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














US Monthly Headline News September 2019 Page 12

Rep. Adam Schiff said the House Intelligence Committee wants to know more about about Trump’s calls with Putin.
By Catherine Kim
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) would like to obtain more of President Donald Trump’s phone calls with world leaders — especially those with Russian President Vladimir Putin, although that’s the last thing the Kremlin wants. The White House has released a record of a phone call Trump held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to rebut a whistleblower’s allegations Trump asked a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent. The White House’s record of that call did contain Trump asking Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and the whistleblower claims the administration placed its notes from the call in a system meant only for highly classified material in order to keep the request secret. The whistleblower’s allegations ultimately led to calls for an impeachment inquiry, and Schiff is concerned Trump’s conversation with Zelensky may just be the tip of the iceberg. On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, Schiff, who as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is leading investigations into the Ukraine matter, said he wanted to better understand whether the White House was trying to hide any more calls with foreign leader — and if so, why. “The paramount need here is to protect the national security of the United States and see whether, in the conversations with other world leaders and, in particular, with Putin, that the president was also undermining our security in a way that he thought would personally benefit his campaign,” Schiff said. “If those conversations with Putin or with other world leaders are sequestered in that same electronic file that is meant for covert action, not meant for this, if there’s an effort to hide those and cover those up, yes, we’re determined to find out,” he added. Over the past three years, Trump has had 11 phone calls with Putin, according to The New York Times. The content of those conversations has mostly been kept in secret — and the Kremlin wants to keep it that way. Two days after the White House released its summary of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters that he hoped conversations with Putin would remain private, according to the Times. Conversations between presidents are not usually shared with the public, and the release of the call with Zelensky is a “quite unusual” exception, Peskov added. “We would like to hope that we would not see such situations in our bilateral relations, which already have plenty of quite serious problems,” he said. Peskov did not give a definite answer on whether the Kremlin would agree to releasing a record of Putin and Trump’s calls. The disclosure of the contents would be handled case-by-case, although he hasn’t received any requests like that so far, Peskov said. In general however, conversations between the president and world leaders are not usually shared with the public, in order to give both parties the freedom to speak candidly. The release of the call with Zelensky is a “quite unusual” exception, Peskov said. The whistleblower’s allegations have placed the contents of Trump’s calls in doubt There have always been calls for the White House to release conversations between Trump and Putin, although these demands have largely blown over in the past, in part because, as the Washington Post’s Greg Miller has reported, notes from some Trump-Putin conservations may not exist: “US officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years.” The Ukraine, scandal, however, has renewed calls for the review of what notes may exist due to the whistleblower’s allegation the Trump administration has, on more than one occasion, placed records from phone calls with foreign leaders in a secure system reserved for top state secrets. This was done, the whistleblower says, to protect the president from the contents of those notes. more...

A Ukrainian ex-prosecutor general has told the BBC there is no reason for his country to investigate President Donald Trump's political rival Joe Biden. Yuriy Lutsenko said any investigation into Mr Biden and his son would have to start in the US. "I don't know any reason to investigate Joe Biden or Hunter Biden according to Ukrainian law," he said. Mr Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate the pair prompted an impeachment inquiry by the Democrats. A transcript of a call Mr Trump made to Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky on 25 July shows he urged him to investigate discredited corruption allegations against Mr Biden and his son. Mr Trump and his allies have been suggesting that Mr Biden, as Barack Obama's vice-president, encouraged the firing of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he had been investigating Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, which employed Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden became a director at Burisma in 2014, while his father held a key role in US policy towards Ukraine. Mr Biden is currently frontrunner to be the Democrat to take on Mr Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. What did Lutsenko say? Speaking to BBC Kiev correspondent Jonah Fisher, Mr Lutsenko - who succeeded Mr Shokin and stood down last month - said there was no plan to open the investigation into Burisma, and that any investigation into Hunter Biden would have to start in the US. "It is the jurisdiction of the US," he said, adding that any "possible embezzlement" at Burisma "happened two or three years before Hunter Biden became a member of the board". more...

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez CBS News
President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said on Sunday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told him he was aware of his unorthodox diplomatic campaign to pressure Ukraine's government to dig up political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. "I did not do this on my own. I did it at the request of the State Department and I have all of the text messages to prove it. And I also have a thank you from them from doing a good job," Giuliani said on "Face the Nation." "When I talked to the secretary last week, he said he was aware of it." Transcript: Rudy Giuliani on "Face the Nation" Giuliani's claim on Sunday echoes recent allegations that he and others, including a whistleblower whose compliant is at the center of an impeachment push against Mr. Trump, have made about the State Department's supposed involvement in his behind-the-scenes outreach to Ukraine, a staunch U.S. ally dealing with a Russian-backed insurgency in its eastern territory. Along with denouncing a call in July in which Mr. Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigative the Bidens, the whistleblower in the complaint said senior State Department officials — including the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker — reached out to Giuliani to "contain the damage" of his rogue communication with the Ukrainian government. Giuliani has said the State Department's involvement in his outreach to the Ukrainian government started in July, when he said Volker connected him with a top Zelensky aide. Soon after meeting with the aide, Andriy Yermak, Giuliani said he called both Volker and the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, to brief them on his conversation. After that phone call, Giuliani said he participated in a "full debriefing" on the matter on August 12. more...

Prominent figures on Russian TV have been openly putting out the same ideas that we now know the American president was privately pursuing.
By Julia Davis
Elements of the bombshell whistleblower report outlining various aims pursued by the Trump administration with respect to Ukraine keep connecting back to Russia. Several of the reported objectives of President Donald Trump, his administration officials, and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, would benefit the Kremlin and not the United States or its national security. Namely, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was urged to make a deal with Putin, pressured “to play ball” with respect to providing or manufacturing compromising materials about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, and essentially tasked with concocting “the evidence” to disprove the well-established fact that the Democratic National Committee server was hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016. The unconscionable demand for Ukraine to make “a deal” with an invader— which has annexed and occupied its territory and continues to fuel an armed conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives—would mean a surrender of Ukraine’s national interests for the benefit of the Kremlin. It would also lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. Casting doubt on Russia’s involvement in the hack of the DNC server would potentially lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its election-meddling and other malign activities. Attacking the credibility of Biden, frequently described by Kremlin-controlled state television as “Trump’s most dangerous rival,” would also benefit Putin, who openly admitted that he wanted President Trump to be elected in 2016. That preference remains intact, in spite—or perhaps because—of multiple missteps by America’s bumbling commander in chief. Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of Russia’s most popular Sunday news program, Vesti Nedeli, urged Trump to keep digging in Ukraine for “the sweetest” kompromat of all: “Proving that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the U.S. elections.” The pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden has been not only from Trump, but also from the Kremlin. One of the expectations, voiced on Russian state-television channel Rossiya 24 by analyst Alexander Kareevsky, was that taking down Biden would inevitably lead to the “revelation”—in fact, an outrageous fantasy—that the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was ordered by the Obama administration and carried out by Ukraine, not Russia. In another fantasy, pundits on Russian state television continually assert that Trump’s impeachment is all but “impossible.” In the meantime, the impeachment fallout is beneficial for the Kremlin, creating a spectacle of unprecedented political turmoil in the United States while placing Ukraine in the untenable position of alienating both parties, as well as the country’s European allies, and distracting from Russian election interference and the imposition of any additional sanctions. more...

Stephen Miller struggles on Fox News, and other lowlights from the Sunday morning efforts to defend the president.
By Aaron Rupar
Following a week in which an abuse of power scandal about President Donald Trump’s Ukraine dealings pushed Democrats toward impeachment, Trump loyalists joined the Sunday morning news talk shows to try and defend the president. Their efforts did not go well, and produced a number of cringeworthy moments. In fairness, Trump defenders faced an uphill battle. This weekend, Trump’s dismissiveness about Russian election interference came under new scrutiny. And the whistleblower complaint at the center of the growing Ukraine scandal about Trump trying to strongarm the Ukrainian government into investigating Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has already been corroborated in key respects by the White House. The whistleblower accused Trump of using a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “advance his personal interests” by pushing for an investigation of Biden, and a memo about the call released by the White House indicates that did in fact happen. The whistleblower also alleged that officials went to extraordinary lengths to restrict the dissemination of information about that call, and the White House has acknowledged that happened as well. But even granting the difficulty of their task, Trump loyalists were still remarkably unequipped to make a case for their president. Notably, White House adviser Stephen Miller was taken to task by Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday. In stark contrast to the way Trump loyalists are usually treated by Wallace’s network, the Fox News Sunday host wouldn’t let Miller get away with the deflections he tried to use to twist Trump’s Ukraine scandal in one about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. “This is an exercise in obfuscation,” Wallace said at one point, after Miller repeatedly refused to answer questions about why Trump would ever think it was appropriate to use his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to push for investigations of Biden, and about why Trump went against the guidance of his own Pentagon and State Department and decided to temporarily withhold aid to the country — aid that Trump appears to have used as leverage to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden. more...

By Michael S. Rosenwald
September 29 at 7:30 AM
On July 23, 1974, as an impeachment vote against President Richard M. Nixon loomed over Washington and the country, Maryland Rep. Lawrence J. Hogan — a Republican — purchased airtime on television networks across his state. At age 45, the ex-FBI agent had a promising political career ahead. He was running for governor. His populist style of politics had some mentioning even higher offices. Staring into the cameras that evening, Hogan knew he was gambling with his political future. He didn’t care. “I want with all my heart,” Hogan said, “to be able to say to you now that the president of the United States is innocent of wrongdoing, that he has not committed an impeachable offense, but I cannot say that.” So he said this: “Richard M. Nixon has, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed impeachable offenses.” Hogan was voting for impeachment. With the announcement, Hogan became the first Republican on the House Judiciary Committee to side with the Democrats. He'd ultimately become the only GOP member to vote for all three articles of impeachment leveled at Nixon. On Friday, another Republican congressman, Mark Amodei, the chairman of President Trump’s reelection campaign in Nevada, suggested he supported a House impeachment inquiry, though he told local reporters that he didn’t know whether he’d actually vote for impeachment. “I’m a big fan of oversight, so let’s let the committees get to work and see where it goes,” he said. But by Saturday, Amodei was denying he is the first Republican lawmaker to back an inquiry. In 1974, there were many beginnings-of-the-end for Nixon, but Hogan’s decision was an important one. He had frequently sided with Nixon on issues before the committee. And Nixon was counting on him as a “no” vote.
It was yet another disaster for Nixon, one he recounted decades later in his memoirs. “The fact was that he had dealt us a very bad blow,” he wrote.
Hogan, whose district was primarily Prince George’s County, was immediately accused of playing politics. Nixon’s staff and their Republican allies said Hogan was just trying raise his profile across Maryland in the governor’s race. And at first, his vote did just that. more...

By Justin Wise
A former Homeland Security adviser in the Trump administration said Sunday that the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine was responsible for the hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in 2016 is a "conspiracy theory" with "no validity." Tom Bossert, who served in administration between 2017 and 2018, made the comments on ABC's "This Week" while condemning Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, for "repeating the debunked theory" related to Ukraine and the DNC server to the president. The comments from Bossert came in light of revelations that Trump addressed the hack of the DNC during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "It’s not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked," Bossert said, adding that he communicated this to Trump during his time working in the administration. "At this point, I am deeply frustrated with what [Giuliani] and the legal team are doing, and repeating that debunked theory to the president," Bossert added. "It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again and for clarity, let me just repeat that it has no validity. more...

Three Democratic senators reached out to Yuriy Lutsenko, the prosecutor general of Ukraine, in May 2018.
Revelations came to light in fall 2019 that U.S. President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate current Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden and his son. In response, the president’s defenders have highlighted a May 4, 2018, letter signed by three Democratic senators to Yuriy Lutsenko, the prosecutor general of Ukraine (a similar role to the U.S. attorney general), as evidence that claims of improper behavior are misplaced. The letter was notably described by Washington Post columnist Marc Theisen as betraying a “double standard.” This sentiment was amplified by several media outlets, as well as a viral tweet (retweeted by Donald Trump Jr.) from the Twitter account Comfortably Smug, which according to BuzzFeed News is run by a “Republican political consultant and deliberate spreader of false information”: more...

The Trump-friendly scribe and his Biden-Ukraine conspiracies were cited multiple times in the whistleblower memo. Many of his co-workers are ashamed to be associated with him.
Maxwell Tani, Justin Baragona
Beltway-centric newspaper The Hill employs a team of dozens of journalists from a variety of backgrounds. But only one has managed to alienate many of his colleagues, fuel the paranoia of Fox News viewers, and inadvertently play a key role in the whistleblower complaint and President Donald Trump’s potential impeachment. Over the past several years, John Solomon, a long-time journalist with bylines at the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Newsweek/The Daily Beast, has pivoted to becoming the Trumpian right’s favorite “investigative reporter.” And now, thanks to several mentions in the whistleblower’s complaint, his work has come under intense scrutiny following the revelation that a series of his stories about Ukraine, along with his Fox News appearances promoting them, may have led to the president asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to team up with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate the Biden family. Over the past several months, and with the benefit of substantial airtime from Fox News primetime host Sean Hannity, Solomon has peddled a series of Ukraine-based conspiracy theories and allegations that have primarily taken aim at two of Trumpworld’s biggest targets: Biden and Hillary Clinton. In the process, his questionable reporting, which often seems specifically tailored to stoke the flames of right-wing paranoia, has enraged many of his colleagues at The Hill who have for years seen his tactics and reporting as overtly ideological, convoluted, and often lacking in crucial context. “He’s a lightning rod of anxiety for us,” one Hill insider told The Daily Beast. more...

Chief Michel Moore said the ad placement was being investigated.
By Dennis Romero
The Los Angeles Police Department was trying to figure out Saturday how one of its ads for new recruits ended up on right-wing news site Breitbart. The department, in which Latinos comprise the largest ethnic group of officers, was quick to denounce the placement on a platform that has often highlighted the misdeeds and crimes of people living in the U.S. without proper documentation and that critics have accused of posting racist content. LAPD Chief Michel Moore tweeted Saturday that his department would team up with the city's Personnel Department to determine how the ad, featuring a photo of an officer and the words, "Choose Your Future," ended up on the website once run by Stephen Bannon, a former adviser to President Donald Trump. more...

By Dahlia Lithwick
On Friday night the Washington Post dropped another blockbuster report in the midst of a fast-unspooling scandal involving Donald Trump’s improper communications with foreign officials. It raises a worrying question: Was there a memorandum that should have been produced to the Mueller probe that was never turned over? We learned Thursday, by way of a 9-page whistleblower report, about conversations between Trump and the Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump seems to have conditioned the receipt of military aid on Zelensky’s pledge to reopen “cases” that would investigate Joe Biden’s son for Trump’s own electoral benefit, that in the wake of the July phone call with Zelensky, “senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced – as is customary.” We further learned from the whistleblower complaint that White House officials were ordered by “White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization, and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.”  Further we know now that although it contained no classified information from a national security perspective, “the transcript was loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature.”  That latter bit is almost a bigger scandal than the fact that the president tried to extort a foreign ally to produce fake opposition research in order to win the election. It directly implicates White House lawyers in hiding embarrassing documents under the pretext of protecting national security information. Beyond which, it’s explicitly illegal to classify things for the purpose of covering up embarrassing behavior or misconduct. Presumably the House Intelligence Committee will now have to figure out who these lawyers were, and Russia, if you’re listening, maybe you can track down the emails. But here’s where Friday night’s Washington Post story perhaps magnifies the Ukraine scandal: The report, by Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima, alleges that there is a memorandum summarizing the White House meeting on May 10, 2017, between Donald Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a meeting at which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a foreign agent, and at which he also told Lavrov and Kislyak that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him. The Post goes on to note that “it is not clear whether a memo documenting the May 10, 2017, meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was placed into that system, but the three former officials said it was restricted to a very small number of people.” Here’s the problem: That May 10 White House meeting was the subject of intense scrutiny by the Mueller probe because it went directly to the question of why Comey was fired. Page 71 of the second volume of the Mueller report notes, “In the morning on May 10, 2017, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.” The footnote cites to a White House Document entitled “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia” which is dated 5/9/17, the day before the meeting, and to an email (5/9/17 White House Document, “Working Visit with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia”); SCR08_001274 (5/10/17 Email, Ciaramella to Kelly, et al.). That’s the only document that seems to have been produced in reference to the May 10 meeting. There is confirmation of Trump’s remarks about Comey’s firing being a relief from Sean Spicer and Hope Hicks. more...

John C Moritz Austin Bureau USA TODAY
AUSTIN, Texas – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Texas to cap the most pivotal week in her tenure as the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Saturday Democrats will push ahead with the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump regardless of any political consequences. "It doesn't matter," Pelosi said in the wrap-up event of a weekend festival for politicians and journalists. "Our first responsibility is to the Constitution." Pelosi, a California Democrat who reclaimed the gavel in the House after her party captured the majority in the 2018 November elections, spoke just blocks away from the Texas Capitol at the festival put on by the Texas Tribune. In a conversation with Tribune CEO Evan Smith, Pelosi said the decision to move ahead with the possible impeachment was dictated by the president's actions. "This is a sad time for our country," Pelosi said. "There is no joy in this." Pelosi said her early hesitance to move ahead with impeachment was because the facts were insufficient until a whistleblower brought to light a phone conversation with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that conversation, a rough transcript released by the White House after the whistleblower's concerns were made known showed Trump seeking politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. more...

History isn’t a good guide for today’s turmoil.
By DAVID GREENBERG
The internet is awash in historical explainers and hot takes trying to make sense of our sudden constitutional crisis. Marshalled on behalf of a range of competing viewpoints, the arguments are sprinkled with references to Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton—the three presidents who faced impeachment proceedings before Donald Trump. Which one applies to the current president and his apparent effort to enlist Ukraine in going after Joe Biden, his potential opponent in the 2020 election? Turning to the past is understandable: A presidential impeachment cries out for historical context. The past is supposed to offer a map of sorts through what feels like an unfamiliar and treacherous adventure. But—as historians, ironically, are sometimes the first ones to point out—history isn’t actually a very good guide here. We’re in uncharted waters, and it’s best that we recognize that. Why do the Johnson, Nixon and Clinton examples offer us so little direct help today? Every impeachment poses two discrete sets of questions for the House and Senate to consider. First, there are constitutional questions: Are impeachment and conviction justified? Second, there are political questions: Are impeachment and conviction possible? With every previous presidential impeachment, the answers have been different, and in the case of Trump and Ukraine, the answers are different still. We’ve simply never had a case before where the removal of a president was so well justified—while at the same time so obviously unlikely to happen. The 1868 impeachment of Johnson grew out of a power struggle between a reactionary president and the “Radical Republicans” who held power in Congress. Having assumed the White House after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson—a Southerner who never left the union—warred with Republicans over a series of bills dealing with civil rights for the newly freed slaves and the terms for readmitting secessionist states. more...

By Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Karoun Demirjian
The Trump administration is investigating the email records of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent messages to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email, reviving a politically toxic matter that overshadowed the 2016 election, current and former officials said. As many as 130 officials have been contacted in recent weeks by State Department investigators — a list that includes senior officials who reported directly to Clinton as well as others in lower-level jobs whose emails were at some point relayed to her inbox, said current and former State Department officials. Those targeted were notified that emails they sent years ago have been retroactively classified and now constitute potential security violations, according to letters reviewed by The Washington Post. In virtually all of the cases, potentially sensitive information, now recategorized as “classified,” was sent to Clinton’s unsecure inbox. State Department investigators began contacting the former officials about 18 months ago, after President Trump’s election, and then seemed to drop the effort before picking it up in August, officials said. Senior State Department officials said that they are following standard protocol in an investigation that began during the latter days of the Obama administration and is nearing completion. “This has nothing to do with who is in the White House,” said a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing probe. “This is about the time it took to go through millions of emails, which is about 3½ years.” To many of those under scrutiny, including some of the Democratic Party’s top foreign policy experts, the recent flurry of activity surrounding the Clinton email case represents a new front on which the Trump administration could be accused of employing the powers of the executive branch against perceived political adversaries. The existence of the probe follows revelations that the president used multiple levers of his office to pressure the leader of Ukraine to pursue investigations that Trump hoped would produce damaging information about Democrats, including potential presidential rival Joe Biden. more...

CNN's Chris Cuomo breaks down the comparison between President Donald Trump's and former Vice President Joe Biden's actions concerning Ukraine. more...

Giuliani also spoke at the event last year.
By Catherine Kim
Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to Donald Trump and a key figure in the Ukraine scandal, will no longer make a paid appearance at a Russia sponsored conference in Armenia, according to The Washington Post. Giuliani has faced increasing scrutiny in recent weeks over his role in promoting a conspiracy theory at the heart of a whistleblower complaint that has roiled Washington and left Trump the subject of an impeachment inquiry. That conspiracy theory maintains — without any evidence — that former Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to protect his son. Giuliani has shared this theory over the past several months, and claims to have worked to encourage Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden at the behest of Trump administration officials. And Trump himself requested Ukraine work with Giuliani on the investigation on a July phone call that is central to the whistleblower complaint that led to the impeachment inquiry. Given the Trump administration has only recently emerged from an investigation into possible conspiracy with Russia, and given Giuliani is a central figure in a blossoming scandal, critics expressed concern about the lawyer attending the Eurasian Economic Union event in Armenia, which, in addition to being sponsored by Russia, will feature appearances by US adversaries such as Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Further adding to concerns, Giuliani would have been the only American present at the anti-West, pro-Kremlin conference (the Eurasian Economic Union itself is a trade alliance created by Putin to counter the European Union, a partnership of US allies) and was scheduled to speak in a panel moderated by Sergey Glazyev, a loyal Putin ally who is under US sanctions as part of retribution for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some were also concerned about the fact Giuliani’s pay for his appearance seemed to be coming from the Russia government. When initially asked about the appropriateness of his appearance at the pro-Kremlin event, Giuliani had been unapologetic about his appearance and sarcastically said, “I will try to not knowingly talk to a Russian until this is all over,” according to the Washington Post. more...

By Kat Lonsdorf
A federal judge has blocked the Trump administration's effort to expand fast-track deportation regulations for undocumented immigrants without the use of immigration courts. The procedure, known as "expedited removal," has previously been used to deport undocumented immigrants who cross into the U.S. by land without an immigration hearing or access to an attorney if they are arrested within 100 miles of the border within two weeks of their arrival. In July, the administration expanded the rule to include undocumented immigrants who couldn't prove they had been in the U.S. continuously for two years or more, no matter where they were in the country. In a 126-page report issued just before midnight on Friday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson issued a preliminary injunction on the policy change. She stated that the administration did not follow the correct decision-making procedures, such as the formal notice-and-comment period required for major federal rule changes, and likely violated federal law in failing to do so. She said that "no good cause exists for the agency to have not complied with these mandates in this instance." Jackson, who is an Obama-era appointee, also said that the July notice by the Department of Homeland Security seemed "arbitrary and capricious." "Put in common parlance, if a policy decision that an agency makes is of sufficient consequence that it qualifies as an agency rule, then arbitrariness in deciding the contours of that rule — e.g., decision making by Ouija board or dart board, rock/paper/scissors, or even the Magic 8 Ball — simply will not do," Jackson wrote. "There are well-established legal constraints on the manner in which an agency exercises its discretion to make discretionary policy decisions, and there are also legally established consequences if an agency does not adhere to these procedural requirements when it determines the policies that it imposes." The Department of Homeland Security had argued that the policy change would relieve overburdened immigration courts and "harmonize" existing regulations to apply equally to undocumented immigrants whether they arrive by land or sea. more...

By Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump has made a blizzard of claims about Ukraine. Many of them have been attacks on Democrats, and many of them have been incorrect. Here is a brief readers' guide to our fact checks on all things related to Trump's Ukraine controversy. We will update this page as events unfold. Hunter Biden and the investigation: Trump has repeatedly claimed that former vice president Joe Biden had called for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was "investigating his son." There is no evidence Hunter Biden was ever under investigation. The investigation was into the business dealings of the owner of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden sat on the board of directors. In addition, a former Ukrainian deputy prosecutor and top anti-corruption activist have said the investigation was dormant at the time. And Shokin's successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, has said in interviews this year that Hunter Biden didn't violate any Ukrainian laws. Full fact check here.Joe Biden's pressure on Ukraine
Trump has also claimed that Biden pressured Ukraine to take chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin "off the case." Biden pressured Ukrainian leaders to fire Shokin -- the Obama administration, US allies and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists saw Shokin as unwilling to prosecute elite corruption -- but there is no public evidence that Biden sought to get Shokin removed from any particular case. Joe Biden's boasting: Trump claimed in his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky that Biden had boasted about having "stopped the prosecution." Biden had boasted about getting Shokin fired, but he did not say he had stopped any prosecution. Shokin had been controversial precisely because he was unwilling to bring corruption prosecutions. Joe Biden's previous comments: Trump said Joe Biden contradicted himself when he said in September that he had "never" spoken to his son Hunter about his son's overseas business dealings; Trump claimed Joe Biden had previously said the opposite. That is not true. Hunter Biden, however, did tell the New Yorker that there was one father-son conversation about his business dealings in Ukraine. The delay in aid to Ukraine: Before he began justifying his decision to delay military aid to Ukraine, Trump told reporters that there was no delay at all -- an assertion obviously contradicted by the facts. Trump suggested on September 23 that he froze the funds because he was worried about "corruption" and whether "that country is honest." He explicitly said on September 24 that the funds were withheld, this time claiming he was waiting for "Europe and other nations" to spend their own money on Ukraine. more...

In pushing to oust the former prosecutor, Biden did the right thing, no matter the personal cost.
By Casey Michel
The big lie spouted by Donald Trump and his allies in the unfurling Ukraine affair—an unprecedented abuse of public trust, which has now led directly to an impeachment inquiry—is that former Vice President Joe Biden urged the Ukrainians to fire the Kyiv general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to save Biden’s son's hide. Many of Trump’s cronies and foot soldiers have already spun this line, from Donald Trump Jr. to Rudy Giuliani to Arthur Schwartz. Others have rightly pointed out that, in reality, Biden was not simply relaying the message pushed by the Obama administration, but that his position was supported by Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, European allies, and even groups like the International Monetary Foundation (IMF). As Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state under Obama, recalled this week, “All of us working on Ukraine wanted this prosecutor gone, because he was NOT prosecuting corruption. So did the Europeans. So did the IMF. This didn't come from Joe Biden—he just delivered our message.” That’s all, of course, true. Anyone interested in the success of Ukraine’s democratic transition, and its efforts to clean up rampant corruption, wanted Shokin gone. But here’s something that seems to have been lost in this geopolitical shuffle. Not only was Biden not trying to protect his son, Hunter, who was then working at a Ukrainian energy company named Burisma. If anything, what the former vice president did was make the prosecution of his son’s company more likely, not less—a fact that seems to have been overlooked, but which flips Trump’s lies on their head. more...

Even some of president's closest Hill allies say Giuliani isn't helping the president.
By MELANIE ZANONA
Republicans had enough headaches to deal with this week. Then Hurricane Rudy blew into town. As the GOP scrambles to contain the fallout from President Donald Trump’s Ukraine controversy, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has inserted himself directly into the center of a crisis that has engulfed the White House and brought impeachment closer to Trump’s doorstep. And Republicans want him to stop. "I have great respect for Mr. Giuliani, but I said this yesterday and take it for what it's worth: He's wild as a March hare,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “He's like a lot of senators, he's kind of a free range chicken, he kind of gets out there. What he says is his business, I don't speak for him." Others put it more bluntly. “I think it would be a good thing if he would go take a vacation,” a senior GOP lawmaker told POLITICO, one of several who declined to go on the record so they could speak critically of Giuliani. Even some of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill don’t think Giuliani is doing the president or the party any favors by being such a constant presence in the media. “Rudy’s saying a lot of things and I’m not sure he’s helping the president by being on TV every 15 minutes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters this week. Giuliani, however, isn’t shying away from the spotlight. Instead, he’s given a string of combative, and at times bizarre, TV appearances. In one interview, he denied that he asked Ukraine to probe the Biden family, only to admit 30 seconds later that he did. And in another exchange, Giuliani even held up his cellphone to show alleged text messages from State Department officials in an attempt to prove that he wasn’t operating on his own. The public displays — while exactly the kind of fire-eating performances that Trump relishes from his allies — have sparked some serious groans from Republicans on Capitol Hill. “I wish he would shut the heck up,” said a Republican lawmaker who declined to speak on the record. But beyond just annoying Republicans, lawmakers are raising serious questions and concerns about Giuliani’s role in the Ukraine episode — and they want answers. Democrats, who are considering hauling him in to testify, have already demanded documents from the State Department and the White House related to Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine. And Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, said on CNN on Friday that it’s a “fair question” for Congress to ask about Giuliani’s involvement. more...

By Manu Raju and Alex Rogers, CNN
(CNN) - House Democrats are developing a new plan to deal with any White House stonewalling to their upcoming demands for records and testimony: They will use it as evidence for an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump, according to sources involved in the discussions.
Democrats are hoping that the tactic will force White House officials to make a choice: They could provide records to bolster the Democratic investigation, or they can resist the House subpoenas and add to the Democrats' case that Trump has sought to obstruct Congress. On Friday, three Democratic chairmen signaled their plans in the first round of subpoenas issued since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry earlier this week. "Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry," the chairmen wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the impeachment inquiry for now, is focused on allegations that Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July to initiate an investigation that he thought could benefit his reelection. The panel's chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, and other Democrats are signaling they won't put up with efforts to drag out the probe, as the Trump administration has done during its other battles with Congress this year. If the Trump administration does not comply with their subpoenas and turn over records, House Democrats are considering citing that as part of an article of impeachment on defying congressional subpoenas -- similar to an article against then-President Richard Nixon, Democratic sources say. Schiff is preparing for hearings, subpoenas and depositions as soon as next week as Democrats try to finish the probe this fall. When asked how he would handle any White House stonewalling, Schiff told CNN: "It'll just strengthen the case on obstruction." If the White House blocks all their requests, it may only speed up consideration of articles of impeachment, which Democrats are hoping to advance in the House as soon as this fall. "If everything we've seen in the last few days turns out to be the case, and it seems that the President is pretty much admitting it, there is overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors that we can act on now," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. "And so we don't necessarily need to wait on all of the litigation." The discussions amount to a shift in strategy from how Democrats handled the fights between the Trump administration and the House Judiciary Committee, which has been investigating Trump's alleged efforts to obstruct former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. For months, the White House stymied congressional investigations with broad claims of executive privilege and absolute immunity. It blocked numerous requests for records and witness interviews, namely with former White House counsel Don McGahn, prompting the House to sue the Trump administration. Also In April, Trump summed up the strategy with the vow, "We're fighting all the subpoenas." more...

By Ben Mathis-Lilley
Right now, House Democrats have a lot of things they need to figure out about how to carry out impeachment proceedings. Should upcoming hearings, and the eventual articles of impeachment the hearings produce, cover other subjects (tax returns, federal spending at Trump properties, etc.) besides Donald Trump’s Rudy Giuliani–abetted efforts to browbeat/extort Ukraine’s president into investigating Joe Biden? How much more time should be taken investigating the Ukraine case itself given that Trump essentially already handed over a confession when he released the White House’s notes on his call with Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday? In a Thursday piece for GQ, former Democratic Senate aide Adam Jentleson—he worked for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and frequently criticizes current caucus leaders for passivity—makes a case not to drop the other investigations, but to return to them later after a Ukraine-specific blitz that will force Republicans to talk about the quite incriminating facts of this particular case, rather than the as-yet-hazier issues involved in other inquiries. As to the scope of the Ukraine investigation, he writes, “the length of the hearings … should be determined by a simple test: Are we driving the news? Do we have control of the narrative? If so, keep going. If not, wrap it up and vote.”  Luckily for the Democrats, two key figures in the case have already been telling them exactly which potential avenues of investigation should be most narratively fruitful: Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Both the president and his personal lawyer have been behaving for months in a way that could not have been more effective in identifying co-conspirators and disgruntled potential witnesses—and in generally exposing the existence and purposes of their scheme—if they’d done it on purpose. • First, in April, Giuliani said on Fox News that he wanted Attorney General William Barr to look into Biden’s history with Ukraine and into something Ukraine-related that is connected to the 2016 Democratic National Committee email hack in a way that is only comprehensible to truly devoted right-wing conspiracy theorists. Then, in May, he out and told the New York Times that he was going to Ukraine to try to hassle the government there into investigating those two subjects. more...

Kurt Volker was a well-regarded diplomat trying to solve one of the world’s hottest conflicts. Then he met with Rudy Giuliani.
By NAHAL TOOSI
Shortly after being named the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations in mid-2017, Kurt Volker attended an invitation-only strategy session at the Atlantic Council with a small group of foreign-policy hands. There, he encouraged the people gathered at the downtown D.C. think tank to publicly praise President Donald Trump for his handling of Russia and Ukraine. It might have been in jest, but Volker’s point was obvious: Flattering Trump might lead him to “do the right thing” and act in the U.S. interest, as one attendee put it. Two years later, Volker has resigned the envoy role after becoming ensnared the Ukraine-related scandal that is consuming Trump’s presidency and fueling an impeachment drive by House Democrats. It’s an ominous turn for the widely respected diplomat, who joined the Trump team even as dozens of veterans of past Republican administrations shunned the new president. The envoy's resignation came as three House committees slapped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with a subpoena, demanding information on the controversy and scheduling depositions for five State Department officials, including Volker. The news of Volker's departure was first reported by a student news organization at Arizona State University and confirmed to POLITICO by a person familiar with the issue. A congressional aide said Democrats still expect Volker to appear for his deposition despite his resignation. Volker's decision to leave comes a day after Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, claimed that Volker had asked him to talk to Ukrainian officials — discussions that may have involved demands that Ukraine dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, the current Democratic 2020 frontrunner. On Thursday, Giuliani publicly shared what he said were text messages from Volker. One of the messages, dated July 19, shows Volker telling Giuliani he “really enjoyed breakfast this morning” before adding: “As discussed, connecting you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky. I suggest we schedule a call together on Monday – maybe 10am or 11am Washington time?” Giuliani revealed the text messages, he said in a Fox News appearance on Thursday evening, to bolster his claim that he was fulfilling a State Department request to meet with Ukrainian officials. “He should step forward and explain what he did,” Giuliani told host Laura Ingraham, referring to Volker. more...

By Devan Cole, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump told two top Russian officials that he was unconcerned about the country's interference in the 2016 election during a 2017 Oval Office meeting, a remark that caused White House officials to tightly restrict access to his comments, The Washington Post reported Friday. The Post, citing conversations with three former officials with knowledge of the matter, said Trump made the statement to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the same meeting in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with the foreign officials. The former officials told the paper that a summary of the meeting was kept highly restricted to keep Trump's comment from getting out to the public, the Post reported. According to the paper, Trump told the officials that he was unconcerned about Russia's interference because the US "did the same in other countries." The White House's handling of records of Trump's communications with foreign officials has come under scrutiny in recent days after a whistleblower complaint about a call between Trump and Ukraine's President and the remarkable steps aides took to keep the conversation from becoming public led to a House impeachment inquiry into the President's conduct. The Post said it was unclear whether the summary of the meeting was placed in the same highly secured electronic system that the whistleblower alleges held the phone call with Ukraine's President. According to the three former officials the paper spoke with, White House officials were especially concerned with Trump's election interference remarks because it seemed to them that Trump was forgiving the Russians for interfering in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller determined the Russians had interfered in the election and had worked to elect Trump, though there was no evidence the campaign conspired with the Russians. more...

By jonathan karl, james gordon meek, katherine faulders and john santucci
When the transcripts of two phone calls President Donald Trump had with foreign leaders leaked in the early days of his presidency, the procedure to store those logs changed, multiple sources familiar with the process told ABC News. One former career intelligence official added that the administration "changed the dynamics of how these transcripts had been secured." The two calls in early 2017, with leaders from Australia and from Mexico, leaked early in Trump's administration, and sources said the procedure to store them quickly changed -- many calls between the president and world leaders instead were stored in a secure server to avoid leaks. The sources who talked to ABC News did caution that it's unclear if the calls being stored were done so for national security or for political concerns. One source said it became "basically standard operating procedure" for many of the conversations Trump has had during his time in office. The sources would not specify if any countries were treated differently than others. Decisions on which calls were put into the server, according to sources, were handled by members of the NSC, State Department and White House Counsel's office. The former career official said the measures taken seemed to solve the leak problem. more...

Analysis by Chris Cillizza
(CNN) - It's always a challenge to understand why Donald Trump says and does things. He is a hugely impulsive figure who often acts on a whim. There is no long-term strategy that informs his daily tactical decisions -- just Trump, well, doing stuff. But even by that haphazard standard, the President's decision this week to release a rough transcript of his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky makes zero political sense -- either in the moment he did it or in the after-action report. The rough log of the call makes quite clear to any fair-minded person that Trump did the following things: 1) Repeatedly reminded Zelensky of how much the United States does (and can do) for Ukraine. 2) Asked Zelensky to investigate debunked allegations of corrupt activity by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine. 3) Said he would put Attorney General William Barr and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in touch with Zelensky to follow up about the Biden probe. That's not an interpretation of what Trump said or a second-hand account of the call. It is an, admittedly rough, transcript released (and presumably blessed) by the White House. In which the President of the United States says things like "I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time" and "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me." (There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.) That we have the President's actual words here -- undisputed -- makes this whole matter so, so much worse for Trump.
Remember that in the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's possible role in obstructing that investigation, we never had a transcript of, say, the conversation between the President and then-FBI Director James Comey in which Comey alleges Trump asked him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. Or of Trump's conversation with Corey Lewandowski, in which the President told his former campaign manager to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself in the probe. more...

The committee chairmen also sent a separate letter to Pompeo to schedule the depositions of five State Department officials over the next two weeks.
By Dartunorro Clark
Three top Democratic House chairmen on Friday subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to turn over documents related to the House's impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine. The three chairmen — Reps. Eliot Engel of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee; and Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee — wrote a letter demanding that Pompeo turn over documents related to Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy by Oct. 4. "Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry," they wrote. In the Trump-Zelenskiy call, which took place days after Trump withheld congressionally approved aid to Ukraine, Trump pressed Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. "The Committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression," the chairmen wrote. A whistleblower's complaint about the call was released Thursday and revealed that White House officials were so concerned about what the president had said that they intervened to "lock down" the official transcript of the conversation. A description of the July call released on Wednesday showed Trump asking Zelenskiy to look into why Ukraine's former top prosecutor ended an investigation into Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a gas company there. Trump noted on the call that the then-vice president "went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it." Engel, Schiff and Cummings had already requested documents related to the call, pressuring the president to release information on his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and his administration's apparent efforts to withhold approved aid to the country. more...

Heard on Morning Edition
President Trump has said that former Vice President Joe Biden acted inappropriately by pressuring Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating the Ukrainian oil company that hired his son, Hunter Biden. NOEL KING, HOST: President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has been relentlessly promoting a theory that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, were engaged in corrupt activity in or about Ukraine. On the ground in Ukraine, though, Giuliani's story does not hold up. NPR's Lucian Kim reports from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Rudy Giuliani's accusations sound serious, and even now, they continue to feed a narrative that Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, have something to hide in Ukraine. It's true that as vice president, Joe Biden once threatened to hold back a billion dollars in aid money unless Ukraine got rid of a prosecutor named Viktor Shokin. Giuliani says Biden did it to protect his son. But at the time, practically all of Ukraine's allies were demanding Shokin's resignation. ANDRII BOROVYK: There were lots of demands from different international stakeholders to fire Shokin because of his failure of managing to reform and changing the Soviet-style prosecutor's office. KIM: That's Andrii Borovyk, the head of the Kyiv office of the global corruption watchdog Transparency International. He says Shokin had a reputation for not investigating anybody - and there never was an investigation into Joe Biden's son. Hunter Biden got his lucrative job at a Ukrainian oil and gas company five years ago. DARIA KALENIUK: The facts are very clear - Hunter Biden was in the board of very shady company associated with shady Ukrainian politician. Was it illegal? No. Was it good? No. more...

By Richard L. Hasen
House Democrats have a lot of choices to make about impeachment, from whether to focus only on the recent Ukraine controversy or loop in other issues such as obstruction of justice and potential violations of the emoluments clauses. Even if they focus only on the Ukraine allegations, they have to decide how extensive the hearings should be, and whether to subpoena witnesses whose testimony could be blocked by the Trump administration and then subject to protracted litigation. Given the unique nature of the Ukraine allegations—which go directly to interference with the 2020 election itself—the path toward an impeachment vote is clear: House Democrats should move to wrap up the hearings and investigations and bring the full matter to a vote before the end of the year, and before voting begins in 2020 presidential primaries. According to the New York Times, this is just the path Democrats are currently planning on taking. The House will likely have only one shot at voting to impeach the president, at least during this term. It is hard to imagine a second impeachment vote in the throes of the 2020 election season, when voters will soon get to decide whether President Donald Trump deserves a second term. And while there is much in the Mueller report and other conduct that well could merit an impeachment vote, the political momentum on these issues never materialized. If Democrats could not get their act together to push these issues in the first half of 2019, doing so in the first half of 2020 seems a pipe dream. Also, the roadblocks in these cases still exist. The House Judiciary Committee is still trying to enforce its subpoenas through plodding court proceedings that will not likely yield new information in time for a quick turnaround impeachment on Ukraine. The only way to move up the pace on that front would be to try to escalate to inherent contempt charges, which could also be bogged down in the courts and might not only distract from Ukraine but allow Republicans to portray themselves as victims of an overzealous speaker of the House bringing back powers that haven’t been used in nearly a century. Further, the public has already been whipsawed by this administration’s constant scandals, and focusing on old ones that didn’t resonate as well with the public could be portrayed as efforts to “relitigate” issues that had already been put to bed. more...

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - In the wake of Wednesday's release of a rough transcript of a July conversation between the presidents of the United States and Ukraine that showed Donald Trump exerting pressure on Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate debunked corruption allegations involving Joe Biden, Republicans have rallied around the President with a very strange -- and weak -- defense. That defense goes like this: Donald Trump never said to Zelensky, "I won't do X unless you give me Y." He never said the phrase "quid pro quo." Therefore, nothing to see here! "Wow. Impeachment over this?," tweeted South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham after reading the Ukraine call transcript. "What a nothing (non-quid pro quo) burger." Asked by the Boston Globe's Jess Bidgood what he would consider a quid pro quo from Trump to Zelensky, Graham replied: "'Uh, hey pal, you know, you need to like, go after the Bidens or I ain't gonna give you any money,' [He'd] be really, like, thuggish about it." Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's lawyers, made a very similar argument in an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night. "I think it's important to understand what we don't have, and what we don't have is a quid pro quo,'" said Sekulow. "In other words, 'I will do this, you do this.' That is absent." So, that's the bar? Really? Take the logic of Graham and Sekulow out of this context and put it in an entirely different one. If someone comes up to you on the street, points a gun at you and says, "Give me all your money!" then, under Graham's conceit, you aren't being robbed. In order for it to be an actual robbery, the man pointing the gun has to say: "Give me all your money. This is a robbery." Makes zero sense, right? You know what's happening even if the guy doesn't declare that he is using the threat of possible violence to separate you from your money. Why? Because, well, you just know. The human brain is able to look at a series of related inputs -- gun, demand for money, agitation -- and connect the dots: I am being robbed. more...

Ukraine's former Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has categorically rejected claims by Donald Trump concerning Mr Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden. Mr Trump has alleged, without evidence, that Mr Biden pressed for the sacking of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect a business that employed his son. Mr Klimkin told the BBC that the prosecutor was sacked for corruption. A number of Western bodies, including the EU, had pushed for the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to be sacked, he said. Mr Trump faces impeachment proceedings for using his position as president to push the Ukrainian President, Vladimir Zelensky, to investigate Mr Biden, who was at the time leading polls to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 election. Meanwhile, it was revealed by US media that the whistleblower whose complaint led to the impeachment inquiry was a CIA officer who once worked at the White House. And 300 former US national security officials signed a letter supporting the impeachment. They described Mr Trump's actions as a "national security concern", and said he appeared to have committed "an unconscionable abuse of power". more...

The porn star claimed in her suit that officers arrested her in a bid to protect President Donald Trump.
By Andrew Blankstein and David K. Li
Porn star Stormy Daniels settled her lawsuit against the city of Columbus, Ohio, over her arrest last year at a strip club, officials said Friday. Daniels will receive $450,000 and drop all claims made in her federal civil complaint against the city, according to her attorney, Chase Mallory, and a spokeswoman for City Attorney Zach Klein. Her lawyer said that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, could have reached a settlement for more than $450,000, but she was satisfied with changes implemented by the Columbus Police Department following her arrest. “That’s the only reason she agreed to settle the case for what she did,” Mallory told NBC News. “Her main goal was to make sure people weren’t going to be treated like she was going forward.” Mallory credited both the Columbus police chief, Thomas Quinlan, and the city attorney's office, saying, “They have really done a great job of addressing the problems here.” more...

By Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Attorney General William Barr and the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani are likely to be called to testify in the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and Ukraine, according to a House Democrat who sits on the committee.
Rep. Mike Quigley told CNN's Jim Sciutto on Friday that he has "several questions" for Giuliani including whether the President's personal lawyer has a security clearance. "Rudy may be the best source of information, because he doesn't know what he shouldn't say," Quigley said, adding that he thinks Barr is "part of that list" of officials the committee will call to testify. Asked if the committee would enforce subpoenas or hold the two men in contempt should the White House attempt to block their testimony, Quigley said, "I think the committee will take whatever actions are necessary." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who launched the formal inquiry this week, told CNN on Friday that the intelligence committee will decide who to call as witnesses, also adding that she believes Barr "has gone rogue." Illinois Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, another committee member, told reporters on Capitol Hill Friday that it "makes sense" for the committee to invite Barr or Giuliani to testify since "both are obviously central figures." "I'm going to probably defer to the chairman on this on who he thinks should come before the committee," he added. According to a White House-released transcript, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July phone call to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Trump asked Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Barr, even suggesting four times during the call that Barr will call Zelensky. The call was also part of a whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General that was publicly released Thursday in which the whistleblower alleged that 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. more...

Trump's obsession with Ukraine may have begun with a right-wing conspiracy theory that DNC faked Russia hack
by Igor Derysh
The partial call transcript and whistleblower complaint released this week revealed that President Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help him discredit the Russia investigation. The White House released a partial transcript of a phone call between Trump and Zelensky on Wednesday, with the whistleblower complaint that has now triggered an impeachment inquiry into the president being released by Congress on Thursday. Though much of the focus has been on Trump urging Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family over a debunked conspiracy theory, the documents also revealed that Trump had pushed Ukraine to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The whistleblower complaint revealed that Trump asked Zelensky to “assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine, with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm Crowdstrike, which initially reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC's networks in 2016.” The partial transcript revealed that Trump asked Zelensky to work with Attorney General Bill Barr to “get to the bottom of it.” “I would like you to do us a favor though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” Trump said on the call. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation in Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people. … The server, they say Ukraine has it.” Trump added that “they say” that the Mueller investigation “started with Ukraine.” The reference was to a conspiracy theory pushed by far-right pundits who have alleged that the Democratic National Committee fabricated the evidence of Russia’s 2016 hack into the DNC network. “The hoax has its roots in a GRU persona, ‘Guccifer 2.0,’ created to cast doubt on Russia’s culpability in the DNC hack,” The Daily Beast reported. more...

By Rachel Frazin
A new report by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee alleges that the National Rifle Association (NRA) "became a foreign asset" for Russia ahead of the 2016 election. The document published Friday says that the NRA and its officers, board members and donors "engaged in a years-long effort to facilitate the U.S.-based activities of Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin," despite being aware of the two Russian nationals' ties to the Kremlin. "The scope of the NRA’s support for these Russian activities raises concerns about whether the activity in which the NRA, its officers and board members engaged were in furtherance of the organization’s exempt purpose," it said. Last year, Butina pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the Russian government. Torshin is a Russian banker and former politician. The report cited a series of emails between NRA officials and and interviews conducted during the 18-month investigation. One 2015 email seen by NRA executives said "Many powerful figures in the Kremlin are counting on Torshin to prove his American connections–a last minute important member cancellation could affect his political future." The Senate Democrats also found that over a years-long period, "NRA officers and board members directed organization resources toward facilitating the activities of Butina and Torshin in the United States." The report also raised questions about an NRA delegation's travel to Moscow in December 2015. "The NRA initially reimbursed some trip expenses," it said. "In 2018, after Senator Wyden first asked the NRA about its relationship to Torshin, the organization sought reimbursement ... to get trip expense payments 'off the NRA’s books.' " Democrats said that the report shows wrongdoing by the gun rights organization. more...

By Faith Ridler For Mailonline
Former Arizona senator Jeff Flake has claimed 'at least 35' Republican senators would vote to impeach Donald Trump in a private ballot. Flake, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the president in the past, made the bold comment at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Thursday. 'I heard someone say if there were a private vote there would be 30 Republican votes,' Fox News reported he said. 'That's not true. There would be at least 35.' The former GOP senator appeared to be responding to a claim made by political consultant Mike Murphy on MSNBC on Wednesday, who suggested Republicans in the senate would likely support impeachment in a 'secret vote'. 'I'm telling you, these Senate Republicans, should the Democrats vote impeachment, are going to be pinned down to a yes-no answer', he said. 'And if they provide cover for Donald Trump for this, a clear violation of his role as president, we're going to lose Colorado with Cory Gardner. We're going to lose Maine with Susan Collins. We're going to lose Arizona with Martha McSally. And the Democrats will put the Senate very much in play. 'I can tell you this: one Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump'. Flake, 56, announced in 2017 that he would not seek re-election in the senate, before formally resigning his seat two years later. more...

By Tim Mak
The National Rifle Association acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the period leading up to the 2016 election, according to a new investigation unveiled Friday by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Drawing on contemporaneous emails and private interviews, an 18-month probe by the Senate Finance Committee's Democratic staff found that the NRA underwrote political access for Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin more than previously known — even though the two had declared their ties to the Kremlin. The report, available here, also describes how closely the gun rights group was involved with organizing a 2015 visit by some of its leaders to Moscow. Then-NRA vice president Pete Brownell, who would later become NRA president, was enticed to visit Russia with the promise of personal business opportunities — and the NRA covered a portion of the trip's costs. The conclusions of the Senate investigation could have legal implications for the NRA, Wyden says. Tax-exempt organizations are barred from using funds for the personal benefit of its officials or for actions significantly outside their stated missions. The revelations in the Senate report raise questions about whether the NRA could face civil penalties or lose its tax-exempt status. Attorneys general in the state of New York and the District of Columbia are conducting separate probes into alleged wrongdoing at the gun rights organization. These probes have a broader scope than the Senate report, which focuses on Russia. more...

A Trump identity crisis at Fox as Hannity frets, Lachlan Murdoch prepares for a post-Trump future, Paul Ryan whispers in Rupert’s ear, and Shep Smith and Tucker Carlson trade blows.
By Gabriel Sherman
In public, Donald Trump’s allies are putting on a brave face, repeating talking points, mostly staying on message. But in private, there are few who believe that the allegations leveled by an intelligence agency whistle-blower that Trump abused American foreign policy to leverage Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden won’t result in considerable damage—if not the complete unraveling of his presidency. “I don’t see how they don’t impeach,” a former West Wing official told me today. “This could unwind very fast, and I mean in days,” a prominent Republican said. Trump’s final bulwark is liable to be his first one: Fox News. Fox controls the flow of information—what facts are, whether allegations are to be believed—to huge swaths of his base. And Republican senators, who will ultimately decide whether the president remains in office, are in turn exquisitely sensitive to the opinions of Trump’s base. But even before the whistle-blower’s revelations, Fox was having something of a Trump identity crisis, and that bulwark has been wavering. In recent weeks, Trump has bashed Fox News on Twitter, taking particular issue lately with its polling, which, like other reputable polls, has shown the president under significant water. Meanwhile, Trump’s biggest booster seems to be having doubts of his own. This morning, Sean Hannity told friends the whistle-blower’s allegations are “really bad,” a person briefed on Hannity’s conversations told me. (Hannity did not respond to a request for comment). And according to four sources, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch is already thinking about how to position the network for a post-Trump future. A person close to Lachlan told me that Fox News has been the highest rated cable network for seventeen years, and “the success has never depended on any one administration.” (A Fox Corp spokesperson declined to comment.) Inside Fox News, tensions over Trump are becoming harder to contain as a long-running cold war between the network’s news and opinion sides turns hot. Fox has often taken a nothing-to-see-here approach to Trump scandals, but impeachment is a different animal. “It’s management bedlam,” a Fox staffer told me. “This massive thing happened, and no one knows how to cover it.” The schism was evident this week as a feud erupted between afternoon anchor Shepard Smith and prime-time host Tucker Carlson. It started Tuesday when Fox legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Smith on-air that Trump committed a “crime” by pressuring Ukraine’s president to get dirt on Biden. That night, Carlson brought on former Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, who called Napolitano a “fool” for claiming Trump broke the law. Yesterday, Smith lashed back, calling Carlson “repugnant” for not defending Napolitano on air. (Trump himself is said to turn off Fox at 3 p.m., when Shep Smith airs.) Seeking to quell the internecine strife before it carried into a third day, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace communicated to Smith this morning to stop attacking Carlson, a person briefed on the conversation said. “They said if he does it again, he’s off the air,” the source said. (Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith). more...

By Peter Hamby
It’s not just a pipe dream for frustrated Weekly Standard fanboys. If the president’s mental fitness becomes a viable conversation on the center right, combatants like Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford will have accomplished something that few have even tried: getting through to the millions of swing voters who are sick of Trump. The Republicans mounting primary challenges to Donald Trump are not exactly the Never Trump movement’s top draft picks. With little hope of defeating an incumbent president dependably popular inside his party, country-club Republicans of the more-in-sorrow-than-anger variety—Jeff Flake, Larry Hogan, Ben Sasse—politely declined recruiting pleas from anti-Trump intellectuals, operatives, and donors. Hogan, the governor of Maryland, called it a “kamikaze mission.” What remains is a trio of gadflies. Bill Weld, a patrician former Massachusetts governor and perma-candidate who was a running mate on the Libertarian ticket in 2016, was the first in the primary pool. He was followed last month by Joe Walsh, a loudmouth ex-radio host who briefly served in Congress and is best known for his racist tweets about Barack Obama. Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford is also looking at the race, promising to focus his campaign on fiscal responsibility, a plank of pre-Trump Republican orthodoxy that’s been left by the wayside in the era of big tax cuts and trade wars. They’ve each been dismissed by the pundit class and, predictably, the Republican establishment, which is doing everything in its power to box out even a whiff of a sedition. These Never Trumpers are scoffed at for two main reasons. First, it’s impossible to win the primary. And second, none of these Trump challengers have the kind of star power or message that might result in a serious weakening of Trump’s standing among Republicans. The first point is not in question: Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is anywhere from 79 to 88%, depending on the poll, and the last Republican president to lose a primary was Chester Arthur in 1884. more...

The whistleblower complaint released Thursday charges that White House officials attempted to limit access to potentially damaging details about President Trump's call with Ukraine's president by using a classified system reserved for highly sensitive information. If this allegation is true, former National Security Council officials say, it would represent a highly unusual misuse of procedures that were created to keep America's most important intelligence secrets safe. According to the complaint, senior White House officials intervened to "lock down" records of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. To do this, the whistleblower said, the rough transcript was loaded into an electronic system meant for classified information "of an especially sensitive nature." "I have never seen it done in my time in the White House, and I doubt that other presidents have engaged in this, although you never know what happened in the Nixon White House," former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told NPR's Here & Now on Thursday. Panetta also previously served as the director of the CIA and White House chief of staff, all in Democratic administrations. A former Trump NSC official confirmed to NPR that the Trump White House does use such a system. That official, who spoke to NPR on the condition of anonymity, said about four to six people in the White House likely had access to the system. Access is so tightly controlled that not even the president's national security adviser can input or retrieve information from it — though high-ranking officials could direct information there. Information stored in the system is shared in person and not over email or secure phone lines. "The only reason to do that is to possibly obstruct justice," Panetta said. "When these kinds of tapes are isolated this way, there was a recognition that they contained possible evidence of wrongdoing." "I had never heard of anything like that," said Ned Price, who was a senior director for strategic communications at the NSC during the Obama administration. Price said then-President Obama's phone calls with world leaders were classified, but they weren't stored on the top-secret system. Another former NSC official, Michael Green, also described the alleged storage of the rough transcript on this separate system as "deeply disturbing." Green served as director for Asia at the NSC between 2001 and 2005, when George W. Bush was president. more...

By Ledyard King, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – It started with the White House going after a political opponent and ended up with a disgraced president being forced from office. It might be too early to invoke the specter of the Watergate scandal that cost President Richard Nixon his job 45 years ago. But President Donald Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential challenger Joe Biden is increasingly drawing comparisons to one of America's darkest chapters. Trump's efforts to lean on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is reminiscent of the way Nixon created a team of secret investigators, known as "the plumbers," to find incriminating or embarrassing evidence about his enemies, said Ken Hughes, a leading Watergate authority and research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. "The difference between Nixon and Trump is that, for Nixon, the plumbers' operation was run and staffed by Americans, but Trump is outsourcing the dirt-digging operation overseas," Hughes said. "So it's actually shockingly similar." The comparisons are flowing more frequently since Wednesday's release of a summary detailing Trump's July 25 call to Zelensky and Thursday's release of a whistleblower complaint that the administration had taken steps to cover up details of the phone conversation. On the call, Trump reminded  Zelensky that "we do a lot for Ukraine" before asking the Eastern European leader for "a favor." Later in the call, Trump asks that Zelensky talk with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who has been investigating the activities of Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukraine energy company. The revelations prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to launch an impeachment inquiry Tuesday and accuse Trump of betraying his oath of office and endangering national security. Trump has emphatically denied that he applied any pressure on Ukraine. And he lashed out angrily Thursday at the unnamed officials who provided the whistleblower with details of his phone call, calling the source of the leak “almost a spy” and suggesting the culprit had committed treason. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right?” Trump said, according to published reports. “We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” more...

By QUINT FORGEY
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday asserted that Attorney General William Barr had “gone rogue” in his handling of an explosive whistleblower complaint that allegedly implicates him in efforts by President Donald Trump to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election. “He’s gone rogue,” Pelosi said of the attorney general in an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe." “I think where they're going is a cover-up of the cover-up, and that's really very sad for them,” she added. The attorney general on Wednesday became ensnared in the rapidly escalating controversy surrounding Trump’s phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, when the White House made public a readout of the July conversation. The call summary shows that Trump urged the newly elected leader to to work with Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. An anonymous whistleblower complaint released Thursday reported that Barr “appears to be involved” in Trump’s push for a probe into the Bidens. The complaint also alleges that White House officials were alarmed by Trump’s call with Zelensky, and later tried to "lock down" details of the conversation. The Justice Department denied Wednesday that Barr had been asked to work with Ukraine on a Biden investigation, and a department spokeswoman told POLITICO the president never requested that the attorney general investigate Biden in a matter separate from the Ukraine scandal. Though the intelligence community’s inspector general deemed the complaint’s allegations credible and “urgent,” acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire initially refused to turn over the document to Congress. more...

Over 90% of the 235 Democrats in the House of Representatives now either support impeachment proceedings or have signaled they are open to supporting impeachment proceedings against President Trump. The number rose after allegations surfaced in September that President Trump may have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate his political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. In late July, the House Judiciary Committee said in a court filing that it was actively considering articles of impeachment and was seeking access to material redacted from the special counsel's report in order to decide whether to move forward with the process. Although initially, just a handful of Democrats had called for Mr. Trump's impeachment, a growing number of lawmakers began to consider opening an impeachment inquiry against the president in light of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. more...

By Emily Tillett
More than 300 former national security officials — from the Bush administration to the Obama White House — have urged Congress to hold President Trump accountable for his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a conversation in which he pressured the foreign leader to investigate a political opponent. They wrote in a letter published by the group National Security Action on Friday that they consider the president's actions during that call to be a "profound national security concern." "President Trump appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite additional foreign interference into our democratic processes. That would constitute an unconscionable abuse of power. It also would represent an effort to subordinate America's national interests -- and those of our closest allies and partners -- to the president's personal political interest," the bipartisan group wrote. The group suggested that any effort to thwart U.S. interests on the global stage based on personal gain could make the country "more vulnerable to threats, and sends a message to leaders around the world that America's foreign policy can be dangerously corrupted by catering to a single individual." They added, "If we fail to speak up — and act — now our foreign policy and national security will officially be on offer to those who can most effectively fulfill the President's personal prerogatives." more...

CNN Newsroom - Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on the whistleblower complaint. Source: CNN more...

By TOBY ECKERT
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has agreed not to enforce a subpoena for President Donald Trump’s tax returns until a federal court rules on the office’s motion to dismiss Trump’s suit to block the subpoena and an injunction sought by the president. In a letter to federal Judge Victor Marrero today, attorneys in the DA’s office said they “reached a temporary arrangement” with Trump’s attorneys to delay enforcement of the subpoena until 1 p.m. two business days after Marrero rules or until 1 p.m. Oct. 7, whichever comes first. In the meantime, Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, “will resume gathering and preparing all documents responsive to the subpoena,” according to the letter, which was also signed by the president’s attorneys and lawyers for Mazars, which is a defendant in the case. Unless the court orders otherwise, Mazars will begin “a rolling production” of the tax documents “immediately upon the expiration of this agreement,” with the first delivery by hand on 4 p.m. that day. more...

While many in the Trump White House are battle-tested from the Mueller investigation, this is starting to feel different, aides and advisers said.
By Shannon Pettypiece, Kristen Welker, Hallie Jackson and Carol E. Lee
WASHINGTON — White House officials were scrambling Thursday to figure out how to counter the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, with one source familiar with the situation describing a sense of “total panic” over the past week at the lack of a plan to address the new reality. There appears to be rising “anxiety, unease, and concern” — as one person close to the White House described the mood in the West Wing — that the whistleblower’s allegations could seriously wound the president and some of those around him. “There’s not a lot of confidence that there’s no there there,” this person said. White House officials remained unsure of how to proceed, not only because there is no apparent plan to deal with the situation, but because the allegations are so serious that the usual methods the president has used to successfully escape past controversies may not apply: “This doesn’t look like something that’s going to be overtaken by the next news cycle,” the person said. Another person familiar with the discussions described the mood inside the White House as “shell-shocked,” with increasing wariness that, as this impeachment inquiry drags out, the likelihood increases that the president could respond erratically and become “unmanageable.” That concern was echoed by another source, who said that some around the president anticipate he will engage in more “impulsive” behavior, with pressure expected to build on him daily during the impeachment inquiry. That’s sparking worries that Trump could display increasingly unpredictable behavior and lash out in unexpected ways — both a presidential and a political concern in an election year. With his presidency facing what may be its biggest threat yet, Trump has cycled from offense to defense, reviving a strategy that he viewed as effective during Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He tried to downplay his request for the Ukrainian president to help investigate his political rivals, to divert attention to actions by Democrats and presidential contender Joe Biden, and to discredit the whistleblower as having partisan motives. more...

By KYLE CHENEY
The White House has "hijacked" transcripts from the House Intelligence Committee's Republican-led Russia investigation, delaying their release for months, Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told colleagues in a closed-door meeting last week. The committee authorized the release of its 53 witness interview transcripts a year ago, when Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Republicans led the panel. The transcripts were submitted to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a review to screen out classified information, and lawmakers had hoped for their quick public release. Nunes even indicated at the time that he hoped they would be out ahead of the 2018 congressional elections. But Schiff told his committee on Sept. 17 that ODNI's review dragged on for months longer than expected before grinding to a halt in March, when intelligence officials said they intended to share the transcripts with the White House. Intelligence officials, Schiff said, had asked permission to allow the White House to review the transcripts to screen out material that may be subject to executive privilege. "The White House has, in a sense, hijacked what should have been an uncontroversial straightforward review of congressional transcripts to identify and redact any classified information, and attempted to expand it into an unsolicited after-the-fact review for information purportedly protected by executive privilege,” Schiff said. Schiff said he vehemently objected to allowing the White House to review the transcripts, arguing that the White House's "overly expansive" view of executive privilege should not be used to "claw back” information already given to Congress. Since then, he said, he and his staff have been locked in negotiations to prevent the White House from retroactively screening testimony the committee received. "Negotiations now, after 10 months, are at an impasse and our patience has been exhausted," Schiff said.Schiff still intends to release the bulk of the Russia transcripts in the near future. He said ODNI has returned 43 of the 53 transcripts to the committee with classified information redacted. Two others, which the White House has sought to review, can be released because they've been determined to include no classified information, so the committee can release its own copy, Schiff said. But the remaining eight, he said, have been held "hostage." more...

The president’s mood has swung between hope for a resolution and desire for vengeance. A senior aide, however, says there won’t even be a “war room” at the White House for now.
By Asawin Suebsaeng, Sam Stein
As President Donald Trump wrapped up his swing through New York City on Thursday, he stopped by the luxury restaurant Cipriani to deliver remarks at a high-roller breakfast fundraiser. Fresh off meetings at the United Nations, the president clearly couldn’t take his mind off a certain anonymous whistleblower whose recently declassified complaint has threatened to blow up his administration. According to an attendee at the breakfast, Trump brandished a printed copy of the memo of his now-infamous Ukraine phone call, flaunting it as he blasted Democratic lawmakers for being mean to him. After waving the document around and receiving cheers from the gathering of Republican donors and supporters, the president boasted about how much money—$13 million in 24 hours—he had raised for his reelection effort, the attendee noted. It was yet another illustration of how Trump’s big week in New York has been overshadowed and bedeviled by revelations that he and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had urged Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Joe Biden, the former vice president who remains likely to be Trump’s 2020 election opponent. Over the past few days, the president has helped raise millions for the 2020 fight and has been lavished with praise by world leaders. And yet he’s remained, through it all, obsessed over the scandal unfolding back in Washington, D.C., as Democratic members of Congress inched closer to impeachment proceedings. According to three people with knowledge of the situation, Trump has compulsively monitored TV and cable-news coverage of the Ukraine-related scandal and has repeatedly asked those around him about the whistleblower and rumors that the complainant is hostile to or biased against him. Through it all, the president’s demeanor and approach to the rapidly unfolding scandal has vacillated between spoiling for a fight and hoping for a détente. Often, it depended on who he was talking to or what setting he found himself in. According to those in attendance at his Thursday breakfast fundraiser, the president was upbeat and fired up, telling donors that he and his political team were ready to punch back hard. In private, however, there was genuine consternation regarding how a brutal impeachment process would affect his legacy and his White House, with much of his staff sharing those same anxieties. Those close to Trump say the president never expected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to back any major impeachment moves—at least not until this week. more...

Trump is facing allegations that he tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the former vice president's son.
By Dareh Gregorian
A former Ukrainian prosecutor who investigated a gas company tied to Hunter Biden said Thursday that there was no evidence the former vice president's son engaged in illegal activity. "From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything,” Yuriy Lutsenko told The Washington Post. Lutsenko, who served as Ukraine's prosecutor general from May 2016 until last month, closed the investigation into the gas company Burisma and its oligarch owner in 2017, The New York Times has reported. Earlier this year, Lutsenko met with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and discussed Burisma, Lutsenko's spokeswoman told Bloomberg. Then in March, according to the Times, Lutsenko reopened an investigation into the company, though his spokeswoman has disputed that. The meetings with Giuliani were referred to in a bombshell whistleblower complaint unsealed Thursday that alleged that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens. In May, Lutsenko told Bloomberg News that his office had found no evidence of wrongdoing against Hunter Biden or his father, Joe Biden, who'd helped to oust Lutsenko's predecessor. That prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, had been accused of failing to act in numerous corruption cases, including the investigation into Burisma. In addition to the United States government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have demanded that Shokin be replaced. more...

His complaint suggested he was an analyst by training with an understanding of Ukrainian politics.
By Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Julian E. Barnes
WASHINGTON — The whistle-blower who revealed that President Trump sought foreign help for his re-election and that the White House sought to cover it up is a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to work at the White House at one point, according to three people familiar with his identity. The man has since returned to the C.I.A., the people said. Little else is known about him. His complaint made public Thursday suggested he was an analyst by training and made clear he was steeped in details of American foreign policy toward Europe, demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of Ukrainian politics and at least some knowledge of the law. The whistle-blower’s expertise will likely add to lawmakers’ confidence about the merits of his complaint, and tamp down allegations that he might have misunderstood what he learned about Mr. Trump. He did not listen directly to a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that is at the center of the political firestorm over the president’s mixing of diplomacy with personal political gain. Lawyers for the whistle-blower refused to confirm that he worked for the C.I.A. and said that publishing information about him was dangerous. “Any decision to report any perceived identifying information of the whistle-blower is deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way,” said Andrew Bakaj, his lead counsel. “The whistle-blower has a right to anonymity.” The C.I.A. referred questions to the inspector general for the intelligence agencies. A spokeswoman for the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, said that protecting the whistle-blower was his office’s highest priority. “We must protect those who demonstrate the courage to report alleged wrongdoing, whether on the battlefield or in the workplace,” Mr. Maguire said at a hearing on Thursday, adding that he did not know the whistle-blower’s identity. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, said The Times was right to publish information about the whistle-blower. “The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country — whether the president of the United States abused power and whether the White House covered it up.” Agents, officers and analysts from the military, intelligence and law enforcement communities routinely work at the White House. Often, they work on the National Security Council or help manage secure communications, like calls between the president and foreign leaders. more...

CNN Newsroom - The House Intelligence Committee has released the declassified whistleblower complaint regarding President Trump's phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky. CNN's Dana Bash breaks down the allegation from the complaint. Source: CNN more...

By Chandelis Duster, CNN
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump on Thursday told staff from United States Mission to the United Nations that he wanted to know who gave information to the whistleblower about his call with the Ukranian President, calling the person who did it "close to a spy" and that "in the old days" spies were dealt with differently, The New York Times reported. "I want to know who's the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that's close to a spy," Trump said, according to the Times, which cited a person briefed on what occurred who had notes of what the President said. "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now." Earlier Thursday, a stunning whistleblower complaint alleged 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. Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire also testified before the House Intelligence Committee about the whistleblower complaint. The identity of the whistleblower remains publicly unknown, but his or her safety was raised at Maguire's testimony. "And of course, you will do anything you can to protect the whistleblower from any attempts to retaliate against him or her, correct?" Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois asked. "I will not permit the whistleblower to be subject to any retaliation or adverse consequences for going to the IG. I am absolutely committed to that," Maguire replied. Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who is now a CNN contributor, told CNN's Brianna Keilar following the Times' report that Trump's implicit threat is "exactly what government officials are not supposed to do." "He's clearly targeting the person who's filed this complaint that affects him seriously and is kind of laying the marker down that he wants this person's identity and he wants to be able to follow-up on this. So absolutely a total contravention of all the protections for whistleblowers," said McCabe, who added that Trump's reported comments in front of US government employees suggests a message to others who might come forward with damaging information in the future. "So you have to ask, was this some sort of a message to all of those folks and indeed a message to all people serving in the government that if they step forward with complaints, they can expect the President to come after them?" more...

By Maggie Haberman
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday morning told a crowd of staff from the United States Mission to the United Nations that he wants to know who provided information to a whistle-blower about his phone call with the president of Ukraine, saying that whoever did so was “close to a spy” and that “in the old days,” spies were dealt with differently. The remark stunned people in the audience, according to a person briefed on what took place, who had notes of what the president said. Mr. Trump made the statement several minutes into his remarks before the group of about 50 people at the event intended to honor the United States Mission. At the outset, he condemned the former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s role in Ukraine at a time when his son Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Mr. Trump repeatedly referred to the whistle-blower and condemned the news media reporting on the complaint as “crooked.” He then said the whistle-blower never heard the call in question. “I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Mr. Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” more...

By Suzanne E. Durrell and David W. S. Lieberman, Opinion contributors
Evidence is evidence, no matter who brings it to light. Politicians would be well advised to keep that in mind. With the news that the White House whistleblower is willing to speak to Congress, it appears inevitable that his or her identity will become public. Some have argued that the whistleblower should publicly make the case against the president. We and our partners are former government prosecutors who now represent whistleblowers alleging fraud against the government. Together, we have represented scores of whistleblowers raising allegations of impropriety under federal and state law. When necessary we take these cases to trial. That experience has taught us that while the whistleblower’s identity may eventually become public, voluntarily disclosing it, or worse, expecting the whistleblower to “prove” these allegations, would be a strategic error. There are many reasons one would choose to speak out: Our clients speak out against employers, friends and colleagues to report violations of the law. Every whistleblower has his or her own reasons, and the decision to come forward invariably requires great courage. They are heroes — whether or not they carry baggage. more...

By John Tozzi  - Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) -- The cost of family health coverage in the U.S. now tops $20,000, an annual survey of employers found, a record high that has pushed an increasing number of American workers into plans that cover less or cost more, or force them out of the insurance market entirely. “It’s as much as buying a basic economy car,” said Drew Altman, chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, “but buying it every year.” The nonprofit health research group conducts the yearly survey of coverage that people get through work, the main source of insurance in the U.S. for people under age 65. Read more:  Health Insurance That Doesn’t Cover the Bills Has Flooded the Market Under Trump While employers pay most of the costs of coverage, according to the survey, workers’ average contribution is now $6,000 for a family plan. That’s just their share of upfront premiums, and doesn’t include co-payments, deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing once they need care. The seemingly inexorable rise of costs has led to deep frustration with U.S. health care, prompting questions about whether a system where coverage is tied to a job can survive. As premiums and deductibles have increased in the last two decades, the percentage of workers covered has slipped as employers dropped coverage and some workers chose not to enroll. Fewer Americans under 65 had employer coverage in 2017 than in 1999, according to a separate Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal data. That’s despite the fact that the U.S. economy employed 17 million more people in 2017 than in 1999. more...


Back to content