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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative October 2019 news and views

Oct. 16

U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

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Trump Impeachment Inquiry

washington post logoWashington Post, Mulvaney emerges as a key facilitator of the campaign to pressure Ukraine, Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey and Greg Jaffe, Oct. 16, 2019. In late May, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney organized a meeting that stripped control of the country’s relationship with Ukraine from those who had the most expertise at the National Security Council and the State Department.

mick mulvaney omb SmallInstead, Mulvaney, right, put an unlikely trio in charge of managing the U.S.-Ukraine account amid worrisome signs of a new priority, congressional officials said Tuesday: pressuring the fledgling government in Kiev to deliver material that would be politically valuable to President Trump.

The work of those “three amigos,” as they came to call themselves — diplomats Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, plus Energy Secretary Rick Perry — has come to light in recent days through newly disclosed text messages and the testimony of government witnesses appearing before an impeachment inquiry in Congress.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani pressed Trump to eject Muslim cleric from U.S., a top priority of Turkish president, Carol D. Leonnig, Ellen Nakashima, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger, Oct. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Rudolph W. Giuliani privately urged President Trump in 2017 to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, a rudy giulianitop priority of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to multiple former administration officials familiar with the discussions.

Giuliani, right, a Trump ally who later became the president’s personal attorney, repeatedly argued to Trump that the U.S. government should eject Fethullah Gulen from the country, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition on anonymity to describe private conversations.

Turkey has demanded that the United States turn over Gulen, a permanent U.S. resident who lives in Pennsylvania, to stand trial on charges of plotting a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan. Gulen has denied involvement in the plot.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: "America's Mayor" is a criminal with a long rap sheet, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 16, 2019. Former New rudy giuliani recentYork Mayor and Donald Trump’s “television lawyer” Rudolph Giuliani is being criminally investigated by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of wayne madesen report logoNew York (SDNY) – the position Giuliani once held – for fraud and racketeering violations.

Nevertheless, the alt-right, including the “libertarian right,” have rallied to support Giuliani, right, claiming the criminal investigation of his illegal activities in Ukraine and Turkey amount to nothing more than a political “witch hunt.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo adviser to decry politicization of State Dept. in impeachment probe testimony, Carol Morello and John Hudson​, Oct. 16, 2019. Michael McKinley, the senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until his sudden resignation last week, will tell House investigators that career diplomats were mistreated and that some had their careers derailed for political reasons, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

Palmer Report, Opinion: George Kent’s impeachment testimony yesterday was apparently devastating to Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Oct. 16, 2019. State Department official george kent oGeorge Kent testified behind closed doors yesterday to the House impeachment inquiry, the third current or former member of the Trump administration to testify over the past few days. We haven’t seen as many details leak out about Kent’s testimony thus far – but the few details that have surfaced appear to be devastating to Donald Trump.

Kent, right, is the State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary and thus the highest ranking member of the Trump administration to testify in the impeachment inquiry to date. He testified yesterday that after he raised concerns about the Ukraine extortion plot, a “supervisor” told him to “lie low,” according to Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly, who was in the hearing. Why is this important?

bill palmer report logo headerFor one thing, given his high ranking position, Kent doesn’t have a lot of “supervisors” at the State Department. So this means one of the highest ranking officials in the State Department ordered him to stay quiet about what he’d seen and heard. Not only does this establish a coverup and thus establish consciousness of guilt, it’s clear that the coverup went to some of the highest levels in the Trump regime. There’s no possible way that Donald Trump didn’t know about this coverup attempt.

George Kent also testified that Rudy Giuliani’s antics undermined “twenty-eight years” of U.S. foreign policy efforts in Ukraine, dating back to the fall of the Soviet Union. So not only did Kent establish that the Trump regime made a forceful attempt at a coverup, he established that Donald Trump’s henchman Giuliani did a historic level of damage by carrying out Trump’s corrupt extortion scheme.

Turk-Syrian War, U.S. Retreat

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ny times logoNew York Times, Turkey Urges Kurdish Fighters to Lay Down Arms and Leave, Ben Hubbard, Oct. 16, 2019 (print ed.). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey requested international support for his country’s battle against Kurdish fighters. Speaking to the Turkish Parliament, Mr. Erdogan, shown above in a file photo, said Turkey would not stop fighting until it had established a planned “safe zone” in Syria roughly 20 miles deep, from the town of Manbij in the west to the Iraqi border in the east.

Even as he spoke, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were planning to travel to Turkey with plans to meet Turkish officials on Thursday and press for a cease-fire.

U.S. 2020 Politics

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washington post logoWashington Post, Warren faces first sustained attack in debate that begins with unified condemnation of Trump, Toluse Olorunnipa, Chelsea Janes and Matt Viser. Oct. 16, 2019. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose steady stream of plans have propelled her to the top of the Democratic presidential field, came under sustained attack for the first time during a raucous primary debate here Tuesday that revealed Democrats’ ongoing public struggle to define their beliefs and choose a standard-bearer to take democratic donkey logoon President Trump.

Warren (Mass.) faced direct challenges from several of the 11 other candidates onstage, who took her on over her policies, her fitness to serve as commander in chief and her willingness to question the motives of Democrats who support less transformational ideas.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) took turns criticizing Warren over her support for Medicare-for-all and her purist approach to populism.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It Was the Best of Warren. It Was the Worst of Warren, Frank Bruni, Oct. 16, 2019. Tuesday’s debate — the tensest yet — put the Democrats’ newly minted front-runner to the test. Pete Buttigieg went after Elizabeth Warren, wondering why she was so intent on abolishing private health insurance and suggesting that her stance would dangerously intensify political polarization in America.

Amy Klobuchar went after Warren, describing her Medicare for All plan as one big fat Republican talking point and Warren as a fantasist peddling “a pipe dream.”

Bernie Sanders went after her — well, sort of — by correctly noting her repeated refusal to admit what he already had, which is that Medicare for All would require a tax increase not just for affluent Americans but also for the middle class.

All of this was to be expected. All of it was, in fact, a great compliment to Warren. During both the opening stretch of the debate and subsequent ones, her prescriptions were the point of reference, her priorities set the terms of the discussion, and she was the candidate to whom the debate’s moderators kept returning so that she could respond to her rivals’ invocations of her.

And she stayed cool and confident under fire, sounding more grateful for the spotlight than fearful of the microscope. It was, for the most part, a fine performance.

tulsi gabbard june 26 2019 dem debate

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Tulsi Gabbard Is Doing Really, Really Right, Ericka Andersen, Oct. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Candidates are leaving potential Republican converts without options. With a few exceptions on particular policies, the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion Christians (some of whom are white evangelicals) — without options.

The exception is Representative Tulsi Gabbard (shown above in a file photo), the candidate making the most visible effort to help moderates and newbies feel included.

Media News

james fetzer

Wisconsin State Journal, Jury awards Sandy Hook father $450,000 for defamation by local conspiracy theorist, Chris Rickert, Oct. 16, 2019. A Dane County jury on Tuesday decided a village of Oregon conspiracy theorist (shown above in court) must pay the father of a boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings $450,000 for falsely claiming that the father circulated fabricated copies of his son’s death certificate.

It took the jury nearly four hours to decide on the amount James Fetzer must pay Leonard Pozner, whose son, Noah, 6, was the youngest victim of the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The award follows Circuit Judge Frank Remington’s ruling in June that Fetzer defamed Pozner with four false statements about the death certificate. The statements appeared in a book Fetzer co-authored and edited, and in his blog.

In his own statement after the jury delivered its decision, Pozner thanked the jury “for recognizing the pain and terror that Mr. Fetzer has purposefully inflicted on me and on other victims of these horrific mass casualty events, like the Sandy Hook shooting,” and emphasized that his case was not about First Amendment protections.

“Mr. Fetzer has the right to believe that Sandy Hook never happened,” he said. “He has the right to express his ignorance. This award, however, further illustrates the difference between the right of people like Mr. Fetzer to be wrong and the right of victims like myself and my child to be free from defamation, free from harassment and free from the intentional infliction of terror.”

Fetzer called the damages amount “absurd” and said he would appeal.

Fetzer — a professor emeritus of philosophy from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and prolific conspiracy theorist on a range of events — claims the Sandy Hook massacre never happened but was instead an event staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of an Obama administration effort to enact tighter gun restrictions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: In ‘Catch and Kill,’ Ronan Farrow Recounts Chasing Harvey Weinstein Story, Jennifer Szalai, Oct. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Farrow writes ronan farrowthat NBC tried to shut down his reporting about sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer. We live in polarized times, but one thing still seems to be shared across the political divide: sexual misconduct. As Ronan Farrow documents in his absorbing new book, Catch and Kill, mistreating women is a bipartisan enterprise.

This can make for some twisted alliances. Farrow describes how he put together his explosive 2017 exposé of numerous sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a longtime Democratic fund-raiser and “part of the brain trust around Hillary Clinton.” (Farrow’s article ran in The New Yorker in October 2017, five days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The Times published their article detailing harassment allegations against Weinstein.)

Farrow quotes gleeful emails between Weinstein and Dylan Howard, the editor of The National Enquirer, whose parent company, American Media Inc., was run by David Pecker, a staunch supporter of Donald J. Trump’s. Howard forwarded Weinstein some “dirt” on the actor Rose McGowan, who had tweeted the month before ronan farrow catch and kill Customabout “my rapist,” whom she didn’t name. “This is the killer,” Weinstein wrote. “Especially if my fingerprints r not on this.”

Catch and Kill gets its title from a tabloid practice that A.M.I. had honed over the years: purchasing a story in order to bury it. A.M.I.’s strategy is an essential part of this book’s narrative, but what Farrow suggests is that NBC News, which employed him at the time, did something with the Weinstein story that wasn’t entirely dissimilar. Instead of hush money, Farrow says, NBC officials used the institutional levers at their disposal to shut down his work on Weinstein — from intermittent discouragement to elaborate stonewalling to a legal review that turned out to be both labyrinthine nbc news logoand absurd.

They even ordered Farrow and his steadfast producer, Rich McHugh, to take the rather extraordinary step of halting their reporting; then, when Farrow’s article ran in The New Yorker, NBC released a statement saying that the reporting NBC officials saw (and that Farrow says they tried to impede) had not been up to snuff.

Oct. 15

Turk-Syrian War, U.S. Retreat

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia says its units are patrolling between Turkish and Syrian forces following pullout of U.S. troops, Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch and Erin Cunningham​, Oct. 15, 2019. The Russian Defense Ministry's announcement was a sign that the country was moving to fill a security vacuum after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria.

bashar al assad soldiers unsourced

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, center, with Syrian Arab Army officers (file photo via Syrian Arab News Agency)

SouthFront, Russian Military Police, Syrian Army Deployed In Manbij After US Troops Withdrawal, Staff and wire reports, Oct. 15, 2019. Commenting on the situation in the area, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Manbij and its surroundings are now in full control of the Syrian Army. The Defense Ministry said syrian flag wavingthat units of the Russian Military Police are patrolling the contact line between the Syrian Army and Turkish-backed forces northwest of Manbij.

US forces have withdrawn from the northern Syrian town of Manbij, a spokesman for the US-led coalition reported on October 15. A coalition of Turkish-backed militant groups announced an advance on Manbij. However, no large-scale clashes with the Syrian Army  took place.

Election Integrity & Operations

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U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

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Impeachment Inquiry Update   

djt rudy new giuliani Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani ran a shadow foreign policy to personally benefit Trump, ex-adviser testifies, Karoun Demirjian, Shane Harris and Rachael Bade​, Oct. 15, 2019 (print ed.). Fiona Hill, who resigned from her National Security Council post earlier this year, told lawmakers that Rudolph W. Giuliani’s dealings with Ukraine circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats.

Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, told impeachment investigators on Tuesday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer (and shown together with the president in a file photo), ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career fiona hilldiplomats in order to personally benefit President Trump, according a person familiar with her testimony.

Hill, shown at left in a file photo, who served as the senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, was the latest witness in a fast-moving impeachment inquiry focused on whether the president abused his office by using the promise of gordon sondland omilitary aid and diplomatic support to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.

In a closed-door session that lasted roughly 10 hours, Hill told lawmakers that she confronted Gordon Sondland, right, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about Giuliani’s activities which, she explained, were not coordinated with the officials responsible for carrying out U.S. foreign policy.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The dam is breaking, Bill Palmer, Oct. 15, 2019. Last night Democratic Congressman Denny Heck emerged from denny heck o CustomFiona Hill’s ten hour marathon testimony to the House impeachment inquiry, and while being careful not to prematurely reveal the details of what transpired, Heck simply said “the dam is breaking.” As the night went on, it became clear what he was talking about.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out John Bolton of all people advised Fiona Hill to go to a National Security Council lawyer months ago and document everything that was going on in Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. The New York Times says that Bolton compared Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine extortion to a “drug deal” and also implicated Mick Mulvaney as being in on it. This sent shockwaves. After all, just how ugly does your scandal have to be for John Bolton to be the good guy in the story? But there was more to come.

As the night went on, Rudy Giuliani confessed to Reuters that he took a half million dollars from the company being run by the Ukrainian guy who just got arrested. And really, why not confess? The SDNY already has his bank records, which are going to get him arrested for numerous international financial crimes anyway.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flanked by, from left, House Committee chairs Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings and Jerrold Nadler (photo by Politico).

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flanked by, from left, House Committee chairs Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings and Jerrold Nadler (photo by Politico).

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: The Congress Has to Draw the Line, Ralph Nader, Oct. 15, 2019. It is time for the House of Representatives to announce comprehensive articles of impeachment against the chronic outlaw and violator of the public trust President Donald J. Trump Ralph Naderwho won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote.

Six House Committees have been investigating and assembling for months the necessary evidence. Mr. Trump himself has taunted the House to impeach him. He has openly and brazenly defied Congressional subpoenas for documents and blocked subpoenaed witnesses from testifying. This obstruction of Congress is an ongoing impeachable offense a grave one in the opinions of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and the other framers of our Constitution, who knew the importance of critical separation of powers.

These Committees are documenting his massive obstruction of justice, otherwise known as blocking law enforcement and the rule of law through intimidation, firings, and other forms of political coercion. They are filling in the details of the ten categories of obstruction described in the Mueller Report. They are cataloguing all the ways Trump is using his office to enrich his businesses openly promoting his hotels before foreign governments and their agents.

Committee investigators are peeling off layer after layer of Trump's demanding from Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine to investigate a possible opponent to his re-election Joe Biden and his son, having suspended nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure Mr. Zelensky.

The "abuse of the public trust," in Alexander Hamilton's phrase, is overflowing. Over ten thousand Trump lies mean cover-ups, secrecy in government, deceiving innocent citizens about the air, food, water, and workplace danger, megalomania, about drug prices and health insurance for all. Lies matter; they tell us something about the President's mental instability, his detachment from reality, and the willingness of a large minority of the people to believe the fibs even when they are about their own crucial livelihoods, health, and safety.

What would Hamilton also think of the Commander in Chief saying that if he is impeached, there might be a civil war? Incitation to mass violence for his political survival is not a minor matter.

Then there are the lawless uses of armed force abroad anywhere Trump wants, regardless of the absence of Congressional appropriations or declarations of war.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani just confessed, Bill Palmer, Oct. 15, 2019. During his time as Donald Trump’s legal counsel, Rudy Giuliani has only consistently been good at one thing: confessing. Rudy has repeatedly gone on TV and blurted out aspects of Trump’s scandals that weren’t known to the public or to investigators. Now that Rudy himself has been cornered by federal investigators, he’s trying the old “go ahead and confess” strategy once again.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Monday evening the Wall Street Journal reported that the SDNY has already obtained and sifted through Rudy Giuliani’s bank records, and has spent months interviewing witnesses who have been testifying against Giuliani. This means they’ve had Rudy nailed to the wall since before they arrested his henchmen last week. The Feds already have documentation of Rudy’s illegal foreign payoffs, and he’ll be indicted for it. Rudy’s response tonight: yep.

rudy giuliani jail graphic CustomLate tonight, Reuters has reported that Giuliani (shown on a Palmer Report graphic) took half a million dollars from a company run by one of the Ukrainian guys who was arrested last week. So what’s their source? These three words from the article make it clear: “Giuliani told Reuters.”

That’s right, Rudy Giuliani just confessed that he took an illegal six figure payout from a company that was being indirectly run by a Ukrainian oligarch, meaning he violated federal law. Maybe Rudy figures that since he’s been nailed anyway, he might as well try to normalize his crime by confessing to it. Either that, or he’s too far gone to be able to control what’s coming out of his mouth. In any case, Rudy just confessed to the crime that’s going to put him away.

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment crisis shines a spotlight on Trump’s state of mind, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker, Oct. 15, 2019 (print ed.). The president has bullied and projected, portrayed himself as a victim and struck an authoritarian tone as he battles the biggest threat to his presidency so far.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senior State Dept. Ukraine Expert Says White House Sidelined Him, Nicholas Fandos, Kenneth P. Vogel and Michael D. Shear Oct. 15, 2019. The official, George Kent, told impeachment investigators he was cut out of Ukraine policymaking and told to “lay low.”

A senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy told impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he was all but cut out of decisions regarding the country after a May meeting organized by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, describing his sidelining by President Trump’s inner circle as “wrong,” according to a lawmaker who heard the testimony.

The revelation from George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, emerged as he submitted to hours of closed-door testimony to the House committees investigating how President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

Despite an edict by the White House not to cooperate with what it has called an illegitimate inquiry, Mr. Kent was one of a procession of top officials who have made the trip to the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, unspooling a remarkably consistent tale. They have detailed how Mr. Trump sought to manipulate American policy in Ukraine to meet his goals, circumventing career diplomats and policy experts and inserting his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani into the process, raising alarms in the West Wing and throughout the government.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions, Eric Lipton, Oct. 15, 2019. The charges were announced as President Trump, having allowed Turkish-backed forces to invade Syria, is looking to take a tougher stand against Turkey.

The Justice Department on Tuesday sharply escalated economic pressure on Turkey by filing fraud and money-laundering charges against the country’s second-largest state-owned bank, accusing it of helping Iran evade United States sanctions.

The charges against the institution, Halkbank, came as the administration sought ways to project that it was taking a tough line with Turkey after President Trump effectively signaled this month that the United States would not stand in the way of Turkey’s desire to send forces into northern Syria.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House Democrats to huddle about the accelerating Trump impeachment inquiry, John Wagner​, Oct. 15, 2019. As they democratic donkey logoreturn from recess, lawmakers have summoned another key State Department official to testify behind closed doors on Tuesday about the Ukraine controversy.

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, has been summoned to testify about a campaign by Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, to pressure Ukraine into investigating the president’s political rival, former vice president and 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.

ny times logoNew York Times, No ‘Ethical Lapse’ in Ukraine and China Work, Hunter Biden Says, Katie Glueck and Stephanie Saul, Oct. 15, 2019. In an interview with ABC News, the former vice president’s son rejected as “ridiculous” President Trump’s suggestions that he and his father had engaged in wrongdoing.

hunter bidenHunter Biden, left, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son, said in an interview released on Tuesday that he probably would not have been named to the board of a foreign company if his last name weren’t Biden and acknowledged “poor judgment,” but he rejected suggestions by President Trump that he and his father had engaged in wrongdoing.

“Did I make a mistake? Well maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with ABC News. “But did I make a mistake based upon some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.”

“I don’t think that there’s a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden,” he said.

The interview comes two days after Hunter Biden pledged that he would not work for foreign-owned companies if his father became president, and just hours before the CNN/New York Times Democratic debate held here in central Ohio, an appearance that is critical to his father’s presidential hopes.

Hunter Biden’s sudden public comments signal the level of concern among Biden allies that the overseas dealings of the younger Mr. Biden had become a potentially damaging liability to his father’s campaign, and are the latest in a flurry of actions pro-Biden forces have taken to mitigate the issue this week ahead of the debate.

Trump Watch

washington post logodjt official portraitWashington Post, Fact Checker: Trump hits 13,435 misleading or false claims as day 1,000 draws near, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, Oct. 15, 2019. The president has significantly stepped up his pace of spouting exaggerated numbers, unwarranted boasts and outright falsehoods, with the Ukraine fallout playing a big role in the uptick.

U.S. 2020 Politics

democratic debate promo october 2019 12 candidates

ny times logoNew York Times, For Tonight’s Democratic Debate, Get Ready for Biggest Stage Ever, Shane Goldmacher and Adriana Ramic, Oct. 15, 2019. A dozen candidates onstage will crowd the stage at once. Here are the key dynamics to watch for.

Tonight will be the biggest presidential primary debate in history: Twelve Democratic candidates will be stuffed on stage with former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts again at the center. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will be scrutinized democratic donkey logofollowing his heart attack. Senator Kamala Harris of California will try to reverse her fortunes. And second-tier candidates will seek to do something, anything to ensure a November debate spot.

But being the aggressor has yet to pay off in the primary debates. Ms. Harris’s June confrontation with Mr. Biden resulted in a temporary high. Former housing secretary Julián Castro’s September attack on Mr. Biden’s memory seemed to backfire. The question headed into the CNN/New York Times debate on Tuesday night: Can anyone make a splash without being the one who ends up soaked?

washington post logoWashington Post, A viral video landed him a job on the Sanders campaign. His resignation highlights the pitfalls of the quest for digital dominance, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Oct. 15, 2019.  The five-minute video features a parade of cable pundits, interspersing their harsh disapproval of Bernie Sanders with flattering clips of the senator from Vermont and presidential hopeful.

Released on YouTube earlier this month, the video racked up millions of views as it tore through social media, caught the eye of the senator’s top staff and landed its creator — a 34-year-old named Matt Orfalea, who got his start in reality television — a job on the campaign. That is, until his prior, and much less flattering, work came to light on social media, including a crude and intentionally falsified video from 2009 about Martin Luther King Jr., which Orfalea said was designed to prove a point about the risks of media manipulation.

U.S. Election Integrity

Roll Call, Opinion: The most important document you may ever read, Patricia Murphy, Oct 15, 2019. Senate Intelligence report on Russian interference should chill Americans who value our democracy. On the day that special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on election interference came out, cable news anchors strained to race through its 448 pages and describe the findings, all in the same breath. Computer sleuths hacked the document’s setting to let users search for “Trump,” “president,” “collusion” and “Russia.” Talking-head lawyers feverishly opined that Volume I contained less incriminating information than Volume II.

But around the country, voters mostly gave an “Is that all there is?” shoulder shrug and went back to their corners. Many members of Congress admitted they didn’t even bother to read it.

Nearly six months later, and to almost no fanfare last week while Congress was in recess, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the second of two installments of its own bipartisan investigation into roughly the same topic. The slim, 85-page report (here) reads like a Russian spy novel crossed with a sequel to Orwell’s most dystopian version of the future — right down to an interview with a paid Russian troll who said his experience in 2016, pitting American voters against each other with social media platforms of their own making, was like being “a character in the book ‘1984’ by George Orwell — a place where you have to write that white is black and black is white.”  

Using techniques the KGB tried on Soviet citizens during the Cold War, the committee described the hallmarks of the Russian disinformation campaign in 2016, including messages to erode Americans’ trust in investigative and political journalists; an emphasis on speed to win the first impression of readers, which is always the most resilient; topics designed to exploit racial divisions; and a volume so enormous that overwhelmed audiences can no longer discern what’s real from what’s not. Finally, almost all of the information was deceptive, or as one committee witness called it, a “firehose of falsehood.”

Far from Over

Read that list carefully and you’ll notice it could also describe much of Trump’s daily Twitter feed, a conclusion the committee did not touch, but one that’s hard to miss. Another key feature of both the Russian efforts and the president’s is that all are unconstrained by ideology. The committee reported that a single computer in Russia pushed out hundreds of both pro- and anti-Colin Kaepernick posts virtually simultaneously.

Why rile up Americans on both sides of an emotional racial controversy? It’s “like arming both sides of a civil war” before you have to deal with it yourself, a witness told Senate investigators. Ultimately, as CQ Roll Call’s Neils Lesnewski reported last week, the goal was to suppress African American voters, who were overwhelmingly for Clinton, and keep at least a small portion from bothering to go to the polls at all.

Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics.

Reuters, How Amazon.com moved into the business of U.S. elections, Nandita Bose, Oct. 15, 2019. Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud computing arm is making an aggressive push into one of the most sensitive technology sectors: U.S. elections. The expansion by Amazon Web Services into state and local elections has quietly gathered pace since the 2016 U.S. presidential vote. More than 40 states now use one or more of Amazon’s election offerings, according to a presentation given by an Amazon executive this year and seen by Reuters.

amazon logo smallSo do America’s two main political parties, the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the U.S. federal body charged with administering and enforcing federal campaign finance laws.

While it does not handle voting on election day, AWS -- along with a broad network of partners - now runs state and county election websites, stores voter registration rolls and ballot data, facilitates overseas voting by military personnel and helps provide live election-night results, according to company documents and interviews.

Canadian Elections Monday

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), The "Canadian Trump" makes a power run, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 15, 2019.  onservative Party leader Andrew Scheer is hoping to oust the wayne madesen report logoLiberal Party government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the upcoming October 21 parliamentary election.

canadian flagScheer’s policies have been likened to those of Donald Trump. Scheer’s policies on the environment and immigration are definitely further to the right than those of his hard-line Conservative Party predecessor as prime minister, Stephen Harper.

Transitions

washington post logoWashington Post, Rudy Giuliani’s latest divorce is bitter, expensive and very public, Roxanne Roberts​, Oct. 15, 2019. Giuliani’s private life has been splashed across New York tabloids for decades, and the lawyer representing his estranged wife thinks Giuliani is concealing money while working pro bono for President Trump. As a central figure in the Ukraine impeachment scandal, the exact nature of Giuliani’s clients and income is of interest to more than divorce lawyers.

rudy giuliani recent“My divorce is my personal business,” Giuliani (right) texted me last week. “I feel betrayed by a man that I supported in every way for more than 20 years,” Judith Giuliani told the New York Times last month. “I’m sad to know that the hero of 9/11 has become a liar.”

There’s never a good time for a nasty split, but perhaps this is the very worst of times for Giuliani. Giuliani, 75, is leaving this marriage the same way he entered it: with blaring headlines, tabloid updates and so much drama.

“He digs it,” says Ken Frydman, spokesman for his 1993 mayoral campaign. “He loves the attention. It’s sport for him — and a lack of judgment.”

In May 2000, New York’s two-term mayor called a news conference and announced a separation from his second wife, television anchor Donna Hanover. It was also a public acknowledgment of his year-long relationship with Judith Nathan, whom he praised as a “very, very fine woman.” The separation, however, was allegedly a surprise to his wife, who said she found out her 16-year marriage was ending by watching television.

A surprise, but also not surprising: Hanover started dating Giuliani when he was married to his first wife, Regina Peruggi. An eternal mystery: When the mistress becomes the wife, why is she shocked when another mistress enters the scene? (“Job opening,” goes the old joke.) The New York papers alluded to other indiscretions, but nothing serious became public until the infamous news conference.

Judith Giuliani, 64, receives $42,000 a month in alimony, an amount she claims is peanuts compared with the $230,000 per month they spent as a couple, according to the New York Times. Her lawyer, Bernard Clair, reported that Giuliani earned millions working at the law firm Greenberg Traurig: Almost $8 million in 2016 and $9 million in 2017. He also claims that by working pro bono for Trump, his client’s husband is deliberately concealing income and working with people who will have to “reimburse him” at a later date.

Giuliani, on the other hand, is pleading poverty. Because he is working for free and paying his own expenses, his lawyer says he can’t afford to support his wife in the lifestyle to which she became accustomed and had to borrow money to pay taxes.

Media News

Waterbury Republican-American, Forerunner for women’s newsroom roles had city roots, Tracey O’Shaughnessy, Oct. 15, 2019. Laura Joan Quinn was a Waterbury native and pioneer in women’s representation in newsrooms. In October 1974, a 27-year-old woman from Waterbury published a 24-part series on “Women’s Rights Issues” in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

The series — an exhaustive examination of women in the workplace, on TV, in marriage, in divorce, in taxes, in rape and abortion and even in the classified ads —ran over the course of seven weeks in the now-defunct Bulletin. It won a citation from the American Bar Association and shone a light on reporting done by a woman about women.

That the series even ran — in 24-parts, a far-reaching use of space, impossible by today’s standards — was stunning in itself. But that the Waterbury reporter who wrote it — working at the paper’s suburban bureau — would even have a job with the Philadelphia Bulletin was more surprising still. Only the year before, the reporter laurie quinnfiled a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because the newspaper — like most, at the time— labeled its classified job openings by sex.

Yes, dear Millennials, once upon a not-very-long-time ago, job advertisements were divided by gender — “Male” jobs were professional, technical and well-paying; and “Female” jobs were secretarial, assistant, lower-paying positions.

And Laurie Quinn, daughter of then-Superior Court Public Defender, Raymond J. Quinn, Jr., knew that was more than unfair. It was also illegal.

A frayed and yellowing notice by the Bulletin that as of Aug. 29, 1973, the paper would no longer list jobs with reference to sex, was among the many effects found in the Brussels, Belgium, apartment of Quinn, who died of natural causes Sept. 26 at 72. I was able to access it — and the series Quinn wrote — out of the generosity of her sister, Alice Quinn. Ironically, it was the same day I received my review copy of “She Said,” the Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey book about breaking the sexual harassment story that ignited the #MeToo movement.

That book — to say nothing of The New York Times reporters who wrote it — must have seemed unthinkable to Laurie Quinn 43 years ago. Unimaginable, and yet made possible by fierce, feisty reporters like Quinn.

If we think of women in journalism at all, we focus on the big names: Martha Gellhorn, the maverick war correspondent; or Katharine Graham, helming the Washington Post after her husband’s suicide; or Joan Didion, breaking open the California subculture for all to see. But the story of women elbowing their way into reporting and editing positions began with hundreds of well-educated, scrappy women, who knew that if they were held back from reporting positions, their stories would never get told.

One of them was Laurie Quinn.

Scrappy, pugnacious, witty and dogged, Quinn, a graduate of Notre Dame Academy, Rosemont College and the Annenberg School of Communications, was among the earliest wave of women to break into the male-dominated newspaper business. Newspapers, where average staffs are now 38% female, are still male-dominated, although in online news organizations, representation is closer to 50%.

“She was a good writer, a very clear writer, and she really was almost obsessed with justice,” said Laurie’s sister, Alice Quinn, former executive director of the Poetry Society of America.

But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Laurie Quinn was breaking into the field, getting a news reporting job, let alone one of any significance, was virtually impossible.

“In the 1960s, a woman’s career trajectory at Newsweek could include roles as a mail girl, clipper, researcher and reporter,” wrote Stav Ziz in the magazine recently. “But almost uniformly, that’s where it ended. Only men were hired or promoted to staff writer.” In 1969, one of those researchers, Judy Gingold, learned that such a practice violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The following March, 46 women from Newsweek filed a complaint with the federal government charging the magazine with bypassing women for top writing positions because of their sex. At the time, most of those women worked as researchers, not news reporters. Those who did work in the newsroom were ghettoized into the food, fashion and society pages.

Four years after the Newsweek complaint, six female employees of The New York Times filed a similar sex-discrimination class-action suit, subsequently joined by nearly 600 other women. In 1978, the Times settled out of court, agreeing to place more women in reporting and upper-management positions. This is the watershed case that brought people like Anna Quindlen and Pulitzer-Prize winner Nan Robertson to The New York Times.

By that time, Laurie Quinn was in Philadelphia, working for the Bulletin, but determined to slay another Goliath. This time it was the then-monopoly that was AT&T. “She was going to take on AT&T, that it was a strangulating hold,” said Alice Quinn.

In 1980, Laurie Quinn signed a contract with Knopf to write a book on the company. When federal regulators broke up AT & T in 1983-’84, the book fizzled. In 1987, she followed with a book proposal on the incipient European Union, which officially formed six years later. That book, too, failed to come to fruition. By then, Quinn was living in Brussels, eeking out a living as a freelancer for Reuters, Newsday and other publications.

She would never work full-time for another news organization, for reasons as nebulous as they were emotionally complex. “She was harboring the hope of writing a book for a long time and her hopes were dashed, twice,” her sister Alice said.

How much of what happened to Quinn — a brilliant start followed a sputtering inability to gain traction — had to do with her sex and how much with her own obsessive tendencies is unclear. We tell stories of the victors. The many women —and men — who petered out remain lost in a miasma of rue.

Yet to read Quinn’s comprehensive stories on women — sandwiched as they were between the bruising columns of Art Buchwald and Mike Royko — is to see society brazenly dismembered from a distaff place. It’s not just that Quinn and so many like her sought to dismantle what today’s feminists call a “patriarchal system.” It’s that the environment was so saturated by sexism, that many Americans – in and out of newsrooms – likely never imagined it another way.

To read a young Laurie Quinn reporting on depression among women and the pressure on women to be “sexually attractive” “for the purposes of security,” in 1974 is to see the beginning of a movement that would topple male superstars from Charlie Rose to Placido Domingo. It started with local girls, at local newspapers, looking around and saying, “Something is not right.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Violent Video Was Product of Right-Wing Provocateurs and Trump Allies, Staff report, Oct. 15, 2019. The gruesome video that showed a fake President Trump killing journalists and political opponents was played at a meeting of a pro-Trump group.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Reporting on a President Who Wants to ‘Kill Journalism,’ Joshua Hammer, Oct. 15, 2019. Rappler, one of the country’s most popular media platforms, has incurred President Duterte and his supporters’ wrath by investigating his extrajudicial killing campaign.

Since it went live in January 2012, Rappler has become one of the country’s most popular and influential media platforms, mixing reporting with calls for social activism. Today the site attracts an average of 40 million page views and 12 million unique visitors a month, figures that more than double during the Philippines’ election season. Rappler’s reporters, most of whom are in their 20s, have exposed government corruption and researched the financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest of top political figures.

Global News myanmar execution reuters photo

Execution: This photo was taken on the day the 10 Rohingya men were killed. Paramilitary police officer Aung Min, left, stands guard behind them. The picture was obtained from a Buddhist village elder, and authenticated by witnesses (distributed by Reuters).

ny times logoNew York Times, How Myanmar Covered Up Ethnic Cleansing, Hannah Beach and Adam Dean, Oct. 15, 2019. Officials insist the persecution of Rohingya Muslims never happened. Our correspondent visited Rakhine State and found a different story.

#MeToo Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Survey finds evidence of widespread sexual violence at 33 universities, Nick Anderson, Susan Svrluga and Scott Clement, Oct. 15, 2019. About one-quarter of undergraduate women say they have been victims of sexual touching or penetration without consent since starting college, according to a survey this year on sexual assault and misconduct at 33 major universities.

The survey released Tuesday was the second from the Association of American Universities in recent years to document the disturbing prevalence of sexual violence at prestigious public and private schools. A 2015 study involving many of the same universities found broadly similar patterns of sexual misconduct.

Higher Education / Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Student tracking, secret scoring: How college admissions offices rank prospects before they apply, Douglas MacMillan and Nick Anderson, Oct. 15, 2019. U.S. colleges are collecting more data about prospective students than ever before, and at many schools, this data is used to determine how much attention colleges pay a potential student in the recruiting process.

To learn more about prospective students, admissions officers at the University of Wisconsin-Stout turned to a little-known but increasingly common practice: They installed tracking software on their school website.

When one student visited the site last year, the software automatically recognized who she was based on a piece of code, called a cookie, which it had placed on her computer during a prior visit. The software sent an alert to the school’s assistant director of admissions containing the student’s name, contact information and details about her life and activities on the site, according to internal university records reviewed by The Washington Post. The email said she was a graduating high school senior in Little Chute, Wis., of Mexican descent who had applied to UW-Stout.

The admissions officer also received a link to a private profile of the student, listing all 27 pages she had viewed on the school’s website and how long she spent on each one. A map on this page showed her geographical location, and an “affinity index” estimated her level of interest in attending the school. Her score of 91 out of 100 predicted she was highly likely to accept an admission offer from the school.

Oct. 14

Turks Attack Syrian Kurds (Index)




Syrians in Hasakeh celebrating news of the government's Syrian Arab Army (SAA) moving north to protect them from the Turkish forces of Recep Tayyip Erdogan (5:29 min. video distributed by Videopress via Syrian government news agency SANA)

washington post logoWashington Post, Syrian troops enter towns in northeast as Turkey warns of wider offensive, Erin Cunningham, Sarah Dadouch and Kareem Fahim​, Oct. 14, 2019. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (below left) took up positions Monday in several key towns across northeastern Syria, state media and a war monitoring group reported, following a last-minute agreement with local Kurdish fighters to ward off a Turkish assault.

syrian flag wavingSyrian troops deployed to Ain Issa and Tabqa — on the outskirts of Raqqa — and raised the Syrian flag over government buildings in cities such as Qamishli and Hasakeh, according to pro-government media. One report, in al-Watan newspaper, said government forces had reached the towns of Kobane, a garrison for Syrian Kurdish militants, and Manbij, where U.S. troops had been stationed.

bashar assad new hsIn Ain Issa, the headquarters of the Kurdish-led administration, government troops arrived atop pickup trucks waving Syrian flags, according to images published by state news agency, SANA. The return of Assad’s forces to northeastern Syria, while welcomed by some residents amid the Turkish offensive, marks a stunning reversal for Syrian Kurdish authorities, whose fighters controlled a wide swath of territory and enjoyed U.S. military and financial support in their battle against the Islamic State.

Syrian map Oct. 14, 2019 southfont Custom 2

Movement Of Syrian Army Within SDF-held Area (SouthFront.org map)

SouthFront, Map Update: Movement Of Syrian Army Within SDF-held Area, Staff and wire reports, Oct. 14, 2019.  A brief overview of the recent developments in Syria:

  • The US Defense Secretary announced that US troops will remain in the al-Tanf area and ‘elsewhere’, but not in northern Syria;
  • Syrian Arab Army (SAA) units continues entering into the SDF-controlled area;
  • Pro-Turkish forces continue developing Operation Peace Spring. They captured Iqsas, Ayn Arous, Badee’ and Jasim al-Ali, Darbasiyah and several other points;\
  • Clashes in Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn are ongoing.
  • More excerpts below, such as: New York Times, Syrian War Live Updates and SouthFront, Analysis: Turkey's Syrian National Army And Myth Of United Syrian Opposition.

U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

Impeachment Inquiry Update   

washington post logoWashington Post, FEC chair warns charges against Giuliani associates ‘just the tip of the iceberg,’ Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 14, 2019. Yet the agency in charge of enforcing campaign finance laws has been effectively paralyzed since the departure of its Republican vice chair in August.

ellen weintraubFederal Elections Commission (FEC) Chair Ellen Weintraub, right, says the charges against two associates of President Trump's personal lawyer for scheming to funnel foreign money to U.S. politicians are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“There may well be a lot of money that is slipping into our system that we just don’t know about,” Weintraub said in a Friday interview.

And the question of whether Trump acted inappropriately by pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate 2020 political rival Joe Biden is at the core of the House's impeachment inquiry.

But the FEC is effectively paralyzed: The agency in charge of enforcing campaign finance laws has not been able to conduct any formal business since the departure of its Republican vice chair in August. It needs a quorum to function — and Trump has yet to appoint a fourth commissioner. Weintraub, a Democrat who has chaired the commission three times since her 2002 appointment by President George W. Bush, is very concerned — and says voters should be, too.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fiona Hill told the Trump White House to go screw itself before her testimony today, Bill Palmer, Oct. 14, 2019. Earlier this evening we learned, courtesy of Democratic Congressman Denny Heck’s impromptu press conference, that former Trump White House official Fiona Hill delivered devastating testimony against Donald Trump today. The thing is, because the testimony of related witnesses is still pending, most of the details of what she said aren’t going to come out just yet. That said, one detail about her testimony did just surface, and it’s a game changer.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Trump White House told Fiona Hill that while she was allowed to show up and testify to the House impeachment inquiry today, she wasn’t allowed to discuss a number of topics, due to executive privilege. But according to NBC News, Hill told the Trump regime that because no such privilege applies when a suspected crime is involved, she was going to go ahead and tell the impeachment inquiry everything.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: God Is Now Trump’s Co-Conspirator; Bigotry, both racial and religious, is the last refuge of a scoundrel, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 14, 2019. Listening to the speech William Barr, the attorney general, gave last week at the University of Notre Dame Law School, I found myself thinking of the title of an old movie: “God Is My Co-Pilot.” What I realized is that Donald Trump’s minions have now gone that title one better: If Barr’s speech is any indication, their strategy is to make God their boss’s co-conspirator.

Given where we are right now, you might have expected Barr to respond in some way to the events of the past few weeks — the revelation that the president has been calling on foreign regimes to produce dirt on his domestic opponents, the airport arrest of associates of the president’s lawyer as they tried to leave the country on one-way tickets, credible reports that Rudy Giuliani himself is under criminal investigation.

Alternatively, Barr could have delivered himself of some innocuous pablum, which is something government officials often do in difficult times. But no. Barr gave a fiery speech denouncing the threat to America posed by “militant secularists,” whom he accused of conspiring to destroy the “traditional moral order,” blaming them for rising mental illness, drug dependency and violence.

william barr at dojConsider for a moment how inappropriate it is for Barr, left, of all people, to have given such a speech. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion; the nation’s chief law enforcement officer has no business denouncing those who exercise that freedom by choosing not to endorse any religion.

And we’re not talking about a tiny group, either. These days, around a fifth of Americans say that they don’t consider themselves affiliated with any religion, roughly the same number who consider themselves Catholic. How would we react if the attorney general denounced Catholicism as a force undermining American society?

And he didn’t just declare that secularism is bad; he declared that the damage it does is intentional: “This is not decay. It is organized destruction.” If that kind of talk doesn’t scare you, it should; it’s the language of witch hunts and pogroms.

So what’s going on here? Pardon my cynicism, but I seriously doubt that Barr, whose boss must be the least godly man ever to occupy the White House, has suddenly realized to his horror that America is becoming more secular. No, this outburst of God-talk is surely a response to the way the walls are closing in on Trump, the high likelihood that he will be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

djt nancy pelosi

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Impeachment Inquiry Live Updates, John Wagner​, Oct. 14, 2019. ​Trump renews call to unmask whistleblower; Hunter Biden does TV interview after decision to leave Chinese firm’s board, House investigators are preparing to hear from key witnesses in the impeachment probe this week, including the White House’s former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill today.

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Democrat suggests committee may not press whistleblower to testify in person, Felicia Sonmez, Oct. 14, 2019 (print ed.).  adam schiff squareHouse Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), right, said protecting the identity of the whistleblower who raised the alarm about President Trump’s communications with Ukraine is “our primary interest.”

Schiff made the statement in an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” He had previously said late last month that he expected his panel to hear from the whistleblower “very soon” pending a security clearance from acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire.

Turk-Syrian War Coverage (Cont.)

SouthFront, Analysis: Turkey's Syrian National Army And Myth Of United Syrian Opposition, Staff and wire reports, Oct. 14, 2019. Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring once again drew wide attention not only to the so-called Kurdish question, but also to attempts of Ankara (under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, below left) to create a unified Syrian opposition as an alternative to the Assad government.

According to official Turkish statements, the goal of the operation is to secure the southern Turkish border defeating “the terrorism” and allow up to 2 million of refugees to return to their homes. Nonetheless, there are no doubts that the operation, like previous military actions in the provinces of recep erdogan with flagAleppo, Lattakia and Idlib, will be used by Turkey to expand its own influence.

The Turkish-based Syrian Interim Government headquartered and Turkish-affiliated militant groups would be used as a tool of projecting Turkish military and political influence in the area. The Syrian National Army (SNA) are a brand of militant groups participating in the northeastern Syria offensive. Turkey’s Operations Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield demonstrated that the main goal of such groups is to serve as cannon folder on first line of the battle, while aircraft, battle tanks, artillery and special forces units of the Turkish Armed Forces do the main work. This allows Ankara to pretend that its actions in Syria are not military occupation, but a move needed to return the territory to the moderate Syrian opposition that opposes the ‘illegitimate regime’ of President Bashar al-Assad.

turkey flagIn the area of Greater Idlib, Turkish-backed factions formed the National Front for Liberation in May 2018, which was promoted as a moderate opposition coalition that would limit the influence of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and other al-Qaeda-linked groups. Despite claiming to have 70,000 fighters (sic), the coalition immediately lost a struggle for power to its al-Qaeda counterparts and became a subordinate to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. In 2018 and 2019, groups from the National Front for Liberation repeatedly supposed al-Qaeda operations against the Syrian Army.

Just a few days ahead of the start of Operation Peace Spring, Turkey attempted to unite the National Front for Liberation and the Syrian National Army. On October 4, the groups even released a statement claiming that they had merged. A few hours after the release, fierce clashes between the groups erupted over properties seized in the Afrin area. This put an end to the unification efforts at least for now.

ny times logokurd flagNew York Times, Syrian War Live Updates, Staff reports, Oct. 14, 2019. Assad’s Forces Move Into Area Hit by Turkey, Hours after reaching an agreement with Kurdish forces, the Syrian Army entered a key town near the Turkish border — a significant shift in the power dynamic; The European Union member states unanimously agreed to a ban on arms sales to Turkey; Russia’s expanding role in Syria is tempered by risks, analysts say.

donald trump gage skidmore portrait

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast, David E. Sanger, right, Oct. 14, 2019. All the warnings were there. But President Trump’s reliance on his instincts, and his relationships, led him to ignore the consequences of a move that has emboldened Russia, Iran david sangerand the Islamic State.

President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the words of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

American FlagDay after day, they have been caught off-guard, offering up differing explanations of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Erdogan, how the United States and its allies might respond, and even whether Turkey remains an American ally. For a while Mr. Trump said he acted because the Islamic State was already defeated, and because he was committed to terminating “endless wars” by pulling American troops out of the Middle East. By the end of the week he added 2,000 — to Saudi Arabia.

One day he was inviting Mr. Erdogan to visit the White House; the next he was threatening to “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it crossed a line that he never defined.

Mr. Erdogan just kept going.

U.S. 2020 Campaigns

ny times logoNew York Times, Missing From Warren’s 2020 Surge: Democratic Endorsements, Jonathan Martin, Oct. 14, 2019. Despite Senator Elizabeth Warren’s upward momentum, she lacks the support of a single governor, big-city mayor or fellow senator outside Massachusetts.

elizabeth warren o purpleSenator Elizabeth Warren, right, has built her following in part by taking pictures with thousands of voters deep into evening after campaign events, but her dinner audience here one night last month was far smaller. And Ms. Warren’s guests were more interested in hearing, and politely challenging, her campaign pitch than eagerly capturing the moment for posterity on their iPhones.

Addressing a few dozen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus at a Chinese restaurant a few blocks from the Capitol, she laid out her case for why she could unify Democrats, emphasized that she was not hostile to properly run businesses and made a soft sell to the lawmakers to support her presidential bid.

“She said, ‘Nobody could do this alone, I will need your help,’” recalled Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine, who attended the gathering and said Ms. Warren “was great.”

But just under a month since the family-style meal, the Massachusetts senator has the same small number of endorsements from congressional colleagues beyond her home state as she did beforehand: three.

ny times logoNew York Times, Young, Old, in Between: Facebook Ads Show Which Voters Candidates Want, Shane Goldmacher and Quoctrung Bui, Oct. 14, 2019.  Candidates have spent more money on Facebook than TV this year. See how the 12 Democrats who qualified for Tuesday’s debate are trying to reach specific voters.

facebook logoWhen it comes to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Facebook ads, the odds are overwhelming that people seeing them were born before 1975. For Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the opposite is true: People born in 1975 or after are more than twice as likely to see his Facebook ads than those born earlier. A gender split is clear, too: About half of Mr. Sanders’s audience are men, while about two-thirds of Mr. Biden’s are women.

Collectively, the 19 current Democratic candidates for president have poured nearly $32 million into Facebook ads this year — more money than they have spent so far on television ads, a striking measure of the social network's ever-rising influence in politics. The heavy spending on Facebook comes even as leading party officials have raised alarms about the site’s role in American democracy.

Politico, Inside Mark Zuckerberg's private meetings with conservative pundits, Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman, Oct. 14, 2019. The lengthy, off-the-mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wrecord gatherings were held at one of the Facebook founder’s homes in California. They come as the social-media giant fends off accusations of liberal bias.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, has been hosting informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker in recent months to talk about issues like free speech and discuss partnerships.

The dinners, which began in July, are part of Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged “bias” against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies. "I’m under no illusions that he’s a conservative but I think he does care about some of our concerns,” said one person familiar with the gatherings, which multiple sources have confirmed.

News of the outreach is likely to further fuel suspicions on the left that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the White House and stay out of Trump’s crosshairs. The president threatened to sue Facebook and Google in June and has in the past pressured the Justice Department to take action against his perceived foes.

facebook logo“The discussion in Silicon Valley is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company,” said one cybersecurity researcher and former government official based in Silicon Valley. “So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.”

Facebook has been criticized in recent days, including by Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, for its ad policy, which exempts politicians from third-party fact-checking and arguably facilitates the spread of disinformation.

Consumer Protections

ny times logoNew York Times, E-Cigarettes Went Unchecked in 10 Years of F.D.A. Inaction, Katie Thomas and Sheila Kaplan, Oct. 14, 2019. A decade after Congress gave the F.D.A. the power to regulate tobacco products like e-cigarettes, the federal government has repeatedly delayed or weakened efforts that could have protected teenagers.

U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Fort Worth officer who fatally shot woman in her home has been charged with murder, police say, Derek Hawkins and Deanna Paul
Oct. 14, 2019. The white Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot a 28-year-old black woman in her home over the weekend has been charged with murder, authorities said Monday.

The officer, Aaron Dean, who resigned earlier in the day, was booked into the Tarrant County Jail, according to police. Bond has been set at $200,000, jail records show.

The charge came just days after Dean shot Atatiana Jefferson through a closed window in her Fort Worth home while responding to a welfare call in the early hours of Saturday morning. In such shootings, officers seldom face criminal charges, and they are rarely charged with murder.

The officer’s resignation and the outcome of multiple investigations into his actions are likely to serve as a stress test of relations between law enforcement the black community in the region, which is still reeling from the fallout of an earlier case involving a white officer who shot a black neighbor in his apartment. Local leaders have called for a probe of the department, and Jefferson’s family and their attorney want an independent review of Jefferson’s killing, saying they worry race may have played a role.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Woman Was Playing Video Game With Her Nephew When Shot by Police, Marina Trahan Martinez, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs atatiana jefferson family photoand Dave Montgomery, Oct. 14, 2019 (updated). A police officer fired the shot that killed Atatiana Jefferson from outside her bedroom window. A neighbor had reported two doors ajar.

Minutes before she was shot and killed by a Fort Worth police officer, Atatiana K. Jefferson, right, was playing video games in her bedroom with her 8-year-old nephew, a lawyer for her family said Sunday.

Ms. Jefferson, 28, was proud of being the “cool auntie” to her siblings’ children, and had stayed up into the wee hours of Saturday morning with her nephew, Xbox controllers in their hands, according to S. Lee Merritt, the family’s lawyer. But the pair grew concerned around 2:30 a.m., he said, when they heard rustling outside the house and saw flashlights.

Ms. Jefferson’s nephew was still in the bedroom when she was killed, the police said.

Media News 

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Pro-Trump group shows gruesome mass murder video at Trump Doral conference, Wayne Madsen, shown at left, Oct. 14, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped2019. WMR had planned to run a story for today’s issue on the far right and neo-Nazi connections of Canadian Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, who hopes to defeat incumbent Liberal Party prime minister Justin Trudeau in the October 21 parliamentary election. However, another story, more egregious in nature, broke over the weekend.

At a weekend gathering of a pro-Donald Trump group -- the American Priority Conference (APC) -- at Trump’s Doral country club resort outside of Miami, a doctored video was shown of a Trump caricature inside a crowded church shooting and stabbing to death other caricatures, including those of two former presidents of the United States and one current and three former presidential candidates, one of them John McCain, who donald trump jr croppeddied in 2018. Present at the Doral affair were Donald Trump, Jr., right, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1CD).

The revolting political message the doctored video conveys is one of Trump exhorting his extremist and violence-prone “base” to launch lethal assaults on Trump’s opponents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Macabre Video of Fake Trump Shooting Media and Critics Is Shown at His Resort, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 13, 2019. A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Trump shooting, stabbing and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times.

Several of Mr. Trump’s top surrogates — including his son Donald Trump Jr., his former spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis — were scheduled to speak at the three-day conference, which was held by a pro-Trump group, American Priority, at Trump National Doral Miami. Ms. Sanders and a person close Mr. Trump’s son said on Sunday that they did not see the video at the conference.

The video, which includes the logo for Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, comprises a series of internet memes. The most violent clip shows Mr. Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man opening fire inside the “Church of Fake News” on parishioners who have the faces of his critics or the logos of media organizations superimposed on their bodies. It appears to be an edited scene of a church massacre from the 2014 dark comedy film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

The disclosure that the video was played shows how Mr. Trump’s anti-media language has influenced his supporters and bled into their own propaganda. Mr. Trump has made attacks on the news media a mainstay of his presidency, and he tweeted a similar — but far less violent video — in 2017. In recent weeks as he has confronted impeachment proceedings, he has ramped up his attacks on the news media, repeatedly calling it the “enemy of the people.”

Mr. Trump stops in the middle of the church, pulls a gun out of his suit jacket pocket and begins a graphic rampage. As the parishioners try to flee, the president fires at them. He shoots Black Lives Matter in the head, and also shoots Vice News.

A person who attended the conference last week took a video of the clip on his phone and had an intermediary send it to a reporter for The Times. Parts of the video were posted on YouTube in 2018 by a user with a history of creating pro-Trump mash-ups.

The organizer of the event said in a statement on Sunday that the clip had been played at the conference, saying it was part of a “meme exhibit.” He denounced the video and said his organization was looking into how it was shown at the event.

Some of those in the church try to apprehend Mr. Trump. He fends them off and makes his way toward the altar, knocking over several pews. He wrestles a parishioner with a Vice News logo as a face to the ground and then shoots the person at point blank range. In the background, the former john mcCain oF.B.I. director, James B. Comey, is seen trying to get away.

From there, Mr. Trump attacks a range of his critics. He strikes the late Arizona senator John McCain, left, in the back of the neck. He hits the television personality Rosie O’Donnell in the face and then stabs her in the head. He strikes Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California. He lights the head of Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential rival, on fire.

He takes Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, hostage before throwing him to the ground. Then he strikes former President Barack Obama in the back and throws him against a wall.

Oct. 13

Turks Attack Syrian Kurds (Index)

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Excerpts below

U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

Impeachment Inquiry Update  

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washington post logoWashington Post, Envoy to say his denial of quid pro quo came from Trump, Aaron C. Davis and John Hudson, Oct. 13, 2019 (print ed.). The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, intends to tell Congress this week that the content of a text message he wrote denying a quid pro quo with Ukraine was relayed to him directly by President Trump in a phone call, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

gordon sondland oSondland, left, plans to tell lawmakers he has no knowledge of whether the president was telling him the truth at that moment. “It’s only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,” said the person familiar with Sondland’s planned testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

The Sept. 9 exchange between Sondland and the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine has become central to the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into whether the president abused his office in pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden and his son, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. The White House and its defenders have held up Sondland’s text, which included “no quid pro quo’s of any kind,” as proof that none was ever considered.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Gordon Sondland has sold Donald Trump out, Bill Palmer, Oct. 12, 2019. It’s not surprising that current U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland is testifying to the House impeachment inquiry this upcoming week after Trump originally blocked him from testifying last week. After all, the President Trump on Time Magazine's cover Feb. 27, 2017testimony floodgates are now open. What is more newsworthy is that details are leaking out about what Sondland is planning to say to the House – and it’s not good for Trump.

Gordon Sondland is a Donald Trump ally, but he’s in way over his head. Sondland is facing potential criminal culpability for his role in Trump’s Ukraine scandal, and at this point he’s surely wishing he’d never taken the gig. If he lies to the House, he’ll be indicted for perjury after Trump is gone. If he refuses to testify, he’ll eventually be indicted for obstruction of justice. The only safe way for him to return unscathed to his old life as a hotel financier is to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry as thoroughly as possible.

bill palmer report logo headerThis evening the Washington Post is reporting that Gordon Sondland plans to testify that when he told the State Department’s Bill Taylor that there was no quid pro quo, he was merely quoting what Donald Trump told him – and that he has no idea if Trump was telling the truth. This doesn’t incriminate Trump. But it wipes out Trump’s would-be defense that Sondland concurrently agreed with him that there was no quid pro quo. This is huge.

If this news gets back to Donald Trump before Gordon Sondland’s scheduled testimony this Thursday, Trump will surely want to find a way to stop Sondland from testifying. But it’s too late now. Sondland himself is clearly the source for this WaPo story. By putting it out there that he plans to sell Trump out, he’s setting things up so that there would be far too much backlash if Trump did try to pull the plug.

washington post logoWashington Post, How two Soviet-born emigres made it into elite Trump circles — and the center of the impeachment storm, Rosalind S. Helderman, Josh Dawsey, Paul Sonne and Tom Hamburger, Oct. 13, 2019. Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-born emigre, appeared at a dark time in Donald Trump’s djt jr lev parnas ron desantis fundraiser Custompresidential campaign. Less than a month before the election, major GOP donors had been spooked by the revelation that Trump boasted about grabbing women during a recording of the television show “Access Hollywood.”

Parnas (identified in the promo at right as a "steering committee" member with Donald Trump Jr. for a fund-raiser for successful Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis) had never been a player in national Republican politics. But the onetime stockbroker chose that moment to deliver a $50,000 donation to Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party, and it quickly opened doors.

The contribution helped propel Parnas and his business partner, Belarus-born Igor Fruman, on an extraordinarily rapid rise into the upper echelon of Trump allies — before they became central figures in the presidential impeachment inquiry.

By spring 2018, the two men had dined with Trump, breakfasted with his son and attended exclusive events at Mar-a-Lago and the White House, all while jetting around the world and spending lavishly, particularly at Trump hotels in New York and Washington. That May, a pro-Trump super PAC reported receiving a $325,000 donation from an energy company the duo had recently formed.

rudy giuliani lev parnas trump international CustomAs they scaled the ranks of Trump’s Washington, Parnas and Fruman demonstrated a remarkable facility for capitalizing on their newfound connections, according to people who observed them. They also appeared to be constantly in pursuit of new business ventures — “always hustling,” in the words of one Trump ally who interacted with them.

In 2018, they hired the president’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to serve as a consultant as they launched a security business — and then helped Giuliani, in turn, reach Ukrainian officials in his quest to find information damaging to Democrats. (See video clip here of Parnas with Giuliani at Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC,  along with still photo at right).

During a visit to Israel last summer sponsored by a pro-Israel charity, Parnas and Fruman were “mega-dropping Rudy’s name” as they snapped photos with well-known figures, according to former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who was also on the trip.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Defense just sold him out to the House impeachment inquiry, Bill Palmer, Oct. 13, 2019. When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi first announced she was starting the impeachment process against Donald Trump, it was fairly easy to predict that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Bill Barr would do everything they could to protect Trump. They’re corruptly loyal to him – and they’re so deeply involved in the criminal Ukraine plot, they’re going to prison unless they kiss his backside in the hope of a pardon.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Barr and Pompeo are now committing obstruction of justice felonies in the hope of fending off their inevitable fate behind bars. But when impeachment started, Palmer Report asked aloud whether Secretary of Defense Mark Esper would be so quick to throw his life away in the name of trying to save Donald Trump.

Esper is from the defense contractor industry, so he has absolutely no business running the Pentagon. But he’s only been on the job for a couple months and doesn’t appear to have been involved in the original Ukraine criminal plot. So once the House impeachment inquiry subpoenaed him for documents in the scandal, what would be do?

Mark Esper appeared on Face The Nation this morning and announced that he plans to fully cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, and that he’s already had the Defense Department’s General Counsel order all employees to retain all relevant documents.

It’s theoretically possible that Esper could be playing both sides. But by announcing that he plans to cooperate, he just gave away any leverage that he and Donald Trump might have had in court for arguing that they don’t need to be turned over. Esper appears to have decided that he’s not willing to go to prison in the name of protecting Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunter Biden will step down from board of Chinese firm, attorney says, Felicia Sonmez​, Oct. 13, 2019. Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, said Sunday that he will step down from his position on the board of a Chinese company, a move that comes amid escalating attacks from President Trump.

hunter bidenIn a statement released by his attorney, Hunter Biden, right, also said he would not serve on the boards of foreign-owned companies if his father wins the 2020 presidential election.

china flag SmallAt a rally in Minneapolis on Thursday night, Trump attacked both Bidens in his most personal terms yet, highlighting unsubstantiated claims about Hunter Biden and using profanity to describe Joe Biden’s tenure as vice president.

“Hunter, you know nothing about energy. You know nothing about China. You know nothing about anything, frankly,” Trump said. “Hunter, you’re a loser.” Mocking Hunter Biden’s lack of public appearances, Trump bellowed: “Whatever happened to Hunter? Where the hell is he? . . . burisma logoI have an idea for a new T-shirt . . . Where’s Hunter?”

Hunter Biden served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, left, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors on suspicion of abuse of power and unlawful enrichment. Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The media needs to focus on the real corruption, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 13, 2019. Hunter Biden and his father are the victims jennifer rubin new headshotof a smear campaign by the most corrupt president in history, who falsely alleges that Joe Biden intervened in Ukraine to protect his son who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.

(“Trump has alleged that Vice President Biden in 2016 threatened to withhold billions of dollars in loan guarantees unless Ukraine fired the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, as a way to quash the probe and help his son. But U.S. and Ukrainian officials said the investigation at the time was dormant and that Shokin was fired for the opposite reason: failing to fight corruption.”)

Hunter Biden is taking a step that no other prospective presidential adult child in recent memory has undertaken. Moreover — and here is the most grossly underreported story of the Trump years — the Trump clan, even those working in the administration, continue to make a mint trading on their father’s name.

Bloomberg notes:

Biden’s pledge to avoid foreign work if his father wins the White House sets him apart from Trump’s children, who have continued working with foreign business partners from Dubai to Indonesia and India while his father sits in the White House. After Trump won the presidency in 2016, he handed the running of the Trump Organization to his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, and said they wouldn’t do any new overseas deals.

jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookMeanwhile, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, right, work in the White House without divesting themselves of business holdings or forgoing foreign transactions, thereby raising the possibility in the minds of foreign leaders that the two can be manipulated. The Post reported in February 2018: “Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience.”

President Trump unconstitutionally receives the benefits of foreign deals and refuses to release his tax returns that would reveal sources of income. And we’re supposed to be concerned that Hunter Biden, whose father is no longer in office, is serving on a Chinese company’s board? Something is terribly wrong with this picture.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Comey Would Like to Help, Matt Flegenheimer, Oct. 13, 2019 (print ed.). The former F.B.I. director wants an end to the Trump presidency. And yes, he knows you might think he caused it. James Comey slumps strategically in restaurants — all 6-foot-8 of him, drooping faux-furtively with his back to the room — and daydreams about deleting the civic-minded Twitter feed where a bipartisan coalition pronounces him a national disgrace.

He sleeps soundly — nine hours a night, he ballparks — and organizes the self-described “unemployed celebrity” chapter of his life around a series of workaday goals. “One of my goals has been to get to 10 consecutive pull-ups,” Mr. Comey (shown in a file photo) said in an interview, legs crossed on the back porch of his stately Virginia home. “I’m at nine now. So, I’ve been doing a lot of pull-ups.”

He writes and thinks and reads and worries from a tidy downstairs office surrounded by the trinkets of his past. What he is doing, exactly, is not entirely clear even to him. Rather than proceed with the standard arc of an erstwhile intelligence leader — think tanks, corporate boards, studied political silence — Mr. Comey has pledged to spend the next 13 months working to FBI logodrive Mr. Trump from power.

The former F.B.I. director, a lover of order, sees little of it in a norm-smashing president spiraling toward impeachment, riffing on “sick and deranged” Democrats at a recent rally and playacting the dialogue of F.B.I. officials like an insult comic. In this concern, Mr. Comey has ample company. In this company, he carries a kind of customized psychic baggage.

“Thanks for giving us Donald Trump,” an older woman heckled recently, adding an expletive as Mr. Comey strolled through a Yale Law School building, where he had come for a talk that focused largely on his fateful 2016 decisions and attendant personal anguish.

“Thank you for the feedback,” he told her.

California Fires, Power Shut-Off

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘This Did Not Go Well’: Inside PG&E’s Blackout Control Room, Ivan Penn, Oct. 13, 2019 (print ed.). Pacific Gas & Electric, the California utility whose equipment has been blamed for deadly wildfires, shut off power this week to prevent another blaze. But things quickly began going wrong as the company’s systems faltered and its website went down.

All told, more than 700,000 homes or businesses — from the state’s northernmost reaches to the outskirts of Silicon Valley — lost electricity beginning early Wednesday morning, and the state’s emergency center usually used for natural disasters was activated. Most residents had power restored by noon on Friday, and just over 12,000 were still without it on Saturday morning.

Things quickly began going wrong. PG&E’s communications and computer systems faltered, and its website went down as customers tried to find out whether they would be cut off or spared. As the company struggled to tell people what areas would be affected and when, chaos and confusion unspooled outside.

Turks Attack Syrian Kurds (Excerpts)

syria safezone southfront oct 9 2019 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, America’s Former Allies in Syria Team Up With Damascus Government, Ben Hubbard, Charlie Savage, Eric Schmitt and Patrick Kingsley, Oct. 13, 2019. America’s former Kurdish allies in Syria on Sunday announced a new deal with the government in Damascus — a sworn enemy of Washington that is backed by Russia — after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria.

The deal is a major turning point in the war as the U.S. abruptly abandons years of policy built on collaboration with a Kurdish-led militia to fight the Islamic State and on limiting the influence of Syrian government backers Iran and Russia.

For five years, United States policy relied on collaborating with a Kurdish-led militia both to fight the Islamic State and to limit the influence of Iran and Russia, which support the Syrian government, with a goal of maintaining some leverage over any future settlement of the conflict.

On Sunday, after Mr. Trump abruptly abandoned that approach, American leverage appeared all but gone. That threatened to give President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers a free hand. It also jeopardized hard-won gains against the Islamic State — and potentially opened the door for its return.

Syria’s deal with the Kurds paves the way for Syrian government forces to return to the country’s northeast for the first time in years to try to repel a Turkish invasion launched after the Trump administration pulled American troops out of the way. The pullout has already unleashed chaos and sectarian bloodletting.

The deal with the Kurds capped a day of whipsaw developments marked by rapid advances by Turkish-backed forces and the escape of hundreds of women and children linked to the Islamic State from a detention camp. And two American officials said the United States military had failed to transfer five dozen “high value” Islamic State detainees out of the country before the American troop withdrawal.

Turkish-backed forces advanced so quickly that they seized a key road that American forces needed to withdraw, officials said.

The American troop withdrawal has allowed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to order an invasion aimed at uprooting the Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, a key partner in American efforts to fight the Islamic State. Turkey sees the militia as a security threat because of its links to a Kurdish separatist movement that has long fought the Turkish state.

The Turkish incursion has killed scores of people, and left Kurdish fighters accusing the United States of betrayal for leaving them at the Turks’ mercy. That is what led them to strike the deal with Damascus, which said on Sunday that its forces were heading north to take control of two towns and to fight the “Turkish aggression.”

The Kurds refused, the American officials said, to let the American military take any more detainees from their ad hoc detention sites for captive ISIS fighters, which range from former schoolhouses to a former Syrian government prison. Together, these facilities hold about 11,000 men, about 9,000 of them Syrians or Iraqis. About 2,000 come from 50 other nations whose governments have refused to repatriate them.

The deal between the Kurdish authorities and the Assad government was announced on Sunday evening, and government troops were expected to enter the city of Kobani overnight.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hundreds of ISIS Supporters Flee Detention Amid Turkish Airstrikes, Carlotta Gall and Patrick Kingsley, Oct. 13, 2019. The attacks caused about 700 Islamic State families to escape a Kurdish-run camp. The American defense secretary also said the U.S. would pull about 1,000 troops from the area.

kurd flagHundreds of relatives of Islamic State fighters fled a Kurdish-run detention camp on Sunday morning after Turkish airstrikes hit the surrounding area, deepening the crisis prompted by the Turkish-led invasion of northern Syria.

The escapes came hours before the United States military said it would withdraw its remaining troops from northern Syria in the coming weeks, despite a likely resurgence of the Islamic State amid chaotic efforts by Turkish-led troops to wrest the region from Kurdish control.

A Kurdish official also said that the flag of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had been raised in the countryside between the camp in the Kurdish-held town of Ain Issa and the Turkish border, another indication of how the Kurdish authorities were losing control of a region they had freed from the extremists only months ago.

“We are facing very fierce attacks and we’re forced to decrease numbers of guards,” said the official, Ciya Kurd, of the Kurdish-led regional authority, who confirmed the break from the displacement camp after the Turkish strikes.

mark esperDefense Secretary Mark Esper, right, announced in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” broadcast on Sunday that the United States would be evacuating about 1,000 American troops from northern Syria in a “deliberate withdrawal.” About 50 United States troops were previously removed from the area in anticipation of the Turkish incursion.

The defense chief added that the United States had learned that Turkey was likely to expand its incursion “farther south than originally planned and to the west” in Syria, according to a transcript of his remarks published by CBS.

The Kurdish authorities are in negotiations with the Syrian and Russian governments to form an alliance against the Turkish force, Mr. Esper said, adding that the United States did not want to be caught in the crossfire.

President Trump has declared ISIS defeated, but his decision to pull back American troops shielding Kurdish allies in northern Syria could result in the group’s resurgence and has raised questions about the fate of thousands of Islamic State detainees that the Syrian Kurds, had been holding in makeshift wartime prisons.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump orders full withdrawal from northern Syria, a dramatic step after earlier pulling about 50 troops, Dan Lamothe and Liz Sly​, Oct. 13, 2019. ​The president made the decision to withdraw the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops left after indications that Turkey intends to expand its offensive targeting U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

President Trump has ordered a withdrawal of virtually all U.S. forces from northern Syria in the face of a Turkish military offensive targeting Kurdish fighters in the region, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Sunday, after days of assurances from the Pentagon that the United States was not “abandoning” its partners in the campaign against the Islamic State.

The order to remove the troops came toward the end of a chaotic day in which the viability of the U.S. mission in Syria rapidly unraveled after Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel proxies advanced deep into Syrian territory and cut U.S. supply lines.

U.S. troops were forced to abandon a base in the town of Ain Issa on Sunday morning as the Turkish-led forces approached, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The Turkish-backed fighters seized control of the nearby highway, establishing checkpoints and severing the main U.S. supply line to the western portion of territory held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led alliance that helped the United States defeat the Islamic State.

On Sunday, he tweeted before departing for his golf course in Virginia that it was “very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change” and accused “those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars” of pushing the United States to stay in the fight.

SouthFront, Syrian Army Will Enter Manbij And Kobane To Rescue Mighty SDF From Turks, Wire and Staff reports, Oct. 13, 2019. The Syrian Arab Army syrian flag waving(SAA) is preparing to enter the cities of Manbij and Kobane in the eastern and northern Aleppo countryside under a historical agreement with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), al-Mayadeen reported late on October 13, citing Syrian sources. “Syrian Army will enter Manbij in Aleppo eastern countryside and Ain al-Arab [Kobane] in Aleppo northern countryside within 48 hours,” the Lebanese news channel reported.

Prior to al-Maydeen’s report Mohammed Shaheen, an official in the SDF’s political wing, told North-Press that the SAA will enter Manbij.

The deployment of the SAA is reportedly aimed at stopping Turkish forces, which are conducting a military operation in the region. Turkish-backed Syrian militants captured dozens of villages and town along Turkey’s border in the last few days, with the SDF failing to repel their attacks.

Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to attack Kurdish forces in Manbij. U.S. Secretary of Defense also announced that all U.S. troops will be withdrawing from northeast Syria. These developments likely encouraged the Damascus government and the SDF to reach an agreement.

The upcoming hours will likely reveal more details about the agreement between Damascus and the SDF. Some activists are already reporting that the SAA will be deployed in the entire northeast region and not only in Manbij and Kobane.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Kurds’ Prisons and Detention Camps for ISIS Members, Explained, Charlie Savage, Oct. 13, 2019. The escalating chaos in northern Syria as Turkey presses forward with its attack on the United States’ erstwhile Kurdish allies is raising fears about the fate of thousands of Islamic State detainees that the Kurds have been holding in makeshift wartime prisons.

As the Turkish invasion leads to deteriorating security in northern Syria, the custody of about 11,000 captive ISIS fighters — and many thousands more detained ISIS.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. troops evacuate Syrian town as Turkish-led forces advance, potentially marooning other U.S. soldiers, Liz Sly and Louisa Loveluck​, Oct. 13, 2019. Hundreds of Islamic State supporters may have escaped from a camp housing displaced people in the town of Ain Issa, taking advantage of the mayhem.

U.S. troops withdrew on Sunday from another town in Syria as Turkish-backed forces pushed deeper inside Syrian territory, seizing positions along a turkey flagmajor highway that serves as the U.S. military’s main supply route into Syria — potentially cutting off U.S. troops further west, according to a U.S. official.

The withdrawal came amid reports that hundreds of Islamic State supporters may have escaped from a camp housing displaced people in the town of Ain Issa, taking advantage of the mayhem that ensued as Turkish artillery pounded the area.

The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria said in a statement that 785 people affiliated to the Islamic State were among those who got away, escaping from a camp that had housed 12,000 displaced people, mostly women and children.

Around a thousand of those who had been identified as Islamic State supporters, including foreigners, were housed in a separate section of the camp known as the Annex, which is now “completely empty,” according to an aid worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not American Flagauthorized to talk to the press.

Ain Issa, 20 miles south of the Turkish border, served as the headquarters of the Kurdish led administration in northeast Syria and owes its significance to its position beside the important M4 highway, which runs across northeastern Syria from the Iraqi border.

It is the main supply route in and out of Syria for the 1,000 U.S. troops deployed there, as well as for much of the limited aid that reaches northeastern Syria.

As the Turkish-backed Syrian rebels closed in on Sunday, the small number of U.S. troops based in the town were relocated to other bases in Syria, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to the press. Turkish backed rebels have now set up checkpoints on the highway near Ain Issa, potentially cutting off the U.S. troops in bases to the west, in Manbij and Kobane, from the bulk of the U.S. force further east, Kurdish and U.S. officials said.

Guardian, Mattis: Trump's troop pullout will lead to 'disarray' and Isis resurgence, Martin Pengally, Oct. 13, 2019. Ex-defense secretary calls resurgence of Isis ‘a given’ as Kurds say 785 Isis affiliates escape camp after Turkish shelling.

ny times logoNew York Times, Green Berets Feel ‘Ashamed,’ and Kurds Describe ‘Betrayal,’ Eric Schmitt, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Ben Hubbard and Helene Cooper, Oct. 13, 2019. As Turkish forces cross into northern Syria, the orders from Washington to U.S. troops are simple: Stand back and let the Kurds fight for themselves.

kurd flagThe next flurry of orders from Washington, some fear, could pull American troops out of Syria altogether. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Sunday that roughly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria would conduct a “deliberate withdrawal,” at least farther south — and possibly out of the country entirely in the coming days and weeks.

The defense secretary’s statement came after comments on Friday pushing back on complaints that the United States was betraying allies in Syria — “We have not abandoned the Kurds” — even as he acknowledged that his Turkish counterpart had ignored his plea to stop the offensive.

Army Special Forces soldiers — mostly members of the Third Special Forces Group — moved last week to consolidate their positions in the confines of their outposts miles away from the Syrian border, a quiet withdrawal that all but confirmed the United States’ capitulation to the Turkish military’s offensive to clear Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.

But as the Americans pulled back, the Kurds moved north to try to reinforce their comrades fighting the offensive. The American soldiers could only watch from their sandbag-lined walls. Orders from Washington were simple: Hands off. Let the Kurds fight for themselves.

The orders contradicted the American military’s strategy in Syria over the past four years, especially when it came to the Kurdish fighters, known as the Y.P.G., who were integral to routing the Islamic State from northeastern Syria. The Kurds had fought in Manbij, Raqqa and deep into the Euphrates River Valley, hunting the last Islamic State’s fighters in the group’s now defunct physical caliphate. But the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., as the Kurdish and their allied Arab fighters on the ground are called, are being left behind.

ny times logoNew York Times, Syrian Arab Fighters Backed by Turkey Kill Two Kurdish Prisoners, Ben Hubbard, Karam Shoumali, Carlotta Gall and Patrick Kingsley, Oct. 13, 2019 (print ed.). The killings, one of them caught on video, raised the specter of wider sectarian warfare as fighting in Syria escalates. Turkish-backed Syrian Arab fighters killed at least two Kurdish prisoners on Saturday, one of them lying on the ground with his hands bound behind his back, in a powerful illustration of the forces unleashed by President Trump’s decision to pull back American troops shielding former Kurdish allies in northern Syria.

A video that captured one of the killings shows two of the Turkish-backed group’s fighters firing bullets at close range into the man with his hands tied while their colleagues shout “God is great!” The second prisoner who was killed appears in the video alive and wearing a military uniform, but he is missing from the group’s later social media post about its captives.

kurd flag“The guy in the military outfit was neutralized,” said Al-Harith Rabah, a media activist with the Arab fighters who was at the scene.

The killing of two Kurdish captives by Arab fighters — a possible war crime — is an indication of the ethnically tinged hatreds flaring in the wake of President Trump’s pullback of American forces in the area. The move cleared the way for a Turkish military incursion into a northern Syria border area aimed at rooting out the Kurdish-led militia that had been the key American-allied ground force helping to wrest territory from the Islamic State.

On Saturday, Turkey and its allied Syrian fighters established a foothold in a strategic Syrian border town, Ras al-Ain, and were gathering to launch an offensive against another, Tel Abyad, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry and a spokesman for the Turkish-backed fighters.

The new hostilities have displaced at least 100,000 people and ignited fears that tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and their relatives held by the Kurds could escape their camps and prisons.

The two captives were killed early Saturday after the militant group Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh, which had entered Syria from Turkey, took control of a main road through the territory and began stopping passing cars, according to Mr. Rabah, the media activist.

When military vehicles belonging to the Kurdish-led militia passed, the militants stopped them, at times getting into clashes, he said.

Also killed on a main road through the territory was Hervin Khalaf, the head of a Kurdish political party. Kurdish officials accused Turkish-allied Arab fighters of attacking her car, a charge a spokesman for the Arab fighters denied.

Mr. Rabah said his group killed nine Kurdish fighters, he said, without specifying whether the two prisoners were among them.

When asked about the video showing the Turkish-allied fighters shooting the bound prisoner, Mr. Rabah grew nervous and said he had been trying to stop them from shooting.

Global News: Japan Death Toll

washington post logoWashington Post, Typhoon death toll in Japan climbs to 35 after storm unleashes widespread flooding, Simon Denyer, Oct. 13, 2019. Japan dispatched tens of thousands of troops and rescue workers Sunday after a typhoon unleashed widespread flooding and left 35 people dead and 17 missing. Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, tore through Tokyo and large swaths of Japan’s main island of Honshu on japan flag stdSaturday, bringing record-breaking rains to many areas.

By Sunday, more than 20 rivers in central and northeastern Japan had burst their banks, flooding more than 1,000 homes in cities, towns and villages and pushing the death toll higher.

At one point, the government had advised nearly 8 million people to evacuate. Many ignored the advice and stayed home, but others headed to shelters. Public broadcaster NHK said some died making their way to shelters, including a 77-year-old woman who fell more than 100 feet to her death during an airlift.

More On Epstein Scandal

At Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in 2011, from left: James E. Staley, at the time a senior JPMorgan executive; former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; Mr. Epstein; Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder; and Boris Nikolic, who was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s science adviser.

At Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion in 2011, from left: James E. Staley, at the time a senior JPMorgan executive; former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers; Mr. Epstein; Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder; and Boris Nikolic, who was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s science adviser.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bill Gates Met With Jeffrey Epstein Many Times, Despite His Past, Emily Flitter and James B. Stewart, Oct. 13, 2019 (print ed.). Mr. Gates has minimized his ties to Mr. Epstein. But a Times investigation reveals they had a closer relationship than previously known. Jeffrey Epstein, left, the jeffrey epstein at harvard universityconvicted sex offender who committed suicide in prison, managed to lure an astonishing array of rich, powerful and famous men into his orbit.

There were billionaires (Leslie Wexner and Leon Black), politicians (Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson), Nobel laureates (Murray Gell-Mann and Frank Wilczek) and even royals (Prince Andrew).

Few, though, compared in prestige and power to the world’s second-richest person, a brilliant and intensely private luminary: Bill Gates. And unlike many others, Mr. Gates started the relationship after Mr. Epstein was convicted of sex crimes.

U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, The Supreme Court could get a lot more undemocratic, Leah Litman, Oct. 13, 2019. Leah Litman is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She represents multiple DACA recipients in "Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California," a case before the Supreme Court.

Despite the significant power it wields, the Supreme Court is among the federal government’s most undemocratic institutions. Its justices are appointed for life terms, and selected and confirmed by presidents and the Senate — which themselves do not necessarily reflect the will of the public.

For this reason, academics often characterize the court as “counter-majoritarian,” meaning that it has the power to stand against the majority of the public sentiment in setting policy. But as counter-majoritarian as the Supreme Court is by design, it could get even worse. This term, the court will review cases pertaining to weighty topics ranging from LGBTQ rights to protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. By the end of next summer, we will have a glimpse into just how undemocratic the new conservative majority on the court is willing to be.

Several cases this term will test the limits of the court’s sociological legitimacy, potentially weakening the court as a legitimate institution in the process. Consider the Title VII cases, which ask the court to decide whether employers can fire their employees for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. More than 90 percent of Americans believe gays and lesbians should have equal rights in job opportunities; more than half believe that discrimination against the LGBTQ community is a major civil rights issue.

The court’s relative lack of democratic credentials does not mean it is illegitimate. Beyond its constitutional grounding, it has sociological legitimacy, referring to the court’s ability to arrive at results that are generally accepted by the public at large. The court can also claim some moral legitimacy as it meets a minimal threshold of morality and justice.

Or take the cases involving the president’s rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. More than 80 percent of Americans want DACA beneficiaries (known as “dreamers”) to be protected. Or consider June Medical Services v. Gee, the new court’s first abortion case. More than half of Americans describe themselves as pro-choice; many more say they support the court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which recognized a constitutional right for women to end their pregnancies.

And yet, it’s unclear public sentiment will win in any of these cases, potentially sacrificing some of the court’s sociological legitimacy in the process.

Media: New JFK Assassination Film

Variety via Yahoo, AGC Television Picks up Worldwide on Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK: Destiny Betrayed,’ Variety, John Hopewell, Oct. 13, 2019. AGC Television, the TV production-distribution division of Stuart Ford’s still fast expanding independent content studio AGC Studios, has landed worldwide rights to another high-profile doc-series which it describes as “probing” and “explosive”: Oliver Stone’s “JFK: Destiny Betrayed.”

The acquisition was announced early Monday by AGC Television president Lourdes Diaz.

The acquisition continues AGC Television substantial investment in non-fiction which is in high-demand in the streaming and premium cable space, allowing operators to reach diverse audience segments with high-profile original content at relatively modest cost.

Few filmmakers are as high-profile as Oliver Stone and“JFK” has proved the most controversial of his films. In the new doc-series, Stone and writer James DiEugenio, author of “Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case,” place now declassified files related to President Kennedy’s assassination in a far larger context, aiming to shine more light on what really happened in 1963.

Coming in on the assassination from the angle of Kennedy’s far-reaching policy speeches that threatened the status-quo, Stone will “reveal that Kennedy’s foreign policy actions were revolutionary in many ways and were a conscious decision he had been contemplating for a decade before taking office,” said an AGC Television statement.

It went on: “Stone will put Kennedy’s assassination in context politically, and present interviews, documents, and forensics reports that will change forever how Kennedy’s life, political career, and assassination will be considered.”

Those interviewed in the series include John Tunheim, chairman of the Assassination Records Review Board, criminologist Henry Lee, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., James Galbraith, and Salon founder David Talbot.

“It’s not an exaggeration to state that this series features the most distinguished collection of talent and knowledge on the JFK case ever assembled,” said the AGC Television press release.

Diaz added: “We have long admired Oliver Stone and his work, and the revelatory information his new documentary brings forward not only sheds a new light on JFK’s presidency and his assassination, it informs us about our contemporary world,”

“This documentary film represents an important bookend to my 1991 film. It ties up many loose threads, and hopefully repudiates much of the ignorance around the case and the movie,” Stone wrote.

“JFK: Destiny Betrayed” reunites Stone with ace cinematographer Robert Richardson (“Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” “Nixon,” “The Aviator”), who won the first of his three Academy Awards for “JFK.”

Rob Wilson behind Showtime’s “The Untold History of the United States,” produces with Ingenious Media.

AGC’s Stuart Ford and Diaz, Ingenious Media’s Andrea Scarso, Amit Pandya, and Peter Touche, and Angela Ceccio and Fernando Sulichin serve as executive producers.

“JFK: Destiny Betrayed” joins an AGC non-fiction slate which already features Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9,” “Ask Dr. Ruth,” a big hit at Sundance, and the upcoming “Scandalous,” on the rise of the National Enquirer; “Good Trouble: John Lewis,” described as an inspiring look at the firebrand legislator, and “Lady Boss: the Jackie Collins story.”

Oct. 12

U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

Impeachment Inquiry Update 

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump renews claim that he is immune from criminal investigation in effort to block Manhattan DA probe, David A. Fahrenthold and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 12, 2019. President Trump on Friday repeated his assertion of sweeping executive immunity — arguing in court that, because he is president, he cannot be investigated by any prosecutor, anywhere.

djt maga hat speech uncredited CustomTrump’s personal attorneys made the argument in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York. They are seeking to overturn a lower court’s dismissal of a suit the president filed seeking to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) from obtaining Trump’s tax returns.

“The President is immune from criminal process while in office, and a grand-jury subpoena (a coercive order backed by the State’s threat of contempt) is certainly a form of ‘criminal process,’ ” wrote Trump’s private legal team, led by William Consovoy.

The subpoena in this case was not actually directed at Trump. Vance has subpoenaed the records from Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, as part of an investigation that appears targeted at possible falsification of business records related to a scheme to silence two women who alleged that they had affairs with Trump.

Justice Department log circularIn his filing Friday, Trump returned to an argument that a lower-court judge had already rejected earlier this week. He argued that, as president, he is too important to be prosecuted while in office.

[Justice Department lends its firepower to defend Trump in investigations into his private finances]

And if presidents are too important to be prosecuted, Trump said, then it follows that they must also be too important to be burdened with an investigation by prosecutors.

“If the Court holds that the President is not immune from state criminal process, then Presidents must contend not just with [Vance] but with every state and local prosecutor across the country” seeking to investigate them, Trump’s attorneys wrote.

Only Congress can investigate the president through the impeachment process, Trump argued. He said the Constitution gives the federal government supremacy over the states and prohibits state-level investigations that would eat up the president’s time and sully his prestige.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work, Michael S. Schmidt, Ben Protess, Kenneth P. Vogel and William K. Rashbaum, Oct. 12, 2019 (print. ed.). Prosecutors are investigating if Rudy Giuliani, right, President Trump’s lawyer, broke lobbying laws in his Ukraine dealings, people briefed on the inquiry said.

rudy giulianiMr. Giuliani’s efforts to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the American ambassador to Ukraine, are under scrutiny.

The investigation into Mr. Giuliani is tied to the case against two of his associates who were arrested this week on campaign finance-related charges, the people familiar with the inquiry said. The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a congressman whose help they sought in removing Ms. Yovanovitch.

Justice Department log circularMr. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged that he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Ms. Yovanovitch and other targets of Mr. Trump and his allies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his younger son, Hunter Biden. Mr. Giuliani shared that material this year with American government officials and a Trump-friendly columnist in an effort to undermine the ambassador and other Trump targets.

Federal law requires American citizens to disclose to the Justice Department any contacts with the government or media in the United States at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials, regardless of whether they pay for the representation. Law enforcement officials have made clear in recent years that covert foreign influence is as great a threat to the country as spies trying to steal government secrets.

A criminal investigation of Mr. Giuliani raises the stakes of the Ukraine scandal for the president, whose dealings with the country are already the subject of an impeachment inquiry. It is also a stark turn for Mr. Giuliani, who now finds himself under scrutiny from the same United States attorney’s office he led in the 1980s, when he first rose to prominence as a tough-on-crime prosecutor and later ascended to two terms as mayor of New York.

washington post logorudy giuliani recentWashington Post, Trump defends Giuliani amid reports of federal investigation, John Hudson, Oct. 12, 2019. The president’s support comes a day after he seemed to put distance between himself and the former mayor when asked if Rudy Giuliani, right, still worked for him as a personal attorney.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Personally Pushed to Remove Ukraine Envoy, She Tells House, Sharon LaFraniere and Nicholas Fandos, Oct. 12, 2019 (print. ed.). Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine despite her boss saying she had “done nothing wrong,” she told House impeachment investigators. In scathing testimony indicting President Trump’s conduct of foreign policy, she warned that private interests have usurped diplomats’ judgment.

marie yovanovitchMarie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine in May, testified to impeachment investigators on Friday that a top State Department official told her that President Trump had pushed for her removal for months even though the department believed she had “done nothing wrong.”

In a closed-door deposition that could further fuel calls for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, Ms. Yovanovitch delivered a scathing indictment of how his administration conducts foreign policy. She warned that private influence and personal gain have usurped diplomats’ judgment, threatening to undermine the nation’s interests and drive talented professionals out of public service. And she said that diplomats no longer have confidence that their government “will have our backs and protect us if we come under attack from foreign interests.”

According to a copy of her opening statement obtained by The New York Times, Ms. Yovanovitch said she was “incredulous” that she was removed as ambassador “based, as far as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

ukraine flagMs. Yovanovitch, a 33-year veteran of the foreign service and three-time ambassador, spoke to investigators on Capitol Hill even though the State Department had directed her not to late Thursday and in defiance of the White House’s declaration that administration officials would not cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry. Democrats leading the inquiry said that order amounted to obstruction of their inquiry and quietly issued a subpoena Thursday morning with the understanding that Ms. Yovanovitch would then cooperate.

Her searing account, delivered at the risk of losing her job, could lend new momentum to the impeachment inquiry that imperils Mr. Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The story of Rudy Giuliani, his arrested henchmen, and a Ukrainian oligarch just took an even nastier turn, Bill Palmer, Oct. 12, 2019. When two of Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine scandal co-conspirators were arrested this week, they were attempting to flee to Vienna. Then it turned out Rudy was also planning to head to Vienna. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out that they had been planning to rendezvous overseas, before it all went wrong. The question was why they were headed to that city in particular.

dmytro firtashRachel Maddow was the one who pointed out that oligarch Dmytro Firtash, right, is currently being held under house arrest in Vienna. Firtash has ties to Ukraine and ties to Donald Trump’s former henchman Paul Manafort, so it made a lot of sense that Firtash would be the one behind the entire Trump-Rudy plot in Ukraine. Now we’re getting confirmation of precisely that.

bill palmer report logo headerOne of Rudy’s arrested associates, Lev Parnas, actually worked for Dmytro Firtash, according to a new report from Reuters. This explains why Rudy, Parnas, and Igor Fruman were trying to get to Firtash in Vienna as their scheme was falling apart; they were seeking new marching orders.

This comes amid the news that Lev Parnas ran a company called Fraud Guarantee which paid Rudy Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars – meaning that Rudy worked for Parnas and not the other way around. Now we know that Parnas worked for Firtash, which means that Rudy worked for Firtash. That makes Rudy an agent of a foreign government. In other words, Giuliani is in even deeper legal trouble than we thought.

semyon kislin youtube screenshot

Al Jazeera, Investigation: Giuliani associate linked to Yanukovich's stolen cash, Will Jordan, Oct. 12, 2019. Semyon Kislin, friend of Trump's personal lawyer, tried to obtain millions of dollars stolen from the Ukrainian state. Semyon Kislin, a business associate of Donald Trump who is due to give evidence at the US president's impeachment inquiry on October 14, tried to obtain millions of dollars that Ukrainian prosecutors deemed stolen, Al Jazeera can reveal.

Kislin (shown above in a YouTube screenshot) is a long-time friend of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. The Ukraine-born businessman donated to Giuliani's political campaigns in the 1990s. In January last year, Kislin lobbied the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to help him unlock millions of dollars that had in fact been seized in a major criminal inquiry.

djt rudy giuliani CustomThis comes as the New York Times reported that federal investigators are examining Giuliani's efforts to undermine Yovanovitch as part of a broader campaign to pressure Ukraine into helping Trump's political prospects.

A US congressional committee is considering impeachment proceedings against Trump after evidence emerged of the president's lobbying of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden's position on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

A plot to withdraw millions of dollars in frozen bank accounts was first exposed by Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit in 2018 and now Al Jazeera can reveal Kislin's role in a similar scheme.

Kislin, 83, purchased a Cypriot shell company holding part of a $1.5bn hoard of cash and bonds that the Ukrainian courts identified in 2015 as having been stolen by the disgraced former president, Viktor Yanukovich, before he fled Ukraine in 2014.

michelle goldberg thumbny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: America Exports Its Corruption to Ukraine, Michelle Goldberg, Oct. 12, 2019. Once upon a time, we spread ideals of democracy and rule of law. Now? We send Giuliani. In 2014, Ukraine’s wildly corrupt president, Viktor Yanukovych, fled to Russia after mass protests on the Maidan, Kiev’s central square.

During what Ukrainians call the Revolution of Dignity, police snipers killed dozens of demonstrators. In the revolution’s aftermath, a number of young idealists decided to plunge into politics, hoping to reform their troubled country from the inside. One of them was Serhiy Leshchenko, at the time perhaps the country’s most famous investigative journalist.

serhiy leshchenko wLeshchenko, left, a lanky, bearded hipster with a passion for rave culture, became part of a cadre of Western-oriented newcomers elected to Parliament, even as he continued to work as a journalist exposing corruption. This year, after Volodymyr Zelensky won the presidential election, Leshchenko advised him during the transition.

rudy giuliani recentThen Rudy Giuliani, right, began attacking Leshchenko as a conspirator against America.

In 2016, Leshchenko had helped expose the “black ledger,” an accounting book of hundreds of pages found in Yanukovych’s former party headquarters. Among its many entries, it showed $12.7 million in secret payments to Paul Manafort. At the time, Manafort was running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but before that, he was one of Yanukovych’s most important advisers.

One of the reasons Manafort, below at left in a mug shot, is in federal prison is that he failed to disclose or pay taxes on millions of dollars from Ukraine. But if you believe Giuliani, the black ledger was part of a plot to damage Trump.

paul manafort mugDuring a Fox News appearance on May 10, Giuliani described the ledger as a “falsely created book” and Leshchenko as part of a group of “enemies of the president, in some cases enemies of the United States.” Last month, in an epic, ranting interview on CNN, he accused Ukraine’s leading anti-corruption organization, the Anti-Corruption Action Center, or AntAC, of developing “all of the dirty information that ended up being a false document that was created in order to incriminate Manafort.”

In Giuliani’s fevered alternative reality, Ukraine’s most stalwart foes of corruption are actually corruption’s embodiment. Deeply compromised figures with vendettas against the activists — particularly the ex-prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko — are transformed into heroes.

Turkey Attacks Syrian Kurds

syria safezone southfront oct 9 2019 Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Chaos in Syria’s Kurdish Zone as Tens of Thousands Flee Turkish Attack, Carlotta Gall and Patrick Kingsley, Oct. 12, 2019 (print ed.). Hospitals have been abandoned, displacement camps relocated and major roads blocked as residents flee an advance of Turkey’s forces.

kurd flagThe Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria raised new fears of a resurgence of the Islamic State on Friday, as five militants escaped from a Kurdish-run prison and the extremist group claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded in the regional capital.

As Turkish troops began a third night of airstrikes and ground incursions, Kurdish fighters said they had thwarted a second attempted jailbreak from a detention camp for families of Islamic State members.

The moves compounded a mounting sense of turmoil in northeast Syria. The Turkish government said its troops had advanced five miles inside part of the country, displacing more than 70,000 residents, blocking several major roads and forcing the abandonment of a major hospital.

Since Wednesday, Turkish forces have pummeled Kurdish-held territory with airstrikes and sent in ground troops, in an effort to seize land controlled by a Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces. That militia fought alongside United States troops in the recent war against the Islamic State.

The campaign began after President Trump suddenly ordered American troops to withdraw from the area, giving implicit approval to Turkey’s long-anticipated attack on the Kurdish-led militia.

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You had your help’: At rally, Trump supporters back Syria withdrawal, Chelsea Janes, Oct. 12, 2019. Their support suggests that while the decision has been unpopular with GOP lawmakers, it has been greeted positively by the president’s most ardent supporters — the ones he is counting on in 2020.

• Turkey battles Syrian Kurds for control of key border town

Inside DC

washington post logokevin mcaleenan o Custom 2Washington Post, McAleenan steps down as acting DHS secretary, John Wagner and Reis Thebault, Oct. 12, 2019 (print. ed.). Kevin McAleenan, right, was frustrated with President Trump’s appointments to senior immigration roles. More hardline figures attacked him as insufficiently committed to Trump’s immigration agenda, and critics of those policies argued he gave cover to harsh measures.

Global News

  • Washington Post, Japan advises 5 million people to evacuate homes as typhoon nears Tokyo, Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi. Japan’s Meteorological Agency issued its highest level of emergency rainfall warnings for Tokyo and nearby regions.
  • Washington Post, Israelis see Trump’s Syria pullout as a betrayal that could help unravel the region, Steve Hendrix. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said little as politicians and military officers plead for Israel to help the Kurds.
  • Washington Post, U.S. to send 1,800 additional troops to Saudi Arabia to boost defenses against Iran, Dan Lamothe. The kingdom “has agreed to pay us for everything we’re doing to help them,” Trump says.
  • Associated Press via Washington Post, Turkish forces capture center of key Syrian border town, Mehmet Guzel. Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters began.

Oct. 11

U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

Impeachment Inquiry Update

 

djt mike pence igor fruman lev parnas rudy giuliani Custom

President Trump with, from left, Vice President Michael Pence, recently indicted businessmen Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump's private attorney.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two business associates of Giuliani arrested on campaign finance charges, Devlin Barrett and John Wagner​​, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). igor fruman mugLev Parnas and Igor Fruman, right, who routed a large donation to a pro-Trump super PAC, are accused of taking part in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office.

lev parnas mug alexandria sheriffThe indictment also charges that Fruman and Parnas, left, shown in a mug shot like his co-defendant, schemed to donate money to an unidentified U.S. congressman, at the same time they were asking that congressman to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her job.

The two men, who helped Giuliani investigate former vice president Joe Biden, were arrested Wednesday night in Virginia and charged with campaign finance violations.

Palmer Report, Opinion: “Fraud Guarantee” bombshell reveals Rudy Giuliani is even more screwed than we thought, Bill Palmer, Oct. 11, 2019. Late last night the internet erupted with laughter and disbelief when it was reported that one of the Rudy Giuliani associates arrested yesterday had been running a company called “Fraud Guarantee.” It seems everything involving Rudy these days is good for a laugh. But there are two key points in the Fraud Guarantee bombshell that spell out, in very serious fashion, just how screwed Giuliani is.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen the “two stooges” were arrested yesterday, the essential question was whether a money trail would emerge which tied Rudy Giuliani to their financial scheming. It turns out the answer is yes. The SDNY won’t have to go digging at random in the hope of finding that money trail, as the New York Times has already found it for them. Here’s the kicker, though. These two henchmen weren’t working for Rudy. He was apparently working for them.

djt mike pence igor fruman lev parnas rudy giuliani CustomLev Parnas’ company Fraud Guarantee reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Rudy Giuliani. This helps answer longstanding questions about how Rudy’s scheming in Ukraine was being funded. It also erases any argument that Rudy might be able to make in court that he was acting on American interests, because it turns out he was literally on the payroll of one of the criminals who was carrying out the Ukraine dirty work.

This also raises questions about whether Rudy Giuliani properly reported this foreign income, whether he tried to hide the money from his wife as their divorce plays out, and whether he registered as a foreign agent. At this point it’s impossible not to imagine that Rudy will be arrested. In fact it may just be a matter of the Feds giving the two stooges the opportunity to decide whether to flip on Rudy before they arrest him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump tells reporters he doesn’t know if Giuliani is still his attorney, John Wagner and Reis Thebault, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). But in a text message to a Post reporter shortly after President Trump made his comments, Rudolph W. Giuliani confirmed that he’s still representing him.

washington post logoWashington Post, New revelations about Trump test Pelosi’s narrow impeachment strategy, Rachael Bade, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). Recent revelations about President Trump’s conduct are testing the limits of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s narrow impeachment strategy, leading some Democrats to wonder nancy pelosi djtwhether the probe should be expanded beyond the Ukraine scandal.

• At least four officials raised alarms about Ukraine around time of Trump’s call
• Trump wanted Tillerson to help broker a deal to stop prosecution of a Giuliani client
• Ousted Ukraine envoy arrives at Capitol Hill to speak with House investigators
• Trump attacks Bidens in personal and coarse terms at Minnesota rally

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Gordon Sondland agrees to appear next week under subpoena, John Wagner, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.).  As the impeachment inquiry moved forward on Capitol Hill, President Trump prepared to hold his second campaign rally in as many days.

gordon sondland oU.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, left, a key figure in the Ukraine controversy, bucked the State Department on Friday and announced he would appear before House investigators under subpoena next week.

The State Department blocked Sondland from appearing before three panels last week as the White House informed Democratic leaders they had no intention of cooperating with the impeachment inquiry.

washington post logo

Palmer Report, Opinion: Even More Whistleblowers, Bill Palmer, Oct. 11, 2019. Earlier today Palmer Report noted that the floodgates had opened when it came to people in the Trump regime coming forward against Donald Trump. He failed to stop Marie Yovanovitch from testifying. He’s apparently going to fail to stop Fiona Hill and Gordon Sondland from testifying. So it’s not surprising that as this plays out today, even more people are coming forward.

bill palmer report logo headerAs we speak, even more whistleblowers from within the Trump administration are reaching out to the House impeachment inquiry with their stories of Donald Trump’s wrongdoing, according to a new report from the Daily Beast. What we find fascinating here is that they’re not even bothering to go through the process of filling out a whistleblower form at this point; they’re bypassing the collapsing infrastructure of what’s left of the Trump administration, and they’re going straight to the House with their stories.

This is crucial because it helps demonstrate where the real power is in this impeachment battle at this point. Donald Trump is so busy taking new blows every day, he’s not in a position of strength by any stretch of the imagination. His own people clearly aren’t afraid of him, because they’re now racing to tell their stories. The House impeachment inquiry is where the buck stops now, and everyone knows it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump attacks Bidens in personal and coarse terms at Minnesota rally, Seung Min Kim and Aaron Blake, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.).   President Trump leveled some of his most personal attacks yet against Joe Biden and his family at his first campaign rally since House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry, highlighting unsubstantiated claims about his potential 2020 rival’s son and using profanity to describe Biden’s tenure as vice president.

Donald TrumpAt the Target Center here, Trump repeated his dubious claims that Hunter Biden secured $1.5 billion for an investment fund in China while his father served as Barack Obama’s vice president, and he mocked Hunter Biden’s personal problems, including his discharge from the Navy after he tested positive for cocaine use.

“Hunter, you know nothing about energy, you know nothing about China, you know nothing about anything, frankly,” Trump said to a near-capacity crowd. “Hunter, you’re a loser.”

Biden “was never considered smart,” Trump said. “He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he figured out how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump misleads and exaggerates to make his case against impeachment, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 11, 2019. President Trump’s propensity to misconstrue and obfuscate is escalating as he confronts the threat of becoming just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

President Trump’s propensity to mislead, misconstrue and obfuscate is escalating as he confronts the threat of becoming just the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

For days, Trump and his allies have repeatedly charged that the whistleblower — whose complaint about Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine set off the current impeachment inquiry — made up a “false story,” even though many of the claims have been shown to be accurate. The president has insisted that his top Democratic and Republican critics on Capitol Hill should be impeached for their efforts against him, despite a centuries-old precedent that prevents such an action.

washington post logo

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Donald Trump tossed John Bolton out on the street, Bill Palmer, Oct. 11, 2019. Back when Donald Trump abruptly fired his National Security Adviser John Bolton via tweet, it was evident that something wasn’t right. At the time, Trump had just invited the Taliban to Camp David, amid reports that Bolton strongly opposed the move. Trump was clearly ousting Bolton because he was getting in the way of Trump’s most deranged antics. Now it turns out it’s even uglier than we knew.

john bolton youtube guardianWhen Donald Trump first started hatching his scheme to try to extort the President of Ukraine, John Bolton, right, got word of what was going on. Bolton then began running around trying to get his hands on the transcript of the call so he could find out just how awful it was, but he couldn’t get ahold of it because it was being locked away in the secret classified server.

This is all according to a new Washington Post article, and based on the manner in which John Bolton is being portrayed as the hero of his own story, it’s not difficult to figure out that he’s the source for the article. But there appears to be some corroboration of this, as one unnamed official tells the WaPo that Bolton went “ballistic” after Gordon Sondland admitted that the Trump regime was planning to open a sham investigation into the Bidens.

When you picture a vindictive bloodthirsty monster like John Bolton running around the White House and yelling at everyone because he’d stumbled across Donald Trump’s Ukraine extortion scandal, no wonder Trump threw the guy out on the street. Considering how eager Bolton clearly is to tell his side of the story, it now seems a given that he’ll testify to the House impeachment inquiry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court rules against Trump in fight with Congress over accounting firm records, Ann E. Marimow, Spencer S. Hsu and David A. Fahrenthold​, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). Congress can seek eight years of President Trump’s business records from his accounting firm, a federal appeals court ruled in one of several legal battles over access to the president’s financial data.

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld Congress’s broad investigative powers and rejected the president’s bid to block lawmakers from subpoenaing the documents.

The case is one of several clashes between the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican president over Trump’s data that is expected to reach the Supreme Court. In this case, the judges ruled that Trump’s arguments — that the subpoenas were invalid because Congress lacked a “legitimate legislative purpose” for its subpoenas — were incorrect.

“Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” Judges David S. Tatel and Patricia A. Millett wrote for the court. Both were appointed by Democratic presidents.

The president was appealing a lower court’s decision that allowed a House Oversight Committee to move forward with its request for financial statements and audits prepared for Trump and his companies by the accounting firm Mazars USA.

In her dissent, Judge Neomi Rao — appointed by Trump — said if the House wants to investigate possible wrongdoing by the president it should do so by invoking its constitutional impeachment powers not its regular oversight powers.

It is unclear what will happen next in this case, but Trump seems likely to appeal — either to the full D.C. Circuit, or to the Supreme Court.

ny times logopeter baker twitterNew York Times, Analysis: Trump’s Audacious Move on Impeachment Tests Political Order, Peter Baker, right, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). 2019. The White House’s decision not to cooperate is aimed less at convincing a judge than convincing the public.

Breathtaking in scope, defiant in tone, the White House’s refusal to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry amounts to an unabashed challenge to America’s longstanding constitutional order.

In effect, President Trump is making the sweeping assertion that he can ignore Congress as it weighs his fate because he considers the impeachment effort unfair and the Democrats who initiated it biased against him, an argument that channeled his anger even as it failed to pass muster with many scholars on Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We investigated the Watergate scandal. We believe Trump should be impeached, 17 Watergate special prosecutors, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). We, former members of the Watergate special prosecutor force, believe there exists compelling prima facie evidence that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. This evidence can be accepted as sufficient for impeachment, unless disproved by any contrary evidence that the president may choose to offer.

U.S. House logoThe ultimate judgment on whether to impeach the president is for members of the House of Representatives to make. The Constitution establishes impeachment as the proper mechanism for addressing these abuses; therefore, the House should proceed with the impeachment process, fairly, openly and promptly. The president’s refusal to cooperate in confirming (or disputing) the facts already on the public record should not delay or frustrate the House’s performance of its constitutional duty.

In reaching these conclusions, we take note of 1) the public statements by Trump himself; 2) the findings of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation; 3) the readout that the president released of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; 4) the president’s continuing refusal to produce documents or allow testimony by current and former government employees for pending investigations, as well as for oversight matters; and 5) other information now publicly available, including State Department text messages indicating that the release of essential military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Ukraine’s willingness to commence a criminal investigation designed to further the president’s political interests.

washington post logodjt maga hat speech uncredited CustomWashington Post, Trump’s Syria decision tests GOP support amid impeachment inquiry, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). Instead of enjoying uncontested Republican support as he plunges into a constitutional showdown and prepares for a bruising reelection campaign, President Trump is now fighting on two fronts within his own party.

washington post logoWashington Post, George Conway and other prominent conservatives call for ‘expeditious’ impeachment probe, Colby Itkowitz, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). More than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers, including George T. Conway III, offered their legal reasoning for an “expeditious” impeachment probe into President Trump, creating a document they hope will be read by Republicans who continue to stand by the president.

The 16 attorneys, many of whom worked in Republican administrations, wrote in a joint statement to be released Thursday morning that Trump’s now infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the text messages between diplomats and Trump’s public call for China to investigate a political opponent are “undisputed” events that amount to Trump violating his oath of office.

george conway twitterConway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and outspoken Trump critic shown at right on his Twitter photo, helped form a coalition of like-minded conservatives a year ago who wanted to call out what they deemed illegal and unconstitutional behavior by the president. The signatories are members of that group, Checks and Balances.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration and Allies Pummeled With New Subpoenas, Nicholas Fandos, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). House investigators demanded documents from Rick Perry and testimony from the two Giuliani associates who were arrested. House investigators pounded the Trump administration and its allies on Thursday with new subpoenas, demanding documents from Rick Perry,  the energy secretary, and testimony from two more witnesses as they aggressively challenged a White House pledge to starve their impeachment inquiry of evidence.

rick perry oThree Democratic chairmen leading the inquiry instructed Mr. Perry, right, to turn over by next Friday any records that would shed light on President Trump’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainian government to open corruption investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son. Investigators also want answers on whether Mr. Perry tried to influence the management of Ukraine’s state-owned gas company.

Hours earlier, they demanded that two businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, appear for depositions next Wednesday and hand over records related to their work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. Mr. Giuliani has been the point man in the president’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, around which the inquiry is centered. The subpoenas came shortly after the two men were indicted on federal campaign finance charges that touched on their work in Ukraine.

The new subpoenas, and more in the works, sent a clear message to the White House that Democrats do not intend to back down from a growing constitutional clash over their inquiry, even after the White House defiantly said this week that it would stonewall all requests for witnesses and documents.

The Hill via MSN, White House accidentally sends Ukraine talking points to Democrats again, Mike Lillis and Juliegrace Brufke, Oct. 11, 2019. The White House accidentally sent Democrats a list of talking points related to ex-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's Friday House deposition, two sources with knowledge of the email told The Hill, the second time in a month the administration has sent its Ukraine talking points to Democrats.

The email included guidance for Republicans seeking to defend the president from potentially damaging witness testimony from an ambassador who was removed from her post in May under controversial circumstances.

In copies of the guidance shared with The Hill, The White House encouraged Republicans to adopt a series of messages designed to turn the tables back on Democrats, including attacks on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff's (D-Calif.) handling of the probe.

Yovanovitch told House lawmakers that she was removed after "a concerted campaign against" her from President Trump and his allies.

The email marks the second time the White House has unintentionally sent talking points to Democrats in recent weeks, after an administration official inadvertently emailed them suggested rhetoric defending the July 25 phone call.

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump Policy That Favors Wealthy Immigrants, Miriam Jordan, Oct. 11, 2019. A federal judge in New York issued a nationwide injunction on Friday blocking the start of a new federal policy that would deny legal residency to immigrants who are likely to depend on public welfare.

In one of two legal setbacks on Friday for the Trump administration’s attempts to limit immigration, Judge George B. Daniels of the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York said those potentially affected by the new regulation could suffer “irreparable harm” if the rule goes into effect. “The balance of equities and the interests of justice favor issuance of a preliminary injunction,” the judge wrote.

The “public charge” rule, which had been scheduled to take effect on Tuesday, set new standards for determining who might become a burden on the public purse and barred them from obtaining permanent residence in the country.

“The rule is simply a new agency policy of exclusion in search of a justification,” Judge Daniels, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, wrote in his ruling. “It is repugnant to the American Dream of the opportunity for prosperity and success through hard work and upward mobility.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, Those Foreign Business Ties? The Trump Sons Have Plenty Too, Eric Lipton, Steve Eder and Ben Protess, Oct. 11, 2019. Last month, the Trump family business received approval from a local government in Scotland for a major expansion of its golf resort near Aberdeen, marking the largest real estate development financed by the Trump Organization since the 2016 election.

In August, President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., flew to Jakarta to help kick-start sales at a pair of Trump-branded luxury resorts planned for Indonesia. He appeared at a private event with wealthy prospective buyers and joined his politically connected billionaire Indonesian business partner at a news conference.

And last year, Donald Jr. visited India to sell condos at future Trump-branded towers, appearing at an event that also featured India’s prime minister.

“I’m here as a businessman,” Mr. Trump told the gathering in New Delhi. “I’m not representing anyone.”

But for the children of the politically powerful, personal business and public dealings can often be indistinguishable, especially when private projects depend on foreign governments that are looking to bolster ties with Washington.

In recent weeks, as the president has become embroiled in a scandal involving his interactions with Ukraine, Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have taken to attacking Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., for his business dealings in Ukraine and China.

Republicans, led by the president, have sought to make Hunter Biden’s international business dealings an issue in the impeachment debate in Washington. But the high-profile attack roles being played by Mr. Trump’s eldest sons have now thrust their own business dealings into the spotlight too.

Both sons have operated and promoted the Trump family business overseas during their father’s presidency, even as he retains ownership. And while the Trump and Biden father-son relationships differ in many ways, the business dealings have set up a simple parallel.

“They are criticizing the vice president’s son for doing exactly what they are doing themselves,” said Martin Ford, a member of the Aberdeenshire Council in Scotland, which voted last month to approve a proposal by the Trumps to build a 500-unit housing development. “They are conducting international business here in Scotland.”

Eric Trump, in a statement to The New York Times, said there was a distinction between his father’s career in business, with his recent turn to politics, and Mr. Biden’s decades in public office.

Inside DC

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washington post logoWashington Post, Senior adviser to Pompeo resigns, Karen DeYoung, Oct. 11, 2019 (print ed.). Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is mike pompeo portraitseen as Pompeo’s failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy.

A senior officer who has held a range of diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru, McKinley was serving as ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo recruited him as a policy adviser and a conduit between his office and the career service.

Pompeo, right, was expected to issue a statement Friday announcing his departure. McKinley declined to comment Thursday evening.

Among the many issues on which he played a role, McKinley has been closely involved in administration policy on Venezuela, Mexico, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, where last month President Trump abruptly canceled U.S. peace negotiations with the Taliban that both sides had said were near an agreement.

#MeToo, Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, In ‘Catch and Kill,’ Ronan Farrow Recounts Chasing Harvey Weinstein Story, Jennifer Szalai, Oct. 11, 2019. Farrow writes that NBC ronan farrowtried to shut down his reporting about sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer.

Farrow, right, describes how he put together his explosive 2017 exposé of numerous sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a longtime Democratic fund-raiser and “part of the brain trust around Hillary Clinton.” (Farrow’s article ran in The New Yorker in October 2017, five days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The Times published their article detailing harassment allegations against Weinstein.)

ronan farrow catch and kill CustomFarrow quotes gleeful emails between Weinstein and Dylan Howard, the editor of The National Enquirer, whose parent company, American Media Inc., was run by David Pecker, a staunch supporter of Donald J. Trump’s. Howard forwarded Weinstein some “dirt” on the actor Rose McGowan, who had tweeted the month before about “my rapist,” whom she didn’t name. “This is the killer,” Weinstein wrote. “Especially if my fingerprints r not on this.”

“Catch and Kill” gets its title from a tabloid practice that A.M.I. had honed over the years: purchasing a story in order to bury it. A.M.I.’s strategy is an essential part of this book’s narrative, but what Farrow suggests is that NBC News, which employed him at the time, did something with the Weinstein story that wasn’t entirely dissimilar. Instead of hush money, Farrow says, NBC officials used the institutional levers at their disposal to shut down his work on Weinstein — from intermittent discouragement to elaborate stonewalling to a legal review that turned out to be both labyrinthine and absurd.

Shep Smith

washington post logoWashington Post, Shepard Smith resigns from Fox News, Paul Farhi​, Oct. 11, 2019. Smith, one of Fox News’ leading anchors and a frequent critic of President Trump, said the decision to leave was his own, but gave no further reason for doing so. He announced his resignation on the air on his Friday program, which Fox said would be his last.

fox news logo SmallSmith, Fox’s chief news anchor and anchor of its afternoon news program, “Shepard Smith Reporting,” said the decision to leave was his own, but gave no further reason for his departure. He announced his resignation on the air on his Friday program, which Fox said would be his last.

Smith has been at Fox News since its founding 23 years ago, and was one of the first people hired for its launch in 1996.

In a statement, Smith said, “Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter. After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged. The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many. It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor.”

Smith has often incurred the wrath of loyal Fox viewers — and of Trump — by his skeptical reporting and commentary on the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Trump is flirting with abandoning Fox News for One America, Nicole Hemmer (author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics), Oct. 11, 2019. The newer network is using Fox’s own tactics to challenge the cable titan.

When President Trump attacks most news outlets, there is an air of glee in his tweets, a lusty relish he reserves for those he has deemed true enemies. But when he attacks Fox News, as he did Thursday, his tone becomes one of bewildered disappointment. “@FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore,” he moaned. “It is so different than it used to be.”

U.S. Crime, Courts

Law & Crime, Man Allegedly Asked Farmers If He Could Have Sex with Their Horses, Tried to Slash Tires When Rejected, Alberto Luperon, Oct. 11, 2019.
New Jersey man Richard Decker, 31, allegedly asked to have sex with farm animals in Sussex County, then lashed out when farmers turned him down.

Decker started emailing and letter-writing farms, stables, and horse boarding facilitates, Assistant Prosecutor Magdelen Czykier said. He allegedly had a very direct request: to have a sexual relationship with the owners’ cows “and/or” horses, the state said. As a result, he faces charges including fourth-degree procuring an animal in any kind of sexual manner or initiate any sexual conduct with an animal, second-degree possession of a destructive device to use unlawfully, and four-degree knowingly manufacturing firearms, according to the New Jersey Herald.

Prosecutors said Decker wrote owners harassing messages, made negative online reviews, or laid down handmade tire-slashing devices. Incidentally, Vernon Police, who operate out of Sussex County, put out an advisory for such devices in January.

“Over the past couple of weeks, we have received reports of incidents in which someone has been placing homemade tire slashing devices at the entrances to farm roads/driveways,” they wrote, including a picture of one of the devices.

China Trade

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump announces partial trade deal with China, lifting hopes that tensions could ease, David J. Lynch and Rachel Siegel, Oct. 11, 2019. President Trump announced the progress during an Oval Office meeting with China’s vice premier, Liu He. Trade tensions between two of the world’s largest economies have escalated since last year, weighing on global growth.

Oct. 10

U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

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Impeachment Inquiry Update (Cont.)

Daily Kos, Giuliani pals were attempting to flee country when arrested for bribery, funneling foreign funds, Mark Sumner, Oct. 10, 2019. Two men who assisted Rudy Giuliani in creating the Ukraine smear against Joe Biden have been arrested for campaign finance violations. While both men funneled six figure donations to Donald Trump through a PAC run by Donald Trump Jr., that does not appear to be the primary focus of the charges.

Instead it seems the men are being charged for something more direct — bringing foreign funds into a U.S. election and plain old bribery. The source of marie yovanovitchthat money was apparently Ukraine, the purpose of that bribery was getting rid of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch (right and requested to testify by the U.S. House).

According to the indictment unsealed in New York, Parnas, Fruman and other defendants “conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.” The indictment does not mention Giuliani or suggest that he was part of the alleged crimes.

Prosecutors say Fruman and Parnas schemed to donate money to an unidentified U.S. congressman, at the same time they were asking that congressman to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her job.

lev parnas mug alexandria sheriffIt’s worth noting that the description of funneling foreign money to candidates might also fit with the way that the two men sent $325,000 to a pro-Trump PAC by routing it through an LLC. In fact, additional charges from the grand jury directly address the way that the men used an LLC to disguise the source of funds.

Marie Yovanovitch was high on the list of the list for Most Important Witnesses at the impeachment inquiry. The importance of her appearance just went up another notch.

igor fruman mugAccording to a broadcast report from NBC, Giuliani associates Parnas, above left, and Fruman, right, were arrested at Dulles Airport as they attempted to flee the country.

Included in the charges are not just Parnas and Fruman, who were previously identified as assisting Rudy Giuliani in in his efforts as Trump’s personal attorney, but David Corriea who is “a businessman born in the United States” and Andrew Kukushkin, “a businessman and United States citizen who was born in Ukraine.” Corriea appears to be the owner of a holding company headquartered in Florida.

It might be a good time for someone to ask Rudy Giuliani to hand over that passport.

Roll Call, Former Rep. Pete Sessions met with indicted Guiliani associates, accepted donations, Katherine Tully-McManus, Oct. 10, 2019. Former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who just last week announced a new bid for the House, appears to play a role in the indictment Thursday of two Soviet-born businessmen who are also subjects of the House impeachment inquiry.

pete sessions headshotWhile the indictment does not mention Sessions, right, by name or charge him of any crime, he told a Texas radio show on Sunday that he met with them and Federal Elections Commissions documents show he accepted campaign donations from them during his tight 2018 race.

The two associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, were charged with violating campaign finance laws and arrested Wednesday, according to court documents.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are also subjects in the House’ impeachment inquiry into Trump. The Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees had requested depositions from Parnas on Thursday and Fruman on Friday, along with documents from the two men. The panels made their requests in letters on Sept. 30.

Parnas and Fruman are expected to appear in court today and won’t be testifying before Congress, as requested. Parnas is an American citizen born in Ukraine and Fruman is an American citizen born in Belarus. The indictment alleges that Parnas, Fruman and other defendants “conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.”

The 21-page indictment makes references to donations and activities by an unnamed “Congressman-1,” and alleges that Parnas and Fruman asked a congressman to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine recalled and at the same time donated money to the congressman.

djt fox impeachment poll oct 9 2019 Custom

washington post logo​Washington Post, Live Updates: Trump returns to the campaign trail as another poll shows support for his ouster is growing, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz, Oct. 10, 2019.The president is holding a rally for the first time since House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry.

Meanwhile, a Fox News poll released Wednesday night shows 51 percent of voters would like to see Trump impeached and removed from office, an uptick since the House launched the inquiry focused on Trump’s July call in which he pressed the leader of Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Wants a Fight. Pelosi Can Hit Back, Editorial Board, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). With rules, rigor and resolution. The House of Representatives has undertaken the impeachment inquiry of a president only four times in American history. Each time, the House has set its own ground rules. The Constitution prescribes no specific process, nor does federal law. Court rulings and precedents, such as they are, tend to be narrow and particular. So when lawmakers determine that such a proceeding is warranted, they are forced to rely on their own cobbled-together rule book, with the trust of the American people in their government at stake.

djt nancy pelosiThis requires Congress to be rigorous in setting out the rules for conducting an inquiry. It also makes the impeachment process vulnerable to misrepresentation and caricature, as President Trump and his White House demonstrated on Tuesday. According to an astonishing letter from the Trump administration to House Democrats, it is right for the president of the United States to use his immense power to solicit a foreign government’s interference on his behalf in an election — even, possibly, by way of extortion. At the same time, the letter argued, it is illegitimate for Congress, a coequal branch of government, to undertake any investigation into the president or members of his administration (or diplomats, personal lawyers and hangers-on) regarding this behavior.

The letter is a formal assertion of executive power and impunity without precedent in American history. Or, as a former Republican Senate staff member wrote on Twitter: “Wow. This letter is bananas.”

Daily Beast, How The Beast Uncovered Rudy Cronies’ Political Money Scheme, Lachlan Markay, Oct. 10 2019. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested daily beast logoWednesday, vindicating more than a year of reporting on their shady political donations.

In November of last year, PAY DIRT brought you a story about a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. The donation came from a company called Global Energy Producers, and we reported on suspicions that it was acting as a “conduit” contributor, effectively concealing the identities of the actual source or sources of that money.

After publication, we got a call from a relatively prominent Trumpworld operative, who proceeded to berate us for reporting on the allegations, which the person insisted were completely trumped-up and politically motivated. Global Energy Producers, he said, was fully capitalized by investors in the energy space, and was conducting bona fide business in pursuit of contracts to export liquified natural gas to Europe.

That was 100 percent untrue, according to federal prosecutors.

washington post logojoe biden oWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden gives his most direct call for impeachment, saying Trump has ‘indicted himself,’ Felicia Sonmez, Colby Itkowitz and John Wagner​, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). Attorneys for the Ukraine whistleblower said the person whose complaint is at the center of the impeachment inquiry “has never worked for or advised a political candidate, campaign, or party.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden campaign slams New York Times for op-ed by conservative author behind Ukraine claims, Tim Elfrink, Oct. 10, 2019. As President Trump has lobbed unsubstantiated and false claims of international corruption at former vice president Joe Biden and his son, he’s often turned to one source for ammunition: conservative author Peter Schweizer. So when the New York Times ran an op-ed on Wednesday written by Schweizer about Biden and his son Hunter, the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign cried foul.

peter schweizerIn a letter sent to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Biden’s campaign called Schweizer, left, a “discredited right-wing polemicist” and suggested the op-ed was part of a larger pattern of “journalistic malpractice.”

“Are you truly blind to what you got wrong in 2016, or are you deliberately continuing policies that distort reality for the sake of controversy and the clicks that accompany it?” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, wrote in the Wednesday letter, which was posted by CNN’s Oliver Darcy

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s claims of executive immunity lead to criticism he is acting above the law, Toluse Olorunnipa and Ann E. Marimow​, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s latest legal machinations highlight his absolutist view of executive power and presidential impunity.

In a series of legal maneuvers that have defied Congress, drawn rebukes from federal judges and tested the country’s foundational system of checks and balances, President Trump has made an expansive declaration of presidential immunity that would essentially place him beyond the reach of the law.

Both in courts and before Congress, Trump’s legal teams are simultaneously arguing that the president can’t be investigated or indicted by prosecutors because Congress has the sole responsibility for holding presidents accountable, and that the House’s impeachment inquiry is an unconstitutional effort that the White House can ignore.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani goes off the deep end after yet another one of his criminal scandals gets exposed, Bill Palmer, Oct. 10, 2019. Last night we all learned that Donald Trump tried in 2017 to convince then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help get Turkish criminal Reza Zarrab off the hook. This scandal obviously has relevance to Trump’s recent decision to let Turkey invade Syria and murder the Kurds. But it also has major ties to the guy who pops up in every Trump scandal these days: Rudy Giuliani.

bill palmer report logo headerNot only was Rudy Giuliani acting as legal counsel for Turkish criminal Reza Zarrab at the time Trump tried to get Zarrab off the hook, Bloomberg says that Trump specifically asked Tillerson to work with Rudy to get Zarrab off the hook. That means Trump was bypassing the Department of Justice entirely, and allowing Rudy to run the federal government – just as Trump has more recently been allowing Rudy to dictate U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine.

rudy giuliani recentRudy Giuliani, right,never met a scandal he couldn’t make even worse with his mouth, and so he’s responding to the Bloomberg report by foaming at the mouth. Rudy is calling it a “hit job” according to MSNBC, which means that he’s not even going to bother to try to deny the specifics of what’s been reported, which means it’s all true.

Of course this means that Rex Tillerson is about to get subpoenaed by the House impeachment inquiry, and considering that Tillerson has no personal loyalty to Donald Trump, we expect he’ll go ahead and cooperate. It’s also one more proverbial nail in the coffin of Rudy Giuliani, who can surely expect to spend the rest of his life in prison once this house of cards finishes collapsing.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: A soliloquy for the United States, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 10, 2019. America is at war with itself. In only two cases has the United States experienced a situation where wars have pitted brother against brother, husbands against wives, and parents against their children. Friendships of long-lasting duration were also destroyed.

wayne madesen report logoThe two cases in which the country experienced such fissures was the War of Independence against Great Britain and the Civil War between the Union and Confederacy.

Today, Americans have been torn apart by the excesses of the Trump administration. There is no good ending to these fundamental divisions.

U.S. Prosecution Misconduct

The Intercept, How the Secretive “Discipline” Process for Federal Prosecutors Buries Misconduct Cases, Brooke Williams, Samata Joshi, Shawn Musgrave, Oct. 10, 2019. Lashawn Jermaine Johnson spent his 30s in prison law libraries. As he put it in an interview, that was “the only place you were going to find freedom” in prison. Sitting at one of a dozen desktop computers with windows overlooking a quad, Johnson dug through past convictions of the assistant United States attorney who prosecuted him for cocaine trafficking in Billings, Montana.

What he found not only set him free but called into question the convictions of many others behind bars.

James Seykora had been prosecuting federal drug cases for decades in Billings, the largest city in the state with a population just shy of 110,000. Local defense attorneys described him as a hard worker who dutifully sought the harshest penalties for drug crimes. One called him a “trained pitbull” and said “the people to blame were his bosses.” In 2004, he won an award for his sheer number of drug convictions.

But it turned out Seykora had a history of misconduct, including hiding deals he made with key witnesses in exchange for their cooperation and testimony.

In one case, Seykora gave immunity to a key government witness in exchange for taking the stand. Then, in front of a judge and a jury, he allowed the witness to swear she didn’t recall “any promises” in exchange for testifying.

In Johnson’s case, a federal judge found Seykora engaged in similar misconduct when he allowed the judge and jury to believe a key witness against Johnson, Heather Schutz, had only “bare hope” for leniency in her Las Vegas prostitution charges in exchange for her testimony. Seykora actually had promised her “personal benefit” that was a “concrete and quantified reality.”

As Johnson, who served nearly nine years for trafficking cocaine, poured through court records in the prison library, he said he found case after case in which Seykora was caught hiding deals with witnesses. Judges found the federal prosecutor had a habit of allowing juries and judges to believe people testifying for the prosecution had nothing to gain when, in fact, he had already promised them immunity, sentence reductions, and more. Despite this, Seykora was still allowed to handle federal drug prosecutions in Billings.

Johnson quickly gave the material he gathered in the law library to his attorney, who filed a motion to reverse the conviction due to prosecutorial misconduct. The Billings U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to charge Johnson again, and a judge ordered him “released from custody” in February 2015. He now lives in Las Vegas and has young children.

Seykora retired as a prosecutor in 2012 and currently is a municipal judge in Hardin, Montana, a small town of about 3,500 people and a short drive from Billings. He did not return phone calls seeking an interview.

In 2014, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility began looking into Seykora. The OPR was established after the Watergate scandal “to ensure that Department attorneys perform their duties in accordance with the high professional standards,” according to its website.

Two years later, in 2016, while OPR was apparently still investigating Seykora’s actions, Michael Cotter, then U.S. attorney for Billings and current chief of the state’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, apparently decided to take matters into his own hands. In a highly unusual move, Johnson’s attorney Colin Stephens said, Cotter sent letters to the defense attorneys of people Seykora had convicted to let them know about the prosecutor’s history of repeated misconduct.

Stephens said the letters essentially reopened any case Seykora had prosecuted. “We just opened Pandora’s box,” he said. “It’s a big deal when the government cheats.”

Cotter declined to discuss the case.

Given his experience, Johnson said, he wonders if it really is a big deal when a prosecutor breaks the rules. “He still gets to sit on the bench and practice his crooked law,” he said.

Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, Synagogue attacker hoped to inspire further anti-Semitic attacks, German authorities say, Luisa Beck and Rick Noack​, Oct. 10, 2019. Authorities said the attacker most likely acted alone and that he was not known to authorities, but they have yet to publicly release the suspect’s name or other details. The man who attacked a synagogue in Germany and killed two people was a right-wing extremist with a clear anti-Semitic motive and hoped to encourage others to follow his lead, authorities announced Thursday.

german flagAuthorities confirmed the attack, which the perpetrator live-streamed, was a terrorist incident amid mounting questions over the safety of the Jewish community in Germany and why authorities were unable to prevent or stop it. The attacker, said Public Prosecutor General Peter Frank, “wanted to imitate others, but he also wanted to instigate others to imitate him.”

“He wanted to have a global impact,” he added. Stephen B, as the attacker has been identified, is facing two murder charges as well as charges of attempted murder, among other crimes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls death of British teen a ‘terrible accident,’ says driving on wrong side of the road ‘happens,’ Jennifer Hassan, Oct. 10, 2019. President Trump said Wednesday that a British teenager killed in a crash allegedly caused by the wife of a U.S. diplomat was the victim of a “terrible accident,” adding that driving on the wrong side of the road “happens.”

united kingdom flagHe made the remarks at a news conference to which he carried briefing notes saying that the woman, who left the country after the crash, would not return to Britain, as British authorities have requested.

British police say 19-year-old Harry Dunn was killed by 42-year-old suspect Anne Sacoolas when her Volvo SUV struck his motorcycle in August. Surveillance video indicates that Sacoolas, who is American, was driving “on the wrong side of the road” on the night of the fatal crash, police said. British media reported that she had recently arrived in the country, leading to a theory that she may have been unaccustomed to driving on the left, as is the rule in Britain.

U.S. Supreme Court / Abortion

ny times logolinda greenhouse cover just a journalistNew York Times, Opinion: A Supreme Court Abortion Case That Tests the Court Itself, Linda Greenhouse, right (shown on the cover of her memoir, Just a Journalist), Oct. 10, 2019. What will access to abortion look like under the new conservative majority? Under the rules that normally govern the American judicial system, the Louisiana abortion law at the center of a case the Supreme Court added to its docket last week is flagrantly unconstitutional.

My goal in this column is to make visible not only the stakes in the case but also Louisiana’s strategy for saving its law, the first of a wave of anti-abortion measures to reach a Supreme Court transformed by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy and the addition of two justices appointed by President Donald Trump.

#MeToo Rape Claim

matt lauer today

ny times logoNew York Times, Matt Lauer Is Accused of Rape in Ronan Farrow’s New Book, Jim Windolf, John Koblin and Rachel Abrams, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). One of the reporters who helped bring down Harvey Weinstein secured an on-the-record interview with one of the former “Today” host’s accusers.

For more than 20 years, Matt Lauer, shown in a file photo, was a star anchor of NBC’s most profitable franchise, “Today.” His downfall came in November 2017 when the network fired him after receiving a complaint of sexual misconduct against him. The accusation was soon followed by others.

ronan farrowNow, the circumstances of that firing have resurfaced in a book by the investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, right, that contains new details from Mr. Lauer’s primary accuser, including her account of a rape. The book, Catch and Kill, is expected to be released on Tuesday.

The accuser provided an account of her interactions with Mr. Lauer to The New York Times nearly two years ago, but said she was not willing to go public with her story at the time. On Wednesday, Variety reported that Mr. Farrow had secured an on-the-record interview with the woman, Brooke Nevils, who allowed the author to name her.

Ms. Nevils gave Mr. Farrow a detailed description of an encounter with Mr. Lauer, which took place when the network was covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Mr. Lauer anally raped Ms. Nevils, she told Mr. Farrow.

nbc news logoMr. Lauer denied the allegation in a letter provided by his lawyer on Wednesday. “In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having was in fact an assault,” Mr. Lauer wrote. “It is categorically false, ignores the facts and defies common sense. I had an extramarital affair with Brooke Nevils in 2014. It began when she came to my hotel room very late one night in Sochi, Russia. We engaged in a variety of sexual acts. We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”

NBC News, working as a contributor to MSNBC and, for a time, as a correspondent on “Today,” with a segment called “Undercover With Ronan Farrow.” The book includes a detailed account of the pushback Mr. Farrow said he had received from the news division’s executives, and his reporting on Mr. Lauer could have reverberations at the network. Up until now, Mr. Farrow had been publicly silent on his disagreements with the network.

Turkish Attack On Kurds

 washington post logoWashington Post, Turkish forces push deeper into Syria as Kurds fight back, Erin Cunningham, Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch and Asser Khattab, Oct. 10, 2019. The operation, including air and ground forces, targeted villages along the border with Syria and “continued successfully” during the second day of the offensive, Turkey's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Militia Fires Shells Into Turkey as Syria Offensive Enters 2nd Day, Carlotta Gall and Patrick Kingsley, Oct. 10, 2019. At least 16 Kurdish fighters were reported to have been killed as Turkish ground forces assaulted towns in northeastern Syria.

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkey launches offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria, Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch and Asser Khattab, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). Turkish airstrikes and shelling targeted Syrian Kurdish fighters who have played a central role in aiding the U.S.-led battle against the Islamic State militant group.

turkey flagTurkey’s government launched a long-expected offensive into northeastern Syria on Wednesday, with airstrikes and shelling targeting Syrian Kurdish fighters who have played a central role in aiding the U.S.-led battle against the Islamic State militant group.

The operation — with some ground forces crossing the border later — came just days after President Trump’s startling announcement that the United States would not stand in Turkey’s way, bringing sharp rebukes from even the president’s Republican allies.

The Turkish foray threatened to further fracture a war-shattered Syria as Ankara moved to create a “safe zone” after failing to agree on its size and nature during negotiations with the United States.

Related stories (excerpts below):

 washington post logoWashington Post, Erdogan says Turkey will prevent Islamic State resurgence as his forces push into Syria, Erin Cunningham, Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch and Asser Khattab, Oct. 10, 2019. “After Turkey takes control of this region, everyone can be sure that [the Islamic State] will not reappear,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that Turkey would either imprison or deport the Islamist militants and their families.

The Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Pull Them All Out of Syria, Now, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, Oct. 10, 2019 (excerpted). Democrats, jacob hornberger newRepublicans, the mainstream press, and all the other Washington, D.C., interventionists are up in arms over President Trump’s decision to relocate a few U.S. soldiers within Syria. Based on their hysterical reaction, you would think that the United States was about to be invaded and conquered by some new or old official enemy, like communists, terrorists, Muslims, illegal immigrants, or drug dealers.

If we want to restore a free, peaceful, harmonious, and normally functioning society to our land, we have to bring an end to U.S. interventionism all over the world.

In this particular case, the official bugaboo is ISIS, the group that, ironically, was the direct consequence of U.S. interventionism in Iraq. Apparently, there were people in the Middle East who didn’t take kindly to a foreign imperialist power invading and occupying a country that had never attacked the United States and killing, injuring, and destroying hundreds of thousands of people in the process.

But let’s not go overboard. ISIS is not coming to get us, any more than the communists were coming to get us during the Cold War. For that matter, neither are the terrorists, Muslims, drug dealers, illegal immigrants, Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Vietnamese, Cubans, Iranians, or any other scary boogeymen.

Now, that’s not to say that there isn’t a threat of terrorist retaliation for U.S. interventionism in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere. Of course there is. That is one of the prices that have to be paid for U.S. imperialism and interventionism. (Other prices include the destruction of our liberty here at home and out-of-control federal spending and debt that are bankrupting our nation.)

End U.S. interventionism entirely

If we want to restore a free, peaceful, harmonious, and normally functioning society to our land, we have to bring an end to U.S. interventionism all over the world. That means bringing all the troops home immediately, which would put an end to the death and destruction that U.S. interventionism wreaks abroad, which in turn would disintegrate the anger and rage that leads to the threat of terrorist retaliation against the United States.

That includes Syria. Instead of repositioning a few soldiers within Syria, Trump should be ordering an immediate and complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria. What Trump is obviously having a difficult time processing is the notion that U.S. troops have no more business in Syria than Syrian troops have here in the United States.

Unfortunately, despite his positive words about wanting to end America’s “endless wars,” Trump has continued to defer to the interventionists, especially the Pentagon, by keeping U.S. troops in Syria. Don’t forget — he has had three years to order the Pentagon to pull them out and bring them home. He has chosen not to issue that order.

The Kurds

The interventionists also say that U.S. forces must continue to be kept in Syria to serve as sacrificial tripwires to protect their Kurdish allies from a military attack by Turkey, which is their NATO ally.

Notice something important, however, about the deep concern that interventionists have for the Kurds: Not one single interventionist is traveling to Syria to join up and fight with them. Imagine that! They want U.S. soldiers to fight, kill, and die for the Kurds, but they’re not willing to do so themselves.

The interventionist chessboard

Here’s are the big questions:

Why are there any U.S. troops in Syria at all? What business do they have in Syria? What constitutional authority do they have being there? What difference does it make whether ISIS or any other tyrannical group takes over the government in some foreign country? Aren’t tyrannical groups running Egypt, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Russia, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and Venezuela? Why should American troops be sacrificed to prevent one tyrannical group from replacing another tyrannical group?

Why should American troops be sacrificed to oust the Syrian dictatorship and replace it with a pro-U.S. dictatorship?

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In Syria, Trump Distills a Foreign Policy of Impulse, Peter Baker and Lara Jakes, Oct. 10, 2019. The president is trying to reverse the consequences as Turkish forces bombard Kurdish fighters who helped overpower ISIS. Having upended Middle East policy with the flick of a Twitter finger, however, Mr. Trump now is trying to find a way to reverse the eminently foreseeable consequences as Turkish forces bombard the same Kurdish fighters who helped the United States overpower the Islamic State.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper called his Turkish counterpart on Thursday to stress that Washington opposes the incursion into Syria, and Mr. Trump talked of brokering some form of peace between Turkey and the Kurds. “I hope we can mediate,” he told reporters even as he contemplates sanctions against Turkey.

But the administration signaled that it was still giving the Turks a degree of latitude. A State Department official, who briefed reporters under ground rules that he not be identified, said the administration would impose costs if Turkey went “beyond the lines,” which he defined as ethnic cleansing or indiscriminate artillery and airstrikes directed at civilians.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria ‘a bad idea’ as Republican criticism mounts, Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump said Wednesday that it would be “easy” for the United States to form new alliances if Syrian Kurds leave the fight against the Islamic State to fend off a Turkish attack, noting that “they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us in Normandy” and were only interested in fighting for “their land.”

kurd flag“With all of that being said, we like the Kurds,” he said in response to questions about Turkey’s incursion into Syria.

Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks, following a White House ceremony where he signed unrelated executive orders, came as the administration continued an effort to correct what it has called the misimpression that Trump enabled the offensive Turkey launched Wednesday against the U.S.-allied Kurds. The president spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday.

Calling the offensive “a bad idea,” he said in the statement that Turkey had promised to avert a humanitarian crisis and ensure its operation did not allow the Islamic State to regain strength.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military is taking custody of two accused of involvement in beheadings of ISIS hostages, Ellen Nakashima, Souad Mekhennet, Rachel Weiner and Missy Ryan​, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). The British men are being transferred into U.S. military custody because the Turkish incursion into Syria threatened their continued detention by Kurdish forces, U.S. officials said.

The U.S. military is taking custody of several dozen high-value Islamic State detainees, including two British men accused of involvement in the militant group’s summary executions of American and other Western hostages. The action is designed to prevent their escape or release from camps in Syria, where they have been guarded by Kurdish forces now under threat from Turkey’s incursion, according to U.S. officials.

The move, a rare instance in which the United States has taken direct responsibility for Islamic State prisoners in Iraq and Syria, comes as U.S. officials scramble to ensure that Ankara’s unfolding military operation does not permit the Islamic State to regain strength.

The roughly 40 individuals being taken into U.S. custody, all considered important Islamic State figures, previously had been held in a constellation of small prisons in northeast Syria, run by Syrian Kurdish forces who have been the Pentagon’s primary partner against the Islamic State in Syria. The Kurds are now pulling guards from those facilities to confront the unfolding Turkish assault.

The British pair — part of a group of four British militants dubbed the “Beatles” by their hostages — were being detained with the goal of putting them james foley isis 2012 via abcon trial in the United States, said a senior U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. That official said the two men — Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh — had been taken to Iraq; other officials said recent administration discussions about the fate of those prisoners had examined the possibility of bringing them to Iraq.

The British men are accused of involvement in the beheading of Americans James Foley (right), Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig as well as other Western hostages. “This is like a victory for the ISIS fighters. I just think it’s appalling,” said Diane Foley, James Foley’s mother. “It’s an abdication of our responsibility to ensure safety for our own citizens and allies.”

Water, Fire, Climate Change?

washington post logoWashington Post, Gone in a Generation: ‘Things are drying up’: On the Rio Grande, rising temperatures mean less water. Can farmers cope? Zoeann Murphy and Chris Mooney, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). Next-generation growers in New Mexico fear old wells and new technology may not keep pace as water dwindles.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lights Out Across Northern California Amid Wildfire Threat, Thomas Fuller, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). A deliberate power outage by PG&E, the state’s largest utility, sent residents scrambling — and debating whether it was worth it. The lights went off in stages in Northern California on Wednesday, from the forests near the Oregon border, down the spine of the Sierra Nevada and finally through the dense hillside communities across the Bay from San Francisco.

Hundreds of thousands of households lost power when California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, shut down a vast web of electrical lines as a precaution against wildfires. Not knowing how long the outage would last, residents hurried to gas stations and supermarkets, stocking up on essentials as if a hurricane were bearing down.

It was an extraordinary moment for California. In the state that brought the world the iPhone and the internet as most people know it, residents fumbled for flashlights, hauled jerrycans of gasoline and read instructions on how to manually open their automatic garage doors. In the fifth-largest economy in the world, hundreds of thousands of people were forced off the grid.

The vast scope of the power shutdown suggested a new layer of vulnerability for California. A state prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides and wildfires now was faced with a power company’s decision to shut off the electricity, with relatively little notice.

By Wednesday afternoon, at least 500,000 customers — each customer can represent numerous family members or apartment dwellers — were without power. The company said electricity would be shut off for 250,000 additional customers on Wednesday evening.

Oct. 9

U.S. Impeachment Daily Index

djt fox impeachment poll oct 9 2019 Custom

 

Impeachment Inquiry Update

Fox News, Poll: Record support for Trump impeachment, Dana Blanton, Oct. 10, 2019 (print ed.). Just over half of voters want President Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News Poll released Wednesday. A new high of 51 percent wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. In July, 42 percent favored impeachment and removal, while 5 percent said impeach but don’t remove him, and 45 percent opposed impeachment.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosSince July, support for impeachment increased among voters of all stripes: up 11 points among Democrats, 5 points among Republicans and 3 among independents. Support also went up among some of Trump’s key constituencies, including white evangelical Christians (+5 points), white men without a college degree (+8), and rural whites (+10).

Among voters in swing counties (where Hillary Clinton and Trump were within 10 points in 2016), support for impeachment increased to 52 percent, up from 42 percent in July.

A lot has happened since the July Fox poll on impeachment -- namely, the launch of an impeachment inquiry in the House following allegations Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens’ dealings in that country. The 9-point increase in support for impeachment since July, however, doesn’t appear to be based solely on the latest allegations. To that point, more Democrats favor impeaching Trump (85 percent) than consider his call with Ukraine’s president an impeachable offense (76 percent). The same holds true among independents: 39 percent favor impeachment, while 30 percent describe the Ukraine call as impeachable.

The 4-in-10 voters opposing impeachment give a variety of reasons, including: Trump did nothing wrong (21 percent), it is politically motivated (20 percent), and don’t believe allegations (15 percent).

Approval of Trump’s job performance is down a couple of points to 43 percent, while 55 percent disapprove. Last month, it was 45-54 percent. Currently, 86 percent of Republicans approve compared to 89 percent in September.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Signals It Won’t Cooperate With Impeachment Inquiry, Nicholas Fandos, Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). The White House declared war on the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, announcing that it would not cooperate with what it called an illegitimate effort “to overturn the results of the 2016 election” and setting the stage for a constitutional clash with far-reaching consequences.

In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House said the inquiry had violated precedent and denied President Trump’s due process rights in such an egregious way that neither he nor the executive branch would willingly provide testimony or documents.

djt nancy pelosi“Your unprecedented actions have left the president with no choice,” said the letter signed by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. “In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the executive branch and all future occupants of the office of the presidency, President Trump and his administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances.”

But in refusing to cooperate with what Mr. Trump on Tuesday called a “kangaroo court,” the president risked ensuring the very outcome he would rather avoid. House Democrats made clear that his failure to comply with their demands for information could form the basis for its own article of impeachment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats to subpoena Sondland, say Trump’s move to block deposition amounts to obstruction, Shane Harris and John Wagner​, european union logo rectangleOct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration on Tuesday blocked a planned deposition from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a central figure in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

gordon sondland oDemocrats called the administration’s move an act of obstruction and said they would issue a subpoena for Sondland’s testimony, as well as emails and text messages that Sondland held on a personal device and that have been turned over to the State Department, which has yet to release them.

Sondland, 61, left, appears never to have held a position in government before being named the ambassador to the E.U. in June 2018. He built his fortune acquiring and managing luxury hotels in the Pacific Northwest and gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund via shell companies that obscured his involvement.

Live updates: Trump continues to push for Adam Schiff to be 'Impeached!'

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge balks at Justice Dept. bid to deny House access to Mueller grand jury materials, Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). Justice Department lawyers urged a federal judge Tuesday to deny a House Judiciary Committee request for grand-jury materials from former special beryl howellcounsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, arguing that despite legal rulings during the impeachment inquiry into President Richard M. Nixon, in hindsight courts in 1974 should not have given Congress materials from the Watergate grand jury.

“Wow, okay,” Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington responded, sounding unpersuaded. “As I said, the department is taking extraordinary positions in this case.”

Howell, right,  called the stance one of several “extreme” arguments presented by Trump administration lawyers in opposing the House request for Mueller grand-jury materials, part of a widening impeachment investigation of President Trump.

washington post logo

jennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Why this latest Trump tactic is different, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). Even for President Trump, “I’ll impeach you!” is an idiotic comeback to House Democrats who are pursuing an impeachment inquiry.

Mainstream outlets have collectively decided that Trump is now a threat to democratic elections, so it is time to get serious and drop the pretense that there is a legitimate “side” (e.g., Ukraine has the DNC server! Asking China to interfere in our elections is fine, just fine!) whom Trump, Fox News and the Trump cultists represent.

Bloomberg News, Trump Urged Top Aide to Help Giuliani Client Facing DOJ Charges, Nick Wadhams, Saleha Mohsin, Stephanie Baker and Jennifer Jacobs, Oct. rex tillerson square9, 2019. President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office.

Tillerson, right, refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.

john kelly o dhsTillerson immediately repeated his objections to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly,left, in a hallway conversation just outside the Oval Office, emphasizing that the request would be illegal. Neither episode has been previously reported, and all of the people spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the conversations.

Zarrab was being prosecuted in federal court in New York at the time on charges of evading U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear rudy giulianiprogram. He had hired former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Giuliani, right, who has said he reached out repeatedly to U.S. officials to seek a diplomatic solution for his client outside the courts.

The president’s request to Tillerson -- which included asking him to speak with Giuliani -- bears the hallmarks of Trump’s governing style, defined by his willingness to sweep aside the customary procedures and constraints of government to pursue matters outside normal channels. Tillerson’s objection came to light as Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders face intense scrutiny following the July 25 call with Ukraine’s president that has sparked an impeachment inquiry in the House.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why this new GOP Senate report about the Trump-Russia election scandal is so crucial to what happens next, Bill Palmer, Oct. 9, 2019. Yesterday, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee decided to release its years-in-the-making report on the Trump-Russia 2016 election rigging scandal. You read whatever you want into the timing of releasing this report just two weeks after Donald Trump’s impeachment got underway, and one day after a bunch of GOP Senators spoke out against Trump’s deranged Syria pullout. But the details here are what may be most important to the Republican Senators.

bill palmer report logo headerThis publicly available Senate Intel Committee report confirms a lot of what we already knew for certain: the Russian government spent the 2016 general election spreading fake news aimed at helping Donald Trump and harming Hillary Clinton. It’s notable in its own right that a Republican controlled committee is admitting that Clinton was harmed by lies, after the GOP spent the past twenty-five years pushing its own lies about Clinton. But there’s a more key part to this report.

Over the past two and a half years we’ve seen scattered reports that the Russians didn’t just help rig the 2016 general election for Donald Trump; they helped rig the 2016 Republican primary race for Trump as well. Sure enough, this Senate report confirms that during the primary contest, the Russians were spreading fake news to help Trump, while spreading fake news aimed at specifically harming Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.

In other words, the Republican Senate just announced that it’s found proof that the Russian government screwed three prominent Republicans – two of whom are currently in the Senate – out of their party’s 2016 presidential nomination. By ideological definition, the Republicans each only care about themselves. They’re making a point of announcing that the Trump-Russia scandal wasn’t just a plot against Hillary, it was also a plot against the Republican Party. You think they don’t want revenge?

washington post logoWashington Post, Clinton-email critics pull a role reversal as Trump administration draws fire for private phone use, John Hudson and Karoun Demirjian, Oct. 9, 2019. The president’s latest legal machinations highlight his absolutist view of executive power and presidential impunity.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The king of projection and his concoction of lies, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 9, 2019. Donald Trump has become the king of projection in digging through every official act of Joe Biden as vice president to concoct a series of lies that, in reality, apply to Trump and his family and administration of grifters, swindlers, and gangsters.

wayne madesen report logoTrump managed to turn Biden’s official act of pressuring Ukraine to fire a corrupt prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, into a tall tale of Biden seeking the Ukrainian official’s ouster in order to protect son Hunter Biden’s financial interests as a board member of Burisma Holdings, one of many Ukrainian companies that were given a pass by Shokin.

In fact, Shokin was also derelict in prosecuting Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who is ducking a U.S. extradition warrant after his federal indictment on bribery, racketeering, and money laundering charges. Firtash was one of the many benefactors of Paul Manafort. Firtash, who is a lieutenant for the most dangerous Russian oligarch, Semion Mogilevich, also wanted by U.S. authorities.

ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s the evidence collected and requested in the inquiry so far, Weiyi Cai and Alicia Parlapiano, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.) (Chart above by New York Times). House Democrats have begun collecting evidence for their impeachment investigation, which was launched after a whistle-blower complaint said that White House officials believed they had witnessed President Trump abuse his power for political gain.

democratic donkey logoCongressional investigators have been issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documents and witness testimony related to Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Evidence that has been collected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ally on Fox News calls whistleblowers ‘suicide bombers,’ accuses Democrats of ‘regicide,’ Allyson Chiu, Oct. 9, 2019. Former U.S. attorney Joseph E. diGenova turned to European history Tuesday night to describe the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Trump, calling their efforts “regicide,” the act of killing a king.

joseph digenova Custom“What you’re seeing is regicide,” diGenova, at right with Trump in file photos, a frequent Trump defender, told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. “This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment. The Democrats in the House want to destroy the president."

But diGenova, a conspiracy theorist Trump wanted on his legal team during the Russia probe, wasn’t finished. In a lengthy interview on “The Ingraham Angle,” the lawyer, who was joined by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, blasted the two anonymous whistleblowers as “suicide bombers” and accused Democrats of “sedition.”

The fiery rhetoric marks the latest escalation in language used by Trump’s supporters, and even the president himself, to complain about the ongoing impeachment inquiry, a tactic that has prompted some to express concern about the safety of the whistleblowers and top Democrats.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Democrats just landed a key impeachment witness that Donald Trump can’t stop, Bill Palmer, Oct. 9, 2019. Donald Trump’s former National Security Council member Fiona Hill has agreed to give cooperative testimony to the House impeachment inquiry in the coming days, according to a report tonight from NBC News.

bill palmer report logo headerThe key word there is “former” which means that Trump can’t stop her, because she doesn’t work for him anymore. By all accounts, she was never personally loyal to Trump to begin with, which means she’s not going to be interested in listening to him now. So why is her testimony important?

Fiona Hill was the Russia expert for Trump’s National Security Council, which means she has knowledge of the Trump regime’s dealings with Russia. Because Russia is so obsessed with Ukraine, it stands to reason that Hill knows things about Trump’s Ukraine antics.

djt nyt impeachment investigation tracker ny times logoNew York Times, Here’s the evidence collected and requested in the inquiry so far, Weiyi Cai and Alicia Parlapiano, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.) (Chart above by New York Times). House Democrats have begun collecting evidence for their impeachment investigation, which was launched after a whistle-blower complaint said that White House officials believed they had witnessed President Trump abuse his power for political gain.

democratic donkey logoCongressional investigators have been issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documents and witness testimony related to Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who supports an impeachment inquiry? Here’s a full list, Alicia Parlapiano, Jason Kao, Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmonson, updated Oct. 3, 2019. More than two-thirds of the 235 House Democrats had already said they support an inquiry, according to a New York Times survey and public statements.

  • 226 Reps support an impeachment inquiry (218 majority needed for impeachment)
  • 193 No, not now, or undecided
  •   14 Awaiting response

ny times logoNew York Times, The Whistleblower Complaint: Full Document, Sept. 27, 2019 (print ed.). Here is the complaint filed by an intelligence officer about President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Aided by convict’s darkly precise memory, FBI says he is the most prolific serial killer ever, Brittany Shammas, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). Samuel Little has confessed to killing 93 people. The FBI believes him.

Samuel Little, left, described his crimes in painstaking detail, sometimes smiling or laughing at the memory. Over 18 months of confession to a Texas samuel littleRanger inside the prison where he’s already serving a life sentence, the gray-haired, 79-year-old man admitted to 93 murders spanning 19 states and 35 years.

With 50 of those cases verified, the FBI announced that Little, whose gruesome crimes went undetected for decades, is the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history. Now, investigators are seeking the public’s help in identifying the rest of the people he’s confessed to having strangled between 1970 and 2005. They believe all of his confessions to be credible.

On Sunday, the agency released a trove of information on five unmatched cases, including video clips of Little recounting meeting the victims and dumping their bodies. He described their appearances — “she was pretty … she had a beautiful body on her,” he said of a woman he killed in New Orleans — as well as the fields, canals and trash heaps where he left them. He also drew portraits of their faces.

FBI logoThe FBI says Little targeted mostly vulnerable women. Some were sex workers or drug users. Others were transgender. Their deaths may not have attracted much attention, and authorities often cited drug overdoses, accidents or natural causes as responsible. In some of the cases, the bodies were never found.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Little was convicted of murder. He had been arrested at a Kentucky homeless shelter and extradited to California on a drug charge. While he was in custody, Los Angeles police detectives obtained a DNA match to three unsolved homicides from the late 1980s, in which women had been beaten and strangled. Little received three life sentences for those crimes.

U.S. Media / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook’s Hands-Off Approach to Political Speech Gets Impeachment Test, Cecilia Kang, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). The 30-second video ad released by the Trump campaign last week is grainy, and the narrator’s voice is foreboding. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., it says, offered Ukraine $1 billion in aid if the country pushed out the man investigating a company tied to Mr. Biden’s son.

Saying it made false accusations, CNN immediately refused to air the advertisement.

But Facebook did not, and on Tuesday, the social network rejected a request from Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign to take it down, foreshadowing a continuing fight over misinformation on the service during the 2020 election as well as the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

facebook logoIn a letter to the Biden campaign, Facebook said the ad, which has been viewed five million times on the site, did not violate company policies. Last month, the social network, which has more than two billion users, announced that politicians and their campaigns had nearly free rein over content they post there.

Even false statements and misleading content in ads, the company has said, are an important part of the political conversation.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

The decision by the company illustrates its executives’ hardened resolve to stay out of the moderation of political speech, despite the use of the social network to spread discord and disinformation in the 2016 presidential campaign. On Tuesday, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released a sobering report warning of fresh signs of interference by Russia and other foreign nations in the 2020 election.

The company’s position stands in contrast to CNN, which rejected two ads from the Trump campaign last week, including the one the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down. The cable channel said it rejected the ad because it “makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets.”

Facebook has been dogged by accusations of censorship by conservative politicians, including President Trump, who argue that the Silicon Valley company gives greater attention to liberal points of views on the social network.

But by removing itself as the moderator of political content — including in paid ads on the site — Facebook has left itself open another avenue of criticism. In a series of tweets Monday evening, Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination, said Facebook allowed President Trump to spread false information widely, and called on the company to take down the attack ad against Mr. Biden, one of her top rivals.

“Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once because they were asleep at the wheel while Russia attacked our democracy — allowing fake, foreign accounts to run ad campaigns to influence our elections,” Ms. Warren wrote.

U.S. 2020 Politics

Intercept, Opinion: Joe Biden’s Family Has Been Cashing in on His Career for Decades. Democrats Need to Acknowledge That, Ryan Grim, Oct 10, 2019.  While Democrats pursue the impeachment of President Donald Trump for pressuring foreign countries to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, they are left joe biden omaking an argument that is at once true and electorally and ethically compromising: What Trump did — and continues to do — was an impeachable abuse of power, and it should be considered separately from the question of what Hunter Biden did.

The problem for Democrats is that a review of Hunter Biden’s career shows clearly that he, along with Joe Biden’s brother James, has been trading on their family name for decades, cashing in on the implication — and sometimes the explicit argument — that giving money to a member of Joe Biden’s family wins the favor of Joe Biden.

Democrats have been loath to give any credibility to the wild rantings of Trump or his bagman Rudy Giuliani, leaving them to sidestep the question of Hunter Biden’s ethics or decision-making, and how much responsibility Joe Biden deserves. Republicans, though, have no such qualms, and have made clear that smearing the Bidens as corrupt will be central to Trump’s reelection campaign. The Trump approach is utterly without shame or irony, with attacks even coming from failson Eric Trump.

Investigative reporters and GOP operatives have dived deep into the question of whether Joe Biden ever used his official power to do favors for special interests shoveling money to his family and found no proof of this. In the case of Ukraine, it’s likely that Biden’s actions as vice president, in demanding the firing of the country’s top prosecutor, did more to hurt his son’s company than anything else.

As far as the impeachment inquiry is concerned, that’s an important point: There was no illegal behavior for Trump to hang his desired corruption investigation into Joe Bidenon. His entire goal was to use the power of the American empire to pressure a client state into ginning up bad press for his Democratic rival. Nobody seriously believes that Trump has any serious commitment to eradicating corruption in Ukraine, or any genuine opposition to nepotism. A member of his own family has used the power of the White House to shake down Gulf autocrats for a real-estate bailout, after all.

But that doesn’t mean the Bidens’ behavior isn’t a legitimate problem for Democrats. Indeed, Biden has been taking political hits over of the intersection of his family’s financial dealings and his own political career for some four decades. Yet he has done nothing publicly to inoculate himself from the charge that his career is corruptly enriching his family, and now that is a serious liability.

In defending the Biden’s nepotistic relationship, Democrats would be forced to argue that, to be fair, such soft corruption is common among the families of senior-level politicians. But that’s a risky general-election argument in a political moment when voters are no longer willing to accept business-as-usual.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Heart Attack, Sanders Will ‘Change the Nature’ of His Campaign, Sydney Ember and Jonathan Martin, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). The Vermont senator vowed to slow his grueling campaign pace. He also acknowledged that voters would take his health into account when deciding whether to support him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Is the Strongest Argument Against Medicare for All, Peter Suderman (features editor at Reason), Oct. 9, 2019. A deep-blue state’s failure to enact a single-payer system shows why a national version is unlikely to succeed. It was in Vermont that Senator Bernie Sanders learned to love single-payer health care — what he now calls Medicare for All — and it was in Vermont that American single-payer faced its greatest test so far.

Under Gov. Pete Shumlin, a Democrat and avowed supporter of single-payer health care, the state worked to create a groundbreaking plan, called Green Mountain Care, to cover all its citizens. Following the Affordable Care Act’s 2010 passage, state lawmakers enacted legislation intended to put Vermont “on a path to a single-payer system.” No state-based single-payer effort ever made it as far, and Mr. Shumlin positioned the plan as a test case for the nation.

Yet despite strong support from the legislature and the governor’s office, not to mention Mr. Sanders himself, the effort failed.
And so, at the end of 2014, Mr. Shumlin admitted defeat. “I have learned that the limitations of state-based financing, the limitations of federal law, the limitations of our tax capacity and the sensitivity of our economy” make single-payer “unwise and untenable at this time,” he said. “The risk of economic shock is too high.”

The Vermont plan was done in by high taxes, distrust of government and lack of political support. Any effort by a Sanders administration to enact a single-payer system at a national level would probably be doomed by similar problems.

U.S. Crime, Courts

paul petersen assessors office via ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Arizona Official Placed 29 Babies in Adoption Fraud Scheme, Prosecutors Say, Neil Vigdor, Oct. 9, 2019. Paul D. Petersen, Maricopa County’s assessor (shown in an official photo via Associated Press), arranged for women from the Marshall Islands to fly to the United States to give birth at taxpayers’ expense, prosecutors said.

He offered each of the expecting mothers $10,000 to put their newborns up for adoption, siphoning off money for housing and health care after arranging for them to travel more than 5,000 miles from the Marshall Islands to the United States, prosecutors said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Defense Intelligence Agency employee charged with leaking classified information to journalists, Paul Duggan, Justin Jouvenal and Matt Zapotosky, Oct. 9, 2019. A counterterrorism analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency has been charged with leaking top-secret details about foreign countries’ weapons systems to two journalists, including a reporter with whom he apparently was romantically involved, federal authorities said Wednesday.

henry david freeseHenry K. Frese, 30, of Alexandria, Va. (shown in a mug shot), “was caught red-handed disclosing sensitive national security information,” according to the Justice Department, which billed the case as part of the Trump administration’s prosecutorial crackdown on leakers who provide such materials to the news media and public.

After a federal indictment of Frese was unsealed Wednesday, the department said in a statement that his alleged “unauthorized disclosure of TOP SECRET information could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave harm to the national security.” Officials declined to say whether any harm resulted.

His alleged motive apparently was to advance the career of the female reporter with whom he had a relationship, the FBI said in an affidavit filed in court. Frese allegedly passed additional classified information to one of the woman’s female colleagues at “an affiliated but different news outlet.”

Although authorities Wednesday withheld the names of the two journalists, the affidavit and indictment describe Twitter messages and online articles that offer a road map to their identities. The reporters appear to be Amanda Macias of CNBC and Courtney Kube of MSNBC, both of whom cover national security.

A person familiar with the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, confirmed that Macias and Kube were the alleged recipients of the leaked information and that investigators believe Macias had a personal relationship with Frese. The journalists and their media outlets did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump Watch

Esquire, Donald Trump Allegedly Hid Behind a Tapestry to Grope a Woman at Mar-a-Lago in the Early 2000s, Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy, Oct. 9, 2019. In an exclusive excerpt from "All the President’s Women," Karen Johnson, one of 43 women with new allegations against the president, tells her story.

djt barry levine monique el faizy coverIf you thought the Access Hollywood tape was the opening salvo in the story of Donald Trump's transgressions against women, think again. In All the President's Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator, journalists Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy draw on over 100 interviews, many of them exclusive, to craft a detailed history of Trump's relationships with women, stretching back to his childhood and education as well as his rise through real estate, entertainment, and politics. What emerges from the authors' reporting is a portrait of a predator who hides behind wealth and institutional power to frequently harass and abuse women.

While the president has publicly faced allegations from two dozen women, this book reveals another 43 allegations of alleged inappropriate behavior, including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact. In this exclusive excerpt from All the President's Women, Levine and El-Faizy investigate an alleged wave of unwanted touching that preceded his proposal to Melania Knauss, including a disturbing instance of groping at Mar-a-Lago. — Adrienne Westenfeld...

Donald Trump is a creature of habit, and the story of how he met the Slovenian model Knauss rings familiar. In 1998, when he had been separated from [Marla] Maples for about a year, he went to the Kit Kat Club for a party for a Victoria’s Secret model with Norwegian heiress Celina Midelfart, who was in her mid-twenties and living in Trump Tower while studying at New York University, as his date.

According to Trump’s account, he was meant to be introduced to another model that night, but Melania caught his eye. “I went crazy,” he told Larry King melania trump twitterduring an interview the CNN host conducted with newlyweds Donald and Melania in 2005. “There was this great supermodel sitting next to Melania. I was supposed to meet this supermodel."

"They said, ‘Look, there’s so and so.’ I said, “Forget about her. Who is the one on the left?’ And it was Melania.” Melania was twenty-eight at the time and had been invited to the party by her friend and agent, Paolo Zampolli. When Midelfart absented herself to use the restroom, Trump seized the opportunity to hit on Melania.

Media Matters, Facebook lets Trump lie at will, Alex Kaplan, Oct. 10, 2019. Facebook has denied a request from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign to remove a false video advertisement posted by President Donald Trump’s campaign. The refusal comes weeks after Facebook changed its policies and decided to allow advertisements pushing misinformation from Trump and other political figures.

facebook logoAccording to The New York Times, Biden’s campaign sent a request to Facebook asking the company to remove a Trump campaign advertisement that falsely suggested the vice president had offered Ukraine $1 billion in aid to fire a prosecutor investigating a company tied to his son. On Tuesday, Facebook refused to take the ad down, responding, “Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression" and "respect for the democratic process.” (CNN had previously refused to air the ad.)

In September, Facebook changed its policies to no longer prohibit ads that include “deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or methods.” Additionally, Facebook said that “ads from political candidates are ineligible for fact-checking.”

Even before the policy tweak, the Trump campaign had repeatedly posted false and misleading Facebook ads, along with ads using “invasion” rhetoric invoked by white nationalists, even though Facebook’s policies prohibit “violent” or “dehumanizing” attacks against a group of people based on immigration status.

Along with the issue of misinformation proliferating in its ads, the platform continues to struggle with detecting and removing propaganda and other misinformation, including from foreign actors such as Russia. These current challenges add to Facebook's history of problems with privacy, fake news, civil rights, and more.

Oct. 8

U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court headshots 2019

Howe on the Court via SCOTUSblog, Argument analysis: Justices divided on federal protections for LGBT employees, Amy Howe, Oct. 8, 2019. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employment discrimination “because of … sex.” This morning, in a packed courtroom, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether Title VII protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees. Because fewer than half of the 50 states specifically bar discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the court’s ruling could be significant. And after over two hours of debate, it was not clear how the justices are likely to rule.

The outcome of the two cases could hinge on Justice Neil Gorsuch, who at times appeared sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ argument but also expressed concern about the “massive social upheaval” that he believed would follow from a ruling for them.

The morning was divided into two arguments, involving closely related – but not identical – issues: a pair of cases, argued together, involving whether Title VII bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, followed by a third case in which the justices are considering whether the law prohibits discrimination based on transgender status.

Impeachment Daily Index

djt handwave file

Impeachment Inquiry Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s defiance of oversight challenges Congress’s ability to rein in the executive branch, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade​, Oct. 8, 2019 (print ed.). Experts and lawmakers worry the president’s hostile stance toward congressional oversight and Democrats flailing response are undermining the separation of powers and could have long-term implications for the democracy.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just got hit with some terrible news, Bill Palmer, Oct. 8, 2019. For all of the noise, bombast, subpoenas, and maniacal tweets involved with the impeachment process, there are only three things that truly matter for now. The first is Trump’s approval rating, which has ticked downward slightly since impeachment began. The second is his head to head polling against his 2020, which is just as ugly for him as ever. This means that thus far at least, impeachment isn’t somehow magically helping him. But the third factor bill palmer report logo headeris the one that truly matters right now: pro-impeachment poll numbers.

That brings us to today’s new Washington Post poll, which says that 58% of Americans believe House Democrats were right to open an impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, as opposed to just 38% who oppose the impeachment inquiry. This means that a solid and growing Democratic-Republican Campaign logosmajority of Americans are siding with the House Democrats, and it means that fewer people than ever are still siding with Trump.

Palmer Report always cautions against taking any one poll at face value. Instead you want to take that poll and place it within the context of the overall polling trends and averages. But this new poll lines up with what every other major poll has said over the past two weeks: more Americans support the impeachment effort by the day, and fewer people are standing with Trump by the day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration blocks testimony of Gordon Sondland, a central figure in impeachment inquiry, Shane Harris and John Wagner, Oct. 9, 2019 (print ed.). Text messages show that Sondland, the ambassador to the E.U., was shaping U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine as President Trump pressed for investigations of his political opponents.

The Trump administration on Tuesday blocked a planned deposition from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a central figure in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to a statement by his lawyer.

gordon sondland oSondland, left, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union was scheduled to be deposed on Tuesday morning before House committees seeking information about his activities as President Trump urged Ukraine to investigate his political opponents, according to his lawyer, Robert Luskin.

Text messages made public last week show that Sondland, whose portfolio does not include U.S.-Ukraine relations, inserted himself into the effort to obtain a commitment from Ukraine to launch the investigations. At the time, the government in Kiev was eagerly volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotawaiting the release of nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid and the arrangement of a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, right.

Sondland, 61, appears never to have held a position in government before being named the ambassador to the E.U. in June 2018. He built his fortune acquiring and managing luxury hotels in the Pacific Northwest and gave $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund via shell companies that obscured his involvement.

Live updates: Trump continues to push for Adam Schiff to be 'Impeached!'

ny times logoNew York Times, House Subpoenas White House Budget Office and Pentagon for Ukraine Records, Nicholas Fandos, Oct. 8, 2019 (print ed.) The House on Monday subpoenaed the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget for documents about the Trump administration’s decision to withhold security aid for Ukraine, expanding the impeachment inquiry into how President Trump sought to pressure the government there to dig up dirt on his political rivals.

U.S. House logoThe subpoenas, issued by the Democrat-controlled House Intelligence Committee, gave the federal agencies until Oct. 15 to comply.

The panel appears to be trying to unearth communications and other records that might shed light on one of the enduring mysteries of the United States’ interactions with Ukraine: why the White House decided last summer to abruptly suspend the $391 million aid package, and whether it was connected to contemporaneous efforts by Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer to pressure the country to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge rules Trump must turn over his tax returns to Manhattan DA, but Trump has indicated he will appeal, David A. Fahrenthold and Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 8, 2019 (print ed.). A federal judge on Monday dismissed President Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the Manhattan District Attorney from obtaining the president’s tax returns as part of an investigation into hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign.

victor marreroU.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, right, rejected Trump’s argument that the presidency makes him immune to any investigation by any prosecutor. In his 75-page ruling, Marrero called such a claim “extraodinary” and wrote that “This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process.”

The ruling means that District Attorney Cyrus Vance (D), below left, may enforce a subpoena he sent to Trump’s longtime accountants, Mazars USA. Trump had filed an unorthodox lawsuit seeking to stop that subpoena, saying that he would suffer “irreparable harm” if prosecutors obtained his tax returns. The Justice Department also took Trump’s side in the case.

cyrus vance jrBut Trump’s private attorneys had already signaled Friday that he plans to quickly appeal such an order to the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The decision marked a key setback for Trump, who has taken an unorthodox, aggressive approach to fighting off investigations from prosecutors and congressional committees, who have sought his tax returns and financial documents. He has sued the investigators and the companies they had subpoenaed, including Mazars and two of Trump’s banks.

Vance is investigating payments made in the last weeks of the 2016 campaign to two women who said they’d had affairs with Trump years earlier. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, later pleaded guilty to federal campaign-finance violations for arranging those payments, and said he’d been reimbursed by the Trump Organization, which the president still owns. Federal prosecutors later concluded their investigation into those payments without charging anyone beyond Cohen.

Now, Vance’s office is investigating to see if any state laws were violated.

cnn logoCNN, Michael Cohen expected to be brought to NY to meet with investigators, Mark Morales, Oct. 8, 2019. Michael Cohen, the former attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump, is expected to be brought back to New York for a meeting with state prosecutors where he's expected to tell them everything he knows, a law enforcement official tells CNN.

The information, if deemed credible, could result in Cohen testifying before a grand jury, the official said. This meeting would be the third time Cohen has met with prosecutors and should happen this month, according to the official. It is expected to be held at the district attorney's office in Lower Manhattan with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's general counsel and the head of the economic crimes bureau, the official said. It is unknown if Vance himself will be there.

djt michael cohenCNN first reported last month that officials from the district attorney's office, led by Vance, interviewed Cohen at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, where he is serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to multiple crimes including campaign finance violations tied to payments to two women alleging affairs with Trump a decade ago. Trump has denied having affairs with the women.

Prosecutors met with Cohen shortly after they opened their investigation into whether the Trump Organization violated a New York state law involving false business records. Investigators are exploring whether the real estate company falsified its records in describing the reimbursement to Cohen for the payments.

Cohen is one of several people with knowledge of the payments who would be of interest to investigators, but he has credibility issues for any potential case. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress.

Prosecutors are also pushing for Trump's tax records with the theory being that the documents will provide definitive proof of where money has been allocated, unveiling if there was any masking of payments that was a deliberate falsification, the official said. Cohen is not looking to trade information for a lighter sentence, the official said. He is coming forward with information and meeting with officials without any limitations, the official said.

ny times logo

New York Times, Senate Republicans plan to invite Rudy Giuliani to testify, Staff report on live updates, Washington Post, Trump administration blocks testimony of Gordon Sondland, a central figure in impeachment inquiry, Shane Harris and John Wagner, Oct. 9, 2019. Read the latest on the inquiry. Giuliani gets a Senate microphone for his (unfounded) Ukraine theories. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a staunch ally of President Trump, said Tuesday he will invite Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, to lay out his Ukraine theories before the committee.

rudy giuliani recentMr. Giuliani, right, has led the push to enlist the Ukrainians to help investigate the business dealings of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son and has embraced a conspiracy theory that Ukraine — not Russia — meddled in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump picked up on that theory in his now-infamous call to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in July when he asked about a “server” that could be in Ukraine. The hearing promises to be something of a counterweight to the House impeachment inquiry.

Senate Intelligence Committee concludes again: Russia sought to elect Trump. The Senate Intelligence Committee, striving to maintain bipartisan comity amid growing impeachment tensions, concluded on Tuesday that Moscow used social media in 2016 to boost Mr. Trump, damage Hillary Clinton and sow discord in the electorate. The committee’s second report on Russia’s intervention in the election reached familiar conclusions through its 85 pages: Moscow’s Internet Research Agency targeted African Americans more than any other group, “engaged with unwitting Americans to further its reach beyond the digital realm,” with protests and petition, and is still at it.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case, Kenneth P. Vogel, Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Andrew E. Kramer, Oct. 8, 2019 (print ed.). The energy secretary pushed for changes at Ukraine’s state-owned utility as President Trump sought inquiries into political opponents. When Energy Secretary Rick Perry, right, led an American delegation to the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president in May, he took the opportunity to suggest the names of Americans the new Ukrainian government might want to advise and oversee the country’s state-owned gas company.

rick perry oMr. Perry’s focus during the trip on Ukraine’s energy industry was in keeping with a push he had begun months earlier under the previous Ukrainian president, and it was consistent with United States policy of promoting anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine and greater energy independence from Russia.

But his actions during the trip have entangled him in a controversy about a pressure campaign waged by President Trump and his allies directed at the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. That effort sought to pressure Mr. Zelensky’s government to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. ukraine flagBiden Jr., a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perry’s trip raised questions about whether he was seeking to provide certain Americans help in gaining a foothold in the Ukrainian energy business at a time when the new Ukrainian government was looking to the United States for signals of support in its simmering conflict with Russia.

Mr. Trump seemed to suggest last week that he made a July 25 phone call to Mr. Zelensky, during which he repeatedly urged his Ukrainian counterpart to pursue investigations that could politically benefit him, at the urging of Mr. Perry. Mr. Trump told congressional Republicans last week that Mr. Perry wanted him to discuss the liquefied natural gas supply with Mr. Zelensky, Axios reported.

Global News

ny times logoNew York Times, Syrian Rebels See Chance for New Life With Turkish Troops, Carlotta Gall, Oct. 8, 2019. Turkey’s plans to create a safe zone in northern Syria will increase the standing of its Syrian allies, who still dream of revolution. Amid the criticism over President Trump’s Syria policy, there is one former American ally that has welcomed his decision to pull back Kurdish-led forces and allow Turkish troops to create a safe zone in northern Syria: the rebel Free Syrian Army.

turkey flagEnsconced in several small enclaves of Syria near the Turkey border that are protected by Turkish forces, the Free Syrian Army (now named the National Army) is ready to deploy 14,000 soldiers as ground troops for Turkey in such an operation, Yousuf Hammoud, a spokesman, said on Monday.

Mr. Trump’s decision, announced late Sunday, has been sharply criticized by politicians of both political parties in the United States as a desertion of the Kurdish-led forces — the most reliable American partners in fighting Islamic State militants in Syria. But fighters and veterans of the Free Syrian Army point out that they were also abandoned by Mr. Trump when he cut support to their force in 2017.

Now, the Free Syrian Army, which has largely been marginalized in the conflict, sees a chance to regain lost territory in its struggle against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. “Now it is a fight for land, not for freedom and dignity as before,” said Fares Bayoush, a former senior commander in the Free Syran Army.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S.-Allied Kurdish Militia Says It Will Attack if Turkish Forces Enter Syria, Ben Hubbard and Carlotta Gall, Oct. 8, 2019. “We will resist,” said the leader of the militia. Turkey’s president said an attack was imminent as confusion remained over President Trump’s Syria policy.

kurd flagThe commander of the American-backed militia in Syria said Tuesday that it would attack Turkish forces if they enter northeastern Syria, while Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, indicated that such an operation was imminent.

“We will resist,” Mazlum Kobani, commander of the Kurdish-led militia, said in an interview with The New York Times. “We have been at war for seven years, so we can continue the war for seven more years.”

Mr. Erdogan, speaking to reporters on a flight to Serbia, said the operation might happen before the news could be printed. Turkish troops were being bused to the Syrian border in preparation for an incursion, Turkish media reported. And the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Twitter that preparations to enter Syria “had been completed.”

The escalating challenge came after President Trump agreed to let the Turkish operation go forward and to move American troops out of the way. On Monday, American troops withdrew from posts near two Syrian towns near the border.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: When ‘Get Out’ Is a President’s National Security Strategy, David E. Sanger, Oct. 8, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s order to pull forces from the Syrian border is another national security move at odds with the official position of his government. He is demonstrating that no troop presence is too small to escape his pursuit of ending America’s “endless wars.” President Trump has demonstrated that in his pursuit of ending America’s “endless wars,” no troop presence abroad is too small to escape his desire to terminate it.

pat robertson

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump ‘in danger of losing the mandate of heaven’ over Syria decision, Pat Robertson warns, Kim Bellware, Oct. 8, 2019. Influential televangelist and Christian Broadcasting Network founder Pat Robertson is the latest of President Trump’s longtime supporters to decry the president’s decision to abandon the United States’ Kurdish allies in Syria as Turkish forces approach.

President Donald Trump official“I believe … the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,” Robertson said during the Monday episode of his CBN show, “The 700 Club.”

In his unusually fiery criticism of Trump, Robertson said he was “appalled” by the president’s decision, implying it was a betrayal to Kurdish allies. Robertson went on to invoke the Armenian genocide, in which the Turkish government killed thousands of Armenian Christians amid World War I and the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated last year in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

Trump Finances

washington post logoWashington Post, Losses deepen at Trump’s Scotland properties, new financial reports show, Joshua Partlow​, Oct. 8, 2019. The Trump Organization’s two Scottish golf courses lost $14.3 million in 2018, extending a multiyear string of losses that have intensified since Donald Trump took office, according to annual financial reports released this month.

The results add further pressure to two of President Trump’s key overseas investments at a time when the company faces backlashes on many fronts, including customers who shun the president’s family business for political reasons and golf course neighbors upset by the company’s plans to build hundreds of new homes on bucolic farmland.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge defends giving Amber Guyger hug and a Bible, saying she ‘could not refuse,’ Reis Thebault, Oct. 8, 2019. Victim's brother and judge hug Amber Guyger after murder conviction. Judge Tammy Kemp was clad in black robes and seated at the bench in her Dallas courtroom when she reached for a tissue and wiped the tears from her eyes.

It was the coda to an intense, closely watched trial. The scene unfolding in front of Kemp would move her to do something she’d never before done in her career on the court — a decision that later provoked both outrage and applause.

Kemp watched last week as the brother of Botham Jean, an unarmed black man shot to death inside his own apartment, crossed the room to hug Amber Guyger, the white former police officer convicted of murder in the case. Minutes later, after she dismissed the jury, Kemp hugged members of the Jean family. She then approached Guyger and, eventually, gifted her a Bible and embraced her, too.

Both moments went viral, and Kemp’s highly unusual act elicited a split-screen response. Some praised it as a rare moment of compassion in a cold criminal justice system, while others derided it as a grave ethical breach and yet another example of how white defendants are treated better than defendants of color.

U.S. Race Relations / Media

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘For Black Folks Only’: A Reddit Uproar Over Race, Amy Harmon, Oct. 8, 2019. Moderators of a online forum caused an uproar by requiring participants to submit a photograph proving they were not white.

U.S. 2020 Politics / Media

Columbia Journalism Review, How the Buffalo News stayed ahead of the insider trading story that took down a congressman, Savannah Jacobson, Oct. 8, 2019. In June 2017, New York Representative Chris Collins –– the first congressperson to endorse Trump –– was at a picnic in the White House lawn when he received an email alerting him that an Australian pharmaceutical company he invested in, Innate, had failed clinical trials.

chris collins cropped oCollins, who had been encouraging other members of congress to invest in the stock, then called his son and advised him to sell his shares before the information became public. Ultimately, Collins, his son, and his son’s fiancee’s father sold their stock, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last week, the congressman pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of lying to the federal government, while the other two men pled guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Collins could face almost five years in prison, while his son and his future father-in-law each face up to 46 months in prison.

As soon as the news that Innate had failed its clinical trials broke, Zremski says, “I knew what was going to happen.” Australians couldn’t trade Innate stock for three days prior to the announcement, but no such hold took place in the United States. “That’s where they were able to dump the stock,” Zremski says. Collins, equipped with inside information, sold his stock. He encouraged his son to do the same, who also passed along the scoop to his fiancee’s father, another investor in the company. On the day that Innate’s failure became public and the stock plummeted, Zremski says, “everybody’s first interest is how much money has Chris Collins lost?”

Zremski wrote a story in the early hours of the morning to keep up with the market in Australia. By the end of the day on the other side of the world, Innate stock had lost 90 percent of its value — a decline that cost Collins between $5 million and $44 million, Zremski wrote. "What’s transpired in the time since I wrote that story in June of 2017 has pretty much proved me right."

“Imagine if the Buffalo News didn’t have someone watching the members of Congress closely,” Zremski says. “Stories would not have been done in June 2017. And when and if Congressman Collins had ever gotten arrested, we would have been playing catch up.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary: If it's Tuesday, this must be Romania, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 8, 2019. Donald Trump’s personal wayne madesen report logoattorney, Rudolph Giuliani, seems to have starred in his own bizarre sequel to the 1969 zany film about an 18-day whirlwind tour through Europe, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”

Giuliani, in concert with Attorney General William Barr, has been involved in an international scheme to extort political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and other officials of the Barack Obama administration. That operation, by Giuliani’s own admission, now extends to Romania.

More Global News

Strategic Culture Foundation, Investigative commentary: The Plot to Overthrow the Pope, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 8, 2019 (Photo: pxhere.com). The moment pope francis uncropped 3 13strategic culture logothat Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the first Jesuit Roman Catholic pontiff in papal history, the political long knives aimed at Pope Francis I came out of the shadows of the Vatican.

From the outset of his papacy, Francis, right, found himself dealing with his right-wing predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI – a rarity in papal history – who insisted on remaining domiciled in an apartment on Vatican grounds. Benedict has not remained in quiet retirement but has conspired with Francis’s politically influential enemies in the Vatican, Italy, the United States, and other countries.

Donald Trump, who has publicly criticized Francis, has not interfered as his surrogates, who include former White House strategist Steve Bannon; Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former Archbishop of St. Louis; Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States; and others have conspired with the powerful fascist-oriented Opus Dei sect of the church to undermine Francis’s authority. Trump’s eyes and ears inside the Vatican – US ambassador to the Holy See Callista Bisek Gingrich – is the wife of Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a convert to Catholicism, and a major Trump political ally.

Francis, a former bar bouncer in a tough working-class neighborhood of Buenos Aires, has not been a shrinking violet when it comes to fighting back against his right-wing enemies. Francis’s Italian parents were escaping Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule when they emigrated to Argentina. For Francis, defending the church against the fascist Opus Dei and its allies is a battle worth fighting.

Francis’s enemies have taken a page from the Trump political book. Francis vowed to clean up the church of pedophile priests but he has been charged by his right-wing enemies, including Vigano, Burke, Bannon, Opus Dei, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, and from behind the scenes – Benedict – of tolerating pedophiles and homosexuals in the church. This is the same sort of gaslighting to which Americans have become all-too-accustomed under Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Secret Russian Unit Seeks to Destabilize Europe, Security Officials Say, Michael Schwirtz, Oct. 8, 2019. First came a destabilization campaign in Moldova, followed by the poisoning of an arms dealer in Bulgaria and then a thwarted coup in Montenegro. Last year, there was an attempt to assassinate a former Russian spy in Britain using a nerve agent. Though the operations bore the fingerprints of Russia’s intelligence services, the authorities initially saw them as isolated, unconnected attacks.

Western security officials have now concluded that these operations, and potentially many others, are part of a coordinated and ongoing campaign to destabilize Europe, executed by an elite unit inside the Russian intelligence system skilled in subversion, sabotage and assassination.

The group, known as Unit 29155, has operated for at least a decade, yet Western officials only recently discovered it. Intelligence officials in four Western countries say it is unclear how often the unit is mobilized and warn that it is impossible to know when and where its operatives will strike.

The purpose of Unit 29155, which has not been previously reported, underscores the degree to which the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, is actively fighting the West with his brand of so-called hybrid warfare — a blend of propaganda, hacking attacks and disinformation — as well as open military confrontation.

jacob hornberger newFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Who Are the Real Friends of the Troops? Jacob G. Hornberger, right, Oct. 8, 2019. Ever since the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, it has been an article of faith that Americans should thank the troops for their service in those two countries.

This all seems very strange to me because the people who feel the need to thank the troops for their service never seem to ask what the service consists of? It’s almost like it doesn’t matter. One gets the distinct feeling that so long as an American thanks the troops for their service, their duty is done. Leave it to U.S. officials to decide what the service is and whether the service should continue. All that matters is that we thank the troops for their service.

Let’s examine Iraq. What exactly was the service that the troops performed in Iraq for which people thank them? Was it a meritorious service? For some reason, many people who thank the troops for their service never ask those questions.

Nonetheless, there are two reasonable possibilities for what the service consisted of in Iraq: one, the troops were sacrificing themselves to protect the freedom of the American people, and, two, they were sacrificing themselves to bring freedom to the Iraqi people. I think most Americans who go out of their way to thank the troops for their service in Iraq subconsciously settle on one or both of these two rationales for thanking them.

Yet, both rationales for invading and occupying Iraq and wreaking death and destruction across the country have always false and fallacious, which is perhaps why people don’t like thinking about them.

Read this article, entitled Love and War, that appeared in the October 3, 2019, issue of the Washington Post. It’s a moving and emotional account by a widow whose husband lost in leg in Iraq owing to a bomb that exploded near him. He returned to the United States, got addicted to painkillers, suffered from PTSD, and later died of a drug overdose. His widow thinks, however, that what he really died of was “isolation and loneliness.” The article points out that since the start of the Iraq War in 2001, 52,000 American servicemen have been wounded in action, many of whom are too disabled to work.

What was their sacrifice for? For “freedom”? Don’t make me laugh. No matter how much people thank that widow and those 52,000 troops for their service, it cannot cover up the fact that their sacrifice was for nothing. That’s why we libertarians, who opposed the war from the start and continually demanded that the U.S. exit Iraq and bring the troops home, were always much better friends to the troops than those who mindlessly thanked them for their service while doing nothing to bring them home from the U.S. government’s deadly and destructive imperialist venture in Iraq.

Transitions

washington post logoWashington Post, Tulsa searches for graves from 1921 race massacre that left hundreds of black people dead, DeNeen L. Brown, Oct. 8, 2019. The rampage was one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history, and there have long been reports that bodies were dumped in mass graves.
Nearly 100 years after a race massacre left hundreds of black people dead, Tulsa began searching for evidence that victims of one of the country’s worst episodes of racial violence were buried in mass graves.

On Monday, scientists and forensic anthropologists armed with ground-penetrating radar combed the grounds of Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, looking for anomalies that might be consistent with mass graves.

The cemetery, which is owned by the city, is just a few blocks from what is known as Black Wall Street. It is also the site where, in 1999, renowned forensic anthropologist Clyde Snow led a team of scientists who discovered an anomaly bearing “all the characteristics of a dug pit or trench with vertical walls and an undefined object within the approximate center of the feature,” the Tulsa Race Riot Commission concluded in its 2001 report.

For decades, few people in Tulsa spoke about the massacre, which began May 31, 1921, when a white mob descended on Greenwood, a prosperous business district often called Black Wall Street.

In 48 hours, the mob burned hundreds of black-owned businesses and homes, killing more than 300 black people and leaving more than 10,000 homeless. Men, women and children were gunned down in the street. Some black people were shot while trying to escape burning houses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Stephen Lukasik: 1931–2019, Physicist who became Pentagon’s research director dies at 88, Harrison Smith​, Oct. 8, 2019. Through his work at the Defense Department and the Federal Communications Commission, he played a role in the development of artificial intelligence, email, the Internet, WiFi and Bluetooth.

Oct. 7

U.S. Pulls Troops From N. Syria

The Hill, Trump knocks 'ridiculous endless wars' amid US troop pullout from Syria, Morgan Chalfant, Oct. 7, 2019. President Trump on Monday said it is time to remove the United States from “ridiculous endless wars" after he decided to pull back American troops from northern Syria amid an impending Turkish military operation there.

donald trump twitter“The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for … almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump tweeted.

“WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN,” the president added.

Trump’s remarks came hours after the White House announced late Sunday that Turkey would be moving forward with a long-threatened offensive in northern Syria and that U.S. troops would not be in the “immediate area” when it happens.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. starts withdrawing troops from northern Syria as Turkey readies offensive, Missy Ryan, Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch and turkey flagKaren DeYoung​, Oct. 7, 2019. The move by the Trump administration puts an abrupt end to months-long U.S. effort to broker peace between Turkey and Syrian Kurds, two important allies in the region.

The United States began withdrawing American troops from Syria’s border with Turkey early Monday, in the clearest sign yet that the Trump administration was washing its hands of an explosive situation between the Turkish military and U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters. 

Roll Call, Graham says he’ll introduce Turkey sanctions after Trump orders U.S. troops out of Kurdish territory, Griffin Connolly, Oct. 7, 2019. U.S. Sen. lindsey graham judiciary chairmanLindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest allies in the Senate, tweeted Monday that the president’s decision in Syria is a “disaster in the making” if press reports about the pullback are true.

Joining Graham, right, in the GOP chorus criticizing Trump’s decision on Monday to withdraw U.S. influence from the region were Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (“grave mistake”), Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (“a betrayal”), Trump’s former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley (“big mistake”), Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney (“catastrophic mistake”), and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a frequent Trump critic on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (“This is wrong”).

New Term For U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, One of the most politically volatile terms in years tests Roberts and Supreme Court, Robert Barnes, Oct. 7, 2019. Observers note that the conservative majority — bolstered by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch — is in position to be more assertive this term. Details below.

Impeachment Daily Index

djt handwave file

 

Impeachment Inquiry Update

Palmer Report, Opinion: Federal judge says Donald Trump can be indicted while he’s still in office, Bill Palmer, Oct. 7, 2019. When Federal Judge Victor victor marreroMarrero, right, ruled this morning that Donald Trump’s tax returns must be turned over to the Manhattan District Attorney, he issued a wide-ranging ruling that covered a lot of ground. As Palmer Report explained, the legal battle centers around a grand jury subpoena over the tax returns, which means the grand jury is seeking to criminally indict Trump on state charges. It turns out the judge had something to say about when Trump can be indicted.

The big question about the New York grand jury is whether it’ll wait and indict Donald Trump the minute he’s no longer president (at which point he’d be immediately arrested), or if the grand jury will try to indict Trump while he’s still in office. Donald Trump’s Department of Justice is insisting that a sitting president can’t be indicted on federal charges – but the DOJ doesn’t have direct control over what the states can do. That’s why the judge’s ruling this morning is so crucial.

bill palmer report logo headerAs flagged by a number of observers, the judge said in his ruling the DOJ’s position on not indicting a sitting president is essentially nonsense. We all know that the DOJ isn’t going to indict Donald Trump while Bill Barr is still running it. But the judge just handed significant legal precedent to New York State if it decides to try to indict Trump while he’s still in office.

We still don’t know what that would look like. Federal law enforcement probably won’t allow New York State to arrest Donald Trump while he’s still president. But if he’s indicted and he refuses to show up for his trial, it could be held without him. If he’s convicted, and the sentence includes asset seizures, that could begin while he’s still in office. It’s New York’s move now – but this ruling supercharges things.

ny times logoNew York Times, Second Whistle-Blower Claims ‘Firsthand Knowledge’ of Ukraine Dealings, Annie Karni and Nicholas Fandos, Oct. 7, 2019 (print ed.). The intelligence official is now protected from retaliation and has hired the same legal team as the first whistle-blower.

An intelligence official with “firsthand knowledge” has provided information related to President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and is now protected from retaliation as a whistle-blower, lawyers representing the official said on Sunday, confirming that a second individual has come forward in the matter.

ukraine flagMuch is unknown about the official, who has been interviewed by the intelligence community’s inspector general but has not filed a formal complaint.

But the individual has hired the same legal team as the first whistle-blower. That, and the claim of “firsthand knowledge,” suggests testimony that might bolster the impeachment case against Mr. Trump and further undermine one of his main defense claims: that the accusations against him are based on inaccurate, secondhand information.

The New York Times reported on Friday that an intelligence official who has more direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine than the first whistle-blower, and who had grown alarmed by the president’s behavior, was weighing whether to come forward. The second official was among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people briefed on the matter said.

For Democratic lawmakers seeking to build their case for impeachment, the new whistle-blower could serve as an important witness for both validating what they know and potentially providing new leads for investigators. Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the House’s impeachment inquiry, urged other potential whistle-blowers to come forward on Sunday night.

“We thank them for their courage,” he said. “We thank them for their patriotism. And we hope others will follow their courageous example.”

One member of the legal team confirmed on Twitter that the firm was now representing “multiple whistleblowers” but declined to say how many. The inspector general has said that to corroborate the first whistle-blower’s complaint, he interviewed multiple people who would be afforded protections, and it was unclear if the lawyer could be referring to those people or other people.

Since the first whistle-blower emerged, the White House has tried to unmask his identity, and dismiss him as a “deep state operative” with partisan motives to “take down” Mr. Trump. The president stuck to form on Sunday evening in trying to dismiss the new whistle-blower.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump won’t destroy me, and he won’t destroy my family, Joe Biden, right, Oct. 7, 2019 (print ed.). Enough is enough. Every joe biden oday — every few hours, seemingly — more evidence is uncovered revealing that President Trump is abusing the power of the presidency and is wholly unfit to be president. He is using the highest office in the land to advance his personal political interests instead of the national interest.

The president’s most recent violation of the rule of law — openly calling for China to interfere in our elections, as he stood on the South Lawn of the White House — is so outrageous, it’s clear he considers the presidency a free pass to do whatever he wants, with no accountability.

He does not understand the immense responsibility demanded of all those who hold the office of the president of the United States. He sees only the power — and how it can benefit just one person: Donald Trump.

Joe Biden, the former vice president, is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Politico, Perry denies pressing Ukraine on energy company, says he's not resigning, Anthony Adragna, Oct. 7, 2019. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Monday denied that he pressed the Ukrainian government to put two U.S. businessmen on the board of the state energy company or that he was planning to rick perry oleave the Trump administration.

Perry's comments at a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, come amid growing scrutiny into the Trump administration's diplomacy in Ukraine, which has triggered a House impeachment inquiry into whether the president withheld aid to the country in exchange for a pledge from President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son.

Perry, right, acknowledged making the recommendations to Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz, but said he did so only at the request of that country’s government. He also said it was "true" that he had pressed President Donald Trump to make the July call to Zelensky that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

“Absolutely, I asked the president multiple times, ‘Mr. President, we think it is in the United States' and in Ukraine’s best interest that you and the president of Ukraine have conversations, that you discuss the options that are there,’” he said. Axios reported on Saturday that Trump told House Republicans he made the call at Perry's request.

Perry also said he discussed the issue of corruption broadly with Zelensky and his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, but only as part of an effort to make the nation more appealing for energy investment opportunities. No public evidence has emerged to show that Perry asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.

Politico was first to report about how Perry urged Ukranian officials to put the U.S. businessmen on the supervisory board of Naftogaz. An Associated Press story subsequently outlined similar allegations, though Perry steadfastly denied any impropriety. “The idea that the AP story basically said that we said, ‘you put these people on there’ is just not correct. That was a totally dreamed-up story, best I can tell,” Perry said. “We gave recommendations at the request of the Ukrainian government and will continue to.”

The Energy secretary said he did not recall whether his recommendations included Michael Bleyzer, head of a private equity firm based in Houston, but said he’d known him for years and would recommend him for a host of roles. “Best I can tell, he’s a really brilliant, capable businessman who I would recommend ... for a host of different things in Kiev,” Perry said. “He knows the country. He’s from there. So, why not?”

The other energy executive was Robert Bensh, a Houston oil executive currently with Pelicourt LLC. Perry also denied he was planning to step down from his position, which POLITICO, the New York Times and Washington Post reported last week.

“I’m here. I’m serving. They’ve been writing the story that I was leaving the Department of Energy for at least nine months now. One of these days they'll probably get it right. But it’s not today. It’s not tomorrow. It’s not next month,” Perry said. Politico's report, which cited three people familiar with the former Texas governor’s plan, revealed that Perry plans to depart the administration by the end of November.

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr and a Top Prosecutor Cast a Wide Net in Reviewing the Russia Inquiry, Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, Oct. 7, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William Barr and John Durham visited Italy with a mission that could bolster President Trump’s pet theories about the Russia investigation. Despite criticism that Mr. Barr is doing Mr. Trump’s bidding and micromanaging a supposedly independent investigation, he seems to have embraced the role.

william barr new oAfter a jet carrying Attorney General William P. Barr, left, touched down in Rome last month, some diplomats and intelligence officials at the American Embassy were unsure why he had come. They were later surprised, two officials said, to discover that he had circumvented protocols in arranging the trip, where he met with Italian political and intelligence officials.

john durhamEverything about Mr. Barr’s visit was unusual — not least his companion and their mission: John H. Durham, right, a top federal prosecutor whom Mr. Barr has assigned to review the origins of the Russia investigation. They were seeking evidence that might bolster a conspiracy theory long nurtured by President Trump: that some of America’s closest allies plotted with his “deep state” enemies in 2016 to try to prevent him from winning the presidency.

After the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, testified to lawmakers in July that he found insufficient evidence to charge any Trump associates with conspiring with Russia, an emboldened Mr. Trump began pressing world leaders to cooperate with Mr. Barr.

Now, glimpses of the review are emerging. Mr. Barr is taking an active role, signaling that he has made it a priority and is personally overseeing it.

The trip to Italy generated criticism that Mr. Barr was doing the president’s bidding and micromanaging a supposedly independent investigation. And one of Mr. Trump’s efforts to support the review, a phone call with Ukraine’s leader, has prompted a whistle-blower complaint and a formal impeachment inquiry into whether the president hijacked American diplomacy for political gain.

Mr. Barr has portrayed the review as an attempt to ferret out any abuse of power by law enforcement or intelligence officials. But it is also a politically charged effort that takes aim at the conclusions drawn by the American law enforcement and intelligence communities after years of painstaking work investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Investigators have interviewed F.B.I. officials about their work in 2016, examined intelligence files from around that time and cast a wide net in setting up interviews with a foreign cast of characters who played disparate roles in the pre-election drama.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Impeach Trump, Repeatedly, Charles M. Blow, right, Oct. 7, 2019 (print ed.). A president should not be able to stonewall and run charles blow customout the clock. When the Democratic leadership was finally forced to formally back an impeachment inquiry, they faced a choice: focus broadly on all of Donald Trump’s corruption and unfitness, which could drag on for a long time, or focus narrowly on the new revelations about Trump and Ukraine and do so quickly. They chose the latter.

I happen to agree with that strategy, if one assumes that you only have one shot at this. But, I also propose another scenario: Do both. Draw up articles of impeachment on the narrow case of Ukraine, but don’t close the impeachment inquiry. Keep it open and ready to draw up more articles as new corruption is uncovered. Impeach Trump repeatedly if necessary.

There is nothing in the Constitution that prevents a president from being impeached more than once.

Trump and his administration are stonewalling in every way possible, refusing to produce administration officials for testimony and refusing to produce documents.

U.S. House logoIn many cases, Democrats in the House have taken the administration to court over its stonewalling, but court cases take time. It could be months, if not years, before there is a judgment in those cases.

But, as we are learning with the Ukraine case, Trump’s contempt for law, propriety and process is boundless. He clearly abused the power of his office when attempting to pressure that country into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.

The impeachment inquiry needs to remain open after the Ukraine affair, not only to allow the cases in the courts to be resolved, but also to allow future whistle-blowers’ information to be immediately considered in the context of impeachment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Everything about today is going to be combustible, Bill Palmer, Oct. 7, 2019. The news broke yesterday evening that Donald Trump, djt rudy giuliani CustomRudy Giuliani, Rick Perry, and the gang weren’t just trying to extort Ukraine into helping rig the 2020 election; they were trying to extort a Ukraine gas company into giving them money. These things always come down to money in some day, don’t they? By the time Trump was frantically trying to distract from the story late last night by tweeting that Nancy Pelosi should be impeached for treason, it was clear just how combustible everything had become.

If Trump misusing his office to extort a foreign country for election help is easily understandable to the average American, then Trump misusing his office to extort a foreign country for personal financial gain is even more easily understandable. This just became the kind of scandal that comes with receipts. Paperwork. Money trails. Lots of people are going down. No wonder Rick Perry decided to resign and cooperate with bill palmer report logo headerthe House impeachment probe the minute the whole thing got exposed. His cooperation now might be his only chance later of convincing the next iteration of the DOJ not to throw him in prison once this is all over.

This all adds up to today in particular being particularly combustible. Over the weekend a second intel community member filed for whistleblower status, and we’ll soon find out what “first hand” knowledge this person has of Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. This is on top of the bombshell about the Ukraine gas company extortion.

Global News: Iraqi Protests

washington post logoWashington Post, Iraqi protesters vent their rage as violent government crackdown spirals, Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, Oct. 7, 2019 (print ed.). Dozens of people were killed and more than 6,100 were wounded Sunday during demonstrations decrying the country’s entire system. The protesters are mostly young men who say they’ve grown up without a future, and have been shut out of a job market that favors those with political connections.

U.S. Crime, Courts

 Dallas prosecution witness Joshua Brown, left, presents courtroom testimony before his unsolvered murder this weekend (Photo by Tom Fox of Dallas Morning News via courtroom news pool and the Associated Press).

Dallas prosecution witness Joshua Brown, left, presents courtroom testimony before his unsolvered murder this weekend (Photo by Tom Fox of Dallas Morning News via courtroom news pool and the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Witness in ex-Dallas officer Amber Guyger’s murder trial killed in shooting, lawyer says, Brittany Shammas, Oct. 7, 2019 (print ed.). A witness who was key to the murder conviction of Amber Guyger, right, the former Dallas police officer who opened fire on her neighbor Botham Jean in his amber guyger screengrabown apartment, was shot to death 10 days after testifying in the high-profile trial, according to a lawyer representing the Jean family.

Joshua Brown, who lived in the same apartment complex as Jean and Guyger’s and overheard their fatal encounter, was “shot several times by an unknown assailant” on Friday night, civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt said Saturday night on Twitter. Brown was a 28-year-old Lancaster, Tex., native and former University of South Florida football player who ran his own business in Dallas.

“His murder underscores the reality of the black experience in America,” Merritt wrote. “A former athlete turned entrepreneur — Brown lived in constant fear that he could be the next victim of gun violence, either state sanctioned or otherwise.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Md. lawmaker accused of defrauding her campaign account of $22,000, Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox, Oct. 7, 2019. Del. Tawanna P. Gaines, a Prince George’s County Democrat, is charged with federal wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Epstein Scandal

Daily Beast, Epstein Flaunted Girls After His Arrest at Hair Salon for the Stars, Emily Shugerman, Oct. 7, 2019. Even after his jail stint, Jeffrey Epstein daily beast logofrequented his friend Frédéric Fekkai’s high-profile salons with a bevy of very young women.

In the years after he registered as a sex offender, millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein launched a veritable crusade to rehabilitate his image. The convicted felon donated to prominent charities, convinced friends to invite him to A-list events, and took to wearing a Harvard sweatshirt whenever there was a camera around. But among the most important stops on Epstein’s comeback tour were his regular appointments at hairdresser Frédéric Fekkai’s high-profile salons.

Multiple former Fekkai employees told The Daily Beast that Epstein regularly brought groups of young women into the New York salon after his conviction, where he paid for their services and had them sit on his lap and stroke his hair. When he was in Florida, former employees said, Epstein Jeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of Achievementwould have Fekkai stylists make house calls to his Palm Beach estate.

Unbeknownst to them, Fekkai’s brand had received an influx of cash years earlier from a company backed by L Brands—the same retailer owned by Epstein’s only known client, Les Wexner, right. A spokesperson for Frederic Fekkai brands said the company had been sold by the time of Epstein’s conviction in 2008, and that Fekkai was not involved in the salons at the time.

U.S. Pulls Syrian Troops (Cont.)

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. starts withdrawing troops from northern Syria as Turkey readies offensive, Missy Ryan, Kareem Fahim, Sarah Dadouch and Karen DeYoung​, Oct. 7, 2019 (continued from above). The announcement, which signaled an abrupt end to a months-long American effort to broker peace between two important allies, came after a call between President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

recep erdogan with flagErdogan, left, said in a speech Monday that the withdrawal began soon after their phone call. A U.S. official confirmed to The Washington Post that American troops had left observation posts in the border villages of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn at 6:30 a.m. local time.

For months, Erdogan has been threatening an imminent invasion, as Trump administration officials attempted to work out an accommodation that would satisfy Turkish demands for border security while providing a measure of protection for the U.S.-allied Syrian-Kurdish force.

But on Sunday, the United States appeared to throw up its hands. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the Turkish leader would “soon be moving forward” with dispatching troops to battle the Kurdish forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Ankara views the group as a terrorist-linked entity, but SDF has fought closely with the U.S. military as a primary partner against the Islamic State.

“The United States armed forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” Grisham said in a statement. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State, the militant group whose rise drew the U.S. military into Syria.

The SDF, in a statement critical of the United States, said the American troops had begun pulling out. “The United States forces have not fulfilled their obligations and withdrew their forces from the border area with Turkey,” the statement said. “This Turkish military operation in north and east Syria will have a big negative impact on our war against Daesh and will destroy all stability that was reached in the last few years.” The statement used the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief’: Trump’s former ISIS envoy excoriates his Syria decision, Aaron Blake, Oct. 7, 2019. Bret bret mcgurkMcGurk, right, who served as Trump’s envoy for the fight against the Islamic State, lit into Trump early Monday morning over the White House’s announcement that it is essentially handing northern Syria over to Turkey — a decision many feel could lead to Turkey slaughtering the United States’ Kurdish allies in the region.

McGurk took the occasion to not just criticize Trump’s immediate decision; he used it to cast a picture of a president who makes rash life-or-death decisions without the appropriate amount of thought. Essentially, he confirmed everything Trump’s critics worry about how the president prosecutes U.S. involvement in wars and conducts foreign policy.

“Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief,” said McGurk, who resigned over Trump’s initial (but later aborted) plan for a full Syria withdrawal. “He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberat

New Term For U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court headshots 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Don’t Be Fooled. Chief Justice John Roberts Is as Partisan as They Come, Aaron Belkin and Sean McElwee (affiliated with Take Back the Court, a liberal group that favors expanding the size of the Supreme Court),  Oct. 7, 2019 (print ed.). He says he is concerned about the Supreme Court’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

With the court on the precipice of a dangerous lurch rightward, polling data indicate that Democrats have a positive view of Chief Justice John Roberts, john roberts oright, who has expressed regard for precedent and concern for the court’s legitimacy, encouraging a view that he will step in to prevent partisan excess. Yet history suggests that Democrats have much to fear. The chief justice is neither a swing vote among his four liberal and four conservative justices, nor a moderate. Expect him to land time and again with the conservatives.

During his 2005 confirmation hearing, Chief Justice Roberts affirmed his “respect for precedent, even-handedness, predictability, stability.” But once on the bench, he compiled a voting record that is among the most partisan of any justice in the modern era when it comes to cases overturning precedent, according to our analysis. He has presided in 21 such cases and voted to overturn precedent in 17, or 81 percent, making him the second behind only Justice Clarence Thomas as the most frequent member of a precedent-overturning majority over the last 14 years.

Inside DC

washington post logokurd flagWashington Post, Syrian Kurds see U.S. betrayal and warn fight against ISIS is now in doubt, Liz Sly, Sarah Dadouch and Asser Khattab​, Oct. 7, 2019.  Kurds warned that President Trump’s decision to pull American troops from northeastern Syria could open the door to a revival of the Islamic State.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell warns Trump against withdrawing U.S. forces from northern Syria, Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim, Oct. 7, 2019. In a rare show of bipartisanship, congressional Republicans and Democrats largely were unified in criticizing the president’s move.

washington post logoWashington Post, Demoralized State Department personnel question Pompeo’s role in Ukraine crisis, Karen DeYoung, John Hudson, Josh Dawsey and Ellen Nakashima, Oct. 7, 2019. Defenders of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say he is caught between the demands of the president and his role as steward of U.S. foreign policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration tells agencies to restrict unions in the workplace, Eric Yoder, Oct. 7, 2019. The new policies will set time limits on negotiations and significantly reduce “official time,” the paid time that employees may use for certain union-related purposes.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Is Trump manipulating unemployment data? Wayne Madsen, Oct. 7, 2019 (subscription required). Donald Trump is crowing about recently-released Department of Labor figures that show unemployment at 3.5 percent, the lowest it has been in 50 years. In December 1969, unemployment was also at 3.5 percent and then-President Richard Nixon harped on about it then just as Trump is doing now.

Trump and Nixon may have more in common than bragging rights about a 3.5 percent unemployment rate.

By July 2, 1971, unemployment had settled at 5.6 percent after having almost doubled from 3.5 percent to reach a high of 6.2 percent. Nixon was already concerned about the 1972 re-election race and an increase in unemployment could only benefit the Democrats. So, rather than blame his own economic policies, Nixon decided that Jews working for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a component of the Labor Department, were responsible for cooking the unemployment rate numbers to hurt Nixon politically. The Nixon tapes provide an insight into Nixon’s thinking.

U.S. 2020 Politics / Media / Polling

Political Wire, Secret Far-Right Site Linked to RealClearPolitics, Taegan Goddard, Oct. 7, 2019. “The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears,” the Daily Beast reports.
“Called ‘Conservative Country,’ the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes.”

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Investigation: RealClear Media Has a Secret Facebook Page to Push Far-Right Memes, Kevin Poulsen and Maxwell Tani, Oct. 7, 2019. RealClearPolitics has carefully cultivated a non-partisan image — while in the shadows its parent company pushes images of killer Clintons and a freedom-loving Kremlin.

The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears, The Daily Beast has learned.

Called “Conservative Country,” the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes. One recent post showed a man training two assault rifles at a closed door with the caption “Just sitting here waiting on Beto.” Others wink at right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s “ties to Islam” or the Clintons having their enemies killed, or portray Muslim members of Congress as terrorist infiltrators. The page is effusive with praise for Vladimir Putin, and one post portrays Russia as the last bastion of freedom in Europe.

It’s a far cry from the usual fare on RealClearPolitics. Founded in 2000, the site was an early online aggregator of political news, curating links to widely read politics stories and opinion articles in other major outlets. The site has become synonymous with its polling aggregator, which is regularly cited by news organizations on both sides of the aisle as an objective metric of major political races. In recent years, the site has expanded to cover health care, finance, foreign policy, and more.

RealClearPolitics has taken major pains to be seen as nonpartisan and non-ideological in its reporting. The site’s news reporting focuses on horserace-style coverage of elections, evenly weighing opinions from both parties, while the RealClear pages curate a mix of stories and opinion articles from sites across the political spectrum.

But the willingness to share and aggregate all political views has also made the site more receptive to Trump-friendly writing than some other outlets. Of the seven featured “opinion writers” listed in a tab on the site, three — including occasional Trump adviser Steve Cortes—are openly supportive of the president’s agenda.

Oct. 6

Impeachment Daily Index

Impeachment Inquiry Update

djt rudy giuliani vlodomyr zelensky

Associated Press, AP sources: Trump allies pressed Ukraine over gas firm, Desmond Butler, Michael Biesecker and Richard Lardner, Oct. 6, 2019. As Rudy ap logoGiuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

On Friday, according to the news site Axios, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” regarding Biden. Axios cited a source saying Trump said Perry had asked Trump to make the call to discuss “something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.”

While it’s unclear whether Trump’s remark Friday referred specifically to the behind-the-scenes maneuvers this spring involving the multibillion-dollar state gas company, The Associated Press has interviewed four people with direct knowledge of the attempts to influence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Perry playing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The fourth is an American businessman with close ties to the Ukrainian energy sector.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani just got caught trying to extort huge amounts of money out of a Ukraine gas company, Bill Palmer, Oct. 6, 2019. We should have seen it coming. For narcissistic projectionist con artists like Donald Trump an Rudy Giuliani, the first rule is to always falsely accuse the other side of what you yourself are doing wrong. Rudy has gone off the deep end falsely accusing Joe and Hunter Biden of abusing their political influence in Ukraine for personal monetary gain. Well guess what?

bill palmer report logo headerYesterday Donald Trump told House Republicans that he didn’t even want to call Ukrainian President Zelensky, and that he only did it because his Secretary of Energy Rick Perry pushed him to speak to Zelensky about a Ukrainian gas company. This came amid reports that Perry had been abusing his position to try to get the company to hire his pals from Texas. But now a separate report suggests that Rudy Giuliani was actually the ringleader when it came to the gas company corruption.

The AP is reporting tonight ( AP sources: Trump allies pressed Ukraine over gas firm) that numerous “businessmen and Republican donors” were pressuring Ukraine to steer huge contracts to Donald Trump’s allies – and these folks were all telling Ukraine that they were acting on behalf of Rudy Giuliani. This is nothing short of stunning. It means Trump and Rudy weren’t just leaning on Ukraine for help in rigging the 2020 election – they were trying to extort huge amounts of money out of Ukraine and put it djt rudy giuliani Customin the pockets of their friends.

This is more or less what Rudy Giuliani has been falsely accusing the Bidens of doing in Ukraine. Now it turns out Rudy is the one who has been doing it. This may help explain why Rudy has been so frantically pushing the fake Biden scandal. It’s not that most people were ever going to believe Rudy’s crazy lies. It’s that he was hoping to distract us from the fact that he and Trump are the ones who have been trying to extort money out of Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meet the Ukrainian Ex-Prosecutor Behind the Impeachment Furor, Andrew E. Kramer, Andrew Higgins and Michael Schwirtz, Oct. 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s allies, urging a Biden inquiry, embraced a prosecutor with no legal training and a record of using the law as a political weapon. The prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, right, is now central to the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.

yuriy lutsenkoAs soon as he got the invitation from Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, it was abundantly clear to him what Mr. Trump’s allies were after.

“I understood very well what would interest them,” Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s recently fired prosecutor general, said in an extensive interview in London. “I have 23 years in politics. I knew.”

“I’m a political animal,” he added.

When Mr. Lutsenko sat down with Mr. Giuliani in New York in January, he recalled, his expectations were confirmed: The president’s lawyer wanted him to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

It was the start of what both sides hoped would be a mutually beneficial relationship — but one that is now central to the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.

ny times logojoe biden oNew York Times, Biden Faced His Biggest Challenge, and Struggled to Form a Response, Jonathan Martin, Alexander Burns and Katie Glueck, Oct. 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s allies, urging a Biden inquiry, embraced a prosecutor with no legal training and a record of using the law as a political weapon. The prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, As Mr. Trump made unfounded allegations about Joe Biden and his son, the former vice president was torn over what to do. He now looks vulnerable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Hunter Biden story is a troubling tale of privilege, David Von Drehle, Oct. 6, 2019 (print ed.). For all his barking and hucksterism, Rudy Giuliani (right) is having limited success drawing the gullible into his sideshow tent. But the fact that Giuliani’s spectacle involving the Biden family is as phony as a horse that does arithmetic does not mean there is no story worth examining. rudy giuliani recentThe real story of Joe Biden and his troubled son Hunter (below left) is full of pain and littered with questions and deeply relevant to our populist moment.

I claim no intimate knowledge of this story beyond the soul-baring that Hunter performed with reporter Adam Entous of the New Yorker — In-Depth Report: Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign?, an airing of family laundry without precedent, that I can recall, in the rollout of a presidential campaign. To that text I add the widely shared experience of an addict in the family, plus several hunter bidendecades spent listening to Americans talk about the people who seek to lead them.

In sum, the story of the Bidens, father and son, is more pathetic than nefarious. Yet it might do damage anyway. Less privileged Americans can’t be faulted if they wonder why their addicted loved ones are on the streets or in the morgue while the vice president’s son is blessed with diamonds and sinecures. Multitudes locked up for years under Joe Biden’s crime bill might ask why the author’s son traveled the world scot-free. And sober working people making $50,000 a year may be skeptical of a system in which a vice president’s addicted son reportedly collected that sum every month.

See also:  The New Yorker, In-Depth Report: Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign? Adam Entous, July 1, 2019 (July 8 & 15, 2019 Issue). Joe Biden’s son is under scrutiny for his business dealings and tumultuous personal life. In speeches, Biden rarely talks about Hunter. But news outlets on the right and mainstream media organizations, including the Times, have homed in on him, reprising old controversies over Hunter’s work for a bank, for a lobbying firm, and for a hedge fund, and scrutinizing his business dealings in China and Ukraine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I worked in the White House during impeachment. Trump’s team isn’t ready for it, Joe Lockhart (White House Press Secretary from 1998 to 2000 during the Clinton administration and co-hosts of the podcast “Words Matter”), Oct. 6, 2019 (print ed.). As press secretary — a perilous job during normal times — I personally felt the pressure to not make a mistake from the lectern, with every word I spoke analyzed for both real and supposedly hidden meanings.

We survived the process because we were disciplined about keeping the president out of the impeachment debate. We had an aggressive and experienced legal, communications and political team. Most important, we never turned on one another. While being in the foxhole was never comfortable, it was comforting to know who was in there with me.

My sense is this White House has none of these things. Its lawyers have yet to develop a legal theory to extricate the president from his predicament and instead seem to be devoting all their energies to stonewalling Congress. No “war room” has been set up to plan the response — any such operation “would be [an] overreaction on our part,” Kellyanne Conway blithely told the New York Times. The political and communications infrastructure is nonexistent, with internal factions vying for control. In the meantime, the official response to developments seems to be whatever the president thinks to say. Everything seems to run from Trump’s Twitter account.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi-backed group gives House Democrats cover amid impeachment probe, Mike DeBonis, A Democratic group with close ties to democratic donkey logoHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi is set to spend more than $1 million on ads set to begin airing this week aimed at bolstering a handful of vulnerable House Democrats as the impeachment probe unfolds.

The ads from House Majority Forward, examples of which were reviewed by The Washington Post, do not mention the word “impeachment.” Instead, they focus solely on the accomplishments of the 11 individual lawmakers targeted in the campaign.

Epstein / Wexner Scandal

washington post logoWashington Post, Epstein accuser holds Victoria’s Secret billionaire responsible, as he keeps his distance, Sarah Ellison and Jonathan O'Connell​, Oct. 6, 2019 (print ed.). Artist Maria Farmer says the Ohio home where she stayed during the summer of her alleged assault was guarded by Leslie Wexner’s security. The retail mogul says he knew nothing about Jeffrey Epstein’s misconduct.

jeffrey epstein at harvard universityThe first time the artist Maria Farmer says she heard the name of fashion billionaire Leslie Wexner, she recalled, was when her employer, financier Jeffrey Epstein, right, told her, “Les loves me. He’ll let me do anything.”

Farmer, then 26, had just been invited to create two large-scale paintings for the upcoming film “As Good As It Gets,” starring Jack Nicholson. Epstein offered Farmer an unexpected location to do the work in the summer of 1996: an expansive country home in New Albany, Ohio, located amid 336 acres of land owned by Wexner and guarded in part by sheriff’s deputies employed by the longtime chief executive of Victoria’s Secret and The Limited.

Jeffrey Epstein's friend Leslie Wexner (via cropped screenshot of remarks at American Academy of AchievementIn a series of interviews with the Washington Post, Farmer, 50, spoke publicly for the first time about Wexner, left, and his wife, Abigail. She never met Leslie and says she spoke to Abigail only by phone while at the New Albany home.

But she says she holds him “responsible for what happened to me” because the alleged assault happened at the hands of one of his closest advisers on property Farmer says was monitored by Abigail and the Wexner security team. She says that she was held her against her will at the property by Wexner’s security staff after her alleged assault, until her father came to pick her up.

It was there, Farmer said in an affidavit she submitted as part of an Epstein-related lawsuit, that she was molested by Epstein and his associate Ghislaine Maxwell.

Media News

McDuff Channel via YouTube, Introducing Andrew Kreig, "Presidential Puppetry" author, interview by John OLoughlin at Lafayette Park / White House, Washington, DC (7 min. livestream video.). Two DC-based attorney / researchers discuss power structures in the nation's capital after attending the annual Red Mass at the historic Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Sunday.

"Its purpose," according to organizers at the John Carroll Society (named for a principal drafter of the U.S. Constitution, who was also the first Roman Catholic archbishop for North America, "is to invoke God's blessings on those responsible for the administration of justice as well as on all public officials."

The annual Red Mass service, first celebrated in 1953, is sponsored by the John Carroll Society just before the opening of the U.S. Supreme Court's annual term on Oct. 7.

This year's celebrants included, as usual in recent years, Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as several other justices, prominent members of the U.S. foreign service and regional bar, as well as presidential cabinet members, including Attorney General William Barr and recently confirmed Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia.

The McDuff Channel, available here  and entitled in full "McDuff: Kennedy's Man To Smash the CIA," presents cutting-edge commentaries on current events inspired by the late president's battles against Deep State intelligence networks.

Oct. 5

Impeachment Daily Index

 

Impeachment Inquiry Update

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Oct. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Impeachment Investigators Subpoena White House and Ask Pence for Documents on Ukraine, Nicholas Fandos, Oct. 5, 2019 (print ed.). House impeachment investigators widened the reach of their inquiry on Friday, subpoenaing the White House for a vast trove of documents and requesting more from Vice President Mike Pence to better understand President Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

mick mulvaney omb SmallThe subpoena, addressed to Mick Mulvaney, right, the acting White House chief of staff, calls for documents and communications that are highly delicate and would typically be subject in almost any White House to claims of executive privilege. If handed over by the Oct. 18 deadline, the records could provide keys to understanding what transpired between the two countries and what steps, if any, the White House has taken to cover it up.

The request for records from a sitting vice president is unusual in its own right, and Mr. Pence’s office quickly signaled he may not comply. In a letter to Mr. Pence, the chairmen of three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry wrote that they were interested in “any role you may have played” in conveying Mr. Trump’s views to Ukraine. They asked for a lengthy list of documents detailing the administration’s dealings with Ukraine, to be produced by Oct. 15.

The actions came at the end of another day of fast-moving developments in the House impeachment investigation, which is centered on allegations that Mr. Trump and his administration worked to bend America’s diplomatic apparatus for his own political benefit.

Related story: Washington Post, House Democrats send subpoena to White House, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Marisa Iati, Oct. 5, 2019 (print ed.). The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry requested a long list of documents and communications Friday from Vice President Pence related to Ukraine.

U.S. House logoEarlier, President Trump said that Democrats “unfortunately have the votes” to impeach him in the House, but he predicted he would “win” in a trial in the Republican-led Senate.

“The Republicans are very unified,” Trump said, as he again insisted he had said nothing inappropriate during the July call in which he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump’s comments to reporters at the White House came as fallout continued Friday from the late-night release of text messages by House investigators, while another key figure, the inspector general of the intelligence community, testified on Capitol Hill behind closed doors.

Politico, Perry pressed Ukraine on corruption, energy company changes, Ben Lefebvre and Daniel Lippman, Oct. 5, 2019. The energy secretary's role in rick perry opushing the president's message in Kiev was more extensive than publicly known, people familiar with Perry's activities tell Politico. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, right, urged Ukraine's president to root out corruption and pushed the new government for changes at its state-run oil and gas company, people familiar with his work said Friday — indications that he was more deeply involved than previously known in President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure officials in Kiev.

The people said they have no indication that Perry explicitly called on Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, the issue that has spawned a House impeachment inquiry into Trump. But at the very least, they said, Perry played an active role in the Trump administration's efforts to shape decisions by the newly elected government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Among other changes, Perry pushed for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to expand its board to include Americans, two people familiar with the matter said. Two long-time energy executives based in Perry’s home state of Texas were among those under consideration for that role, one source familiar with the administration’s dealings with the company said.

Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes did not comment on whether Perry had sought to expand the board, but said he has “consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kiev's business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Holding Ukraine hostage: How Trump and his allies fanned a political storm, Greg Miller, Paul Sonne, Greg Jaffe and Michael Birnbaum, Oct. 5, 2019. Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, seized control of the Ukraine portfolio to help the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Gordon Sondland, a wealthy hotelier turned ambassador, became the latest key player in the Ukraine inquiry, Meagan Flynn, Oct. 5, 2019 (print ed.). Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had barely been on the job for a year when he found himself knee-deep gordon sondland oin negotiations with the Ukrainian president over President Trump’s desired political investigations.

For weeks leading up to an explosive whistleblower’s complaint, Sondland, a wealthy hotelier from Portland, Ore., worked behind the scenes to carry out Trump’s wishes in a country that’s not part of the European Union. The ambassador, left, met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to give “advice” about how to “navigate” Trump’s demands, the whistleblower reported. And in text messages turned over to House investigators Thursday, he insisted that Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was not a quid pro quo — as diplomat William B. “Bill” Taylor had feared, according to the texts.

The hotel magnate’s support for Trump had ebbed and flowed over the years, ranging from outright disavowal during Trump’s campaign to a $1 million donation ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

• Sondland to give deposition to House panels next week in impeachment probe

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s calls with foreign leaders have long worried aides, leaving some ‘genuinely horrified,’ Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 5, 2019, (print ed.). Starting long before revelations about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president rocked Washington, Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders were an anxiety-ridden set of events for his aides and members of the administration, according to former and current officials. They worried that Trump would make promises he shouldn’t keep, endorse policies the United States long opposed, commit a diplomatic blunder that jeopardized a critical alliance, or simply pressure a counterpart for a personal favor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emerging evidence buttresses whistleblower complaint, Rosalind S. Helderman, Oct. 5, 2019. New documents, firsthand accounts and statements by President Trump himself that corroborate the claims have emerged on a near-daily basis.

• Russia seeks leverage as Ukraine slides deeper into impeachment probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls for Romney’s impeachment after senator’s criticism, Colby Itkowitz, Oct. 5, 2019. The president’s tweet also brought up the failed 2012 presidential bid of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and claims he begged for an endorsement and to be secretary of state.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes berserk and starts cursing out Mitt Romney, Bill Palmer, Oct. 5, 2019. As Donald Trump’s criminal scandals got worse this week and his inevitable downfall became more apparent, a few Republican Senators tried to insulate themselves from his implosion by attacking him with various degrees of forcefulness. Mitt Romney was the most outspoken of the anti-Trump bunch, calling Trump’s China scandal “appalling” yesterday.

bill palmer report logo headerAlways slow on the draw when it comes to these things, Donald Trump finally got around to firing back at Mitt Romney this morning, nearly twenty-four hours too late for it to count for anything. But what Trump lacked in timeliness, he made up for in, well, profanity. Trump started off like this: “Somebody please wake up Mitt Romney and tell him that my conversation with the Ukrainian President was a congenial and very appropriate one, and my statement on China pertained to corruption, not politics.” It went downhill from there.

Trump then decided to just start cursing out a United States Senator: “Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous “ass” who has been mitt romney wfighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him).”

Okay, we all get it. Mitt Romney, left, is a sniveling, flip-flopping coward. And we all know he’s only doing this because he figures that if Trump and Pence are ousted, perhaps he’ll get to be the 2020 Republican nominee for president. But while no one likes or respects Romney, at least he didn’t commit treason in the name of trying to rig an election. Trump is off the rails already, and the day is still just getting started.

washington post logodemocratic donkey logoWashington Post, Impeachment probe widens the divide Democrats hoped to bridge, Mike DeBonis and Amber Phillips, Oct. 5, 2019. Days after House Democrats united behind a formal impeachment investigation of President Trump, apprehensive lawmakers went home and found themselves immediately questioned about their stance.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Out on a limb’: Inside the Republican reckoning over Trump’s possible impeachment, Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, Oct. 5, 2019. Democrats decry 'blind partisan loyalty,' as Republicans keep defending Trump. A torrent of impeachment developments has triggered a reckoning in the Republican Party, paralyzing many of its officeholders as they weigh their political futures, legacies and, ultimately, their allegiance to a president who has held them captive.

President Trump’s efforts to pressure a foreign power to target a domestic political rival have driven his party into a bunker, with lawmakers bracing for an extended battle led by a general whose orders are often confusing and contradictory.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2nd Official Weighs Filing Complaint Over Trump’s Ukraine Dealings, Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman, Oct. 5, 2019 (print ed.). A second intelligence official alarmed by President Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine is considering filing his own formal complaint. The official, who corroborated the allegations of the original whistle-blower, has more direct information about the events.

A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry. The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.

michael atkinson oThe inspector general, Michael Atkinson, right, briefed lawmakers privately on Friday about how he substantiated the whistle-blower’s account. It was not clear whether he told lawmakers that the second official is considering filing a complaint.

A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point. He said that he relied on information from more than a half-dozen American officials to compile his allegations about Mr. Trump’s campaign to solicit foreign election interference that could benefit him politically.

Other evidence has emerged to back the whistle-blower’s claim. A reconstructed transcript of a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky released by the White House also showed Mr. Trump pressuring Ukraine. Mr. Trump appeared to believe that its release would quell the push for impeachment, but it only emboldened House Democrats.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Denies Quid Pro Quo, but Envoys Had Their Doubts, Peter Baker, Oct. 5, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump denied any quid pro quo in pushing Ukraine to investigate his foes, but text messages indicate that his team saw it otherwise. The messages could shape the impeachment inquiry that is threatening Mr. Trump’s presidency.

President Trump has repeatedly denied that there was any quid pro quo attached to his pressure on Ukraine to investigate his political enemies, but a new batch of text messages released late Thursday night indicated that his own representatives saw it differently.

donald trump twitterEnvoys representing Mr. Trump sought to leverage the power of his office to prod Ukraine into opening investigations that would damage his Democratic opponents at home. They made clear to Ukrainian officials that the White House invitation their newly inaugurated leader coveted depended on his commitment to the investigations.

And the senior American diplomat posted in Ukraine suspected it went even further than a trade of an Oval Office visit, telling colleagues that it appeared to him that unfreezing $391 million in American aid that Mr. Trump had blocked was contingent on the former Soviet republic following through on the politically charged investigations sought by the president and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

SCOTUS Term Starts

supreme court headshots 2019
washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to review ruling on Louisiana abortion law, Robert Barnes, Oct. 5, 2019 (print ed.). The Supreme Court will review a restrictive Louisiana law that gives the justices the chance to reconsider a recent ruling protecting abortion rights.

The court said Friday it would consider whether the 2014 law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals unduly burdens women’s access to abortion. Clinic owners said the effect of the law would be to close most of the state’s abortion clinics and leave the state with only one doctor eligible to perform the procedure.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s order will deny visas to immigrants who lack health-care coverage, Maria Sacchetti, Oct. 5, 2019.​  The rule comes as the president is intensifying his efforts to fulfill his campaign promises to curb immigration.

stephen miller nbc screenshot whAnalysts said the proclamation appears to target family-based migration, the type of “chain migration” that the Trump administration and White House aide Stephen Miller, right, an immigration hawk, have been unable to persuade Congress to reduce. The White House has pushed for policies that would ICE logofavor wealthier immigrants with special skills over immigrants from poorer countries, including in Latin America.

Doug Rand, a former White House official in the Obama administration who worked on immigration policy, said Trump’s proclamation is likely to affect the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens waiting overseas for permission to come to the United States, including parents, spouses and siblings. Children are exempt. He said the new rules would not affect the immigrants already in the United States.

U.S. 2020 Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders’s heart attack raises questions about his age, potential damage to campaign, Sean Sullivan and Amy Gardner, Oct. 5, 2019.  The presidential candidate, who delayed revealing his heart attack for three days, promised to be at the next Democratic debate, on Oct. 15. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s admission late Friday that he had suffered a heart attack three days earlier invited new scrutiny of the presidential candidate’s age, health and ability to keep up with the rigors of a national campaign.

Sanders released a video hours after he was discharged from a Las Vegas hospital, thanking well-wishers for their support and promising to return “soon” to the campaign trail. “I’m feeling so much better,” Sanders said, his arm draped around his wife, Jane.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer found guilty of defrauding Virginia legislator, autism group, Rachel Weiner, Oct. 5, 2019. The fraud exceeded $1.5 million; he claimed it was largely his wife’s doing. An attorney and former police officer was found guilty Friday in Alexandria federal court of defrauding his former employer, an autism education organization and the campaign of a Virginia Democratic political leader.

David Miller, 70, conspired with his wife to embezzle more than $1.5 million by creating fake law firms that siphoned funds from then-Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), SkyLink Aviation, and the Community College Consortium on Autism and Intellectual Disabilities. Linda Wallis Miller, who had served as Saslaw’s campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to the three fraud schemes in 2015 and was sentenced to 56 months in prison. David Miller faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the 10 counts of conviction when he is sentenced Jan. 24.

“They were partners in crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said at sentencing. “The Millers worked together . . . to line their own pockets.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Why is he dying?’ Inside a probe of suspicious deaths at a VA hospital, Lisa Rein, Oct. 5, 2019. At the heart of the latest criminal case to engulf the Veterans Affairs Department are 11 deaths in West Virginia and a person of interest identified as a woman who used to work the overnight shift as a nursing assistant, according to people familiar with the matter.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Journalist says a CBP officer at Dulles withheld his passport until he agreed he writes ‘propaganda,’ Hannah Knowles, Oct. 5, 2019.​ The story has sparked alarm about rising hostility to journalists as the Trump administration continues to attack the media as “fake news.” It took a moment for Ben Watson to realize the officer was not joking.

us dhs big eagle logo4Watson had just told the Customs and Border Protection staffer reviewing his passport that he works in journalism. Then the seemingly routine Thursday encounter at the Washington Dulles International Airport got tense.

“So you write propaganda, right?” Watson, the news editor at the national security site Defense One, recalled the CBP officer asking.

“No,” Watson says he replied. He affirmed again that he was a journalist.

The officer repeated his propaganda question, said Watson, who was returning from a reporting trip in Denmark.

“With his tone, and he’s looking me in the eye — I very much realized this is not a joke,” Watson told The Washington Post on Friday. Watson said he got his passport back only after agreeing with the “propaganda” charge.

 Oct. 4

Impeachment Daily Index

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump publicly calls on China to open investigation into Bidens, Philip Rucker, Rachael Bade and Colby Itkowitz, china flag SmallOct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s brazen request seemed to make a mockery of the charge that he abused his office by pressing Ukraine’s leader to examine unfounded allegations of corruption by the Bidens.

• Trump’s removal would need GOP dissidents. But those who speak out are targeted.

Palmer Report, CIA General Counsel has referred Donald Trump for criminal charges, Bill Palmer, Oct. 4, 2019. At this point Donald Trump has a lot more to cia logoworry about than just whether he’ll be impeached and removed from office. He also has to worry about the increasing probability that he’ll be criminally indicted, arrested, put on trial, and sent to prison after he’s ousted from office. Today, that narrative took a major turn.

Because the Ukraine whistleblower is a CIA agent, he first took his concerns to the CIA General Counsel. We’ve known this for several days. But what we didn’t know until just now is that, according to a bombshell from NBC News, the CIA General Counsel responded by bill palmer report logo headermaking a criminal referral against Donald Trump {shown in a Palmer Report graphic] to the Department of Justice.

Why is this important?

Donald Trump’s corrupt Attorney General Bill Barr, left, isn’t going to allow the CIA’s criminal case against Donald Trump to result in an indictment against Trump, for obvious reasons. But Barr is running out of rope here, as he’s one of the people accused of criminal wrongdoing in the whistleblower djt prison palmer reportcomplaint. At some point the House impeachment inquiry will manage to force Barr to step away for fear of ending up in william barr new oprison himself, either through resignation or recusal. That’ll create a situation where the new person in charge can rip up the policy about not indicting a sitting president, and Trump can be indicted.

Not only does this create a new avenue for Donald Trump’s ouster, it also helps cement that Trump will end up criminally indicted on federal charges. If it doesn’t happen before he leaves office, it’ll now certainly happen the minute he’s ousted. This is in addition to the state-level charges in New York that are looming against Trump, which can’t be pardoned by any current or future president.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Fringe Theory About Ukraine Took Root in the White House, Scott Shane, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). We untangle the false conspiracy theory — involving Democrats, the 2016 election and hackers — that Mr. Trump raised in his call to Ukraine.

In an April 2017 interview with The Associated Press, President Trump suddenly began talking about the hack of the Democratic National Committee a year earlier, complaining that the F.B.I. had not physically examined the compromised server.

“They brought in another company that I hear is Ukrainian-based,” the president said.

“CrowdStrike?” the surprised reporter asked, referring to the California cybersecurity company that investigated how Russian government hackers had stolen and leaked Democratic emails, disrupting Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“That’s what I heard,” Mr. Trump resumed. “I heard it’s owned by a very rich Ukrainian; that’s what I heard.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For Trump, Ukraine is a story of personal resentment and political opportunism, David Ignatius, right, Oct. 4, 2019.  Through all of david ignatiusPresident Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, he has rarely focused on doing the job for which he was elected — steering the foreign policy of the United States. Instead, for Trump, Ukraine has been a continuing story of personal resentment and political opportunism.

A narrative of the Ukraine affair, drawn from conversations with some of the principals, text messages released by the House and other documentation, solidly supports the claim of the still­anonymous whistleblower that “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

Biden deserves some blame, too. Putting aside the false Trump conspiracy theories about him, Biden used poor judgment in playing a roll on Ukraine policy while his son Hunter was working for Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Either the son should have quit, or the father should have shut up. Denying this obvious fact only weakens the Democrats’ case against Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wanted Ukraine to launch probes before meeting with Zelensky, texts show, Karoun Demirjian, Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey and John Hudson, Oct. 4, 2019. The text messages, which former special envoy Kurt Volker provided to investigators on Thursday, reveal that officials felt President Trump would not agree to meet with the Ukrainian president unless there was a promise to launch the investigations.

U.S. House logoHouse investigators released numerous text messages late Thursday night illustrating how senior State Department officials coordinated with the Ukrainian president’s top aide and President Trump’s personal lawyer to leverage a potential summit between the heads of state on a promise from the Ukrainians to investigate the 2016 U.S. election and an energy company that employed the son of 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

[Read the documents: House Democrats’ letter on State Department texts]

The texts, which former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker provided investigators during a nearly 10-hour deposition Thursday, reveal that kurt volkerofficials felt Trump would not agree to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky unless Zelensky promised to launch the investigations — and did so publicly.

Although the texts do not mention Biden by name, congressional Democrats leading an impeachment inquiry are pointing to them as clear evidence that Trump conditioned normal bilateral relations with Ukraine on that country first agreeing “to launch politically motivated investigations,” top Democrats said in statement Thursday night.

• Analysis: 3 deeply problematic aspects of the texts

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine’s new chief prosecutor to ‘audit’ company that recruited Hunter Biden for its board, Will Englund, Oct. 4, 2019. ​A criminal probe of the company was closed in 2016, and Ukraine’s chief prosecutor said he wants to find out why. President Trump has alleged it was because of pressure by then-Vice President Joe Biden.

Ukraine’s new chief prosecutor said Friday his office will conduct an “audit” of an investigation into Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that had recruited Hunter Biden for its board.

A criminal probe of the company was closed in 2016, and President Trump has alleged it was because of pressure by Hunter Biden’s father, then-Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has insisted that Ukraine open a new investigation.

Ukrainian officials said previously that the probe was focused on the years 2010 to 2012, before the younger Biden joined the board. They also have said that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part.

Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka reiterated at a news conference Friday that he knows of no evidence of criminal activity by Biden.

He said that he is aware of at least 15 investigations that may have touched on Burisma, its owner Nikolai Zlochevsky, an associate named Serhiy Zerchenko, and Biden, and that all will be reviewed. He said no foreign or Ukrainian official has been in touch with him to request this audit. The audit does not mark a reopening of the investigation, but it could buy Ukraine some time in dealing with the White House, analysts said.

• Live updates: Schiff takes issue with Trump’s assertion he has ‘absolute right’ to seek foreign help on corruption

washington post logokurt volkerWashington Post, Volker says he warned Giuliani that Ukrainian claims were not credible, John Hudson, Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian​, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). Kurt D. Volker, right, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, is said to have testified that he told Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani that the Ukrainian officials offering derogatory information about former vice president Joe Biden and his son were unreliable.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Diplomats Pushed Ukraine to Commit to Investigations, Kenneth P. Vogel and Michael S. Schmidt, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). Two of President Trump’s envoys drafted a statement for Ukraine’s leader that would have committed him to investigations of Mr. Trump’s rivals. The statement was new evidence of how Mr. Trump’s fixation with Ukraine drove diplomats to bend American foreign policy.

Two of President Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals, three people briefed on the effort said.

The drafting of the statement is new evidence of how Mr. Trump’s fixation with Ukraine and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories began driving senior diplomats to bend American foreign policy to the president’s political agenda in the weeks after the July 25 call william taylor o Custombetween the two leaders.

The statement was drafted by Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s envoy to Ukraine, according to the three people who have been briefed on it.

Mr. Volker spent Thursday on Capitol Hill being questioned by House investigators as Democrats pursued their impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s actions. He disclosed a set of texts in September in which William B. Taylor Jr., right, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, alluded to Mr. Trump’s decision earlier in the summer to freeze a military aid package to the country. He told Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Analysis: Israel also involved in digging up dirt on the Bidens on behalf of Trump, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 4, 2019 (subscription required). By Donald Trump’s own admission and through documents provided by an Intelligence Community whistleblower and former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine Paul Volker it is known that the Trump administration pressured four countries to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The countries involved in the Trump operation are Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Australia, and China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Foreign allies who gambled on Trump face big losses, Adam Taylor, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s political weakness at home is beginning to cause problems for world leaders who allied themselves with him.

The Trump administration has had a rough few weeks, but spare a thought for the president’s closest foreign allies. From Britain to Australia, Japan to Saudi Arabia, foreign leaders who decided to gamble on America’s unpredictable leader are probably wondering whether they made a losing bet.

djt maga hat speech uncredited CustomIn the United States, the ongoing scandal about President Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sparked a swell of momentum for impeachment. Democrats argue that the phone call, in which Trump said Zelensky should open a criminal investigation against the son of one of his rivals, amounted to an abuse of office.

There have been reports that Trump pushed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, and Australian Prime Minister Scott boris johnson hand up unsourcedMorrison for information. Johnson and Morrison had endeavored to maintain good relations with Trump, but in both countries, the American president is an unpopular figure. According to Pew, last year just 32 percent of Australians and 28 percent of Britons said they had confidence in Trump.

Appearing subservient to such an unpopular figure carries real political risk for any foreign ally — particularly in Britain, Australia and Italy, where the governments are already struggling with their own instability and questions of legitimacy.

washington post logoWashington Post, IRS whistleblower is said to have reported concerns that Treasury appointee attempted to interfere in audit of Trump or Pence, Jeff Stein, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). An Internal Revenue Service ­official has filed a whistleblower complaint reporting that he was told that at least one Treasury Department political appointee attempted to improperly interfere with the annual audit of the president’s or vice president’s tax returns, according to multiple people familiar with the document.

Trump administration officials dismissed the whistleblower’s complaint as flimsy because it is based on conversations with other government officials. irs logoBut congressional Democrats were alarmed by the complaint, now circulating on Capitol Hill, and flagged it in a federal court filing. They are also discussing whether to make it public.

The details of the IRS complaint follow news of a separate, explosive whistleblower complaint filed in August by a member of the intelligence community. That complaint revealed Trump’s request of Ukranian leaders to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival. It has spurred an impeachment probe on Capitol Hill.

The IRS complaint has come amid the escalating legal battle between the Treasury Department and House Democrats over the release of President Trump’s tax returns. Part of that inquiry from Democrats is over how the IRS conducts its annual audit of the president’s and vice president’s tax returns. That process is supposed to be walled off from political appointees and interference.

President Trump has broken decades of precedent by refusing to publicly release his tax returns. Democrats filed a lawsuit earlier this year demanding the disclosure of those filings, invoking a federal law designed to give Congress access to any tax return.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump, the Self-Impeaching President, Editorial Board, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). Now he wants China to investigate the Bidens and help his re-election bid. Give him this, he’s not subtle. Federal law expressly states that it is illegal for “a person to solicit, accept, or receive” anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a United States election.

china flag SmallYet there stood President Trump outside the White House on Thursday, openly soliciting help from a foreign government for his re-election prospects by declaring to the assembled press that “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” This, of course, after Mr. Trump has already become subject to an impeachment inquiry after implicating himself in a scheme to seek foreign help for his campaign in a conversation with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

This might seem self-defeating — “self-impeaching,” even.

ny times logoNew York Times, No evidence has emerged that Joe Biden traded favors with China to help his son. Here’s what we know, Sharon LaFraniere and Michael Forsythe, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s latest broadside against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter appears to center on a joint venture that involved the younger Mr. Biden and some of China’s leading state-owned financial companies.

But the president’s claims bear little if any relation to the known facts.

Without presenting any evidence, Mr. Trump suggested on Thursday that China showered $1.5 billion on Hunter Biden in order to influence his father and win favorable trade deals with the United States.

“That’s probably why China for so many years has had a sweetheart deal where China rips off the U.S.A.” because they deal with people like “Biden where they give the son a billion and a half dollars,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, adding: “You know what they call that? They call that a payoff.”

Companies associated with Hunter Biden or his business partners have struck several deals involving China over the past decade. So, in fact, have Mr. Trump’s own relatives — a point that Mr. Trump does not mention in his now almost-daily accusations against the former vice president, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son.

But while the extent of Hunter Biden’s business dealings with China is not entirely clear, no evidence has emerged of how much money the younger Mr. Biden may have earned. In fact, his lawyer says he has earned nothing from the venture that the president is apparently citing. Nor is there any evidence that his father traded favors with the Chinese government to help his son.

EU Nixes Brexit Offer

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. rejects Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposal, raising prospect of chaotic break within weeks, Michael Birnbaum​​, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). Although negotiators were careful not to dismiss Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans, they made clear that his current offer would never win support from the 27 countries that need to sign off on it.

united kingdom flagEuropean policymakers said Thursday that a new Brexit proposal from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, was unworkable, heightening the prospects of a chaotic British departure from the European Union within weeks.

boris johnson hand up unsourcedAlthough leaders, politicians and negotiators did not dismiss Johnson’s plan out of hand, they made clear the current offer would not win support from the 27 countries that need to sign off on any withdrawal deal, and they were downbeat about it serving as the basis for serious negotiations.

British negotiators plan to visit Brussels again Friday. The two sides remain far apart without much time to resolve their differences. Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31. Parliament passed a law demanding that the prime minister request an extension if a withdrawal deal has not been agreed by mid-October. But Johnson has continued to insist that Britain will leave with or without a deal at the end of the month.

U.S. Economy

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. added just 136,000 jobs in September, fueling fears that trade war pain has snowballed, Eli Rosenberg, Oct. 5, 2019 (print ed.). As numerous signs have shown the economy is slowing down, the labor market’s performance is being closely watched by the Federal Reserve, business leaders and elected officials heading into 2020.

#MeToo Claim: Film Class Scam

washington post logoWashington Post, Two former students sue James Franco for allegedly exploiting a ‘steady stream’ of young women, Katie Shepherd, Oct. 4, 2019. 
When an inexperienced actress volunteered to perform in a nude scene in a short film called “Hungry Girl” for a course she took at James Franco’s acting school, she expected the classwork to lead to roles in feature-length films or television. Instead, she found graphic images from the short film uploaded on the Internet.

james franco screenshot colbert cbs late show“If you Google me, you can see me naked,” Sarah Tither-Kaplan later told the Los Angeles Times. “Before I’ve ever been on TV or before I’ve ever had any real credits or before any of this — of course I regret that. I don’t want that.”

On Thursday, Tither-Kaplan and another actress, Toni Gaal, sued Franco (shown in a file photo), his two business partners and his production company for allegedly sexually exploiting women who paid to take classes at their school, Studio 4. The complaint, as reported by the New York Times, alleges the men “engaged in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects.”

Global News

ny times logoNew York Times, Hong Kong Leader Invokes Emergency Powers to Ban Masks in Protests, Keith Bradsher, Daniel Victor and Tiffany May, Oct. 4, 2019. In invoking the little-used law, Carrie Lam bypassed the legislature, a step long feared by opposition lawmakers.

SCOTUS Term Starts

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court term to begin with blockbuster question: Is it legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender? Robert Barnes, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). It’s among the most consequential issues facing the justices, with more than 70 friend-of-the-court briefs dividing states, religious orders and members of Congress.

SCIOTUSblog, Friday round-up, Edith Rogers, Oct. 4, 2019. Briefly:

  • At AP, Mark Sherman reports that “[b]oth sides of the abortion debate are waiting to see if the Supreme Court adds new disputes over state abortion regulations to its election-year docket[:] The court is expected [today] to announce new cases it will consider in the term that begins next week.”
  • For The Washington Post (subscription required), Robert Barnes looks at the “blockbuster question” the Supreme Court will consider “at the start of its new term: Is it legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender?”
  • At Reuters, Lawrence Hurley reports that “[t]he U.S. Supreme Court’s new term opens on Monday with the conservative majority in a position to take a more aggressive rightward turn on divisive issues including abortion, gay rights and gun control while also refereeing legal brawls involving President Donald Trump.”
  • Dan Berman and Ariane de Vogue report at CNN that “[l]awyers standing before the Supreme Courtnow will have at least two minutes to talk before justices rip their arguments apart,” according to new guidelines released by the court yesterday.
  • At Bloomberg Law, Jordan Rubin reports that the new term’s “criminal docket has a little something for everyone—the insanity defense, the D.C. sniper, the death penalty, the Fourth Amendment, and the New Jersey corruption saga known as ‘Bridgegate.’”
  • At Law360 (subscription required), Harry Sandick and Jacob Newman “look at a few of the cases in the upcoming Supreme Court term … that may have a notable impact on white collar criminal defense practice.”
  • For this blog, Kalvis Golde reports that in remarks at the dedication of a new college chapel yesterday, Justice Clarence Thomas focused “on the importance of faith in both his own life and higher education in general.”
  • At Second Thoughts, Jake Charles suggests that Justice Neil Gorsuch’s concurring opinion last term in Kisor v. Wilkie may shed light on whether lower courts are “bound to an originalist methodology in assessing Second Amendment claims.”
  • Prosecutorial Accountability questions “some claims made by Oregon and Louisiana” in Ramos v. Louisiana, in which the justices will decide whether the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a unanimous jury applies to the states.
  • In the latest episode of the Heritage Foundation’s SCOTUS101 podcast, “Elizabeth Slattery and Tiffany Bates preview oral arguments coming up next week and discuss a trio of cases involving state abortion regulations that the justices.

Consumer Protection

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: ‘We Were Wiped Out’: New Yorkers Preyed on Chicago Cabbies, Brian M. Rosenthal, Photographs by Alyssa Schukar
Oct. 4, 2019.  After seizing control of the market, New Yorkers used tactics that helped leave the taxi industry in tatters and hundreds of immigrant drivers on the edge of ruin.

Unlike in New York, where regulations and the density of the city core have partially shielded yellow cabs from the effects of competition from ride-hailing companies, the taxi industries in Chicago and other cities have been devastated by Uber and Lyft. But industry veterans said the reckless practices would have led to a crisis regardless.

johnson johnson logony times logoNew York Times, Video Investigation: The Weekly: Johnson & Johnson Lawsuits Raise Fears Over Baby Powder, Producer/Director Alyse horland,  Thousands of people who trusted Johnson’s Baby Powder for decades are suing the company after developing cancer. Watch our TV show on FX and Hulu. Episode 14: ‘v. Johnson & Johnson’

You’d recognize that distinctive fragrance anywhere. It’s the smell of innocence. Johnson & Johnson has touted its signature baby powder as gentle enough for a baby’s bottom for more than a century. And though its talcum powder represents only a fraction of the pharmaceutical and cosmetic giant’s modern business, it’s been a cornerstone of the company’s reputation.

Trumper Creates 'Chaos' For AOC

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservatives attacked Ocasio-Cortez over a bizarre town hall speaker. Now, a pro-Trump fringe group says it planned the stunt, alexandria ocasio cortezAllyson Chiu, Oct. 4, 2019. For most of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Thursday town hall, the woman in a black jacket sat quietly in the third row. Then, as the event in Corona, N.Y., neared its end, the woman suddenly stood up and began yelling about climate change.

“But we’re not going to be here much long because of the climate crisis,” the woman blurted. “We got to start eating babies,” she abruptly declared, taking off her jacket to display a T-shirt that read: “Save the planet. Eat the children.”

The woman’s bizarre speech swiftly became the center of a heated Twitter fight Thursday night that pitted Ocasio-Cortez, right, against President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and other conservatives, who suggested the woman was an example of “climate change hysteria.” In response, Ocasio-Cortez chastised critics for trying to “mock or make a spectacle” of a woman who “may have been suffering from a mental condition.”

It now seems likely that the scene was carefully planned.

The woman was apparently part of an attempt by a right-wing fringe political group to embarrass the Democratic congresswoman. Late Thursday, a Twitter account belonging to the LaRouche PAC — which was founded by conspiracy theorist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. — took credit for the stunt. A historian who has documented the organization said the woman’s outburst was “a fairly well-established tactic for them.”

“They’ve been doing this since the ’70s,” Matthew Sweet, whose book Operation Chaos delved into the group’s complex history, told The Washington Post. “The tactic is you go to a political meeting and you create a disturbance that disrupts the meeting, and more importantly, that creates a kind of chaos.”

Described by Sweet as a “bizarre political cult,” LaRouche led the group until he died at 96 in February. LaRouche, who ran for president eight times between 1976 and 2004, “built a worldwide following based on conspiracy theories, economic doom, anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism,” The Post’s Timothy R. Smith wrote. In its early years, the organization’s views skewed left, but LaRouche’s vision eventually shifted, becoming “ultraconservative and apocalyptic,” The Post reported. More recently, the group has expressed support for Trump.

Known as “LaRouchians,” the group has “always been tiny,” Sweet told The Post, but its members have still managed to make waves in U.S. politics. The list of high-profile figures they have publicly heckled and harassed range from actress Jane Fonda to former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, he said.

Though Ocasio-Cortez quickly moved on to another question, the woman continued to try to talk, prompting two people to escort her from her seat.

By early Friday, a number of news outlets, including some conservative websites, had published articles about the woman’s comments. A two-minute video of the event had garnered more than 5 million views on Twitter, drawing reactions from Trump and Trump Jr., and the hashtag “#EatTheBabies” was trending.

Trump Jr. tweeted that the woman “seems like a normal AOC supporter to me,” and the president retweeted his son, adding, “AOC is a Wack Job!"

In a tweet addressing the town hall, Ocasio-Cortez hit back at critics, writing, “At one point I was concerned there was a woman in crisis,” adding that she wanted to “ensure we treat the situation compassionately.”

“This person may have been suffering from a mental condition and it’s not okay that the right-wing is mocking her,” she wrote minutes later. “Be a decent human being and knock it off.”

On Friday morning, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the woman’s affiliation with the group “doesn’t rule out potential mental issue (Drs do that) but good to know they were not in crisis.”

Turns out the woman yelling was a Trump supporter

Media News

 washington post logoWashington Post, Sports Illustrated shaken by major layoffs and massive reorganization, Jacob Bogage and Ben Strauss, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). The job losses threaten to decimate what was once the standard-bearer of American sports journalism. The publishing company behind Sports Illustrated laid off 35 to 40 percent of the publication’s editorial staff Thursday, according to people familiar with the personnel moves, cuts that could decimate what was once the standard-bearer of American sports journalism.

Staffers speaking on the condition of anonymity out of concern of reprisal said the job losses are worse than most inside the magazine expected. Even die-hard optimists said morale was at an all-time low given the magazine’s recent struggles, and key managers were not given the opportunity to fight to save some of the organization’s most prized writers.

Sports Illustrated has been in a state of uncertainty for years after two corporate sales. It was purchased from Time Inc. along with a series of other titles — including Time and Fortune — by publishing conglomerate Meredith for $1.8 billion in 2017, then immediately placed back on the market. Authentic Brands Group purchased Sports Illustrated in May for $110 million, a price considered a bargain.

Oct. 3

Impeachment Daily Index

Impeachment Inquiry Update

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto joins Donald Trump at the White House on Oct. 2, 2019 (Screengrab via PBS)

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto joins Donald Trump at the White House on Oct. 2, 2019 (Screengrab via PBS)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump rides a roller coaster of grievance, victimhood and braggadocio as Finland’s leader looks on, Toluse Olorunnipa, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). The combustible mix of President Trump’s emotions has only become more potent as he faces a growing impeachment threat. The rowdy, meandering and combative news conference Wednesday began with President Trump marveling at the media.

“Look at all the press that you attract,” he told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto as the two men faced a room of reporters. “Do you believe this? Very impressive.”

It ended with Trump excoriating the press as “corrupt people” who undermine U.S. democracy. “If the press were straight and honest and forthright and tough we would be a far greater nation,” he said.

For the 40 minutes in between, the East Room of the White House played host to a roller coaster display of the grievances, victimhood, falsehoods and braggadocio.

Politico, Energy Secretary Rick Perry eyeing White House exit in November, Ben Lefebvre and Theodoric Meyer, Oct. 3, 2019. Energy Secretary Rick Perry rick perry ois expected to announce his resignation from the administration by the end of November, according to three people familiar with his plans. Perry, right, who had been Texas' longest serving governor before joining President Donald Trump's Cabinet in 2017, has largely avoided the controversies that felled others in the administration.

But his travels to Ukraine have lately embroiled him in the impeachment inquiry engulfing Trump and his inner circle, even though two of the people called the scandal unrelated to Perry's departure, which they said he has been planning for several months.

Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette is expected to replace Perry, according to three people familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity to discuss the departure before an official announcement was made.

Perry's plans after leaving the Energy Department were not immediately known, but the 69-year-old has ruled out another try for the White House after running unsuccessfully in the 2012 and 2016 Republican primaries. “I’m done. Quote me on that,” he said when asked about another presidential campaign last year, adding that he’d “totally failed” at retiring earlier as Texas governor.

But it's an open question how much of his retirement will be spent answering questions about the Ukraine affair, which centers on questions about whether Trump withheld U.S. military aid to pressure the government in Kiev to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Ukraine envoy arrives to testify; Pelosi knocks GOP colleagues, John Wagner​, Oct. 3, 2019.  Kurt D. Volker, who resigned last week as the special envoy for Ukraine, arrived for a closed-door interview in front of three House committees, accelerating the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. Here’s the latest.

President Trump on Thursday called on both Ukraine and China to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter in relation to the younger Biden’s business dealings during the tenure of the former vice president.

kurt volkerThe comments came as Kurt D. Volker, left, who resigned last week as the Trump administration’s special envoy for Ukraine, was being interviewed behind closed doors in front of three House committees, accelerating the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.

Volker was among the officials mentioned by name in the whistleblower report raising concerns about Trump’s July phone call in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son.

In a television interview that aired earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused her Republican colleagues of being loyal to President Trump and not the Constitution. President Trump spoke to reporters Oct. 3 on his way to Joint Base Andrews.

  • ‘This is when the inquiry gets real’: Former envoy to Ukraine testifies today
  • Analysis: Trump’s request that China investigate Bidens is his most brazen yet. It might also be the most problematic.

abc news logoABC News, 'Crazy to withhold security assistance' to Ukraine for political campaign: Top US diplomat, Katherine Faulders and Conor Finnegan, Oct. 3, 2019. In newly disclosed text messages shared with Congress, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine writes to a group of other American diplomats that "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

The exchange, provided by another American diplomat, former U.S Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, as part of his closed-door deposition before multiple House committees Thursday, shows what appears to be encrypted text messages he exchanged with two other American diplomats in September regarding aid money President Donald Trump ordered to be held back from Ukraine.

In the Sept. 9 exchange, obtained by ABC News, the concerns are expressed by Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, responds to Taylor, saying that charge is "incorrect."

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Trump urges China to investigate Bidens, despite impeachment inquiry over a similar request to Ukraine, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Oct. 3, 2019. resident Trump’s comments came as Kurt D. Volker, who resigned last week as the special envoy for Ukraine, arrived for a closed-door interview in front of three House committees — part of the inquiry sparked by a whistleblower’s complaint that Trump had pressed the Ukrainian president for a similar investigation of the Bidens.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump involved Pence in attempts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, officials say, Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Ashley Parker, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). Officials close to Vice President Pence insist he was unaware of President Trump’s efforts to press the Ukrainian president for damaging information mike pence oabout Joe Biden and his son, who had served on the board of an Ukrainian gas company when his father oversaw U.S. policy on Ukraine.

President Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington, the officials said.

Months later, the president used Pence to tell Zelensky that U.S. aid was still being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on corruption, officials said. At that time — following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenksy — the Ukrainians probably understood action on corruption to include the investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats warn ‘we’re not fooling around,’ say White House will face subpoena, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez​, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). Leaders of two House committees made statements aimed at the White House, saying that a subpoena would be issued Friday and warning that adam schiff squarestonewalling against the impeachment inquiry could lead to an article of impeachment on obstruction of justice. “We’re not fooling around here,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), right.

• Inquiry puts new focus on Giuliani’s work for prominent figures in Ukraine​

washington post logoWashington Post, Odd markings fuel doubts about rough transcript of Trump-Ukraine call, Carol D. Leonnig, Craig Timberg and Drew Harwell, Oct. 3, 2019. Current and former U.S. officials studying the document say some of its elements indicate it may have been handled unusually.

President Trump said Wednesday that his controversial July call with his Ukrainian counterpart was transcribed “word-for-word, comma-for-comma,” an assertion that fueled growing questions about the nature and completeness of an official memorandum about the call released by the White House last week.

“This is an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation, taken by very talented stenographers,” Trump said.

White House officials previously had portrayed the document as not a verbatim transcription but rather a summary that closely tracked the words the president used in his July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. They said it was being released in a bid to bring transparency and clarity to a call at the heart of a consuming political scandal that has sparked a House impeachment investigation.

But the whistleblower complaint that spurred the investigation described an “official word-for-word transcript” of the call — words closely matching the ones used by Trump on Wednesday — creating uncertainty about what was included in the document the White House released last week and what may have been left out.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you three-quarters of the Trump-Ukraine phone call summary was missing, Bill Palmer, Oct. 3, 2019. When the Trump White House released a summary of the fateful phone call between Donald Trump and the President of Ukraine, it was damning enough to get him impeached all on its own. But at the time, Palmer Report pointed out that something was missing. In fact it looked like most of it was missing. Now it turns we weren’t just imagining it, because a Senator sees it too.

bill palmer report logo headerJust prior to the release of the phone call summary, major media outlets reported that during the course of the call, Donald Trump had asked the President of Ukraine eight separate times to work with Rudy Giuliani on promoting the fake Biden scandal. But the summary only included two of those eight times. We figured that since only one-fourth of the Rudy mentions were present, the other three-fourths of the phone call must have been omitted from the transcript.

That was some rather simplistic math on our part, but it turns out we were pretty close. Senator Angus King had his staff read the phone call summary aloud, and it took them barely ten minutes. But the phone call is said to have lasted thirty minutes. So by Senator King’s math, roughly two-thirds of the phone call has been omitted from the transcript.

It doesn’t really matter if our estimate that 75% of the phone call is missing from the summary, or if King’s estimate that 67% of the phone call is missing, is more accurate. What matters is that this is another data point that suggests the Trump White House is trying to trick us into believing that most of the phone call didn’t happen. If the damning summary is what they were willing to admit to, just how ugly were the parts they omitted?

 washington post logoWashington Post, White House weighs an appeal to Democrats in GOP districts to stop impeachment, Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey​, Oct. 3, 2019.  The outreach campaign would target some of the 31 Democrats in districts Trump won, a pursuit at odds with attack ads from the Trump campaign and RNC.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWhite House officials intent on stopping the House from impeaching President Trump are considering appealing to moderate Democrats in Republican districts to stand with the president, a pursuit at odds with fresh political attacks from the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.

The nascent outreach campaign would target some of the 31 Democrats from congressional districts Trump won in 2016, many of whom ran on U.S. House logorebuilding infrastructure, improving trade deals and lowering the cost of prescription drugs, according to multiple officials familiar with the strategy.

Democratic leaders dismissed the notion that the White House could win over moderates with policy promises. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said that her caucus is more than willing to work with the president while they continue investigating him.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, said the appeal would be based on these Democrats’ 2018 election promises to work with the president — accompanied with a warning that impeachment would hamper possible legislative victories.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump's hat tip to violent supporters marks America's decline to Third World status, Oct. 3, 2019 (with 1:30 min. video) (subscription required). One sign of an autocracy is the appearance of street mobs in support of the actual or would-be dictator.....

On October 2, Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren arrived to a group of pro-Trump protesters at Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Nevada. These protesters were able to harangue Warren at a distance that the Secret Service would find much too close for comfort.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump speaks about whistleblower, says China should investigate Bidens, Oct. 3, 2019 (video). President Trump spoke to reporters Oct. 3 on his way to Joint Base Andrews.

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Democrats Tell White House Subpoena Is Coming, Nicholas Fandos and Peter Baker, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). House leaders threatened to subpoena the White House counsel if he did not hand over a broad range of records on the Ukraine matter by Friday. The subpoena threat came as House Democratic leaders were preparing to lay out the next steps in their rapidly unfolding impeachment inquiry.

House Democrats moved on Wednesday to compel the White House to cooperate in their impeachment inquiry, announcing plans to issue a subpoena by Friday if it did not comply with broad requests for documents related to President Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate a leading political rival, and any attempt to conceal his actions.

elijah cummings headshotRepresentative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, left, the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, notified his panel of the impending subpoena on Wednesday. He said the White House had thus far ignored voluntary requests he submitted with the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.

“I do not take this step lightly,” Mr. Cummings wrote. “Over the past several weeks, the committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — the committees.”

The subpoena threat was the latest sign that the House was pushing ahead quickly with an aggressive investigation that has taken shape in just over two weeks, after revelations about attempts by Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats. The allegations, detailed in a whistle-blower complaint, have escalated into an impeachment inquiry that threatens Mr. Trump’s presidency and is plainly enraging him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Echoes of Benghazi Criticism and Anger Confront Pompeo in Ukraine Inquiry, Lara Jakes and David E. Sanger, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). mike pompeo portraitSecretary of State Mike Pompeo once accused the Obama administration of obstructing a House inquiry. He now faces a similar charge. As a member of Congress, Mike Pompeo, right drove the Republican inquiry into the killing of a United States ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, and made clear there was no place for politics in American diplomacy. Nor, he said, would he tolerate “dithering” by an Obama administration State Department that he called “deeply obstructive of getting the American people the facts that they needed.”

Now, as secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo is facing a political crisis that directly challenges his leadership of the department he once excoriated. He is accused by House Democrats of blocking their impeachment inquiry by resisting the release of information to Congress that may shed light on the Trump administration’s shadow foreign policy with Ukraine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pompeo Confirms He Listened to Trump’s Call to Ukraine President, Jason Horowitz and Richard Pérez-Peña, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). “I was on the phone call,” the American secretary of state said at a news conference in Rome — the first time he has addressed the topic publicly.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Wednesday that he had listened in on President Trump’s telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine — a call that has become the subject of a whistle-blower’s complaint and is at the heart of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.

ukraine flag“I was on the phone call,” Mr. Pompeo said at a news conference in Rome — the first time he has addressed the topic publicly since reports surfaced that he had heard the exchange.

He did not elaborate on the conversation and did not answer a question about whether anything in it had raised a red flag for him.

In the July 25 call, Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the activities in Ukraine of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani has consulted on Ukraine with imprisoned Paul Manafort via a lawyer, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne and Rosalind S. Helderman, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump’s attorney is promoting a narrative that the real story of 2016 is not Russian interference to elect Trump, but Ukrainian efforts to support Hillary Clinton.

rudy giulianiIn his quest to rewrite the history of the 2016 election, President Trump’s personal attorney has turned to an unusual source of information: Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, in recent months has consulted several times with Manafort through the federal prisoner’s lawyer in pursuit of information about a disputed ledger that would bolster his theory that the real story of 2016 is not Russian interference to elect Trump, but Ukrainian efforts to support Hillary Clinton.

The alliance, which Giuliani acknowledged in an interview this week with The Washington Post, stems from a shared interest in a narrative that undermines the rationale for the special counsel investigation. That inquiry led to Manafort’s imprisonment on tax and financial fraud allegations related to his work in Kiev for the political party of former president Viktor Yanukovych.

U.S. Migrant Policy

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump wanted to have U.S. forces equipped with bayonets to stop migrants at border, officials say, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey​, Oct. 3, 2019.  Frustrated with migration surge, President Trump suggested several border security ideas, including a reptile-filled moat and shooting migrants. Staffers separated the ideas into two categories — those to be dismissed, and those to be implemented.

9/11 Probes

ae 911 recap on anniversary Custom

ae for 9 11 truth logoAE911Truth, Investigative Commentary: Richard Gage and Ted Walter Recap an Historic 9/11 Anniversary, Oct. 3, 2019. On the first episode of 9/11 Free Fall following this year’s 9/11 anniversary, host Andy Steele was joined by AE911Truth's Richard Gage and Ted Walter for a recap of everything that happened, including the groundbreaking release of the UAF WTC 7 study and AE911Truth’s meetings with 17 congressional offices.

We invite you to listen on SoundCloud or YouTube or to read the interview below.

Andy: So we got a lot to go over with our supporters. It's been a busy several weeks here at AE911Truth, and you almost like to take a breather. But we're going to be kicking off the post-9/11 world for this year —as I call it, meaning post-9/11 anniversary world — with the major outreach off the heels of what we have done so far in the past month. And we had a lot going on,and you and Ted were here to talk about what was coming. We're going to talk about what happened. Richard, please begin though by talking about why, this year, the anniversary was so important in your view.

Richard: Well, we had the release of some major cannonballs, I call them, in our arsenal, to use against the wall of denial out there — 9/11 truth denial. And one of them was the four-year, $300,000 study of Building 7, a finite element analysis. And this was done by the University of Alaska and it was released on September 3rd. And this was an extraordinary deal for us because we were working on it for four years. And all of a sudden, hey, it's out. It's like this cannonball has been loosed on the engineering and architecture world, and the media, and a lot of people are working with this study, which concludes by the way that fire could not have brought this building down. Of course, we're talking about Building 7, a 47-story skyscraper that collapses after the witnesses hear explosions on the afternoon of 9/11, straight down, uniformly, symmetrically into its own footprint in under seven seconds, in the exact manner of a classic controlled demolition.

9 11 firefighters nyc national archives flickr SmallAnd of course the official story says that fire brought this building down. And the Hulsey report, which we also call the Alaska report, which we also call the UAF report — we have a lot of names for it — but this report just pulls the rug out from underneath the NIST report. NIST is the National Institute of Standards and Technology who was tasked by Congress to explain these collapses to the American people. Not only did he conclude that fire could not have caused the collapse of this building, but he actually goes on to show us what could have been responsible — that is to say what set of behaviors in the building had to have happened for it to fall in the way we all saw in the videos. And, of course, that amounts to the removal, instantly, virtually, of all the columns in the building. Well, what can do that, Andy?

Andy: My guess would be controlled demolition.

#MeToo Epstein Funding

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein Raked In $200 Million After Legal and Financial Crises, Matthew Goldstein and Steve Eder, Oct. 3, 2019. Jeffrey Epstein’s biggest client had deserted him, his money management firm had lost more than $150 million during the financial crisis, and he was a registered sex offender. But after he started a new company with a wildly speculative business plan in 2012, Mr. Epstein had no problem pulling in cash.

jeffrey epstein hands handsHis start-up, Southern Trust, reported more than $200 million in revenues over the next five years, according to a review of previously unreported financial statements filed in the Virgin Islands.

Despite a name that calls to mind a financial services firm, the fledgling company with a handful of employees said it was developing a DNA data-mining service. Southern Trust was trying to gauge customers’ predisposition to cancer by “basically organizing mathematical algorithms,” Mr. Epstein told Virgin Islands officials as he sought a lucrative tax break in 2012.

U.S. Courts, Violence

ny times logoNew York Times, MGM Agrees to Pay Up to $800 Million to Victims of 2017 Las Vegas Massacre, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Oct. 3, 2019. The settlement would resolve claims that MGM was negligent in allowing the killer to stockpile weapons and ammunition at its Mandalay Bay hotel.

MGM Resorts International has agreed to pay up to $800 million to settle lawsuits from victims of the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds of others injured.

The killer, Stephen Paddock, holed up inside his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, which MGM owns, and then fired into the crowd at a country music festival below. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

One of the lawyers for the victims, Robert Eglet, said on Thursday the settlement would be in the range of $735 million to $800 million and would resolve “substantially all” of the lawsuits and claims against MGM related to the massacre.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting mass attack pleads guilty to gun, drug charges, Tom Jackman​, Oct. 3, 2019. Christopher Hasson, a self-proclaimed white nationalist, had planned to target politicians and journalists, officials contend. The U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant who appeared to be planning a massive attack on American politicians and journalists pleaded guilty Thursday to four federal drug and gun charges FBI logostemming from what agents found when they swarmed his Maryland apartment last February.

It wasn’t only the 15 guns, silencers, 1,000 rounds of ammunition and bottles of opioids which Christopher P. Hasson, 50, bought in recent months, that attracted federal attention. It was his writings and online research in support of his admitted white nationalism, some of it done from his computer at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, that sparked the search of his Silver Spring home.

#MeToo, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Tension, heckling at Woodward-moderated book event for ‘She Said’ at Sixth & I, Lisa Bonos and Emily harvey weinsteinYahr, Oct. 3, 2019. Some in the audience got uncomfortable when The Post’s Bob Woodward repeatedly interrupted Jodi Kantor and Megan jodi kantor megan twohey she said coverTwohey, two New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct story.

It seemed like the perfect combination of three Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists: The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward interviewing the New York Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on Wednesday about their best-selling book, “She Said,” a deep dive into their investigation of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, right.

But about 20 minutes in, things got awkward. As Woodward repeatedly interrupted the authors to ask questions or clarify facts, audible murmurs rippled through the crowd. Eventually, one attendee yelled, “You’re interrupting her!” as many applauded in agreement.

Privacy Protection

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Pushes Facebook for Access to WhatsApp Messages, Julian E. Barnes, Katie Benner and Mike Isaac, Oct. 3, 2019. The Justice Department has long sought access to encrypted messages, alarming privacy advocates.

The Justice Department has renewed its fight for access to encrypted communications, arguing that it is a vital crime-fighting tool even as technology companies and advocates have countered that it will threaten individual privacy.

william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, left, took aim at Facebook’s plan to make WhatsApp and its other messaging services more secure, pressing its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, to create a loophole to that goal of full encryption. The Justice Department said that investigators needed lawful access to encrypted communications to fight terrorism, organized crime and child pornography.

Justice Department log circular“Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes,” Mr. Barr, joined by his British and Australian counterparts, wrote in a letter to Mr. Zuckerberg that was reviewed by The New York Times and dated Friday. BuzzFeed News first reported on the letter.

Mr. Barr’s request was the latest salvo in a yearslong fight by law enforcement officials for access to popular communications platforms that have become increasingly secure. The conflict last came to a head in 2016, when a federal judge ordered Apple to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone recovered after the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. The F.B.I. ultimately cracked it without Apple’s help, easing tensions for a time with the tech companies.

The letter also showed that the Justice Department was trying a coordinated approach with close allies to prod technology companies to change their position.

At issue are end-to-end encryption, which would ensure that only the sender and recipient can read messages sent using a particular messaging service, and so-called back doors, which would give the authorities access to such data.

Tech company officials have said that strong encryption is necessary to protect legitimate users of their platforms all over the world, including journalists and government critics. Facebook respects the role of law enforcement but believes people have a right to communicate privately online, said Andy Stone, a company spokesman.

“End-to-end encryption already protects the messages of over a billion people every day,” Mr. Stone said. “We strongly oppose government attempts to build back doors because they would undermine the privacy and security of people everywhere.”

With 1.5 billion users, Facebook’s WhatsApp is perhaps the world’s most commonly used encrypted communications platform. Privacy experts and tech company officials said that creating a back door would effectively destroy the secrecy of such platforms.

National Security / Whistleblowing

Common Dreams via Consortium News, Opinion: MoveOn’s Phony New Campaign for ‘Protecting Whistleblowers,’ Norman Solomon, Oct. 3, 2019. In the last decade, MoveOn — which says it has an email list of 8 million “members”— has refused to do any campaigns to help Manning, Drake, Snowden, Kiriakou or Sterling, writes Norman Solomon.

All of a sudden, MoveOn wants to help “national security” whistleblowers. Well, some of them, anyway.

After many years of carefully refusing to launch a single campaign in support of brave whistleblowers who faced vicious prosecution during the Obama administration — including Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden, and CIA whistleblowers John Kiriakou and Jeffrey Sterling — MoveOn.org has just cherrypicked a whistleblowing hero it can support.

jeffrey sterling headI experienced MoveOn’s refusal firsthand when, in December 2015, I wrote to the group’s campaign director with a request. After a sham trial, Sterling,left, had gone to prison six months earlier for allegedly providing information to New York Times reporter James Risen that he included in a book. “Is there a way that MoveOn could use a bit of its list to promote this petition in support of Jeffrey Sterling?” I asked.

The answer that I received was disappointing — merely a suggestion that the petition be put on MoveOn’s do-it-yourself platform, where it would not be supported with distribution to any of MoveOn’s email list. After pressing further, I got an explanation from MoveOn that had a marketing sound: “It looks like we have definitely done a lot of testing on Snowden and Manning in the past, but unfortunately nothing quite reached the level of member support where we were able to send it out.”

That approach has endured. In the last decade, MoveOn — which says it has an email list of 8 million “members” — has refused to do any campaigns to help Manning, Drake, Snowden, Kiriakou, or Sterling.

(Full disclosure: The organization where I’m national coordinator, RootsAction.org, has campaigned in support of all five of the above-named whistleblowers, with petitions, news conferences, protests and fundraising.)

Now, the whistleblower initiative that MoveOn has started might seem like a welcome change of direction. But it’s actually worse than problematic.

thomas drakeThe organization that MoveOn just teamed up with — Whistleblower Aid —explicitly does not support people such as Snowden, Drake, right, Kiriakou, Sterling, and Manning, or the more recent whistleblower Reality Winner. The founding legal partner at Whistleblower Aid, Mark Zaid, has maintained a vehement position against unauthorized release of classified information for many years.

“As a matter of law, no one who leaks classified information to the media (instead of to an appropriate governmental authority) is a whistleblower entitled to legal protection,” Zaid wrote in a Washington Post op-ed piece in 2017. “That applies to Winner, Snowden, and Chelsea Manning, no matter what one thinks of their actions. The law appropriately protects only those who follow it. Anyone who acts contrary does so at their own peril.”

According to Zaid and his organization — which MoveOn is now avidly promoting and helping to subsidize — if the White House whistleblower’s memo had been bottled up via official channels and then had been leaked to a news organization, the whistleblower leaking the memo would not be, and should not be, “entitled to legal protection.”

But, as Snowden has often emphasized, the official scenario of going through channels is a dangerous myth for “national security” whistleblowers. The reason Snowden didn’t go through channels is that he saw what happened to whistleblowers who did — such as Drake, who was targeted, harassed, and then prosecuted on numerous felony counts. Snowden clearly understood that going through channels would achieve nothing except punishment, which is why he wisely decided to go directly to journalists.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Jamal Khashoggi remembered in Washington one year after journalist’s killing, Clarence Williams, Oct. 3, 2019. As the wax burned on a few dozen candles, a group of journalists and human rights activists bowed their heads Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

jamal khashoggi western suitThe brief moment of silence outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington honored the loss of Khashoggi’s courageous words.

But organizers of the vigil made it clear that they have no intention of remaining silent until his killers are prosecuted, the Saudi government is held accountable for its role, the kingdom stops restricting dissent and jailing journalists, and the Trump administration challenges Saudi royals to achieve these goals.

“Silence is not how we at the National Press Club have been responding to Jamal’s killing. To the contrary, we have been as loud as possible, for as long as possible, and we intend to keep it that way,” said John Donnelly, a senior writer for CQ Roll Call who is also the chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee.

He also directed words at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, holding him responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

“You may think you have impunity for your crime and the world will forget and move on,” Donnelly said. “But as long as Jamal’s fellow reporters have anything to say about it, his inspirational life and his awful death at your bloody hands will never be forgotten.”

The Wrap, Fox News Host Todd Starnes Out After Suggesting Democrats Worship Pagan God Moloch, Lindsey Ellefson, Oct. 2, 2019. The host will no longer be working at the network, its website or Fox Nation. Fox News radio host and commentator Todd Starnes has been ousted from the network, its website contract and the premium subscription service Fox Nation, the company told TheWrap on Wednesday. He made headlines as recently as Monday for comments during his radio program that Democrats do not believe in the Christian God and instead may worship Moloch, a pagan god often associated with child sacrifice.

fox news logo SmallFox News on Wednesday confirmed that Starnes is no longer working at the network but did not elaborate on the reasons behind his departure. An individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap Starnes’ exit “was in the works well before Monday.”

In the place of his “Fox News & Commentary” radio program, Fox News Radio will broadcast “Fox Across America.” The opinion show will rely on a rotation of various Fox News personalities until a new permanent host is named.

Beyond his three-hour Fox News Radio show and Fox Nation program, “Starnes Country,” the conservative author contributed opinion pieces to FoxNews.com. TheWrap readers may remember Starnes as the host who said he would have preferred that, during a surprise cameo at the 2018 Grammys, Hillary Clinton read from Juanita Broaddrick’s book accusing Bill Clinton of rape rather than from Michael Wolff’s Trump White House exposé “Fire & Fury.” (The former president’s lawyer has repeatedly denied Broaddrick’s accusation and no charges have been filed in the case.)

Oct. 2

Impeachment Daily Index

Impeachment Inquiry Update djt vlodomir zelinsky getty

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine met with President Trump in person on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (Photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times).

Palmer Report, Opinion: MIKE PENCE KNEW, Bill Palmer, Oct. 2, 2019. Last week Donald Trump held a press conference and repeatedly asked the eporters in the room to look at the transcripts of Mike Pence’s phone calls with the president of Ukraine. Trump was clearly attempting to take the whistleblower scandal heat off himself by painting Pence as having been involved. Well guess what? For once Trump was, if only for sinister reasons, telling the truth.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump had Mike Pence call the president of Ukraine and inform him that the nation’s military aid was still being withheld, according to a Washington Post report tonight. Pence’s aides are insisting that he didn’t know the aid was being withheld because Trump was demanding phony dirt on Joe Biden. But in that same report, we learn that one of Pence’s top aides listened in on Trump’s fateful phone call with Ukraine. Are we really supposed to believe that the aide heard Trump trying to extort the president of Ukraine into helping him rig the 2020 election, and didn’t think to tell Pence about it? Also, Pence reportedly would have received notes from the call the next day.

What may be more interesting here is the timing. Things went horribly for Donald Trump today, thanks to his unhinged tweets, and his even more unhinged press conference. Things went even worse today for Trump’s loyal Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to the point that Trump is now probably close to having to oust Pompeo as a scapegoat.

And yet, just as Donald Trump is on the ropes tonight and Mike Pompeo is down for the count, this story incriminating Mike Pence just happens to conveniently leak out at the perfect time. This comes after Donald Trump has directly tried to scapegoat Mike Pence in this scandal once already. It’s not difficult to figure out that Trump has leaked this revelation about Pence tonight in the hope of taking the heat off the people he cares more about.

Better Times: Donald Trump poses in the White House in 2017 with, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence

Better Times: Donald Trump poses in the White House in 2017 with, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Does It All Himself, and That Worries Republicans, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, Oct. 2, 2019. The White House itself has no organized response to impeachment, and some aides doubt whether it poses a serious threat. Mr. Trump has long believed that he is the best communicator in the White House, but as the presidential campaign picks up its pace and the prospect of his impeachment becomes more real, he seems to be its only empowered communicator, a one-man war room responding to developments almost hour by hour. And that is making many Republicans anxious.

For now, the White House has no organized response to impeachment, little guidance for surrogates to spread a consistent message even if it had developed one, and minimal coordination between the president’s legal advisers and his political ones. And West Wing aides are divided on everything from who is in charge to whether, after two years of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, impeachment even poses a serious political threat to the president.

“This is a very different animal than the Mueller investigation,” said Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. “It’s a political question, not a legal one. They need to persuade Republicans in the House and the Senate of a bunch of really good arguments to have the partywide insulation the president is going to prefer going into this fight.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: American Diplomats Are Being Persecuted by Their Own President, Nicholas Burns (former under secretary of state and ambassador to NATO), Oct. 2, 2019. Congress needs to repair the damage done to the nation’s Foreign Service.

One of the first casualties of President Trump’s murky dealings with Ukraine has been the United States Foreign Service, the group of nonpartisan career professionals who serve as America’s primary point of contact with the world beyond our borders. While the House impeachment inquiry has rightly become a top priority, Congress must also act to repair the substantial damage Mr. Trump has caused to the effectiveness and morale of our diplomats and other State Department employees.

Mr. Trump’s disdain for career diplomats was on display in his now infamous July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, during which he disparaged a highly respected Foreign Service officer, Marie Yovanovitch, as “bad news.” Ms. Yovanovitch was Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Ukraine until he recalled her in May. Her firing sent shock waves through the ranks at the State Department.

Mr. Trump has never explained why he fired Ms. Yovanovitch. He sidelined her and other career diplomats and permitted a private citizen, Rudy Giuliani, to hijack the administration’s interactions with the new Ukrainian government. The House of Representatives should investigate.

Last week Mr. Trump attempted again to intimidate the diplomatic corps, telling American diplomats at the United States Mission to the United Nations that whoever in the administration gave information to the anonymous whistle-blower was “close to a spy.” Mr. Trump’s statement was at odds with the obligation of every federal employee to tell the truth and adhere to the law.

Palmer Report, Federal judge hands Donald Trump major blow in his whistleblower scandal, Bill Palmer, Oct. 2, 2019. When investigators find out that suspects are hiding evidence, it often becomes a footrace where investigators try to get to that evidence before the suspects can destroy it. In the case of Donald Trump’s whistleblower scandal, we’ve all recently learned that the White House has been burying incriminating evidence of Trump’s communications with world leaders on a secret server – a sign that all the evidence has been buried in all of Trump’s various White House scandals.

bill palmer report logo headerThe thing is, now that everyone in the White House knows that Donald Trump’s international scandals are being investigated, they’ll be committing a felony if they try to destroy any of the evidence. It would be awfully stupid for anyone to try, but still, there must be the temptation – particularly in this uniformly corrupt administration, at a time when it’s on the verge of collapse.

So it’s crucial that Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson has already cornered Trump’s Department of Justice when it comes to the evidence. Today she forced the DOJ to agree to preserve all documents that may have any relevance to the House impeachment inquiry. At a time when Donald trump is clearly pushing everyone in his regime to refuse to cooperate as emphatically as possible, his own DOJ just caved in court.

This sets up a situation where everyone in the DOJ knows they’re being watched by the courts, and knows they’ll end up behind bars if they get caught destroying any of these documents. It’s becoming more clear by the day that Donald Trump is in danger of not finishing his term – and that makes it particularly tricky for DOJ employees to bet their freedom on the pipe dream that Trump might pardon them. We now expect the House will end up with these documents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is There Another Cover-Up In Response to the Whistle-Blower? Neal K. Katyal, right, and Joshua A. Geltzer (law professors at neal katyal oGeorgetown University), Oct. 2, 2019. The Justice Department should have shared a campaign-finance investigation with the Federal Election Commission.

One of the first things new prosecutors at the Justice Department learn is that cover-ups are rarely singular. There is often a cover-up of the cover-up.

Allegations of one cover-up, then another, emerged last week. Officials in the Trump administration tried to “lock down” the phone call memo between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine (the first cover-up), and then officials in the executive branch made Justice Department log circularefforts to keep this information from reaching Congress (the second cover-up).

Now we have discovered what may be a third cover-up. In its handling of the investigation and a potential campaign-finance violation, the Department of Justice appears to have ignored a rule that a matter under investigation must be referred to the Federal Election Commission. Critically, if the department had followed the rule, the Ukraine affair would have been disclosed to the American public.

Were it not for the efforts of the whistle-blower, everything about this would have been hidden from the F.E.C. and the American people.

Here’s how the Justice Department failed to follow the rule. As part of the scramble in the executive branch caused by the whistle-blower’s complaint, the Justice Department secretly investigated Mr. Trump for a potential campaign-finance violation. The department reportedly cleared him because the contributions solicited from a foreign government to his campaign were not quantifiable “things of value.” That’s the key phrase in one of the most important campaign-finance laws.

Remember that Mr. Trump’s own intelligence community inspector general — a former federal prosecutor — determined that the whistle-blower complaint was an “urgent concern.” Further, the complaint set out facts suggesting that Mr. Trump had indeed violated the federal statute that criminalizes soliciting any “thing of value” from a foreign citizen in connection with an election. A thorough investigation seemed warranted.

After it looked into the complaint, the Justice Department disagreed — it said that because the amount of the contribution couldn’t be quantified, the department would not even bother opening a criminal investigation (which would still have been short of bringing an actual prosecution).

To date, the criticism of the Justice Department has focused on its seemingly hasty judgment that a federal crime had not been committed and on Attorney General William Barr’s decision not to recuse himself from a matter directly implicating him.

Those are indeed valid criticisms, but an overlooked problem is that a federal government memorandum required the Justice Department to refer this complaint to the Federal Election Commission. And by all publicly available information, the department failed to do so.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Here’s why Democrats are winning, Jennifer Rubin, Oct. 2, 2019. The percentage of Americans in favor of impeachment is jennifer rubin new headshotincreasing — quickly. It has gone from a clear minority view to a majority or plurality in recent polling. Part of that progress is directly attributable to President Trump acting more unhinged by the day — dishing out profanity, threatening the whistleblower and accusing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) of treason. He sounds like a wounded animal howling in pain. But some of the credit goes to Democrats, who have a much better hand to play than they did in the Russia investigation and have learned from experience.

First, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), shown above, and Schiff appear confident, calm and serious — in glaring contrast to Trump. Second, in a joint news conference they vowed to protect the whistleblower from Trump’s threats to unmask the person and intimation that violence is the appropriate response to a “spy.” Third, and perhaps most important, they are going to take “no” for an answer in response to subpoenas, sort of.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The walls are closing in around Trump’s staff, Paul Waldman, Oct. 2, 2019. Last weekend, ABC News journalists reported that White House and State Department officials were beginning to wonder whether they should be retaining their own counsel. The latest events make it even clearer: As each day passes in the unfolding Ukraine scandal, the pressure on administration staffers will increase.

This pressure will itself become a force driving the scandal forward and making impeachment more likely. While Republicans might like to think of this as a witch hunt, it’s going to increasingly resemble a building going up in flames, with one aide after another looking for a way to save themselves.

In a news conference Wednesday, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a warning to the White House, making clear that he and other Democrats consider ongoing attempts to stymie their investigations — refusing to provide documents, stopping subpoenaed aides from testifying — not just an irritant but potential high crimes and misdemeanors in themselves.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Wants to ‘Interview’ Whistle-Blower, Eileen Sullivan, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump kept his focus on the whistle-blower who raised concerns about his phone call with the Ukrainian president. President Trump on Tuesday kept his focus on an anonymous whistle-blower, asking why he was not “entitled to interview” the person, a day after he said the White House was trying to find out the person’s identity, despite institutional directives and confidentiality protections.

donald trump twitterIn addition to interviewing the “so-called ‘Whistleblower,’” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday, he would also like to interview “the person who gave all of the false information to him.” On Sunday, Mr. Trump said, “Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser.”

Mr. Trump’s focus on the whistle-blower is one of several ways the White House has addressed the complaint — which alleged that Mr. Trump was using his office for personal gain — and the phone call at the center of it between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Mr. Trump has repeatedly defended his conversation with Mr. Zelensky as “perfect.”

Mr. Trump’s focus on learning the identity of the whistle-blower is inappropriate at best.

“The law and policy supports protection of the identity of the whistle-blower from disclosure and from retaliation,” a lawyer representing the whistle-blower, Mark Zaid, has said. “No exceptions exist for any individual.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Pompeo and House Chairmen Clash Over Impeachment Inquiry, Nicholas Fandos and Lara Jakes, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration pushed back on demands for depositions of potential witnesses as it fought a growing impeachment inquiry on multiple fronts. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not refuse outright to allow State Department employees to answer House investigators’ questions about Ukraine.

mike pompeo o sec stateThe Trump administration clashed on Tuesday with leaders of the House impeachment inquiry over their demands to question State Department officials who may have witnessed President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political advantage.

In the first skirmish in what promises to be an epic impeachment struggle between the executive and legislative branches, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, lashed out at three congressional committees that are seeking to depose diplomats involved in U.S. House logoAmerican policy toward Ukraine, calling their demands for confidential interviews “an act of intimidation.”

The House postponed the first of the depositions, which had been scheduled for Wednesday with the former United States ambassador to Ukraine, but not before the leaders of the impeachment inquiry upbraided Mr. Pompeo for questioning their work and asserting that their bid to swiftly schedule depositions did not allow enough time to properly respond.

The latest standoff unfolded as lawmakers were unexpectedly put on notice that they could soon be provided with new evidence related to the State Department and Ukraine — a twist that could add crucial information to their investigation and, potentially, complicate efforts by Mr. Trump to block it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pompeo Calls House Request to Interview Diplomats ‘Intimidation’ and Rushed, Nicholas Fandos and Lara Jakes, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration pushed back on demands for depositions of potential witnesses as it fought a growing impeachment inquiry on multiple fronts. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not refuse outright to allow State Department employees to answer House investigators’ questions about Ukraine.

U.S. House logoThe Trump administration fought on multiple fronts on Tuesday to resist the House’s growing impeachment inquiry, pushing back on demands for depositions of potential witnesses from a key committee as President Trump insisted he was entitled to interview the whistle-blower whose allegations touched off the investigation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threw up the first potential roadblock when he told lawmakers in a letter Tuesday morning that a demand from three House committees for American diplomats to sit for depositions this week amounted to “an act of intimidation” and did not allow enough time for the State Department to properly respond.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘A presidency of one’: Key federal agencies increasingly compelled to benefit Trump, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa​, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s personal concerns have become priorities of departments that traditionally have operated with some degree of political independence from the White House — and their leaders are engaging their boss’s obsessions.

• Standout moments from Day 8 of the impeachment inquiry drama

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump & Giuliani enlist South Florida mobsters in Ukraine ruse, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 1, 2019 (subscription required). Acting on behalf of Donald Trump in an attempt to dig up political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine, Trump personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani has enlisted the assistance of two South Florida dodgy expatriates from Ukraine and Belarus – Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, respectively.

Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman have been identified as part of a larger oligarch “Organizatsiya” operation involved in a second attempt to meddle in a U.S. presidential election.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment inquiry puts new focus on Giuliani’s work for prominent figures in Ukraine, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 3, 2019 (print ed.). Democrats hope the watchdog will provide more information related to U.S. interactions with Ukrainian officials. Meanwhile, the secretary of state renewed his complaint that their demand to interview State Department personnel amounted to intimidation.

Trump Watch: History

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Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: The America of Trump’s Father: an Aspirational Fascism Reigned in New York, Wayne Madsen (investigative reporter and author of 16 books, most recently "Trump's Bananas Republic"), Oct. 2, 2019. New York and its suburbs in Long Island and New Jersey had a vibrant community of first- and second-generation German Americans, the latter having included Fred Trump, Sr., a rising star in real estate and retailing.

wayne madsen trumps bananas coverAlso active in the New York-New Jersey region was the German American Bund or “Amerikadeutscher Bund,” an organization that supported Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party and the goals and aspirations of the “New Germany.” In fact, the “Bund” was nothing more than an overseas extension of the German Nazi Party and it took its orders directly from Berlin.

The height of the Bund’s activities was a February 20, 1939 rally at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. It drew some 20,000 Bund members and Nazi supporters.

One German American who did not hide his far-right views was Fred Trump, Sr., the father of Donald Trump. On May 31, 1927, Fred Trump was arrested by police while participating in a Ku Klux Klan march in his home borough of Queens in New York. The elder Trump was publicly known to be a racist and he refused to rent his apartments in Queens and Brooklyn to African Americans.

It is known that “Old Man Trump,” the appellation given him by folk singer Woody Guthrie in a 1950 song by the same title, continued his racist ways after the war. Guthrie, who had the misfortune of renting a unit in the Trump-owned Beach Haven Apartments in Brooklyn, penned the following lyric: “Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower. Where no black folks come to roam. No, no, Old Man Trump! Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!”

It is also interesting that after the war, Trump insisted that he was of Swedish descent. In fact, Old Man Trump’s father, Frederick Trump, was an immigrant from Kallstadt, Bavaria. It was famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, a Nazi sympathizer, who stressed his Swedish descent to defend against charges that he was a supporter of Hitler. However, in both cases – Old Man Trump and Lindbergh – there was no question of their sympathies to the racial policies of Hitler and the “New Germany.”

Old Man Trump’s home and businesses sat in the midst of Bund activities and businesses that supported the Bund. One of the most popular newspapers among the German American community in New York and New Jersey was the Bund’s “The Free American and Deutscher Weckruf,” published from 1935 to 1941 in both English and German.

The newspaper served to rally the Nazi cause in New York and New Jersey. The paper advertised New York theaters like the Tobis, 86th Casino, 79th Street, and Bijou that screened propaganda films fresh from the studios of Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Nazi Germany’s cultural inundation of the United States was a personal project of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.

In 1933, Trump opened the Trump Super Market in Queens at the corner of 78th Street and Jamaica Avenue. Since it was the first store of its type in Queens, it was an immediate success. Considering Old Man Trump’s political viewpoints, it is very likely that he purchased wholesale products, including meats from Bund butchers and German baked goods from Bund bakers, of which there were several in New York City for his store. Several German American-owned area businesses, including Maier’s Pork Store and Ehmer’s Pork Store, both on “Dritte Avenue” (Third Avenue) in Manhattan, and dairies like Karsten’s Milch of The Bronx and Astoria in Queens and Erb’s German Sweet Shop in Manhattan, kept the advertising-dependent “The Free American and Deutscher Weckruf” flush with ad revenue. Even large corporations like Philco, a manufacturer of radios, Texaco, Olympia Typewriter, and Simmons Mattress Company advertised in the Nazi newspaper. Nazi propaganda in German was broadcast on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from the studios of WBNX, first located in The Bronx and then moved to New Jersey.

Old Man Trump rented thousands of his apartment units in Jamaica Estates in Queens and Brooklyn to white Americans only. Bund supporters cheered Hitler for refusing to shake the hand of black American Olympian Jesse Owens after he won four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Considering Old Man Trump’s previous membership in the KKK, he was undoubtedly cheering Hitler’s snub of Owens, along with the Bund in New York. Old Man Trump also suspiciously volunteered, after dodging the World War II draft, to construct Navy barracks and garden apartments in at least three highly sensitive Navy ports in Chester, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia. All three ports saw thousands of American and Canadian troops embarked for combat in North Africa and Europe. Some of these troop ships fell prey to German U-boats, which received intelligence on the Allied ship movements from Nazi agents in the very same port areas where Old Man Trump so “generously” bid on construction contracts with the Navy.

Today, Donald Trump, who has championed concentration camps for asylum seekers and homeless people, torn babies from their parents, and praised neo-Nazi marchers in Virginia, echoes the political vitriol of his father’s era Bund. Today, Trump is fond of demonizing Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. In Trump’s father’s era such venom was directed by the Bund against New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the late President Woodrow Wilson, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (who was sometimes referred to as “Frank Rosenfeld”), and prominent Jews, including New York US Representative Samuel Dickstein and Bernard Baruch, all of whom were labeled as pro-Bolshevik “internationalists.”

Donald Trump now uses the pejorative term of “globalists.” The same groups of “socialists,” “Communists,” and “Jews” singled out for attacks by the Bund are today targeted by Trump and his supporters under almost identical labels of “socialists,” “Communists,” and “globalists.” In Old Man Trump’s Nazi-imbued New York, the Soviet Union was condemned by Nazis as a Jewish Communist enterprise. The Bund paper published lists of Jews in charge of various Soviet republics and regions, naming, for example “Jude” (Jewish) officials in charge of Abkhazia, Ajaria, Azerbaijan, Bashkiria, Byelorussia, Far East Federation, Dagestan, West Siberia, Southwest Region, Kirghizia, Karelia, Crimea, Kirov Region, Gorky Region, Moldavia, Mari Region, Nenets Region, Omsk Region, Orenburg Region, Stalingrad Region, Sverdlovsk Region, East Siberia Region, Tatarstan, Ukraine, Chechenia, and Yakutsk Region. The list appeared to be a future execution list for the Nazis. The Bund championed Hitler’s dream of a Russia “cleansed” of “Jewish Bolsheviks.”

Donald Trump’s recent September 24 speech before the UN General Assembly was no different than the “America First” rantings of Lindbergh before audiences consisting of people who shared the racist beliefs of Old Man Trump. His son, Donald, kept a book of Hitler’s speeches of Hitler on his bed stand for a reason. Old Man Trump must have instilled in his family business heir a strong belief in the causes of the Nazis and the Bund.

After the Bund was declared an enemy organization in 1941 and the Allies defeated the Axis powers in the war, Old Man Trump began currying favor with New York’s Jewish community, making donations to Jewish philanthropies, including those involved with creating the State of Israel in Palestine. Just as other Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, tried to assume benevolent post-war profiles – even living among expatriate German Jewish communities – Old Man Trump became a close friend of Binyamin Netanyahu and other top Israelis and New York Jewish community leaders. Just as Old Man Trump was not really fooling anyone in pre-war New York, his son is not fooling anyone today with his fascist tendencies masked as “Making America Great Again.” These policies are driven as much by Trump family Nazi ideology as by political expediency and personal greed.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is now being targeted by the Department of Defense Inspector General too, Bill Palmer | 9:09 am EDT October 2, 2019. On Tuesday night we learned that the State Department Inspector General has uncovered corruption so urgent, he feels compelled to brief all the key House and Senate committees at once today. It looks like he’s about to try to take down Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In the meantime, it turns out he’s not the only Inspector General who’s in the process of exposing Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas appeared on MSNBC during the 10pm hour and revealed that the Department of Defense Inspector General is also working on exposing the Ukraine scandal. No further details were provided, but here’s what we find interesting.

Current Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has only been on the job since July. Donald Trump surely nominated him with the expectation of loyalty, but we’ve seen that Trump doesn’t always guess correctly on these things. More to the point, Esper probably hasn’t been there long enough to have the kind of footing that some of Trump’s other agency heads have carved out. In other words, will he be willing or able to try to get in the way of the Department of Defense Inspector General?

Come to think of it, this also confirms that Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal involves some kind of corruption at the Department of Defense. It’s becoming clear that in his desperation to find a way to rig the 2020 election in his favor, Trump exposed huge chunks of his own administration to potential criminal culpability. The more people involved, the more likely that some of them will come looking for immunity deals in the House impeachment inquiry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump dares Democrats to ‘try to impeach this,’ bringing up 2016 support, John Wagner, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). The president and his allies continued to push back against a fast-moving impeachment inquiry, which will include depositions of key figures later this week.

President Trump on Tuesday questioned why he is not “entitled to interview & learn everything about” the whistleblower whose identity is protected by Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)federal statute.

In a spate of morning tweets, Trump also offered a visual reminder of the breadth of his support in the 2016 election, tweeting a map showing the U.S. counties that voted for him and daring Democrats to “try to impeach this.”

The pushback by Trump and Republican allies against the rapidly moving impeachment inquiry by House Democrats come as polls show rising public support for removing the president from office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Schiff Got Early Account of Accusations as Whistle-Blower’s Concerns Grew, Julian E. Barnes, Michael S. Schmidt and Matthew Rosenberg, Oct. 2, 2019. Days before filing a whistle-blower complaint, a C.I.A. officer brought a vague version of it to a congressional aide who conveyed it to Representative Adam Schiff.

The Democratic head of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, learned about the outlines of a C.I.A. officer’s concerns that President Trump had abused his power days before the officer filed a whistle-blower complaint, according to a spokesman and current and former American officials.

The early account by the future whistle-blower shows how determined he was to make known his allegations that Mr. Trump asked Ukraine’s government to interfere on his behalf in the 2020 election. It also explains how Mr. Schiff knew to press for the complaint when the Trump administration initially blocked lawmakers from seeing it.

The C.I.A. officer approached a House Intelligence Committee aide with his concerns about Mr. Trump only after he had had a colleague first convey them to the C.I.A.’s top lawyer. Concerned about how that initial avenue for airing his allegations through the C.I.A. was unfolding, the officer then approached the House aide. In both cases, the original accusation was vague.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rick Perry just caved in the Trump whistleblower scandal, Bill Palmer, Oct. 2, 2019. The name of Secretary of Energy Rick Perry rick perry ohas popped up in just enough key aspects of Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal to make clear that, at the least, Perry knew what Trump was up to. That makes Perry, right, a material witness even if he wasn’t in on the criminal conspiracy, which means he’ll be committing a crime if he refuses to help with the investigation.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump has made as clear as possible that he wants all of his own people to obstruct justice as thoroughly as possible, in the name of slowing down the House impeachment inquiry into the Ukraine scandal. Trump loyalists like embattled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have made a public and emphatic point of spelling out that they’re not going to cooperate no matter what it might cost them. Then there’s Rick Perry.

Rick Perry announced today that he’s going to fully cooperate with the Ukraine investigation, and answer any questions he’s asked. Wait a minute here, that’s not the script that the Trump regime has been pushing. One of two things is happening here.

Either Rick Perry just smartly decided to cut his losses and cooperate with the impeachment inquiry in order to ensure that he doesn’t end up criminally charged like the rest of Donald Trump’s goons, or Perry has very stupidly decided to go in and lie to investigators about the scandal in the hope of protecting Trump. Rick Perry is a dumb guy, but he’s survived this long because he knows he’s a dumb guy. We suspect he’s playing for Team Perry on this one, not Team Trump.

Politico, Support for impeaching Trump hits new high, Steven Shepard, Oct. 2, 2019. For the first time in POLITICO/Morning Consult polling, support for impeaching Trump hits new high, Steven Shepard, Oct. 2, 2019. A batch of recent polling confirms the Democratic impeachment push is gaining steam — including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult survey that shows for the first time that more voters support than oppose proceedings to remove Trump from office. The uptick is primarily among Democrats, as Republican voters surveyed continue to have Trump's back.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Lefties Should Watch Fox News, Farhad Manjoo, Oct. 2, 2019. The network’s internal strife offers the truest picture of how impeachment might play on the right. Watching Fox isn’t easy. Much of it is still a fetid sewer of venom that bears little resemblance to the real world, and I would hope that you have more enjoyable ways to spend your time, like elective dental surgery. But when news breaks on television — as it will in an unending cascade of hearings, stump speeches, debates and grandstanding news conferences from now until at least January 2021 — Fox should be your go-to place to watch, especially if you are on the left.

There is a simple reason: While other organizations report the news, Fox News is the news. There is now a growing rift on Fox: Its news side is asking increasingly tough questions of Trump, while its opinion side pushes his raving conspiracies. The drama speaks to real tension on the right, and Fox will inform political reality. It is no exaggeration to say that what happens on Fox now — the way it decides to play impeachment and the twists and turns of the 2020 race — could well determine the fate of the republic.

Trump: Shoot Migrants 'In The Legs'

ny times logoNew York Times, Shoot Them in the Legs, Trump Suggested: Inside His Border War, Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). Over a frenzied few days in the spring, an internal White House debate led to turnover in staff and a turning point for the president’s immigration agenda.

us dhs big eagle logo4The Oval Office meeting this past March began, as so many had, with President Trump fuming about migrants. But this time he had a solution. As White House advisers listened astonished, he ordered them to shut down the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico — by noon the next day.

The advisers feared the president’s edict would trap American tourists in Mexico, strand children at schools on both sides of the border and create an economic meltdown in two countries. Yet they also knew how much the president’s zeal to stop immigration had sent him lurching for solutions, one more extreme than the next.

Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh. After publicly suggesting that soldiers shoot migrants if they threw rocks, the president backed off when his staff told him that was illegal. But later in a meeting, aides recalled, he suggested that ICE logothey shoot migrants in the legs to slow them down. That’s not allowed either, they told him.

“The president was frustrated and I think he took that moment to hit the reset button,” said Thomas D. Homan, who had served as Mr. Trump’s acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, recalling that week in March. “The president wanted it to be fixed quickly.”

U.S. 2020 Politics

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Roll Call, Bernie Sanders cancels campaign schedule after heart procedure, Niels Lesniewski, Oct. 2, 2019. Spokesman says presidential candidate (shown in a Gage Skidmore file photo) had stents installed after doctors found blockage in artery.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is recovering after having heart stents installed, canceling his presidential campaign events until further notice. Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to the Democratic presidential campaign of the Vermont independent, made the announcement of the medical procedure. “During a campaign event yesterday evening, Sen. Sanders experienced some chest discomfort. Following medical evaluation and testing he was found to have a blockage in one artery and two stents were successfully inserted. Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits. He will be resting up over the next few days,” Weaver said. “We are canceling his events and appearances until further notice, and we will continue to provide appropriate updates.”

Sanders was among the 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls scheduled to appear at a candidate forum in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The event is being hosted by Giffords and the March for Our Lives, two groups advocating for new gun safety laws. The event, hosted in conjunction with MSNBC, coincides with the two-year anniversary of the mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival.

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 ny times logoNew York Times, Amber Guyger Is Sentenced to 10 Years for Murder of Botham Jean, Marina Trahan Martinez and Sarah Mervosh, Oct. 2, 2019. Ms. Guyger, a white former Dallas police officer, fatally shot her unarmed black neighbor in his apartment. A white former Dallas police officer was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting her unarmed black neighbor in his apartment.

The former officer, Amber R. Guyger, right, was off duty when she came home from work last year and shot her neighbor, Botham Shem Jean, in a case that was one of the latest, and also one of the most unusual, in a series of confrontations between police officers and unarmed black men.

A Dallas County jury deliberated for about an hour and a half before deciding upon a sentence that was well short of the maximum 99 years in prison Ms. Guyger could have received — but also longer than the two years jurors might have imposed.

Prosecutors had asked for a prison term of no shorter than 28 years, the age that Mr. Jean, whose birthday fell during the trial, would have been if he were alive today.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Dallas Officer Who Shot Downstairs Neighbor Is Found Guilty of Murder, Marina Trahan Martinez and Sarah Mervosh, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). A former Dallas police officer who shot her unarmed black neighbor in his own apartment was found guilty of murder on Tuesday, in an unusual and high-profile case that dealt with issues of race, policing and mistaken identity.

The former officer, Amber R. Guyger, who is white, was charged in the death of her 26-year-old neighbor, Botham Shem Jean (shown above), after she said she accidentally went to the wrong floor of their apartment complex, entered the unit directly above hers and fatally shot him last year.

amber guyger mugMs. Guyger, left, shown in a mug shot, claimed she thought she was entering her own apartment and was acting in self-defense against an intruder.

The jury rejected that argument and returned a rare murder conviction against a police officer who, in this case, was off-duty but in uniform.

The shooting and its aftermath in September 2018 ignited protests and calls for justice, with demonstrations outside Police Headquarters and inside City Hall. At a time when other police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing in the deaths of unarmed black men, Ms. Guyger was arrested several days after the shooting on a charge of manslaughter, then released from jail the same day. After weeks of community tensions and accusations of preferential treatment for the police, a grand jury came back with the charge of murder.

ny times logoNew York Times, Homeland Security Dept. Affirms Threat of White Supremacy, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Oct. 2, 2019 (print ed.). While President Trump has expressed skepticism about violent white nationalism, his Department of Homeland Security is now highlighting the issue. The Department of Homeland Security is beginning to address white supremacist terrorism as a primary security threat, breaking with a decade of flagging attention after bigoted mass shooters from New Zealand to Texas took the lives of nearly 100 people in the last six months.

In a little-noticed strategy document published last month to guide law enforcement on emerging threats and in recent public appearances by Kevin K. kevin mcaleenan o Custom 2, the acting secretary of homeland security, the department is trying to project a new vigilance about violent white nationalism, beating back criticism that the agency has spent a decade playing down the issue.

“I would like to take this opportunity to be direct and unambiguous in addressing a major issue of our time. In our modern age, the continuation of racially based violent extremism, particularly violent white supremacy, is an abhorrent affront to the nation,” Mr. McAleenan, right, said during an address last month, describing white nationalism as one of the most dangerous threats to the United States.

The department’s new stance contrasts that of President Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed white supremacy as an insignificant fringe movement. But beyond words and documents, many officials trying to combat the threat throughout the country remain skeptical that the full weight of federal law enforcement is finally being used to give bigoted domestic terrorism the attention it deserves.

Media News

Consortium News, Commentary: Twitter Employs Propagandist as High-Level Executive, Caitlin Johnstone, Oct. 2, 2019. This is just one more item on the twitter bird Customever-growing mountain of evidence that these giant, influential social media platforms function as state propaganda.

Middle East Eye‘s Ian Cobain has published an exclusive titled “Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army ‘psyops’ soldier,” exposing Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa as someone who also works for an actual, literal propaganda unit in the British military called the 77th Brigade. Which is mighty interesting, considering the fact that Twitter constantly suspends accounts from non-empire-aligned nations based on the allegation that they are engaging in propaganda.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Now that there’s an impeachment inquiry, what’s going to happen with guns, the border and prescription drugs? Amber Phillips​, Oct. 2, 2019. ​Now that there’s an impeachment inquiry, what’s going to happen to guns, the border and prescription drugs? Compromise on other issues isn't impossible — but if today’s Trump tweetstorm during House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s news conference is any indication, it just got much harder.

ny times logoNew York Times, Government Plans to Begin DNA Testing on Detained Immigrants, Caitlin Dickerson, Oct. 2, 2019. The move to allow immigration officers to collect genetic material would be a major expansion of the use of a criminal database employed by the F.B.I.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Net Neutrality Is Still Alive, Tom Wheeler (former FCC Chairman), Oct. 2, 2019. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court upheld the government’s repeal of net neutrality rules. The court affirmed the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to classify internet service providers such as Comcast and AT&T as “information services,” as opposed to “telecommunications services.” That definition allows them to avoid the responsibility of providing open and nondiscriminatory access to their networks. In the terms of this debate, it allows the companies to prioritize “fast lanes and slow lanes.”

But the ruling did keep net neutrality alive — by overruling the agency’s claim that it could pre-empt state governments from setting out their own net neutrality requirements. The decision opens the doors for states to fill the regulatory void. Internet service providers should be quaking in their boots: As of today, they run the serious risk that they’ll have to follow a patchwork of different state requirements. The companies may not have liked the previous administration’s decision to classify them as common carriers, but that at least provided them with a uniform national policy. That is now gone.

At present, 34 states (and the District of Columbia) have introduced some kind of open internet legislation. The leading net neutrality law was passed in the nation’s most populous state, California, and follows the rules that the F.C.C. overturned. California agreed to hold off on enforcing their new net neutrality law until the pre-emption question was answered by the court. That hold is now off: If you live in California, you will have an open internet. It remains to be seen whether California’s law becomes the de facto open internet law across the nation or whether it becomes one of many different net neutrality laws.

The very same issue has animated the debate over federal privacy legislation. Because of a privacy law (also passed in California) and the actions of other states, network companies (along with others such as Google and Facebook) have been forced to ask Congress for a national privacy law to clear up potential interstate discrepancies. Interestingly, the lack of a uniform privacy policy began early in the Trump administration when the Republican-controlled Congress repealed another Obama-era rule that limited the networks’ access to the personal information of their subscribers. Into that void stepped, once again, California.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. can impose tariffs on $7.5 billion in goods because E.U. gave Airbus illegal subsidies, WTO rules, David J. Lynch​, Oct. 2, 2019. The World Trade Organization on Wednesday authorized President Trump to impose tariffs on about $7.5 billion worth of European goods, capping a 15-year trans-Atlantic dispute over illegal subsidies to aircraft maker Airbus. The decision opened the door to a broader trade war with the European Union.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer has promised to implement the tariffs on European aircraft and helicopters, as well as consumer goods such as wine and Gouda cheese “immediately” following the WTO ruling. The European Union has vowed to retaliate with its own levies on American products while it awaits a separate WTO ruling next year on its complaint that Boeing, a U.S. manufacturer and Airbus rival, also has received improper government backing.

• Farm-state fury creates pressure for Trump as trade, energy pain collide

Oct. 1

Impeachment Daily Index

New York Times, Who supports an impeachment inquiry? Here’s a full list

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Raises Idea of Arresting Schiff, Accusing Him of Treason, Eileen Sullivan, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). Mr. Trump asked whether the leader of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, acted illegally in describing Mr. Trump’s call with Ukraine’s leader. A day earlier, Mr. Trump called for Mr. Schiff — the California Democrat who is the de facto head of an impeachment inquiry into the call — to be “questioned at the donald trump twitterhighest level for Fraud & Treason.”

adam schiff squareMr. Trump has accused Mr. Schiff, of lying to Congress when Mr. Schiff, right, summarized a portion of what Mr. Trump said to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during a July 25 phone call.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate Democrats — a request Democrats say is an abuse of power for personal gain. They have started an impeachment inquiry.

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wsj logomike pompeo portraitWall Street Journal, Pompeo Took Part in Trump-Zelensky Phone Call, Official Says, Courtney McBride, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a senior State Department official said Monday, a disclosure that ties the State Department more closely to the House impeachment inquiry.

Pompeo, right, has said he hadn’t read entire whistleblower’s complaint, but defended State Department officials’ actions as ‘entirely appropriate.’

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Pushed Australian Leader to Help Investigate Origins of Mueller Inquiry, Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister over the phone to help Attorney General William Barr in an effort to discredit the Mueller inquiry, officials said. The White House restricted access to the transcript, an unusual decision similar to the handling of a Ukraine call at the heart of an impeachment inquiry.

scott morrison 2016President Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation, according to two American officials with knowledge of the call.

australian flag wavingThe White House restricted access to the call’s transcript to a small group of the president’s aides, one of the officials said, an unusual decision that is similar to the handling of a July call with the Ukrainian president that is at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. Like that call, the discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, left, of Australia shows the extent to which Mr. Trump sees the attorney general as a critical partner in his goal to show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt and partisan origins, and the extent that Mr. Trump sees the Justice Department inquiry as a potential way to gain leverage over America’s closest allies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Claims About Biden Aren’t ‘Unsupported.’ They’re Lies, Michelle Goldberg, right, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). The president’s michelle goldberg thumbaccusations turn reality on its head and the media should say so. Journalists, perhaps seeking to appear balanced, have sometimes described Trump’s claims about Biden as “unsubstantiated” or “unsupported.” That is misleading, because it suggests more muddiness in the factual record than actually exists. Trump isn’t making unproven charges against Biden. He is blatantly lying about him. He and his defenders are spreading a conspiracy theory that is the precise opposite of the truth.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: There’s another whistleblower complaint. It’s about Trump’s tax returns, Catherine Rampell, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). An unnamed civil servant is alleging serious interference in government business. If the allegations are true, they could be a game-changer. They might set in motion the release of lots of other secret documents showing that President Trump has abused his authority for his personal benefit.

irs logoNot that you’d know it from the administration’s stonewalling, but Congress actually has unambiguous authority to get Trump’s returns. In fact, it has had the authority to get any federal tax return, no questions asked, for nearly a century. Under a 1924 law, Treasury “shall furnish” any tax document requested by the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance Committee chairs.

richard neal headshotThat’s exactly what the House Ways and Means chairman, Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), right, did in the spring. The statute doesn’t require him to state any legislative purpose for his request, but he provided one anyway: He said that committee needed to make sure the IRS, which it oversees, is properly conducting its annual audit of the president and vice president, as the IRS manual has required post-Watergate.

In defiance of a half-century norm, Trump has kept his tax returns secret. We don’t know exactly what he might be hiding. His bizarre behavior, though, suggests it’s really bad. We don’t know the complaint details, including who allegedly meddled with the audit or how, and whether the IRS complied. The complaint hasn’t been released, and Neal said last week that he’s still consulting with congressional lawyers about whether to make it public.

But the exact details of the allegations matter less than the fact that they corroborate Democratic lawmakers’ argument that oversight of the IRS’s annual presidential audit is indeed a legitimate reason they — and hopefully, eventually, the public — should see Trump’s taxes. It’s hard to imagine how the federal judge in this case could now rule against the committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr is said to have urged foreign governments to aid investigation of CIA, FBI activities related to 2016 election, Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris and Matt Zapotosky​, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr has traveled overseas to seek help with a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, left, has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

Barr’s personal involvement is likely to stoke further criticism from Democrats pursuing impeachment that he is helping the Trump administration use executive branch powers to augment investigations aimed primarily at the president’s adversaries.

wayne madesen report logoWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: For Trump neo-fascisti, all roads lead to Rome, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 1, 2019 (subscription required). In the past week, three far-right personalities in the Donald Trump camp, including two Cabinet secretaries, have journeyed to Rome in order to engage in political chicanery to attack former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on foreign interference in the 2016 election and Democratic attempts to investigate foreign involvement in the 2020 election.

After Barr returned to Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was discovered to have been a party to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, flew to Rome. In Pompeo’s party was former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a Hungarian neo-Nazi who now works for the right-wing Salem Radio Network as a program host.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Democrats seem to think Mike Pompeo is going down tomorrow, Bill Palmer, Oct. 1, 2019. This morning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not only refused to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, he also publicly demanded that no one in his State Department cooperate with the inquiry. That quickly blew up in his face when two recently departed State Department officials at the center of the Ukraine scandal confirmed they’ll both testify within days. Now the House is proceeding as if Pompeo won’t be around much longer.

bill palmer report logo headerThis evening the House impeachment inquiry sent a letter to the Deputy Secretary of State, informing him that his boss Mike Pompeo is now considered to be compromised because of Pompeo’s documented role in the Ukraine scandal. The House is now urging the Deputy to defy his own boss and cooperate with the inquiry. This is remarkable, as the House must have some specific reason to believe this gambit might actually work.

This comes even as the State Department Inspector General has informed the House and Senate that he needs to brief the staffs of the major committees tomorrow about an urgent matter he’s uncovered regarding the State Department and Ukraine. Whatever corruption the IG has uncovered, he seems to think it’s for all the marbles.

It’s tricky to try to connect the dots when there are this many moving parts. But the House is proceeding tonight under the assumption that the Deputy Secretary of State might be willing to go against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – which makes you wonder if the House is expecting the State Department Inspector General to take out Pompeo’s legs tomorrow. Something huge is going on. It’s just not entirely clear what.

nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump amps up attacks on whistleblower as some Republicans call for a more strategic response, Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). The ad hoc counter-impeachment effort developing around President Trump underscores the risk he faces as Democratic leaders prepare a sober and surgical Ukraine probe.

• Law offers whistleblower meager protection, analysts fear

Big Opioid Settlement

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washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson & Johnson reaches $20.4 million settlement in huge opioid case, Scott Higham, Sari Horwitz and Lenny Bernstein​, Oct. 1, 2019. The health-care giant would pay two Ohio counties $10 million, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs.

Johnson & Johnson would pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties $10 million in cash, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs in those communities.

Under the terms, the company resolves all claims by the counties with no admission of liability.

The deal would winnow to six the number of defendants scheduled to stand trial this month in a lawsuit brought by more than more than 2,500 counties, cities and Native American tribes. The plaintiffs sued nearly two dozen drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, alleging that they fueled the nation’s prescription opioid epidemic, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives since 1999.
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“The settlement allows the company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis,” Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals said in a statement Tuesday night. “The company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need.”

Education / Civil Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Rules in Harvard’s Favor on Asian-Americans and Race, Anemona Hartocollis, Oct. 1, 2019. A judge said that Harvard had a right to choose a diverse class. The case, a challenge to affirmative action, is almost certain to go to the Supreme Court.

harvard logoA federal judge on Tuesday rejected claims that Harvard had intentionally discriminated against Asian-American applicants, in a closely watched case that presented one of the biggest legal challenges to affirmative action in years.

The lawsuit against the university came from a group hoping to overturn a longstanding Supreme Court precedent that allows race to be considered as one factor among many in admissions, but prohibits universities from using racial quotas.

The group argued that Harvard had favored black and Hispanic applicants at the expense of another minority group — a strategic reversal of past affirmative action lawsuits in which the plaintiff complained that white students had been treated unfairly.

The judge, Allison D. Burroughs, rejected the plaintiff’s argument, and said that the university met the strict constitutional standard for considering race in its admissions process.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general harshly criticizes DEA for allowing opioid makers to sharply increase production, Lenny Bernstein​​, Oct. 1, 2019. Even  as deaths from opioid overdoses grew dramatically, the Drug Enforcement Administration increased its quota for the narcotic painkiller oxycodone by 400 percent between 2002 and 2013, according to a new report from the Justice Department’s inspector general.

robert mueller full face fileWilmerHale, Robert S. Mueller III and Other Special Counsel's Office Members Rejoin WilmerHale, Staff report, Oct. 1, 2019. Robert S. Mueller III, right, is rejoining the firm as a partner after serving as special counsel for the US Department of Justice. Mr. Mueller’s practice will focus on high-profile investigations and crisis management, similar to his work at the firm before his service as special counsel. James L. Quarles and Aaron M. Zebley who, like Mr. Mueller, left the firm in May 2017 to work in the Special Counsel’s Office, are also returning to the firm as partners.

U.S. 2020 Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, With Trump-style bravado, a suburban state senator alienates her own party, Laura Vozzella, Oct. 1, 2019. At a time when the Virginia GOP can’t afford to lose a single seat, some Senate Republicans fret that the drama swirling around “Senator Annie Oakley Chase,” as some call her, threatens to put her reliably red district in play.

gerrymandering center for american progress

Center for American Progress, The Impact of Partisan Gerrymandering, Alex Tausanovitch, Oct. 1, 2019. It has been almost a decade since the 2010 cycle of redistricting, and the country is still reckoning with the impact. According to a new CAP analysis, the effects of partisan gerrymandering are comparable to switching the majority of votes in 22 states.

Unfairly drawn congressional districts shifted, on average, a whopping 59 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections. Those 59 seats are slightly more than the total number of seats apportioned to the 22 smallest states by population.

Fortunately, the solutions are simple: Require each state to draw districts that reflect the views of the American people; prioritize fair representation for communities of color; and draw districts that are reasonably competitive, so that when voters change their minds, they can also change their representatives.

That's democracy — elected officials who represent and are accountable to the people. The numbers show that representation in the United States is far from fair, but with straightforward policy changes, citizens can have maps that are fair.

Global News

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Rohingya crisis can’t stay Bangladesh’s burden, prime minister says, Ishaan Tharoor, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina discusses the burden of hosting more than a million Rohingya refugees.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 100 have people have died in heavy rains in India. Here’s what the flooding looks like, Niha Masih, Oct. 1, 2019. The india flag mapfloods have been caused by the heaviest monsoon in 25 years. Floodwater has inundated major Indian cities, bringing daily life to a standstill.

India has experienced increasingly extreme weather conditions. A debilitating heat wave in the summer coupled with a delay in the monsoon led to drought-like conditions in several parts of the country. Metropolitan cities like Chennai in South India were nearly out of water. In July the government said that 2,400 people had been killed due to weather events in the past year.

Donald and Melania Trump descend from Air Force One into Saudi Araba as first stop on the president's initial overseas trip in 2017 (White House photo by Shealah Craighead).

Donald and Melania Trump descend from Air Force One into Saudi Arabia as first stop on the president's initial overseas trip in 2017 (White House photo by Shealah Craighead).

washington post logoWashington Post, As backlash fears fade, major firms are returning to Saudi Arabia a year after Khashoggi’s killing, Reed Albergotti, Josh Dawsey and Kareem Fahim, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). Wall Street banks are among the big names expected for a Saudi investment conference in October. When Saudi Arabia hosted its high-profile investment conference just weeks after Jamal Khashoggi’s killing last October, top executives from some of the world’s biggest financial companies begged off, skipping the event over fears that negative publicity could tarnish their firms’ brands.

A year later, human rights advocates say the kingdom has yet to deliver justice, failing to hold senior Saudi officials responsible for The Washington Post contributing columnist’s killing or to even reveal the location of his body. But business leaders have been far more forgiving.

Saudi king’s bodyguard shot dead in private dispute, state news agency, Sarah Dadouch, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). Maj. Gen. Abdulaziz al-Faghm was a familiar presence by king’s side for Saudis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused of groping a journalist, William Booth and Karla Adam, Oct. 1, 2019 (print ed.). Prime Minister Boris Johnson was trying mightily Monday to showcase his shiny new agenda for the people, but his Conservative Party’s annual conference has been overshadowed by accusations about how he treats women.

The latest is a claim by a Sunday Times columnist that Johnson groped her thigh — “high up” — at a magazine lunch in 1999. “Untrue,” says 10 Downing Street.

He’s also accused of abusing his position as mayor of London to grant favorable treatment to a friend, U.S. entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri. Arcuri, who received thousands of pounds from a government agency that Johnson oversaw, told friends she and Johnson were having an affair, according to British news reports. Johnson claims to have “no interest to declare” in Arcuri’s firm.

 

 

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