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US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 14


FBI chief warns Congress of danger from 'self-radicalized' domestic terrorists
By Caitlin Dickson
Federal law enforcement and homeland security officials warned about the growing threat of domestic terrorism at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday. “The prevalent trend of Americans driven by violent extremist ideologies or personal grievances” to commit racially and ethnically-motivated attacks has become “one of the most significant emergent threats” to national security, said Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. “We see domestic terrorism as [a] persistent, evolving threat,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. He said domestic terrorists have committed more fatal attacks than international terrorists in the U.S. in recent years.

These concerns were echoed by Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and David Glawe, under secretary in charge of DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Wray clarified that “international terrorism is very much alive and well and something we need to stay focused on too.” But he and the other witnesses emphasized how rapidly advancing technology and the increasingly disorganized nature of terrorism in general make home-grown terrorism uniquely dangerous at this time.

“Terrorism today moves at the speed of social media,” Wray said. While there have been cases of American white supremacists traveling overseas to train with groups in Eastern Europe as well as some known ties “between U.S.-based neo Nazis and their overseas analogues,” Wray said that for the most part, interactions between individual U.S. based extremists and like-minded individuals overseas is limited to social media, internet forums and, increasingly, encrypted messaging technology. “They’re not working together but they’re inspired by each other,” he said. Full Story...

The GOP Tax Cuts Didn’t Work
Republicans said the reform would grow the economy by up to 6 percent, stimulate business investment, and pay for itself. None of that happened.
By Derek Thompson
Donald Trump’s signature legislative achievement was the corporate-tax cut he signed in 2017. Republicans said it would grow the economy by up to 6 percent, stimulate business investment, and pay for itself. None of those promises have come to pass. GDP growth has declined to less than 2 percent according to the latest report, released yesterday. Business investment has now declined for two straight quarters, dragging down economic growth. And the federal deficit exceeds $1 trillion. These shortcomings alone might be enough to embolden Democrats to fight Trump on economic grounds just one year from a crucial 2020 election. But they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Trump swept into office pledging to restore the U.S. economy to the good old days of brawny work and global swagger. He had a vision of the United States where the exports would be bigger, the trade deals would be better, and “forgotten” Americans working in declining sectors like coal mining would be restored to their rightful place at the center of the economy. This bold strategy hinged on the theory that trade wars were “good, and easy to win.” None of those promises have come to pass, either. Let’s go through them one by one. The U.S. manufacturing sector is practically in a recession. The ISM index, a key measure of that industry’s health, registered its lowest number in 10 years. Real exports of goods and services have declined in the past year, after peaking in 2018. Mining jobs have declined in the past 12 months, too. Finally, hovering in the background behind declining investment, sputtering manufacturing, and wilting exports is the trade war with China, which has proved neither “good” nor “easy” for American businesses. All of this might make it sound as if the U.S. economy is a disaster. It’s not. As I wrote earlier this month, we are in the midst of the longest labor-market recovery in American history, and the stock market has set new all-time highs almost every year this decade.

So how do we reconcile these two facts: The promises of the Republican tax plan have failed as spectacularly as Trump’s grand vision of a New American Mercantilism, and the U.S. economy as a whole is actually doing fine for now? The answer, basically, is that while the Trump can’t deliver, the American consumer continues to chug along. Consumer spending, which was the one bright spot in yesterday’s GDP report, beat forecasts by rising nearly 3 percent. Unemployment is at a 60-year low, and wage growth has accelerated for the poorest workers. (Ironically, these positive trends have been buoyed by large federal deficits, which break another Trump campaign promise.) Full Story...

Judge throws out conspiracy theorist's lawsuit against Mueller
By Harper Neidig - The Hill

A federal judge on Thursday threw out conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi's lawsuit against former special counsel Robert Mueller after he accused Mueller of coercing him into testifying about his alleged role coordinating the release of stolen Democratic emails. Judge Ellen Huvelle of the D.C. District Court said that Corsi, formerly of the far-right conspiracy theory website InfoWars, had failed to make a valid case against Mueller or any of the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies named in his complaint. Huvelle, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Clinton, said Corsi's sweeping claims that Mueller and the government had conducted illegal surveillance of him, violated his constitutional rights and leaked grand jury information were lacking in evidence and legal grounding. Corsi alleged that Mueller had threatened to indict him and "effectively put him in federal prison for the rest of his life" if he failed to testify to a grand jury about his alleged role as a liaison between WikiLeaks and Trump associate Roger Stone, who is facing trial next week for charges of obstruction of justice stemming from the special counsel's probe.

Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer who is representing Corsi, told The Hill in an email that he plans to appeal the ruling. A federal judge on Thursday threw out conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi's lawsuit against former special counsel Robert Mueller after he accused Mueller of coercing him into testifying about his alleged role coordinating the release of stolen Democratic emails. Judge Ellen Huvelle of the D.C. District Court said that Corsi, formerly of the far-right conspiracy theory website InfoWars, had failed to make a valid case against Mueller or any of the various intelligence and law enforcement agencies named in his complaint. Huvelle, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Clinton, said Corsi's sweeping claims that Mueller and the government had conducted illegal surveillance of him, violated his constitutional rights and leaked grand jury information were lacking in evidence and legal grounding. Full Story...

Facebook Rejects False Ads Whenever It Wants. Why Won’t It Say No to Running Trump’s Lies?
By Jeff Berman and Raina Kumra
As Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last week, it became clear that Facebook’s decision to permit politicians to lie with impunity is well on its way to hitting its logical absurd extremes. Zuckerberg needs to reverse course, either by implementing common sense limits on the lies politicians can pay to spread, or by banning political advertising through the 2020 election while the company works to get this right. Sen. Elizabeth Warren started unmasking the indefensibility of the politician-can-lie-at-will ad policy when she ran an ad on Facebook claiming—falsely—that Zuckerberg had endorsed President Donald Trump. (In the ad, she made clear the claim wasn’t true.) A few days later, in the wake of a Zuckerberg speech invoking Martin Luther King Jr. to defend Facebook’s position, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got Zuckerberg to concede that Facebook would likely allow her to run an ad claiming her Republican opponent supports the Green New Deal as a tactic to suppress Republican turnout. And then someone actually did it.  The third strike came a few days later when an activist donned a candidate costume, registering to run for California governor in an election that won’t be held until 2022. Under Facebook’s policy, Adriel Hampton should now be free to claim anything he wants about anyone he wants in any ad he pays Facebook to run. Except Facebook has determined Hampton is a candidate solely to get around its policy, so it will not allow him to lie in ads. Trolling season is only getting started. Facebook’s policy is so poorly considered that even Facebook’s employee base is rising up against the CEO. On Monday, 250 employees signed an open letter imploring the company to change its policy and implement some common-sense reforms before “politicians weaponize” the platform. The first and clearest change they propose is that Facebook hold ads from politicians to the same standard as all other advertisers. The second is that the company distinguish political ads from content with stronger visual cues and contextualization—in other words, simple design changes. As the employees wrote, “Misinformation shared by political advertisers has an outsized detrimental impact on our community. We should not accept money for political ads without applying the standards that our other ads have to follow.” Some Facebook supporters have argued it is too hard to say what is true and what is false. That Facebook’s advertising rules should allow politicians to promote whatever they want. Setting aside the chilling implications of the death of truth, it must be made clear that Facebook does make such judgments in every other context with every other advertiser. more...

Graham: Impeachment efforts will get 'not one vote' from Senate GOP
by Ellie Bufkin
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed congressional Democrats as "sore losers" for proceeding with the impeachment of President Trump, claiming their efforts would get "not one vote" from Republicans in the Senate. "You have to accept that President Trump is president,” Graham said in reference to House Democrats' plan to move forward with impeachment. “That’s the problem. They don’t accept that President Trump won the election, and America hates a sore loser as much as any country on the planet. This is an unfair process being driven by sore losers, and there is not one vote [from Republicans] in the United States Senate to impeach President Trump based on this phone call because he did nothing wrong." Graham's defense of Trump comes just two days after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that there would be a resolution in the House to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. "This week, we will bring a resolution to the Floor that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees as part of this impeachment inquiry, including all requests for documents, subpoenas for records, and testimony, and any other investigative steps previously taken or to be taken as part of this investigation," her Monday statement said. On Tuesday, Pelosi and other House Democrats clarified that the resolution being introduced on Thursday was not an "impeachment resolution." "This is not an impeachment resolution,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday morning. “I don’t know what an impeachment resolution is." Congressional Republicans in both the House and Senate have been critical of Democrats and their choice to hold early impeachment-related hearings in secret. Last week, dozens of House GOP members stormed the Capitol basement and barged into the secret room where former Department of Defense official Laura Cooper was being questioned by the House Intelligence Committee. more... - Graham and Republicans are willing to ignore facts to protect Trump over America and the constitution is a violation of their oath of office.

Threats against Ukraine whistleblower's legal team lead to law enforcement probe
By Zachary Cohen and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The legal team representing the whistleblower who ignited the impeachment investigation has received death threats that have led to at least one law enforcement investigation, according to a source familiar with the situation. The FBI deemed the threat not to be credible after meeting with the individual who sent it, the source said. "There have been a myriad of disturbing emails and voicemails sent to the legal team, with a few select messages crossing the line enough into direct threats of harm that have resulted in follow up from relevant law enforcement entities," according to the source. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the threats had led to at least one law enforcement probe. Trump has repeatedly derided the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint alleges the President abused his official powers in a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "to solicit interference" in the 2020 election. Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, said last month that whoever had provided the whistleblower with information about his call with Zelensky is "close to a spy," adding that in the old days spies were dealt with differently. The comments prompted lawyers for the whistleblower to send a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire outlining "serious" safety concerns for their client as Trump continues to take aim at the whistleblower. "The purpose of this letter is to formally notify you of serious concerns we have regarding our client's personal safety," the letter says, adding that recent comments by Trump are reason for "heightened" concern. "The events of the past week have heightened our concerns that our client's identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm's way." more...

Nazi flag hanging in California corrections department window removed amid outcry
By Owen Daugherty
A Nazi flag hanging in a California Department Of Corrections (CDCR) office in Sacramento has been removed following public outcry and complaints. CBS 13 Sacramento reports the flag was noticed by pedestrians passing the building in downtown Sacramento, and officers have now taken the flag down. The flag and other signs could be seen through open blinds in the window of the office. The state parole officers who put up the Nazi flag say it was intended to be used as a teaching tool for other staff to know what items to look out for, according to the news outlet. The flag and other signs in the window were taken from prisoners at correctional facilities and displayed to staff as a way to show the type of hate signs that are found in jails. Along with the Nazi flag, a pair of SS bolts could be seen in the window. The bolts are a white supremacist symbol inspired by Nazi Germany’s police force. Michael Johnson, a man who spotted the flag and spoke to CBS 13, told the outlet he believed it was a Halloween display before he noticed additional gang paraphernalia and hate symbols. “I just don’t think it’s the proper display for a street-facing window,” he said. more...

'Not qualified' rating and accusation from American Bar Association moves Trump nominee to tears
By Ariane de Vogue and Alex Rogers, CNN
Washington (CNN) - A federal appeals court nominee broke down in tears during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, reacting to a scathing letter against his confirmation by the American Bar Association after it conducted 60 interviews and concluded that he was "not qualified" for the judicial branch. Lawrence J.C. VanDyke grew emotional, with his face turning red as he defended himself against the letter's conclusions that he could would not treat LGBTQ litigants fairly. "I do not believe that," VanDyke said. "It is a fundamental belief of mine that all people are created in the image of God," adding, "they should all be treated with dignity and respect." The rare outburst comes as the ABA is under continued attack from conservatives who question its methodology and argue that the group that has rated potential nominees for decades is biased against conservatives. It also comes as the President and Senate Republicans have pushed through a record number of judicial nominees as Democrats have questioned their qualifications. President Donald Trump nominated VanDyke, who currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice, last month for the post on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The President has repeatedly attacked the liberal-leaning 9th Circuit for rulings that have blocked administration initiatives, especially on immigration. The ABA on Tuesday night issued a blistering analysis of the nomination. "Mr. VanDyke's accomplishments are offset by the assessments of interviewees that Mr. VanDyke is arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules," William C. Hubbard, chair of the ABA's standing committee on the federal judiciary, wrote. "There was a theme that the nominee lacks humility, has an 'entitlement' temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful." more...

Trump promised to eliminate the national debt. It has risen by $3 trillion
By caroline cournoyer
President Trump pledged to eliminate the national debt within eight years. Almost halfway to his self-imposed deadline, it has actually increased. The U.S. is $3 trillion more in debt than it was when Mr. Trump entered the White House. In nearly three years, it rose 15% — from $19.9 trillion to $22.9 trillion, according to the latest numbers from the Treasury Department. But Mr. Trump, a Republican, can claim a small victory: The nation's debt has risen at a slower pace under him than under recent presidents. At the same point in their presidencies, the debt increased 41% under Democrat Barack Obama, 20% under Republican George W. Bush and 19% under Democrat Bill Clinton. Mr. Obama came into office shortly after the start of the worst recession since the Great Depression in which tax revenues plummeted. The president and Republicans argued that the tax cuts would pay for themselves, but Representative Kevin Brady, who helped craft the 2017 bill, admitted this year that that has yet to happen. more...

Trump impeachment inquiry: Read the opening statements from diplomats Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson
By Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Two State Department officials with expertise on Ukraine are scheduled to appear Wednesday before lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, who both worked under previous key witness Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, are scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees. Croft's background includes work on Ukraine for both the State Department and the National Security Council. Similarly, Anderson's resume includes working at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital. The opening statements of both Croft and Anderson were obtained by USA TODAY. Here are some of the key points from the prepared remarks" Croft says a lobbyist told her Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch should be fired, according to Croft's opening statement. Croft was unaware of a hold on aid to Ukraine until a July 18 video conference with the Office of Management and Budget, where she was informed a hold was placed on security assistance to Ukraine, stemming from an order "at the direction of the President." Anderson will say that former National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who took part in a pressure campaign in Ukraine, "could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement." more...

Testimony: Nunes acolyte misrepresented himself to Trump as Ukraine expert
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman also testified on Tuesday that the National Security Council staffer, Kash Patel, fed the president disinformation about Ukraine.
By NATASHA BERTRAND
The decorated Army officer who testified to House investigators on Tuesday told lawmakers that a close associate of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes “misrepresented” himself to President Donald Trump in an effort to involve himself further in Ukraine policy, according to two people familiar with his closed-door deposition. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, told lawmakers that after attending Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration in May as part of a delegation led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Vindman had been looking forward to debriefing Trump and giving a positive account of Zelensky’s vision for Ukraine’s future. “The U.S. government policy community’s view is that the election of Zelenskyy and the promise of reforms to eliminate corruption will lock in Ukraine’s Western-leaning trajectory, and allow Ukraine to realize its dream of a vibrant democracy and economic prosperity,” Vindman said in his opening statement. But he was instructed “at the last second” not to attend the debriefing, Vindman told lawmakers, because Trump’s advisers worried it might confuse the president: Trump believed at the time that Kashyap Patel, a longtime Nunes staffer who joined the White House in February and had no discernible Ukraine experience or expertise, was actually the NSC’s top Ukraine expert instead of Vindman. Vindman testified that he was told this directly by his boss at the time, NSC senior director for European and Russian affairs Fiona Hill. Hill told Vindman that she and national security adviser John Bolton thought it best to exclude Vindman from the debriefing to avoid “an uncomfortable situation,” he said. POLITICO previously reported that Hill testified that Trump thought Patel was in charge of Ukraine policy for the NSC, but Vindman’s exclusion from a key Ukraine meeting because of concerns over a potential conflict with Trump has not been disclosed before. It helps explain why the president tweeted on Tuesday that he’d never met Vindman despite his clear interest in Ukraine — senior officials have said that Trump directed them to consult with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on matters of Ukraine policy. more...

Fed Cuts Rates Again To Boost A Slowing Economy
By Scott Horsley
The Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter percentage point Wednesday in an effort to support an economy that continues to tap the brakes. In announcing the move, the central bank pointed to weak business investment, which has been a drag on the economy, even as consumer spending has held up relatively well. This is the Fed's third interest rate cut since July, and it brings the federal funds rate target down to a range of 1.5% to 1.75%. Falling interest rates have contributed to a modest rebound in the housing market and big-ticket consumer purchases. But they've done little so far to boost business investment. Many businesses are wary about spending money in the face of slowing global demand and uncertainty surrounding the president's trade war. The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that economic growth slowed in the third quarter to just 1.9%. The report showed the Fed's preferred measure of inflation reached 2.2% during the quarter, slightly above the central bank's 2% target. "Although household spending has been rising at a strong pace, business fixed investment and exports remain weak," the Fed said in a statement. more...

Cashing In On The White House Connection: It's Not Just Hunter Biden
By Jim Zarroli
Billy Carter appeared to relish his role as the president's colorful kid brother, raking in money through personal appearances, guest shots on TV's Hee Haw and even his own eponymous brand of beer. When it came out that he had also accepted money for lobbying from the Libyan government, his financial dealings no longer seemed quite so funny. Being related to a high-ranking politician can be lucrative, as former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter has discovered. Hunter Biden accepted a seat on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings, reportedly for $50,000 a month, despite no experience in the energy business. But the younger Biden is hardly the first relative of a high-ranking politician to try to cash in on his or her famous relative's position. "There have always been special interests looking for a shortcut to get access to power, and they're betting that the benefit that they get from hiring that relative will get them access and influence," says Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce the role of money in politics. Presidential relatives have been a source of scandal throughout history — in both Republican and Democratic administrations, she says. When Richard Nixon first ran for president in 1960, he had to answer questions about a loan that billionaire Howard Hughes had given his brother Donald. Nixon later said the scandal had contributed to his narrow defeat to John F. Kennedy. As President George H.W. Bush tried to deal with the fallout from the savings and loan crisis, he was also contending with an uncomfortable fact: His own son Neil had served on the board of Denver-based Silverado Savings and Loan, which went bankrupt, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion. Like Billy Carter before him, Neil Bush insisted he had done nothing wrong, and no evidence emerged that he had received preferential treatment from the government. But his role at the bank caused major political problems for his father. more...

What Vindman's testimony shows us about Trump's idea of loyalty
Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump wants a Lt. Col. Oliver North. What he's got is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. North was a Marine officer detailed to the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan who was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry into the Iran-Contra scandal. Vindman is an Army officer detailed to the National Security Council who just testified about his efforts to document Trump's pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden. Trump's the kind of man who sees nothing wrong with holding up US aid to corner a foreign government to help him against his political rival. Facing the testimony of an immigrant in uniform who isn't waiting until he leaves the White House to tell his fact-based, nonpartisan truth, it's entirely predictable that the first thing Trump did was attack him. Trump cast Vindman as a "never Trumper," despite also claiming that he never met the man. It's directly in line with the idea he's repeatedly pushed that a "deep state" of entrenched bureaucrats is out to get him. On cue, pundits who defend Trump's responsiveness to the whims of Vladimir Putin immediately questioned Vindman, who sought refuge in the US as a very young child, along with many other Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. Where do his loyalties lie, they openly asked. Vindman made that clear on Tuesday. While the whistleblower and the anonymous New York Times op-ed writer are keeping their identities hidden, Vindman -- still a White House employee -- showed up to testify in person. He arrived on Capitol Hill in a dress uniform displaying a Purple Heart and declared himself an American patriot in his opening statement. Vindman making the choice to testify about his concerns that Trump was inappropriately pressuring Ukraine and his efforts to fix omissions in the July 25 call transcript that proves the point. The vile attacks on his patriotism were dismissed even by Trump's Republican allies on Capitol Hill. But Trump has a well documented history of either lashing out at or rejecting military men who tried to stand up to him. The main foil of Trump's time in office has been Sen. John McCain, the POW turned US senator, who often criticized Trump's foreign policy and who wasn't afraid to crush Republican hopes of repealing Obamacare with a dramatic thumbs down in the Senate chamber. Those policy differences drove them apart, but Trump is unique among American politicians for being unafraid to mock another man's war service, particularly McCain's. Apparently unashamed of his own Vietnam record, Trump made fun of McCain for being captured and tortured. Trump did it when McCain was vibrant and his opponent, when he was sick, and after he died. But all of that is ancient history at this point. But there is something underneath the attack dog mentality Trump turned on Vindman. As with his prior attacks on the "deep state," he demonstrated his complete disregard for the idea of public service and misunderstanding of the concept of loyalty. In Trump's worldview, where he has saved the country from his predecessors and where all victories are his and there are no defeats, there's no room for loyalty to anyone or anything else. But in the military, where soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines pledge allegiance to the flag and show up for work regardless of who is President, it's meant to be the opposite. more...

Former Trump aide who now works for Devin Nunes reportedly leaked Ukraine whistleblower’s name
Derek Harvey, a former Trump adviser who now works for Nunes, outed the whistleblower who reported Trump's call
By Igor Derysh
A top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., leaked documents identifying the Ukraine whistleblower’s name in an attempt to out him, The Daily Beast has reported. Derek Harvey, a former adviser to President Trump who now works for Nunes on the House Intelligence Committee, handed notes to House Republicans identifying the whistleblower’s name ahead of closed-door depositions in the Trump impeachment inquiry in hopes of getting the name in the record of the proceedings, which Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff vowed to release, sources told The Daily Beast. The allegation follows a Saturday Washington Post report that Republican lawmakers and aides have “repeatedly” used the whistleblower’s purported name during the secret depositions. The Post reported that Harvey was “passing notes the entire time” one former Trump official was being questioned, suggesting that he was feeding Republicans questions. Mark Zaid, an attorney for the whistleblower, warned that exposing his client’s identity would put him and his family at risk. “Exposing the identity of the whistleblower and attacking our client would do nothing to undercut the validity of the complaint’s allegations,” Zaid told The Daily Beast. “What it would do, however, is put that individual and their family at risk of harm. Perhaps more important, it would deter future whistleblowers from coming forward in subsequent administrations, Democratic or Republican.” Far-right news outlets like OANN and the Gateway Pundit have identified an official they claim to be the whistleblower. The whistleblower’s account has long since been corroborated by witnesses from Trump’s administration. more...

How can GOP senators serve as impeachment jurors when they're implicated in Trump's misdeeds?
Ron Johnson and Marsha Blackburn are tied to Russian money and Trump's conspiracy theories. They're not alone
by Sophia Tesfaye
Nancy Pelosi has announced that the House will finally hold a formal vote dictating the rules for the impeachment inquiry, six weeks after it was launched by a whistleblower’s complaint mysteriously withheld from Congress. And on Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman backed up both the initial whistleblower and U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor by testifying that he too was concerned about the Trump administration’s push to use congressionally-allocated military aid to Ukraine to coerce an investigation into Joe Biden. Congressional Republicans have long since stopped defending Trump on the merits since shortly after the White House released a transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Instead, they’ve sought refuge in increasingly meaningless process arguments. So of course Pelosi agreeing to a formal vote on the rules of impeachment hasn’t stopped Republican complaints about the process. The goalposts will shift once again. No matter what the Democrats agree to, Republicans will complain about procedural unfairness and also refuse to concede the inquiry is legitimate. But how much of Republicans’ unwillingness to hold Trump accountable for his self-dealing is because they're in on it? On Monday the Washington Post published an interview with a Ukrainian diplomat who claimed to have met with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., this summer to discuss the baseless conspiracy theory promoted by President Trump that Ukrainian officials had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Johnson reportedly met with Ukrainian diplomat Andrii Telizhenko for at least 30 minutes on Capitol Hill in July, and Telizhenko then met with Johnson’s Senate staff for five additional hours. According to the report, “the discussions focused in part on ‘the DNC issue’ — a reference to his unsubstantiated claim that the Democratic National Committee worked with the Ukrainian government in 2016 to gather incriminating information about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Telizhenko said he could not recall the date of the meeting, but a review of his Facebook page revealed a photo of him and Johnson posted on July 11.” more...

Court temporarily blocks release of Mueller grand jury materials
By John Kruzel and Tal Axelrod
A federal circuit court on Tuesday evening temporarily blocked the release of grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. A three-judge panel, all Obama appointees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, suspended a lower court’s Wednesday deadline in order to have extra time to consider the merits of a recent Department of Justice (DOJ) request. The DOJ on Monday asked judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to hold off on enforcing her pivotal ruling last week that ordered the agency to provide the documents to the House Judiciary Committee by Wednesday. The department's broader request to Howell is that she suspend her order indefinitely while the Trump administration formally asks the appeals court to reconsider whether it must disclose the grand jury materials to Congress at all. The appeals court in its ruling Tuesday said the purpose of its stay was to provide “sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion” by the DOJ. The judges noted that their temporary suspension of the lower court’s deadline “should not be construed” as a ruling on the merits of the agency’s request. The appellate court order means the Mueller grand jury materials will continue to be shielded from House Democrats’ view for the time being. more...

State Department officials to provide details about Giuliani's role in Ukraine
Catherine Croft, a special adviser for Ukraine, and Christopher Anderson, a former special adviser, were both scheduled to testify.
By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Rebecca Shabad
WASHINGTON — A current State Department official and a former one were set to testify Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry, a day after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that he had raised concerns to his superiors about the phone call between President Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine that prompted the inquiry. Catherine Croft, a special adviser for Ukraine at the State Department, was expected to begin her closed-door deposition on Wednesday morning before the three House committees leading the inquiry. Christopher Anderson, who was a special adviser to former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, was scheduled to testify in the early afternoon. Anderson left his position in mid-July and was succeeded by Croft. According to their opening statements obtained by NBC News, neither Anderson nor Croft listened firsthand to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelinskiy. Croft, who joined the National Security Council in July 2017 and stayed there through the first half of 2018, was expected to tell lawmakers that she received multiple calls from Robert Livingston — a lobbyist and former GOP member of Congress who resigned in 1998 — who told her that Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, should be fired. “He characterized Ambassador Yovanovitch as an 'Obama holdover' and associated with George Soros," she planned to say, according to prepared remarks. "It was not clear to me at the time — or now — at whose direction or at whose expense Mr. Livingston was seeking the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch." Croft was expected to say that she had documented those calls and told her boss, Fiona Hill, then a top White House adviser for Europe and Russia, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, and that she was not aware of any action that was taken in response. Trump removed Yovanovitch as ambassador in May. more...

Vindman says White House omitted Trump's reference to Biden tapes in transcript of Zelensky call
By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
(CNN) - The National Security Council's top Ukraine expert told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he tried to make changes to the White House's rough transcript of the July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's President, including that Trump mentioned tapes of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that one example of his attempts to change the transcript was to include Trump telling Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky there were tapes of Biden, which The New York Times reported occurred where there's an ellipsis in the transcript that was released. The change was not made. The assertion that some portion of the conversation was replaced by an ellipsis contradicts the White House's statement in September that the ellipses in the transcript did not represent missing words or phrases. It also contradicts the President who has insisted the transcript the White House released was an exact depiction of the call, even though the memo itself describes it as rough. Vindman also said that he would have edited the transcript to specifically show that Zelensky mentioned Burisma -- the company that hired Hunter Biden -- rather than just "the company," according to sources. "He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue," the rough transcript cites Zelensky as saying. Vindman's testimony that some specific details were left out of the rough transcript adds further insight about how the White House handled the call and Democrats' concerns that the Trump administration engaged in a coverup. more...

National security official tells Congress he tried to add edits to White House memo about Trump Ukraine call
The proposed edits of the call were to include Trump mentioning possible recordings of Joe Biden discussing corruption in Ukraine and Ukraine’s president mentioning the Burisma gas company specifically. By Jonathan Allen and Phil Helsel Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told members of Congress that he tried to edit a White House log of a July call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's president to include details that were omitted, one lawmaker present at the testimony and another source familiar with it confirmed to NBC News. Vindman testified in a closed-door deposition before House impeachment investigators that the attempted edits were to reflect Trump mentioning possible recordings of former vice president Joe Biden discussing corruption in Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy mentioning Bursima, the company who had hired Biden’s son, Hunter, the sources said. The July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy is at the center of an impeachment inquiry being conducted in the House of Representatives. Critics say the alleged pressure on the Ukrainians amounted to Trump abusing his power for political gain in the 2020 presidential election. The White House in September released a reconstructed transcription of the July phone conversation and noted it was not a verbatim transcript and that it represented a record of "the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty officers and National Security Council policy staff" who listen to official conversations. Several points in the document contain ellipses, including one that involves Trump saying to Zelenskiy: "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me." Biden has taken credit for getting Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin removed and has described it as a win for anticorruption in the country. Shokin was widely believed to be soft on corruption, and the United States and other Western countries had called for his removal. The country's Parliament ultimately voted to remove Shokin. more...

Intelligence panel Democrat: It appears Sondland committed perjury
By Jessica Campisi
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said late Monday that he believes U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland committed perjury in his congressional testimony to investigators in their impeachment inquiry. “Based on all the testimony so far, I believe that Ambassador Gordon Sondland committed perjury,” Castro tweeted. Based on all the testimony so far, I believe that Ambassador Gordon Sondland committed perjury. https://t.co/lOGRj8s1yP — Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) October 29, 2019. The tweet came hours before Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the highest-ranking Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, is expected to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that he twice reported concerns about President Trump's tactics in dealing with Ukraine. Vindman also wrote in his opening statement that during a meeting between U.S. and Ukraine officials, Sondland — who was present at the meeting — started to talk to Ukraine about “delivering specific investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and Biden's son in order to secure a meeting with Trump, adding that he told Sondland the statements were “inappropriate.” more...

State Department official to testify that John Bolton warned about influence of Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine
By Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler, CNN
(CNN) - Former national security adviser John Bolton cautioned about the influence Rudy Giuliani had on US-Ukraine policymaking during a meeting in mid-June with top US officials, a career foreign service officer plans to tell Congress on Wednesday, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN.
Christopher Anderson, who was former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker's assistant from 2017-2019, is one of two State Department officials set to testify behind closed doors as part of the House Ukraine impeachment inquiry on Wednesday. Catherine Croft, who took over that role in the summer of 2019, is also scheduled to testify. Volker, as well as a number of other State Department officials, have already testified as part of the probe. Neither witness is expected to unearth a treasure trove of details that will change the trajectory of the investigation, but their testimonies are expected give context for how the Trump administration's US-Ukraine policy developed and confirm details that have already been presented. According to Anderson's prepared statements, he helped in May to develop "key deliverables" to show newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's "commitment to reform. 1) demonstrating Zelenskyy's independence from powerful vested interests and pursuing anticorruption reform as well as antitrust reform; 2) strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian energy cooperation; and 3) improving our bilateral security relationship which included Ukraine increasing its purchases of key U.S. military equipment." In the mid-June meeting, "Bolton stated that he agreed with our three lines of effort and that he also supported increased senior White House engagement," according to the prepared statement. "However, he cautioned that Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the President on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement," Anderson is expected to tell the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees. Bolton, viewed as one of the key witnesses, has been contacted by the committees about a deposition. It is unclear if or when he will appear before the committees. more...

Pelosi, Schiff Prep for GOP Impeachment ‘Stunts’ and Attempts to Out the Whistleblower
Schiff moved to block questions that might reveal the whistleblower’s identity. Republicans, meanwhile, said that they can’t reveal the name of someone they don’t know.
By Betsy Swan, Erin Banco, Sam Brodey, Sam Stein
Congressional Democrats are struggling to protect the identity of the U.S. government official who filed a whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump’s Ukraine policy. And those efforts have fueled friction behind closed doors. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) ruled in a closed-door deposition Tuesday morning that any questions that might lead to the revelation of the whistleblower’s identity were out of order, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. His move frustrated Republicans. One source relayed that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) ended up “yelling at each other” during a closed door deposition of Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council Director for European Affairs who testified that he raised internal concerns about Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Meadows declined to discuss the deposition, but acknowledged the tension. more...

Here’s How Dumb Bill Barr’s Great Mifsud Conspiracy Story Really Is
Mifsud’s deep connections with Putin’s foreign policy establishment and his glowing appraisals of Russia’s role in global affairs show Barr has barked up the wrong tree.
By Amy Knight
Attorney General William Barr has been looking into the Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, whose discussion with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos helped set off the FBI investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016. It was Mifsud who told Papadopoulos about the dirt the Russians had on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails," a tip Papadopoulos blurted out to an Australian diplomat in an indiscretion that reached the FBI and started the ball rolling. Barr’s interest is all part of a broader effort pushed obsessively by President Donald J. Trump in an effort to prove, at least in the public mind, that he was the victim of a conspiracy in 2016 rather than the beneficiary of one. Trump’s pressure on the recently elected government in Ukraine to promote this line features in the impeachment proceedings against him. But that has only led his administration and supporters to push harder the notion of a sinister “deep state” conspiracy to derail his presidential campaign. Where the pressure on Ukraine was partly the work of Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani operating outside official channels, Attorney General Barr’s probe is now a criminal investigation into the origins of the counterintelligence probe into Trump’s Moscow connections. And Professor Mifsud is right in the middle of it. The teams led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI reported that Mifsud, who disappeared from public view in late 2017,  received his information about the Clinton emails through highly placed members of the Russian government, and ex-FBI Director James Comey, fired by Trump, even said that Mifsud was a Russian agent.  Barr and his boys are operating on a different theory—that Mifsud was part of a setup by the CIA and FBI to smear Trump.  Pursuing this theory, Barr even went abroad recently to talk with Italian and British intelligence officials about Mifsud, who taught at universities in both Britain and Italy. But Mifsud's deep, long-standing connections with Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy establishment and the highly favorable views he has expressed publicly about Russia's role in global affairs show just how far Barr has barked up the wrong tree. more...

DOJ court filing reveals FBI’s reason for withholding information on Kavanaugh background check
During the confirmation process for Kavanaugh in 2018, the FBI conducted a superficial background check
By Alex Henderson - AlterNet
During the confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted a superficial background check. A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit was later filed, seeking information on that probe — and on October 25, the U.S.  Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion for summary judgement in response to the lawsuit, which Colin Kalmbacher discusses in an October 28 article for Law & Crime. The Freedom of Information Act request was filed in October 2018 by Jason Leopold, a reporter for BuzzFeed News. Leopold, Kalmbacher notes, requested two documents: (1) “a copy of the final report sent to the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee on either October 3 or October 4, 2018” on Kavanaugh, and (2) “all interview notes; investigative notes” pertaining to the FBI’s “investigation into allegations leveled against Mr. Kavanaugh.” In 2018, Kavanaugh became the most controversial U.S. Supreme Court nominee since Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991. Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford alleged that Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her at a party in Maryland in 1982 — an allegation he vehemently denied — and other women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against President Donald Trump’s nominee, including Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick. But Ford was the only one who testified before the U.S. Senate during the confirmation process. Kalmbacher, discussing Leopold’s lawsuit, explains, “at first, it seemed as if the FBI was keen to wash their hands of the Kavanaugh imbroglio; the agency uncharacteristically acknowledged the request and assigned it for expedited processing on the same day the Kavanaugh document request was filed. Then came the stonewall. A month passed, and the FBI produced zero responsive documents.” more...

Jared Kushner blunders into the impeachment controversy
Opinion by Michael D'Antonio
(CNN) - Just when you were wondering whatever happened to Jared Kushner, the White House adviser who got his job because his father-in-law is President, he popped up on an Israeli TV station on Monday to jab at the Democrat who may be on the ballot opposing President Donald Trump in 2020. He said he's been busy cleaning up "the messes" that former Vice President Joe Biden was supposedly responsible for creating related to the Middle East and criminal justice. Kushner's simplistic take sheds little light on the two issues he named, but illumination was not the point. No soundbite could ever help anyone understand the problems he pointed to. Instead, Kushner was obviously trying to distract us from the worsening impeachment crisis that has enveloped the administration, and to impress the Oval Office occupant. President Trump, who claims to cherish both family and fighting, should take some comfort in the fact that Kushner snarled. The Trumps have made politics, the presidency, and therefore impeachment, into a family affair and so Jared may feel a duty to perform. However, his comments also remind us that the stickiest aspect of the impeachment crisis involves Biden in a way that reflects very negatively on the Trump side. Remember, it was Biden whom the President sought to undermine when he asked Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky for an official investigation into Biden's son Hunter's work for a Ukrainian natural gas company called Burisma Holdings. Although no evidence of wrongdoing has been offered anywhere, Trump held up nearly $400 million in security aid -- military aid for Ukraine's war against Russia. more...

Army Veteran Says Attacks by Trump Allies on 'Wounded Warrior,' Purple Heart Recipient Vindman are 'Disgusting'
By James Crowley
Will Goodwin, a U.S. Army veteran and director of government relations for VoteVets, criticized President Donald Trump's comments regarding Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman in a statement released on Twitter. Goodwin called Trump's comments "disgusting" and "disgraceful." While some Trump supporters have spoken out against Vindman, calling him "disloyal," many have been quick to criticize Trump for his statements to discredit the Purple Heart recipient's testimony. "It is disgusting that Donald Trump's allies have attacked a wounded warrior... Lt. Col. Vindman is a Purple Heart recipient, who put his life on the line for America." - @Will_P_Goodwin, Army veteran and Director of Government Relations for VoteVets pic.twitter.com/DIBtCrUaN4 — VoteVets (@votevets) October 29, 2019. VoteVets.org was originally established to inform American citizens on issues in the Iraq war. They currently address a number of matters including unemployment, foreign policy, labor, immigration, LGBTQ, and environmental issues. The statement from Goodwin reads, "It is disgusting that Donald Trump's allies have attacked a wounded warrior, like Lt. Col. Vindman, as having dual loyalties to Ukraine, simply because he is telling the truth to Congress about Trump's abuse of power." Addressing the Colonel's testimony in the Trump impeachment inquiry, Goodwin denies that Vindman is motivated by anything besides the desire to serve his adoptive country. He writes, "It is similarly disgraceful that Trump is saying Lt. Col. Vindman is being political. Lt Col. Vindman is a Purple Heart Recipeint, who put is life on the line for America." Trump had tweeted that Vindman was a "Never Trumper." Goodwin closed his statement by condemning Trump for speaking ill of veterans, and asking Republicans who have served to join his criticism. "This kind of smearing of our war heroes, Gold Star families, and others who sacrificed for America is the lowest of low politics. All Republicans should denounce it starting with those who served, like Lindsey Grahmam, Dan Crenshaw, and others." more...

MSNBC host Nicole Wallace calls Trump loyalists on Fox News 'chicken s**t' live on air after they suggest Purple Heart veteran who testified at impeachment inquiry is guilty of espionage
By Leah Mcdonald For Dailymail.com
MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace blasted President Donald Trump's supporters for criticizing National Security Council official Alexander Vindman and called them 'chicken s**t.' Vindman, a 20-year Army officer and Purple Heart Veteran, testified that he twice raised concerns that Trump and his European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, inappropriately pushed Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden. The Army officer was a specialist in the White House on Ukraine and Russia. He was only 3 years old in 1979, when he and his two brothers, father and grandmother fled the Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, for the U.S. On Fox News on Tuesday night, Laura Ingraham was discussing Vindman's background and claimed his background was 'interesting'. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, ex-Bush Administration official John Yoo, alluded to the fact that Vindman could be a double agent. New York attorney Alan Dershowitz was also on the discussion panel. Ingraham had claimed: 'Here we have a U.S. National Security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House apparently against the President's interests, and usually they spoke in English. 'Isn't that kind of an interesting angle on this story?' she asked. John Yoo then claimed that 'some people might call that espionage'. He later clarified his comments to say he wasn't accusing Vindman of espionage. MSNBC host Wallace then played that clip and stated: 'Except those people aren't chicken s**t like the three of you and they know he passed a background check that the president's daughter and son-in-law didn't.' more...

Mnuchin Pressed on ‘Alleged Rampant Corruption’ at Treasury Department
The Fiscal Times
By Michael Rainey
Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) on Tuesday asked Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for more information related to a report in The New York Times alleging that Mnuchin personally intervened to provide the financier Michael Milken with tax breaks through the federal “opportunity zone” program meant to direct investment to distressed neighborhoods. In a letter to Mnuchin, Pascrell, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he was writing regarding “alleged rampant corruption” at the Treasury Department and questioned how Mnuchin sees his role: “[D]o you see your job as protecting the interests of the entirety of the American people or a handful of plutocrats and personal friends? Do you think it is appropriate for the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States to seek special favors for one of the most prolific financial criminals in world history?” more...

House committee unveils impeachment resolution text
By Jeremy Herb, CNN
(CNN) - A key House committee on Tuesday set the stage for the next phase of impeachment by releasing the rules that will guide Democrats through impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The House Rules Committee released the text of the resolution Tuesday that the House will vote on later this week to formalize the impeachment proceedings. The full House is expected to vote on the resolution on Thursday. The resolution provides the procedural details for how the House will move its impeachment inquiry into its next phase, and it also represents the first time that the full chamber will take a vote related to impeaching the President. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has argued that the vote is not being taken to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry, as Republicans have demanded, but will help "to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives." Republicans and the White House have criticized the resolution as a measure that's coming too late following weeks of closed-door depositions. But it's also a sign that public hearings are on the way, where Republicans will have to debate Democrats more on the substance of Trump's actions on Ukraine rather than the process of the impeachment inquiry. The text of the resolution lays out how the House Intelligence Committee will conduct public hearings and how the House Judiciary Committee "shall report to the House of Representatives such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations as it deems proper." more...

'Extremely disturbing': Top Democrats alarmed over Vindman's testimony on Trump-Ukraine call
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, was set to testify he was on the July phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader.
By Adam Edelman
WASHINGTON — Top Democrats at the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said his testimony Tuesday was “extremely disturbing” and praised him for appearing despite attacks from the White House. Acting House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y, told NBC News she found Vindman’s remarks “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing” as she left the deposition. Maloney refused to answer any other questions about Vindman’s testimony. Vindman, appearing voluntarily under congressional subpoena, was set to tell members of Congress conducting an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump that he was on the phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader in which Trump asked for an investigation into the Bidens — and that he raised concerns about it. Vindman considered Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate his political rivals so damaging to American national security that he reported it to a superior, according to his opening statement obtained by NBC News. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a member of the House Oversight Committee who was present for the deposition, told NBC News that Vindman was a “very credible” witness and said his testimony "corroborated the testimony of other witnesses" that "really drew a direct line to the President, and those around him and their interest in withholding foreign aid through Ukraine that was vital, as well as insisting on investigations into Biden." Vindman’s testimony, she said, has "actually filled in more of the puzzle pieces." Wasserman Schutlz said the Republicans present for the deposition were trying to get Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower. "What the Republicans are trying to do very clearly in their questioning is try to front door or back door Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony he says he doesn't he didn't know," she said. "They've been unsuccessful," she added. more...

Top Republican Defends Vindman Testifying in Impeachment Probe Amid Flurry of Criticism From Trump Allies
By Ramsey Touchberry
Amid a sudden wave of criticism and questions about Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman's loyalty to the United States, the No. 3 House Republican, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, came to the defense of the top Ukraine expert on President Donald Trump's National Security Council, who is testifying Tuesday before Congress. In the hours leading up to his closed-door testimony, Vindman faced a barrage of insinuations about his motives and loyalty from Trump allies, as well as friendly cable news hosts. It was revealed Monday night Vindman would testify that he believed Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart—a conversation that Vindman heard in real time—tried to undermine America's national security. Cheney, the House Republican conference chair, labeled the attacks against the Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient as "shameful" and said the questioning of his patriotism needed to immediately cease. "I think that we need to show we are better than that as a nation," Cheney told reporters at a press conference. "Their patriotism, their love of country—we're talking about dedicated veterans who have put their lives on the line, and it is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this nation, and we should not be involved in that process." Vindman is a Ukrainian refugee who fled his country at a young age to come to the United States. Pundits, a former Republican congressman, and even a former Justice Department official have questioned whether Vindman's loyalties lie elsewhere than America. A White House official, Vindman is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian and has advised Ukrainian officials at times on how to handle Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. That point, based on a New York Times report, was highlighted by Fox News' Laura Ingraham on her Monday night show. Ingraham suggested Vindman's background and his talks with Ukraine were suspicious. In addition, one of her guests—John Yoo, a former Justice Department official and a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley—accused Vindman of "espionage." Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade said Tuesday morning that Vindman "tends to feel simpatico with the Ukraine" because of his past. And former Representative Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) went on CNN the same morning to question where the Army officer is "concerned about American policy." "We all have an affinity to our homeland where we came from," said Duffy, a CNN commentator. "He has an affinity for the Ukraine." Trump also took direct aim at Vindman, characterizing him as a "Never Trumper witness" in a tweet. "Was he on the same call that I was? Can't be possible!" he wrote. "Please ask him to read the Transcript of the call. Witch Hunt!" As part of his opening statement to impeachment investigators behind closed doors, Vindman said that he was so concerned with Trump asking a foreign leader to investigate a political foe that he raised the matter with a superior. more...

Former Ambassador Says Trump Repeating ISIS Talking Point With 'Talk About Taking Oil From Other Nations'
By Jason Lemon
Former U.S. Ambassador Nancy Soderberg criticized President Donald Trump for publicly arguing in favor of keeping Middle Eastern oil in Syria and Iraq, saying that the president was playing into the narrative of the extremist militant group the Islamic State (ISIS). "The last thing we want to do is talk about taking oil from other nations. That's the talking point of ISIS, that we're there to take their natural resources," Soderberg, who served as a diplomat under former President Bill Clinton, said during a segment of MSNBC Live on Monday. The former ambassador explained, however, that she didn't believe the U.S. would end up keeping the Syrian oil. "We have taken it and secured it," Trump said on Sunday, during a press conference in which he confirmed that the U.S. had carried out a successful operation that had led to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the day before. The president also lamented to reporters that the U.S. had not kept Iraq's oil following the 2003 invasion of the country and subsequent overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein. "I said keep the oil," Trump recounted he had said at the time. "If they are going into Iraq, keep the oil. They never did. They never did." Soderberg cautioned that people should pay "less" attention to Trump's words and see what actions will actually be taken moving forward in Syria. "We don't know exactly how many troops are gonna stay there, we don't know what's gonna be the relationship with us and the Turks and the Russians, the Iranians are increasing influence there," she explained. Other prominent Americans have criticized Trump's decision to deploy U.S. military forces to take control of Syrian oil fields as well. more...

Classified Name Revealed of Special Ops Hero Dog Wounded in Syria Raid that Killed ISIS Leader Baghdadi
By James LaPorta
When U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers with the secretive Joint Special Operations Command flew into Syria's northwestern Idlib province to capture or kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a female Belgian Malinois was along for the ride in the historic military operation. His name is Conan, Newsweek has learned. On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted out a picture of the military dog assigned to 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, known as Delta Force, a unit that falls under the secretive Joint Special Operations Command. "We have declassified a picture of the wonderful dog (name not declassified) that did such a GREAT JOB in capturing and killing the Leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," Trump tweeted from his official account. Multiple Defense Department sources confirmed to Newsweek on Monday that the dog's name is Conan. During a Sunday morning press conference to announce the death of Baghdadi, Trump said the dog was injured when the Islamic State leader detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three children. Trump declassified the photograph on Monday after a Pentagon press briefing between Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Monday that the dog was "slightly wounded and fully recovering," and said the Pentagon would not be disclosing the dog's identity as the animal was instrumental in the top secret raid which resulted in the death of the Islamic State leader. The dog has since returned to duty. Working dogs have been a part of military culture dating back to World War I. Dogs typically are ranked as noncommissioned officers, a higher rank than the dog's handler, and are routinely involved in high-level, special operation missions or assigned to conventional forces to find improvised explosives devices. more...

Exclusive: Steve Bannon’s $1 million deal linked to a Chinese billionaire
By Jonathan Swan, Erica Pandey - Axios
The mystery of who's funding Steve Bannon's work has been at least partly solved: Guo Media, a company linked to a controversial Chinese billionaire, has contracted Bannon for at least $1 million for “strategic consulting services,” according to contracts obtained by Axios. Why it matters: The billionaire fugitive — a man named Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok — is embroiled in the U.S.-China conflict. He’s a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party and is reportedly a member at Mar-a-Lago. He’s on China’s most-wanted list for alleged bribery, fraud and money laundering, per the New York Times (he strongly denies the allegations). Guo has been living in New York while he awaits a decision on his U.S. asylum application. And the Chinese government has asked the Trump administration to extradite him. Bannon declined to comment. The first contract, signed between Bannon and Guo Media, gives Bannon $1 million for one year of consulting services beginning in August 2018. Bannon is specifically contracted to introduce Guo Media to “media personalities,” and advise the company on “industry standards.” Bannon has made China one of his top issues since leaving the White House in the summer of 2017. The second contract, which was set to begin in August 2019 and is unsigned, offered Bannon $1 million for consulting and set more specific expectations. more...

The math to the madness of Trump merchandise
President Trump’s official merchandise is bringing in more than just big money – there is a math to the madness. Stephanie Ruhle is joined by Axios Media Reporter Sara Fischer and former Congressman Steve Israel to break down how this is all part of the Trump campaign’s digital strategy and why this could be bad news for Democrats. more...

'Extremely disturbing': Top Democrats alarmed over Vindman's testimony on Trump-Ukraine call
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, was set to testify he was on the July phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader.
By Adam Edelman
WASHINGTON — Top Democrats at the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said his testimony Tuesday was “extremely disturbing” and praised him for appearing despite attacks from the White House. Acting House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y, told NBC News she found Vindman’s remarks “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing” as she left the deposition. Maloney refused to answer any other questions about Vindman’s testimony. Vindman, appearing voluntarily under congressional subpoena, was set to tell members of Congress conducting an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump that he was on the phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader in which Trump asked for an investigation into the Bidens — and that he raised concerns about it. Vindman considered Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate his political rivals so damaging to American national security that he reported it to a superior, according to his opening statement obtained by NBC News. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a member of the House Oversight Committee who was present for the deposition, told NBC News that Vindman was a “very credible” witness and said his testimony "corroborated the testimony of other witnesses" that "really drew a direct line to the President, and those around him and their interest in withholding foreign aid through Ukraine that was vital, as well as insisting on investigations into Biden." Vindman’s testimony, she said, has "actually filled in more of the puzzle pieces." Wasserman Schutlz said the Republicans present for the deposition were trying to get Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower. "What the Republicans are trying to do very clearly in their questioning is try to front door or back door Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony he says he doesn't he didn't know," she said. "They've been unsuccessful," she added. more...

By Tom Porter
In a press briefing broadcast live on Sunday, US President Donald Trump described in granular terms the raid in which US special forces killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group. "When we landed with eight helicopters, a large crew of brilliant fighters ran out of those helicopters and blew holes into the side of the building, not wanting to go through the main door because that was booby-trapped," Trump said. But according to current and former military and national-security experts who spoke with the media after the raid, the gripping, public details — down to precise timings and tactics — could come back to haunt the US. Trump relished describing al-Baghdadi as "whimpering and crying and screaming all the way" before his death, having been pursued into a network of subterranean tunnels by the US forces before detonating a suicide vest. The president said that US forces had a detailed knowledge of the tunnel network and that his perspective following the raid from the White House Situation Room was "like watching a movie." Trump mapped out part of the dangerous route taken by the airborne special forces to the terrorist's hideout in northwestern Syria. He said the aircraft traveled "very low and very fast," took an hour and 10 minutes, crossed territory held by Russia, and encountered enemy fire. The team, he said, took the "identical route" back. Trump mapped out part of the dangerous route taken by the airborne special forces to the terrorist's hideout in northwestern Syria. He said the aircraft traveled "very low and very fast," took an hour and 10 minutes, crossed territory held by Russia, and encountered enemy fire. The team, he said, took the "identical route" back. more...

By Elizabeth Drew, Opinion contributor
The Founders made clear that an impeachable or convictable offense need not be a crime. Hamilton said it applied to 'the misconduct of public men.' The tactics some Republicans are using to defend President Donald Trump against being impeached (or indicted) by the House and convicted (or removed from office) by the Senate include confusing the public about what these terms mean. One thrust is to suggest that for a president to be impeached, he must have committed a crime. For example, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., perhaps Trump’s most vocal defender on Capitol Hill, indicated his supposed openness to impeachment with this statement: “Sure. I mean, show me something that is a crime.” Graham, a former Air Force lawyer who is now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, surely knows better. His disingenuous statement was drastically misleading about the meaning of impeachment. Reining in a president: Graham’s definition of impeachment as necessarily involving a crime goes against the history of the Constitution's impeachment clause and undermines the very point of the exercise, which is to hold a president accountable for abuses of power between elections. A crime might be involved, but the critical point is that an abuse of power need not be a crime. Not all crimes are impeachable offenses, and not all impeachable offenses are crimes. An abuse of power occurs when a president reaches beyond the understood limits on his governing, or violates the constitutional requirement that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed." For example, when President Richard Nixon used the Internal Revenue Service to harass his perceived enemies, he was abusing his power, and this became part of one of the charges against him (Article II) in the articles of impeachment drawn up against him by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974. Significantly, Article II also held a president accountable for the acts of his aides. more...

By CNN
(CNN) - Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he was so troubled by President Donald Trump's July phone call with Ukraine's President that he reported his concerns to a superior, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN. Vindman will also tell lawmakers that he felt Trump's efforts to press Ukraine for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son undermined American national security. Read the statement below: Opening Statement of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman: Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. October 29, 2019 Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, thank you for the opportunity to address the Committees concerning the activities relating to Ukraine and my role in the events under investigation. Background: I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America. For more than two decades, it has been my honor to serve as an officer in the United States Army. As an infantry officer, I served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a deployment to Iraq for combat operations. In Iraq, I was wounded in an IED attack and awarded a Purple Heart. Since 2008, I have been a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Eurasia. In this role, I have served in the United States' embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. In Washington, D.C., I was a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs where I authored the principle strategy for managing competition with Russia. In July 2018, I was asked to serve at the National Security Council. The privilege of serving my country is not only rooted in my military service, but also in my personal history. I sit here, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant. My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three and a half years old. Upon arriving in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of fully integrating into our adopted country. For many years, life was quite difficult. In spite of our challenging beginnings, my family worked to build its own American dream. I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics. For over twenty years as an active duty United States military officer and diplomat, I have served this country in a nonpartisan manner, and have done so with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations. Introduction: Before recounting my recollection of various events under investigation, I want to clarify a few issues. I am appearing today voluntarily pursuant to a subpoena and will answer all questions to the best of my recollection. I want the Committees to know I am not the whistleblower who brought this issue to the CIA and the Committees' attention. I do not know who the whistleblower is and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the identity of the whistleblower. Also, as I will detail herein, I did convey certain concerns internally to National Security officials in accordance with my decades of experience and training, sense of duty, and obligation to operate within the chain of command. As an active duty military officer, the command structure is extremely important to me. On many occasions I have been told I should express my views and share my concerns with my chain of command and proper authorities. I believe that any good military officer should and would do the same, thus providing his or her best advice to leadership. Furthermore, in performing my coordination role as a Director on the National Security Council, I provided readouts of relevant meetings and communications to a very small group of properly cleared national security counterparts with a relevant need-to-know. My Service on the National Security Council: When I joined the White House's National Security Council ("NSC"), I reported to Dr. Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to John Bolton, the National Security Advisor. My role at the NSC includes developing, coordinating, and executing plans and policies to manage the full range of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic national security issues for the countries in my portfolio, which includes Ukraine. In my position, I coordinate with a superb cohort of inter-agency partners. I regularly prepare internal memoranda, talking points, and other materials for the National Security Advisor and senior staff. Most of my interactions relate to national security issues and are therefore especially sensitive. I would urge the Committees to carefully balance the need for information against the impact that disclosure would have on our foreign policy and national security. I have never had direct contact or communications with the President. The Geopolitical Importance of Ukraine: Since 2008, Russia has manifested an overtly aggressive foreign policy, leveraging military power and employing hybrid warfare to achieve its objectives of regional hegemony and global influence. Absent a deterrent to dissuade Russia from such aggression, there is an increased risk of further confrontations with the West. In this situation, a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to U.S. national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression. more...

By Katelyn Polantz and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
(CNN) - Judge Richard Leon wants to hear from lawyers for the Trump White House, the House of Representatives and from impeachment witness Charles Kupperman on Thursday after Kupperman filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to decide whether he would need to testify. Kupperman's House testimony had been set for Monday, but Kupperman didn't show up, citing White House and Justice Department reasoning that he was immune from testifying because of his previous work on the National Security Council. Leon will meet the parties in court at 3 p.m. on Thursday, "due to the time-sensitive nature of the issues raised in this case," the DC District judge wrote Monday night. Kupperman, who served until last month as deputy national security adviser at the White House, was listening in on the July 25 phone call when, according to a White House transcript, Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Kupperman's lawsuit raises additional questions about possible testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, as Kupperman's lawyer Charles Cooper also represents Bolton. more...

By Rebecca Falconer
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, is set to testify that he conveyed concerns internally to officials after listening to President Trump's phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the New York Times reported Monday. Why it matters: Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran, would be the first official from the White House who listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky discussing former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, which resulted in a formal impeachment inquiry being launched against the U.S. commander in chief. What he's saying: The NYT reports he said in his statement that he plans to give to House investigators Tuesday that he realized that if Ukraine "pursued an investigation" into Biden, his son and Burisma, the natural gas firm where Hunter Biden served on the board, "it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained." "I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine," he says in the statement, per the Times. The NYT also reports he plans to tell House investigators: "This would all undermine U.S. national security. "I am a patriot and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics. more...

The Telegraph
President Donald Trump was booed by baseball fans as he attended a World Series game with his wife Melania in Washington on Sunday. Mr Trump attended the tie-breaking game five of the series on the day his administration announced the death, long-sought by the Pentagon, of Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. After the game's third inning, the stadium's video display showed military members in attendance - but then quickly cut to Mr Trump. The cheering crowd immediately switched to loud and sustained boos. Telegraph.co.uk and YouTube.com/TelegraphTV are websites of The Telegraph, the UK's best-selling quality daily newspaper providing news and analysis on UK and world events, business, sport, lifestyle and culture. more...

Since his deposition on the Hill, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland has kept a very low profile. So low, some colleagues had no idea where he was for a week.
By Erin Banco, Sam Brodey
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland returned to Capitol Hill Monday to review the transcript of his testimony to the House impeachment investigators earlier this month, according to two sources familiar with his schedule. Sondland told lawmakers that President Donald Trump assigned his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to carry out Ukraine policy for the U.S. Sondland reportedly said he was not aware that Ukraine policy was in part focused on working with Kyiv officials to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The ambassador’s presence on the Hill Monday came as a surprise to individuals who work alongside the ambassador overseas. Sondland’s whereabouts have been a bit of a mystery, according to three individuals familiar with his work throughout the European Union. Last week he skipped a teleconference with other European ambassadors. Two sources said he missed the call because he was traveling. One other person familiar with Sondland’s schedule told The Daily Beast he was still on the job but would not elaborate about the ambassador’s travel. Three sources said he has been out of the Brussels office for more than a week. The State Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment. more...

GOP senators were divided after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry.
By MARIANNE LEVINE and BURGESS EVERETT
Senate Republicans quickly coalesced behind an effort to condemn the House’s impeachment inquiry late last week. Now their plans are up in the air. After House Democrats announced they’d vote to establish the next steps for their probe, Republicans were divided over whether to continue their push for a resolution intended to stick up for President Donald Trump.  Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said the House Democrats’ move “looks like kind of a fig leaf” after sustained criticisms of their process and said the GOP resolution is still needed. “I would think it’s still important,” Hawley said. “It’s not just the lack of initial authorization... the closed-door sessions, the denial of subpoena rights to the minority, the denial of access to the president’s counsel. All of that stuff is historically atypical.” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) disagreed, arguing that Republicans got what they wanted and should declare victory. “I’m glad the House has responded, and they're going to have transparent proceedings,” Fischer said. “We’ve seen what we’ve wanted to see.” The conflict underscores how Senate Republicans have struggled to unite on a response to the House’s fast-moving impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which centers on his alleged efforts to withhold military aide to Ukraine without securing an investigation into his political rivals like Joe Biden. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never committed to a floor vote on the measure in the first place. The resolution, introduced last week by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and McConnell, came after Trump complained that Republicans were not doing enough to defend him on impeachment. more...

By Scott Horsley
President Trump is renewing his push for U.S. control of Syrian oil. But experts say there's not much oil there, and what there is belongs to the Syrian government. Still, the idea of controlling the oil fields is one that has long appealed to Trump. And it may provide a rationale for maintaining a U.S. military presence in Syria, reversing the president's promise of a full withdrawal. "We are leaving soldiers to secure the oil," Trump told reporters on Sunday, while announcing the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. "And we may have to fight for the oil. It's OK. Maybe somebody else wants the oil, in which case they have a hell of a fight. But there's massive amounts of oil." In fact, in the best of times Syria produced only about 380,000 barrels of low-quality oil per day. And production has fallen more than 90% during the country's long civil war. Last year, Syria ranked 75th among countries in the world in oil production, with a daily output comparable to that of the state of Illinois. "Syrian oil was never important to the world market because production was so small," said energy expert Daniel Yergin of IHS Markit. "But it was very important to the Assad regime before the civil war because it produced 25% of the total government revenues." Trump on Sunday floated the idea of modernizing Syria's productive capacity with help from a major oil company. more...

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The Justice Department on Monday asked a federal judge to put on hold an order requiring the disclosure of grand jury information redacted from special counsel Robert Mueller's report to the House Judiciary Committee while it files an appeal. Last week, DC District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the documents must be turned over by Wednesday, and in her opinion legally endorse the House impeachment inquiry. "Once the information is disclosed, it cannot be recalled, and the confidentiality of the grand jury information will be lost for all time," Justice Department lawyers wrote, especially if the Judiciary Committee decides to make the materials public. The Justice department says it is filing an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Justice Department added that it believes, based on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's remarks, that what Mueller investigated "is not the current focus of impeachment activity." "The speaker has announced that the House impeachment inquiry will focus narrowly on the whistleblower complaint and issues surrounding Ukraine," the filing states. more...

Taking (or denying) credit for momentous collective achievements is an age-old phenomenon in the political world.
By David Mikkelson
Donald Trump declared in 2012 that people should stop congratulating President Obama for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Rating True. On May 2, 2011, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. forces had finally located and killed the elusive al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a raid on a compound in Pakistan, ten years after bin Laden had masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. On October 27, 2019, President Donald Trump announced that a U.S. operation had resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the shadowy leader of the Islamic State group (commonly known ISIS) during a military raid in Syria. During the press conference held to announce al-Baghdadi’s death, Trump played up the accomplishment as being an even greater achievement than the killing of bin Laden, saying: “This is the biggest one perhaps that we’ve ever captured,” and “This is the biggest there is. This is the worst ever. Osama bin Laden was big, but Osama bin Laden became big with the World Trade Center. This is a man who built a whole, as he would like to call it, a country.” During the press event Trump also once again referred to the debunked claim that prior to 9/11 that he had issued a warning that the U.S. needed to “take out” Osama bin Laden, declaring: “I don’t get any credit for [my warning] … But that’s okay. I never do. But here we are.” more...

(CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday sent a letter to Democratic members of Congress announcing a vote this week on a resolution affirming the impeachment investigation, establishing rules for public hearings, providing due process rights for the White House and other procedures. The decision to hold a vote comes after pressure from Republicans and the White House that the chamber should do so, and it undercuts the key Trump administration talking point that the inquiry was illegitimate because it did not receive a full House vote. Read the letter below:
October 28, 2019
Dear Democratic Colleague,
For weeks, the President, his Counsel in the White House, and his allies in Congress have made the baseless claim that the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry "lacks the necessary authorization for a valid impeachment proceeding." They argue that, because the House has not taken a vote, they may simply pretend the impeachment inquiry does not exist. Of course, this argument has no merit. The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Multiple past impeachments have gone forward without any authorizing resolutions. Just last week, a federal court confirmed that the House is not required to hold a vote and that imposing such a requirement would be "an impermissible intrusion on the House's constitutional authority." More than 300 legal scholars have also refuted this argument, concluding that "the Constitution does not mandate the process for impeachment and there is no constitutional requirement that the House of Representatives authorize an impeachment inquiry before one begins." The Trump Administration has made up this argument -- apparently out of whole cloth -- in order to justify its unprecedented cover-up, withhold key documents from multiple federal agencies, prevent critical witnesses from cooperating, and defy duly authorized subpoenas. more...

By Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox, Manu Raju, Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown, CNN
(CNN) - The House is moving toward the next phase of its impeachment inquiry, setting up a vote later this week on procedures that could quickly lead to President Donald Trump becoming the third president in US history to be impeached. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday the House would vote on Thursday to formalize the procedures of the impeachment inquiry into Trump and Ukraine, in what will be the first time the House will go on the record on the proceedings. The vote signals a move into the next stage of the investigation following several weeks of closed-door depositions, as Democrats said the resolution would establish rules for public hearings, provide due process rights for the White House and allow information to be transferred to the committee that would ultimately consider the articles of impeachment. Democrats say the vote is not a formal authorization of the impeachment inquiry, but it nevertheless signals they are pushing forward with the investigation despite resistance from several witnesses inside the administration to appearing for testimony. The decision to hold a vote comes after pressure from Republicans and the White House that the chamber should do so, and it undercuts the key Trump administration talking point that the inquiry was illegitimate because it did not receive a full House vote. Still, Thursday's vote could put Democrats from Republican-leaning districts in a difficult position politically: Pelosi and Democratic leaders had considered and decided against holding a formal vote to authorize the inquiry earlier this month, in part due to concerns expressed by moderates in their caucus. Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers Monday that the House would move forward with the vote on procedures "to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives." "This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the President and his Counsel," Pelosi wrote. Democratic sources say the resolution was necessary to set forth the exact procedures to transfer evidence from House Intelligence Committee over to the House Judiciary Committee — and to detail the procedures for holding public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. It is not officially a vote to authorize the inquiry, the Democratic sources say, although they will argue that the White House will have no grounds to resist their subpoenas after this vote establishes the procedures as they head into the next steps. more...

Derek Harvey, a former intelligence analyst, has also been spreading disinformation about an aide to Adam Schiff.
The Daily Beast
By Spencer Ackerman, Sam Brodey, Adam Rawnsley
A top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes has been providing conservative politicians and journalists with information—and misinformation—about the anonymous whistleblower who triggered the biggest crisis of Donald Trump’s presidency, two knowledgeable sources tell The Daily Beast. Derek Harvey, who works for Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, has provided notes for House Republicans identifying the whistleblower’s name ahead of the high-profile depositions of Trump administration appointees and civil servants in the impeachment inquiry. The purpose of the notes, one source said, is to get the whistleblower’s name into the record of the proceedings, which committee chairman Adam Schiff has pledged to eventually release. In other words: it’s an attempt to out the anonymous official who helped trigger the impeachment inquiry. On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that GOP lawmakers and staffers have “repeatedly” used a name purporting to be the whistleblower during the depositions. The paper named Harvey as driving lines of questioning Democrats saw as attempting to determine the political loyalties of witnesses before the inquiry. A former official told the Post that Harvey “was passing notes [to GOP lawmakers] the entire time” ex-NSC Russia staffer Fiona Hill testified. “Exposing the identity of the whistleblower and attacking our client would do nothing to undercut the validity of the complaint’s allegations,” said Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s attorneys. “What it would do, however, is put that individual and their family at risk of harm. Perhaps more important, it would deter future whistleblowers from coming forward in subsequent administrations, Democratic or Republican.” Zaid has represented The Daily Beast in freedom-of-information lawsuits against the federal government. The whistleblower is not Harvey’s only target. Another is a staffer for the House intelligence committee Democrats whom The Daily Beast has agreed not to name due to concerns about reprisals against the staffer. Harvey, both sources said, has spread a false story alleging that the whistleblower contacted the staffer ahead of raising internal alarm about President Trump’s July 25th phone call attempting to get a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to damage Trump’s rival Joe Biden. In right-wing circles, contact with Schiff is meant to discredit the whistleblower as partisan.  The eagerness of Republicans to go after the intelligence committee staffer so alarmed Democrats that they raised the issue with GOP leadership, according to a senior official on the intelligence committee. “We are aware of these unsupported and false attacks on a respected member of our staff,” the official told The Daily Beast. “It is completely inappropriate, and we have previously urged the Republican leadership to address this situation.” more...

The ruling said that the maps were "drawn in violation of our North Carolina Constitution."
By Pete Williams
North Carolina cannot use the existing maps for its congressional districts in next year's elections, a state court ruled late Monday, declaring them to be invalid partisan gerrymanders. The ruling was a victory for state Democrats who lost a battle when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that such challenges were beyond the authority of federal courts to referee. So the fight resumed in state court, citing violations of North Carolina's constitution. A three-judge panel of state judges issued an order Monday barring state officials from using the current map for the coming elections, including the March presidential primary. The panel stopped short of ordering the legislature to draw new maps but said disruptions could be avoided "should the General Assembly, on its own initiative, act immediately and will all due haste to enact new congressional districts." The ruling said delaying the primary could reduce voter turnout and increase the cost of the election. But it said, "those consequences pale in comparison to voters of our state proceeding to vote, yet again, in congressional elections administered pursuant to maps drawn in violation of our North Carolina Constitution." more...

The NRA continues to blast the creator of its short-lived TV outlet, claiming it strayed from Second Amendment messaging when it put cartoon characters in KKK hoods.
By Andrew Kirell
The federal lawsuit between the National Rifle Association and the ad firm that created its now-defunct NRATV outlet has taken an uglier turn, with the pro-gun group now alleging its own leadership found the TV outlet’s messaging “distasteful and racist.” According to an Oct. 25 amended complaint filed in its ongoing lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, NRA officials believed the short-lived TV outlet—which featured shows from right-wing stars like Dana Loesch and Dan Bongino—“strayed from the Second Amendment to themes which some NRA leaders found distasteful and racist.” As an example of a “damaging” segment, the NRA filing alludes to an instance on Loesch’s show Relentless, in which an on-air graph featured a picture of kid’s cartoon character Thomas the Tank Engine wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. “Attempts by the NRA to ‘rein in’ AMc and its messaging were met with responses from AMc that ranged from evasive to hostile,” the gun lobby further alleges. Furthermore, the NRA claims, in closed-door meetings Ackerman McQueen presented to embattled NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre “fabricated and inflated sponsorship and viewership claims.” When tasked with the “simple request” of gathering digital “unique visitors” data for NRA executives, the filing claims, AMc went silent. Overall, the gun group alleges, the ad firm often gave an “intentionally (and wildly) misleading” representation of NRATV’s viewership performance. “Tellingly, when NRATV finally shut down in June 2019, no one missed it,” the NRA fumes in the new filing. “Not a single sponsor or viewer even called, confirming what at least some NRA executives suspected—the site had limited visibility and was failing the accomplish any of its goals.” more..

By Ledyard King and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – When Sen. Mitt Romney met with constituents this month in his home state of Utah, he didn’t shy away from the topic that has put him in the national spotlight: his tensions with President Donald Trump. Trump, battling an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives over the Ukraine scandal, was furious when Romney called it “wrong and appalling” for the president to urge foreign governments to investigate Joe Biden, his political rival. That prompted Trump to blast Romney as a “pompous ass” and tool of the Democratic party. Romney told USA TODAY that during a series of town halls in heavily Republican Utah, he asked constituents for their own views on his criticisms of Trump over Ukraine, Syria and other matters. “How many of you in the room think I'm being too tough on the president?" he asked as about half of those in the audience raised their hands. "And how many think I’m not being tough enough?” leading the other half to do so. Romney said he didn’t conduct the impromptu poll because he was having second thoughts about voicing his opinions, but, instead, to show constituents that they can respectfully disagree with one another. “People tend to associate with people of like mind, and they assume everyone thinks the way they do,” he said. “And so, our town hall meetings have been quite civil.” Civility has been in short supply in the nation's capital, where Trump is fighting an impeachment investigation he says is an illegitimate "witch hunt."

By James Walker
A former director of the Office for Government Ethics has questioned whether Ivanka Trump has really "shut down" her brand and revealed his interest in seeing her next financial disclosure. Walter Shaub yesterday tweeted that it was "funny" the brand owned by the president's daughter and adviser did not cease making trademark applications after it was apparently shuttered in July last year. The former government ethics boss also questioned whether the Ivanka Trump brand had stopped making money from licensing deals. Trump revealed on Tuesday 24 July that she was closing down her fashion brand IT Collection LLC to focus on her work as a White House adviser "for the foreseeable future" in a move she called "the only fair outcome" for her team. In November last year, four months after the business had supposedly shut down, The Associated Press reported that Chinese authorities had awarded 18 trademarks to companies connected to Ivanka Trump and her father President Donald Trump. Ivanka Trump Marks LLC received approval for 16 of those trademarks, which covered fashion items such as sunglasses and handbags. Fortune also reported in January this year that Ivanka Trump's brand has won preliminary approval for a further five Chinese trademarks on sunglasses, wedding dresses and other services. more...

By Juan Williams, opinion contributor
Last week’s blast of Trump White House lies falsely claiming that House hearings on impeachment were unconstitutional was topped off by the president’s vulgar claim to be a victim of “lynching,” and calling GOP critics "human scum." And that was before he sent GOP congressmen to bumrush closed Capitol Hill testimony about his corruption. This trashy, reality show version of politics is intended to make us all dizzy and distracted. Then the Drudge Report literally put Hillary Clinton in a Halloween witch’s hat as it joined other conservative social media sites in speculating on Clinton running for president in 2020. Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former campaign CEO and White House chief strategist, got this far-right fantasy going in late September by predicting that Clinton would run. His suggestion is baseless. But mocking the prospect of another Clinton campaign holds a double delight for pro-Trump audiences. By bashing her, they also get to disparage the current field of Democrats. Bannon specifically pointed to the party’s front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, as a weak candidate. The reassuring message here for Trump’s fans is that the current crop of Democrats is even less likely to defeat Trump than was Clinton. Polling shows that is false. But the president and his supporters dismiss polls even as they consistently show Biden beating Trump. Inside the conservative bubble of fantasy politics, the game extends to generating fake social media support for fringe candidates for the Democratic nomination, including Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang and, most of all, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Gabbard has about 1 percent support among Democrats for the party’s presidential nomination, according to the RealClearPolitics national polling average. But Gabbard is literally referred to as "mommy" by far-right conspiracy theorists who champion her as a victim of the Democratic Party establishment. At the moment, Gabbard is the star on far-right websites because Clinton correctly pointed out the Hawaii congresswoman could end up as a third-party candidate who divides the anti-Trump vote in 2020 and delivers a second term to the president. During a podcast, Clinton contended Gabbard was being groomed “to be the third-party candidate. ... They have a bunch of sites and bots and ways of supporting her. ... She’s also a Russian asset.” Clinton then reiterated: “Yeah, she’s a Russian asset. I mean, totally.” Instead of responding to the real threat another third-party candidate poses to Democrats, Gabbard lashed out at Clinton as the “queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” Amid all this, there was confusion over whether Clinton had meant that the people grooming Gabbard were Republicans or Russians. But the idea of Russian backing is hardly far-fetched. In 2016, Russian trolls and bots promoted the third-party candidacy of Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate whose vote totals in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were big enough to argue she deprived Clinton of just enough support to hand victory to Trump. more...

Analysis by Daniel Dale, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump told a story in January about the farmers, ranchers and builders who stood behind him at a 2017 event where he signed an executive order to weaken an Obama-era environmental regulation. "They were strong, tough men and women. And half of them were crying," Trump told an American Farm Bureau convention. We checked the video of the signing ceremony. Nobody standing behind Trump was crying. Most of them were smiling. Trump told the story again at a shale industry conference Wednesday. This time, there were even more imaginary tears. "Many of them were tough, strong men and women. And almost all of them were crying," Trump said. Trump makes some of his false claims with remarkable consistency, repeating the same invented tales and figures almost verbatim dozens of times. In other cases, his fiction gets more dramatic with additional renditions -- because the President wants to embellish, because he can't remember the set of non-facts he has made up, or because he just doesn't care about accuracy. This is Trump's lie-flation. There have been at least four other cases in October alone. more...

By Caroline Kelly and Nikki Carvajal, CNN
(CNN) - President Donald Trump is disputing that former White House chief of staff John Kelly warned the President before he left the White House last year not to hire a replacement who wouldn't tell him the truth or that he would be impeached. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, made the comments during an interview at the Sea Island Summit political conference hosted by the Washington Examiner this weekend. Kelly said if he had stayed on as chief of staff Trump wouldn't be in the midst of the current impeachment inquiry, implying that White House advisers could have prevented it. "I said, whatever you do — and we were still in the process of trying to find someone to take my place — I said whatever you do, don't hire a 'yes man,' someone who won't tell you the truth — don't do that," Kelly said. "Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached." Kelly's comments come after his successor, now acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, brashly confirmed and then denied earlier this month that Trump froze nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine in part to pressure that country into investigating Democrats. Trump weighed in Saturday on Kelly's interview with the Washington Examiner, saying in a statement to CNN, "John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that. If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does." White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham added, "I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President." more... - Trump must have written or dictated that because Trump is neither genius nor great.

By Zack Budryk
Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the one-time chair of the House Oversight Committee, defended the use of private congressional hearings and said his issue with the House’s impeachment inquiry was instead leaks from the proceedings. CBS’ Margaret Brennan played a clip of Gowdy in 2018 describing public House hearings as a “circus” and a “freakshow” and asked Gowdy Sunday whether he still believed that amid House Republicans’ insistence that depositions in the House’s impeachment inquiry should be public, with a group of them, including several who were authorized to be present already, storming a deposition in a secure room last week. “One hundred percent,” Gowdy said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding “I’m a rule-follower, I threw a Republican out of a hearing because he was not a member of a committee. If you’re going to have private investigations with unlimited time for question and cross-examining witnesses that’s a good thing.”     .@TGowdySC says he still believes in the role of private testimony "100%" amid GOP outrage over Democrats' closed-door hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry pic.twitter.com/BMfWZb3MEM — Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) October 27, 2019. more...

Trump said the ISIS leader "died like a dog, he died like a coward. He was whimpering, screaming, and crying."
By Allan Smith
President Donald Trump on Sunday confirmed the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a 10-minute speech followed by roughly 40 minutes of answering questions from reporters. In his remarks at the White House, the president recounted al-Baghdadi's gruesome last moments, praised the U.S. forces who chased the terrorist down, and provided remarkable details of the military operation from start to finish. Here are some highlights from his remarks: "Last night the United States brought the world's number-one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world. The United States has been searching for al-Baghdadi for many years. Capturing or killing him has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring night-time raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style. The U.S. personnel were incredible. I got to watch much of it." The ISIS leader "died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, crying, and screaming all the way. The compound had been cleared by this time with people either surrendering or being shot and killed. Eleven young children were moved out of the house and are uninjured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel. He had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death. He reached the end of the tunnel as our dogs chased them down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, the tunnel had caved in on it in addition." more...

By Daniel Dale
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump is facing intense criticism over a July phone call during which, according to a person familiar with the matter, he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate to face him in the 2020 presidential election. Under fire, Trump has revived one of his favorite defensive tactics: trying to turn the spotlight onto his opponent. Trump has made a series of allegations about Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden over the last week. The essence of Trump's argument is that Joe Biden was improperly trying to help Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, when Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire the country's prosecutor general. But there are significant holes in Trump's story. Some of his allegations have been false. Others have been missing important context. Trump's missing context: What happened with the Ukrainian prosecutor: In castigating Biden's effort to get the prosecutor general fired, Trump has declined to mention an important fact: a whole lot of other people were also trying to get him fired at the time. The Obama administration, American allies, the International Monetary Fund and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, among others, had all made clear that they were displeased with the performance of Viktor Shokin, who became prosecutor general in 2015. Shokin was widely faulted for declining to bring prosecutions of elites' corruption, and he was even accused of hindering corruption investigations. His deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, resigned in February 2016, alleging that Shokin's office was itself corrupt. more...

By Bobby Allyn
Philip Reeker, a U.S. diplomat who oversees European affairs, told House members he had plans of defending former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in the face of a smear campaign against her, but Reeker was overruled by top State Department officials, according to a person familiar with Reeker's testimony. In a rare Saturday hearing, Reeker sat for more than eight hours of questions from lawmakers running the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Reeker appeared under a subpoena issued by House lawmakers, despite being ordered not to cooperate by Trump. Reeker, a career foreign servicer officer, was named the acting assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs in March, a few months before Yovanovitch became a political target and was removed from her post. Just before her ouster, however, Reeker wanted to draft a strongly-worded statement from State Department officials to strike back at the attacks she was enduring in conservative media and by allies of Trump. But that letter was scotched by David Hale, the No. 3 official in the State Department, according to the person familar with Reeker's testimony. Yovanovitch was seen by Trump allies as an obstacle to conducting a back-channel foreign policy with Ukraine, including the freezing of nearly $400 million in military aid until Ukraine agreed to investigate Trump's political rival Joe Biden and his son. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has called the impeachment inquiry a scam. Reeker testified he was aware of a plan to freeze the military aid to Ukraine, but he did not know why it was being held up, having no direct knowledge of the alleged quid-pro-quo scheme, the person close to Reeker said. Ukrainian policy was mostly overseen by Kurt Volker, Trump's envoy for Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Reeker, who had an extensive travel schedule and is the top State Department official for more than 50 countries, was not intimately involved with Ukraine at the time of the controversial call that sparked the impeachment inquiry, the individual with knowledge of Reeker's testimony said. Reeker, who joined the State Department in 1992, is celebrated by colleagues as an apolitical professional whose reputation is admired. "He's regarded as a straight-arrow professional, not a showboat," Dan Fried, a former diplomat who retired in the beginning of the Trump administration, told NPR in an interview. "I've known him for a long time, and I have no idea what his politics are. He's completely non-partisan." more...

By jack arnholz
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., were not informed in advance of the U.S. special operations forces raid in northwestern Syria in which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died, Schiff told ABC’s "This Week"  "My understanding [Pelosi] wasn’t [told]. But a couple of things, first of all, good riddance. [Al-Baghdadi] was a bloodthirsty killer to the degree that he retained operational control of ISIS," Schiff said. "This is an operational success, this is a symbolic victory. He had the blood of thousands and thousands of people on his hands, including many Americans and American journalists. So, this a great day, a ruthless killer has been brought to justice." Schiff appeared on "This Week" moments after President Donald Trump announced the outcome of the raid that took place in northwestern Syria on Saturday. "Last night the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead," the president said in remarks Sunday morning from the White House. more...

By Andrew Kaczynski
(CNN) - Photos from a trip to London in June 2019 show President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a now-indicted associate Lev Parnas having a VIP experience at two baseball games between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The trip also included Giuliani speaking at a luncheon for a Ukrainian charity group connected to Parnas and Igor Fruman, another recently indicted associate. Photos posted on social media show Parnas attended the charity event, as well as an official from a public relations firm that has worked with the Ukrainian government along with a former spokesman and associate of Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash. Firtash, who resides in Vienna, is fighting extradition to the US on unrelated bribery charges, which he denies. It is unclear if Fruman also appeared at the event. The photos from the overseas visit further show the extent of Giuliani's involvement with the pair and how his links to Parnas and Fruman and their charity brought him into contact with Ukrainian-connected individuals at a time he was seeking to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden. The visit, according to tweets from Giuliani that included geotags of his location, lasted several days. Giuliani tweeted on June 26 he was "getting ready to fly to London" for the baseball games. His tweets were geotagged in London on June 28, and are geotagged back in New York on July 2. Parnas and Fruman, who allegedly aided Giuliani's efforts to dig up political dirt on Biden, pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court Wednesday to charges that they funneled foreign money to US campaigns. The two were arrested earlier this month attempting to leave the country and were indicted on four counts, including conspiracy to violate the ban on foreign donations to federal and state elections, making false statements and falsifying records to the Federal Election Commission. Giuliani told CNN in an email he did "not recall meeting anyone associated with Firtash" and that "part of the trip" was paid for by a podcast that has yet to launch. He added the trip "included two meetings with an unrelated client, a luncheon speech and three 45-minute interviews we submitted and haven't yet been used." Giuliani declined to provide any other details on the podcast --- such as which individuals or company are backing it financially -- other than a claim that he also did interviews for it during a July trip to Albania." "Busy days and all completely innocent," he said. "I'd be interested to see how this is twisted." more...

By Marshall Cohen and Will Houp, CNN
House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. Their investigation is based on a whistleblower complaint from a US intelligence official about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 candidate. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden. CNN is tracking the requests and subpoenas from House Democrats as they collect documents and testimony and move toward drafting articles of impeachment against Trump. If a majority of House lawmakers approve any of the articles, an impeachment trial will be held in the Senate. more...

By Louis Jacobson
Amid the pressure of a House impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump has continued to stoke the idea that he’s the victim of a coup — shorthand for "coup d’etat," a French term that means the overthrow of the government. "As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the........People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!", Trump tweeted on Oct. 1. The following day, Trump’s campaign unveiled a new ad that said, "It’s nothing short of a coup, and it must be stopped." On several subsequent occasions he’s shared his allies’ uses of the word on Twitter. He retweeted "coup" comments by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, on Oct. 3; former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Oct. 10; conservative broadcaster Mark Levin on Oct. 14; Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch on Oct. 19; and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., on Oct. 24. Earlier in the year, Trump referred to the special counsel report headed by Robert Mueller as a coup. However, his use of the word "coup" to describe impeachment, a constitutionally defined process, is not accurate, even as a figure of speech. What is a coup?Let’s start with a more literal definition. The key element of a coup is that it is carried out beyond the bounds of legality. "We define a coup d'état as the sudden and irregular (i.e., illegal or extra-legal) removal, or displacement, of the executive authority of an independent government," wrote the Coup D’etat Project at the University of Illinois’ Cline Center for Democracy in 2013. Violence is part of many coups, but being violent is not a necessary condition. Of the 12 types of coups recognized by the Cline Center, nine do not seem to have anything to do with what Trump is talking about, including military coups, rebel coups, popular revolts, dissident actions, palace coups, foreign coups, internationally mediated transitions, forced resignations, and self-coups, in which the leader strong-arms other branches of government to entrench power. more...

By Jon Levine
First daughter Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with an intimate dinner at Camp David — with President Trump picking up the check. “Had a beautiful dinner last night at Camp David in celebration of the 10th Wedding Anniversary of Ivanka and Jared,” Trump said in a tweet Saturday. “Attended by a small number of family and friends, it could not have been nicer. Camp David is a special place. Cost of the event will be totally paid for by me!” The retreat has been used as a secured setting for US presidents to unwind with foreign leaders. more...

While Hunter Biden is the subject of international scrutiny, the First Daughter and presidential confidant floats on a cloud of puff press. How does she pull it off?
By Hannah Seligson
On August 16, 2016, just a few weeks after his father-in-law, Donald J. Trump, had clinched the Republican nomination for president, Esquire magazine ran a story entitled “Jared Kushner’s Second Act.” It was written by veteran journalist Vicky Ward and exposed a number of less-than-flattering details about the then 35-year-old head of his family’s real estate firm, Kushner Companies. Ward’s profile depicted a young, entitled scion who was at turns arrogant and vindictive. In one sense, the story emasculated Kushner, portraying him as a subservient son-in-law. This was certainly not the image of her husband that Ivanka Trump wanted presented to the world in the glossy pages of a popular men’s magazine. So she did what any rich, New York City media-connected, powerful spouse would do—and then took it up a couple of notches: Ivanka, according to Ward, called Esquire’s editor-in-chief at the time, Jay Fielden, and literally started crying, pleading with him to take down the story. Firing on all cylinders, Ivanka also texted Ward and said she did not recognize her husband in the Esquire piece. Fielden, Ward told me, instantly saw through Ivanka’s “crocodile tears.” Jared and Ivanka’s side leveled against Ward for falsifying the story. But the piece remained online and was published in the October print issue; no substantive changes or retractions were made to Ward’s reporting. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment from Ivanka on the Esquire incident.) “Every reporter knows they will be on the phone to Rupert Murdoch. Their guiding credo is PR above everything else. Ivanka thinks she is brilliant at public relations.” — Vicky Ward. While Jared and Ivanka might not go full Harvey Weinstein on reporters—the former movie executive hired ex-Mossad agents to track journalists and intimidate sources—there is no question, Ward says, that Jared and Ivanka have no compunction going to the head of news outlets to interfere with pieces they deem unflattering. “Every reporter knows they will be on the phone to Rupert Murdoch. Their guiding credo is PR above everything else. Ivanka thinks she is brilliant at public relations,” said Ward, the author of Kushner, Inc., and a senior reporter at CNN. That might explain, in part, why Hunter Biden has gone through a media inquisition about his dealings in Ukraine and China, while Ivanka received virtually no additional press scrutiny after The New Yorker detailed her work on a real estate project in Azerbaijan with local partners who had alleged ties to the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a designated terrorist organization. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee subsequently called on the Justice Department and the Treasury Department to investigate the deal for possibly violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Then there was Ivanka’s very close brush with a criminal indictment for inflating condo sales to potential buyers at the Trump Soho, a development project she helped oversee. And remember it was Ivanka, among others, who advocated for the hiring of Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. (A spokesperson for a prominent Washington think tank told me it was “malpractice” by congressional Democrats that Ivanka hasn’t been subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee.) Somehow, though, none of these poor judgement calls have made it into the dominant media narrative about the first daughter. more...

By Allen Kim, CNN
(CNN) - Pieter Gunst, 34, received what he thought was a credible phone call from his bank. But in a matter of minutes, Gunst realized the call was anything but after he had nearly handed over the keys to his account. The woman was a scammer, and Gunst was just the latest target in a growing trend that's left thousands of Americans frustrated, broke, and without a clue how to get their money back. The over-the-phone scheme is a type of phishing scam. And in the last year, a whopping 26,379 people reported being a victim of some sort of phishing scam. Together they reported nearly $50 million in losses, according to the FBI's 2018 Internet Crime Report. While the number of reported scams increased slightly from the 25,344 phishing scams reported to the FBI in 2017, the losses skyrocketed by nearly $20 million. They are not going away anytime soon, as scammers are getting more clever and devious in their phishing attempts. Here's how you can avoid being the next person to fall for one. How it works: Gunst ignored the first call from the scammer -- he didn't recognize the number. But the same number called him again, and as a business owner accustomed to unknown numbers, he decided to pick up. Gunst says the woman on the other end claimed she worked with the bank, and someone had attempted to use his card in Miami. Gunst, who lives in San Francisco, told the caller it wasn't him. Still, having received legitimate calls from his bank regarding attempted fraud in the past, Gunst still did not suspect anything unusual. Then it got weird. After confirming that he did not use his card in Miami, Gunst says the caller told him that the transaction had been blocked, and then asked him for his member number. Gunst then received a legitimate verification pin from the bank's regular number via text, which he promptly read back to the caller -- not realizing that it was a password reset code. The person on the line -- a scammer -- was in. She could access his account and began to read off recent transactions that Gunst had actually made, lending a bit more credibility to the call. Then came the next question, which immediately set off a red flag: "We now want to block the pin on your account, so you get a fraud alert when it is used again. What is your pin?" Gunst hung up. That's a number no bank would ever ask for. He quickly called the fraud department at his bank, and began to rethink how the call went awry. "The problem is the text should say what its purpose is," Gunst later explained to CNN of the verification pin, which he tweeted about in a widely-read thread. "'Someone is trying to reset your password. Don't give this number to everyone.' But it didn't. It was just a generic pin." more...

By Chantal Da Silva
The Trump administration is being accused of wasting American taxpayers' money after a congressional hearing on Wednesday revealed that it may have spent as much as $33 million to keep a massive migrant child detention center in Florida open for 46 days—despite the fact that no kids were being housed there. The detention facility in Homestead, Florida, is run by the only private company operating migrant child detention centers in the U.S. and has been temporarily shut down since August 3, when the last of the children at the facility were abruptly relocated as part of a hurricane preparation plan. Despite sitting empty for more than a month, however, the facility has still been costing taxpayers as much as $720,000 a day, it was suggested during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. The information came to light during an exchange between Democratic Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Jonathan Hayes, the acting director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency that oversees the care of migrant children in federal custody. Grilled by Pocan on just how much the U.S. was paying to keep the center "empty," Hayes revealed that the government was spending what amounted to $600 a day for each of the 1,200 beds at the facility—just $150 less than the $750 per bed the U.S. was paying when the center was in use. Asked to clarify that all this American taxpayer money was being spent on "1,200 imaginary people," Hayes acknowledged that the cost was "expensive." However, he said he had been informed by his "planning and logistics team" that if the facility were to temporarily remove its staff, it could take "a minimum of 90 to 120 days in order to reactivate the staff back." And, he said, "given the extreme uncertainty of referrals coming across our nation's southern border, and how many kids we might have to care for, that wasn't a switch that was turned off at this point." more...

By Rosie McCall
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it plans to roll back clean water regulations initiated under the Obama administration as part of the Clean Water Act (CWA)—a move that could end up increasing the amount of toxins entering waterways used for drinking water. A study published on Thursday in Heliyon highlights the dangers increased levels of carcinogenic chemicals in the nation's drinking water supply could cause, with researchers concluding contaminated water could be responsible for more than 100,000 cases of cancer across the U.S. The EPA has announced the repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule defining "waters of the United States" (a description referring to wetlands, streams and other bodies of water that had previously been largely unregulated), and currently applies to 22 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. Their motivation for doing so—at least, in writing—was to "eliminate the ongoing patchwork of regulation" until a revision of the definition for "waters of the United States" can be made. What this means in practical terms is that farmers will not have to seek a permit to use pesticides and fertilizers that risk running into waterways that may later be used as drinking waters. That, in turn, has the potential to increase the risk of cancer and other diseases—although to what extent is hard to say. "The CWA is critical for maintaining and improving the quality of water that is used for municipal, industrial and agricultural purposes. The adage "clean water in = clean water out" is paramount," Kellogg Schwab, the Abel Wolman Professor in Water and Public Health at John Hopkins, told Newsweek. "If the CWA is weakened or eliminated and U.S. waterways become further impaired there is a distinct probability that human health will be compromised resulting in increased morbidity and mortality," he added. Dr Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists describes the decision as a continuation of a conservative campaign to limit oversight from what they believe is government overreach. "This administration has reinterpreted the requirements of the act to say that it covers fewer waterways because they think it is an unfair regulatory burden," Rosenberg told Newsweek. "This is really about big developers and the oil and gas industry," he continues, adding that the move is part of a broad attack against science instigated by the current administration "to shift the cost burden from the polluter to the public." more...

By Mike Lillis
A leading State Department official testified before Congress on Saturday and touched upon Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's role in the administration's dealings with Ukraine — the issue at the center of the Democrats' fast-evolving impeachment investigation into President Trump. Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs, broached the topic of Pompeo while being deposed in the Capitol by the three House committees — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — leading the impeachment investigation, according to Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. "I can't get into the details," Perry said, "but certainly there are questions." Perry, who has been a vocal defender of Trump throughout the impeachment process, emphasized that he felt there was nothing in Reeker's testimony to indicate that the president or anyone is his orbit had acted inappropriately in their dealings with Ukrainian officials. "The accusations that are being leveled against the president aren't being corroborated in any of this witness testimony," Perry said. "And today, in my opinion, is no different." Democrats, though, emerged from the closed-door testimony with a different view; Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, suggested Reeker was providing more evidence of presidential misconduct in Ukraine. "He is corroborating previous witnesses and their testimony. So it's helpful in that respect," Lynch said. "I think it's fair to say it's a much richer reservoir of information than we originally expected." Pompeo has emerged as a central figure in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, particularly after revelations that the secretary of State was on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to launch a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender. That request was confirmed in a transcript of the call released by the White House earlier this month. A government whistleblower has taken the episode a step further, alleging that Trump had threatened to withhold almost $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine if Zelensky failed to comply. more...

By Elijah E. Cummings
Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat, represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District until his death Oct. 17. This op-ed is adapted from a foreword that Cummings wrote July 17 for the forthcoming book, “In Defense of Public Service: How 22 Million Government Workers Will Save Our Republic,” by Cedric L. Alexander. As I pen these words, we are living through a time in our nation’s history when powerful forces are seeking to divide us one from another; when the legitimacy of our constitutional institutions is under attack; and when factually supported truth itself has come under relentless challenge. I am among those who have not lost confidence in our ability to right the ship of American democratic life, but I also realize that we are in a fight — a fight for the soul of our democracy. As an American of color, I have been able to receive an excellent public education, become an attorney, and serve my community and country in both the Maryland General Assembly and Congress because of one very important fact: Americans of conscience from every political vantage point took our Constitution seriously and fought for my right to be all that I could become. This is the personal debt that I and so many others with my heritage owe to our democratic republic — to the 20-million-plus Americans who serve our republic and its values in our nation’s civil service. And this is also why I, personally, will remain in the fight to preserve our republic and the humane and equitable values at its foundation for as long as I can draw breath. It was to our Constitution — and not to any political perspective or party — that I gave my oath when I became an officer of the court, when I joined the Maryland legislature and when I was elected to serve in Congress. It is this commitment that I bring to my work as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, the committee that has direct oversight over our federal civil service. From my more than two decades of experience performing this oversight, I can confirm that our nation’s federal employees deserve our respect, gratitude and support. When people in the leadership of the nation attack our courts, the members of our Congress, our civil servants and our media, they are attacking the glue that holds our diverse nation together as the United States of America. And when these attackers do so on the basis of factually unfounded opinion, rather than verifiable evidence, they are engaged in demagoguery of the most dangerous sort. This is why our civil service, committed to maintaining the rule of law and decision-making based on verifiable facts, is so important to maintaining the legitimacy of our government, both elected and appointed. Under our democratic republic, elected leaders make policy but must rely on civil servants, appointed on the basis of merit, to implement those public policies. We must rely on the expertise of our merit-based civil service if we wish to have a government that addresses the factual realities of our lives (to the extent that human beings can ever achieve that goal). This duty to find and implement the truth, as I have mentioned, is the province of our civil servants, whether they serve in Washington; our states; or in the law enforcement agencies of our country. This is not to say that our government agencies always get it right or that they never overreach. Human beings, however talented and well-meaning, make mistakes. As citizens of the greatest democratic republic in the world, we have the privilege and duty to recall our nation’s founding and to engage our nation on the basis of those fundamental principles. I hold fast to this conviction because the functioning — indeed, the very legitimacy — of our democratic system has been under attack for some time. I am speaking, of course, of the continuing attacks on our elections — from sources both foreign and domestic — and of the failure of too many of my colleagues in Congress and the White House to adequately defend us against those attacks. more...

By Tal Axelrod
Former GOP Rep. David Jolly (Fla.) tore into congressional Republicans over their defenses of President Trump against Democrats’ impeachment investigation, saying they “look like fools.” "What we’re seeing from House Republicans, frankly, is this childish behavior," he said on MSNBC on Saturday. "They’re displaying an arrogance, an anger, an immaturity — they look like fools." Republicans have railed against the House’s impeachment probe, with many saying the investigation is illegitimate since there has not yet been an official vote to start an inquiry. However, they have also stayed relatively tight-lipped as to whether it was appropriate for Trump to ask Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a request that is at the heart of the probe. "What Republicans should be doing ... and I struggle with even saying this because they’re on the wrong side of history and I hate to give them counsel that I think is accurate. Stop arguing about the process. Stop doing the sit-ins. Stop doing the stupid stuff that is not believable," Jolly said. "Frankly, the American people don’t care about the process." “From [Sen.] Lindsey Graham’s [R-S.C.] stupidity to [Rep.] Matt Gaetz’s [R-Fla.] stupidity, get that to a concise argument,” he added, saying the focus should not be on the process but instead on some defense that says Trump’s behavior is unimpeachable. more...


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