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US Monthly Headline News November 2019 Page 3

Pentagon official testifies Trump directed freeze on aid to Ukraine
Asked if the president was authorized to order that type of hold, Laura Cooper said there were concerns that he wasn’t.
By Adam Edelman and Dareh Gregorian

Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that President Donald Trump directed the relevant agencies to freeze aid to Ukraine over the summer, according to a transcript of her testimony released Monday. Cooper, during Oct. 23 testimony before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump's Ukraine dealings, testified that she and other Pentagon officials had answered questions about the Ukraine assistance in the middle of June — so she was surprised when one of her subordinates told her that a hold had been placed on the funds after an interagency meeting in July.

“I got, you know, I got a readout from the meeting — there was discussion in that session about the — about OMB [Office of Management and Budget] saying that they were holding the Congressional Notification related to” Ukraine, Cooper testified, according to the transcript. Cooper, according to the transcript of her testimony, described the hold as "unusual." Cooper said that she attended a meeting on July 23, where "this issue" of Trump's "concerns about Ukraine and Ukraine security assistance" came up. She said the president's concerns were conveyed by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Days later, on July 26, she testified that she found out that both military and humanitarian aid had been impacted. Asked if the president was authorized to order that type of hold, Cooper said there were concerns that he wasn't. "Well, I'm not an expert on the law, but in that meeting immediately deputies began to raise concerns about how this could be done in a legal fashion because there was broad understanding in the meeting that the funding — the State Department funding related to an earmark for Ukraine and that the DOD funding was specific to Ukraine security assistance. So the comments in the room at the deputies' level reflected a sense that there was not an understanding of how this could legally play out. And at that meeting the deputies agreed to look into the legalities and to look at what was possible," she said, according to the transcript. Full Story

The truly frightening thing about Nikki Haley's big revelation
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) In her forthcoming book about her time in the Trump White House, former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley claims that she was recruited by White House chief of staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to subvert the wishes of President Donald Trump. "Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the President, they weren't being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country," writes Haley in "With All Due Respect," which is out on Tuesday. (The Washington Post obtained an early copy.)

In the wake of that revelation, much has been made -- by Haley -- of the fact that she resisted those entreaties. "It should have been, go tell the President what your differences are and quit if you don't like what he's doing," Haley told CBS over the weekend. "To undermine a President is really a very dangerous thing. And it goes against the Constitution and it goes against what the American people want. It was offensive." But the focus on Haley -- and what she did or didn't do -- misses the point, which is this: Two of the top Cabinet officials within the Trump administration were concerned enough about the behavior of the President of the United States that they were actively reaching out to other influential members of the Cabinet to actively work around him.

That is a VERY big deal. Especially when you consider how Tillerson and Kelly came into their jobs. The former was the head of Exxon, a massive, multinational company. Trump touted Tillerson as the crown jewel of his Cabinet -- a hugely successful and accomplished businessman that only this President could recruit to work for the government. The latter was a hugely accomplished general who led Southern Command among other gigs in a lifetime spent in the military. It was these resumes that drew Trump to them. Of all his Cabinet officials, he bragged on these two the most in the early days of his White House.

Of Tillerson, Trump said: "He's a world-class player. He's in charge of an oil company that's pretty much double the size of its next nearest competitor." He so valued Kelly that he when the chief of staff job opened, Trump moved the general from his post as head of the Department of Homeland Security to the vacant job. Neither of these men were "never Trumpers." Both were Trump's top picks for hugely important jobs -- perhaps the two most powerful Cabinet gigs -- and, at least in the early days of Trump's presidency, were considered primetime players. These were the people who, along with Trump, were going to shape the future of the country and the world. Full Story

Trump Issues Warning To Republicans As Impeachment Inquiry About To Go Public | NBC Nightly News
NBC News - Current and former state department officials will testify on camera this week, relaying their firsthand accounts claiming President Trump withheld military aid to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Trump on Twitter warned his party that they should not “be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable.” Video

Judges tosses Trump suit over New York tax returns, rejects conspiracy claim
Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that his court was not the proper jurisdiction to hear the case.
By Allan Smith

A federal judge on Monday dismissed President Donald Trump's lawsuit to prevent the House Ways and Means Committee from utilizing a recently passed New York law providing the panel an avenue to pursue his state tax returns. Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that his court was not the proper jurisdiction to sue the New York officials named in the lawsuit, leaving open the option that Trump do so in the Empire State.

In his lawsuit, Trump sued to preemptively block the House Ways and Means Committee from requesting the returns, New York Attorney General Letitia James from enforcing the law, and to stop the New York Department of Taxation from furnishing the documents. Trump argued his lawsuit was necessary to prevent his state returns from being disclosed to Congress before a court could hear his opposition.

The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., has not requested Trump's state returns through the new New York law. "Based on the current allegations, Mr. Trump has not met his burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over either of the New York Defendants," Nichols, a Trump appointee, wrote. "The Court therefore need not reach the question of proper venue. Accordingly, the New York Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is granted, and Mr. Trump’s Amended Complaint is dismissed without prejudice as to them."

Nichols also ruled that Trump did not sufficiently establish a conspiracy between the House Ways and Means Committee and the New York defendants, which would have strengthened his case for the lawsuit to be heard in Washington, D.C. Trump argued that Washington, D.C. was the proper venue through a legal theory known as "conspiracy jurisdiction."

"But nowhere in his Amended Complaint does Mr. Trump allege the existence of a conspiracy; in fact, the word 'conspiracy' does not even appear in his pleadings," Nichols wrote. Full Story

The super weird Republican argument about the whistleblower
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) - With a series of damning closed-door hearings behind them and public hearings into the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump set to start later this week, Republicans have fixated on a very strange idea: We have to know who the whistleblower is! "I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn't allow us to know who the whistleblower is to be invalid because without the whistleblower complaint we wouldn't be talking about any of this," said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) on Fox News on Sunday.

That echoes what Trump himself has been saying for weeks now. "Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called 'Whistleblower,' represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way," he tweeted at the end of September. The logic behind this we-have-to-know-and-meet-the-whistleblower-or-this-whole-thing-is-a-sham argument is both deeply flawed and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the whistleblower system actually works.

So, let's start there. When the whistleblower filed his or her eight-page complaint alleging, among other things, that Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensksky to look into unproven allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, on a July 25 phone call, it was the start of an investigation, not the end of one. Whistleblowers, in corporate America and government, provide leads for investigators to look into. They are the start of an investigative process, not the end of one.

What comes next is an attempt by investigators -- Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission etc. -- to corroborate the allegations made by the whistleblower. Are they simply a disgruntled employee trying to settle a score? Or are they someone with real and valid concerns centered around provable facts? What's become clear over the six weeks between the whistleblower complaint becoming public in September and this week's set of public hearings is that the whistleblower knew what they were talking about. Full Story

Trump met with 'lock him up' chants during Veterans Day Parade
The ceremony comes just a week after a judge found Mr Trump broke the law in using money raised to help veterans to fund his 2016 presidential campaign
By Vittoria Elliott

Protesters chanted "lock him up" as Donald Trump gave a speech to mark Veterans Day in Madison Square Park in central New York. Several dozen people holding banners reading "Traitor, criminal, lock him up!", "Sexist in chief" and "Impeach Trump" had gathered close to Madison Square Park in downtown Manhattan ahead of his speech.

The chants are an echo of those at Trump's own rallies--"Lock her up"-- Trump and his supporters have called for 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to go to jail for the use of a private email server while she was serving as Secretary of State. The State Department found last month that there was no deliberate mishandling of classified information by Mrs Clinton or her team, but Mr Trump was able to weaponise the story during his campaign and after to rally his supporters.

Mr Trump also offered his ongoing support to Gold Star families, those families who have lost someone who was serving in combat as a member of the US military. However, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, a Gold Star family whose son, US Army Captain Humayun Khan, was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq. Full Story

Trump’s offense is as impeachable as it comes. So no, it can’t wait for an election.
Asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens is exactly the kind of misconduct the framers had in mind in introducing a check on misuse of power.
Image without a caption
By Michael J. Gerhardt

Michael J. Gerhardt is the Burton Craige distinguished professor of jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law and the author of “Impeachment: What Everyone Needs to Know.” This past weekend, President Trump had new advice for his Republican defenders in Congress. He warned in a tweet that they should “not be led into the fools trap” of saying there was something wrong with his phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, just not an impeachable wrong.

And yet that “trap” remains popular with those of the president’s allies unable to ignore what he actually said in the call, which was that he wanted Ukraine to “look into” former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son. “I believe it was inappropriate,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. “I do not believe it was impeachable.” Thornberry went on to say that the Constitution “is very specific” on impeachment — “bribery, treason, high crimes and misdemeanors, which basically means felonies.” Plenty of Republican lawmakers share Thornberry’s reasoning, as well as his position that the remedy is the coming election: “Let the American people decide this in less than a year.” Full Story

New York Times: Parnas' lawyer says Giuliani told associate to offer Ukraine aid in exchange for Biden investigation
By Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) - A lawyer for Rudy Giuliani's indicted associate Lev Parnas said Giuliani directed Parnas to issue an ultimatum earlier this year to a representative of incoming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, warning him that if the new government didn't announce an investigation into Joe Biden, the US would freeze military aid and Vice President Mike Pence would not attend Zelensky's inauguration.

Parnas' lawyer Joseph Bondy made the comments to The New York Times, which reported Sunday that Parnas believed Giuliani -- President Donald Trump's personal attorney -- was acting with Trump's authorization and traveled to Kiev to convey the message just prior to Zelensky's inauguration in May. But both Giuliani and the meeting's other participants denied Parnas' account to the Times.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing in Ukraine by either Joe Biden or his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. The account from Parnas, who along with other Giuliani associate Igor Fruman pleaded not guilty last month to criminal charges that they funneled foreign money into US elections, suggests that he is willing to implicate Trump and Giuliani in the unraveling Ukraine scandal.

Trump has consistently denied that restored aid was directly offered in exchange for an investigation, and Giuliani has denied encouraging Ukraine to impact the 2020 election. Giuliani rebutted Parnas' claim, telling the Times, "Categorically, I did not tell him to say that." Full Story

Washington Post: Nikki Haley says top Trump aides tried to recruit her to undermine President
By Jamie Ehrlich, CNN

Washington (CNN) Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley divulged in her forthcoming memoir that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly attempted to recruit her to undermine President Donald Trump in an effort to "save the country," according to The Washington Post.

The two former Cabinet members sought Haley's help in their endeavors to subvert the President but she refused, Haley wrote. The Washington Post obtained a copy of her book, titled "With All Due Respect," ahead of its Tuesday release. CNN has not seen a copy of the memoir. "Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the President, they weren't being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country," Haley wrote. At one point, Haley wrote that Tillerson also told her people would die if Trump was unchecked. However, Haley said she supported most of Trump's foreign policy decisions that others in the White House tried to block or slow down, according to the Post.

Haley called Tillerson and Kelly's attempt to subvert the President "offensive" in an interview that aired Sunday on "CBS Sunday Morning." "It should have been, go tell the President what your differences are and quit if you don't like what he's doing," she said. "To undermine a President is really a very dangerous thing. And it goes against the Constitution and it goes against what the American people want. It was offensive." Full Story

Trump Spins Court Ruling on Trump Foundation
By D'Angelo Gore - factcheck.org

President Donald Trump downplayed the findings in a case against his namesake charitable foundation, claiming the judge had found only “some small technical violations.” Actually, in a settlement announced this week, the judge ruled that Trump “breached his fiduciary duty” to the Donald J. Trump Foundation in service of his 2016 presidential campaign.

The ruling was part of a settlement to a June 2018 case filed by the office of the New York state attorney general against Trump, his three eldest children and their charitable foundation. The lawsuit alleged that the Trump Foundation had long “operated in persistent violation of state and federal law governing New York State charities” by, among other things, allowing Trump’s 2016 campaign committee to direct and coordinate the foundation’s televised fundraiser for veterans in Des Moines, Iowa, in January 2016.

In a statement posted to Twitter on Nov. 7, Trump called the lawsuit a form of “politically motivated harassment,” and seemingly dismissed the judge’s ruling as insignificant. “All they found was incredibly effective philanthropy and some small technical violations, such as not keeping board minutes,” Trump’s statement read.

There was more to it than that.

In her ruling on Nov. 7, state Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla wrote that the parties resolved most of the attorney general’s claims on their own, but left it to her to determine what Trump would have to personally pay for his alleged misuse of his foundation.

“A review of the record … establishes that Mr. Trump breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation and that waste occurred to the Foundation,” she wrote. “Mr. Trump’s fiduciary duty breaches included allowing his campaign to orchestrate the Fundraiser, allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the Funds, and using the Fundraiser and distribution of the Funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.” Full Story

Trump impeachment: whistleblower will not testify in public, Democrats say
BY  Martin Pengelly in New York

The whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump will not testify in public, House intelligence chair Adam Schiff said. “The committee ... will not facilitate efforts by President Trump and his allies in Congress to threaten, intimidate and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm,” Schiff said in a letter to ranking Republican Devin Nunes released on Saturday night. The impeachment inquiry concerns Trump’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals, in return for nearly $400m in military aid and a White House visit for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The whistleblower, an intelligence official, raised concern about a 25 July phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy in which the US president raised the notion of his counterpart doing the US “a favour”. The incomplete White House memo about the 25 July call remains a key point of contention. Trump said on Saturday he would soon release details of another call with the Ukrainian leader.

House committees led by Schiff have so far heard testimony in private. Transcripts released this week were mostly damaging to the White House, bringing acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney firmly into the spotlight over his apparent role in offering the quid pro quo. Full Story

Top White House official told Congress ‘there was no doubt’ Trump sought quid pro quo with Ukrainians
By Shane Harris

In vivid and at times contentious testimony before House impeachment investigators, the senior White House official responsible for Ukraine described what he believed was an unambiguous effort by President Trump to pressure the president of Ukraine to open investigations targeting American politicians in exchange for a coveted Oval Office meeting. Under questioning from Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and other Democrats, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said “there was no doubt” about what Trump wanted when he spoke by phone on July 25 to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — particularly in contrast with an April call between the two shortly after Zelensky’s election.

“The tone was significantly different,” Vindman said, according to a transcript of his Oct. 29 deposition released Friday. Vindman went on to tell Welch, “I’m struggling for the words, but it was not a positive call. It was dour. If I think about it some more, I could probably come up with some other adjectives, but it was just — the difference between the calls was apparent.” Welch asked Vindman if he had any doubt that Trump was asking for investigations of his political opponents “as a deliverable” — in other words, as part of a quid pro quo. “There was no doubt,” Vindman said.

In a crucial discussion of what constitutes a quid pro quo, Vindman was grilled by a Republican member of the committee about why he believed Trump had made a “demand” that Ukraine launch an investigation of Hunter Biden in return for a White House meeting for Zelensky. Biden is the son of former vice president Joe Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and was once employed by a controversial Ukrainian energy firm. Vindman, explaining what he called the vast “power disparity” between Trump and Zelensky, told Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) that Trump’s request for a “favor” from Zelensky was fairly interpreted as a demand. Full Story

Bolton's lawyer says he has information on Ukraine that hasn't been disclosed
By Zachary Cohen and Ariane de Vogue, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Former national security adviser John Bolton has "personal knowledge" of relevant meetings and conversations "that have not yet been discussed in testimonies thus far" as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, but he is still refusing to testify until a federal judge rules in an ongoing legal fight between House committees and the White House, according to his lawyer. Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper, wrote a letter to lawmakers Friday in which he teased the idea that his client could offer new details related to the impeachment probe, as well as additional context about events that have been described in other witness testimony. Bolton "was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far," the letter reads.

But despite underscoring Bolton's value as a potential witness, Cooper makes clear that his client is unwilling to testify until the court reaches a decision in the legal fight over claims of immunity for White House officials. Trump's former national security adviser is at the center of several key events related to the investigation. Those include suggestions that he had raised concerns about the President and Ukraine, calling efforts by some top officials to help push for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and matters related to the 2016 election a "drug deal," according to testimony last month from former top White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill. Several witnesses in the probe have already testified that Bolton had concerns about Trump's dealings with Ukraine and encouraged his staff to sound the alarm about potentially illegal actions by the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

The House committees conducting the inquiry opted not to subpoena Bolton after his attorney threatened to fight such a move in court, according to a committee official, and, unsurprisingly, the former national security adviser was a no-show Thursday. "We would welcome John Bolton's deposition and he did not appear as he was requested today. His counsel has informed us that unlike three other dedicated public servants who worked for him on the NSC and have complied with lawful subpoenas, Mr. Bolton would take us to court if we subpoenaed him," the official said in a statement provided to CNN. "We regret Mr. Bolton's decision not to appear voluntarily, but we have no interest in allowing the Administration to play rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months. Rather, the White House instruction that he not appear will add to the evidence of the President's obstruction of Congress," they added. Full Story

Trump ally Jim Jordan gets a seat on House Intel Committee for public impeachment hearings
by Jordan McDonald

President Donald Trump will get another vocal defender in the ongoing impeachment probe as it enters the public stage. GOP Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who has been a fervent ally of Trump, has been assigned to the House Intelligence Committee to fight for “fairness and truth” as the impeachment proceedings enter the public phase, according to a statement from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Jordan joins the ranks of the president’s most ardent Republican defenders already on the panel, including Reps. Devin Nunes of California and John Ratcliffe of Texas. The assignment comes soon after another man said Jordan, when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the early 1990s, ignored his claim that he had been the subject of sexual abuse by Dr. Richard Strauss. Independent investigators have ruled that Strauss, who died in 2005, sexually abused 177 male students over about 20 years.

A Jordan spokesman did not return CNBC’s request for comment on the latest Strauss-related accusation. In the impeachment hearings, Jordan will likely be at odds with Intel Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the public inquiry and has drawn the ire of conservatives pundits and politicians, including Trump.

Jordan was part of a failed effort to censure Schiff in October over Schiff’s recounting of Trump’s controversial July 25th call with Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky during a September 27 hearing. A partial transcript of that call was made public after a whisteblower complaint exposed it. Full Story

Bannon testifies that Trump campaign saw Stone as link to WikiLeaks
By Harper Neidig

Stephen Bannon, President Trump's former White House adviser and campaign CEO, testified in court on Friday that the campaign saw Roger Stone as a potential intermediary with WikiLeaks. "I think it was generally believed that the access point or potential access point to WikiLeaks was Roger Stone," Bannon testified at Stone's criminal trial.

"I was led to believe he had a relationship with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange," he added, referring to the site's founder. Bannon said he was compelled to testify for the prosecution in the trial because of a subpoena. Stone is facing charges of making false statements, obstruction and witness tampering over his claims of having a back-channel dialog with WikiLeaks during 2016 as the group was releasing stolen emails from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.

Stone had made the claim publicly in 2016 and in private conversations with Bannon before he even joined Trump campaign, the former White House adviser testified on Friday. Prosecutors showed an email that Stone had sent to Bannon on Aug. 18, 2016 — the day after Bannon was announced as the campaign CEO. Full Story

New Lawsuit Says GOP Rep. Jim Jordan Was Aware of Ohio State Team Doctor’s Sexual Misconduct
By Elliot Hannon

In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, a referee alleges that Ohio State wrestling coaches, including now Republican congressman Jim Jordan, were aware of the sexual misconduct of disgraced former Ohio State doctor Richard Strauss. The suit, the latest of more than a dozen suits filed against the university, says that Strauss masturbated in front of the referee, identified as Jon Doe 2 in court papers, in a shower following a wrestling match in 1994. The ref said he then alerted the team’s coaches, then-head coach Russ Hellickson and assistant Jim Jordan, about Strauss’ behavior, but they shrugged it off, saying: “Yeah, yeah, we know.”

“It was common knowledge what Strauss was doing so the attitude was it is what it is,” the referree told NBC News. “I wish Jim, and Russ, too, would stand up and do the right thing and admit they knew what Strauss was doing, because everybody knew what he was doing to the wrestlers. What was a shock to me is that Strauss tried to do that to me. He was breaking new ground by going after a ref.”

More than 177 former Ohio State athletes have now come forward to describe abuse at the hands of the former university doctor during his 20-year tenure, but a new wave of lawsuits indicates there are likely far more victims and even more severe instances of misconduct than what has been reported so far by an investigation that issued a report on its findings in May. In its annual crime report, the Ohio State said it was now aware of 1,429 instances of fondling and 47 allegations of rape against Strauss. One former wrestler described visiting the doctor for dehydration and being given medication by Strauss before blacking out. “When [the player] came to, he was not sure how long he had been unconscious. He found himself face down on the floor experiencing extreme rectal pain,” the complaint states. “As he came to, he realized the pain was because Dr. Strauss was lying behind him, anally raping him.” Full Story

Referee says he told Rep. Jim Jordan that Ohio State doctor performed sex act in shower
The referee said the response of Jordan and another former coach was, "Yeah, yeah, we know."
By Corky Siemaszko

A professional referee says in a lawsuit filed Thursday that disgraced doctor Richard Strauss masturbated in front of him in a shower after a wrestling match at Ohio State University, and he reported the encounter directly to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was then the assistant coach. “Yeah, that’s Strauss,” Jordan and then-head coach Russ Hellickson replied, according to the lawsuit, when the referee, identified in court papers as John Doe 42, told them about the incident. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Ohio, implies that Jordan's response to the incident, which the referee said happened in 1994, was essentially a shrug.

John Doe 42 is the second person to say he told Jordan directly about either being approached or molested by Strauss, who was found by independent investigators to have sexually abused 177 male students over two decades. Jordan, a powerful Republican congressman and a top defender of President Donald Trump in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, has repeatedly denied knowing anything about what Strauss did to the wrestlers he helped coach from 1986 to 1994. He has said the allegations against him were politically motivated.

John Doe 42 said that when he informed Jordan and Hellickson about what happened, their response was, “Yeah, yeah, we know.” “It was common knowledge what Strauss was doing so the attitude was it is what it is,” he told NBC News. “I wish Jim, and Russ, too, would stand up and do the right thing and admit they knew what Strauss was doing, because everybody knew what he was doing to the wrestlers. What was a shock to me is that Strauss tried to do that to me. He was breaking new ground by going after a ref.”

Former Ohio State wrestler Dunyasha Yetts was the first person to say he spoke to Jordan directly about Strauss. He previously described how he went to see Strauss for a thumb injury, and when the doctor tried to pull down his pants, he stormed out and complained to Jordan and Hellickson. “It’s good that people are starting to come forward and say the truth, which is that Jordan and the other coaches knew what was going on and they blew it off,” Yetts told NBC News. Other former Ohio State wrestlers have said Jordan had to know about Strauss because he shared a locker room with them and took part in discussions about the doctor, who died in 2005. Full Story

Two former Twitter employees accused of spying for Saudi Arabia
By David Shortell, CNN

Washington, DC (CNN Business)Federal prosecutors accused two former Twitter employees of spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi national, and Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen, used their access at the social media giant to gather sensitive and nonpublic information on dissidents of the Saudi regime, the Justice Department alleged in a criminal complaint. The case, unsealed in San Francisco federal court, underscores allegations the Saudi government tries to control anti-regime voices abroad. It also recalls a move reportedly directed by the country's controversial leader to weaponize online platforms against critics. The accusations are certain to renew scrutiny of tech companies' abilities to protect the privacy of their users.

"The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter's internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users," US Attorney David Anderson said in a statement. "U.S. law protects U.S. companies from such an unlawful foreign intrusion. We will not allow U.S. companies or U.S. technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of U.S. law." A third man, Ahmed Almutairi, also from Saudi Arabia, allegedly acted as a go-between to the two Twitter employees and the Saudi government, which according to the complaint rewarded the men with hundreds of thousands of dollars and, for one man, a luxury Hublo watch. While no Saudi government officials are named as running the spy operation in the complaint, the Washington Post, citing a person familiar with the case, reports a Saudi national who groomed the two employees is tied into the inner circle of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

All three men are charged with acting as illegal agents of a foreign government. Abouammo, the only one currently in US custody after his arrest in Seattle Tuesday, is also charged with attempting to obstruct the FBI's investigation by providing agents with a fake invoice. Alzabarah and Almutairi are believed to be in Saudi Arabia and federal warrants have been issued for their arrests, the Justice Department said. Abouammo made an initial appearance in Seattle federal court Wednesday afternoon. It is not clear who is representing Abouammo, and CNN has been unable to locate Alzabarah and Almutairi for comment. In a statement, Twitter said it "limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees." Full Story

Roger Stone’s Trial Is Going Very Badly for Roger Stone
Jurors heard audio of the Trump adviser allegedly lying to Congress.
By Dan Friedman

In a federal courtroom in Washington, DC, Thursday, jurors heard Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) as he questioned Roger Stone, the longtime associate of President Donald Trump. Quigley wanted to know how Stone had communicated with an intermediary who, Stone claimed, had in 2016 helped him learn what WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was planning to do with stolen Democratic emails.
“Over the phone,” Stone responded. “Did you have any other means of communicating with the intermediary?” Quigley asked. “No,” Stone said.
The back-and-forth came from an audio recording of Stone’s interview with the House Intelligence Committee on September 26, 2017. Stone, prosecutors argued Thursday, was lying. Under questioning from a government lawyer, former FBI agent Michelle Taylor testified that Stone had exchanged 72 written communications—texts and emails—on the very day of his House testimony with Randy Credico, the former radio host and comedian. After initially refusing to name him, Stone told the committee in October 2017 that Credico was his intermediary with WikiLeaks. Between June 2016 and September 2017, Stone and Credico exchanged thousands of messages, according to a chart presented by prosecutors Thursday. That includes 253 messages in October 2016, the month WikiLeaks began publishing emails stolen from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The Stone-Quigley exchange was one of five audio clips prosecutors played on Thursday in which Stone denied having written records of his contacts with his intermediary, having text messages related to the hacked Democratic emails, possessing messages related to Julian Assange, or having other records relevant to the committee’s investigation into Russian interference.
In addition, prosecutors say Stone’s claim that Credico was his main backchannel to Assange was itself a lie. In fact, Jerome Corsi—a right-wing conspiracy theorist who worked with Stone to help Trump in 2016—provided Stone with what Corsi said was inside information on Assange’s plans weeks before Credico shared other information about WikiLeaks. Stone also had written communications with Corsi that he failed to turn over to the committee. Full Story

Prosecutors try to tie together Roger Stone, Russian hacking, and Trump
Andrea Mitchell Reports

NBC's Ken Dilanian joins Andrea Mitchell to share the latest reporting out of the trial for longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, where prosecutors have introduced phone records allegedly showing Trump and his aides speaking with Stone, while Stone was allegedly attempting to obtain stolen DNC emails from Wikileaks. Ken also talks about his new reporting that members of the intel community are calling on CIA director Gina Haspel to do more to protect the whistleblower. Video

5 takeaways from Roger Stone’s first major day in court
Trump takes it hard, this trial will be rated R and three other observations from the first of what's likely to be many colorful days.

Call it the Cliff Notes version of the Mueller report. That’s what a new panel of Washington, D.C., jurors heard Wednesday morning as federal prosecutors delivered a tight synopsis of how Roger Stone came to be a defendant in the last indictment to come from the special counsel’s office. It was a powerful moment delivered exclusively to a courtroom audience. Anyone who’s been following Robert Mueller’s work closely would recognize all the pieces of the story. But to the 12 jurors who might be coming in cold, it was a stark and concise opening narrative explaining how the colorful characters in Trumpworld gossiped and plotted around Russia’s digital thefts of Democratic emails during the 2016 election — and the role Stone played in that story.

The longtime Donald Trump associate is facing charges that he lied to congressional investigators trying to untangle the complex web of Russia’s election meddling. Prosecutors say Stone also tampered with a witness in that probe. For their part, Stone’s attorneys tried to tell the story of a fabulist who walked into the House Intelligence Committee not fully realizing what they wanted to ask him about. If Stone wasn’t forthcoming or overstated his knowledge, they argued, it was not intentional or malicious, and perhaps just for show. Here are POLITICO’s five takeaways from the first major day of the trial.

Trump takes it hard

If Trump thought he was off the hook after Mueller closed up shop in May, well, Wednesday was a rude awakening. As the case against Stone kicked off, former Mueller prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky took the baton and seemed to relish the opportunity to weave the president’s name into the prosecution’s narrative on as many occasions as possible. Less than two minutes into his opening statement, Zelinsky told jurors Trump was a “longtime friend and associate” of Stone.

"Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committees because the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump." - Aaron Zelinsky, ex-Mueller prosecutor

While prosecutors could’ve portrayed Stone as a freelancer on a lark that might help his ally, Zelinsky instead suggested that Stone was wired to the candidate himself — and at the highest levels of the Trump campaign, “regularly” providing updates on his activities to senior campaign aides Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon. Zelinsky never quite accused Trump of directing Stone to lie — the prosecutor said he did not know precisely what the two men said to each other in a series of phone calls that summer. But the implication was that Stone lied to Congress on Trump’s behalf.

“Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump,” Zelinksky said. Other aspects of the testimony could also anger Trump. One exhibit introduced near the outset of Stone’s trial Wednesday appeared to be a redacted list of phone calls made from Trump’s home in New York City. The fact that investigators were rummaging through details of the president’s personal phone calls seems like the kind of thing that could get the president tweeting. Full Story

Stone Trial Opens With Information Indicating Donald Trump May Have Lied to Robert Mueller
“The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.”
By Dan Friedman, David Corn

Roger Stone is on trial, and the proceedings are bad news for President Donald Trump, with federal prosecutors citing evidence that suggests Trump might have lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And that sort of lying can be a crime.

The trial kicked off on Wednesday at a federal courthouse in Washington, DC, with a bit of a circus atmosphere. The neo-fascist Proud Boys were there, as well as other luminaries of the alt-right, to support Stone, the dirty trickster and conspiracy theorist who has been a Trump adviser since the 1980s. Facing seven felony counts, Stone is charged with lying repeatedly to the House Intelligence Committee, obstructing justice, and witness tampering. But this case goes beyond Stone’s alleged lies: prosecutors have revealed new information about how Trump tried to benefit from the Russian operation during the 2016 campaign that hacked the Democratic National Committee’s servers. And they are producing material undercutting Trump’s claim to Mueller that he has no recollection of talking to Stone during the campaign about WikiLeaks. This information also presents a new wrinkle in the Trump-Russia scandal: Trump might have thought in 2016 that his campaign, in effect, was colluding with WikiLeaks. That’s because the campaign was communicating with Stone about WikiLeaks’ plans and intentions and campaign officials (and perhaps Trump) believed Stone was in contact with WikiLeaks.

“The evidence in this case will show that Roger Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee because the truth looked bad,” lead prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky said in his opening statement on Wednesday. “The truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump.”

One of the key points Mueller investigated was whether the Trump campaign had interacted with WikiLeaks or Russian intermediaries in 2016 when Moscow was using WikiLeaks for its operation to subvert the US presidential campaign (which was mounted in part to help Trump win). Trump refused to be questioned in person by Mueller and his investigators. Instead, he agreed to answer written questions on a limited number of subjects. Several of the queries Mueller submitted to Trump focused on whether he was ever told Stone had been in touch with WikiLeaks and whether he or anyone associated with his campaign had spoken to Stone about WikiLeaks. In his written response, Trump replied, “I do not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions with any of the entities named in the question regarding the content or timing of release of hacked emails.” He also noted, “I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign.” And Trump, who has boasted of possessing a prodigious memory, claimed to have “no recollection of the specifics of any conversations I had with Mr. Stone between June 1, 2016” and Election Day. The impression Trump provided: as far as he knew, he and his campaign had had nothing to do with Stone and WikiLeaks. Full Story

Trump made 50 false claims last week, 13 about the whistleblower
By Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump keeps making a systematic effort to convince Americans to reject the actual facts of his dealings with Ukraine. Trump made 50 false claims last week. Thirteen were related to Democrats' Ukraine-centric impeachment inquiry. This was the fifth consecutive week that Trump made more false claims about the impeachment inquiry or Ukraine than about any other subject. Fifty false claims from the President in seven days is not good, per se, but it is an improvement from his recent barrage of dishonesty, which included an October week of 129 false claims. Fifty false claims is the fourth-lowest total for the 17 weeks we have fact checked at CNN since July 8 Trump made 16 of the 50 false claims at his campaign rally in Mississippi. He made 11 on Twitter.

The most egregious false claims: On the whistleblower

The whistleblower who complained about Trump's Ukraine-related behavior has been the primary target of his multi-front effort to rewrite the reality of the story. Just last week, Trump said on three more occasions that the whistleblower's account of his phone call with the president of Ukraine was "sooo wrong" and "very inaccurate" (in fact, the rough transcript Trump released proved the whistleblower's account was highly accurate); that the whistleblower "has disappeared" (no); and that Democrat Adam Schiff was, somehow, the one to "pick" the whistleblower (also no).

The most revealing false claim: The Dunns' non-meeting

Trump, a former reality television star who has demonstrated better instincts for drama than for empathy, apparently tried to stage a surprise encounter between Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat, and the parents of Harry Dunn, the British 19-year-old who was killed in a car crash in which police believe Sacoolas was involved.

The Dunns had accepted an invitation to the White House. They were aghast, though, when Trump unexpectedly told them Sacoolas was also in the building, and they declined Trump's offer to bring her into the room. Trump compounded the offense in an interview on British radio last week with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. Trump said: "Well, I had a meeting set up but all of a sudden, I guess, lawyers got involved. But I had a meeting set up." There was never a meeting set up, said family spokesman Radd Seiger, who told CNN that Trump's claim was "a lie." Full Story

Attorney General William Barr declined Trump’s request to defend Ukraine call in a press conference, report says
By Kevin Breuninger

President Donald Trump on Thursday slammed a report from what he called The Washington Post that he had asked Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference defending his controversial call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The president, through his subordinates, indirectly asked Barr to publicly declare that Trump had broken no laws in the July 25 call, The Washington Post reported Wednesday night, citing people familiar with the matter. That phone call is now at the center of the House impeachment probe into Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 presidential election.

The Post reports that Barr decided not to hold the presser. Trump tweeted Thursday morning that “Bill Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine” — disputing Barr’s reported refusal while appearing to acknowledge that he did ask the attorney general to discuss Ukraine publicly.

But in a follow up, Trump seemed to broaden his denial. “The degenerate Washington Post MADE UP the story about me asking Bill Barr to hold a news conference. Never happened, and there were no sources!” Trump tweeted. Full Story

John Bolton trying to 'walk that tightrope' over role in Trump's impeachment inquiry
By Zachary Cohen and Kylie Atwood, CNN

(CNN) - John Bolton has already left his mark on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, even if he doesn't show for a scheduled deposition Thursday morning. Trump's former national security adviser is at the center of several key events related to the investigation, including suggestions that he had raised concerns about the President and Ukraine, calling efforts by some top officials to help push for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and matters related to the 2016 election a "drug deal," according to testimony last month from former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill. Chances looked slim that Bolton would comply with the Democratic-led investigation's request to appear Thursday morning, as his lawyer has said Bolton will not testify voluntarily, but it remained unclear if he would comply with a subpoena, should one be issued at the last moment.

Several witnesses in the probe have already testified that Bolton had concerns about Trump's dealings with Ukraine and encouraged his staff to sound the alarm about potentially illegal actions by the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. But despite those apparent misgivings, it appears Bolton has little interest in playing the role of star witness for House Democrats. "Bolton still wants to be a player in GOP politics and Trump still has such high approval ratings," a source close to Bolton said. "So far, he has tried to walk that tightrope. I expect he will continue to do that," the source added, noting that Bolton is unlikely to try to take on Trump directly due to concerns that attacking the President might make it difficult for Bolton to attract wealthy GOP donors to his super PAC.

Bolton has already injected $50,0000 into the campaigns of conservative Republican candidates. Despite his abrupt and unceremonious departure from the Trump administration, Bolton's willingness to cooperate in the impeachment proceedings remains a mystery. He has kept a low profile in recent weeks and stayed tight-lipped about his plans regarding a potential deposition -- not even discussing the matter with some of his closest allies. In fact, Bolton has taken multiple trips abroad in recent weeks, including a weeklong stint in Asia, just as the pace of impeachment proceedings began to intensify and several of his former staffers from the National Security Council prepared to testify, according to sources familiar with his trip.

Not a 'Never Trumper'

While Trump has labeled some witnesses in the impeachment inquiry -- including another career official who still serves on the National Security Council -- as "Never Trumpers," the President would have a hard time making the same case about Bolton. A hawkish neoconservative who served in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, Bolton famously promised Trump he "wouldn't start any wars" when he was hired last March. His reputation followed him to the White House, where he repeatedly clashed with the President over various foreign policy issues, including Iran and North Korea -- a dynamic that ultimately led to his ouster in September. Bolton was kicked out of the White House just one day before the hold on the US assistance to Ukraine was lifted. He had been gone for about two weeks when the White House released the transcript of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Full Story

Lindsey Graham's Ukraine explanation will blow your mind
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) - Defending President Donald Trump's oft-repeated claims that there was no quid pro quo in his relationship with Ukraine becomes more difficult by the day. Which forces Republicans to bend over backward -- and crush logic -- to do so. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, whose transformation from Trump critic to Trump confidant is one of the most remarkable things I have ever witnessed in politics, may have set the bar impossibly high Wednesday with his defense of Trump (and the broader administration) on charges of a quid pro quo.

Take it away, Lindsey!
"What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward Ukraine: It was incoherent, it depends on who you talk to, they seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo, so no I find the whole process to be a sham and I'm not going to legitimize it." OK, OK. So what we have here is this argument: The Trump White House is so disorganized that they couldn't possibly have quid pro quo'ed it! They are too incompetent! So therefore, this whole thing is a sham! (Sidebar: We heard this same argument from Republicans privately during the Mueller probe into Russia. The Trump campaign was too disorganized to collude!)

Here's the problem for Graham: We now know, thanks to US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland's, uh, memory recovery that he told a top Ukrainian government official in September that US military aid was likely being held up due to the fact that an official announcement launching an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden had not yet been made.

And that comes within weeks of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney telling reporters that, yes, a desire to see Ukraine announce an investigation into the 2016 election was a reason why $400 million in American military aid was being withheld. "We do that all the time with foreign policy," Mulvaney said. "Get over it." So whether or not Trump made the quid pro quo explicit in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- and any neutral reading of that rough transcript suggests he came very close -- it's clear that by earlier this fall, the Ukrainians knew the deal: Open the required investigations or don't get the money. (The money was finally released on September 11.) Full Story

Donald Trump Jr. Slammed For Outing Alleged Whistleblower, As Major News Outlets Decline To Publish Name
By Rachel Sandler

Topline: Some right-wing news outlets and conservative circles in Washington—including Donald Trump Jr.—are actively trying to spread the identity of the alleged impeachment whistleblower, while major news outlets decline to publish the name amid concerns for the whistleblower’s safety.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, tweeted a link on Wednesday to a Breitbart article that named the alleged whistleblower, immediately drawing criticism that he was putting the whistleblower in danger (Trump Jr.’s tweet also included the name of the alleged whistleblower).

Right-wing outlets, including Rush Limbaugh on his radio show, have been circulating the name of the alleged whistleblower since last week, citing an October 30 Real Clear Investigations report that included a name and photo of the alleged whistleblower. Executives at Fox News, though, have instructed hosts not to name the whistleblower, CNN reported.

Real Clear Investigations is an offshoot of RealClearPolitics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom. (RealClearPolitics did not immediately respond to request for comment from Forbes.)

With the exception of Real Clear Investigations, major news outlets (including Forbes) have published scant details about the whistleblower, according to Washington Post media writer Paul Farhi, because of “several factors: concerns that revealing the name could jeopardize the whistleblower’s safety; legal questions about whether the whistleblower’s identity is protected by federal law; and potential adverse public reaction to such a disclosure.”

Both Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, and the Associated Press added that the identity of the whistleblower is almost a moot point because a call transcript released by the White House and on-the-record testimony from top administration officials have confirmed much of what the whistleblower alleged.

Trump Jr. dismissed the outrage, saying in a follow-up tweet: “Are they going to pretend that his name hasn’t been in the public domain for weeks now? Numerous people & news outlets including Real Clear Politics already ID’d him.”
While whistleblowers have some protections under federal law, there is no statute stopping the president or a member of Congress from revealing their name.

Key background: While RealClearPolitics is the only nonpartisan outlet to reveal the name of the whistleblower, the New York Times in September published some details about him, including the fact that he is a male CIA officer who was detailed to work at the White House. Since then, other outlets have corroborated the New York Times but have not published additional details.

Meanwhile, Trump himself and some members of Congress, including senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham, have called on the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed, with Graham, according to the Associated Press, saying Wednesday that, “Nobody should be prosecuted based on an anonymous accusation.” Earlier this month, Trump called the whistleblower a “spy” working to undermine his administration. Full Story

Of Course Donald Trump Jr. Outed The Alleged Whistleblower
Would you expect anything less?
By Bess Levin

You wouldn’t know it from the way Donald Trump has waged a campaign to out the whistleblower, but the individual who filed a formal complaint against the president for pressuring Ukraine to smear his political rivals is, in fact, protected by federal law. The Inspector General Act of 1978 states that agency watchdogs "shall not, after receipt of a complaint or information from an employee, disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, unless the inspector general determines such disclosure is unavoidable." In addition, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 dictates that the president must enforce protections against retaliation of the whistleblower which, naturally, Trump has not done at all. In addition to suggesting the government execute the whistleblower’s sources like in the "old days," he’s repeatedly insisted the whistleblower must come forward, admitted he’s trying to unmask the whistleblower, and creepily tweeted "Where’s the whistleblower?", when he hasn’t been busy claiming said whistleblower doesn‘t exist. Yet clearly the president’s last functioning brain cell, burnt out and working overtime, has somehow gotten the memo that it would be quite to very bad to actually go ahead and reveal the whistleblower’s identity. That’s a memo that did not get passed down to the president’s namesake, who on Wednesday used his platform to name the alleged individual, like the idiot frat boy perpetually seeking daddy's approval he is and always will be.

Tweeting a link to a story on Breitbart that named the person believed to have filed the complaint against the president, first son Donald Trump Jr. also included the name in his tweet just in case his followers wanted to save themselves a click. Then he flew off the handle in the face of criticism for [checks notes] putting an individual’s life in grave danger. "The outrage on this is BS," Junior told reporter Yashir Ali, adding that true Don Jr. Trumpologists should know better than to suggest he tweeted the whistleblower’s alleged name at the behest of the administration. "Those pretending that I would coordinate with The White House to send out a Breitbart link haven’t been watching my feed for a long time," he added in a text message. (The White House told Ali that neither the president nor any senior administration officials were aware Jr. was going to tweet the alleged name in advance. They did not add if the president subsequently gave his son a cookie for doing so.)

In a statement, the whistleblower’s attorneys, Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid said "Identifying any name for the whistleblower will simply place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm. We will not confirm or deny any name that is published but we will note publication does nothing other than show the desperation of a partisan crowd to deflect from the substance of the whistleblower complaint. It most certainly will not relieve the President of the need to address the substantive allegations, all of which have been substantially proven to be true."

To give you an idea of how worrisome the notion of the whistleblower’s name getting out is, even the hosts at state-run TV Fox News have been instructed not to identify the individual in question. Others, like the president’s son and his top lackeys, naturally disagree, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that they’ve run out of arguments for why Trump didn’t commit an impeachable offense and must now focus on attacking the person who initially sounded the alarm. On Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul, who appears to be gunning for Lindsey Graham’s position as Top Presidential Footstool, casually told reporters he’ll "probably" out the whistleblower, like he was musing that he’d probably pick up Thai for dinner. I'm more than willing to, and I probably will at some point," Rand said. "There’s nothing that prevents me from saying it now." Full Story

Top US diplomat says Giuliani pushed Ukraine to 'intervene' in US politics in impeachment transcript
By Jeremy Herb and Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) - The top US diplomat in Ukraine told House impeachment investigators that President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was pressing Ukraine "to intervene in US domestic policy or politics" by launching investigations into Trump's political rivals, according to a transcript of Bill Taylor's deposition released Wednesday. Taylor told Congress in closed-door testimony last month he saw the requests as so dangerous that he believed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should ignore them -- even if it meant losing a one-on-one meeting with Trump.

"If President Zelensky, in order to get that meeting (with Trump), were going to have to intervene in U.S. domestic policy or politics ... by announcing an investigation on that would benefit someone in the United States, then it's not -- it wasn't clear to me that that would be worth it," he said. Taylor's testimony corroborates a major allegation from the whistleblower complaint, which said that Giuliani and Trump were trying to solicit help from the Ukrainians to boost his reelection chances in 2020. Giuliani wanted Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic National Committee servers.

Taylor also testified that it was his "clear understanding" US security aid to Ukraine wouldn't be released unless the country's president announced he would investigate Trump's political rivals. And he said that it was Giuliani, representing Trump's interests, who was behind what then-national security adviser John Bolton described as a "drug deal." "I think the origin of the idea to get President Zelensky to say out loud he's going to investigate Burisma and the 2016 election, I think the originator, the person who came up with that was Mr. Giuliani," Taylor said.

Taylor's testimony is among the most significant for the Democratic impeachment investigation into allegations that $400 million in security aid and a meeting between Trump and Zelensky were conditioned on Ukraine announcing investigations into the 2016 election and Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired former Biden's son Hunter to serve on its board. In his opening statement, which was published when he testified on October 22, Taylor explained that Sondland told him "everything" Ukraine wanted was conditioned on the investigation. There is no evidence of wrongdoing in Ukraine by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, announced Wednesday that Taylor would testify next week on Wednesday, the first day that Democrats will hold public impeachment hearings. Taylor, a career official who remains at his post in Kiev, provided a damning account of how Trump told his appointees to establish a quid pro quo with Ukraine, trading much-needed US military assistance for political favors from Zelensky. In the wake of his testimony, Trump accused Taylor of being a "Never Trumper." Trump made this claim even though there is zero public evidence to support his assertion, and available information paints Taylor as a respected and apolitical career diplomat. In what's likely a preview of next week's public hearings, Republicans pressed Taylor on whether he had direct knowledge of the President's intentions. Full Story

House Republicans and Fox News mimic ‘Soviet-style’ impeachment talking points
Washington Post

Over the past month, House Republicans and Fox News personalities have echoed each other’s talking points, decrying the impeachment inquiry as a “Soviet-style” process. Video Read more: https://wapo.st/2CfobnF.

Kellyanne Conway's interview tricks, explained

Kellyanne Conway has a supernatural ability to derail any interview that paints Donald Trump in a negative light. How does she do it? Watching Conway do backflips to avoid answering simple questions is fascinating and occasionally entertaining, but it doesn’t provide viewers with useful information about what the Trump administration is doing or intends to do. And it should raise questions about what the purpose of interviewing an administration official actually is. Video

READ: Transcript of House testimony from top US diplomat in Ukraine

Washington (CNN) The House committees running the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump released the transcript of their closed-door deposition with the top US diplomat in Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor. Read that transcript:

Virginia Democrats’ Victory Proves That Gerrymandering Matters
When they aren’t held back by racist redistricting tactics, Democrats can actually win.
By Mark Joseph Stern

In November 2017, a blue wave crashed down upon Virginia, as Democrats won the statewide vote by nearly 10 points. They failed, however, to seize control of the House of Delegates, which came down to a single tied race that was resolved by the elections board drawing the Republican’s name from a bowl and declaring him the winner.

On Tuesday, that Republican lost his seat, one of six that Democrats flipped to capture a majority the House of Delegates. Democratic candidates appear to have won the overall House vote once again–but this time, they gained a 55–45 majority. (They also won over the state Senate, 21–19, which holds elections every four years.) This turn of fortune reveals the impact of fair maps. In 2017, Democrats were severely disadvantaged by a Republican-drawn racial gerrymander that trapped a huge number of black voters in a handful of noncompetitive districts for nearly a decade. By 2019, that gerrymander was dead, killed off by the courts. And its demise has allowed Virginia Democrats to translate their votes into fair representation in the General Assembly, gaining full control of the state government for the first time since 1994.

Virginia’s gerrymander had its roots in the 2009 election. Republicans swept the state that year, winning both chambers of the Legislature as well as the governorship. (The election presaged the GOP conquest of state legislatures in time for the next redistricting cycle, masterminded by Virginia’s Ed Gillespie.) After the 2010 census, the GOP-controlled General Assembly passed—and Gov. Bob McDonnell approved—maps that divvied up the state on the basis of race. Most minority voters were packed into heavily black Democratic districts; the rest were scattered through predominantly white Republican districts. The House map was the worse of the two, blatantly relying upon “blue sinks” to siphon off votes from districts that might otherwise have proved competitive.

In 2014, Virginia voters filed a lawsuit alleging that 12 House districts had been drawn along racial lines, in violation of the equal protection clause. Four years later, a federal district court invalidated 11 of the 12 districts, agreeing that they amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The court appointed a special master to redraw the illegal districts. But, of course, fixing a handful of districts creates a ripple effect that requires more lines to be redrawn to maintain equal population. The court wound up adopting a remedial map that altered 25 districts, eliminating several safe GOP seats and generating more competitive races. Attorney General Mark Herring declined to appeal the decision, leaving the House to step in—but in June, the Supreme Court ruled that the House lacked standing to represent the state. The new maps won out. Full Story

Thanks to Rand Paul, Russian Media Are Naming the Alleged Whistleblower
Outing “the whistleblower” is the most egregious, but certainly not the only, example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading the fight against impeachment. They love “their” Trump.
By Julia Davis

Standing beside an approving Donald Trump at a rally in Kentucky on Monday night, Republican Sen. Rand Paul demanded the media unmask the whistleblower whose report about the president’s alleged abuse of power dealing with Ukraine sparked impeachment proceedings.American news organizations resisted the pressure, but—in a 2019 re-play of “Russia, if you’re listening”—Kremlin-controlled state media promptly jumped on it.

Shortly after Sen. Paul tweeted out an article that speculated in considerable detail about the identity of the whistleblower—with a photograph, a name, and details about the purported political history of a CIA professional—Russian state media followed suit. As if on cue, the Kremlin-controlled heavy hitters—TASS, RT, Rossiya-1—disseminated the same information. But unlike Rand Paul, one of the Russian state media outlets didn’t seem to find the source—Real Clear Investigations—to be particularly impressive, and claimed falsely that the material was published originally by The Washington Post.

This was the most egregious, but certainly not the only example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading for Trump’s fight against impeachment as proceedings against him unfold with growing speed. As a chorus of talking heads on Fox News have picked up on Trump’s talking points, which is predictable—they’ve also been echoed across the pond, albeit with a tinge of irony. “Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?” asked Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the television show Evening with Vladimir Soloviev.

“When they say that Trump is weakening the United States—yes, he is. And that’s why we love him.”
— Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio and a prominent fixture on Russian state television

Russian experts, government officials, and prominent talking heads often deride the American president for his Twitter clangor, haphazard approach to foreign policy, clownish lack of decorum, and unfiltered stream of verbalized consciousness. But all the reasons they believe Trump “isn’t a very good president” for America are precisely their reasons for thinking he is so great for Russia.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian client whose regime teetered on the brink of collapse only to be saved definitively by Trump’s chaotic approach to the Middle East, recently said that “President Trump is the best type of president for a foe.” The Russians heartily agree. The Trump presidency has been wildly successful for Russia, which is eagerly stepping into every vacuum created by the retreat of the United States on the world stage. Full Story

Judge Scraps 'Conscience' Rule Protecting Doctors Who Deny Care For Religious Reasons
By Selena Simmons-Duffin, Colin Dwyer

In a blow to the Trump administration, a federal court in Manhattan has knocked down a rule that would make it easier for doctors and other health care workers to refuse care for religious reasons. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer ruled Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services, which issued the regulation earlier this year, exceeded its authority and "acted arbitrarily and capriciously" in promoting it.

The department's violations of federal law, according to the judge's opinion, were "numerous, fundamental, and far-reaching" — and he vacated the rule entirely, just over two weeks before it was set to take effect on Nov. 22. The Trump administration had asserted that the rule would give health care providers the freedom to opt out of providing care or services — such as abortions — that violate their conscience. Employers that did not comply with the rule could have had their federal funding withdrawn.

"This rule ensures that healthcare entities and professionals won't be bullied out of the health care field because they decline to participate in actions that violate their conscience, including the taking of human life," Roger Severino, director of HHS's Office for Civil Rights, argued in a written statement when the regulation was issued in early May. The rule's critics, however, saw it as a means of allowing health care workers to circumvent rules against discrimination. And they quickly took the Trump administration to court — with more than two dozen states, cities and organizations such as Planned Parenthood filing lawsuits against Severino and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Those suits were later consolidated into one case, which Engelmayer oversaw.

There's also another lawsuit against this rule, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs in that consolidated case include the state of California, Santa Clara County and organizations such as Lambda Legal. It wasn't immediately clear what Wednesday's ruling means for the case in California.

As NPR has reported, this rule was part of a big push from the Office for Civil Rights to bolster "religious freedom" in health care. Severino, who is Catholic and formerly of the conservative Heritage Foundation, has argued that previous administrations did not fully enforce existing law that protected what supporters call health care workers' "conscience rights." Full Story

First public hearings in Trump impeachment inquiry to begin next week
A House resolution formalizing procedures for the probe as it entered a new phase passed last week, largely along party lines.
By Rebecca Shabad and Dartunorro Clark

WASHINGTON — Public hearings in Congress will begin next Wednesday in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday. The first open hearing, to be held Nov. 13, is slated to feature testimony from career diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent. The second hearing, scheduled for Nov. 15, is expected to include testimony from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Schiff said that there would be additional announcements of witnesses expected to testify publicly. “These will be the first of the public hearings,” he told reporters in a brief statement outside the secure room in the basement of the Capitol where David Hale was testifying Wednesday in his closed-door deposition.

According to the House Intelligence Committee’s website, both hearings are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET on both days. The House is currently on recess until next week. Schiff said that he thought the public would see that the “most important facts are largely not contested” in the Ukraine case, which involves Trump enlisting his administration to participate in the “illicit” effort to get Ukraine to dig up dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

It will be an “opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses themselves,” Schiff said. He added that while Democrats are moving forward with the “open phase” of the impeachment inquiry, they are still in the process of gathering depositions. Taylor currently serves as the chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, and Kent serves as the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s European and Eurasian bureau. Taylor testified before the three congressional committees conducting the depositions last month that Trump directed officials to tie foreign aid to Ukraine to demands that the country open an investigation into the Biden family and the 2016 election.

Taylor told lawmakers that "it was becoming clear" to him as early as July that almost $400 million of U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld on the condition that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy commit to investigating the Burisma energy company, as well as a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Full Story

McConnell says Senate would acquit Trump if trial held today

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate would acquit President Donald Trump if an impeachment trial were held today.

“I will say I’m pretty sure how it’s likely to end,” McConnell told reporters. “If it were today I don’t think there’s any question — it would not lead to a removal. So the question is how long does the Senate want to take? How long do the presidential candidates want to be here on the floor of the Senate instead of in Iowa and New Hampshire?”

The Kentucky Republican added that he has yet to speak with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on how the Senate would handle impeachment. But he said the two would likely start by looking at the agreement struck between former Senate leaders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) during the Clinton impeachment trial. Full Story - McConnell plans to give Trump a pass.

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