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US Monthly Headline News September 2019 Page 11

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN
Washington (CNN) - The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel essentially ignored additional allegations from the whistleblower outside the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call when it determined his complaint should be kept in-house, according to a newly unsealed memo from the department's policy office. Steven Engel of the Office of Legal Counsel was tasked to interpret only whether the whistleblower complaint was indeed an "urgent concern" under the law. The Office of Legal Counsel, the first unit within the Justice Department to learn of the whistleblower's complaint, decided it was not of urgent concern. The OLC's acknowledgement of the other allegations are in two footnotes in the now-declassified September 3 opinion advising the Director of National Intelligence what to do about the complaint. The binding advice was to keep the whistleblower complaint within the Justice Department for a possible criminal probe instead of sending it to Congress in early September. The original September 3 memo acknowledges the whistleblower's accusations that President Donald Trump chose to suspend security assistance to Ukraine because of an improper motive, and that White House officials attempted to lock down the transcript of Trump's July call out of political rather than national security concern. But those accusations aren't part of the OLC's main considerations, instead appearing only in the memo's footnotes. The Office of Legal Counsel posted the redacted September 3 memo on its website Thursday morning, noting it is now declassified. The Justice Department had previously released a slightly rewritten, unclassified version of the same legal opinion that did not include the two footnotes acknowledging the whistleblower's other concerns. "The complainant stated that some officials at the White House had advised that this action may have been an abuse of the system," Engel wrote in the original memo regarding accusation of the White House attempting to bury the transcript, "but the (intelligence community inspector general) did not discuss this allegation in concluding that the complaint stated an urgent concern." more...

By stephanie ebbs
In yet another strike against California, the Trump administration accused the state of "failing to protect Californians from degraded water," specifically citing concerns about waste from homeless populations getting into sewer systems. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday alleging the state has not addressed water pollution tied to the homelessness crisis in major cities like San Francisco, specifically when the sewer system can overflow during heavy rain and release untreated water into other areas like the San Francisco Bay.  The letter specifically cites a report on NPR last year that cited a local news investigation describing concerns with trash, used needles from drug users and human waste on the streets. The letter also cites at least 23 instances in recent months where water districts in California released water that exceeded the allowed levels of pollutants like copper or cyanide. "The EPA is aware of the growing homelessness crisis developing in major California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the impact of this crisis on the environment. Indeed, press reports indicate that 'piles of human feces' on sidewalks and streets in these cities are becoming all too common," Wheeler said in the letter. "The EPA is concerned about the potential water quality impacts from pathogens and other contaminants from untreated human waste entering nearby waters," the letter added. Newsom's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday morning. more...

By Dan Mangan
Damning allegations against President Donald Trump and White House officials were exposed Thursday with the release by Congress of a complaint by a whistleblower who is a member of the U.S. intelligence community. Among them is the whistleblower’s belief that Trump’s actions were so obviously egregious that White House officials promptly launched a cover-up to minimize the chance that Trump’s efforts to have a foreign power dig up dirt on a leading Democratic presidential contender would become public. The complaint says that “more than half a dozen U.S. officials” provided information detailed in the report over a four-month period. Here are the biggest bombshell claims in the complaint: Trump used the power of the presidency to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to interfere in the 2020 election by launching an investigation of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukraine company. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was a “central figure” in that effort, who reached out to and met with key Zelensky advisers. Officials told the whistleblower that Ukrainian leaders were led to believe that a meeting or call between Zelensky and Trump would depend on whether Ukraine’s president “showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on the issues” that Giuliani was raising. Attorney General William Barr appeared to be involved in the effort to get Ukraine to cooperate with Trump’s desire for a probe of Biden. White House officials were “deeply disturbed” by a July 25 phone call Trump had with Zelensky. There were discussions “with White House lawyers because of the likelihood,” in the minds of officials, “that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.” Senior White House officials intervened to “lock down” records of the call with Zelensky, which “underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.” White House lawyers directed White House officials to remove the electronic transcript of the Zelensky call from the computer system where such transcripts normally are stored. That transcript then was loaded into a “separate electronic system” that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. “One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.” more...

By Marshall Cohen, Katelyn Polantz, David Shortell, Tammy Kupperman and Michael Callahan, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump abused his official powers "to solicit interference" from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election, and the White House took steps to cover it up, according to a stunning whistleblower complaint released Thursday. Several White House officials were "deeply disturbed" by Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and tried to "lock down" all records of the phone call, especially the word-for-word transcript produced by the White House, the complaint states. The complaint has been at the center of a controversy that has spurred Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. The White House on Wednesday also released a rough transcript of the call that shows Trump repeatedly pressed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Caving to Democratic demands, the Trump administration let Congress release a declassified version of the complaint, one day after releasing a rough transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call. The developments triggered a flood of Democratic lawmakers to publicly support impeachment. Trump has maintained that he didn't do anything wrong, while simultaneously promoting unfounded conspiracy theories about the Bidens, Ukraine, and Russian meddling in 2016. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. more...

CNN Erin Burnett Out Front - CNN's Erin Burnett and David Gregory examine how Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) opinion on impeachment appears to have changed since 1999. Source: CNN more...

By Jessica Campisi
A hacker broke into an electronic road sign in Seattle on Wednesday, changing the message to read “Impeach the Bastard.” The Seattle Department of Transportation said the sign was rented to the contractor National Barricade, and a spokesperson for the company said someone had hacked the sign’s system early Wednesday morning to change the message, local news station Q13 reports. The sign was changed back to its initial traffic message within a few hours, and additional locks were put in place to prevent another hacking incident, the station reports. The hack comes a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the House would launch a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump amid scrutiny in recent days over reports that Trump urged Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.. more...

How deeply is Bill Barr entangled in Ukraine mess? Has he forgotten the rule that whatever Trump touches dies?
By Sophia Tesfaye
It’s hard to recall anything that Donald Trump has touched which initially looked bad but eventually turned out to be nothing. With Trump, things are always worse than they appear. Throughout his recent career, that has usually ended up hurting those closest to Trump more than the president himself. If that pattern holds true in the growing Ukraine scandal, then several top members of Trump’s administration should be worried right now. This is likely to get real messy before it ends. While attempting to defend himself from accusations that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid during at least one phone call — a reconstructed transcript, or "memo" of which was released on Wednesday — Trump gratuitously dragged his vice president into the middle of his mess. "I think you should ask for VP Pence's conversation because he had a couple of conversations also," Trump told reporters during a news conference on the sidelines of the United Nations summit. "I could save you a lot of time. They were all perfect. Nothing was mentioned of any import other than congratulations." Of course, Trump previously described his own call with Zelensky as "perfect.” An aide to the Ukrainian president has since told ABC News that “it was clear that Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case.” Earlier this month, Pence met with Zelensky and promised to relay to Trump just how hard Ukraine was working to fight corruption — a term Trump has repeatedly used to explain his interest in getting Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who was formerly employed by a Ukrainian gas company. When Pence was asked if U.S. aid was being held up over Ukraine’s failure to investigate Biden, he acknowledged that “as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.” A week after Pence met with Zelensky, U.S. military aid was finally released to Ukraine. more...

By Meg Wagner, Amanda Wills and Mike Hayes, CNN
Fact check: Maguire’s rationale for not sending the whistleblower complaint to Congress within 7 days. During the hearing, Democratic members have pressed Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire on why he did not provide the whistleblower complaint to the committee within the seven-day period required by law. As the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 states, if the Inspector General determines that the complaint is credible and of urgent concern then the DNI “shall, within 7 calendar days…forward such transmittal to the intelligence committees.” The IG determined the complaint was credible on August 26. Yet Maguire didn’t provide it to Congress until Wednesday night, September 25 -- almost a month later. Maguire claimed that because the complaint involved the President, he was required to work with the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine if there was content protected by executive privilege in the complaint. "It appeared that it also had matters of executive privilege," Maguire told the committee. On September 24, the OLC issued an opinion refuting the IG’s determination that the whistleblower’s complaint was of urgent concern. Maguire said that while the complaint was forwarded to the FBI, he was attempting to work out executive privilege concerns. But the law says nothing about the President or the OLC having authority to stop or slow the complaint from being sent to the intelligence committees. more...

By Jameson Dow
After last week’s moves to force more pollution and lower clean air standards on California, the Environmental “Protection” Agency threatened this week to pull California’s federal highway funding if California doesn’t bow to their pressure and allow more pollution in their state. We’ve now learned that two states – Minnesota and New Mexico – will join California’s efforts to reduce tailpipe emissions in response to the EPA’s actions. Both states plan to adopt both California’s Zero Emission Vehicle mandate and its tailpipe emissions standards. For more background on how this story has developed, look at Electrek‘s articles from last week.  We show how the EPA will have a hard time ending California’s rules and how the EPA’s own analysis shows that their rollback will kill people and cost money. Since then, California responded to the EPA’s likely illegal actions by filing a lawsuit with 23 states opposing the federal government’s attempt to revoke California’s Clean Air waiver. Minnesota and New Mexico are two of those states. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) also voted to stay the course and accept an agreement made between the state and the automakers to voluntarily exceed federal emissions standards, roughly meeting the pre-rollback federal standards. But that wasn’t enough for the EPA, and they won’t drop their losing battle.  On Tuesday they gave their reasoning for threatening California’s funding – a bizarre suggestion that the state hasn’t done enough to comply with the same federal clean air rules the EPA is currently trying to eliminate. After arguing last week that California’s waiver should be revoked because the state does not have “particular or unique” clean air needs, the EPA paradoxically argued earlier this week that California actually has exceptionally poor air quality and, as a result, federal funds should be withheld from the state.  So much for “no particular or unique environmental problems.” California Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the threat, stating: “The White House has no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being of Californians. This letter is a threat of pure retaliation … We won’t relive entire summers when spending time outside amounted to a public health risk. We won’t be intimidated by this brazen political stunt.” more...

The panel of researchers has plans to continue their studies revealing that 21 million Americans live with unacceptable air pollution
An advisory panel of air pollution scientists disbanded by the Trump administration plans to continue their work with or without the US government. The researchers – from a group that reviewed the latest studies about how tiny particles of air pollution from fossil fuels make people sick – will assemble next month, a year from the day they were fired. They’ll gather in the same hotel in Washington DC and even have the same former staffer running the public meeting. Christopher Frey, a scientist from North Carolina State University who chaired the group, said 21 million Americans live with air that is dirtier than what the government deems acceptable. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting reviews to determine whether those current standards should be tightened or loosened. Frey argued Trump’s EPA has significantly weakened its science review process. “As a public service, we can still tap our expertise and develop advice which we will share with EPA,” he said. The EPA has defended the changes it has made as a drive to encourage consideration of a wider range of viewpoints. The 20-person panel with Frey will include experts in epidemiology and toxicology, as well as people experienced in clinical experiments with humans. One of the dismissed members, Doug Dockery of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, was lead author of the landmark Six Cities study that linked the particle pollution from fossil fuels, called “particulate matter”, to early deaths. Considering after-hours trading? Here's how it might effect your stock market strategy. The Trump administration is accused by at least half a dozen whistleblowers of muzzling climate and pollution science. more...

Trump’s administration has pursued cuts in environmental protections that are critical to the health of all Americans
Donald Trump is set to hail his administration’s “environmental leadership” on Monday in a speech in which he is expected to declare the US a world leader on the issue. But since taking office two and a half years ago, the US president has been at the helm of an administration that has pursued numerous cuts in environmental protections and last year saw a rise in greenhouse gases of 3.4% – the biggest rise in emissions since 2010. He has also regularly publicly aired his doubts over the existence of climate change – previously calling it a “hoax”, suggesting that the climate could “change back again” and falsely claiming it was a phenomenon invented by China. A report by the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University’s school of law published in March said the Trump administration had “set its sights on watering down or outright repealing a half-dozen health and environmental rules critical to the health and welfare of all Americans as well as the planet”. Here are five of the biggest environmental setbacks under Trump: more...

By Katie Benner
WASHINGTON — At the end of August, when two top intelligence officials asked a Justice Department lawyer whether a whistle-blower’s complaint should be forwarded to Congress, they were told no, Attorney General William P. Barr and his department could handle the criminal referral against the president of the United States. About four weeks later, the department rendered its judgment: President Trump had not violated campaign finance laws when he urged Ukraine’s president to work with Mr. Barr to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The very same evidence, a reconstructed transcript of a July call between Mr. Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, has whipped Washington into an impeachment crisis in a matter of days. The sharply different responses to the call’s reconstruction, released by the White House on Wednesday, has helped further the perception that Mr. Trump regards Mr. Barr not as the nation’s highest law enforcement officer but as his political ally and legal protector. more...

Trump still thinks his own intelligence agencies are wrong about who hacked the DNC — and he wanted Ukraine’s help to prove it.
By Aaron Rupar
It hasn’t received as much attention as his efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son, but the “transcript” of President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also indicates that just a day after special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, Trump was seeking help in trying to undermine the foundations of the Russia investigation. According to the White House’s account of Trump’s July call with Zelensky, the Ukrainian president obliquely brought up military aide that the Trump administration had mysteriously put on hold just days earlier by referring to specific pieces of equipment he intended to buy once the money came through. Trump responded by telling Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” He went on to ask him for a confusing favor related to a cybersecurity firm, a billionaire, and a computer server — but its subtext seems to be that Trump wanted help uncovering evidence that he believes would indicate that Russia was framed for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people ... The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump said, according to the White House. (The ellipses are in the “transcript,” which could be benign pauses or could suggest the White House may have withheld some information, a la Attorney General William Barr’s misleading letter to Congress about the Mueller report ahead of its public release.) CrowdStrike, for those who may not remember, was the cybersecurity firm that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) used to investigate hacks against it back in 2016. It concluded that Russia was responsible, a finding later backed up by the US intelligence communities and special counsel Robert Mueller. But Trump apparently still believes that his own intelligence agencies have it wrong. CrowdStrike cooperated with the FBI’s investigation of the hacks but Trump has nonetheless repeatedly pushed baseless conspiracy theories suggesting that information was somehow withheld from the bureau because CrowdStrike didn’t turn over a physical server to the FBI, and was therefore involved in a cover-up that resulted in the Russia investigation. (This isn’t how the relevant technology works, but more on that later.) more...

More is revealed about the president and Rudy Giuliani’s alleged efforts to get Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky to do their dirty work against Joe Biden.
By Sam Brodey, Allison Quinn
President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 election—and White House officials covered it up, according to a shocking U.S. government whistleblower’s complaint revealed Thursday. The anonymous whistleblower says multiple “deeply disturbed” White House officials raised alarm about Trump’s efforts to persuade Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into potential White House rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s activities in Ukraine. The effort centered on a July 25 phone call with Zelensky in which Trump asked Ukraine’s leader to do him a “favor” and investigate the Bidens, according to a previously released transcript. That call was so disturbing that White House officials began discussing with administration lawyers how to handle it because of the likelihood “that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain,” the complaint said. Within days, the whistleblower alleged, officials moved to “lock down” the transcript of the conversation within days, transferring records of it to the White House’s most secure servers. “This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the whistleblower wrote. The complaint also says White House officials told the whistleblower that this wasn’t even the first time that a transcript of a talk between Trump and a world leader had been placed into the White House’s most secure system “for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive… information.” more...

The special envoy served as the facilitator for Giuliani's talks with Ukrainian officials.
By Josh Lederman and Kristen Welker
WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump asked Ukraine’s president to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on a possible corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, the Ukrainians turned to another American to facilitate the introduction: Ambassador Kurt Volker, Trump’s part-time envoy for Ukraine. “Ambassador Volker called me,” Giuliani told NBC News in an interview Wednesday night. Although Volker has mostly stayed under the radar since taking the job in 2017, his unusual arrangement as Trump’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations is attracting new attention amid revelations of his role in the ongoing Ukraine saga. An unpaid volunteer, Volker spends most of his time engaged in outside projects, including his work at a Washington lobbying firm that continued to represent the Government of Ukraine for almost two years after Volker started as special envoy. Volker’s role in the most recent controversy came to light as Giuliani tried to cast his efforts as fully coordinated and even prompted by the State Department. The State Department has acknowledged that it was Volker who put Giuliani “in direct contact” with Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. That introduction ultimately led to a meeting between Yermak and Giuliani in Spain. But the State Department insists that Giuliani “does not speak on behalf of the U.S. government” and that he “acts in a personal capacity” as Trump’s lawyer. The State Department wouldn’t say why Volker made the introduction, other than that the Ukrainian aide requested it. In his interview with NBC News, Giuliani said that Volker called him in late July — right around the time of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky — and asked if it was all right to give Giuliani’s number to Zelensky’s aide. “I was in a unique position to help with some of the things the State Department was working on,” Giuliani said. He declined to say what it was, stating that it was “privileged,” but said it related to “corruption in the Ukraine — and not only about Biden.” more...

After hosting Napolitano to discuss the White House’s release of memo that described Trump’s call, Smith addressed diGenova’s comments. And he didn’t hold back.
By Justin Baragona
Fox News anchor Shep Smith took aim Wednesday at Trump ally and frequent Fox News guest Joe diGenova for calling his colleague, senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano, a “fool” during a Tuesday night appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight. Napolitano declared on Tuesday that Trump effectively admitted to committing a crime with his phone call to the Ukrainian president. That evening, diGenova went off on the judge while reacting to his analysis. more...

by Jacob Pramuk
The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint that has embroiled President Donald Trump in an impeachment inquiry and clouded his political future.The nine-page document details an “urgent concern” that the president is “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” It not only details Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president during which he asked his counterpart to investigate the Biden family, but also alleges administration efforts to “lock down” records of the conversation. The complaint, based on the accounts of more than half a dozen U.S. officials, implicates more than Trump. It calls his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani a “central figure” in the effort and says Attorney General William Barr “appears to be involved as well.” Concerns that the document would show Trump trying to get a foreign state to investigate one of his chief political rivals — and accusations that the White House improperly stonewalled efforts to see it — led House Democrats to accuse the president of abusing his power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the chamber would start impeachment proceedings into Trump, alleging a “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections.” Shortly after the document’s release, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified about the complaint at the House Intelligence Committee. Members of congressional intelligence panels had a chance to review the document Wednesday. In a statement Thursday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, which is nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings—all of which shows nothing improper.” She said the president released a memorandum summarizing the call Wednesday “because he has nothing to hide.” more...

Chief question: Will Barr protect Trump from the Ukraine scandal?
By Sean Collins
Just months after public scrutiny over his part in the rollout of the Mueller report had faded, Attorney General William Barr is back in the spotlight. The release of a readout of a July call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has once again put Barr at the center of a scandal involving the US and a foreign government. On that call, Trump repeatedly encourages Zelensky to have his government work with Barr to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s role in the firing of a former Ukrainian top prosecutor. And Trump concludes the conversation by telling his Ukrainian counterpart he will instruct his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani (who does not hold any government office) and Barr to give Zelensky a call to discuss the matter. It is not clear whether Barr ever did speak with the Zelensky administration about the matter, a conversation that would have involved the president’s attorney general collaborating with a foreign government to investigate a potential political rival. But Barr’s statements to Congress, particularly those he gave during May testimony about his handling of the release of the Mueller report, have many Democrats concerned the attorney general will attempt to shield the president from inquiries — including a recently launched impeachment inquiry — into potential wrongdoing and that he will refuse to investigate the allegations Trump faces. Here are five questions he could answer to assuage those concerns. more...

By Judge Andrew P. Napolitano
Last week, media outlets reported the existence of a whistleblower complaint filed with the inspector general of the intelligence community against President Trump. The IC encompasses all civilian and military employees and contractors who work for the federal government gathering domestic and foreign intelligence. The inspector general -- a position appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate -- exists in all parts of the executive branch of the government, except for the White House, to examine and determine if officials are following the law. A whistleblower refers to a person who works for the government and who believes that her or his colleagues and bosses are engaged in unconstitutional or unlawful or dangerous behavior. A federal statute expressly provides procedures for federal employees to follow in order to make known to an inspector general the potentially unlawful or dangerous behavior. In the case of the IC, since the subject of a whistleblower complaint can be so serious -- often involving classified materials that affect national security -- the rules provide for an immediate review of the complaint. The complaint against Trump alleged that he offered a "promise" to a foreign head of state that was unlawful or threatening to national security. The IC inspector general -- a Trump appointee -- evaluated the complaint, interviewed the whistleblower, examined documents that the whistleblower provided and concluded that the complaint was "urgent and credible." more...

By Maureen Groppe and Ledyard King, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans on Wednesday dismissed a call between President Donald Trump and the leader of Ukraine as much ado about nothing, despite a summary of the call showing Trump repeatedly pressing for an investigation into a political rival. “What a nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “Democrats have lost their minds when it comes to President @realDonaldTrump.” House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries labeled the call a “textbook abuse of power” but declined to say whether it’s evidence enough to impeach the president. “We are in the midst of an impeachment inquiry,” Jeffries said. The next step, he said, is getting a complaint filed by a whistleblower in the intelligence community. “We can only imagine what is in that document,” Jeffries said, hours before the administration delivered the complaint to lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees. The Democratic-controlled House passed a nonbinding resolution calling on the Trump administration to turn the complaint over to Congress immediately as required by law. It was the first chance for the House to weigh in on the controversy since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday. more...

The Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The accrediting body that oversees Liberty University has asked the college for more information about recent news reports that have questioned President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leadership style and personal business interests, a spokeswoman told The Associated Press. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges recently sent the Lynchburg, Virginia, university a letter asking it to “respond to the media reports,” Janea Johnson said this week. Johnson declined to provide details about the contents of the letter or any specific concerns the commission would like addressed, saying the commission doesn’t divulge such communications. “The things that are in the media are things we wanted the institution to address to us,” Johnson said. Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb said the university hadn’t received any communications from the commission yet. Liberty is the nation’s highest-profile evangelical college. Falwell previously told AP that the news reports stemmed from an “attempted coup” orchestrated by several disgruntled former board members and employees who are leaking internal university communications to discredit him. He said he has asked the FBI to investigate what he considers a criminal conspiracy. Falwell is the son of the late evangelist the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty and led the Moral Majority, a conservative, religious political action group. The younger Falwell was among the earliest Christian conservatives to endorse President Donald Trump’s campaign and has enjoyed close access to the president. He says that support has likely prompted some of the criticism of his leadership style, personal life and business investments that has surfaced in news reports recently. more...

By Jordan Novet
George Kurtz, co-founder and CEO of cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, was at a meeting Wednesday morning when his email inbox was suddenly bombarded with news alerts. “I’m like ‘what, what? What’s going on?’” Kurtz told CNBC in an afternoon interview in San Francisco. “I had no idea.” Kurtz’s inbox was blowing up and he got bombarded with text messages from friends after CrowdStrike’s name appeared in the summary of a July call between President Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine. The White House released the summary amid pressure from House Democrats, who have placed Trump’s conversation with Zelensky at the center of an impeachment inquiry. “It was unintelligible, to be honest,” Kurtz said of Trump’s comments. “But it was a bit of a shock this morning.” CrowdStrike’s name was likely invoked by Trump because the company assisted the Democratic National Committee in investigating a 2016 hack by Russian operatives. Trump has previously suggested that the DNC should have turned over the email servers to the FBI instead of having CrowdStrike investigate, implying that the lack of cooperation should cast doubt on findings that the Russians helped him win the election. CrowdStrike responded on Wednesday by saying in a statement that it “provided all forensic evidence and analysis to the FBI,” and that “we stand by our findings and conclusions that have been fully supported by the US intelligence community.” Kurtz told CNBC that government work makes up a significant amount of the company’s revenue, though he said it doesn’t break out the numbers. He said CrowdStrike works with governments on the local, state and federal level, both in the U.S. and abroad. And he emphasized that the company is “nonpartisan.” “We protect both Democrats and Republicans,” he said. more...

The secretary of state is facing scrutiny from lawmakers over his involvement in the unfolding scandal.
Lawmakers trying to unravel the controversy over President Donald Trump's discussions with the leader of Ukraine are increasingly homing in on exactly what role Mike Pompeo played in the drama. And few have as much to lose as the secretary of state, a man with huge political ambitions who has closely aligned himself with Trump. Questions about Pompeo and the State Department's role have spread thanks to Trump’s point man on Ukraine, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. A memorandum made public on Wednesday documented what appeared to be Trump's efforts to convince his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. "Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great," Trump tells Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at one point in the memo. On Tuesday night, Giuliani told Fox News that he had gotten in touch with Ukrainian officials at the behest of the State Department. It was one of several times Giuliani has claimed that State officials had tasked him with the mission. "I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it," the former New York City mayor told Fox News, without naming names. Democrats jumped on that to demand answers, even as some Hill staffers privately say they are leery of believing Giuliani. "Rudy Giuliani needs to explain this under oath. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call a hearing ASAP," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire tweeted while linking to the clip of Giuliani's interview. more...

By Laurence H. Tribe, Opinion contributor
Whatever additional evidence against Donald Trump the impeachment inquiry digs up, we already know enough to say: The president must be impeached. Let us count the ways. The White House readout of President Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows that the American president has committed a multitude of high crimes and misdemeanors, all of them impeachable. Even without considering the many prior offenses that were surfaced in the Mueller report and in the special counsel’s prosecutions of numerous Trump allies and associates, including in the Southern District of New York, this readout — which must be the least incriminating version the White House could compose despite its remarkable skills at shading the truth or falsifying it altogether — is utterly devastating. The “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the readout reveals — to use the Constitution’s term for impeachable offenses beyond “treason” and “bribery” (both of which the readout comes close to establishing) — begin with Trump abusing the foreign policy powers entrusted to the president by Article II in order to serve his own political interests rather than the interests of the American people. Ukraine pressed by Trump, Russia: Those interests were defined here by a bipartisan decision of the Congress we elected to represent us in world affairs using its Article I spending power: Congress decided that it was in our nation’s security interest to provide nearly $400 million in aid to the beleaguered patriots of an American ally fighting a bloody battle with an American adversary. The ally was Ukraine. The adversary was Russia, which had — not so coincidentally — tried to help Trump win office in 2016. Even if this action weren’t payback to Russian President Vladimir Putin and yet another indication of how beholden Trump is to that brutal dictator — which it may well have been — it was a blatant usurpation of Congress’ Appropriation Clause authority for Trump to withhold the aid the Ukranians needed. When asked by Ukraine’s president in this July 25 phone call to purchase more Javelin missiles from the United States for defense purposes, Trump respond that he would gladly do so, although — he actually used the word “though” — he would greatly appreciate that foreign president’s aid in, among other things, gathering evidence to effectively help prosecute Trump’s main rival for the presidency in the forthcoming election. more...

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley on Wednesday described the whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump's communications with Ukraine as "deeply disturbing" after viewing the document. "I can't detail what it involves. Period," Quigley told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "I will tell people that it is deeply disturbing. It reinforces the concerns that what we previously learned and I think it is a blueprint for what we still need to know." Quigley asserted the whistleblower complaint "is the political equivalent" of Trump's claim during his 2016 presidential campaign that he could "stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody" without losing voters. "What the President said during the campaign, he said he could shoot someone on the street and his base would stay with him. I guess what I read, to me, was the political equivalent of that: defying the constitution, committing a criminal act and thinking, 'Well I can get away with it,' " he said. "Some sort of bizarre cult of personality. Deeply disturbing what we read this morning. Alarming." The whistleblower complaint -- which was hand-delivered to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for lawmakers to review -- deals, at least in part, with a phone call Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25. A transcript of the conversation released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Even before the whistleblower complaint was made available to lawmakers, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday declared Trump had betrayed his oath of office and announced she was opening a formal impeachment inquiry intot he President. more...

By Dave Goldiner - New York Daily News
Rudy Giuliani sought to pass the blame for his botched Ukraine dirt-digging operation to Trump administration officials and diplomats in an shouting match on Fox News — and they quickly punched back at him for causing the debacle that sparked impeachment. The ex-mayor waved his cell phone and claimed that the State Department directed him to arrange meetings with Ukrainian officials that Democrats call a brazen effort to get them to join a smear campaign aimed at presidential rival Joe Biden. Rudy Giuliani sought to pass the blame for his botched Ukraine dirt-digging operation to Trump administration officials and diplomats in an shouting match on Fox News — and they quickly punched back at him for causing the debacle that sparked impeachment. The ex-mayor waved his cell phone and claimed that the State Department directed him to arrange meetings with Ukrainian officials that Democrats call a brazen effort to get them to join a smear campaign aimed at presidential rival Joe Biden. “Rudy — he did all of this,” one U.S. official told the Washington Post. “This s--t show that we’re in — it’s him injecting himself into the process.” more...

Earlier this week, President Trump cited concerns about corruption as his rationale for blocking security assistance to Ukraine. But in a letter sent to four congressional committees in May of this year and obtained by NPR, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy John Rood informs lawmakers that he has "certified that the Government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purposes of decreasing corruption [and] increasing accountability." The certification was required by law for the release of $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine. That aid was blocked by the White House until Sept. 11 and has since been released. It must be spent before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. more...

By Justin Wise
Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), an Independent who formally left the Republican Party earlier this year, said Wednesday that a memo of President Trump
Donald John Trump Amash responds to Trump: 'It's not about the transcript of a call'  Warren announces expansion of presidential campaign Colbert on Ukraine controversy: 'It might be the thing' that gets Trump's conversation with the leader of Ukraine was a "devastating indictment" of the president. "Again, it’s not just about a call, but even the call is a devastating indictment of the president," Amash, who previously argued that the controversy surrounding Trump was more so about his "continuing abuse of the office of the presidency," said on Twitter just moments after the White House released a memo of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelensky. Amash, an outspoken critic of Trump, zeroed in on a portion of the conversation in which the president asked for a "favor" immediately after Zelensky thanked the president for military support. The lawmaker highlighted sections of the discussion, noting that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate CrowdStrike, a U.S.-based Internet security company that initially examined the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s servers in 2016. Trump later called on the Ukrainian leader to work with Attorney General William Barr to look into allegations of corruption against Biden's son, Hunter Biden. Trump's phone call with Zelensky is said to be at least part of a whistleblower complaint that has embroiled his administration in controversy over the last week. Reports first surfaced last week that Trump allegedly pressured the Ukrainian leader to find dirt on a political rival, spawning increasing calls from Democrats to launch impeachment proceedings. The call occurred around the same time that the Trump administration withheld millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, raising additional speculation as to whether the aid was used as leverage in the leaders' talks. Trump has acknowledged speaking with Zelensky about Biden, but has denied addressing military aid during their conversations. more...

CNN Newsroom - CNN's Brooke Baldwin reacts to President Donald Trump saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is "no longer the speaker of the House." Source: CNN more...

By Greg Miller, Shane Harris and Karoun Demirjian
The acting Director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The revelation reflects the extraordinary tensions between the White House and the nation’s highest-ranking intelligence official over a matter that has triggered impeachment proceedings against President Trump. The officials said that Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress, where he is scheduled to testify in open and closed hearings on Thursday. Maguire denied that he had done so. In a statement, Maguire said that “at no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019. I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now. I am committed to leading the Intelligence Community to address the diverse and complex threats facing our nation.” The White House also disputed the account. “This is actually not true,” White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a tweet. But other officials said that Maguire had pushed the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it was going to assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint, which centers on a call that Trump made with the leader of Ukraine in late July. Maguire has been caught in the middle of a fight between Congress and the executive branch over the contents of the whistleblower report since it reached his office late last month. He has at times expressed his displeasure to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others that the White House had put him in the untenable position of denying the material to Congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community. more...

To build his wall, Trump has been raiding funds from state projects. Members of his own party just voted to stop it.
By Li Zhou
Just one day after House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump was rebuked again — this time by members of his own party. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats forced a vote on a resolution terminating the national emergency Trump first declared in February to obtain money for a border wall, and it picked up a decent showing of Republican support. It’s the second time Democrats have pushed a vote on this specific declaration, something they have the ability to do every six months, as laid out in the National Emergencies Act of 1976. This time around, Democrats were joined by eleven Republicans, a decrease from the 12 Republicans who voted to terminate the emergency in March. While the resolution passed again with a vote of 54-41, it’s expected to get vetoed by Trump. The last time Democrats tried to advance a similar resolution, the measure also passed, but was stymied by a veto as well. Republicans previously disagreed with the precedent the declaration would set for a president’s use of executive power, and broke with Trump to express their opposition. Wednesday’s vote isn’t expected to stop the actual construction of more fencing; Trump began raiding military construction budgets in order to fund the wall earlier this month. But Democrats introduced the resolution at least in part to pressure Republicans — especially vulnerable senators in swing states — to make clear where they stood. And they weren’t able to avoid it: Because the 1976 law specifies that this resolution is “privileged,” a term that applies to measures the upper chamber must consider, Republicans were unable to prevent it from coming to the floor. more...

By Evan McMullin, Opinion contributor
Trump joins a cadre of corrupt Western leaders intent on undermining democracy to stay in power. One of the vital lessons I learned as an undercover CIA officer, and later as an adviser to Republicans in Congress, was how corrupt leaders escalate their abuses of power at the expense of their citizens’ freedom while trying to retain power. It motivated my service at the time and continues to drive my work to protect and improve American democracy now. It also informs my grave concern about recent reporting that President Donald Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pressured the government of Ukraine to help them dig up dirt on Trump’s primary political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Despite Trump and Giulani’s cajoling and claims to the contrary, Ukrainian prosecutors are not investigating Biden and do not have evidence of wrongdoing. Following in the footsteps of others: Some of the most extreme cases of such corrupt leaders are Syria’s Bashar Assad, Iran’s Ali Khamenei and North Korea's Kim family dynasty. In recent years, aspiring authoritarian leaders and movements have also risen to power closer to home in Hungary, Turkey and Poland. Each is in a unique position on the spectrum of corruption, but they have many traits in common, including attacks on the independent news media, attempts to dismantle other power centers within their own governments, self-dealing and various efforts to weaken their people’s ability to vote them out of office. A sober assessment of Trump’s presidency checks all of these boxes and easily places him among this latter group of rising Western strongmen. What appears to be an attempt to abuse the powers of his office to compel the Ukrainian government to help him politically by harming his main rival is alarming evidence that his corrupt efforts to hold onto power are escalating. That trend is unlikely to stop on its own. more...

By Paul Brandus, Opinion contributor
Nancy Pelosi waited to launch an impeachment inquiry because she knew Donald Trump would do something to hang himself. He didn't disappoint. Republicans accuse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of making a “rush to judgment” with her announcement Tuesday that she is pulling the trigger on an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Sure: She waited nearly a year from the midterm elections. Talk about being hasty. Pelosi, about as wily a political operative as there is — the same can be said of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — bided her time, resisting impatient young guns in her caucus who wanted to move much earlier, for two reasons: She knew that Trump, being Trump, would keep handing her more and more rope with which to hang him — and he didn't disappoint. The White House readout of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president released Wednesday sure backs that up. She also knew that public opinion wasn’t sufficient to warrant impeachment proceedings. On this last point, public opinion still isn’t there — and that’s a risk for the Democrats. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday shows just 37% of Americans think Trump should be impeached, down from 41% earlier this month and 44% in May. Republicans accuse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of making a “rush to judgment” with her announcement Tuesday that she is pulling the trigger on an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Sure: She waited nearly a year from the midterm elections. Talk about being hasty. Pelosi, about as wily a political operative as there is — the same can be said of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — bided her time, resisting impatient young guns in her caucus who wanted to move much earlier, for two reasons: She knew that Trump, being Trump, would keep handing her more and more rope with which to hang him — and he didn't disappoint. The White House readout of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president released Wednesday sure backs that up. She also knew that public opinion wasn’t sufficient to warrant impeachment proceedings. On this last point, public opinion still isn’t there — and that’s a risk for the Democrats. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday shows just 37% of Americans think Trump should be impeached, down from 41% earlier this month and 44% in May. more...

By Pete Gelling
The truth is, an impeachable offense is whatever the US Congress decides it is. That’s because impeachment isn’t really a legal response to perceived misconduct, it’s a political one.And House speaker Nancy Pelosi has finally decided. “The House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry,” she said this afternoon. “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.”“ The catalyst was the news that Trump used military aid to Ukraine to leverage his efforts to uncover information that could be used against his potential Democratic rival for the presidency in 2020, former vice president Joe Biden. Impeachment is a thing because the framers of the Constitution created an avenue to remove presidents, judges and other federal officeholders, even if the offense they are accused of isn’t addressed by the legal code. That’s why the impeachment article of the Constitution is so insanely vague: Impeachment, it says, is limited to “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” To quote Benjamin Franklin: The articles of impeachment are needed to remove a president who has “rendered themselves obnoxious.” That’s hardly limited at all. The only thing Congress needs in order to begin the impeachment process is the political will. And unfortunately for Trump, the political will is now there. At latest count 172 members of the House of Representatives have publicly said they would support an impeachment inquiry. A simple majority in the Democrat-led House would force the president to stand trial before the Republican-held Senate, where a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict. Lawmakers don’t usually think impeachment is a good idea, even when a president has clearly broken the law. Former president Bill Clinton, for instance, was dishonest in grand jury testimony about his sexual relationship with a White House intern. Perjury is a crime, of course. But many lawmakers didn’t think the offense rose to the level of impeachment and Clinton was acquitted by the Senate. Measured politically, impeachment ultimately becomes about proportional response. Lawmakers must decide if a presidential offense merits removal from office, and that the scale of it merits throwing the country into a political crisis. Usually, they don’t think so. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia was, for instance, while unseemly, not enough for the House to move toward impeachment. Trump’s most recent scandal, however, is changing some minds on Capitol Hill. And while it looks bad, it might just be the sum total of the offenses Trump has racked up that is changing the tide. The details of the latest scandal remain secret. And a lot of what the public does know is based on media reports quoting anonymous sources. What’s been confirmed by the Trump team’s own admission, however, could be enough. The reason for impeachment Here’s what is for certain: Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine at some point over the summer, blindsiding Ukrainian officials. A short while later, on July 25, he phoned up Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. The president pressured his counterpart to investigate Biden’s calls for Ukraine to dismiss one of the country’s notoriously corrupt prosecutors. Trump says he believes Biden—widely viewed as his most likely 2020 election opponent—was improperly trying to protect his son Hunter, who had business interests in Ukraine This theory, it’s worth noting, has been soundly disproved. So it looks a lot like the president was searching for dirt on his potential rival. more...

Trump is facing allegations that he tried to strong-arm a foreign leader into launching an investigation that might hurt Democratic contender Joe Biden.
By NBC News
Here is the full, five-page transcription memo released by the White House Wednesday detailing the July 25 phone conversation between President Donald Trump of the United States and Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine. Trump is facing allegations that he tried to strong-arm a foreign leader into launching an investigation that might hurt Democratic contender Joe Biden. In response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday for the first time endorsed impeachment proceedings. more...

By Greg Allen
The secretary of veterans affairs has told several members of Congress that he's evicting them from offices they've been using in VA hospitals. The House members use the offices to meet with vets and discuss everything from their eligibility for benefits to the quality of the care they receive. The VA says it wants the spaces back for clinical uses, but one of the lawmakers, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., thinks it's personal. Mast's district extends from Palm Beach North to Port St. Lucie, and like many of his constituents, he is a veteran. He lost both his legs working as a bomb disposal expert in Afghanistan. "I get all my health care from the VA," Mast says, "so I'm there regularly getting health care needs taken care of." Mast has been an activist on veterans' issues in Congress since he was elected in 2016. Last year, he became the first congressman to open an office inside a VA facility, the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach. Five other members of Congress, all Florida Democrats, followed suit. Last month, they received a letter from the VA telling them that their time was up and they would have to move out by the end of the year. Mast urged the VA to reconsider. On his Facebook page, he posted a video of a contentious hearing in April where he questioned VA Secretary Robert Wilkie over security issues and suicides at the West Palm Beach hospital. At the hearing, Mast pressed Wilkie on when he would visit. more...

By Ted Barrett and Zachary Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday "we're going to find out what happened" about a whistleblower's complaint regarding President Donald Trump and said he expects the Senate Intelligence Committee will conduct a "responsible, rather apolitical, at least bipartisan" probe of the matter. But the Kentucky Republican and his fellow GOP senators did not explicitly commit to pushing for the full complaint turned over to the committee. McConnell's pledge came the same day Trump announced he would release an "unredacted transcript" of the call Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump encouraged the Ukrainians to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. It also came on the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry to investigate the allegations. On Monday McConnell blasted Democrats for what he said was a politicization of the issue before the facts were known. The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to meet in a classified setting Thursday with the Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson where they will be asked to testify about what they know about the whistleblower complaint.
McConnell said the Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican of North Carolina, would look into the issue. "We're going to find out what happened. In the Senate, through a process pre-established through the Intelligence Committee behind closed doors initially with the acting director of DNI," McConnell said. "I think that is the responsible, rather apolitical, at least bipartisan way to proceed with what we think we know at this particular point." Burr was tight-lipped Monday about how his committee would respond to the complaint, although finally said he want to "bring the interested parties in" before the committee. The top Democrat on the committee is Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. "This is one step in a process. This is an orderly process, where the Committee, the full Committee, will get a chance to hear from both the IC Inspector General, Mr. (Michael) Atkinson, and the Acting DNI, Admiral Maguire," Warner said. "But again, we're going to take this one step at a time, and I think it's terribly important to get the facts." more...

BBC News - The Trump administration has released details of a phone conversation in July that has triggered a US impeachment inquiry against the president. According to the notes, Donald Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to look into corruption claims involving the son of Joe Biden, Mr Trump's possible rival in next year's presidential election. Concerns about the call were initially raised by a whistleblower. The Democrats accused Mr Trump of seeking foreign help to smear a rival. Under the US constitution, a president can be impeached for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours" - a procedure that can lead to removal from office. In July, Mr Trump froze military aid to Ukraine but he has insisted that this was not used to put pressure on the new government in Kiev. What does Trump say about Biden in the call? Mr Trump discusses with his newly elected Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, the 2016 removal of a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, according to notes of their 25 July telephone conversation released by the White House. The US president is quoted as saying in the call: "I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. "A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved." He continues: "The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution [of Mr Biden's son] and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the [US] Attorney General would be great. "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me." Mr Zelensky says in response: "We will take care of that and we will work on the investigation of the case." Thanking Mr Trump, Mr Zelensky says he stayed in Trump Tower in New York City during a previous visit to the US. During the call, the US president also asks Mr Zelensky to work with US Attorney General William Barr and Mr Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to look into the matter, according to the notes. The Department of Justice said on Wednesday that Mr Trump had not spoken with the attorney general about having Ukraine investigate Mr Biden, and Mr Barr had not communicated with Ukraine. more...

By Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence on Monday defended his own and the president’s conversations with the Ukrainian president, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity that there was no quid pro quo when Trump brought up former Vice President Joe Biden during Trump’s congratulatory call to the newly-elected president in July. “He mentioned Vice President Biden and his son in the context of us wanting to see honest government,” Pence said on Hannity’s show. “That’s exactly what the American taxpayer would expect.” Trump himself denied Tuesday using military aid as a pressure tactic to get Ukraine to investigate Biden. "I didn't do it," Trump said in brief remarks with reporters before delivering a speech at the United Nations. Trump said he held up the funds because the U.S. was paying too much while other countries were not paying enough. Pence had his own conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a trip to Poland this month. He told reporters after the meeting that he had not discussed Biden with Zelenskiy. He did not directly respond when asked if he could assure Ukraine that the holdup of military assistance was not related to an effort to dig up dirt on the Biden family. more...

Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey, The Washington Post
President Donald Trump told his Ukrainian counterpart to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate the conduct of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and offered to meet with the foreign leader at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly released transcript of the call. Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law. In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials. The administration's disclosures underscore how the president's phone call has consumed the federal government in recent days, and how the White House is now scrambling to defuse the situation by offering more details of what the president said. White House officials said the transcript does not show the president seeking an investigation of Biden's son in exchange for providing aid to Ukraine. When the president reminds Zelensky of how the United States helps Ukraine, Zelensky responds that he appreciates the tough sanctions the United States has imposed on Russia. On Wednesday, the administration released a White House transcript of the call and detailed behind-the-scenes discussions about how to handle the accusations. As public reports emerged about the call and pressure mounted to impeach the president, prosecutors quietly considered whether they should again investigate whether the president committed a crime. They declined to do so. The call begins with Trump congratulating Zelensky on his election victory, but quickly devolves into the president pressing for an investigation of his political rivals and endorsing an apparent conspiracy theory. He seems to suggest Hillary Clinton's private email server is in Ukraine and asserts that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation started with that country. "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it," Trump says, according to the transcript. He adds later: "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. . . . It sounds horrible to me." Zelensky replied that "my candidate" for the prosecutor job "will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue." At the outset of the call, Trump also asks for Ukraine's help in finding the location of the Democratic National Committee server that U.S. officials say was hacked by Russian intelligence in the run-up to the 2016 election. "The server, they say Ukraine has it," Trump says according to the transcript. "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it." more...

By Zachary Cohen, Katelyn Polantz, Pamela Brown, Evan Perez and David Shortell, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump repeatedly pushed for Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 phone call, according to a transcript of the conversation released by the White House. Trump also asked the Ukrainian leader to work with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and US Attorney General William Barr on the issue, the call transcript reveals. "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me," Trump says, according to the document. Zelensky agreed to the request. "Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate," the Ukrainian president said. He later added: "He or she will look into the situation specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case." On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into the President, a dramatic and historic step as Trump faced outrage over reports that he pressured a foreign leader in an effort to target a political rival. "The fact is that the President of the United states, in breach of his constitutional responsibilities, has asked a foreign government to help him in his political campaign at the expense of our national security, as well as undermining the integrity of our elections," she said after the transcript was released Wednesday. "That cannot stand. He will be held accountable. No one is above the law." The transcript, which a senior White House official said was developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with note takers and experts listening, will likely amplify the Democratic impeachment effort. Democratic presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren called the document a "smoking gun. "If this is the version of events the president's team thinks is most favorable, he is in very deep jeopardy," Warren tweeted. The July 25 call, which took place one day after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress about Russian interference in US elections, was also part of a whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, a source familiar with the situation previously told CNN, a revelation that has only raised more questions in the ongoing controversy. During the call, Trump suggested four times that Barr will call Zelensky and repeatedly mentions Giuliani, the Trump ally and former New York City mayor. Giuliani has long lobbied Ukraine to investigate Biden's call in 2016 to remove the country's top prosecutor, who at one point had been investigating a Ukrainian natural gas company connected to Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Trump insisted Wednesday there was "no pressure whatsoever" in his phone call with Zelensky. more...

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about idiot. You’re just lying…just keep your lying mouth shut.’
By Vincent Wood
Rudy Giuliani hurled abuse at a fellow Fox News guest, calling him a “serial liar” and a “moron” as the president’s opponents pledged to seek Donald Trump’s removal from office. With the threat of impeachment hanging in the air, Mr Giuliani’s outburst on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle came as he looked to defend Donald Trump and himself from allegations the president had offered to trade aid for political favours with the government of Ukraine. The lawyer lambasted fellow guest Chris Hahn, a former aide to senior Democrat Chuck Schumer, saying he should “sue him for libel” after the liberal commentator implied Giuliani was asked by the US State Department “to dig up political dirt on Trump’s opponent”. “Shut up moron, shut up” the president’s legal representative shouted over the left-wing pundit. “You don’t know what you’re talking about idiot. You’re just lying…just keep your lying mouth shut.” However in an earlier segment of the show Mr Giuliani admitted to making himself central to White House’s relationship between the US and Ukraine on order of the State department, and that digging into the history of Biden’s relationship with the country was part of his job as the president’s defence lawyer. When confronted with quotes from a US official who claimed the president’s lawyer had “inserted himself” into Washington’s relationship with the eastern-European nation, he said: “Man I really did, and you know who I did it at the request of? The State Department. more...

I used to be on the fence about impeaching Trump. Not anymore.
By Zack Beauchamp
Since the Democrats took control of the House, I’ve been deeply conflicted about the debate over impeaching President Donald Trump. There were very strong arguments on both sides, and it seemed genuinely difficult for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to chart the right course. That ambivalence ended this weekend. After worrying press reports about the president’s phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump all but openly admitted that he had pushed Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. This changes everything. Impeaching Trump over Robert Mueller’s findings in the Russia investigation would have been an attempt to address past offenses; impeaching Trump over these calls would be an attempt to halt what sure looks like an ongoing attempt to hijack American foreign policy in service of the president’s reelection. Democrats have an obligation to try to stop this before it gets any further. There is now no question: It’s time to impeach Donald Trump. The best case against impeachment no longer applies The most compelling argument against impeachment, to my mind, was that it wouldn’t really accomplish anything. There’s a virtual guarantee that impeachment will fail in the Republican-controlled Senate, which means there’s no real chance of actually removing Trump from office. Public opinion about the Russia scandal became more set along partisan lines as time went on, making it unlikely that drawing attention to it would galvanize public opinion against the Trump presidency in 2020. Why risk distracting Democrats from the issues on which Trump is genuinely unpopular, and jeopardizing the House Democratic majority, when the gains were so marginal? This seems to be something like the reasoning that has guided Pelosi’s stolid opposition to impeachment. It’s not obviously correct, but it’s a serious argument — and one that pro-impeachment Democrats and commentators dismissed too easily. more...

Trump's claims appear to be at the center of a scandal involving a phone call with Ukraine's president, in which Trump reportedly pressed for a probe of his political rival.
By Jane C. Timm
President Donald Trump says he discussed political rival Joe Biden with the president of Ukraine — a phone call reportedly at the heart of an unprecedented whistleblower complaint that has led to the launch of formal impeachment proceedings in the House — for one reason: a desire to root out corruption. The former vice president, he said, wielded his influence to benefit his son Hunter’s private-sector work in Ukraine. But despite Trump's continued claims to the contrary, there's no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of either of the Bidens. "What Joe Biden did for his son, that’s something they should be looking at," Trump told reporters Tuesday, deflecting questions about the renewed push by House Democrats for impeachment proceedings in the wake of the revelations surrounding his dealings with Ukraine, which include reports that he pressured Ukraine's leader to probe Biden and his family while that country was awaiting U.S. aid he'd delayed. Here's what we know about Biden's actions as vice president with regard to Ukraine, Trump's accusations, and Trump's own dealings with the country's leader. Biden's anti-corruption work in Ukraine As vice president, the elder Biden lead the U.S. diplomatic efforts to bolster the country’s fledgling democracy and root out corruption after mass protests ousted the country’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych. Biden spoke frequently with Ukrainian leaders and in April of 2014, he traveled to Ukraine, bringing financial support and warning the Russians — who had recently annexed Crimea — to stop intervening in Ukrainian sovereignty. more...

Pelosi says US House is moving forward with an official inquiry into whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that the US House of Representatives will launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, acquiescing to mounting pressure from fellow Democrats and plunging a deeply divided nation into an election year clash between Congress and the president. The announcement comes amid reports that Trump may have abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government to undermine former Vice President Joe Biden, the current Democratic frontrunner, and help his own reelection. In a summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Trump is said to have asked for help investigating Biden and his son Hunter. In the days before the call Trump ordered advisers to freeze $400m in military aid for Ukraine - prompting speculation that he was holding out the money as leverage for information on the Bidens. Trump has denied that charge, but acknowledged he blocked the funds, later released. The Trump-Ukraine phone call is part of the whistle-blower's complaint, though the administration has blocked Congress from getting other details of the report, citing presidential privilege. Trump has authorised the release of a transcript of the call, which is to be made public on Wednesday.  "You will see it was a very friendly and totally appropriate call," Trump said. He blasted the inquiry on Tuesday as "Witch Hunt garbage".  As a formal impeachment inquiry in the House gets under way, here are all the latest updates: more...

By Geoffrey Kabaservice
The Democrats’ decision to begin impeachment proceedings has set the country on a course whose end is impossible to predict. Nancy Pelosi, the US House Speaker, might sympathize with the quote attributed to nineteenth-century French politician Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.” For months following the release of the Mueller report, Pelosi had resisted pressure from within her caucus to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. But now, with more than two-thirds of Democrats in the House of Representatives favoring impeachment in the wake of Trump’s Ukrainian scandal, she has reversed herself and announced a formal impeachment inquiry. Pelosi had objected to impeachment mainly for political reasons. She observed that the Mueller Report’s lengthy catalogue of Trump’s malefactions didn’t move public sentiment toward impeachment. She predicted that the Republican-dominated Senate would surely reject any articles of impeachment approved by the Democratic House, making the process appear to be merely partisan theater — a repeat of the 1998 impeachment proceedings mounted against President Bill Clinton by House Republicans, which ultimately backfired and led to Democratic gains in that year’s elections. And she pointed out that impeachment proceedings might jeopardize the moderate Democrats who won Republican-held districts in 2018, allowing the party to regain control of the House. But on September 23, a group of seven first-term Democrats from those very battleground districts — all of whom had served in the military or defense and intelligence agencies, and six of whom had previously opposed impeachment — wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post declaring that “If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.” Perhaps Pelosi, like those seven representatives, changed her mind because of the gravity of the new allegations, but their reversal certainly undercut her pragmatic political case against impeachment. And the Trump administration’s stonewalling of congressional investigations and refusal to abide by long-established norms of political conduct weakened Pelosi’s argument that methods short of impeachment could determine the truth of the allegations. more...

Al Jazeera English - Tens of thousands of Indian Americans packed into a Texas stadium for an unusual joint rally addressed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Donald Trump. The event in Houston, dubbed "Howdy Modi!", was a rare mass show of support for a foreign leader on US soil. As Al Jazeera cameraman Gilbert De La Rosa attempted to film placard-carrying protesters, a handful of men, wearing "Volunteer" shirts and official credentials for the Modi event, attempted to yank his camera from him. After a brief scuffle, police intervened and threatened to arrest one of the men. more...

CNN Digital Expansion 2018 Katelyn Polantz
By Katelyn Polantz, CNN
Washington (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement Tuesday of a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump may not matter much to federal judges. With Democrats not currently planning to vote on a formal resolution authorizing the impeachment inquiry, Pelosi's words could play as mere politics in court. "Without that vote -- is it an impeachment inquiry?" said Sam Dewey, a Washington lawyer who has served as both House and Senate counsel on Republican-led investigations. "Pelosi can say it, but just because she says it, I'm not sure what that means." There are five major court cases between the Trump administration and the House that could factor into impeachment proceedings. In two of the cases, Trump is suing to stop an accounting firm, Mazars USA, and two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, from turning over tax returns and other financial information to various House committees. In another lawsuit, the House Ways and Means Committee wants a judge to force the IRS to give it Trump's tax returns. And in two others, the House is seeking details already gathered by former special counsel Robert Mueller in his criminal probes into obstruction of justice and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The House argues in one of those cases against the administration's assertion of "absolute immunity" for officials protecting former White House counsel Donald McGahn from testifying about what the President directed him to do. In the coming days, the House could begin touting its new formal impeachment inquiry to the courts. But so far, the House has argued the existence of the inquiry doesn't matter, that it's already in full swing, and that committees are pursuing information about Trump for a number of legislative reasons. "At least in the immediate future, it's likely more of the two sides staring at each other," former acting House general counsel William Pittard said on Tuesday. Pittard, who led the House legal office under Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, said Pelosi's announcement could greenlight bolder action by committees, ultimately pushing more House subpoena fights to the courts. One case involving Trump and the House centers around the question of congressional access to grand jury secrets gathered by Mueller. Right now, the House can't see the redacted grand jury details in the Mueller report. But House lawyers argue members need to view the grand jury secrets, in order to consider impeachment. That case sticks out as one where the formality of an impeachment proceeding may matter most. more...

Intelligence official spoke to Director of National Intelligence
By Andrew Buncombe
The US intelligence official who “blew the whistle” on Donald Trump’s phone call with the leader of Ukraine reportedly wants to testify before Congress. House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said the official who first made the complaint about the July 25 phone call between Mr Trump and president Volodymyr Zelensky had made contact with Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI). “We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the acting DNI as to how to do so,” Mr Schiff tweeted. He added: “We’re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.” On Tuesday, as Mr Trump defended his call to Ukraine’s leader and said there was not quid pro quo when he asked him to proceed with a probe into Joe Biden and his son, more and more Democrats appeared to have come around to the idea of formal censure. Attention focused on House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has resisted calls for an impeachment inquiry for months. But as more members of her caucus pressed for a probe — including crucial moderates in political swing districts — the speaker planned to huddle with her members late Tuesday afternoon. Advisors said she would make a statement on the path forward at 5pm. In an appearance ahead of that meeting, Ms Pelosi, 79, sidestepped questions about whether she believed Mr Trump’s actions were impeachable, but she said it would be wrong for the president to ask a foreign leader for help investigating Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. more...

Trump has approved releasing the document at the center of his latest standoff with lawmakers, a senior administration official said.
By NANCY COOK
The White House is preparing to release to Congress by the end of the week both the whistleblower complaint and the inspector general report at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to a senior administration official, reversing its position after withholding the documents from lawmakers. The move shows the level of seriousness with which the administration is now approaching the House‘s impeachment proceedings, even as President Donald Trump publicly tried to minimize the inquiry as a “witch hunt,” “presidential harassment,” and even a move that will help him win reelection in 2020.  The administration official stressed the decision and timing could change over the next few days, but as of Tuesday evening, the White House was planning to give the information to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The format of presentation, or process of viewing the documents, wasn't decided. The president has agreed to the move, the official added. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told POLITICO on Tuesday night that he’d received no word on whether the Trump administration would turn over the complaint. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment. The White House’s decision to give lawmakers any information on the whistleblower complaint marks a major change of strategy for the administration, which originally seemed intent on keeping the complaint private. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, so far, has declined to turn over the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees as required by law. The White House counsel’s office and Justice Department have spent the past few days reviewing whistleblower laws. more...

Freshmen Dems in swing districts push for impeachment proceedings
By Casey Tolan
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement that she would open a formal inquiry into impeaching President Trump came as a wave of newly elected House Democrats from toss-up districts in California and around the country came out in support of impeachment proceedings Tuesday. The growing chorus of congressional Democrats demanding an impeachment inquiry included four freshmen Democrats from California who flipped GOP districts last year in close races, Reps. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda), TJ Cox (D-Fresno), Josh Harder (D-Modesto) and Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce). All four had previously stayed on the fence on the impeachment question. They were joined by nearly a dozen House freshmen in recent days amid a growing political firestorm over allegations that Trump used U.S. aid money to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his 2020 rivals. The first-term Democrats’ victories last year helped secure the party’s control of the House, and their political pressure seems to have helped move Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who has long resisted an impeachment drive, to change her position. more...  

The unsanctioned Republican debate came as House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry.
By Jane Coaston
Two of President Donald Trump’s Republican primary opponents — former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Republican Congress member Joe Walsh — participated in an unsanctioned presidential debate Tuesday night. Both called for his impeachment. At the start of the debate, organized by Business Insider and broadcast on Facebook Watch just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will pursue a formal impeachment inquiry, Walsh said, “the president of the United States will be impeached very, very soon. The POTUS will deserve to be impeached very, very soon.” The pro-impeachment push shouldn’t be surprising coming from Weld and Walsh. Neither candidate is running on the basis of specific policy differences with the current president — rather, both are running with the express purpose of defeating not just Trump, but the idea of Trump and his hold on the Republican Party. “It’s not about issues. It’s about Trump,” Walsh said when asked about his plans for his first days in the Oval Office. Earlier, he said, “This is about Trump. This is about that guy in the White House,” saying that his focus was not on his debate companion. “I’m not debating Bill Weld. I’ve got all the respect in the world for Bill Weld.” After being asked about Pelosi’s announcement, Walsh said, “He deserves to be impeached and everybody should keep their boots” on Republicans who aren’t supportive of impeachment. The debate came in the midst of an emerging scandal focused on news that Trump tried to pressure the Ukrainian president into investigating Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, with allegations that Trump may have been willing to withhold military aid from Ukraine in order to make it happen. (To be extremely clear, there is no evidence that either Biden broke any laws.) Weld, who previously called Trump’s actions with Ukraine “treason” and noted that the penalty for treason is death, didn’t reiterate that call. But he did add that his experiences during the Watergate scandal informed his support for impeachment. more...

By BURGESS EVERETT
Martha McSally and Cory Gardner both face tough reelection races in 2020 in battleground states. But the two Republican senators are taking completely different approaches to the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. McSally (R-Ariz.) is predicting political doom for Democrats, deeming it a “kamikaze mission” that will help Republicans across the board. Gardner is keeping his opinion as close to the vest as possible.  “Literally they are on a path to re-elect the president, keep the Senate majority [Republican] and possibly flip the House. It’s a total distraction,” McSally said in an interview of the House Democrats' path. “For the people I represent, this is not what they’re talking about.” Gardner said Trump's conversations with the president of Ukraine about Joe Biden and his family as well as a whistleblower complaint about the president's conversations with a world leader are a “serious issue.” Asked if he still supported Trump’s reelection, Gardner declined to address the question: “Let’s find out what’s happening. Let’s get to the bottom of this.” “I’m not going to get in front of the facts that I simply don’t have right now,” he added. If House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry turns into an attempt to remove the president from office, Gardner and McSally will be two of the most closely watched votes. And for now no one on the Senate Republican side is even endorsing an inquiry, much less suggesting they might vote to convict the president. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina spoke to the 53-member caucus on Tuesday afternoon at lunch, senators said. He “suggested we get the facts before people start jumping to conclusions,” recalled Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). more...   

The wife of "Shark Tank" star Kevin O'Leary has been charged with driving their boat carelessly in the fatal boating accident last month, but the other driver was also charged with a crime. TMZ has learned the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) charged Linda O'Leary with "careless operation of a vessel." TMZ broke the story ... O'Leary's boat was on Lake Joseph August 24 when it slammed into another boat, killing 2 passengers. Our sources say the OPP obtained 5 videos from cameras trained on the lake and they concluded she was driving 17 MPH at around 11:30 PM ... which police say was not a safe speed. more...

(Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence fell by the most in nine months in September, far more than expected, as Americans’ economic outlooks darkened in the face of the U.S.-China trade war, according to a private sector report released on Tuesday. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 125.1, from an downwardly revised 134.2 the month before. The 49 economists polled by Reuters had expected a reading of 133.5. September’s reading marked the largest shortfall relative to Wall Street’s expectations since 2010. “The escalation in trade and tariff tensions in late August appears to have rattled consumers,” Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement. more...

By Juliegrace Brufke
Freshman Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas) introduced a resolution aimed at removing House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) from his role as the top Democrat on the panel responsible for handling impeachment proceedings. The Republican-backed resolution comes as an influx of Democrats come out in support of moving forward with articles of impeachment following reports that President Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the country investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. According to Gooden, the resolution “would formally recognize the illegality of impeachment proceedings,” arguing authorization is needed for the committee to move forward with impeachment proceedings. “In recent days Democrats have sanctimoniously declared their allegiance to the rule of law. I encourage them to follow those rules and hold Chairman Nadler accountable for breaking them,” he said in a statement. more... - Republicans will protect Trump no matter what he does.  

His colleagues, however, firmly defended the president, calling any impeachment talks “ridiculous.”
By Justin Baragona
The Daily Beast - Fox News’ Steve Doocy has now drawn a line in the sand when it comes to President Donald Trump seeking assistance from a foreign leader in the upcoming election. We’ll see how long it will stand. During Tuesday’s broadcast of Trump’s favorite morning talk show Fox & Friends, Doocy declared that it would be “really off-the-rails wrong” if the president offered a quid pro quo in exchange for the Ukrainian government opening an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In the wake of a blockbuster Washington Post report that revealed Trump ordered to withhold nearly $400 million of military aid to Ukraine days before he pushed the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens, Doocy said that the freeze of money “doesn’t look like good timing” before offering up a defense for Trump. “But Fox News has confirmed that apparently the president wanted to make sure that the new president of Ukraine understood that if you are going to get this money, we really want you to end corruption before we give you that dough,” he added. “Then there are other stories out about whether or not other allies and other countries were actually kicking in as much money as they should on the world stage.” Co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Ainsley Earhardt then rallied to the president’s side, stating that they do not have a “problem with the timing” of the withholding of aid and claiming that “it’s ridiculous” for House Democrats to be discussing impeachment over this. Doocy, meanwhile, acknowledged that there should be a scenario that they can all agree is inappropriate. “If the president said, I will give you the money but you have got to investigate Joe Biden, that is really off-the-rails wrong,” he stated. “But if it’s something else, you know, it would be nice to know what it is.” more...

By Dana Bash, Manu Raju, Sunlen Serfaty and Clare Foran, CNN
Washington (CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, a dramatic and historic move that comes as the President faces outrage over reports that he pressured a foreign leader in an effort to target a political rival. The announcement marks the most direct step taken by the House Democratic leader to embrace impeachment proceedings and is a significant escalation in the fight between House Democrats and the President. "The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the President's betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections," Pelosi said in a brief speech in the Capitol. "Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry." The House speaker, who has long pushed to keep her caucus away from the politically divisive issue, is signaling that she's responding to the seismic shift among Democratic members, following Trump's admission of discussing Vice President Joe Biden and his son in his phone call with the Ukrainian President. Dozens of House Democrats -- many from moderate or Trump-won districts -- have announced their support for an impeachment inquiry over the past 48 hours. In advance of that statement, Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also announced plans to vote on a resolution of disapproval on Wednesday for allegations "that the President of the United States sought to enlist a foreign government to interfere in our democratic process by investigating one of his political rivals -- and may have used the withholding of Congressionally-appropriated foreign assistance days earlier as intimidation." Their statement did not mention impeachment. Pelosi consulted Tuesday afternoon with the six House Democratic leaders to discuss their presentation to the caucus later in the day, Democratic sources familiar with the issue say. In that closed-door meeting before her public announcement, Pelosi said the six chairmen will continue to investigate under a powerful new umbrella of an impeachment inquiry. A separate source in the room said the speaker added, "Here we are. A moment of truth. Truth is what this has been about all along." She said, "The DNI has chosen to break the law. The law is clear" adding, "This is a betrayal of our national security. A betrayal of our election." "He's taken it to another level of betrayal therefore we're moving forward with another level of inquiry," Pelosi said. At an Atlantic Ideas Festival event in Washington on Tuesday, Pelosi declined to weigh in on specifics when asked about impeachment. "It's really sad to think that our President would perform an impeachable offense," Pelosi said at the event. "It's hard to say you've gotten to that place. But what would be an impeachable offense would be that which is proven in an investigation." Behind the scenes, Pelosi is encouraging members of her caucus to state their impeachment position now in order to show there is a groundswell in the caucus. She is also conveying that message to freshmen. Tide changing for Pelosi allies and vulnerable House freshmen Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis on Tuesday announced his support for impeachment proceedings, arguing that "now is the time to act" and any delay "would betray the foundation of our democracy." "We will never find the truth unless we use the power given to the House of Representatives and the House alone to begin an official investigation as dictated by the Constitution," the Georgia Democrat said in a speech on the House floor. "The future of our democracy is at stake." more...

CNN Anderson Cooper 360 - CNN's Anderson Cooper points out the irony of White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham's latest comments on "Fox and Friends." more...

By Lisette Voytko - Forbes Staff
Topline: Fox News came under heavy criticism after conservatives on the network criticized 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg, with one guest calling her “mentally ill” and host Laura Ingraham roasted on Twitter by her own brother after comparing Thunberg to one of the evil spawns of Children of the Corn. Fox News apologized Tuesday for pundit and Daily Wire podcast host Michael Knowles who, while appearing on The Story Monday night, called Thunberg a “mentally ill Swedish child.” Knowles seemed to be erroneously suggesting that Thunberg’s autism (which she had referred to as her “superpower”) is a mental illness. Fox issued an apology to multiple outlets, stating: “The comment made by Michael Knowles, who was a guest on The Story tonight, was disgraceful—we apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers.” Buzzfeed News also reported that Fox News stated it had “no plans” to book Knowles for future shows. Autism advocacy organizations issued condemnations. National Autistic Society tweeted that it was “unbelievable & shameful.” The Autism Society also called it “shameful to issue a derogatory statement to a youth advocate.” The Autistic Self Advocacy Network told the Hollywood Reporter it was “unconscionable to attack someone for their disability, especially when that person is a child.” Later in the evening, Fox host Laura Ingraham compared Thunberg’s appearance to that of the homicidal fundamentalist youths in Stephen King’s Children of the Corn. Ingraham’s brother Curtis Ingraham responded, writing:  “I can no longer apologize for a sibling who I no longer recognize.” Tangent: President Trump also took note of Thunberg Monday, referring to her as “a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” Thunberg responded by making that her Twitter bio. more...

By Brian Pascus
Four service members of the United States Navy have died by suicide between July and September of this year, officials have confirmed. The suicides involved four sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier. Although two of the sailors killed themselves on the same day, the suicides did not occur on board the ship and authorities have said there is nothing to indicate the deaths are linked.  In a Facebook post, Captain Sean Bailey, Commanding Officer of USS George H.W. Bush, confirmed that a number of suicides have taken place by crew members in the last two years.  "It is with a heavy heart that I can confirm the loss of three Sailors last week in separate, unrelated incidents from apparent suicide. My heart is broken," Bailey wrote. "These deaths mark the third, fourth, and fifth crew member suicides in the last two years. Now is the time to come together as a crew and as a family to grieve, to support each other, and to care for those in need." The Navy Times reported that on July 16 Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Robert John Bartulewicz III died by suicide. The Navy Times reported that last week, three more deaths were ruled as suicides by authorities in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia. Chief Electronics Nuclear Technician James Harold Shelton died on September 14. Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Vincent Michael Forline and Airman Ethan Thomas Lee Stuart died on September 19. Norfolk Police Department Public Information Officer Daniel Hudson confirmed the deaths of three Navy officers to CBS News. Police classified the cause of each death as undetermined because only a medical examiner can classify the deaths as a suicide. According to Norfolk police, around 12:30 a.m. on July 16, 2019, Bartulewicz III was found inside a vehicle in a parking lot. Police received a call for a man slumped over in a vehicle. He was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound, and it was determined by police at the scene to be self-inflicted. more...

By Olivia Beavers and Tal Axelrod
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the whistleblower who reportedly first raised alarm about President Trump’s conversations with the Ukraine’s leader, wants to speak to the panel, and that they are expecting the whistleblower’s testimony "as soon as this week." “We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting [director of national intelligence] DNI as to how to do so,” Schiff tweeted. “We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.” The announcement comes shortly after Trump said he had authorized the release of the official transcript of his July conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump said he brought up former Vice President Joe Biden’s ties to Kiev. But at the center of the scandal is not the transcript of their phone call, but rather the whistleblower’s complaint, which could contain more information and context in addition to the contents of their phone conversations. Acting DNI Joseph Maguire has so far withheld the complaint from Congress, arguing that the allegations do not fall within the intelligence community whistleblower statute. His determination runs counter to that made by intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who testified about the handling of the complaint before the Intelligence panel last week. He had determined after a preliminary investigation that the allegations were both credible and an "urgent concern." Democrats and some legal experts say Maguire, who is set to testify Thursday, exploited a loophole in order to overrule the intelligence community watchdog. more...

Washington Post - Fox News apologized to climate activist Greta Thunberg on Sept. 23 after guest Michael Knowles, of the Daily Wire, called her a “mentally ill Swedish child.” more...

Throughout the day on Monday, conservatives on television and social media mocked and belittled the 16-year-old climate activist.
By Justin Baragona
The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles joined other conservative pundits and Fox News personalities in openly attacking 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg following her fiery speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit on Monday, calling the teenager a “mentally ill Swedish child.” In the wake of Friday’s youth-led Climate Strike, Thunberg blasted U.N. leaders, striking a defiant and angry tone. “For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away?” Thunberg said. “Because if you really understood the situation and went on failing to act, you would be evil, and that I refuse to believe.” Appearing on Fox News’ The Story on Monday evening, Knowles joined anchor Harris Faulkner and liberal commentator Christopher Hahn to discuss Monday’s climate protests across the nation as well as Thunberg’s speech. Knowles immediately went after the young climate activist. “If it were about science it would be led by scientists rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left,” Knowles said, prompting Faulkner to ask Hahn to respond since he had a “visceral reaction” to the right-wing talker’s comments. “Yeah, I mean, you’re a grown man and you’re attacking a child—shame on you,” the liberal pundit said. Knowles insisted he was not attacking Thunberg but rather her parents and liberals. “Relax, skinny boy, I got this,” Hahn shouted. “OK? You’re attacking a child, you’re a grown man!” As Hahn continued to demand that Knowles “take it back,” the conservative podcaster stood by his remarks, repeating his claim that Thunberg is “mentally ill” while accusing the left of “exploiting a girl with many mental illnesses.” (For the record, Thunberg has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, something she has called her “superpower.”) more...

By Shane Croucher
President Donald Trump appeared to mock Greta Thunberg after her emotional speech to the United Nations on Monday. Thunberg, 16, was tearful and her voice broke as she chided world leaders for having "stolen my dreams and my childhood" with their inaction on climate change. The Swedish activist founded the school strike campaign to raise awareness about the climate emergency and the urgent need for governments to take comprehensive action quickly. She has since traveled the world to campaign on climate change and recently sailed across the Atlantic to New York City so she could give this speech to the U.N. "She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!" Trump wrote on Twitter alongside a clip of Thunberg's speech. He tweeted after a video of Thunberg glaring at him as he entered the U.N. headquarters went viral on social media. Trump has questioned climate change science and sought to roll back environmental protections, as well as encouraged greater production in the fossil fuel industry. But climate scientists are near-unanimous in the view that humans are the driving force of the current changes to the climate and that time is almost out for us to halt it and reverse its effects. more...


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