"Where you can find almost anything with A Click A Pick!"
Go to content














US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 5

By Tom Porter
US President Donald Trump is so paranoid about leakers in the White House that he has repeatedly suggested that all staff members should undergo a lie-detector test, Politico reported Tuesday. Four former administration staffers told the publication that Trump had often raised the possibility of making staff members and aides take a polygraph test after news stories with leaked information about his presidency appeared. "He talked about it a lot," a former official told the publication, adding that after reading and watching reports about his presidency, "he'd be angry and ask, 'Why can't we stop these things?'" "He wanted to polygraph every employee in the building to unearth who it was who spoke to the press," another former official told Politico. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, told Politico: "I have been with the president since July 2015 and can say unequivocally that I have never heard suggesting polygraphs as a way to stop leaks." more...

By CRISTIANO LIMA
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping new bipartisan report detailing Russian efforts to boost Donald Trump's White House bid on social media during the 2016 U.S. elections, dealing an indirect blow to a push by the president and his allies to shift focus toward claims of anti-Trump meddling by Ukraine. The report corroborates past findings by researchers and the intelligence community that the notorious Internet Research Agency troll farm, as the committee wrote, "sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin." The findings mark the second installment of the committee's five-part report outlining the scope of Russian election meddling in 2016, the result of an expansive investigation that has spanned over two years and included interviews with over 200 witnesses. The committee in July unveiled the first chapter, which detailed Russian efforts to attack state elections systems and spread disinformation. The second installment focuses on the Kremlin's documented attempts to sow political discord on social media. The report arrives as Trump and his allies have sought to publicly downplay the role the Kremlin played in the 2016 elections and amp up scrutiny of unsubstantiated theories that Ukraine may have sought to interfere to undermine the president's candidacy. Some Ukrainian officials have been linked to anti-Trump messaging going into the 2016 election, but there's no evidence of collusion between Ukraine and U.S. Democrats, as Trump and some of his associates have proposed. Such claims have played a key role in the House's rapidly unfolding impeachment inquiry, which centers on Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden. Attorney General William Barr is also embarked on a probe into the origins of the Robert Mueller-led inquiry into Russian meddling, suggesting it may have been politically motivated rather than a sincere attempt to confront an actual threat. The report dispenses with deflections, however, and reiterates the widely held consensus that Russia launched a coordinated attack on the integrity of the 2016 election. It comes with the sign-off of the full Senate Intelligence Committee, including members like Trump-friendly Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), who have taken to the press to explain the president's questioning of Russian meddling and apparent invitations to Ukraine and China to investigate Biden as either jokes or legitimate fields of inquiry. And it stresses that the threat of foreign electioneering is far from over. The GOP-led panel outlined recommendations for how legislators, the federal government and tech companies can combat future online meddling, including calling on the Trump administration "reinforce with the public the danger of attempted foreign interference in the 2020 election." The committee called on candidates running for office and their campaigns to more carefully probe the information they share on social media to prevent the spread of election-related disinformation — an effort Democratic presidential candidates say has been under siege by Trump and his campaign’s postings on Ukraine and other issues. “It’s time for Trump to stop using Twitter to play into our adversaries’ hands,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who sits on Senate Intel, tweeted after the report debuted. “With every deranged tweet, he advances foreign interests by dividing Americans.” more...

https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/07/politics/trump-republicans-impeachment-reaction/index.html
Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN
(CNN) - Washington's impeachment battle over President Donald Trump's conduct with Ukraine is intensifying with news of a second whistleblower while new testimony this week brings the prospect of more stunning revelations to deepen the crisis. Yet nearly all Republicans, taking advantage of a congressional recess, are staying silent despite more and more evidence that the President used his power to pressure a foreign nation for personal political gain. Most of the few Republicans who have broken cover are struggling to come up with a logical defense of the President's actions — but his grip on the GOP is evident in the unwillingness of most to criticize him. And the President's assault on former GOP nominee and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney -- who he branded as a "pompous 'ass'" is underscoring the price Republicans will pay for rebuking the commander in chief. Trump is meanwhile hyping rallies this week in Minnesota and Louisiana that are likely to stress his powerful support among his base and will hike new pressure on any wavering Republicans before most of them return to Washington next week. The weekend's political exchanges suggested that despite a week of barely believable drama, Trump's feverish efforts are having some success in stopping any serious slippage in support among Republican lawmakers, especially ahead of any eventual Senate impeachment trial. But recent developments also sharpen the core questions at stake in the impeachment saga that are critical to the office of the presidency going forward and US democracy itself. Given the evidence that is already public, the question is becoming — is it permissible for a President to use his power, sometimes even in public — to pressure foreign governments to investigate political opponents before an election? There is a sense that the history with which future generations will judge today's leaders is being written every day. more...

He traded his honor to be “relevant” as a Trump adviser. But on Syria, Trump didn’t bother to ask what he thought.
By CHARLES SYKES

Increasingly paranoid about leaks, the president has repeatedly mused about administering lie detector tests to White House officials.
By DANIEL LIPPMAN - Politico
President Donald Trump has compared White House leakers with spies and mused obliquely to other officials about executing them. He’s attacked reporters by name. He rails frequently against media accounts of his administration, dismissing them as “fake news.” But privately, the president is so obsessed with the leaks about him that he has frequently discussed whether to order polygraphs of White House staffers after major disclosures, according to four former White House officials — in what would be a stark and politically risky departure from past practice. Trump “constantly” talks about ordering polygraphs during major leaks, according to a former White House official. “He talked about it a lot,” the former official said. After reading and watching reports about his presidency, “He’d be angry and ask, ‘Why can’t we stop these things?’” “He wanted to polygraph every employee in the building to unearth who it was who spoke to the press,” said another former official, who noted that the president tends to be especially irate when he knows specific news accounts are true. Some White House staffers have even volunteered to take a polygraph, also called a lie-detector test, to prove their innocence after they were suspected of leaking, according to the former official. The new details of Trump’s repeated interest in polygraphing provide important context on the president’s state of mind as Democrats demand answers about the White House’s handling of records of his interactions with foreign leaders. A whistleblower has accused White House officials of improperly storing transcripts of the president’s phone calls in a system meant for highly classified intelligence secrets, including a conversation with the president of Ukraine that has set off a spiraling impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. Trump’s interest in polygraphing his own White House staffers began amid constant reports in the first six months of his presidency of infighting and his behind-closed-doors raging about various news stories — especially the Mueller investigation and how the firing of former FBI Director James Comey went down — according to the first former White House official. In particular, Trump has been upset about how certain call transcripts, draft executive orders and other palace intrigue stories have made their way to the media. Each time, aides all the way up to the chief of staff level have been able to persuade him not to launch such a drastic step, arguing it would be counterproductive. But since those early months, multiple former officials said, he has continued to regularly ask whether his staffers should be polygraphed. Accounts differ as to just how literally, and seriously, those requests were taken. more...

Gregory and Marcia Abbott paid $125,000 to have their daughter's SAT and ACT altered
By David K. Li
A New York man and his wife were each sentenced Tuesday to a month behind bars for paying a college-admission fixer to boost their daughter's SAT and ACT scores. Gregory and Marcia Abbott will also have to complete a year of supervised release, pay a $45,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service each, under sentences handed down in Boston by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani. The couple had already pleaded guilty in May to a single count each of fraud and conspiracy, paying $125,000 to ring leader Rick Singer for someone to correct answers on their daughter’s college board exams. “My husband and I were both motivated by good intentions ... but this does not excuse our actions," Marcia Abbott told Talwani before the sentences were handed down, according to NBC Boston. “I stand before you today extremely contrite and remorseful,” she said. Prosecutors had asked Talwani to sentence the Abbotts to eight months in prison each. Defense lawyers had sought probation for the pair. The couple paid $50,000 to have a test proctor correct their daughter's ACT exam answers in 2018, and then another $75,000 to fix her SAT. “I knew my daughter was getting some help that was outside the rules," Gregory Abbott told the judge before his sentencing. The judge ordered the couple's sentences to be staggered, in order to maximize the time at least one of them could be at home with their three children. more...

Jacquerious Mitchell, 20, Michael Mitchell, 32, and Thaddeous Green, 22, traveled from Alexandria, Louisiana, to purchase drugs from Brown, police said.
By Janelle Griffith
Three suspects have been identified in the murder of Joshua Brown, a key witness in the murder trial of former Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger. The three — identified as Jacquerious Mitchell, 20, Michael Mitchell, 32, and Thaddeous Green, 22 — traveled from Alexandria, Louisiana, to purchase drugs from Brown, 28, in the parking lot of a Dallas apartment complex, according to authorities. Jacquerious Mitchell was in custody at a hospital and the other two suspects were being sought, Assistant Chief Avery Moore said at a news conference Tuesday. The two fugitives are believed to be armed and dangerous, he said. Jacquerious Mitchell told police that Brown shot him in the chest after Green and Brown got into an altercation during the drug deal, and that Green then shot Brown twice, Moore said.  Green took Brown's backpack and the gun used to shoot Jacquerious Mitchell and the three suspects fled the scene, Moore said. The suspects dropped Jacquerious Mitchell off at a hospital, the assistant police chief said, adding that warrants will be executed for the two other suspects. Michael Mitchell is the suspected getaway driver. Police confiscated 12 pounds of marijuana, 149 grams of THC cartridges and $4,157 in cash during a search of Brown's home, Moore said. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the family of Botham Jean, who was fatally shot by Guyger, previously said Brown had had reservations about testifying in the trial due to concerns for his safety. more...

Ten city governments from Arizona to Pennsylvania say the president’s political committee has yet to pay hundreds of thousands in security bills.
By Dave Levinthal
This story was originally published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C. WASHINGTON — "Do we love law enforcement or what?" President Donald Trump asked a cheering crowd during his "Make America Great Again" political rally Oct. 12 in Lebanon, Ohio. "Thank you, law enforcement!" the president later told officers, who he called "heroes." But when Lebanon City Hall sent Trump's campaign a $16,191 invoice for police and other public safety costs associated with his event, Trump didn't respond. Trump's campaign likewise ignored Lebanon officials' follow-up reminders to cover the sum — one rich enough to fund the entire police force for nearly two days in this modest city of 21,000, between Dayton and Cincinnati. The bill remains unpaid. "There's a lot of benefit when a president comes here: economic benefits, more visibility for our community," Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer said. "But I would hope and believe the Trump campaign would pay its bills. It's our taxpayer dollars." The red ink Trump poured on Lebanon's thin blue line is no anomaly. At least nine other city governments — from Mesa, Arizona, to Erie, Pennsylvania — are still waiting for Trump to pay public safety-related invoices they've sent his presidential campaign committee in connection with his political rallies, according to interviews with local officials and municipal records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. Some invoices are three years old. In all, city governments say Trump's campaign owes them at least $841,219. Must Trump pay? That depends on who you ask. The cities are adamant Trump should pay up. But in many of these cases, there are no signed contracts between the municipal governments and the Trump campaign. The cities dispatched police officers to secure Trump's events because they believe public safety required it — and the U.S. Secret Service asked for it. Reached for comment, Trump campaign Director of Operations Sean Dollman referred questions to the campaign's communications staff, which did not respond to numerous requests. more...

By Julie Appleby
Vowing to protect Medicare with "every ounce of strength," President Trump spoke last week to a cheering crowd in Florida. But his executive order released shortly afterward includes provisions that could significantly alter key pillars of the program by making it easier for beneficiaries and doctors to opt out. The bottom line: The proposed changes might make it a bit simpler to find a doctor who takes new Medicare patients, but it could lead to higher costs for seniors and potentially expose some to surprise medical bills, a problem from which Medicare has traditionally protected consumers. "Unless these policies are thought through very carefully, the potential for really bad unintended consequences is front and center," says economist Stephen Zuckerman, vice president for health policy at the Urban Institute. While the executive order spells out few details, it calls for the removal of "unnecessary barriers" to private contracting, which allows patients and doctors to negotiate their own deals outside of Medicare. It's an approach long supported by some conservatives, but critics fear it would lead to higher costs for patients. The order also seeks to ease rules that affect beneficiaries who want to opt out of the hospital portion of Medicare, known as Part A. Both ideas have a long history, with proponents and opponents duking it out since at least 1997, even spawning a tongue-in-cheek legislative proposal that year titled, in part, the "Buck Naked Act." More on that later. "For a long time, people who don't want or don't like the idea of social insurance have been trying to find ways to opt out of Medicare and doctors have been trying to find a way to opt out of Medicare payment," says Timothy Jost, emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia. more...

By Brendan Cole
A former top White House adviser has joined the growing chorus of criticism surrounding the economic policies of President Donald Trump, claiming they will not just adversely impact the U.S. but also the wider world. Sources with close links to the White House and congressional Republican leaders have told The Washington Post they are concerned about internal forecasts showing the U.S. economy could slow over the next year, which would affect Trump's re-election chances. Officials have drawn up options for Trump, including lowering corporation tax and imposing a currency transaction to weaken the dollar to bolster the economy, with one Republican source telling the paper: "Everyone is nervous—everyone. It's not a panic, but they are nervous." The paper reported that U.S. growth is being hurt by Trump's trade war with China and other mixed messages. He rowed back on new tariffs against Chinese imports earlier this month and has also flipped his position on new tax cuts. His canceled visit to Denmark over a surreal spat regarding the sale of Greenland has also added to uncertainty. The former head of the National Economic Council (NEC), Gene Sperling, told the Post that Trump's unpredictability is causing economic uncertainty beyond American shores. "The irony here is that Trump's erratic, chaotic approach to the economy is probably the most significant economic risk factor in the world right now. "Their response is just to show even more erratic behavior. It's economic narcissism. It's economic policy by whim, pride, ego and tantrum." The White House has continues to tout the country's high employment levels and wage growth as vindication of Trump's policies. "The fundamentals of the economy are strong because of this president's pro-growth policies," White House spokesman Judd Deere said, repeating the message that the economy is strong. This is at odds with the Democrats, who say it is heading toward a recession. Economists this week have warned that the federal budget deficit is expected to spike considerably and was on an "unsustainable" course, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). more...

By Shane Croucher
During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump made an aggressive promise on federal finances: He would eliminate the budget deficit within eight years. Now, three years into his presidency, the deficit is 68 percent higher than when he started. Trump inherited a deficit of $585 billion when he took office in January 2017. That was 58 percent lower than the $1.4 trillion former President Barack Obama inherited in 2009 following the financial crisis, a number his administration slashed over two terms. According to the latest Congressional Budget Office data released on Monday, the full-year deficit for 2019 is estimated to come in at $984 billion, just shy of the $1 trillion that many analysts were expecting. In 2018 the figure was $779 billion and in 2017 it was $665 billion. "Relative to the size of the economy, the deficit—at an estimated 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—was the highest since 2012, and 2019 was the fourth consecutive year in which the deficit increased as a percentage of GDP," the CBO said in its report. "He's got no hope of eliminating the deficit," Danny Blanchflower, professor of economics at Dartmouth College and a former monetary policymaker at the Bank of England, told Newsweek. "The only possibility is for him to increase the deficit...This looks much like the policy on Syria: Uncoordinated chaos." During the last election, Trump said he could clear America's $19 trillion of gross federal debt within eight years. To do that would mean eliminating the federal deficit, the negative difference between income and expenditure which keeps adding to the debt pile. It is now $22 trillion. "We're not a rich country. We're a debtor nation...We've got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt," Trump told The Washington Post in April 2016, several months before the election he would win. "I think I could do it fairly quickly...I would say over a period of eight years," Trump added, and suggested he would do so by renegotiating trade deals and creating trade surpluses. Yet, since taking office, Trump's trade negotiations have provided little fruit for the economy and are instead hurting the pockets of American companies and consumers that are absorbing the financial burden of the tariffs. After scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Trump administration agreed a new deal with Canada and Mexico called the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), but it is yet to be ratified by Congress. Negotiations with China are ongoing as mutual tariffs impact hundreds of billions of dollars in goods trading between the two. And talks also continue with the European Union as a similar tit-for-tat tariff war, a conflict opened by the Trump administration last year, rumbles on with no end in sight. It was initially over steel and aluminum imports but has now expanded to a range of products. These trade wars are hurting America's manufacturing sector and weakening the domestic economy. But they are also clipping global growth, which is feeding back to further dampen U.S. GDP. There is talk among economists of a possible recession coming down the line. Another major deficit issue is the Trump administration's $1 trillion package of tax cuts, which mostly benefited those with higher wealth and incomes, passed at the end of 2017. These tax cuts, the administration argued, would pay for themselves over time by fueling economic growth. But the Trump administration's spending continues to significantly outpace its receipts, widening the deficit and adding more money to the federal debt pile despite the president's claim that he could clear it. "I think the reality was that this was ideology over economics," Blanchflower told Newsweek. "I've always argued you needed stimulus, but the time they did it was wrong, how they did it was wrong, and surprise surprise this is what you get. more...

Forensic anthropologists are using ground-penetrating radar at Oaklawn Cemetery to look for evidence of long-rumored mass graves.
By DeNeen L. Brown
Nearly 100 years after a race massacre left hundreds of black people dead, Tulsa began searching for evidence that victims of one of the country’s worst episodes of racial violence were buried in mass graves. On Monday, scientists and forensic anthropologists armed with ground-penetrating radar combed the grounds of Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, looking for anomalies that might be consistent with mass graves. The cemetery, which is owned by the city, is just a few blocks from what is known as Black Wall Street. It is also the site where, in 1999, renowned forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow led a team of scientists who discovered an anomaly bearing “all the characteristics of a dug pit or trench with vertical walls and an undefined object within the approximate center of the feature,” the Tulsa Race Riot Commission concluded in its 2001 report. Along with testimony from a witness of the massacre, the report said, “this trench-like feature takes on the properties of a mass grave.” The commission recommended excavation, but the city decided not to dig for physical evidence. Last year, Mayor G.T. Bynum (R) announced that he would reopen the investigation into mass graves, calling it a murder investigation. The announcement followed a Washington Post story about the unresolved questions surrounding the massacre. “We owe it to the community to determine if there are mass graves in our city,” Bynum told The Post at the time. “We owe it to the victims and their family members.” The city is obligated to find out what happened in 1921 as Tulsa prepares to mark the 100th anniversary of the rampage, he said. more...

By Audrey McNamara
President Trump on Monday doubled down on his unexpected decision late Sunday night to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, leaving America’s Kurdish allies to fend for themselves against ISIS and an imminent attack from Turkey. Despite widespread backlash for the snap decision—even from a Fox & Friends host—Trump declared his inimitable forethought and threatened to destroy Turkey’s economy if they attack the U.S. military’s Kurdish allies, as they intend to do. “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over... the captured ISIS fighters and families,” Trump tweeted. The president then reiterated his claims that the U.S. has taken out “100% of the ISIS Caliphate.” Trump also claimed caliphate obliteration in the official White House press release, but left Turkey to manage the aftermath. “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial “Caliphate” by the United States,” reads the press release. “It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory,” Trump tweeted Monday. more...

Scottish government says US president’s company has not accepted bill of tens of thousands of pounds
By Severin Carrell Scotland editor
Donald Trump’s family firm is refusing to accept a legal bill worth tens of thousands of pounds after he lost a lengthy court battle against a windfarm near his Aberdeenshire golf course, according to the Scottish government. A Scottish court ruled in February this year the Trump Organization had to pay the Scottish government’s legal costs after his attempt to block an 11-turbine windfarm in Aberdeen Bay ended with defeat in the UK supreme court in 2015. The Scottish government has said Trump’s firm has refused to accept the sum it had put forward or reach an agreement on costs, so the case is now in the hands of a court-appointed adjudicator. “As the amount of expenses has not been agreed, we are awaiting a date for the auditor of the court of session to determine the account. We expect payment when this has been completed,” a government spokeswoman said. more...

By JAKE SHERMAN, ANNA PALMER, GARRETT ROSS and ELI OKUN
MAYBE SO, MAYBE NOT!, SYRIA EDITION: SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA.) to Sarah Ferris today in a quiet Capitol about President DONALD TRUMP’S plan to pull out of Syria: “I understand he’s reconsidering. I do not think we should abandon the Kurds.” IF YOU LISTEN TO THE WHITE HOUSE, and the parade of people who say they are close to TRUMP, the president does not want to be impeached, because he sees it as a stain on his legacy. BUT, at this point, the Republicans’ strategy is actually making it more likely the president will swiftly be impeached in the House -- though a conviction in the Senate is, of course, another story. AFTER U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. David Sondland was blocked by the Trump administration from testifying on Capitol Hill (read Kyle Cheney), House Intel Chairman ADAM SCHIFF (D-Calif.) said this: “the failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress. A co-equal branch of government.” IN OTHER WORDS: Democrats feel like they can ring TRUMP up right now on charges that he is directing his administration to block Congress. TRUMP’S reason for blocking testimony and document production is that he doesn’t like the process Democrats are using -- a function of Democrats being in the majority. BUT … IF REPUBLICANS HAVE SUCCEEDED in anything in this impeachment process, it’s this: They have forced everyone to talk about process, not substance. REPUBLICANS WHO ARE TAKING THE LEAD in defending TRUMP say the reason the president won’t hand over witnesses is because Schiff’s process is akin to a kangaroo court. Democrats are being forced onto procedural grounds because of the president’s blocking of Sondland. “WE UNDERSTAND THE REASON why the State Department decided not to have Ambassador Sondland appear today,” Rep. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) said this morning. “It’s based on the unfair and partisan process that Mr. Schiff has been running. You think about what the Democrats are trying to do: impeach the president of the United States 13 months prior to an election based on an anonymous whistleblower with no first-hand knowledge who has a bias against the president.” -- KEEPING TRACK: The president had this team defending him today in the Capitol: Reps. Mark Meadows (N.C.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Lee Zeldin (N.Y.). They answered questions. Schiff spoke to reporters, and didn’t answer questions this time. THE DANGER FOR THE PRESIDENT … NOT WHAT THE NRCC’S TOUTING! -- WAPO’S DAN BALZ and SCOTT CLEMENT: “Poll: Majority of Americans say they endorse opening of House impeachment inquiry of Trump”: “The poll finds that, by a margin of 58 percent to 38 percent, Americans say the House was correct to undertake the inquiry. Among all adults, 49 percent say the House should take the more significant step to impeach the president and call for his removal from office. Another 6 percent say they back the start of the inquiry but do not favor removing Trump from office, with the remainder undecided about the president’s ultimate fate. The results among registered voters are almost identical. … more...

By Marik von Rennenkampff, Opinion Contributor
President Trump’s impeachment defense rests entirely on thoroughly debunked right-wing conspiracy theories. As Senator and former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney aptly noted, Republicans now find themselves on a Machiavellian (and Faustian) crusade to maintain power at all costs — facts, logic and duty to country be damned. If historically-timid Democrats take their dedication to the rule of law and the Constitution seriously, they'll realize that much of Trump’s political base is impervious to arguments – no matter how logical or factually sound – made outside of the truth-starved, conspiracy theory-peddling right wing media bubble. Welcome to Trumpian America. With that reality in mind, Democrats should relentlessly promote the astutely spirited analysis of Fox News’ chief judicial correspondent. Judge Napolitano has stated on multiple live television interviews that in pushing a foreign leader to perform a political “favor” for him, Trump engaged in “criminal and impeachable behavior.” In an era where powerful right wing echo chambers reign supreme, Napolitano’s assessment is a messaging gold mine for constitutionally-minded (yet painfully PR-illiterate) Democrats. Indeed, given Fox News’ catnip-like effect on Trump’s red-meat base, one must ask why Democrats are not squeezing every ounce of messaging value out of Napolitano’s spot-on legal analysis. Democrats, apparently, continue to lack the go-for-the-jugular mentality that their right wing counterparts have successfully embraced for decades. Judge Napolitano’s blistering take, especially in the context of the roiling internal conflict between Fox News’ reporting and commentary divisions, should be a Democratic talking point, repeated ad nauseam, in every single media appearance. The same goes for Fox News characterizing a series of text messages exchanged by U.S. diplomats as “devastating” to Trump. Equally noteworthy is a former Republican senator’s stunning suggestion that “at least 35” of his former GOP colleagues would privately vote to impeach Trump. Relentless promotion of these explosive Fox News pieces knocks the GOP on its heels and forces Trump’s base into the challenging position of defending its own propaganda machine. Of course, in an era of (per Fox News) “astonishing” and “deeply misleading” right wing spin, the occasional dissension from Trumpian orthodoxy, by itself, is not going to cut it. more...

“Overall the staff of these agencies is down and continues to go down. I think you’re going to see a brain drain continue until the end of this administration," one former official said.
By Phil McCausland
The Trump administration announced in June that it would move two Department of Agriculture research agencies — the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture — and their 547 employees from Washington, D.C., to a rented office in Kansas City, Missouri, within three months. That sudden announcement and the aggressive timeline that accompanied it led hundreds of employees to resign or retire early, leaving the two critical institutions gutted. Now more than a dozen scientists, researchers, economists and experts who are currently or were formerly employed by multiple federal agencies, including the ERS and the NIFA, told NBC News the effective dismantling of these two agencies is only the latest hit, but it is the most illustrative of the administration’s intentions: to remove or neuter evidence-based research. As of now, only 16 from the ERS and 45 from the NIFA have made the move to Kansas City — a very small percentage of the total workforce. That has left the ERS, which publishes data and research about American agriculture, and the NIFA, an agency that manages $1.7 billion of science funding, effectively crippled. And despite the USDA’s insistence that they are hiring at a rapid clip, many remain skeptical that the two agencies will ever recover. The pace of the move, employees said, was frantic, leaving many to decide by the last Friday in September whether they would move their families and lives west or be fired the following Monday. Numerous current and former employees across multiple agencies, from the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management, pointed to a comment acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made in August that, they said, reveals the motivation for the moves. Mulvaney said relocating the two USDA offices out of Washington was an example of the administration circumventing the roadblocks to firing federal employees and “draining the swamp.” “By simply saying to people, ‘You know what? We’re going to take you outside the bubble, outside the Beltway, outside this liberal haven of Washington, D.C., and move you out into the real world into the real part of the country, they quit,” Mulvaney said at a South Carolina Republican Party dinner, noting the difficulty he had in firing federal employees. “What a wonderful way to kind of streamline government and do what we haven’t been able to do for a long time.” more...

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - Less than an hour before he was scheduled to testify in front of the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday regarding his role in the pressure campaign against Ukraine, the State Department banned US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland from appearing before the committee. "Ambassador Sondland is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today," said the ambassador's lawyer in a statement. "Ambassador Sondland hopes that the issues raised by the State Department that preclude his testimony will be resolved promptly." That last-minute decision by the State Department seems directly at odds with President Donald Trump's repeated insistence that his phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was "perfect" and that he retained the "absolute right" to ask foreign countries to investigate corruption. If Trump -- and, by extension, his State Department -- are completely certain they were acting appropriately, why keep Sondland from testifying to that effect? If there is truly nothing to hide here and everything that Trump and his people did was "perfect," why not let Sondland tell that story? Could it be that Sondland, in several text exchanges with former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who testified before the Intelligence Committee last week, seems to resist putting anything other than Trump talking points in writing when questioned about whether there was an unstated quid pro quo to force Ukraine to open an investigation into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter? Remember this text exchange from early September between Sondland and Bill Taylor, a US diplomat in Ukraine: Taylor: Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations? Sondland: Call me. Did Taylor call? What did Sondland say to him on that call? What was Taylor's reaction? Was he convinced that there was no aid-for-investigation deal? If so, what convinced him? Those are just a few of the important questions Sondland would have had to answer in his testimony today. And again, if the administration believes -- truly believes -- it has nothing to hide, then why not let Sondland talk? If nothing was wrong and more transparency will show how "perfect" Trump's handling of the Zelensky call truly was, then why not shine as bright a light as possible on Sondland's actions? (Sidebar: This is the exact same argument I made when Trump debated for months whether or not to sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller. If you have nothing at all to hide, it is in your best interest to get all the facts out and answer every possible question, right? Right!) more...

By Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – A federal judge will hear arguments Tuesday from the House Judiciary Committee, which is demanding the grand jury evidence behind special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The panel subpoenaed the evidence as part of the wide-ranging impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, who calls the inquiry a partisan witch hunt. The Judiciary Committee is focusing on potential obstruction of justice, as described in 10 episodes in the Mueller report. But Attorney General William Barr redacted grand jury evidence from the report and argued against disclosing it under the subpoena. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, chief judge for the D.C. district who oversees the grand jury, is hearing the case. Her ruling could resolve a key dispute about the status of the House's investigation of Trump. Six committees have been conducting investigations of Trump since Democrats regained control of the chamber in January. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced Sept. 24 that all of the inquiries now fall under the umbrella of a formal impeachment investigation and that no floor vote is necessary. But Republicans have argued that only the full House can authorize an impeachment inquiry. Mueller’s 22-month investigation found no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia, despite that country's sweeping and systematic effort to influence the 2016 election. But the report released in April outlined potential obstruction when Trump tried to thwart the special counsel inquiry and have Mueller removed. Mueller made no decision about whether to charge Trump with obstruction because Justice Department policy forbids charging a president while in office. The Judiciary Committee subpoenaed grand jury evidence to explore Trump’s knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the election, the president’s knowledge of potential criminal acts by his campaign or administration, and actions taken by former White House counsel Don McGahn. The Mueller report described episodes when Trump directed McGahn to remove the special counsel, which McGahn ignored. “The full Mueller report provides an essential roadmap for the committee’s efforts to uncover all facts relevant to Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election and to any attempts by the president to prevent Congress from learning the truth about those attacks along with their aftermath,” said the legal filing by Douglas Letter, general counsel for the House. “The committee’s interest in obtaining a limited disclosure of these materials far outweighs any interests in secrecy.” The House included a 1974 letter from the Watergate era as an exhibit. Rep. Peter Rodino, D-N.Y., who was then head of the Judiciary Committee, wrote to U.S. District Court Judge John Sirica asking for grand jury materials in the investigation of President Richard Nixon. Rodino cited a House vote of 410-4 to authorize an impeachment investigation. The Justice Department has argued against releasing the grand jury evidence behind Mueller's report. In a written filing, the department said a “minuscule” 0.1% of the report dealing with potential obstruction of justice was redacted. And the department said releasing the evidence could hurt pending cases that grew out of the Mueller investigation. more...

By Niv Elis
The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday. The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis. The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent. The CBO has warned that the nation's debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs. Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year. Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO," said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks. "This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse," he added. more...

By Kathleen Romig
This summer’s budget deal between President Trump and congressional leaders offers enough total discretionary dollars to give the Social Security Administration (SSA) a much-needed funding boost in 2020, but the Senate majority plans to cut $2.7 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars from the appropriations bill that funds SSA operations. That bill, in turn, would reduce SSA funding by more than 2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms. The companion House bill would slightly increase SSA funding, but by barely enough to offset inflation in 2020 — and not nearly enough to offset years of underfunding before then. For SSA to provide high-quality service to a growing population, policymakers must boost funding substantially. SSA’s years of cuts have taken their toll. From 2010 to 2019, its operating budget fell nearly 11 percent in inflation-adjusted terms — even as the number of Social Security beneficiaries grew by 17 percent. (See chart.) As a result, SSA has lost 12 percent of its staff since 2010, hampering its ability to perform its essential services, such as determining eligibility in a timely manner for retirement, survivor, and disability benefits; paying benefits accurately and on time; responding to questions from the public; and updating benefits promptly when circumstances change. As workloads and costs have grown — and budgets and staffing have shrunk — SSA’s service delivery has worsened: more...

By Ephrat Livni
The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday on the constitutionality of a Louisiana law that allows criminal convictions based on jury verdicts that aren’t unanimous. Justice Brett Kavanaugh pointed out that the Louisiana law had racist roots. He noted that there were two “practical reasons” to overrule the precedent the state relied on. One was unfairness to defendants who may well have a constitutional right to a unanimous jury, and the other was the law’s apparently racist intent. “The rule in question here is rooted in a—in racism, you know, rooted in a desire, apparently, to diminish the voices of black jurors,” the justice told the state’s solicitor general, Elizabeth Murrill. “Why aren’t those two things enough to overrule… unfairness to defendants and rooted in racism?” he asked Murrill. She replied that the law was not “fundamentally unfair.” But Kavanaugh didn’t look convinced. Although the conservative justice seems a somewhat unlikely champion of minorities, he recently also authored the majority opinion in a case reversing a quadruple murder conviction based on a racist jury selection process and is actually steeped in the topic. The opinion was an eloquent condemnation of racism. Kavanaugh’s unexpected question was just one sign that, as ever, it will be impossible to predict where the justices fall on any issue until they reveal their decisions. In the jury case, Stanford University law school professor Jeffrey Fisher argued for the petitioner, Evangelista Ramos, that the Louisiana law is unconstitutional. Although a unanimous jury trial is guaranteed in federal criminal cases, Louisiana argues that it has leeway under Supreme Court precedent to create its own standards and that Ramos’s conviction for murder by a jury verdict of 10-2 should stand. Fisher argued that a unanimous jury verdict of even just six people is more trustworthy than a decision reached without unanimity by a majority of 12 or 20 or more. Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged “the functionalist argument about numbers,” and then asked dismissively: “Got anything else?” more...

By Marc Champion and Henry Meyer
President Donald Trump said his decision to shift U.S. troops out of the path of a threatened Turkish military incursion in Syria will be regretted most by Russia and China. They “love to see us bogged down” in expensive military quagmires, he tweeted on Monday. To some Russian and U.S. analysts and officials, however, Moscow is likely to be a major beneficiary of the move. A complete U.S. pullout would remove Russia’s only military equal from the contest to shape Syria’s future, according to Trump’s former envoy for combating the so-called Islamic State, Brett McGurk. He has argued since resigning his post in December that in place of the U.S., Moscow would then have to deal with Turkey, a weaker and more compliant regional player. What’s more, with Syria’s Kurds no longer protected by the U.S., Russia will face less resistance as it tries to secure its main goal there -- a political settlement that returns the entire country to the control of President Bashar al-Assad. Having swayed the course of the Syrian conflict, Russia is now in the throes of a return to its Cold War days as a power in the Middle East. Unreliable Ally: More broadly, a White House decision to abandon the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Defense Force -- an ally which provided ground troops for the U.S.-led fight to defeat Islamic State in Syria -- risks deepening a narrative of American unreliability that began during the 2011 Arab Spring. The U.S. was widely seen in the region as having failed to give then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a long-time ally, the support he needed to survive the protests. more...

By Emily Tillett, Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket, Grace Segers
Washington -- U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was scheduled to be interviewed by Congress Tuesday as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, was ordered not to appear for his deposition by the the State Department, according to a statement issued by his attorney. Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and a key witness to the Trump-Ukraine dealings. Sondland's lawyer, Robert Luskin said in the statement that Sondland "is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today" and went on to say that the ambassador had traveled from Brussels for the testimony and made arrangements with the Joint Committee staff to appear. Sondland "believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States" and remains ready to testify "on short notice," Luskin said. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters on Tuesday that Sondland was in possession of documents on his "personal device" related to Ukraine which the State Department is withholding from the committee. "The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress," Schiff said. Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee is considering "extraordinary moves" to protect the whistleblower's identity in a still-unscheduled upcoming interview, according to one lawmaker. "We have to take all precautions, because we cannot burn his or her identity," Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi told CBS News. The potential measures -- including obscuring the whistleblower's appearance and voice -- were first reported by The Washington Post on Monday. more...

By Audrey McNamara
Amid the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Attorney General William Barr has reportedly placed his focus on a conspiracy theory that the origins of the Russia investigation were corrupt, The Washington Post reports. Barr has allegedly used Justice Department resources in order to track down Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious professor from Malta at the center of the Russia probe. During the 2016 election, Mifsud allegedly promised George Papadopoulos, Trump’s then-campaign aide, that he could provide Russian intelligence on opponent Hillary Clinton. That interaction helped the FBI open the Mueller investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mifsud later applied for police protection in Italy after disappearing from Link University, according to Italian justice ministry public records. As part of the application, the professor gave a taped deposition to explain his need for protection. Last week, Barr was spotted in Italy meeting with Italian secret service agents, to listen to Mifsud’s tape, and potentially ask for information on his whereabouts. “It just seems like they’re doing everything they can to delegitimize the origins of that investigation,” one person involved the Mueller investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post. more...

By Jason Lemon
Republican presidential candidate Bill Weld warned GOP lawmakers in the Senate that they could face difficult re-election battles if they do not hold President Donald Trump accountable for his actions amid the impeachment inquiry. "Even if they can't find it in their conscience to do the right thing, [Republican senators] are gonna have to be concerned," Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, warned during a Monday interview with CNN's New Day. "And my concern, on behalf of those Republican senators, most of whom I know...is they're gonna be blown away, just as happened after the Nixon impeachment [inquiry]," he added, suggesting many would not get re-elected in 2020. "You'll have a very Democratic Senate next year," the Republican politician predicted. He explained that GOP senators would likely be looking to see how significantly public opinion shifted against the president as they considered whether to turn on Trump. Former President Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in 1974 to avoid being impeached. His successor and former vice president, President Gerald Ford, then fully and unconditionally pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed. In what was widely seen as fallout from the Watergate scandal, Republicans lost four Senate seats and 49 House seats in the following midterm election. Trump and his supporters have dismissed the impeachment inquiry, formally launched by Democrats at the end of September, as purely "partisan" and a "witch hunt." However, several prominent GOP lawmakers have voiced publicly their concerns over the president's actions toward Ukraine, as well as China. "By all appearances, the President's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling," Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, posted to Twitter on Friday. The controversy engulfing Trump's White House centers on the president pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation to tarnish his political rival, Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have repeatedly pushed unsubstantiated and debunked claims against Biden, attempting to portray Biden as having acted corruptly in the Eastern European nation. However, no evidence to support the allegations has been revealed. more...

By Lauren Kent, Nina dos Santos, Zahid Mahmood and Chandelis Duster, CNN
Vilnius, Lithuania (CNN) - US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday that he "absolutely" asked President Donald Trump "multiple times" to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but about energy -- not the Bidens -- and said he is not leaving his role in the administration. Speaking at a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, Perry said that he told Trump that it was in the best interest of the two nations to have discussions regarding energy issues. His response comes on the heels of reports that Trump told lawmakers Perry urged him to make the July 25 call that has become a key focus of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into the President. "Absolutely, I asked the President multiple times. 'Mr. President, we think it is in the United States and in Ukraine's best interest that you and the President of Ukraine have conversations and discuss the options that are there,'" Perry said Monday. "So absolutely yes." Perry was not part of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, his spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes told CNN in an email Monday. Hynes also said that "Hunter and Joe Biden have never come up in the Secretary's conversations on Ukraine." CNN previously reported that some text messages released by former US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker showed that Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was working to set up the call with Zelensky. The texts also show that several other US diplomats, including Volker, were working to arrange the conversation. The Energy Department confirmed on Sunday that Perry "supported and encouraged" Trump to speak with Zelensky on matters related to energy and the economy. Energy issues, though, were not discussed during the July phone conversation between the two leaders, according to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House. The transcript instead revealed Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Joe Biden and the activities of the former vice president's son, Hunter, who had been on a board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. more...

By Tareq Haddad
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been threatened with the possibility of jail after a judge deemed she was violating a court order for continuing to collect student debts on a now-defunct school. That ruling, handed down in June of 2018, was made by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim and prevented DeVos and her Department of Education for going after former students at the bankrupt Corinthian Colleges Inc. However, Kim said she was "astounded" to discover that DeVos was violating the court order at a hearing in San Francisco on Monday after a filing by the Education Department earlier disclosed that more than 16,000 former students at Corinthian College "were incorrectly informed at one time or another ... that they had payments due on their federal student loans." At least 1,800 people reportedly lost wages or tax refunds according to the filing. "At best it is gross negligence, at worst it's an intentional flouting of my order," Kim said, reported Bloomberg. "I'm not sure if this is contempt or sanctions," she added. "I'm not sending anyone to jail yet but it's good to know I have that ability." The case traces its way back to 2015 when Corinthian had been among the largest for-profit college chains in the United States until a wave of investigations and litigation—including a complaint by the 2020 presidential hopeful and then California Attorney General Kamala Harris—alleged widespread deception and fraud. The company then filed for bankruptcy protection the same year and the federal government later ruled that as many as 335,000 former students could be entitled to have their debts cancelled under The Borrower Defense to Repayment program—an initiative started in 2016 to provide loan relief for students who had been defrauded by predatory schools. However once DeVos took over the Department of Education in 2017, numerous attempts were made to limit the scope of the program, in addition to effectively ignoring roughly 160,000 applications made for loan forgiveness, according to a New York Times report. more...

As lawmakers retreat from scrutiny, TV hosts are taking unusual steps to hold them accountable.
By MICHAEL CALDERONE
News anchors are increasingly focusing not on who’s on their shows, but who’s not: Republican lawmakers answering questions about President Trump’s efforts to cajole foreign governments into digging up dirt on his political opponents. CNN’s Jake Tapper proclaimed on Sunday that no Republican Senate or House leaders would appear on his “State of the Union” to defend Trump; over on NBC, Chuck Todd expressed exasperation at one GOP senator who did agree to appear, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for refusing to answer whether Trump’s actions were wrong.  Tapper, in an interview with POLITICO, defended the unusually aggressive posture of TV anchors by saying he doesn’t think it should be controversial to say that “using your political office to push foreign nations to dig up dirt on your political opponents” is empirically wrong, as he implored Republicans to say on his show. “This is a precedent that will destroy the concept of free and fair elections,” Tapper said on Monday. “It’s not really picking any sort of bold moral stance to say that you can’t have that. I don’t know why so few people are willing to say it.” If impeachment is largely fought in the court of public opinion, Republicans lawmakers are barely mounting a defense on television. Since the Sept. 25 release of a rough transcript of Trump urging Ukraine’s president to investigate the Bidens, none of the 53 Republican Senators have appeared on MSNBC, though a source told POLITICO the network has put out invitations to them. Just four of 197 Republican House members have appeared on MSNBC, one of whom isn’t running for reelection. Seven Republican House members have appeared on CNN during this time period, but no senators have done so. CNN anchor Jim Sciutto said Friday that more 60 Republican members of the House and Senate didn’t respond when asked if Trump went too far in publicly asking China to investigate a political rival. more...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department is withholding messages from the ambassador to the European Union that are relevant to the impeachment inquiry, the chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday. “Not only is the Congress being deprived of his testimony ... but we are also aware that the ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device, which had been provided to the State Department, although we have requested those from the ambassador, and the State Department is withholding those messages as well,” Adam Schiff told reporters. “Those messages are also deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry,” Schiff added. Representatives for the State Department could not be immediately reached for a response. The Trump administration on Tuesday blocked the ambassador, Gordon Sondland, who had agreed to appear voluntarily, from testifying behind closed doors before three House panels, including Schiff’s. more...

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) know that what Trump says about Biden just isn’t true.
By Alex Ward
Two senators over the past five days have blown a major hole in one of President Donald Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories about Ukraine. Those two lawmakers are staunch Republicans. Here’s what Trump believes: Joe Biden improperly used the power of his office as vice president to get a Ukrainian general prosecutor fired, in order to stop him from investigating a Ukrainian gas company that Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of. The reality is that Barack Obama’s administration — as well as many other Western European officials — wanted the prosecutor, a man named Viktor Shokin, removed because he was believed to be trying to stymie anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. But you don’t have to take my word for it: Take what Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have recently said about Shokin’s 2016 departure. “The whole world felt that this that Shokin wasn’t doing a [good] enough job. So we were saying, ‘Hey, you’ve ... got to rid yourself of corruption,” Johnson told the radio program The Vicki McKenna Show on Thursday. And then on Monday, Portman told Ohio’s Columbus Dispatch the same thing. While the article doesn’t contain quotes to this effect, it describes Portman as “disput[ing] Trump’s characterization of an ousted Ukrainian as an aggressive battler of corruption,” saying he and other lawmakers “believed the prosecutor wasn’t doing nearly enough to root out corruption — not because he was doing too much.” This isn’t terribly surprising. Johnson and Portman were two of three GOP senators who co-signed a bipartisan 2016 letter to Ukraine’s then-president calling for him to “press ahead with urgent reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office and judiciary.” Four days later, Shokin resigned (although he didn’t officially leave until the following month when Ukraine’s Parliament voted him out). more...

RealClearPolitics has carefully cultivated a non-partisan image—while in the shadows its parent company pushes images of killer Clintons and a freedom-loving Kremlin.
By Kevin Poulsen
The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears, The Daily Beast has learned. Called “Conservative Country,” the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes. One recent post showed a man training two assault rifles at a closed door with the caption “Just sitting here waiting on Beto.” Others wink at right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s “ties to Islam” or the Clintons having their enemies killed, or portray Muslim members of Congress as terrorist infiltrators. The page is effusive with praise for Vladimir Putin, and one post portrays Russia as the last bastion of freedom in Europe. It’s a far cry from the usual fare on RealClearPolitics. Founded in 2000, the site was an early online aggregator of political news, curating links to widely read politics stories and opinion articles in other major outlets. The site has become synonymous with its polling aggregator, which is regularly cited by news organizations on both sides of the aisle as an objective metric of major political races. In recent years, the site has expanded to cover health care, finance, foreign policy, and more. There’s no hint of Conservative Country’s provenance on its Facebook “about” page, which reads in total, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” (It’s an apocryphal quote attributed to George Washington.) But in 2017 Conservative Country was linked as the official Facebook page for a now defunct political news site using the same name and logo, ConservativeCountry.net. more...

By David Choi
The US is considering pulling out of a vital treaty with European allies and Russia, according to the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee. In a letter sent to National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York on Monday said he was "deeply concerned" by reports that the White House was considering withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty. "I request your personal engagement on this matter to ensure that the United States does not unwisely and rashly withdraw from [the treaty], which continues to serve American national security interests and is particularly important as a check against further Russian aggression against Ukraine," Engel wrote. The Open Skies Treaty was signed by the US, Russia, and 22 other countries in an effort to promote transparency amongst nations. Thirty-four countries are now members of the treaty, which was initially signed in 1992. Under Open Skies, countries that are part of the treaty must notify other nations 72 hours in advance of missions to conduct an observational flight, to which the host country has one day to respond. Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, agrees that the treaty has been beneficial for the US, its allies, and even Russia. "The treaty provides information about Russian military activities for the US and allies in Europe," Kimball said to Business Insider. "And it also provides the Russians with some insight about some of our capabilities. And that transparency reduces uncertainty and the risk of conflict due to worst-case assumptions." more...

By Joey Garrison, USA TODAY
BOSTON — As U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani prepared to sentence a Los Angeles business executive in the nation's college admissions scandal last month, she first had something to say about the motives of parents like him. The father and businessman, Devin Sloane, told the judge he "wanted what was best for my son." That's why he paid $250,000 to Rick Singer, the mastermind of a nationwide admissions scheme, to get him into the University of Southern California posing as a water polo recruit. But was Sloane really trying to help his child, the judge asked, or to make himself look good? “I find that’s at issue in all of these cases," Talwani said from the dais in the packed courtroom. "It’s not basic care-taking for your child. It’s not getting your child food or clothing. It’s not even getting your child an education. It’s getting your child into a college that you call ‘exclusive.’ "Are they doing this for their children or their own status?” Talwani, a 59-year-old President Barack Obama appointee to the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, has handed down each of the five sentences so far to parents charged in the "Varsity Blues" scandal. Each has gotten some amount of prison time. Sloane, founder and CEO of waterTALENT, received four months. more...

The FBI has verified at least 50 murders connected to Little, outnumbering the crimes of the Green River Killer, Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy.
By Doha Madani
Samuel Little is being called the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history after authorities verified more than half of the 93 murders he's confessed to during a 35-year span. The 79-year-old inmate was already serving three consecutive life sentences in California when he confessed to another 90 killings last year. On Monday, the FBI confirmed that its investigators verified 50 of those deaths and are seeking help to confirm the rest of the unmatched confessions. The FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, also known as ViCAP, began connecting Little to unsolved murders after a Texas Ranger tied the inmate to a 1994 cold case in the city of Odessa. Not long after, Little confessed to strangling 93 women across the country between 1970 and 2005. Gary Ridgway, dubbed the Green River Killer, was convicted of 49 murders and confessed to about 20 more. Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy each murdered upwards of 30 people, but Bundy was suspected of more. By Doha Madani Samuel Little is being called the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history after authorities verified more than half of the 93 murders he's confessed to during a 35-year span. The 79-year-old inmate was already serving three consecutive life sentences in California when he confessed to another 90 killings last year. On Monday, the FBI confirmed that its investigators verified 50 of those deaths and are seeking help to confirm the rest of the unmatched confessions. The FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, also known as ViCAP, began connecting Little to unsolved murders after a Texas Ranger tied the inmate to a 1994 cold case in the city of Odessa. Not long after, Little confessed to strangling 93 women across the country between 1970 and 2005. Gary Ridgway, dubbed the Green River Killer, was convicted of 49 murders and confessed to about 20 more. Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy each murdered upwards of 30 people, but Bundy was suspected of more. more...

By Rebecca Beitsch
Workers are suing over a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule that allows pork processing plants to speed up production lines, something their union says could endanger employees. The USDA rule, announced in September, would remove a cap on the speed that inspection lines can run and also reduce the number of food inspectors who look over pork products. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which filed the suit on behalf of 30,000 pork plant workers nationwide, noted that meatpacking workers are injured more than twice the average for all private industries. “Thousands of our members work hard every day in America’s pork plants to help families across the country put food on the table. Increasing pork plant line speeds not only is a reckless giveaway to giant corporations, it will put thousands of workers in harm’s way,” said Marc Perrone, president of UFCW. “This new rule also would dramatically weaken critical protections that Americans depend on to be able to select safe, healthy food to feed their families every day.” The USDA rule would give plants more power in overseeing the inspection of meat. The agency said reducing the number of USDA inspectors would save them $8.7 million. “This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a release when the rule was announced, calling it a modernization of a 50-year-old process. more...

By Benjamin Fearnow
A former Republican congressman who voted to impeach President Bill Clinton in 1998 told Fox News Saturday that the current claims against Donald Trump are far more damning. In conversation with Neil Cavuto, host of Cavuto Live, Bob Inglis, a former congressman from South Carolina, said today's Republicans need to "find the courage" to tell Trump and his base supporters the truth about his "embarrassing" alleged misdeeds. Though he warned that House Democrats may be making a mistake by pursuing impeachment against Trump, Inglis reminded viewers that "one way or another" Trump will leave office some day. He challenged Republicans to question "what legacy" their party is leaving. Inglis, who many critics say lost his congressional seat in 2010 for speaking out on climate change, acknowledged that Clinton "did perjure himself" and lie under oath in the '90s. But the former South Carolina lawmaker said the allegations regarding Trump's Ukraine and China alleged quid pro quo communications are much more pertinent to the functioning of the executive branch. "It is not OK for the president of the United States to hold up support for a country that is at war with Russia in order to achieve, if that can be proven, an advantage in an American political race," Inglis said. "Elected republicans need to find the courage to speak truth to the president, to his supporters and to our Republican base," he added. more...


Back to content