That “little conflict of interest” remains, and that “strong leader” is coming to the White House this afternoon.
President Trump is rolling out the red carpet for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan just weeks after his military incursion into northern Syria. By law, Trump is required to impose sanctions against Turkey for buying a Russian missile defense system. Before Erdogan took delivery in July, senior administration officials said it would be unacceptable and compromise the stealth capabilities of the new generation F-35 combat jet. But Trump has delayed sanctions and asked GOP senators for flexibility.
-- The president’s softness toward Turkey and his bromance with Erdogan is striking and, to some former Trump aides, suspicious. To wit: Former national security adviser John Bolton suggested during a private speech in Miami last week that the president’s approach to U.S. policy on Turkey is motivated by personal or financial interests, six people who were present for the remarks told NBC News.
“Bolton told the gathering of Morgan Stanley’s largest hedge fund clients that he was most frustrated with Trump over his handling of Turkey,” Stephanie Ruhle and Carol Lee report. “Noting the broad bipartisan support in Congress to sanction Turkey after [Erdogan] purchased a Russian missile defense system, Bolton said Trump’s resistance to the move was unreasonable … Bolton said he believes there is a personal or business relationship dictating Trump’s position on Turkey because none of his advisers are aligned with him on the issue.”
-- Erdogan, then prime minister, cut the ribbon at the opening of Trump Towers Istanbul in 2012. Trump was there with his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. Both now work in the White House. The Trump Organization, which the president has never divested from, has received annual licensing fees for the use of the name on the skyscrapers.
-- Trump has offered Erdogan a package of inducements to improve U.S.-Turkey relations, which will be up for discussion today, that is virtually identical to those the administration proposed last month in a failed effort to stop Turkey’s invasion of Syria. Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Kareem Fahim report on the proposal: “In a new letter to Erdogan last week, Trump told the Turkish president that a $100 billion trade deal, and a workaround to avoid U.S. sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, are still possible, senior administration officials said. The offer is likely to infuriate at least some of the overwhelming House majority that voted last month to impose sanctions on Turkey over its assault into Syria, and a bipartisan group of senators who introduced a similar bill. …
“In exchange for Trump’s revived offer, Erdogan would continue what the administration has said is its adherence to an Oct. 17 cease-fire agreement, negotiated with Vice President Pence a week after the invasion began, that limited the Turkish incursion. [There is dispute about the degree to which Erdogan has complied.] Turkey, a NATO [member], would also continue to actively support U.S. goals of preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State in Syria and establishing a stable and representative Syrian government. … Now, the administration’s red line is that the S-400s ‘do not become operational’ in a way that would allow them ‘access to our F-35 communications and defenses,’ said the senior official.”
-- Meanwhile, the Syrian National Army, a Turkish proxy force, has been accused of widespread abuses, including summary executions, beatings, kidnappings and looting in areas under Turkey’s control. “U.S. military officials watched live drone feeds in October that appeared to show Turkish-backed Arab gunmen targeting civilians during their assault on Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, attacks the Americans reported to their commanders as possible war crimes,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. “U.S. surveillance videos of two incidents were included in an internal report compiled by State Department officials laying out concerns regarding four credible cases of alleged war crimes…”
After saying he wouldn’t tolerate such behavior, Erdogan has not cracked down on these Turkish-backed forces. In fact, he’s defended them. Margaret Huang, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, has more about the ground truth in an op-ed for today’s paper: “As Erdogan visits the White House, remember the suffering in northern Syria.”
-- When the Turks want something from Trump, they go to Jared: “Behind President Trump’s accommodating attitude toward Turkey is an unusual back channel: a trio of sons-in-law who married into power and now play key roles in connecting Ankara with Washington,” the New York Times reports in a deep dive on the nexus of political and business interests. “One, Turkey’s finance minister, is the son-in-law of its strongman president and oversees his country’s relationship with the United States. Another is the son-in-law of a Turkish tycoon and became a business partner to the Trump Organization. Now he advocates for Turkey with the Trump administration. And the third is Jared Kushner, who as the son-in-law of and senior adviser to Mr. Trump has a vague if expansive foreign policy portfolio. Operating both individually and in tandem, the three men have developed an informal, next-generation line of communication…
“Mr. Erdogan predicted in a television interview this year that a private dialogue between Berat Albayrak, his [41-year-old] son-in-law and finance minister, and Mr. Kushner would soon put ‘back on track’ the vexed relations … ‘The bridge works well in this manner,’ Mr. Erdogan said. ‘Backdoor diplomacy,’ Mr. Albayrak called his work with Mr. Kushner. … On the Russian missiles, banking sanctions and other matters, Mr. Erdogan has deployed both his own son-in-law and Mr. Trump’s Turkish business partner, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, as emissaries to the administration, sometimes through Mr. Kushner … In April, for example, Mr. Albayrak had come to Washington for a conference organized by Mr. Yalcindag at the Trump International Hotel. And in the middle of the event, Mr. Kushner summoned Mr. Albayrak to an impromptu meeting in the Oval Office, where Mr. Albayrak successfully pressed Mr. Trump to hold back the sanctions against Turkey for buying Russian weapons. …
“On the strength of his ties to the Trump family, Mr. Erdogan also named Mr. Yalcindag to a new role as chairman of a state-run business group that lobbies Washington on behalf of Ankara. The group’s previous chairman, Ekim Alptekin, had run afoul of American prosecutors by paying more than $500,000 to the consulting firm of the retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who went on to become Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser. … Taking over as the face of the state-sponsored Turkey-U.S. Business Council after Mr. Trump’s election, Mr. Yalcindag began to travel regularly to Washington. The council for the first time held its annual conferences at the Trump hotel in Washington, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue for the hotel while pulling in top Trump administration officials as speakers.”
-- In a sentencing memo last December, former special counsel Bob Mueller’s team of prosecutors outlined more of the secretive activities Flynn undertook to help Turkey while advising the Trump campaign in 2016.
-- Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, also has interests in Turkey. Philip Bump explained some of the backstory recently: “Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) thought he was talking to Turkey’s minister of defense [in August]. … It was a Russian radio host who has earned a reputation for getting foreign officials on the phone and eliciting information under false pretenses as he did in two calls with Graham. … In the second conversation, Graham touts his access to Trump by claiming to have spent significant time with the president over the previous weekend in which they discussed Turkey. … ‘This case involving the Turkish bank?’ Graham said. ‘He’s very sensitive. The president wants to be helpful within the limits of his power.’ He mentioned it again a bit later, describing his conversations with Trump during their interactions. …
“It appears to be a reference to a criminal case in the United States focused on a man named Reza Zarrab. Zarrab was at the center of an effort to help Iran evade international sanctions by masking money transfers into the country as sales of gold. After being arrested in the United States in 2016, Zarrab agreed to work with prosecutors, providing testimony against an official from a Turkish state bank, Halkbank. That official was found guilty in January 2018. In late 2017, Zarrab also directly implicated Erdogan, suggesting that the then-prime minister had approved the scheme. Shortly after Zarrab was arrested, Erdogan pressured the Obama administration to release him — and to fire the U.S. attorney who brought charges against Zarrab, Preet Bharara. Trump fired Bharara in March 2017. …
“Zarrab himself has been represented by two attorneys whose names might be familiar to Americans: Michael Mukasey, a former attorney general, and [Giuliani]. The pair even met with Erdogan in early 2017, reportedly to try to resolve the Zarrab case. At some point that year, Trump directly tried to intervene. With Giuliani and Mukasey in the room, Trump reportedly asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to try to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Zarrab. The president also suggested he speak with Giuliani about the case. Tillerson refused. … That Graham focused on the ‘case involving the Turkish bank’ — Halkbank — after apparently spending time with Trump at his club in Bedminster in August suggests that the Zarrab affair may still be at the forefront of Trump’s concerns in regard to Turkey. It also suggests another situation where, like Ukraine, Trump may be following Giuliani’s lead.”
-- The run of show: As most of us are watching the first televised impeachment inquiry hearing, Trump is scheduled to welcome Erdogan at the South Portico of the White House at noon. The presidents will be joined for 20 minutes by their wives, and then they will talk for 30 minutes in “a restricted bilateral meeting” in the Oval Office before going to the Cabinet Room for an expanded working lunch. Trump and Erdogan are scheduled to hold a joint news conference at 3:10 p.m. in the East Room, and then Erdogan is set to depart the White House just before 4 p.m.
-- Some prominent liberals are pressing House Democrats to expand the scope of the impeachment inquiry to include Trump Organization dealings overseas, with Turkey near the top of the list. “The Constitution is clear: The founders were deadly afraid foreign governments would get their hooks into high-ranking American officials, especially the president,” said Jeff Hauser, the executive director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic Policy and Research. “Trump's policies and team have tilted toward Turkey at key junctures over the past three years, and it is Congress’s constitutional responsibility to determine if that's because Trump is as financially entangled with Turkey as Flynn and Giuliani.”
Democratic leaders are eager to wrap up the impeachment process as early as possible in 2020 so they can pivot to pocketbook issues. That’s kept the probe narrowly focused and meant a range of potential Trump misconduct is not being seriously scrutinized. Hauser and other thought leaders on the left warn that this is a mistake. “By shouting that impeachment rests on the Ukraine story alone, House Democrats risk undermining their constitutional responsibilities to safeguard the executive branch from foreign entanglements,” he told me. “The only reliable way to assess Turkey's seeming influence over Trump is for the House to subpoena all relevant Trump Organizational records. The Trump Organization is not ‘the presidency,’ and there is no risk of any remotely serious claim of executive privilege.”
-- Another fresh reminder of the president’s financial entanglements overseas: The Trump Organization has agreed to pay $290,000 to the Scottish government, ending a multiyear legal battle in which Trump tried and failed to block an offshore wind farm from being built in view of one of his Scottish golf courses. “The agreement to pay the government’s legal fees ends the company’s bitter public dispute with the Scottish government. Over the years, Trump repeatedly criticized former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond about the wind farm and warned that it would cause ‘almost total destruction’ of the country’s tourism industry,” Joshua Partlow reports. “A Scottish government spokesman said that the settlement — first reported by the Scotsman newspaper — removed the need for an independent auditor to determine expenses to be paid by the Trump Organization. … The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- At least seven people were killed, including five children, and 10 others were wounded when a car bomb exploded near the Kabul airport this morning. Siobhán O’Grady and Sayed Salahuddin report: “The target of the blast appeared to be an armored vehicle belonging to GardaWorld, a Canadian security company, and at least four of the wounded were foreigners … The suicide bombing was the first major attack on the Afghan capital after about a month of relative calm, and it came only one day after President Ashraf Ghani said he would release three high-profile Taliban commanders from prison, a major concession he said he hoped would jump-start talks and lead to the release of hostages, including two foreigners, one American and one Australian, kidnapped by the Taliban in 2016.” (A pedophile ring in Afghanistan may be responsible for the abuse of over 500 boys, the Guardian reports.)
-- The world is a tinderbox, cont.:
- Hong Kong is paralyzed for a third consecutive day, a night after chaotic battles between riot police and student protesters left the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong resembling a combat zone. (Ryan Ho Kilpatrick, Anna Kam and Casey Quackenbush)
- A cross-border battle between the Israeli army and militants in the Gaza Strip resumed this morning, with a second day of attacks sparked by Israel’s killing of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader. (Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash)
- Chile entered its 26th day of protests with huge demonstrations Tuesday and a national strike that has paralyzed most of the country. (AP)
- In Bolivia, Senate leader Jeanine Añez has declared herself interim president. Evo Morales has arrived in Mexico, where he received asylum. (Kevin Sieff, Gabriela Martínez and Rachelle Krygier)
- Severe flooding in Venice that has left much of the Italian city under water, and Mayor Luigi Brugnaro says it's a direct result of climate change. (BBC)
THE LATEST ON THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY:
-- Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who has been indicted for campaign finance violations, says he discussed Ukraine with the president during an exclusive donor dinner in Trump’s Washington hotel. Rosalind S. Helderman, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey report: “Parnas, has described to associates that he and his business partner, Igor Fruman, told Trump at the dinner that they thought the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was unfriendly to the president and his interests. According to Parnas, the president reacted strongly to the news: Trump immediately suggested that then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who had been in the Foreign Service for 32 years and served under Democratic and Republican presidents, should be fired, people familiar with his account said. … Parnas’s account of personally discussing Ukraine with Trump more than 18 months ago suggests that he and Fruman had more personal interaction with the president — and potentially more influence over his views on that country — than the White House has acknowledged. … Parnas’s account of the 2018 dinner is the first indication that he or Fruman interacted directly with Trump about Ukraine. His description of their conversation suggests that the Boca Raton businessman, who emigrated as a child from Ukraine, could hold key information about Trump’s pressure campaign on his home country — an effort that set in motion the ongoing impeachment inquiry.”
-- Aides are warning Trump not to fire acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger, Josh Dawsey and John Hudson report: “Senior advisers have cautioned Trump that removing Mulvaney at such a sensitive time could be perilous ... both because Mulvaney played an integral role in the decision to freeze the aid, and because of the disruption that would be caused by replacing one of Trump’s most senior aides. ‘I don’t think you’ll see him going anywhere until after December,’ said one Trump adviser ... ‘But the president was very unhappy with that press conference. That was a very bad day for the president.’ … Mulvaney’s relationship with Trump garnered new scrutiny Tuesday when he called off plans to file a lawsuit asking the courts to rule on whether he should comply with a House subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Instead he announced he would follow the president’s broad directive barring aides from participating in the inquiry.”
-- Get to know the lawyers you will see on television today:
The lead Democratic counsel, Daniel S. Goldman, cut his teeth by sending mobsters, stock swindlers and inside traders to prison. Devlin Barrett reports: “At the public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee due to begin Wednesday, Goldman is slotted to question each witness for 45 minutes, followed by five-minute question sessions for each lawmaker. Stephen R. Castor, general counsel for the House Oversight Committee, will be the Republicans’ point man. The format is a significant departure from routine congressional hearings, where lawmakers have the spotlight and seldom cede the microphone and live television coverage to a staffer. By assigning a big chunk of the questioning to a committee lawyer, and in Goldman’s case, an accomplished former prosecutor, party leaders are tacitly acknowledging just how serious the stakes are.”
Castor, the lead Republican staff attorney, has served as an investigator in some of the biggest House probes of the last 15 years, including inquiries related to Hurricane Katrina and the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Elise Viebeck reports: “Castor will help lead the effort as general counsel for the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In contrast with his Democratic counterpart … Castor has spent his career avoiding the media spotlight, rising through the ranks over nearly 15 years and seven consecutive chairmanships to become the Oversight panel’s top GOP lawyer. Castor declined to comment for this report, but a half-dozen former colleagues and bosses praised him as a straight-shooting attorney whose deliberate, low-key style will make him an asset to Republicans..."
-- For Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and today’s first public witness, everything has been easy compared to Vietnam, per a Yahoo profile: “Taylor served in the 101st Airborne’s 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry, and for a year commanded 20 to 30 men in his rifle platoon on the front lines of the conflict, in the Quang Tri and Thua Tien provinces of what was then South Vietnam. … After a year, Taylor was eligible to return home to the U.S. Instead, he signed up to stay another six months, was promoted to captain, and became commander of Alpha Company. … Taylor was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal. He left the military in 1975 and went on to work in senior positions at the newly created Department of Energy and then on the staff of Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J. In the 1990s, Taylor oversaw U.S. assistance to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in the years immediately following the fall of the Iron Curtain. ... Taylor spent a few years working in Afghanistan, Iraq and on the Middle East peace process. In 2006, he returned to Eastern Europe as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine."
-- Taylor published an op-ed in a Ukrainian newspaper reaffirming U.S. support for the country: “The United States is firmly committed to Ukraine’s success – your success is our success. We will not allow Russia to dismantle the international order that was painstakingly built after World War II," he wrote earlier this week. "President [Volodomyr] Zelenskyy’s administration and the Verkhovna Rada have taken solid steps toward meaningful judicial reform, including the reboot of key anti-corruption institutions that give teeth to the rule of law and other fundamental reforms. … But as everyone who promotes democracy knows, strengthening and protecting democratic values is a constant process, requiring persistence and steady work by both officials and ordinary citizens. As in all democracies, including the United States, work remains in Ukraine, especially to strengthen rule of law and to hold accountable those who try to subvert Ukraine’s structures to serve their personal aims, rather than the nation’s interests.”
-- Taylor and George Kent are in the hot seat today. Marie Yovanovitch, the deposed ex-ambassador, comes to the Capitol on Friday. And eight more witnesses are scheduled to testify in public hearings next week. Democrats announced this lineup last night:
- Tuesday: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the European affairs director at the National Security Council; Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine; Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Mike Pence who listened to the July 25 call; and Timothy Morrison, the former senior director for Russian affairs at the NSC.
- Wednesday: Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union; Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine; and David Hale, the State Department’s under secretary for political affairs.
- Thursday: Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser on the NSC.
-- In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Giuliani lays out an impeachment defense for Trump: “The conversation my client … had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 was innocent. ... For Messrs. Trump and Zelensky to discuss these issues was not only proper but an exercise of Mr. Trump’s responsibility as U.S. president as expressed in Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution: ‘to take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed.’ Moreover, Mr. Trump requested that Ukraine root out corruption; he didn’t demand it. His words were cordial, agreeable and free of any element of threat or coercion. Mr. Trump offered nothing in return to Ukraine for cleaning up corruption."
-- Giuliani was negotiating a deal to co-produce a podcast with The Hill and writer John Solomon, a central figure in the disinformation campaign against Joe Biden. From ProPublica: “The project, which never came to fruition for unclear reasons, featured the former New York City mayor interviewing various public figures. The emails include recordings of lengthy chats with the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, and a retired Marine Corps general named James T. Conway. The Conway interview largely concerned MEK, the dissident Iranian group that the United States had designated a terrorist group until 2012. MEK has paid Giuliani at least $20,000 for appearances and lobbying on its behalf."
-- History will judge: Even if Senate Republicans don't convict Trump, as expected, the GOP will pay a reputational price for a generation, writes Politico co-founder John F. Harris. “Most Republicans do not face a high cost within their own party for defending Trump. But, in a country becoming younger and more diverse, there’s little chance even these internal GOP politics remain static. The isolationists of the 1930s had the popular position at the time, but had considerable explaining to do for years after. So did the McCarthy backers of the 1950s. So did the civil rights opponents of the 1960s. Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri is 39. Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is 42. There is every reason to suppose they and other ascendant Republicans will be answering ‘what did you do in the Trump years?’ for decades to come.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- Did Trump perjure himself in his answers to former special counsel Bob Mueller? Roger Stone’s trial has shown that the self-proclaimed "dirty trickster" was the linchpin of a months-long effort by Trump’s 2016 campaign to discover damaging information on Hillary Clinton to be released by WikiLeaks, an effort that began before the hack of Democratic emails was publicly known. Someone is not telling the truth about what the president knew and when he knew it.
“Testimony over four days ending Tuesday also revealed engagement by Trump and top aides in making use of Stone’s claims that he knew emails detrimental to Clinton’s campaign would be released,” Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky report. “The trial in federal court in Washington turns on accusations that Stone lied to Congress about his attempts to learn more about what WikiLeaks would publish and when it would do so. But some testimony also raises questions about the president’s written assertions under oath that he did not recall being aware of communications between Stone and WikiLeaks or recall any conversations about WikiLeaks between Stone and members of his campaign.” The White House declined to comment.
“Rick Gates, who served as Trump’s deputy campaign chairman, testified Tuesday that Stone began discussing Clinton leaks with the campaign in April 2016 and that from May onward Gates understood Stone to be the campaign’s intermediary with WikiLeaks. By July 2016, Gates testified, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said he was updating Trump and others regularly and directed Gates to keep following up with Stone. After Trump ended one phone call from Stone at the end of that month, Gates testified, the future president said to Gates that ‘more information would be coming.’ … Gates said Stone also asked for contact information for … Jared Kushner and political director Jim Murphy to brief them on the Democratic emails, which U.S. authorities concluded were hacked by Russia.
“After WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in July that he had more Clinton emails ‘pending publication,’ Gates said Manafort told him to stay in touch with Stone about future releases. Manafort, Gates testified, ‘would be updating other people on the campaign, including the candidate.’ … Despite what Gates said was skepticism about Stone’s reliability, he testified that he and other top campaign staffers, including Manafort, spokesman Jason Miller and adviser Stephen Miller, held ‘brainstorming sessions’ based on what Stone told them.” Closing arguments are scheduled for 1 p.m. today.
-- Trump has considered firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general, because he reported the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress after concluding that it was credible. From the Times: “The president has said he does not understand why Mr. Atkinson shared the complaint, which outlined how Mr. Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals at the same time he was withholding military aid from the country. He has said he believes Mr. Atkinson, whom he appointed in 2017, has been disloyal … It is unclear how far Mr. Trump’s discussions about removing Mr. Atkinson have progressed. Two people familiar with what took place said they thought that Mr. Trump was just venting, and insisted that Mr. Atkinson’s dismissal was never under serious consideration. … Inspectors general are supposed to be insulated from politics so they can follow the facts and provide oversight of the executive branch. While presidents have the authority to remove them, they are supposed to take that action only in cases of misconduct or failure to fulfill duties. … People close to the president believe the political consequences of firing Mr. Atkinson could be devastating, especially when Mr. Trump needs all the Republican support he can get for a potential impeachment trial in the Senate.”
-- The Justice Department's inspector general has begun scheduling times for witnesses to review draft sections of his report on the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign. This is an indication that the document will soon be released publicly. Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report: “Several witnesses have been scheduled or are in talks to review sections of the report dealing with their testimony in the next two weeks, the people said on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. That could mean public release is imminent, though the witnesses will be allowed to submit feedback — which could spark more investigative work and slow down the process. The particulars for each witness’s review were not immediately clear and in some cases were still being negotiated. The inspector general’s office will probably offer relatively short windows for witnesses to submit feedback and take other steps to prevent leaks, as it often does in sensitive and high-profile cases.”
-- Leaked emails from White House senior adviser Stephen Miller show him promoting white nationalism, far-right extremist ideas and anti-immigrant rhetoric, according to a new report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Kim Bellaware reports that this is the first installment in a series that draws on more than 900 emails that Miller sent to a Breitbart writer over a 15-month period between 2015 and 2016 and were given to the SPLC: "The report describes Miller’s emails as overwhelmingly focused on race and immigration and characterizes him as obsessed with ideas such as ‘white genocide’ (a conspiracy theory associated with white supremacists) and sharply curbing nonwhite immigration. … At least one member of Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), called for Miller to resign. … White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said via email that she had not seen the report but called the SPLC ‘an utterly-discredited, long-debunked far-left smear organization.’ ‘They are beneath public discussion, even in The Washington Post,’ Grisham said of the civil rights nonprofit. …
"SPLC’s report indicates Miller was widely successful in molding the race- and immigration-focused stories that appeared on Breitbart. It repeatedly details how an email from Miller corresponded to a related article later appearing on the site. The emails were provided to the SPLC by Katie McHugh, a former Breitbart writer and editor who exchanged scores of messages with Miller.” Read the full report here.
-- Violent hate crimes reached a 16-year high in 2018, the FBI said. From the Times: “Over all, the number of hate crimes of all kinds reported in the United States remained fairly flat last year after a three-year increase, according to an annual F.B.I. report. But while crimes against property were down, physical assaults against people were up, accounting for 61 percent of the 7,120 incidents classified as hate crimes by law enforcement officials nationwide. … The F.B.I. said there were 4,571 reported hate crimes against people in 2018, many of them in America’s largest cities, involving victims from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds. … Immigration has replaced terrorism as a top concern in the United States, according to national surveys. That shift appears to be reflected in the hate-crime data, which shows fewer attacks against Muslims and Arab-Americans in recent years, but more against Latinos. The F.B.I. said 485 hate crimes against Latinos were reported in 2018, up from 430 in 2017. It said 270 crimes were reported against Muslims and Arab-Americans, the fewest since 2014.”
-- Mina Chang, who used to run a small nonprofit, embellished her résumé, falsely claimed she addressed the Republican and Democratic national conventions and even went as far as fabricating a Time magazine cover with herself on it. Somehow she landed a plum political appointment at the State Department. Chang joined the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations as a deputy assistant secretary in April. At some point, she was in consideration for a higher position, but her nomination was withdrawn without explanation. “In her State Department biography, which appears to include the same photograph used in the doctored Time cover, Chang claims that she is ‘an alumna of the Harvard Business School’ who has ‘addressed the Republican and Democratic National Conventions,'" Reis Thebault reports. "Chang did complete a program at Harvard, but one very different from the prestigious institution’s master of business administration degree. … The Advanced Management Program has open enrollment. As long as an applicant’s employer sponsors them, and the firm can meet certain standards and foot the $82,000 fee, the person is admitted.”
-- Thanks largely to the two justices installed by Trump, the Supreme Court sounds ready to let the president get rid of legal protections for 700,000 "dreamers." Robert Barnes reports on oral arguments: "The Trump administration told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the program shielding young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children should end regardless of its legality, and the court’s dominant conservative justices showed no inclination to disagree. … It is one of the court’s most important cases of the term, and the court’s four liberal justices indicated the administration had not met requirements for ending a program with such dire consequences for the immigrants and the economy. But they did not appear to find support from the court’s conservatives, who reserved their toughest questions for those challenging the administration’s actions.
"Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., perhaps the pivotal member of the court, gave no indication that he found the administration’s actions troublesome or unusual. But questioning at oral arguments is not always predictive, and the decision in the case might not come for months. ... The Trump administration moved to scuttle the DACA program in 2017 ... [Jeff] Sessions said that the program could not be defended, basing his decision on a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which said that another Obama program protecting undocumented immigrants was beyond the president’s powers. The Supreme Court deadlocked 4 to 4 in 2016 when considering the issue."
These are the two men who have joined the court since then: Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted during yesterday's oral arguments that “there are sound reasons of enforcement policy to rescind the DACA policy.” Justice Neil Gorsuch wondered whether courts have a role in reviewing the judgments of the attorney general and homeland security secretary: “What more would you have the government say?” he asked.
-- Jared Kushner and other senior administration officials are planning on setting up web cameras to live-stream the construction of Trump’s border wall, going against the advice of experts. Nick Miroff reports: “Kushner floated the idea during meetings in July, part of a messaging effort to push back against criticism that Trump has failed to deliver on the signature proposal of his 2016 campaign. The Army Corps and CBP have told Kushner that construction contractors do not want their proprietary techniques visible to competitors … Officials at the Army Corps and CBP also were concerned the cameras would show U.S. work crews violating Mexican sovereignty because they sometimes must stray south of the border to maneuver their vehicles and heavy equipment in the desert. Because some of the remote border areas lack network access, the cameras will require their own web connectivity and attendants who could frequently reposition them to keep the lens pointed at the action. Kushner has continued to press forward with the 24-hour-wall-cam idea anyway, viewing the feeds as a crucial part of the administration’s effort to demonstrate irrefutable evidence of progress.”
-- Trump told a crowd at the Economic Club of New York that his daughter Ivanka, Jared's wife, has personally created 14 million new jobs. Yes, that’s a ridiculous number. From New York Magazine: “The entire U.S. economy has created fewer than 6 million new jobs since Trump took office. So Trump is crediting his daughter with having personally created more than 200 percent of all new jobs in the United States. This is like supply-side economics but for authoritarian nepotism. Exactly how she did this remains a subject of some confusion. The mechanism involves the ‘Pledge to America’s Workers,’ in which the chief executives of various firms promise to create some arbitrary number of training and other opportunities. … Last October, Ivanka claimed this initiative had created 6.3 million jobs. … Some of the companies that contributed to this number … admitted they had simply credited all real (or, in some cases, hypothetical) job openings to the Ivanka initiative.”
-- Hillary Clinton claimed that “many, many, many people” are urging her to run for president in 2020 and refused to close the door to an 11th-hour entry. "Never say never," she told BBC Radio. Felicia Sonmez and Robert Costa report: “Advisers to Clinton have said at various times over the past year that she is unwilling to completely shut the door to a potential 2020 bid. … In the Tuesday radio interview, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee was asked by host Emma Barnett about her future plans. Clinton replied that she wants to see President Trump ‘retired’ and is ‘going to be helping our side try to put together the strongest possible campaign, which will be difficult.’ ‘Are you going to run again?’ Barnett asked. ‘No,’ Clinton replied. ‘Not, no. I’m –’ ‘That is 100 percent?’ the host continued. ‘So in a few days, I’m not going to open my newspaper –’ ‘Well, you know, I’d never say never to anything,’ Clinton said.”
-- Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford ended his primary challenge against Trump, blaming the impeachment drama for making it impossible to discuss his substantive policy differences with the president. David Weigel and Colby Itkowitz report: “Sanford, who launched his protest campaign two months ago, announced his decision during a news conference in New Hampshire. He had been planning to file in the early-primary state Friday. ‘You’ve got to be a realist, and what I did not anticipate is an impeachment,’ Sanford said. ‘All of the oxygen is leaving the room — in terms of meaningful debate, on what comes next in our country on a whole host of issues.’ Sanford, 59, who was a rare Trump critic among Republicans in Congress, lost his congressional seat last year after a pro-Trump challenger accused him of being disloyal to the president. … With the Republican Party unified around Trump, he was unable to gain any real traction or attention. As he exited the race, Sanford lambasted the ‘atrocious’ way Republicans in South Carolina and some other states had restricted or canceled their Republican primaries to pave the way for Trump. ‘I don’t think we want to get our cues on electoral participation from North Korea,’ he said.”
-- Former Democratic presidential candidate Tim Ryan endorsed Biden for president. "America can’t afford a president who jeopardizes the success and dignity of its workers to make himself feel tough," the Ohio congressman said in a statement released by Biden's campaign.
-- The Biden campaign also released the names of 133 foreign policy officials who’ve endorsed the former vice president. Josh Rogin writes: “The list of endorsers also reinforces Biden’s call for a return to a more centrist, traditional foreign policy — not a progressive break from the norm ... Many of the new endorsers were senior national security officials in the Obama-Biden administration and have had ties to Biden for many years, including former national security adviser Tom Donilon, former undersecretary of state Nick Burns, former deputy CIA director Avril Haines, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco and Biden’s former national security advisers Jake Sullivan and Colin Kahl. Many of these officials are prepared to be public surrogates for the Biden campaign and can testify to his specific actions and accomplishments on foreign policy, not only as vice president, but also as Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman for years before that.”
-- Pete Buttigieg wants to build a bridge to the religious right, but tensions with his husband's family -- who don't approve of homosexuality -- highlight just how difficult that could be. Amy B Wang reports: “The split is resonating even more since [his husband,] Chasten, a 30-year-old former schoolteacher, has attracted his own enthusiastic following and begun holding solo campaign events separate from Buttigieg. … The Glezman family’s strains erupted several months ago when Chasten told The Post about his childhood in Michigan and his anxiety about coming out in high school … The article quoted Chasten saying of his brothers, ‘We never got over it,’ and Rhyan adding, ‘I just don’t support the gay lifestyle.’ The next day, Rhyan woke up to dozens of messages calling him a bigot, a homophobe and worse. ‘It kind of blindsided me,’ Rhyan said. … In Rhyan’s telling, their parents were in fact very supportive of Chasten, and it was Rhyan who got the cold shoulder when he announced he was giving himself to Jesus. … The Buttigieg campaign declined requests for Chasten to comment for this article, but emphasized that Rhyan Glezman does not speak for the family.”
-- Before Elizabeth Warren became a Democrat, her political worldview was shaped by her time at Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania. From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Many of her former classmates say Warren’s time at the liberal hotbed in North Jersey must have influenced the politics she now embraces. … ‘It was an exciting time to be studying law in terms of people who really wanted to make change,’ said Mimi Marchev, who … entered Rutgers with Warren in 1973. ‘That was sort of the tenor of the place. It wasn’t a feeder into corporate law.’ … Interviews with more than a dozen of Warren’s classmates, teachers, colleagues, and students, along with a review of yearbooks, Penn archives, and Warren’s legal writing, revealed how the two institutions influenced her and offered early glimpses of defining traits she now uses to drive a campaign around big and politically risky policy plans. … Classmates remember ‘Liz’ as smart, energetic, and laser-focused, a necessity for balancing classes with being a mother and homemaker. Driving to Newark in a blue Volkswagen Beetle, she would bring her lunch, and occasionally her young daughter, Amelia. If friends couldn’t watch Amelia, Warren would bring her to class.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Jimmy Carter is recovering from his Tuesday morning surgery to relieve pressure on his brain caused by a subdural hematoma, a collection of blood outside the brain. His presidential center says there were no complications:
After news that a State Department official faked a TIME magazine cover, many were quick to remember another person who famously did that too:
On the day that Parnas says he spoke to Trump about Ukraine, T-Mobile executives were also currying the president's favor at the same hotel:
Mike Bloomberg filed to appear on the ballot in Arkansas and met with local Democrats:
Another poll shows Buttigieg surging in Iowa, drawing new attention to the small size of the city he leads:
CNN's fact-checker was quick to disprove another of Trump's exaggerations:
The president claimed thousands of DACA recipients commit crimes. But the numbers tell a different story:
A Wall Street Journal reporter pointed out that the leadership at DHS is still messy:
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is leaving for Europe by sea this morning:
In a truly shocking night of basketball, the unranked University of Evansville beat No. 1 Kentucky:
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The smart people are clapping. Only the smart people are clapping," Trump said during his speech at the Economic Club of New York, as he wondered why he didn't get more applause.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Since the House formally launched the impeachment inquiry, congressional Republicans have floated no fewer than 17 different defenses of his actions on Ukraine:
Stephen Colbert has his impeachment tree ready:
Trevor Noah went through the selections of Trump’s book club:
Seth Meyers took a break from impeachment to talk about this uplifting story: