Monday , January 18 2021

Impeachment hearing witnesses need protection from retaliation, Schumer warns Esper – live – The Guardian, Theguardian.com


Two HouseRepublicansare requesting information from a Senate Republican on conversations he reportedly had withTrumpandGordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, about the frozen military aid to Ukraine.

Jeremy Herb(@ jeremyherb)

In a letter to Sen. Johnson, Reps. Jordan and Nunes “reluctantly write to request any firsthand information you have about President Trump’s actions toward Ukraine between April and September 2019. “pic.twitter.com/ge93 iaul5X

November 18, 2019

“Because theDemocratshave abandoned fundamental fairness and objectivity in their ‘impeachment inquiry,’ we reluctantly write to request any firsthand information you have about President Trump’s actions toward Ukraine between April and September 2019, ”representativesJim JordanandDevin Nuneswrote to senatorRon Johnson.

The Wisconsin Republican said yesterday he likely would not testify in the inquiry but would be willing to “supply my telling of events” in a written statement.

Johnson told the Wall Street Journal last month that Sondland explicitly tied the frozen aid to an announcement of investigations, but Trump later told the Senate Republican that the two were not connected.

7 in 10 Americans say Trump’s investigation request was wrong

According to a new poll, 70% of Americans believeTrump‘s alleged efforts to have Ukraine investigate his political rival,Joe Biden,were wrong.

TheABC News / Ipsos pollfound that 51% of Americans think Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Another 19% say Trump’s actions were wrong but that he should not be removed from office, and 25% believe the president did nothing wrong.

And as the second week of impeachment hearings begins tomorrow, only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely.

Lawyers for the Housesuggestedin a previous court filing that the grand jury material fromRobert Mueller’sinvestigation could help them determine whetherTrumpwas truthful in his answers to the special counsel.

“Not only could those materials demonstrate the president’s motives for obstructing the special counsel’s investigation, they also could reveal that Trump was aware of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks,” the lawyer’s wrote in the late September filing.

They added, “Those materials therefore have direct bearing on whether the president was untruthful, and further obstructed the special counsel’s investigation, when in providing written responses to the special counsel’s questions he denied being aware of any communications between his campaign and WikiLeaks. ”

House investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller

The House told a federal court that it is investigating whetherTrumplied toRobert Muelleras the Justice Department seeks a stay on lawmakers receiving grand jury material from the special counsel’s investigation.

Manu Raju(@ mkraju)

House tells court it is now probing whether Trump lied to Mueller. “Did the President lie? Was the President not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation? ”House General Counsel Doug Letter said, explaining why they want Mueller grand jury material, per@ kpolantz

November 18, 2019

The president provided Mueller with written answers to some of the special counsel’s questions but refused to sit for an interview with his team. Mueller also wrote in his final report that he considered some of Trump’s answers to be incomplete or imprecise.

Even though he has not yet officially launched his presidential bid, billionaireMichael Bloomberghas already picked up a key endorsement in the early voting state of South Carolina.

The APreports:

Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, told The Associated Press on Monday that he’s ready to back the billionaire if he decides to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

‘He’s got what it takes and he’s got the resources to take it to Trump,’ Benjamin said in an interview. ‘I believe firmly that Mike Bloomberg can win. I think resources are going to matter. ’

First elected in 2010, Benjamin is one of South Carolina’s highest-profile black politicians. He’s met with nearly all of the Democratic White House hopefuls, offering advice as they wind their way through South Carolina, home to the first southern primary next year and a contest in which support from black voters is critical.

Other Democratic presidential candidates have struggled to put a dent inJoe Biden‘s lead in South Carolina. A newCBS News / YouGov pollfrom the state showed Biden attracting the support of (% of South Carolina Democrats, putting him) points ahead of second-place finisherElizabeth Warren.

An endorsement from a prominent African American politician could help Bloomberg start to chip away at Biden’s polling advantage, especially given South Carolina’s large black electorate. The former New York mayor also visited a black church yesterday to apologize for championing “stop and frisk” despite its disproportionate effect on people of color.

Senate minority leaderChuck Schumerhas sent a letter to defense secretaryMark Esperasking him to ensure that two of the witnesses in this week’s impeachment hearing, Lt ColAlexander VindmanandLaura Cooper, are protected from retaliation.

Evan McMurry(@ evanmcmurry)

NEW: Sen. Chuck Schumer calls on Defense Sec. Esper to ensure Alexander Vindman and Laura Cooper “are afforded the same protections as whistleblowers and are protected from retaliation” amid their public testimony this week.https://t.co/aE2u6rLZHDpic.twitter.com/kdMk3c0elv

(November) , 2019

“Since their identities were revealed, LTC Vindman and Ms. Cooper have been vilified and attacked by individuals in the media and elsewhere, ”Schumer wrote.

“Accordingly, I request that you formally notify all civilian and military personnel of their legal rights to make protected disclosures to Congress. I also request that you brief me on what actions are being taken to ensure that LTC Vindman, Ms. Cooper, and other whistleblowers like them are afforded appropriate protections — both from workplace reprisals and for their personal safety and that of their families. ”

Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the national security council, is scheduled to testify tomorrow morning, and Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, will speak to impeachment investigators on Wednesday afternoon.

Trump and Powell have previously unannounced meeting

The Federal Reserve has just announced that its chairman,Jerome Powell, met withTrumpand Treasury secretarySteven Mnuchinin a sit-down that was not on the president’s original public schedule.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell takes his seat to testify to the House Budget Committee.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell takes his seat to testify to the House Budget Committee. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The central bank said in a statement after the meeting, “At the President’s invitation, Chair Powell met with the President and the Treasury Secretary Monday morning at the White House to discuss the economy, growth, employment and inflation.

“Chair Powell’s comments were consistent with his remarks at his congressional hearings last week. He did not discuss his expectations for monetary policy, except to stress that the path of policy will depend entirely on incoming information that bears on the outlook for the economy.

“Finally, Chair Powell said that he and his colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee will set monetary policy, as required by law, to support maximum employment and stable prices and will make those decisions based solely on careful , objective and non-political analysis. ”

That final sentences appears to be a clear dig at Trump, who has tried to pressure Powell to lower interest rates more quickly by criticizing him over Twitter.

However, Trump was purely positive in his latest tweet about Powell, claiming their meeting was “very good & cordial.”

Donald J. Trump(@ realDonaldTrump)

Just finished a very good & cordial meeting at the White House with Jay Powell of the Federal Reserve. Everything was discussed including interest rates, negative interest, low inflation, easing, Dollar strength & its effect on manufacturing, trade with China, E.U. & others, etc.

(November) , 2019

Testifying to Congress last week, Powell said that he was confident the Fed’s plan for lowering interest rates would help the US economy, although he acknowledged the trade war with China (among other factors) has harmed growth.

Updated (at 11. am EST

Ukrainian president reportedly felt pressure to investigate Biden before July call

Ukrainian PresidentVolodymyr Zelenskiyreportedly felt pressure to announce an investigation intoJoe Bideneven before his July phone call withTrump, which sparked the impeachment inquiry.

The APreports:

In early May, staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, including then-AmbassadorMarie Yovanovitch, were briefed on a meeting Zelenskiy held in which he sought advice on how to navigate the difficult position he was in, according to two people with knowledge of the briefings.

He was concerned that Trump and associates were pressing him to take action that could affect the 2020 US presidential race, the people said. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic and political sensitivity of the issue.

The briefings show that U.S. officials knew early that Zelenskiy was feeling pressure to investigate Biden, even though the Ukrainian leader later denied it in a joint news conference with Trump in September.

This new reporting undermines Zelenskiy’s denials that he felt White House pressure to investigate Biden, whichRepublicanshave repeatedly cited to push back againstDemocrats‘ accusations in the impeachment inquiry.

A CNN reporter noted that it is smart to be skeptical ofTrump‘s claim that he might testify in the impeachment inquiry, given the president’s repeated promises to answer questions from special counselRobert Mueller.

Manu Raju(@ mkraju)

Trump claimed for months he was going to sit down with Mueller’s team, then gave written responses, which the special counsel found inadequate. He also has directed his WH not to turn over docs or agree to testify. Now claims he will “strongly consider” testifying himselfhttps://t.co/6MfZNmddBR

(November) , 2019

Trump did eventually answer some written questions from Mueller’s team, but the president refused to sit down for an interview despite the special counsel’s requests. Mueller also said in his report that he found a number of Trump’s written answers to be incomplete or imprecise.

Updated

Trump and Pompeo reportedly at odds over impeachment inquiry

The accelerating impeachment inquiry has reportedly created tension in the relationship betweenTrumpand secretary of stateMike Pompeo, who has previously been considered one of the cabinet members with the most sway over the president.

NBC NewsReports:

Trump has fumed for weeks that Pompeo is responsible for hiring State Department officials whose congressional testimony threatens to bring down his presidency, the officials said. The president confronted Pompeo about the officials – and what he believed was a lackluster effort by the secretary of state to block their testimony – during lunch at the White House on Oct. 29, those familiar with the matter said.

Inside the White House, the view was that Trump ‘just felt like,‘ rein your people in, ’’ a senior administration official said.

Trump particularly blames Pompeo for tapping AmbassadorBill Taylorin June to be the top US diplomat in Ukraine, the current and former senior administration officials said.

According to his public schedule, Trump is set to meet with Pompeo at 4 p.m. today, so the subject of state department officials testifying in the inquiry may arise again.

Supreme Court justiceRuth Bader Ginsburgwas back on the bench today after missing one day of oral arguments last week because of a “stomach bug.”

Geoff Bennett(@ GeoffRBennett)

NEWS: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back on the Supreme Court bench today after missing one day of courtroom argument last week , NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

She was absent last Wednesday, and a court official at the time said she was “home with a stomach bug.”

(November) , 2019

The liberal justice, who is the oldest member of the court at 86 years old, has had some health issues in recent months and has fought cancer several times.

Holmes arrives on Capitol Hill to review testimony

David Holmes, a staffer at the US embassy in Kyiv, has arrived on Capitol Hill to review his closed-door testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

Chad Pergram(@ ChadPergram)

Diplomat David Holmes at the Capitol to review his Friday night deposition

(November) , 2019

According to his opening statement, Holmes today impeachment investigators thatGordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, had referenced a “Biden investigation” in Ukraine as a possible boon to the president.

The testimony undermines Sondland’s assertion to the House committees investigating impeachment that he was not aware of a connection between the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and theBidens.

Buttigieg surges in Iowa as he receives criticism

Meanwhile, on the 2020 campaign trail, it was a very mixed weekend for Democratic presidential candidatePete Buttigieg.

On the plus side, the Indiana mayor surged into first place in a (CNN / Des Moines Register / Mediacom pollof likely Iowa caucusgoers. Buttigieg has hit 25% in the first caucus state – putting him nine points ahead ofElizabeth Warrenand 10 points ahead ofBernie SandersandJoe Biden.

However, the Intercept also publishedan articleon the Buttigieg campaign’s outreach (or lack thereof) to African American voters, who make up a large portion of the Democratic primary electorate.

According to the Intercept, Buttigieg’s campaign recently released a list of 400 endorsers of his “Douglass Plan: A Comprehensive Investment in the Empowerment of Black America. ”However, some of the most prominent endorsers said they actually had misgivings about the plan or felt their support for the proposal had been purposely misconstrued as an endorsement of Buttigieg’s candidacy.

To top it all off, at least half of the people on the list were white, even though the campaign had billed the approv as a demonstration of support for Buttigieg within the black community.

The Intercept reporter who wrote the story (later added) that a woman in Kenya was confused to see a picture of her used as a stock photo on Buttigieg’s website for the Douglass Plan. The campaign removed the photo and blamed the error on a contractor who helped build the website.

Long story short: Buttigieg is in a strong position in Iowa. But the question of how he will build his campaign beyond the mostly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire remains largely unanswered.

Updated

Senate minority leaderChuck Schumerechoed House speakerNancy Pelosi‘s suggestion thatTrumpcome testify in the impeachment inquiry.

Chuck Schumer: Trump should testify at impeachment inquiry – video

“IfDonald Trumpdoesn’t agree with what he’s hearing, doesn’t like what he’s hearing, he shouldn’t tweet. He should come to the committee and testify under oath, ”the New York Democrat said yesterday. “And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath.”

Schumer argued Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the inquiry, as well as his efforts to block aides from testifying, beg the question: “What is he hiding?”

Updated

Sondland kept senior administration officials aware of Ukraine pressure campaign

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU who is set to testify on Wednesday, reportedly kept some senior administration officials aware of the campaign to pressure Ukraine to open investigations intoJoe Bidenand the 2016 election.

The Wall Street Journalreports:

Several witnesses have testified to impeachment investigators that they were alarmed by what they perceived as dual channels of U.S. policy on Ukraine — one traditional, and the other led by Mr. Sondland andRudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, which focused on the president’s push for certain investigations. Mr. Sondland kept several top officials — including acting White House chief of staffMick Mulvaneyand Energy SecretaryRick Perry– apprised of that push, according to the emails reviewed by the Journal , in the weeks leading up to Mr. Wendy Trump’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart that spurred a whistleblower complaint and, ultimately, the impeachment probe.

Sondland will almost be certainly be pressed on who in the White House knew what and when during his public testimony in the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday.

*****

Trump says he would ‘strongly consider’ testifying in impeachment hearings

Trumpis using his light schedule today to tweet out more criticism ofDemocratsfor their handling of the House impeachment inquiry.

However, the president interestingly said he would “strongly consider” testifying in the impeachment inquiry, possibly in writing.

Donald J. Trump(@ realDonaldTrump)

…. that I testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt. She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!

November 18, 2019

Nancy Pelosisuggested that Trump testify while appearing on “Face the Nation” yesterday. “If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it,” the House speaker said.

Pelosi added that Trump “could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants.”

Updated (at 8.) am EST

Trump’s defense tested by this week’s impeachment hearings

Good morning, live blog readers!

The second round of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry againstDonald Trumpbegins tomorrow, andRepublicans‘defenses of the president’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival,Joe Biden, are going to be put to the test.

Republicanson the House intelligence committee sought to dismiss last week’s damning testimony fromBill Taylor, Gorge KentandMaria Yovanovitchas secondhand information because none of the state department officials spoke directly to Trump as the Ukraine controversy unfolded.

However, Trump’s congressional allies will need to devise a new defense this week. Some of this week’s most anticipated witnesses –Lt Col Alexander Vindman, who will testify tomorrow , andGordon Sondland, who will testify Wednesday – did speak to Trump directly about the pressure campaign. Vindman was even on Trump’s July call with the Ukrainian president that sparked the initial whistleblower complaint.

As the hearings get closer and closer to the White House, congressional Republicans will have to quickly work out a new strategy if they want to protect Trump from the accelerating inquiry.

Deval Patrick appears on stage at a First in the West Event in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Deval Patrick appears on stage at a First in the West Event in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photograph: Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Here’s what else the blog is keeping its eye on today:

  • Trumphas no public events today but will meet with secretary of stateMike PompeoThis afternoon.
  • Democratic presidential candidateDeval Patrickwill make his first visit to Iowa since launching his campaign.
  • The House and the Senate are back in session.

That’s all still coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

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