probe
By Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez, CNN

Washington (CNN) A former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation after allegedly altering a document related to 2016 surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, several people briefed on the matter told CNN. The possibility of a substantive change to an investigative document is likely to fuel accusations from President Donald Trump and his allies that the FBI committed wrongdoing in its investigation of connections between Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign. After CNN first reported on the investigation, the Washington Post reported that the inspector general concluded the alteration did not change the validity of the surveillance application.

The finding is expected to be part of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's review of the FBI's effort to obtain warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. Horowitz will release the report next month. Horowitz turned over evidence on the allegedly altered document to John Durham, the federal prosecutor appointed early this year by Attorney General William Barr to conduct a broad investigation of intelligence gathered for the Russia probe by the CIA and other agencies, including the FBI. The altered document is also at least one focus of Durham's criminal probe.

It's unknown how significant a role the altered document played in the FBI's investigation of Page. The alterations were significant enough to have shifted the document's meaning and came up during a part of Horowitz's FISA review where details were classified, according to the sources. According to the Washington Post, it did not change Horowitz's finding that the FISA application had a legal basis.

Some witnesses who have been interviewed in Horowitz's investigation have said they expect the inspector general to find mistakes in the FBI's handling of the FISA process, but that those mistakes do not undermine the premise for the FBI's investigation. American intelligence agencies and the Justice Department have not swayed from their finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election by hacking the Democrats and spreading pro-Trump propaganda online. And even former top Trump campaign officials have corroborated special counsel Robert Mueller's finding that the Trump campaign planned some of its strategy around the Russian hacks, and had multiple contacts with Kremlin-linked individuals in 2016.

Horowitz's investigators conducted more than 100 witness interviews in their review. During one of interviews this year, they confronted the witness about the document. The witness admitted to the change, the sources said. The lawyer, who was a line attorney, is no longer working at the bureau, said a person familiar with the matter. A line attorney is a lower level lawyer within the FBI. No charges that could reflect the situation have been filed publicly in court. The Justice Department and inspector general's office declined to comment. Full Story

Fiona Hill offers broad defense of impeachment witnesses: 'We came as fact witnesses'
By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump's former top Russia adviser offered a broad defense of the witnesses who have testified in the House impeachment inquiry while making a call for unity in a powerful moment during Thursday's impeachment inquiry testimony. Fiona Hill's comments came after Rep. Brad Wenstrup called the impeachment inquiry a "coup" and contrasted the current political division with unity he felt in the military serving alongside "soldiers from many backgrounds" before yielding back his time without asking Hill any questions. "Could I actually say something?" she asked. While Wenstrup protested her ability to respond, Hill praised Wenstrup's comments as "very powerful about the importance of overcoming hatred and certainly partisan division." "I think all of us who came here under legal obligation, also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came as fact witnesses," she said.

Hill defended the witnesses who have appeared for testimony as only there to "provide what we know and what we've heard." "I understand that for many members, this is maybe hearsay. I've talked about things I've heard with my own ears. I understand that Ambassador Sondland has said a lot of things. I have told you what he told me and what others told me," she said. "A lot of other people have said things to me again as well and also to Mr. Holmes, and we're here to relate to you what we heard, what we saw and what we did, and to be of some help to all of you in really making a very momentous decision here," she said.." We are not the people who make that decision." Hill told lawmakers earlier in her testimony that US Ambassador Gordon Sondland was correct to exclude her from his effort for Ukraine to announce investigations -- because Sondland's effort had separated from foreign policy into politics. Full Story

Fiona Hill blasts ‘fictional narrative’ that Ukraine interfered in elections | ABC News
ABC News - Hill delivered her opening statement at the House impeachment hearings Thursday. Historic public impeachment hearing underway: Live updates and analysis. Video

The huge Gordon Sondland revelation almost everyone missed
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Gordon Sondland made a LOT of news in his opening statement to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. There was a quid pro quo between the Americans and the Ukrainains. Everybody in the White House knew about it. And the Ukrainians knew too. But there was one piece of Sondland's testimony that didn't get as much attention as it should have. Under questioning from Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-California) about the specific nature of the quid pro quo between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sondland said this: "He had to announce the investigations. He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it."

Which, to be clear, means that in order for Zelensky to get the White House meeting he so coveted, he needed to simply announce that Ukraine was looking into Joe and Hunter Biden -- despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by either of them -- as well as the whereabouts of the hacked Democratic National Committee server. Not conduct the investigation. Not prosecute anyone. Just announce it. Sondland expanded on that idea when asked to elaborate by Democratic counsel Dan Goldman. Here's that exchange: GOLDMAN: Giuliani and President Trump didn't actually care if they did them, right?

SONDLAND: I never heard, Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or be completed. The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced. ... President Trump presumably, communicated through Mr. Giuliani, wanted the Ukrainians on-record publicly that they were going to do those investigations. Now ask yourself this. If Trump's true interest in raising the Democratic National Committee server conspiracy theory and the Bidens on the July 25 call with Zelensky was to root out corruption in Ukraine, wouldn't you think it would be more important to press the Ukrainians on ensuring a free, fair and thorough investigation into any alleged wrongdoing? Full Story

FBI seeks to interview the whistleblower
The whistleblower's complaint touched off the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
By Ken Dilanian and Julia Ainsley

The FBI has asked to interview the CIA whistleblower whose complaint touched off the Ukraine impeachment investigation, a source directly familiar with the matter told NBC News. The whistleblower has not yet agreed to an interview, the source said.

The FBI request was first reported by Yahoo News, which said that some FBI officials were disturbed that the Justice Department declined to investigate the whistleblower's complaint after a criminal referral was sent over from the inspector general of the Intelligence Community. Spokespeople for the FBI and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Justice Department officials said they examined the criminal referral based on the whistleblower's complaint, and decided that there should be no investigation. They said they only examine the question of whether a campaign finance crime occurred, and they have never explained why they did not consider questions of bribery, extortion or other possible crimes. Full Story

Fox Anchor Chris Wallace: Sondland Just Ran the Bus Over Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Giuliani and Mulvaney
“He implicates all of them,” the Fox News anchor remarked.
By Justin Baragona

During the first break in Wednesday’s impeachment hearings—which featured U.S. Ambassador to the EU and million-dollar Trump donor Gordon Sondland implicating President Donald Trump in a quid pro quo with Ukraine—Fox News anchor Chris Wallace declared that Sondland “took out the bus and ran it over” President Donald Trump and a number of his allies and aides.

“I think what Gordon Sondland was trying to do here is protect himself more than he is to protect anybody else,” Wallace said during Fox News’ special coverage. “To a certain degree, he took out the bus and ran over President Trump, Vice President Pence, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney,” he added. “He implicates all of them.”

Besides roundly trashing Trump and Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, throughout his testimony, Sondland also took aim at the State Department for not offering up any objection to Trumpworld’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to commit to investigations into the president’s political rivals. “And one of the things, it pains [Sondland] to say, this wasn’t a rogue operation,” Wallace explained. “I wasn’t a freelancer. Everybody knew. Everybody was in the loop on this.” Full Story

Trump Cleared a Sailor Accused of War Crimes. The Navy Wants to Expel Him From the SEALs Anyway.
By Elliot Hannon

Despite being cleared by President Donald Trump as part of series of highly controversial pardons for American servicemen convicted of war crimes, Navy officials are looking to expel Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher from the SEALs. Removing Gallagher from the elite commando force would have little practical impact on the 40-year-old’s military career, as he’s expected to leave the Navy, but is considered an extraordinary and explicit rebuke of the president’s clearing of charges against the special operations chief. Gallagher was accused of murder while deployed in Mosul, Iraq, in 2017, but was only convicted of illegally posing for a photo with a corpse, which resulted in his being stripped of his rank before Trump’s intervention to restore it, a move that was resoundingly disapproved of by Navy officials. Full Story

Gordon Sondland just saved himself -- and jeopardized Donald Trump's presidency
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) The question coming into Wednesday was whether Gordon Sondland would try to save himself or save President Donald Trump. He chose himself. Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, in his opening statement before the House Intelligence Committee, laid out in no uncertain terms how he was part of a broader effort to force the Ukrainians to open an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for a White House meeting. "I followed the directions of the President," said Sondland.

Later, he added:
"Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19, days before the Presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to 'run a fully transparent investigation' and 'turn over every stone' were necessary in his call with President Trump." Which, well, wow. That statement disrupts -- actually, destroys -- the defenses of both the White House and congressional Republicans who have insisted that the Ukrainians had no clue that there were any preconditions to getting what they wanted most -- a meeting between Zelensky and Trump and then, later, the release of the nearly $400 million in military aid from the US to Ukraine. And just in case there is any doubt as to what Sondland is saying, he made it plain: "I know that members of this Committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a 'quid pro quo?' As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes."

Before we go any further, it's important to note that Sondland was appointed to his ambassadorial role by Trump. Sondland had financially supported Trump's inauguration -- to the tune of a $1 million donation. Sondland isn't part of the so-called "Deep State." He isn't a "Never Trumper" (although he did originally support Jeb Bush in the 2016 primary.) Sondland was also testifying under oath, meaning that if he lies, he is committing a felony -- a lesson that Roger Stone learned the hard way last week. Full Story

Congress wants review of Keystone pipeline in wake of spill

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Top U.S. House Democrats have called for a federal review of the Keystone pipeline and the agency that regulates it in the wake of 383,000-gallon (1.4-million-liter) spill in northeastern North Dakota, the latest of three spills along the line in as many years. In a letter Monday to the Government Accountability Office, the congressmen said the spills raise “serious questions” about pipeline owner TC Energy’s management of the line, and whether the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is providing adequate oversight.

“The public has a legitimate expectation that the Keystone Pipeline System managed by TC Energy operate safely and without repeated incidents that damage the environment and threaten the public’s health and security,” according to the letter signed by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Frank Pallone, of New Jersey; Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio, of Oregon; Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski, of Illinois; and Energy subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush of Illinois.

GAO spokeswoman Sarah Kaczmarek said Tuesday that the nonpartisan watchdog agency received the congressional request and is evaluating it. “At this point, no decisions have been made,” she said, adding that the process could “take some weeks.” Calgary, Alberta-based TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, reported the spill in North Dakota on Oct. 29. The pipeline returned to service on Nov. 10 after approval of a repair and restart plan by the federal pipeline safety agency.

The company said in statement Tuesday that it was aware of the letter sent to the GAO. “While each incident on our system is unfortunate, we work carefully with federal and state regulators to analyze and learn from what occurred, so we can ensure our energy infrastructure operates safely and the way it is designed,” the company said. The cause of the leak has not been disclosed and cleanup work continues near the small town of Edinburg, North Dakota, state regulators said. Full Story

Republican Witnesses Blow Massive Hole in GOP’s Defense of Trump
Kurt Volker’s testimony has complicated what was supposed to be an opportunity to amplify the GOP’s impeachment counter-narrative.
By Sam Brodey, Erin Banco, Spencer Ackerman

After weeks of decrying the impeachment process as a sham, Republicans finally got two of the witnesses they requested for testimony. But when one of them took the stand—the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker—he instead blew a massive hole in a central part of the GOP’s defense of President Trump.

Just moments after the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), used his platform to parrot the very same claims President Trump has used to justify his pressure campaign in Ukraine—that the Biden family’s business involvement in a Ukrainian gas company is worth probing and that Ukraine meddled significantly in the 2016 election—Volker dismissed those items as “conspiracy theories circulated by the Ukrainians.”

“They’re not things we should be pursuing as part of our national security policy with Ukraine,” said Volker. He also said in his opening remarks that he told fellow officials at the time he did not find it “credible” that Biden “would have been influenced in any way by financial or personal motives in carrying out his duties as Vice President.” Three hours into the hearing, Nunes had already distanced himself from the officials his side had requested, saying instead they were Democrats’ witnesses and declaring that the GOP had called relevant witnesses like Hunter Biden.

Volker’s dose of cold water on the GOP’s Ukraine fever swamp was just one part of the larger effort from the career diplomat on Tuesday afternoon to distance himself from the more problematic elements of the apparent Trumpworld push to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations by dangling $400 million in U.S. security aid.

Still, Volker’s performance did little in the way of exciting committee lawmakers on either side of the aisle. Following the morning appearances, members in the audience had thinned out and the atmosphere in the hearing room turned sleepy. Lawmakers sat back in their brown swivel chairs and seemed desperate to try and stay awake during counsel questioning. Some leaned forward on their desks, hands on cheek, staring blankly at the witnesses. Others simply closed their eyes. Full Story

Racist Manifesto Lands on Syracuse Students’ Phones, Deepening Crisis
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for an outside monitor after a series of racist incidents that has left Syracuse University besieged.
By Aaron Randle and Jesse McKinley

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It was an ordinary cram session, around midnight, when the screed appeared on students’ phones. A racist manifesto, sent to a small clutch of people sitting at a Syracuse University library on Tuesday morning, warned of “the great replacement,” a right-wing conspiracy theory that predicts white genocide at the hands of minority groups. It was just the latest example of racist activity that has left the private university besieged, with officials confronted by student sit-ins and harsh critiques from faculty members and federal agents crawling the campus.

The incidents, which began less than two weeks ago, have included racist graffiti, swastikas and hate speech hurled at black and Asian students. On Sunday, the university suspended all social activities at fraternities for the rest of the semester, after a group of students, including members of one fraternity, accosted a female African-American student on Saturday night and used a racial slur.

But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Tuesday that the university’s response was not enough. He called on its board of trustees to hire an independent monitor to investigate, harshly criticizing the chancellor, Kent D. Syverud, and other officials for their reaction to the crisis. “They have not been handled in a manner that reflects this state’s aggressive opposition to such odious, reckless, reprehensible behavior,” the governor said of the racist incidents. “That these actions should happen on the campus of a leading New York university makes this situation even worse.”

The sudden spasm of hate speech and racist vandalism has shattered the ordinary rituals of autumn, including basketball and football games, and left many of the roughly 22,500 students on campus frightened for both their safety and the reputation of the university itself. On campus, the disruption was noticeable. Teachers canceled class. Students, afraid to leave their dorm rooms, phoned parents asking to come home. Inside the esteemed S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, typically bustling with students, hallways were largely empty.

“This triggered a panic,” said Chandler Plante, a third-year magazine journalism major. “We can’t sleep. We can’t think.” On Tuesday, state and federal law enforcement officials descended on the university, just east of downtown, looking for evidence as to who had sent the manifesto, an anti-Muslim screed previously circulated by the suspect accused of a mass killing at two New Zealand mosques in March. The manifesto was posted online late Monday night on a forum geared to those interested in Greek life at Syracuse University, according to the city’s police chief, and was then sent or shared via a file-transfer service to the phones of several students who were inside Bird Library. Full Story

Sondland testimony targets Trump, Pompeo and confirms deal with Ukraine
The ambassador is testifying before the House Intelligence Committee and will be revealing emails and texts to back up his claims.
By Josh Lederman

WASHINGTON — Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the E.U., pointed the finger at President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton in explosive public testimony on Wednesday in which he said explicitly that there was a "quid quo pro" linking a White House visit by Ukraine's president to investigations into a political opponent of the president.

Under fire from all sides after multiple witnesses contradicted his earlier deposition, Sondland blamed everyone but himself for the pressure campaign on Ukraine now driving impeachment proceedings against Trump. He showed up for his televised hearing with reams of new text messages and emails he said prove the highest levels of the White House and the State Department were in on it.

"They knew what we were doing and why," Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee in his opening statement. "Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret." He said he knew that House members have asked "was there a quid pro quo," adding that when it comes to the White House meeting sought by Ukraine's leader, "The answer is yes."

Sondland also drew Pompeo more deeply into the effort than has previously been known, including emails to the secretary and a top aide in which the basic contours of the quid pro quo alleged by Democrats seem clear. At the time, the Trump administration had frozen military aid to Ukraine. On Aug. 11, Sondland emailed top Pompeo aide Lisa Kenna that he and former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker "negotiated a statement" for Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to deliver. Kenna responds saying she's passing the message along to Pompeo.

Eleven days later, Sondland wrote Pompeo directly, suggesting Zelenskiy meet Trump in Warsaw "to look him in the eye" and say he should be able to proceed on issues important to Trump "once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place." Earlier, in a July 25 phone call, Zelenskiy had told Trump that installing his own prosecutors would remove an obstacle to opening the investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 election.

"Hopefully, that will break the logjam," Sondland wrote. "Yes," Pompeo responded three minutes later. Kenna followed up saying she would try to arrange the meeting. Ultimately, Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence to Warsaw instead. Sondland testified that he told Pence "before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations." Full Story

Former Baltimore mayor Catherine E. Pugh charged with wire fraud, tax evasion
By Ann E. Marimow and Peter Hermann

Baltimore’s former mayor Catherine E. Pugh has been indicted by a federal grand jury on wire fraud and tax evasion over lucrative book deals for her self-published Healthy Holly children’s series, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland. Pugh resigned in May after revelations about the deals she allegedly cut with companies connected to the city and state government, setting off another political crisis and setback for the city.

Pugh, 69, was the second Baltimore mayor to leave office in the past decade while facing corruption allegations. The indictment accuses her of a years-long scheme dating to 2007, when she was a state senator and before her days running Maryland’s largest city. Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur, along with top officials from the FBI and IRS, are scheduled to address the charges unsealed Wednesday at a morning briefing. The charges come after searches in April of Baltimore City Hall, Pugh’s homes and of a nonprofit tied to her.

Federal agents soughtfinancial documents and other information related to almost $800,000 she allegedly was paid for the books, an enormous amount in the world of children’s literature. Pugh is expected to surrender to U.S. Marshals before a court appearance Thursday, prosecutors said.

Most of the books were marketed and sold directly to non-profit groups and foundations that did business or tried to get business with the state and city of Baltimore, prosecutors allege. Book sales were intended to enrich Pugh and a partner — including purchasing and renovating Pugh’s home — and to “promote Pugh’s political career, and run her campaign for mayor,” according to prosecutors.

“The people of Maryland expect elected officials to make decisions based on the public’s best interests, not to abuse their office for personal gain,” Jennifer Boone, the special agent in charge of Baltimore’s FBI field office said in a statement. Full Story

Nikki Haley Used System for Unclassified Material to Send ‘Confidential’ Information
Newly released emails suggest that in 2017 the then-ambassador lost her password for classified communication, and so she used a different system.
by Christopher Dickey

North Korea had just tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting Alaska, and the Trump administration was scrambling to react. But it seems Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, had lost her password for classified communications. That’s why on that fraught July 4, 2017, she was typing away on her BlackBerry 10 smartphone, sending “confidential” information over a system meant only for unclassified material.

Haley was in a rush as she headed to her office—“On my way in”—shooting emails back and forth with top aides who’d been with her since she was governor of South Carolina. She needed to make a statement, and they were drafting it for her. “Let’s clean this up,” she writes after looking at some of the copy. “Pretty this up for me,” she says. The next day we discover what the problem is with her communications. “Can’t find my password for the high side,” she writes.

The stylistic suggestions and the apparent explanation for using less secure messages was in a trove of emails recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the watchdog organization American Oversight. But most of the content is blacked out—and the redactions note various classification criteria as exempt from FOIA requests, including the B1 category: “classified national defense and foreign relations information”; 1.4(B) “foreign government information”; and 1.4(D) “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.” Full Story

Republicans called Kurt Volker to testify and he promptly shut down the right wing's biggest allegation against Joe Biden
By Grace Panetta

Kurt Volker, the former US special representative to Ukraine who Republicans called to testify as a witness Tuesday in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, promptly shut down GOP allegations of corruption against the Bidens. Volker, who served as a diplomat in Ukraine, testified about his involvement in the Trump administration's efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian oil-and-gas company, from 2014 to 2019.

One of the biggest GOP talking points in defending Trump against impeachment is that he was justified in asking Ukraine to investigate what he believed to be corruption on the part of Hunter Biden and a cover-up by his father in his capacity as vice president. But at the beginning of his testimony, Volker shattered that line of argumentation and denounced the allegations of corruption against the Bidens as "self-serving," "not credible," and a "conspiracy" pushed by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. In his opening statement, Volker amended his previous testimony to clarify that he found the idea of Ukraine announcing investigations not into Burisma as an entity but specifically targeting the Bidens to be improper and "unacceptable."

A debunked theory has led to the impeachment inquiry

Trump and the GOP continue to make the discredited claim that Biden tried to help his son while vice president by calling for the firing of Viktor Shokin, a prosecutor they say was investigating Burisma. Hunter, the younger of Joe Biden's two sons, served on Burisma's board providing legal advice and receiving a reported salary of about $50,000 a month. Burisma was the subject of an investigation from the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office into whether its founder Mykola Zlochevsky engaged in tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption. Despite Trump and Giuliani's allegations, both US and Ukrainian government officials have confirmed there's no evidence that the Bidens did anything improper. Furthermore, Shokin was not actively investigating Burisma when Biden called for his removal and was denounced as being ineffective at his job. Full Story

Ukraine Pol: I Was Joking When I Asked Vindman To Be Our Defense Minister
Vindman was pressed by Republicans about whether he was secretly loyal to Ukraine because of a job offer he’d received. But the offer itself was just a lighthearted joke.
By Erin Banco

During impeachment hearings on Tuesday morning, the lead Republican counsel pressed Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman on an offer he’d received to take the position of defense minister in Kiev. The line of questioning seemed designed to raise doubts about Vindman’s allegiance to the U.S. right as he was testifying about his concerns over President Donald Trump’s efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on his domestic political rivals.

But a former top national security official in Ukraine told The Daily Beast that he was “joking” when he offered Vindman the post and never actually had the authority to make such an offer.

Oleksander Danylyuk, the former Chairman of the National Security and Defence Council in Ukraine, said he only remembers speaking with Vindman once about the defense minister position. He said it he and Vindman had engaged in a light-hearted conversation about how the two used to live close to one another in the former Soviet Union. It was then that Danylyuk jokingly told Vindman that he should take the defense minister job in Ukraine.

“We both smiled and laughed,” Danylyuk said. “It was clearly a joke.” Danylyuk said he wouldn’t have been able to seriously offer Vindman the position without direct sign off from President Volodymyr Zelensky. Full Story

FBI probing if Jeffrey Epstein’s death was the result of a ‘criminal enterprise,’ prisons chief says
By Dan Mangan

The FBI is investigating whether a “criminal enterprise” played a role in the controversial jailhouse death of well-connected sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, the head of the federal prison system told a Senate committee Tuesday.

But Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer also testified that there is “no indication, from anything I know,” that the wealthy investor’s demise on Aug. 10 “was anything other than a suicide.” At the time Epstein died, the former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton was awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges. The FBI did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Sawyer’s spokeswoman Kristie Breshears later told CNBC that, “When the Director referenced ‘criminal enterprise’, she was merely mirroring the language Senator [Lindsey] Graham used” in asking Sawyer whether the FBI was eyeing such an enterprise. “She was referring to looking into possible criminal conduct by staff,” Breshears said. Sawyer’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee came on the same day that two guards from a Manhattan jail operated by the BOP were criminally charged with falsifying official records to cover up the fact that they never conducted mandated safety checks on Epstein and other inmates in the hours before he was found unresponsive with a noose around his neck in his cell.

Those guards, Michael Thomas and Tova Noel, allegedly browsed the internet and appeared to have been asleep for about two hours during the time that they were supposed to be making sure that Epstein was alive and accounted for. Sawyer said Epstein’s death is the one incident involving the BOP that has “probably gotten the most public attention.” “This incident was a black eye on the entire Bureau of Prisons,” said Sawyer, who became the agency’s director less than two weeks after Epstein died. The New York City medical examiner’s office has ruled Epstein’s death was a suicide by hanging. Full Story

Stephen Miller And 'The Camp Of The Saints,' A White Nationalist Reference
by Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller is an immigration hard-liner. He engineered the Trump administration's family-separation policy and its travel ban on people from some Muslim-majority countries. But last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center detailed leaked emails in which it says Miller encouraged far-right website Breitbart to promote white supremacist ideas. In one message, Miller references a book of fiction: "Someone should point out the parallels to Camp of the Saints."

The Camp of the Saints is a 1973 French novel by Jean Raspail that has become a key inspiration within white nationalist circles. It portrays a dystopia, or perhaps an apocalypse: a flotilla of South Asian people who invade France and effectively overthrow Western society. "The key themes are actually white supremacy and the end of white civilization as the West knows it — infestation, invasion, hordes of nameless, faceless migrants who come to indeed invade the West and bring about its end," says Chelsea Stieber, professor of French and Francophone studies at Catholic University of America.

Stieber says she became interested in the novel after she heard echoes of its rhetoric – its "not-normal political discourse" — in President Trump's inaugural address. "I noticed a language that I was intimately familiar with because I study it — because I worked on far-right French nationalism and its literature and language for a long time," she says. "And I was sort of blown away. The alarm bells started going off." Stieber teaches the book to students, who she says are generally "overwhelmed" by its content.

"The book itself is, I mean, from the pedagogic point of view, very effective because it performs the effect of infestation with its language and with its figures of style, repetition, metaphor," she says. "And so students feel quite invaded by the language — and it is an emotional and visceral reaction. ... To study it is so important to understand how it could quite literally infest a mind, a person to believe things." In an essay for the publication Africa Is a Country, Stieber argues that everyone should read the book to understand how a racist ideology can take hold in language and narrative. But she does caution everyone to understand that it is fiction based on mistaken premises. Full Story

The White House shifts description of Trump's visit to Walter Reed
By Jeremy Diamond, CNN

Washington (CNN)The White House has offered shifting descriptions of President Donald Trump's medical exam in the days since he made an unscheduled Saturday visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Trump and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham initially billed Trump's visit as the first part of the President's annual physical. But two days later, the President's doctor described the hospital visit as an "interim checkup," a term physicians told CNN implies a separate visit that is not part of an annual physical.

In a bid to quell concerns and speculation surrounding the visit, the White House released a memo from Dr. Sean Conley, the President's physician, describing the visit as "a routine, planned interim checkup as part of the regular, primary preventative care he receives throughout the year." Despite speculation otherwise, he said Trump "has not had any chest pain, nor was he evaluated or treated for any urgent or acute issues."

The immediate effect of Conley's memo was to bolster the White House's claims that Trump was not being treated for an urgent medical issue. But the memo also revealed a shift in the White House's explanations for the purpose of Trump's visit to Walter Reed. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday he wishes the President "well" from "whatever he's recovering from." While the White House has maintained since Saturday that Trump's visit to Walter Reed was "routine" and that Trump had no symptoms that prompted the visit, Grisham initially claimed that Trump was getting a head start on "portions of his routine annual physical exam."

"Anticipating a very busy 2020, the President is taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, D.C., to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam at Walter Reed," Grisham said in a statement on Saturday. Trump made the same claim in a tweet late Saturday night, calling the visit "phase one of my yearly physical" and saying he would complete his physical "next year." But on Monday, while Grisham continued to insist that Trump's visit was "routine," she called it a "checkup" and made no mention of it being part of Trump's "annual physical." And then came Conley's memo. Trump on Tuesday continued to refer to the visit as a "very routine physical," despite the new language used by Grisham and Conley's memo.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, former Vice President Dick Cheney's longtime cardiologist, said he remains "very skeptical" of the White House's explanation, particularly because the White House did not disclose what exam Trump underwent beyond having blood drawn. "The President has a physician with him every day and access to 24/7/360 care," said Reiner, who was in touch with the White House on Monday about Trump's visit to Walter Reed. "I have no doubt he was taken to Walter Reed to do something specific and separate from 'a quick exam and some bloodwork.' All that can be done at the White House." Full Story

Jimmy Finkelstein, the owner of The Hill, has flown under the radar. But he's played a key role in the Ukraine scandal
By Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) James "Jimmy" Finkelstein, the owner of The Hill newspaper, is not a widely known media executive, but he is one of the era's most consequential. Finkelstein resides at the nexus of President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and John Solomon, the now-former executive at The Hill and current Fox News contributor who pushed conspiracy theories about Ukraine into the public conversation. While Solomon has received significant media attention for his work at The Hill, Finkelstein has stayed out of the headlines, despite having himself played a crucial role in the saga.

Beyond his relationship with Solomon, Trump, and Giuliani, Finkelstein was Solomon's direct supervisor at The Hill and created the conditions which permitted Solomon to publish his conspiratorial stories without the traditional oversight implemented at news outlets. And he has kept a watchful eye on the newspaper's coverage to ensure it is not too critical of the President. As one former veteran employee of The Hill told CNN Business, "Solomon is a symptom of the larger problem of Jimmy Finkelstein." This story is based on more than a dozen interviews with current and former staffers at The Hill, in addition to people familiar with other relevant pieces of information.

Those people described a staff still in "revolt" over Solomon's columns and the way they were handled, including a lack of communication to employees about them even after the articles were thrown into serious question by witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. After CNN Business reached out to a representative for Finkelstein and The Hill for comment Sunday night, the paper's editor-in-chief sent staff a note Monday morning notifying employees that editors "are reviewing, updating, annotating with any denials of witnesses, and when appropriate, correcting any [of Solomon's] pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry."

Finkelstein and a spokesperson for The Hill declined to comment for this story. Solomon did not return multiple requests for comment. Solomon, however, has previously defended his reporting, including as recently as Sunday when he said during a Fox News appearance he was "in consultation with some lawyers right now" about taking some legal action against some of his critics. In an email, Giuliani attacked CNN's reporting and questioned whether it would be a "wise use" of his time to respond to a list of detailed questions CNN posed to him. "Write what you want," Giuliani wrote, "If it's fair I'll be happily surprised?" Full Story

Devin Nunes used all his time in the impeachment hearing to try to out the Ukraine whistleblower
By Grace Panetta

In Tuesday morning's public hearing in the impeachment inquiry, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, spent his questioning time trying to get the witnesses to reveal the identity of the whistleblower who filed a complaint about President Donald Trump. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, testified alongside Jennifer Williams, a State Department official in Vice President Mike Pence's office.

In early September, an anonymous whistleblower complaint lodged by a member of the intelligence community said that in a series of events culminating in a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election." The complaint detailed concerns that Trump, days after withholding a nearly $400 million military-aid package, used the call with Zelensky to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Vindman and Williams, who both listened in on the July 25 call, testified that they believed it was highly unusual and improper for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent. Full Story

The GOP counsel’s xenophobic attack on Vindman’s patriotism
Perhaps the grossest moment of the impeachment hearings to date.
By Zack Beauchamp

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the key witnesses in the House Democrats’ impeachment hearings, is an Iraq war veteran and Purple Heart recipient who has served in the US Army for the past 20 years. He also emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1979, when he was 4 years old — a fact that the attorney for House Republicans played on during a line of questioning during Vindman’s Tuesday morning’s hearing that seemed to imply he was unpatriotic and untrustworthy.

Vindman is important because he was a high-level US official on Ukraine who listened to President Donald Trump’s now-infamous July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and, afterward, raised concerns with his superiors about the appropriateness of Trump’s “demand” (his words) that Ukraine investigate the Bidens. As a veteran, he’s one of the Democrats’ most credible witnesses — proof that Trump’s behavior really was troubling. It’s vital for the Republican cause to discredit him.

Steve Castor, the Republican attorney, tried to do this by asking Vindman about a visit to Ukraine for Zelensky’s inauguration earlier this year. He specifically focused on a job offer Vindman received from Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. Apparently, Danylyuk offered Vindman an opportunity to become Ukraine’s defense minister three times during the trip — and, each time, Vindman declined.

“Upon returning, I notified chain of command and the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this, the offer,” Vindman said. But Castor wasn’t satisfied. He continued to press Vindman on whether he ever considered the offer, resulting in an exchange in which he appeared to call Vindman’s patriotism into question: Full Story

Feds file criminal charges against jail guards responsible for watching Jeffrey Epstein
By Julie K. Brown, Emily Michot  and Daniel Chang

Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he died in his jail cell in August were charged on Tuesday with falsifying prison records to make it appear they were doing their jobs. Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, correctional officers at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, were charged with making false records and conspiring to interfere with the functions of the federal prison.

Noel and Thomas are accused of failing to check on Epstein every half hour, as required, and of falsifying prison logs to make it appear that they had been monitoring the Palm Beach multimillionaire and sex offender on Aug. 9 and 10. Instead of checking on Epstein regularly, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday, Noel and Thomas “sat at their desk, browsed the internet, and moved around the common area of the SHU (Special Housing Unit).”

To cover up their failure, the indictment charges, Noel and Thomas “repeatedly signed false certifications attesting to having conducted multiple counts of inmates when, in truth and in fact, they never conducted such counts.” Epstein, 66, was found dead in his cell early in the morning on Aug. 10. He was on suicide watch and awaiting trial on charges of trafficking teenage girls for sex.

The New York City medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide by hanging — a finding that has since been challenged by a noted pathologist hired by Epstein’s brother, Mark Epstein, to monitor the autopsy. The charges were unsealed on the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee held an oversight hearing on the federal Bureau of Prisons. The nation’s top prison administrator, Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, told the committee that FBI agents investigating Jeffrey Epstein’s death are looking at the possibility that a “criminal enterprise” played a role in his suicide. Full Story

In private speech, Bolton suggests some of Trump's foreign policy decisions are guided by personal interest
The former national security director was especially critical of the president's handling of Turkey, according to multiple sources present for his remarks.
By Stephanie Ruhle and Carol E. Lee

Former national security adviser John Bolton derided President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law during a private speech last week and suggested his former boss’ approach to U.S. policy on Turkey is motivated by personal or financial interests, several people who were present for the remarks told NBC News. According to six people who were there, Bolton also questioned the merits of Trump applying his business acumen to foreign policy, saying such issues can’t be approached like the win-or-lose edict that drives real estate deals: When one deal doesn’t work, you move on to the next.

The description was part of a broader portrait Bolton outlined of a president who lacks an understanding of the interconnected nature of relationships in foreign policy and the need for consistency, these people said. Bolton has kept a low public profile since he left the administration on Sept. 10, and efforts by Democrats to have him testify in the House impeachment inquiry into the president have stalled. But his pointed comments, at a private gathering last Wednesday at Morgan Stanley’s global investment event in Miami, painted a dark image of a president and his family whose potential personal gain is at the heart of decision-making, according to people who were present for his remarks.

Bolton served as Trump’s national security adviser for 17 months. The Ukraine scandal began to unfold about a week after his contentious departure. Trump said he’d fired him, though Bolton said he had resigned. Multiple people who attended Bolton’s private speech in Miami did not recall him mentioning Ukraine but said he told attendees that he had kept a resignation letter in his desk for three months. Bolton declined to comment for this article.

Bolton is a potential linchpin witness in the inquiry into Trump’s efforts to elicit help from the Ukrainian government to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, given his central role in the White House during that time. The impeachment inquiry moves to public testimony this week. Current and former administration officials have testified about Bolton’s strong opposition to the Ukraine pressure effort, which was led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and allegedly involved withholding military aid and a presidential meeting until the Ukrainian government publicly committed to investigations, including into 2016 U.S. election interference and a business associated with Biden's son Hunter. Full Story

Alexander Vindman has reached out to Army about his family's safety amid attacks by Trump and GOP lawmakers
By Ryan Browne, CNN

Washington (CNN) Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council official testifying publicly as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, has reached out to the US Army about the security of his family as he comes under repeated attack by Trump and his allies. The Army has had conversations with Vindman about the security of his family, a US defense official told CNN. These conversations were initiated at the request of the Vindmans, the source said. As of now, the Army does not believe there is an imminent security threat against the decorated veteran, the defense official said.

Vindman testified before congressional lawmakers on Tuesday, telling them that Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden on a July call was "inappropriate," and he knew "without hesitation" that he had to report it. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden in Ukraine. "It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent," Vindman said in his opening remarks on the third day of public impeachment hearings.

'My family's safety'
In his opening remarks, the Iraq War veteran touched on the safety of his family as he expressed gratitude that his father had made the decision to emigrate to the US from Soviet Union. "I'm grateful to my father's -- for my father's brave act of hope 40 years ago and for the privilege of being an American citizen and public servant, where I can live free and -- free of fear for mine and my family's safety," Vindman said. Full Story

White House aide calls Trump's actions 'inappropriate' in push to investigate Bidens
By Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council aide who has been criticized by President Donald Trump and his allies, told lawmakers Tuesday that Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden on a July call was "inappropriate," and he knew "without hesitation" that he had to report it.

"It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent," Vindman said in his opening remarks on the third day of public impeachment hearings. "It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play."

Vindman told the committee, which is leading House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into Trump, that he believed the US President's request constituted a demand of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and he was concerned in particular about an investigation from a foreign power where there was "at best, dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation."

"The culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something, even if it's polite and pleasant, it's not to be taken as a request, it's to be taken as an order," Vindman said. "In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders, my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations."

The testimony before the House Intelligence Committee from Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a State Department aide detailed to Vice President Mike Pence, represents the first public hearing from officials who listened into the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. Vindman reported his concerns about Trump's call, which is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, out of a "sense of duty" and defended his fellow witnesses from what he described as "reprehensible" attacks.

Vindman, testifying in his Army uniform as an active-duty soldier, invoked his father's decision to leave the Soviet Union and come to the US, noting that the testimony he was giving Tuesday would likely get him killed in Russia. "Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth," Vindman said. Tuesday's hearing kicks off a marathon week where impeachment investigators will hear publicly from nine witnesses at five impeachment hearings over the next three days, as Democrats race to collect public testimony this week about Trump's role in pushing Ukraine to open investigations and the withholding of US security aid and a one-on-one meeting.

On Tuesday afternoon, former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison, a former a top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, will testify. Vindman testified that he reported his concerns to National Security Council lawyers through proper channels about both the July 25 call and a July 10 meeting in which a US ambassador proposed opening investigations to the Ukrainians in attendance. He said he raised these concerns privately "because they had significant national security implications for our country." Williams did not tie any motives to the President's request to Zelensky to investigate Biden, but explained why she believed it was unusual. "I can't speak to what the President's motivation was in referencing it, but I just noted that the reference to Biden sounded political to me," Williams said. Full Story

New York Times Accuses FedEx Of Not Paying Taxes. FedEx’s Response Is Priceless.
By  Ryan Saavedra - DailyWire.com

The New York Times accused FedEx on Sunday of essentially having lobbied President Donald Trump to sign tax cuts into law with the promise of businesses using the saved money to reinvest in and further grow their companies, and then failing to invest the billions of dollars that it reportedly saved as a result of the tax cuts.

“In the 2017 fiscal year, FedEx owed more than $1.5 billion in taxes. The next year, it owed nothing. What changed was the Trump administration’s tax cut – for which the company had lobbied hard,” The New York Times reported on Sunday. “The public face of its lobbying effort, which included a tax proposal of its own, was FedEx’s founder and chief executive, Frederick Smith, who repeatedly took to the airwaves to champion the power of tax cuts.”

“Four months later, President Trump signed into law the $1.5 trillion tax cut that became his signature legislative achievement. FedEx reaped big savings, bringing its effective tax rate from 34 percent in fiscal year 2017 to less than zero in fiscal year 2018, meaning that, overall, the government technically owed it money. But it did not increase investment in new equipment and other assets in the fiscal year that followed, as Mr. Smith said businesses like his would,” the Times added. “Nearly two years after the tax law passed, the windfall to corporations like FedEx is becoming clear. A New York Times analysis of data compiled by Capital IQ shows no statistically meaningful relationship between the size of the tax cut that companies and industries received and the investments they made.”

Late on Sunday, FedEx CEO Frederick Smith responded to The New York Times’ story by calling it factually incorrect, claiming that The New York Times is the company that does not pay federal income taxes, and challenging the publisher of The New York Times to a debate on tax policy. Full Story

Nikki Haley said Trump is truthful. Cooper rolls the tape
CNN -Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said that in all of her interactions with President Trump, he was a truthful person. CNN's Anderson Cooper breaks down her claim on 'The Ridiculist.' Video

Devin Nunes and The Benghazi Boys Are Back—But Now They See No Evil
The same people who drove the hoax that used foreign policy as an instrument to punish a domestic political opponent are now running Trump’s impeachment defense.
By Joel Rubin
House Republicans have a history of twisting facts to create a circus during congressional hearings; it’s a feature, not a bug for them. But in a taste of sweet irony, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch subtly flipped the script during the impeachment hearings Friday, using her opening statement to name her colleagues who were killed in Benghazi and subsequently used as political props to attack the Obama administration’s State Department. Speaking of the department, she said: “We are Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Patrick Smith, Ty Woods, and Glen Doherty—people rightly called heroes for their ultimate sacrifice to this nation's foreign policy interests in Libya, eight years ago. We honor these individuals. They represent each one of you here—and every American. These courageous individuals were attacked because they symbolized America.”

The Benghazi hearings were a new low for House Republicans, who turned a national tragedy into a political circus focused on bringing down a Democratic presidential candidate. Those hearings were never about what happened in Libya, and how to prevent future tragedies—as Kevin McCarthy publicly bragged at the time. They were about smearing Hillary Clinton so that she would lose in 2016. And it worked.

That why House Republicans and Donald Trump are trying to do the same thing to Joe Biden in 2020. The same people who drove the Benghazi hoax are now running Trump’s impeachment defense: Mike Pompeo, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Devin Nunes, Lindsey Graham, and Mick Mulvaney. Only now, instead of backbenchers, they’re party stars in large part because of their political success with the Benghazi hearings. The lesson they learned is that politicizing American foreign policy at the expense of the country’s national security in order to win an election is a time-tested strategy. At the core of this shameless abuse of our national security is the mistreatment of an American ambassador.

In the case of Chris Stevens, with whom I worked and who was beloved by the career State Department personnel, it was these Republicans who convened nine congressional investigations for multiple years to uncover zero scandal about his and three other Americans’ horrendous murder, except for mundane, unfortunate, and fixable bureaucratic mismanagement. Unsatisfied, they then formed the Benghazi Select Committee to find the scandal that they wanted but that didn’t exist.

And when they created the Select Committee, dozens of State Department witnesses were called to testify. All of them came, never compelled to do so by subpoena or in defiance of a White House order to not appear. I should know, as I was one of them. Not once did anyone even remotely suggest that I not comply. In the Obama Administration, we understood that Congress had a critical constitutional role to play in the functioning of our democratic government, no matter what it’s motivations. We just didn’t understand how deeply corrupted House Republican’s intentions were.

Their willingness to smear State Department personnel had no boundaries. Which leads us to impeachment today, and the hypocritical mistreatment of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. She has been smeared by the president’s allies and the president himself, and left unprotected by the current Secretary of State–the same Mike Pompeo who, when in Congress, had eviscerated the Obama State Department for not preventing Ambassador Stevens’ killing. Pompeo’s actions back then, as now, make it clear that he prioritized politics over national security. Full Story

25 times Trump was soft on Russia
Here's how Trump is keeping Putin in power
By Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump has an Achilles' heel when it comes to Russia. Over the years, he's made no secret that he has a soft spot for the country and its authoritarian leader, President Vladimir Putin. Trump has proved that he is willing to reject widely held US foreign policy views and align himself with the Kremlin on everything from Russian interference in US elections to the war in Syria. Trump's ties to Russians were so concerning that the FBI believed there was good reason to investigate potential collusion between his 2016 campaign and the Kremlin. Counterintelligence investigators also examined whether Trump himself was somehow a Russian asset. (Special counsel Robert Mueller did not establish a criminal conspiracy of collusion.)

In Trump's eyes, these allegations are proof of a conspiracy against him by Democratic lawmakers and other "deep state" enemies in the US government. He bombastically declared last year, "There's never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been." But that claim is simply false, based on Trump's actions over the last few years. Here's a full breakdown of 25 occasions when Trump was soft on Russia or gave Putin a boost.

Trump has repeatedly praised Putin
While he was a private citizen, during his 2016 campaign and throughout his presidency, Trump has showered Putin with praise. He said Putin was "so nice," he called Putin a "strong leader" and said Putin has done "a really great job outsmarting our country." Trump also claimed he'd "get along very well" with Putin. Few, if any, Western leaders have echoed these comments.

Trump hired Manafort to run his campaign
Trump raised eyebrows in spring 2016 when he hired GOP operative Paul Manafort to run his presidential campaign. Manafort spent a decade working for pro-Russian politicians and parties in Ukraine and cultivated close relationships with Putin-friendly oligarchs. Manafort is currently in prison for, among other things, evading taxes on the $60 million he made from his Ukraine consulting.

Trump suggested Russia can keep Crimea
Trump said Putin did "an amazing job of taking the mantle" when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. During the presidential campaign, Trump broke with US policy and suggested he was OK if Russia kept the Ukrainian territory. He repeated a Kremlin talking point, saying, "The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were."

Trump's team softened the GOP platform on Ukraine
Ahead of the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump campaign aides blocked language from the party platform that called for the US government to send lethal weapons to Ukraine for its war against Russian proxies. Mueller investigated this for potential collusion but determined the change was not made "at the behest" of Russia. (The Trump administration ultimately gave lethal arms and anti-tank weapons to the Ukrainian military.)

Trump made light of Russian hacking
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump cast doubt on the US government assessment that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. At a news conference in July 2016, he even asked Russia to hack more, saying, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,"

Trump denied that Russia interfered in 2016
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department and the Senate Intelligence Committee all confirmed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump. But Trump has repeatedly rejected this view, and publicly sided with Putin at the Helsinki summit in 2018, saying he accepted Putin's denials.

Trump transition undermined Russian sanctions
After the election, the Trump transition team asked Russia not to retaliate against new US sanctions imposed by then-President Barack Obama. The sanctions were meant to punish Russia for interfering in the election, but then-Trump aide Michael Flynn asked the Russian ambassador not to escalate the situation so they could have a good relationship once Trump took over. Full Story

Aide Confirms Trump Asked About Ukraine Investigation, Delivering Blow to GOP Defense
By Daniel Politi

Potentially bombshell testimony in the impeachment inquiry came from an unexpected source Friday. David Holmes, an aide to top U.S: diplomate in Ukraine William Taylor, said in private testimony that he overheard President Donald Trump and the U.:S. envoy to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, talk about Ukraine in July. Holmes says he was at a restaurant in Kiev when he heard Trump on a cellphone call loudly asking Sondland if the president of Ukraine had agreed to carry out a probe on former Vice President Joe Biden. Sondland apparently told Trump that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky “loves your ass” and would do anything he asked.

“I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to,’” Holmes told lawmakers, according to a copy of Homes’ opening statement that was posted by CNN. When the call ended, Holmes said he asked Sondland whether it was true that Trump didn’t really care about Ukraine. Sondland replied the president was only interested in “big stuff.” “I noted that there was ‘big stuff’ going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia,” Holmes went on, “and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant ‘big stuff’ that benefits the president, like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.” Full Story

Fact check: A list of 45 ways Trump has been dishonest about Ukraine and impeachment
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 inquiry they have triggered. Relentless deceit has seemed to be his primary defense strategy in the court of public opinion. Trump 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 Democrats' impeachment inquiry hearings. The President is dissembling about so many different topics 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, here are brief fact checks of 45 separate false claims Trump has made on the subject of Ukraine or impeachment.

The phone call with Zelensky

1. Trump released an "exact transcript" of his call with Zelensky. (The document says on its first page that it is "not a verbatim transcript.")

2. Trump did not ask Zelensky for anything on the call. (Trump asked Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden, look into a debunked conspiracy theory about Democratic computer servers, and speak with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.)

3. Zelensky criticized former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch "out of the blue" on the call. (Trump brought up Yovanovitch first.)

4. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was "angry" when she saw the rough transcript of the call, and she said, "This is not what the whistleblower said." (Pelosi has said no such thing in public, and there is no evidence she has said anything like that in private. Her public statement on the call was scathing.)

5. "Everybody" that looked at the text of the call agreed that it was "perfect." (Some of Trump's staunch defenders agreed with this characterization, but clearly not "everybody" did.)

6. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke to Trump about the call and said, "That was the most innocent phone call that I've read." (McConnell said he doesn't recall speaking to Trump about the call. His public statement on the call was far less effusive than Trump's description.)

7. People are not talking about the call anymore. (People continue to talk about the call, a central focus of the impeachment inquiry.)

8. The Washington Post made up fictional sources for its article on how Trump had allegedly tried to get Barr to hold a news conference saying Trump had broken no laws in the call. (There is no evidence that the Post invented sources. Other major news outlets, including CNN, quickly reported the same thing the Post did.)

The whistleblower

9. The whistleblower was "sooo wrong." (The rough transcript and witness testimony have proven the whistleblower to have been highly accurate.)

10. The whistleblower, a second whistleblower and the first whistleblower's source have all "disappeared." (There is no evidence for this. Whistleblowers do not have an obligation to speak publicly after filing their complaints.)

11. The whistleblower had "all second hand" information. (While the whistleblower did get information about the call from other people, the whistleblower also had "direct knowledge of certain alleged conduct," noted Michael Atkinson, the Trump-appointed inspector general for the intelligence community.)

12. The whistleblower "said 'quid pro quo' eight times." (The whistleblower did not even use the words "quid pro quo" in the complaint, much less specify a number of times Trump allegedly said those words. Trump may have been referring to a Wall Street Journal article that had asserted that Trump urged Zelensky "about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani" on a probe that could hurt Biden; the article did not say this claim came from the whistleblower.)

William Barr: Democrats' investigations into Trump are political harassment meant to 'sabotage' his presidency
By Kevin Johnson - USA TODAY

WASHINGTON–Attorney General William Barr said Friday that President Donald Trump's political opponents have pursued a "scorched earth, no-holds-barred resistance" meant to "sabotage" his presidency. "The pursuit of scores of investigations and an avalanche of subpoenas is meant to incapacitate" the administration, Barr said in a biting address to the conservative Federalist Society. The attorney general, in a full-throated defense of the president, said the political "harassment" contravenes the intent of the Constitution's framers who, he said, meant to provide the chief executive with sweeping authority.

"I am convinced that the deck has been stacked against the executive," Barr said. Barr's remarks came as Trump has been swept up in an impeachment inquiry over allegations he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open investigations into political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Before Friday, Barr had said little publicly about the impeachment proceedings, suggesting he might be attempting to distance himself from Trump. But his remarks left no doubt he stands with the president. He lamented a "steady encroachment of executive authority" that he claimed had "substantially weakened the institution of the presidency." And he said Congress has "drowned" the administration with demands for testimony and documents. Full Story. - Bar must not have read the constitution or does not care that our founding fathers put it in the constitution for bad presidents like Donald J. Trump who put themselves above our country.

GOP congressman avoids this question after hearing
CNN Situation Room

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) wouldn't give a direct answer when asked by CNN's Manu Raju if he believed former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's claims that a "smear campaign" was levied against her by President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associates. Video

Trump issues pardons in war crimes cases, despite Pentagon opposition to the move
By Dan Lamothe

President Trump intervened in three cases involving war crimes accusations on Friday, issuing full pardons to two soldiers and reversing disciplinary action against a Navy SEAL despite opposition raised by military justice experts and some senior Pentagon officials. The White House said in a statement Friday night that Trump, as commander in chief, is “ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted.”

“For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country,” the statement said. The service members were notified by Trump over the phone late Friday afternoon, according to lawyers for Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn and former Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL. Golsteyn faced a murder trial scheduled for next year, while Gallagher recently was acquitted of murder and convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter in Iraq. Full Story

Trump Pardons 2 Service Members Accused Of War Crimes And Restores Another's Rank
By Richard Gonzales

President Trump has issued pardons for two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and restored the rank of a Navy SEAL who was acquitted of murder in Iraq. "For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country," said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in a statement released late Friday. "These actions are in keeping with this long history."

The officers include 1st Lt. Clint Lorance who has served six years of a 19-year sentence on two charges of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice after ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed men in Afghanistan, killing two of them. He had been convicted in 2013. The other pardoned officer is Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, a West Point graduate, who was awaiting trial for allegedly murdering a suspected Afghan bombmaker in 2010. The trial was scheduled for next year.

The president also restored the rank of Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL, who was convicted of posing with a corpse of an enemy combatant in Iraq. Gallagher had been acquitted of murder and other serious charges in July 2019. Full Story

Trump's impeachment tantrums reveal a fragile ego obsessed with saving his legacy
Fear is dominating Trump's decision-making right now. It’s a sense of panic, masquerading as strength.
By Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor

As the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, gave public testimony during the House Intelligence Committee’s second public impeachment hearing Friday, President Donald J. Trump unleashed a bizarre tweet attack, claiming, “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him.”

   Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors.
   — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019

Aside from the absurdity of blaming the ambassador for decades of turmoil in Somalia, Trump’s clear intent, as committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., noted, was to intimidate future witnesses and maybe even convince them not to testify.

While Trump may have deluded himself into believing that this kind of bullying projects strength, I think it reveals the exact opposite. Donald Trump is afraid. This is a man who has spent the entirety of his adult life plastering his name on skyscrapers and casinos; this is a man who is obsessed with his own legacy. And that’s why impeachment is the permanent stain that Trump deserves — and one he clearly fears.

Axios reported recently that Trump has said privately impeachment is a “bad thing to have on your resume.” He doesn’t want impeachment to be the first thing written about him in the world's history books.

Conventional wisdom suggests that there are enough votes in the Democrat-controlled House to successfully impeach Trump, while the Senate will vote against it. But when it comes to Trump and how he is wired, it may not matter if he is thrown out of office. The fact that he would go down in history as only the third president ever to be impeached would psychologically cripple him. Full Story

State department aide confirms Trump-Sondland call about Ukraine investigations
By Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) David Holmes, the state department aide who overheard President Donald Trump's conversation with the US ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, said that Sondland told Trump that the Ukranian President would do "anything you ask him to," and that he confirmed the Ukrainians were going to "do the investigation." "Sondland told Trump that (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky 'loves your ass,'" Holmes said, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN. "I then heard President Trump ask, 'So, he's gonna do the investigation?' Ambassador Sondland replied that 'he's gonna do it,' adding that President Zelensky will do 'anything you ask him to.'"

Holmes explained that Sondland placed the call to Trump, and he could hear Trump because the call was so loud in the restaurant where they were with two others. "While Ambassador Sondland's phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the President's voice through the earpiece of the phone. The President's voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume," Holmes testified. Full Story

Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations
By Olivia Beavers

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified Friday that a shadow campaign led by Rudy Giuliani and his associates appeared to be behind what she said were false attacks against her that led to her ouster. She singled out columns in The Hill written by former conservative opinion contributor John Solomon, which the staff counsel to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) highlighted during the committee's second public impeachment hearing.

In response to questions from staff counsel Daniel Goldman, Yovanovich said the origin of the attacks against her was a series of opinion articles in The Hill authored by Solomon. She also said the allegations came in part from Yuriy Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine. "This effort by Giuliani and his associates resulted in a series of articles in The Hill publication that were based on allegations in part from Lutsenko," she said.

Goldman in his questioning highlighted three categories of attacks against Yovanovitch. "One category included the attacks against you, which you referenced in your opening statement including that you had bad-mouthed the president and had given the prosecutor general a do-not-prosecute list," Goldman said. "There was another that included allegations of Ukrainian interference in a 2016 election and then there was a third that related to allegations concerning Burisma and the Bidens, is that accurate?"

"Yes," Yovanovitch answered, adding that they "seemed to be promoted by those around Mayor Giuliani." "These attacks were being repeated by the president himself and his son," she added, which she said made her "worried." Such allegations also received pickup on Fox News, she noted. Yovanovitch said it was false that she had bad-mouthed the president and handed Lutsenko a do-not-prosecute list, a charge initially included in a column by Solomon in The Hill after an interview with Lutsenko. Yovanovitch and the State Department have pushed back on that claim, saying it is false there was such a list.

Ukrainian media quoted Lutsenko as changing his story, though in an interview with The New York Times last month, Lutsenko blamed the confusion on an interpreter for his interview with Solomon and said Yovanovitch had asked him to target certain politicians and activists who worked with the embassy on its anti-corruption efforts. Yovanovitch has maintained on Wednesday that she did not speak negatively about the president, which was a point that led some to press for her removal.

"Also untrue are unsourced allegations that I told unidentified embassy employees that President Trump's orders should be ignored because 'he was not going to be impeached' — or for any other reason," Yovanovitch testified Wednesday. She added that such remarks would be inconsistent with her training as both a U.S. foreign officer and an American ambassador. Full Story

Rudy Giuliani says he has 'insurance' if Trump tries to throw him under the bus in the impeachment process
By Tom Porter

President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has hinted that he has "insurance" should the president abandon him amid House Democrats' impeachment investigation. In an interview with The Guardian, the former New York mayor was asked whether he was nervous the president might decide to throw him under the bus.

The House is investigating claims Trump abused his office in waging a pressure campaign, in which Giuliani played a key role, for Ukraine to announce investigations meant to benefit Trump politically. "I'm not, but I do have very, very good insurance, so if he does, all my hospital bills will be paid," Giuliani remarked in the article, published Thursday.

At this point in the call Giuliani's own attorney, Robert Costello, interjected to say: "He's joking." The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Even as a joke, the remark comes against a backdrop of suggestions that Giuliani could be cut loose by the Republican establishment in an effort to protect Trump.

As pressure on Trump continues to grow amid the first US presidential impeachment inquiry in two decades, reports are emerging that senior Republicans are considering using Giuliani as a fall guy. Axios reported that they were mulling portraying him as a rogue actor who sought to broker a deal with Ukraine without the president's full knowledge.

Giuliani in the interview insisted that Trump was a "very loyal guy" who would not abandon an ally. Full Story

Trump asks Supreme Court to block another subpoena for his tax returns — this one is from Congress
By Tucker Higgins, Dan Mangan

Attorneys for President Donald Trump returned to the Supreme Court on Friday to ask the justices for the second day in a row to block a demand for his income tax returns — this one from House Democrats.

On Thursday, Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a lower-court ruling that would allow the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to obtain eight years’ worth of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns from his accountants as part of its criminal investigation.

In their emergency application filed on Friday, Trump’s lawyers asked the justices to temporarily halt another subpoena for his tax returns to issued to his accountants at Mazars USA by the House Oversight Committee. The firm has said it will hand over the records if it is required to.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, Congress has subpoenaed the personal records of a sitting President from before he was in office,” the president’s attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “And, for the first time in our nation’s history, a court upheld a congressional subpoena to the President for his personal papers.” Full Story

Trump associate Roger Stone found guilty of lies that protected Trump
By Geneva Sands, Katelyn Polantz and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

(CNN) - Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone was found guilty on Friday of lying to Congress and other charges in a case that has shed new light on President Donald Trump's anticipation of the release of stolen Democratic emails in 2016 by WikiLeaks. Stone, a political operative, was found guilty of all seven counts brought by the Justice Department, a victory for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Stone was found guilty on five counts of lying to Congress, one of witness tampering, and one of obstructing a Congressional committee proceeding.

The verdict marks a stunning conclusion to one of the highest-profile prosecutions to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation -- a case that began with one of Trump's most vocal supporters arrested during a pre-dawn raid as the special counsel's investigation wound down, and that since then has gradually revealed new information about the Trump campaign's positive reception to foreign interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors asked the judge to take Stone into custody immediately. They alleged he violated his gag order and communicated with a member of the press last night. Judge Amy Berman Jackson declined, saying she" will release him on his current conditions pending the sentencing date."

Stone had no audible reaction as the jury's verdict was read. He kept his right hand steady on the table next to him as he looked forward, away from his defense and the courtroom. When the jury came in and each member said yes, Stone put his glasses on. His movements were slow and deliberate as he took a sip of water while each juror stated their position. According to prosecutors, Stone failed to turn over documents to Congress in 2017, showing he had sought to reach WikiLeaks the previous year, and lied about five facts, obscuring his attempt to use intermediaries to get information that could help then-candidate Trump in the election against Hillary Clinton. Full Story

Roger Stone Is Found Guilty in Trial That Revived Trump-Russia Saga
Mr. Stone, a longtime informal adviser to President Trump, obstructed one of Congress’s Russia investigations and lied to lawmakers.
By Sharon LaFraniere and Zach Montague

WASHINGTON — Roger J. Stone Jr., a former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, was found guilty on Friday of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Mr. Trump. Mr. Stone, 67, was charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee’s work because the truth would have “looked terrible” for both the president and his campaign. He was found guilty of all seven counts he was charged with.

The government built its case over the past week with testimony from a friend of Mr. Stone and two former Trump campaign officials, buttressed by hundreds of exhibits that exposed Mr. Stone’s disdain for congressional and criminal investigators. Confronted with his lies under oath by one associate, prosecutors said, Mr. Stone wrote back: “No one cares.” They asked the jurors to deliver a verdict proving him wrong.

The evidence showed that in the months leading up to the 2016 election, Mr. Stone strove to obtain emails that Russia had stolen from Democratic computers and funneled to WikiLeaks, which released them at strategic moments timed to damage Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent. Mr. Stone briefed the Trump campaign about whatever he had picked up about WikiLeaks’ plans “every chance he got,” Jonathan Kravis, a lead prosecutor, said.

The trial revived the saga of Russia’s efforts to bolster Mr. Trump’s chances of winning the White House at the same time that House impeachment investigators are scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine, a foreign ally, for help with his 2020 election. Unfolding in a courtroom just blocks from the impeachment hearing room on Capitol Hill, the case resurrected a narrative that dogged Mr. Trump’s presidency until the two-year investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, ended last spring. Mr. Stone was accused of lying to the same House intelligence panel that is now leading the impeachment inquiry.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about seven hours over two days before convicting Mr. Stone, a 40-year friend of Mr. Trump and well-known political provocateur. Mr. Stone listened impassively to the verdict, eyebrows arched and one hand in his pocket. He and his lawyers, still under a gag order imposed by the judge months ago, left the courthouse without comment. Within minutes of the verdict, Mr. Trump protested on Twitter that it was unfair. “So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come,” Mr. Trump wrote, though his own administration’s Justice Department waged the prosecution. Full Story

Graham blocks resolution recognizing Armenian genocide after Erdoğan meeting
By Jordain Carney

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) blocked a resolution on Wednesday that would have formally recognized the Ottoman Empire's genocide against the Armenian people. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) asked for consent to pass the resolution that would have provided "official recognition and remembrance" of the Armenian genocide. "The United States foreign policy must reflect an honest accounting of human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and genocide. We cannot turn our backs on the Armenian victims of genocide," he said.

Menendez noted that he listened to President Trump's press conference Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Turkish president scolded a House-passed resolution recognizing the genocide and instead promised to "establish a history commission."  Graham objected to passing the resolution in the Senate, saying senators shouldn't "sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it." Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can ask for consent to pass a bill or resolution, but any one senator can block it. Graham's objection came hours after he took part in a White House meeting with Trump, Erdoğan and a group of GOP senators. Full Story

Mike Pompeo 'on shifting sand' as impeachment probe reveals his Ukraine role
By Deirdre Shesgreen USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – It was Sept. 22 when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fielded a straightforward question about just-emerging reports that President Donald Trump had sought to pressure Ukraine's president to open two investigations motivated by domestic politics: “What do you know about those conversations?”  

Pompeo offered an evasive answer, giving the impression that he was unfamiliar with the details of Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky. That phone call triggered a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump had solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election. "So you just gave me a report about a, I see, whistleblower complaint, none, none of which I've seen," Pompeo told ABC News on that Sunday morning.

It has now become clear that Pompeo was, in fact, intimately familiar with the campaign by Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to get Zelensky to say publicly that Ukraine would investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and would also probe a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Critics say that Pompeo's credibility has collapsed amid revelations that the State Department chief enabled Giuliani to run a shadow foreign policy operation that undermined Ukraine, a vital U.S. ally under attack from Russia. The scandal has left America's top diplomat weakened in Washington and on the world stage, former diplomats say.

Testimony takeaways:How Democrats and Republicans are laying out their arguments for impeachment “So far, the choices that the secretary of State appears to have made have alienated him from his team, diminishing his ability to carry out our foreign policy,” said Lee Feinstein, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland and longtime State Department official. Every secretary of State faces a delicate balancing act of trying to keep the president’s confidence while giving him blunt advice and navigating complex geopolitical relationships, Feinstein and others say. Full Story

Rep. Jim Jordan denies he ignored report that Ohio State doctor performed sex act in shower
Jordan continues to insist he knew nothing about what Dr. Richard Strauss did to the male athletes and others.
By Corky Siemaszko

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has dismissed as "ridiculous" a claim by a professional referee that he told the congressman directly that Dr. Richard Strauss had masturbated in front of him in a shower at Ohio State University. Jordan addressed the allegation in an interview with his hometown newspaper Monday, just days after NBC News reported that the referee claimed in a lawsuit that the congressman, who was then an assistant wrestling coach, barely blinked when he described his encounter with the sexual predator.

“Yeah, that’s Strauss,” Jordan and the head wrestling coach replied dismissively, according to the lawsuit, which does not name Jordan as a defendant. But Jordan, a powerful Republican congressman who coached at OSU from 1986 to 1994 and continues to insist he had zero knowledge of what Strauss was doing, took issue with that account. “The idea I’m not going to defend our athletes when I think they’re being harmed is ridiculous,” Jordan told The Lima News. “This is just, this is someone making a false statement.”

Jordan’s spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment from NBC News. Jordan, as part of his defense, also listed the various agencies he’s battled with over the years as part of his strident defense of President Donald Trump. “I’ve stood up against the speaker of the House from our party in my own state,” Jordan said. “I’ve stood up against the IRS, stood up against the FBI, stood up against Adam Schiff, fought the Justice Department when the whole Trump-Russia thing — what they had done.” Jordan was referring to Rep Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the impeachment investigation. Jordan has been tapped by the GOP leadership to grill witnesses when the hearings get underway Wednesday. Full Story

Google's 'Project Nightingale' center of federal inquiry
By Ahiza Garcia, CNN Business

San Francisco (CNN Business)A federal inquiry has been opened into Google's efforts to collect health data on millions of Americans through its "Project Nightingale" program. The Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights opened the inquiry on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported. The office "will seek to learn more information about this mass collection of individuals' medical records to ensure that [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA] protections were fully implemented," office director Roger Severino said in a statement to the publication.

The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to CNN Business' request for comment. The data collection is being done through a new partnership between Google (GOOG) and Ascension, one of the country's largest nonprofit and Catholic health systems. The two companies confirmed they were working together to analyze patient data and give health care providers new insights and suggestions for patient care. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on the project on Monday. Full Story

EPA pushes ahead with effort to restrict the science it uses to craft regulations
“Vague appeals to transparency do not warrant the agency impairing its use of quality science," one critic says.
By Brady Dennis

The Environmental Protection Agency is pushing forward with a policy that could limit the science the agency uses to underpin regulations, a change long sought by conservatives but derided by many scientists and public health experts as an effort to stifle reliance on research into the harmful effects of pollution on Americans.

The agency in recent days submitted an updated version of its Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule to officials at the Office of Management and Budget. If OMB approves, the next step would be to seek public comment, signaling that the EPA intends to finalize the controversial proposal in 2020.

The effort first gained traction when then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pushed for the changes during a high-profile announcement in April 2018. He called it a move toward greater transparency that would increase Americans’ trust and confidence in the research on which the EPA bases major decisions.

The new rule would allow the EPA to consider only studies where the underlying data is made available. Critics say that would restrict the use of research that includes sensitive personal data and hamstring the agency’s ability to protect Americans from toxic chemicals, air pollution and other risks.

In the annals of science, there aren’t many reports that had as much of an impact as Harvard’s Six Cities Study of 1993. The administration’s proposal, critics add, could prevent the use of such landmark research, which showed a stark association between long-term exposure to air pollution and higher risk of premature death. That work has influenced government pollution standards that research shows have saved thousands of lives. Full Story

Stone previewed WikiLeaks bounty to Trump campaign in April 2016
The revelation means the Trump campaign — and Donald Trump himself — were aware of WikiLeaks' plans earlier than previously understood.

Roger Stone first told one of Donald Trump’s top aides in April 2016 that WikiLeaks had plans to dump information in the heat of the presidential race, kickstarting a scramble inside the campaign to take advantage of the expected releases. And that plotting included at least one summertime call involving Trump himself, according to Rick Gates, the former Trump deputy campaign chairman, who was testifying Tuesday morning at Stone’s trial over lying to Congress about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks.

The revelation means the Trump campaign was aware of WikiLeaks' election-year plans much earlier than previously understood. And it also shows that the president was involved in conversations about the issue, something he has previously denied. Gates said he first heard from Stone, a longtime Trump confidant, about two months before Trump secured the GOP presidential nomination in mid-July. That's when Stone passed along initial, bare bones details about the potential Julian Assange-orchestrated releases that would benefit Trump's White House bid.

“Mr. Stone indicated that WikiLeaks would be submitting or dropping information, but no information on dates or anything of that nature,” Gates said in federal district court, where the trial against Stone entered its second week. Stone is also facing charges charges that he tampered with a witness as Congress investigated Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Federal prosecutors rested their case against Stone before lunch on Tuesday, and Stone's lawyers spent a little more than an hour in the afternoon playing aloud portions of their client’s September 2017 deposition before the House Intelligence Committee, during which prosecutors allege Stone lied. After that, Stone's team also rested its case without inviting any witnesses to the stand. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, with jury deliberations to begin shortly thereafter.

Before the government handed the reins of the trial over to Stone’s defense, it asked Gates detailed questions about his interactions throughout the spring and summer of 2016 with Stone, who is known for his decades-long relationship with Trump and a history dating back to Watergate of orchestrating “dirty tricks.” Full Story

Top health official defends federal contract payments to Trump allies
By Nathaniel Weixel

A top administration health official on Tuesday defended her office’s spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars on outside GOP communications consultants with close ties to President Trump. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said the use of contractors was appropriate, because the agency did not have the necessary communications staff in place to enact her “vision” for the department.

“When I came to CMS, my vision for the comms department was very different than what we had. I wanted to make sure that we were communicating with our patient population … and the provider community,” Verma told reporters.  Verma was responding to a report by Politico that found CMS had paid GOP consultants, including at least eight former Trump campaign and transition officials, hundreds of thousands of dollars for work that is normally handled by career civil servants.  

The Health and Human Services Department's inspector general is investigating the $2.25 million contract to determine whether Verma complied with federal ethics rules. Congressional Democrats in the House and Senate are also investigating. Full Story

Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report
By Justine Coleman

President Trump has considered firing the official who reported the whistleblower complaint to Congress, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The president has weighed getting rid of the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, because he provided the whistleblower complaint to Congress that sparked the impeachment inquiry, four people familiar with the discussions told the Times. Trump was reportedly upset when the whistleblower report was published in September and has considered firing the inspector general more recently because he does not understand why Atkinson shared the complaint, one source told the Times.

The whistleblower report detailed how Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate unfounded corruption allegations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son days after withholding military aid from the country. Trump has blasted the inspector general on Twitter and indicated that he thinks Atkinson should have to testify in the impeachment inquiry alongside the whistleblower.  It is unknown how far the consideration of firing Atkinson went, with two sources telling the Times they thought Trump was just venting and not talking about serious consequences for the inspector general. However, the president condemned former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions before he removed them for disloyalty.

Inspector generals are supposed to remain independent from partisan beliefs and provide objective accountability. People close to Trump told the Times that they thought removing Atkinson could damage the president going into the impeachment proceedings; his firing of Comey led to the appointment of former special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate his campaign's alleged ties to Russia. Full Story

Ex-Trump campaign official testifies Stone gave updates on WikiLeaks email dumps
By Harper Neidig

President Trump's former deputy campaign manager told a jury on Tuesday that Roger Stone was giving the campaign updates on WikiLeaks's plans to release damaging emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. Richard Gates, who is facing up to ten years in prison under a plea agreement for various fraud charges, testified in Stone's criminal trial on Tuesday, saying that the longtime Trump associate was telling the campaign about WikiLeaks's plans as early as April 2016, months before the DNC had announced it was hacked.

It had not been previously known that Stone was updating the campaign about WikiLeaks that early. Stone is facing charges of lying to Congress about his role as an intermediary between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. He has pleaded not guilty. According to Gates, Stone's main point of contact with the campaign was Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager who has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison over a variety of fraud charges, though Gates said he spoke with Stone himself as well. On June 13, 2016, Stone said in an email to Gates, "Need guidance on many things. call me," according to evidence presented by prosecutors. The day before, Julian Assange, the leader and founder of WikiLeaks, had hinted in a media interview that he was planning to release Hillary Clinton emails.

On June 14, Stone talked with Trump on the phone and the next day sent another email to Gates saying, “I need contact info for Jared” Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and top adviser. Gates said Stone indicated he wanted to "debrief" Kushner about the DNC release. Gates also testified that there were high-level campaign meetings to discuss WikiLeaks releases and that there was a "state of happiness" among aides over the damaging information about their rival. "There were a number of us who felt that it would give our campaign a leg up,” Gates said of the DNC leak. Full Story

Trump-appointed State Department official embellished her résumé, made fake Time cover: report
By Marty Johnson

Mina Chang, a senior official within the State Department, exaggerated her background on her résumé, including a fake cover of Time magazine with her face on it, NBC News reported on Tuesday. Chang currently serves as the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, where her main job duties revolve around preventing conflicts from escalating in politically unstable countries. On her résumé, Chang claims that she is a graduate of Harvard Business School, but the university told NBC that she only completed a seven-week course in 2016 and doesn't hold a degree from Harvard.

Additionally, her biography on the State Department's website says that she's a graduate of a program at the Army War College, but the program she attended was, in fact, a four-day seminar. Chang's LinkedIn profile mentions the University of Nations, an unaccredited Christian school that has 600 locations worldwide, the network reports. Her most relevant job experience for her current position appears to be the time she served as CEO of a nonprofit called Linking the World.

Despite touting that the nonprofit was building schools in multiple countries, tax filings for the company don't show concrete evidence of overseas projects, but reveal an operating budget of only $300,000 with a handful of staff. Ian Dailey, former chief of staff of Linking the World, told NBC that the nongovernmental organization doesn't run large-scale programs like Chang suggests.

"We are not implementers of programs," Dailey said. "We pilot new technologies, testing their practicalities, and seek to identify the 'unintended consequences' that are rife in our industry." A 2017 video on the nonprofit's website includes the Time cover, which a spokesperson for the magazine described as "not authentic." According to the NBC, Chang had initially been considered to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) work in Asia, a position that requires Senate confirmation. She would've been in charge of a budget of over $1 billion.

The Trump administration reportedly announced its decision to nominate Chang for the USAID position in late 2018. However, the nomination was withdrawn in early September after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee inquired about more supporting documents about her work experience, NBC reports. Full Story

Trump talked to Roger Stone about WikiLeaks, Rick Gates says in testimony contradicting the president
Published Tue, Nov 12 20191:47 PM ESTUpdated 2 hours ago
Dan Mangan, Kevin Breuninger

A former top Trump campaign official on Tuesday testified that President Donald Trump talked to political trickster Roger Stone about WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. That testimony by Rick Gates at Stone’s trial contrasts with Trump’s claim last November that he did not recall speaking to Stone about WikiLeaks, the document disclosure group that during the 2016 campaign released emails stolen from the Democratic Party and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s own campaign chief.

Gates testified in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that less than a minute after finishing a July 2016 call from Stone, Trump indicated that “more information would be coming” from Wikileaks. In a written response to special counsel Robert Mueller last November, Trump had said, “I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with” Stone, “nor do I recall Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with my campaign.” But Trump also said, “I was aware that WikiLeaks was the subject of media reporting and campaign-related discussion at the time.”

The president’s written responses were requested by Mueller last year as part of his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the question of whether Trump’s campaign had coordinated with Russians. Gates testified Tuesday that in addition to speaking to Trump about WikiLeaks, Stone was known in the campaign as a source for information expected to be released by the group. And Gates also testified that another campaign official, Paul Manafort, told him that he would update Trump with any information that he could get from Stone. Jurors on Tuesday saw an email between Gates and Stone after the Democratic National Committee revealed that its computers had been hacked in 2016. U.S. intelligence agencies later said that hackers were Russian agents. Full Story

Trump rails on Fed, notes other countries have negative rates: ‘Give me some of that money’
By Thomas Franck

President Donald Trump used his pulpit before the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday to bash the Federal Reserve, a marked diversion from what many on Wall Street had hoped would be a positive speech on the progress of trade relations between the U.S. and China. Instead of highlighting warmer relations with Beijing, Trump criticized the Fed for what he sees as its hesitation to lower interest rates and blamed the central bank for capping gains in the U.S. economy and stock market.

The president noted that since his election, the S&P 500 is up more than 45%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up over 50% and the Nasdaq Composite is up 60%. But those numbers could be way higher, Trump said, if it weren’t for the reluctance of the Fed. “And if we had a Federal Reserve that worked with us, you could have added another 25% to each of those numbers, I guarantee you that,” Trump said.

“But we all make mistakes, don’t we?” the president added. “Not too often. We do make them on occasion.” It wasn’t immediately clear which “mistake” Trump was referencing: His choice to nominate Fed Chair Jerome Powell to lead the central bank or Powell’s preferred course of monetary policy.

Trump also contended that the Fed should continue to cut interest rates to make the U.S. more competitive in the global market. “We are actively competing with nations who openly cut interest rates so that now many are actually getting paid when they pay off their loan, known as negative interest,” he said. “Who ever heard of such a thing?” “Give me some of that,” he said. “Give me some of that money. I want some of that money.” Full Story

Stephen Miller promoted white supremacist, anti-immigrant articles in private emails to Breitbart
A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center provides a window into Miller’s thinking on immigration.
By Nicole Narea

Hundreds of private emails White House senior adviser Stephen Miller sent to a former Breitbart editor show that he recommended white nationalist websites and literature and upheld the 1920s Coolidge administration as a model for setting highly restrictive immigration policies, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC’s report draws on more than 900 emails, about 80 percent of which touched on the issues of either immigration or race, that Miller exchanged with former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh from March 4, 2015, to June 27, 2016, while he was still an aide for then-US Sen. Jeff Sessions. They illuminate the philosophy guiding Miller, who is largely regarded as the architect of the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policy.

In an October 23, 2015, email, Miller forwarded McHugh a story from the website VDare, published by Peter Brimelow, who has long been allied with prominent figures in the white nationalist far-right movement. As Jane Coaston explained for Vox, “VDare’s perception of itself as focused on ‘just asking questions’ and merely ‘politically incorrect’ is belied by the website itself and its stable of contributors, who include some of the most visible white nationalists in the movement today.” Miller cites the VDare story, which summarizes instances in which the US offered citizens of certain countries temporary protections, as a warning of what could happen if Mexicans displaced by Hurricane Patricia in 2015 were to flee to the US southern border.

In a September 6, 2015, email, Miller recommended a racist 1973 dystopian novel, The Camp of The Saints, which has been upheld by nativists and the alt-right as a cautionary tale about the effects of immigration. The book portrays brown-skinned immigrants from India as savages who eat their own feces and invade the “white world” of Europe.

“[Y]ou see the Pope saying west must, in effect, get rid of borders,” Miller wrote to McHugh. “Someone should point out the parallels to Camp of the Saints.” Breitbart later ran a story doing just that. Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, has cited the book repeatedly, and Radix, a website founded by leading white nationalist Richard Spencer, has praised it as an exaggerated “distillation and condensation of observable reality.” The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

In other emails, Miller also repeatedly touted the immigration policies of former President Calvin Coolidge, who signed one of the most restrictive immigration laws in US history, the Immigration Act of 1924. The law severely limited immigration of nonwhites from outside Northern Europe by imposing quotas that tied the number of immigrants admitted from any country to past census counts of how many immigrants of their nationality were already living in the US. “America must be kept American,” Coolidge wrote at the time. “For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration.” Full Story

Jake Tapper: Lindsey Graham won't read these ... it's his job.
CNN - CNN's Jake Tapper examines the political evolution of Sen. Lindsey Graham as his messages surrounding impeachment and President Donald Trump change. Video

Trump’s lie about impeachment transcripts is one of his laziest yet
The president suggested Adam Schiff “doctored” impeachment hearings transcripts. He did not.
By Aaron Rupar

It’s not exactly news these days when Donald Trump tells a lie. As of August, he had made more than 12,000 false or misleading claims over the course of his presidency. Even so, Trump began one of the most critical weeks of his presidency — the House will hold its first public impeachment hearings starting Wednesday — with a whopper that ranks among the most unpersuasive he’s ever pushed. On Twitter, Trump suggested that House Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) released doctored transcripts of impeachment depositions conducted behind closed doors — an explosive claim belied by the fact that not a single Republican or witness who has been in the room for them has said anything of the sort.

   Shifty Adam Schiff will only release doctored transcripts. We haven’t even seen the documents and are restricted from (get this) having a lawyer. Republicans should put out their own transcripts! Schiff must testify as to why he MADE UP a statement from me, and read it to all!
   — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2019

Schiff’s committee conducted the initial round of impeachment inquiry depositions behind closed doors in part to prevent witnesses from being able to sync up their stories. Despite Republican complaints that the process has been partisan, the 2,677 pages of transcripts that were released over the course of last week show that Republicans were very involved in the questioning. An almost exclusively party-line vote on October 31 set the stage for the public hearings that will begin this week. Ahead of the release of the transcripts, Trump preemptively complained on Twitter that Schiff “will change the words that were said to suit the Dems [sic] purpose.” But the transcripts were vetted by lawyers ahead of their release and nobody has complained about them. Nonetheless, Trump persists.

Trump’s tweet on Monday represents a departure from what he told reporters last Friday, when he said he wasn’t concerned about any of the impeachment hearing transcripts because it “has all been fine.” In reality, officials who testified in closed-door hearings before impeachment investigators broadly corroborated a whistleblower’s complaint alleging that Trump used military aid to Ukraine as leverage as part of an effort to get the Ukrainian government to do political favors for him. Perhaps most notably, the whistleblower’s account was corroborated in testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, who was on Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and reportedly said, “I did not think it was proper.” Full Story

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