Trump fired his first attorney general and secretary of state after he judged them to be insufficiently loyal, replacing each with someone who proved to be a more pliant foot soldier.
Rex Tillerson, who was chief executive of ExxonMobil when Trump tapped him to be secretary of state, has said his relationship with the president soured when he refused to follow illegal directives. “So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want you to do, and here’s how I want you to do it,’” Tillerson said in Houston last December, not providing specific examples. “And I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do. But you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.’” (Trump responded that Tillerson was “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.”)
The president turned against Jeff Sessions as soon as he followed the advice of ethics lawyers and recused himself from overseeing the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. “Oh my God, this is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f-----,” Trump said when Sessions told him that Rod Rosenstein had appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel, according to contemporaneous notes from Sessions’ then-chief of staff.
-- The Wall Street Journal reported last night and the Associated Press confirmed that Mike Pompeo, Tillerson’s replacement, was listening in live on July 25 when Trump prodded Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son. The president asked for this “favor” after Zelensky expressed a desire to buy antitank weapons to fend off the Russian occupation in Crimea, and the conversation came after Trump put a hold on about $400 million in assistance that Congress already approved for Kiev. During that call, according to the rough transcript released by the White House, Trump said that Bill Barr, who replaced Sessions, could help the Ukrainians, along with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. As a result of these and other fresh revelations, congressional investigators are increasingly scrutinizing the roles that Barr and Pompeo played as part of their fast-moving impeachment investigation.
-- Though he was mentioned on the Ukraine call, Barr declined to recuse himself from the discussions that led to the swift conclusion by other Trump appointees that the criminal referral from the intelligence community’s inspector general did not merit an FBI investigation. Barr’s spokeswoman stated last week that the attorney general was unaware of Trump’s effort to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and that he never spoke with the president nor the Ukrainians about the issue. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused Barr of “going rogue” and being involved with the “coverup of the coverup.” Other Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, have called on the attorney general to recuse himself going forward. (In case you missed it, I wrote a Big Idea last Thursday on all the president’s loyalist lawyers in an agency that’s supposed to be independent.)
-- The big news about Barr is that he has been holding private and undisclosed meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. “Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm Monday that the head of the Justice Department was taking such a direct role in reexamining what they view as conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of misconduct,” my colleagues Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris and Matt Zapotosky scooped last night. “Trump still complains frequently that those involved in the investigation of his campaign should be charged with crimes…”
-- Against the backdrop of the Ukraine donnybrook, Barr continues to play a hands-on role in the very probe that Trump long demanded, ensuring that the 2016 election continues to be relitigated three years later. The nation’s chief law enforcement officer startled career professionals inside the government this spring when he testified that “spying did occur” against the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, Barr drew intense criticism for his misleading summary of Mueller’s report, which deflated public expectations and blunted the political impact of its eventual release. The attorney general announced that he and Rosenstein concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish Trump committed obstruction of justice, even though the Mueller report painstakingly laid out evidence of 10 different cases of potential obstruction by the president. Mueller chose not to reach a definitive conclusion about whether the president sought to obstruct, partly because Justice Department policy says sitting presidents cannot be indicted. “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said later.
-- The New York Times also reported last night, and my colleagues have confirmed, that Trump pushed the Australian prime minister during a recent telephone call to help Barr’s inquiry. White House officials subsequently restricted access to the transcript of this call to a network usually reserved for covert operations, just as they did with the suspect Ukraine call. “Like that call, Mr. Trump’s discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia shows the president using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal political interests,” Mark Mazzetti and Katie Benner report in the Times. “The discussion with Mr. Morrison shows the extent to which Mr. Trump views the attorney general as a crucial partner: The president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived ‘deep state’ enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.”
THE CREDIBILITY GAP:
-- On ABC’s “This Week” the Sunday before last, host Martha Raddatz asked Pompeo directly about his knowledge of Trump’s conversation with Zelensky. The secretary deflected and replied that she was asking him about the whistleblower report. “None of which I’ve seen,” he said.
Pompeo then attacked former president Barack Obama for not offering sufficient support to Ukraine’s military when he was president. Raddatz followed up by reading from Ukraine’s initial readout of the call and asked whether it’s “perfectly fine” to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent. “I think I saw a statement from the Ukrainian foreign minister that said there was no pressure applied in the course of the conversation,” Pompeo said, adding that Biden is the one who should be investigated. Asked if Trump should release notes from the call, which he would do a few days later, Pompeo said “there’s no evidence” that it would be “appropriate” to do so. All the while, he knew exactly what the president had said.
-- Meanwhile, Barr’s Justice Department continues to behave as if its client is Trump himself, not the American people. The Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Manhattan disclosed late Monday in a letter to a judge that his office will join a lawsuit filed by Trump that seeks to block a subpoena for eight years of his tax returns. In a brief letter to the judge, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said the U.S. government would file a submission on Trump’s behalf by Wednesday, the Journal reports. Berman previously worked for the same law firm as Giuliani. He replaced Preet Bharara, who was fired in 2017 the day after refusing to take a phone call from Trump that he felt was improper and outside the chain of command.
-- Lawyers for House Democrats suggested in a fresh court filing last night for another case that they have reason to believe that the grand-jury redactions in Mueller’s report show that Trump lied about his knowledge of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks, according to Politico. This is part of the House Judiciary Committee’s bid for Mueller’s grand jury materials, which have remained secret by law. “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 House lawyers wrote, responding to the Justice Department’s opposition to the disclosure of the grand jury information.
“To back up their claim, the House’s legal team — led by House General Counsel Douglas Letter — cited a passage in Mueller’s report about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s testimony that he ‘recalled’ Trump asking to be kept ‘updated’ about WikiLeaks’ disclosures of Democratic National Committee emails,” Andrew Desiderio reports. “There is a grand-jury redaction in that passage, the lawyers note. … Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, said the suggestion that Trump lied to Mueller’s investigators is ‘absurd.’”
MORE ON WHAT BARR’S BEEN UP TO:
-- The way Trump talks about Barr compared to how he talked about Sessions is night and day. Five months ago, Trump praised his attorney general for moving to investigate the people who investigated his campaign. “I hope he looks at the U.K., and I hope he looks at Australia, and I hope he looks at Ukraine," Trump told reporters on the South Lawn on May 24. “It’s the greatest hoax in the history of our country, and somebody has to get to the bottom of it.”
From the looks of it, Barr has strived to comply with this presidential plea. “The direct involvement of the nation’s top law enforcement official shows the priority Barr places on the investigation being conducted by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, who has been assigned the sensitive task of reviewing U.S. intelligence work surrounding the 2016 election and its aftermath,” Barrett, Harris and Zapotosky reported.
“Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham,” they add. “It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials … Barr met with British officials in London over the summer to discuss the Durham probe, said a U.S. official familiar with the matter … In those conversations, according to this official, Barr expressed a belief that the U.S. investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election stemmed from some corrupt origin, the official said. It was not clear what Barr thought was amiss, but he expressed a suspicion that information had been improperly gathered overseas about people connected with the Trump campaign and that the British may have unwittingly assisted those efforts …
“One area that has been of sustained interest to Barr and Durham … is a murky figure named Joseph Mifsud. Mifsud, a European academic, was publicly linked to Russian interference efforts in late 2017, when Mueller revealed a guilty plea by former Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos, who admitted he had lied to the FBI about the details of his interactions with Mifsud. … While court papers filed in Mueller’s investigation suggested Mifsud operated in Russia’s interests, conservatives and conspiracy theorists [including Giuliani] have suggested he was instead aligned with Western intelligence agencies.”
-- The Times reports that Barr has not just taken an active role in overseeing Durham’s work but that he has been “pushing his team to move as quickly as possible”: “Mr. Durham has interviewed F.B.I. agents involved in the investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign,” per Mazzetti and Benner. “Mr. Durham’s investigators have also interviewed other current and former intelligence officials outside the C.I.A. … But Mr. Durham has not questioned current C.I.A. employees, even though his team has had discussions with the agency about interviewing some of them…”
Regarding the Australia call specifically: “Mr. Trump initiated the discussion with Mr. Morrison in recent weeks explicitly for the purpose of requesting Australia’s help in the review,” the Times notes. “In making the request — one of many at Mr. Barr’s behest — Mr. Trump was in effect asking the Australian government to investigate itself. F.B.I. investigators began examining Trump ties to Russia’s 2016 election interference after Australian officials reported that Russian intermediaries had made overtures to Trump advisers about releasing information that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. … Mr. Morrison also met Mr. Trump in Washington this month for official meetings and a state dinner at the White House. Mr. Barr attended the dinner, and Justice Department officials met with Australian representatives during the visit.”
-- Flacks at the White House and DOJ say there was nothing wrong with the outreach to Australia. “I’m old enough to remember when Democrats actually wanted to find out what happened in the 2016 election,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement. “The Democrats clearly don’t want the truth to come out anymore as it might hurt them politically, but this call relates to a DOJ inquiry publicly announced months ago to uncover exactly what happened. The DOJ simply requested the President provide introductions to facilitate that ongoing inquiry, and he did so, that’s all.”
Kerri Kupec, Barr’s spokeswoman, added in her own statement: “Mr. Durham is gathering information from numerous sources, including a number of foreign countries. At Attorney General Barr’s request, the President has contacted other countries to ask them to introduce the Attorney General and Mr. Durham to appropriate officials.”
-- In a fresh piece about Barr for the New Yorker, David Rohde invokes the specter of Richard Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell, who went to prison for 19 months on conspiracy, obstruction and perjury convictions stemming from his tenure as chairman of the committee to reelect the president in 1972:
“For many in the American legal community, though, Mitchell’s actions before Watergate were more troubling,” Rohde notes. “While serving as Attorney General, Mitchell hatched secret—and, at times, bizarre—plots to aid Nixon politically. He investigated government officials and journalists suspected of leaking damaging information about the President. He prosecuted opponents of the Vietnam War. And he controlled a secret slush fund used to smear Democratic Presidential candidates deemed a threat to Nixon. In one simultaneously abhorrent and amateurish act, Mitchell approved a payment of ten thousand dollars to a faction of the American Nazi Party, in order to carry out a failed effort to remove Governor George Wallace from a Presidential ballot in California. Nixon aides believed that supporters of Wallace—an avowed segregationist running as a third-party candidate—would shift their votes to Nixon.
“Judges later found Mitchell’s actions, such as wiretapping Americans without court orders, to be not only illegal but unconstitutional. He had used his powers as Attorney General to harass and smear Americans engaged in constitutionally protected political activity—from leading Democratic politicians to street protesters. After Nixon resigned and Mitchell was sent to prison, an elaborate series of norms and rules was established to prevent the President from acting like an authoritarian ruler—and the Attorney General from acting like the President’s personal lawyer.
“Since Mitchell, Attorneys General have also worked to restore public faith in the independence of the Justice Department. Edward Levi, a conservative legal scholar whom Gerald Ford appointed as the first post-Watergate Attorney General, was hailed by both political parties for restoring neutrality and integrity to the office. In an attempt to cement Levi’s legacy, multiple Republican and Democratic Attorneys General have recused themselves from investigations involving the Presidents who appointed them. During the Clinton Administration, Janet Reno recused herself from the Whitewater investigation, which led to Clinton’s impeachment. During the George W. Bush Administration, Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales both recused themselves from an investigation of the leak of the C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame’s identity. Barr has an opportunity to … show that he represents the best interests of the American people, not those of Donald Trump. So far, he has declined to do so.”
-- Trump ramped up attacks against the unknown whistleblower, saying he's trying to "find out" who it is, as some Republicans pleaded with the White House for a more measured and strategic response to the impeachment investigation. Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker report: “The White House has not yet set up anything resembling a ‘war room’ to coordinate its response, and officials spent Monday in meetings trying to determine a path forward. The president’s outside legal team played down the threat of impeachment and dismissed the need for the kind of coordinated war-room-based effort that President Bill Clinton relied on 20 years ago. … As he faces mounting accusations of wrongdoing, Trump is leading his own defense effort, largely from his Twitter account."
-- Legal analysts fear the whistleblower may receive little protection. Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner report: “Federal laws offer only limited protection for those in the intelligence community who report wrongdoing — even when they follow all the rules for doing so. Trump and his allies, analysts said, might face few, if any consequences, for outing the whistleblower or otherwise upending the person’s career. ‘If he wants to destroy this person’s life,’ said whistleblower attorney Bradley P. Moss, ‘there’s not a lot to stop him right now.’ While the acting director of national intelligence told lawmakers last week the whistleblower had acted in good faith and should be protected, Trump has seemed to suggest the opposite. … ‘The whistleblower knew almost nothing, its 2ND HAND description of the call is a fraud!’ Trump wrote on Twitter. The intelligence community inspector general deemed the whistleblower’s complaint credible, despite the person conceding much of the information was secondhand. …
"The inspector general’s office also seemed to dispute an allegation, which Trump had seized on, that the rules for whistleblower complaints were recently changed to allow secondhand information to be passed on. That assertion seemed to be based on reporting in the Federalist, which found a previous whistleblower complaint form with the heading, ‘FIRST-HAND INFORMATION REQUIRED.’ The law never had such a requirement.”
-- The Post’s Fact Checker examines Trump’s incorrect claim that the whistleblower rules have changed: “In his letter outlining the complaint, the whistleblower cited 50 U.S.C. Section 3033(k) (5)(A), which sets out the process that allows someone in the intelligence community to trigger an ‘urgent concern.’ The ‘urgent concern’ form apparently had not been online until recently. But the Federalist, an online publication, obtained an earlier form, from May 2018, which had a section titled: ‘FIRST-HAND INFORMATION REQUIRED.’ ... This warning language is not in the new online form. … But forms don’t change rules; the rules are set by laws and policies. In this case, the guiding document is Intelligence Community Directive 120, which was issued in 2014 and last updated in 2016. … Notwithstanding the section on firsthand information highlighted by the Federalist, the May 2018 form includes a box that can be checked about the sources of information: a) ‘I have personal and/or direct knowledge of events or records involved,’ b) ‘Other employees have told me about events or records involved’ or c) ‘Other source(s) (please explain).’"
-- There’s another whistleblower at the Internal Revenue Service, and House Democrats are exploring whether to release the allegations. From Bloomberg News: “The complaint raises allegations about ‘inappropriate efforts to influence’ the audit process, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal said in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in August. Neal told reporters on Friday that a decision on releasing the complaint depends on advice he receives from lawyers for the House of Representatives. The release of such a complaint could bolster Neal’s lawsuit seeking to obtain six years of Trump’s tax returns, which he filed in July after the Treasury Department rejected the committee’s request. Neal has said he needs the returns to ensure the IRS is following its policy of annually examining the president’s returns. … Neal has cited his committee’s oversight of the presidential audit process to support his lawsuit. Republicans have criticized this rationale, saying Democrats only want the documents as a way to target a political enemy.”
GIULIANI'S TURN IN THE BARREL:
-- Three House committees subpoenaed Giuliani, demanding all records pertaining to his contacts regarding Ukraine, the Biden family and other related matters. Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey report: “In a letter to Giuliani accompanying the subpoena, the chairmen of the three committees — Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) of Foreign Affairs, and Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) of Oversight — cited ‘a growing public record’ of information in accusing Giuliani of appearing ‘to have pressed the Ukrainian government to pursue two politically-motivated investigations.’ ‘The first is a prosecution of Ukrainians who provided evidence against Mr. Trump’s convicted campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The second relates to [Biden],’ the letter continued, demanding Giuliani turn over materials to their investigation by Oct. 15. The chairmen also said they are investigating ‘credible allegations’ that Giuliani ‘acted as an agent of the president in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the office of the president.’”
In a text to The Post, Giuliani confirmed that he had received a subpoena but would not say if he'll comply: “It raises significant issues concerning legitimacy and constitutional and legal issues, including inter alia, attorney client and other privileges," he wrote. "It will be given appropriate consideration." He did not comment further.
-- On Sean Hannity's Fox show last night, Giuliani said he’s “weighing the alternatives.” The former New York mayor "then indicated he could be swayed if Congress wanted to review video and audio recordings he had gathered over the course of his Ukrainian adventures. Some Democrats, meanwhile, have expressed hesitation about inviting a wild card such as Giuliani for a public hearing," the Daily Beast reports.
-- Republicans may be defending the president, but they aren’t rushing to defend Giuliani. Aaron Blake parses their messaging: “Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) stepped forward as one of Trump’s earliest defenders. But there was one place he would not go. When Chuck Todd asked him whether he agreed with what Trump and [Giuliani] were doing, Kennedy sought to clarify exactly for whom he was vouching. ‘No. No, no, no. No, no, no, no. I can’t speak for Mr. Giuliani. He’s wild as a March hare,’ Kennedy said. ‘I do not speak for Mr. Giuliani. I speak for John Kennedy.’ The folksiness of the most quotable man in Washington might have masked it, but here was a Republican distancing himself from the president’s attorney and his various pursuits. … Kennedy is hardly the only one backing away from Giuliani." House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-.S.C.) suggested they were sticking up for Trump in TV interviews but not necessarily Giuliani.
THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS:
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would have no choice but to take impeachment up if the House advances it. Seung Min Kim reports: “McConnell said he was bound by existing Senate rules governing the impeachment and conviction process, amid speculation that he could simply ignore the specter of putting Trump on trial. … McConnell has given few public clues as to how he would proceed, and several Republican and Democratic officials on Monday cautioned that it was far too premature to predict how one of the most polarized Senates in decades would approach Trump’s trial. ... Now, McConnell is abiding by a 1986 memorandum written by then-Senate Parliamentarian Robert B. Dove, who concluded that Senate rules call for a 'rapid disposition of any impeachment trial' and also require at least two-thirds’ support to avoid taking up the question of trying someone who had been impeached. ...
"Senior party officials have also raised the prospect that Senate Republicans could simply move to dismiss any articles of impeachment — a maneuver that failed during Clinton’s impeachment trial in January 1999 but would have a far likelier chance of succeeding with GOP control of the Senate. Back then, former senator Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) offered the dismissal motion that would have effectively ended Clinton’s Senate trial. But Republicans who controlled the chamber, as well as then-Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), voted to sustain the proceedings, denying Democrats the simple majority needed to dismiss the trial on a 56-to-44 vote. Should Republicans try this tactic now, at least four GOP senators would have to align with all 47 senators in the Democratic caucus to keep the impeachment trial alive. ...
"If he were to take this route, McConnell would most likely let the proceedings play out for some period of time to give the trial an air of legitimacy. Clinton’s impeachment trial opened Jan. 8, 1999; the vote to dismiss the charges came Jan. 27. The majority leader alluded to the timing issue in the CNBC interview, noting that while his hand is forced on the actual trial proceedings, ‘how long you’re on it is a whole different matter.’ … On the other hand, Republicans also noted that should House Democrats turn the impeachment proceedings into a sharply partisan endeavor, it would be easier to shorten the process once it reached the Senate.”
-- Republican senators Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley are pressing the Justice Department to probe Hillary Clinton and Ukraine. From Politico: “In a letter to Barr released on Monday, Johnson (R-Wis.) and Grassley (R-Iowa) pressed the Justice Department to probe any connection between Clinton and Ukrainian operatives. They said they have ‘concerns about foreign assistance in the 2016 election that have not been thoroughly addressed.’”
-- Senate Democrats are demanding to know whether Trump judicial nominee Steven Menashi, who works in the White House counsel's office and is one of Trump's top legal advisers, has played a role in the handling of the whistleblower complaint. From the AP: “[Ten Senate Democrats] asked Menashi in a letter Friday to disclose what he knows about [the Ukraine call]. ... The senators also want to know what role, if any, Menashi played in responding to a whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry."
-- The Kremlin said its approval is required before Trump can publish the transcript of any of his calls with Vladimir Putin. From the AP: “Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that ‘the publication is possible only on mutual accord.’ ‘If we receive some signals from the U.S., we will consider it,’ he said in a conference call with reporters. Peskov noted that the ‘diplomatic practice doesn’t envisage such publications,’ adding that the issue is U.S. internal business.”
THE POLITICS OF IMPEACHMENT:
-- Nearly half of Americans support Trump’s impeachment, according to two new polls: A Quinnipiac University poll shows that support for impeaching and removing Trump from office has grown from 37 percent of registered voters at the start of last week to 47 percent as of Sunday. An identical 47 percent said Trump shouldn’t be impeached. Meanwhile, a CNN poll found that 47 percent of American adults believe Trump should be impeached, a rise from 41 percent in May, when CNN last asked that question. Here are other key takeaways:
- Both polls found movement among independents. The CNN poll found an 11-point rise in support among this group, which has been consistently critical of impeachment, from 35 percent to 46 percent. In the Quinnipiac poll, independents' support for impeachment grew from 34 to 42 percent.
- Despite an increase in support for impeachment, the Quinnipiac poll showed no drop-off in Trump’s approval rating, which stands at 41 percent among registered voters. That's because support among Democrats for impeachment rose from 73 percent last week to 90 percent now. The CNN poll didn’t show significant change among Democrats.
-- "In CNN’s new poll, 14 percent of Republicans think Trump should be impeached and removed from office," Philip Bump notes. "That figure mirrors another question in Quinnipiac’s poll. … Across the board, support for an inquiry was only slightly higher than support for straight-up impeachment and removal. On the one hand, that suggests that those who support an inquiry are almost all people who think Trump should be removed from office. On the other, though, it also suggests that those who oppose removing Trump from office aren’t even interested in investigating the Ukraine issue. That’s probably partly a function of the fact that people tend to see the impeachment push as a partisan issue.”
-- A super PAC that supports GOP candidates launched attack ads against three House Democrats for backing what it calls “a radical scheme to impeach.” From the AP: “The spots by the Congressional Leadership Fund target veteran Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and freshmen Reps. Elaine Luria of Virginia and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan. They are among 31 House Democrats representing districts that Trump carried in 2016. The Luria ad, largely verbatim to the other two, says the effort is ‘Dividing the country. Tearing us apart. Because she doesn’t like the President.’ The group plans to run the ads during Congress’ current two-week recess.”
-- Jeff Flake, the former GOP senator from Arizona, endorses impeachment in an op-ed for The Post: “Fellow Republicans, there’s still time to save your souls.”
-- The Post’s Editorial Board: “Trump’s tweets distract from the Ukraine matter, but we can’t ignore them."
-- The Intercept’s James Risen: “When [Biden] went to Ukraine, he was not trying to protect his son – quite the reverse."
-- Columnist Karen Tumulty: “James Madison warned us that Trump is dangerously un-American.”
-- Eugene Robinson: “The most damaging witness against Trump is Trump.”
-- Hugh Hewitt: “If you want the truth on impeachment, stay away from the fringes.”
-- The Atlantic’s David Frum: “Bill Clinton Had a Strategy. Trump Is Doing the Opposite.”
-- George Washington University Law School professor Randall Eliason: “Trump’s ‘hearsay’ defense plays right into Democrats’ hands.”
-- Charles Lane: “The impeachment road leads to voters – in the Senate and at the polls.”
-- Robert Atkins and Adam P. Frankel: “President Pelosi? It could happen.”
-- Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s actions are “arguably impeachable.”
-- Former House GOP staffer Kurt Bardella for USA Today: “Trump thinks Republicans weren't tough on Obama. Believe me, we were.”
-- Jordan Gans-Morse, a political scientist at Northwestern University: “Ukraine has been waging war on corruption. A U.S. president encouraging a ‘favor’ could undermine these reforms.”
-- National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke criticized the NYT story: “The Australia story is not a story … There’s no suggestion of a quid pro quo here. And there is nothing odd about Trump’s asking these questions of Australia given that Australia contributed information into the Five Eyes system that, eventually, informed the Mueller investigation and had serious effects on American politics.”
-- A counterpoint from Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum: “The issue here isn’t that a legitimate investigation might just happen to produce findings favorable to Trump. That would be fine. But aside from the fact that this was never really a legitimate investigation to start with, we aren’t talking about Trump keeping himself at arm’s length and letting the chips fall where they may. We’re talking about Donald Trump explicitly getting on the phone to encourage an ally to help him.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Bernie Sanders raised $25.3 million in the third quarter, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Sam Sullivan and Amy B Wang report: "Sanders transferred an additional $2.6 million from his other federal campaign accounts, the campaign said. The third-quarter figures announced by the campaign rival his $26 million haul at this point in the primary campaign in 2015.”
-- Pete Buttigieg raised $19.1 million in the same period. His campaign said 182,000 new donors chipped in. That means the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has received money from about 580,000 people.
-- Kamala Harris is shaking up the top ranks of her flailing campaign, which has been plagued by dysfunction. From Politico: “Harris’ light early-state schedule, hiccups on the trail and lack of consistency in delivering her message have consumed much of the ... blame for her mounting struggles. Behind the scenes, aides said a lack of clarity among staff surrounding the roles of Campaign Manager Juan Rodriguez and Campaign Chair Maya Harris, the candidate’s sister, and inexperience across the organization are feeding a growing sense of indecision and aimlessness inside the campaign. The California senator has decided to elevate her Senate Chief of Staff Rohini Kosoglu and senior adviser Laphonza Butler into new senior management positions in the campaign, including discussions about installing the pair as dual deputy campaign managers …
"The campaign did not start holding regular senior staff meetings until September — nine months after launching — leading to a lack of coordination across departments. At one point, aides said, Harris hired executive coaches for senior campaign management to cope with the problems — a move viewed internally as a recognition of their collective inexperience. Aides point to scheduling bottlenecks occurring among the campaign’s three top inside decision-makers: Rodriguez, Maya Harris and [the senator], who has a reputation as a micromanager."
-- Harris’s questioning of Barr during a committee hearing this spring is making the rounds again:
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump in 2016, resigned his House seat as part of a guilty plea to insider-trading charges. Prosecutors alleged that, while standing on the White House lawn for a picnic hosted by Trump, the congressman tipped off his son about the adverse results of a clinical trial. Renae Merle and Mike DeBonis report: Collins "allegedly tipped off his son to confidential information about an Australian biotechnology company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, that he learned as a member of its board. Collins and several others used the information to avoid more than $700,000 in losses, according to prosecutors. He is scheduled to change his plea Tuesday afternoon in a Manhattan federal court. Collins’s son, Cameron, and another family member are scheduled to change their pleas on Thursday."
Collins previously called these charges "meritless" and promised to fight them in court. Instead, he submitted a two-sentence resignation letter to Pelosi and New York's governor on Monday afternoon. Collins narrowly got reelected last fall despite the indictment. Republicans are very likely to win the special election in New York's 27th Congressional District, which Trump carried by 24 points in 2016.
-- The defense team for Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is entirely dismissing admissions he made as part of his guilty plea two years ago that he provided false information to the Justice Department about work he did for Turkish interests while serving as a top adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “Flynn’s attorneys argued in a court filing Monday that a judge’s decision last week overturning a jury’s guilty verdicts on related charges against Flynn’s business partner Bijan Rafiekian ‘renders meaningless’ the concessions Flynn made under oath during his December 2017 guilty plea. The argument from Flynn’s defense is the latest salvo in their unusual battle to demolish the criminal false-statements case against the retired general and Defense Intelligence Agency chief without formally withdrawing his guilty plea and exposing him to the possibility of additional charges. … Earlier this year, Flynn shifted to a new defense team led by a prominent Mueller critic, Dallas attorney Sidney Powell, who has taken a more combative approach to the case.”
-- “Under a deal with federal prosecutors, North Carolina’s former state Republican chairman could testify against other defendants in the state’s largest-ever case of political bribery,” the Charlotte Observer reports. “Robin Hayes would plead guilty to a single felony count of lying to the FBI under the deal. He’s scheduled to formally enter his guilty plea in federal court Wednesday. The plea agreement calls for Hayes to cooperate with prosecutors. That includes testifying against his co-defendants. … Hayes, a former member of Congress, was one of four men indicted last March on multiple charges of conspiracy and bribery. … All were accused of bribing state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey with $2 million in campaign contributions in an attempt to get him to remove the department official responsible for regulating one of [his co-defendant's] companies.”
Hayes boarded the Trump train early in 2016 and became an outspoken supporter. He famously refused to allow two Ted Cruz delegates to fly on his private jet after the Republican National Convention in 2016 when they were hesitant about supporting Trump. (Here’s a story from the time.)
-- Don’t sleep on Wilbur Ross, Dan Zak warns in a meaty new profile of the president’s secretary of commerce: “He is a quiet man, smart and generous, but he seems detached from reality: too rich to remember how the real world works, too uninterested in his role as commerce secretary to enact much beyond stasis, mortification or bafflement, according to his critics. … The man is prim and precise in private life, in the way wealthy people can afford to be: the velvet slippers from Stubbs & Wootton, the prizewinning home in Palm Beach, Fla., the large collection of surrealist paintings by René Magritte. But as a public servant ... ‘Commerce is a mess today,’ says a former department official.”
A federal judge ruled that Ross broke the law with the way he mishandled trying to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census, but he also has been accused of threatening National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials if they challenged Trump's Sharpie falsehoods, claimed to be a billionaire until Forbes found out he was counting his investors’ money as his own and even used a private email account to conduct official government business: “From a nongovernment account, Ross has sent or received official correspondence about discussions with the European Commission for Trade, a U.S. ambassador’s meeting with German car manufacturers, a dinner featuring the ambassador of Japan, what appears to be an event related to billionaire businessman Bill Koch, and meeting requests from the far-right Internet troll Charles Johnson.”
-- Playing the race card: The U.S. Department of Transportation challenged a House committee’s investigation into Secretary Elaine Chao’s personal and family business dealings, rejecting allegations that she had used her office for her family’s benefit and charging that questions about Chao’s relationship with her father showed a “fundamental lack of understanding” about Asian cultural values. Ian Duncan reports: “The House Oversight and Reform Committee wrote Chao two weeks ago, saying it had launched an investigation into her and was seeking records. … The House committee cited reports in the New York Times, Politico and Wall Street Journal in support of a sweeping request for 18 categories of records to do with Chao and her department’s interactions with her family’s business and her own ethics disclosures. … Chao’s father and sisters own Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company that carries goods between the United States and China and which has received low interest loans from the Chinese government to buy ships. …
“Adam Sullivan, the Transportation Department’s assistant secretary for governmental affairs, wrote that … there were no grounds for Democrats’ concerns. … The Democrats’ letter also cited reports that Chao had appeared alongside her father and the Transportation Department’s seal in interviews with Chinese media, and that her father had boasted about Chao’s access to President Trump. … Sullivan wrote Monday that reports raising questions about the interviews had ‘xenophobic undertones.’ ‘There is nothing new or nefarious about the fact that Secretary Chao is a role model for immigrants from Asia,’ Sullivan wrote. … Sullivan wrote that the Transportation Department planned to respond to the request on a rolling basis. Sullivan’s letter did not address questions the committee raised about a trip Chao planned to China in 2017 that the New York Times reported was canceled because State Department officials were leery of her efforts to include family members in meetings.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- China marked the 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule with a grand show of power. Anna Fifield reports from Beijing: Xi Jinping presided “over a massive parade full of new military technology and declaring that ‘no force’ could stop China’s rise. Although the parade was held to mark a very domestic event — the triumph of Mao Zedong’s Communists over nationalist forces and the creation of People’s Republic of China in 1949 — it had a clear international message. The display of … an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States … acted as Xi’s response to external pressures.”
-- Police shot a Hong Kong demonstrator as hundreds of thousands of protestors took the streets for a rally. Shibani Mahtani and Timothy McLaughlin report: “Hong Kong police for the first time fired live ammunition directly at protesters, injuring at least one seriously, in a new escalation against demonstrators marching against the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party rule. … The demonstrations descended into panic and chaos by sundown, as police used huge amounts of tear gas, a water cannon and brute force to clear away the protesters, some of whom were peaceful while others threw bricks and petrol bombs at them. Marches earlier in the day featured families, the elderly and children. According to a pro-democracy lawmaker and a video filmed by the Hong Kong University Students’ Union Campus TV, a protester in the Tsuen Wan neighborhood, dressed in black wearing a helmet and respirator and carrying a homemade shield, was shot by a police officer wielding a revolver. The video shows the man swinging a rod at the officer before the officer fired once, at close range. … Spokespeople for the police could not confirm the incident despite multiple calls. The Hong Kong Hospital Authority said one man was rushed to a hospital in Kowloon in serious condition, but could not confirm the nature of his injuries."
Protesters hoped to send a clear message to Beijing: “Some of the people in the march wore ‘We are Hong Kongers’ T-shirts, a rejection of Chinese identity, and held their hands up showing all five fingers for their five demands. … Protesters also mocked China’s powerful leader, Xi, comparing him to cartoon character Winnie the Pooh and making offerings of paper money, currency used in the Chinese afterlife, as though he was an angry spirit needing placating. … A smattering of pro-China rallies took place around the city, with people gathering in small groups to wave the Chinese flag and sing the national anthem. At the base of the city’s peak tram, a historic funicular that is a major tourist destination, Mandarin speaking visitors posed to snap smiling selfies with riot police. Hong Kong residents predominantly speak the Cantonese version of the language.”
-- A California tour guide has been charged as a spy for Chinese intelligence. From the Journal: “Naturalized U.S. citizen Peng Xuehua was arrested Friday and accused of acting as a courier to deliver classified U.S. national-security information to officials working at China’s spy agency, the Ministry of State Security, U.S. officials said. ... Mr. Peng was exposed through a double-agent operation that the FBI began in 2015 to target the MSS, the complaint said. The double agent, whom the government refers to in the complaint as ‘the Source’ and whose affiliation and identity aren’t disclosed, allegedly provided MSS intelligence officers with classified information at the direction of the U.S. government, including through Mr. Peng, it says.”
-- John Demers, the head of the DOJ's national security division, tells NBC News that there is “no question” China is the top intelligence threat to the United States.
-- Ousted national security adviser John Bolton spoke out publicly about Trump's North Korea naivete. Aaron Blake reports: “While Bolton didn’t weigh in on the growing Ukraine scandal, he did rebuke the Trump administration over one of its central foreign policy initiatives: the pursuit of a nuclear deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. … ‘I don’t think the North Koreans will ever voluntarily give up enough’ in negotiations, Bolton said, adding, ‘There is no basis to trust any promise that regime makes.’ Bolton said the United States should stop focusing on summits with Kim and instead pursue a harder approach involving possible regime change and even military force to stop the North Korean nuclear program. He also suggested that the Trump administration, as it pursues a nuclear deal, is giving North Korea too much of a pass on its violations of U.N. Security Council sanctions.”
-- The U.S. and North Korea will resume nuclear talks this Saturday. Simon Denyer reports: “North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the two countries ‘agreed to hold a working-level discussion on October 5th, following a preliminary contact on the 4th,’ according to a statement carried by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. ‘I expect the working-level talks to accelerate positive developments in DPRK-U.S. relations,’ Choe said, using the initials of her country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. ‘Our representatives are ready to attend the working-level talks with the United States.’ Choe’s statement did not say where the talks would take place.”
-- One year later, our murdered friend and colleague Jamal Khashoggi has been proven right, writes The Post’s Editorial Board: “The story of Khashoggi and Mohammed bin Salman is not over. The warnings the journalist sounded — often cast almost as friendly advice to the crown prince — have proved prescient. A year later, the Saudi regime continues to suffer the consequences of its persecution of opponents — especially women seeking greater rights — and its ill-conceived intervention in Yemen. Khashoggi warned that the persecution of activists would backfire, and it has; the regime is universally vilified by human rights groups, and Mohammed bin Salman has become a pariah in Western capitals.”
-- Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra dissolved the country’s congress. From the AP: “Vizcarra told the South American nation that he had decided to call new legislative elections after lawmakers proceeded with holding a controversial vote to replace almost all the members of the Constitutional Tribunal. ‘We are making history that will be remembered by future generations,’ he said. ‘And when they do, I hope they understand the magnitude of this fight that we are in today against an endemic evil that has caused much harm to our country.’ The stunning events Peru could spell new instability as the nation grapples with the fallout of the Odebrecht corruption scandal, plummeting faith in public institutions and an inexperienced president struggling to govern.”
-- Fun read: Germany’s oldest politician is a 100-year-old woman who loves Barack Obama and hates Brexit. Rick Noack reports: “Lisel Heise celebrated two major milestones this year. In March, she turned 100. In May, she won her first election for political office. Heise is the oldest active politician in all of Germany, serving as a local council member in this western town of 8,000 known as ‘Kibo.’ … Her top-priority proposals are about improving the lives of young people as much as older residents. She wants a youth center and dance venue. She wants to cut down on cars and carbon emissions. She wants to reopen a shuttered swimming pool. … Heise joined up with the left-leaning ‘We for Kibo’ political association, which sought to challenge the centrist coalition that had controlled town politics for decades. How did she manage to win? ‘Many residents of Kibo,’ she said with a wink, ‘were my students once upon a time.’”
-- Pope Francis met with James Martin, an American Jesuit priest who ministers to LGBTQ Catholics. From the Religion News Service: “‘It was amazing and very consoling,’ Martin said ... ‘The conversation went very easily and focused mainly on ministry to LGBT Catholics, which [Francis] was happy to talk about. … I spent 30 minutes with a warm and compassionate pastor.’ Martin would not discuss details of the conversation, which took place at the pope’s private library, where Francis often meets heads of state. But Martin insisted that he lifted up the concerns of LGBTQ Catholics. ‘I brought into that room the joys and the hopes and the struggles and the challenges of LGBT Catholics and LGBT people worldwide,’ he said of the meeting, which was his first private audience with any pope.”
-- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was accused of groping a journalist. William Booth and Karla Adam report: “A Sunday Times columnist [alleges] that Johnson groped her thigh – ‘high up’ – at a magazine lunch in 1999. ‘Untrue,’ says 10 Downing Street. … Over the weekend, the Sunday Times announced, ‘On the second anniversary of #MeToo, our new columnist recalls a scandalous encounter with the prime minister.’ The new columnist is Charlotte Edwardes, and her first column told of how Johnson groped her and another woman at a magazine lunch.”
THE NON-IMPEACHMENT DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- Another woman accused Al Franken of groping her, as the former Minnesota senator prepares to launch a new radio show. From New York Magazine: “‘I was just out of college in my first job, working for U.S. senator Patty Murray,’ she [said.] ... Franken, then exploring a run for the Senate, was the guest speaker at Murray’s annual Golden Tennis Shoes Awards … The woman worked the photo line, and when it was her turn to be photographed with Franken, she said, ‘he puts his hand on my ass. He’s telling the photographer, ‘Take another one. I think I blinked. Take another one.’ And I’m just frozen. It’s so violating. And then he gives me a little squeeze on my buttock, and I am bright red. I don’t say anything at the time, but I felt deeply, deeply uncomfortable.’ A military veteran who is now a senior staffer at a major progressive organization, she is the ninth woman to accuse Franken of inappropriate conduct and the fourth to say Franken grabbed her butt.”
-- The House Ethics Committee is reviewing allegations against Michigan Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D) and Bill Huizenga (R) as well as Florida Rep. Ross Spano (R). From the AP: “The committee did not reveal the nature of the complaints, but the offices of the three lawmakers said they are related to campaign spending and not the members’ official congressional duties. … All three lawmakers denied wrongdoing, saying in separate statements that they were cooperating with investigators. The complaint against Tlaib focused on her decision to pay herself $4,000 a month in salary from her 2018 campaign account, an action that conservative groups called improper. … Brian Patrick, a spokesman for Huizenga, called the complaint against the congressman ‘partisan and politically motivated’ and said it has been resolved by the Federal Election Commission. … Published reports indicate that Spano borrowed more than $100,000 from two friends and then loaned it to his campaign. He has since repaid the loans, with the proceeds of a bank loan to himself.”
-- The Texodus continues: Rep. Mac Thornberry, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, became the sixth Texas GOP congressman to announce his retirement so far this year, per the Dallas Morning News.
-- Emerging evidence shows that, nearly a decade after it passed, the Affordable Care Act is making some Americans healthier – and less likely to die. Amy Goldstein reports: “With about 20 million Americans now covered through private health plans under the ACA’s insurance marketplaces or Medicaid expansions, researchers have been focusing on a question that was not an explicit goal of the law: whether anyone is healthier as a result. It is difficult to prove conclusively that the law has made a difference in people’s health, but strong evidence has emerged in the past few years. Compared with similar people who have stable coverage through their jobs, previously uninsured people who bought ACA health plans with federal subsidies had a big jump in detection of high blood pressure and in the number of prescriptions they had filled, according to a 2018 study in the journal Health Affairs. And after the law allowed young adults to stay longer on their parents’ insurance policies, fewer 19- to 25-year-olds with asthma failed to see a doctor because it cost too much, according to an analysis of survey results published earlier this year by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
-- Drugstores are pulling Zantac-like heartburn drugs off their shelves over growing concerns that the products may contain small levels of nitrosodimethylamine, a possible cancer-causing chemical. (Carolyn Y. Johnson and Kim Bellware)
-- Several Alabama sheriffs are using “medical bonds” to release inmates with sudden health problems to avoid paying their medical costs. Some inmates were rearrested as soon as they recovered. From ProPublica and Al.com: “The use of medical bonds isn’t about inferior care. It’s about who pays for care. While medical bonds have been a last resort in many states for more than 20 years, experts say they are employed in Alabama more often than elsewhere. Their use in some counties but not in others illustrates the vast power and latitude that sheriffs have in Alabama … Typically the process works like this: When an inmate awaiting trial is in a medical crisis, a sheriff or jail staffer requests that a judge allow him or her to be released on bond just before, or shortly after, the inmate is taken to a hospital. If the request is granted, the inmate typically signs the document granting the release. … While judges usually sign off on bonds, lawyers who represent inmates and other experts say sheriffs are often the key decision-makers and can be held legally responsible for what happens after they release inmates via such methods.”
-- The Federal Aviation Administration will test whether airplane seats are dangerously small. Hannah Sampson reports: “They will use that information, as mandated by last year’s FAA reauthorization, to determine how small airplane seats can safely get, and how close rows of seats can be to one another. Under federal regulations, planes must be able to be evacuated within 90 seconds.”
-- Boeing is creating a new internal organization to sharpen the focus on safety as its 737 Max jet planes remain grounded. Aaron Gregg report: “The organization will be led by a new vice president of product and services safety, a 34-year Boeing veteran named Beth Pasztor, who is to report jointly to the company’s board of directors and chief engineer. According to the company’s announcement, Pasztor will oversee the company’s response to anonymous safety reports and will be responsible for ‘investigating cases of undue pressure raised by employees.’”
-- Facebook mounted an aggressive legal offensive against federal regulators who sought to fine the company billions of dollars for privacy abuses. Tony Romm reports: The company argued “in newly revealed documents that the company did not harm consumers or profit from mishandling users’ data — and that it would have prevailed in court if it had come to that. … The legal jostling between Facebook and the FTC illustrates the precarious decision that government regulators ultimately would have to make — try to fight the tech giant in federal court, embarking on a lengthy, painful legal battle, or settle with the company and obtain whatever relief Facebook was willing to stomach. Ultimately the agency, led by Republican Joe Simons, chose the latter option. The resulting $5 billion civil penalty against Facebook set a record for a federal privacy fine.”
-- A new AP-NORC poll shows that most Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of race relations. From the AP: “About half of all Americans think Trump’s actions have been bad for African Americans, Muslims and women, and slightly more than half say they’ve been bad for Hispanics. … Just 4% say they think Trump’s actions have been good for African Americans in general, while 81% think he’s made things worse. Similar shares of black Americans think Trump has been bad for Hispanics, Muslims and women.”
-- The Virginia sixth-grader who accused her classmates of cutting her hair now says her allegations were false. Joe Heim reports: “The 12-year-old, who is African American, said three white male students held her down in a school playground a week ago during recess, covered her mouth, called her insulting names and used scissors to cut her hair. The grandparents of the girl, who are her legal guardians, released an apology Monday. ‘To those young boys and their parents, we sincerely apologize for the pain and anxiety these allegations have caused,’ the grandparents wrote in a statement sent to The Washington Post."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump continued to criticize the whistleblower this morning on social media:
He also congratulated the authoritarian regime in Beijing on the anniversary of communist rule:
Ukraine's embassy in Washington explained why it's wrong to refer to refer to Ukraine as "the Ukraine":
As Collins resigns, effective today, here's a memory from 2017:
Ivanka Trump captioned a family picture with a reference to "Star Wars," and a star of the movies wasn't happy about it:
Later, Hamill cleared the air by saying he has an issue with Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, not their son:
A historian shared the story of one of Nixon’s most fierce GOP defenders during Watergate:
Another historian chimed in with two other Republican congressmen who lost their seats after defending Nixon:
A Connecticut Democratic senator hinted that Republicans might want to step back from their defenses of the president:
A former U.S. attorney from Alabama, who is now a law professor, highlighted the statute relating to witness intimidation:
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"If they want sunshine, I say bring it,” said former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, demanding an investigation into Biden if Democrats move to impeach. (Bloomberg News)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Seth Meyers took a look at Trump's accusations that the Democrats are committing treason:
Stephen Colbert reviewed some of the GOP's defenses of Trump:
Trevor Noah broke down the latest news related to the impeachment investigation:
Jimmy Kimmel called Monday "another day of drama and international intrigue":
And a video of a cart losing control in Chicago’s O’Hare airport went viral, and a Twitter user quickly found a way to make it a metaphor for American politics: