Dems: A Trump-first policy
“Evidence of the president’s misconduct is overwhelming,” says the 300-page report from the House Intelligence Committee. Donald Trump “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States,” an abuse of power that calls for the "remedy" of "impeachment," it said.
And so the intelligence panel voted 13-9, along party lines, to approve the report and send it to the Judiciary Committee, which begins public hearings Wednesday with testimony from four constitutional scholars on when that remedy is appropriate.
The report (read it here) described Trump and his allies trying to squeeze Ukraine to announce investigations of Joe Biden and other Democrats while withholding nearly $400 million in military assistance and a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president.
Trump "solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection,” Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff wrote. In doing so, the president “sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security," the report said.
Trump, at a NATO meeting in London Tuesday, denounced the proceedings as an “unfair witch hunt” and called Schiff "deranged," "sick" and a "maniac."
Based on two months of investigation sparked by a still-anonymous government whistleblower’s complaint, the report relies heavily on testimony from current and former U.S. officials who defied White House orders not to appear. The report indicates possible articles of impeachment that the Judiciary Committee could consider include abuse of power, obstruction of Congress and compromising national security, The Washington Post writes.
Some on the Democratic left are pushing the party to go further and incorporate the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in 2016. For more, see Newsday's story by Tom Brune.
Rudy is calling
Rudy Giuliani's butt-dialing habits can't explain all the calls by him that show up in logs obtained by House impeachment inquiry investigators from Verizon and AT&T and listed in the committee report.
“The phone records show that there was considerable coordination among the parties, including the White House,” Schiff said.
The records show that Giuliani made several calls to the White House on April 24, the same day that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was summoned to Washington and told that she had lost Trump’s confidence, The Washington Post reported. He also received a call from a White House number and spent more than eight minutes on the line with “-1.” Schiff said "-1" could be Trump.
The report also includes records of frequent contacts last April between ranking Intelligence Committee Republican Devin Nunes, who has moonlighted as a conspiracy-theory sleuth for Trump, and Lev Parnas, the Giuliani associate in Ukraine schemes who since has been indicted and has offered cooperation to the Democratic-led House committees. Nunes also had calls with Giuliani.
Janison: His Barr-dy guard
Newsday's Dan Janison writes that while trying to keep Trump happy, Attorney General William Barr has been following his own ideological compass. Barr seems driven to serve the agenda of the political right and the principle of unitary executive power famously advocated by former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Like Trump, Barr laments that conservatives are under siege. But when it comes to the details of Trump's theories regarding double-agent moles and stolen computer servers, Barr seems bent on treading carefully, maybe humoring his boss more than echoing him.
Trump appears to be buying it. Though advance word is that the pending Justice Department inspector general's report won't support Trump's claims of a "witch hunt" by the "deep state," Trump has high hopes for a separate upcoming report on the Russia investigation's origins from Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, who Barr tasked for the job.
“I do think the big report to wait for is going to be the Durham report. That's the one that people are really waiting for,” Trump said Tuesday, without specifying which people.
Scene from The French Correction
Remember Trump's once-bromantic relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron? C'est fini. The U.S. and French presidents got in each other's faces at the NATO summit in London.
Trump on Tuesday slammed as “very, very nasty” and “very disrespectful” recent comments by Macron that NATO was suffering "brain death" because of Trump's failures to consult allies before moves such as the sudden U.S. pullout from northeastern Syria. When they appeared together, Macron played fact-checker.
“Would you like some nice ISIS fighters?” Trump said, claiming that “many” fighters had come from France. “I can give them to you.” Macron brushed him back. “Let’s be serious,” he said. “The very large numbers of fighters on the ground are the fighters coming from Syria, from Iraq,” while those from Europe are a "tiny minority." (U.S. officials agree with the latter.)
Macron also criticized Trump’s relationship with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and his mild reaction to Turkey's planned purchase of an anti-aircraft missile system from Russia. Macron said there is a disconnect in allowing Turkey to buy the system from Russia and also permitting it to be a NATO member.
Trump asserted he and Macron agreed on trying to get along with Russia, but Macron later said leaders "must do so without naiveté."
Kamala Harris flames out
California's Sen. Kamala Harris entered the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination as a top-tier candidate. More than 20,000 people attended her campaign launch rally in Oakland last January. She was second in endorsements from members of Congress, trailing only Biden.
On Tuesday, she called it quits, lagging in polls and running out of money. The longer she campaigned, the less sure-footed she became in presenting a coherent message on policy. Harris zinged Biden in the first debate as having a blemished record on racial justice, yet recent polls showed that Biden is backed by 49% of black voters to Harris' 6%.
As her candidacy teetered, her staff was riven by infighting.
Harris qualified for December's Democratic debate, but with her departure, the six candidates who have clinched a spot are all white. Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang and Julián Castro are among those yet to secure a place on the stage. Watch Harris' exit video.
Endless trade war
Trump said on Tuesday a trade deal with China might have to wait until after the U.S. presidential election in November 2020.
The Trump administration has seesawed between optimism and pessimism during the protracted negotiations, sending stocks up and down accordingly. Trump's latest statement dented hopes that the two largest economies would soon reach an initial deal to ease their damaging trade war.
Reuters reported that sources in Beijing and Washington familiar with the talks said the two countries have made progress. But wrangling continues over whether existing U.S. tariffs will be removed and over specific levels of Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural products as part of a "phase one" trade deal.
What else is happening:
- Trump's tweet on the end of Harris' campaign was on the mild side: "Too bad. We will miss you Kamala!" She responded: "Don’t worry, Mr. President. I’ll see you at your trial."
- A Republican anti-impeachment argument is that there was no quid pro quo if Ukraine didn't know in July that the U.S. froze military aid. But former Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal told The New York Times in an interview that her government knew. That account has been backed in impeachment inquiry testimony by Laura Cooper, a deputy U.S. assistant secretary of defense.
- In Senate testimony, the State Department’s No. 3 official, David Hale, on Tuesday flatly rejected a conspiracy theory pushed by Trump, Giuliani and some Capitol Hill allies that it was Ukraine who systematically interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia. Also not buying it: Trump pal Sen. Lindsey Graham. "It was the Russians. I'm 1,000% confident that the hack of the DNC was by Russian operatives, no one else," Graham said.
- Trump said at the NATO summit that his rally crowds back his approach to Russia. "I think it’s a good thing to get along with Russia. ... I'd go into big stadiums, people like it,” he said.
- The list of people Trump once knew but now says he didn't after they got into trouble has expanded to include Britain's Prince Andrew. The royal family has been rocked by allegations that Andrew had sex with a 17-year-old girl procured by Jeffrey Epstein. There are photos of Trump with Andrew on several occasions, including a 2000 event at a Mar-a-Lago. They also had a breakfast meeting in June during a Trump London visit.
- The former No. 2 diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in London tells GQ he was fired last year after mentioning Barack Obama while giving speeches at a pair of English universities. Lewis Lukens said Ambassador Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, had questioned the patriotism of embassy employees he felt were insufficiently loyal to Trump.
- A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Deutsche Bank and Capital One must hand over years of Trump’s financial records in compliance with House Democrats’ subpoenas. The case is likely headed for the Supreme Court, along with other fights over Trump's records.