Former Trump Organization executive says she expects President Trump will resign

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Former Trump Organization executive says she expects President Trump will resign

New York (CNN Business)A former Trump Organization executive says she thinks President Donald Trump may resign rather than face possible removal from office by impeachment.

“He does a lot of things to save face,” Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization vice president, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources Sunday.
“It would be very, very, very bad for him to be impeached,” Res said. “I don’t know that he’ll be found guilty but I don’t know that he wants to be impeached. I think that’s what this panic is about. And my gut [instinct] is that he’ll leave office, he’ll resign. Or make some kind of a deal, even, depending on what comes out.”
Res said she was hesitant to share her opinion, because “I could very well be wrong.”
But Res has first-hand experience working with Trump. She was the construction engineer on some of his key projects, including Trump Tower, and she is the author of “All Alone on the 68th Floor: How One Woman Changed the Face of Construction,” which partly chronicles her time working for the President while he ran his company.
She has been critical of Trump in recent years, including during the 2016 campaign, when she said he wasn’t fit for office.
Her comments come as the impeachment inquiry over Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president intensify. House Democrats on Friday subpoenaed the White House as part of the investigation into Trump. And on Sunday, the lawyer for the first intelligence whistleblower to come forward with accusations concerning Trump and Ukraine said he is now representing a second whistleblower regarding the President’s actions.
The inquiry has sent Trump into a tweet storm in recent days, defending himself and denouncing both Democratic lawmakers and critics within his own party.
Res said she is not surprised by Trump’s reaction.
“He was always very quick to react, he never responded to anything, always reacted to it and got very, very angry,” Res said. “He had this notion that everything that happened that was bad was directed at him, like they were after him, people were after him.”
She said there have, however, been some elements of the Trump campaign and presidency that she wouldn’t have expected, saying his behavior has gotten worse than when she worked for him. Res was surprised to see reports that Trump told Russian officials he was unconcerned about the country’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election because, she said, “that was a stupid thing to say and I never thought of him as stupid.”
But most of the time, Res said the President is still the Donald Trump she knew while working for him for over a decade.
“This is Trump — I say Trump Squared because he’s had, since I knew him, many, many years of fame and fortune and getting richer and now he actually does believe he’s a stable genius and he does believe he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and so far it looks like he can,” she said. The president famously said during the 2016 campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, and his supporters would not abandon him.
As for Trump’s fitness for office, Res said she agrees with George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, who published a piece in The Atlantic earlier this week saying Trump is unfit for office.
“I thought that when he was running for office,” Res said. “And not necessarily for the mental reasons that you talk about but because he didn’t have the experience, you know, lots of different things.”

Israel: Netanyahu Unable To Form A Coalition Government Returns Mandate To Rivlin

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

 

Netanyahu Will Return Mandate to Rivlin, Jerusalem Post Says

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin NetanyahuPhotographer: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will “return his mandate” to President Reuven Rivlin after being unable to form a government, according to a tweet by the Jerusalem Post’s chief political correspondent.

Gil Hoffman said in a post that he’ll make the move “barring a change of heart” by Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party on letting Netanyahu start as prime minister and bring allies with him into the coalition.

Gil Hoffman@Gil_Hoffman

Breaking: @netanyahu will return his mandate to form a government to @PresidentRuvi already tomorrow, barring a change of heart by @Kachollavan19 on letting Netanyahu start off as PM and bring allies with him into the coalition.

72 people are talking about this

Netanyahu was tapped last week to form Israel’s next government with no clear indication he’d be able to pull that off and end weeks of political stalemate.

The decision late Wednesday by President Reuven Rivlin to hand Netanyahu first crack at building a coalition in parliament granted the Israeli leader a political lifeline a week before he faces a crucial hearing on the corruption allegations that have clouded the last three years of his tenure.

Reuven Rivlin

Reuven Rivlin

Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Blue and White, which won the most seats in elections earlier this month, rejected demands from Netanyahu to form a unity government under his leadership with his right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, according to the AP.

Gantz has not ruled out an alliance with Likud in but said he would not do so with Netanyahu facing indictment.

John Kelly reportedly used to mute the line: urge Trump not to discuss sensitive topics

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

John Kelly reportedly used to mute the line during calls with world leaders to urge Trump not to discuss sensitive topics

Trump on Phone
President Donald Trump is seen through a window speaking on the phone with King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, in the Oval Office of the White House, January 29, 2017 in Washington, DC.
 Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump is facing new scrutiny over his calls with world leaders after a whistleblower flagged a July 25 call with the Ukrainian president, in which Trump urged him to investigate a political rival.
  • The whistleblower alleged that a number of presidential transcripts have been locked away in a codeword-level system “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”
  • White House advisers such as former chief of staff John Kelly even sought to prevent Trump from divulging sensitive information to world leaders, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
  • Kelly reportedly used to mute the line and urge Trump to stop discussing sensitive information.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The former White House chief of staff, John Kelly, used to mute the line during President Donald Trump’s calls with world leaders to tell him not to continue discussing sensitive information, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

The news comes amid political turmoil over a recent call in which Trump urged the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s main political rivals.

The July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky was the subject of an explosive whistleblower complaint and has spurred an impeachment inquiry from House Democrats.

Read moreThe White House reportedly tried to conceal transcripts of Trump’s calls with other world leaders, including Russia’s Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad bin Salman

The controversy has cast new scrutiny over Trump’s previous communications with other world leaders. The whistleblower indicated in his complaint that a number of presidential transcripts have been locked away in a codeword-level system “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”

The Journal reported Saturday that White House advisers such as Kelly sought to prevent Trump from divulging sensitive information to world leaders on such calls, and other government officials sought to keep a tight lid on records of those conversations.

john kelly
John Kelly.
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Their efforts began after a number of controversies at the onset of Trump’s presidency, including an infamous call with then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which Trump lambasted a “rotten” refugee deal the Obama administration brokered with the Australian government.

Trump also took heat for another contentious phone call with then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, reportedly telling him, “We are going to build the wall and you all are going to pay for it, like it or not.”

Read moreTrump’s actions with Ukraine were ‘profoundly stupid’ and beyond anything any president has ever done, historians and veteran diplomats say

After the Australia and Mexico calls, the National Security Council “severely cut back” on the number of people to whom those call records were sent, The Journal reported, citing people knowledgeable of the situation.

Instead, the call records were sent only to people directly involved in the issues discussed in the call, according to The Journal’s sources.

Trump’s Envoy for Ukraine, Resigns

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Kurt Volker, Trump’s Envoy for Ukraine, Resigns

ImageKurt Volker, the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine, resigned on Friday.
Credit Sergei Supinsky/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine, who got caught in the middle of the pressure campaign by President Trump and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to find damaging information about Democrats, resigned his post on Friday.

Mr. Volker, a former ambassador who served in the part-time, unpaid position to help Ukraine resolve its armed confrontation with Russia-sponsored separatists, told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday that he was stepping down.

His departure came just days after Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats came to light and triggered a full-blown House impeachment inquiry. House leaders announced on Friday that they would interview Mr. Volker in a deposition next week.

Best Choice For Republicans To Keep White House In 2020: Impeach Trump Quickly

Best Choice For Republicans To Keep White House In 2020: Impeach Trump Quickly

 

President Trump is nothing but a liability to the Republican Leadership if he is still in Office come November of 2020. If Mitch (The Worthless Bitch) McConnell and his cronies want to keep control of the Presidency in January of 2021 their best chance to do so is if Trump is very quickly impeached, not just by the Democratic led Congress but with the help of the Republicans in the Senate. If Trump is on that Presidential ticket, the Republicans will lose the White House without a doubt. The only chance the Republicans have to keep one of their own in the Oval Office is if Mike (Mr. Bought And Paid For) Pence is the President at the time of the November 2020 elections. Right now the most powerful person in Washington is Senator McConnell. If he gives the green light Donald Trump will no longer be the President, it is all up to him. McConnell is like Nancy Pelosi in the aspect that the main thing they are concerned about is their political party, not the people, not Our Country. It is just my opinion on the matter but I believe that these folks are all bought and paid for trash. McConnell doesn’t give a damn about Trump as a person just as Trump doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself. So, what I am saying is if Trump is impeached by the U.S. Senate quickly and they install Mike Pence as the President the Republicans just might hold the White House next November. You see, it doesn’t matter if the U.S. Congress impeaches Trump just as it didn’t matter when the Republican led Congress Impeached Bill Clinton back in the 1990’s, it is the Senate who controls the actual hammer. So, where are we as a Country right now? Personally I believe the Ball is in the proverbial Court of Senator McConnell. So, as a dear friend of mine used to say, now, we shall see what we shall see.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday tapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS)

 

Tunisian Judiciary Rejects All Appeals Against Presidential Elections Results

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Tunisian Judiciary Rejects All Appeals Against Presidential Elections Results

Tuesday, 24 September, 2019 – 11:00
Presidential candidate Kais Saied speaks as he attends a news conference after the announcement of the results in the first round of Tunisia’s presidential election in Tunis, Tunisia September 17, 2019. Reuters/Muhammad Hamed
Tunis – Mongi Saidani
The Administrative Court in Tunisia rejected six appeals by former presidential candidates who lost in the first round of elections, limiting the second round to candidates Kais Saied (Independent) and Nabil Karoui for Qalb Tounes (Heart of Tunisia Party).

Tunis Administrative Court’s spokesperson Imed Ghabri told Asharq Al-Awsat that Seifeddine Makhlouf, Abdelkrim Zbidi and Slim Riahi’s demands were rejected for not meeting the formal requirements to file the appeal.

Neji Jalloul, Hatem Boulabiar and Youssef Chahed’s demands were also rejected.

Thus, the administrative court, which specializes in resolving electoral disputes, has initially legitimized the results of the first round of the presidential race, pending the possibility of appeal by appealing candidates.

The appeals submitted against the results of the first round accused the winning candidates of relying on political publicity in the election campaign as well as violating the rules of the campaign.

While announcing the election results on Sunday, Independent High Authority for Elections (IHAE) President Nebil Baffoun said violations committed are not election crimes and don’t affect the results announced.

The first round of the presidential elections resulted in the victory of law professor Saied, who was ranked first among 26 candidates and won 18.4 percent of the votes, and Karoui, ranked second with 15.6 percent of the votes.

They will both compete during the second round, which is scheduled to be held on October 6 or 13.

On the other hand, Chahed suggested forming an alliance with Zbidi, the resigned defense minister who is backed by Nidaa Tounes party, following their loss in the first round of the elections.

Observers say both parties need one another to return to the competition in the parliamentary elections, during which power-sharing will be determined for the next phase.

Arab Parties Back Benny Gantz as Israeli Leader, to End Netanyahu’s Grip

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Arab Parties Back Benny Gantz as Israeli Leader, to End Netanyahu’s Grip

ImageAyman Odeh, center, with other candidates from the Arab Joint List, an alliance of predominantly Arab parties.
CreditCreditAhmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

JERUSALEM — After 27 years of sitting out decisions on who should lead Israel, Arab lawmakers on Sunday recommended that Benny Gantz, the centrist former army chief, be given the first chance to form a government over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a watershed assertion of political power.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed published on Sunday that the alliance’s 13 incoming lawmakers — the third-largest faction in the newly elected Parliament — had decided to recommend Mr. Gantz because it would “create the majority needed to prevent another term for Mr. Netanyahu.”

“It should be the end of his political career,” Mr. Odeh wrote.

The Arab lawmakers’ recommendation, which Mr. Odeh and other members of the Joint List delivered to President Reuven Rivlin in a face-to-face meeting Sunday evening, reflected Arab citizens’ impatience to integrate more fully into Israeli society and to have their concerns be given greater weight by Israeli lawmakers.

“There is no doubt a historic aspect to what we are doing now,” Mr. Odeh said in the meeting with the president, which was broadcast live.

It was also a striking act of comeuppance for Mr. Netanyahu, who for years had rallied his right-wing supporters by inflaming anti-Arab sentiments. Before the Sept. 17 election, he accused Arab politicians of trying to steal the election and at one point accused them of wanting to “destroy us all.”

Israeli Arabs “have chosen to reject Benjamin Netanyahu, his politics of fear and hate, and the inequality and division he advanced for the past decade,” Mr. Odeh wrote in the Op-Ed for The Times.

Still, Mr. Odeh wrote that the Joint List would not enter a government led by Mr. Gantz because he had not agreed to embrace its entire “equality agenda” — fighting violent crime in Arab cities, changing housing and planning laws to treat Arab and Jewish neighborhoods the same, improving Arabs’ access to hospitals, increasing pensions, preventing violence against women, incorporating Arab villages that lack water and electricity, resuming peace talks with the Palestinians and repealing the law passed last year that declared Israel the nation-state only of the Jewish people.

The last time Arab lawmakers recommended a prime minister was in 1992, when two Arab parties with a total of five seats in Parliament recommended Yitzhak Rabin, though they did not join his government.

“We have decided to demonstrate that Arab Palestinian citizens can no longer be rejected or ignored,” Mr. Odeh wrote.

In the 1992 election, Mr. Rabin initially held a narrow majority in the 120-seat Knesset even without the Arab parties’ support, though he came to rely on it a year later after Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party, quit the government when Mr. Rabin signed the Oslo peace accords.

Mr. Odeh wrote that the decision to support Mr. Gantz was meant as “a clear message that the only future for this country is a shared future, and there is no shared future without the full and equal participation of Palestinian citizens.”

Mr. Gantz narrowly edged the prime minister in the national election last Tuesday. Afterward, both candidates called for unity, but differed on how to achieve it.

The former army chief appears to lack a 61-seat majority even with the Joint List’s support. He emerged from the election with 57 seats, including those of allies on the left and the Joint List, compared with 55 seats for Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies.

Avigdor Liberman, leader of the secular, right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, which won eight seats, is in the position to be a kingmaker, but said on Sunday that he would not recommend any candidate. He said that Mr. Odeh and the Joint List were not merely political opponents, but “the enemies” and belonged in the “Parliament in Ramallah,” not in the Knesset.

Mr. Rivlin began hearing the recommendations of each major party Sunday evening and was to finish on Monday, before entrusting the task of forming a government to whichever candidate he believes has the best chance of being successful.

In remarks at the start of that process, Mr. Rivlin said the Israeli public wanted a unity government including both Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party and Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud.

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting.

Iranian Students Set to Start at U.S. Universities Are Barred From Country

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Iranian Students Set to Start at U.S. Universities Are Barred From Country

The students, who were mostly headed to schools in the University of California system, had visas in hand when they were blocked from their flights this month.

ImageNima Abdollahpour had planned to study electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Davis.

At least a dozen Iranian students who were set to begin graduate programs in engineering and computer science say their visas were abruptly canceled and they were barred from their flights to the United States this month.

The sudden batch of visa cancellations, which came at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, set off a scramble by university officials, lawmakers, the students’ union and Iranian-American advocates to figure out what had happened.

The State Department said that there had been no change in policy regarding student visas, and higher education officials say that visa problems arise every fall for some of the hundreds of thousands of international students who travel to attend American colleges and universities.

But the students, most of whom were headed to schools in the University of California system, say their visas were revoked at the last minute, without any warning or explanation. Most were prevented from boarding flights in Iran, and others from boarding connecting flights in the Persian Gulf. One was detained at Boston Logan International Airport and then turned back.

Many of the students said that a State Department webpage showed their visa cases had been updated around Aug. 30, and they were prevented from boarding in early September.

All of that came before a Sept. 14 attack on two key Saudi oil installations, which has escalated a standoff between the United States and its ally Saudi Arabia against Iran.

[President Trump announced a new round of sanctions against Iran on Friday.]

A law enacted in 2012 under President Barack Obama requires the United States government to deny visas to Iranian students whose coursework would prepare them to work in the energy or nuclear sectors in their home country. Consular officials have wide discretion on how to interpret the statute and put it in place, said Jamal Abdi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington-based group.

Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, also based in Washington, said he appreciated that the 2012 law had sought to prevent knowledge gained in the United States from being used in the service of the Iranian government.

But he pointed to the difficulty in predicting how students would use technical skills that are widely sought after and applicable in many industries. He suggested a more radical approach: to overturn the Trump administration’s travel ban and require Iranian students in sensitive fields to stay in the United States after graduation.

Most Iranians cannot obtain visas to travel to the United States because of the travel ban on visitors from their country, as well as from Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea and Venezuela. But there are narrow exemptions, including for students. Most of the students who were barred had been given single-entry visas, and were prepared to go years without seeing family members who would not have been able to visit them.

In phone interviews and emails, the students said they were crestfallen. Some had left high-level jobs or sold their homes, or had turned down opportunities in Europe or Canada. Most said their studies had been fully funded, and many had been slated to begin teaching or research positions in addition to their studies.

“I feel I’m damaged emotionally, financially, academically,” said Peyman, 23, who was supposed to begin a degree in electrical engineering at the University of California at San Diego. He asked to be identified only by his first name because he did not want to jeopardize his chances of getting another visa.

Peyman said that he had been barred from a connecting flight in Qatar this month and that an airline employee had scrawled “CANCELLED” across his visa in pen, saying the instructions to do so had come from the Department of Homeland Security.

The State Department does not release data on visa revocations, and the department said it could not release information about individual cases.

Mr. Abdi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, said the group normally hears about visa denials, not last-minute revocations. But new vetting procedures — including reviewing social media information from visa applicants — have been “a black box,” he said.

The student workers in the University of California system are represented by the United Automobile Workers Local 2865. Its president, Kavitha Iyengar, said in a statement that her members “do not deserve to be discriminated against.”

She said that the union often helps members who have visa issues, but that she had never seen a problem of this scope.

John A. Pérez, the chairman of the University of California system’s Board of Regents, said the university would stand with its international students “no matter where they were born — and protect them in any way we can from the unpredictable actions of this administration.”

The university’s media relations office said in a separate statement that it was working with government agencies and lawmakers to resolve the issue. It also noted that other Iranian students in the science, technology, engineering and math fields had arrived on campus before September.

A spokesman for Customs and Border Protection reiterated that there had been no change in policy. He added that the agency had the authority to cancel visas but also had policies in place “to ensure multiple layers of review when adjudicating a denial of admission.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a question about whether visa policy had been changed.

At a time when the Iranian economy is in dire condition, hobbled by American sanctions, many Iranian students pay out of pocket to visit the American embassies in Armenia or Turkey for visa interviews, in addition to paying for plane tickets and other arrangements.

Nima Abdollahpour, 23, completed his bachelor’s degree at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, which is often called the M.I.T. of Iran, and had planned to study electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Davis.

He said he and other students had grown frustrated as they were directed from one government agency to the next.

“I am a student who will lose another year or two of my life to find another program, as well as tons of money and energy,” he said.

Chinese scholars have also faced restrictions on visas to the United States amid tensions between the two countries, prompting educators to voice concerns about the possible impact on innovation and on researchers already in the United States. Last month, nine Chinese undergraduate students enrolled at Arizona State University were detained at Los Angeles International Airport and sent back to China without explanation.

In a statement on Thursday, Michael M. Crow, the president of Arizona State University, criticized Customs and Border Protection’s handling of the student visa process.

“They are unevenly and inappropriately making determinations that have no factual basis and that they have no experience making,” he said.

“If C.B.P. and D.H.S. do not take this problem seriously,” Mr. Crow said, “all universities need to seek review by Congress and the courts.”

More coverage of international students’ entry to the United States
Harvard Student Says He Was Barred From U.S. Over His Friends’ Social Media Posts

International Students Face Hurdles Under Trump Administration Policy

Visa Delays at Backlogged Immigration Service Strand International Students

Karen Zraick is a breaking news and general assignment reporter who writes frequently about race, gender and civil rights. She has also worked as an editor on the International desk and in news curation. @karenzraick

Did Trump Try to Extort the President of Ukraine Into Investigating Joe Biden’s Son?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORKER)

 

Did Trump Try to Extort the President of Ukraine Into Investigating Joe Biden?

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes a Trump development to trump them all—or most of them. On Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that a complaint from an anonymous intelligence whistle-blower, which has been the subject of a bitter oversight dispute between the Trump Administration and Congress, centers on a phone call that Trump had on July 25th, with Ukraine’s recently elected President, Volodymyr Zelensky. Many details about this story remain murky, but the implication seems to be that the whistle-blower is alleging that Trump promised to release two hundred and fifty million dollars in stalled aid for Ukraine if Zelensky would launch a corruption investigation into matters involving Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

You might think that sounds too outrageous to be plausible: a President who spent just under two years being investigated for possibly colluding with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election putting the squeeze on another foreign country to interfere in the 2020 race. But hang on a minute. Shortly after the Post’s story dropped, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has for months been claiming (without any real evidence) that Joe Biden bribed Ukrainian officials to drop a corruption investigation involving his son, went on Chris Cuomo’s CNN show and said, “It is perfectly appropriate for a President to say to a leader of a foreign country, ‘Investigate this bribe, that was paid by a former Vice-President, that our media in America is covering up.’ ”

For the past few days, reporters have been trying to get more details about the whistle-blower’s complaint. Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, has ordered the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community not to pass it along to Congress, a decision that he says was based on legal advice from the Justice Department. The Administration’s refusal to cooperate has caused a mighty row with the House Intelligence Committee, headed by Adam Schiff, Democrat of California. Of course, the Trump Administration and the Democrats on Capitol Hill are involved in many disputes arising from congressional investigations into Trump and his associates. But until now none of them have involved the suggestion that Trump may have exerted pressure on a foreign leader to take actions to help his 2020 reelection bid, and may have even pledged something in return.

Even before this latest revelation, however, Trump’s conversation with Zelensky, a former comedian and screenwriter who was elected President of Ukraine in April, had attracted the attention of congressional Democrats, who were investigating what Trump and Giuliani were up to on the Kiev front. In August, reports emerged that Trump was threatening to withhold two hundred and fifty million dollars in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which was supposed to be used to deter Russian aggression in the east of the country.

On September 9th, the leaders of three Democrat-controlled House committees demanded the transcript and a list of participants on the July 25th call. The Democrats said that Giuliani and Trump “appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels.” The Democrats also referred to a Ukrainian government readout from the July 25th call, which said that Trump told Zelensky he was “convinced the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve [the] image of Ukraine, [and] complete [the] investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.”

At that stage, there was no suggestion of a link to a whistle-blower. But on Wednesday night the Washington Post reported that the whistle-blower’s complaint “involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.” The report went on, “Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a ‘promise’ that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials.”

This Post story led to a lot of speculation about the identity of the foreign leader. The whistle-blower filed the complaint on August 12th. During the previous few weeks, Trump had spoken with a number of foreign leaders in addition to Zelensky. They included Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Holland’s Mark Rutte, and the Emir of Kuwait. The fact that Putin’s name was on the list produced a lot of excitement online, but no new details.

On Wednesday morning Trump weighed in, writing on Twitter, “Another Fake News story out there – It never ends! Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself. No problem!” In a second tweet, he went on, writing, “Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!”

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The tweets didn’t solve the mystery of who the foreign leader was. But at about 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, the Post appeared to clarify the matter, posting its story under the headline “Whistleblower complaint about Trump involves Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter.” The report didn’t say explicitly that the complaint concerned the call between Trump and Zelensky, but it did note that the call took place just two and a half weeks before the whistle-blower made the filing.

As the rest of the media was trying to digest this news, Giuliani appeared on CNN and, almost immediately, went off a cliff. In addition to claiming that it would be fine for Trump to pressure Zelensky and his government to investigate Biden, he admitted that he’d already done so himself, and also managed to contradict his story in the process. The first time that Cuomo questioned Giuliani about whether he had asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, he replied, “No, actually, I didn’t.” But then he went on to say he had inquired how a certain Ukrainian official had ended the corruption investigation that allegedly involved Hunter Biden. “So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” Cuomo asked. “Of course I did,” Giuliani replied.

Although he defended Trump’s right to pressure the Ukrainian President to investigate Biden, Giuliani also insisted that he didn’t know anything about the conversation between Trump and Zelensky. Crazy as all of this undoubtedly was, the former New York mayor’s appearance was something of a sideshow. The crux of the matter is his client, and whether he attempted, effectively, to extort Zelensky into trying to find dirt on Biden. As they say in the news business, this story is still developing. The next step, surely, is for Congress to get access to the whistle-blower’s complaint. Only then will we find out what it amounts to.

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