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Debunker of a Trump conspiracy theory is a veteran of his bunker

Rudy Giuliani, a personal attorney for President Donald

Rudy Giuliani, a personal attorney for President Donald Trump, in 2018. Credit: AP / Andrew Harnik

'A bad day'

President Donald Trump would have a tough time lumping in Tom Bossert with the "Democrat savages" who are out to get him.

Bossert served two Republican administrations, including more than 14 months as Trump's homeland security adviser in the White House. Bossert won't fall in line with the nothing-to-see-here defenders of Trump's call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky seeking an investigation of Joe Biden.

"I'm deeply disturbed" by the whistleblower complaint that brought the call to light, Bossert said on ABC's "This Week." He called it "a bad day and a bad week for this president and for this country if he is asking for political dirt on an opponent." (Here's Bossert on video.)

Bossert added that the connection with Trump's two-month freeze on military aid to Ukraine was "far from proven." But Bossert voiced exasperation with another conspiracy theory pushed by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani that suggests it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked into a Democratic computer server in 2016. Trump asked Zelensky to investigate CrowdStrike, U.S. cybersecurity firm that figures in the theory.

Bossert said of Giuliani: "I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again.” Bossert, whose White House responsibilities included cybersecurity, stood by the U.S. government's conclusion blaming Russia for the hack.

Later in the program, Giuliani told ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "Tom Bossert doesn't know what he's talking about" and denied peddling that particular theory, despite reports suggesting otherwise and his own allusions to it on Twitter. "But that doesn't mean Ukraine didn't do anything," Giuliani added.

Said Bossert: "I honestly believe this president has not gotten his pound of flesh yet from past grievances on the 2016 [Russia] investigation … If he continues to focus on that white whale, it's going to bring him down."

Trump: Bring me the whistleblower

Trump on Sunday night tweeted a demand to meet the whistleblower and those who gave that person information.

"Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser, especially when this accuser, the so-called 'Whistleblower,' represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way."

He also said he wanted House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff "questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason."

Trump last week said the whistleblower and the complaint's sources were "almost" and "close to" spies. He waxed nostalgically about the days when spies were executed.

"Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!" Trump's Sunday tweets said of the whistleblower's sources.

Hear the whistle coming

The U.S. intelligence whistleblower whose complaint spurred an impeachment inquiry has reached an agreement to testify before the House Intelligence Committee “very soon,” Schiff said on Sunday.

An attorney for the whistleblower said logistics are being worked out with both House and Senate committees and "we understand [and] all agree that protecting whistleblower's identity is paramount."

Also due to appear this week is Kurt Volker, who just resigned as the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine. Volker was an intermediary between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials, and reportedly advised the Ukrainian leadership about how to “navigate” Trump's demands to Zelensky.

Schiff, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said there will be a closed hearing on Friday with the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general to review what steps he took to corroborate the complaint. Giuliani gave conflicting signals on whether he would testify if called. But Schiff indicated he might not seek Giuliani's appearance, at least in public, though he will subpoena documents. CNN reported Democratic concerns that an open hearing with Giuliani would become a circus.

Trump’s supporters, including Giuliani and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, made the Sunday talk show rounds to defend the president and try to turn the focus on Biden. Miller declared that Trump "is the whistleblower." For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler.

Threat of insurrection? Really?

One of Trump's latest distraught yelps on Twitter strays into particularly dangerous terrain.

He retweeted a warning from evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress of a "Civil War - like facture" if Democrats seriously pursue removing him from office. At least one legal expert sees communicating this presidential warning against a Constitutional exercise of power by Congress as not merely disloyal but a whole new reason for impeachment.

Janison: Central casting for a farce

Before he became Ukraine's president — and not a small reason why the voters elected him — Zelensky made his living as an actor, comedian, screenwriter, television producer, film producer and director. He starred in a satirical series as a history teacher whose online video rant against government corruption went viral and won him election as fictional president of Ukraine.

Zelensky's new role is providing a gold mine of material, even if it put him in an embarrassing position, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. His kissing up to Trump in the July 25 phone call was over the top in obsequiousness. If not rooted in sincerity, the performance could be worthy of an Emmy. (An award Trump complains he unfairly never won.)

Biden camp: Bar Rudy from TV

The Daily Beast reports Biden's campaign made an extraordinary request to executives of major network news and cable news organizations Sunday: Stop booking Giuliani on their programs.

"While you often fact check his statements in real time during your discussions, that is no longer enough," states the letter from top Biden aides Anita Dunn and Kate Bedingfield. "By giving him your airtime, you are allowing him to introduce increasingly unhinged, unfounded and desperate lies into the national conversation.”

Giuliani texted the Beast in response: "Sounds like the usual left wing censorship."

Giuliani's often-agitated, paper-waving, conspiracy theory-spouting TV appearances have discomforted some Republicans — "He's wild as a March hare," Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said last week — but the former mayor made it through two Sunday shows without calling anyone a "moron" or an "idiot."

Polls: Americans want the inquiry

A CBS News poll found a 55%-to-45% majority of Americans approve of the House opening an impeachment inquiry. Just 28% think Trump's actions on Ukraine were proper. A larger 31% think they were not proper but still legal, and 41% call them illegal.

Does Trump deserve impeachment? Saying yes were 42%, while 36% say no and 22% think it's too soon to say.

In an ABC News poll, 64% judged Trump's actions as very serious or somewhat serious, while 35% said not serious or not serious at all.

Back to 'her emails'

The Trump administration is investigating the email records of dozens of current and former senior State Department officials who sent messages to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email address, The Washington Post reported. Officials were told the emails sent years ago — Clinton left in 2013 — have been retroactively labeled as classified.

State Department officials vigorously denied there was any political motivation behind their actions. But several of those who have been questioned told the Post that the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security investigators made it clear that they were pursuing the matter reluctantly, and under external pressure.

The targets include former career bureaucrats who served as conduits for outside officials trying to get important messages to Clinton. The Post said they don't appear to be in jeopardy of criminal prosecution, but many fear the results of the probe will damage their reputations and their ability to maintain security clearances.

What else is happening:

  • Strong reactions against and for the impeachment inquiry have been fundraising opportunities for both Trump and some Democrats, including Biden, Newsday's Emily Ngo reports.
  • Trump's unsubstantiated attacks on Biden follows his pattern of attacking enemies by planting seeds by suspicion and doubt without proving a case, Axios writes. Past examples include the birther smear of Barack Obama, allegations of massive voter fraud in 2016 and accusations that Obama tapped his phones.
  • Giuliani was to have made a paid appearance at a Kremlin-backed conference in Armenia this week but canceled after The Washington Post reported it and noted that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin was due to attend. “I didn’t know Putin was going,” Giuliani said. He was slated for a panel led by a Putin adviser who has been under U.S. sanctions since Russia's Ukraine invasion.
  • Trump sent 23 tweets and retweets in 23 minutes Sunday morning attacking Fox reporter Ed Henry for asking right-wing commentator Mark Levin on "Fox & Friends" if he thought the president had broken the law.
  • Democratic National Committee operatives are soliciting K Street lobbyists for funds to help pay for the party's 2020 convention in Milwaukee, Politico writes. That could prove awkward if the nominee is Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, who both denounce corporate cash in politics.

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