Ukraine ambassador William Taylor’s testimony backs Senate Republicans into a corner

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Ukraine ambassador William Taylor’s testimony backs Senate Republicans into a corner

William Taylor, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, admitted in a closed-door hearing before Congress today that he had been acting under the impression that there was indeed a quid pro quo between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This is bad news for Trump, and even worse for the Senate Republicans who will undoubtedly be forced to take a side when the Democrats’ impeachment proceedings move to the Senate for a trial.

Taylor’s opening statement, obtained by the Washington Post, confirms that the U.S. planned to withhold military and financial aid from Ukraine if the country didn’t assist the U.S. in its investigations into 2016 election interference. This might not be great diplomacy, but it isn’t illegal — the investigation into election interference is a legitimate government operation which, due to its nature, is somewhat dependent on foreign cooperation.

Forcing Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival, however, is another matter entirely, and one that lies at the center of Taylor’s testimony. At question here is a conversation Taylor had in September with Gordon Sondland, the United States’ envoy to the European Union. “As I said on the phone,” Taylor said in September, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

To which Sondland replied: “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

Taylor’s message was originally interpreted as a reaction to media reports that the U.S. was unnecessarily withholding military aid from Ukraine. But in his opening statement before Congress, Taylor confirmed that his message was not merely a reaction to the media, but a condemnation of a coordinated effort by Trump, Sondland, and the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

“I said on Sept. 9 in a message to [Sondland] that withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the U.S. would be ‘crazy,’” Taylor said in his testimony, “I believed that then, and I still believe that.”

Taylor then lays out the timeline of Trump’s interactions with Zelensky and the “highly irregular” channel of U.S. policy making in Ukraine that included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and Giuliani. This “irregular” channel actively worked against U.S. interests and in favor of Trump’s personal interests, Taylor said.

“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma [the Ukrainian oil company that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, worked for] and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections,” Taylor said in his testimony. “It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani.”

Taylor soon after realized that the hold placed on security assistance to Ukraine by the Office of Management and Budget ran counter to the State and Defense Departments’ recommendation that the U.S. assist Ukraine in its battle against Russia, and that it had more to do with Sondland’s demand that Ukraine commit to an investigation into Hunter Biden’s dealings with Burisma than it did with the U.S.’s investigation into election meddling.

Taylor’s testimony is both clarifying and damning for the Trump allies and Senate Republicans who have insisted there was no quid pro quo. Ukrainian officials might not have been aware that foreign aid was being withheld, but the U.S. government certainly was aware. And if it wasn’t clear before, it is now clear that Trump had a personal agenda and used Sondland and Giuliani to further it.

Impeachment will move forward, which means the Senate will eventually need to decide whether Trump was guilty of foreign malfeasance. Taylor’s testimony just made it that much harder to rule in his favor. His congressional allies will continue to stand by him, especially if House Democrats continue to treat impeachment like a campaign promise they need to fulfill.

But there will be other Trump-skeptical senators wary of the president’s blatant abuse of power who might just drift to the pro-impeachment side. Republicans control the Senate 53-47. It takes 67 votes to convict. Taylor’s testimony might just tip the scales.

Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

 
Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President

If President Trump doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office.

By 

Admiral McRaven is a former commander of the United States Special Operations Command.

 
Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Last week I attended two memorable events that reminded me why we care so very much about this nation and also why our future may be in peril.

The first was a change of command ceremony for a storied Army unit in which one general officer passed authority to another. The second event was an annual gala for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) Society that recognizes past and present members of the intelligence and Special Operations community for their heroism and sacrifice to the nation. What struck me was the stark contrast between the words and deeds heralded at those events — and the words and deeds emanating from the White House.

On the parade field at Fort Bragg, N.C., where tens of thousands of soldiers have marched either preparing to go to war or returning from it, the two generals, highly decorated, impeccably dressed, clear eyed and strong of character, were humbled by the moment.

They understood the awesome responsibility that the nation had placed on their shoulders. They understood that they had an obligation to serve their soldiers and their soldiers’ families. They believed in the American values for which they had been fighting for the past three decades. They had faith that these values were worth sacrificing everything for — including, if necessary, their lives.

Having served with both officers for the past 20 years, I know that they personified all that is good and decent and honorable about the American military with genuineness of their humility, their uncompromising integrity, their willingness to sacrifice all for a worthy cause, and the pride they had in their soldiers.

Later that week, at the O.S.S. Society dinner, there were films and testimonials to the valor of the men and women who had fought in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. We also celebrated the 75th anniversary of D-Day, recognizing those brave Americans and allies who sacrificed so much to fight Nazism and fascism. We were reminded that the Greatest Generation went to war because it believed that we were the good guys — that wherever there was oppression, tyranny or despotism, America would be there. We would be there because freedom mattered. We would be there because the world needed us and if not us, then who?

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Also that evening we recognized the incredible sacrifice of a new generation of Americans: an Army Special Forces warrant officer who had been wounded three times, the most recent injury costing him his left leg above the knee. He was still in uniform and still serving. There was an intelligence officer, who embodied the remarkable traits of those men and women who had served in the O.S.S. And a retired Marine general, whose 40 years of service demonstrated all that was honorable about the Corps and public service.

But the most poignant recognition that evening was for a young female sailor who had been killed in Syria serving alongside our allies in the fight against ISIS. Her husband, a former Army Green Beret, accepted the award on her behalf. Like so many that came before her, she had answered the nation’s call and willingly put her life in harm’s way.

For everyone who ever served in uniform, or in the intelligence community, for those diplomats who voice the nation’s principles, for the first responders, for the tellers of truth and the millions of American citizens who were raised believing in American values — you would have seen your reflection in the faces of those we honored last week.

[The big debates, distilled. This guide will put in context what people are saying about the pressing issues of the week. Sign up for our new newsletter, Debatable.]

But, beneath the outward sense of hope and duty that I witnessed at these two events, there was an underlying current of frustration, humiliation, anger and fear that echoed across the sidelines. The America that they believed in was under attack, not from without, but from within.

These men and women, of all political persuasions, have seen the assaults on our institutions: on the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press. They have seen our leaders stand beside despots and strongmen, preferring their government narrative to our own. They have seen us abandon our allies and have heard the shouts of betrayal from the battlefield. As I stood on the parade field at Fort Bragg, one retired four-star general, grabbed my arm, shook me and shouted, “I don’t like the Democrats, but Trump is destroying the Republic!”

Those words echoed with me throughout the week. It is easy to destroy an organization if you have no appreciation for what makes that organization great. We are not the most powerful nation in the world because of our aircraft carriers, our economy, or our seat at the United Nations Security Council. We are the most powerful nation in the world because we try to be the good guys. We are the most powerful nation in the world because our ideals of universal freedom and equality have been backed up by our belief that we were champions of justice, the protectors of the less fortunate.

But, if we don’t care about our values, if we don’t care about duty and honor, if we don’t help the weak and stand up against oppression and injustice — what will happen to the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Afghans, the Syrians, the Rohingyas, the South Sudanese and the millions of people under the boot of tyranny or left abandoned by their failing states?

If our promises are meaningless, how will our allies ever trust us? If we can’t have faith in our nation’s principles, why would the men and women of this nation join the military? And if they don’t join, who will protect us? If we are not the champions of the good and the right, then who will follow us? And if no one follows us — where will the world end up?

President Trump seems to believe that these qualities are unimportant or show weakness. He is wrong. These are the virtues that have sustained this nation for the past 243 years. If we hope to continue to lead the world and inspire a new generation of young men and women to our cause, then we must embrace these values now more than ever.

And if this president doesn’t understand their importance, if this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.

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Opinion | Alan Kennedy, Alexander Stockton and Nayeema Raza
I Did Not Join the Army to Abandon Our Allies

William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, is a former commander of the United States Special Operations Command and former chancellor of the University of Texas system.

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A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 27 of the New York edition with the headline: We’re Under Attack From the President. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

David A. Andelman, executive director of The RedLines Project, is a contributor to CNN, where his columns won the Deadline Club Award for Best Opinion Writing. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today,” he was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)With a single stroke, President Donald Trump has effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad—Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to Israel’s longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

David Andelman

The ceasefire and agreement with Turkey that Trump vaunted Thursday as “a great day for civilization,” had already been demonstrated to be a potentially epic challenge to one corner of the world—Israel. It was a reality only highlighted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaking off from Vice President Pence’s group in Ankara and taking a plane directly to Jerusalem to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday morning.
Suddenly, with not even a token American force remaining to monitor or check military activities of Russia, Iran or the Syrian army main force of President Bashar al-Assad, the entire map of the Middle East was being redrawn, and Israel left with few viable defenders. When the United States had even a minimal military presence in Syria, it was able to act as some restraint on aid that Iran was seeking to channel to this terrorist forcewhich continues to operate out of Lebanon, targeting Israel at every opportunity.
In late August, anti-tank rocket attacks launched from Lebanon into northern Israel by Hezbollah led to the Israeli army responding with attacks on targets in southern Lebanon. Such effective shadow-boxing had been held in check by the apparent ability of Israel to interdict Iranian efforts to supply Hezbollah with arms and munitions through Syria. Now, with Syria reclaiming a large swath of the northeastern stretch of its country that had been held by the Kurds and their American allies, and with Russian forces moving as a backstop into the vacuum left by the US departure, Israeli efforts could become exponentially more complicated.
At the same time, there is ever more leeway now for Syria, Russia and Iran to work their malevolence on a Lebanese government that is striving desperately to carve a middle road in the region. Hezbollah and Iran share a common religion—Shiite Islam—which has only opened up a host of problems for Hezbollah’s principal host, Lebanon, as it tries to remain reasonably neutral in the Middle East and avoid a return to the decades of bloodshed during its civil wars of the 1980s. Hezbollah would like nothing better than a destabilized Lebanon bordering Israel’s northern frontier.
“Americans can’t be trusted at all since they break promise with anyone who depends on them,” said Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, in a speech to his followers in Beirut on Wednesday, adding that the Kurds’ “fate awaits anyone who trusts Washington.”
Trump’s new bond with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—”a tough guy who deserves respect” and “my friend” as Trump described him after Wednesday’s truce talks in Ankara, is also likely to have done little to reassure Israel.
Turkey, which has moved into northern Syria with some impunity has demonstrated that it is no friend of Israel. Erdogan, accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, has called it “a terrorist state.” Until now, it has been possible for Israel largely to ignore Turkey’s impact on the Middle East, and its efforts of rapprochement with both Russia and Iran. But that may no longer be possible. On Tuesday, Erdogan is planning to travel to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American withdrawal and Wednesday’s ceasefire can have few positive results for Israel, where Trump’s actions “have stirred discomfort within Netanyahu’s conservative cabinet,” according to Israeli media reports. Amos Harel, military correspondent for the liberal Haaretz daily, said Trump’s moves have “forced Israel to rethink its Middle East strategy.” After his session with Pompeo, Netanyahu was only somewhat more circumspect. “We hope things will turn out for the best,” he told reporters. Indeed, Netanyahu is facing a Wednesday deadline to cobble together a new coalition government after the recent national elections and has still not managed to do so.
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In short, any number of nations in the region are beginning a frantic reassessment of just what this new map of the Middle East promises—beyond the immediate prospects of a new round of chaos and destruction, with the United States on the sidelines. Somehow Washington must find a way to channel to players like Israel and Lebanon military aid and diplomatic reassurance that can help neutralize an increasingly dangerous situation.

How dangerous is Trump? Ask the Kurds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Newsletter: How dangerous is Trump? Ask the Kurds

President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.

President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.
(Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Beginning on a positive note, we should celebrate the fact that the Dodgers will avoid losing three World Series in a row. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Last Friday, the Kurds in northern Syria went to bed after yet another day existing precariously between warring factions that would brutalize them were it not for the skeletal presence of U.S. forces. On Monday, the Kurds faced a military incursion from Turkish forces and a renewed threat from Islamic State made possible by a sudden American withdrawal. What happened?

This is one of those rare cases in which a president like Donald Trump can have immediate, deadly and long-lasting consequences, thanks to both the vast powers vested in the position of commander in chief and the malignant incompetence of the person holding it.

President Trump deserves blame for mishandling a number of issues, but a problem like the trade war with China was preceded by a generation of economic duplicitousness by Beijing. Trump’s sudden withdrawal from parts of northern Syria, however, has all the fingerprints of his particular unfitness for the job: his impulsiveness, his purely transactional approach to foreign policy (remember, they “didn’t help us with Normandy”), his affinity for autocrats like Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his supreme confidence in his own “great and unmatched wisdom.”

This is what happens when we let Trump be Trump — or as the L.A. Times Editorial Board put it in a scathing piece: “This episode is a reminder that, whether or not Congress concludes that Trump committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ deserving of impeachment, he is operatically incompetent in discharging the duties of the presidency.”

Trump will only get more Trumpy. Virginia Heffernan writes that the the unconstitutional refusal by the president’s counsel to cooperate in the House impeachment inquiry is bad enough, but it pales in comparison to what Trump himself is doing: “To see a panicky president endanger our national security while he showers Erdogan and Putin with gifts is to see a leader over the edge. He has no intention of even pausing his traitorous crime spree on the way to impeachment.” L.A. Times

It’s (probably) safe to eat red meat again, but not because of some recent breakthrough in raising livestock. In fact, the food’s stayed the same, but the way some scientists are looking at the evidence has changed. Nina Teicholz writes that the latest flip-flop on red meat — clarification that, in fact, eating it has not been shown to be associated with a higher heart disease or cancer risk — uses the best science in place of scientists’ best guesses. L.A. Times

Want someone to blame for blackouts? Look in the mirror. Besieged utility Pacific Gas and Electric is getting plenty of deserved flak for its preemptive power outages in Northern California during high winds. But wind-driven wildfires sparked by malfunctioning electrical lines would be killing fewer people and destroying less property if so many Californians weren’t living in high-risk areas. L.A. Times

Trump is creating the worst constitutional crisis in 150 years. The term “constitutional crisis” gets thrown around too often, and it really does not have any legal significance. It is used properly to describe a breakdown in the constitutional order, something that has happened only a few times in U.S. history, most significantly before the Civil War. And Trump, by refusing to recognize the House’s sole power of impeachment as afforded in the Constitution instead of simply making his case to the American people, has touched off that kind of crisis. L.A. Times

Everyone made money off her athleticism  except the athlete. UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi is one of the most celebrated college gymnasts ever; clips of her perfect-10 floor routine have gone viral. Problem is, the only participant in her fame who didn’t make any money from it was Ohashi. She explains why she believes that’s wrong, and why she supports California’s new law that will allow students to be compensated for their athleticism. New York Times

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U.S. and Kurdish soldiers: Side by side just days ago, battling ISIS, now the Kurds are under attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)
(IS TRUMP GUILTY OF TREASON AND MASS MURDER FOR DOING EXACTLY WHAT PUTIN AND IRAN WANTED, GENOCIDE OF THE KURDISH PEOPLE?)(OPED: OLDPOET56)

U.S. and Kurdish soldiers: Side by side just days ago, battling ISIS, now the Kurd’s are under attack

CLOSE

Turkey launched airstrikes, fired artillery aimed at crushing Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for an assault on forces that have long been allied with the United States. (Oct. 9) AP, AP

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WASHINGTON – Two days before President Trump announced that he would pull U.S. military back from the border zone in Syria, Americans and their Kurdish allies had removed senior ISIS fighters from the battlefield, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The capture of the two fighters occurred as part of daily regular commando raids U.S. forces had been running with Kurdish soldiers, the official said.

Trump’s abandonment of Kurdish allies fighting ISIS has shocked members of the U.S. military and left it scrambling to protect American forces in Syria – and to look on as those they worked with side by side only a few days ago are now under attack as Turkey’s military continues to step up assaults on the region.

Thursday marked the second day of Turkey’s assault on Kurdish forces in the region. Turkey launched the assault because it views a Kurdish militia that dominates the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as a terrorist group.

Earlier this week, Trump said he was delivering on a campaign promise to remove U.S. troops from “ridiculous endless wars.” Trump also defended his decision on Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Kurds, saying they had failed to fight with Americans in World War II.

Donald Trump is defending his decision to withdraw US troops from Kurd-held areas in northern Syria. A move that led to Turkey launching a military operation on Wednesday. Trump says he “campaigned on ending the endless wars.” (Oct. 9) AP, AP

Casualties reported: Turkish strikes hit civilians as Syria offensive intensifies

The Pentagon has issued few statements since Trump’s decision, blaming Turkey for acting unilaterally and calling for a “safe zone” to be established in northeastern Syria.

‘None of our allies can trust us’

The Kurds formed the backbone of the counter-ISIS ground force, backed by the U.S.-led air war, that has retaken virtually all the land seized by Islamic State fighters since 2014. The Kurds have lost 11,000 troops in the fighting and have seen another 20,000 wounded. Their bloodshed and support has led to a kinship understood by many U.S. troops who view the U.S. withdrawal of support as a betrayal of a dedicated ally, the official said.

Who are the Kurds?: A Middle Eastern people with ‘no friends but the mountains’

“None of our allies can trust us anymore,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. “The biggest loss here apart from the slaughter of innocent and loyal fighters on our side is the shattering of trust. The loss of our word as a bond. No one can rely on the United States if we abandon our fiercest most loyal allies who have literally shed blood for us.”

Trump’s decision has led to ad hoc measures to protect U.S. troops and attempts to mitigate losses to ISIS, the official said. Among them:

  • A hotline established with Turkey to notify U.S. commanders of areas where bombs will be dropped to ensure American troops are out of harm’s way.
  • The movement of 50 U.S. troops from the area contested by Turkey and the Kurds to two American outposts in Syria. Drones are being flown over the area to protect U.S. forces.
  • Kurds continue to guard about 30 prison camps holding about 10,000 ISIS detainees. About 2,000 of those prisoners are foreign fighters from 50 countries, from China to Canada.

U.S. forces are safe, the official said, and the 50 troops relocated to outposts represent a fraction of the 1,000 remaining in Syria.

‘A reckless gamble’: Four reasons critics decry Trump’s ‘impulsive’ Syria withdrawal

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Deaths in Syria, but may be inflated

Turkey launched the assault because it regards a Kurdish militia within the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as a terrorist group. About 30,000 Kurdish fighters and civilians have been displaced by Turkey’s offensive.

Turkey is expected to turn over the fighting to local forces it backs, the official said. A second U.S. official said Turkey, a NATO ally, has been cut off from receiving U.S. intelligence on the region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human rights estimates that 16 SDF fighters have been killed and dozens wounded. Erdogan has said “109 terrorists” have been killed. The U.S. official cautioned that both sides may be exaggerating losses or gains for propaganda purposes.

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2 Giuliani Associates Tied to Ukraine Scandal Arrested on Campaign Finance Charges

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

2 Giuliani Associates Tied to Ukraine Scandal Arrested on Campaign Finance Charges

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer, were also part of the pressure campaign on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

ImageRudy Giuliani, left, and Lev Parnas at the Trump International Hotel in Washington last month.
Credit Aram Roston/Reuters

WASHINGTON — Two associates of the president’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who helped fund efforts to investigate one of President Trump’s political rivals, were charged in a separate case with violating campaign finance laws, according to court documents.

The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, believed to be important witnesses in the House’s impeachment inquiry of Mr. Trump, were arrested on campaign finance charges. The arrests and charges were first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Two other men, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, were also indicted.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman aided Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to gin up investigations in Ukraine into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, among other potentially politically beneficial investigations for Mr. Trump. Mr. Parnas had been scheduled to participate in a deposition with House impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill on Thursday, and Mr. Fruman on Friday. Neither had been expected to show up voluntarily. House Democrats were preparing to issue subpoenas to force them to do so.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were arrested and were expected to appear in court in Northern Virginia on Thursday, according to a spokesman in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

The indictment said Mr. Parnas and Mr. Kukushkin are Ukrainian-born Americans, while Mr. Fruman was born in Belarus and became an American citizen. Mr. Correia is American-born. Mr. Kukushkin was arrested Thursday in California, and Mr. Correia was still at large, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have acted as emissaries in Ukraine for Mr. Giuliani as he has sought to uncover information about, and encourage investigations into, Mr. Trump’s rivals, including Mr. Biden.

Mr. Parnas, who has known Mr. Giuliani for years, worked with Mr. Fruman to connect Mr. Giuliani to Ukrainian prosecutors who provided information to Mr. Giuliani, as The Times revealed in May.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman are based in South Florida, and are executives of an energy company that donated $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC last year, prompting a Federal Election Commission complaint by a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog accusing the men and the company of violating campaign finance laws.

Last month, Mr. Giuliani sought to minimize the significance of the campaign finance inquiry into the two men.

“They had a campaign finance issue,” he said in an interview late last month. “I referred them to a campaign finance expert who pretty much resolved it.”

Their lawyer, John M. Dowd, who previously represented Mr. Trump against the special counsel’s inquiry, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the arrest.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Nicholas Fandos and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated the custody status of two men who were indicted. Andrey Kukushkin was arrested in California, and David Correia was still at large, not the reverse.

Eileen Sullivan is the morning breaking news correspondent in Washington. She previously worked for The Associated Press for a decade, covering national security and criminal justice. @esullivannyt

Adam Goldman reports on the F.B.I. from Washington and is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. @adamgoldmanNYT

William K. Rashbaum is a senior writer on the Metro desk, where he covers political and municipal corruption, courts, terrorism and broader law enforcement topics. He was a part of the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. @WRashbaum  Facebook

President Trump Betrays The Kurdish People: Again

President Trump Betrays The Kurdish People: Again

(OPED: by OLDPOET56)

 

I know that there are a lot of people who don’t even know who the Kurdish people are and that is a shame because they have been a Ally to the U.S. military for decades now. They have fought along side our troops in Syria for years now helping us to defang ISIS and other terrorists in that region. The Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group of people in the whole world that does not have a country of their own. The eastern population of Turkey has a huge percent of Kurdish people within their borders as well as in N.W. Syria, Northern Iraq and N.W. Iran. We have armed and trained the Kurd people for many years now but now that ISIS is supposedly defunct in Syria President Trump has turned his/our back on these people again but even worse this time.

 

Turkey’s President Erdogan has been trying to commit genocide of the Kurdish people every since he took office. Now, with the help of Iran and Trumps good friend President Putin of Russia President Erdogan has his military set up 20 miles deep into Syria (against the Syrian governments wishes) for the purpose of killing the Kurd’s. This Turk military action is also against the wishes of President Trump’s other good friend the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia MBS. The only reason that I can think of why President Trump would commit treason against the Kurdish people is because of his butt buddy Putin asking him too. For President Trump to agree with this Genocide of the Kurdish people is beneath the dignity of a snakes belly but then again this plays all to true for this President.

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.”

TRUMP ‘FAWNING’ TO PUTIN AND OTHER AUTHORITARIANS IN ‘EMBARRASSING’ PHONE Calls

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

TRUMP ‘FAWNING’ TO PUTIN AND OTHER AUTHORITARIANS IN ‘EMBARRASSING’ PHONE CALLS, WHITE HOUSE AIDES SAY—REPORT

As the spotlight on President Donald Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders intensifies, former and current White House officials have described Trump’s interactions with strongman leaders as fawning, deferential and embarrassing, with many of those in the administration “horrified” at his conduct.

The Washington Post spoke with 12 current and former White House officials who said that members of the administration were shocked at the president’s behavior during conversations with authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Saudi royal family.

“There was a constant undercurrent in the Trump administration of [senior staff] who were genuinely horrified by the things they saw that were happening on these calls,” one former White House official—who spoke on the condition of anonymity—told the Post.

“Phone calls that were embarrassing, huge mistakes he made, months and months of work that were upended by one impulsive tweet,” the official added.

Aides were particularly concerned about Trump’s calls with Putin. The first call came less than two weeks into the presidency on January 28, 2017.

The call was intended for Putin to congratulate Trump on his victory, but the new president was “obsequious” and “fawning,” even apologizing to the dictator for not calling him sooner, anonymous former White House aides told the Post.

“He was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my people didn’t tell me you wanted to talk to me,'” according to one person with direct knowledge of the call. And in another Putin call, Trump is said to have asked his Russian counterpart for advice on how to deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“We couldn’t figure out early on why he was being so nice to Russia,” a former senior administration official added.

Trump upended long-term U.S. strategy during his calls, for example promising to support Saudi Arabia’s entry into the G7 group of nations. “The G-7 is supposed to be the allies with whom we share the most common values and the deepest commitment to upholding the rules-based order,” one former official told the Post.

Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses mean it would not have been suitable for admission, but Trump said he would support the country’s efforts anyway, the former official claimed. Ultimately Saudi Arabia was not added to the group.

DOnald Trump, phone, calls, Putin, leaders
President Donald Trump speaks on the telephone in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on December 24, 2018.SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/GETTY

The president also reportedly ignored the grave human rights abuses in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has been waging a zero tolerance campaign against drug dealers and users, in which thousands have been killed.

During an April 2017 call, Trump told Duterte that he was doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” the Post reported.

Officials said it was a constant battle to keep Trump on track. “You had two to three minutes max,” one former senior administration official said. “And then he was still usually going to say whatever he wanted to say.”

Another said aides quickly had to come to terms with his unconventional, and at times embarrassing, manner. “People had gotten really numb to him blurting out something he shouldn’t have,” one former national security staffer told the Post.

Officials were also concerned that calls with long-time U.S. allies often did not go as smoothly as those with strongmen and dictators. “People who could do things for him—he was nice to,” one former security official said. “Leaders with trade deficits, strong female leaders, members of NATO — those tended to go badly.”

Trump Is Dangerously Unfit To Be President

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Trump’s Twitter tirades about treason and civil war reveal a dangerously unfit president

Lies, nonsense, and a threat to arrest his opponents in Congress.

President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, rarely a scene of what you’d call appropriate content, has kicked things up a notch ever since the beginning of a formal impeachment inquiry into his apparent effort to hold up military aid to Ukraine in search of dirt on political rival Joe Biden.

Over the past several days, the self-proclaimed “stable genius” has been on a nonstop Twitter binge, lying about what’s going on in Congress, lying about what happened in Ukraine, and escalating his inappropriate conduct by threatening the country with a civil war and threatening his enemies in Congress with criminal charges.

He also posted a rapid-fire set of Fox News clips, complaining furiously about a brief moment of Fox content that displeased him.

The Ukraine scandal is about one specific area of policy, but it’s a window into the inherent problem with having a president in office who so routinely expresses inappropriate ideas. And the scandal breaking through is merely causing him to express more and more of them.

Trump retweeted a bot that inserts “shark” into Trump tweets

The Ukraine story is damaging to Trump not necessarily because it’s the worst thing he’s done as president. But the assistance to Ukraine that Trump imperiled is something many Republicans favor, and the facts of the case are so plain that it has slightly punctured the bubble of right-wing alternative facts that normally shields the president from criticism.

That makes Trump particularly vulnerable to mildly critical commentary like what Fox News host Ed Henry offered on Sunday morning’s edition of Fox & Friends. Fortunately for Trump, radio host Mark Levin was also on the air ready to go to bat with arguments like, “What crime was violated? It’s not illegal. The question is whether Biden did something illegal. The president didn’t do anything illegal.”

Trump was so incensed by Henry that he or a staffer went to search Twitter for any random person criticizing Henry or praising Levin, including a number of “egg” accounts with no avatars, real names, or reputation, and few followers.

One of these accounts, @BulldawgDerek, has been “temporarily restricted” by Twitter due to “unusual activity” — normally a euphemism for violating the site’s rules.

Trump retweeted, all told, 20 posts on the subject, including one calling Henry a “lying shit head” and one by a bot account Trump But About Sharks whose gimmick is that it rewrites Trump tweets to make them about sharks.

This is mostly funny rather than revelatory.

It is, however, a reminder that the president of the United States spends his time watching television and getting mad online rather than working on any of the innumerable policy issues that fall into his portfolio. That’s not news, but it is significant since one of the White House’s key talking points on impeachment is that somehow impeachment — rather than the president’s laziness — is stopping Congress from getting things done.

Trump keeps lying about Congress

A Saturday tweet calling an arbitrary subset of Trump’s political enemies “savages” attracted attention because there’s something fishy about his decision to single out Jewish and nonwhite members of Congress for criticism.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Can you imagine if these Do Nothing Democrat Savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC Plus 3, and many more, had a Republican Party who would have done to Obama what the Do Nothings are doing to me. Oh well, maybe next time!

73.7K people are talking about this

A more banal but significant aspect of this tweet is Trump’s effort to label the congressional opposition as “Do Nothings.”

Both parties’ congressional campaign committees have polling that indicates the public is frustrated with Congress’ lack of progress on policy issues and therefore have adopted strategies centered on blaming the other party for inaction.

This theme recurs in recent Trump tweets on subjects ranging from China to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to nothing in particular, all of which repeat the phrase “Do Nothing Democrats.”

Under the circumstances, it’s worth emphasizing that this is simply false. House Democrats have passed a lot of bills, including conceptually ambitious legislation to curb corruption in politics and begin to address climate change along with a host of smaller measures. They’ve passed legislation on background checks for gun buyers, tried to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, tried to extend nondiscrimination rules to LGBTQ people, and tried to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour. The reason these bills — and measures addressing prescription drug pricesinsurance for people with preexisting conditions, and consumer protection in financial services — aren’t going anywhere is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t bring them up for votes.

It isn’t even that these bills are being defeated in the Senate. McConnell is aware that these are popular measures, and he doesn’t want to make his members cast unpopular votes against them. Consequently, Republicans have simply refused to let them come to the floor, even while pretending to be mad that Democrats are too busy with impeachment to legislate.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!

51.1K people are talking about this

By contrast, Senate Republicans are not passing popular bills featuring conservative ideas to address problems. Not because they’re too busy with impeachment, but because they don’t seem to have any.

And Trump himself can’t stop tweeting about Ukraine, even though he also can’t offer any real defense of what he did.

Trump has a lot of dishonest thoughts on Ukraine

Monday morning, Trump alleged that some mysterious individual “changed the long standing whistleblower rules” as part of what is presumably a conspiracy to bring Trump down.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!

51.1K people are talking about this

This is a reference to a badly misinformed article which ran over the weekend on the perennially dishonest conservative site the Federalist, which alleged that “Intel Community Secretly Gutted Requirement Of First-Hand Whistleblower Knowledge.”

The main factual problem with this article is that nothing of the sort happened. It is true that the whistleblower form was changed in August shortly before the submission of the Ukraine report, but the earlier version of the form contained no prohibition on the use of second-hand information. That the Federalist article is incorrect has not prevented the claim from being widely rebroadcast by everyone from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to the president’s attorneys Jay Sekulow and Rudy Giuliani. It is, however, completely false.

What’s more, despite Trump’s multiple tweets referring to the whistleblower as “fake” or alleging he had only “SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION,” we now know unambiguously that the substance of the report was true. The White House’s own summary of the call shows Trump complaining that although “the United States has been very good to Ukraine,” he “wouldn’t say it’s been reciprocal necessarily.”

When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asks for Javelin missiles, Trump replies, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” There is, of course, nothing wrong with the leader of one country asking the leader of another country for something in exchange for military assistance — that’s diplomacy. But what Trump asked for were political favors (and perhaps exculpate the Russian government from responsibility for hacking the Democratic National Committee), not actions designed to advance American interests.

That’s the essence of the complaint, and Trump clearly did it. The only question is whether one sees that as right or wrong. But in responding to the misconduct, Trump is engaging in new forms of misconduct.

Trump is threatening his enemies with prison

Last Friday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff opened a hearing with a satirical parody of Trump’s gangster-like conduct.

The analogy between the way Trump discusses illegal activities and the way movie gangsters talk has been widely made, everywhere from CNN to the Canadian magazine Macleans, largely because the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen specifically described it as his normal means of doing business.

But Trump, because he’s a deeply dishonest person, has taken to characterizing Schiff’s parody as a deliberate fabrication that should prompt a criminal investigation.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Rep. Adam Schiff totally made up my conversation with Ukraine President and read it to Congress and Millions. He must resign and be investigated. He has been doing this for two years. He is a sick man!

62K people are talking about this

It’s not a crime to say things the president doesn’t like — even things that aren’t necessarily proven — and there’s a specific clause of the Constitution guaranteeing members of Congress absolute immunity from prosecution from anything they do on the floor of either house in the Capitol. That constitutional provision does, however, include an exception for treason, which someone must have told Trump. By Sunday night, Schiff characterizing his actions in a way Trump didn’t like was elevated to an act of treason, and Trump called for his arrest.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called “Whistleblower,” represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way. Then Schiff made up what I actually said by lying to Congress……

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen in the great Chamber. He wrote down and read terrible things, then said it was from the mouth of the President of the United States. I want Schiff questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason…..

39K people are talking about this

Trump then reiterated Monday morning that he’s not kidding around. He wants police officers to arrest a member of Congress for criticizing him.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?

56K people are talking about this

The typical response to this kind of blatantly inappropriate order from Trump has been to simply not carry out his directives. Then conservatives quietly assure liberal and centrist journalists that people shouldn’t blow Trump’s bluster out of perspective because these things don’t actually wind up happening.

The Ukraine call, however, reveals not just inappropriate conduct but the fundamental inadequacy of this line of thought as a response to Trump. Members of Trump’s administration have been trying, since Inauguration Day, to steer him toward something approaching a normal conservative Republican approach to Russia.

But as Trump’s former top Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert explained over the weekend, it’s been impossible to dissuade Trump from propagating a baroque conspiracy theory involving Ukraine and an IT security company called Crowdstrike, whose CEO Trump wrongly believes is Ukrainian.

Trump really did delay the delivery of congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine, and during his one-on-one talks with the Ukrainian president he linked that aid to both the Crowdstrike theory and the effort to dig up dirt on a political rival. With the regular institutions of the American government ill-disposed to try to carry out Trump’s corrupt approach to Ukraine, he got Rudy Giuliani to run a “shadow foreign policy” on his behalf.

In other words: There are limits to what can be accomplished by slow-walking an unfit president’s requests. Schiff probably won’t be brought up on treason charges. And Trump probably won’t follow through on his threats to unleash a civil war. But over time, a determined president does tend to make things happen.

Responsible officials made a good-faith effort to stonewall Trump’s Ukraine agenda. But those officials either left office (Bossert, Secretary of Defense James Mattis) or were removed (former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch), and Trump’s plan was put into place. In response, Trump displays no contrition but instead accelerates his lying and inappropriate demands. And the only viable solution is for him to stop being president.


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The House Intelligence Committee released the whistleblower complaint minutes before Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire began his testimony before Congress.

Looking for a quick way to keep up with the never-ending news cycle? Host Sean Rameswaram will guide you through the most important stories at the end of each day.

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