with Mariana Alfaro
That’s one of the eyebrow-raising, Russia-related revelations in the three transcripts released on Monday night by House impeachment investigators, as they prepare for the start of televised hearings tomorrow. The disclosure hints at Trump playing a more hands-on role in Ukraine policy than his defenders want to acknowledge as they search for possible fall guys to pin the blame on.
Trump talks a big game about how important it is to be strong on the world stage, and he’s declared that “nobody has been tougher on Russia” than he has been, but his recurring impulse to disregard Vladimir Putin’s provocations has been anything but. It’s put him at odds with many of the more hawkish aides he installed in the national security firmament.
“We met with Ambassador Bolton and discussed this, and he made it clear that the president had called him to complain about that news report. And that may have just been that he was surprised,” said Christopher Anderson, a senior Ukraine specialist at the State Department. “I can't speculate as to why, but that operation was canceled.”
Anderson recalled hearing Bolton joke about how Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, seemed to pop up every time Ukraine was mentioned, according to the 118-page transcript of his Oct. 30 deposition. He also said that Gordon Sondland, the Trump megadonor who got appointed as ambassador to the European Union, played an outsized role, even though Ukraine is not a member of the E.U.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and has orchestrated a separatist war in the eastern part of Ukraine that has left at least 13,000 people dead. In November 2018, Russia escalated the conflict again by capturing three Ukrainian-flagged military vessels and detaining 24 sailors in the Kerch Strait as they headed to a Ukrainian port in the Sea of Azov.
“While my colleagues at the State Department quickly prepared a statement condemning Russia for its escalation, senior officials in the White House blocked it from being issued,” Anderson testified.
Instead, it was left to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to condemn the move. Later, Trump would cite the Russian seizure of the vessels when he canceled a scheduled meeting with Putin during the G-20 in Argentina. But Anderson said that Ukrainian officials noticed Trump’s silence, especially as other Western leaders spoke out, and they asked their counterparts in the American government why the White House never expressed support.
Ironically, Anderson explained, the CNN story that prompted the president’s complaint to Bolton was overblown. (He said during the hearing that he thought it came out in early January, but the piece was published in December.)
“The news report seemed to be, in my understanding, exaggerating the situation, because all the Navy had done was file a standard notification under the Montreux Convention that they were planning to transit into the Black Sea,” Anderson said.
The Montreux Convention is a 1936 treaty that requires any country without coastline on the Black Sea to notify Turkey at least 15 days before transiting a military vessel through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, which connect the Mediterranean to the Black Sea.
Anderson, a career foreign service officer, added that U.S. officials forged ahead with a subsequent operation in February to show support for Ukraine by deploying an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to Odessa on the fifth anniversary of the Russian invasion of Crimea.
-- Other witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have also linked the Russia and Ukraine sagas. George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified that Trump appeared to sour on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky between their calls on April 21 and July 25 partly because of conversations he had with Putin, the Russian president, and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
-- A belief that Ukraine is part of Russia’s sphere of influence has been cited by other inside sources as a possible explanation for Trump’s treatment of Kyiv. During a meeting with his own aides in the fall of 2017, before a sit-down with Ukraine’s previous president, former aides have told us that Trump grumbled that Ukraine is not a “real country” and that it had always been a part of Russia.
-- In another transcript released Monday night, State Department Ukraine specialist Catherine Croft revealed that Mick Mulvaney – before he became acting White House chief of staff – placed a peculiar hold on the sale of Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine. It was “highly unusual,” she explained, because he was running the Office of Management and Budget at the time. She said the policy concern he expressed related to how the Russians would react, which was outside of his primary portfolio, and came after the secretaries of defense and state had signed off. Ultimately, Croft said, then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster had her brief Mulvaney on the value of the weapons and he dropped his hold after “a week or two.”
“In a briefing with Mr. Mulvaney, the question centered around the Russian reaction,” Croft testified. “That Russia would react negatively to the provision of Javelins to Ukraine.”
-- Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, said during her deposition that it, similarly, seemed peculiar when OMB officials froze aid to Ukraine this summer. The Pentagon had greenlighted the money, and there was consensus that the money was essential across the national security apparatus, when the budget office blocked the money from being transferred, reportedly at Trump’s apparent behest.
-- The latest tranche of testimony further undercuts the Trump team’s talking point that there couldn’t have been a quid pro quo because Ukrainian leaders didn’t find out that nearly $400 million in congressional approved security assistance had been frozen until Politico reported on it in late August. Croft said the Ukrainians “found out very early on” after the OMB froze the funds at Trump’s behest on July 18.
Cooper told investigators that Kurt Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine and Croft’s boss at the time, led her to make a “very strong inference” that the Ukrainians knew weeks before the freeze became public. The deputy assistant secretary of defense testified that Ukrainian leaders would never have entertained Volker’s request for a public statement about launching investigations unless they were doing so in exchange for “something valuable.” Furthermore, Cooper noted that acting ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor was also sounding “alarm bells … that there were Ukrainians who knew” about the freeze before it became publicly known, though she didn’t provide specific dates.
Cooper testified that her team at the Pentagon was especially concerned the funds were being held up by the White House this summer because it weakened Ukraine’s hand in negotiations with Russia. “They are trying to negotiate a peace with Russia, and if they are seen as weak, and if they are seen to lack the backing of the United States for their armed forces, it makes it much more difficult for them to negotiate a peace on terms that are good for Ukraine,” she said.
-- Two of Trump’s other explanations also don’t hold up under scrutiny. “The president, in his defense, asserts that he was concerned about corruption writ large in Ukraine, not in securing some 2020 election advantage. In addition, he says he was angered that European allies were not doing enough financially to help the beleaguered country, leaving the United States to carry the can,” Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima report. But, on the July 25 call, “Trump did not mention any wider concern about overall corruption related to U.S. assistance, the subject that he and senior administration officials now insist was the basis for the sudden holdup after years of steady security aid.” Also: “European nations have far outpaced the United States in Ukraine, spending $18.3 billion since Russia annexed Crimea … By contrast, combined military and nonmilitary assistance from the United States has totaled about $4 billion over the same period…”
-- Connecting the dots: Career employees have emerged as crucial witnesses more than in any political scandal in modern history. “All but one of the 11 career Foreign Service staff, military officers and Pentagon officials who first testified in closed-door depositions in the Capitol basement are still in government," Lisa Rein reports. "For now, they’ve faced no efforts to punish them for telling House investigators that normal diplomacy was bypassed by a rogue foreign policy to benefit Trump politically, their lawyers say. However, former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who is scheduled to testify publicly on Friday, is close to retirement and told House investigators that she felt ‘threatened’ by the president — and worried about her pension and her employment.”
MORE ON MULVANEY:
-- The White House’s bifurcated and disjointed response to the impeachment inquiry has been fueled by a battle between Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Erica Werner, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Rachael Bade report: “Mulvaney has urged aides not to comply with the inquiry and blocked any cooperation with congressional Democrats. Top political aides at the Office of Management and Budget, which Mulvaney once led, have fallen in line with his defiant stance ... Mulvaney’s office blames [Cipollone] for not doing more to stop other government officials from participating in the impeachment inquiry, as a number of State Department officials, diplomats and an aide to Vice President Pence have given sworn testimony to Congress.
"Cipollone, meanwhile, has fumed that Mulvaney only made matters worse with his Oct. 17 news conference, when he publicly acknowledged a quid pro quo, essentially confirming Democrats’ accusations in front of television cameras and reporters. Cipollone did not want Mulvaney to hold the news conference, a message that was passed along to the acting chief of staff’s office, according to two senior Trump advisers ... A Mulvaney aide said a team of White House lawyers prepared him for the news conference and never said he should not do it.
“Neither Mulvaney nor Cipollone has broad experience navigating a White House through such a tumultuous period. But their actions have contributed to the White House’s increasingly tenuous response to the impeachment inquiry ... Despite the high stakes, the White House moved slowly to hire a staff specifically dedicated to working on the impeachment issue, a concern that was expressed to the White House by multiple GOP senators … Another dispute between the Mulvaney and Cipollone camps emerged over the potential hiring of former congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) ... Mulvaney advocated for hiring his former House colleague and longtime friend ... But Cipollone was opposed. ... Some Hill Republicans were not pleased and have accused Cipollone of being territorial behind the scenes. They wanted Gowdy ... to lead the cross-examination for Trump in the Senate — a role Cipollone is said to want for himself. ...
"Trump has complained about his legal team to White House officials and advisers in recent weeks, saying they need to be more aggressive and defend him more. ... At the same time, Trump has been complaining about Mulvaney, blaming him for his political troubles, and has toyed with the idea of replacing him ... Some administration officials complain that Cipollone has not kept Mulvaney and other White House offices in the loop on key decisions. Cipollone’s office released the transcript of the president’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart — a move Mulvaney opposed ... Neither the acting chief of staff nor some members of the White House press office knew ahead of time that was going to happen. ...
"GOP senators have been worried that the White House was moving too slowly to hire staffers specifically dedicated to working on the impeachment issue as the inquiry moves into its public phase. Multiple senators made this concern known to the White House, the aide said. Their concerns were finally alleviated last week with news that Pam Bondi, a former attorney general of Florida, and Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department spokesman, would join the administration to work on impeachment-related messaging and other issues."
-- Last night, Mulvaney withdrew a last-minute effort to join a lawsuit filed by Bolton's former top deputy, Charles Kupperman. Spencer Hsu reports: "Mulvaney said he will file his own lawsuit focused on the same question: Must senior Trump administration officials testify in Congress’s impeachment inquiry? Kupperman, in a filing earlier Monday, opposed Mulvaney’s request to join the case ... Kupperman attorney Charles J. Cooper, who also represents Bolton, had suggested that the same judge weigh Mulvaney’s claims 'in tandem' as a separate, related case. The two former Trump national security aides are said by people close to them to consider Mulvaney a key participant in President Trump’s alleged effort to pressure the Ukrainian government ... Mulvaney’s attempt to join the lawsuit flabbergasted Bolton and Kupperman ... with Bolton aides having testified that he derisively referred to the Ukrainian proposal as 'a drug deal,' and White House officials saying Bolton and Mulvaney were barely on speaking terms when Bolton left his post in September."
THE LATEST ON THE INQUIRY:
-- Congressional Republicans are sticking with Trump despite the mounting evidence showing that he leveraged foreign policy for political favors, making it more likely that no House Republican will vote for his impeachment. Rachael Bade reports: “Democrats had hoped to peel off Republican support from a key bloc — retiring lawmakers who need not worry about internal blowback or primary challenges. Yet many are refusing to break with Trump. Rep. Peter T. King of New York made a point of stating his intention to vote against impeaching Trump in his retirement announcement Monday, a troubling sign for Democrats. … GOP cohesion will test Democrats’ impeachment strategy as they moved their inquiry into the public sphere Wednesday. Democrats recognize that the onus is on them to make the case to independent voters who don’t have time to sift through thousands of pages of transcripts alleging presidential misconduct.” (Clip and save for tomorrow: The Fact Checker's guide to impeachment hearing spin.)
-- Giuliani is considering launching his own impeachment podcast. From CNN: “Giuliani was overheard discussing the plans with an unidentified woman while at a crowded New York City restaurant, Sant Ambroeus, over lunch on Saturday. The conversation, which lasted more than an hour, touched on details including dates for recording and releasing the podcast, settling on a logo, and the process of uploading the podcast to iTunes and other podcast distributors. Two people who overheard Giuliani's discussion reached out to CNN and provided a recording they decided to make of the conversation. … Giuliani's intention seems to be to have four episodes finished before the start of the Senate trial.”
-- Condoleezza Rice called the reports of Giulaini's efforts in Ukraine "deeply troubling." “What I see right now troubles me. I see a state of conflict between the foreign policy professionals and someone who says he’s acting on behalf of the president but, frankly, I don’t know if that is the case,” the former secretary of state said at a conference in Abu Dhabi. “It is troubling. It is deeply troubling.” (Reuters)
-- Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson denies that he sought to undermine or work against Trump, as former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley claims in her new book. Anne Gearan reports: “‘During my service to our country as the Secretary of State, at no time did I, nor to my direct knowledge did anyone else serving along with me, take any actions to undermine the President,’ Tillerson said in a statement to The Washington Post. ‘My conversations with the President in the privacy of the Oval Office were always candid, frank, and my recommendations straightforward. Once the President made a decision, we at the State Department undertook our best efforts to implement that decision,’ Tillerson said. ‘Ambassador Haley was rarely a participant in my many meetings and is not in a position to know what I may or may not have said to the President. I continue to be proud of my service as our country’s 69th Secretary of State.’”
-- A federal judge appointed by Trump ruled that the president can’t sue New York state officials in a D.C. court to stop the release of his tax returns to Congress. From CNN: “Effectively, the ruling is a loss for Trump but a less significant one then the blows other courts have dealt him in cases involving Democrats' pursuits of his financial records. Courts have sided with the House multiple times in cases where its committees have subpoenaed Trump's financial records. Trump is still appealing those rulings, keeping the House subpoenas on hold.”
-- Trump falsely claimed that he signed the Whistleblower Protection Act. In a tweet, Trump claimed that he signed a law that Congress passed 30 years ago. He was responding to a message sent by the White House Twitter account that correctly stated that Trump signed a separate measure – the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which, among other things, aims to protect whistleblowers within the Department of Veteran Affairs. Trump appears to have misread the tweet. (Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner, Elise Viebeck and Brittany Shammas)
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Former president Jimmy Carter was hospitalized for a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain. Michael Brice-Saddler reports: “The pressure was triggered by bleeding in the brain caused by recent falls, and the procedure is scheduled for Tuesday morning ... He was admitted to Emory University Hospital on Monday evening and was resting comfortably with his wife, Rosalynn Carter, the [Carter Center] said. Last month, Carter was hospitalized with a minor pelvic fracture after falling in his Georgia home. The 95-year-old fell on Oct. 6, just days after his birthday, and required stitches above his left brow."
AMERICA CONTINUES TO BECOME A CORPORATOCRACY:
-- California Gov. Gavin Newsom accuses Pacific Gas & Electric of “corporate greed," but the company's largesse has helped finance his and his wife’s careers. Douglas MacMillan and Neena Satija report: “Over the past two decades, Newsom (D) and his wife have accepted more than $700,000 from the [PG&E], its foundation and its employees as the utility has supported his political campaigns, his ballot initiatives, his inauguration festivities and his wife’s foundation, including her film projects, according to records reviewed by The Washington Post. The contributions illustrate Newsom’s ties to the company responsible for wildfires that have killed at least 85 people and caused billions of dollars in damage over the past three years. The governor has slammed PG&E for paying bonuses to executives and cash dividends to its investors instead of spending more on infrastructure upgrades that could have prevented the fires. … Between 2011 and 2018, the utility’s philanthropic arm gave $358,000 to the Representation Project, a nonprofit group founded by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the governor’s wife. The PG&E Corporation Foundation also gave $10,000 to the PlumpJack Foundation, a charity led by his sister, Hilary Newsom, according to information provided by PG&E. ...
“PG&E, an investor-owned utility whose largest shareholders include hedge funds Knighthead Capital Management and Abrams Capital Management, filed for bankruptcy in January, declaring itself unable to pay the billions of dollars in mounting liabilities from repeated seasons of wildfires. Its market value is about $3.4 billion, after losing more than $30 billion in equity value over the past two years. When a federal judge asked PG&E in July to explain why its political spending was ‘more important than replacing or repairing the aging transmission lines,’ the company said it needs to make the concerns of its employees, customers and shareholders known to policymakers.”
-- The Environmental Protection Agency will limit the science used to write public health rules. From the New York Times: “A new draft of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, would require that scientists disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the agency could consider an academic study’s conclusions. E.P.A. officials called the plan a step toward transparency and said the disclosure of raw data would allow conclusions to be verified independently. … The measure would make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements. And, unlike a version of the proposal that surfaced in early 2018, this one could apply retroactively to public health regulations already in place.”
-- Google is engaged with one of the U.S.’s largest health-care systems on a project to collect and analyze the personal health information of millions of people across 21 states. From the Journal: “The initiative, code-named ‘Project Nightingale,’ appears to be the biggest effort yet by a Silicon Valley giant to gain a toehold in the health-care industry through the handling of patients’ medical data. … Google began Project Nightingale in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, a Catholic chain of 2,600 hospitals, doctors’ offices and other facilities, with the data sharing accelerating since summer, according to internal documents. The data involved in the initiative encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth. Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and the documents.”
-- A federal health contract funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to at least eight former White House, presidential transition and campaign officials. From Politico: “They were among at least 40 consultants who worked on a one-year, $2.25 million contract directed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. The contractors were hired to burnish Verma’s personal brand and provide ‘strategic communications’ support. They charged up to $380 per hour for work traditionally handled by dozens of career civil servants in CMS's communications department. The arrangement allowed the Trump allies to cycle through the federal government's opaque contracting system, charging hefty fees with little public oversight or accountability.”
-- Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi called the murder of Jamal Khashoggi a “serious mistake” by the Saudi government, comparing it to the accident involving the tech company’s self-driving car that killed a pedestrian last year. Deanna Paul and Faiz Siddiqui report: “‘It’s a serious mistake. We’ve made mistakes, too — with self-driving, and we stopped driving and we’re recovering from that mistake,’ he said in the episode of ‘Axios on HBO.’ ‘I think that people make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they can never be forgiven. I think they have taken it seriously.’ The car accident was caused by a bad sensor, the interviewer reminded Khosrowshahi, then continued, ‘The CIA suggested that the crown prince had a role in ordering the assassination. That’s a different thing — you didn’t intentionally run someone over.’ About an hour later, Khosrowshahi contacted Axios to clarify his comments on Khashoggi. 'I said something in the moment that I do not believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused,' he wrote in an email, according to the publication."
-- Southwest Airlines is operating 49 planes that may not have been properly inspected, a top Federal Aviation Administration official said. Lori Aratani reports: “The aircraft in question are among 88 used jets purchased from foreign carriers by Southwest between 2013 and 2017. The planes underwent special inspections, including reviews of their maintenance records, before being cleared to fly, according to the FAA. But now the quality of those inspections is being questioned. … H. Clayton Foushee, director of the FAA’s Office of Audit and Evaluation, raised concerns about the contractors Southwest had used to inspect the aircraft, noting that subsequent reviews by FAA inspectors and the airline had turned up hundreds of instances of undocumented repairs that were made on the planes that were not identified in previous reviews.”
-- Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is seriously considering joining the presidential race. From the Times: Patrick has told Joe Biden and “other Democratic officials that he is considering making a last-minute entry into the 2020 presidential race, according to three Democrats familiar with the conversations … Mr. Patrick, a respected two-term governor and one of the highest-profile black leaders in the party, has told some of the Democratic officials that he doesn’t think any of the candidates have established political momentum and that he thinks there is an opening for somebody who can unite both liberal and moderate voters, according to Democrats who have spoken to him. He and some of his top advisers had a meeting Sunday in Boston to discuss what a campaign would look like, according to two Democrats. … Mr. Patrick spoke to Mr. Biden in a phone conversation last week that he was weighing a bid, but did not indicate that he had fully decided to run...
“Mr. Patrick’s candidacy could reshape the already-fluid primary field. He is well known in next-door New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation primary in February. And as one of the first black governors in the country’s history, he could also prove a formidable candidate in South Carolina, where black voters are expected to make up more than half the Democratic electorate. If he is to compete in New Hampshire, Mr. Patrick would have to file there this week: The deadline to appear on the state’s ballot is Friday. A possible Patrick candidacy could complicate the strategic assumptions for a number of candidates, including the two leaders in most polls, Mr. Biden and [Elizabeth] Warren. Mr. Patrick could threaten the former vice president’s support from black voters and also make inroads in New Hampshire, where Ms. Warren is counting on a strong performance in the southern part of the state that borders Massachusetts. He and Ms. Warren have had an amicable, if not personally close relationship; when she was asked at an event last week to name African-Americans she’d want in her cabinet, she included Mr. Patrick.” Patrick has been working at Bain Capital since leaving office in 2015.
-- A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Biden holding a narrow edge in the New Hampshire race. From CNN: “Biden stands at 20%, with [Warren] at 16%, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 15% and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at 14% in a tight race for second place. No other candidates reach double digits in the poll.”
-- During a CNN town hall in Iowa, Biden renewed his attacks against Warren’s Medicare-for-all plan, saying it comes from the elitist belief that Americans shouldn’t be allowed to make up their own minds on health care. From CNN: Biden also “said he's merely been responding after ‘she attacked me.’ … Biden said his criticism wasn't about Warren personally, and he went on to describe the attitude he said was behind advocating the health care plan she backs.”
-- Biden’s rivals are scrambling to dent his support from black voters. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Amy B Wang report: “Rather than attack Biden directly, his rivals are mostly deploying tactics that include church visits and tailgate parties, and holding private conversations and teaming up with young influencers who can spread the word. … In the interest of that catch-up, Biden’s rivals are trying to play to whatever strengths they have. Warren is making appeals to black women. Buttigieg and Sanders are aiming at younger activists, largely ceding the older generation to Biden. The goal for Biden’s rivals, at least for now, is not to overtake him among black voters but to come out of the South Carolina primary with at least a respectable showing, Democratic strategists say — and to be well-positioned in case Biden stumbles in Iowa or New Hampshire, which hold votes shortly before South Carolina.”
-- Iowa voters are questioning Buttigieg’s moderate message even as he surges in the polls, reports our former Daily 202 colleague Joan E. Greve now at the Guardian: “With less than three months to go until Iowa voters hold their caucuses, the looming question over Buttigieg’s surprise campaign is whether he will maintain the momentum he has seen in recent weeks or fizzle out as other Democratic candidates have. Some of his opponents’ allies have dismissed the validity of Buttigieg’s surge, calling the young mayor ‘the flavor of the moment.’ But Buttigieg’s campaign insists his current momentum in Iowa is legitimate, powered by more than 100 staffers spread across more than 20 field offices. … Buttigieg’s apparent recalculation away from progressive policies like Medicare for All has led some to question the sincerity of his campaign promises. One rally attendee described the mayor as ‘kind of smarmy’ and suggested he tone down his ‘salesman’ persona. But many attendees were impressed with Buttigieg’s performance on the stump and his evident gifts as a politician. ‘He seems like somebody you’d know down the block, which is very rewarding and comforting,’ said Kate Payne, 61.”
-- Facebook’s top news executive, Campbell Brown, has her own media outlet that has, in recent weeks, harshly attacked Warren. From Popular Information: “In 2015, Brown co-founded The 74, which focuses on the public education system, and served as editor-in-chief. Even after joining Facebook in 2017, Brown has maintained an active role in The 74, where she is a member of the board of directors. … On October 23, The 74 published an article with this headline: ‘Elizabeth Warren’s Education Plan Is Exactly What We Need — If Our Goal Is to Make the Achievement Gap Permanent.’”
-- Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of Elijah Cummings, is running for her late husband’s seat. From the Baltimore Sun: “‘I am, of course, devastated at the loss of my spouse, but his spirit is with me,’ Rockeymoore Cummings, 48, said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun. ‘I’m going to run this race and I’m going to run it hard, as if he’s still right here by my side.’ … Rockeymoore Cummings, a public policy consultant who is founder of the Washington consulting firm Global Policy Solutions LLC and a former 2018 candidate for governor, said her husband told her months before he died he would like for her to succeed him. … Rockeymoore Cummings plans to kick off her campaign Tuesday at her home office in Baltimore’s Madison Park neighborhood. She said she will focus on issues important to the late congressman, such as battling the opioid crisis and ‘fighting for the soul of our democracy’ against the Trump administration, but also on her areas of expertise, which include health and education policy. … Rockeymoore Cummings said she will resign as chairwoman of the state Democratic Party to avoid any appearance of favoritism. That means state Sen. Cory V. McCray will rise to interim chairman.”
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it appears Gov. Matt Bevin lost his bid for reelection in Kentucky, even though Bevin still hasn’t conceded the race. From WFPL.org in Louisville: “‘I’m sorry Matt came up short, but he had a good four years and I think all indications are — barring some dramatic reversal on recanvass — that we’ll have a different governor in three weeks,’ McConnell told reporters after an event at North American Stainless in Ghent. The unofficial results of last week’s election showed Beshear defeating Bevin by 5,189 votes … When asked if Bevin should concede following the recanvass, McConnell said he wouldn’t give the governor any advice, but then seemed to urge the governor to move on. ‘My first election was almost the exactly the same number of votes that Beshear won by. We had a recanvass, they added them up, it didn’t change and we all moved on,’ McConnell said.”
-- Also in Kentucky, Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker launched an exploratory committee for a potential run against McConnell. From the Courier Journal: “Booker, 35, a first-term state legislator, told The Courier Journal he filed the paperwork for his committee Monday and plans to launch a statewide listening tour by the end of November before he makes a final decision on whether to run. … He said he's tired of McConnell using Kentucky as a ‘poker chip’ to gain power while the Bluegrass State suffers.”
-- The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in a case that will decide the fates of nearly 700,000 “dreamers.” A decision is expected to come next June, during the home stretch of the presidential election. Robert Barnes reports: “The Trump administration has tried for more than two years to ‘wind down’ the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, announced by President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect from deportation qualified young immigrants who came to the country illegally. Individual DACA recipients, giant corporations, civil rights groups and universities have challenged the administration’s plans, and won. Lower courts have found that the administration relied on faulty legal analysis for ending the program, rather than providing lawful reasons that the courts and the public could evaluate. … Dozens of briefs have been filed in what will be one of the court’s marquee cases of the term, many of them only tangentially addressing the legal issues at play. Instead, they extol the doctors, lawyers, engineers, students and military officers whose accomplishments were made possible by the program.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Israel killed a senior leader of the militant Palestinian Islamic Jihad with an airstrike in the Gaza Strip early this morning. Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash report: "In Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces targeted Baha Abu al-Ata, the militant commander Israel considered responsible for several previous rocket launches on grounds that his next attack was imminent. … In a statement, Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirmed that Abu Al Ata and his wife were killed. … The overnight action was approved by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu." Former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, who is trying to form a coalition government, supported the action.
-- Turkey deported U.S. and Danish citizens who fought for ISIS and made plans to expel other foreign nationals, as Ankara begins a new push to send back captured foreign fighters to their home countries. From the AP: “Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign IS fighters were in Turkish prisons and 287 members, including women and children, were recaptured during Turkey’s offensive in Syria. Several European countries, including Britain, have stripped IS fighters of their nationalities to prevent their return. … Turkey’s Sabah newspaper, which is close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, reported that the U.S. citizen who had been deported was stuck in a heavily militarized no man’s land between the Greece and Turkey borders. … In Denmark, Justice Minister Nick Hakkerup told Danish broadcaster TV2 that any Danish citizens who fought for IS and are repatriated to the country ‘must be punished as severely as possible.’”
-- Ahead of Erdogan’s visit to Washington tomorrow, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asked the State Department to ban the leader’s bodyguards from entering the country. From National Review: “In May 2017, members of the Turkish Presidential Protection Department (TPPD), Turkey’s equivalent of the Secret Service, attacked pro-Kurdish protesters outside the residence of the Turkish ambassador. The assault, in which protesters and American law-enforcement officials were injured, was captured on video. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Cheney requested that ‘none of the people who were in the United States with President Erdoğan in 2017 and participated in physical attacks on American citizens—including those protesting lawfully, our secret service, our diplomatic service, and our law enforcement officials—will be allowed into the United States again this week.’ … The letter comes in advance of a planned White House visit by Erdogan this Wednesday.”
-- Trump is looking forward to Erdogan’s visit, and he may be the only one in town, laments The Post’s Editorial Board: “Erdogan has jailed hundreds of journalists, academics and others he perceives as political opponents, and purged thousands from their jobs. His offensive into northeastern Syria, under the guise of fighting terrorism and greenlighted by Mr. Trump, has led to ethnic cleansing of Kurds, created a humanitarian disaster and compromised the fight against the Islamic State. He has been emboldened by Mr. Trump’s eagerness to retreat from the region, and there’s little hope that the administration will speak up for the rule of law in Turkey. It is up to Congress to protest — and hopefully mitigate — the damage Mr. Erdogan is causing.”
-- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the conditional release of three high profile Taliban prisoners in exchange for kidnapped American and Australian professors. Sharif Hassan reports: “Speaking live on local TV channels in Kabul, Ghani said the decision was taken to and bring ‘peace and stability’ in the country. ‘In consultations with our international partners especially the U.S., we have adopted a mechanism and approach to make sure the release of these three men wouldn’t reinforce the … enemy and intensify attacks by them,’ he said. All three prisoners are members of deadly Haqqani wing of the Taliban that include Anas Haqqani, a younger brother of the group’s leader, Mali Khan and Hafiz Rashid. They were held in a government detention center inside Bagram military base. The professors are a U.S. national, Kevin King, and Australian, Timothy Weeks. Both were teaching at the American University of Afghanistan and were kidnapped in 2016.”
-- In Iraq, protesters continue withstanding bullets, tear gas and stun grenades as they call for the ouster of the entire political class. Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim report: “More than 319 people have been killed and 15,000 wounded since anti-government demonstrations began in Baghdad and southern cities on Oct. 1, according to the country’s human rights commission. As crowds start to thin, a broader crackdown is starting. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested. Volunteer medics have disappeared on their way to Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, not heard from since. In dozens of interviews, protesters and medics described intelligence officers and unknown individuals appearing in tents full of friends, taking photographs on cellphones and leaving. Activists showed messages on their phones advising them to go home or making blunter threats.”
-- James Le Mesurier, a former British Army officer who founded the White Helmets defense group in Syria and has drawn the ire of the Kremlin, was found dead in Turkey. From the BBC: “Mr Le Mesurier's body was found at about 04:30 local time (01:30 GMT) on the street near his home and office in Istanbul's Beyoglu district on the European side of the city. He was found with fractures to his head and legs, Turkish media say, and is believed to have fallen from his balcony. … The Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused the White Helmets of openly aiding terrorist organizations and the Russian foreign ministry last week accused Mr. Le Mesurier of being a former agent of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6. The Russian allegation was strongly denied on Monday by Karen Pierce, the UK ambassador to the UN, who said: ‘The Russian charges against him, that came out of the foreign ministry that he was a spy, are categorically untrue.’”
-- The Trump administration is drafting plans to condition U.S. aid to other countries on how well they treat their religious minorities. From Politico: “The proposal is expected to cover U.S. humanitarian assistance, and could also be broadened to include American military aid to other countries. If the proposal becomes reality, it could have a major effect on U.S. assistance in a range of places, from Iraq to Vietnam. Its mere consideration shows how much the White House prioritizes religious freedom, an emphasis critics say is really about galvanizing Trump’s evangelical Christian base. But experts on U.S. aid also warn that picking and choosing which countries to punish could be a very difficult task, not least because several countries that are partners or allies of the United States have terrible religious freedom records.”
-- Bolivia’s Evo Morales flew off to Mexico after being ousted. From the Guardian: “Earlier on Monday evening Morales tweeted a farewell after his resignation in the wake of a disputed election, saying that he would be take up the offer of asylum in Mexico but would soon ‘return with greater strength and energy.’ The Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted a picture of the former leader draped in the flag of Mexico, and said: ‘The Mexican Air Force plane has already taken off with Evo Morales on board. According to current international conventions, it is under the protection of Mexico. Your life and integrity are safe.’ … A senior US official said that Washington did not consider Morales resignation and departure to constitute a coup. ‘All these events clearly show is the Bolivian people have simply had enough of a government ignoring the will of its voters,’ the official said. … In Mexico Ebrard issued a statement on Monday defining what had happened as a ‘military coup’ and calling for an urgent meeting of the OAS.”
-- So, was what happened in Bolivia a coup? Bolivians are still trying to figure that out. Anthony Faiola and Rachelle Krygier report: “All four officials in the constitutional line of succession — the president, the vice president and the heads of the senate and chamber of deputies, all socialists — resigned on Sunday. That left remaining lawmakers scrambling to cobble together a quorum to appoint a new leader — something they appeared unable to do Monday. … Carlos Mesa, the former president who finished second to Morales last month, rejected the word ‘coup.’ Speaking to reporters Monday, he called the events of the previous 24 hours a ‘democratic popular action’ to stop a government that had committed election fraud to install itself as an authoritarian power. … Debate over whether democracy had been restored or broken raged across the region. Morales’s socialists were accused of stealing an election. But critics said the military’s decision to pull its support and the mob rule that forced him out were anything but constitutional. Views fell largely along ideological lines, exposing the political divisions among and within Latin American nations and also the sensitivity to a word — ‘coup’ — that invokes images of 20th-century military interventions in the region, many of them backed by the United States.”
-- Spain was once thought to be immune to the far-right. That changed this past weekend. Chico Harlan and Pamela Rolfe report: “After the Vox party cracked open the door to parliament in April and came in third in national elections on Sunday, Spain can be singled out for something else: Among major European countries, it is where the far right is gaining ground most quickly. … The Socialist party claimed the most votes in Sunday’s elections — but there was no obvious path for any party on the left or right to easily form a government in Spain’s fragmented system. The Socialists, led by acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez, won 120 of 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies. The center-right Popular Party, which has been plagued by corruption scandals, came in second with 88 seats. And Vox finished with 52, compared with 24 seats in elections in April.”
-- The U.K.’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage offered Prime Minister Boris Johnson a truce, upping his chances of success in next month’s election. William Booth and Karla Adam report: “Farage said he would not field candidates for the 317 seats that Johnson’s Conservative Party won in 2017. That means, in half of Britain, voters who hunger to leave the European Union will not have to decide between a pro-Brexit Conservative candidate and a really, really pro-Brexit Brexit Party candidate.”
-- Australia’s former top diplomat in the U.K., Alexander Downer, said Australia should reduce its UK intelligence sharing if Jeremy Corbyn wins the election. From the Guardian: “In an excoriating assessment of the Labour leader at the National Press Club in Canberra, Downer contended that a Corbyn victory would imperil substantial Australian investments in Britain, and would trigger a reassessment of the ‘very intimate’ security relationship between Canberra and London.”
-- Israel extradited Russian hacker Aleksey Burkov to the U.S. despite Moscow’s protests. From the Times of Israel: “Burkov, who was arrested in 2015 at the request of Interpol, is wanted in the US on embezzlement charges over a massive credit card scheme that saw him allegedly steal millions of dollars from American consumers. His fate is believed linked to Russia’s sentencing last month of Israeli-American Naama Issachar, 26, to seven and a half years in prison for drug offenses. Israeli officials have decried the sentence as disproportionate and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for her release.”
-- Kremlin-linked business owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is under U.S. sanctions for his ties to the Internet Research Agency that’s been indicted for interference in the 2016 presidential election, split his business empire with a 27-year-old. From the Moscow Times: “A close Putin ally, Prigozhin is also linked to the Wagner Group of private mercenaries which has reportedly fought alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, been sent to provide personal security to Venezuelean President Nicolas Maduro, and been deployed in the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Madagascar, Libya, eastern Ukraine and Sudan. Prigozhin’s decision to cede half of his main business interest is
-- Don Cherry, the longtime NHL commentator, was fired by the Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet after making divisive comments about immigrants on the air. Cherry, an often controversial commentator, criticized immigrants in Canada for not recognizing Remembrance Day, which many Canadians celebrate by wearing small artificial poppies. “You people love — you, that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey,” Cherry said. “At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life, that you enjoy in Canada.” (Matt Bonesteel, Ben Strauss and Des Bieler)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump said that, for the sake of transparency, he'll release another call transcript. He initially said it would come on Tuesday, but now he's saying it'll come some time this week. From a Post reporter:
Records president has not released (a partial list):— Paul Farhi (@farhip) November 11, 2019
--Draft board records.
--Passport application and records.
--Wife’s immigration records.
--White House visitor logs. https://t.co/eKpL0DI260
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) added other ways the president has not been transparent:
Far from transparent, Trump has engaged in unprecedented obstruction.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 12, 2019
He‘s blocking more than a dozen witnesses from testifying.
His White House, State Dept, DOD, OMB, and Energy Dept are defying subpoenas for thousands of documents.
The American people see through this. https://t.co/VbyP5gRBIR
The president was protested at a Veterans Day event:
Trump speaks at Veterans Day event in NYC. Protestors nearby are chanting “lock him up” and “traitor” pic.twitter.com/MhqeDa4xOw— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) November 11, 2019
A New Yorker reporter noted a change in language:
Dem language changing. Quid pro quo out; extortion in— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) November 11, 2019
Pete Buttigieg made his favorite ice cream flavor public and hoped for the best:
A New Hampshire voter asks Pete Buttigieg his favorite ice cream flavor. “Cherry Garcia,” he tells her. “I hope that was the right answer.” pic.twitter.com/iuh3mzw3xy— DJ Judd (@DJJudd) November 10, 2019
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer got kicked off "Dancing With the Stars":
To everyone who has voted & supported me over the past 9 weeks on @DancingABC thank u from the bottom of my heart. I made it to the quarterfinals bc of your votes. I had a blast. Thank u to my family, the AMAZING @lindsayarnold - u are the best, & @JennaJohnson I appreciate u!— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) November 12, 2019
Trump quickly deleted a message urging people to vote for Spicer on the show and changed it to a consolation:
A great try by @seanspicer. We are all proud of you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2019
Many on Twitter were quick to crack jokes about Spicer's loss:
Sean Spicer was voted off #DWTS or as Sean Spicer would describe it, he won the whole thing.— JeremyNewberger (@jeremynewberger) November 12, 2019
Trump endorsed Sean Spicer on DWTS. He just lost.— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) November 12, 2019
Trump went to Alabama in search of a stadium that wouldn’t boo him. LSU won for the 1st time in almost a decade.
Trump endorsed Bevin in Kentucky. A Democrat won in America’s reddest state.
Keep endorsing your friends, Donald.
Me talking about Sean Spicer finally getting voted off to the zero people I know who watch #DWTS in real life pic.twitter.com/Y4mfSnoUt5— Brett S. Vergara (@BrettSVergara) November 12, 2019
From Chicago's paper:
Our long national nightmare is over. https://t.co/KIz8Anv8Og— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) November 12, 2019
Spicer's last dance appears to have been a foxtrot:
A fantastic Foxtrot by @seanspicer! Way to go, #TeamSweetNSpicey. 👏 #DWTS pic.twitter.com/iuULZ2zXUi— Dancing With The Stars #DWTS (@DancingABC) November 12, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s too many people… That’s the main reason I got out of there. You can’t drive, you can’t park, you can’t go to the grocery store. There’s lines. It’s all these millennials,” said Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) about his decision to sell his apartment near Washington's wharf. Republicans have cited him selling his condo as evidence that he plans to retire, which he denies. (Politico)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
A Democratic congresswoman from Virginia who picked up a GOP-held district in the midterms leaned on her Navy service and the oaths of office she's taken to explain her support for impeachment. Her Veterans Day message went viral:
.@realDonaldTrump didn’t uphold his oath, but I intend to uphold mine.— Elaine Luria (@ElaineLuriaVA) November 11, 2019
Serving in Congress and 20 years in the Navy, I’ve sworn an oath to support and defend our Constitution seven times. It’s an obligation I take seriously. https://t.co/uIRq6RIJR1 pic.twitter.com/aqneKspW27
Trump's campaign launched an online rap competition, so Jimmy Kimmel decided to judge some of the performances:
Seth Meyers talked about how two of the leading 2020 Democrats are ticking off billionaires:
Trevor Noah thinks Michael Bloomberg's potential jump into the 2020 race is "such a billionaire thing to do":