Rage, threats and fables
Donald Trump lashed out Wednesday like a man consumed with anger — and, in Nancy Pelosi's view, fear — as Democrats pushed full speed ahead with their impeachment inquiry.
"The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT," the president tweeted to his 65 million followers.
In appearances in the Oval Office and a joint news conference with the president of Finland, Trump defended what he has called his “perfect” phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Trump flew into a rage and refused to answer when a reporter asked him just what exactly he wanted Zelenskiy to do regarding Joe Biden and his son.
"Don't be rude. I've answered everything. It's a whole hoax. And you know who's playing into this hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country," Trump said. (Watch the video).
Asked if the White House would respond to House subpoenas, Trump said, "I always cooperate." In reality, the Trump administration has stonewalled on a flurry of subpoenas for House investigations. He charged that the "dishonest" whistleblower's complaint “was totally different than the fact.” The truth is that the whistleblower’s summation largely tracks with the rough transcript of the Zelenskiy call that the White House put out.
He told reporters he is considering suing “a lot of people” involved in the Russia investigation, but he didn't explain who or how. Unfulfilled threats of lawsuits have been a Trump standby against such foes as women who have accused him of sexual misconduct and former aides who wrote books about him.
Trump warned: Obstruct at your peril
House Speaker Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff on Wednesday warned Trump and his administration not to obstruct the impeachment inquiry that House Democrats have launched into his phone call with Ukraine’s president.
Undeterred by Trump's accusations that his impeachment probe amounts to "treason," Schiff said any effort by the president, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "or anyone else to interfere with the Congress' ability to call before it relevant witnesses will be considered as evidence of obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress."
“We’re not fooling around here,” he said.
Separately, the Democrats accused Trump of “an incitement to violence” against a national security whistleblower and a "blatant effort to intimidate witnesses."
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) posted a notice saying the committee will subpoena the White House on Friday for documents about his dealings with Ukraine after the administration's “flagrant disregard” for previous requests. For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.
On that topic, questions have even arisen about the completeness and accuracy of the so-called rough transcript.
Janison: Saving Trump from himself
Efforts by legitimate government professionals to shield Trump from the consequences of his own toxic impulses have been underway for nearly three years, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Sometimes it works. Aides like then-White House counsel Don McGahn stymied Trump's gambit to use a false conflict-of-interest claim to set up the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller. Some of the president's reported ideas for securing the southern border, such as shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down, didn't come to pass.
But the Ukraine scandal has brought out the most unfiltered Trump. Despite his rants, nobody with basic knowledge of the nation's founding principles seriously believes Congress cannot impeach a president.
Underlying the mess is that Trump as president may have reached out for Eastern European prosecutors for the same reason Trump as businessman hooked up with an Eastern Europe-oriented bank: Americans following protocol wouldn't give him what he wanted.
Pompeo: I heard it
Pompeo publicly acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he was on the phone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden.
“I was on the phone call,” Pompeo said. In a Sept. 22 interview with ABC News, Pompeo evaded questions about the call and what he knew about it.
Asked if the call raised any red flags in his mind, Pompeo did not respond. "The phone call was in the context of … what the American policy is with respect to Ukraine,” he said. “It’s been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to try to drive those set of outcomes.”
His participation raised new questions about whether Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani had State Department backing to press Ukraine to investigate Biden’s son Hunter for corruption.
Pence not in that loop?
Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Mike Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine.
Trump instructed Pence not to attend Zelenskiy's inauguration in May and enlisted his vice president to tell the Ukrainian that the U.S. was withholding military aid while it sought more aggressive action on corruption.
But The Washington Post reports that officials close to Pence insist he was unaware of Trump’s efforts to press Zelenskiy for damaging information about the Bidens.
Bernie on the mend
Bernie Sanders is off the trail "until further notice," his campaign said, after having two stents inserted during a heart procedure for a blocked artery.
The 78-year-old candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination was taken to a Las Vegas hospital after he experienced chest discomfort during a campaign event Tuesday.
The health issue comes as Sanders has been trying to turn a corner after a summer that saw him eclipsed as the premier liberal in the field by Elizabeth Warren, The Associated Press writes.
Trump's zombie hotel guests
House investigators are looking into an allegation that groups — including at least one foreign government — tried to ingratiate themselves to Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never staying in them, Politico reported.
It's an outgrowth of the House Oversight Committee's examination into whether Trump broke the law by accepting money from U.S. or foreign governments at his properties.
“We’re looking at near raw bribery,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a committee member. Another member, Rep. Ro Khanna, (D-Calif.), said, “If true, at minimum, this suggests there is a culture of corruption that the administration has created … There’s a sense that to curry favor, you have to engage in pay to play."
What else is happening:
- In a congratulatory phone call after Boris Johnson became Britain's prime minister, Trump personally sought his help in discrediting the Mueller investigation, according to a Times of London report.
- After tweeting a barnyard profanity in the morning, Trump turned demure while appearing with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. To insult Schiff for going after Pompeo, Trump said the California Democrat "couldn’t carry his [Pompeo's] ‘blank’ strap.” He meant jockstrap.
- Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who suffered relentless public ridicule from Trump, told a GOP audience in Alabama that he still supports the president for "honoring the promises he made." While his firing was "more public than most," Sessions took consolation that "in this country at least they don't shoot you."
- Giuliani said on Fox News Tuesday night that he wanted to sue House Democrats for investigating Trump. Host Laura Ingraham appeared skeptical, Politico reported.
- Giuliani has said variously that “I’m not acting as a lawyer” in his Ukraine pursuits and that he is acting as a lawyer for his client, the president. Now he has raised invoking attorney-client privilege to deflect questions. Asked by BuzzFeed if he has a lawyer-client agreement with Trump, Giuliani grew agitated, saying, "What right do you have to ask me that?"
- Giuliani has consulted several times with convicted and imprisoned former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for material to fling at the president's political targets, the Washington Post reported.
- Democratic long shot Andrew Yang raised $10 million in the third quarter of 2019, his campaign told CNN, almost four times as much as he collected in the second quarter.
- Trump's political advisers have tightened rules for choosing delegates to next year's Republican National Convention to all but ensure there are no dissenting speeches, The New York Times reported.