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















US Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade
Several key players in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump were the strongest proponents of Republicans’ iron-fisted oversight of the Obama administration, culminating in a two-year House probe into the deadly 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya. Now, faced with a politically charged investigation into a president of their own party, they have dropped their formerly stout defense of congressional prerogatives and have joined Trump in endorsing a campaign of massive resistance to the impeachment probe — a turnabout that has left many Democrats and even some Republicans aghast. Among those who participated in the select committee that probed the attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya were Mike Pompeo, then a Kansas congressman and now secretary of state and a key target of the current Democratic investigation, and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), who is the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee. The panel’s chairman, then-Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.), who has since left Congress, was poised to serve as an outside lawyer for Trump. The president said Thursday that Gowdy would have to wait until January to start due to lobbying rules. “The notion that you can withhold information and documents from Congress no matter whether you are the party in power or not in power is wrong,” Gowdy said in 2012, as a House panel moved to hold then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in contempt for failing to cooperate with its probe of a botched gunrunning operation. “Respect for the rule of law must mean something, irrespective of the vicissitudes of political cycles.” Gowdy did not respond to requests for comment but criticized the House investigation last week in Fox News Channel appearances — calling its leader, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), “deeply partisan” and accusing him of leaking information “like a sieve.” In a 2016 addendum to the House Benghazi probe’s findings, Pompeo and Jordan thrashed Democrats, saying they “showed little interest in seeking the truth” and “spent the bulk of their time trying to discredit the Republican-led committee and leveling baseless personal attacks.” But in past weeks, the two have used similar tactics to undermine the House impeachment probe by, in Pompeo’s case, accusing Democrats of “bullying and intimidating State Department employees” in justifying a decision to block testimony and, in Jordan’s case, accusing the probe’s leader of misconduct and disqualifying political bias. “There is obviously a massive hypocrisy here,” said Jen Psaki, an Obama administration veteran who served as State Department spokeswoman during the Benghazi probe. Pompeo, she added, “was one of the ringleaders of a massive political circus around Benghazi; he was responsible for dragging countless Foreign Service officers, civil servants — people who had been serving Democrats and Republicans for decades — in front of Congress, through the mud. Now he’s claiming that he’s defending the institution? That irony is not lost.” more...

He’s left the border near-impenetrable for asylum seekers.
By Nicole Narea - Vox
Kevin McAleenan, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security who attempted to distinguish himself from immigration hardliners in the Trump administration while leading the agency charged with carrying out its policies, announced Friday night that he is leaving the agency. A career law enforcement official, McAleenan served longer than any other DHS head without Senate confirmation, assuming his acting post in April after his predecessor Kirstjen Nielsen was asked to resign. During McAleenan’s tenure, President Donald Trump got what he wanted: The number of migrants apprehended at the southern border fell to about 52,000 in September from almost 133,000 at their peak in May. Trump has considered it a crisis worthy of declaring a national emergency, as he did in February, referring to it repeatedly in public remarks and campaign ads as an “invasion” of migrants. He struck international deals that would force migrants seeking asylum to return to Central American countries struggling with high levels of crime and violence. He implemented the administration’s Remain in Mexico policy — under which over 50,000 migrants have been sent back to back to Mexico while they await decisions on their asylum applications — across the entire southern border. He rolled out the so-called public charge rule, which was blocked by courts but would make it more difficult for low-income immigrants to legally enter and settle in the US. And he ended the administration’s practice of releasing immigrant families from detention into the US, which Trump has called “catch and release,” instead sending them to Mexico. But McAleenan, who has reportedly been frustrated by the Trump administration’s immigration rhetoric, has long flirted with resigning. In June, CNN reported that he was ready to hand in his notice after Trump tweeted that he would “begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.” And in a profile in the Washington Post in October, he gave what looked like an exit interview, in which he suggested that he was an outsider in the administration and that DHS’s public image was hurting its agenda. On Friday night, McAleenan announced that he was making it official. more...

This is yet another part of the US-Iran standoff.
By Alex Ward - Vox
The Trump administration will send nearly 2,000 troops and advanced military equipment to Saudi Arabia to deter threats from Iran — a move that will increase America’s presence in the Middle East, even as President Donald Trump falsely boasts about ending wars in the region. The announcement, made by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley on Friday, continues the administration’s campaign both to increase pressure on Tehran and deepen ties with Riyadh. The US has sent an additional 14,000 military members to the Middle East since May, which the 1,800 authorized Friday will add to. That makes sense, as May was when the US and Iran became locked in a standoff that’s seen the US aggressively increase its stance in the region and consider striking Iran only to call it off at the last minute. It’s also seen Iran bomb oil tankers in strategic waterways and oil fields in Saudi Arabia, which Esper specifically cited as a reason for the increase. Trump has repeatedly threatened retaliatory strikes and further crushing sanctions if Iran refuses to stop its attacks, though he hopes to sign a deal with the Islamic Republic’s leaders to further constrain its missile program, nuclear ambitions, and support for terrorists. In the meantime, the Pentagon hopes that sending more fighter jets and air-defense systems to the region will keep Iran at bay. “We thought it was important to send forces to deter and defend, and to send a message to the Iranians: Do not strike another sovereign state. Do not threaten American interests and American forces, or we will respond,” Esper told reporters on Friday. “Do not mistake or restraint for weakness.” Trump isn’t ending wars in the Middle East It’s worth being clear about something: Trump is only augmenting America’s presence in the Middle East. On Wednesday morning, Trump ripped America’s involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts over the past two decades. Trump’s DHS secretaries have tried to distance themselves from his policies. McAleenan has publicly tried to paint himself as a moderate placed in an impossible position by a president with extreme views on immigration, particularly when it came to carrying out policies aimed at restricting asylum.  more...

Under the agreement, the U.S. will no longer go forward with a planned tariff increase on Oct. 15 on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports.
By Adam Edelman
President Donald Trump said Friday that the U.S. and China had reached a “substantial phase one deal” on trade that will eliminate a tariff hike that had been planned for next week. Trump announced the deal in the Oval Office alongside members of his economic and trade teams, as well as Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and his team, who were in Washington for negotiations. Trump said the deal would take three to five weeks to write and could possibly be wrapped up and signed by the middle of November, when world leaders will travel to Chile for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. “We've come to a deal pretty much, subject to getting it written,” Trump said. “This is something that is going to be great for China and great for the U.S.A,” he added. News of a possible deal had been reported earlier in the day, sending markets upward. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day up nearly 320 points, or 1.2 percent. Trump — who last week publicly urged the Chinese government to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the latter's involvement with an investment fund that raised money in the country — said Friday that the Bidens didn't come up during trade negotiations. "I have not brought up Joe Biden. China can do whatever they want with respect to the Bidens," Trump said. more...

Trump tried to keep his talks with Putin at Helsinki last year secret from his staff and the world, but Russia's president held up the checklist for the cameras. Syria was on it.
By Julia Davis
President Donald J. Trump’s surprise decision to abandon the Kurds and sign off on Turkey’s operation in Syria drew condemnation in the West, but was cheerfully welcomed in Russia, and, for those who follow Russia closely, the contrast revived the ghosts of Helsinki, where Trump’s surrender of American values was on full display. There in Finland last year, the leader of the most powerful country in the world demonstrated cringeworthy servility toward Vladimir Putin—president of a rogue government sanctioned by the West for a great number of malign activities, including Russia’s brazen interference in the U.S. elections. The world’s pariah looked triumphant next to the deflated American president. As Trump stood hunched over, with a blank expression, Putin was practically glowing—and he wanted the world to know just how great the meeting went for Russia. Putin held up a thick stack of his notes with both hands, showing them off for the world to see, in effect giving himself the thumbs-up. Discernible portions of the first page, purposely written in abnormally large script, included references to the election interference, Putin’s request that Russia be allowed to interrogate the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and also the British businessman Bill Browder, pursuant to the 1999 Treaty with Russia on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. There was a reference to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. And at the bottom of the first page, Putin’s notes also mentioned Syria, where Russia has been wreaking havoc and committing mass atrocities in concert with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Iran. For public consumption, the Russian president’s handwriting mentioned “joint humanitarian operations with the goal of creating conditions for the return of refugees.” The reality on the ground tends to create—not dissipate—the flood of refugees, essentially weaponized by Russia and Syria to destabilize Europe. On Wednesday this week, President Trump nonchalantly commented that if the thousands of ISIS prisoners that are currently being held by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces escape, "they will be escaping to Europe." Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also threatening Europe with a flood of refugees, publicly proclaiming, “We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way.” Mystery surrounds the rest of the topics discussed by the President of the United States with the Russian leader in Helsinki, since President Trump confiscated the American interpreter’s notes and remains tight-lipped about his exchanges with Vladimir Putin. But one thing is clear: Trump is moving down Putin’s wish list, fulfilling the Kremlin’s aims at a rapid pace. He is chipping away at U.S. sanctions against Russia, deepening America’s internal divisions on the basis of race, faith, sexual orientation and political affiliation, vocally undermining confidence in our elections, intelligence agencies and institutions, all the while empowering our foreign adversaries and undermining NATO alliances. “Even Russian experts are amazed at the damage Trump is willfully inflicting.” Trump’s claims that Ukraine—not Russia—is somehow responsible for the 2016 election interference fall right in line with conspiracy theories the Kremlin has been propagating for years. The Russians have long been promoting the notions that prompted President Trump’s outrageous demands from the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, ultimately leading to the commencement of the impeachment proceedings. more... - Once again, Trump is caught doing what Putin wants over the interest of America.

By Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter, CNN Business
New York (CNN Business) - In a stunning announcement, Shepard Smith said on his Friday show that after more than two decades at Fox News, he was stepping down as chief news anchor, and leaving the network. "This is my last newscast here," Smith said, adding that he was "eternally grateful" to Fox for the opportunities it has afforded him. Smith said that he recently asked Fox to allow him to leave and begin a "new chapter" and that after management requested he stay, the network obliged. Smith said that under the agreement reached he "won't be reporting elsewhere, at least in the near future." Such a departure, occurring suddenly on a Friday afternoon in the middle of an anchor's contract cycle, suggest a severe fissure between Smith and Fox management, though both sides spoke favorably of one another when announcing the exit. Smith was the face of Fox's news division which has recently found itself a remarkable state of conflict with the network's opinion hosts and commentators. A person familiar with Smith's decision to exit said that the tension between the news and opinion divisions was the breaking point for Smith. In the Trump era, and particularly in the last several weeks, the people working for the news division have seen their work undermined repeatedly by their opinion colleagues. "It feels like death in the news division," a senior Fox employee told CNN about Smith's departure, saying staffers at the network were "shocked" and that some were crying. "At least we had him." more...

Turns out, the president is not above the law.
By Ian Millhiser
A federal appeals court held on Friday that Trump’s claims that he is immune to congressional oversight have no basis in law. If the Supreme Court does not interfere with this decision, that means the House Oversight Committee will soon gain access to many of Trump’s financial records — potentially including his tax forms. The case, Trump v. Mazars USA, is an especially significant one because it represents House investigators’ best opportunity to shake records loose from a president who’s offered maximal resistance to any attempt to make him disclose information that he does not want disclosed. The House committee seeks financial records that Trump turned over to his accounting firm, Mazars USA, and the firm has indicated it will comply with the committee’s subpoena if it is ordered to do so. Trump cannot simply refuse to turn over these records because they aren’t under his control. Judge David Tatel, a Clinton appointee on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, wrote the majority opinion in Mazars. And, as his opinion explains, the law governing this case is pretty straightforward. As a series of Supreme Court decisions that stretch back to the 1920s Teapot Dome scandal lay out, Congress has broad authority to conduct investigations so long as those investigations have a “valid legislative purpose.” Such a purpose exists as long as the investigation touches upon a matter “on which legislation could be had.” In this case, the Oversight Committee began its investigation after “the Office of Government Ethics announced that it had identified an error in one of the several reports that President Trump had filed since he became a presidential candidate in 2015.” Later, Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testified to Congress that Trump “‘inflated his total assets when it served his purposes’ in some situations and had ‘deflated his assets’ in others,” thus exacerbating fears that Trump did not comply with federal ethics laws requiring him to disclose his finances. more...

By Sarah K. Burris
It was revealed Thursday that the FBI and federal prosecutors were looking into whether Rudy Giuliani’s finances were tied to the two Soviet-born business associates that were indicted. By Friday, it became official that Giuliani was part of a criminal investigation, ABC reports. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman had lunch with Giuliani at the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. before they fled to Dulles airport with one-way tickets out of the country. Giuliani was also slated to follow with his own international flights, but the federal investigators stopped them all. “Parnas and Fruman, two Soviet-born, Florida-based businessmen, assisted Giuliani in his effort to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his family. The association among the three men goes back several years. Giuliani has represented Parnas and Fruman in the past,” ABC reported. Attorney John Dowd has called the story “horsesh*t.” more...

By Brad Reed
Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, dissented from her colleagues when she ruled that the president’s accounting firm should not have to comply with a subpoena of his financial records. In a case involving a Congressional Oversight Committee subpoena of the president’s financial records, the court’s majority affirmed a lower court ruling that denied Trump attorneys’ request for a permanent injunction against a the subpoena. Judge Rao, however, wrote a dissenting opinion that Slate legal writer Mark Joseph Stern is describing as “deeply embarrassing,” as he believes it shows the entire goal of her ruling is to protect the president. “The thrust of Rao’s dissent is that the House has to invoke its *impeachment power* to investigate the president,” Stern writes on Twitter. “It cannot investigate him pursuant to its legislative authority. Which is just not true! Congress passes legislation governing the executive branch all the time!” He then goes on to argue that the ramifications of Rao’s ruling would be to essentially render presidents almost completely unaccountable to any authority. “If taken seriously, Rao’s argument would insulate the president from congressional investigations into his illegal conduct *unless* (1) the House invoked impeachment and (2) the courts found the allegations to be within ‘the scope of impeachable offenses,'” he writes. “What?!” more...

The first two officials who came forward about the president’s pressure campaign on Ukraine seem to be just the beginning, according to Hill sources.
By Spencer Ackerman, Sam Brodey, Sam Stein - the daily beast
New potential whistleblowers are coming forward to the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, two congressional sources tell The Daily Beast.  They seem to be emboldened by the actions of the whistleblower whose explosive account of President Donald Trump’s phone call to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky about investigating Trump’s domestic political rivals ignited the impeachment inquiry. Another whistleblower is known to have come forward. Congressional investigators are currently vetting the new accounts they’ve received for credibility. Accordingly, knowledgeable sources would not discuss where in the government these new would-be whistleblowers come from, nor what they purport to have to say. It’s also unknown if their accounts are as significant as that of the intelligence whistleblower whose alarm over President Trump’s July 25 phone call sparked the impeachment probe. Investigators often encounter cranks as well as those with genuine knowledge of wrongdoing. Nor is it clear if these new ostensible whistleblowers have contacted any inspectors general, as the original two whistleblowers did. “There are clearly numerous whistleblowers out there and many people who possess firsthand relevant information who could come forward, and I expect some will,” said attorney Mark Zaid, who represents those two whistleblowers (and also represents The Daily Beast in freedom-of-information lawsuits). 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 - the daily beast
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... - Once again, Trump is caught doing what Putin wants over the interest of America.

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez
Judge blocks Trump rule to deny green cards and visas to low-income immigrants
By Camilo Montoya-Galvez
Washington — A federal judge on Friday blocked a sweeping regulation that would've made it easier for the Trump administration to reject green card and visa applications filed by low-income immigrants whom the government determines are or might become a burden on U.S. taxpayers. Judge George Daniels of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan issued a preliminary nationwide injunction prohibiting the administration from enforcing the so-called "public charge" rule just days before it was slated to take effect on Tuesday.  The judge's decision represents yet another defeat in court for the White House and its concerted campaign to dramatically overhaul the nation's legal immigration system. It also signifies a major legal triumph for a coalition of advocacy groups and Democratic-led states, counties and cities that challenged the rule through nearly a dozen lawsuits in federal courts across the country. more...

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested Wednesday, vindicating more than a year of reporting on their shady political donations.
By Lachlan Markay
In November of last year, PAY DIRT brought you a story about a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. The donation came from a company called Global Energy Producers, and we reported on suspicions that it was acting as a “conduit” contributor, effectively concealing the identities of the actual source or sources of that money. After publication, we got a call from a relatively prominent Trumpworld operative, who proceeded to berate us for reporting on the allegations, which the person insisted were completely trumped-up and politically motivated. Global Energy Producers, he said, was fully capitalized by investors in the energy space, and was conducting bona fide business in pursuit of contracts to export liquified natural gas to Europe. more...

But the administration holds back from announcing any new economic penalties at this time.
By QUINT FORGEY
President Donald Trump’s administration on Friday threatened new sanctions against Turkey, opening the door to punishing the Middle Eastern nation for its brutal offensive against U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish militias. The potential economic penalties come just days after the White House announced that it would allow the Turkish military to proceed with a planned invasion into northern Syria — where Kurdish fighters had aided American forces in stamping out the remnants of the Islamic State terror group. more...

By Rex Huppke
President Donald Trump continued to face the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in the calm and straightforward manner we’ve come to expect and … I’m kidding, he just melted further into a gurgling puddle of liquified lies, forcing the nation and a good part of the world to look back on this week and ask: “What the (BLEEP) just happened?” Dodgy Giuliani’s dodgy pals picked up for doing pro-Trump crimes: In the midst of an impeachment inquiry is probably not the best time for two associates of a president’s personal attorney to get indicted on campaign finance charges and arrested while trying to flee the country. But that is just what happened this week, and it fits fairly well with the Trump administration’s motto: “Every 10 minutes, a new Watergate.” Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were helping Rudy Giuliani in his conspiratorial “investigation” into Ukraine and former Vice President Joe Biden, were charged Thursday with campaign violations that include a $325,000 donation to a pro-Trump political action committee. more...

By emily shapiro - ABC News
A man has been arrested for murder after a memory card labeled "Homicide at midtown Marriott" that contained videos and images of a violent attack was discovered on an Alaska street, authorities said. A woman called Anchorage police on Sept. 30 to say she found an SD card lying on the ground, and that it contained disturbing videos from early September that showed a woman being beaten, raped and strangled, according to court documents. The SD card contained 39 images and 12 videos, the court documents said. Some of the footage showed a naked woman "moaning and struggling to breathe," and trying to fight back, documents said. In another video, the suspect is seen stomping on the woman's throat with his foot, documents said and laughing as he strangles her.  Images also showed the victim in the back of a truck, documents said. The victim was later identified as 30-year-old Kathleen Henry, police said Thursday. Police have charged Brian Smith, 48, with first-degree murder, and said he had a room registered at that hotel in question during that time period and a car matching the truck seen on the footage, and that his accent matches the voice heard in the video, court documents said. more...

Nixon had three articles of impeachment against him. The prosecutors say they’d also fit Trump.
By Alex Ward - Vox
Seventeen former special prosecutors who investigated the Watergate scandal have weighed in on the unspooling Ukraine saga, and they believe that President Donald Trump should be impeached. In a joint op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday afternoon, the lawyers — including former federal attorneys and previous head of the Washington, DC, bar — note that Richard Nixon had three articles of impeachment filed against him: one of obstruction of justice, another for abuse of power, and one for contempt of Congress. That fits Trump to a tee, the 17 former special prosecutors say. “In our considered view, the same three articles of impeachment could be specified against Trump, as he has demonstrated serious and persistent abuses of power that, in our view, satisfy the constitutional standard of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’” they wrote. They outline five main reasons for impeachment: 1) Trump’s own public statements. They specifically mention those calling for China and Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top 2020 political rival for the president. It’s these comments that mainly led House Democrats to open an impeachment query against the president. 2) What former special counsel Robert Mueller found in his Trump-Russia probe. Mueller outlined 10 episodes that may have amounted to obstruction of justice. The former special counsel didn’t say Trump broke the law, but he didn’t clear him, either. 3) The White House’s partial transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. In the transcript, Trump asks for a “favor” right after his counterpart requests military aid. That has led many to believe the president wanted a quid pro quo: Look into the Bidens before the US delivers the long-promised support. 4) Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the House-led impeachment inquiry. On Tuesday, the White House sent a scathing letter to Democrats saying they considered the investigation to be a political hit job and wouldn’t work with the probe in any way. 5) New evidence showing that US government employees were in on the aid-for-probe scheme. Text messages that just-resigned special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker gave to the House last week showed that he, US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, and US ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor all coordinated to pass the message on to Ukraine’s leadership. more...

By Steve Inskeep, Ashley Westerman - NPR
Federal prosecutors say two businessmen had a motive for making illegal contributions to U.S. political campaigns. The two men sought to remove an American diplomat in Ukraine, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday. The two men, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were associates of President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. They also has business interests in Ukraine. The indictment alleges that Fruman and Parnas made hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations, disguising the sources of the money and bringing some of it from overseas. They were about to leave the United States with one-way tickets on Wednesday when FBI agents arrested them at Dulles International Airport. What was it about the little-known career diplomat that made the men willing to go to such lengths to have her dismissed? The ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was the target of extensive criticism in conservative media this past spring — criticism that President Trump himself took on board. Yovanovitch was recalled in May before the end of her expected term. And Trump spoke of her during his now-famous phone call with Ukraine's president on July 25 — the call that spurred the whistleblower complaint that led the House to open an impeachment inquiry. "The woman, was bad news," Trump said, adding that she dealt with Ukranians who were also "bad news." Yovanovitch is now in Washington. She has been asked to testify Friday as part of the impeachment inquiry, which centers on Trump's effort to have a political rival investigated in Ukraine. She has avoided talking to the media, but NPR has reconstructed her story through documents and sources in both the U.S. and Ukraine. more...

By benjamin siegel, katherine faulders and conor finnegan
The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine has told House investigators that she was “incredulous” that she was removed based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives,” according to her reported prepared remarks at her deposition Friday before three House committees as part of their impeachment investigation. Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled in the spring, said she was told President Donald Trump pressured the State Department to remove her based on allegations by associates of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.  "Contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” she said, according to her opening statement reported by The New York Times and other news outlets. The Times posted the statement although it's not clear how much Yovanovitch read from it. Yovanovitch said, after being told in late April that she needed to leave immediately -- "to be on the next plane" -- she met with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. "He said that the President had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the Summer of 2018," according to the remarks. "He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause." "Equally fictitious is the notion that I am disloyal to President Trump," she said.  "Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the President, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an Ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives," she said in the statement. "To make matters worse, all of this occurred during an especially challenging time in bilateral relations with a newly elected Ukrainian president. This was precisely the time when continuity in the Embassy in Ukraine was most needed." Yovanovitch , arrived on Capitol Hill earlier Friday surrounded by news cameras for the closed-door deposition with House committees looking into whether President Trump committed impeachable offenses in asking a foreign country to investigate his political rivals, according to multiple congressional officials with knowledge of the probe. more...

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump on Friday lost his appeal to stop a House subpoena of his tax documents from his longtime accountant Mazars USA. In a 2-1 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court ruling saying the firm must turn over eight years of accounting records. The opinion is a strong signal that the White House's letter earlier this week refusing to cooperate with the impeachment probe without a full House vote authorizing it would not hold up in court. The court specifically weighed in on this idea, writing it has "no authority" to require the House to take a full vote in support of a subpoena to investigate the President, citing the Constitution. "The courts lack the power to invalidate a duly authorized congressional subpoena merely because it might have been 'better [if]...the full House' had specifically authorized or issued it," the court wrote. "Unless and until Congress adopts a rule that offends the Constitution, the courts get no vote in how each chamber chooses to run its internal affairs." It's the first major case at the appeals court level in the ongoing standoff between the House and Trump. The President has lost all of his challenges so far that have been decided at the trial court level to stop House subpoenas. Trump may appeal to the Supreme Court to stop Mazars, but courts, including the Supreme Court, previously have refused to curtail Congress' subpoena power. "We are reviewing the opinion and evaluating all appellate options," said Trump attorney Jay Sekulow. In a statement, the accounting firm wrote: Mazars USA will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations. We believe strongly in the ethical and professional rules and regulations that govern our industry, our work and our client interactions. As a matter of firm policy and professional rules we do not comment on the work we conduct for our clients." Trump will have seven days to ask for another appeal on the decision endorsing the House's subpoena of his tax documents. more...

NPR - President Trump says his request for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden was driven by his concerns about corruption. "This is not about politics, this is about corruption," Trump said last week. "If you look and you read our Constitution and many other things, I have an obligation to look at corruption." But anti-corruption advocates say his administration's record of fighting corruption is weak and not in line with Trump's rhetoric. "That just doesn't comport with anything that's gone before in his administration," said Alexandra Wrage, president of TRACE, an anti-bribery business association. "To claim that this is springing from some heartfelt concern about international corruption just doesn't hold water." One of Trump's very first actions as president was to sign a law that rescinded a Securities and Exchange Commission regulation that would have required oil and gas companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose any payments they made to governments around the world. Supporters of the regulation say it was aimed at deterring bribery. Oil companies and Republican critics said the rule would have placed undue burdens on small businesses and hurt American jobs. more...

Questions about the department’s role in events covered by the impeachment inquiry go unacknowledged, says correspondents’ association.
By MICHAEL CALDERONE
State Department reporters are protesting what they see as unprecedented stonewalling of questions surrounding the Ukraine scandal that led to the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, with their correspondents’ association calling on senior officials to break the impasse. “They’re basically on lockdown,” one reporter told POLITICO.  “It’s like radio silence,” said another. The State Department has come under significant scrutiny following revelations last month that Trump urged Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden and his son during a July phone call while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listened in. House Democrats later released text messages in which U.S. diplomats discussed investigations in Ukraine and new details continue emerging as the impeachment story dominates the news cycle. While State Department press secretary Morgan Ortagus and her team continue to field questions on diplomatic and foreign policy issues, reporters have been directed to put Ukraine-specific requests to Katie Martin, a deputy assistant secretary for media strategy who joined in March from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But reporters say their questions rarely yield answers, and often go unacknowledged. "The requests kind of disappear into the ether," said a third reporter. And this lack of clarity from the administration, the reporter said, hampers journalists' ability “to explain what is happening to the American public.” Shaun Tandon, an AFP reporter who serves as president of the State Department Correspondents’ Association, told POLITICO that they have brought concerns to senior department officials. more...

CNN - President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is under further scrutiny after two of his associates were arrested in Washington. CNN's Jim Acosta reports. more...

The student in Overland Park, Kansas, was allegedly asked by a classmate if she could kill five people in class, who would they be.
By Minyvonne Burke
A Kansas middle school girl who formed her fingers into a gun and pointed it at several of her classmates after another student asked her who would she would kill was arrested and charged with a felony. The incident happened on Sept. 18 at Westridge Middle School in Overland Park, about 13 miles south of Kansas City, after administrators were alerted to a potential threat made by a 13-year-old student, police said in a news release. According to the Kansas City Star, the girl was having a discussion with a classmate who asked if she could kill five people in the room, who would they be. The girl responded by allegedly making a finger gun and pointing it at four students and then pointing it at herself, the outlet reported. An Overland Park police spokesperson told NBC News in a statement Friday that an individual who felt threatened used the school's online anti-bullying app to alert administrators, who conducted an investigation and then told the school resource officer. The resource officer, who is employed by the city's police department, interviewed both students involved who "affirmed the actions which constituted the potential threat," police said. The girl, whose identity is not being released because she is a juvenile, was then arrested by the resource officer. "Too often there are reports of violence in schools and inevitably questions about what could or should have been done to prevent the tragedy. Threats in schools are taken very seriously and treated appropriately," police said in the release. A spokesperson for the Johnson County District Attorney's Office said after reviewing the evidence the girl was charged with criminal threat, which is a felony offense. more...

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - At least four national security officials were so concerned by the Trump administration's efforts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they shared their discontent with a White House lawyer both before and after President Donald Trump's July phone call with Ukraine's President, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing US officials and other people familiar with the matter. The revelation of the discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg establish that US officials had delivered notable warnings through official White House channels even before Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that set off a whistleblower complaint. According to the Post, officials were alarmed by the removal of then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May, the promotion of Ukraine-related conspiracies from Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and indications in White House meetings that Trump wanted the Ukrainian government to deliver politically damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden. These concerns, the Post said, were amplified after Trump's call with Zelensky. A transcript of their conversation released by the White House last month shows Trump repeatedly pushed Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. Officials told the Post that shortly after the call took place, national security adviser John Bolton and other senior officials were being contacted by subordinates with problems about what Trump had said to Zelensky. "When people were listening to this in real time there were significant concerns about what was going on — alarm bells were kind of ringing," one person familiar with the sequence of events told the paper. "People were trying to figure out what to do, how to get a grasp on the situation." Bolton -- who was fired last month -- was among the officials who moved to obtain a rough transcript of the call that was already being "locked down" on a highly classified network, officials told The Post. more...

By Daniel Dale, Ryan Browne and Jennifer Hansler, CNN
(CNN) - President Donald Trump falsely claimed on Thursday that the United States has no troops in Syria. Trump was defending his decision to remove American troops from a part of northern Syria that Turkey wanted to attack. Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn, Trump asserted, "We have no soldiers in Syria." "We've won, we beat ISIS, and we beat 'em badly and decisively. We have no soldiers. The last thing I want to do is bring thousands and thousands of soldiers in and defeat everybody again. We've already done that," Trump said. Facts First: The US still has about 1,000 soldiers in Syria, military officials have told CNN and other news outlets, and the troops Trump removed from the area of the Turkish incursion offensive were not removed from the country. Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement on Tuesday: "We have made no changes to our force presence in Syria at this time." Less than an hour after Trump made his Thursday claim that there are "no soldiers in Syria," a senior State Department official told reporters that the US military mission in Syria is ongoing. "We had and still have a significant military mission there to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS, also to maintain the stability of northeast Syria and the region given our other critical missions in the Near East," the official said on a conference call conducted on condition of anonymity. Less than an hour before the false "no soldiers in Syria" claim to reporters, Trump had tweeted that we "no longer have any troops in the area under attack by Turkey, in Syria." That narrower claim about the particular "area under attack" is correct. Trump made the false claim when he was asked which of the three options he had just tweeted -- "Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds" -- he thinks he will choose.
He said he hopes to be able to mediate a deal. He added later: "I don't think the American people want to see us go back in with our military, go back in to that area again. We won, we left the area, I don't think we want to go back in. Let's see what happens." more...

By CAITLIN EMMA
Several alarmed White House career budget staffers alerted House appropriators when the Office of Management and Budget last summer placed a political appointee in charge of a hold on $400 million in foreign assistance to Ukraine. Those OMB civil servants questioned a move to put Trump administration political hire Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs, in control of the freeze, a Democratic aide told POLITICO. But White House budget officials contend there was nothing unusual or improper about shifting the responsibility into the hands of Duffey, and that the decision had nothing to do with the career staff concerns that the hold was not legal. The administration’s halt on foreign assistance to Ukraine this summer is now at the center of the impeachment investigation led by House Democrats into whether President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, while using the aid as leverage. At least five House committees are investigating the administration’s decision to halt the funds. Earlier this week, House Democrats issued subpoenas for documents from the Pentagon and OMB, hoping to unearth more details about the directive. OMB’s decision to delegate authority to Duffey, former executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, despite career staff's objections proved so concerning that House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) broached the subject in a Sept. 27 letter to the agency. In their letter, the Democrats questioned the agency’s “unusual and seemingly unprecedented step” to delegate authority to a political appointee, “in lieu of career civil servants who have historically been the designated officials responsible for overseeing and executing these technical budget documents.” But it’s not unusual for political appointees to be involved in the process, according to a senior administration official, who contended that Duffey’s involvement wasn’t triggered by legal concerns raised by career staff. The acting head of OMB can delegate authority to anyone within the agency on such issues, the official said. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Duffey was charged with holding up the Ukraine assistance after career staff questioned the legality of delaying the funds. POLITICO first reported on Aug. 28 that the Trump administration had frozen the money, which is meant to combat Russian aggression in the region. The aid has provided a critical lifeline to Ukraine, helping to build out a ragtag army into a better-armed and professional force. OMB lifted the hold on Sept. 11. more...

By Steven A. Cash
The Congress is now investigating various facets of the president’s political, business, and personal affairs, all in the context of impeachment. I suggest that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) consider looking to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) as an organizing principle, and way to articulate why impeachment is moving forward, and how it can be framed. There is impassioned discussion (at least among Democrats) about what the focus of impeachment should be: a sharp focus on Ukraine, or a wider approach which encompasses the myriad potential “high crimes and misdemeanors” which the president may have committed: Ukraine extortion or bribery,  Moscow building projects, contacts with Russian diplomats, the various wrongdoings of Trump foundation, accepting funds in the context of hotels throughout the world in exchange for policy change; funds spent on the inauguration, the use of undocumented workers at Trump properties… the list goes on and on. But perhaps the Congress (and the public), like the fabled blind men touching an elephant, are actually looking at various parts of a single whole. We have a set of laws for such a situation, and we should be thinking about them now: RICO. RICO provides powerful criminal penalties for persons who engage in a “pattern of racketeering activity” and who have a specified relationship to an “enterprise” that affects interstate or foreign commerce. Under the RICO statute, “racketeering activity” includes state offenses such as murder, robbery, extortion, and several other serious offenses, punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, and more than 100 serious federal offenses including extortion, interstate theft, narcotics violations, mail fraud fraud, securities fraud, currency reporting violations, certain immigration offenses, and terrorism related offenses. A “pattern” may be comprised of any combination of two or more of these state or federal crimes committed within a statutorily prescribed time period. The basic thrust of RICO is to address situations where the enterprise takes on a criminal life of its own.  Although usually associated with organized crime (what the FBI used to call “La Cosa Nostra”), it has been used, with great success in a variety of situations. Rudy Giuliani, of course, the the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York was the great pioneer of the use of RICO. Why is RICO a good framework to think about Trump?  RICO was originally conceived to recognize (in the economic sphere) that organization crime was particularly significant. Congress said: “What is needed here . . . are new approaches that will deal not only with individuals, but also with the economic base through which those individuals constitute such a serious threat to the economic well-being of the Nation. In short, an attack must be made on their source of economic power itself, and the attack must take place on all available fronts.” more...

By Chandelis Duster, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Nearly 600 former Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling on Congress to investigate the Trump administration's "inappropriate threat of use of EPA authority" against the state of California over recent environmental policies. Five hundred ninety-three former officials who worked under Republican and Democratic administrations signed a letter sent to the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday requesting an investigation into EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler's threat to withhold federal highway funds from the state. They also want an investigation into Wheeler's demand that the state take action regarding its homelessness crisis. The officials write in the letter that both actions "were intended as retaliation for the state's failure to support President Trump's political agenda." Asked for comment, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud responded: "Highlighting that California has the worst air quality in the nation along with other serious environmental problems is not a political issue. ... EPA expects California leaders to share its concern for the protection of public health." EPA officials who signed the letter include: Eric Schaeffer, who was director of the EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement during the George W. Bush administration and is now director of the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project.: Elizabeth Southerland, who resigned from her role as director of science and technology in the EPA's Office of Water in 2017. Gina McCarthy, who was EPA administrator during the Obama administration. Cynthia Giles, who was EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance during the Obama administration. more...

By Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe
At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump’s July 25 call with that country’s president, according to U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter. The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood — including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint and the impeachment inquiry of the president. At the time, the officials were unnerved by the removal in May of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; subsequent efforts by Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to promote Ukraine-related conspiracies; as well as signals in meetings at the White House that Trump wanted the new government in Kiev to deliver material that might be politically damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Those concerns soared in the call’s aftermath, officials said. Within minutes, senior officials including national security adviser John Bolton were being pinged by subordinates about problems with what the president had said to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. Bolton and others scrambled to obtain a rough transcript that was already being “locked down” on a highly classified computer network. “When people were listening to this in real time there were significant concerns about what was going on — alarm bells were kind of ringing,” said one person familiar with the sequence of events inside the White House, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. “People were trying to figure out what to do, how to get a grasp on the situation.” It is unclear whether some or all of the officials who complained to Eisenberg are also the ones who later spoke to the whistleblower. The accounts are sharply at odds with Trump’s depiction of the call as a “perfect” exchange in which he “did nothing wrong,” despite appearing to link U.S. support for Ukraine to that country’s willingness to investigate the family of the former vice president. On Thursday, Trump renewed his attacks on Twitter, describing the impeachment inquiry as a “Democrat Scam.” But new details about the sequence inside the White House suggest that concerns about the call and events leading up to it were profound even among Trump’s top advisers, including Bolton and then-acting deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman. Bolton and Kupperman did not respond to requests for comment. Officials said that within hours of the 9 a.m. conversation, a rough transcript compiled by aides had been moved from a widely shared White House computer network to one normally reserved for highly classified intelligence operations. According to the whistleblower’s complaint, White House lawyers “directed” officials to move the transcript to the classified system. At the same time, officials were seeking ways to report what they had witnessed, an undertaking complicated by the lack of a White House equivalent to the inspector general positions found at other agencies. more...

By Manu Raju, Fredreka Schouten and Jeremy Herb, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Two associates of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pushed former Republican Rep. Pete Sessions to seek the ouster of the US Ambassador to Ukraine at the same time as the associates were helping to bankroll his campaign, according to a federal indictment and campaign finance records. The indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, which was unsealed Thursday, shows how they discussed with Sessions seeking then-US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's ouster, and are accused of later lying to investigators about illegal campaign contributions. The indictment alleges that a "Congressman-1" had been the beneficiary of approximately $3 million in independent expenditures by "Committee-1." Sessions is not named in the indictment and is not charged with any wrongdoing. But campaign finance records and Sessions' previous remarks identify Sessions as "Congressman-1," and he was the lawmaker Parnas and Fruman had met with at an event hosted by a political action committee in 2018. "At and around the same time, Parnas and Fruman committed to raising those funds for Congressman-1. Parnas met with Congressman-1 and sought Congressman-1's assistance in causing the US Government to remove or recall the then-US Ambassador to Ukraine," the indictment states. CNN has identified the committee as America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC. Global Energy Producers, a company created by Parnas and Fruman, donated $325,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC and are alleged to have concealed the true source of that money. The super PAC in a statement said it placed the money in a "segregated bank account" and has not used the funds. Sessions said in a statement that he "could not have had" knowledge of the scheme. And that he took "no official action" after being approached "by these individuals about the strategic need for Ukraine to become energy independent." "Therefore, if I am 'Congressman One', I could not have had any knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment or have involvement or coordination of it," Sessions said. When Parnas and Fruman met with Sessions, Parnas and Fruman committed to raise at least $20,000 for Sessions, according to the indictment. The indictment alleges that Fruman already made a maximum contribution of $2,700 to the congressman, but then made an illegal contribution of an additional $2,700 under Parnas' name that was never reimbursed. The indictment also alleges that Fruman and Parnas made false statements about this contribution. While America First Action said it did not use the funds donated by Global Energy Producers, the pro-Trump super PAC spent more than $3 million on Sessions' behalf in the 2018 midterms, FEC records show. Sessions lost a hotly contested race for his Dallas-area seat to Democrat Colin Allred. He has declared plans to run for Congress from a Waco, Texas, district in 2020, and a spokesman confirmed Thursday he still plans to do so. The push to remove Yovanovitch: Sessions had reportedly met with Parnas and Fruman to discuss Yovanovitch. Sessions was advocating for Yovanovitch's removal in part because of allegations that she had criticized Trump and was disloyal. Sessions has not been charged with wrongdoing. Sessions told BuzzFeed in July that he raised Yovanovitch in the meeting, not Parnas and Fruman. "I sought their input," he said. Other Republicans were aware of Sessions' effort. Rep. Mark Meadows on Thursday cited Sessions when asked by CNN whether he had any concerns about Yovanovitch's removal. Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, had not read the indictment and was unaware Sessions was cited. more...

By Miranda Green
Commerce Department officials were responsible for drafting a statement that rebuked National Weather Service staff after they sent a tweet countering President Trump’s statements about Hurricane Dorian, according to a letter sent by the House Science committee Thursday. The letter sent by House Science, Space and Technology Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross stated that interviews that took place with administration staff this week revealed it was Commerce Department officials, not National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) staff, who were responsible for sending the controversial letter. In the interview with Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator at NOAA, the committee found that an unsigned Sept. 6 statement that disavowed NWS staff in Alabama was orchestrated by Ross’s chief of staff and three other top deputies. The statement read, “The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time." The statement was in response to a tweet by National Weather Service's Birmingham office that wrote “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east." Trump had previously tweeted that the Hurricane could potentially hit the state. The interview with Science Committee staff additionally confirmed reporting that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was directly involved in “high-level” conversations surrounding the statement, according to the letter. The lawmaker is requesting more details from the Commerce Department surrounding events that led administration officials to criticize NOAA staff for disagreeing with Trump that Dorian might veer into Alabama. “We outlined our concerns about events surrounding President Donald Trump’s assertions that Alabama would be “hit (much) harder than anticipated” by Hurricane Dorian,” the letter from Johnson reads. “The committee has yet to receive any responsive materials.” In the latest letter to Ross, Johnson requests an interview with his four top staff members by Oct. 25 and asks for all call logs and notes taken during the period of time. more...

By NATASHA BERTRAND
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has in the last year become something of a congressional point man for President Donald Trump’s negotiations with Turkey, leading discussions on everything from Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile system over the summer to their more recent incursion into northern Syria. So when he received a call from a man he thought was Turkey’s minister of defense earlier in August, it didn’t strike him as unusual. “Thank you so much for calling me, Mr. Minister,” Graham said. “I want to make this a win-win, if we can.” But it wasn’t the Turkish defense minister at all. Instead, it was Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov, Russian pranksters with suspected ties to the country’s intelligence services who go by “Lexus and Vovan.” The duo have become notorious in recent years for their cold calls to unwitting, high-profile Western politicians, including Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, leading some to suspect that they’ve had help from the Kremlin, according to The Guardian. (A Schiff spokesman said at the time that the House Intelligence Committee “informed appropriate law enforcement and security personnel of the conversation.”) Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, confirmed the call’s authenticity to POLITICO. “We have been successful in stopping many efforts to prank Senator Graham and the office, but this one slipped through the cracks,” he said. “They got him.” The substance of Graham’s conversation with Stolyarov, who was posing as Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, is newly relevant in light of the South Carolina senator’s push for sanctions on Turkey as punishment for their offensive against the Kurds in northern Syria. Graham labeled the Kurds a “threat” to Turkey in the call, seemingly contradicting what he has said publicly in recent days. Graham also mentions Trump’s personal interest in a “Turkish bank case” in the call that appears to refer to a U.S. case involving Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader and client of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Trump had asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017 to help persuade the Justice Department to drop the Zarrab case. The pranksters’ conversation with Graham, a Trump ally who has the president’s ear on national security issues, also raises obvious questions about potential security breaches. While the pranks appear on their face to have been relatively harmless, the incident suggests it’s getting easier for bad actors to elicit sensitive information from policymakers. Stolyarov provided POLITICO with a recording of their call. In the call, Graham was primarily concerned with getting Turkey back into the F-35 program and urging the “defense minister” to refrain from using Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system, which was fully delivered to Turkey last month in defiance of requests from the U.S. and NATO.  But Graham also expressed sympathy for Turkey’s “Kurdish problem” and described the Kurds as a “threat.” Those private comments appear to contradict his public statements this week, in which he criticized Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria because it’s “wrong to abandon the Kurds, who have been strong allies against” the Islamic State. more...

By conor finnegan
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as of Thursday had yet to say a public word about the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who fought against corruption there and has been repeatedly besmirched by President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled early from her post this spring, is scheduled for a deposition Friday with three committees in the House of Representatives, but it is unclear whether she will be allowed to show up after the U.S. ambassador to the European Union was blocked by the Trump administration from testifying on Tuesday. Either way, the manner in which Yovanovitch has been treated by Trump and the silence from Pompeo has already rankled many rank and file at the State Department, according to half a dozen current and former officials, who are also upset by the administration's use of career diplomats in the president's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponents. At his arrival as secretary, Pompeo was seen as a much-needed improvement over his predecessor, Rex Tillerson. But many career diplomats tell ABC News they are increasingly fed up with the former congressman and CIA director, in particular over an effort to penalize more than 100 State Department employees for having emailed Hillary Clinton's private email address during her time as secretary, and because of how he's painted himself as the department's defender in a battle with House Democrats over documents and witness testimony, while keeping quiet on Yovanovitch. The State Department did not respond to several requests for comment this week. But Pompeo has repeatedly defended the president and Giuliani's effort to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as the effort to investigate leaks during the 2016 campaign about Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has since gone to prison for his corrupt business dealings in Ukraine, among other charges.  Yovanovitch is still an active member of the U.S. diplomatic corps, known as the Foreign Service. She is teaching this school year at Georgetown University after being recalled in May two months early from her post as ambassador to Ukraine despite being nearly unanimously praised as a "professional of impeccable integrity, someone with a stellar career that has never had the slightest suggestion of impropriety," as retired ambassador Nancy McEldowney described her. Giuliani, who said at the time she was "fired," had been spreading misinformation about Yovanovitch for months before that. Yovanovitch had been trying to tackle corruption, including giving a major speech in March that criticized the lack of investigative progress and in particular blamed Ukraine's then-prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko. In response, Lutsenko accused Yovanovitch of giving him a "do-not-prosecute" list and blocking him and other officials from traveling to the U.S. to present evidence against the Bidens. more...

By Christal Hayes, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – Energy Secretary Rick Perry became the latest member of President Donald Trump's cabinet to be subpoenaed by House Democrats in the rapidly escalating impeachment inquiry. Perry on Thursday was subpoenaed by the three House committees — Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs — leading the investigation into whether Trump abused his power by pushing Ukraine to investigate political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden. The subpoena demands a number of documents pertaining to Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the president pushed for a Biden investigation, and Perry's potential role in reinforcing that request during a trip to Ukraine. The committees gave until Oct. 18. The subpoena also demands documents detailing Perry's role, outlined in news reports, in changing the management structure at a Ukrainian energy company, a move that may hold benefits for officials working with Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.  "Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President," the chairmen of the committees wrote in the subpoena. They continued: "These reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani’s push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election." Perry first became wrapped up in the impeachment inquiry when he was mentioned in the anonymous whistleblower complaint, which brought Trump's call with the Ukrainian president to light. In mid-May, the whistleblower learned from U.S. officials, Trump instructed Vice President Mike Pence to cancel his plans to attend Zelensky’s May 20 inauguration. Perry went instead. more...

By Evan Perez and Kevin Liptak, CNN
(CNN) - Rudy Giuliani used a 2017 Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump to press Rex Tillerson, then-secretary of state, to support a prisoner swap to resolve the Justice Department's prosecution of a Turkish businessman accused of violating Iran sanctions, a person briefed on the meeting tells CNN. The businessman, Reza Zarrab, had ties to top Turkish government officials, who had pushed the US to drop charges that Zarrab had violated US sanctions on Iran's nuclear program. He was a client of Giuliani's. Bloomberg News first reported the White House meeting. During the White House meeting, the President invited Giuliani and Michael Mukasey, the former attorney general, to make their pitch to Tillerson, the source says. After the meeting Tillerson mentioned the discussion to then-chief of staff John Kelly, who was not in the meeting, noting that it was a deal he could not support. The episode is another reflection of Trump attempting to use his office to influence ongoing Justice Department proceedings. And news of it comes as his relationships to both Giuliani and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan come under scrutiny. Giuliani suggested the swap of Zarrab for an American pastor held by Turkey, Andrew Brunson. Asked by the President whether the deal was one he could support, Tillerson said he couldn't intervene, citing the ongoing Justice Department court case. The President asked Tillerson if the deal was something Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, could do. Tillerson responded that Sessions would have to contend with the fact it was an ongoing case headed for trial. He also told the President that it would be bad policy because it could put other Americans in danger, raising the prospect more hostages could be used as leverage for similar deals. Mukasey, who was working alongside Giuliani to represent Zarrab, told the President it was an arrangement he could order as president, since it was within his power. Trump told Tillerson and Giuliani to see if they could work out an arrangement. Tillerson said after he could not support it. more...


Back to content