Clinton is hinting: Is Tulsi Gabbard being groomed as Russia’s third-party candidate for 2020?

October 23, 2019

RepresentativeTulsi Gabbards clash with 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton suddenly has propelled her struggling 2020 presidential campaign into the spotlight—and not in a good way, CNN reported on October 21.

The heated squabble with Clinton—who said  on October 17 that Gabbard is “the favorite of the Russians” and is being groomed for a third-party run—also has raised doubts about Gabbard’s future in Democratic politics, the cable news outlet said.

The speculative statement from Clinton came during a podcast she was taping with former Obama adviser David Plouffe.

Gabbard, of Hawaii, has remained at single digits in the polls and is staring down an increasingly difficult path to the Democratic Party’s nomination. Back at home, she also faces the most formidable challenge to her House seat since she was elected in 2012, when she enjoyed a majority of the vote, CNN said.

On television, Gabbard has received a significant amount of coverage from Fox News, where she is often praised for her anti-establishment message. She made an appearance on Friday night with host Tucker Carlson to respond to Clinton and made a plea to Carlson’s viewers to support her candidacy.

“I am staying in the Democratic Party, and I’m fighting to take our Democratic Party back, out of the hands of Hillary Clinton and the war-mongering establishment, and put it back into the hands of the people, so our party can truly be a champion for the people,” Gabbard told The Daily Iowan on Friday.

She even turned the Clinton confrontation into a fund-raising opportunity, emailing supporters that “I challenge her” to “face me directly.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whom Gabbard supported in 2016, defended the congresswoman on Monday, writing in a tweet that “it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.”

Research contact: @CNN

Trump retracts decision to host G-7 at Doral resort after GOP kicks up a fuss

October 22, 2019

Following bashing by his own party, President Donald Trump announced abruptly Saturday night that he would no longer host next year’s Group of Seven (G-7) Summit at the Trump National Doral Miami resort in Florida, The Washington Post reported.

However, he was unrepentant about scheduling a major diplomatic event at one of his properties—refusing to acknowledge that the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution specifically prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments.

“I don’t think you people, with this phony Emoluments Clause—and by the way, I would say that it’s cost anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion to be president,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House, The Hill said.

The decision to bring the world leaders to his resort —and to require them, as well as their staffs and the media covering the summit, to pay the Trump Organization for their stays—was an unprecedented one in modern American politics, the Post noted: The president awarded a huge contract to himself. The White House promoted Doral as the single best venue in the United States to host the G-7 summit in June, and the meeting would have brought thousands of guests in the offseason to a resort that is struggling financially.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday defended Trump’s selection of Doral, explaining that Trump still thinks of himself as working in the “hospitality business” even though he is president.

“He was honestly surprised at the level of pushback,” Mulvaney told anchor Chris Wallace on  Fox News Sunday.  “At the end of the day, he still considers himself to be in the hospitality business, and he saw an opportunity to take the biggest leaders from around the world and he wanted to put on the absolute best show, the best visit that he possibly could, and he was very comfortable doing it at Doral.”

Now, Trump said, he and his administration will search for a new location. In a tweet, he attributed the concession to “Irrational Hostility” from Democrats as well as the media, although the revolt among Republicans may well have been the trigger.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

One of America’s best and brightest, Rep. Elijah Cummings, has died

October 18, 2019

He first took the national spotlight marching shoulder-to-shoulder with Martin Luther King—and he continued to demand justice over 50 years later as a key figure in the impeachment inquiry centered on President Donald Trump.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings (Maryland)—a son of sharecroppers who rose to become one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress; as well as a champion of his home city, Baltimore; and a key adversary of President Trump—died on October 17. He was 68.

According to a report by The New York Times, his passing was confirmed by a spokesperson, Trudy Perkins, in a statement that only said he died of “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.”

Cummings, who was in his 13th term serving as a representative for Maryland, was chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, a position that gave him sweeping power to investigate Trump and his administration. And he used it, the Times said—noting that as a critical ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), Cummings spent his final months sparring with the president.

Indeed, Cummings said that the president’s effort to block congressional lines of inquires was “far worse than Watergate.”

They also locked horns when Trump assailed Cummings’s beloved Baltimore, the Times said —a city whose population is two-thirds African-American—as “a disgusting, rat and rodent-infested mess” and “the worst run and most dangerous” city in the United States. The congressman pushed back, vociferously defended his hometown.

President Trump on Thursday tweeted his “warmest condolences” to Cummings’s family and friends and praised him for his “strength, passion and wisdom.”

Many others praised him for his honesty and forthright demeanor.“He spoke truth to power, defended the disenfranchised and represented West Baltimore with strength and dignity,” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the chairman of the Democratic caucus, wrote on Twitter. “Congress has lost a Champion. Heaven has gained an Angel of Justice. May he forever #RestInPower.”

Senator Benjamin Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, who served with. Cummings in the House, said his death had left an “irreplaceable void.”

“Quite possibly no elected official mattered so much to his constituents,” Cardin said in a statement. “Chairman Cummings guaranteed a voice to so many who would otherwise not have one, and stood as a symbol for the heights one could reach if they paid no mind to obstacles, naysayers and hate.”

As his health deteriorated, the Times said, Cummings’s wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, ended her bid for governor. In a statement on Thursday, she called her late husband “a dynamic figure in American politics.”

“He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not our problem,” said Maya Cummings, who chairs the Maryland Democratic Party.

Research contact: @nytimes

White House opens internal review of Ukraine call, as insiders run for cover

October 17, 2019

The cat is investigating who ate the canary. President Donald Trump has for weeks sought to unmask the whistle-blower who revealed his Ukraine dealings. Now, administration attorneys have begun a “fact-finding review” on the actions leading up to the current impeachment inquiry— and some White House denizens fear that it is really a hunt for a scapegoat, according to sources tapped by The New York Times.

Specifically, the news outlet reports, the legal investigators are seeking to understand White House officials’ actions around Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, which is central to the whistle-blower’s allegation that the POTUS abused his power.

The lawyers are particularly interested in why one of their colleagues, National Security Council Legal Advisor John A. Eisenberg, placed a rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for the country’s most closely guarded secrets. The president later directed that a reconstructed transcript be released amid intensifying scrutiny from House Democrats.

According to the Times, “The review shows how quickly the impeachment inquiry escalated tensions in a West Wing already divided over the publication of the transcript, and it appears to be the latest example of administration officials rushing to protect themselves in the Ukraine scandal.”

For his own part, Eisenberg has reacted angrily to suggestions that he is under scrutiny, according to two people told of his response. He has said he limited access to the transcript over concerns about leaks, according to a person familiar with his actions. He declined through a National Security Council spokesman to comment.

It was not clear who sought the review. The Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is said to have encouraged it, and his aides are helping the White House Counsel’s Office, led by Pat Cipollone, sources said. Aides in the two offices have otherwise been at odds since the transcript was released, according to administration officials.

The existence of the review could threaten the president’s narrative that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.” Instead, the review underscores the evidence that he bent foreign policy to his personal advantage by pressing Zelensky to open investigations that could damage his political opponents.

Research contact: @nytimes

Bolton resisted Ukraine pressure campaign, calling Giuliani ‘a hand grenade’

October 15, 2019

The effort to squeeze Ukraine for political help provoked a head-on battle inside the White House last summer, The New York Times reports.

Indeed, the under-the-radar strong-arm tactics being used by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, as well as administration officials, so alarmed John Bolton—who was at that time the national security adviser—that he told aide Fiona Hill to alert White House lawyers, House investigators learned on October 14.

Specifically, the Times notes, Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was working with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, to press Ukraine to provide dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to three people who heard the testimony.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified on Monday that Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Sondland, Giuliani, and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, according to the sources to the Times.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition.

It was not the first time Bolton expressed grave concerns to Hill about the campaign being run by Giuliani, the news outlet said. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Hill quoted Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

According to the Times, “The testimony revealed in a powerful way just how divisive … Giuliani’s efforts to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on President Trump’s behalf were within the White House. … Hill, the senior director for European and Russian affairs, testified that … Giuliani and his allies circumvented the usual national security process to run their own foreign policy efforts, leaving the president’s official advisers aware of the rogue operation yet powerless to stop it.”

At one point, she confronted Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the Times’ sources

Hill was the first former White House official to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. While she left her post shortly before the now-infamous July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democrats, she helped House investigators understand the early months of the pressure campaign.

Research contact: @nytimes

Ominous video at #AMPFest19 shows Trump ‘offing’ reporters in ‘Church of Fake News’

October 15, 2019

A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Donald Trump shooting, stabbing, and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents inside a Church of Fake News was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort, the Trump National Doral, last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times.

According to the Times’ report on October 13, the video combines a series of memes and shows the president’s head superimposed on a mass shooter’s body. The president in the video then goes on to slaughter his political and media critics.

The conference was organized by American Priority, a pro-Trump group, and it was attended by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was speaking at the event, and the President’s son, Donald Trump, Jr.—neither of whom would admit to seeing the video, which supposed “was shown in a side room at #AMPFest 19,” the organization said.

In its official statement, AMP describes the video as “unauthorized” and says that it was never “approved, seen, or sanction by the #AMPFest 19 organizers,” who were “not even aware of the video until they were contacted by the NYT.”

The extremely violent video can be seen in this embedded tweet.

After news of the video broke, many politicians took to Twitter to condemn the video, including Democratic presidential candidate @Beto O’Rourke, who said: “ At a conference of Trump supporters, they played a video of our president murdering journalists in a church. Last year, a Trump supporter sent bombs to CNN—and a shooter entered a church yesterday. This video isn’t funny. It will get people killed.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) added his own outrage, tweeting: “Every mother and father in America should watch video. Play it all the way to end. Know that this is the re-election message of your President. And then ask yourself – how you sit your kids down and tell them you want this person to lead us. “

On Monday morning, the White House Press Secretary (@PressSec) Stephanie Grisham weighed in, trying to distance the president from the violent clip, which contained a Trump campaign logo. She tweeted, “Re: the video played over the weekend: The @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has not yet seen the video, he will see it shortly, but based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Democrats deploy new impeachment plan of attack after White House refuses to cooperate

October 11, 2019

House Democrats are now saying that they don’t need any help from the White House to make a case for impeachment, NBC News reports.

To circumvent Executive Branch efforts to impede and obstruct the House impeachment inquiry, Democrats have launched a fresh offensive: They intend to inundate the White House with subpoenas; as well as requests for interviews with people who no longer work in the administration.

Democrats issued additional subpoenas for testimony and relevant documents on October 10 to Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas —two associates of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, both of whom are alleged to have helped Giuliani dig for dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. They were requested to appear for depositions this Thursday and Friday before Congress, but before they could appear on Capitol Hill, they were arrested Wednesday night on charges tied to campaign finance violations, NBC News says.

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) formally announced the impeachment inquiry last month, Democrats have so far issued eight subpoenas—including those to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Office of Management and Budget Acting Chief Russell Vought, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland In addition, they have requested documents from Vice President Mike Pence.

However, few, if any, of the current administration leaders are expected to respond to the Democrat’s subpoenas and requests. Just this week, Ambassador Sondland declined to testify, on orders from the State Department and President Donald Trump.

Therefore, the Democrats are targeting former officials,  who are now private citizens, and would not fall under the White House ‘s claims of executive privilege. Kurt Volker, who recently resigned as U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testified before Congress last week, several days after he left the administration.

On Monday, Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill, volunteered to meet in a closed-door session with several congressional committees. A letter addressed to Hill, obtained by NBC, requested that she turn over several documents that date back to January 2017.

Congress returns next week from a two-week recess and Democrats are expected to speed up their investigation that could lead them filing articles of impeachment against the president. Two sources told NBC News that Pelosi will hold another caucus-wide conference call on Friday afternoon, so rank and file members can receive an update about the impeachment inquiry.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Graham to gather signatures for letter to Pelosi saying GOP won’t impeach Trump over Ukraine call

October 10, 2019

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)—who has been playing the role of golf partner and crony-in-chief to President Donald Trump—on Wednesday said that he is sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to warn her that Senate Republicans won’t impeach the POTUS over his call with Ukraine, The Hill reported.

In an appearance on the Fox News morning show, Fox & Friends, Graham said that he would ask other Senate Republicans to sign the letter—claiming that GOP lawmakers “do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense.”

“They’re about to destroy the nation for no good reason,” Graham said, according to The Hill. “And I want Nancy Pelosi to know that Republican senators are not going to impeach this president based on this transcript, so she can stop now before she destroys the country.”

House Democrats are in the early stages of an impeachment inquiry into how and why Trump asked the Ukrainian government to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as with Attorney General Bill Barr, to provide dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden—while concurrently withholding $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in an effort to get Kiev to launch such a probe.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that; so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during the July 25 call.

The White House ramped up the fight over the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, sending a letter to Pelosi and the House committee chairs overseeing the investigation saying that it would refuse to cooperate further with the probe, The Hill said.

In the letter, the White House argued Democrats were pursuing a “constitutionally invalid” investigation of a duly elected president.

Graham, who is one of Trump’s most vocal allies on Capitol Hill, blasted House Democrats on Wednesday, saying they couldn’t “care less about fairness.”

Research contact: @thehill

Invisible man: House Dems consider extraordinary steps to conceal whistleblower’s identity from GOP

October 9, 2019

House Democrats are weighing extraordinary steps to secure testimony from the whistleblower whose complaint prompted their impeachment inquiry—considering masking his identity to prevent President Donald Trump’s congressional allies from exposing him, according to three officials familiar with the deliberations, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

As the GOP continues its political posturing and plotting, as well as obstruction of witness testimony, Democrats deem it imperative to have the whistleblower testify from a remote location; and to conceal his appearance and voice, these officials told the DC-based news outlet. Two other possibilities include having the whistleblower sit behind a screen or partition or conducting audio-only testimony.

“Schiff does not want to burn his identity,” a senior congressional official told the newspaper.

“There are lots of different protocols and procedures we’re looking into to find out what works and doesn’t work to protect the identity of the whistleblower,” a person familiar with the talks told the news outlet. “That is paramount.”

The whistleblower’s complaint centered on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressed the new leader eight times to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter.

On Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee was told that the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had been blocked b y the State Department. The whistleblower said that Sondland met with Zelensky to give “advice” about how to “navigate” Trump’s demands, working behind the scenes to carry out the president’s wishes in a country that’s not a member of the European Union.

In text messages provided to Congress, Sondland 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 said he feared.

Trump told Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, to hold back the military aid for Ukraine shortly before his July call. Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a “quid pro quo” between the military assistance and the request to investigate the Bidens.

At the White House on Monday, Trump lashed out at Democrats over their impeachment inquiry.

“You can’t impeach a president for doing a great job. . . . This is a scam,” he said at an event on trade with Japan.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Weekend curveball: New whistleblower(s)

October 8, 2019

President Donald Trump got bushwacked again last weekend—this time, as a “new whistleblower,” came forward, also being represented by Mark Zaid and Andrew Bakaj, the lawyers for the original whistleblower, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper, Pamela Brown and Zachary Cohen.

The new witness is said to have   first-hand knowledge that supports the claims of the initial whistleblower, and to have been on the line during the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

If this is the case, it would , it totally undermine the main defense that has been used to date by Republicans—that all information was secondhand in the original whistleblower complaint.

CNN reports that the new whistleblower works in the intelligence community and that he or she already has spoken to the intelligence community’s inspector general.

The individual has not filed another complaint, but the lawyers argue anyone who speaks to the intelligence community watchdog is considered to have made a protected disclosure, and is a whistleblower under law.

According to the cable news outlet, Zaid has acknowledged a second whistleblower and his partner, Andrew Bakaj, described “multiple” whistleblowers in a tweet Sunday, but will not specify if that is more than the two we now know.

Bakaj: “I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the intelligence community inspector general. No further comment at this time.”

Research contact: @CNN