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US Monthly Headline News September 2019 Page 13

Dems believe the special counsel's grand-jury materials could aid their Ukraine investigation, according to a court filing.
By ANDREW DESIDERIO
Lawyers for the House of Representatives revealed on Monday that they have reason to believe that the grand-jury redactions in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report show that President Donald Trump lied about his knowledge of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks. The attorneys made the stunning suggestion in a court filing as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s bid for Mueller’s grand-jury materials, which have remained secret by law. “Not only could those materials demonstrate the president’s motives for obstructing the special counsel’s investigation, they also could reveal that Trump was aware of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks,” the lawyers wrote in the filing, which was in response to the Justice Department’s opposition to the disclosure of the grand-jury information. To back up their claim, the House’s legal team — led by House General Counsel Douglas Letter — cited a passage in Mueller’s report about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s testimony that he “recalled” Trump asking to be kept “updated” about WikiLeaks’ disclosures of Democratic National Committee emails. There is a grand-jury redaction in that passage, the lawyers note. “The text redacted ... and any underlying evidence to which it may point are critical to the committee’s investigation,” they wrote. “Those materials therefore have direct bearing on whether the president was untruthful, and further obstructed the special counsel’s investigation, when in providing written responses to the special counsel’s questions he denied being aware of any communications between his campaign and WikiLeaks,” they added. In a text message to POLITICO, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, said the suggestion that Trump lied to Mueller’s investigators is “absurd.” more...

A mystery whistleblower, a former comedian and the president of the United States. These are some of the main players in a story that is becoming ever more complex - and could see the president being impeached. 1) Donald Trump Who is he? The president of the United States of America. What's his role? Without him, there would be no story. Here's what we know about his involvement: Mr Trump himself has acknowledged that he personally blocked nearly $400m in military aid to Ukraine. At about the same time, he spoke by phone with Ukraine's new president. In the call, Mr Trump pushed Ukraine's president to investigate his leading domestic political rival, Joe Biden. A complaint by a whistleblower in the intelligence community, who spoke with White House sources about the call, alleges Mr Trump used "the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the US 2020 election" Mr Trump says the investigation is part of a "witch-hunt" against him, and he denies that military aid was withheld in order to put pressure on Ukraine. He has also demanded to know who gave information to the whistleblower, saying the source was "close to a spy". more...

New reports from the New York Times and Washington Post shed light on this effort.
By Andrew Prokop
Attorney General Bill Barr has been personally urging foreign governments to cooperate with an investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe during trips abroad — and President Donald Trump himself asked the prime minister of Australia to help Barr out, several news outlets reported Monday. Though this is being breathlessly mentioned in the same context as Trump’s request that the Ukrainian president investigate Joe Biden, it’s a somewhat different situation, one that raises its own concerns about whether Barr is politicizing the Justice Department to serve Trump’s electoral needs. What Trump is talking about here is a probe from US Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia interference investigation. The scope and the nature of Durham’s probe aren’t entirely clear, but Trump supporters have high hopes that this investigation will reveal some sort of malfeasance that will vindicate the president’s claims that he was the victim of a “witch hunt.” Trump himself has been calling for such a probe for years, and Barr launched it earlier this year. Now, the Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris, and Matt Zapotosky reported Monday that Barr has been personally involved in meeting foreign intelligence officials to try to get their help with Durham’s probe. This involved a trip to Italy just last week, as well as a previous trip there, and requests to both British and Australian officials. The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner, meanwhile, reported that Trump recently “pushed” Australia’s prime minister to help Barr with Durham’s investigation. Trump did so at Barr’s request, they report. And the AP reports that Trump has made other introductory phone calls for Barr in relation to the Durham probe. So unlike the Ukraine scandal that launched House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, this isn’t a free-range effort to get a foreign government to provide dirt on one of Trump’s 2020 opponents. But it is an investigation with political implications, one that the president and his attorney general have taken a keen interest in. And Trump’s requests may well have been perceived by these foreign officials as requests for “favors,” as with the Zelensky call. So to the extent that Trump and Barr’s demands have taken an inordinately high priority in American foreign policy, they may weigh on House Democrats’ minds going forward as they pursue their impeachment inquiry. more...

By Brett Samuels
The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) on Monday appeared to push back on allegations that the rules regarding whistleblower reports had been changed shortly before the complaint regarding President Trump's dealings with Ukraine was filed. The Office of the Inspector General issued a four-page news release in which it made clear that the whistleblower complaint focused on Trump's July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was processed under procedures put in place in May 2018. The inspector general wrote that under the statute, a complainant is not required to have first-hand knowledge of the matter they are referring. However, the anonymous author of the Aug. 12 complaint wrote that they had both first-hand information and information from others about the subject. "The ICIG reviewed the information provided as well as other information gathered and determined that the complaint was both urgent and that it appeared credible," the Office of the Inspector General said in Monday's news release. "From the moment the ICIG received the whistleblower’s filing, the ICIG has worked to effectuate Congress’s intent, and the whistleblower’s intent, within the rule of law. The ICIG will continue in those efforts on behalf of all whistleblowers in the Intelligence Community." The clarification came as Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have claimed the rules for filing a complaint were changed just before the whistleblower on the Ukraine call came forward. "This is a sham as far as I am concerned," Graham said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I want to know who told the whistleblower about the phone call. I want to know why they changed the rules about whistleblowers not – the hearsay rule was changed just a short period of time before the complaint was filed." Trump echoed the senator on Monday, asking in all caps "who changed the long standing whistleblower rules just before the submittal of the fake whistleblower report?" more...

He is using the office he holds to advance his extraordinary lifetime project of assigning unchecked power to the president.
Donald Ayer - Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General under George H. W. Bush
Buried behind our president’s endless stream of lies and malicious self-serving remarks are actions that far transcend any reasonable understanding of his legal authority. Donald Trump disdains, more than anything else, the limitations of checks and balances on his power. Witness his assertion of a right to flout all congressional subpoenas; his continuing refusal to disclose his tax returns, notwithstanding Congress’s statutory right to secure them; his specific actions to bar congressional testimony by government officials; and his personal attacks on judges who dare to subject the acts of his administration to judicial review. More blatant yet are his recent assertion of a right to accept dirt on political opponents from foreign governments, and his declaration of a national emergency, when he himself said he “did not need to do this,” he just preferred to “do it much faster.” Attorney General William Barr has not had the lead public role in advancing the president’s claims to these unprecedented powers, which have come to us, like most everything about this president, as spontaneous assertions of Trump’s own will. To the contrary, in securing his confirmation as attorney general, Barr successfully used his prior service as attorney general in the by-the-book, norm-following administration of George H. W. Bush to present himself as a mature adult dedicated to the rule of law who could be expected to hold the Trump administration to established legal rules. Having known Barr for four decades, including preceding him as deputy attorney general in the Bush administration, I knew him to be a fierce advocate of unchecked presidential power, so my own hopes were outweighed by skepticism that this would come true. But the first few months of his current tenure, and in particular his handling of the Mueller report, suggest something very different—that he is using the office he holds to advance his extraordinary lifetime project of assigning unchecked power to the president. On March 24, just two days after he received the Mueller report, Barr issued a terse four-page letter purporting to summarize the report’s major conclusions—and drawing one more that was critical—while offering virtually no facts. It was not until 25 days later, on April 18, that the redacted report itself appeared, after a stage-setting press conference by Barr the same morning. Its 448 pages raised severe doubts about the accuracy of some of Barr’s characterizations, and his ensuing testimony on Capitol Hill was an exercise in curmudgeonly obfuscation, as he held his ground while explaining almost nothing. Barr’s March 24 letter stated accurately that “the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” with regard to proven Russian efforts to hack computers and influence the election. He has since repeatedly misstated this conclusion as a finding of “no collusion,” which it is not. Mueller documented plenty of collusion between Russians and Trump’s agents, even as he failed to find evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of a conspiracy (meaning agreement) to disrupt the election. more...

By Justine Coleman
Attorney General William Barr has requested assistance from foreign intelligence officials as part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) inquiry into U.S. intelligence agencies' probes of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the DOJ confirmed on Monday. In private meetings, Barr personally sought help from these officials for an inquiry President Trump wanted to discredit the U.S. intelligence community's handling of the Russian probe, The Washington Post reported. The Justice Department confirmed Barr's outreach, saying in a statement that U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is leading the DOJ’s inquiry, is "gathering information from numerous sources including a number of foreign countries." "At Attorney General Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials," DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said. The Justice Department sought to emphasize that the outreach is unrelated to Russian meddling itself. Barr and Durham reportedly met with senior Italian government officials, the Post reported. Sources told the paper that they asked for assistance in the inquiry and that this was not Barr's first in-person meeting with Italian intelligence officials. White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the department asked the president to make connections between it and foreign officers to move forward with the inquiry and that "he did so, that's all." "I’m old enough to remember when Democrats actually wanted to find out what happened in the 2016 election," Gidley said in a statement. "The Democrats clearly don't want the truth to come out anymore as it might hurt them politically, but this call relates to a DOJ inquiry publicly announced months ago to uncover exactly what happened." Following the release of former special counsel Robert Mueller's report earlier this summer, the White House has sought to pivot to investigating the origins of that probe, with Trump making unsubstantiated allegations that the Obama administration spied on his campaign. Trump's supporters have long called for an investigation into the beginnings of the U.S. intelligence community's investigation into Russian interference. The president and his administration have continued to speak out against those who investigated his connections with Russia, saying they should be charged. The Post report came hours after another news story that Barr also asked the president to request that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison look into the origins of the Mueller investigation. The reports come amid the ongoing fallout over the president's controversial call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked him to “look into” former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 White House candidate, as well as Biden’s son Hunter Biden. more...

By Holmes Lybrand and Zachary Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN) - On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory suggesting the rules for whistleblowing had recently changed in order to accommodate the recent whistleblower complaint against him; specifically, so that someone with secondhand knowledge could now submit these complaints. "WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!" Trump tweeted. Monday's tweet was at least Trump's second reference to the theory, which apparently was initially propagated by the right-wing website The Federalist on September 27. The article claims that "between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings." Facts First: This is false. The Federalist reading of the form is inaccurate and although the submission form that whistleblowers from the intelligence community fill out was revised in August 2019, the revision did not change the rules on who can submit a whistleblower complaint. Even so, pro-Trump pundits and lawmakers spread the theory on Twitter and TV over the weekend as evidence of some nefarious plot against Trump. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio told Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" that whistleblowers no longer need firsthand knowledge because "they changed the form." Tapper pushed back, fact-checking Jordan. "Experts say it has never been true that you need to have firsthand knowledge to be a whistleblower," Tapper said. In a statement issued late Monday afternoon, the inspector general of the intelligence community (ICIG) said that the form submitted by the whistleblower on August 12, 2019, was the same one the ICIG has had in place since May 24, 2018. The statement reiterated the fact that having firsthand knowledge of the event has never been required in order to submit a whistleblower complaint. "Although the form requests information about whether the Complainant possesses first-hand knowledge about the matter about which he or she is lodging the complaint, there is no such requirement set forth in the statute." "In fact," the ICIG's statement continues, "by law the Complainant...need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern. The ICIG cannot add conditions to the filing of an urgent concern that do not exist in law." more...

By Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris and Matt Zapotosky
Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter. Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries. But the high level Justice Department focus on intelligence operatives’ conduct will likely cheer Trump and other conservatives for whom “investigate the investigators” has become a rallying cry. The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath. The attorney general’s active role also underscores the degree to which a nearly three-year old election still consumes significant resources and attention inside the federal government. Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm Monday that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in re-examining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct. Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham, according to one person familiar with the matter. It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials, the person said. The Trump administration has made similar requests of Australia, these people said. more...

By alexander mallin and jonathan karl
As a part of his review of the origins of the investigation into members of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, Attorney General William Barr asked President Trump on several occasions to initiate introductions between him and the leaders of Australia and Italy, among other countries, a Department of Justice official told ABC News on Monday. The official confirmed to ABC News that Barr, while on a trip to Italy last week, met with senior Italian intelligence officials in the government along with U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr has tasked with overseeing the review. According to public readouts released by the White House, Trump last spoke to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Sep. 5.  “As the Department of Justice has previously announced, a team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is investigating the origins of the U.S. counterintelligence probe of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries," Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. "At Attorney General Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials,” she said. The official would not say what other countries Barr has asked for the president's assistance in initiating contact with, but downplayed the requests as common and disputed any notion that Barr would want the president to pressure foreign leaders. But it's not clear whether there's any other example of the country's lead law enforcement official traveling overseas to personally investigate an issue that the president believes could benefit him politically. more...

By OMA SEDDIQ
Former GOP Sen. Jeff Flake called on Republicans to not support President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and argued that his latest scandal involving Ukraine warrants impeachment. “Whether you believe the president deserves impeachment, you know he does not deserve reelection,” Flake, a vocal critic of Trump, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Monday. The former senator’s op-ed comes as House Democrats are barreling ahead with a formal impeachment inquiry after it was revealed that Trump pressured Ukraine's president during a July phone call to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Flake expressed his concerns over impeachment, saying he fears it may stir up further division in the country, but believes that an investigation into the Ukraine conflict “ought to go forward," he noted in a recent interview with NPR. On Monday, he argued in the op-ed that despite his reservations, "With what we now know, the president’s actions warrant impeachment." Flake represented Arizona since 2013 but did not seek reelection last year, claiming he refused to continue backing Trump, a move he is pushing his Republican colleagues to make. “Trust me when I say that you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.” more...

By Evan Perez and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump pressed Australia's Prime Minister during a recent phone call to help Attorney General William Barr with his review of the origins of the Russia probe, according to an official familiar with the call. The call happened with Barr's knowledge and at his suggestion, says the official. The New York Times first reported this call. The official notes this is seeking assistance with the review, which is being conducted by US Attorney John Durham, and so is seen as appropriate and completely different from the Ukraine matter. Justice Department officials say that it is appropriate for the attorney general and the President to seek help from foreign countries with an investigation of 2016 election interference. Durham is examining what intelligence came from other countries that propelled the investigation that eventually became the Trump-Russia probe. An official briefed on the matter said the attorney general has asked the President to request the help of several countries, including Australia, with the Durham review. Officials believe that requesting foreign help with a retrospective look at 2016 election interference differs vastly from Trump's request made in the Ukraine call transcript released last week. A rough transcript released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's potential 2020 political rival, and his son Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden. more...

By David Jackson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he is still trying to learn the identity of the whistleblower whose allegations over Ukraine and Joe Biden have triggered an impeachment inquiry – a comment that some critics regarded as a presidential threat against the informer. "We're trying to find out about a whistleblower," Trump told reporters after an Oval Office swearing-in ceremony for new Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. Trump again attacked Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, accusing him of "making up" words about his phone call with the president of Ukraine – but Trump did not again accuse Schiff of "treason" as he did earlier in the day. After Trump spoke, Andrew Bakaj, the attorney for the unidentified whistleblower, tweeted that his client "is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law." Critics said Trump's comments, as well as repeated attacks on the whistleblower's motives, amount to a threat of reprisal against someone seeking to expose government wrongdoing. "We have a centuries-old bipartisan consensus that those with evidence of wrongdoing should be encouraged to step forward, not intimidated from doing so," said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, a nonprofit group that promotes whistleblower protection laws. Kostyack urged lawmakers from both parties "to affirm that this whistleblower deserves the highest level of protection from retaliation, including the ability to maintain anonymity.” In his brief Oval Office comments, Trump claimed his accuser misrepresented his July 25 telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. more... - This should scare all Americans that a sitting president is using the power of the presidency to retaliate against a whistleblower because the president was caught possibly committing a crime(s). For the people protecting and supporting Trump over America, what if this were Obama would you let him get away with that, no you would not.

By Christopher Brito
A 12-year-old black girl from Virginia has recanted an accusation that her white sixth grade classmates pinned her down and cut off her dreadlocks, her family said in a statement Monday. Stephen Danish, the head of Immanuel Christian School, also confirmed the allegations were false. Following an investigation by the Fairfax County Police Department, Danish said Amari Allen, the student who accused three of her classmates of assault, acknowledged the accusations were not true. "While we are relieved to hear the truth and bring the events of the past few days to a close, we also feel tremendous pain for the victims and the hurt on both sides of this conflict," he said. "We recognize that we now enter what will be a long season of healing." Allen's family apologized to the boys and the school for "the pain and anxiety these allegations have caused." "To the administrators and families of Immanuel Christian School, we are sorry for the damage this incident has done to trust within the school family and the undue scorn it has brought to the school," the family said. "We understand there will be consequences, and we're prepared to take responsibility for them."  They added, "To the broader community, who rallied in such passionate support for our daughter, we apologize for betraying your trust." more...

A former member of the Ukrainian parliament and adviser to Ukraine's president told CBS News it was a "well-known fact" there that President Donald Trump wanted "compromising" information on former Vice President Joe Biden. Serhiy Leshchenko added that Ukraine's president knew that U.S. aid to his country was at stake. "I am sure that issue of Biden was forever on the table between Zelensky and Trump," said Leshchenko. As a former lawmaker and adviser to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, Leschenko believes it was clear that President Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. "Of course, he wanted political privileges, favors, for his re-election from Ukraine," he said. "In return for military aid?" asked correspondent Roxana Saberi. "I would say yes," Leshchenko replied. "Do you have any evidence of that?" asked Saberi. "It was, like, well-known fact in Ukraine," Leshchenko replied. In 2016, Leshchenko was at the center of exposing Paul Manafort's dealings in Ukraine. He said he recused himself from working with Zelensky in May this year, after it became clear that could threaten relations with President Trump's administration. Ukraine relies heavily on U.S. aid in its war against Russia. But in July, Mr. Trump ordered nearly $400 million of that support withheld. Days later, in a phone call, he asked Ukraine's president to investigate the Bidens. According to the whistleblower's complaint, Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made or attempted contact with at least seven Ukrainian officials, including then-prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko. Lutsenko told the BBC that Giuliani asked him to investigate the Bidens. BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher asked Lutsenko, "Have you got any evidence that Joe Biden acted in any way which supported Hunter Biden's company, Burisma?" "It is not my jurisdiction," he replied. "Under Ukrainian law, you've got nothing?" "Nothing, certainly," Lutsenko said. But Serhiy Leshchenko says the two men were circumventing official channels. He also told Saberi that Giuliani wanted to meet President-elect Zelensky before his inauguration in April, but that Zelensky said no, because he realized that "everything behind the story is toxic." more...

‘You said ‘I’d like you to do [me] a favour though’?’ Congressman says during 60 Minutes segment
By Zamira Rahim
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the house of representatives, appeared to learn about the most controversial part of Donald Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky during a television interview. The 54-year-old was interviewed for CBS’ 60 Minutes programme by Scott Pelley, who read out parts of the White House summary of the call during the exchange. He focused on a point where Mr Zelensky, the Ukranian leader, discussed a defence deal. “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins [missiles] from the United States for defence purposes,” Mr Zelensky said during the call. The US president replied: “I would like you to do us a favour though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. “You just added another word,” Mr McCarthy said during the interview, appearing to refer to the word “though”. “No,” Scott Pelley said. “It’s in the transcript.” “You said ‘I’d like you to do [me] a favour though’?” Mr McCarthy said, with apparent surprise. “Yes, it’s in the White House transcript,” Mr Pelley said. The controversial exchange in the phone call refers to CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity company which investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). more...

The unusual alliance between Trump and Pence gained a new layer of intrigue with the House's impeachment inquiry — and with an offhand remark from the president.
By GABBY ORR
As Donald Trump stares down impeachment, allies of Vice President Mike Pence claim he is as calm and poised as can be. The vice president’s allies say he has proved his fealty over and over again, reciting the countless moments when Pence has locked arms with his unruly boss instead of joining other Republicans who turned away. Often in the darkest moments of Trump’s presidency — amid controversies stemming from his brazen actions or divisive rhetoric — Pence has declined to show daylight between them. Sometimes, Trump’s smooth-talking sidekick has even doubled down with him. Trump thrust his relationship with the vice president back into the spotlight last week, when the embattled president nudged reporters during a United Nations news conference to “ask for VP Pence’s conversation, because he had a couple conversations also” with Ukrainian officials. The out-of-the-blue reference triggered questions about the vice president’s role in the latest mess and the unusual relationship between the pair of leaders. If Trump falls alone, Pence becomes the 46th president of the United States — a development many mainstream Republicans would prefer. If Trump and Pence go down together or in quick succession, it’s President Nancy Pelosi — a prospect that would not be lost on Senate Republicans voting on whether to oust their party’s leaders. Trump’s offhand remark was a stark reminder of the eternal risks to the people in his orbit, particularly as the notoriously unpredictable president navigates the delicate politics of impeachment. Responding to a question about the president’s U.N. news conference, Tom LoBianco, author of the new Pence book “Piety and Power,” asked, “You mean when he gutted Pence on live TV?” more...

Ukrainians have been having doubts about Western commitment to Ukrainian democracy; the recent scandal confirmed them.
by Leonid Ragozinby Leonid Ragozin
For days now international media has been dominated by a political earthquake triggered by a July phone call between US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It has not only wreaked havoc on the political scene in both countries but it is also likely to undermine the very idea of Western leadership in Eastern Europe. President Trump is the most obvious casualty of this calamity, which is entirely of his very own making. His attempt to pressure the leader of a country currently in conflict with Russia in order to acquire compromising material on a political rival has outraged even members of his own party. It has also given ammunition to the opposition, the Democratic Party, to start an impeachment process against him. It would seem that Joe Biden, potentially Trump's opponent in the upcoming 2020 elections, might be the main beneficiary of his self-inflicted misery, but he may not emerge unscathed from the scandal either. The media spotlight has shifted back to the Ukrainian stint of his son, Hunter Biden. Burisma, the company Biden Jr worked for, belongs to businessman/politician Mykola Zlochevsky, who occupied various posts in the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, ousted by the Maidan revolution of 2013-2014. With no experience in the region, he got his post at the time when Zlochevsky was fighting off a court case in the UK touted as a part of the British effort to prevent Yanukovych's entourage from laundering embezzled cash in the West. Hunter's appointment on the board did feel a lot like a dogged oligarch buying himself an expensive political cover in the West. Perhaps the least affected of the three main characters in the story is Zelensky. Yes, there are several embarrassing moments in the conversation, which the president of Ukraine certainly didn't expect to be published. That includes his criticism of Germany and France for their lack of support to Ukraine. These and a few other statements in the transcript are unlikely to affect his sky-high rating at home, although they might come back to haunt him in future. Apart from casting a shadow on Zelensky's presidency in its first months, the scandal has disturbed Ukrainian politics in another, much more dramatic way. Ukrainians often complain about "Ukraine fatigue" in the West after five years of conflict with Russia and no resolution reached. That now there is renewed interest in Ukraine in Western media is hardly a welcome development given the circumstances. more...

The New York Republican was the first member of Congress to back Trump's presidential bid. Collins' resignation will be effective Tuesday.
By Tom Winter and Alex Moe
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., has sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office stating that he is resigning his House seat, a source familiar with the matter tells NBC News. Collins' resignation comes ahead of his expected guilty plea Tuesday to charges relating to insider trading, according to documents filed in federal court Monday. His resignation will become effective once his letter is read on the House floor during Tuesday’s pro-forma session. Collins, the first member of Congress to announce his support for Donald Trump's presidential bid, is scheduled to appear for a "change of plea" hearing in a Manhattan courtroom at 3 p.m. Tuesday. He pleaded not guilty to insider trading and several other charges when he was first indicted in 2018. Experts say the hearing means he is likely changing his plea to guilty. Collins' lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Collins, 68, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president in February 2016, was charged with insider trading in August 2018 along with his son, Cameron, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron's fiancée, according to the indictment. The men are also charged with lying to the FBI in interviews to cover up the alleged scheme to profit off insider knowledge about a company called Innate Immunotherapeutics. In a news conference following his indictment, Collins said, "I believe I acted properly and within the laws at all times." "Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have followed all rules and ethical guidelines," he added. more...

By Frank Esposito, Rockland/Westchester Journal News
NEW YORK – Every priest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York who has a substantial sex abuse accusation against him has been removed from ministry, according to a report. The report is by former federal judge and prosecutor Barbara Jones, who was tasked by Cardinal Timothy Dolan with studying the archdiocese's handling of sex abuse complaints. Jones, who serves as special counsel and independent investigator for the archdiocese, looked at its policies, procedures and protocols related to the problem. She shared her findings and recommendations at a news conference at the Catholic Center in New York City. Jones said the processes for dealing with sex abuse complaints are "working very well." The archdiocese – which covers Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, along with parts of New York City and the Hudson Valley – faces a bevy of lawsuits amid accusations of sexual abuse. Addressing the issue: Among the chief recommendations in the report is that the archdiocese upgrade its technology to better track priests' backgrounds and monitor their training. The archdiocese should  hire someone whose sole responsibility would be to oversee sex abuse complaints, according to the report. more...

‘You said ‘I’d like you to do [me] a favour though’?’ Congressman says during 60 Minutes segment
By Zamira Rahim
Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the house of representatives, appeared to learn about the most controversial part of Donald Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky during a television interview. The 54-year-old was interviewed for CBS’ 60 Minutes programme by Scott Pelley, who read out parts of the White House summary of the call during the exchange. He focused on a point where Mr Zelensky, the Ukranian leader, discussed a defence deal. “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins [missiles] from the United States for defence purposes,” Mr Zelensky said during the call. The US president replied: “I would like you to do us a favour though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it.” “You just added another word,” Mr McCarthy said during the interview, appearing to refer to the word “though”. “No,” Scott Pelley said. “It’s in the transcript.” “You said ‘I’d like you to do [me] a favour though’?” Mr McCarthy said, with apparent surprise. “Yes, it’s in the White House transcript,” Mr Pelley said. The controversial exchange in the phone call refers to CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity company which investigated the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). more...

By Ledyard King, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday the Senate would have "no choice" but to hold a trial on whether to remove President Donald Trump from office if the House votes to put forward articles of impeachment. The Kentucky Republican told CNBC that the obligation to hold a trial is part of Senate rules and it would take a two-thirds vote of the chamber to change that. "I would have no choice but to take it up a based on a Senate rule on impeachment," McConnell said. The Senate majority leader comments come days after House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry over whether Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden. Trump has denied exerting any pressure or doing anything improper. Timeline: Nancy Pelosi has put the Trump impeachment inquiry on a fast track. Here's the plan, timeline and key players: While the Constitution puts the responsibility of holding an impeachment trial in the hands of the Senate, there has been some speculation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might refuse to hold a trial. It would take a simple majority of the House (218 votes) to submit articles of impeachment to the Senate. Impeachment would be akin to an indictment in a court proceeding. A trial would then be held in the Senate where it would take at least two-thirds (or 67 votes) of the chamber to convict Trump and remove him from office. The chief justice of the Supreme Court would preside over the trial. more...

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business
New York (CNN Business)The Federal Reserve faces pressure to cut interest rates from investors and President Donald Trump. But the recent, albeit brief, spike in oil prices following an attack on oil fields in Saudi Arabia earlier this month raises a problem with that rate-cutting strategy: Inflation.
The threat of stagflation — a toxic combination of a slowing economy combined with rising prices — could make Fed chair Jerome Powell's job much more difficult. Central bankers will need to pay even more attention to economic data points before making any further moves to cut rates. "The Fed is like a base runner stuck between first and second base on a fly ball," said Matt Forester, chief investment officer of BNY Mellon's Lockwood Advisors. "It will need to be even more data dependent and reactionary. Higher oil prices would be a shock that is stagflationary." Forrester noted that higher oil prices are "unwelcome news," because of concerns about the weakening economies of China and Europe.  He added that if the United States and China don't come to a resolution on trade and more tariffs kick in later this year, that could lead to higher prices on many consumer goods. Along with a prolonged increase in oil prices, that could hurt the US economy. "The biggest concern right now is how any oil price spike might work its way into GDP," Forrester said. "Any additional shocks from trade and tariffs could be stagflationary as well." Expectations that Washington and Beijing will ultimately reach a trade deal has helped lift stocks lately. What's more, oil prices have retreated a bit on hopes of a truce between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. But Trump has been mercurial with his approach to China. That's why some experts still aren't ruling out stagflation as a threat right around the corner. more...

By Alexandra Hutzler
President Donald Trump's recent tweet quoting a longtime evangelical pastor who warned of a "Civil War" if Democrats seriously pursue removing him from office could actually be grounds for impeachment, one Harvard Law professor said. "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal," Trump tweeted on Sunday night. The tweet was a quote from Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor who gave the comment during an appearance on Fox & Friends Weekend. Trump added his own parenthetical aside to Jeffress' quote, in which the president asserted that Congress won't be successful in their impeachment efforts. The president's tweet was immediately met with backlash, and Harvard Law professor John Coates argued that the social media post itself is an "independent basis" for lawmakers to remove him from the White House. "This tweet is itself an independent basis for impeachment - a sitting president threatening civil war if Congress exercises its constitutionally authorized power," Coates wrote on Twitter on Monday. more...

By James Walker
A former chairman of the Republican Party has claimed Donald Trump is "wetting his pants" after the president launched a Twitter tirade against the whistleblower whose complaint set off the Trump-Ukraine scandal. Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman and now a political analyst for MSNBC, said yesterday that the tweets showed President Trump was "wetting his pants a little bit" and "trying to get control of something he's losing a grip on." He also argued that the Trump administration started the Ukraine scandal—which prompted the Democrat-led House's decision to start an impeachment inquiry into the president—by "putting out a document they thought was innocuous and unimportant." Steele made the remarks on MSNBC after host Ayman Mohyeldin asked him about comments Trump made about the whistleblower on Sunday in an attempt to discredit them. In a series of tweets, the president said he deserved to meet his accuser and claimed they "represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way." "I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the 'Whistleblower.' Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!" Trump said. Speaking about the tweets on MSNBC, Steele said: "That's the president wetting his pants a little bit. This has him nervous. There's real concern here. "The conflation of a legal, criminal proceeding where under our constitution you have a right to confront your accuser, that happens in a court room, not during an investigation." more...

By Ramsey Touchberry
Republican-turned-Independent congressman Justin Amash laid into the House's top Republican on Sunday, saying House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Cali.) lacked competence and was dishonest in a CBS 60 Minutes interview where he defended President Donald Trump's actions involving the Ukraine whistleblower scandal. "Kevin McCarthy again displays his unique brand of incompetence and dishonesty," Amash wrote on Twitter, along with a portion of McCarthy's 60 Minutes interview. Amash, once a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, left the Republican Party in July and became an Independent after becoming the first and only member of his party to call for Trump's impeachment based on evidence from the Mueller report. He pointed to the roughly 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice as the crux for his belief Trump should be ousted from office. more...

By Alexander Bolton
Republican senators scrambling to protect President Trump from a formal impeachment inquiry are attacking the credibility of the whistleblower who filed a complaint. GOP lawmakers are asserting the whistleblower did not have firsthand knowledge of the actions detailed in the complaint and question whether the person had a political agenda. “It doesn’t come from a person with personal knowledge. It’s like I heard these people say this, and now I’m reporting it. I think that is pretty bizarre,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “Secondly, after a certain point, it doesn’t just allege facts, it really is kind of a dossier or political diatribe, so I think there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Having said that, we are in the process of talking to the director of national intelligence and the inspector general.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has had a reputation for protecting whistleblowers, said the one at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry didn’t necessarily deserve protections. “If they are not really a whistleblower, they don’t get the protection,” he said. The remarks from Grassley, Cornyn and other senators echo arguments coming from Trump, but stand in stark contrast to the testimony last week from acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, who said the whistleblower acted in good faith. - Once again, Republicans show they do care about our laws only about protecting Trump and the Republican Party. more... - If it were Obama Republicans would be calling the whistleblower a hero.

The party was able to reinvent itself after Nixon's resignation because it had distanced itself from his presidency. It must do the same today.
By Sarah Longwell
The 1970s were not good for the Republican Party. The Watergate break-in of 1972 and the ensuing scandal that engulfed the Nixon administration did not end when the president was forced from office two years later. Instead, the midterms of that year saw the fallout cost Republicans four Senate seats and 49 House seats. The GOP wouldn’t see losses in the House on that scale again until 2018. The 1970s were not good for the Republican Party. The Watergate break-in of 1972 and the ensuing scandal that engulfed the Nixon administration did not end when the president was forced from office two years later. Instead, the midterms of that year saw the fallout cost Republicans four Senate seats and 49 House seats. The GOP wouldn’t see losses in the House on that scale again until 2018. With the Democrats pursuing an impeachment inquiry against Trump — who allegedly leaned on the president of Ukraine to provide dirt on the son of Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and then covered it up — the most consequential political differential in determining whether Trump survives this perilous moment will be whether or not Republicans hold the line for the president or finally say enough is enough. As the Nixon presidency imploded, even staunch defenders like Rep. Charles Wiggins eventually found it too difficult to defend Tricky Dick, a key factor in the premature end of Nixon’s presidency. And stalwarts like Wiggins changed their allegiances largely because of their indignation with Nixon’s own behavior. White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig had invited Wiggins to view the transcript of the infamous “smoking gun” tape, which the Supreme Court ordered be turned over to Congress, before it was released to the public in order to let him shape the public reaction. more...

By Rebecca Klar
The Kremlin on Monday reportedly said that U.S. lawmakers would need Russian consent to publish transcripts of calls between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday that Congress is looking to get ahold of the calls between Trump and Putin after a whistleblower alleged the White House directed officials to put a call between Trump and foreign leaders on a highly classified server. In response to Schiff’s comments, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Washington would need Russia’s approval for such a move, according to Reuters. “Of course their publication is to some extent only possible by mutual agreement of the parties. This is a certain diplomatic practice,” Peskov said. “To be more specific, perhaps, diplomatic practice, in general, does not envisage their publication. If there are some signals from the Americans, then we will discuss [them],” he added. The House launched a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump after a whistleblower complaint alleged Trump solicited possible interference from Ukraine in the 2020 election. The White House released a memo summarizing a portion of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky showing Trump asked the foreign leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 candidate. A whistleblower alleges the White House directed officials to put a transcript of the call on a highly classified server. more...

By Christina Zhao
Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger condemned President Donald Trump on Sunday for quoting Pastor Robert Jeffress' warning that impeachment might cause a "Civil War-like" fracture in the U.S. "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.' Pastor Robert Jeffress,@FoxNews," the president wrote on Sunday evening in a series of tweets. In response, Kinzinger tweeted: "I have visited nations ravaged by civil war.@realDonaldTrump. I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant." The president's tweet came shortly after Jeffress' appearance on Fox News, where he spoke about the impeachment inquiry into Trump announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday. Jeffress, a prominent evangelical pastor of a Texas megachurch who's also a vocal supporter of Trump, has been accused on numerous occasions of making controversial and offensive remarks. In March, he said Christian followers of Trump have "deeper convictions" than other devotees during an interview on Fox News. "Even though the evangelical number has dropped as a whole, the number of evangelicals turning out at the ballot box is greater than other groups, and it's because evangelicals have deeper convictions," Jeffress said. "They believe in absolute moral and spiritual truth, and they tend to vote those convictions at the ballot box." In August, Jeffress condemned a church denomination for sheltering migrants and fighting deportations as the White House cracked down on illegal immigration. "The church has no business in doing that. And look, the Bible is very clear about this," Jeffress said. "In Romans 13, Paul says, 'Government is established by God. To resist government is to resist God himself.'" According to a CBS News poll, released on Sunday morning, a majority of Americans say they support the Democrat-led House's recently-announced impeachment inquiry, with 55 percent of respondents approving of the impeachment inquiry and 45 percent disapproving of the move. more...

By Chantal Da Silva
President Donald Trump escalated his attacks against the anonymous whistleblower at the center of the Ukraine call controversy that could soon see the U.S. leader impeached. The president's comments came on Sunday, just a day after the whistleblower's lawyer warned that the president's earlier remarks were already putting their client's "personal safety" at risk. In a letter addressed to Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, the anonymous whistleblower's lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, warned on Saturday that Trump's public outrage over the whistleblower's report had already created "serious concerns for our client's personal safety." "The events of the past week have heightened our concerns that our client's identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm's way," Bakaj said of the whistleblower, who flagged concerns around Trump pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son in a July phone call. Of particular alarm, the lawyer said, were Trump's comments on Thursday, demanding to know "who's the person that gave the Whistleblower the information, because that's close to a spy." "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? With spies and treason, right?" Trump said at the time. "We used to handle them a little differently than we do now." "The fact that the President's statement was directed to 'the person that gave the Whistleblower the information' does nothing to assuage our concerns for our client's safety," Bakaj said in the letter. "Moreover, certain individuals have issued a $50,000 'bounty' for 'any information' relating to our client's identity," he said. "The purpose of this letter is to formally notify you of serious concerns we have regarding our client's personal safety," Bakaj said, before suggesting that the National Intelligence office had already offered support "to activate appropriate resources to ensure [the whistleblower's] safety." more...

Ousted national security adviser John Bolton put on display the deep schisms between himself and President Donald Trump on North Korea, publicly breaking with his former boss on Monday about how best to get Kim Jong Un’s regime to wind down its nuclear weapons program. At one of his first public appearances since his abrupt and rocky departure from the White House, Bolton did not name the president but delivered an unmistakable airing of grievances. Specifically, he threw cold water on the president’s assertion that North Korea is ready to make a deal and gave his “unvarnished” view that Kim would not voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons under current conditions. Bolton told attendees at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event that Kim "has not made a strategic decision to give up its nuclear weapons.” In fact, he argued, “the strategic decision Kim Jong Un is operating through is that he will do whatever he can to keep a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and to develop and enhance it further.” Bolton, who was ousted earlier this month after a year and a half as Trump’s top security aide in part because of his hawkishness, began his remarks by joking that North Korea’s leadership was likely “delighted” by the fact he was there in a private capacity. “Perhaps they’ll be a little less delighted now that I can speak in unvarnished terms about the grave and growing threat that the North Korean nuclear weapons program poses to international peace and security," he added. Bolton alluded to several of the policy disagreements he had with his former boss, most notably that Kim was not ready to give up his nuclear weapons program, as Trump has frequently insisted after a handful of meetings with the reclusive leader. Trump has so far held two summits with Kim, and has teased the possibility of a third before next year’s election. Neither meeting has yielded any concrete progress toward a deal, with North Korea suggesting that it would like to see relief from sanctions before taking any steps to denuclearize. more...

By David Jackson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump opened another week of impeachment turmoil with slashing attacks on his accusers – including a suggestion that a leading investigator be arrested for "treason." Claiming that Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, falsely described his phone call with the president of of Ukraine, Trump tweeted Monday:  "Arrest for Treason?" Schiff did not immediately respond, but others called it an outrageous comment. "Out. Of. Control," tweeted Republican strategist Mike Murphy. "Treason? A POTUS saying this? #UnfitAndUnstable." Alleged "treason" was part of a series of tweets on Sunday night and Monday morning in which Trump raised the specter of "civil war," said some of his own aides may be "SPYING" on him, and accused the Democrats of trying to "destabilize" the country a year ahead of his 2020 re-election. "They are lying & cheating like never before in our Country’s history in order to destabilize the United States of America & it’s upcoming 2020 Election," Trump said in one of many harsh missives. "If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,'" Trump quoted pastor Robert Jeffress as saying. That tweet drew criticism from Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger. "I have visited nations ravaged by civil war.@realDonaldTrump," tweeted Kinzinger, a Republican House member from Illinois. "I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President. This is beyond repugnant." more...

By Shawn Donnan, Jenny Leonard, and Saleha Mohsin
The Trump administration has issued a partial -- and qualified -- denial to the revelation that it is discussing imposing limits on U.S. investments in Chinese companies and financial markets as China vowed to continue opening its markets to foreign investment. Bloomberg News on Friday reported that Larry Kudlow, the head of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, was leading deliberations inside the White House over what some hawks have labeled a potential “financial decoupling” of the world’s two largest economies. The options discussed have included forcing a delisting of Chinese companies from U.S. exchanges, imposing limits on investments in Chinese markets by U.S. government pension funds and putting caps on the value of Chinese companies included in indexes managed by U.S. firms, according to people familiar with and involved in the discussions. In a statement emailed to Bloomberg over the weekend, a spokeswoman for U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said there were no current plans to stop Chinese companies from listing on U.S. exchanges. “The administration is not contemplating blocking Chinese companies from listing shares on U.S. stock exchanges at this time,” Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley said. Crowley did not address any of the other options reported and declined to offer any further details of the discussions. The response came after Friday’s initial Bloomberg report, which was later matched by other news organizations including the Financial Times and New York Times, unnerved markets in the U.S. and led to a slump in U.S.-listed Chinese firms. The S&P 500 Index closed down about 0.5% on Friday with the U.S. shares of companies like Alibaba Group Holding and Baidu Inc. tumbling. China’s stock market declined ahead of a week-long National Day holiday. more...

CNN - Washington (CNN)A former US official who left the State Department in 2012 received a letter in August informing him that dozens of his emails that had been sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were now being recategorized as classified. more...

By Devan Cole, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, and CNN's Jake Tapper got into a contentious exchange Sunday after the lawmaker made false and misleading claims about the unfolding Ukraine drama that has led to an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. During a tense interview with Tapper on "State of The Union," the Ohio Republican attempts to give his spin on the drama, making unsubstantiated claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating the Bidens, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing by either. On Jordan's claims about the Bidens: "The vice president's son gets paid $50,000 a month and gets hired by a company in an industry he has no experience in and oh that's fine?" Jordan says, referring to Hunter Biden serving on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. "Try taking that message to the American people ... When they see the vice president's son getting paid $50,000 a month in a field, in an industry he has no experience in ... And then when the company that's paying that money is under investigation, guess what? Daddy comes running to the rescue. The vice president of the United States comes running in and says, 'Fire that prosecutor.' " "That's not what happened. Sir, sir, that's not what happened," Tapper responds. "The European Union, the Obama administration, the International Monetary Fund, pro-clean government activists in Ukraine, (all) thought that the prosecutor was not prosecuting corruption." "So you're saying Joe Biden didn't tell Ukraine to fire that prosecutor? I think he did," the congressman says. "He did, but the guy was not prosecuting anything. That was the problem," Tapper replies. "Here are the facts," Jordan says, before Tapper interjects, saying: "You're not saying facts, you say, 'Here are the facts,' these are not." "Did Joe Biden tell him to fire the prosecutor?" Jordan asks again. "Because he wasn't going after corruption. He wasn't going after corruption. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Tapper replies. According to CNN's fact check, the Obama administration, American allies, the International Monetary Fund and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, among others, had all made clear that they were displeased with the performance of Viktor Shokin, who became prosecutor general in 2015. Shokin was widely faulted for declining to bring prosecutions of elites' corruption, and he was even accused of hindering corruption investigations. His deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, resigned in February 2016, alleging that Shokin's office was itself corrupt. more...

Michael J. Stern, Opinion columnist
Trump needs the protection that comes with staying president. But Ukraine has accomplished what Robert Mueller could not: America is paying attention. The thing about being president is that your every move, past and present, is subject to microscopic examination. That can be a problem if your closet is filled with skeletons …or decomposing bodies. In Donald Trump’s case, his skeletons often include legal jeopardy. The most recent example of his legal exposure is the whistleblower complaint that detailed Trump’s efforts to persuade the president of Ukraine to produce dirt on political rival Joe Biden,  possibly in exchange for the release of U.S. financial aid. Trump’s solicitation could well be a violation of federal campaign contribution laws. While the whistleblower allegations are at the center of the newly official congressional impeachment inquiry, the president’s latest legal breach is preceded by a long line of similar activities. Who could forget the New York U.S. Attorney’s “porngate” indictment in which Trump is named as an unindicted co-conspirator, “Individual 1,” alongside his former personal attorney? Or the multiple examples of criminal obstruction set forth in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report? Trump can be indicted for past crimes While it appears to many Americans that Trump is above the law, this status is only conferred on him as long as he remains president. An Office of Legal Counsel opinion forbids the indictment of a sitting president but offers no protection to a former president. Once he leaves office, Trump can be indicted for past crimes, including those he committed as president. At that point, his only legal protection will be the statute of limitations — the time limit for charging a crime. The federal statute of limitations for most crimes, including campaign finance and obstruction violations, is five years. Any crimes Trump might have committed early in his campaign will not be chargeable if he leaves office in 2021. But paying hush money to Stormy Daniels, firing FBI Director James Comey, and ordering the White House counsel to fire Mueller are all fair game for indictment if Trump does not win a second term. This sobering recognition on Trump’s part could be fueling what appears to be his escalating desperation to ensure that he secures another four years in the White House. He'll burn the house down to win 2020: The cards, as Trump has played them, leave him in a predicament. If he loses the 2020 election, he will be red meat for a Democratic president and attorney general eager to hold him accountable for his flagrant abuses of power. To avoid being fed to the Democrats, Trump’s best bet is to follow the tried-and-true playbook that secured his 2016 win. This means illegally soliciting foreign assistance in the upcoming election. more...

Advisers to the former vice president wrote to executives at ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News to “demand” that Mr. Giuliani not be invited on the air to discuss Ukraine and President Trump.
By Michael M. Grynbaum
Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign contacted top television anchors and networks on Sunday to “demand” that Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, be kept off the air because of what they called his misleading comments about the Biden family and Ukraine. “We are writing today with grave concern that you continue to book Rudy Giuliani on your air to spread false, debunked conspiracy theories on behalf of Donald Trump,” a pair of top Biden campaign advisers, Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield, wrote in the letter. “Giving Rudy Giuliani valuable time on your air to push these lies in the first place is a disservice to your audience and a disservice to journalism,” the advisers wrote. The note, which was obtained by The New York Times, was sent to executives and top political anchors at ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News and NBC, including star interviewers like Jake Tapper, Chuck Todd and Chris Wallace. Mr. Giuliani could not immediately be reached on Sunday for comment. Mr. Giuliani has been a ubiquitous presence on television news in recent days, advocating on Mr. Trump’s behalf. He has repeatedly alleged that Mr. Biden, while serving as vice president, intervened in Ukraine to assist his son Hunter Biden’s business interests. No evidence has surfaced that Mr. Biden intentionally tried to help his son in Ukraine. The Biden campaign argued that Mr. Giuliani’s television appearances had allowed him to mislead the viewing public — and suggested that network journalists had done too little to hold him to account. “While you often fact check his statements in real time during your discussions, that is no longer enough,” the letter said. Mr. Biden’s advisers have not been shy about offering advice to journalists. Earlier this month, the campaign sent a memo to an elite group of campaign reporters warning that any news story would be “misleading” if the Trump camp’s claims about Mr. Biden were unsubstantiated. The news networks had no comment on Sunday. As Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani remains a highly newsworthy figure, particularly amid an escalating impeachment inquiry in which Mr. Giuliani’s own actions in Ukraine could play a central role. It is likely that Mr. Giuliani will remain a coveted booking for television journalists seeking insight into the president’s mind-set and legal defense strategy. As for Mr. Biden, he has shown little eagerness to engage one-on-one with TV anchors. The former vice president has declined to appear on any of the weekend political talk shows since declaring his candidacy, reserving his on-air appearances for late-night comedy shows, “The View” and a small number of other sit-downs. more... - The Biden camp is wrong on this you cannot stop free speech even if it is lies. If it is lies take him to court and let the court decide.

Here’s who the House needs to hear from during its inquiry.
By The Editorial Board - The New York Times
President Trump’s assaults on democracy are rarely solo endeavors. His schemes often entangle, by chance or by choice, an array of accomplices, enablers, observers and victims — many of whom will need to be heard from as House members begin investigating the Ukraine scandal as part of the impeachment inquiry announced last week. “There is a whole host of people apparently who have knowledge of these events,” Representative Adam Schiff of California, who is spearheading the inquiry as the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Thursday. Fortunately, said Mr. Schiff, the complaint filed by the administration whistle-blower provides “a pretty good road map of allegations that we need to investigate.” Indeed it does. Among the many persons of interest in this investigation: whichever White House and State Department staff members who were listening in on Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky; those who subsequently received a readout of that call; and those involved in the effort to “lock down” the record of it. The lines of inquiry quickly spiral. But here are a few notable figures — in addition, of course, to the whistle-blower himself — who could prove particularly useful to House investigators. Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney/fixer. As the point person on the push to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Mr. Giuliani likely knows more about the origins, scope and details of the effort than almost anyone. Some of the more targeted mysteries he could shed light on include: When and from whom did the president first get the idea to pressure Ukraine? How did Mr. Giuliani first become involved? Was he being paid for his work, and if so, by whom? Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney/fixer. As the point person on the push to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Mr. Giuliani likely knows more about the origins, scope and details of the effort than almost anyone. Some of the more targeted mysteries he could shed light on include: When and from whom did the president first get the idea to pressure Ukraine? How did Mr. Giuliani first become involved? Was he being paid for his work, and if so, by whom? When the whistle-blower complaint citing him by name was referred to the Justice Department, Mr. Barr should have formally recused himself from any involvement with it. Why didn’t he? Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff. In July, Mr. Trump directed Mr. Mulvaney to arrange for Ukraine’s military aid to be put on hold. What explanation did he give Mr. Mulvaney? Whom did Mr. Mulvaney contact at the Departments of Defense and State to make that happen? What explanations did he offer them? Mike Pompeo, secretary of state. Robert Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already issued a raft of questions that he’d like Mr. Pompeo to address, including: Was Mr. Pompeo concerned that America’s Ukraine policy had been partially outsourced to the president’s personal lawyer? When did Mr. Pompeo first learn of Mr. Giuliani’s work? Did he approve it, and was he aware that State Department officials were involved with it? What explanation was he given for the withholding of aid to Ukraine? more...

American history is riddled with presidential attempts to smash the independence of the Department of Justice.
By Stephen Mihm
When Congress created the position of attorney general in 1789, it was a part-time gig. The salary lagged well behind other executive positions, and lacked congressional appropriations for office space and supplies. The idea that the occupant could serve as the president’s personal fixer would have seemed absurd at the time. It no longer seems so absurd. This week, Attorney General William Barr was accused of going “rogue” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opened an impeachment proceeding against President Donald Trump in the wake of the Department of Justice’s decision against releasing a whistle-blower’s complaint to Congress. At the heart of the controversy is a phone call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that focused on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said. The Justice Department declined to investigate the allegations even after Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, elevated it to a matter of “urgent concern.” The department said Barr was not involved in that decision, and added that he never spoke to the president about Biden’s ties to Ukraine. Still, critics are sounding alarms about Barr failing to protect the department’s storied independence from the president and its responsibility to uphold the rule of law. Attorneys general have been held to that standard for years – and for good reason. Nevertheless, Barr’s predecessors have managed to build up quite a record of cronyism over the years. As with so many flaws in America’s system of government, this one goes back to its founding. Back then, there was no “Department of Justice,” and the attorney general floated between the three branches of government. “I am a sort of mongrel between the State and the U.S.; called an officer of some rank under the latter, yet thrust out to get a livelihood in the former,” said Edmund Randolph, the nation’s first top lawyer. Because the position was independent and impotent, the men who filled the position were rarely corrupt or political. In an in-depth analysis, Fordham University legal scholar Jed Shugerman found that most of nineteenth-century appointees tended to be professional lawyers, not political hacks. more...


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