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US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 3

A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the constitution. This is the speech given by Representative Barbara Jordan (Democrat-Texas) reminding her colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee of the Constitutional basis for impeachment. The Committee met in Washington, D.C. more...

But the DOJ didn’t pick it up because the CIA’s referral came from a call, not in writing.
By Alex Ward - vox
The CIA’s top lawyer sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on the now-famous whistleblower’s complaint about President Donald Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine. And no, that lawyer isn’t some deep-state conspiracist out to thwart the president: She’s a Trump appointee. According to NBC News on Friday, CIA general counsel Courtney Simmons Elwood and another top official called the Justice Department on August 14 to make a criminal referral — weeks before the whistleblower complaint had become public. “On that call, Elwood and John Eisenberg, the top legal adviser to the White House National Security Council, told the top Justice Department national security lawyer, John Demers, that the allegations merited examination by the DOJ, officials said,” NBC News reports. The DOJ, however, reportedly didn’t consider that to be an official referral because it came in a call, not in writing. (This is important, as you’ll see in just a minute.) As such, the DOJ didn’t look any further into the allegations that Elwood was so concerned about. In other words, they dropped it. The Justice Department would eventually look into the allegations made in the whistleblower complaint a bit later after receiving a different criminal referral, this one from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (and apparently in writing, luckily). That referral was “based solely on the whistleblower’s official written complaint.” This is a really important point, because, as NBC News explains, “Justice Department officials have said they only investigated the president’s Ukraine call for violations of campaign finance law because it was the only statute mentioned in the whistleblower’s complaint.” So DOJ looked into this whistleblower complaint and determined in September that there is no need for a full-blown criminal probe into Trump’s actions because that specific law — campaign finance — wasn’t broken, thus effectively closing the inquiry. Now here’s the kicker: The CIA’s criminal referral wasn’t about campaign finance law, according to NBC News. This means DOJ essentially ignored the CIA criminal referral — which apparently included concerns that other laws besides campaign finance law may have been broken — all because it was made over the phone. The episode calls into serious question just how thorough the Justice Department was when determining whether to start a formal investigation into the president’s actions on Ukraine. more...

Sen. Ron Johnson spoke out on the topic Friday.
By Andrew Prokop and Jen Kirby
A top US diplomat told Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that the Trump administration was blocking hundreds of millions of dollars in US military aid to Ukraine until the country agreed to launch investigations Trump was demanding, Johnson told the Wall Street Journal Friday. Johnson said that the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, told him in late August that the administration was demanding Ukraine investigate “what happened in 2016,” and that if President Trump had “confidence” in the investigation, he’d “release the military spending.” It’s been well documented by now that Trump tried to push Ukraine to launch investigations designed to serve his political needs — one into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation, and one into the Biden family. But perhaps the biggest question at the heart of this scandal has been whether Trump’s blocking of about $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine was linked to this pressure campaign. Johnson claims he heard from Sondland that this was in fact the policy. However, Johnson adds that he became disturbed by this, and followed up with President Trump himself — who denied any such linkage. “He said—expletive deleted—‘No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” Johnson told Journal reporters Siobhan Hughes and Rebecca Ballhaus. But the story doesn’t end there. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck, Patrick Marley, and Eric Litke, Johnson said in a separate interview that Trump did say he was considering withholding the aid because he wanted to find out “what happened in 2016.” Johnson said he asked Trump whether he could tell Ukraine’s president the aid was on the way anyway, to dispel the government’s fears, but “I didn’t succeed.” Ambassador Sondland seemed wary of this topic in newly released texts: Sondland, a major Trump donor, was also a key figure in a set of text messages related to the scandal that House Democrats released Thursday night. more...

By Jeremy Herb and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Text messages released on Thursday between US diplomats and a senior Ukrainian aide show how a potential Ukrainian investigation into the 2016 election was linked to a desired meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Donald Trump. The text messages, which were released by the House Intelligence Committee, underscore how Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was closely connected to US policy on Ukraine and was involved in setting up the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, in which Trump also urged an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. They show how cognizant the Ukrainians were about the importance of the election investigation to Trump and Giuliani's role. On the morning of the call, in an exchange with a key adviser to the Ukrainian President, then-US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker made clear that it was important to the White House that Zelensky convince Trump that an investigation into the 2016 election would happen. "Heard from the White House -- assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate/'get to the bottom of what happened' in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington," Volker said via text to the Ukrainian adviser on the morning of July 25. Volker provided Congress with the text messages ahead of his closed-door congressional testimony on Thursday before three committees leading the House's impeachment inquiry into Trump and Ukraine. The messages released by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee add a new layer of detail to the whistleblower complaint that prompted the impeachment inquiry, which alleged that Trump had urged the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on his political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. That Trump wanted an investigation was a message that seemed to register with the Ukrainian administration. Volker and the Ukrainian adviser, Andrey Yermak, continued to text after the call about Zelensky making a public statement ahead of a meeting between the two leaders. "I think potus really wants the deliverable," US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland texted Volker on August 9, as the two were talking about possible dates for a meeting. "Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations," Yermak wrote to Volker the following day. Ukrainians drafted statement about starting investigation: A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that the Ukrainian government wrote the initial draft of a statement for public release, committing to pursue investigations of corruption. The source told CNN that the Ukrainians drafted the statement to demonstrate to Trump and Giuliani, who they knew had influence with Trump, that there was a new team in Ukraine with Zelensky that was committed to cleaning up corruption. The statement was shared with Volker and Sondland, who then shared it with Giuliani, according to the source. Giuliani told Volker that it did not go far enough and suggested inserting references to pursuing probes of Burisma and the 2016 election, although it did not mention the Bidens. Burisma is the Ukrainian company that hired Hunter Biden to be on its board. Volker and Sondland then exchanged text messages about the draft, which Volker said he would share with an adviser to Zelensky. The Ukrainians told Volker they were not comfortable with the suggested statement, and the matter was ultimately dropped while a meeting between Zelensky and Trump continued to be pursued, the source said. The source explained the context of the statement about the investigation after the discussion was included in the text messages provided to Congress ahead of Volker's testimony. Giuliani told CNN after The New York Times first reported the existence of the statement that he "never saw it or even draft of it." "This is their testimony if it is and not part of my role," he texted. "They have to explain it. Lots of things going on I didn't know about." 'it's crazy to withhold security assistance' more...

By Ted Johnson
President Donald Trump again suggested starting his own global news network to “put some really talented people and get a real voice out there. Not a voice that is fake.” His remarks were yet another slam at CNN, but also existing media outlets that are funded by the U.S. government, the largest of which is Voice of America. VOA’s mission is to provide an “objective and reliable source of U.S., regional and world news and information,” and is set up with a “firewall” to be free of political interference. Speaking to a crowd in Florida on Thursday, though, Trump criticized those entities, which are overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media. Trump said that “we used to have Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. We did that to build up our country, and that is not working out too well.” Instead, he said that CNN “seems to be a voice that is a voice out there, and it is a terrible thing for our country.” “CNN outside of the United States is much more important than it is inside the United States,” Trump said. Trump has suggested starting a state-run network before. Last year, he wrote on Twitter that “Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!” Voice of America, which has a budget of about $235 million, employs more than 1,000, and programs in more than 40 languages. Trump also ridiculed media fact-checking, arguing that they don’t spot his embellishments. He said that when he once said that California Gov. Gavin Newsom wanted to give everyone a Rolls Royce, CNN said, “The president isn’t telling the truth.” more... - We already have Fox News the last thing America needs is two Trump propaganda channels.

By Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson and D'Angelo Gore
President Donald Trump’s request that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, has triggered an impeachment inquiry. Since then, the president has made a series of inaccurate claims about his phone call with Zelensky, which he calls “perfect.” Here are some of the claims the president has made over the past two days about the phone call and the whistleblower’s complaint, which included an accurate account of the phone call: The president wrongly claimed that Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified that Trump’s phone call with Zelensky was “very normal.” Maguire did not characterize the phone call in his testimony before the House intelligence committee. Trump falsely claimed that a White House-released memo on his July 25 phone call with Zelensky was “an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation … taken by very talented stenographers.” The memo includes a “caution” note saying it “is not a verbatim transcript.” Trump said that “the whistleblower never saw the conversation” and “wrote something that was total fiction.” The whistleblower said he received “a readout of the call,” and Maguire said the complaint is consistent with a White House memo of the call. (Trump also wrongly denied that Maguire found the two consistent.) Trump claimed that Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell “put out a statement that said that was the most innocent phone call he’s read.” McConnell said it wasn’t an impeachable offense, but did not describe the call as “innocent.” Trump also claimed that Sen. Rick Scott of Florida described the call as “a perfect conversation.” Scott didn’t use those words, but like McConnell he said he didn’t see the call as an impeachable offense. Maguire: Complaint ‘in Alignment’ with Memo: On Aug. 12, an anonymous intelligence community official filed a whistleblower complaint accusing the president of “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The complaint included a description of a July 25 phone call that Trump made to Zelensky, who was elected the president of Ukraine on April 21. On the call, “the President pressured Mr. Zelenskyy to … initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden,” and assist a U.S. review of allegations that the “Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine,” according to the whistleblower’s complaint. Trump asked Zelensky to “meet or speak with two people the President named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters, Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani and Attorney General [William] Barr,” the complaint said. That description was confirmed by a memo of the call, which the White House released on Sept. 25. more...

By Caroline Kelly, CNN
(CNN) - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Thursday that she thinks people will see the current period in American history as "an aberration" when asked how she would characterize it. Ginsburg also addressed the impacts of the international political climate on American democracy and her self-identified role as an advocate on the court during her remarks at Amherst College on Thursday evening -- another addition to her more than 10 public appearances in the six weeks since the 86-year-old, four-time cancer survivor revealed she had endured another bout with the disease. When asked how she thought people would characterize this period in American history, the leader of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court replied simply, "As an aberration." Ginsburg also addressed questions on how she thought the global trend of far-right parties would impact the United States. "The pendulum goes too far to the right, it's going to swing back. The same thing too far to the left," she said. "So I'm hoping to see it swing back in my, in my lifetime." Ginsburg cited the recent British Supreme Court ruling that Prime Minister Boris Johnson couldn't simply disband Parliament as a "hopeful" sign of democracy. When asked whether she felt hopeful, Ginsburg responded, "Over the long haul, yes." more...

By Jordain Carney
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) reelection campaign is seizing on the fight over impeachment, pledging in Facebook ads that he will lead Republican efforts to stop President Trump from being removed from office. "Nancy Pelosi's in the clutches of a left wing mob. They finally convinced her to impeach the president. All of you know your Constitution, the way that impeachment stops is a Senate majority with me as majority leader," McConnell says in an ad that began running on Thursday. "But I need your help. Please contribute before the deadline," McConnell continues in the ad. McConnell's campaign, according to Facebook's ad library, began running the digital ads with the video on Sept. 27, three days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) formally announced that House Democrats would launch an impeachment inquiry. The decision, which followed months of pressure from progressives, came following reports of a whistleblower complaint alleging Trump urged the Ukranian government to investigate former Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. McConnell, who has tied himself closely to Trump as he runs for reelection in the deeply red state, doesn't address the allegations surrounding the president's communication with Ukraine in the roughly 17-second video. The GOP leader, along with most of his caucus, have remained silent despite the growing scrutiny on the president this week. In one caption for an ad that has run since Sept. 30, McConnell's team argues that a "conservative Senate Majority is the ONLY thing stopping Nancy Pelosi from impeaching President Trump. Donate & help us keep it." more... - Trump should be impeached he has repeatable to violated our laws and our constitution. Mitch McConnell is protecting Donald J. Trump and does not care about America or the constitution.

The latest jobs report is ... not great.
By Alexia Fernández Campbell
Job growth slowed a bit in September, with 136,000 new jobs added to the US economy, compared to 168,000 (revised) positions created in August, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages actually fell. The slowdown — led by a loss of retail and manufacturing jobs — suggests that President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is hurting industries that depend on exports and imports. For the first time in years, manufacturing jobs are starting to shrink, creating a potential political liability for the president. One of his key campaign promises was to bring manufacturing jobs “roaring back to life.” But in September, the US economy lost 2,000 factory jobs. The retail industry lost 11,400 positions. These numbers are preliminary, and may later be revised. But those losses help explain why overall economic growth has been so sluggish lately. In other respects, the latest job report shows a US economy that is doing okay. The unemployment rate, for example, dropped even further, to 3.5 percent. That’s the lowest rate of unemployed Americans recorded since December 1969. Yet none of this means much to middle- and working-class families: Workers’ hourly wages dropped by a penny in September. While that might not seem like a lot, it’s worth remembering that wages should grow, not shrink, during the longest economic expansion in US history. more...

By Domenico Montanaro
A clearer picture is emerging of the Democratic primary field's third-quarter fundraising with the first votes to be cast in four months. The standouts are Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised $25.3 million and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, whose campaign revealed she brought in $24.6 million between July and September. (These numbers are released by the campaigns. Full figures with details of where the money is coming from and if there are any loans to their campaigns are required to be be available through the Federal Election Commission officially by Oct. 15.) There has been a narrative that Warren is on the rise and passing by Sanders, so Sanders' number was important in showing he retains a strong grassroots coalition behind him — and that he's not going anywhere anytime soon. Warren's number also shows that her campaign is going strong, as she gears up for the fall and the first votes being cast in Iowa. National polls have shown her catching up to former Vice President Joe Biden and leading him narrowly in Iowa. more...

According to leaked emails from Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russia’s disinformation campaign may have broken U.S. law and exposed details of a witness who later fell from a window.
By Nico Hines
LONDON—The identity of the U.S. government’s star witness in a high-profile trial—who subsequently fell out of a fifth-story Moscow window—was compromised in the course of a pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign run by Natalia Veselnitskaya, according to leaked emails. The Russian lawyer who took part in the infamous Trump Tower meeting with senior Trump campaign officials was part of a secretive campaign on American soil that—according to the emails—may also have involved contempt of court and the violation of lobbying laws. She already has been indicted by the Southern District of New York on obstruction of justice charges. A cache of emails obtained by the Dossier Center, which is a Russian opposition organization based in London, exposes the depth of foreign asset entanglement in Trump’s America at the precise moment that the president’s dealings with Ukrainian officials threaten to pull the Department of Justice and State Department into an unseemly impeachment fight. The leaked emails offer an unprecedented look into the cynical world of Russia’s remorseless influence campaign within the U.S. Veselnitskaya was representing a company called Prevezon, which was facing an American trial over a $230 million fraud that began in Russia and implicated the Russian authorities. An American law firm that had been working for Prevezon at the direction of Veselnitskaya was barred from the case by an extremely rare writ of mandamus handed down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals because of conflict of interest with a former client. Emails suggest BakerHostetler, a major U.S. law firm that has also worked for The Daily Beast and its parent company, IAC, continued to operate as a kind of shadow counsel in what would have been a clear breach of the court order. Other emails suggest another court order was violated when the testimony given by a Russian witness leaked, endangering his life before he was due to return to New York to give evidence at the trial. It was later reported in the Russian media that the witness—Nikolai Gorokhov—had fallen five floors from an apartment building in Moscow. He survived with a fractured skull. He said his fall was no accident, but could not remember exactly what happened. Cristy Phillips, a former U.S. government prosecutor with the Southern District of New York (SDNY) who worked on the case, said she fears that the emails shared with The Daily Beast indicate deep corruption hidden within the American legal system. “The integrity of our judicial system depends on lawyers upholding their obligations as officers of the court. Most fundamentally, if a court issues an order, lawyers have to follow it and make sure that others on their side follow it. There were numerous senior lawyers on these emails and they all clearly violated a Second Circuit court order. And these were not inexperienced lawyers, several of them are former Department of Justice attorneys,” she told The Daily Beast. “We’re talking about a case where witnesses had died and other witnesses’ lives and safety had been threatened. These were not low-stakes decisions.” more...

“Whenever there’s a Trump scandal, Mike Pence never seems to know what’s going on,” the “Daily Show” host observed.
By Matt Wilstein
After examining how poorly President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been handling the impeachment inquiry so far over the past few days, Trevor Noah turned his attention Thursday night to Vice President Mike Pence. “Mike Pence likely knew about the phone call, had access to the transcript and personally told [Ukrainian President] Zelensky that he wasn’t getting his military aid,” The Daily Show host said, summing up the vice president’s alleged role in the scandal that is threatening to bring down the Trump administration. “Pence was so deep in this thing, I bet Mother considers it cheating,” he joked. Noah explained that he’s not “shocked” Pence is so involved in the scandal because “he does whatever Trump tells him” to do, characterizing him as the Ned Flanders to the president’s Homer Simpson. more...

Jacob Wohl, a conservative activist, has a history of claiming to have uncovered lewd allegations against perceived enemies of President Donald Trump.
By Dartunorro Clark
A far-right activist tried to levy bogus and salacious allegations against Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday — but she apparently had a plan for that, too. The Massachusetts Democrat and 2020 contender tweeted a subtle jab at right-wing conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl after the Trump supporter claimed that 70-year-old Warren had an affair with a 24-year-old sex worker and Marine. "It's always a good day to be reminded that I got where I am because a great education was available for $50 a semester at the University of Houston (go Cougars!)," tweeted Warren in what some social media users saw as a veiled reference to a term for a relationship between an older woman and a younger man. "We need to cancel student debt and make college free for everyone who wants it." Warren is an alumna of the University of Houston, where she was both a law professor in 1980s and an undergraduate student in the late 1960s. more...

By Dakin Andone, CNN
(CNN) - A Florida woman has been arrested for allegedly making two dozen pipe bombs with the intent of using them to hurt people, the Hillsborough County Sheriff said Friday. Michelle Kolts, 27, faces 24 counts of making a destructive device with intent to harm, Sheriff Chad Chronister told reporters in a news conference. It was Kolts' parents who notified deputies Thursday evening after they discovered "what appeared to be a significant amount of pipe bombs, other bomb-making materials and numerous weapons" in her bedroom, Chronister said. A bomb squad responded and rendered the home safe, the sheriff said. Each pipe bomb contained nails, metallic pellets or a combination of both, he said. It would have taken "less than 60 seconds per device to add the powder and fuse materials she already possessed to detonate each bomb." Investigators also found smokeless pistol powder, 23 knives, nunchucks and "dozens of books and DVDs about murder, mass killing, domestic terrorism and bomb making," Chronister said. Kolts admitted to making the devices and told detectives they were meant to hurt people, although investigators did not find evidence of any concrete plans to use the bombs, the sheriff said. more...

By Philip Ewing
President Trump demanded on Friday that the full House must vote on Democrats' impeachment inquiry, arguing that he needn't further comply with Congress' requests until it does. Trump told reporters at the White House that he's sending a letter to that effect to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. He suggested his accommodation of congressional requests from this point forward might depend on her response. "The lawyers say they've never seen anything so unfair," Trump said. "The lawyers say they've never seen anything so unjust." The White House contends that for impeachment to be legitimate, all members in the chambers must have a chance to support or oppose it. So far, although Pelosi has declared that an "impeachment inquiry" is underway, the full House has not yet voted to launch one. The House does not need a vote in order for lawmakers to conduct an impeachment investigation, but a vote could give Republicans more power in the Democratic-led inquiry. It would also force lawmakers in both parties to go on the record for or against the inquiry as headlines fly thick and fast about the Ukraine affair. While Republicans so far oppose the impeachment investigation, some GOP lawmakers have said the Ukraine allegations are worthy of an investigation and they could also face a tough choice if put to a vote by the full House. Some moderate Democrats have yet to take a position. Trump was also asked Friday whether he'd go along with the prospect of Democrats' subpoenas for documents or other materials as they look into his administration's dealings with Ukraine. "I don't know, that's up to the lawyers," he said. The president has gone back and forth about what he'll release or how transparent he says the administration might be. His announcement about his letter of protest to Pelosi on Friday suggested that he might now consider the gate closed until Congress acts. When does impeachment become impeachment. Democrats, led initially by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York, argue that they've been acting on impeachment business for months. Nadler has said as much in his hearings, and attorneys for House Democrats also have invoked impeachment in their separate legal contests with attorneys for Trump over documents and witnesses. Pelosi said on Wednesday that there is no need for a full House vote. Trump's demand represented the latest tactical skirmish within the broader political war over impeachment, which has sucked all the oxygen out of official Washington and largely sidelined all other business between the administration and Congress. Trump and Pelosi both have said, at different times, they thought Washington should still attempt to negotiate over other legislation — potentially involving prescription drug costs or new gun restrictions — but for now the shadow of impeachment seems to have blotted out nearly everything else in the capital. Trump's challenge also is an attempt to force Pelosi to truly test which of her moderate members, some of whom were elected last year in districts that Trump carried in 2016, are prepared to go on record in support of impeachment. "Most of them, many of them, don't believe they should do it," Trump said on Friday. The president said that if Democrats move ahead, "I really believe they're going to pay a tremendous price at the polls." more...

By Juliegrace Brufke
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shot down House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) call for Democrats to suspend the impeachment inquiry, noting in a written response that President Trump hours earlier had publicly asked China to investigate one of his political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden. “As you know, our Founders were specifically intent on ensuring that foreign entities did not undermine the integrity of our elections," Pelosi wrote to McCarthy. "I received your letter this morning shortly after the world witnessed President Trump on national television asking yet another foreign power to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections,” she continued. “We hope you and other Republicans share our commitment to following the facts, upholding the Constitution, protecting our national security, and defending the integrity of our elections at such a serious moment in our nation’s history.” Pelosi also wrote in her letter that there is not a requirement under the Constitution or House rules, or under House precedent, that the House hold a vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry. McCarthy earlier on Thursday had argued the inquiry should not move forward without members establishing “equitable rules and procedures.” “I should hope that if such an extraordinary step were to be contemplated a fourth time it would be conducted with an eye towards fairness, objectivity, and impartiality. Unfortunately, you have given no clear indication as to how your impeachment inquiry will proceed — including whether key historical precedents or basic standards of due process will be observed,” he wrote. more...

By Jordain Carney
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Friday broke sharply with President Trump's call for China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, calling it "wrong and appalling." "When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated," Romney said in a statement, which he also tweeted out.  The day before, Trump floated to reporters outside of the White House that the two countries should probe Biden, the Democratic 2020 front-runner, and his son, Hunter Biden, even as House Democrats work on an impeachment inquiry centered on allegations that Trump sought to withhold aid to Ukraine as an effort to get Kiev to launch a probe. "China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said in front of cameras on the South Lawn. The president added that he had not explicitly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to open such a probe, but that it’s “certainly something we can start thinking about.” Most Republicans, who are currently scattered across the country for a two-week recess, have remained silent on Trump publicly suggesting that foreign governments investigate a potential 2020 rival.  But Romney is part of a small group of Republicans who have spoken out this week, though none have backed the impeachment inquiry against Trump. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), in a statement on Thursday night, said "Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth," while also knocking House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) for running a "partisan clown show in the House." more...

The company said that it had seen "significant cyber activity" from a group of hackers that it believes "originates from Iran and is linked to the Iranian government."
By Jason Abbruzzese
A group of hackers believed to be linked to the government of Iran tried to access email accounts associated with a U.S. presidential campaign, Microsoft announced Friday. The company said that it had seen "significant cyber activity" from a group of hackers that it believes "originates from Iran and is linked to the Iranian government." Microsoft said that its threat-tracking operation found the group attacked 241 email accounts associated with current and former U.S. government officials, journalists, prominent Iranians outside Iran and one U.S. presidential campaign. Microsoft did not name the campaign that was targeted. The company said that the attack on the campaign was unsuccessful but that the hackers were able to access four accounts not associated with the campaign or the current and former government officials. Tom Burt, vice president of customer security and trust for Microsoft, wrote in a blog post that the Iran-linked group, which the company refers to by the name Phosphorous, gathered information about people in an attempt to trick them into falling for phishing schemes, in which the group attempted to use password reset or account recovery features to take over accounts. more...

(CNN) - Three House committees released documents and text messages provided by former American Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker on Thursday. Read the full document and text exchanges here: more...

By Grace Segers, Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket
Washington -- The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released a trove of messages provided by the former special envoy to Ukraine who resigned abruptly last week. The messages show a concerted effort by U.S. diplomats to get the Ukrainian government to commit to opening investigations that would benefit President Trump politically. On Thursday, the president suggested China and Ukraine should open investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, stating publicly what he is accused of insinuating on the July call with the Ukrainian president at the center of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.  "I would say, President Zelensky, if it was me, I would start an investigation into the Bidens," he said, referring to the Ukrainian leader. Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn on Thursday, Mr. Trump also said the Chinese president may want to investigate Biden and his son. "Clearly it's something we should start thinking about," he said. Also on Thursday, the Pentagon said it had begun in June to release $250 million in Ukraine aid approved by Congress, but in late July, on July 25 or 26, the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered a pause in the disbursement of those funds. Mr. Trump's conversation with Zelensky took place on July 25. Trump insists his requests for foreign countries to investigate Biden has "nothing to do with politics" 8:30 a.m.: In a tweet on Friday morning, Mr. Trump reiterated the claim that he has the right as president to ask foreign leaders to investigate "corruption," referring to his requests for Ukraine and China to probe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. "As President I have an obligation to end CORRUPTION, even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries. It is done all the time. This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens. This does have to do with their corruption!" Mr. Trump said. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing by either Biden in Ukraine or China. more...

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN
(CNN) - President Donald Trump's aggressive new strategy to thwart the Democrats' impeachment offensive is already sinking under the weight of new revelations. Trump tried to turn the tide Thursday, after struggling to counter the core Democratic argument that he had abused his power to hurt a political rival, Joe Biden, including staging a remarkable photo op in which he effectively asked China, America's rising geopolitical rival for global power, to help him win in 2020. But an avalanche of disclosures about his administration's previous attempts to enlist Ukraine in his effort to smear Biden showed his White House is failing to contain a crisis that is threatening his presidency. Perhaps the biggest problem for Trump is the release of text messages provided by his former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who gave a deposition on Capitol Hill. The texts include a key message from Volker to a Ukrainian aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, sent just before the infamous July 25 call at the center of the impeachment probe, which lays out how an investigation into Trump's political interests could help assure a meeting between the two presidents. The unveiling of the text messages threatens to undermine one of the President and his supporters' key defenses: that there was no quid pro quo when Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump's seeming obsession with undermining Biden's campaign may also present problems for him on the other side of the globe. In addition to Trump publicly asking the Chinese to investigate the Bidens, CNN reported Thursday that Trump had brought up Biden and his political prospects to Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call back in June. The disclosure was the latest sign that the President was using his constitutional leeway to set foreign policy in order to advance his own political interests. The gambit threatened to introduce a new conflict of interest into talks to ease the President's trade war with China. But on a deeper level it raised questions about Trump's willingness to embrace foreign intervention in US politics -- a possibility that haunted America's founders as they contemplated the shape of a new republic more than two centuries ago. Before the latest breaking developments, the President had sought to combat the perception that he had secretly attempted to get a foreign power to intervene in US politics. But then he appeared on the South Lawn of the White House to take another shot at Biden and to say that both Ukraine and China should investigate his potential 2020 foe, and then later tweeted that he had the "absolute right" to do so. It was a brazen yet quintessentially Trumpian response to his crisis. The President has spent days, unusually, struggling to switch a damaging political narrative triggered by evidence that he pressured a foreign nation to target a political opponent in an apparent abuse of power. more...

CNN - CNN's Anderson Cooper breaks down the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. more...

By Jim Sciutto, Gloria Borger and Jeremy Diamond, CNN
(CNN) - During a private phone call in June, President Donald Trump promised Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US would remain quiet on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while trade talks continued, two sources familiar with knowledge of the call tell CNN. The remarkable pledge to the Chinese leader is a dramatic departure from decades of US support for human rights in China and shows just how eager Trump is to strike a deal with Beijing as the trade war weighs on the US economy. And like other calls with the leaders of Ukraine, Russia and Saudi Arabia, records of Trump's call with Xi were moved to a highly-classified, codeword-protected system, greatly limiting the number of administration officials who were aware of the conversation. Trump's commitment to China had immediate and far-reaching effects throughout the US government as the President's message was sent far and wide. In June, the State Department told then-US general counsel in Hong Kong, Kurt Tong, to cancel a planned speech on the protests in Washington because the President had promised Xi no one from the administration would talk about the issue. Tong was also slated to speak at a Washington-based think tank in early July but the State Department asked for that event to be canceled as well. That speech was ultimately rescheduled for after Tong's scheduled retirement later that month meaning he eventually had the opportunity to speak about Hong Kong but as a former official. The Financial Times first reported some details of the President's commitment. At the time, reporters asked State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus if Tong was barred from making a tough speech after Trump and Xi's trade truce during the G20 summit. "I believe that that was based off of anonymous reports, and that's not something that we ever validate here at the State Department. I don't see much truth to that," she responded. more...

Vox - It wasn't always this way for the Republican Party. more...

Labor market shows some resilience in face of weakening economy
By Greg Robb
The numbers: The economy added 136,000 new jobs in September, the government said Friday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 150,000 increase. This is the slowest pace of job growth in four months, as businesses grew more cautious about hiring, but employment gains for August and July revised up by a combined 45,000. And in a separate survey, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%, the lowest rate since December 1969. The number of unemployed people fell by 275,00 over the month. One dark spot in the report was that the increase in worker pay over the past 12 months fell to 2.9% from 3.2%. Average hourly earnings were little changed in September following an 11-cent gain in August. What happened: With manufacturing activity weak, the bulk of the hiring in September was concentrated in the services sector. Education and health care providers filled 40,000 positions. Government added 22,000 workers in September, but only 1,000 of the jobs were due to federal hiring for the 2020 Census. Economists had expected a much bigger increase in census workers. more...

By Allyson Chiu
For most of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Thursday town hall, the woman in a black jacket sat quietly in the third row. Then, as the event in Corona, N.Y., neared its end, the woman suddenly stood up and began yelling about climate change. “But we’re not going to be here much long because of the climate crisis,” the woman blurted. “We got to start eating babies,” she abruptly declared, taking off her jacket to display a T-shirt that read, “Save the planet. Eat the children.” The woman’s bizarre speech swiftly became the center of a heated Twitter fight Thursday night that pitted Ocasio-Cortez against President Trump, his son, Donald Trump Jr., and other conservatives, who suggested the woman was an example “climate change hysteria.” In response, Ocasio-Cortez chastised critics for trying to “mock or make a spectacle” of a woman who “may have been suffering from a mental condition.” It now seems likely that the scene was carefully planned. The woman was apparently part of an attempt by a right-wing fringe political group to embarrass the Democratic congresswoman. Late Thursday, a Twitter account belonging to the LaRouche PAC — which was founded by conspiracy theorist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. — took credit for the stunt. A historian who has documented the organization said the woman’s outburst was “a fairly well-established tactic for them.” “They’ve been doing this since the ’70s,” Matthew Sweet, whose book “Operation Chaos” delved into the group’s complex history, told The Washington Post. “The tactic is you go to a political meeting and you create a disturbance that disrupts the meeting, and more importantly, that creates a kind of chaos.” more...

House Democrats released the messages that were turned over by former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker amid impeachment inquiry.
By Josh Lederman1
WASHINGTON — Text messages given to Congress show U.S. ambassadors working to persuade Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating President Donald Trump’s political opponents and explicitly linking the inquiry to whether Ukraine’s president would be granted an official White House visit. The two ambassadors, both Trump picks, went so far as to draft language for what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy should say, the texts indicate. The messages, released Thursday by House Democrats conducting an impeachment inquiry, show the ambassadors coordinating with both Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a top Zelenskiy aide. At one point, a diplomat quoted in the texts even expresses alarm that the Trump administration is conditioning the visit and military aid on an investigation of political opponents, saying the linkage is "crazy." The messages offer the fullest picture to date of how top diplomats and Giuliani sought to advance Trump’s goal of getting the Ukrainians to investigate both meddling in the 2016 election and Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. “Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington,” former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker wrote to the top Zelenskiy aide on July 25, just before Trump spoke by phone to Zelenskiy. That phone call led a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower complaint that set off a cascade of fast-moving events, ultimately leading to an impeachment inquiry into the president. Volker resigned amid the tumult. He provided a deposition Thursday at the Capitol, which included the text messages. Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland — both political appointees — repeatedly stressed the need to get the Ukrainians to agree to the exact language that Zelenskiy would use in announcing an investigation, the texts indicate. In August, Volker proposed to Sondland that they give Zelenskiy a statement to utter at a news conference citing “alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians” in interference in U.S. elections. “We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections,” Volker and Sondland agreed that the Ukrainian president should say. Zelenskiy never did make the statement. more...

By Franco Ordoñez, Susan Davis
Republicans who support President Trump say the next three weeks are crucial to determine whether Trump can keep Republicans united behind him or if emerging cracks break open even wider. Their growing concern is that the White House is not acting with enough urgency to combat the whistleblower fight. They're calling for a more coordinated but also direct and aggressive strategy, similar to the one used when Republicans defended Brett Kavanaugh when Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court. "It's not like you have all this time for this to unfold. You've got to be ready for battle right now," said Scott Jennings, who was subpoenaed by the Senate when he worked for Republican George W. Bush and is close to the White House. "That's why I was comparing it to Kavanaugh. That was a short fight. You know, it happened over a period of weeks. Democrats had their message. They fired their shots. The Republicans were organized. They fired back. And so to me that's really the template here." Trump has been lashing out at Democrats and reporters, as Republicans have struggled to defend the president for encouraging the Ukrainian government to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 rival. A senior Senate GOP aide expressed confidence that, as it stands, Senate Republicans do not believe Trump's July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president unto itself is an impeachable offense. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak freely about strategy and expectations. At the same time, the aide said there's a realization that this is a volatile, unpredictable political conflict. And there have been "zero" efforts to coordinate messaging with the White House or each other, the aide said. "Everyone is waiting for the next shoe to drop," the aide said. The White House has dismissed the need for a war room like the one former President Bill Clinton created in the 1990s during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. more...

By Tobias Hoonhout
A career IRS official has filed a whistleblower complaint over inappropriate interference by at least one Treasury Department official in a mandatory annual audit of the president and vice president’s taxes. The House Ways and Means Committee was alerted to “possible misconduct” at the end of July, but The Washington Post shed more light on the situation Thursday when it reported that the individual was an IRS employee and revealed that the allegation pertained to Treasury Department officials. The whistleblower told the paper in an interview that he had filed a formal complaint, but would not comment on its substance. The White House has continued to push back on Democratic efforts to get the Treasury Department to release the president’s tax returns. Administration officials have dismissed Democrats’ calls for Trump’s tax returns as outside the scope of congressional oversight authority. Democrats fear the recent complaint suggests the independent IRS audit process has been compromised by partisan actors. But the whistleblower denied his actions were politically motivated. “I take very seriously the duty of career civil servants to act with integrity and perform our duties impartially, even at the risk that someone will make a charge of bias,” he said. The whistleblower also told the paper he feared the recent comments being made by President Trump and allies about whistleblowers. Trump told reporters Monday he was “trying to find out” the identity of the Ukraine whistleblower. “The focus should be on the facts that were presented,” the IRS whistleblower told The Washington Post. “I am concerned also by the relative silence of people who should be repudiating these dangerous attacks in the strongest terms.” Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D., Mass.) told reporters Sept. 27 he was weighing the release of the complaint with lawyers. more...

Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY
The country is just over a week into the formal impeachment inquiry launched by Democrats in response to a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump and there's a lot we still don't know about the situation. House Democrats are attempting to uncover more information about Trump's alleged promises to Ukraine in return for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Here are the unanswered questions about the Ukraine controversy and the attempt to impeach Trump: When will the House vote on impeachment? In order for a Senate impeachment trial to take place, the House of Representatives must agree to draw up articles of impeachment, or a list of presidential offenses. This requires the votes of at least 218 Congressmembers. Some lawmakers have said they hope the House will decide on the articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving. And while Pelosi has said she wants the impeachment inquiry to move, "expeditiously," in reality the process could take months before it comes to a vote. It's hard to know when the House will conduct a vote, in part because of the efforts Trump administration officials may exert to combat the impeachment inquiry. Congressional committees scheduled depositions and a hearing with a handful of officials who may have knowledge of the Ukraine situation even as Congress is scheduled for a two-week recess. Democrats accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of "stonewalling" the investigation after he said he would fight requests to depose State Department workers. Pompeo called the deposition requests "an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State." Trump has also threatened litigation against his political opponents. Who is the whistleblower? more...

Just months after Trump’s inauguration, conspiracy theorists pushed a fanciful and unsubstantiated narrative in which the DNC framed Russia for election interference.
By Ben Collins
An anonymous post from March 2017 on the far-right 4chan message board teased a conspiracy theory that would eventually make its way to the White House. “Russia could not have been the source of leaked Democrat emails released by Wikileaks,” the post teased, not citing any evidence for the assertion. The post baselessly insinuated that CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm that worked with the Democratic National Committee and had been contracted to investigate a hack of its servers, fabricated a forensics report to frame Russia for election interference. The 4chan post was published three days before then-FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election. And that was how it started. That post is the first known written evidence of this unfounded conspiracy theory to exonerate Russia from meddling in the 2016 election, which more than two years later would make its way into the telephone call that may get President Donald Trump impeached. (Federal law enforcement officials have repeatedly made it clear that Russia unquestionably did meddle in the election.) In the years that followed the original 4chan post, at least three different but related conspiracy theories would warp and combine on the fringes of the internet, eventually coalescing around Ukraine’s supposed role in helping Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. Ukraine wasn’t originally part of the theory, but in July, Trump floated CrowdStrike’s name during a call with the president of Ukraine as just one piece of a convoluted conspiracy accusation. That phone call is now at the center of a congressional investigation and impeachment inquiry into whether the president abused his power for political gain. “I would like to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike … ” Trump said on the call, according to a White House summary. “I guess you have one of your wealthy people. ... The server, they say Ukraine has it.” To even people who have followed these theories closely, Trump’s call felt detached from any sense of logic. “It’s a whole new mountain of nonsense,” said Duncan Campbell, a British digital forensics expert who investigated the original claim about CrowdStrike. This omnibus conspiracy theory has been frequently referred to on far-right blogs, Fox News and recently by the president as the Democrats’ “insurance policy,” a reference to the supposed setup as a way to impeach the president if Trump were to win the election. Though all the individual theories have been debunked, each has contributed elements that have been cited by the president, as well as his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Beginning months after Trump’s inauguration, conspiracy theorists have pushed this fanciful and unsubstantiated narrative in which the Democratic National Committee framed Russia for its election interference in 2016 and later covered up its false accusation with help from then-Vice President Joe Biden and officials in Ukraine. In the conspiracy theory, impeachment proceedings recently pursued by House Democrats were always the DNC’s endgame, effectively a cash-out on the “insurance policy.” Trump has repeatedly referred to the “insurance policy” by name in tweets and in remarks on the White House’s South Lawn. more...

By Naomi Jagoda
The Manhattan district attorney's office on Thursday blasted the Department of Justice (DOJ) for siding with President Trump in a lawsuit over a subpoena for the president's tax returns. The DOJ on Wednesday filed a court document that agreed with Trump that the lawsuit belongs in federal court. The DOJ also called for enforcement of the subpoena to be temporarily blocked if necessary while the court considers Trump's constitutional claims. But the district attorney's office said in its new filing that DOJ's document "ignores the reality" underlying Trump's lawsuit. "In short, the Plaintiffs only goal in this litigation, now supported by the DOJ itself, is to obtain as much delay as possible, through litigation, stays, and appeals," prosecutors with the district attorney's office wrote. The district attorney's office in late August issued a subpoena to Trump's accounting firm for the president's personal and business tax returns and financial records. The subpoena is part of a grand jury investigation into payments made ahead of the 2016 presidential election to women who claim they had affairs with Trump. In September, Trump's personal lawyers filed a lawsuit against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) and the president's accounting firm, Mazars USA, in an effort to block the subpoena. The DOJ weighed in Wednesday. In its filing on Thursday, the district attorney's office argued that it could be harmed by delaying enforcement of the subpoena because any postponement "will likely result in the expiration of the statutes of limitation that would apply to some of the transactions at issue in the grand jury investigation." The district attorney's office also took issue with the DOJ's argument that Trump should receive interim relief to prevent him from being irreparably harmed. The New York prosecutors argued that Trump wouldn't be harmed if asked to comply with the subpoena, because there's no risk that his tax returns would be published under grand jury secrecy rules and because there's isn't anything "sacrosanct" about a president's tax returns. The district attorney's office also disputed the DOJ's arguments that the case belongs in federal court. The New York prosecutors reiterated that they think the case should be dismissed and that a legal challenge to their subpoena should be brought in state court. Trump's personal lawyers argue in the president's lawsuit that Trump can't be criminally investigated while in office. The DOJ didn't say in its filing Wednesday whether it agreed with that position.  However, the district attorney's office argued that through its filing, the DOJ "has elected to insert itself into this private lawsuit to support the Plaintiffs extravagant claim that, given his current position, he and all of his prior business associates and related companies are immune, not just from prosecution, but from any routine grand jury inquiry into transactions undertaken before he was a government employee." more...

CNN - President Donald Trump ordered the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine following complaints by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Yovanovitch, who was recalled months earlier than expected in May 2019, was accused by Giuliani without evidence of trying to undermine the President and blocking efforts to investigate Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden. According to the Wall Street Journal, a person familiar with the matter said that State Department officials were told that her removal was "a priority" for Trump. At the time of her removal, the State Department said that Yovanovitch was "concluding her three-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned" and that her departure aligned with the presidential transition in Ukraine. Giuliani told the Wall Street Journal that he had reminded the President "of complaints percolating among Trump supporters that she had displayed an anti-Trump bias in private conversations." Giuliani told the paper that when he mentioned Yovanovitch to Trump in the spring, the President "remembered he had a problem with her earlier and thought she had been dismissed" and was then asked to provide a list of his allegations about the career diplomat again. Asked on Thursday morning why Yovanovitch was recalled, Trump said, "I don't know if I recalled her or somebody recalled her, but I heard very, very bad things about her for a very long period of time -- not good." more...

“This moment should arguably be a national emergency,” the MSNBC host told viewers, adding that the founding fathers would be horrified by Trump’s behavior.
By Justin Baragona
MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd began his Thursday afternoon broadcast of MTP Daily by solemnly telling his audience that following President Donald Trump’s public call for the Chinese to investigate his potential 2020 rival, a “national nightmare is upon us.” Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn on Thursday morning, the president urged China to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, claiming that “what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” Trump, who is currently facing an impeachment inquiry for pressuring the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on the Bidens, also called on Ukraine Thursday to “start a major investigation” into the Biden family. “I do not say this lightly,” an ashen-faced Todd said. “Let’s be frank, a national nightmare is upon us. The basic rules of our democracy are under attack, from the president.”  Noting that the president openly admitted to seeking foreign influence in the 2020 election, the Meet the Press host pointed out that thus far “Republicans have been silent on what we have seen from the president.” Highlighting the president’s remarks, Todd then expressed his belief that we are entering an extremely dark moment in our nation's history. “Donald Trump is using the power of his office to solicit interference in the 2020 presidential election—while doing it relying on a debunked conspiracy or two,” he said. “This is not hearsay or a whistleblower’s complaint or a memorandum of a phone conversation. You heard the president do it himself on the White House lawn.” “This moment should arguably be a national emergency—the founding fathers would have considered it a national emergency if the president publicly lobbied multiple foreign governments to interfere in the next election,” Todd added. Once again noting that the GOP has failed to condemn Trump, Todd concluded that this was “remarkable considering the precedent it would set and the lasting damage it would do to our democracy.” more...

Donald Trump's behavior with China and Joe Biden shows how much he depends on Americans being desensitized to his repeated ethics violations
Don't let Trump shape a new normal
By Lisa Gilbert - USA TODAY
The Ukraine scandal that unfolded with lightning speed has been stunning, and the ongoing revelations of corruption are even more so. Like a mafia don, President Donald Trump — having withheld nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine — put the squeeze on Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden. The pressure campaign spanned months and implicates Vice President Mike Pence's office, Attorney General William Barr and the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. But he didn’t stop there. Just Thursday, Trump casually referenced to reporters the need for yet another foreign power to look into the Bidens, China. In addition, on Monday, news broke that Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Trump surely hopes will discredit former special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings. This was followed by the revelation that Barr also sought foreign assistance from British and Italian officials in investigating the Mueller report. And this is likely only just the beginning of the revelations to come. President Trump seems to think that if he keeps committing impeachable offenses, he can somehow normalize them and escape accountability. Yet in some ways, the barrage of news over the past week and a half has felt less shocking than it should have, because morally reprehensible, unethical and corrupt behavior is status quo for the Trump administration, and conflicts of interest, self-dealing and mobster tactics have become the new normal. When caught, Trump simply cranks up the spin machine, attacks his opponents and deflects attention by raising tariffs or rolling out another harsh immigration policy. And the country turns its attention to the next story. more...

By April Glaser
When Chairman Ajit Pai had the Federal Communications Commission reconsider network neutrality in 2017, he made his agenda clear: He wanted to take a “weed whacker” to the Obama-era open-internet rules. The rules he wanted to whack, however, were formed in 2015 in a process that elicited a record-breaking number of comments from the public—over 4 million, more than any other regulatory inquiry in U.S. history. The overwhelming majority of them were in support of net neutrality rules to prevent internet providers from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up access to websites or charging sites to reach users at faster speeds. But despite public support for the relatively new rules, Pai’s 2017 bid to undo net neutrality was ultimately successful. And unsurprisingly, it broke the record for public participation in a regulatory rule-making once again—but this time, the process appeared to be clouded by impropriety. A new BuzzFeed report makes it look even sketchier. It underscores just how vulnerable the federal government’s commenting process is—and what’s at risk if it doesn’t get fixed. When a federal regulatory agency wants to change its rules or craft new policy, it typically has to go through a “notice and comment” process in which the public is invited to weigh in on the impact of the rule change. Thousands of rules are promulgated a year this way, generally receiving anywhere from a few dozen to a few thousand comments. It’s very, very rare for the notice and comment process to attract millions of responses—much less 22 million comments, as the effort to undo the net neutrality rules did in 2017.  As the comments came pouring in throughout the second half of that year, it quickly became clear that something was amiss. A little over a week after the comment period opened, John Oliver dedicated a 20-minute segment of his HBO show to the issue, imploring users to make their voices heard to try to prevent, as he put it, “cable company fuckery.” The comments flooded the FCC, so much so that the agency’s electronic filing system shut down—as an investigation by the FCC’s inspector general determined when he looked into the matter. When the system initially went down, however, Pai incorrectly told Congress it was because of a mysterious cyberattack. By the end of May, Vice found that comments in favor of the FCC repeal were being posted under the names of dead people. Further investigations found that comments in favor of repealing net neutrality were also coming from stolen identities, including those of lawmakers, like Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who had fake comments posted on their behalf advocating against net neutrality. Bots were posting comments. Hundreds of thousands of comments were coming in from Russian email addresses. Still, despite these improprieties, more than 99 percent of the organic comments—meaning the evidence points to them being from actual people and not prewritten—were found to be in favor of preserving net neutrality. Now, according to the new investigation from BuzzFeed, it appears that more than a million of the suspicious comments filed to the FCC were the product of a shady outside firm hired by political campaigns using people’s information stolen from a data breach. more...

By Brian Welk - The Wrap
Robert De Niro has been accused by a former female vice president at Canal Productions of gender discrimination, harassment, unwanted physical contact and being verbally abusive in a new lawsuit, which De Niro’s lawyer has referred to as “beyond absurd.” Graham Chase Robinson, who in 2017 was the vice president of production and finance at Canal Productions, filed the lawsuit Thursday in response to a previous lawsuit De Niro filed in August for $6 million, alleging that she embezzled money from the company and binge watched excessive amounts of “Friends” on Netflix while on the job. Robinson says in the lawsuit that De Niro “took a page out of the Bill O’Reilly playbook and treated her as though she was his ‘office wife.'” She’s seeking $12 million in damages. “For many, the ‘good old days’ were really the bad old days. Sexism and sex stereotyping were commonplace, and a patriarchal sensibility was pervasive among the nation’s powerbrokers,” the lawsuit reads. “Robert De Niro is someone who has clung to old mores. He does not accept the idea that men should treat women as equals. He does not care that gender discrimination in the workplace violates the law. Ms. Robinson is a casualty of this attitude.” “The allegations made by Graham Chase Robinson against Robert De Niro are beyond absurd,” De Niro’s attorney, Tom Harvey, said in a statement. Robinson began working for Canal Productions as an assistant in 2008, but upon becoming a vice president, she claims in the lawsuit that she was given responsibilities not commensurate with her title, assigned her stereotypical duties like housework and subjected her to unwanted physical contact and sexually charged comments. more...

By katherine faulders and conor finnegan
In newly disclosed text messages shared with Congress, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine writes to a group of other American diplomats that "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” The exchange, provided by another American diplomat, former U.S Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker as part of his closed-door deposition before multiple House committees Thursday, shows what appears to be encrypted text messages he exchanged with two other American diplomats in September regarding aid money President Donald Trump ordered to be held back from Ukraine. In the Sept. 9 exchange, obtained by ABC News, the concerns are expressed by Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, responds to Taylor, saying that charge is "incorrect." "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensk'y promised during his campaign," Sondland says. Sondland then suggests to the group take the conversations off line, typing, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.” It’s unclear whether the material obtained by ABC News included the full exchange. Sonland, a hotelier and Republican megadonor, contributed over $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee before eventually being nominated and confirmed to be the United States representative to the European Union, serving since July 2018. He has assisted the effort by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to contact Ukrainian officials about an investigation, according to Giuliani, who says he briefed Sondland and Volker after his meetings. In a July 25 call with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy, President Trump asked the new president to work with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, prompting an impeachment inquiry in the House. Volker resigned last Friday as the special envoy for Ukraine. The State Department has previously confirmed that Volker put Giuliani in touch with Zelenskiy's aides at their request, but did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. more...

Volker was mentioned in the whistleblower's complaint that led to Democrats' launching a formal impeachment inquiry.
By Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe
WASHINGTON — Democratic and Republican lawmakers from three House committees questioned former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker on Thursday in a closed-door deposition as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Volker, who resigned last week after being named in the whistleblower complaint that lead to the inquiry, arrived on Capitol Hill just before 9 a.m. ET to testify in a classified setting before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees. No Democrats who emerged from the deposition agreed to comment on it, with Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Gerry Connolly of Virginia repeatedly telling swarms of reporters "no comment." House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., also came out and said that he wouldn’t comment on the testimony until it was over, though he slammed the president for publicly urging China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden on Thursday morning. Trump's July conversation with the Ukrainian president about Biden and the administration's subsequent response were the subject of the whistleblower complaint. "A president of the United States encouraging a foreign nation to interfere again to help his campaign by investigating a rival is a fundamental breach of the president's oath of office," Schiff told reporters. The whistleblower’s complaint alleged that Volker went to Kyiv to try to guide Ukraine officials on how to handle Trump’s demands for them to investigate the younger Biden's nearly five years as a member of the board that manages Ukraine's Burisma, a natural gas producer. Republicans who participated in Thursday's meeting, which lasted into the afternoon, were quick to respond. Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio was the first GOP lawmaker to react to Volker’s testimony, saying in a statement after the first hour of questioning that he doesn’t believe that Volker "advanced Schiff’s impeachment agenda." more...

Posted By Ian Schwartz
MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman said President Trump's press conference Wednesday with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto will go down in the "annals of the dangers to democracy." Fineman called it his "duty" as a student of history to warn that we are not taking Trump seriously enough. "Listen, I've spent a lot of time over the years in totalitarian countries," Fineman said. "In the old Soviet Union, if somebody became inconvenient as a witness, they disappeared either in reality or from the top of the Lenin mausoleum." more...

By Jamie Ross
Rudy Giuliani turned to President Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for help on Ukraine several times over the past few months, The Washington Post reports. Trump’s personal attorney is reported to have repeatedly consulted with Manafort through the prisoner’s lawyer in an attempt to gather information that would support his speculative theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to support Hillary Clinton. Giuliani and Manafort both have an interest in undermining the Mueller investigation. The inquiry led to Manafort’s imprisonment on tax- and financial-fraud allegations, while Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team in April 2018 to help defend the president against the probe. more...

By Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, CNN
(CNN) - A newly unearthed letter from 2016 shows that Republican senators pushed for reforms to Ukraine's prosecutor general's office and judiciary, echoing calls then-Vice President Joe Biden made at the time. CNN's KFile found a February 2016 bipartisan letter signed by several Republican senators that urged then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to "press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's office and judiciary." The letter shows that addressing corruption in Ukraine's Prosecutor General's office had bipartisan support in the US and further undercuts a baseless attack made by President Donald Trump and his allies that Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to stop investigations into a Ukrainian natural gas company that his son, Hunter Biden, sat on the board of. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden, nor is it clear whether Hunter was under investigation at all. Trump called the 2016 dismissal of the Ukrainian prosecutor "unfair" in his July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying, "A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved," according to the rough transcript of the phone call. The 2016 letter, sent by members of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, was signed by Republican Sens. Rob Portman, Mark Kirk and Ron Johnson, as well as Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Murphy, Sherrod Brown, and Richard Blumenthal and focused on longstanding issues of corruption in Ukraine and urged reforms of the government. "Succeeding in these reforms will show Russian President Vladimir Putin that an independent, transparent and democratic Ukraine can and will succeed," the letter reads. "It also offers a stark alternative to the authoritarianism and oligarchic cronyism prevalent in Russia. As such, we respectfully ask that you address the serious concerns raised by Minister Abromavičius. We similarly urge you to press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General's Office and judiciary. The unanimous adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Basic Principles and Action Plan is a good step." Kirk is no longer in Congress. But Johnson signed onto a letter with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley last week to Attorney General Bill Barr asking him to investigate, in part, allegations surrounding Biden and Ukraine. Johnson's office did not respond to a request for comment. Portman's office did not comment. Ukraine's legislature voted to fire Shokin in March 2016, a month after the letter was sent. The letter was posted on the website of Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who in a tweet the same day expressed US support for anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. "Ukraine's US friends stand w/#Ukraine in fight against corruption," Portman wrote. "Impt to continue progress progress made since #EuroMaidan." In December of 2015, in a speech to Ukraine's parliament, Biden made similar calls for changes to the judiciary and the General Prosecutor's office. "It's not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption," Biden said. "The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled." more...

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - The pressure and stress of the House's impeachment inquiry and ongoing questions about his conversations with the Ukrainian president seem to be getting to President Donald Trump. Otherwise, it's hard to explain his angry and raw press conference alongside the president of Finland on Wednesday. I went through the transcript and highlighted the lines you need to see. They're below. more...

By Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – A whistleblower complaint centering on President Donald Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president has spurred a number of allegations and counterallegations as Republicans and Democrats jockey for position amid an impeachment inquiry. At the heart of Congress' probe into the president's actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim. It wasn't because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden's son; it was because Shokin wasn't pursuing corruption among the country's politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe. Shokin's inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine's parliament. WASHINGTON – A whistleblower complaint centering on President Donald Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president has spurred a number of allegations and counterallegations as Republicans and Democrats jockey for position amid an impeachment inquiry. At the heart of Congress' probe into the president's actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim. It wasn't because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden's son; it was because Shokin wasn't pursuing corruption among the country's politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe. Shokin's inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine's parliament. more...

Judge Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s call with Ukraine president manifests criminal and impeachable behavior
By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
The House of Representatives has begun to gather evidence in an effort to determine if President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. The Constitution defines an impeachable offense as "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The president need not have committed a crime in order to be impeached, but he needs to have engaged in behavior that threatens the constitutional stability of the United States or the rule of law as we have come to know it. Has Trump committed any impeachable offenses? A CIA agent formerly assigned to the White House – and presently referred to as the "whistleblower" – reported a July 25, 2019 telephone conversation that Trump had with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. That conversation manifested both criminal and impeachable behavior. The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable. What has Trump admitted? The whistleblower’s revelation caused the White House to release a near-verbatim summary of the conversation between the two presidents. By releasing it, Trump has admitted to its accuracy. In it, Trump asked Zelensky for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, who at this writing is Trump's likely Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election. Trump also admits to holding up $391 million in aid to Ukraine – $250 million in the purchase of already approved and built military hardware and $141 million in a congressionally authorized grant. This is aid that Trump's own secretaries of state and defense, his own director of national intelligence and director of the CIA, and his own National Security Council unanimously asked him to release. Trump has also admitted to accusing the as-yet publicly unnamed whistleblower of treason, and suggesting that the whistleblower and those who have helped him are spies and ought to be treated as spies were in "the old days" (Trump’s phrase) – that is, by hanging. more...

The House is investigating whether groups tried to curry favor with Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never using them.
By ANITA KUMAR
House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups — including at least one foreign government — tried to ingratiate themselves to President Donald Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never staying in them. It’s a previously unreported part of a broad examination by the House Oversight Committee, included in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, into whether Trump broke the law by accepting money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties. “Now we’re looking at near raw bribery,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a House Oversight Committee member who chairs the subcommittee with jurisdiction over Trump’s hotel in Washington. “That was the risk from Day One: foreign governments and others trying to seek favor because we know Trump pays attention to this. ... It’s an obvious attempt to curry favor with him.” The investigation began after the committee received information that two entities — a trade association and a foreign government — booked a large quantity of rooms but used only a fraction of them, according to a person familiar with the allegation who isn't authorized to speak for the committee. The emoluments clause of the Constitution forbids a president from profiting from foreign governments or receiving any money from the U.S. government except his or her annual salary. Rep. Ro Khanna, (D-Calif.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, said if Trump or his staff solicited the hotel reservations, they could have broken the law. But even if they didn’t, it’s still a problem. more...

By Selena Simmons-Duffin
President Trump gave a speech and signed an executive order on health care Thursday, casting the "Medicare for All" proposals from his Democratic rivals as harmful to seniors. His speech, which had been billed as a policy discussion, had the tone of a campaign rally. Trump spoke from The Villages, a huge retirement community in Florida outside Orlando, a deep-red part of a key swing state. His speech was marked by cheers, standing ovations and intermittent chants of "four more years" by an audience of mostly seniors. Trump spoke extensively about his administration's health care achievements and goals, as well as the health policy proposals of Democratic presidential candidates, which he characterized as socialism. The executive order he signed had previously been titled "Protecting Medicare From Socialist Destruction" on the White House schedule but has since been renamed "Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation's Seniors." "In my campaign for president, I made you a sacred pledge that I would strengthen, protect and defend Medicare for all of our senior citizens," Trump told the audience. "Today I'll sign a very historic executive order that does exactly that — we are making your Medicare even better, and ... it will never be taken away from you. We're not letting anyone get close." more...

Opinion by Peter Eisner
(CNN) - To be fair to Mike Pence, he probably never dealt with someone like Donald Trump before 2016. Now Pence is hearing Trump's critics compare the president to an organized crime boss. Whether or not he agrees, thanks to the movies, everyone knows how the game works and so the vice president surely had an inkling about President Trump's modus operandi. In fact, he had more than a hint of what was to come. "He was going into this with his eyes open," a source close to Pence told me in 2018 referring to Pence's decision to accept Trump's offer in 2016 to run for vice president. "He knew exactly who Trump was and what he faced." Pence already knew that Trump had come to the Republican nomination with lies and slander, starting with his campaign to claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; and by 2016 Trump had denigrated Mexican immigrants, saying "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." But Pence's ambition was stronger than any possible concerns about the character of the man he would have to support, and wavered but did not back out even after the Access Hollywood tape was published in October 2016. Pence and his wife had already prayed for guidance—and decided he had a purpose and a mission, from God, to serve the country as vice president, said the source. "Once he got to that point, he never looked back." Pence should have expected that at some point his patron would make him get his hands dirty. It may have happened in the case of Trump's scandalous, and perhaps impeachable, request that Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Trump's Ukraine gambit appears to be a variation on classic extortion that started with his decision to freeze the roughly $400 million in military and security aid approved to help Ukraine fight its ongoing war against Russian invaders. "I would like you to do us a favor, though," said Trump after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the aid in a phone call. Trump wanted Zelensky to look into the allegation that Ukrainians stole the Democratic National Committee email server during the 2016 campaign. This is a debunked conspiracy theory. He also asked Zelensky to work on the matter with Attorney General William Barr and Trump's own personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Although Trump's words were imprecise -- he never said "Do this or you don't get the $400 million" -- his meaning was clear. A White House memo reconstructing the conversation showed the president returned to the subject of investigating former Vice President Biden repeatedly during their talk, Zelensky promised that his yet-to-be-named chief prosecutor would look into the matter. more...

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump is hardly acting like a very stable genius.
Instead, his unleashed fury, fact-bending rants and persecution complex are conjuring an image of someone seeing his presidency slipping through his hands. While current political conditions seem unlikely to lead to his ouster from office, Trump appears increasingly powerless to save himself from the historical scar of impeachment. He has crushed just about every norm since descending his golden escalator to launch his 2016 presidential campaign. Now he's reinventing how presidents deal with an existential scandal. And it seems to be leading him deeper into the darkness. Part of Trump's frustration may stem from the unusual nature of his current plight. Since taking office, Trump has kept Washington hopping, with his adversaries never knowing what wild gyration will rock the capital next. But in the week since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally initiated impeachment hearings, the President has seemed out of sorts. It is the Democrats who are doing all the running, and Trump can't catch up. "We are not fooling around," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff warned on Monday, in a grave news conference with Pelosi that contrasted with Trump's fireworks and turned on complex constitutional justifications for the Democrats' decision to seek the President's impeachment. The painful truth for Trump is that the machinery of impeachment is grinding on, and there is not much he can do about it. Convention suggests that Trump should ignore the storm and get on, like Bill Clinton did when impeachment threatened, to do the work of the American people. A President on thin ice ought to avoid any public behavior that deepens his jeopardy. That's not Trump's way. In a pair of combustible public appearances Wednesday -- alongside the unfortunate Finnish President Sauli Niinistö -- Trump, as he always does, met a crisis with all guns blazing. The President bickered bitterly with reporters, mocked his enemies with juvenile nicknames, twisted the facts of his own conduct and bemoaned how unfairly he'd been treated. His unhinged mood was encapsulated in an encounter between the President and Jeff Mason of Reuters, one of the most down-the-line and courteous reporters in Washington. Mason wanted to know the answer to the question that Trump refuses to address and that is at the center of the impeachment storm. What did he want from Ukraine's President if it was not, as it appears from a transcript of their July 25 telephone call, dirt on his potential 2020 election rival Joe Biden? When Mason, repeatedly but respectfully tried to follow up, Trump snapped: "Ask this gentleman a question. Don't be rude." "I've answered everything. It's a whole hoax, and you know who's playing into the hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country," the President added. For all of the tantrums and feuds and demagoguery and fury, it still shocks to see a President conducting himself this way, against the backdrop of the golden curtains of the East Room, scene of some of the most solemn, and decorous occasions in the history of the White House. Self-pity: When not raging, the President was feeling sorry for himself. "The political storm, I've lived with it from the day I got elected," he told a Finnish reporter, who drew gasps when she asked what favors he'd demanded from his visitor -- a backhanded reference to his attempt to get Ukraine to play in the 2020 election. "I have done more and this administration has done more than any administration in the history of this country in the first two-and-a-half years," Trump said, though the presidents whose portraits stare down at him in the White House every day might have begged to differ. "I'm used to it. For me it's like putting on a suit in the morning," Trump said of the tsunami of political disruption to which he has subjected the nation for nearly three years. In another comment that will astound the historians of the future, Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Democrats were wasting America's time with "BULLSHIT." Accusing Schiff of treason, which he did several times on Wednesday, without offering any credible justification for accusing a fellow American of this most heinous of crimes, is unlikely to deflect House Democrats from their process. Nor will the President's arguments that Schiff is making up details of conduct that are laid out in the transcript of Trump's call with Ukraine's President that he released himself. "Believe it or not, I watch my words very carefully. There are those that think I am a very stable genius," Trump said, though his furious mood seemed to suggest exactly the opposite. more...


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