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US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 6

By Erica Orden, Evan Perez, Michael Warren and David Shortell, CNN
(CNN) - Two associates of Rudy Giuliani connected to efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden were arrested trying to leave the country and indicted on criminal charges for allegedly funneling foreign money into US elections. The charges against the men suggest Giuliani's push on Ukraine and President Donald Trump's receptiveness to it had ties to an illegal effort to influence US politics and policy using foreign funds. The indictment involves two people central to the impeachment inquiry in the House. The two Giuliani-linked defendants, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were detained at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Wednesday evening. They were booked on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, to connect to another flight, according to a law enforcement source. Federal prosecutors were not intending to unseal the indictment against the Giuliani associates and two others Thursday, according to three US officials, but had to change course when they learned of the defendants' impending departure. The two were detained as they were about to board the flight with one-way tickets, Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman told reporters Thursday. Giuliani had lunch with Fruman and Parnas at the Trump International Hotel in Washington hours before the two were arrested, The Wall Street Journal reported. Giuliani declined to comment to CNN on the report. Attorney General William Barr, who visited the Manhattan US Attorney's office Thursday in what officials said was a routine stop, was briefed on the investigation into Parnas and Fruman in February after he took office, and he supported the prosecution, according to a US Justice Department official. Overall, four men were indicted Thursday on two counts of conspiracy, one count of false statements to the Federal Election Commission and one count of falsification of records. The four are alleged in the indictment unsealed by New York federal prosecutors to have conducted a scheme beginning in March 2018 to evade campaign finance laws. Fruman and Parnas appeared in court Thursday in Virginia, where prosecutors told a judge they were concerned the two might attempt to flee. They haven't entered a plea. Along with Fruman and Parnas, Andrey Kukushkin has been arrested and is expected to appear in court Thursday in the Northern District of California, according to the Manhattan US Attorney's office. The fourth man, David Correia, hasn't been arrested. All four are US citizens, according to the indictment. An attorney for Parnas and Fruman, Kevin Downing, declined to comment on the indictment. An attorney for Kukushkin, Robert Finkle, didn't respond to a request for comment. Connection to super PAC, US congressman: Parnas was Giuliani's fixer in Ukraine, introducing him to current and former officials as far back as 2018, according to CNN's reporting. Starting in November 2018, Giuliani told CNN, Parnas and Fruman introduced him to former and current Ukrainian officials who provided information that Giuliani claims is damaging to some of Trump's political enemies, including Biden. House Democrats have subpoenaed documents from Giuliani relating to those interactions. The request from Congress is the second set of subpoenas linking Giuliani and other Trump affiliates to Parnas. The first set, part of a lawsuit filed in federal court in Florida earlier this year, sought Parnas' financial records and included a request for any work he may have done on Giuliani's behalf. They gave hundreds of thousands in donations to a Trump-allied super PAC, according to the Miami Herald. Fruman and Parnas asked a US congressman, who is not named in the indictment but appears to be former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, to help get the US ambassador to Ukraine fired at the same time that they were committing to raise tens of thousands of dollars for that congressman's reelection effort, according to the indictment. Parnas made their request to the congressman in part at the behest of one or more Ukraine government officials, the indictment states. Donations to Sessions match those laid out in the documents and he has publicly acknowledged raising criticism of the former ambassador. more...

By Sara Murray and Rene Marsh, CNN
(CNN) - A political appointee at the Office of Management and Budget took the unusual step of getting involved in signing off on freezing US aid to Ukraine this past summer -- a process normally reserved for career budget officials, according to sources familiar with the matter. Michael Duffey, OMB's associate director for national security programs and a Trump political appointee, signed at least some of the documents delaying aid to Ukraine, two sources told CNN. Normally a career budget official signs such documents. Sources told CNN it is highly unusual for a political appointee to be involved in signing off on such a freeze. In this case, career budget officials raised concerns about signing the documents because they believed such a move may have run afoul of laws requiring OMB to spend money as it is appropriated by Congress, according to a congressional aide. Duffey's role is of interest to House Democrats who are conducting an impeachment inquiry over Trump's moves to pressure Ukraine for help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either. Congressional impeachment investigators believe that there may be a paper trail at OMB that sheds light on the decision to block aid to Ukraine this summer as Trump and his allies were pressuring the new government. The decisionmaking behind the administration's moves on aid has been obscured from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Duffey's involvement is of interest to the impeachment inquiry. "The idea that administration officials would not be involved in budget execution, including apportionment authority, after decades of precedent, is absolutely ludicrous," said Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for OMB. "It is absurd to suggest that the President and his administration officials should not play a leadership role in ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent." Another source familiar with the situation said there was a legitimate reason for Duffey to personally sign off on the freeze. Relatively new to OMB, Duffey wanted a better understanding of how the apportionment process worked, a source said. The source said Duffey signed the paperwork to halt the aid based on his belief that the White House would want to review it because the President doesn't like spending on foreign aid in general. "This is a highly unusual set of circumstances that would have raised serious red flags for career officials at the Department of Defense, the State Department and OMB," said Sam Berger, a vice president at the left-leaning Center for American Progress and a former senior counselor and policy adviser at OMB. Congressional investigators looking to follow the money -- or rather, where it was frozen -- have so far hit a wall at OMB. OMB's acting director Russell Vought made it clear Wednesday that he's prepared to block requests for information from House Democrats, in line with the White House position. more...

While everyone’s focused on Ukraine, Trump is selling out to Turkey.
By William Saletan
It’s hard to keep track of President Donald Trump’s betrayals of his country. First he solicited Vladimir Putin’s help in the 2016 election. Then he teamed up with Kim Jong-un to lie about North Korea’s arsenal. Then he covered up intelligence about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the murder of a U.S. resident. Then he pressed Israel to deny entry to members of Congress. Then he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democrats. In the midst of all this madness—most recently, the administration’s stonewalling of a congressional inquiry into Trump’s coercion of Ukraine—the president has ordered American forces to get out of the way of a Turkish invasion in Syria. The troop withdrawal looks like a distraction, but it isn’t. Trump is colluding with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just as he has colluded with other authoritarians against the United States. The timeline of their relationship tells a story of disloyalty to America and its allies. Turkey infiltrates the Trump campaign. On July 19, 2016, Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president. Six days later, a Turkish-Dutch businessman opened secret talks with Trump’s foreign policy adviser, Michael Flynn. The businessman’s goal, in collaboration with Turkish officials, was to build support in Washington for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish dissident living in Pennsylvania. On Aug. 9, Flynn signed a $600,000 contract to execute the lobbying operation. He was introduced to Turkish government ministers who supported it. For the rest of the presidential campaign, Flynn worked, in effect, as a Turkish agent. Flynn spikes a plan to arm the Kurds. In December 2016, President Barack Obama decided to arm Kurdish forces—whom Erdogan regarded as enemies of Turkey—for an allied attack on the ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. Since Trump was the president-elect, Obama’s aides consulted Trump’s designated national security adviser, Flynn, about the plan. Flynn told them not to proceed. At this point, Flynn was no longer working for his Turkish clients, but they had paid him more than $500,000. A few days later, Flynn met for breakfast with Turkey’s foreign minister. more...

By Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY
Felicity Huffman's "Desperate Housewives" co-star Ricardo Chavira slammed her lenient prison sentence as "white privilege." On Sept. 13, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days behind bars for her involvement in the college admissions scandal, in addition to a $30,000 fine, supervised release for one year and 250 hours of community service for paying $15,000 to have someone correct her oldest daughter's SAT exam. Chavira – who starred on the ABC series as Carlos Solis, the husband to Eva Longoria's Gabrielle – shared his disdain for her light sentencing in a series of tweets, unearthed by Page Six. "White Privilege. And I saw Eight years worth of it, so I know what I’m talking about," he tweeted on Sept. 13, the same day as Huffman's sentencing. "Accountability and Responsibility don’t mean (expletive) to these people." He called it a "slap on the wrist." In another tweet, the Texas-born actor said he witnessed "eight years worth of (white privilege) working on 'Housewives'" from 2004-2012. His character frequently interacted with Huffman's Lynette Scavo in later seasons. "I’ve seen a lifetime of it being a halfbreed," added Chavira, who identifies as a second-generation Mexican-American. "I’ve struggled (with) the intricacies of it on a daily basis (with) all the cultural bias I’ve received on both ends." more...

Trump is reportedly considering partially lifting ban on sales to Chinese tech giant Huawei and making a currency deal.
With trade talks between the United States and China resuming this week, the US appears to have made some concessions that could help reduce tensions between the world's top two economies. The New York Times newspaper reported that the US was considering issuing licences to American companies allowing them to supply non-sensitive components to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. In May, US President Donald Trump had proposed to ban Huawei from buying parts and technology from US suppliers citing national security concerns. But the paper, citing unidentified sources, says Trump gave the green light in early October for the issuance of licences to US companies to supply Huawei with some equipment. The top negotiators from the two sides are set to meet on Thursday for the first time since late July to try to find a way out of a 15-month trade war that has forced companies to alter supply chains and been a drag on the global economy. China is urging the US to stop what it described as unreasonable pressure on Chinese companies, including Huawei, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a news briefing in Beijing ahead of the talks. Separately, the US is also considering a currency pact with China as part of a partial trade deal, the Bloomberg news agency reported, also quoting unidentified sources. Tariffs that are due to increase next week could also be suspended as part of this deal, it reported. The currency accord was something the US said had been agreed to earlier in the year before trade talks broke down. It is meant to be followed by further negotiations on core issues such as intellectual property and forced technology transfers, Bloomberg reported. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to lead the Chinese delegation in trade talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday and Friday in Washington, DC. more...

By Caroline Kelly
(CNN) - George Conway, husband to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, slammed the White House's letter refusing to cooperate in House Democrats' impeachment inquiry as "an excuse to prevent evidence, damning evidence, from reaching the public."
"This was trash," Conway said to former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York and CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara that was recorded for Bharara's "Stay Tuned with Preet" podcast airing Thursday and shared in advance by Bharara on CNN Wednesday ngiht. "The thrust of (the letter) is that there are some kind of constitutional obligations that the House has failed to meet that therefore render its impeachment inquiry illegitimate and unconstitutional, which is complete nonsense, because all the Constitution says is that the House has the sole power over impeachment," he added. The accusation from Conway -- a vocal conservative lawyer who's often at odds with his wife's boss, President Donald Trump -- come as the White House looks to put pressure on House Democrats for choosing not to hold a vote to authorize a formal impeachment inquiry. A vote is not officially needed because the Democratic caucus already has more legal authority compared to past impeachment inquiries. more...

By Justin Wise
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday said his government would "happily" open an investigation into potential interference from Ukraine in the 2016 U.S. election. The comments from Zelensky come more than two months after Trump asked the foreign president to look into matters related to Ukraine and the U.S. election during a phone call between the two leaders. The phone call is at the center of a whistleblower complaint that prompted an impeachment inquiry in the House. Speaking to reporters, Zelensky said Ukraine could not make a determination on whether it was involved in election interference without an investigation, according to The Associated Press. There is no evidence that suggests Ukraine committed any interference during the 2016 U.S. election. The U.S. intelligence community found that Russia sought to interfere in the election to hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign and to help Trump. Tom Bossert, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Trump administration, said last month that the assertion that Ukraine was responsible for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was a "conspiracy theory" that has been "completely debunked." He added in an interview with ABC that he communicated this point to Trump while working in the administration. Bossert also blamed Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other officials for pushing the theory. "At this point, I am deeply frustrated with what [Giuliani] and the legal team are doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president," Bossert said. "It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again, and for clarity let me just repeat that it has no validity." Giuliani has pushed back hard at Bossert, saying he doesn't know what he's talking about. During a July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump called on the Ukrainian president to look into matters related to CrowdStrike — a U.S.-based internet security company that initially examined the breach of the DNC servers in 2016 — after the Ukrainian leader asked about buying U.S. anti-tank missiles. "I would like you to do us a favor though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it," Trump said, according to a White House memorandum of the call. CrowdStrike determined in 2016 that Russian agents broke into the DNC's network and stole emails that were later released by WikiLeaks. Trump's broad effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son prompted House Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry last month. more...

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business
New York (CNN Business) - President Donald Trump, facing an ever-deepening scandal that threatens to swallow his presidency, appears to have lost a key ally in conservative media: The Drudge Report. The narrative-setting news aggregation website, founded in 1995 by Matt Drudge, has spotlighted an overwhelming amount of negative news for the Trump White House in the last several weeks. It's marked a major shift from how the outlet had previously covered the President. "He's reacting to changing circumstances," a person close to the media mogul, who said Drudge had grown exasperated with Trump, told CNN Business. This should worry Trump as he faces an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives for pushing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential contender, and Biden's son Hunter. In the coming weeks and months, right-wing media will be crucial to whether Trump is able to survive the growing scandal. If he loses support in that space, it would offer Republicans wiggle room to turn on him, which could endanger his presidency. Drudge, who did not return requests for comment, is especially influential in conservative media, having the ability to shape or even create news cycles. Drudge's website has for years helped set the agenda and worked as a gravitational force that has drawn other media outlets to his preferred narrative. The power he has wielded has led observers to characterize him as the de-facto assignment editor of the conservative media. "He's one of the dominoes that would have to fall for the right-wing media to allow Trump to be removed from office," said John Ziegler, a conservative who was an occasional guest host on Drudge's old radio show and writes columns on media for Mediaite. Drudge rarely reports or writes stories himself. Instead, he and his site serve as an aggregator, linking to other news organizations — and often providing them with large volumes of traffic. Drudge's views can be ascertained by looking at which stories he links to and how he frames those stories with his headlines. Previously, Trump could count on Drudge to be in his corner. During the 2016 presidential election, and in the early days of the Trump administration, Drudge was a fervent supporter. On the Drudge Report, Trump could do no wrong. The sun was almost always shining. There were signs that the honeymoon period was wearing thin in the summer of 2017, but despite some wobbliness in their relationship, Drudge ultimately seemed to be staying loyal to the President. At least until now. Not only is Drudge's website aggressively covering the impeachment news, it is doing so by featuring commentary from some of the president's fiercest critics or the harshest criticism of him. For instance, on Friday the top link on the Drudge Report, colored in red, was a link to Fox News judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano calling Trump's behavior "criminal and impeachable." Other links Drudge featured that day included Fox host Shepard Smith suggesting Trump may have violated the law on live television and "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd saying the current scandal is a "national nightmare." The change in tone toward Trump hasn't gone unnoticed. Jim Hoft, the founder of the right-wing Gateway Pundit blog, recently published a blog post asking, "What Happened to Matt Drudge?" Contending that the website had taken a "pro-impeachment slant," Hoft wrote, "Dear Matt Drudge -- Please come home." Jerome Corsi, a prominent right-wing conspiracy theorist, has repeatedly tweeted about the change in coverage, saying Drudge has "lost his mind," "turned left," and become a "leftist hack beating [the] impeachment drum." more...

By Evan Perez, Michael Warren, Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins, CNN
Washington (CNN)Even as the White House appears to settle on the legal tactics to stave off Democrats' impeachment demands, uncertainty and unease over Trump's messaging approach remains high among his Republican allies, who see the ever-growing inquiry consuming the White House. Trump has offered scant indication he is turning his focus to governing, despite his lawyers writing in a letter to Democrats that "he remains focused on fulfilling his promises to the American people." Instead, the President has spent hours tweeting about the impeachment and lighting up the phone lines of his allies on Capitol Hill -- including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to whom he's stressed the importance of Republican unity. In private, Trump is increasingly leaning on the Republican leader in the Senate. In a return to the President's panicked behavior during the height of the Mueller investigation, Trump is calling McConnell as often as three times a day, according to a person familiar with the conversations. McConnell has told a small number of Republicans about the President's calls. "This story, based on a single anonymous source, is categorically false. Leader McConnell never said anything like this," Doug Andres, a McConnell spokesman, said. Trump has been lashing out at GOP senators he sees as disloyal, according to the person familiar with the conversations, telling McConnell he will amplify attacks on those Republicans who criticize him. McConnell faces his own dilemma of having to preserve the Republican majority in the Senate, while also placating an erratic President who demands nothing short of total loyalty. That will become harder as more details about Trump's dealings with Ukraine trickle out. Trump has already demonstrated his willingness to go after Republican defectors. After Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said it was "wrong and appalling" for Trump to suggest Ukraine and China investigate Joe Biden, Trump unloaded, calling Romney a "pompous ass" and suggesting Romney himself be impeached. Trump has also been mistrustful of Republicans who are reticent to defend him publicly, often lamenting that Democrats are much better at staying in line with their party heads than his own. more...

The ambassador was responding to the senior diplomat's remark that it would be “crazy” to link Ukraine assistance to help with a political campaign.
By Josh Lederman, Heidi Przybyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland consulted directly with President Donald Trump before telling the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that there had been "no quid pro quo” regarding the administration's pressure campaign on the country and urging the diplomat to stop texting about his concerns, a person with knowledge of the call confirmed to NBC News. Sondland spoke to Trump by phone on Sept. 9 before responding to acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor's remark that it would be “crazy” to link Ukraine assistance to help with a political campaign, the person said. When Sondland responded several hours later, he told Taylor that Trump had been “crystal clear” that there had been no quid pro quo. The conversation between Trump and Sondland was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Trump administration's alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son while the U.S. withheld military aid to the country have given rise to an impeachment investigation in the House. According to the individual and two congressional aides, Sondland, Taylor and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker also used the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, in addition to regular text messages, to communicate about the administration's Ukraine efforts. The use of WhatsApp has raised questions about the potential problems it could pose for complying with federal record-keeping requirements. more...

By Morgan Chalfant
President Trump on Wednesday criticized the Kurds, saying they didn't help the United States during World War II and that they were only fighting for their land in Syria during the battle against ISIS. “The Kurds are fighting for their land,” Trump told reporters at the White House during an event in the Roosevelt Room. “And as somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy as an example. They mentioned names of different battles. But they’re there to help us with their land and that’s a different thing.” Trump did not specify to which article he was referring, but some on Twitter pointed to an article written in TownHall by conservative Kurt Schlichter that included a reference to the Kurds and Normandy. The remarks from Trump at the White House came as Turkey launched an offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish forces that had been allied with the United States in the fight on terror. Trump paved the way for the Turkish offensive when he announced earlier this week, to a GOP furor, that he was withdrawing U.S. forces from that part of Syria. Some of Trump's staunchest Republican allies have ripped the move, calling it a betrayal of a loyal U.S. ally in the Kurds. Trump insisted the U.S. has spent “tremendous amounts of money” helping the Kurds purchase ammunition and weapons. more...

The ambassador was responding to the senior diplomat's remark that it would be “crazy” to link Ukraine assistance to help with a political campaign.
By Josh Lederman, Heidi Przybyla and Leigh Ann Caldwell
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland consulted directly with President Donald Trump before telling the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine that there had been "no quid pro quo” regarding the administration's pressure campaign on the country and urging the diplomat to stop texting about his concerns, a person with knowledge of the call confirmed to NBC News. Sondland spoke to Trump by phone on Sept. 9 before responding to acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor's remark that it would be “crazy” to link Ukraine assistance to help with a political campaign, the person said. When Sondland responded several hours later, he told Taylor that Trump had been “crystal clear” that there had been no quid pro quo. The conversation between Trump and Sondland was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Trump administration's alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son while the U.S. withheld military aid to the country have given rise to an impeachment investigation in the House. According to the individual and two congressional aides, Sondland, Taylor and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker also used the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, in addition to regular text messages, to communicate about the administration's Ukraine efforts. The use of WhatsApp has raised questions about the potential problems it could pose for complying with federal record-keeping requirements. Volker turned over a score of text messages to Congress last week as part of his joint deposition to three House committees leading the chamber's impeachment investigation. House Democrats made some of those text messages public, and congressional officials say they have more text messages between the three administration officials that have not been released. Sondland, who has emerged as a central player in Trump's bid to persuade Ukraine’s new government to commit publicly to investigate corruption and the president's political opponents, was scheduled to be interviewed Tuesday by the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry, but was barred from doing so by the State Department. A statement distributed by his attorney, Robert Luskin, on Tuesday made clear that the State Department was blocking Sondland from testifying over his objections. The statement said Sondland was “profoundly disappointed” he couldn’t testify, having traveled to Washington from Brussels to do so. Sondland was ready to testify “on short notice” once the State Department’s concerns about his testimony are resolved, Luskin said. more...

By Jason Lemon
A former prosecutor who previously defended President Donald Trump's attorney general, William Barr, said on Wednesday that he was "flat-out wrong" and that he was "deeply disappointed." "I had said for months that...Barr was a principled institutionalist," said Chuck Rosenberg, who previously served as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia as well as the Southern District of Texas, during a segment of MSNBC's Morning Joe. "I was flat-out wrong," he continued. "I had it wrong. I have been deeply disappointed by what I've seen." Rosenberg said the "first thing" that really "shook" him was when he saw Barr's "mischaracterization" of special counsel Robert Mueller's final report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. "Once that lie is out there, it's really hard for the truth to catch up," said the former prosecutor, who also served in the Obama and Trump administrations as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "We saw that with the Mueller report," Rosenberg said, noting that people "still don't understand" what was found in the investigation. Democrats, and some conservatives, were highly critical of the attorney general's handling of the release of Mueller's report. Even members of Mueller's investigatory team expressed their frustration with Barr's actions, and the former special counsel himself urged Barr to move more rapidly to release significant portions of the document to avoid the spread of misinformation. more...

By Jeremy Stahl
The White House efforts to obstruct Congress’ impeachment investigation reached new and dramatic heights both on the Hill and in federal court on Tuesday. In a story that garnered widespread attention, the State Department in the morning blocked a critical witness in Congress’ impeachment inquiry from testifying about President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and potentially tie critical military aid to those investigations. Meanwhile, in a less-noticed federal court hearing later in the day, the Department of Justice sought to block the release of the remaining redacted materials of the Mueller report and underlying evidence from Congress, arguing that if Watergate happened today, it would be able to prevent the release of grand jury evidence to Congress and the public. To keep the evidence from Congress, the Justice Department is seeking to overturn a critical Nixon-era case that allowed the Watergate grand jury to turn over evidence to congressional investigators as part of an impeachment inquiry. The government’s “extraordinary position” made Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the District Court for the District of Columbia say, “Wow.” The exasperated moment came as part of a hearing on the House Judiciary Committee’s request for Howell to issue an order commanding the DOJ to turn over the remaining redacted portions of the Mueller report along with critical underlying evidence. The precedent in question rests on the 1974 case Haldeman v. Sirica. In March 1974, shortly after Congress initiated its impeachment inquiry of President Richard Nixon, then-Chief Judge John Sirica, ordered materials from the Watergate grand jury turned over to Congress in what would come to be known as the “Watergate road map” for impeachment. Defendants accused of and eventually convicted for trying to cover up Watergate argued that Rule 6(E) of the federal code governing grand juries, which lays out limited exceptions that allow the disclosure of grand jury materials, prevented the release. Sirica ruled that an impeachment, as a judicial proceeding, qualified as one of those exceptions and thus the materials had to be released to Congress. more... - Barr is protecting Trump.

By Tara Law
When President Donald Trump announced that his signature wall at the U.S.’s southern border would be “virtually impenetrable” while visiting San Diego last month, Rick Weber, who co-founded the Muir Valley rock climbing park in Rogers, Kentucky, was listening. “You don’t tell a bona fide rock climber something’s impossible to climb,” Weber tells TIME. Weber took the President’s claim as a challenge. He says he constructed his own replica of the wall, relying on the wall’s official dimensions as well as recent images of the structure. This weekend, Weber is planning to invite climbers attending the “Rocktoberfest” rock climbing festival at the nearby Red River Gorge canyon system in Kentucky to climb the model. Guests will be challenged to compete to climb up and over the wall in the fastest time.  Several people have already managed to climb up the wall replica, including 8-year-old Lucy Hancock. Hancock didn’t use any ropes or other tools to climb the wall, but wore a belay, a safety device designed to catch a falling climber. An adult climber, Erik Kloeker, was up and over the wall in about 40 seconds. Lucy’s mother, Karla Hancock, tells TIME that her daughter has shown a natural inclination toward politics and rock climbing from a young age. Recently, Karla says Lucy has been interested in immigration, although the third-grader has found the national dialogue about immigration policy to be confusing. “To her, it’s black and white: If somebody’s hungry, and you have the means to give to them, why couldn’t you?” Hancock says. more...

By W.J. Hennigan and John Walcott October 9, 2019
As Turkish warplanes bomb U.S.-backed Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria, the Trump Administration has yet to draw up a strategy to safeguard and maintain the more than 30 detention camps that hold tens of thousands of ISIS fighters, families and sympathizers spread across the region. The Kurds, part of the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, control facilities holding about 11,000 ISIS detainees across northern Syria. They also run a camp for internally displaced persons known as al-Hol, in northeastern Syria, that holds nearly 70,000 people. Among them are thousands of ISIS family members, according to a recent Defense Department Inspector General’s report. The U.S. military has no plans to take over these camps and, with only about 1,000 total troops inside Syria, is not prepared to do so, U.S. officials told TIME. If the Kurds abandon their guard posts to defend their homes against the Turkish military incursion, thousands of ISIS operatives are likely to escape, U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence officials have concluded. Past and present U.S. military commanders have shared that assessment directly with President Donald Trump, but he has rebuffed the warnings and demanded that Turkey take control of the camps, the officials say. Most of the camps remain outside the area that Turkey is expected to occupy, and the Kurds have said they will remain in control over the detainees. But that may prove difficult if fighting in their home territory intensifies. In early 2018, hundreds of Kurds opted to abandon fighting positions against ISIS in eastern Syria to assist Kurdish forces fighting Turkish military in another skirmish in Afrin, in northwestern Syria. more...

By Suzy Byrne
The former NBC employee whose complaint against Matt Lauer led to his firing told her story to Ronan Farrow for his new book, Catch and Kill. Variety obtained a copy of the book, out Oct. 15, and it reportedly includes an interview with former NBC News employee Brooke Nevils. Her complaint against Lauer led to his firing in 2017, but NBC News kept her identity anonymous, at her request, and the details of her allegations against Lauer had not been made public. In the book, Nevils alleges that Lauer anally raped her in his hotel room at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. On Wednesday, Lauer told Variety the accusation is “categorically false, ignores the facts, and defies common sense.” He called the encounter an “extramarital affair.” Read his entire statement here. In the book, Nevils told Farrow that she was in Sochi to work with former Today co-host Meredith Vieira, who was doing special Olympics coverage for NBC. While having drinks at the hotel bar, they saw Lauer, who joined them. Nevils, who says she had six shots of vodka during the night, ended up going to Lauer’s room later that night. First to pick up her press credential, which Lauer took as a joke. She returned a second time after he invited her. While Nevils said she “had no reason to suspect Lauer would be anything but friendly based on prior experience,” she told Farrow that when she returned, she found him in his boxers and T-shirt, and he pushed her on the bed and asked if she likes anal sex, Variety’s report claims. Nevils said she declined multiple times, but Lauer “just did it,” Farrow wrote in the book. She said she cried the whole time and was in terrible pain. “It was nonconsensual in the sense that I was too drunk to consent,” Nevils told Farrow. “It was nonconsensual in that I said, multiple times, that I didn’t want to have anal sex.” more...

By Kristine Phillips, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Rudolph Giuliani’s ties to Ukraine stretch back to at least 2008, when he announced that his firm was advising a former boxing champion who was running to be mayor of the capital city of Kiev. Then, in 2017, about a year before President Donald Trump hired him to be his personal attorney, Giuliani Safety & Security began working for the city of Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine. Press releases described the firm as a consultant on Kharkiv's emergency response and security issues. Giuliani’s emergence as a central figure in an effort to push Ukraine to investigate Trump’s potential presidential rival – a scandal that has led to an impeachment inquiry – has raised fresh questions about the former New York City mayor’s business ties and public appearances in Ukraine and other countries. One possible line of inquiry – and one that Senate Democrats have been pushing – is whether Giuliani's activities violate a federal law that requires Americans who work on behalf of foreign governments to register with the Justice Department. This comes as the Justice Department has stepped up its use of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, an 80-year-old law that Democrats say Giuliani may be violating. Once toothless and antiquated, the statute found its way into the public consciousness in the last two years at the height of the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and has been used to prosecute several people, including two men who once were close Trump advisers. The ramped-up enforcement has dramatically changed the landscape not only for lobbyists for foreign governments, but also for others with foreign clients: international law firms, consultants and public relations specialists who, for years, have ignored FARA, experts say. Some don't register because of the administrative burden and the stigma of being labeled a “foreign agent,” experts say. Parties also avoid registering in order to keep relationships with foreign governments and officials secret. more...

by CNN Newsource
BEAUFORT COUNTY, South Carolina — It started out as a nightly walk on the beach which turned into a discovery deputies are saying is worth more than half a million dollars. The popular vacation spot Fripp Island was the site of a massive drug find this weekend. Police reports show a family on vacation found illegal narcotics washed along the beach. It's hard to estimate how long it was actually in the sea. It was still in its original packaging and in good condition. The family found the drugs but said they did not want to go on camera for the sake of their family's safety. They did however talk about that night. They tell us a family member found a large object washed in the sand underneath the moonlight something so big they thought it was an animal. After bringing it back to their vacation home the family said they opened it up to find illegal drugs and called authorities. That's when deputies with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office tested the substance and identified it as cocaine. They said the find is uncommon for the area and time. more...

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...

By Dan Mangan
A counterterrorism analyst for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was arrested Wednesday on federal charges that he leaked top secret and other classified information — including details of a foreign country’s weapons systems — to two reporters in 2018 and this year. The worker, Henry Kyle Frese, 30, held top-secret clearance at the DIA, where he began as a contractor in January 2017, and eventually became a full-time employee. One of the journalists who allegedly received secret information from Frese had apparently been involved in a romantic relationship with him, authorities said. That reporter ended up writing at least eight articles based on at least five compromised intelligence reports leaked by Frese, according to a criminal indictment. Frese retweeted a link to the first article that reporter wrote based on information he had allegedly leaked to her, the indictment says. “Frese was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information for personal gain,” said John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security. An indictment alleges that Frese accessed classified intelligence reports, some which were not connected to his job duties, in spring 2018 and provided top-secret information about another country’s weapons systems to a journalist who lived at the same Alexandria, Virginia, residential address as Frese. The Justice Department said that “based on reviews” of the public social media pages of Frese and that reporter, “it appears that they were involved in a romantic relationship for some or all of that period of time” in which Frese allegedly leaked the information to her. “The unauthorized disclosure of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security of the United States,” the Justice Department said in a press release announcing Frese’s indictment in U.S. District Court in Virginia. more...

Several false statements served to "mischaracterize the events leading up to the McDonald shooting, and to thereby bolster a false narrative which might offer justification for the shooting," the report said.
By Safia Samee Ali
CHICAGO — An internal report investigating 16 police personnel involved in covering up the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by a former Chicago police officer was released Wednesday after being kept secret for almost three years. The formerly confidential report, written in 2016 by the city of Chicago's inspector general, Joseph Ferguson, revealed that several officers committed numerous ethical and internal violations in order to cover up former officer Jason Van Dyke’s shooting of the 17-year-old, including giving false statements “to exaggerate the threat McDonald posed.” According to the report, Anthony Wojcik, a former Chicago Police Department lieutenant who was at the scene, improperly disposed of three original general progress reports containing detectives’ handwritten notes of the statements three civilian witnesses made the night of the shooting. He then "personally recreated the reports," before disposing of the original notes, the investigation showed. The report also revealed that at least two officers, who were not fired after the inspector general’s investigation, untruthfully claimed they heard Van Dyke tell McDonald to drop a small weapon he was holding, and that the teen repeatedly ignored the officers' calls to stay down. The false statements served to "mischaracterize the events leading up to the McDonald shooting, and to thereby bolster a false narrative which might offer justification for the shooting," the report said. more...

By John Fritze and David Jackson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – China has reportedly rejected President Donald Trump's request to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, with officials saying the country doesn't want to get involved in U.S. domestic politics. “We have no intention of intervening in the domestic affairs of the United States. Our position is consistent and clear," China foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a report in the South China Morning Post, the main English-language newspaper in Hong Kong. Already under investigation for asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, Trump on Thursday said on the South Lawn of the White House that China should also investigate his political foe. "By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine," Trump told reporters. more...

US air strikes on alleged Taliban drug labs in western Afghanistan killed at least 30 civilians, including children, according to the United Nations. The UN said it had credible reports of a further 30 deaths in the May strikes but had not verified them. The US said it had targeted Taliban-run methamphetamine labs which helped fund the militant group. But according to the UN, drug labs and associated workers cannot lawfully be designated as targets. US forces hit more than 60 alleged drug production sites in Farah Province and neighbouring Nimroz Province in the strikes on 5 May. A UN delegation that visited the site of the attacks and conducted face-to-face interviews with residents concluded that there were 39 verified casualties - including 14 children - of whom 30 died. The UN said it had also found credible evidence of at least 30 more deaths, the majority of whom it said were women and children. According to the UN report, the sites were not exclusively run by Taliban but also by ordinary criminal networks as well - making them illegitimate targets for military strikes. "While some of the sites may have been associated with illicit activity, they did not meet the definition of legitimate military objectives under international law," the report concluded. Workers at the alleged labs "were not performing combat functions", it said, and "were therefore entitled to protection from attack". more...

by John Fritze and Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump brushed aside warnings from the United Nations on Wednesday that the 74-year-old organization risks being unable to pay its staff and bills if member nations don't cough up their annual dues soon. The biggest delinquent payer in the world? The United States. Washington owes the U.N. $381 million in back payments and $674 million this year, according to the U.S. mission to the U.N. As the largest contributor to the 193-member organization, the U.S. has long sought to pressure the U.N. to rein in spending. Trump, who has openly questioned the value of the U.N., has made skepticism of multinational organizations a central component of his foreign policy. Trump has demanded European countries contribute more to NATO and has pressed allies in Asia and the Middle East to rely less on U.S. military might and spend more on their own security. Responding to reports of deep U.N. budget deficits, Trump returned to the theme. "So make all Member Countries pay, not just the United States!" he wrote Wednesday. U.N. officials say 129 countries have paid their 2019 dues, two-thirds of all members. Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said that nearly $2 billion has been paid to the organization this year and that the outstanding balance for other countries amounts to another $1.3 billion. Dujarric described the financial situation as "the worst cash crisis facing the United Nations in nearly a decade" and said it "runs the risk of depleting its liquidity reserves by the end of the month and defaulting on payments to staff and vendors." more...

By Justine Coleman
More than 100 progressive Christian leaders signed a statement supporting the impeachment inquiry and a National Day of Prayer Sunday to "reveal the truth." The Red Letter Christians, a justice-focused movement, initiated the petition after hosting a revival last weekend in Goldsboro, N.C., according to the group's website. The statement calls for Christian leaders to support the impeachment inquiry launched in Congress last month. The Christian leaders are urging their congregations to pray for the members of Congress and invite them to services this Sunday while they are in their home districts. "We welcome the light of truth, honesty, and transparency that this moment affords our country, whatever may be revealed," the signed statement reads. "We call for an open inquiry that shines light on this administration’s dealings behind closed doors and petition people of faith and integrity to join us in calling forth this light." The statement calls the controversy surrounding the president's dealings with Ukraine as "not a matter of partisanship, but of deepest principle." It says there has been enough evidence to show the allegations are "both serious and credible." more...

By Jessica Taylor
Former Vice President Joe Biden called for President Trump's impeachment and removal from office, on Wednesday. Up until now, Biden had reserved judgment, saying he supported the House's impeachment inquiry and wanted to see what the facts showed. But in a campaign speech in Rochester, N.H., Biden was unequivocal, saying that "to preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, [Trump] should be impeached." Biden said the case was already clear before the public. "With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself. By obstructing justice, refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry, he's already convicted himself," Biden said. "In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts." Biden later argued that "impeachment isn't only about what the president has done — it's about the threat the president poses to the nation if allowed to remain in office." Accordingly, Biden said, Congress should remove him before voters go to polls to choose the president on Election Day next year. Biden and his family were the subject of an effort by Trump to request political assistance from the government of Ukraine that was connected to U.S. military assistance and offers of engagement with Trump himself. Trump, his aides and some State Department diplomats were involved with an effort to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch investigations into Biden's family and into a conspiracy theory believed by Trump about the political interference in the 2016 presidential race. Trump has defended the propriety of those actions and also called for the government of China to investigate the Biden family, too. Trump and his supporters have sought to call attention to what they call the questionable business dealings of Biden's son Hunter. The president mocked the Bidens on Wednesday on Twitter in a response to the campaign speech. more...

Economists calculate richest 400 families in US paid an average tax rate of 23% while the bottom half of households paid a rate of 24.2%
By  Dominic Rushe
They were billed as a “middle-class miracle” but according to a new book Donald Trump’s $1.5tn tax cuts have helped billionaires pay a lower rate than the working class for the first time in history. In 2018 the richest 400 families in the US paid an average effective tax rate of 23% while the bottom half of American households paid a rate of 24.2%, University of California at Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman calculate in their new book, The Triumph of Injustice. Taxes on the rich have been falling for decades. In 1960 the 400 richest families paid as much as 56% in taxes, by 1980 the rate had fallen to 40%. But Trump’s tax cuts – his most significant legislative victory – proved a tipping point. Thanks to the controversial tax package the top 0.1% of US households were granted a 2.5% tax cut that pushed their rate below that of the lower 50% of US earners. “This is a revolutionary change and the biggest winners will be the everyday American workers as jobs start pouring into our country, as companies start competing for American labor, and as wages start going up at levels that you haven’t seen in many years,” Trump said in September 2017 as he fought to pass the tax package. But the tax cuts have not led to a significant uptick in economic growth, hiring has slowed and wage growth has remained lackluster. In the meantime the national deficit has swollen to $1tn. more...

By Andy Sullivan, Mark Hosenball, Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General William Barr has been traveling internationally to help investigate President Donald Trump’s complaints that his campaign was improperly targeted by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies during the 2016 presidential election. Democrats and some former law-enforcement officials say he is using the Justice Department to chase unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that could benefit Trump politically and undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Mueller’s investigation found that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump, and led to criminal convictions of several former campaign aides. But Mueller concluded that he did not have enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy with Russia. Some potential witnesses say they will not cooperate voluntarily with the Barr probe, which was announced after several congressional committees, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog and another U.S. prosecutor launched their own reviews. That could pose problems for John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Barr to lead the effort. WHAT IS BEING INVESTIGATED? Durham is examining whether U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies acted properly when they examined possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, which ultimately led to Mueller’s investigation. more...

By Andy Sullivan, Mark Hosenball, Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General William Barr has been traveling internationally to help investigate President Donald Trump’s complaints that his campaign was improperly targeted by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies during the 2016 presidential election. Democrats and some former law-enforcement officials say he is using the Justice Department to chase unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that could benefit Trump politically and undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Mueller’s investigation found that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump, and led to criminal convictions of several former campaign aides. But Mueller concluded that he did not have enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy with Russia. Some potential witnesses say they will not cooperate voluntarily with the Barr probe, which was announced after several congressional committees, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog and another U.S. prosecutor launched their own reviews. That could pose problems for John Durham, the prosecutor tapped by Barr to lead the effort. WHAT IS BEING INVESTIGATED? Durham is examining whether U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies acted properly when they examined possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, which ultimately led to Mueller’s investigation. more...

READ: White House letter to House Democrats
By CNN
(CNN) - In the White House's letter to congressional Democrats, President Donald Trump's lawyers say the President and his administration won't cooperate in an ongoing impeachment inquiry, arguing the proceedings amount to an illegitimate effort to overturn the 2016 election results. more...

By Naomi Jagoda
The Trump administration is considering rolling back an Obama-era tax rule aimed at cracking down on offshore tax deals, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the discussions. The news outlet reported that Treasury Department officials are weighing narrowing the regulations or repealing them and replacing them with new rules that would be more business-friendly. Bloomberg also reported that IRS Chief Counsel Michael Desmond has said that Treasury and the IRS are looking at addressing the rules in some way this fall. In 2016, then-President Obama's Treasury Department issued rules that were aimed at preventing U.S. companies from moving their headquarters overseas for tax purposes after merging with foreign companies — transactions known as corporate inversions. The rule Treasury is reportedly considering changing was designed to go after a tax-avoidance strategy companies often used after inverting known as "earnings stripping." Under this strategy, companies would move U.S. earnings to lower-tax countries through the use of debt. Business groups have long had issues with the rule, expressing concerns that it impacts transactions that have nothing to do with inversions. And Bloomberg reported that some critics of the rule have argued that it's no longer necessary in light of President Trump's 2017 tax law. more...

By Justine Coleman - The Hill
Billionaires paid less in taxes than the working class last year for the first time in U.S. history, a study found. Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found in their book-length study "The Triumph of Injustice" that the average tax rate paid by the richest 400 families in the country was lower than the rate paid by the bottom half of American households in 2018, The Washington Post reported. The wealthiest 400 families had a 23 percent tax rate, compared to the bottom 50 percent, which had a 24.2 percent rate. The richest 400 families experienced a 47 percent tax rate in 1980 and a 56 percent tax rate in 1960, while the working class's tax rate has remained relatively stable, according to the Post. more...

By katherine faulders, justin fishel and anne flaherty
A White House official listening to President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president described the call as “crazy” and “frightening” and was “visibly shaken,” according to notes taken by the intelligence official who filed a formal whistleblower complaint after speaking with the official, and others. ABC News has learned that the two-page memo, written by the whistleblower a day after Trump’s call, suggests that at least one aide to the president feared that Trump’s own words in the call were damning. According to a rough transcript of the call released by the White House, Trump asked Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch an investigation into a political opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, and his son. The notes were based on a brief conversation between the whistleblower and the White House official and described “highlights” from the president’s call. The document was later provided to the intelligence community’s inspector general, who reviewed the whistleblower’s complaint. The IG has determined the complaint “appeared credible” and of “urgent concern.” The White House had not responded to a request for comment. Trump has defended the call as acting on his duty as president to end corruption “even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries.” “This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens,” Trump tweeted Oct. 4. This does have to do with their corruption!” Trump also has dismissed the whistleblower’s account of the phone call because he says the complaint was based on second-hand information. According to the IG report, the individual had both first and second-hand information. This week a second whistleblower has come forward with what that person’s lawyer describes as first-hand knowledge. “The President urged Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens and stated that [Trump's personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani would discuss this topic further with Zelenskiy during his trip to Kyiv,” the unnamed White House official told the first whistleblower, according to the notes. more...

A year ago, the U.S.’ surveillance court ruled that the FBI violated Americans’ privacy by broadly sifting through dragnets of intercepted communications.
By Spencer Ackerman
Some of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s warrantless searches through the National Security Agency’s enormous troves of communications data violated the law and the Constitution, according to secret surveillance court rulings partially declassified on Tuesday. The bureau’s so-called backdoor searches, long regarded by civil libertarians as a government end-run around warrant requirements, were overly broad, the court found. They appear to have affected what a judge on the court called “a large number of individuals, including U.S. persons.” On one day in December 2017 alone, the court found, the FBI conducted 6,800 queries of the NSA databases using Social Security numbers. The government, in secret, conceded that there were “fundamental misunderstandings” among some FBI personnel over the standards necessary for the searches. The redacted ruling was kept secret for a year. It represented the latest legal battle over the scope of post-9/11 mass surveillance that affects American freedoms in the name of counterterrorism. It was one of several secret court documents released Tuesday by the ODNI. Judge James Boasberg of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court found last October that elements of FBI procedures for querying the databases and then purging irrelevant results–a mechanism to protect Americans’ privacy–“inconsistent with statutory minimization requirements and the requirements of the Fourth Amendment,” which protects Americans against unreasonable searches. “On one day in December 2017 alone, the court found, the FBI conducted 6,800 queries of the NSA databases using Social Security numbers.” As early as March 2018, the FISA Court identified to the government that the FBI was not sufficiently documenting which of its queries were tied to people inside the United States, despite a statutory obligation to do so. Nor were the searches “reasonably designed” to find evidence of crimes or foreign spying. “Without such documentation and in view of reported instances of non-compliance with that standard, the procedures seemed unreasonable under FISA's definition of minimization procedures’ and possibly the Fourth Amendment,” Boasberg wrote. Boasberg’s ruling represented a rare defeat for the government before the FISA Court, and the government appealed it to the FISA Court of Review, another rarity. The appeals court sided with the lower court in July, and the FBI agreed to change its querying, documentation, and related procedures. The subsequent changes now require the FBI to explain why searching Americans’ data is necessary to find foreign-spying information or potential evidence of criminal activity, as well as to distinguish between its searches involving Americans and its searches involving foreigners. Civil libertarians questioned the ability of those changes to adequately protect American privacy. more...

By Richard Cowan, David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Tuesday it would refuse to cooperate with a “baseless, unconstitutional” congressional impeachment inquiry, setting Republican President Donald Trump on a collision course with the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives. In a letter to House Democratic leaders, White House lawyer Pat Cipollone cited in part the decision by lawmakers to proceed without a full vote of the House of Representatives. “You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” he said, adding House Democrats had left Trump “no choice.” “In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” he said. The letter came shortly after the Trump administration abruptly blocked a key witness in the Ukraine scandal from appearing before a congressional impeachment inquiry. The U.S. State Department said the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, a Trump political donor, would not be allowed to appear, even though he had already flown from Europe to do so. Trump decried the Democratic-led inquiry into whether he abused his office in the pursuit of personal political gain as a “kangaroo court.” Democratic lawmakers denounced the effort to block Sondland’s testimony, calling it an attempt to obstruct their inquiry and said they would subpoena Sondland, to compel him to submit to questions. The State Department did not respond to requests for comment on why Sondland had been blocked from speaking to lawmakers just hours before his scheduled appearance. The move and subsequent letter were the White House’s most aggressive responses yet to the inquiry, which has cast a pall over Trump’s campaign to win back the White House in 2020. A whistleblower complaint about a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, prompted the inquiry. more...

By DARREN SAMUELSOHN
A federal judge signaled Tuesday that she might give House Democrats access to some of Robert Mueller’s remaining secrets. During a two-plus hour hearing, Beryl Howell, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court, pointedly challenged the Justice Department to explain its “extraordinary position” of trying to block lawmakers from seeing the special counsel’s grand jury materials, which include testimony and evidence that has been kept private since the Mueller probe ended in March. Grand jury material is protected by law, but judges can release information under special circumstances. If Howell ultimately rules in Democrats’ favor, it would represent a major legal victory for them that could help expand Congress’s impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. While the probe initially started earlier this year with a broader focus on Mueller’s findings, the Democrats in recent weeks have homed in on the president’s alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. Howell on Tuesday said that under both Supreme Court and federal appellate court precedent, she must give “enormous deference” to House Democrats and their interest in the grand jury materials because of their impeachment inquiry. She even indicated that the impeachment probe was a precursor for releasing the Mueller materials. The judge, an appointee of President Barack Obama, didn’t issue an opinion Tuesday in the Democrats’ three-month lawsuit, but her comments offered the House a glimmer of hope that it may still get to see several blacked-out words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs and entire pages from the report Mueller released in April summarizing his probe. During Tuesday’s hearing, the top lawyer for the Democrats told Howell that the House impeachment inquiry still includes issues tied to the Mueller probe and hasn’t just been whittled down to Trump’s efforts to pressure the president of Ukraine into launching investigations of his political opponents. "I can't emphasize enough — it’s not just Ukraine," House counsel Doug Letter said, adding that the Judiciary Committee "could easily" adopt articles of impeachment against Trump that deal with the Mueller-related themes of obstruction of justice and election interference. House Democrats filed their initial lawsuit seeking the Mueller grand jury materials in late July, arguing that they need to peer behind hundreds of redactions from Mueller’s nearly 450-page report to help them determine whether Trump and other key witnesses have been telling the truth in their sworn testimony. One example Letter gave Tuesday was the president’s public statements claiming that his former top White House lawyer, Don McGahn, lied to Mueller’s investigators. If the Democrats determine Trump wasn’t telling the truth, it could end up being another impeachment article against him, Letter said. more...


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