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US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 1

By John Fritze and David Jackson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump dismissed concerns Wednesday – including from some GOP lawmakers – about protecting the identity of a whistleblower at the center of allegations that he pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. Asked about those concerns Trump responded: "I don't care." Trump, who has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the unnamed person who filed a complaint about Trump's phone call with Ukrainian leaders, said "a whistleblower should be protected if the whistleblower's legitimate." The whistleblower’s report is at the heart of the impeachment investigation of Trump at the House of Representatives. The complaint filed Aug. 12 alleged Trump abused the power of his office when he urged Ukraine's president to gather dirt on Biden. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a co-founder of the Senate Whistleblower Caucus, said on Tuesday that the whistleblower deserves to be heard and protected. “We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality,” Grassley said. Trump, in a combative mood on the issue after several days of more subdued messaging, also repeated his attacks on House Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. and the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Trump said Schiff couldn't carry Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's "blank strap," apparently a reference to a "jockstrap." Earlier, Trump blasted a tweet storm minutes after a Democratic news conference, condemning impeachment as an attempt to force him from office that will damage the country. Trump challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's stated desire to work on trade and drug prices, saying Democrats are obsessed with impeachment. Pelosi is "incapable" of working on other issues, the president wrote. "It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment. The Do Nothing Democrats are stuck in mud!" more... - Trump is willing to put someone’s life in jeopardy to protect himself. Trump may not care but it is the law you cannot go after whistleblowers. Trump has once again shows us he does care about our laws when it comes to himself.

By Bart Jansen and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – After President Donald Trump said Monday he is trying to find out who reported concerns about his Ukraine phone call, whistleblower advocates said that person must be protected from retaliation and should be allowed to remain anonymous. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday that “we’re trying to find out ” who the whistleblower is. He reiterated that his July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” despite asking his counterpart to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. On Thursday, Trump was recorded telling a group that the whistleblower should be punished, noting that “spies and treason” in the past were handled “a little differently than we do now.” Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, called Trump’s apparent desire to unmask the whistleblower “horrific and chilling.” “It’s the last thing a president should be doing if he really wanted to root out waste, fraud and abuse,” she said. Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA officer who is representing the whistleblower, tweeted Monday that the person “is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.” John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said “threats of reprisals by the president and his allies against the intelligence community whistleblower are contrary to our nation’s core ideal of freedom of speech.” “If we want to know about lawbreaking, we need to gather evidence from the people who have it," Kostyack said. "Any time we send a message that they are going to be punished, we are essentially discouraging people who have this evidence from stepping forward. We need them. We need whistleblowers." The whistleblower’s complaint is at the heart of the impeachment investigation of Trump at the House of Representatives. The complaint was filed Aug. 12 with the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson. The complaint reported the “urgent concern” that alleged Trump was abusing the power of his office to urge Ukraine to gather dirt on Biden. more...

By David Jackson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – As a new book details his efforts to stop illegal immigration, President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday he did not propose lining the Mexican border with a moat filled with snakes and alligators. "Now the press is trying to sell the fact that I wanted a Moot stuffed with alligators and snakes, with an electrified fence and sharp spikes on top, at our Southern Border," Trump tweeted, misspelling the word "moat." "I may be tough on Border Security, but not that tough," the president added. "The press has gone Crazy. Fake News!" Trump later sent out the same tweet with the correct spelling of "Moat," though he needlessly capitalized it. The book says that, in addition to closing the entire southern border, Trump at one point suggested radical and even violent ways to stop illegal crossings – including the snake-and-alligator-filled moat as well as shooting migrants in the legs. "Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate," according to the book "Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration." more...

by Jamie Ross - The Daily Beast
President Trump called Boris Johnson to ask for help in discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, The Times of London reports. Trump is said to have called Johnson on July 26, two days after the prime minister took office, and reportedly asked Johnson for help in gathering evidence to undermine the investigation into his campaign’s links to Russia. That call also was one day after Trump spoke to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in the phone call that sparked the impeachment proceedings against him. Trump also contacted the Australian prime minister for help with an investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry. The Times reports Attorney General William Barr arrived in London days after Trump’s call with Johnson to attend a meeting of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. Barr reportedly told British officials that he suspected the information that led to the Mueller investigation came from British agencies. more...

By Jennifer Hansler and Devan Cole, CNN
Washington (CNN)Steve Linick, the State Department's inspector general, is set to hold an "urgent" briefing Wednesday with senior congressional staff members after Secretary Mike Pompeo Tuesday accused lawmakers of "intimidating and bullying" State Department officials by calling them for depositions related to the Ukraine inquiry. The meeting comes hours after Pompeo admitted earlier Wednesday that he was on the July 25 phone call in which President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, though this is no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president. Although Linick serves at the pleasure of the President, there are safeguards to prevent him from being quickly removed. "The President must communicate the reasons for the action in writing to both Houses of Congress at least 30 days before the removal or transfer," according to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. "These safeguards are meant to prevent IGs from being removed for political reasons or simply because they are doing an effective job of identifying fraud, waste, and abuse," it said. Linick, who was appointed to his post in September 2013 has a history of serving in oversight positions. At the State Department he oversaw the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. His May 2016 report on the probe was critical of Clinton, saying the former secretary failed to follow the rules or inform key department staff regarding her use of the private server. "At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act," the report stated. Clinton has long maintained that she had permission to use personal email. more...

By Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Wednesday he was listening in on the controversial phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's leader, Volodymyr Zelensky – a conversation that sparked the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. "I was on the phone call," Pompeo told reporters at a news conference in Rome. It marked the first time Pompeo has publicly disclosed his own knowledge of allegations that Trump pressured Zelensky for damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden. Pompeo had previously side-stepped questions about Trump's dealings with Zelensky and said he was not familiar with the details of a whistleblower complaint sparked by the July 25 call. The Trump-Zelensky call and the whistleblower complaint are now at the center of an impeachment inquiry examining whether Trump sought foreign interference in the 2020 election. That phone call prompted a whistleblower to file an anonymous complaint alleging that Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election," according to the complaint. At the news conference in Rome, Pompeo did not answer a question about whether Trump's remarks to Zelensky raised any red flags for him. Instead, he talked broadly about U.S. policy toward Ukraine, which he said has been "remarkably consistent" and focused on two goals: countering Russian aggression against the eastern European ally and helping Ukraine fight its endemic corruption. Pompeo's remarks came a day after he engaged in a high-stakes confrontation with House Democrats over their demands to depose five State Department employees as part of the impeachment inquiry. Democrats are seeking documents and interviews with Trump officials who could shed light on the State Department's role in connecting Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, with Ukrainian government officials. more...

By Jacob Pramuk
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has canceled all appearances and events until further notice following a procedure for an artery blockage. In a statement Wednesday, the senator’s advisor Jeff Weaver said Sanders “experienced some chest discomfort” during a Tuesday event. Testing found a “blockage in one artery,” and Sanders had two stents inserted, he said. “Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits. He will be resting up over the next few days,” Weaver said. “We are canceling his events and appearances until further notice, and we will continue to provide appropriate updates.” more...

Amid unproven Trump claims, the overseas trip is generating new attention over Hunter Biden's business dealings.
By Josh Lederman
WASHINGTON — At the time, it seemed mildly noteworthy, but not particularly unusual: then-Vice President Joe Biden, traveling to China on an official visit, had brought his son Hunter Biden along. And when the two appeared in public together in Beijing during the 2013 trip, there were all the typical trappings of a mini-family vacation tacked on to a business trip. With granddaughter Finnegan in tow, the Biden men sipped tea in a Confucian-style teahouse, leafed through books at local shops and treated themselves to mid-afternoon ice cream. But almost six years later, Biden’s trip to Beijing is coming under new scrutiny amid revelations about President Donald Trump’s efforts to dig up information to corroborate his unproven corruption allegations regarding Biden and his son’s work in Ukraine. In 2013, I was one of four reporters who traveled aboard Air Force Two with Biden and his son to China, a visit that was sandwiched between stops in Japan and South Korea. When we got on the plane on a bright Sunday afternoon at Joint Base Andrews, the Bidens were already on board, having just flown in from a family Thanksgiving gathering in Nantucket. Biden often took family members and especially his grandchildren on his foreign trips, so their presence didn’t raise eyebrows. more...

By Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY
It's been six days since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced an official impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over a whistleblower complaint related to Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. After the impeachment probe was announced last week, the White House released a summary of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the whistleblower's complaint was declassified and made public. Phone call: What Trump and Zelensky said on July 25. Complaint: Key takeaways from the now-released whistleblower complaint. Timeline: The events that led up to Trump's fateful phone call Additional details around the inquiry and related storylines seem to develop each day; here's what you missed over the weekend: The whistleblower will speak to Congress. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that the still anonymous whistleblower has reached an agreement to testify before Congress "very soon." A key concern for Congress will be to ensure the whistleblower's identity can remain secret, Schiff said. No date or time has set for an appearance yet. The whistleblower's complaint said not only that Trump had "used the powers of his office" to ask Zelensky to investigate a leading contender for the 2020 presidential election, but that the White House had taken steps to conceal records of the call. Whistleblower's attorneys concerned about safety, anonymity. As the impeachment inquiry moves forward, one of the whistleblower's attorneys has sent a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire expressing concern about the safety of the whistleblower. more...

By Ben Mathis-Lilley
A few days short of three years ago, WikiLeaks released emails that had been stolen by Russian intelligence operatives from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta—a release that took attention away from the revelation of Donald Trump’s lewd comments during an Access Hollywood taping and may have contributed to Clinton’s surprise election loss. A day short of one year ago, Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi security forces after being tricked into entering the country’s consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident who wrote for the Washington Post and had children who were U.S. citizens, but other than issuing perfunctory statements of regret about his death Donald Trump did little to investigate or retaliate against the top Saudi officials who may been involved in ordering it.  A day short of a week ago, we learned that Trump badgered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July about launching a bogus investigation into potential 2020 election opponent Joe Biden—and that, according to a whistleblower, the White House hid its transcript of the that conversation on a top-secret classified server not because it contained actual classified content but because it was potentially politically and legally incriminating. (If true, this would apparently violate classification laws.) Shortly after that, the Washington Post reported that Trump had told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. in 2017 that he had no problem with the hacking operation their country ran in 2016—and that “a memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly.” Finally, CNN reported that the administration has also taken unusual steps to limit access to accounts of Trump’s conversations with Vladimir Putin and with Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince (Salman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and Mohammed bin Salman, respectively). The network says no transcript of the Saudi calls were made at all, though there were likely other top administration officials present while they were taking place, and that a transcript of “at least one” Trump-Putin call was “tightly restricted” and kept from officials who would ordinarily have seen it. (It’s not clear if any information about the Putin/Saudi calls was put on the top-secret server discussed by the whistleblower, though his complaint does say that he was told other documents had been put on it for the sole purpose of hiding “politically sensitive” information.”) Trump was also previously have known to have taken the unusual step of requiring a translator to hand over notes taken during a 2017 face-to-face meeting between Trump and Putin in Germany. more...

By Bart Jansen and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – After President Donald Trump said Monday he is trying to find out who reported concerns about his Ukraine phone call, whistleblower advocates said that person must be protected from retaliation and should be allowed to remain anonymous. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday that “we’re trying to find out ” who the whistleblower is. He reiterated that his July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” despite asking his counterpart to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. On Thursday, Trump was recorded telling a group that the whistleblower should be punished, noting that “spies and treason” in the past were handled “a little differently than we do now.” Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, called Trump’s apparent desire to unmask the whistleblower “horrific and chilling.” “It’s the last thing a president should be doing if he really wanted to root out waste, fraud and abuse,” she said. Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA officer who is representing the whistleblower, tweeted Monday that the person “is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.” John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said “threats of reprisals by the president and his allies against the intelligence community whistleblower are contrary to our nation’s core ideal of freedom of speech.” “If we want to know about lawbreaking, we need to gather evidence from the people who have it," Kostyack said. "Any time we send a message that they are going to be punished, we are essentially discouraging people who have this evidence from stepping forward. We need them. We need whistleblowers." more...

By David Jackson and John Fritze, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – It's not your imagination: President Donald Trump is tweeting more. Amid calls for his impeachment and preparations for his reelection bid, Trump tweeted or retweeted nearly 800 times during an eventful September, about 100 posts beyond what he published in any previous month of his presidency, according to a USA TODAY analysis. His monthly tweet frequency has steadily risen for months. The president tweeted in his own words 500 times last month, twice his average monthly frequency in 2018. His September slew of tweets came in response to calls for his impeachment based on his efforts to encourage Ukrainian officials to investigate his political rival Joe Biden, 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner. "Again, the President of Ukraine said there was NO (ZERO) PRESSURE PUT ON HIM BY ME. Case closed!" Trump posted  Monday, the last day of his record-setting month. The president and the White House are scrambling to push back on the fast-moving Ukraine scandal that could upend the rest of his first term and redefine the political landscape for his 2020 reelection bid. Trump insisted that his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was appropriate. In more than 320 tweets and retweets since the story broke of a whistleblower report on Trump’s phone call in July with Zelensky, Trump used or repeated the word “treason” five times and the word "Ukraine" more than four dozen times. In two dozen instances, Trump raised the name of Biden or his son Hunter, who had business interests in Ukraine. Though he hasn't provided evidence, Trump has repeatedly claimed that Biden, as vice president, tried to stop an investigation into a Ukrainian energy company where his son Hunter served on the board of directors. more...

By ANNA PALMER and JAKE SHERMAN  
ON TUESDAY NIGHT, a very seasoned and well-known GOP operative sent us this stunning note, underscoring GOP alarm with how the Trump administration is handling impeachment: -- “GOP lawmakers and operatives are concerned at what appears to be a lack of urgency from the Trump administration in forming an organized, unified response engine to the Democratic impeachment threat. There is either a failure to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation; or an inability to protect the president like they did his Supreme Court nominees with a centralized war room that has credibility with stakeholders across the party. “Nobody wants to look like [Kevin] McCarthy did on ‘60 Minutes’ and right now they’ll duck and cover until they’re on firmer footing. The Trump administration has blazed their own communications path up to this point, but there is deep skepticism that the late-night Fox lineup will have any credibility with rank-and-file Republicans that are necessary to prosecute this argument against House Democrats. “The case needs to be made that today’s Democratic Party and their allies in the media have planned this since Election Day 2016 and they would be moving to impeach any Republican president under any circumstances. A hesitation to confront this threat with full force is forever waving a white flag. Unlike the Mueller probe, this is a political battle -- not a legal one. They need rapid response and credible, respected Republican voices, and they needed both yesterday.” EXAMPLES OF TWO TYPES OF REACTION THAT ALARM REPUBLICANS … -- THE PRESIDENT’S TWEET, around 7:40 p.m.: “As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the........People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!” -- THE ATLANTIC’S ELAINA PLOTT (@efplott): “Rudy Giuliani says he is looking to sue The Swamp.” Rudy’s text message, saying he’s going to sue “the swamp” in federal court. NEW … POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL: “Support for impeaching Trump hits new high,” by Steven Shepard: “A batch of recent polling confirms the Democratic impeachment push is gaining steam — including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult survey that shows for the first time that more voters support than oppose proceedings to remove Trump from office. The uptick is primarily among Democrats, as Republican voters surveyed continue to have Trump's back. “In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 46 percent of voters said Congress should begin impeachment proceedings vs. 43 percent who said they should not. Eleven percent had no opinion. That support represented a 3-point bump from last week, when voters were evenly split.” POLITICO HAPPENING THIS A.M.: Speaker NANCY PELOSI will hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m., along with House Intel Chairman ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.). … HAPPENING THURSDAY: Kurt Volker will testify in front of House Intel, Foreign Affairs and Oversight. more..

By Reade Pickert
The U.S. economy’s growth rate is losing speed, prompting questions over how slow it can go and still avoid crashing into a recession. Whereas expansion below 2% used to almost guarantee the economy would subsequently contract, some economists now reckon the U.S. can wobble around 1%-1.5% without falling over. The decline in the economy’s so-called stall speed is a relief after data released Tuesday signaled the weakest manufacturing sector in a decade. It still leaves the Federal Reserve under pressure to cut interest rates and President Donald Trump facing challenges heading into next year’s election. Whether the longest expansion in history remains intact may ultimately depend on whether consumers are able to maintain spending enough to offset the slump in manufacturing amid the U.S.-China trade war. “Suddenly the idea of stall speed is much more important today than it has been for most of the expansion,” said Stephen Gallagher, chief U.S. economist at Societe Generale SA. “The economy is running on one engine, and that’s the consumer.” At Commerzbank AG, currency strategist Ulrich Leuchtmann told clients in a report on Wednesday that “the fact that stall speed is becoming an issue of common interest” may undermine demand for U.S. assets. Taking a page from aviation, in which the stall speed is the slowest a plane can fly while still maintaining a level flight, the economic equivalent is the point at which growth is no longer self-sustaining. more...

By Dan Mangan
The FBI on Friday released nearly 750 pages of documents from the bureau’s file on the the late Roy Cohn, the controversial, hyper-aggressive lawyer whose high-profile clients included President Donald Trump when Trump was a fledgling real estate mogul in New York City. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” Trump has been quoted lamenting when he was faced with political and legal pressures. Cohn was famous — and infamous — for his work for Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in the 1950s investigating suspected infilitration by communists in U.S. government agencies, as well as his role prosecuting Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for stealing American atomic secrets. In the Rosenberg case, Cohn later admitted to conversations with the trial judge outside of the presence of the Rosenberg lawyers — a serious ethical breach by both Cohn and the judge. The Big Apple bon vivant Cohn also was an associate of the admitted Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, another Trump ally. Stone currently is under indictment for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing justice, charges related to his alleged efforts to get WikiLeaks to release emails stolen from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty in that case. The release of the FBI’s Cohn files comes on the heels of a new documentary that uses Trump’s quote “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” as its title. The vast majority of the FBI files include details of an investigation into Cohn for perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection with a grand jury probe of an alleged $50,000 bribe Cohn paid the then-chief assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan to keep several stock swindlers from being indicted in 1959. Cohn was found not guilty after a trial in that case in 1964. A number of the files were sent directly to J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s director at the time, and reflect the bureau’s painstaking efforts to acquire information about trips by Cohn to Las Vegas in 1959, and other evidence, in connection with the bribery case. more...

By Scott Neuman
Johnson & Johnson and two Ohio counties have reached a tentative $20.4 million settlement that removes the corporation from the first federal lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, scheduled to begin later this month. In a statement released Tuesday, the healthcare giant said the agreement with Cleveland's Cuyahoga and Akron's Summit counties allows it "to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial." However, the terms stipulate that Johnson & Johnson makes "no admission of liability." "[The] Company is open to identifying an appropriate, comprehensive resolution of the overall opioid litigation. At the same time, the Company remains prepared to defend its actions," the statement said. In a deal which must be approved by a federal judge, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay the counties a total of $10 million and to reimburse them for $5 million in legal fees. An additional $5.4 million would go toward programs to fight opioid addiction in the two counties. In 2017, Ohio had the nation's second highest per capita rate of fatal opioid overdoses, with 46.3 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Virginia had the highest rate at 57.8 per 100,000, the CDC said. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, made two opioids that were distributed in Cuyahoga and Summit counties. Johnson & Johnson says the drugs were "responsibly marketed" and "accounted for less than one percent of the total opioid prescriptions in the United States." In August, the drug maker was ordered to pay $572 million in a case in Oklahoma, which blamed Johnson & Johnson for helping fuel the opioid crisis in the state. The company has appealed the ruling. Judge Thad Balkman, who presided over the Oklahoma case, said the pharmaceutical giant "caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths and neonatal abstinence syndrome" in the state. The case involving the Ohio counties is the first federal case to be brought against pharmaceutical companies and is therefore seen as potentially setting precedent for how similar suits will be handled. more...

By NAHAL TOOSI
When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused House Democrats of trying to “intimidate, bully, and treat improperly” State Department employees in their impeachment inquiry, his words rang hollow to more than a few staffers in Foggy Bottom. If anything, critics inside and outside the department say, Pompeo has done little to protect U.S. diplomats from a virtual war waged on them by President Donald Trump’s administration. His abrupt withdrawal earlier this year of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine — whom Trump disparaged in a call at the heart of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry – also has raised questions about Pompeo’s willingness to stand up for staffers facing political attacks. That ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch , is due to be deposed later this month by House staffers, according to a committee aide. Her case, meanwhile, has already rattled career government staffers. Many of them believe Yovanovitch, a veteran diplomat, is one of the most prominent victims of what they say is the contempt and paranoia with which Trump and his aides view the Foreign and Civil Service. “What the administration appears to want are political operatives who are loyal not to the United States but to the president in furthering his personal, political and financial goals,” said Philip Gordon, a former senior official in the Obama administration who co-authored a recent op-ed defending Yovanovitch. “That’s where it’s demoralizing for the career diplomats.” A current State Department staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his job, described the Pompeo letter as “the height of irony.” Pompeo’s rebuff of Hill Democrats follows a report that his department has ramped up a probe into emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 White House rival, in ways that are ensnaring some career diplomats. In addition, State’s inspector general is due to soon release a major report into alleged political retaliation against career staffers under Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson. The inspector general recently released a separate report that found an assistant secretary of state, Kevin Moley, acted abusively toward career staff. Pompeo, however, has not fired Moley. more...

“Volker was the easier guy to let go,” said one former State Department official. “But just because it is an easy choice doesn’t mean it is the right choice.”
By Erin Banco
When President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared on cable news programs last week, he deflected questions about his work in Ukraine and instead hammered home one talking point over and over again: The State Department knew he was trying to dig up dirt on 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani waved his phone on air, flashing text messages between himself and State Department representatives and saying it was the department that connected him to a close adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Giuliani’s on-air appearances threw the department into a tizzy, forcing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to try to put a lid on the crisis of confidence bubbling up under him, according to three senior U.S. officials. For Pompeo, solving the problem meant finding someone to blame—and there was only one individual who fit the mold, according to those same sources: former U.S. representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker. Volker resigned on Friday. But despite his resignation, the State Department has scrambled to correct course, according to these same officials, especially after news that Pompeo was on the now-infamous call between President Trump and Zelensky in July. Pompeo had previously denied knowing about it on national television. On top of that, three congressional committees subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to Trump and Giuliani’s work in Ukraine and demanded that five current and former department officials appear for depositions. In response, Pompeo tried a time-tested Trump White House strategy: stonewalling Congress. The secretary said Tuesday that Congress was “bullying” career officials and suggested they would not appear for questioning. (The State Department’s inspector general is currently investigating members of Pompeo’s department for pushing career officials out of their posts for perceived political bias.) The State Department did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Pompeo’s plan appears to have backfired. Despite the secretary’s efforts to block several of his current and former officials from speaking to Congress, Volker is set to go to Capitol Hill on Thursday with the backing of a cadre of current and former diplomats. Some of those diplomats spoke to The Daily Beast and requested anonymity because they feared reprisals from Pompeo and other Trump administration officials. The inspector general recently released a separate report that found an assistant secretary of state, Kevin Moley, acted abusively toward career staff. Pompeo, however, has not fired Moley. more...

A U.S. judge has temporarily blocked a California law aimed at forcing President Trump to release his personal income tax returns in order to appear on the 2020 primary ballot. U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. issued a written opinion Tuesday saying the law likely violates the U.S. Constitution. England said in September that he would temporarily block the law that requires candidates for president or governor to file copies of their personal income tax returns with the California secretary of state's office. England wrote that the state's concerns about seeing elected officials' tax returns are "legitimate and understandable." But he said the court's job is to rule on the law's constitutional merits, not whether it is good policy or makes political sense. A spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla said his office is reviewing the ruling. more...

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat of California on Tuesday said that President Donald Trump should be put in "solitary confinement" because "impeachment is not good enough" after House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against the President last week amid the mounting Ukraine controversy. "I'm calling on the GOP to stop Trump's filthy talk of whistleblowers being spies & using mob language implying they should be killed," Waters tweeted. "Impeachment is not good enough for Trump. He needs to be imprisoned & placed in solitary confinement."
"But for now, impeachment is the imperative," she added. Waters' extreme rhetoric comes amid intense interest in a whistleblower complaint released this past week that alleged Trump abused his official powers "to solicit interference" from Ukraine in the 2020 election and that the White House took steps to cover it up. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. A rough transcript released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden, Trump's potential 2020 political rival, and his son Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden. In the days since the public release of the complaint, Trump has repeatedly attacked the anonymous whistleblower, asserting that he deserves to "meet my accuser." The Presiden said last week that whoever provided the whistleblower with information about his call with Zelensky is "close to a spy," and said that in the old days spies were dealt with differently. Waters tweeted later Tuesday that "Trump has corrupted so many members of his admin." "The lies, coverups, shaking down foreign countries & undermining our democracy will be recorded as one of the worst periods in the history of our country, all led by a dishonorable con man," she said. "Follow the facts, impeachment on the way." more...

By Adam Andrzejewski
Corrupt members of Congress deserve time in prison, not taxpayer-funded federal pensions. Even in Illinois, jailed governors lose their lucrative retirement annuities. However, at the federal level, the rules were so lax that no member has ever been stripped of their congressional pension. The guilty plea of Rep. Chris Collins could change this. Chris Collins resigned from Congress on October 1st and then pled guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and making false statements to the FBI. Under a 2012 reform law, he could be the first member to be stripped of federal pension benefits. Even so, Collins will retain his 401(k), including the federal match, and health benefits. Elected in 2012 and seated in 2013, Collins spent a little over six years in Congress.  Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com calculated that the disgraced congressman would receive an estimated $12,000 annual pension. Members of Congress vest in a retirement annuity benefit (pension) after only five-years. Collins would have collected approximately 6.75-percent of his $174,000 congressional salary. Collins, who is 69, has a life expectancy of 84 years. Therefore, a stripped pension benefit would cost him at least $176,175 over the next 15 years.  But, why are we guessing at federal pension payouts? That’s because pension payouts to members of Congress and any federal worker are considered private information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) statutes. Releasing data on federal pensions will require an act of Congress. The law needs to be changed. Our organization, and groups like Freedom Works, are leading the way. Working with U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), the legislation, Federal Employee Disclosure Transparency Act (H.R. 2612), would open the books on federal pensions for the first time in history. Taxpayers deserve to know the details of the lucrative pensions of career bureaucrats and members of Congress. Basic questions deserve answers: How many years were worked, how much money was paid-in and by whom, how quickly did they break-even on their own contributions, and just how much did the taxpayers finance? And if a member is convicted of a felony, then they should lose their federal pensions. Because of a loophole in the law, currently jailed former representatives Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) are continuing to collect pension benefits – for the last couple of years – even after being convicted of crimes that seemingly would require pension forfeiture. more...

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham also argued a "high crime" was simply an important person hurting someone of low means.
By Dan Evon
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham argued in 1999 that a crime wasn't necessary for presidential impeachment. An old quote supposedly uttered by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham about the requirements for presidential impeachment is frequently shared on social media in response to the South Carolina lawmaker’s staunch defense of President Donald Trump: This is a genuine quote from Graham. Graham was one of 13 U.S. House Republicans from the judiciary committee who served as a “manager” (similar to a prosecutor) during the impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton. As Graham made his case for Clinton’s impeachment on Jan. 16, 1999, the South Carolina lawmaker explained his thoughts on what constituted a “high crime” and argued that a president’s being convicted of a crime was not required for impeachment. The viral quote can be heard in the following clip from C-Span: more...

By John Haltiwanger
Attorney General William Barr in April called President Donald Trump and urged him to tell his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to tone it down in TV appearances, according to the Wall Street Journal. The attorney general is the country's top law enforcement official and it's unusual for someone in his position to offer the president political or legal advice on such a personal level. Barr has repeatedly been accused by congressional Democrats and other critics of stepping outside of his purview and behaving more as the president's personal lawyer than the attorney general. At the time of the phone call, Giuliani was being critical of former White House counsel Don McGahn over his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators in the probe on Russian election interference. McGahn's name appeared 529 times in the 448-page report on the special counsel's investigation. Mueller ultimately concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to show the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. And though Mueller declined to make a conclusion on whether the president committed obstruction of justice, he also did not exonerate Trump and outlined 11 instances of potential obstruction. In short, though the conclusions the special counsel offered are complicated, Mueller did not explicitly accuse Trump of a crime. Along these lines, Barr in the April phone call reportedly asked Trump why Giuliani was on TV attacking McGahn and drawing attention to himself rather than declaring victory and moving on from the Mueller probe. more...

US attorney general raised review of Trump-Russia inquiry at meeting in London, say sources
By Patrick Wintour and Luke Harding
The US attorney general met UK intelligence agencies in the summer to discuss Britain potentially cooperating with Donald Trump’s administration on an inquiry examining the FBI’s investigation into alleged collusion with Russia, according to sources. William Barr met British intelligence officials in London on 29 July at a meeting attended by intelligence agencies from the Five Eyes group. He was accompanied by the US homeland security department’s acting deputy secretary, David Pekoske. The meeting was formally about the risks and opportunities of new technologies but Barr also raised his inquiries into the FBI investigation. New reports reveal wider role for Barr and Pompeo in impeachment scandal. A Whitehall official said the issue of UK cooperation was discussed informally and only on the margins of the meeting. US officials have said Barr’s role is confined to ensuring that the official inquiry team members are introduced to the right people. It has been reported that Barr is pressing a range of foreign powers to cooperate with his effort to piece together the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia. Barr’s critics claim he is seeking to discredit the FBI investigation by constructing a vast conspiracy theory that foreign powers were working to secure Hillary Clinton’s election in 2016. The inquiry by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, showed that Russia was attempting to swing the presidential election in favour of Trump. more...

By David Shortell, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The Justice Department will produce 500 pages of memos documenting what witnesses told special counsel Robert Mueller's office and the FBI during their investigation next month. The documents, known as 302s, memorialize interviews conducted by the office and form the backbone of much of the Mueller report. CNN and BuzzFeed News had sued for the documents under the Freedom of Information Act, and on Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington, DC, ordered the Justice Department to produce their first tranche of documents by November 1. The 500 pages could shed new light on what key government cooperators like former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former White House counsel Don McGahn told federal investigators, but represents only a fraction of the underlying interview records that Mueller's office made: there were a total of 800 302 forms created by the special counsel's office, potentially numbering some 44,000 pages, Justice Department attorney Courtney Enlow said at a hearing Tuesday morning. Enlow said the FBI had already begun to process the records but said a host of potential exemptions that had to be considered before their release, including national security implications, certain privileges, and exposure to ongoing prosecutions and investigations. "We have been going through 302s line by line," Enlow said. "It's a very intensive process." The future production schedule for the remaining interview forms, as well as other records requested by the news outlets, is a matter of contention. Judge Reggie B. Walton lamented the Justice Department's suggested rate of 500 pages per month -- which Enlow said was routine for the FBI -- calculating that it would take years for all of the 302s to reach the public. more...

By conor finnegan and katherine faulders
The State Department’s inspector general is expected to give an "urgent" briefing to staffers from several House and Senate committees on Wednesday afternoon about documents obtained from the department’s Office of the Legal Adviser related to the State Department and Ukraine, sources familiar with the planned briefing told ABC News. Details of the briefing, requested by Steve Linick, the inspector general at State, remain unknown. Linick is expected to meet with congressional staff in a secure location on Capitol Hill. The unusual nature and timing of the briefing – during a congressional recess – suggests it may be connected to a recent intelligence community whistleblower allegation which describes, in part, the State Department’s role in coordinating interactions between Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and Ukrainian officials. The inspector general is the department's internal investigator and watchdog, and the office generally operates independently of the department's political leadership. more...

CBS This Morning - There’s new information about President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president that triggered the House impeachment investigation. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was listening to that phone call. This indicates he knew months ago that the president wanted Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.  Paula Reid reports. more...

Don’t get confused: This is about Trump co-opting the powers of the presidency for personal gain.
By Zack Beauchamp
It’s been roughly a week since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, and the underlying Ukraine scandal keeps spiraling in new directions. Recent reports about Trump and Attorney General William Barr’s contact with leaders in Australia, Italy, and the UK have created a sense of sprawling mess, making it seem like a tough-to-follow meta-scandal akin to the Trump-Russia morass. But despite the new developments — which involve Trump and Barr attempting to enlist foreign leaders’ help in investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe — the scandal remains straightforward. President Trump has turned American foreign policy into an extortion racket, abusing his powers to goad foreign leaders into persecuting his domestic rivals and improve his political standing. The proof for this in the case of Ukraine is irrefutable. The other news stories are supporting evidence that Trump has systematically twisted US foreign policy into a tool for furthering his 2020 reelection bid. The elegant simplicity of this narrative, the way in which it neatly encapsulates so many things wrong with the Trump presidency, is what gives these allegations the potential to bring this administration down. It is important not to let the seeming complexity and international breadth of what’s happening get in your way, in part because confusion and apathy are the White House’s best hope for containing the fallout from recent revelations. Don’t let the flurry of news confuse you: This a clear, straightforward, and politically devastating scandal. Eye on the ball: We know that President Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden on the basis of a debunked nonsense allegation during a July phone call — and then tried to cover it up. We know this because of a federal whistleblower complaint, citing testimony from a number of officials who heard the call and witnessed the White House’s attempts to hide it by moving the call transcript to a server designed for classified information. We know the whistleblower is correct because of a call summary released by the White House, as well as a White House statement admitting the call transcript was transferred to a classified server. These basic facts are all you really need to know to understand the Ukraine scandal: The president of the United States asking for “a favor” (his words) from a foreign leader — an intervention in the 2020 US election on his behalf. His administration then hid this fact by using powers of classification that were designed to protect state secrets, not politically damaging information. This is an abuse of power, and we know it happened. more...

By Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis
WASHINGTON — The Oval Office meeting this past March began, as so many had, with President Trump fuming about migrants. But this time he had a solution. As White House advisers listened astonished, he ordered them to shut down the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico — by noon the next day. The advisers feared the president’s edict would trap American tourists in Mexico, strand children at schools on both sides of the border and create an economic meltdown in two countries. Yet they also knew how much the president’s zeal to stop immigration had sent him lurching for solutions, one more extreme than the next. Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that they shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him. “The president was frustrated and I think he took that moment to hit the reset button,” said Thomas D. Homan, who had served as Mr. Trump’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recalling that week in March. “The president wanted it to be fixed quickly.” Mr. Trump’s order to close the border was a decision point that touched off a frenzied week of presidential rages, around-the-clock staff panic and far more White House turmoil than was known at the time. By the end of the week, the seat-of-the-pants president had backed off his threat but had retaliated with the beginning of a purge of the aides who had tried to contain him. Today, as Mr. Trump is surrounded by advisers less willing to stand up to him, his threat to seal off the country from a flood of immigrants remains active. “I have absolute power to shut down the border,” he said in an interview this summer with The New York Times. more...

The president has joked about shooting and throwing rocks at migrants to secure the border in the past.
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By Antonia Blumberg
President Donald Trump in March reportedly suggested soldiers shoot migrants in the leg in order to prevent them from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new book, an excerpt of which The New York Times published on Tuesday. “Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate,” write Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis in their forthcoming book, “Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration.” more...

By DANIEL LIPPMAN and NATASHA BERTRAND
The Trump White House upgraded the security of the National Security Council’s top-secret codeword system in the spring of 2018, according to two former Trump White House officials familiar with the matter, as part of an effort to ferret out and deter leaks. The changes included a new log of who accessed specific documents in the NSC’s system — known as NICE or “NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment” — and was designed in part to prevent leaks of records of the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders and to find out the suspected leaker if transcripts did get disclosed, one of the former officials said. Prior to the upgrade, officials could only see who had uploaded or downloaded material to the system but usually not who accessed which documents. That highly classified system is being newly scrutinized in light of a whistleblower complaint alleging that national security officials used the system—meant for storing information classified at the highest level — to conceal politically embarrassing conversations, including a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 in which President Donald Trump urged Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. If hiding politically embarrassing material, rather than protecting national security secrets, was the motivation, experts and former officials said, it would be an abuse of the codeword system. While not necessarily an illegal act, it does run counter to an executive order signed by President Obama in 2009 that says information can’t be classified to “conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error” or “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency,” they said. POLITICO first reported last week that the White House began to use the codeword system to restrict the number of officials who had access to these transcripts following leaks in 2017. As part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, lawmakers are interested in learning who was involved in uploading the call records to that system—a stark departure from how the system is typically used and how memos of the president’s exchanges have traditionally been handled, former officials and experts said. more...

By Catherine Rampell
Hey, have you heard about this whistleblower complaint? An unnamed civil servant is alleging serious interference in government business. If the allegations are true, they could be a game-changer. They might set in motion the release of lots of other secret documents showing that President Trump has abused his authority for his personal benefit. Wait, you thought I meant the whistleblower from the intelligence community? Nope. I’m talking about a completely different whistleblower, whose claims have gotten significantly less attention but could prove no less consequential. This whistleblower alleges a whole different category of impropriety: that someone has been secretly meddling with the Internal Revenue Service’s audit of the president. In defiance of a half-century norm, Trump has kept his tax returns secret. We don’t know exactly what he might be hiding. His bizarre behavior, though, suggests it’s really bad. Maybe these documents would reveal something embarrassing but not criminal (e.g., the relatively puny size of his fortune). Maybe they’d reveal that some of his financial dealings are legally dubious or even fraudulent, which would be consistent with past Trump-family tax behavior. Most significantly, they might reveal that Trump has been profiting off the presidency. Among the relevant conflict-of-interest questions that Trump’s taxes could answer: whom he gets money from, whom he owes money to (and on what terms) or how his 2017 tax overhaul enriched him personally. Not that you’d know it from the administration’s stonewalling, but Congress actually has unambiguous authority to get Trump’s returns. In fact, it has had the authority to get any federal tax return, no questions asked, for nearly a century. Under a 1924 law, Treasury “shall furnish” any tax document requested by the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance Committee chairs. That’s exactly what the House Ways and Means chairman, Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), did in the spring. The statute doesn’t require him to state any legislative purpose for his request, but he provided one anyway: He said that committee needed to make sure the IRS, which it oversees, is properly conducting its annual audit of the president and vice president, as the IRS manual has required post-Watergate. more...

By Mandel Ngan/Getty
ROME–When Attorney General William Barr showed up at the U.S. embassy’s Palazzo Margherita on Rome’s tony Via Veneto last week, he had two primary requests. He needed a conference room to meet high level Italian security agents where he could be sure no one was listening in. And he needed an extra chair for U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut who would be sitting at his right hand side. Barr was in Rome on an under-the-radar mission that was only planned a few days in advance.  An official with the embassy confirmed to The Daily Beast that they had to scramble to accommodate Barr’s sudden arrival. He had been in Italy before, but not with such a clear motive. Barr and Durham are looking into the events that led to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and suddenly all roads were leading to Rome. more...

By John McCormack
Iowa Republican senator Chuck Grassley issued the following statement today: “This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality. Any further media reports on the whistleblower’s identity don’t serve the public interest—even if the conflict sells more papers or attracts clicks. “No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts. Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country. “When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first- and second-hand knowledge aren’t legal ones. It’s just not part of whistleblower protection law or any agency policy. Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.     “As I said last week, inquiries that put impeachment first and facts last don’t weigh very credibly. Folks just ought to be responsible with their words.” more...

The Facebook CEO railed against the presidential candidate’s plan to break up big tech companies.
By Gideon Resnick
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Tuesday morning tore into Facebook following a report containing leaked audio from the company’s top executive and founder. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed a question about Warren’s plan to break up big tech companies during an internal Q&A session and expressed concern about the prospect. According to the leaked audio, obtained by The Verge, the social-media titan said: “If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge. And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government.” Zuckerberg added, according to the audio: “But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.” Warren responded on Twitter by saying: “What would really ‘suck’ is if we don’t fix a corrupt system that lets giant companies like Facebook engage in illegal anticompetitive practices, stomp on consumer privacy rights, and repeatedly fumble their responsibility to protect our democracy.” more...

The Iowa Republican is one of the few GOP senators defending the whistleblower.
By BURGESS EVERETT
As President Donald Trump and his allies attack the whistleblower that kicked off the House's impeachment inquiry, the still unidentified person gained a powerful ally on Tuesday: Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. The most senior GOP senator has fashioned a career on protecting whistleblowers during presidencies of both parties. And in the middle of one of the most tempestuous political storms in two decades, the seventh-term Iowan is sticking to his position even if it’s at odds with the president himself. In a Tuesday statement, Grassley moved to stave off attacks and the unmasking of the federal whistleblower who first divulged Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president. Trump and many of his allies in Congress and outside have been working to chip away at the whisleblower’s credibility, calling his complaint “hearsay” and playing down its validity. Grassley is, so far, having none of it. He said Tuesday that the fact that the individual’s knowledge of Trump’s phone call and the White House restricting records came secondhand should not invalidate his reporting. “This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers,” Grassley said. “Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.” Grassley also said that media reports on the identity of the whistleblower “don’t serve the public interest—even if the conflict sells more papers or attracts clicks.” The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that the whistleblower is a CIA officer but did not identify him by name. For now, Grassley is something of a lonely voice in the party, though Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) pushed back forcefully against Trump’s suggestion last week that the whistleblower’s sources are spies. The whistleblower claimed administration sources said Trump moved to “abuse his office for personal gain” when speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about former Vice President Joe Biden in July, then tried to restrict the conversation. The complaint and a transcript of the call are the basis for House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. On Tuesday at a short Senate session, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he left it up to reporters on whether media should reveal more about the whistleblower and said much more should be learned about this person. “I’d assume if you were going to dig into this you’d want to know who the sources are that the whistleblower relied on. And I’d assume we’d want to know whom the whistleblower himself or herself is and if they’re credible,” Hawley said. Last week, a number of Republicans mounted attacks on the whistleblower as a secondhand source with no direct knowledge of the inner workings of the administration. more...

By Karen DeYoung
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired a broadside at House Democrats on Tuesday, saying State Department officials scheduled to appear this week before committees conducting the impeachment inquiry would not be made available until “we obtain further clarity on these matters.” The refusal, in a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), described the demand for depositions by five officials who played a role in U.S. relations with Ukraine as “an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly, the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.” A spokesman for the committee had no immediate comment. The statements came as Pompeo’s role in the Ukraine investigation broadened with reports that he was a participant in the July 25 call by President Trump to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which led to the impeachment investigation. Before that report, first published by The Wall Street Journal, Pompeo had brushed off questions about the incident, saying last week that he had not yet read the transcript of the telephone call released by the White House, or the whistleblower complaint that it sparked. more... - What are they hiding? Makes you wonder how bad it is.

The House wants a trove of documents and communications from Sam Kislin, who helped Trump stave off bankruptcy and helped fund Giuliani’s political campaigns.
By Anna Nemtsova, Adam Rawnsley, Christopher Dickey
KYIV, Ukraine—Such is the swamp of corruption in Ukraine that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, in their many dealings with its businessmen, have been only one degree of separation from what’s generally called the Russian Mob. Or maybe less. And that’s not new. It goes back decades, to Trump’s years as a real-estate developer and Giuliani’s campaigns for mayor of New York City. Now that Trump is president, with Giuliani acting as his lawyer and shadow envoy to Ukraine to try to dig up dirt on Democratic rivals past and present—an effort leading to alleged abuse of the president’s office and impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives—those shady connections take on a whole new significance. One of the central figures in the Trump-Giuliani-Ukraine nexus is Sam Kislin, a businessman and philanthropist often identified with the Russian émigré community of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn—and with alleged mob connections. On Monday, the three House committees pursuing the impeachment inquiry sent a “request” to Kislin for a potentially vast trove of documents and communications with Trump, Giuliani, and scores of Ukrainians. Kislin was not immediately available for comment. Giuliani responded to a text message: "You are investigating people who may or may not have contributed to me 20 years ago." In fact, the contributions to his campaigns are a matter of public record. Giuliani suggested this line of inquiry is in itself some kind of coverup. "Why not focus on Biden’s shocking pay to play scheme, not how I uncovered it," he asked. "You should applaud my getting these serious allegations attention." The Biden allegations have not been substantiated by Ukrainian officials, although some in the Kislin circle would like to help make the case. more...

By Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky
A veteran federal judge on Monday warned U.S. prosecutors either to charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe or to drop their investigation into whether he lied to investigators about an unauthorized media disclosure, saying their indecision was undermining the credibility of the Justice Department. If a decision is not made, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton of Washington, D.C., said at a hearing that he would order the Justice Department to release internal FBI documents related to McCabe’s firing by Nov. 15. The extraordinary warning by Walton — a 2001 President George W. Bush appointee and former presiding judge of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — marked the latest turbulence in an investigation that McCabe’s defenders say is a move by the Trump administration to punish the president’s perceived political enemies. more...

By Clare Lombardo, Elissa Nadworny
A judge has ruled in favor of Harvard University in a high–profile court case centered on Harvard's consideration of race in admissions. Federal District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs issued her decision Tuesday, saying, "Harvard's admission program passes constitutional muster," and that "ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions." The plaintiff, advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions, accused Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants. It argued the school considers race too much, forcing Asian-Americans to meet a higher bar to get in. Legal experts have said that SFFA is likely to appeal, and the case could make it all the way to the Supreme Court. Supporters of affirmative action fear that if this case makes it to the nation's highest court, race-conscious admissions could be eliminated. "This has been kind of a beacon of civil rights policies in higher education that helped to transform student demographics, especially at elite institutions," said Mitchell Chang, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Education law professor Liliana Garces co–authored an amicus brief supporting Harvard's admissions practices leading up to the trial. "I think what this case represents is a very concerted effort to bring the question of race-conscious admissions back to the Supreme Court," said Garces, who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. more...

By Kirsten Korosec
The workers strike against General Motors — now in its third week — has cost the automaker more than $1 billion during the third quarter, according to a research note from J.P. Morgan analyst Ryan Brickman. And those losses are accelerating with each passing week. GM lost about $480 million during the first week of the strike and another $575 million in the second, according to Brickman. GM is losing about $82 million of potential profit in North America every day. TechCrunch will update the article if GM responds to a request for comment. The effects of the production stoppage, which began September 16 when 49,000 United Auto Workers went on strike, is causing a ripple effect through the Detroit automaker’s global operations. AP reported Tuesday that GM has shut down its pickup truck and transmission factories in Silao, Mexico, affecting 6,000 workers there. GM also had to close an engine factory in Mexico and an assembly plant in Canada because of the strike. “GM’s US production stopped immediately when the UAW [United Auto Workers] walked off the job on September 16 and we estimate its Canadian and Mexican facilities became progressively impacted throughout the first week,” Brinkman wrote in his research note this week. Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois also weighed in this week, noting that the strike could restrict GM’s ability to make investments. While pay, benefits and the status of temporary workers are the primary drivers of the strike, so are concerns about changes within the automaker toward electrification. GM and the rest of the automotive industry are pouring money into developing electric vehicles. But this shift is also affecting workers because electric vehicles, which require fewer parts, are easier to build. The UAW has said the shift from gas to electric engines could lead to a loss of 35,000 jobs over the next few years, according to a research study conducted by the union and recently noted by CNBC. Last November, GM CEO/Chairman Mary Barra announced plans to cut more than 14,000 jobs in North America, shutter factories and eliminate several car models in an effort to transform into a nimble company focused on high-margin SUVs, crossovers and trucks, and investments in future products like electric and autonomous vehicles. more...

By John Harwood
The Republican defenses for President Donald Trump’s conduct on Ukraine simply don’t hold up. At first glance, that can be hard to discern. Trump, his aides and select allies in Congress have feverishly sought to redirect a whistleblower’s complaints toward Democratic adversaries. “It is the height of insanity for the Democrats to try and bogusly impeach President Trump for simply calling out this corruption,” a Republican National Committee spokesman asserted over the weekend. Yet even cursory scrutiny of evidence that has emerged so far knocks down assorted GOP arguments like shanties in a hurricane. Here’s a brief review: It was hearsay: House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy notes that “the whistleblower wasn’t on the call” between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. “Hearsay,” Sen. Lindsey Graham insists, cannot be a basis for impeachment. Both observations are irrelevant. In the partial transcript of the call released by the White House itself, Trump’s own words affirm the whistleblower’s account. That is direct evidence, not hearsay. “If they thought it would be exculpatory, they miscalculated badly,” GOP former Sen. Jeff Flake told me. Biased whistleblower: The president says the still-unidentified whistleblower harbors “known bias” against him. This observation, which the intelligence community inspector general called “arguable,” does not discredit the whistleblower’s allegations, which the inspector general found “credible.” If the whistleblower’s information is accurate, his motivation doesn’t matter. Trump’s own former homeland security advisor, Thomas Bossert, has described himself as “deeply disturbed” by the president’s behavior, too. more...

Guyger was off-duty but in uniform when she shot Jean last year in a case that has become a flashpoint in Dallas over issues of police use of force and racial bias.
By Erik Ortiz
Former Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder on Tuesday for fatally shooting her neighbor, Botham Jean, after thinking he was an intruder when she mistakenly entered his apartment. Guyger, who has been out on a $300,000 bond, faces a maximum of life in prison. She was not immediately taken into custody and the sentencing phase in her trial began Tuesday afternoon with opening statements from Jean's family. Earlier, an audible gasp could be heard in the packed courtroom when state District Judge Tammy Kemp read the jury's decision. Jean's family later walked out crying and embracing, many wearing red — the victim's favorite color. The jury was tasked with deciding whether or not Guyger, 31, acted reasonably when she used deadly force, and if the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she intentionally killed Jean or if a lesser charge of manslaughter, which involves reckless conduct, was warranted. Deliberations began Monday afternoon after a weeklong trial, which included the playing of the 911 call that Guyger made after shooting Jean and dramatic bodycam video from officers who responded to the scene. more...

By Jessica Campisi
White House reporters were sent into a panic Tuesday morning after a mouse fell from the ceiling of the press booth. NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted that a mouse “literally fell out of the ceiling” and onto his lap. Other reporters, including Reuters correspondent Steve Holland, tweeted photos of White House reporters scrambling in the press room as they searched for the mouse as it ran around the booth. White House reporters were sent into a panic Tuesday morning after a mouse fell from the ceiling of the press booth. NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted that a mouse “literally fell out of the ceiling” and onto his lap. Other reporters, including Reuters correspondent Steve Holland, tweeted photos of White House reporters scrambling in the press room as they searched for the mouse as it ran around the booth.   One producer’s tweeted video shows the mouse running behind tables and equipment as it remained uncaptured. White House reporters were sent into a panic Tuesday morning after a mouse fell from the ceiling of the press booth. NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander tweeted that a mouse “literally fell out of the ceiling” and onto his lap. Other reporters, including Reuters correspondent Steve Holland, tweeted photos of White House reporters scrambling in the press room as they searched for the mouse as it ran around the booth. One producer’s tweeted video shows the mouse running behind tables and equipment as it remained uncaptured. The mouse later escaped the office area and was running free in the White House press briefing room. “Chase underway,” tweeted CNBC correspondent Eamon Javers. more...

By John Wagner and
Colby Itkowitz
October 1 at 12:02 PM
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told House Democrats on Tuesday that State Department officials scheduled to appear this week before committees conducting the impeachment inquiry would not show up.
The refusal, in a letter to a Democratic committee chairman, described the demand for depositions by five officials who played a role in U.S. relations with Ukraine as “an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly, the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.” Pompeo’s letter came as Trump, during a spate of morning tweets, questioned why he is not “entitled to interview & learn everything about” a whistleblower whose identity is protected by federal statute. Trump also again insisted that his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “PERFECT,” dismissing concerns at the core of the whistleblower’s complaint that Trump pressed for an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son.  Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump lashed out at the whistleblower and at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) more...

By Shane Croucher
A historian noted several likenesses between today and pre-Civil War America, saying President Donald Trump "was onto something" when he touted a similar conflict in the future if he is removed from office via impeachment. Trump, facing impeachment by the House over the Ukraine-Biden affair, tweeted comments made on Fox News by the evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress that the president's removal "will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal." Heather Cox Richardson, a history professor at Boston College who is an expert in 19th century America, laid out on Twitter what she described as the "eerily similar" parallels after Trump's controversial civil war tweets. "The parallels between the consolidation of elite slaveowners' power from 1830-1860 and the rise of Movement Conservatives from 1954-2019 are eerily similar," Richardson said, remarking that they both took power by "denigrating black Americans." "Their racial dogwhistles won voters and they began to pass laws that moved wealth upward. The more those laws hurt regular people, the more they doubled down on racism against all POC, and then turned on 'Feminazis,' all of whom they said threatened white men's liberty. "As they got richer and lost popular support, they came to believe they were the nation's natural leaders who should rule even as people turned against their policies. They stayed in power by gaming the system: gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a compliant SCOTUS. "But that is now crumbling. When Trump threatens civil war, he is not just talking about saving his own hide; he is calling for his supporters to rally around race and gender so they protect the oligarchy that has been gathering power for a generation or more." Richardson added that there is a "crucial difference" between the two periods: "The world of 1860 was a world dominated by white men. But now POC [people of color] and women are political participants with voices and votes. And both are getting more powerful daily." more...

By Sinéad Baker
The intelligence community's watchdog poured cold water on a claim by President Donald Trump that the rules for whistleblower complaints were changed just before a an explosive accusation was lodged about his dealings with Ukraine. The complaint drew attention to a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which the official memo released by the White House showed Trump used to ask Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Details about the call led Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump. On Monday, Trump angrily tweeted the suggestion that the rules had been changed just before the complaint hit, seeming to imply that standards had been lowered in order to admit the case against him. Trump wrote: "WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!" He was echoing claims made by GOP senator Lindsey Graham, who said on Sunday: "I want to know why they changed the rules about whistleblowers not — the hearsay rule was changed just a short period of time before the complaint was filed." Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson also raised the possibility of the rules having changed on Monday, though with less certainty than Trump and Graham. In response, officials for Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Committee, released a four-page statement on Monday shooting down the theory. It did not name Trump or any of the senators. The statement said that having first-hand knowledge has never been a requirement, that the whistleblower used a process that has been in place for more than a year, and added that the whistleblower also does claim to have first-hand information. It said: "Although the form requests information about whether the Complainant possesses first-hand knowledge about the matter about which he or she is lodging the complaint, there is no such requirement set forth in the statute." more...

By David Knowles - Yahoo News
The first full week of the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump got underway with a rapid-fire succession of bombshell events that are likely to affect the course of the investigation. At 3:53 p.m. in Washington, the Democratic chairmen of three House committees subpoenaed Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for documents related to the president’s request for an investigation by Ukrainian officials into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Reps. Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings cited Giuliani’s cable news appearances, saying the former New York City mayor “admitted on national television that, while serving as the president’s personal attorney, he asked the government of Ukraine to target” Biden. “In addition to this stark admission, you stated more recently that you are in possession of evidence — in the form of text messages, phone records, and other communications — indicating that you were not acting alone and that other Trump Administration officials may have been involved in this scheme,” the chairmen wrote. Minutes later, at 4:04 p.m., the Wall Street Journal reported that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among those who listened in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is the basis of the House investigation. Last week, when Pompeo was interviewed by ABC News, he denied firsthand knowledge about what Trump and Zelensky discussed. The State Department had not disclosed that Pompeo had been on the call with Zelensky. Democrats are also seeking to learn if State Department Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl was listening in as well. On Friday, Democrats subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to the administration’s dealings with Ukraine. Thirteen minutes after the Wall Street Journal’s story on Pompeo was published, the New York Times reported that Trump sought additional foreign help with his political troubles. In a recent phone call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Times reported, Trump sought information that could help discredit former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. That investigation was kicked off, in part, by the disclosure that former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos had discussed the Russian efforts with an Australian diplomat in London. It wasn’t clear how Trump would benefit from reopening questions about the Mueller investigation, which ended in April with the publication of a report that Trump claimed, inaccurately, exonerated him completely. Just as with Trump’s call with Zelensky, the White House restricted access to transcripts of his call with Morrison. more...

By Alexandra Hutzler
Former Republican Senator Jeff Flake said that with what the American public currently knows about President Donald Trump's conduct in office, impeachment proceedings against him are warranted. Flake wrote about Trump's latest controversy with the Ukraine whistleblower, his feelings about impeachment and the "soul" of the Republican Party in an op-ed for The Washington Post on Monday. "Compelling arguments will be made on both sides of the impeachment question. With what we now know, the president's actions warrant impeachment," the former lawmaker wrote. He added that he had "grave reservations" about whether removing Trump is the right decision given the "profound division in the country." The House of Representatives officially moved forward with an impeachment inquiry last week after reports that Trump tried to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. A whistleblower complaint filed with the intelligence community's inspector general detailed the questionable communication between Trump and Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky in July, during which the two leaders discussed looking into the Bidens. It's also been reported that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to coerce them into the probe, though Trump denies the allegation. The whistleblower complaint, which was redacted but made public by the House Intelligence Committee last week, detailed concerns that Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election." more...

So now it’s a threat of “civil war.” How low can Trump go? Don’t answer that.
By Matt Lewis
In January 1973, National Lampoon featured an infamous cover declaring: “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine We’ll Kill This Dog.” I was reminded of that when Donald Trump sent a similarly desperate tweet this weekend, suggesting that “If You Don’t Stop This Impeachment My People and I Will Start a Civil War.” At least, that’s my interpretation of Trump’s tweet—which predicted: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office… it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” It is, perhaps, ironic that in seeking to clear himself of making an alleged veiled threat to Ukraine that he would hold up the country’s funding, Trump is now issuing a veiled threat to America: It’s a nice country we got here, it’d be a shame if anything happened to it! more...

CNN - Retired Army Lt. Col. Ralph Peters tells CNN's Anderson Cooper that he thinks if President Donald Trump loses the 2020 election, he could be spending time in court for the rest of his life. more...

CNN - Former national security adviser John Bolton criticized President Donald Trump's strategy on North Korea during his first speech since leaving the White House. CNN's Brian Todd reports. more...

By Elliot Hannon
It’s now abundantly clear that President Trump is actively deploying the resources of the U.S. government explicitly to bolster his chances of reelection in 2020. The recent whistleblower complaint revealed one part of the two-pronged strategy: leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine to compel the Ukrainian government to dredge up old allegations on political rival Joe Biden. The second aspect of the Trump vindication-through-vilification reelection strategy has led Trump and his allies to investigate the investigation by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election to try to muddy the water sufficiently that Trump looks clean by comparison—or by confusion. That effort is also being propelled by the power vested in the highest offices of the U.S. government, including, of course, the presidency. Yet another example, the New York Times reports, is a recent phone call made by President Trump to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking the foreign leader to assist Attorney General Bill Barr in the investigation of the Mueller investigation. “The discussion with [Australia’s prime minister] shows the extent to which Trump views the attorney general as a crucial partner,” the Times notes. “[T]he president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived ‘deep state’ enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.” If there was any inkling that this was an investigation being done in good faith of the origins of the Mueller investigation, the fact that the White House has reportedly buried the transcript of the call under layers of frivolous national security classification similar to its efforts to hide the Ukraine call indicates the Trump inner circle knows what they’re doing here is outside the law, certainly the spirit of it, and certainly doesn’t look good. more...

The U.S. provided about $1.5 billion in military aid to Kiev between 2014 and this past June, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.
By BRYAN BENDER and WESLEY MORGAN
The military aid scandal that spawned the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has a very different significance for Ukraine, where years of U.S. assistance have just begun to turn a ragtag army into a better-armed and professional force to counter Russian aggression. The U.S. has provided about $1.5 billion in military support to Kiev between 2014 and this past June, according to an updated analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. And Trump’s temporary cut off of the aid represented a significant setback for the country. "Ukraine would never be where it is without that support from the United States," said Ash Carter, who served as President Barack Obama’s defense secretary from 2015 to 2017. "Everything we were doing there to train their military forces, their National Guard, to improve the professionalism and reduce corruption in the defense ministry … all that was critical." Before the aid influx, “the Ukrainian military was in woeful shape,” said Mariya Omelicheva, a professor of national security strategy at the Pentagon’s National Defense University who specializes in the region. “There has been a tangible, measurable impact," added Omelicheva, who visited the Ukrainian training center in March. And beyond that, she said, the help created “an immeasurable, psychological impact — that the U.S. has our back." Now Trump’s aborted aid cutoff — first reported by POLITICO in late August — has mushroomed into a titanic political fight, centered on allegations that the president was using the military assistance as leverage to push Ukraine’s government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. House oversight committees are demanding more data from the White House Office of Management and Budget on when and how the decision to sever the aid arose, including requesting that some documentation be delivered to Capitol Hill by Tuesday. The military aid program has steadily shifted American support in recent years much more heavily toward security after economic development, loan guarantees and anti-corruption programs defined much of the support following Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The U.S. bumped up its military support in 2014, soon after a popular uprising ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian troops annexed the Crimean peninsula while fomenting a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region. The vast majority of the funds, approved with bipartisan support in Congress, has financed items such as sniper rifles; rocket-propelled grenade launchers; counter-artillery radars; command and control and communications systems; night vision goggles; medical equipment; as well training and logistical support. more...

By Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket, Emily Tillett
Washington -- A series of rapid-fire developments brought the House impeachment inquiry into clearer focus Monday afternoon, with Democrats issuing new demands for evidence and new revelations about the circumstances of the president's call with Ukraine coming to light. Just before 4 p.m., three House committees announced they had subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, for documents related to his work on behalf of President Trump to persuade Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. The committees also requested material about Giuliani's work to secure Ukraine's cooperation into a Justice Department review of the origins of Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Shortly after the subpoena was announced, The Wall Street Journal reported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the July 25 call between the president and the Ukrainian leader. CBS News has confirmed Pompeo was on the call. The New York Times reported Mr. Trump had called the prime minister of Australia to request assistance in the Justice Department review. The call came at the behest of Attorney General William Barr. A Justice Department official then told CBS News that Barr had asked Mr. Trump to reach out to a number of foreign officials to request their assistance in his review, which is being led by the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. A source familiar with the matter said Barr traveled to Italy as part of his effort, and The Washington Post reported he has also reached out to intelligence officials in the United Kingdom. In the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Mr. Trump repeatedly asked him to work with Barr to pursue a fringe conspiracy theory about the origins of the 2016 U.S. counterintelligence investigation that would became the Mueller probe. "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it," Mr. Trump told Zelensky, according to the summary released by the White House. more...

By Molly Olmstead
It was another busy afternoon of news for Donald Trump’s associates caught up in the House’s impeachment inquiry.  The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listened in on the phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that triggered the whistleblower complaint at the heart of the matter. House Democrats on Monday also announced they had subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani for his records related to the call in which Trump asked the country’s president to “look into” his political rival Joe Biden.  Pompeo and Giuliani are both strident defenders of the president, but Giuliani’s unwillingness to stick to careful talking points has placed the two men somewhat at odds. Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer and attack dog who has repeatedly confirmed his own guilt in the Ukraine story while muddling the White House’s messaging, placed some of the blame for the scandal on the State Department. He insisted that he had “40 texts from the State Department asking me to do what I did.” He asserted repeatedly that when he pressured Ukraine to investigate Biden, he was doing so for upright, officially sanctioned reasons. “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job,” Giuliani tweeted after one bizarre CNN interview. The news about Pompeo, at first glance, might make one believe that Giuliani’s seemingly out-of-control ramblings on cable news had more validity than it appeared. While it was known there were State Department officials on the call, Pompeo’s presence—and the fact that he had conveniently failed to mention it even when asked directly about the whistleblower complaint—seems to point to greater State Department involvement. But the transcript of the phone call still indicates that Giuliani’s directive came from Trump and not the State Department.  Pompeo has not yet addressed the news, but last week, when asked about the whistleblower’s complaint, he said that he had not fully read it and defended the State Department’s actions as “consistent” with the administration’s goal of improving relations with Ukraine, according to the Journal. Pompeo received a subpoena last week and has until Oct. 4 to produce his records. Giuliani must turn over his documents by Oct. 15. Giuliani said on Friday that if he were subpoenaed, he would follow Trump’s advice as to whether he cooperates. On Monday, he tweeted that the subpoena was only signed by Democrats had “prejudged this case” and that he would give the subpoena “appropriate consideration.” Letters were also sent out on Monday to three of Giuliani’s associates. more...

By Nicholas Nehamas and Kevin G. Hall
Over the summer, Dianne and Michael Pues got an ominous phone call from the business partner of a Ukrainian-American entrepreneur who owes the couple more than $500,000 over a movie deal gone bad. “He said the Ukrainians were upset because we were ‘a dangling participle’ and we needed to make a deal to make them go away,” Dianne Pues, who lives in New Jersey with her husband, recounted in a recent interview. “He said we no longer knew who we were dealing with and that the Ukrainians had ties all the way up to the State Department and the White House and they were partners with Rudy Giuliani.” Working with Giuliani, the White House and the State Department was no idle boast. The “Ukrainians” are two South Florida businessmen named Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman who on Monday were sent letters by three House committees requesting information as part of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Parnas and Fruman have recently become major Republican donors — and couriers of what they say is explosive information sourced from Ukraine about widespread corruption involving Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, American diplomats and Ukrainian officials. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a former New York City mayor, has been their conduit to the Trump administration. On Monday, the House committees subpoenaed Giuliani for documents relating to his efforts in Ukraine. They also sent letters to Parnas, Fruman and a third man, Semyon Kislin, “seeking documents and noticing depositions.” Before the scandal became a cable-news fixture, the exploits of Parnas and Fruman caught the admiring eye of Trump, as well as right-wing pundits and politicians who amplified their material. A government whistleblower complaint — one that led House Democrats last week to open the impeachment inquiry — cited media reports detailing Parnas and Fruman’s work introducing Giuliani to Ukrainian officials, although the two men weren’t mentioned by name. Experts on Ukrainian politics have largely debunked the accusations against Biden and others as conspiracy theories. Even the Ukrainian prosecutor who originally brought attention to the matter has walked back some of his claims. The prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, was introduced to Giuliani thanks to Fruman and Parnas, according to media accounts and interviews. more...

Flynn's lawyers are seeking information to back up a wide range of allegations against Robert Mueller’s office and the FBI.
By JOSH GERSTEIN
Federal prosecutors are denouncing as a “fishing expedition” a demand by Michael Flynn’s new defense attorneys for nearly 50 categories of information that they contend will undercut the felony false-statement charge the former national security adviser pleaded guilty to nearly two years ago. In a filing Tuesday, government lawyers urged U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan to proceed with Flynn’s long-delayed sentencing and reject the move by Flynn’s defense counsel to delve into a wide range of allegations against former special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and the FBI. The allegations include a claim that they deliberately set out to frame Flynn in an effort to target President Donald Trump. Prosecutors argued that the slew of records Flynn’s defense is demanding is largely irrelevant to the task before the judge of fashioning a sentence for the crime Flynn admitted to under oath in federal court in December 2017. “The defendant predicates much of his request on conspiracy theories, demanding that the government engage in a fishing expedition for documents that could offer support for those theories. Irrespective of whether such documents exist, a fact that the government does not concede here, the defendant fails to establish that such information is relevant—let alone favorable and material—in this criminal case,” says the prosecution brief, signed by former Mueller prosecutor Brandon Van Grack. The prosecution submission says many of the topics the defense is demanding information on don’t ultimately bear on Flynn’s admission that he lied to a pair of FBI agents in a January 2017 interview, particularly when he denied speaking with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. The defense seeks more details on discussions by top FBI officials about whether to notify the White House counsel or other officials about the planned interview, but prosecutors say that isn’t germane to whether Flynn lied. more...

By Meridith Edwards, CNN
(CNN) - The rain pounded the streets and neighborhoods of Houston for more than four days following the landfall of Category 4 Hurricane Harvey in late August 2017. The downpour caused historic flooding and triggered thousands of rescues. The situation became so dire and resources were so strapped, that the most unlikely law enforcement members were called to step up as first responders. "We didn't have specific training, but we knew people needed help," said FBI Special Agent David Ko, part of the bureau's SWAT unit in Houston. "Part of being a SWAT team is when the call comes out you go out and help people ... and this is what we did." As Harvey stalled over Houston, the FBI team received a desperate call from the Houston Police Department. Dozens of police officers, including the chief of police, were trapped at a substation in an inaccessible area. So FBI Special Agent Mike Walker sent out an email asking the 37 FBI agents to come in and help. Only four agents were able to circumvent the surging floodwaters to get in to where the high-water trucks, boats and equipment were stored. The four-man team quickly formulated a rescue plan to reach the trapped Houston police officers and citizens. Since it was his first time driving the high-water vehicles into deep water, Agent Ko was concerned. "It's supposed to drive underwater but does it really? Or is it gonna flip over? Or are we going to hit a fire hydrant?" more...

By Scott Faber, opinion contributor
Standing before a room mostly filled with industry lobbyists last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a clear message to the hundreds of American communities with drinking water contaminated with the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS: Let them drink polluted water. PFAS are man-made “forever chemicals” that never break down once released and they build up in our bodies. Calling Congressional efforts to clean up legacy PFAS pollution in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020 “just not workable,” Wheeler instead will continue to study the matter. Wheeler has so far refused to designate PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law. By doing so, the EPA would kick-start the cleanup process at contaminated sites and ensure that polluters pay their fair share of cleanup costs. The Department of Defense has cited the absence of a “hazardous substance” designation when refusing to clean up sites contaminated by fluorinated firefighting foams. So far, the Environmental Working Group has documented 297 military installations that are contaminated by PFAS, threatening nearby communities. Even former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to pursue the designation for some PFAS, vowing in 2018 that it was “a national priority.” But this week Wheeler parroted chemical industry talking points to contend that cleaning up contaminated sites would be putting politics “ahead of the science.” “You don't solve a problem with a chemical by just declaring it hazardous,” Wheeler said. Actually, the EPA has designated hundreds of chemicals as hazardous under federal statutes meant to fulfill the agency’s mission to, you know, protect people. By doing so, the EPA has reduced releases of hazardous substances from industry into the air and water and cleaned up sites that are badly contaminated. As House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) noted during a markup last week, a hazardous substance designation is not a ban. Many of the chemicals deemed hazardous by the EPA are still used in products. According to news accounts, Wheeler also relied upon earlier EPA approvals of some PFAS chemicals as proof of their safety — despite recent evidence that the agency knowingly ignored studies showing serious health risks. The EPA’s own inspector general just announced a probe into whether agreements on the production of GenX – a notorious replacement chemical for older PFAS — have been enforced. more...

By Lici Beveridge, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
A popular black-owned restaurant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was vandalized late Sunday or early Monday with a racial slur and messages telling the owners to leave. Owner Vikki Layne Terrell of the restaurant bearing her name – Vikki Layne's Bar and Grill – said the incident happened after she locked up around 6:30 p.m. Sunday. "I don’t know why anyone would do this,” she said. "I should not walk into the women's room and see racial slurs on the walls." Tables were overturned in the dining room and kitchen, and equipment was damaged, but the worst damage was in the bathrooms. Vandals wrote the N-word on a mirror and spray-painted “Get out” and “You not welcome” on the walls. Police were at the scene on Monday afternoon looking at the damage and reviewing video footage from a nearby surveillance camera. No suspect or suspects have been identified. Terrell moved her restaurant to its location in downtown Hattiesburg  less than a year ago. She said she never had any problems until she moved downtown. Since then, Terrell said she has had problems with people making racist comments, like one white customer who asked not to be seated next to black customers or children or another white customer who asked to be served by a white waitress. more...


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