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THE BIG IDEA: If President Trump thought releasing the readout of his call with Ukraine’s president would break impeachment fever on Capitol Hill, he miscalculated.

The five-page summary released this morning intensified Democratic demands to see the entire whistleblower complaint. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), a member of Democratic leadership, said the president asking for Ukraine’s help to undermine his 2020 challenger is “a textbook abuse of power.” At a news conference, he said “the transcripts become exhibit A.” 

According to the rough transcript, Trump told Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Attorney General Bill Barr and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate the conduct of Joe Biden and offered to meet with the new president at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry. “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it,” Trump said, according to the transcript, after asking for "a favor." (Here are seven additional takeaways, via Aaron Blake.)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged fellow party leaders in a private meeting to keep the impeachment investigation narrowly focused on Trump and his dealings with his Ukrainian counterpart, per Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade.

Several Senate Republicans were stunned and questioned the White House’s judgment after it released the rough transcript, Robert Costa reports. “It remains troubling in the extreme. It’s deeply troubling,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters after reading the transcript.

-- “Senior Justice Department officials said the director of national intelligence referred the concerns about the call to the Justice Department, after the intelligence community inspector general found that it was a possible violation of campaign finance laws that ban people from soliciting contributions from foreign sources. The inspector general later also referred the matter to the FBI,” Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig report. “Career prosecutors and officials in the Justice Department’s criminal division then reviewed the transcript of the call, which they obtained voluntarily from the White House, and determined the facts ‘could not make out and cannot make out’ the appropriate basis for an investigation, a senior Justice Department official said. As part of their reasoning, Justice Department lawyers determined that help with a government investigation could not be considered ‘a thing of value’ under the law.”

-- What was released by the White House is a five-page summary of a 30-minute conversation. That means some of what was covered is likely not even in the memo. The document includes a disclaimer on the first page that it is “not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.”

“The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty Officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place,” it says. “A number of factors can affect the accuracy of the record, including poor telecommunications connections and variations in accent and/or interpretation.”

-- Richard Nixon released a transcript, too. After the revelation that he recorded Oval Office meetings, the then-president refused to turn over the tapes, claiming executive privilege, and fought subpoenas in court. Eventually, trying to quell a political firestorm, he offered transcripts – which he personally edited – and insisted they exonerated him. “I want there to be no question remaining about the fact that the president has nothing to hide in this matter,” Nixon said in April 1974. Months later, when House investigators listened to some of the audio, it turned out there were significant discrepancies and key phrases missing. Ever since Nixon resigned, the White House has, perhaps understandably, generally avoided recording presidential phone calls. That tradition explains why there’s apparently no recording on the American side of Trump’s July conversation.

-- Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill made clear even before the summary came out that the summary will not be enough to deter them from moving ahead with the impeachment inquiry. They argue that Trump does not need to have explicitly linked U.S. financial assistance to a Biden investigation for the call to represent a clear-cut abuse of power. “There is no requirement there be a quid pro quo in the conversation,” Pelosi said during a live event for the Atlantic. “You don't ask foreign governments to help us in our election. … I don't think there's a grasp on the part of this administration that the quid pro quo is not essential to an impeachable offense.”

-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) says the whistleblower, whose identity remains unknown and is entitled to legal protections, wants to speak to members of his committee and has formally sought guidance from acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire about how he could do so. “We’re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week,” Schiff tweeted. Lawyers for the whistleblower confirmed this.

-- The Senate passed a resolution last night, by unanimous consent and with no Republican objections, calling for the Trump administration to turn over the whistleblower complaint to the intelligence committees, as is required by law. The House plans to vote later today on a resolution condemning the administration’s refusal to provide the complaint. Meanwhile, Trump is scheduled to sit down with the Ukrainian president later today at the U.N. General Assembly. Maguire, the acting DNI, is scheduled to testify in open session tomorrow before the House Intelligence Committee and then in closed session before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

-- Pelosi personally informed Trump of her decision to move forward with an impeachment inquiry in a Tuesday morning phone call. “The president, in New York for the U.N. meeting, telephoned the speaker to discuss gun legislation, Pelosi told lawmakers in private meetings,” per Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian. “The conversation, however, quickly turned to the president’s conversations with the Ukrainian leader. Trump insisted he had nothing to do with his administration’s refusal to share with Congress an intelligence community whistleblower complaint about his actions … Trump told Pelosi that he wasn’t the one blocking the complaint. … She responded that he had the power to fix it and challenged him to turn over the complaint.”

-- The New York Times reports that White House and intelligence officials are trying to hash out a plan to release a redacted version of the whistleblower report in a bid to quell calls for impeachment and sow Democratic divisions on the best path forward: “People familiar with the situation said the administration was putting the complaint through a declassification process and planned to release a redacted version within days,” Michael Schmidt, Julian Barnes and Maggie Haberman report. “The appearance that they were stonewalling Congress, in their view, could prove more damaging than the whistle-blower’s account. Mr. Trump also believes that the allegations about him are not nearly as damning as they have been portrayed and that disclosing them will undercut the impeachment drive, people close to the president said.”

-- A senior administration official told Politico that the White House is “preparing” to give Congress both the whistleblower complaint and the inspector general’s report by the end of this week. “The administration official stressed the decision and timing could change over the next few days,” Nancy Cook reports. “The format of presentation, or process of viewing the documents, wasn't decided. The president has agreed to the move, the official added.”

-- Even though the whistleblower complaint focused on the Trump call with Zelensky, officials familiar with its contents say that it includes references to other developments tied to the president, including efforts by Giuliani to insert himself into U.S.-Ukrainian relations. “Rudy — he did all of this,” one U.S. official said. “This s---show that we’re in — it’s him injecting himself into the process.” That anonymous quote comes from a story that posted last night by Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey, Paul Sonne and Ellen Nakashima.

Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists … to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev,” they report. “The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports.

Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain. As those worries intensified, some senior officials worked behind the scenes to hold off a Trump meeting or call with [Zelensky] out of concern that Trump would use the conversation to press Kiev for damaging information on Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 race …

U.S. officials described an atmosphere of intense pressure inside the NSC and other departments since the existence of the whistleblower complaint became known, with some officials facing suspicion that they had a hand either in the complaint or in relaying damaging information to the whistleblower … One official — speaking, like others, on the condition of anonymity — described the climate as verging on ‘bloodletting.’ … Trump has fanned this dynamic with his own denunciations of the whistleblower and thinly veiled suggestions that the person should be outed. … Trump’s closest advisers, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who was ordered by Trump to suspend the aid to Ukraine, are also increasingly targets of internal finger-pointing. Mulvaney has agitated for foreign aid to be cut universally but has also stayed away from meetings with Giuliani and Trump …

Then-national security adviser John Bolton was outraged by the outsourcing of a relationship with a country struggling to survive Russian aggression … But by then his standing with Trump was strained, and neither he nor his senior aides could get straight answers about Giuliani’s agenda or authority … Giuliani told The Post that one of his calls with a top Ukrainian aide was partially arranged by Kurt Volker, a State Department official, and that he briefed the department afterward. ‘We had the same visibility as anybody else — watching Giuliani on television,’ a former senior official said. Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev were similarly deprived of information, even as they faced questions from Ukrainians about whether Giuliani was a designated representative.”

-- Giuliani had an outburst on Fox News last night when a fellow panelist was talking over him. “Shut up, moron,” Giuliani shouted on “The Ingraham Angle,” yelling at liberal radio host Christopher Hahn. “Shut up. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” (Allyson Chiu)


-- Pelosi’s declaration left unsettled key questions about how that investigation will unfold. Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade explore some of them: “How sweeping will the probe be? How long will it last? Who will conduct it? And will Pelosi’s unilateral pronouncement — which was delivered with no immediate plans to ratify it with a House vote — do anything to change the course of existing investigations that have hit a stone wall of White House resistance? … The lack of detail about the road ahead, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides, reflected both the speed with which once-wavering Democrats unified behind a formal impeachment probe — and the continuing divisions among them on how it should be conducted. …

[T]he House Judiciary Committee will continue playing the lead role in the proceedings, despite the desire of some Democrats to involve a broader swath of lawmakers and to at least partly sideline Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the panel’s fervently pro-impeachment chairman. In the days leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, Pelosi explored potentially establishing a special ‘select’ committee, with members handpicked by House leaders, but backed away from that idea after the dispute generated protests from liberals and threatened to divide the caucus along ideological lines. … The past two presidential impeachment processes, involving [Nixon] and Bill Clinton, included votes of the full House authorizing the Judiciary Committee to formally investigate. There are no plans for such a vote now …  That is a question likely to be litigated in the courts. …

Meanwhile, an even more fundamental dispute lingered — one that may not be resolved any time soon. Many Democrats are urging that the inquiry focus solely on the present outcry … and not on other alleged abuses, such as the potential obstruction of justice detailed by [Mueller], episodes of congressional stonewalling and instances of bigotry. More than 30 Democratic lawmakers announced support for impeachment just this week, many of them Democratic ‘frontliners’ in vulnerable districts who said that the Ukraine allegations prompted them to speak out. … ‘This should be a very distinct procedure relative to this allegation, rather than the whole basket,’ said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), a freshman who backed impeachment proceedings Monday after months of resisting pressure to take that step.

But Pelosi’s involvement of other committees besides the Judiciary, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence panels with direct jurisdiction over the Ukraine matter suggest the impeachment brief could go much wider. The Financial Services Committee, for instance, is probing Trump’s real estate dealings; the Ways and Means Committee is seeking Trump’s tax returns; and the Oversight and Reform Committee is investigating whether Trump is using the presidency for self-enrichment. ‘I see the most recent issue as one issue among many issues,’ said Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), who has pushed for Trump’s impeachment for two years, forcing multiple unsuccessful votes on removing Trump over alleged instances of bigotry.”

-- Our latest whip count: 198 House Democrats now publicly support opening an impeachment inquiry. That includes 22 of the 24 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee. Fifty-seven Democrats endorsed proceedings in a period of 24 hours:


-- House Democrats have crossed the Rubicon, and nobody really knows where it will lead. “I can’t tell you what will come from this. I don’t think anybody can,” said Dan Sena, who was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. “But it is definitely going to be an X-factor going into the 2020 election.” Michael Scherer talked to several other political professionals:

  • Democratic strategists hope the fact pattern behind Trump’s communications with Ukraine is far more direct and damning than the complex stories of potential obstruction contained in Bob Mueller's report: “This is a more supportable narrative about his conduct,” said pollster Geoff Garin. “Trump has already admitted to most of the egregious behavior. He is out of the business of claiming nothing happened."
  • GOP strategists hope impeachment would gin up their voters in 2020: “There is nothing that will do more for Republican turnout than this. And the last couple of presidential elections have all been turnout elections,” said Jim McLaughlin, a pollster working on the Trump reelection effort.

-- A Quinnipiac poll that was in the field from this past Thursday through Monday found that 57 percent of voters believe Trump should not be impeached. John Wagner reports: “Among Democrats, 73 percent support impeachment, while 21 percent are opposed. Among Republicans, only 4 percent support impeachment, while 95 percent are opposed. Trump’s overall job approval rating remains in the range it has for nearly his entire presidency, with 40 percent of voters approving of how he is handling his job, and 55 percent saying they disapprove.”

-- This explains why many moderate Democrats still remain cautious. For example, Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) – who picked up a Republican seat in the Kansas City suburbs last year – expressed support for Pelosi’s pronouncement last night but carefully avoided using the word “impeachment” in her statement. (K.C. Star)

-- Biden is mostly alone in the Democratic presidential field in not calling for the House to begin an immediate impeachment inquiry. Speaking in Delaware, the former vice president called on Congress to begin proceedings if the White House continues stalling lawmakers' investigations. "Biden, who spoke for several minutes and left without taking questions, said that if Trump doesn’t comply with Congress, it will be forced to begin impeachment hearings," Matt Viser, Colby Itkowitz and Cleve Wootson Jr. report:

  • Bernie Sanders would not say whether he would vote to convict Trump if articles of impeachment come before the Senate, saying he wants to review evidence before making a decision. He also reserved judgment about whether Hunter Biden’s conduct is fair game. "I don’t know enough at this point to make any definitive statement," he said in Iowa.
  • Elizabeth Warren said proceedings must begin now.
  • Pete Buttigieg, who has been more cautious on the question, said Trump “has made it clear he deserves to be impeached.”
  • Beto O’Rourke called on his former House colleagues to “finish the job and impeach him.”
  • Hillary Clinton also changed her mind, saying she’s now in favor of moving toward impeachment of a president she described as a “corrupt human tornado.” “I did not come to that decision easily or quickly,” she said, “but this is an emergency as I see it.”

-- The impeachment debate will effectively freeze the 2020 campaign, predicts ABC News political director Rick Klein: “It would all play out against an inconvenient political timeline, with hearings in the House and a potential trial in the Senate almost certainly extending well into the winter. That's the precise time that campaigning is most intense, with primary voting beginning in February. For the six senators and two sitting House members running for president, that could make for far more time spent at the day job in Washington than anticipated. Long-developed plans for policy rollouts and potential breakout moments could wind up subsumed by the news."

-- The Trump reelection campaign immediately tried to turn the impeachment inquiry into a fundraising opportunity. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: “Emails, texts, tweets and a video directed his supporters to a new Republican portal designed to capi­tal­ize on Trump’s army of online donors. ‘The Democrats thrive on silencing and intimidating his supporters, like YOU, Friend. They want to take YOUR VOTE away,’ read an email to supporters Tuesday afternoon. ‘President Trump wants to know who stood with him when it mattered most.’ … The appeals on Tuesday called on his supporters to join an ‘Official Impeachment Defense Task Force’ made up of ‘only President Trump’s most LOYAL supporters,’ with suggested donations ranging from $5 to the maximum $2,800, or $45 to show support for the 45th president.”

-- In public, Trumpworld is making the impeachment inquiry look like white noise. But in private, White House aides and allies are starting to feel anxious. Politico reports: “Few in the White House or the wider Trump orbit have privately defended Trump’s call … ‘The president’s strategy on these matters has always been pretty clear: Never back up and go forward. He learned that from Page Six,’ said Newt Gingrich, an informal adviser to Trump who served as House speaker during Republicans’ impeachment inquiry of President Bill Clinton. … The White House is betting Trump can ride out this ‘outrage du jour,’ as one senior administration official called it, and move on just as he has skated through the … dozens of other threats to his presidency. … But current and former administration aides believe Trump will view the latest impeachment inquiry as a major blow to his ego — and the proceedings will likely distract him, cloud all his meetings and halt any agenda for this fall, including the passage of a major trade bill heading into an election year.

-- The world is reacting warily to the specter of impeachment. Rick Noack and David Crawshaw report: Some experts said it “would have little effect on hot-button issues such as the trade dispute with China or his promises on Brexit, while others predicted that increased domestic pressure would force Trump to seek a quick foreign-policy breakthrough… The developments weighed on financial markets, already hit by concerns about global economic weakness and the impact of the U.S.-China trade dispute. Stocks were lower across Asia and Europe, but the dollar recovered earlier losses.”


-- “I’m a Republican. Let’s force the question of impeachment with the GOP,” writes veteran GOP strategist Mike Murphy: “In the wake of the president’s actions on Ukraine, the Republican Party and the officials who lead it must be brutally marked to market on the issue of Trump’s fitness for office. This test would create an existential question for every Republican senator and representative: Why am I here? To serve my future or my country?”

-- “This isn’t just another spat. Trump compromised our security for his gain,” writes columnist David Ignatius: “Not for the first time, Trump was putting himself above his country. … Trump’s interruption of the delivery of essential military equipment was especially troubling for members of Congress who have served overseas with the U.S. military or intelligence agencies and know how precious our promises are.”

-- “If we legitimize Trump’s behavior, it will be open season on our politics,” writes columnist Robert Kagan: “Consider what it will mean if we decide that what Trump and Giuliani have already acknowledged doing in Ukraine becomes an acceptable practice for all future presidents … Every government in the world wishing to influence U.S. foreign policy will have an incentive to come to a sitting president with information on his or her potential political opponents.”  

-- “Republicans (who decided perjury about sex was impeachment-worthy, and who thought it an abuse of power to defer deportations of certain illegal immigrants) must now decide whether to accept Trump’s standard as proper for future presidents,” writes columnist Dana Milbank.

-- Conservative columnist Max Boot identifies seven reasons why he thinks Trump should be impeached:

  • He obstructed the administration of justice.
  • He failed to defend America from foreign election interference.
  • He attempted to investigate and prosecute his political opponents.
  • He failed to produce papers and testimony as duly directed by Congress.
  • He conspired with Michael Cohen to conceal alleged extramarital relationships.
  • He misused his emergency powers to spend funds on a border wall.
  • He retains ownership of a global business empire, which allows him to benefit from dealings with foreign and state governments.

-- But Biden sill could wind up being the principal casualty, Pat Buchanan writes, hopefully, in the New Hampshire Union Leader: “Calls are rising for Biden’s son to be called to testify before congressional committees. ... The charges and the countercharges will become what the campaign is all about."

-- Democrats are upholding a double standard on Ukraine, chimes in conservative columnist Marc Thiessen.

-- Impeaching Trump could hurt the institution of the presidency, worries John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration: “If Congress could regulate presidential discussions with foreign leaders, presidents and foreign leaders would speak less candidly or stop making the calls altogether. United States foreign policy — approved by the American people at each election — would be crippled.”

-- We should talk about how Ukrainians feel about this, says Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the New Europe Center, in the Times: “Ukraine remains in a precarious position. Crimea is still under Russian control, and the war in the east continues; the fight against corruption at home is also not yet won. In all of these matters, Ukraine is reliant on bipartisan American support, which is why our leadership is desperate to avoid becoming part of the American presidential campaign. Ukraine is now facing the prospect of becoming a double victim: on the one hand, a victim of [Vladimir] Putin’s aggression; on the other, a victim of Mr. Trump’s desire to be re-elected at any price.”

-- The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board calls this the Impeachment Congress: “Mr. Trump’s invitation to Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden, if that’s what it was, showed bad judgment in our view … But bad judgment is not a crime, and voters may demand more to annul an election only months before they have a chance to render their own judgment about Mr. Trump’s behavior."

-- Pelosi’s patience on impeachment has paid off, so far, CNN’s Michael Warren writes: “Democrats have now created the appearance that impeachment of Trump is a last resort, not a first resort. She divorced the process from the mess of the Mueller findings. And she allowed those moderate freshmen who built her majority, rather than the divisive members on the left, to lead on the issue.”

 -- “Pelosi has to hope for the worst case for Trump," writes National Review executive editor Rich Lowry, "because it’s going to be difficult to climb down from impeachment now."

-- Fox News chief political analyst Brit Hume believes Pelosi has handled this cleverly: “It strikes me that the Speaker and the other leaders are under pressure from the left wing of the party and the leftists in their caucus -- who are numerous -- to move ahead here … I think [she’s] thinking that she needs to be responsive to the needs of her caucus -- look at what she did today, it was really quite clever if you think about it.”

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-- A judge overturned a jury's verdict convicting Michael Flynn’s former business partner of illegally lobbying for Turkey, saying the evidence against him was “insufficient.” Rachel Weiner reports: “'The verdict was against the heavy weight of the evidence,’ Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia wrote in a 39-page opinion tossing Bijan Rafiekian’s convictions. The decision is another blow to efforts by the Justice Department to crack down on unregistered lobbying for foreign governments. … Trenga pointed to the fact that Flynn was not charged or implicated by prosecutors until the eve of trial as ‘particularly telling.’”

-- Tony Podesta, a longtime Democratic power broker, and Vin Weber, a Republican former congressman, said they were notified on Monday that federal prosecutors in Manhattan had closed the inquiry into work they did that benefited Ukrainian interests. It’s another reflection of the challenges facing prosecutors attempting to more aggressively pursue possible violations of foreign lobbying rules, Tom Hamburger and Matt Zapotosky report: “The decision to drop the investigation came weeks after a federal jury in Washington found former White House counsel Gregory B. Craig not guilty of lying to the Justice Department about his media contacts related to his work for the Ukrainian government. …

"Weber and Podesta were among several lobbyists and lawyers that (Paul) Manafort helped bring aboard as part of an effort to improve the image of the Ukrainian government between 2012 and 2014, according to Mueller’s report. Mueller ultimately referred the case involving the two men to federal prosecutors in New York. ... As the investigation proceeded, Podesta closed his iconic lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, in the fall of 2017. Weber left Mercury, a firm he had helped lead since 2011, in August.”

-- A federal judge rejected former Trump confidant Roger Stone’s request to suppress all evidence gathered through 18 search warrants at his November trial. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Attorneys for Stone had argued that prosecutors illegally relied on unproven assumptions about Russia’s involvement and sought to force them to prove in court the role of Russian operatives in hacks on the Democratic National Committee and [Clinton’s] presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, among others. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone had ‘not come close’ to showing the government misled the magistrates or judges who approved the warrants, that federal agents knowingly or intentionally lied to them or that the warrants were premised on Russia’s role in the hacking.”


-- A new Trump administration proposal to limit the number of people who qualify for food stamps could end free school lunches for about 500,000 American children. Moriah Balingit reports: “The change, proposed over the summer, would cut an estimated 3 million people from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. It is intended to eliminate eligibility for people who get food stamps because they have qualified for other forms of government aid, even though they may have savings or other assets. But the impact of the cuts is anticipated to go further: Children in those households could also lose access to free school lunches, since food stamp eligibility is one way students can qualify for the lunches.”

-- NASA is trying to land on the moon, and its biggest obstacle might be Congress. Christian Davenport reports: NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, a Republican from Oklahoma, is seeking “votes in Congress for what could become one of the boldest human exploration endeavors NASA has undertaken in decades — the first return to the moon since the end of the Apollo era. … Bridenstine knows that before NASA builds the rockets, spacecraft and lunar landers needed for the mission, the agency must clear the political roadblocks that are every bit as daunting as the vacuum of space. While members of Congress love to say they support NASA — as they do lowering crime or boosting national security — getting them to increase the agency’s budget is another story. Traditionally, space does not equal votes in elections. And getting Democrats to support a project that, if successful, could be a legacy for the Trump administration is going to be a tough sell.”

-- The administration has granted few waivers to visitors blocked from entering the U.S. by the travel ban Trump imposed days after taking office, with officers arguing that people from five predominantly Muslim countries continue to pose a national security threat. Abigail Haulsohner reports: “Since the initial rollout, in early 2017, of what critics and federal judges have branded a ‘Muslim ban,’ the Trump administration has fielded approximately 72,000 visa applications from the citizens of Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria, a U.S. State Department official told members of Congress on Tuesday. Approximately 10 percent of those applicants — 7,679 — have received waivers to enter the United States, according to Edward Ramotowski, deputy assistant secretary for visa services at the department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, who testified during a House judiciary and foreign affairs subcommittee hearing.”

-- The chief executive of Juul Labs is stepping down amid outrage over the soaring use of teenage vaping. From the Times: “The executive, Kevin Burns, will be replaced by K.C. Croswaite, an executive from Altria, the major tobacco company that owns a 35 percent stake in Juul, the San-Francisco-based company. Juul also said it would end one of its campaigns, ‘Make the Switch,’ which the Food and Drug Administration had criticized as an effort to portray its e-cigarettes as safer than traditional cigarettes. The company also said it would not fight the Trump administration’s proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes.”

-- Massachusetts will place a four-month ban on all sales of vaping products, the toughest state crackdown on e-cigarettes so far. Hannah Knowles reports: “Bans on sales of flavored vaping products took effect this month in New York and Michigan, and the Trump administration said it plans to enact a similar regulation at the federal level. Flavored products have attracted particular scrutiny from policymakers who say they are getting children hooked on nicotine. But Massachusetts would go beyond a flavor ban to also temporarily eliminate tobacco and marijuana e-cigarettes from the market. Officials say the halt will allow time to properly investigate a crisis that’s expanded to 530 cases in 38 states as of last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

-- California health officials called on everyone to stop vaping immediately, per the Los Angeles Times: “‘We are seeing something that we have not seen before,’ said Dr. Charity Dean, California’s acting public health officer, in a statement. ‘There are numerous unknown factors at this time, and due to the uncertainty of the exact cause, it is our recommendation that consumers refrain from vaping until the investigation has concluded.’”

-- House Republicans are seriously considering relaxing term limits for committee chairmen. From Politico: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy floated the idea of changing the GOP’s long-standing rule that allows members to be the top Republican on a committee for only three terms, regardless of whether they serve in the majority or minority. One idea that was suggested, according to multiple Republican sources who attended the meeting, is allowing a lawmaker’s term as ranking member to not count the same as a chairmanship.”


-- A new United Nations climate report finds that massive change is already here for the world’s oceans and frozen regions. Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis report: “Wednesday’s report on the world’s oceans, glaciers, polar regions and ice sheets finds that such effects only foreshadow a more catastrophic future as long as greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked. Given current emissions levels, a number of serious impacts are essentially unavoidable, says the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Extreme floods that have historically struck some coastal cities and small island nations once every 100 years will become an annual occurrence by 2050, according to the IPCC. In addition, if emissions continue to increase, global sea levels could rise by more than three feet by the end of this century — around 12 percent higher than the group estimated as recently as 2013. Melting glaciers could harm water supplies, and warming oceans could wreck marine fisheries. … More than 100 scientists from around the world contributed to the latest report..."

-- A glacier on Mont Blanc could collapse. From the BBC: “About 250,000 cubic metres of ice are in danger of breaking away from the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses peak ... The mayor of the nearby town of Courmayeur said global warming was changing the mountain. … The glacier, in the Glarus Alps, has shrunk to a tiny fraction of its original size. Scientists say it has lost at least 80% of its volume just since 2006, a trend accelerated by rising global temperatures.”

-- The Trump administration declared there’s no “international right to abortion” during the U.N. General Assembly, calling on other countries to join a coalition pushing the elimination of what it calls “ambiguous” terms and expressions, such as sexual and reproductive health, from U.N. documents. Ariana Eunjung Cha reports: “Earlier this year, HHS officials began meeting with representatives from other countries, urging them to join a new international coalition that would focus on the value of the family, and which would not condone harmful sexual risks for young people, or promote abortion as a means of family planning.

“Other countries, civil society and women’s rights groups have expressed alarm at the efforts and accused the United States of aligning with countries like Saudi Arabia and Sudan with poor human rights records and, also, of putting unfair pressure on poor countries that depend on U.S. aid."

-- Trump condemned globalism during his address to the General Assembly. Anne Gearan and Seung Min Kim report: “Trump read his address in a somber monotone, rarely punctuating words or pausing for emphasis, but his message for the 74th session of the annual gathering of world leaders was clear as he argued that a view of the world as a global commons had ‘exerted a religious pull over past leaders’ at the expense of their own nations. … In his 37-minute address, Trump stressed that all nations must take care of themselves first while adding that the United States would get involved abroad only when its own interests were threatened. He also used his platform Tuesday to take a hard line against Iran..."

-- Trump also heaped praise on Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi during UNGA. At home, Sissi faces mass protests to step down from human rights activists. Siobhán O’Grady reports: “When asked Monday whether he was concerned about the anti-Sissi demonstrations, Trump shrugged the suggestion aside. ‘Demonstrations? No, everybody has demonstrations,’ he told reporters ... ‘Egypt has a great leader. He’s highly respected; he’s brought order. Before he was here, there was very little order. There was chaos. So I’m not worried about that.’ … Trump and Sissi’s meeting Monday came just days after viral videos from a former government contractor alleging Sissi was complicit in a large-scale corruption scandal provoked protests in Egypt. People took to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere Friday, chanting, ‘Rise up, fear not, Sissi must go.’ The protests were relatively small but significant because such concerted public displays against Sissi are rare.”

-- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said the Amazon isn’t on fire, rejecting calls for foreign intervention. Marina Lopes reports: “The Amazon isn’t in flames, he told [UNGA]  in New York, but brimming with riches. And Brazil will decide how to develop it. ‘We are open to explore our potential in a sustainable way, through partnerships that add value,’ Bolsonaro said. It was his first address on the world stage since the worst fires in a decade hit the Amazon this year. In a speech peppered with references to God, socialism and patriotism, he said foreign powers with an eye on Brazil’s natural riches ‘have an interest in keeping indigenous people living like cave men.’”

-- Venezuela’s ex-intelligence chief said he told President Nicolás Maduro about Colombian guerrilla camps in Venezuela. Anthony Faiola reports: Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figueroa said he hand-delivered reports including the rough locations and activities of Colombian drug cartels and criminal gangs operating on Venezuelan soil. “‘They never took action,’ he said. ‘You could say that Maduro is a friend of the guerrillas.’ Maduro, the head of Venezuela’s socialist government, has long voiced ideological sympathy for Colombia’s leftist guerrillas. But he has denied claims by Colombian officials and others that his government has cooperated with them. … The classified report ... offers new allegations about the scope of Maduro’s personal knowledge of the guerrillas’ presence and activities at a time when tensions in the region are rapidly escalating. “

-- Hong Kong police are waging a war on facts as protests on the island continue. David Crawshaw and Timothy McLaughlin report: “The ‘yellow object’ lying on the ground had a distinct shape, evident in the video footage that surfaced later. Certainly, a good portion of it was bright yellow. It appeared to have arms. And two protrusions that resembled legs. Someone had dressed the object in dark-colored shorts. As Hong Kong police officers swarmed over the object and roughed it up in a dark alley, it appeared to squirm. … With Beijing asserting increasing control over the city’s institutions and Hong Kong’s leader refusing to allow an independent inquiry into police behavior, authorities here appear not to fear the consequences of violating protocols intended to uphold the rule of law. Instead, their approach this week was to obfuscate. Asked Monday about the incident in Yuen Long, an outlying area of Hong Kong, acting senior superintendent Vasco Williams said footage showed an ‘officer kicking a yellow object,’ not a man lying on the ground.”

-- As China’s government denounced Mike Pompeo’s criticism of its treatment of Muslims, a newly released video shows about 300 to 400 Uighur men being herded like prisoners at a train station in the country’s Xinjiang province. (CBS News)


Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared to doze during Trump's speech at the U.N.:

And Venezuela’s U.N. representative held a silent protest while Trump spoke about her home country:

Ahead of his Thursday testimony, the acting DNI released a statement that suggests he feels caught in the middle of a power struggle between the White House and Congress:

Pelosi’s decision was turned into a limerick:

Biden approached impeachment with a bit of humor:

And an NBC reporter poked fun at the different metaphors used to describe the beginning of the impeachment inquiry:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’d forgotten I’d lost, so I appreciate the reminder." -- Mitt Romney's response to a video Trump posted on Twitter mocking him for losing the 2012 election to Barack Obama (HuffPost



"Lordy, what a day," quipped Stephen Colbert before asking his audience to "buckle up":

Jimmy Fallon joked that it was so hot in New York that Trump asked the president of Ukraine for some dirt on the sun: 

Trump dismissed the U.K. Supreme Court's ruling that Boris Johnson suspended parliament illegally by saying it is "just another day in the office" for the British prime minister: 

A haze brought red skies to Indonesia:

And the first lady struggled with some dull scissors while trying to mark the reopening of the Washington Monument: