McConnell tells Hannity he’ll let Trump’s lawyers call the shots in impeachment trial

December 16, 2019

President Donald Trump won’t get a “fair or “impartial” trial in the Senate, after impeachment passes the House this coming week. He’ll get the trial that his lawyers and White House advisers tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) say he wants and needs–unburdening him of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice before the 2020 campaign gains steam.

When the trial commences in the Republican-controlled Senate, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will presidebut the GOP will be able to control much of the length and substance of the process, The Washington Post has reported.

And appearing on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show on December 12, McConnell made no bones about saying he’ll endeavor to give the White House whatever kind of trial it wants.

Indeed, according to a report by the Post, McConnell made a point of saying that he would be coordinating with White House Counsel Pat Cipollone every step of the way.

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” McConnell said. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”

He added later that “exactly how we go forward I’m going to coordinate with the president’s lawyers, so there won’t be any difference between us on how to do this.”

And then he said that “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”

McConnell also, notably, said there is “no chance” Trump will be removed from office. This, he indicated, is why he’s not treating the trial with much regard.

The repetition of the first talking point made pretty clear that McConnell very much intended to say all of this. But it’s worth taking stock of how remarkable a statement it is, The Washington Post opined —noting that “giving the White House any say over how the trial would be handled would be something, but McConnell says he’ll coordinate everything ( and how discordant it is relative to many of his fellow GOP senators).”

The newspaper went on to point out, “Those senators have, in many cases, declined to comment on impeachment and the Ukraine scandal because they will serve as jurors in the Senate trial. For some, it was certainly a cop-out to avoid having to comment on the substance of the Ukraine scandal, which, however you slice it, doesn’t look good for Trump. But now that McConnell is effectively saying he’ll let the defendant’s lawyers dictate how the trial will be handled, those professions of respect for the process ring pretty hollow.”

“I’m a juror, and I’m comfortable not speaking,” Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) told The Washington Post in late October. Pressed again, he said, “I said I’m comfortable not speaking.”

“I don’t need a strategy for impeachment, because I may be a juror someday,” Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) commented to the news outlet

“I’d be a juror, so I have no comment,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) added.

Earlier on Thursday, McConnell met with Cipollone and the administration’s Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland. And McConnell said in his Thursday news conference he had not yet sat down with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) to negotiate on the process.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Even as articles of impeachment are divulged, Trump brazenly hosts Russian official Sergei Lavrov

December 12, 2019

President Donald Trump tweeted out a grinning photo of himself during an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 10—the same day on which the House Democratic Leadership Team held a press conference announcing two articles of impeachment  against the POTUS.

The question remains, Did Vladimir Putin set up the photo opportunity the day after his arbitration talks with Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine? The visit by the top Russian minister would have signaled to the world that Russia—not Ukraine—is the nation that currently is receiving American backing. What’s more, this was Lavrov’s second meeting in the Oval Office, while Zelensky still awaits his first.

Or did President Trump, himself, seek to play Russian roulette—documenting his close relationship with Putin’s enemy nation, even while the U.S. Congress made a case against him for advancing his own political agenda instead of supporting an ally.

The photo shows a smiling Trump seated at the Resolute Desk, with Vladimir Putin’s top foreign policy emissary standing to his right. Both men are looking forward, presumably toward an official White House photographer.

The official explanation for the meeting from the White House? In a readout, the administration said that President Trump had warned Lavrov against any Russian attempts to interfere in United States elections and urged Russia to resolve the conflict with Ukraine.

But Trump chose a weaker verb—

‘meddling’ in his own personal assessment of the encounter. He tweeted: ‘Just had a very good meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and representatives of Russia. Discussed many items including Trade, Iran, North Korea, INF Treaty, Nuclear Arms Control, and Election Meddling. Look forward to continuing our dialogue in the near future!’

And after the meeting, Lavrov, himself, said that the elections had not come up during his private meeting with the president.

Trump has repeatedly questioned the narrative of Russian election interference in 2016, and blasted the Russia probe as a ‘witch hunt.’ He is captured in a call transcript with the president of Ukraine pushing a theory of Ukrainian election interference.

By publishing the photo himself, the UK’s Daily Mail reports, “Trump got to shape the narrative. Back in 2017, it was Russian news agency TASS that [distributed] jovial photos

Research contact: @DailyMailUK

Democrats set to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress

December 11, 2019

President Donald Trump—aka Teflon Don—has managed to sidestep every scandal in his campaign and administration over the past three years. But now it’s time for him to show his base some really fancy footwork: House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump—accusing him of abusing his office for personal political gain and all but guaranteeing that he will become just the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached, The Hill reported.

Democrats are bringing two charges against Trump, which they say rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors: that he abused the power of his office and that he obstructed Congress in its impeachment inquiry. 

Both of the charges, the news outlet noted, are related to the unfolding controversy surrounding Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s government to conduct a pair of investigations that might have helped him politically: one into Trump’s political rivals—including former Vice President Joe Biden—and another into the debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the U.S. elections of 2016.

The historic move, which follows weeks of closed-door and public hearings on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, carries far-reaching implications for a fiercely divided country that’s split roughly in half on whether Trump should be removed from office and ensures that the impeachment debate will carry far into an election year, The Hill noted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California)—who had resisted moving for impeachment for most of the year—struck a somber tone when announcing the articles in the Capitol, saying Trump’s handling of foreign policy in Kyiv had left Democrats no alternative.

“On this solemn day, I recall that the first order of business for members of Congress is the solemn act to take an oath to defend the Constitution,” she said aat a press conference situated in the august, wood-paneled Rayburn Room adjacent to the House chamber. 

“It is an impeachable offense for a president to use the powers of his office to seek a personal benefit,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said in introducing the first article. 

“And when he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry,” Nadler continued, pointing to the second article of obstruction of Congress.

The Judiciary chairman said his committee would vote on the articles later this week — likely Thursday, according to several sources —setting up a vote of the full House as early as next week, before Congress leaves Washington for the winter holidays.

Forecasting a nasty battle to come, Trump quickly took to Twitter to attack Democrats’ decision, complaining “To impeach a President who has proven through results, ioncluding producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country’s history, to have one of the most successful presidencies eer, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness! #2020Election.” 

However, Democrats allege, Trump withheld nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine and dangled a White House meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the country’s leader to publicly announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter, who worked on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings.

This, they warned, makes clear that Trump believes he is above the law, and will continue this pattern of misconduct if he remains in office.

We stand here today because the president’s continuing abuse of his power has left us no choice,” said Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which led the weeks-long investigation into the Ukraine affair. “To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president’s abuse of his high office, the public trust and our national security.”

But Republicans  argue this is a “sham” impeachment inquiry designed by Democrats to remove a president they cannot defeat at the ballot box.

The articles were announced one day after a Democratic staff counsel, going over the evidence produced by Schiff’s Intelligence Committee, said Trump represented “a clear and present danger” to the nation’s national security, and to fair and free elections, The Hill reported.

Democrats described the move as a hard, but necessary—one they must make to protect the country from a lawless president. “It is rather a question of duty,” Schiff said at the conclusion of the press conference. “The president’s oath of office appears to mean very little to him but the articles put forward today will give us a chance to show that we will defend the Constitution and that our oath means something to us.”

Research contact: @thehill

A ‘loo’ review: Trump says people are flushing toilets 10-15 times, asks EPA to rethink efficiency

December 10, 2019

President Donald Trump’s mind is in the toilet—but not necessarily in a bad way, for a change.  Complaining that  “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times as opposed to once” in homes with low-flow appliances, the president said on December 6 that he wants the EPA to review water efficiency standards in bathroom fixtures, The Chicago Tribune reported.

He said other bathroom fixtures have slowed water flow to a trickle. “You can’t wash your hands practically, there’s so little water comes out of the faucet, and the end result is you leave the faucet on and it takes you much longer to wash your hands, you end up using the same amount of water,” Trump said at an event with small-business owners at the White House.

According to the Tribune report, the president said it was “common sense” to review standards he said resulted in showers with water “quietly dripping out” and toilets that “end up using more water” because of repeat flushing.

Trump has championed rolling back regulations since taking office in 2017, with a focus on environmental rules imposed or proposed during the Obama administration. The president routinely portrays himself as a champion of clean air and water, while his critics say he’s weakened regulations intended to fight climate change, conserve resources and promote clean air and water.

While the president said the Environmental Protection Agency was looking at the standards “at my suggestion,” the Tribune pointed out that a review of the WaterSense program was mandated under 2018 legislation passed by Congress that said the agency should look at any regulations adopted before 2012. That means the government is forced to revisit specifications for tank-type toilets, lavatory faucets, and faucet accessories, showerheads, flushing urinals, and weather-based irrigation controllers.

Those regulations include a 20% reduction in water use on tank-type toilets compared to standards adopted in 1992, and a 32% reduction in maximum water flow on lavatory faucets, according to the EPA.

Use of low-flush toilets started in the 1990s after President George H.W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act. That 1992 law said new toilets could use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. The law went into effect in 1994 for residential buildings and 1997 for commercial structures.

But the government has also said that the water savings make a difference—particularly in bathrooms, which represent more than half of all indoor water use. The EPA says an average family can save $380 in water costs per year and save more than 17 gallons per day by using appliances certified to WaterSense standards.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Rudy to the rescue? Giuliani’s current Ukraine jaunt freaks out Trump’s team—and he doesn’t care

December 9, 2019

Forget Carmen Sandiego. Where in the world is Rudy Giuliani?  The president’s personal attorney’s decision to travel to multiple European countries last week—during the height of an impeachment probe involving his client—was so out of left field that senior administration officials and national security brass began tracking his movements in an effort to get a read on his objectives abroad, The Daily Beast reports.

Indeed, officials in the West Wing and numerous Trump associates learned about Giuliani’s latest foreign escapade, which included a stop in Ukraine, by reading the news, the news outlet said.

Many of them expressed exasperation at the thought of Giuliani—himself reportedly in the crosshairs of federal investigators—continuing to cause headaches for the White House. Others feared he would cause tangible damage to U.S. foreign policy.

 “I do not see why [any] lawyer would see this as serving the best interests of their client,” a senior White House official told The Daily Beast. “Especially now.”

Senior U.S. officials in the State Department and on the national security team were concerned that Giuliani was speaking with politicians in both Budapest and Kiev who have interests in domestic American politics.

According to five Daily Beast sources with knowledge of the situation, there is renewed fear that the president’s lawyer is still shopping for dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as speaking with foreign officials who, against all evidence, have promoted the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, there are rumors that he is taping a documentary.

The concerns about Giuliani’s trip to Kiev were so pronounced that they reached officials close to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who were advised by Americans and politicians in Ukraine not to meet with Giuliani when he was in town, according to an individual familiar with those conversations.

The president’s attorney, who has been defiant in the face of criticism for his prior efforts to target the Bidens, was similarly unmoved by the idea that his current expedition was both unseemly and unwise, the news outlet said.

“I would hope they have more important things to do than intrude on the work being done by a lawyer defending his client against another set of false and contrived charges,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast last Wednesday, while still overseas.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Barr’s handpicked prosecutor for Russia case says he cannot back theory of ‘U.S. intelligence setup’

December 6, 2019

The prosecutor whom Attorney General William Barr personally tapped to scrutinize how U.S. intelligence agencies investigated President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign—and its connections to Russia—has refused to back a conspiracy theory around which the case has been built, according to a report by The Washington Post.

U.S. Attorney John Durham said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, sources told the news outlet.

Specifically, Durham could not confirm to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that a Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, who interacted with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in April 2016 was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign, sources said.

But the intelligence agencies said the professor was not among their assets, the informants said. And Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had not produced any evidence that might contradict the inspector general’s similar findings on that point.

Spokespeople for the inspector general’s office, Durham, and the Justice Department declined to comment, The Washington Post reported.

The previously unreported interaction between Durham and Horowitz is documented in the IG’s forthcoming report on the Russia investigation; which concludes that the FBI had adequate cause to launch its Russia investigation, people familiar with the matter said. Its public release is set for Monday.

That could rebut conservatives’ worries—which Barr has shared with associates in recent weeks—that Horowitz might be blessing the FBI’s Russia investigation prematurely and that Durham could potentially find more, particularly with regard to the Maltese professor.

The news outlet said, however, that the draft is not final.  The inspector general has yet to release any conclusions, and The Washington Post has not reviewed Horowitz’s entire report, even in draft form. It is also unclear whether Durham has shared the entirety of his findings and evidence with the inspector general or merely answered a specific question.

In response to recent reports that Barr is skeptical about the forthcoming report, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement that the watchdog’s investigation “is a credit to the Department of Justice.”

She added, “Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the Inspector General’s testimony before the Senate

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Ring of truth: House Intel report reveals Giuliani, Nunes, and White House call records

December 5, 2019

Call records obtained by impeachment investigators have given them new ammo against President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani—including details on his interactions with the White House, several Ukraine associates; and Representative Devin Nunes (R-California), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, The Wall Street Journal reported on December 3.

The records of those calls were included in a draft report by the House Intelligence Committee released Tuesday. The panel alleged that Trump had abused his office for personal and political gain by pressuring Ukraine for dirt on his political opponent Joe Biden and his son Hunter—with the help of the Giuliani.

According to the Journal,” the phone records suggest Giuliani’s deep involvement in several key episodes that have become a focus of the impeachment probe.” The frequent contacts between Nunes and two figures at the center of the inquiry—Giuliani and one of his indicted associates—are viewed as highly unusual and are likely to redouble calls from Democrats for Nunes to face an ethics inquiry.

A lawyer for the Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, said his client’s conversations with Nunes in April were focused on corruption investigations in Ukraine. However, by that point, Parnas had for months been helping Giuliani push Ukraine to investigate Biden and alleged interference by Ukraine in the 2016 U.S. election—the effort that set off the impeachment inquiry.

A spokesman for Nunes didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), the House Intelligence Committee chairman, said Tuesday that the phone records showed “considerable coordination” among the parties under investigation, including the White House. The records only show the timing and length of calls placed and don’t include their content.

The phone records show that on April 24, the day that Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was recalled to Washington, Giuliani spoke at least eight times with a White House phone number. He already has acknowledged pressing the president to remove Yovanovitch from her post, and Trump subsequently ordered her to be recalled, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Giuliani didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the news outlet. He and the president have denied any wrongdoing.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump campaign refuses to issue press credentials to Bloomberg News reporters

December 4, 2019

Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign has announced that it no longer will approve credentials for Bloomberg News reporters after the financial media company said it wouldn’t cover Democratic presidential candidatesonly reporting on  Republican and Independent candidates—while its owner and founder, Mike Bloomberg, is out on the trail seeking the party’s nomination.

It’s anybody’s guess what effect the newly restrictive Trump campaign policy might have without a similar decision by the White House, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Bloomberg News occupies one of a handful of permanent seats in the White House press corps travel pool, which means a Bloomberg News reporter currently is with the president wherever he travels, including campaign events.

A White House spokesman declined to comment, but the POTUS weighed in on Twitter on Monday evening.

“Mini Mike Bloomberg has instructed his third rate news organization not to investigate him or any Democrat, but to go after President Trump, only,” @realDonaldTrump tweeted, adding it was “not O.K.!”

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale commented that continuing to investigate President Trump, whom all of the Democratic presidential contenders are attempting to unseat, was an unfair reporting practice.

“The decision by Bloomberg News to formalize preferential reporting policies is troubling and wrong,” Parscale said in a statement obtained by the Journal. The campaign will engage with Bloomberg News reporters only on a “case-by-case basis,” he said.

“Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events,” Parscale added.

John Micklethwait, editor in chief of Bloomberg News, said Parscale’s accusations “couldn’t be further from the truth.”

“We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign,” he said in a statement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “It is unusual for major-party presidential candidates to ban news outlets from events, but not for Trump. During his 2016 campaign he barred several media outlets, including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed News, from his campaign events for certain periods.”

Research contact:@WSJ

MIA: President Trump departs for NATO meeting before first House Judiciary impeachment hearing

December 4, 2019

President Donald Trump will not be in the room—or even in the country—when the impeachment hearings continue this week, the White House communicated to the House Judiciary Committee in a December 2 letter.

He will be attending the NATO Summit, December 2-4 in Britain—and he has lambasted House Democrats for continuing the legal process without him, although he has so far refused to cooperate in every way possible.

As he and the first lady left the White House on December 3, the president commented, “This is one of the most important journeys that we make as President. And for them (Democrats) to be doing this and saying this and putting an impeachment on the table, which is a hoax to start off with,” Trump told a press gaggle before boarding Marine One aircraft.

“The Democrats, the radical-left Democrats, the do-nothing Democrats, decided when I’m going to NATO—this was set up a year ago—that when I’m going to NATO, that was the exact time,” he said.

According to a report by Politico, “The decision indicates that President Donald Trump has listened to his allies and some congressional Republicans who argued that a White House presence at the hearing would validate a process they have harangued as illegitimate and partisan.”

It also means that Trump will need to lean heavily on his closest GOP allies on the panel —including Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Ratcliffe of Texas and Matt Gaetz of Florida —to mount an impeachment defense during the Judiciary panel’s first hearing on Wednesday featuring legal scholars.

“Under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in the letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), adding that “an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process.”

He added, “It is too late to cure the profound procedural deficiencies that have tainted this entire inquiry …. We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings.”

Nadler had asked Trump to indicate by Sunday whether he or a White House attorney would attend Wednesday’s hearing, an offer that Democrats said was an attempt to afford due process to Trump as he faces a likely impeachment vote before the end of the month.

Nadler also has asked Trump to reveal by the end of the week whether he intends to participate in any aspect of the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings, which are expected to continue into the following week, Politico said. Notably, Cipollone left open the possibility that the White House would participate in future hearings.

Research contact: @politico

Republican group pummels Trump with derogatory ad: ‘What Is He Afraid Of?’

December 2, 2019

Republicans for the Rule of Law—a nonprofit group of lifelong conservative GOP members who are “dedicated to defending the institutions of our republic”— has called out President Donald Trump with a critical TV ad.

In its new 32-second clip released online November 27, The Huffington Post reports, the group questions the White House’s refusal to allow key witnesses in the Ukraine scandal to testify before Congress in the impeachment inquiry that targets Trump.

“These witnesses must testify,” the voiceover says, referring to a lineup of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, along with White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

“What is Trump afraid of?” the narrator adds.

The ad is slated to air on Fox News’ flagship morning show “Fox & Friends” for several days after Thanksgiving.

Republicans for the Rule of Law Executive Director Sarah Longwell said in a statement that the House impeachment hearings “have presented startling evidence” that Trump “abused his power, strong-arming a foreign government to interfere on his behalf in the upcoming election, and damaging national security in the process.”

“The president denies the allegations, but won’t let key administration officials― including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney―testify to Congress,” Longwell added. “If the president did nothing wrong, what does he have to hide? If they tell the truth, what is he afraid of? Most importantly, will Republicans in Congress allow the president to simply ignore their constitutionally mandated oversight role?”

According to the HuffPost, the group last week launched a campaign that aimed to educate GOP voters―who polls have shown remain steadfast in their support of Trump―on the facts of the Ukraine scandal that prompted the impeachment inquiry.

Research contact: @HuffPost