Pelosi warns: ‘Civilization as we know it today is at stake’ in 2020 election

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Pelosi warns: ‘Civilization as we know it today is at stake’ in 2020 election

Washington (CNN)House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that “civilization as we know it today is at stake” in the 2020 presidential election, saying that she does not want to “contemplate” the possibility that President Donald Trump could be elected to serve as second term in office.

“Let’s not even contemplate that,” Pelosi said at a CNN town hall Thursday evening in response to an audience question about what checks will exist in the House of Representatives if Trump is reelected and the impeachment process is over.
“Civilization as we know it today is at stake in the next election, and certainly our planet,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s participation at the town hall event came on the same day that she announced that the House will take the momentous step of moving forward with articles of impeachment against Trump. That announcement adds a new level of intensity to the impeachment effort and likely paves the way for Trump to become the third President in US history to be impeached.
Pelosi called her decision “quite historic” during a CNN town hall moderated by Jake Tapper.
In response to an audience question, she said, “I have to admit that today was quite historic. It was taking us, crossing a threshold on this that we just had no choice. I do hope that it would be remembered in a way that honors the vision of our founders, what they had in mind for establishing a democracy.”

‘I’m not on a timetable, I’m on a mission’

Pelosi, who is guiding House Democratic caucus through the impeachment process as the top Democrat in the chamber, sidestepped a question whether she would step aside if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020.
“I’m not on a timetable, I’m on a mission,” Pelosi said, an answer that met with applause from the audience.
As House Democrats grapple now with how to draft articles of impeachment, Pelosi said during the town hall that Democrats are working “collectively” on determining what will be included in the articles.
Asked by Tapper whether she would proceed if Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler recommends including obstruction of justice charges from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Pelosi said, “We’re operating collectively. It’s not going to be — somebody puts something on the table. We have our own, shall we say, communication with each other.”
Pelosi declined to go further. “We’re not writing the articles of impeachment here tonight.”
Articles have not been finalized, but Democrats are now signaling that the articles of impeachment could go beyond the scope of the Ukraine investigation that has dominated Washington for the past two months.
Whether to include Mueller’s findings of obstruction of justice has been debated internally for weeks as some moderate Democrats only got behind an impeachment inquiry because it was narrowly focused on Ukraine.
Pelosi took aim at Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani during the town hall when asked about his continued efforts in Ukraine as Democrats move forward with their impeachment inquiry.
“I’m a busy person,” Pelosi said, “I don’t have time to keep track of Rudy Giuliani, I just don’t, but I do think that it is further indication of the arrogance of it all.”

‘Disgusting’ question over hate

During the town hall, Pelosi also explained why she had reacted so strongly to a reporter who asked her if she hates President Donald Trump, calling the question “really disgusting.”
Asked by Tapper during a CNN town hall about her reaction during her weekly press conference to the question, Pelosi cited her Catholic upbringing and responded, “The word hate is a terrible word … so for him to say that was really disgusting to me.”
The California Democrat added, “I’d rather like to think that America is a country that is full of love, whatever we think about what somebody else might believe that might be different from us, that that isn’t a reason to dislike somebody. It’s a reason to disagree with somebody.”
Pelosi issued a stark warning to the reporter from Sinclair who had asked her the question, responding forcefully, “Don’t mess with me” — a sign of the tension amid the House of Representatives’ impeachment push.
During CNN’s town hall, Pelosi questioned whether the person who asked the question is actually a reporter, saying, “Was that a reporter? Is that what reporters do?” when Tapper asked about the exchange.

‘I don’t think we’re headed for a shutdown’

Pelosi also predicted during Thursday’s town hall that there will not be a government shutdown later this month.
“I don’t think we’re headed for a shutdown. I don’t think anybody wants that,” Pelosi said.
“We’re on a good path, if we were not, we would just go to a continuing resolution until after Christmas,” Pelosi said, referring to a stop-gap measure to keep funding in place.
Lawmakers will need to take action to avert a government shutdown before the end of the month, making the month even busier in Congress as the impeachment inquiry dominates headlines in Washington.
The President’s contacts with Ukraine are at the heart of the impeachment inquiry and investigators have focused on probing the now-famous July 25 phone call where Trump asked the President of Ukraine for a “favor” and pushed for investigations into the family of a potential political rival, former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The President has argued that the call was “perfect,” and congressional Republicans have defended the President and his administration, saying that Trump did not commit an impeachable offense.
This story has been updated with additional developments Thursday.

Trump Now Throwing Rudy Giuliani Under The Bus: Trump Says “I hardly Know Him”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDEPENDENT)

 

It looks like President Donald Trump is finally tiring of his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. Gone are the days when he casually directed the leaders of foreign governments to “talk to Rudy” about matters of pressing national security policy.

A month ago, Trump offered a public show of support for the embattled former New York mayor; now, he says, he hardly knows the poor sap.

This week’s sudden split was a long time coming. In October, federal prosecutors nabbed Giuliani henchmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman as they attempted a one-way trip out of the United States. In the weeks since their arrest, Parnas provided audio and video recordings to the House Intelligence Committee that implicate Giuliani in corrupt foreign dealings. A federal criminal indictment against Giuliani appears imminent.

At the same time, three rounds of highly credible witnesses testified at House impeachment hearings that Giuliani put American foreign policy at risk by conducting an unofficial, Trump-approved intimidation campaign against American-allied Ukraine. The goal? To deliver damaging political dirt on political rival Joe Biden. Trump mega-donor and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland asserted under oath that Giuliani’s behavior amounted to a corrupt quid pro quo.

Now, at last, Trump is pulling the plug on another failed business venture. In a bizarre interview with disgraced former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly, the president disavowed ever sending Giuliani to Ukraine. Giuliani, he argued, must have been operating independently. 

“I didn’t direct him,” Trump told O’Reilly.. “But he’s a warrior. Rudy’s a warrior. Rudy went. He possibly saw something… Rudy has other clients, other than me.”

Gordon Sondland: We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt

Even by the standards of Trump’s well-known disloyalty, his comments to O’Reilly represent a stunning willingness to throw even his closest advisers to the wolves. Of course, the idea that Giuliani acted on his own is risible — the official transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky includes a direct instruction to “talk to Rudy.” Trump’s comments are an act of desperation, a last-ditch attempt to cut off the cancerous limb that is Giuliani’s ineptitude. 

Friendship with Donald Trump is a fleeting affair filled with reputational risks. Just ask Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, currently serving three years in federal prison for his role in covering up Trump’s hush-money payments to porn stars and mistresses. By the end,of Cohen’s sordid saga, Trump claimed to barely know a man he had worked with for more than a decade.

Or take former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who went from Trump confidante to personal nemesis in the span of only 11 dizzying days. Or former Senior Adviser Steve Bannon, who guided Trump’s campaign and occupied a plush White House office until Trump fired him. Trump spent weeks dragging Bannon in the press as “sloppy” and a crybaby who couldn’t handle the pressures of government. 

For all his laughable incompetence, Giuliani represents a far more dangerous challenge for Trump than Bannon, Scaramucci or even Cohen. Giuliani is every bit as transactional as Trump. On one occasion last week, Giuliani claimed he had an “insurance policy” to ensure Trump didn’t turn on him — evidence that, for all their camaraderie, Giuliani knows the best way to handle Trump is through mutually assured destruction. 

With pressure mounting on Giuliani to testify under oath about his shady dealings in Ukraine, Trump has every reason to put miles between himself and his personal attorney. Trump’s claim that Giuliani was just a freelancer don’t hold water. It is too cute by half to assert that Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine just happen to match one-for-one with the quid pro quo Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted to on live television

It doesn’t help that Giuliani has admitted on multiple occasions in rambling Fox News interviews that he acted at Trump’s direction — a self-serving effort to shield himself from legal fallout in much the same way Trump now seeks to shield himself from Giuliani. In a White House governed by opaque dealings, the Trump-Giuliani relationship is one of the few transparent elements.

President Trump is trying his best to wash his hands of Rudy Giuliani’s lethal radioactivity. Unfortunately for Trump, Giuliani is a fellow expert in the fair weather friendships of high-level politics. How Giuliani responds to Trump’s latest incitement will determine whether the White House survives the gathering impeachment storm.

The Real Reason Trump Withheld Military Is A Favor To Putin?

The Real Reason Trump Withheld Military Aid To UKraine Is A Favor To Putin?

 

This is just an oped on my part, I am only giving you my opinion about this issue. This is something that I have thought to be the truth ever sense the Ukraine story broke. As most of the world knows President Putin of Russia took the State of Crimea by military force from the country of UKraine a few years ago and Russian forces have been at war with the nation of UKraine in the east of that country ever sense. So, of course Mr. Putin does not want the US selling military arms to the nation of UKraine because those weapons are being used against his Russian soldiers on the battle field. I simply believe that it only makes sense that Mr. Putin wanted Mr. Trump to freeze that weapons sale to the Ukrainian government. As most of the world realizes, including the Republicans in the US Congress and Senate, Mr. Trump is nothing but a Putin Patsy. Now because of all of Mr. Trumps habitual lying he has found himself on the impeachment hot seat, it isn’t like he can actually tell the truth about his collusion with the Russian government to undermine an American Ally. These are just my thoughts, right, wrong or only somewhat correct, or not. What are you thoughts on this matter?

MH17 disaster: Phone-taps ‘show Russia directed Ukraine rebels’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

MH17 disaster: Phone-taps ‘show Russia directed Ukraine rebels’

An investigator inspects the wreckage of flight MH17Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe plane was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine

An international inquiry into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 believes high-level Russian officials were directing separatists in eastern Ukraine linked to the attack.

Investigators allege a top aide of President Vladimir Putin was in contact with rebel leaders on a regular basis.

All 298 people on board were killed when a missile struck the plane over rebel-held territory on 17 July 2014.

Russia’s foreign ministry has rejected the latest findings.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said international investigators had manipulated the inquiry to suit a predetermined conclusion.

Investigators have charged four people, including a separatist defence chief. The suspects are due to go on trial, probably in absentia, in April 2020.

What do the investigators say?

The Netherlands-based inquiry team have not linked Russia directly to the attack on the plane but they say the phone-taps show contact with two of the four suspects already charged with murdering the passengers and crew.

While MH17 is not mentioned in the phone-taps, provided by Ukraine’s SBU intelligence, investigators believe Moscow officials knew what was going on on the ground and had influence over “administrative, financial and military matters” in the separatists’ self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

Media captionHow does a Buk missile system work?

The inquiry has already said the Bukh Telar missile launch system came from Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based at Kursk.

They are now appealing for more witnesses to come forward.

Who are the high-level Russians?

The inquiry team names Vladislav Surkov, a former Kremlin strategist and deputy prime minister, and Sergey Aksyonov, the man placed in charge of Crimea when it was occupied and annexed by Russia months before.

They say Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is also mentioned in several calls.

Map shows the route taken by flight MH17

“The indications for close ties between Russian government officials and leaders of the DPR raise questions about their possible involvement in the deployment of the Buk Telar which brought down flight MH17 on 17 July 2014,” said Andy Kraag, head of the criminal investigation division of Dutch police.

What is in the phone-taps?

Two of the suspects already charged are mentioned in the phone-taps. Igor Girkin was so-called defence minister in the DPR and, according to prosecutors, Sergei Dubinsky was his deputy.

DPR leaders always insisted they were volunteers not directed by anyone but the inquiry team says it has spoken to witnesses who say key figures were directed from within Russia.

They say DPR leader Alexander Borodai was recorded saying: “I’m carrying out orders and protecting the interests of one and only state, the Russian Federation. That’s the bottom line.”

They also quote Mr Borodai apparently talking to Vladislav Surkov a fortnight before the MH17 disaster talking about Russian reinforcements.

Media captionAn animated video from the Dutch Safety Board shows the damage to the plane and how it was caused

Investigators believe leading rebels were equipped by Russia’s FSB security service with secure phones that cannot be tapped and operate via the internet, apparently nicknamed “the glass”.

Sergei Dubinsky, they allege, called someone named Semenov saying: “Those are special phones, you cannot buy them. They are gotten through Moscow. Through FSB.”

Although four people have been charged and are due to go on trial in April, probably in absentia, it is thought more evidence could yet emerge from rebel ranks in the DPR.

The aim of the inquiry team is to find out who ultimately pushed the button that brought down MH17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and who was in charge.

The 298 who died included 193 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Belgians, four Germans, three Philippine nationals, one New Zealander and one Canadian.

Russia has argued that the investigation and trial is aimed at discrediting the country in the eyes of the international community.

Author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

‘Anonymous’ author warns that Trump ‘will not exit quietly,’ even if defeated or impeached

USA TODAY

The anonymous official who has written a scathing account of the presidency of Donald Trump suggests the president might refuse to leave office even if convicted in impeachment hearings or defeated narrowly in the 2020 election – and says Trump is preparing his followers to see either outcome as a “coup” that could warrant resistance.

“He will not exit quietly – or easily,” the author, self-described as a senior administration official, writes in A Warning, a book that builds on an explosive op-ed by the same unnamed author last year. USA TODAY obtained an early copy of the book.

“It is why at many turns he suggests ‘coups’ are afoot and a ‘civil war’ is in the offing. He is already seeding the narrative for his followers – a narrative that could end tragically.”

From ‘Anonymous’:Read key excerpts from inside Trump White House on Putin, Pence, Hillary

As the House of Representatives prepares to open public impeachment hearings Wednesday, the book also says that Trump ordered aides more than a year ago to pursue a “deliberate and coordinated campaign” to obstruct an impeachment inquiry and other congressional investigations. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has said he is considering obstruction of Congress as a possible Article of Impeachment.

The book’s author is identified only as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” and its forthcoming publication has created a firestorm over both its depiction of a dysfunctional president and the decision by the writer to remain anonymous.

Cover of "A Warning" by an anonymous senior Trump administration official.

“The coward who wrote this book didn’t put their name on it because it is nothing but lies,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

Many of the disclosures echo news stories that have portrayed the president as impulsive, sometimes uninformed and regularly willing to defy established norms. There is already no shortage of books by Trump critics, including former FBI director James Comey and others who have served in his administration, that raise questions about the president’s fitness for office.

But The New York Times op-ed in 2018 and the new book, being published next Tuesday by Twelve, have commanded enormous attention because the author had an inside view, often participating in small White House meetings where crucial decisions were made.

The author portrays himself or herself as sharing some policy views with Trump and initially having a positive if wary view of the possibilities of his presidency.

The author says the intended audience for A Warning isn’t those who closely follow politics but rather those who don’t, particularly voters from across the country who were drawn in 2016 to Trump’s promise to shake up the establishment.

Dropping Pence from the ticket?

The book says that Trump “on more than one occasion” discussed with staffers the possibility of dropping Vice President Mike Pence before the 2020 election.

“Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley was under active consideration to step in as vice president, which she did not discourage at first,” the author writes, saying some advisers argued that putting Haley on the ticket would help the president bolster his support among female voters.

In an interview Friday with USA TODAY, Nikki Haley dismissed out of hand the suggestion that she might replace Pence. In her new book, With All Due Respect, Haley offers a generally positive portrait of Trump, and the president rewarded her with a friendly tweet urging his millions of followers to buy a copy.

Pathway of impeachment:How it works, where we are

“Anonymous” depicts Trump as impatient, immoral, cruel, even dangerous as he rejects the limits placed on presidents by Congress and the courts.

As the 2018 midterm elections approached, the book says, the White House counsel’s office began to develop a “contingency plan” to shield the administration if Democrats gained control of Congress, and with that the ability to launch investigations and issue subpoenas. New lawyers were hired and internal procedures revamped, the author writes.

“The goal wasn’t just to prepare for a barrage of legislative requests,” the book says. “It was a concerted attempt to fend off congressional oversight. When Democrats finally took the House, the unspoken administration policy toward Capitol Hill became: Give as little as possible, wait as long as possible. Even routine inquiries are now routed to the lawyers, who have found unique ways to say “We can’t right now,” “Give us a few months,” “We’re going to need to put you on hold,” “Probably not,” “No,” and “Not a chance in hell.”

Trump impeachment inquiry:Early findings and how Republicans are opposing them

The author says the administration’s refusal to comply with congressional requests and even subpoenas “go beyond standard practice and have turned into a full block-and-tackle exercise against congressional investigators across an array of Trump administration controversies.”

On the president’s actions with Ukraine, now the heart of the impeachment inquiry, the author writes that the idea Trump was trying to battle corruption abroad – rather than gain some partisan political advantage at home – was “barely believable to anyone around him.”

But the book provides no significant new information or insights into that episode.

‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards

The author’s agent, Matt Latimer, said the author didn’t take an advance payment for the book and plans to donate a substantial amount of the royalties to nonprofit organizations that encourage government accountability and an independent press.

Among other allegations, the book says:

  • Several top advisers and Cabinet-level officials last year discussed a mass resignation, “a midnight self-massacre,” intended to call attention to what they saw as Trump’s questionable and even corrupt behavior. “The idea was abandoned out of fear that it would make a bad situation worse.”
  • If a majority of the Cabinet called for Trump’s removal under the rules of the 25th Amendment, Pence would have been willing to go along with them. But the author provides no evidence to back up that assertion, and Pence in recent days has strongly denied it.
  • Trump told officials that, if they took illegal actions on his behalf, he would give them presidential pardons. “To Donald Trump, these are unlimited ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards on a Monopoly board.”
  • Trump was “particularly frustrated that the Justice Department hasn’t done more to harass the Clintons.” The president suggested to his first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, that he might “un-recuse” himself from the Mueller inquiry into Russian election interference, presumably so he would feel free to order a more aggressive inquiry into Trump’s 2016 opponent. “You’d be a hero,” the president told him.

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.

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

Senator Chuck Grassley’s defense of whistle blower is better late than never

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER)

 

Chuck Grassley’s defense of whistleblower is better late than never

Chuck Grassley deserves credit for stepping up to the plate.

Grassley, the veteran Republican from Iowa, has for decades been the Senate’s foremost advocate for and defender of government whistleblowers. For nearly a week, though, some of us have wondered why Grassley remained silent as President Trump and his supporters repeatedly and harshly castigated the whistleblower who catalyzed the current Ukraine-related controversy. The silence continued even as the president urged that the whistleblower lose the identity-protection ordinarily due someone in his position.

Grassley made up for his silence today. He criticized Trump for the attacks, and said the whistleblower “appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected.”

At somewhat greater length, Grassley continued:

“No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts. Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country. When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first- and second-hand knowledge aren’t legal ones. It’s just not part of whistleblower protection law or any agency policy. Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.”

Grassley is entirely right, on all counts. The protocols call for the inspector general of the agency in question to determine the validity of the whistleblower’s status and the credibility of the information offered. In this case, the inspector general for the intelligence community, a Trump appointee, determined that the whistleblower status was indeed merited. We since have seen that most of the key information he offered was indeed accurate.

We also have seen Trump suggest that the whistleblower is a “spy” who should suffer “big consequences.” This is chilling. For anyone in a senior position in government to threaten retaliation against a whistleblower is almost always a significant violation of the law. For the president to do so, with the vast powers of his office, is more than a little sinister.

That’s why it is so important for someone with Grassley’s Senate seniority, credibility, and reputation for probity to speak up. The whistleblower’s information will stand or fall on its own merits, without any need to know who the whistleblower himself is, much less threaten him. The entire point of whistleblower statutes is to protect those who want to report malfeasance without reprisal, especially reprisal from the most powerful man on the planet.

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.


Listen to Today, Explained

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

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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.

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