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US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 12

By Rachel Martin
A bit of Latin has been on the lips of many lately: quid pro quo. The phrase has been broadly invoked in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump and his interactions with the leader of Ukraine. Trump and many of his allies deny there was a quid pro quo — they say that Trump did not withhold military aid to Ukraine as part of an exchange for investigations that could help Trump politically in the 2020 campaign. (Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that link in a press briefing last week but then later walked back his comments.) U.S. diplomat William Taylor's recent testimony to congressional investigators supports allegations that Trump withheld military assistance as part of a parallel — and informal — Ukraine policy. U.S. diplomat William Taylor's recent testimony to congressional investigators supports allegations that Trump withheld military assistance as part of a parallel — and informal — Ukraine policy. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said that proving quid pro quo is not a requirement for impeachment, but the phrase has stuck. "In Latin it just simply means something for something," says Ben Zimmer, language columnist for The Wall Street Journal. But, he notes, "I think that the political situation can't help but inform the way that we're going to understand this particular phrase, even though it's been in the language for oh, about 500 years." An exchange — not necessarily an equal one: Zimmer says the first recorded use of the phrase quid pro quo in English meant something totally different. "In the 16th century, very often if you've got a drug from an apothecary, what you would be getting might not be exactly what you asked for," he says. more...

By Michela Tindera - Forbes Staff
A nonprofit group with a bland name, Americans for Job Security, spent $5 million supporting Republicans in the 2010 midterms and $15 million denouncing former President Obama in the 2012 election, but until this week, the group never had to file disclosures showing where its money was coming from. “This is the first time in the Citizens United-era that a dark money group was forced to disclose their donors in a certain time period,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokersperson for nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, referring to the 2010 Supreme Court case that wiped away previous restrictions on political spending. Americans for Job Security had previously claimed it was not a political organization and therefore did not have to disclose its donors. But after years of litigation, CREW convinced the Federal Election Commission otherwise. AJS filed a list of its backers and beneficiaries from 2010 to 2012 on Thursday. The biggest individual donor to the group appears to be Charles Schwab, the brokerage titan worth an estimated $7.8 billion. Over the span of three months in 2012, he donated nearly $9 million. Gap cofounder Doris Fisher—along with her sons Robert, John and William—gave another $9 million. Some of the donors’ names have seeped out over the years. In 2013 a California state watchdog agency released a redacted donor list following an investigation conducted by the agency. That redacted list showed donors with mostly California addresses. more...

By Jonah Goldberg
The suggestion that 'the server' is being hidden in some Ukrainian warehouse is straight-up bonkers. The impeachment drama is already a three-ring circus, with a full complement of clowns to the left and the right. But if you’ve ever been to a three-ring circus, you know that it’s hard to take it all in at once. I want to focus on one detail that hasn’t gotten enough attention: the “missing” DNC server that the president believes might be in Ukraine. If you’ve paid any attention to the impeachment drama, you know the basics. The center-ring story is that President Trump allegedly tried to pressure Volodymyr Zelensky, the new president of Ukraine (by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting) to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. In his now-infamous phone call with Zelensky, Trump asked for a “favor” in two parts. The second part, which everyone focuses on, was the request for the Ukrainians to work with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr in an investigation of Biden and Biden’s son Hunter. The first part of the favor is far less controversial. Trump asked Zelensky to look into the status of the DNC email server that the FBI and former special prosecutor Robert Mueller say was hacked by the Russians ahead of the 2016 election. Remember, this is the same Mueller whom the president cites for his “total exoneration” from the Russian collusion allegation. According to the rough transcript released by the White House, Trump said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike . . . I guess you have one of your wealthy people . . . The server, they say Ukraine has it.” This favor is less controversial because Trump’s defenders don’t controvert it. It’s central to their defense. They concede Trump asked for this favor, contending that by the time Trump got to the “other thing” he wanted from Zelensky — an investigation of Biden — he was no longer asking for a “favor” at all. Trump would never ask for a quid pro quo to smear a political opponent, they insist. But asking for an investigation into the server? That’s entirely appropriate. After all, there’s an official investigation into how the FBI launched its Russia/Trump probe in the first place. Asking for help with that is wholly legitimate. In White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s disastrous press conference last week, he admitted there was an attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine. (“Get over it,” he exclaimed.) But in Mulvaney’s version of events, it didn’t have anything to do with Biden. It did, however, have to do with “the corruption related to the DNC server.” But here’s the thing: This is nuts. There’s a conspiracy theory, popular in the Oval Office and the swampier corners of the Internet, that the hacking of the DNC’s email servers wasn’t orchestrated by Russia but by Ukraine — to benefit Hillary Clinton! This makes no sense for countless reasons we don’t have space for. But it’s worth noting that in the most popular version of this story, the DNC hack was an inside job, conducted by a low-level staffer named Seth Rich, who was then murdered to keep him from exposing the plot to frame the Russians. CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm, was hired to analyze the server — which was actually more than 140 different servers. Rather than take possession of the server(s), CrowdStrike made digital copies of the whole shebang. This was allegedly a cover-up. As Trump tweeted in 2018, “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t the FBI take possession of it? Deep State?” more...

By Zachary Cohen and Kevin Bohn, CNN
(CNN) - A new biography of former Defense Secretary James Mattis reports President Donald Trump personally got involved in who would win a major $10 billion contract to provide cloud computing services to the Pentagon, according to the website Task & Purpose, which writes about military issues. That hotly contested contract was awarded to Microsoft on Friday evening over Amazon in a months-long battle. Task & Purpose reports the new book, "Holding The Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis" by former Mattis speechwriter and communications director Guy Snodgrass recounts that Mattis always tried to translate Trump's demands into ethical outcomes. According to Snodgrass' book, Trump called Mattis during summer 2018 and directed him to "screw Amazon" out of the opportunity to bid on the contract. Task & Purpose obtained an advanced copy of the book. CNN has not yet seen the book. For several years Trump has voiced his displeasure with Amazon and Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. He has accused Amazon of taking advantage of the Postal Service although independent investigations have disagreed with that contention. He also has linked his unfavorable view of Washington Post reporting to Amazon although the Post makes clear it is run separately. "Relaying the story to us during Small Group, Mattis said, 'We're not going to do that. This will be done by the book, both legally and ethically,'" Snodgrass wrote according to Task & Purpose. The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment. more... - Oh, they must have hurt the little baby’s feelings. Trump is the pettiest person in the world and as Americans; we should be ashamed to have him as our president.

Barr's "criminal investigation" of the Russia probe is the fruit of a long-running far-right plan to kill democracy
By Heather Digby Parton
Students of the modern conservative movement often date the recent supercharged radicalization of the Republican Party to the rise of Newt Gingrich and the Republican Revolution in the early 1990s. It's true that the GOP went seriously off the rails during that period and the craziness has been picking up speed ever since. But in reality, the conservative movement has been radical from its beginnings, starting with the anti-communist crusade after World War II all the way through Goldwater to Reagan, Gingrich and now Trump. Now it has finally shed all trappings of a sophisticated political ideology, culminating in this surreal parody of a presidency in 2019. The conservative "three legged stool" of small government, traditional values and global military leadership has completely disintegrated. But one aspect of that earlier conservative movement has continued to chug along with its long-term project to transform the U.S. into an undemocratic, quasi-authoritarian plutocracy. That would be the group of far-right lawyers who started the Federalist Society, with the goal of packing the judiciary with true believers, along with a certain group of Reagan-era legal wunderkinds who came to believe that the GOP could dominate the presidency for decades to come. They developed the theory of the "unitary executive," originally advanced by Reagan's odious attorney general Ed Meese ( recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom) which holds that massive, unaccountable power is vested in the president of the United States. Attorney General William Barr was one of those lawyers, along with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former appeals court judge Michael Luttig and others who encouraged Barr to take the job, particularly after his famous memo declaring that what any normal person would see as obstruction of justice doesn't apply to the president. (In a nutshell, Barr agrees with former President Richard Nixon, who said, "If the president does it, it's not illegal.") Attorney General William Barr was one of those lawyers, along with White House counsel Pat Cipollone, former appeals court judge Michael Luttig and others who encouraged Barr to take the job, particularly after his famous memo declaring that what any normal person would see as obstruction of justice doesn't apply to the president. (In a nutshell, Barr agrees with former President Richard Nixon, who said, "If the president does it, it's not illegal.") Barr is described as supremely confident in his beliefs, which is to say that his overweening arrogance is not an act put on someone who is overcompensating to hide insecurity. He believes in this theory and when it became obvious that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not long for the  job, Barr and his legal cabal appear to have seen the clueless and corrupt Donald Trump as a perfect instrument to test their theory, and perhaps set legal precedents that would enable future right-wing presidents to use the full power of the presidency to dominate American politics without regard to democratic norms or congressional checks and balances. Indeed, they had been setting the stage for such a man for decades. more...

Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, appeared to respond to President Trump's previous attacks of her husband during a speech at his funeral. Source: CNN more...

By Erica Orden and Evan Perez, CNN
(CNN) - Federal prosecutors in New York have subpoenaed the brother of one of the recently indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani, according to two people familiar with the matter, as they escalate their investigation in the campaign-finance case. The subpoena to Steven Fruman is the latest indication of prosecutors' actions since the rushed arrest two weeks ago of his brother, Igor Fruman, and another defendant, Lev Parnas, at a Washington-area airport. Since then, investigators have doled out multiple subpoenas and conducted several property searches, in one case blowing the door off a safe to access the contents, sources tell CNN. Federal prosecutors told a judge this week that they are sifting through data from more than 50 bank accounts. In addition, they've put a filter team in place as they examine communications obtained via search warrant and subpoena, sensitive to material that could be subject to attorney-client privilege because Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, counted Parnas as a client. A filter team is a separate set of prosecutors who are assigned to examine evidence and set aside material that is privileged. Since the October 9 arrests, federal agents visited the New York home of Steven Fruman and served him with a subpoena from Manhattan federal prosecutors, the people familiar with the matter said. Attorneys for Steven and Igor Fruman declined to comment. A spokesman for the Manhattan US Attorney's office also declined to comment. more...

By Nolan Hicks
President Donald Trump assailed his envoy to Ukraine on Friday as a “Never Trumper,” days after the diplomat’s testimony provided new fuel for the impeachment inquiry launched by congressional Democrats. “Here’s the problem, he’s a ‘Never Trumper’ and his lawyer’s a ‘Never Trumper,'” said the president, who went on to criticize Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for appointing the career diplomat, William Taylor Jr., to the post. “Hey, everybody makes mistakes — Mike Pompeo, everybody makes mistakes,” Trump told reporters gathered on the White House lawn as he departed for South Carolina. “He’s a ‘Never Trumper,’ his lawyer is the head of the ‘Never Trumpers.'” Trump then attacked the reporter asking the question. “And here’s the other problem, you’re with CNN and you’re fake news,” Trump added. The president’s remarks came after Taylor provided lawmakers with an opening statement that alleged Trump and his top aides attempted to pressure Ukrainian leaders into probing the son of a top Democratic rival, Joe Biden, by delaying defense aid that the Eastern European country desperately needs. more...

By Dan Mangan
Lawyers for former national security advisor John Bolton have been in touch with officials working on House committees about possibly testifying in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, a person close to Bolton told NBC News on Friday. The news comes more than a week after the White House’s former top Europe expert, Fiona Hill, reportedly testified to Congress that Bolton was so disturbed by efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a “drug deal.” Hill said that Bolton told her he did not want to be part of that push, which involved White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, according to reports of her testimony. Hill also reportedly testified that Bolton had called Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani a “hand grenade.” Giuliani has been at the head of a charge to have Ukraine launch investigations that could benefit Trump politically ahead of his 2020 reelection effort. The Washington Post reported Thursday that White House trade representative Robert Lighthizer in August withdrew a recommendation to restore some of Ukraine’s trade privileges after Bolton “warned him that President Trump probably would oppose any action that benefited the government in Kyiv.” Bolton left the Trump administration on Sept. 10. Trump said he fired Bolton, while Bolton said he had resigned. more...

CBS Evening News - President Donald Trump's controversial namesake hotel in Washington, D.C. — just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House — is for sale with an asking price of as much as $500 million. Weijia Jiang reports. more...

By Sarah Westwood, CNN
(CNN) - More than 200 people attended President Donald Trump's speech at Benedict College, but only about 10 actual students were invited to the event -- his first appearance at a historically black college, and an effort to reach out beyond his usual base of support. Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Stephen Benjamin told CNN that out of the more than 200 invitees to the President's speech, only about 10 were actual students from the college. The others, Benjamin said, were "brought in" from somewhere else. More than 2,100 attend the school, according to its website. Benedict College spokeswoman Kymm Hunter later told reporters that only seven students ultimately attended the speech. "This should have been an opportunity for at least scores of students to attend this event," Benjamin told CNN. He said the president of the college requested more students be able to attend, but that the White House maintained control of organizing the event. Trump's visit Friday to the HBCU came amid the fallout over his decision this week to compare the impeachment proceedings on Capitol Hill to a "lynching" -- words for which he declined to apologize as he prepared to leave the White House for the journey to South Carolina. The President's language created a divisive backdrop for his rare appearance at the historically black college, where he was slated to highlight his administration's work on criminal justice reform. Although Trump did speak extensively about the criminal justice reform bill he signed into law in April, he also found a way to mention impeachment twice, demonstrating that the political turmoil engulfing his administration is never far from his mind. Describing his "own experience" with unfair treatment, Trump said he is now facing "an investigation in search of a crime." "If this were a Democrat, they would never allow this to happen," he said. Dozens of protesters gathered outside the venue as Trump's motorcade pulled into the college Friday afternoon. The head of the South Carolina NAACP released a statement ahead of the visit condemning Trump's words and encouraging skepticism, underscoring the divides within the community around Benedict over inviting Trump to speak. more...

The finding came in an order directing the Justice Department to hand over secret grand jury evidence from the Mueller investigation to House impeachment investigators.
By Charlie Savage and Emily Cochrane
Breaking News Update: The House is legally engaged in an impeachment inquiry, a federal judge ruled on Friday, delivering a major victory to House Democrats and undercutting arguments by President Trump and Republicans that the investigation is a sham. The House Judiciary Committee is entitled to view secret grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in a 75-page opinion. Attorney General William P. Barr had withheld the material from lawmakers. Typically, Congress has no right to view secret evidence gathered by a grand jury. But in 1974, the courts permitted the committee weighing whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon to see such materials — and, Judge Howell ruled, the House is now engaged in the same process focused on Mr. Trump. Judge Howell, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote that law enforcement officials’ need to keep the information secret from Congress was “minimal” and easily outweighed by lawmakers’ need for it. “Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in a diligent and thorough investigation into, and in a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the president described in the Mueller report,” she wrote. In reaching her decision, Judge Howell rejected the contention by Mr. Trump and his allies that the investigation Democrats are pursuing, which has since expanded to encompass the Ukraine scandal, is not a legitimate impeachment inquiry. The Justice Department is reviewing the decision, a spokeswoman said. Judge Howell, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote that law enforcement officials’ need to keep the information secret from Congress was “minimal” and easily outweighed by lawmakers’ need for it. “Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in a diligent and thorough investigation into, and in a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the president described in the Mueller report,” she wrote. In reaching her decision, Judge Howell rejected the contention by Mr. Trump and his allies that the investigation Democrats are pursuing, which has since expanded to encompass the Ukraine scandal, is not a legitimate impeachment inquiry. The Justice Department is reviewing the decision, a spokeswoman said. more...

The ruling is a victory for Democrats in their effort to investigate whether Trump obstructed the long-running Russia probe.
By KYLE CHENEY
A federal judge has ruled that the Justice Department must turn over former special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, a victory for Democrats in their effort to investigate whether President Donald Trump obstructed the long-running Russia probe. Beryl Howell, the chief federal judge in Washington ordered the DOJ to provide by Oct. 30 "[a]ll portions of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election that were redacted pursuant to" grand jury restrictions. more...

By Post Staff Report
A man refused to shake hands with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Rep. Elijah Cummings’ memorial service at the Capitol on Thursday, leaving the GOP lawmaker visibly stunned. In video captured by C-Span, Bobby Rankin — who was listed as a pallbearer for Cummings’ Friday funeral — walks down a line of VIP attendees. He hugs Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), then shakes hands with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Rankin then walks past McConnell, who is sandwiched between Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, without breaking his stride and goes to hug Pelosi — even though McConnell, who eulogized Cummings during the Capitol memorial, extends his hand to greet the fellow mourner. more...

By Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, CNN
(CNN) - House Democratic impeachment investigators have issued subpoenas to three Trump administration officials whose testimony was previously scheduled, in a sign the Democrats are trying to compel testimony from Trump officials who are apparently reluctant to appear. The committees said subpoenas have been issued to acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, OMB's Associate Director of National Security Programs Michael Duffey and State Department Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl. The subpoenas call for Duffey to appear on November 5 and Vought and Brechbuhl to testify on November 6. The committees leading the Democratic impeachment inquiry — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight — have issued subpoenas to current State Department and Pentagon officials the morning of their testimony, in an effort to combat the Trump administration directing officials not to participate. But these appear to be the first subpoenas that would seek testimony from officials who were unwilling to testify when they had been initially scheduled. It's not clear whether the subpoenas will prompt any of the three officials to participate. All had been scheduled for depositions earlier this month that were then removed from the deposition calendar. Both OMB and the State Department — in addition to other federal agencies and the White House — have already failed to comply with House subpoenas from the impeachment inquiry for documents. Vought tweeted on Monday that he and Duffey would not participate in their depositions that had been scheduled for this week. "As the (White House) letter made clear two weeks ago, OMB officials - myself and Mike Duffey - will not be complying with deposition requests this week," Vought tweeted. more...

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - Two very interesting things happened Thursday night: 1) Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, announced she would not seek reelection, choosing instead to focus all her energies on her longshot 2020 presidential bid. 2) She skipped a Latino candidate forum in Iowa, spending that time instead on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News, running down House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. "I don't know what's going on in those closed doors," Gabbard told Hannity. "We as members of Congress do not have access to the information that's being shared. I think the American people deserve to know exactly what the facts are, what the evidence is being presented as this inquiry goes on." Like I said: Interesting! To be clear: Gabbard is very, very unlikely to be the Democratic presidential nominee. She is polling at 1.3% in the Real Clear Politics average of all the polling conducted in the 2020 primary and is nearly certain to miss the coming November debate. So the decision to walk away from her House seat -- even though, had she run again, she would have faced a serious primary fight from state Sen. Kai Kahele -- is an odd one. Assuming Gabbard goes nowhere in the Democratic presidential race -- as seems likely -- she will have no platform on which to push her issues (and herself) in roughly one year's time. What, then, is her plan, exactly? The obvious answer is a third-party presidential bid -- thanks to Gabbard's much-documented discontent with the party establishment (she resigned as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 amid the hacking scandal) and her strong disapproval of American military involvement in foreign countries. (Gabbard drew huge amounts of criticism for her meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2017 and her insistence that he is "not the enemy of the United States.") Hillary Clinton alleged in a recent podcast interview with Democratic strategist David Plouffe that someone in the Democratic field was being groomed to be a third-party candidate -- presumably a reference to Gabbard. Gabbard has rejected Clinton's argument but has not -- at least as far as I can tell -- entirely ruled out a third-party bid. But, let me lay out one more possibility: Gabbard may well be angling for a long-term spot on Fox News once she leaves Congress. more... - Maybe Clinton was right about Tulsi Gabbard

By James Walker
Tulsi Gabbard has poured cold water on the impeachment inquiry, raising concerns about its transparency and suggesting it is being run in a "partisan" way. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate told Fox News host Sean Hannity that she didn't know what was going on at the "closed door" hearings being held in the Capitol's basement, and said Americans "deserved to know exactly what the facts are." Her comments on the impeachment inquiry echoed criticisms made by House Republicans, who tried to storm the secure room where testimonies were being heard behind closed doors on Wednesday. The stunt was widely derided by Democrats, with 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg saying it was an "embarrassment" and Rep. Ro Khanna, who was in the room, saying it resembled a "fraternity" scene. Speaking to Sean Hannity about the impeachment inquiry on Fox News last night, Gabbard strayed from her colleagues. "I think it needs to be a transparent process," she said. "I have long expressed my concern about going through impeachment proceedings in a very, very partisan way because it will only tear apart an already divided country." Gabbard clarified that she supported the launch of the impeachment inquiry, adding: "I think that inquiry needs to be done in a very narrowly focused way and it must be done transparently. more... - Maybe Clinton was right about Tulsi Gabbard

The announcement came one day after House Democrats subpoenaed financial records for the facility.
By Adam Reiss and Dareh Gregorian
The Trump Organization is considering selling off the rights to the Trump International Hotel, the Washington hotspot near the White House that's become a magnet for Republicans, lobbyists, foreign governments and legal challenges. "Since we opened our doors, we have received tremendous interest in this hotel and as real estate developers, we are always willing to explore our options," Trump Organization executive vice president Eric Trump confirmed to NBC News in a statement Friday. "People are objecting to us making so much money on the hotel, and therefore we may be willing to sell." The company said it's hired the real estate firm JLL to assist with the possible sale of its interest in the Trump International. The company's moves were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal, said the Trump Organization is hoping to pull in over $500 million from the sale — about $2 million per hotel room. The announcement came one day after the House Transportation Committee subpoenaed the General Services Administration for financial documents involving the hotel that the government agency has been refusing to turn over. While the Trump Organization holds the rights to operate the hotel for 60 years, the property itself is owned by the federal government. The Trumps spent $200 million transforming the Old Post Office building into a five-star hotel. "Political appointees at the GSA are trying to hide behind a pathetic excuse that Congress — a co-equal branch of the Federal government tasked with conducting oversight — can't have key documents regarding a federally-owned property currently leased by the president," Transportation Committee hair Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said Thursday. NBC News reported in June that representatives of at least 22 foreign governments have spent money at various Trump properties including the hotel during his presidency. The extent of that spending is unknown because the Trump Organization is a private company and has declined to disclose that information. more...

By Ewan Palmer
Rep. Ted Lieu has accused William Barr of acting more in the interests of President Donald Trump than as Attorney General by announcing a criminal investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Speaking to CNN's Don Lemon, Lieu said it is "deeply troubling" how Barr is behaving when asked for his response to the news, first reported by The New York Times, that the Justice Department is looking into the investigation on Russian interference during the 2016 election. As noted by The Times, John H. Durham, the prosecutor heading the investigation, will be able to subpoena for witness testimonies and documents, as well as convene a grand jury and file criminal charges. However, it is not clear what potential criminal charges Durham is looking into, nor when the investigation was launched. "Special counselor Mueller indicted 34 individuals and companies, at least eight have been convicted or pled guilty. He found that Russia systematically and sweepingly interfered in our U.S. elections. What Bill Barr is now trying to do is essentially tell the American people none of that should have happened," Lieu said. "It is deeply troubling what Bill Barr is doing." Barr was previously criticized for his summary of Mueller's investigation, which he said concludes that neither the Trump campaign nor any of its associates conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mueller wrote a letter to the Justice Department in May expressing his concerns that Barr's four-page summary did not fully capture the "context, nature, and substance" of his findings. Lieu added that Barr is "absolutely" acting as a partisan as the attorney for the president rather than attorney general when asked by Lemon. "His memo, before the special council's report was released, is incredibly misleading," Lieu added. "When history looks back on it, you'll know that he misled the American people. And then in different actions Barr has taken he seems like he's acting as the President's own lawyer rather than as Attorney general for the United States." The Justice Department's guidelines state that there only needs to be "reasonable indication" that a crime has been committed for authorities to launch an investigation, a lower requirement than the probable cause needed to obtain search warrants. more...

By Shane Croucher
Sen. Lindsey Graham's resolution to the Senate condemning the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has "absolutely no substance," said a constitutional scholar, and is full of "phony objections." The resolution brought by the South Carolina Republican is co-signed at the time of writing by 46 of his party colleagues in the Senate. It accuses House Democrats of a lack of due process and transparency in their impeachment inquiry. Among the resolution's complaints are that the House has not voted to open the impeachment inquiry, that witnesses so far have given closed-door testimonies, and that Trump is being denied his rights to defend himself against the allegations emerging from the process. Trump's White House is refusing to engage with the impeachment inquiry because it argues the president is denied due process. It is not complying with congressional subpoenas and has instructed administration officials and those associated with Trump to do the same. "Senator Graham's resolution has absolutely no substance," Laurence Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and professor of constitutional law at Harvard, and a prominent critic of Trump, told Newsweek. "I looked at it carefully to see if any of its process complaints made sense historically, legally, or morally. I could find nothing in it worthy of being taken seriously. "And the fact that it focuses entirely on phony objections to a completely fair and traditional process speaks volumes about how little the Republican senators have to say in defense of what the president has done in shaking down a vulnerable ally for his own personal benefit." Harold Hongju Koh, Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale, told Newsweek that Graham's resolution is "a legally ignorant red herring." "Even if this style of proceeding were not all authorized by the House rules the Republicans themselves adopted to run the Benghazi hearings, the due process protections Graham wants only attach at the Senate impeachment trial, not at the charging stage in the House, which more closely resembles a more private grand jury proceeding," Koh said. "At the charging stage, private proceedings are warranted so that witnesses don't compare and align stories through public testimony (although the information that is emerging is remarkably consistent). "And everyone knows that the information being gathered will be public in a matter of weeks anyway, when POTUS and his people will have ample opportunity to rebut." Frank Bowman, Floyd R. Gibson Missouri Endowed Professor of Law at the University of Missouri, told Newsweek the Republican complaints about the House impeachment inquiry are "without merit." Bowman said it is not true that it isn't a valid impeachment inquiry without a resolution by the full House. He also said it is not true that the inquiry is being conducted in secret. "As has been reported ad nauseum, the committees conducting the (currently) private depositions have over 40 Republican members, all of whom are entitled to be present and to ask questions," Bowman told Newsweek. "Likewise, all these committees have Republican staffs, who are also entitled to be present and assist Republican members in asking questions." more...

“The problem is we need some money,” Giuliani says to unidentified man during accidental call to NBC News writer.
By Rich Schapiro
Late in the evening on Oct. 16, Rudy Giuliani made a phone call to this reporter. The fact that Giuliani was reaching out wasn’t remarkable. He and the reporter had spoken earlier that night for a story about his ties to a fringe Iranian opposition group. But this call, it would soon become clear, wasn’t a typical case of a source following up with a reporter. The call came in at 11:07 p.m. and went to voicemail; the reporter was asleep. The next morning, a message exactly three minutes long was sitting in his voicemail. In the recording, the words tumbling out of Giuliani’s mouth were not directed at the reporter. He was speaking to someone else, someone in the same room. Giuliani can be heard discussing overseas dealings and lamenting the need for cash, though it's difficult to discern the full context of the conversation. The call appeared to be one of the most unfortunate of faux pas: what is known, in casual parlance, as a butt dial. And it wasn’t the first time it had happened. “You know,” Giuliani says at the start of the recording. “Charles would have a hard time with a fraud case ‘cause he didn’t do any due diligence.” It wasn’t clear who Charles is, or who may have been implicated in a fraud. In fact, much of the message’s first minute is difficult to comprehend, in part because the voice of the other man in the conversation is muffled and barely intelligible. But then Giuliani says something that’s crystal clear. "Let's get back to business." He goes on. "I gotta get you to get on Bahrain." Giuliani is well-connected in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Last December, he visited the Persian Gulf nation and had a one-on-one meeting with King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa in the royal palace. “King receives high-level U.S. delegation,” read the headline of the state-run Bahrain News Agency blurb about the visit. Giuliani runs a security consulting company, but it’s not clear why he would have a meeting with Bahrain’s king. Was he acting in his capacity as a consultant? As Trump’s lawyer? Or as an international fixer running a shadow foreign policy for the president? In May, Giuliani told the Daily Beast his firm had signed a deal with Bahrain to advise its police force on counter-terrorism measures. But the Bahrain News Agency account of the meeting suggested Giuliani was viewed more like an ambassador than a security consultant. “HM the King praised the longstanding Bahraini-U.S. relations, noting keenness of the two countries to constantly develop them,” it said. The voicemail yielded no details about the meeting. But Giuliani can be heard telling the man that he’s “got to call Robert again tomorrow.” more...

By James Walker
President Donald Trump did not attend the funeral of Elijah Cummings today after the Democrat congressman died in office last week aged 68. A copy of the president's schedule released to the press this morning shows that Trump had nothing planned until 11:40 a.m. when he was due to leave the White House for Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and take a flight to South Carolina. President Trump has also not been pictured in a livestream of Cummings' Baltimore funeral that was available on C-Span from 10 a.m. ET. Newsweek has contacted the White House asking why Trump was not in attendance at the funeral or at the previous day's lying-in-state ceremony for Cummings at the Capitol, but did not receive a response by time of publication. The news of Elijah Cummings' death as a result of complications around "longstanding health challenges" was announced by his office on Thursday, October 17. He had been away from work since September after going for a medical procedure, after which his office said he would be out of his office for a week. Rep. Cummings of Maryland had a fractious relationship with President Trump in his role as chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee—a post that put him at the center of the impeachment inquiry and other investigations into the commander-in-chief. He also took Trump to task over the treatment of migrant children near the U.S.-Mexico border, a challenge that led to Trump facing accusations of racism after he dismissed Cummings' district as "rat infested." The representative of Maryland's 7th congressional district offered to show Trump around the area in response to the president's remarks. When news broke of Cummings' death, Trump tweeted an offer of condolences to his family and friends, saying: "My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings. I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!" Although the sitting president has decided not to attend Cummings' funeral today, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were in attendance, along with 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former first lady Michelle Obama. Both the Clintons and former President Obama were set to deliver eulogies at the funeral where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also due to address mourners. Newsweek asked representatives of former Presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter if they would be in attendance at Cummings' Baltimore funeral today, but had not received a response by time of publication. President Trump's snub of the Maryland representative's Baltimore funeral comes after he also failed to attend the Democrat's lying-in-state ceremony at the Capitol on Thursday. more...

By Thomas Franck
The U.S. Treasury on Friday said that the federal deficit for fiscal 2019 was $984 billion, a 26% increase from 2018 but still short of the $1 trillion mark previously forecast by the administration. The gap between revenues and spending was the widest it’s been in seven years as expenditures on defense, Medicare and interest payments on the national debt ballooned the shortfall. The government said corporate tax revenues totaled $230 billion, up 12%, thanks to a rebound in the second half of the year. Individual tax revenues rose 2% to $1.7 trillion. Receipts totaled $3.4 trillion, up 4% through September, while federal spending rose 8%, to $4.4 trillion. The U.S. government also collected nearly $71 billion in customs duties, or tariffs, a 70% increase compared to the year-ago period. As a percentage of U.S. economic output the deficit was 4.6%, 0.8 percentage points higher than the previous year. “President Trump’s economic agenda is working: the Nation is experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 50 years, there are more jobs to fill than there are job seekers, and Americans are experiencing sustained year-over-year wage increases,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a press release. “In order to truly put America on a sustainable financial path, we must enact proposals—like the President’s 2020 budget plan—to cut wasteful and irresponsible spending,” he added. Annual deficits have nearly doubled under President Donald Trump’s tenure notwithstanding an unemployment rate at multidecade lows and better earnings figures. Deficits usually shrink during times of economic growth as higher incomes and Wall Street profits buoy Treasury coffers, while automatic spending on items like food stamps decline. Two big bipartisan spending bills, combined with the administration’s landmark tax cuts, however, have defied the typical trends and instead aggravated deficits. The Congressional Budget Office projects the trillion-dollar deficit could come as soon as fiscal 2020. more...

By Jennifer Hansler and Nicole Gaouette, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained dismissive and evasive of questions surrounding the House Democratic impeachment probe, despite his department's increasing entrenchment in that inquiry. Pompeo sought to downplay the inquiry as Beltway "noise" in a series of interviews in Wichita, Kansas, on Thursday -- just days after the top US diplomat in Ukraine presented damning testimony related to quid pro quo related to presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine. In his closed-door deposition Tuesday, Taylor said he had been told that "everything" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted, including a White House meeting and military aid to the country, would be held up until he publicly announced the launch of investigations sought by President Donald Trump. Those probes have targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, the President's chief political rival, and sought to establish that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and undermine the US intelligence community's assessment that Russia is to blame. Taylor's appearance cut the legs out from under the White House defense that there had been no quid pro quo and has been "reverberating" among congressional Republicans who see it as game changer in the impeachment inquiry. In interview with KMUW Radio and The Wichita Eagle, Pompeo repeatedly insisted he would not talk about the inquiry, dodging questions about the concerns Taylor expressed in a diplomatic cable to the secretary of state, whether Giuliani's efforts aligned with the State Department's mission in Ukraine and the department's compliance in the congressional inquiry. In both interviews, Pompeo accused the reporters of being "fixated" on the probe. "Look, I came here today to talk about workforce development. I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas," Pompeo, who went to Kansan city for workforce development events with presidential adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, told The Wichita Eagle. "This inquiry will proceed. Congress will perform its oversight function, the State Department will continue to do all of the things that were required to do under the law and the Constitution," he said. The State Department has repeatedly attempted to block its diplomats from testifying -- all have had to be subpoenaed. The department has also failed to turn over documents related to the Ukraine to the three House committees, despite a subpoena. Later in the interview, Pompeo suggested that the impeachment inquiry proceedings were unfair. more...

By Sonam Sheth
The United States in late August withdrew its recommendation to restore some of Ukraine's trade privileges, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The move came after John Bolton, then President Donald Trump's national security adviser, informed the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, that Trump would most likely oppose any action that benefited Ukraine's newly elected government headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, the report said. It's unclear whether Trump directed Bolton to convey that message to Lighthizer or whether he was even aware of it. But The Post's reporting adds yet another layer to a growing portrait of the Trump administration's actions as it tried to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations that would politically benefit Trump ahead of the 2020 election. At the time the US was said to withdraw its recommendation to restore certain trade privileges to Ukraine, the president and his allies were engaged in what has been called a shadow foreign-policy campaign that involved stalling a nearly $400 million military-aid package to Ukraine. Bill Taylor, the US's chief envoy to Ukraine, testified to Congress this week that the decision to freeze aid was part of Trump's effort to force Zelensky to cave to his demands for investigations. The Post's reporting indicates that the pressure campaign may have extended to more than just the security assistance. Taylor was one of nearly a dozen current and former government officials who testified as part of Congress' impeachment inquiry examining claims that Trump used his public office for private gain. A career foreign-service officer and war veteran, Taylor gave the most damning testimony to date against the president, directly implicating him as ordering the US to freeze military aid unless Zelensky acceded to his demands. Taylor's testimony appears to be at odds with what Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers last week, and at least one House Democrat said it could open Sondland up to a perjury charge. Taylor testified that shortly after he became the US's acting ambassador to Ukraine in June he realized there were two channels through which US policy toward Ukraine was conducted: an official one, which was spearheaded by Taylor, and an unofficial one led by Sondland, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and the US's special representative to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. more...

BBC - The US justice department has launched a criminal investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry, US media report. An administrative review into the special counsel's investigation of 2016 election interference began in May. But the switch to a criminal probe means investigators can now issue subpoenas for testimony and documents. President Trump has long alleged Robert Mueller's probe of reports of collusion with Russia was a "witch hunt". The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election did not establish any criminal conspiracy between Moscow and Donald Trump's campaign. But it did not clear the president of obstructing justice. Reports on the criminal probe first appeared in the New York Times. It is unclear what potential crime is under investigation, the newspaper said. Why is the Mueller report being investigated? The administrative review of the Mueller investigation began in May. It is being overseen by the US Attorney-General William Barr and is run by US federal prosecutor John Durham. Mr Durham was tasked with determining whether the collection of intelligence on the Trump campaign in 2016 was lawful. He is widely respected and known for investigating links between FBI agents and organised crime, and investigating the destruction of CIA interrogation videos. Last April, Mr Barr told members of Congress that he believed "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign in 2016, adding: "The question is whether it was adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting that it wasn't adequately predicated. But I need to explore that." Critics accused Mr Barr of launching an administrative review more in the interests of the president than the interests of justice. In a joint statement, the chairs of the House judiciary and intelligence committees said reports of a criminal investigation "raise profound new concerns that the Department of Justice under AG Barr has lost its independence and become a vehicle for President Trump's political revenge". The two Democrats, Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff, said the move could bring "new and irreparable damage" to the rule of law. more...

BBC - Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation paints a decidedly mixed picture of President Donald Trump's conduct, that provides ample fodder for either side of the political divide. The 448-page report says it did not establish the Trump campaign criminally conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 US presidential election. The inquiry also built an extensive obstruction-of-justice case against the Republican president, though it stopped short of concluding he committed a crime. While there was no immediate "smoking gun" to trigger impeachment proceedings, Democrats said the report had plenty of ammunition to keep up congressional scrutiny of Mr Trump. 'This is the end of my presidency' The report details the president's expletive-filled horror as he learned that a special counsel was being appointed in May 2017. According to the Mueller report, when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the president about the coming inquiry, he replied: "Oh my god. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency." He added two expletives to describe his situation. Mr Trump added: "Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels, it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me." 'Mueller has to go' The Mueller report details how in June 2017, the president called White House counsel Donald McGahn at home from Camp David and ordered him to have the special counsel removed. On a second call, Mr McGahn said the president stepped up the pressure, saying: "Call Rod [Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein], tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel", and "Mueller has to go" and "Call me back when you do it." Mr McGahn was so upset by the interference that he threatened to quit rather than participate in what he predicted would be a Nixon-style "Saturday Night Massacre". After media reports in January 2018 revealed Mr Trump's attempts to have Mr Mueller removed, one of the president's lawyers made contact with Mr McGahn, asking him to publicly deny the reports. But McGahn, through his attorney, refused. No collusion The report found there were a number of contacts between members of Trump's circle and Russia, and the campaign "expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts". The Trump team also "showed interest" in the Wikileaks release of hacked emails and "welcomed their potential to damage" Hillary Clinton. Unpatriotic and immoral, Democrats say. But the Mueller team makes clear it did not amount to a criminal conspiracy. "The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to meet in person, invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved US-Russian relations. "While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges. "The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or co-ordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." more..

Summer Zervos presented evidence in court filings to support claims the president assaulted her in a hotel room in 2007
By Guardian staff
A former contestant on The Apprentice, Donald Trump’s reality TV show, has presented evidence in court filings to support her claims that the president sexually assaulted her in a hotel room in 2007. Summer Zervos is suing Trump, accusing him of defaming her by denying her allegations. The court filings appeared in a report on Thursday afternoon by the Hollywood Reporter. Trump accuser tells court she has corroborating documents – live She is one of several women who came forward during the 2016 presidential election campaign accusing Trump of sexual misconduct of varying degrees of seriousness. Trump denies all such allegations against him and, contrary to Zervos’s allegation that he attacked her in a hotel room in 2007, the now president has said: “I never met her at a hotel.” Trump has tried and failed to prevent the lawsuit from moving forward and it could go to trial next year. Court papers filed on Thursday present evidence that Zervos said will corroborate her report on the meeting with Trump. The filings include emails with Trump’s secretary, Rhona Graff, about the meeting and calendar entries noting a stay by Trump at the Beverly Hills hotel in December 2007. Zervos’s attorney, Mariann Wang, noted to the court that the information points “line up with Ms Zervos’s detailed public account with striking accuracy”. Further documents purport to corroborate more details but are currently still under wraps. A memorandum with the court states: “The plaintiff reported the defendant’s assaults to family members and close friends immediately after they occurred and then again over the years.” It adds: “She confronted the defendant about his inappropriate behavior, both in a phone call shortly after the assaults and in an email sent through his secretary, Rhona Graff, in April 2016. The plaintiff also considered taking more formal legal action with respect to defendant many years ago and in fact reached out to multiple lawyers back in 2011, including to Gloria Allred, whose records reflect that contact. more...

Fox News - Sen. Lindsey Graham gave an explosive press conference in which he defended President Trump while blasting House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano reacts. more...

Trump is canceling all government subscriptions to the New York Times and Washington Post because the papers aren’t nice enough to him. Something Donald Trump has mentioned once or twice in the past several years is his opinion of the free press, or as he likes to call it, “The enemy of the people.” Chief among the outlets the president seemingly thinks should be shut down until they start saying nicer things about him are CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Unfortunately, in the case of CNN, he can’t cancel the White House cable without losing the vital source of information that is Fox News, and, at present, it’s not legal for him to just put the Times and the Post out of business (though he’s undoubtedly leaning on someone at the Department of Justice to do just that). So, in the meantime, he’s come up with a new tactic: ban two of the most important newspapers in the world from government property. Yes, according to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is planning to tell federal agencies not to renew their subscriptions to the Washington Post and the New York Times, in what may officially be the pettiest move in history by an executive branch, aside from the time this same executive branch canceled a trip to Denmark because the president was told he couldn’t buy Greenland, which is obviously the gold standard against which all other acts of pettiness must be measured. And while the administration is not even trying to deny it, it is pretending this whole thing is simply a matter of cost cutting. “Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving—hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who has never held a press briefing and doesn’t plan to any time soon, told the Journal Thursday. more...

By Julia Arciga
The White House is reportedly planning to instruct federal agencies not to renew their subscriptions to The New York Times and The Washington Post. “Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving—hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told The Wall Street Journal. It’s not clear how many subscriptions the federal government has to each newspaper, or how the White House would direct agencies to cut the subscriptions. The Post and the Times declined to comment. On Monday evening, Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he doesn’t want the Post or the Times to be in the White House. “We’re going to probably terminate that and The Washington Post. They’re fake,” he said. Aides told the Journal that they expect Trump will read both newspapers despite the move. more... - Oh, they must have hurt the little baby’s feelings. Trump is the pettiest person in the world and as Americans; we should be ashamed to have him as our president.

Summer Zervos presented evidence in court filings to support claims the president assaulted her in a hotel room in 2007
By Guardian staff
A former contestant on The Apprentice, Donald Trump’s reality TV show, has presented evidence in court filings to support her claims that the president sexually assaulted her in a hotel room in 2007. Summer Zervos is suing Trump, accusing him of defaming her by denying her allegations. The court filings appeared in a report on Thursday afternoon by the Hollywood Reporter. Trump accuser tells court she has corroborating documents – live She is one of several women who came forward during the 2016 presidential election campaign accusing Trump of sexual misconduct of varying degrees of seriousness. Trump denies all such allegations against him and, contrary to Zervos’s allegation that he attacked her in a hotel room in 2007, the now president has said: “I never met her at a hotel.” Trump has tried and failed to prevent the lawsuit from moving forward and it could go to trial next year. Court papers filed on Thursday present evidence that Zervos said will corroborate her report on the meeting with Trump. The filings include emails with Trump’s secretary, Rhona Graff, about the meeting and calendar entries noting a stay by Trump at the Beverly Hills hotel in December 2007. Zervos’s attorney, Mariann Wang, noted to the court that the information points “line up with Ms Zervos’s detailed public account with striking accuracy”. Further documents purport to corroborate more details but are currently still under wraps. A memorandum with the court states: “The plaintiff reported the defendant’s assaults to family members and close friends immediately after they occurred and then again over the years.” It adds: “She confronted the defendant about his inappropriate behavior, both in a phone call shortly after the assaults and in an email sent through his secretary, Rhona Graff, in April 2016. The plaintiff also considered taking more formal legal action with respect to defendant many years ago and in fact reached out to multiple lawyers back in 2011, including to Gloria Allred, whose records reflect that contact. more...

By Evan Perez, CNN
(CNN) - Attorney General William Barr's probe into the intelligence and origins of the 2016 Trump-Russia investigation is now a criminal investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The so-called investigation of the investigators is led by John Durham, a Connecticut-based federal prosecutor, who so far has conducted some interviews but also has run into some obstacles from witnesses who have declined voluntary interviews, CNN reported last week.
The move to make it a criminal inquiry was always anticipated, and it allows Durham to use subpoenas to compel testimony and comes as President Donald Trump faces an onslaught of negative headlines stemming from the House impeachment inquiry into his dealings with Ukraine. It's not clear what, if any, part of the Trump-Russia investigation is a target of Durham's criminal probe. The New York Times was first to report on the new stage of the investigation. The investigation has been driven by Barr's suspicions that some of the officials overseeing the counterintelligence probe of the 2016 Trump campaign may have acted improperly. Barr's embrace of these theories aligns with Trump's chief grievance that he was the victim of a "deep state" spy operation that has clouded his presidency. The President has publicly called for investigations of former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, among others. And in recent weeks the President's eagerness for the Justice Department to focus on his perceived critics has caused awkward issues for Durham and the department. Department officials have said Barr didn't know that Trump had mentioned his name in a July call with Ukraine's President, suggesting he work with the attorney general and Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney, whose activities are near the center of the congressional impeachment inquiry. And a senior Justice official disavowed comments from acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who linked a freeze of Ukraine aid to the Justice Department probe. more...

By Marshall Cohen, CNN
(CNN) - New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that President Donald Trump would be arrested if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, rebuffing arguments made in court this week by Trump's lawyer, who said the President couldn't even be charged with murder while in office. "If anybody shoots someone, they get arrested," de Blasio told reporters. "I don't care if they're the President of the United States or anybody else. If you shoot someone, you should get arrested, and we would arrest him." The hypothetical situation came up during a federal appeals court hearing Wednesday about Trump's tax returns. Trump's lawyers argued that long-standing Justice Department guidelines against indicting a sitting president mean he's immune from federal and state investigations. Therefore, Trump couldn't be charged with murder if he killed someone -- until after he leaves office. Trump lawyer William Consovoy agreed with the statement that "nothing could be done." During the 2016 campaign, Trump infamously said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still get elected. Those comments were invoked during the appeals hearing by a lawyer representing the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, who had subpoenaed Trump's tax returns. more...

Democrats have slammed White House insistence that Trump was focused on corruption — not Bidens — when he blocked Ukraine aid funds.
By Erica Werner
The Trump administration has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas, White House budget documents show, despite recent claims from President Trump and his administration that they have been singularly concerned with fighting corruption in Ukraine. Those claims have come as the president and his administration sought to explain away a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressured his counterpart to open investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and into a debunked conspiracy theory involving a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server. “I don’t care about politics, but I do care about corruption. And this whole thing is about corruption,” Trump told reporters earlier this month when discussing the Ukraine issue. “This whole thing — this whole thing is about corruption.” The phone call is central to the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats. The Democrats have accused Trump of holding back a congressionally approved military aid package for Ukraine until Zelensky publicly committed to launching investigations into the Bidens. On Tuesday, the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine — acting ambassador William B. Taylor Jr. — told lawmakers that Trump made the release of military aid to Ukraine contingent on public declarations that it would investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election. Trump, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other administration officials have insisted repeatedly that their goal in delaying the military aid package to Ukraine was to ensure corruption was addressed in that country — not to produce political benefit to Trump. “There were two reasons that we held up the aid. We talked about this at some length. The first one was the rampant corruption in Ukraine,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Corruption is a big deal; everyone knows it,” he said. (The second reason was to ensure that other nations contributed to Ukraine’s defense, Mulvaney said.) more...

Fox News’ judicial analyst disappointed his colleagues by explaining there’s nothing wrong with “secret” impeachment hearings.
By Matt Wilstein - the daily beast
After Republican members of the House literally stormed the gates of the impeachment hearings on Wednesday, Judge Andrew Napolitano stopped by Fox & Friends Thursday morning to deliver a harsh wake-up call: Democrats are just “following the rules”—rules written by Republicans. “I read the House rules,” Napolitano said. “And as frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors—the hearings over which Congressman Schiff is presiding—they are consistent with the rules.” “They can make up any rules they want?!” Brian Kilmeade replied. Speaking more slowly, Napolitano told him, “Well, they can’t change the rules, they follow the rules.” He went to explain that those rules were last written in January 2015 when Republicans held the majority and the Speaker of the House was John Boehner. “The rules say that this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret,” Napolitano said, effectively dismantling the primary talking point of both Fox News and the Trump White House. “Secret evidence doesn’t work in this world, so eventually there will be a public presentation of this,” he added, “at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them.” “So I get it, the Republicans are frustrated, they wanted to make a point and they made their point, but this is just not the most effective way to show respect for what your colleagues are doing,” Napolitano said.  As the Fox & Friends hosts continued to protest, he added, “I know this is going to sound weird, these are not the impeachment hearings. The impeachment hearings have to be held in public by the House Judiciary Committee. This is the initial interview of witnesses to see what they have to say, to determine whether or not they are even worthy of presenting evidence of impeachment.” more...

Imaad Zuberi pleaded guilty to making almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to various presidential election campaigns and other candidates for elected office.
By Andrew Blankstein, Tom Winter and Rich Schapiro
A California venture capitalist who donated $900,000 to President Donald Trump's inaugural committee has admitted to falsifying records to hide his work as a foreign agent while lobbying high-level U.S. officials, federal prosecutors said Tuesday. Imaad Zuberi, 49, has agreed to plead guilty to tax evasion, filing bogus foreign agent registration records and providing almost $1 million in illegal campaign contributions to various presidential election campaigns and other candidates for elected office, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. The charging documents do not specify which candidates received the illegal money funneled from foreign entities between September 2011 and November 2016. Federal prosecutors also did not reveal the source of the $900,000 that Zuberi donated to the Trump inaugural committee in December 2016. A longtime political donor, Zuberi has supported candidates on both sides of the aisle. But he threw his support to Trump following the 2016 election. more...

The evidence concerns two unnamed witnesses in particular, said Rep. Eric Swallwell.
By Sam Brodey - The Daily Beast
Some Democrats involved in the impeachment inquiry are beginning to suspect that certain witnesses have coordinated with each other ahead of testifying to ensure their stories do not conflict—the very outcome investigators are trying to avoid by conducting hearings behind closed doors. Two Democratic lawmakers told The Daily Beast that, over the course of the nine witness depositions they have conducted over the last several weeks, there have been suggestions that certain witnesses spoke to each other about what they would say to impeachment investigators. “We have direct evidence from our investigation that witnesses have talked to each other about their testimony,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, adding that the evidence concerns two witnesses in particular, whom he declined to name. And Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said, “There’s some testimony already that has suggested there has been conversation” among witnesses. “We’re working very hard to protect the integrity of the investigation and prevent witnesses from sharing their testimony with each other,” he said. “You can only do that so much.” House Democrats have argued that, at this early stage in the impeachment inquiry, proceedings need to happen behind closed doors so that witnesses aren’t aware of exactly what other witnesses are saying and, therefore, aren’t able to adjust their stories so that they’re all on the same page.  That witnesses might coordinate, Swalwell said, is concerning “because they would tailor [testimony] to try and help each other or manufacture alibis.” Doing so while lying under oath, of course, is a crime—something that several Democrats believe may have been committed by at least one witness, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Short of that, less-than-candid testimony from witnesses threatens to undermine the investigation that Democrats are attempting to conduct, all while they get attacked relentlessly by Republicans for not holding hearings that are open to the public. more...

“The people who are against him, and who have been against him, and have been working against him since the day they took office are just that.”
By Andrew Kirell - The Daily Beast
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham on Thursday doubled down on her boss’ “human scum” attack on so-called “Never Trump” Republicans and seemingly expanded it to include anyone who has worked against the president’s agenda. “The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.“Watch out for them, they are human scum!” The president’s tweet set off a firestorm about the his rhetoric—in this case about a notably small subset of Republicans, some of whom are likely to vote for him anyhow—and so Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade asked the top White House flack: “Does he regret that?” more... - Those who support Trump and his lies are the real scum.

“I think you often say there’s a difference between the news side and the opinion side,” Zucker told media critic Brian Stelter on Thursday. “I think you’re wrong.”
By Maxwell Tani - The Daily Beast
CNN chief Jeff Zucker on Thursday went off on Fox News, bashing the rival network as “conspiracy TV” and indicating that he’d be open to hiring former Fox anchor Shepard Smith. “I think Shep’s a great journalist,” Zucker said during an on-stage interview with Brian Stelter at CNN’s Citizen Conference in New York. “I understand he’s not able to take any jobs for the foreseeable future. When he’s available, he is somebody who is very talented and I would be very open to talking to him.” Smith abruptly exited Fox News two weeks ago after months of clashing with some of the network’s overtly right-wing primetime stars. The daytime news anchor also repeatedly drew outrage from the president over his penchant for fact-checking the many unfounded claims of Trump and his Fox News allies. Zucker suggested that Fox News had become an “untenable” environment for someone like Smith, “who was a truth-teller who set out to hold people in power accountable. That is not something that organization does, that is not something in full force there, not even in half force.” The CNN chief also didn’t mind pushing back on his own reporter’s defense of parts of the network. After Stelter, host of CNN’s media-focused Reliable Sources, claimed that while Fox is often driven by right-wing punditry, it does still employ serious journalists, Zucker offered his own media criticism of his media critic. “You repeat that line a lot and I think it’s one of the mistakes you make in your journalism,” Zucker told the star weekend host. “Are there a handful of great journalists in that org? Sure. Are there are one or two really good anchors at that organization? Sure. But that doesn’t make it a news organization, that doesn’t make it a journalism endeavor.” more...

By Nicholas Wu and Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, testified Tuesday before congressional committees conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. According to Taylor, Trump's allies made it clear last year that aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky would be conditioned on the opening of an investigation into a Ukrainian energy company. Former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter was once a board member of that company. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said Taylor's opening statement drew a "direct line" between releasing the monetary aid and the opening of investigations into the Bidens. The allegation that Trump used his office to pressure Ukraine is what kicked off the impeachment investigation. Taylor's 15-page opening statement was described as "explosive" by Democratic members of Congress present for his testimony. Republicans, on the other hand, said there was "nothing new." Here are the key takeaways from Taylor's opening statement, obtained by the Associated Press and a source familiar with the statement confirmed its authenticity to USA TODAY. 'Two channels' of U.S. policymaking in Ukraine: According to Taylor, there were "two channels" of policymaking in Ukraine. One channel was the official State Department channel. The other involved other American officials and Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.  "There was an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making with respect to Ukraine, one which included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador (Gordon) Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani," Taylor told congressional members and staff. Taylor said the irregular channel began in May 2019 after an American delegation returned from Ukraine. Taylor says he was told a White House meeting with Zelensky would be conditioned on the opening of investigations: Taylor said "during my subsequent conversations with Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, they relayed to me that the President 'wanted to hear from Zelenskyy' before scheduling the meeting in the Oval Office." "By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskyy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections," Taylor said. "It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani." John Bolton called the situation a 'drug deal' Taylor describes a July 19 phone conversation with National Security Council staffers Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman about a meeting they had with Ukrainian officials on July 10. Hill has already testified before the committees, and Vindman is scheduled to do so. "They told me that Ambassador Sondland had connected 'investigations' with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelenskyy, which so irritated Ambassador Bolton that he abruptly ended the meeting, telling Dr. Hill and Mr. Vindman that they should have nothing to do with domestic politics," Taylor said. "He also directed Dr. Hill to 'brief the lawyers.' Dr. Hill said that Ambassador Bolton referred to this as a 'drug deal' after the July 10 meeting." Bolton also thought a call between Trump and Zelenskyy would be a "disaster" and opposed it, according to Taylor. more...

After William Taylor’s testimony, Trump’s allies are reduced to saying things like “abuse of power is not a crime.”
By Zack Beauchamp
Ambassador William Taylor’s testimony on the Ukraine scandal is the most devastating account to emerge so far from the affair — and maybe even the entire Trump presidency. Taylor, a top US diplomat in Ukraine, lays out a detailed timeline of the scandal, one that makes it clear that President Trump suspended military aid to Ukraine to pressure its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into opening up an investigation into Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma. Trump’s defense prior to this largely consisted of the catchphrase “no quid pro quo” — the argument that there was never any attempt to trade favors from the US, like military aid or a White House invitation, for a Burisma investigation from Ukraine. This was always deeply implausible, as the White House’s own summary of Trump’s July call with Zelensky is strong evidence that this is what Trump was seeking. Taylor’s testimony pretty much seals the deal. Now the president and his defenders are left flailing, trying to salvage the wreckage of their position through a combination of lies and tortured logic. Take Trump’s tweet on Wednesday morning, largely a quote from a Fox News appearance by Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX): Neither he (Taylor) or any other witness has provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld. You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.” Congressman John Ratcliffe @foxandfriends Where is the Whistleblower? The Do Nothing Dems case is DEAD! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019. This is not what Taylor said. The ambassador testifies that Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, met with a senior adviser to Zelensky on September 1 and informed him that “the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.” According to Taylor’s testimony, Sondland and Trump made this clear to the Ukrainians at the highest level while insisting, in one of the testimony’s most darkly comedic passages, that this was “not a quid-pro-quo,” as if you get immunity from murder charges by yelling “I’m not committing a crime” while stabbing someone: more...

By Jon HealeyDeputy Editorial Page Editor
How bad was diplomat William Taylor’s testimony for President Trump? Bad enough to prompt dozens of House Republicans on Wednesday to interrupt the impeachment inquiry, arguing that the process should be conducted in public, not in secret. Three House committees have been taking depositions privately in day-long sessions held in a secure room in the Capitol; Taylor, who appeared Tuesday, outlined how Trump demanded a quid pro quo (through his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and his appointee Gordon Sondland) from new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for getting the military aid and the White House meetings Zelensky desperately sought. The price Trump demanded, according to Taylor? That Zelensky publicly announce that Ukraine would launch two investigations — one into alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and one into a Ukrainian energy company that employed the son of former Vice President Joe Biden — that could help Trump’s political fortunes. It’s so much easier for Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill to bleat about the process of the inquiry than it is to deny Taylor’s account or defend the quid pro quo. Bear in mind that Republicans sit on the three committees and have participated in all the depositions. The lawmakers who descended on the secure room where the committees have been meeting were not members of those panels; instead, they argued that they were trying to expose what they deemed a “sham.” I & dozens of GOP colleagues held a joint news conference attacking the Socialist Democrats’ secret, closed-door, Capitol basement impeachment proceedings that shut out the public & congressmen from impeachment testimony, evidence, & developments. pic.twitter.com/Ra7HD8h35V  — Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) October 23, 2019. Oh and yes, the stunt was coordinated with House GOP leaders and, reportedly, endorsed by Trump himself, although Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the self-proclaimed leader of the group, denied any White House involvement. The problem with the storm-and-tweet tactic is so obvious, I feel silly even pointing it out. The secret sessions are the preliminaries, designed to figure out whether the allegations made by the as-yet unnamed whistleblower had a basis in reality. Once the committees have established the evidentiary baseline, they will switch to public sessions involving many of the same witnesses. The purpose of the secret sessions is at least twofold: to try to prevent witnesses in the first phase from coordinating their testimony, and to have a record of sworn testimony that can be used to prevent witnesses from changing their stories when the hearings go public. In other words, the secret sessions will soon give way to public ones. And what will the Republican protesters say then? Perhaps they’ll focus on the fact that the full House hasn’t voted on whether to conduct an impeachment inquiry, but the more we hear from witnesses like Taylor, the more difficult such a vote becomes for Republicans, and the easier for swing-district Democrats. Wednesday’s stunt may slow down the march toward a resolution, but it won’t stop the inquiry. Eventually, every member of Congress is going to have to decide what to do about the facts laid out by Taylor and the others who’ve been deposed, including Sondland. And while the choices are too consequential to be easy for any member, they are particularly challenging for Republicans. more...

By Jason Lemon
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Thursday that Republican complaints about the "secrecy" of closed-door impeachment hearings don't hold water because the process is "consistent with the rules" that a "Republican majority" signed into law. Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly argued that the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry has been conducted improperly because the testimony of witnesses has been carried out in close-door hearings. On Wednesday morning, a group of GOP representatives, some of whom did not serve on the investigating committees, stormed one of those secure depositions, chanting "let us in." This delayed the hearing, but it eventually went forward in the afternoon with only the Democrats and Republicans serving on the relevant committees permitted to attend. "As frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors...they are consistent with the rules," Napolitano, who previously served as a New Jersey Superior Court judge, explained during a segment of the Fox News morning show Fox & Friends. "When were the rules written last?" the legal expert asked. "In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner [the Republican speaker of the House]. And who enacted them? A Republican majority," he asserted. "The rules say that this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret," Napolitano said. He pointed out that he personally wishes he could view the testimony and that it was public, but he added that the impeachment investigation was thus far consistent with the ones conducted against Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Nixon inevitably resigned to avoid impeachment, while Clinton was formally impeached by the House but not removed by the Senate. "Eventually, there will be a public presentation of this, at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them," Napolitano explained. "This is like presenting a case to a grand jury, which is never done in public." more...

By Marika Malaea
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison organized a series of listening sessions on white nationalism and invited a former neo-Nazi to speak at St. Cloud State University on Tuesday, reports MPR News. Christian Picciolini, founder of the Free Radicals Project, spent eight years in the skinhead movement and the last 20 years helping people disengage from hate movements and other violent ideologies around the world. "I know that their plans are to overthrow the government even though that's not what they say in public. I know that they're against democracy, even though they wave the American flag and say that they're patriots. Trust me, this is a marketing plan," Picciolini said. He remains convinced that people are not born racist but drawn to it out of self-loathing and alienation. He knows from being on the other side that recruiters target specific people with those feelings. "I started to take my own self-hatred and project it onto other people, my own self confidence issues, my own feelings of inadequacy and of not fitting in. I started to take those and put those on other people. And when I did that, it was like a drug," he said. The forum brought 250 people to St. Cloud State University, including 14-year old Kayla Okonu from St. Joseph. That was the same age Picciolini was when he was first recruited. "We need support from everybody," Okonu told KSTP. "I just want people to speak up and stand up, just start forming a community that will learn from their experiences and grow and hopefully just become more loving." She spoke up about the racism she's experienced and seen in her community. Okonu said white supremacy signs went up in her neighborhood a couple of years ago. When she brought it to school leaders, they didn't address it. She said she's been working to organize events to educate other students. Picciolini has told his story and the purpose of the Free Radicals Project, which works to fight extremism and white supremacist violence, to numerous organizations all over the world. more...

By JOSH GERSTEIN
The National Archives and Records Administration has launched an investigation into Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ use of private email for official business, according to a letter made public this week. The inquiry was triggered by an unflattering profile of Ross last month in the Washington Post, which cited government-related emails the watchdog group Democracy Forward received from Ross’ private account. The group obtained the messages through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. “The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has become aware of a potential unauthorized disposition of U.S. Department of Commerce records,” Archives official Laurence Brewer wrote in an Oct. 9 letter to Jennifer Jessup, who serves as Commerce’s Chief Information Officer. Brewer, who holds the title of Chief Records Officer of the U.S. Government, cited the Washington Post article and noted that it asserted that Ross “used personal email for official business.” Brewer asked for a response from Commerce within 30 days. Word of the National Archives inquiry comes as a court fight escalates over Ross’ emails, creating parallels with legal battles during the Obama administration over access to government officials’ personal email accounts. The most famous showdown was over Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal account, which she used in lieu of an official State Department email address during her four years in the Cabinet. In a court filing Wednesday night, Justice Department attorneys said the Commerce Department should not be required to conduct a direct search of Ross’ personal email accounts even though searches of Commerce Department accounts found 280 email chains over a 16-month period that contained references to one of more of the four private accounts he used. Many of the messages pertain to Ross’ travel arrangements through a jet-sharing service, NetJets, and were also sent to government accounts to update Ross’ official calendars, the court submissions say. Other emails involve outsiders, including at least one reporter, who initiated contact with Ross through his private accounts. more...

By Clare Foran, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Congressional leaders will honor the late Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday as his body lies in state in National Statuary Hall in the US Capitol. Cummings, a longtime Maryland Democrat and key figure leading investigations into President Donald Trump, died last week at the age of 68. The congressman's death prompted an outpouring of grief from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Cummings appears to be the first African American and African American lawmaker to lie in state in the US Capitol, according to congressional historians. Lying in state is a tribute reserved for government officials and military officers, while lying in honor is a distinction given to private citizens. Two African Americans have lain in honor: civil rights icon Rosa Parks and Officer Jacob J. Chestnut Jr., a Capitol Police officer killed in the line of duty. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office announced last week that Cummings' body will lie in state with a formal ceremony to take place on Thursday morning. Congressional lawmakers, members of the Cummings family and invited guests will be permitted to attend. There will also be a public viewing later in the day. A formal arrival ceremony will start at 11 a.m. ET in Statuary Hall, where Pelosi, a California Democrat, will be joined by members of congressional leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, along with other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, according to a release from the speaker's office. Statuary Hall is an expansive room that houses a collection of statutes contributed by individual states to honor prominent individuals in their history. more...

By Sinéad Baker
Colorado's governor mocked President Donald Trump for saying he was building the US-Mexico border wall in the state, suggesting that he needed "basic geography" lessons like a kindergartner. Trump said in a speech in Pittsburgh on Wednesday that the US was "building a wall in Colorado." "And we're building a wall on the border of New Mexico," he said. "And we're building a wall in Colorado. We're building a beautiful wall. A big one that really works — that you can't get over, you can't get under." Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, pointed out on Facebook that Colorado did not share a border with Mexico. "Well this is awkward...Colorado doesn't border Mexico," he wrote. "Good thing Colorado now offers free full day kindergarten so our kids can learn basic geography," he said. Other politicians including John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor who ended his 2020 presidential bid in August, also mocked Trump's statement. Hickenlooper tagged Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall of New Mexico in a tweet, pointing out that Colorado shared a border with the US state of New Mexico — and not the country of Mexico. more...

CNN - During a speech on American energy in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, President Donald Trump ticked through his usual issues before making an unusual remark about his long-promised border wall. CNN's Daniel Dale fact-checks the president's speech. more...

by Jerry Dunleavy
The Justice Department is defending the role played by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike and by the FBI in determining that Russia hacked Democratic systems in 2016, assuring Congress it got the information it needed to carry out its investigation into Russian interference. Adam Hickey, the deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s National Security Division, made the comments while appearing on a panel before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to discuss election security for the upcoming 2020 presidential election. President Trump has long said he believes in a conspiracy theory that posits without evidence CrowdStrike is owned by a wealthy Ukrainian and that a missing DNC server is hidden in Ukraine. “Looking back at the FBI’s activities investigating the 2016 election, it has been reported that the FBI never obtained the original servers from the Democratic National Committee that had allegedly been hacked by Russia, instead relying upon imaged copies,” Arizona Republican Debbie Lesko asked. “First of all, is that correct?” Hickey replied that federal investigators were able to obtain evidence on Russian interference, noting that “it’s pretty common for us to work with a security vendor in connection with an investigation of a computer intrusion,” a reference to CrowdStrike. CrowdStrike, a large California-based cybersecurity firm that was co-founded by a Russia-born U.S. citizen and is used by both Republicans and Democrats, examined the DNC’s systems in 2016 and concluded that Russian state actors were responsible for months of cyber intrusions. The DNC did not provide the FBI with access to its servers, but CrowdStrike did provide the bureau with forensic copies. Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress in early 2017 that “our forensics folks would always prefer to get access to the original device or server that’s involved” and testified a few months later that his FBI investigative team “had gotten the information from the private party [CrowdStrike] that they needed to understand the intrusion.” The U.S. Intelligence Community and special counsel Robert Mueller agreed with CrowdStrike’s assessment that the Russian government hacked the DNC. The DOJ has argued in court that Mueller’s investigation did not rely solely on CrowdStrike’s determinations but rather uncovered evidence of their own pointing to Russia during the investigation. Lesko followed up on Tuesday by asking whether CrowdStrike “still has possession of the Clinton servers,” and Hickey said he didn’t know. The DNC claimed in 2018 court filings that the Russian hack in 2016 led them to “decommission more than 140 servers, remove and reinstall all software, including the operating systems, for more than 180 computers, and rebuild at least 11 servers.” The DNC has now put one of the decommissioned servers on display in its D.C. headquarters alongside one of the filing cabinets from the Watergate break-in. There is no evidence that any of the servers are in Ukraine, as Trump has claimed. In the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that has sparked an impeachment inquiry, Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor," which was to look into CrowdStrike and any possible Ukrainian election interference in 2016, immediately after Zelensky expressed interest in purchasing anti-tank weaponry, known as Javelins, from the U.S. Trump urged Zelensky later in the call to investigate “the other thing,” referring to allegations of corruption related to Joe and Hunter Biden. more...

By Max Burns - New York Daily
If Americans needed any further proof that Donald Trump’s toxic presidency has corroded the Republican Party beyond recognition, Rep. Matt Gaetz just proved the argument in grand fashion. Gaetz, a pro-Trump mouthpiece most notable for pushing “deep state” conspiracy theories on Fox News and not studying his Bible, has sought to undermine the legitimacy of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s investigations into Trump since the earliest days of the Mueller investigation. Today Gaetz escalated his personal vendetta against Schiff to a dangerous new level, gleefully shredding America’s sacrosanct national security protocols in the process. In a bizarre press conference this morning, Gaetz and a motley gang of Trump ultras and Freedom Caucus members decided to storm the Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (or SCIF) where Schiff was conducting a classified deposition related to the ongoing House impeachment inquiry. There was no time to waste, Gaetz claimed. Conspiracies were afoot! In an America with healthy institutions, the very suggestion of raiding a secure facility would be met with condemnation. Actually going through with such a misguided plot would merit an immediate ethics investigation and censure by the full House. This is not an America with healthy institutions. Not only did Gaetz and his mob successfully force their way into the SCIF — causing an uproar from members of Congress actually authorized to attend the hearing — they proceeded to spend the afternoon making political hay of their imaginary coup. Some brought cell phones into the facility, something expressly prohibited by national security protocols. Others ordered pizza. Gaetz, in true Trumpian fashion, took the opportunity to tweet. If Gaetz and the Freedom Caucus wanted a rift with career intelligence community experts, they got one. Veteran Navy intelligence operative Naveed Jamali was especially incensed, reminding Gaetz that “literally rule number one” in national security protocol is “no cell phones in a SCIF.” “Anything that transmits and can record video or audio is specifically forbidden,” Jamali continued. “If you break these rules, you might as well drop the “S” (secure) in SCIF.” The abandonment of sensitive intelligence protocols isn’t just a disgrace for Gaetz, who likely only cares that his misadventure will get top billing on Fox News tonight. It’s a disgrace to a Republican Party that once put national security — or at least performative deference to national security — at the heart of its political self-identity. SCIFs are one of the most visible symbols of a powerful idea: that some things, like national security briefings and sensitive intelligence operations, are simply too important for partisan games. Democrats and Republicans have disagreed in the past on the goals and methods behind American intelligence operations. None have ever gone so far as to discard security protocol entirely, as Gaetz and the Freedom Caucus did today. That’s because Gaetz and his ilk aren’t really interested in the nuts-and-bolts of being legislators. They have no patience for boring national security briefings and the reams of guidelines and rules that enforce secrecy on members of Congress. For Gaetz and Trumpist Republicans, being a congressman is about attention-grabbing public performance. Everything must please the boss. Gaetz makes the laughable claim that Republicans are being excluded from impeachment inquiry depositions like the one his mob compromised today. That is categorically false: Republican members of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees were in attendance for today’s deposition. Gaetz’s gripe is that those Republicans were unwilling to turn a serious intelligence hearing into a media circus. more...

By David Jackson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Having attacked some of his critics as "Do Nothing Democrats," President Donald Trump reserved a harsher term Wednesday for "Never Trumper Republicans" who continue to opposed him amid an impeachment inquiry. "Human scum." "The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats," Trump tweeted Thursday. "Watch out for them, they are human scum!" Trump has ratcheted up his criticism of Republicans in recent weeks, as some GOP lawmakers question his decisions to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, pressure Ukrainian officials to weigh into U.S. politics and select a Florida property he owns to host the next G-7 summit of world leaders. Trump later reversed himself on the Florida resort and has described his July 25 phone call with Ukraine as "perfect." During a mid-day tweet storm, Trump identified one of his Never Trumper critics as Bill Taylor, the diplomat who told House impeachment investigators Wednesday he was "alarmed" by the linking of aid to investigations of Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden. Other Republicans who oppose Trump proudly claimed the mantle the president bestowed on them. The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019. more...

By David Shortell, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The Justice Department sued California on Wednesday, claiming that the state bypassed federal authority when it entered into an environmental agreement with the Canadian province of Quebec to combat air pollution. In a complaint filed in California federal court, Justice Department prosecutors argued that the 2013 program, which established a cap-and-trade system between the Golden State and the eastern Canadian region that limited the amount of greenhouse gases that industrial and power plants could emit, was illegal because it amounted to a treaty or compact between a US state and a foreign power. "The state of California has veered outside of its proper constitutional lane to enter into an international emissions agreement. The power to enter into such agreements is reserved to the federal government, which must be able to speak with one voice in the area of US foreign policy," said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the head of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "California's unlawful cap-and-trade agreement with Quebec undermines the President's ability to negotiate competitive agreements with other nations as the President sees fit." The lawsuit is the latest broadside by the Trump administration against California. Leaders in the liberal state have feuded with President Donald Trump as he has challenged their progressive environmental policies and criticized them for a homelessness problem. Last month, Trump said that he was revoking California's authority to set its own vehicle emission standards, leading to concern from environmentalists that the state's downward trend in air pollution could be affected. California, as well as New York, is fighting that move in court. more...


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