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US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 8

By Mark Joseph Stern
One of Donald Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees unleashed a bizarre and embarrassing dissent on Friday that seeks to shield the president from congressional oversight while flouting Supreme Court precedent. The author of Friday’s dissent, Neomi Rao, was Trump’s choice to fill Brett Kavanaugh’s old seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Her opinion marks a lawless effort to insert the judiciary into the House of Representatives’ investigations into Trump, limiting lawmakers’ ability to access potentially incriminating evidence. It also implies that federal courts could stop the House from impeaching Trump. In short, Rao is running interference for the president who put her on the bench. Trump v. Mazars, Friday’s decision, revolves around the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena of Trump’s financial records at Mazars, his former accounting firm. The committee provided four reasons for the subpoena: It wished to determine whether Trump accurately reported his finances, has maintained conflicts of interest in office, illegally accepted payments from foreign governments, or committed crimes. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that Congress’ constitutional authority permits it to conduct investigations so long as they’re related to a “valid legislative purpose.” Again, here, the committee provided several such purposes: It sought to learn whether the House should pass stricter ethics reforms or demand the disclosure of foreign payments to the president that might violate the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause. Trump intervened to attempt to shoot down the subpoena, and the Justice Department backed him up. By a 2–1 vote, the D.C. Circuit found that the subpoena must be enforced because it furthered a “valid legislative purpose.” Writing for the majority, Judge David Tatel noted that the Office of Government Ethics has “identified an error in one of the several reports that President Trump had filed since he became a presidential candidate in 2015.” His former attorney, Michael Cohen, later testified before Congress that Trump manipulated his finances, inflating or deflating assets “when it served his purposes.” The House has already passed H.R. 1, a sweeping ethics bill that would implicate the issues in question. But the Cohen incident, among others, led lawmakers to speculate that more reforms—like more exacting disclosure rules for presidents and presidential candidates—may be necessary. As Tatel wrote, “Information revealed by the subpoena could inform the Senate as it considers the bill, as well as any subsequent conference committee or the House itself, should it reconsider the bill post-conference.” more...

By turning his back on the Kurds, the president has done irreparable damage to America’s standing in the world. That’s by design.
By Fred Kaplan
President Trump didn’t make a “mistake” in pulling troops out of northeastern Syria last week, as many have charged. It’s what he has long wanted to do. The mistake was not understanding—and, more to the point, not caring about—the consequences. Trump’s fateful phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Oct. 6, giving him the green light to cross the Syrian border and crush the Kurds without U.S. resistance, did more than any single act has ever done to demolish the post-WWII global order and isolate America from the rest of the world. This, again, has been Trump’s goal since he entered the White House. Until recently, one or more of his advisers—Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, John Bolton, or Gen. Joseph Dunford—obstructed or dissuaded him from withdrawing. Now all of those advisers are gone, and their replacements lack either the clout or the gumption to push back.  Trump may believe that he’s doing the right thing, that abandoning the rest of the world’s problems will “make America great again.” He doesn’t realize that America’s might and wealth depend, in large measure, on the cooperation it receives from others—either offered or coerced—in pursuing its interests around the world. He is also blind to the fact—or loath to admit—that he, in fact, is not getting out of the world. On Friday, days after abandoning the Kurdish allies to the Turks (and consequently, all of Syria to Bashar al-Assad and the Russians), Trump announced that he was sending 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia. But to Trump’s mind, there was a big difference in this deployment. “Saudi Arabia, at my request, has agreed to pay us for everything we are doing to help them,” he told reporters. “That’s a first. We appreciate that.” It was as if sending American troops abroad doesn’t count as a commitment if taxpayers don’t have to pay for it. It was as if Trump were telling the world that the U.S. military is now a mercenary force. It was a message to any country currently hosting American troops at least in part at our largesse—because, say, previous presidents have considered it in U.S. interests to keep troops there—that they should start rethinking their options for how to stay secure. Trump has made a practice of abrogating treaties, filching on commitments, and alienating allies, but, more than any single act, the betrayal of the Kurds should tell everyone that—as long as Trump is president and, who knows, perhaps beyond—there is no reason to trust the United States on anything. Western powers, including the United States, have abandoned the Kurds several times over the decades, but Trump’s act was astonishing even by that dismal standard. For the past five years, the main U.S. mission in Syria has been to destroy the ISIS caliphate. The Kurds provided the most potent fighters, and lost 11,000 of them, in that battle; the United States lost a mere eight. And then, with that mission (sort of) completed, Trump allowed the Turks to mow down the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led militia that did the bulk of the fighting and dying.  more...

By Daniel Politi
The co-founders of a political research firm who found themselves embroiled in a national scandal and intrigue due to their claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia will be publishing a book next month that promises to be explosive. Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump will be published Nov. 26 co-written by Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. Penguin Random House is billing the book as a “An All the President’s Men for the Trump era,” saying it will tell the “inside story of the Steele Dossier and the Trump-Russia investigation.” Simpson and Fritsch, both of whom are former journalists, hired a British former intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump. They were first hired by a rival Republican and then Democrats took over the contract.  As part of the investigation, Steele claimed that Kremlin had compromising material on Trump and had even spied on him with prostitutes in a Moscow motel. Steele also said Moscow had launched an effort to get Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. Trump vehemently denied the claims outlined in what became known as the Steele dossier but the book will argue that its findings were largely accurate. In the book, the authors chronicle “their high-stakes investigation and their desperate efforts to warn both the American and British governments, the FBI and the media, to little avail,” notes Penguin Random House. “After four years on his trail, the authors’ inescapable conclusion is that Trump is an asset of the Russian government, whether he knows it or not.” more...

By Daniel Dale, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump is making a brazen attempt to rewrite the reality of his dealings with Ukraine. He has said at least 18 times over the last 15 days that the whistleblower who lodged a highly accurate complaint about his phone call with Ukraine's President had been highly inaccurate. And over the weekend, he pushed three other fictions -- reversing the timing of two events and touting a supposed Nancy Pelosi quote there is no evidence the House speaker ever said. Pelosi's reaction to the call: Trump has been slamming Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, for performing a rendition of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that included words Trump did not say. But Trump himself appears to have concocted comments from Pelosi -- repeatedly describing supposed Pelosi quotes that are the opposite of what she has publicly said. Trump claimed last Monday, Friday and Saturday that Pelosi expressed surprise and dismay after Trump released the rough transcript of the call with Zelensky. His suggestion was that Pelosi had found, and said, that the call was more innocent than she was first told. "When she saw it, she said, 'This is not what the whistleblower said,' " Trump told reporters on Monday at the White House. "She was angry as hell when she got to read the transcript. Because she said, 'Wait a minute, that's not what I was told,' " Trump said at his Friday rally in Louisiana. "She was very angry when she read the actual call," Trump said at his Saturday speech to the Values Voter Summit of social conservatives. Facts First: There is no evidence Pelosi said or thought that the rough transcript was underwhelming or substantially different than she expected. "It's complete fiction," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill told CNN of Trump's claim. While we can't know what Pelosi might have said in private, Pelosi's public statement on the Trump call was scathing. We've explained that Schiff's account of Trump's call was at very least confusing and that Trump had reasonable cause to be miffed. It's worth noting, though, that Schiff did say he was offering the "essence" of Trump's words, not a verbatim recitation, and that at least some of Schiff's comments closely resembled what the rough transcript shows Trump said. Trump's Pelosi statements, conversely, have no apparent basis in fact. The call and the ambassador: Trump is facing scrutiny over his decision to recall Marie Yovanovitch from her job as ambassador to Ukraine. She testified to Congress on Friday that she had been the victim of "unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives," including Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his associates. Trump offered a different explanation in a Fox News interview on Saturday. He said Zelensky had told him, "out of the blue," that he didn't like Yovanovitch. "But even if you listen to the very good conversation that I had, a very, very good, no-pressure, congenial conversation with the new President of Ukraine, he had some things that were not flattering to say about her. And that came out of the -- out of the blue," he told Fox host Jeanine Pirro. "So, you know, it would be nice to have somebody that he liked, because he's going -- the person will have to deal with the President of Ukraine." Zelensky's criticism of Yovanovitch had not come out of the blue. more...

By Chris Mills Rodrigo
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday said that testimony from the intelligence community whistleblower at the center of the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump may no longer be necessary. "Given that we already have the call record, we don't need the whistleblower who wasn't on the call to tell us what took place during the call," he told Margaret Brennan during an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Before the president started threatening the whistleblower ... we were interested in having the whistleblower come forward. Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected," he added.  The whistleblower wrote a complaint about a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressed his counterpart to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. more...

Hill's appearance has caused concern among those close to Trump, a former senior White House official told NBC News.
By Allan Smith and Josh Lederman
Fiona Hill, who until August served as President Donald Trump's top Russia analyst, is set to testify to the House privately on Monday under subpoena as part of the impeachment inquiry into the president. Previously, she agreed to testify at Congress' written request. Hill plans to tell Congress that Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland circumvented the administration to pursue a shadow foreign policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News last week. A former senior White House official told NBC News that Hill's appearance has caused concern among those close to Trump because she played a central role in the administration's Russian and Ukrainian policy. Hill's testimony comes after Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House investigators last week that Trump pressured the State Department to remove her. Pushing for Yovanovitch's ouster was central to an effort from two Soviet-born business associates of Giuliani who now face federal charges over campaign-finance violations. more...

By Rebecca Kheel
Congressional Republicans appear poised to hand President Trump a stinging rebuke of his Turkey and Syria policy when lawmakers return to Washington this week. GOP lawmakers, furious over Trump’s decision to withdraw troops to make way for a Turkish offensive against Kurdish allies, are preparing legislation that would force the administration to impose sanctions on Turkey. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Friday that Trump would sign an executive order giving the Treasury Department “very significant” new sanctions authorities against Turkey, but it’s unclear whether the move will be enough to placate Republicans on Capitol Hill.  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the announcement “welcome news,” while Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the administration needs to “up their game.” “We are witnessing ethnic cleansing in Syria by Turkey, the destruction of a reliable ally in the Kurds, and the reemergence of ISIS,” Graham tweeted after Friday’s announcement. “The conditional sanctions announced today will be viewed by Turkey as a tepid response and will embolden Erdogan even more,” he added, referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “The Turkish government needs to know Congress will take a different path — passing crippling sanctions in a bipartisan fashion.” Graham, alongside Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), is expected to introduce harsh sanctions against Turkey this week as a punishment for its incursion into northern Syria against the Kurds, longtime allies of the U.S. more...

By Olesya Astakhova, Stephen Kalin
RIYADH (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin signaled Moscow’s growing Middle East clout on Monday by visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time in over a decade, buoyed by Russian military gains in Syria, strong ties with Riyadh’s regional rivals and energy cooperation. Moscow accrued power in the Middle East in 2015 by sending troops to Syria, where it and Iran have been key backers of President Bashar al-Assad amid civil war, while the United States pulled back. Saudi Arabia sided with Syrian rebels. On the eve of Putin’s trip, U.S. troops were abruptly retreating from northern Syria as Russian-backed government forces deployed deep inside Kurdish-held territory under a deal to help fend off a Turkish cross-border offensive. Russia has also strengthened ties with both Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, which are locked in a decades-old contest for influence that veered towards open conflict after a recent spate of attacks on oil assets in the Gulf that Riyadh and Washington blame on Tehran. Iran denies the charges. Tensions with Iran, which is locked in several proxy wars with Saudi Arabia, have risen to new highs after Washington last year quit a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran and re-imposed sanctions. The Russian president, accompanied by his energy minister and head of Russia’s wealth fund, met King Salman at his palace along with de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom Putin says he has friendly relations. Deepening ties have seen non-OPEC Russia, once regarded as a rival in oil markets, join OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia in forming an alliance known as OPEC+ to support crude prices by restraining output. At a morning forum convening 300 Saudi and Russian CEOs, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said OPEC+ countries were showing high commitments to the deal, and his Russian counterpart said there were no talks underway to change it. more...

By Benjamin Fearnow
Longtime White House correspondent Sam Donaldson said President Donald Trump's supporters love him because they want a "white Christian country" back. However, he said Senate Republicans will gladly convict the president if public support for impeachment continues to rise. Donaldson, the veteran ABC News anchor, said Sunday he believes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would gladly "throw [Trump] over" if data, such as last week's Fox News poll, continue to show increasing support for impeachment. Donaldson told CNN's Brian Stelter that many of the president's rally attendees "love it" when Trump says "vicious" things about minorities or poor Americans because they want a return to an idealized Christian, Caucasian vision of the country's past. Donaldson argued that while much of Trump's base voters love his intense rhetoric, Republicans in election years and in Congress could easily turn on him. more...

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - A disturbing video of a fake President Donald Trump shooting, assaulting and stabbing his critics and the media was played at a conference held by a pro-Trump group at his Miami resort last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times. The video, which was shown at Trump's National Doral Miami during a three-day conference held by American Priority, includes the logo for Trump's 2020 reelection bid and showcases a series of internet memes, the Times reported. One part of the video, the Times said, shows a fake Trump's head edited onto the body of a man opening fire in the "Church of Fake News" on a group whose faces were edited to appear as a group of Trump critics and news organizations. According to the Times, the clip ends with Trump driving a stake into the head of a person who has the CNN logo for a face before standing and smiling as he looks around. The clip appears to be edited from a church massacre scene in the 2014 movie "Kingsman: The Secret Service," the Times reported. CNN cannot independently verify the video as of Sunday night and has not shared contents of it. CNN has confirmed the video was played at the conference and not in the main ballroom. "Sadly, this is not the first time that supporters of the President have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining -- but it is by far and away the worst. The images depicted are vile and horrific," CNN said in a statement Sunday night. "The President and his family, the White House, and the Trump campaign need to denounce it immediately in the strongest possible terms. Anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone." Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump's campaign, told the Times he didn't know anything about the video. "That video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence," he said. The organizer for the event, Alex Phillips, said in a statement to the Times on Sunday that the clip was played at the conference as part of a "meme exhibit." more...

CNN - CNN's Daniel Dale fact-checks some of President Donald Trump's false claims from the past week. more...

Sergei Waybourn was arrested, days after Sheriff Bill Waybourn’s comments about undocumented immigrants sparked controversy.
By LaVendrick Smith
The son of Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn was arrested Friday on charges of public intoxication and indecent exposure, jail records show. Arlington police arrested Sergei Waybourn near AT&T Stadium, just a few days after the sheriff, his adoptive father, sparked controversy with comments he made at the White House about some of Tarrant County’s jailed undocumented immigrants. Bill Waybourn was at a Washington, D.C., event Thursday opposing a judge’s decision to end the use of unreliable databases when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests local law enforcement hold someone facing possible deportation. The sheriff said the ruling would make it difficult to keep undocumented immigrants charged with DUIs in jail. While noting that many undocumented Tarrant County inmates are repeat offenders, he said, “These drunks will run over your children, and they will run over my children." He faced immediate criticism from people who believed his comments were bigoted and an attack on immigrants as a whole — a sentiment the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department denied. more...

As the image of “America’s Mayor” was being rehabbed, 9/11 families saw how his malfeasance killed their loved ones
Bob Hennelly
The anonymously sourced reports that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s global fixer, is under criminal investigation by the very same Federal prosecutor’s office he once led represents a truly Shakespearean arc of irony. There’s much speculation as to how “America’s Mayor,” the widely admired civic leader who presided over New York City during 9/11, could have been siphoned into Trump’s political undertow — just another sucker duped by an unscrupulous, fabulist administration. But if the media is to tell the whole story of the rise and demise of America’s Mayor, they need to confess to their role in this grifter’s ascension. We got a President Trump thanks to a compliant, sensationalist media apparatus that breathed life into his phony self-made billionaire myth, just as we owe them Rudy, who they cast as a post-9/11 American hero. In politics, narrative is everything. For it is what is collectively “known” about you before you open your mouth to speak that can help determine if you just hold the stage or get to play on a bigger one. Successful politicians, with designs on history, perform a kind of pas de deux with reporters, their invisible dance partners who provide them the uplift in public perception that over years shapes the arc of their reputation. There is a mutual benefit for these waltzing couples, with supportive reporters guaranteed access to the legends they have spun into existence. Nobody on the planet knows this choreography better than former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who as the hard-charging U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, made many journalists’ careers by leaking to them tips on where and when suspects were going to be taken into custody. Through the perp walk this “no finger-prints” manipulation of the media made the army of print and broadcast journalists tools for the prosecution, even as it undermined the defendant’s right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. These sub rosa ties are ones that bind the fourth estate to the prosecution’s narrative throughout the case, unless the pressure of the state and media cabal doesn’t just crush the defendant into submission before there is even a trial. By the time that the planes crashed into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001 Giuliani was a master surfer of the wave of public opinion. In the attacks that played out in lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, close to 3,000 people were killed — 343 of them uniformed New York City firemen. more...

By Ryan Browne, CNN
(CNN) - President Donald Trump is ordering most of the remaining US forces out of northern Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.
"We have American forces likely caught between two opposing, advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation. I spoke with the President last night, after discussions with the rest of the national security team, and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Which is where most of our forces are." The order comes as Turkish forces are pushing further south into Syria. Last week, the country launched its long-threatened incursion into the country after Trump ordered a small contingent of about 50 US troops to be pulled back from the border area amid a belief that a Turkish incursion was imminent. Esper did not initially make it entirely clear whether the withdrawal would mean the US troops would be leaving Syria entirely or relocating elsewhere in the country away from where Turkish forces are operating. The Pentagon did not respond to CNN's request Sunday for clarification on the troop withdrawal. While the majority of the 1,000 US troops in Syria are in the northern part of the country, the US military also maintains a small presence in southern Syria at a base in At Tanf where the US trains local anti-ISIS fighters that are not affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces. A US official familiar with the situation on the ground said earlier Sunday that US forces in Syria are preparing to withdraw from the country. The official said the situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly in northeast Syria, adding that Turkish proxies, which the official describes as including "extremists," have advanced along the strategically important M4 highway setting up multiple checkpoints. He says these proxy forces are wearing SDF uniforms and killing civilians on the highway. US Forces and SDF troops no longer control ground lines of communication and have no control over Turkish aircraft overhead. "US Forces are at risk of being isolated and there is increased risk of confrontation between Turkish proxies and US Forces unless Turkey halts their advance immediately," the official says. Situation in Syria: Prior to Turkey's offensive last week, as a confidence building measure with the country, the US convinced the Syrian Kurds to dismantle their defensive fortifications along the border and pull their fighters back. The US said Turkey had agreed to the arrangement which sought to prevent unilateral Turkish military action. Trump then had the Pentagon pull back US troops along that part of the border. While Kurdish officials and Republican and Democratic lawmakers have argued that the pullback helped provide a de facto green light for the Turkish attack, senior members of the Trump administration have insisted Turkey would have invaded regardless of whether US troops had remained and that the US has not deserted the Syrian Kurds. However, the US government has not taken action yet to stop the Turkish incursion. Esper said Friday the US is not abandoning its Kurdish allies, although he made it clear the US military will not intervene in the fight. "We are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces and US troops remain with them in other parts of Syria," Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. "We remain in close coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces who helped us destroy the physical caliphate of ISIS, but I will not place American service members in the middle of a longstanding conflict between the Turks and the Kurds, this is not why we are in Syria," Esper said. more...

By QUINT FORGEY
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday signaled that he would attempt to comply with a subpoena from House Democrats related to their impeachment inquiry, but did not commit to honoring the order’s deadline for documents from the Pentagon. “We will do everything we can to respond to their inquiry, Chris,” Esper told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “My general counsel a week or two ago sent out a note, as we often do in these situations, to the key members in the Pentagon to say, ‘Retain your documents and institute other controls,’” he continued. “So again, we will respond as we can.” Congressional Democrats have demanded that Esper, as well as acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, produce any documents having to do with the administration’s decision over the summer to withhold military aid to Ukraine. Lawmakers are probing whether the freezing of those funds marked an effort by President Donald Trump to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into pursuing investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Trump pushed Zelensky to scrutinize the Bidens over unfounded allegations of corruption in a July phone call between the two leaders that lies at the heart of Democrats’ impeachment push. more...

Atatiana Jefferson, 28, gunned down after neighbour reported her front door being left open
By Colin Drury
A black woman has been shot dead in her own home by a white police officer responding to a call for a welfare check in the US state of Texas. Atatiana Jefferson was killed after a neighbour in Fort Worth phoned police to say he was worried because the 28-year-old’s front door had been left open. In body cam footage released by the police, two responders can be seen using flashlights to search the home from outside before one is heard shouting through a window: “Put your hands up, show me your hands.” A shot is then fired. Ms Jefferson was pronounced dead at the scene in the early hours of Saturday. Her eight-year-old nephew is understood to also have been in the house at the time. more...

By Kate Sullivan, CNN
Washington (CNN)The US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, is expected to tell Congress this week that President Donald Trump relayed to him directly in a phone call the content of a text message that Sondland sent denying quid pro quo, The Washington Post reported Saturday, citing a person familiar with his testimony. Sondland's text message was sent to the top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, who raised concerns in a text to Sondland about the US withholding nearly $400 million of US military and security aid. This text message exchange has become a major focal point of the impeachment inquiry into the President. Sondland is expected to testify to Congress that he has no knowledge of whether Trump was telling him the truth at the time, the Post reports. "It's only true that the President said it, not that it was the truth," the person familiar with Sondland's planned testimony, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive diplomatic matters, told the Post. The congressional testimony by Sondland, a key witness within the State Department and to the President's action in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, could prove damaging to the President and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the Post reports. Sondland intends to testify to the House under subpoena Thursday, according to his lawyers. Sondland is a Trump donor and hotelier who has been EU ambassador since 2018. He exchanged messages with former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and a senior US diplomat in Ukraine about setting up the call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump. He also exchanged messages about whether foreign aid was being withheld while Trump and Giuliani pushed for Ukraine to open an investigation into business activity by the son of one of the President's 2020 Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. CNN previously reported Sondland called Trump to find out what was going on after Taylor raised his concerns about the US withholding assistance, according to a source with knowledge. Trump emphatically told him no quid pro quo, the source said. "Whether (Trump)'s deciding it's getting too hot to handle and he backs off whatever his position really was a month earlier, I don't know," the person familiar with Sondland's understanding told the Post. Sondland is expected to tell Congress that for months before that text message exchange, he worked at the direction of Giuliani to secure a public statement from Ukraine that it would investigate corruption, according to the Post. In exchange for the statement, the President would grant Ukraine's new president a White House audience, the Post reported. "It was a quid pro quo, but not a corrupt one," the person familiar with Sondland's testimony told the Post. more...

Trump has sought to distance himself from Lev Parnas as evidence of their ties mounts.
By BEN SCHRECKINGER
A photograph of President Donald Trump posing with a recently indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani was posted online in April 2014, two years prior to what had been their first known interaction. In the photo, Trump and Lev Parnas stand shoulder to shoulder, smiling at the camera at what appears to be an outdoor nighttime event. Trump wears a white, Trump-branded cap and white shirt under a jacket. Parnas wears a royal blue collared shirt. The circumstances of the meeting captured in the photograph remain unclear. It was posted on April 2, 2014, on the Facebook account of Shawn Jaros, also known as Shawn Jarosovich. Jaros captioned the photo “the big homies!!!!!!!!!!! for real tho” and then commented on the photo, “salute lev im coming brother!!!!!!!!!” Two weeks earlier, on March 14, Jaros posted, “Shout out to my ukranian boss and brother Lev Parnas thank you for eberything you and your team doing for me, i cant repay you enough!!!!!!!! and i want to meet the donald soon!!!!!!” That post suggests the meeting captured in the photo was not a chance interaction, and that Parnas had discussed his access to Trump with Jaros. Trump has sought to distance himself from Parnas, the Florida businessman at the center of a ballooning scandal over illicit foreign influence in his administration and, more broadly, the American political system. But the photograph and post provide further evidence that the two men are more closely tied than Trump has let on. more...

CBS This Morning - Furious passengers disembarked a Norwegian Spirit cruise ship in England after a 14-day voyage, which they say was scarred by everything from missed stops to onboard sewage problems. The passengers staged mass protests. Mola Lenghi reports. more...

Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged 2 Giuliani associates to push for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador.
By Tom Winter, Dan De Luce and Anna Schecter
The unnamed Ukrainian official referenced in a federal indictment as directing a plot to oust the then-U.S. ambassador is Ukraine's former chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, according to a U.S. official familiar with the events. According to the source, Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged two associates of Rudy Giuliani to push for the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out in May. The associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Wednesday night as they prepared to board a one-way flight out of the country at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C. "They sought political influence not only to advance their own financial interests, but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official ⁠— a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine," Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a Thursday news conference. The indictment says the efforts by Parnas and Fruman to remove then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, a respected diplomat with deep knowledge of Ukraine, were "conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials." Federal prosecutors didn't detail in the indictment or at a press conference why the unnamed Ukrainian official or officials allegedly urged Parnas and Fruman to scheme to push out Yovanovitch. But two former U.S. officials said Lutsenko had sharp disagreements with Yovanovitch over his handling of corruption cases, and was also seeking to curry favor with the Trump administration. Yovanovitch's ouster is now at the center of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats, who accuse President Donald Trump of abusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden, his political rival, and Biden's son. more...

by John Harwood
Just as the furor over Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation subsided over the summer, two new international storms engulfed the White House. On Ukraine, President Donald Trump’s use of diplomatic pressure to damage a 2020 election rival have House Democrats poised to impeach him. On Syria, his green light for Turkey to attack American-aligned Kurdish forces has roiled Republicans, too. The simultaneous spectacles may confuse average Americans who pay scant attention to foreign affairs. In fact, they contain a common thread. In each case, the president has helped Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which has helped him for years with money and political support. They represent different chapters of the same story. The Republican president’s alignment with Moscow — unthinkable to an earlier generation’s GOP — is familiar enough to blend into the 2019 background. Yet it represents a rare consistent theme of Trump’s late-life turn to politics. Before Trump sought the presidency, his children publicly identified Russians as key financing sources for the family real estate business. A Russian oligarch paid Trump $95 million for a Florida mansion he’d bought for less than half that price; another Russian linked to organized crime became a partner in the Trump Soho project. As a 2016 candidate, Trump hired a campaign chairman who had advised a Putin-allied Ukrainian leader, and a national security advisor who later lied to federal investigators about conversations with the Kremlin’s ambassador. Both men, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, have plead guilty to felonies. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia, which attacked Ukraine after the leader Manafort advised was ousted from power in 2014, interfered in the 2016 campaign to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. As president, Trump fired the FBI director leading an investigation of Putin’s actions. He embraced the former KGB agent’s denial of election meddling over the findings of his own intelligence experts. After one private meeting with Putin, Trump took his interpreter’s notes. He has taken a series of actions — from imposing tariffs on close allies to criticizing NATO to abandoning international agreements — that advance Putin’s objective of weakening Western democracies to enhance Russian power. The twin storms now swirling around Trump fit this pattern. On Ukraine, Trump’s means and ends both aid Russian interests. Through his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Trump has sought to absolve Moscow by alleging that 2016 election interference originated with Ukrainian attempts to aid Clinton. Law enforcement officials arrested two Giuliani associates Thursday, charging that they funneled illegal campaign contributions to a Republican congressman who sought the firing of a U.S. diplomat who resisted Giuliani’s effort. According to a charging document, money for the scheme came from a Russian identified only as “Foreign National 1.” more...

Testimony, subpoenas, a refusal to cooperate: Here's a look at this week's developments in the Trump impeachment probe.
by William Roberts
Washington, DC - Friday marked Day 18 of the US House of Representatives impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, and despite Congress being in recess, the investigation escalated quickly this week with some major developments. House Democrats launched the inquiry in late September following reports of a whistle-blower complaint that alleged Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government in investigating a political opponent. The complaint, which has since been made public, centred on a summer phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. According to the White House log of the call, Trump asked for help investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic frontrunner, and his son. In the weeks before the call, Trump ordered the freeze of hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine, prompting speculation the US president was using the money as leverage. Trump maintains he has done nothing wrong and has labelled the inquiry "witch-hunt garbage". There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. Since its launch, the impeachment inquiry has moved rapidly as House investigators work to determine whether they will recommend articles of impeachment against the president. From testimony to fresh subpoenas and a refusal to cooperate, here are 10 things from the impeachment inquiry you may have missed this week. more...

By John Wagner and Reis Thebault
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed Friday that President Trump “will be held accountable” as the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry moved forward with closed-door testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. In opening remarks, Yovanovitch, who is appearing under subpoena, said her abrupt departure in May came as a direct result of pressure Trump placed on the State Department to remove her. Also Friday, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine controversy, bucked the State Department and announced he would appear before House investigators under subpoena next week. The State Department blocked Sondland last week from appearing before three panels focused on Trump’s efforts to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld. Trump, meanwhile, prepared to stage his second campaign rally outside Washington in as many days and took jabs at the Democrats on Twitter. That included highlighting a past impeachment effort that failed badly. ● At least four national security officials raised alarms about Ukraine policy before and after Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. ● White House political appointees overrode career staffers before freezing Ukraine aid. ● Two business associates of Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani were arrested at the airport as they tried to leave the United States. more...

ABC News - The parent was dropping off his child in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania middle school when he and the teacher got into a fender bender. more...

The Drexel Hill Middle School teacher yelled a slew of expletives and racist remarks at the man in the school's parking lot on Thursday morning.
By Sarah Jackson
A Pennsylvania middle school teacher has been placed on administrative leave for spewing racist remarks at a parent after the two got into a fender bender on Thursday morning. In a video posted on Facebook on Thursday, the Drexel Hill Middle School teacher can be seen going into a racist rant against parent, Rasheed Noel, after the two got into a minor car accident during the school's student drop-off period. The school district has not officially released the teacher's name. "You're probably on welfare," she can be heard saying while she tries to buff her truck's bumper. "It's because I'm young and I'm black, and [that's] the reason why you would say that," Noel says. "That's right, [it's] because you're black," the teacher responds. "Always looking to milk the system. And you see me, a white woman, so you think I got money." "Go back to your welfare or your section 8 house," the teacher later added, referring to the city's low-income housing. "Do you see the big truck I have? Look at the piece of s*** you have." Noel rebuts the woman's claims, saying he makes "six figures a year" and has "a 3,200 square foot home." After he repeatedly calls her "mad and nervous," the woman responds, "Oh, you go f*** off" and then called him a racially derogatory term. Noel met with Upper Darby School District superintendent Daniel P. McGarry after the incident to voice his concerns, according to the district's director of communications, Aaronda Beauford. In an email to parents on Thursday night, McGarry called the teacher's behavior "deeply troubling" and announced that she had been placed on administrative leave due to an ongoing investigation into the incident. more...

Al Jazeera English - President Donald Trump has held his first campaign rally since Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against him.
An angry, energised Trump whipped his supporters into a frenzy on Thursday at a rally in Minneapolis as he sought to use the Democrats' two-week-old impeachment inquiry as a campaign weapon, and predicted a 2020 election "backlash" against any attempt to unseat him. In a speech lasting one hour and 40 minutes, Trump bathed in supporters' adulation, homing in on his favourite talking points with a mix of jokes, insults and populist exaggeration. Trump told a crowd in Minnesota that he has done nothing wrong. He is accused of pressuring Ukraine's leader into investigating his Democratic rival, Joe Biden. more...


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