With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump signaled Tuesday that he may try to throw his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani under the bus as part of an impeachment defense strategy. During an interview with Bill O’Reilly, the president suggested that Giuliani wasn’t working at his behest. “No, I didn’t direct him,” Trump said. “Rudy has other clients, other than me. He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years.” Asked what Giuliani was up to, Trump replied: “You have to ask that to Rudy.”
We’ve seen this movie before. Trump’s M.O. is to cut people loose when he concludes that they’ve outlived their usefulness to him, whether they’re fixers or former national security advisers. He has a well-documented pattern of saying he “hardly knows” former confidants once they become liabilities, so much so that it has become a punchline. Trump downplayed his ties to Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos after each of these former advisers became embroiled in serious legal troubles.
Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are now scrutinizing Giuliani, the former mayor and onetime U.S. attorney who oversaw that office. Two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are contesting campaign finance charges. Investigators are reportedly examining Giuliani’s consulting business as part of a broad probe of possible crimes, including wire fraud and foreign lobbying violations. He categorically denies any wrongdoing.
Trump hasn’t cut off Giuliani, whom he twice described as a “warrior” in last night’s interview, but several of the president’s allies think it’s only a matter of time. Many who are closely following this saga suspect that Trump will seek to make his lawyer the fall guy for what former national security adviser John Bolton notoriously likened to a “drug deal.”
But it was Trump who ordered the freeze on military assistance for Ukraine and, according to a new report, didn’t release the money until after White House lawyers alerted him to the whistleblower complaint.
Here are five other reasons why it would be untenable for Trump to pin the blame on Giuliani:
1) Trump told several U.S. government officials they needed to “talk with Rudy” about Ukraine, according to sworn testimony.
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, then-special Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) went to the Oval Office on May 23 to brief Trump about a meeting they had just returned from in Ukraine with Volodymyr Zelensky. They wanted to assure Trump that the new guy in Kyiv was a reformer whom the United States could work with. But Trump wasn’t interested and told the men they should “go talk to Rudy” about Ukraine as he cut the meeting short, Sondland testified last week during a public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry.
“When the president says, talk to my personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, we followed his direction,” Sondland said. “We followed the president’s orders.”
Sondland added that the shadow foreign policy was not a rogue effort being orchestrated by Giuliani. “Everyone was in the loop,” he said.
Sondland testified that Giuliani told him that a promised White House meeting was being withheld until Zelensky publicly committed to announce probes of whether Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as the energy company Burisma, which paid former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden to sit on its board for five years. Sondland said he deduced that nearly $400 million of military aid Congress had appropriated for Ukraine was also being withheld as leverage. He said Trump and Giuliani did not tell him that directly, but neither dissuaded him.
“In response to our persistent efforts to change his views, President Trump directed us to ‘talk with Rudy,’” Sondland said in his opening statement. “We weren’t happy with the president’s directive to talk with Rudy. We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. … Nonetheless, based on the president’s direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the efforts to schedule the White House phone call and White House visit between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, which was unquestionably in our foreign policy interest — or we could do as President Trump had directed and ‘talk with Rudy.’ We chose the latter course, not because we liked it, but because it was the only constructive path open to us.”
A Department of Energy spokeswoman said in a statement responding to Sondland’s testimony that Perry “spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the president’s request.”
2) Trump told Ukraine’s president to talk with Rudy, as well.
Giuliani’s name appears five times in the rough transcript of the July 25 call that was released by the White House.
Trump told Zelensky to deal with his personal attorney. “I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call,” Trump said, according to that transcript.
When Trump asked for a “favor,” Zelensky replied: “I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine.”
Trump answered: “Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.”
A few days later, Giuliani met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, in Madrid to follow-up on the call. “I talked to him about the whole package,” Giuliani told The Washington Post in September.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and other witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee testified that the Ukrainians saw Giuliani as the more direct conduit for them to reach Trump.
3) Giuliani has repeatedly said that he was acting on Trump’s behalf vis-a-vis Ukraine over the course of several months, and the president never challenged this.
“He basically knows what I'm doing, sure, as his lawyer,” Giuliani told the New York Times in May. In that interview, Giuliani said he was going to encourage the Ukrainians to pursue an investigation that “will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”
Giuliani has also claimed “attorney-client, attorney work-product, and executive privileges” related to representing Trump in Ukraine to justify not answering questions, providing documents or otherwise complying with a subpoena from the House. If Giuliani indeed wasn’t working on Trump’s behalf, the president should probably alert the bar and the Congress at once about an attorney misrepresenting himself in an official proceeding.
Giuliani lawyer Robert Costello said that there’s nothing inconsistent about the president’s comments to O’Reilly and Giuliani’s past representations of his work. “President is correct,” Costello emailed Bloomberg News. “Giuliani never went to Ukraine for any probe. The information he received was given to him in U.S. by Ukrainians while [the Bob] Mueller probe was still ongoing and before Biden was even announced.”
4) Trump had multiple personal interactions with the Giuliani associates who have been indicted.
Parnas has told associates that he and Fruman told Trump during a dinner at the Trump hotel in April 2018 that they thought that the then-Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was unfriendly to the president and his interests. “According to Parnas, the president reacted strongly to the news: Trump immediately suggested that [she] should be fired,” my colleagues Rosalind Helderman, Matt Zapotosky, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey reported on Nov. 12. “The president was updated regularly by Giuliani on what he was learning about Parnas’s and Fruman’s efforts in Ukraine, according to a former senior administration official … ‘It’s just not true that he had no idea who these guys were. He knew Lev particularly,’ the person said.”
The day after Parnas and Fruman were arrested last month, Trump said he didn’t know them. “Now it’s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody,” he said. But social media posts show the men also encountered Trump at a Florida fundraiser in 2016 and during a visit to Mar-a-Lago.
“At one point,” Philip Bump noted, “Giuliani even provided a dossier of documents to the State Department including notes from interviews he and his associates (the indicted ones) had conducted with various Ukrainian officials and news stories promoting his theory of the case. The documents came to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an envelope with a return address of ‘The White House.’”
5) Giuliani says he has an insurance policy that will deter Trump from turning against him.
When asked on Nov. 14 during an interview with the Guardian if he was afraid Trump was going to throw him under the bus, Giuliani said no. “But I do have very, very good insurance, so if he does, all my hospital bills will be paid,” he added. Giuliani’s lawyer interjected to say he was “joking.”
But Giuliani brought up the insurance policy again on Fox News over the weekend. “You can assume that I talk with him early and often,” he said, referring to Trump. “I’ve seen things written like he’s going to throw me under the bus. … When they say that, I say, ‘He isn’t, but I have insurance.’”
The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott reports this morning that a lot of people in the president’s orbit don’t think Trump will fully turn against Giuliani. Partly this is because the lawyer knows too much, they tell her, but she says the two men are also genuinely friends and Trump gives Giuliani a long leash because he appreciates the way he stood by him in the immediate aftermath of the “Access Hollywood” video.
It’s easy to forget how much cachet Giuliani brought to the Trump effort in 2016. At this point 12 years ago, he was still considered the frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. He earned the nickname “America’s mayor” after his response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Plott spent her week calling GOP pooh-bahs to ask when Trump would distance himself from Giuliani. “Their responses were eerily similar: ‘Can it be two years ago?’ asked one White House official,” she relays. “‘Ideally three years ago,’ responded a senior House GOP aide. Finally, a senior Senate GOP aide: ‘Can he do it yesterday?’ … But they also agree on something else: Giuliani isn’t going anywhere. According to another senior House GOP aide, ‘We’re so far beyond that at this point.’ … ‘The damage is done,’ added a Republican National Committee official. ‘Rudy’s been like this forever, and Trump has never wanted to dump him. Plus at this point, it’s like, doesn’t he know too much?’’”
-- To be sure: Giuliani appears to have many side hustles, previously did business in Ukraine and has continued to represent clients other than Trump. For example, when he was in Madrid in August for his meeting with Yermak, the Zelensky aide, to press for the political investigations sought by Trump, Giuliani also met with a previously unidentified client with very different interests.
“While in Spain, Giuliani stayed at a historic estate belonging to Venezuelan energy executive Alejandro Betancourt López, who had hired Trump’s personal attorney to help him contend with a Justice Department investigation of alleged money laundering and bribery,” Helderman, Devlin Barrett, Zapotosky and Hamburger scooped on Tuesday. “A month later, Giuliani was one of several lawyers representing Betancourt in Washington. The lawyers met with the chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division and other government attorneys to argue that the wealthy Venezuelan should not face criminal charges as part of a $1.2 billion money-laundering case filed in Florida last year … Giuliani — who says he was serving as Trump’s attorney pro bono — has used his work for paying clients to help underwrite his efforts to find political ammunition in Ukraine to benefit the president. …
“In response to questions about his relationship with Betancourt, Giuliani wrote in a text, ‘This is attorney client privilege so I will withstand whatever malicious lies or spin you put on it.’ Eric Creizman, an attorney for Giuliani, declined to comment. Jon Sale, an attorney for Betancourt, said his client denies any wrongdoing. … A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment on the meeting. Justice Department officials were unaware of the Madrid meeting when Giuliani came to meet them, according to a senior Justice Department official…”
-- Programming note: To celebrate Thanksgiving, we’re taking tomorrow and Friday off. The Daily 202 will return on Monday. Enjoy the turkey, the football and, most of all, the breather before what will surely be an exhausting three-week sprint to Christmas. Please know how genuinely thankful we are to you for reading.
THE LATEST ON THE INVESTIGATIONS:
-- Trump knew about the whistleblower's complaint before he unfroze the military aid to Ukraine. “Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress," the Times scooped last night. "The revelation could shed light on Mr. Trump’s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to [Sondland] around the same time that there was a ‘quid pro quo’ with Kyiv. Mr. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair."
This also helps shed light on why White House lawyers tried so aggressively to conceal the whistleblower complaint from Congress: "In late August, the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, concluded that the administration needed to send it to Congress. But the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, and his deputy John A. Eisenberg disagreed. They decided that the administration could withhold from Congress the whistle-blower’s accusations because they were protected by executive privilege. The lawyers told Mr. Trump they planned to ask the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine whether they had to disclose the complaint to lawmakers. A week later, the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that the administration did not have to hand over the complaint.” [The OLC is led by a Trump loyalist.]
-- Two staffers in the Office of Management and Budget resigned after expressing concerns about the hold on Ukraine aid. Erica Werner and Felicia Sonmez report: “Mark Sandy, the only OMB official to testify in the impeachment inquiry, did not name the employees in question. He said one worked in the OMB legal division and described that person as having a ‘dissenting opinion’ about how the security assistance to Ukraine could be held up in light of the Impoundment Control Act, which limits the ability of the executive branch to change spending decisions made by Congress. … Sandy was asked specifically about whether the official who worked in the OMB’s legal office quit ‘at least in part because of their concerns or frustrations about the hold on Ukraine security assistance.’ Sandy replied, ‘Yes, in terms of that process, in part.’ He said the other official, who resigned in September, ‘expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold.’ … Sandy’s testimony is the first public confirmation that the dispute at the OMB over the handling of the Ukraine aid became so intense that it contributed to resignations from the agency.
"In the transcript released Tuesday, Sandy said that he had voiced concerns within the agency [to the Trump appointee he reported to] about whether holding up the Ukraine aid comported with the law. … Ultimately, that political appointee, Mike Duffey, took over the process of signing off on the documents that held up the Ukraine money. Sandy told impeachment investigators that until that time, Duffey had voiced no interest in the process of approving apportionments. Sandy said that his own staff was ‘surprised and they were concerned’ about the apportionment authority being removed from him and that he was not aware of such a step happening before. He testified that Duffey’s explanation was he wanted to learn more about the ‘accounts and the programs’ at OMB but that Sandy thought there were better ways to do this. But ‘I took him at his word,’ Sandy said. Duffey defied a congressional subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry.” He was formerly the executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin and a Scott Walker guy who joined the Trump team.
-- The House Budget Committee alleged in a report published Tuesday that the OMB engaged in a “pattern of abuse” of its legal authority by holding up the military assistance to Ukraine. “These included putting Duffey in charge of signing off on spending in late July, after Sandy raised concerns, and delaying funds in a way that limited agencies’ ability to spend congressional appropriations by the end of the fiscal year," per Erica and Felicia. "The latter move would be a violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which was passed in response to actions by President Richard M. Nixon. This was the law that Sandy told investigators an OMB legal division officer had voiced concerns about when resigning."
-- The House Judiciary Committee scheduled its first impeachment hearing for next Wednesday. (Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz)
-- Trump focused on impeachment during a raucous rally last night near Miami. “By rallying a capacity crowd at the 20,000-seat BB&T Center on Tuesday night, Trump tried to demonstrate broad and determined opposition to his impeachment,” per Bob Costa and Phil Rucker. “The president spoke extensively from center stage about the congressional inquiry, delivering a theatrical play-by-play of this month’s bombshell testimony, mocking former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and bemoaning the proceedings as ‘a scam,’ ‘a terrible hoax’ and ‘a witch hunt.’ ‘You see what’s happening in the polls? Everybody said that’s really bullshit,’ Trump said, claiming the American people don’t believe he did anything improper. The crowd chanted in response, ‘Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!’ … Vice President Pence introduced Trump in a robust speech attacking the impeachment inquiry as a partisan crusade for Democrats who ‘know they can’t stop you from giving President Donald Trump four more years in the White House.’”
-- The House Oversight and Reform Committee sued Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in federal court for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents related to the administration’s failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Derek Hawkins and Tara Bahrampour report: “The lawsuit is the culmination of months of unsuccessful attempts by the committee to obtain documents and testimony on the matter from key figures in the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. Earlier this year, the House voted on party lines to hold Barr and Ross in contempt for refusing to provide the materials. … Ross testified in 2018 that the DOJ had requested the query to aid in the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. But the Supreme Court in June of this year called that rationale ‘contrived’ and froze the plans, prompting the administration to scuttle the entire effort soon after. In the time since the Supreme Court’s ruling, neither Ross nor Barr have complied with the committee’s demands for documents, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.”
-- Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for Michael Flynn asked a judge to postpone the former national security adviser's long-delayed sentencing until after the Justice Department’s internal watchdog issues its report on the handling of the FBI’s investigation that led to his guilty plea. Spencer S. Hsu reports: Flynn’s sentencing “is set for Dec. 18, and federal prosecutors were scheduled to notify the court Monday whether they would reverse their recommendation of probation and instead ask for prison time for the retired three-star Army general. However, in a terse, two-page filing, both sides said Tuesday evening that they expect the forthcoming report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, due Dec. 9, ‘will examine several topics related’ to a Flynn defense’s request to find prosecutors in contempt for alleged misconduct.”
-- The Supreme Court’s desire to be seen as a neutral arbiter will be tested as cases concerning Trump arrive on its docket. Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow report: “The court, composed of five conservatives nominated by Republican presidents and four liberals chosen by Democrats, has little choice but to step onto a fiercely partisan battleground. It announced Tuesday that it will consider on Dec. 13 whether to schedule a full briefing and argument on the president’s request that it overturn a lower-court ruling giving New York prosecutors access to Trump’s tax returns and other financial records in their investigation of hush-money payments in the lead-up to the 2016 election. There are many more such evaluations to come. … And the first case likely to reach the Supreme Court on the question of Trump’s broad assertion of executive power over those who worked for him features former White House counsel Donald McGahn, who played a pivotal role in the confirmation of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh, especially, credits McGahn. At a Federalist Society gala this month, Kavanaugh mentioned McGahn first in a 30-minute speech that was like an extended thank-you note to those responsible for his confirmation.” But don't expect Kavanaugh to recuse himself from the case.
-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that a debunked conspiracy theory pursued by Trump accusing Ukraine of interfering in the 2016 election is worth looking into. John Hudson reports: “In a news conference at the State Department, Pompeo was asked if the United States and Ukraine should investigate the conspiracy theory, which several former senior Trump officials have called a ‘fictional narrative’ with ‘no validity.’ ‘Anytime there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure we chase that down,’ Pompeo told reporters. Pompeo, who previously served as the director for the CIA, said he learned during his time leading the nation’s premier spy service that ‘there were many countries that were actively engaged in trying to undermine American democracy, our rule of law, the fundamental understandings we have here in the United States.’”
-- Mark Penn, a top strategist to Bill Clinton during the last impeachment process, met with Trump last week to give him advice on how to beat the rap. Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey report: “Penn visited the Oval Office for more than an hour last Monday ... and provided polling data and impeachment advice for the president. Penn reassured Trump that he would not be removed from office ... and encouraged him to travel the country as Clinton did when he was fighting impeachment over 20 years ago …
"Penn was escorted by Andrew Stein, a longtime Trump friend from New York who recently wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to replace Pence on the 2020 election ticket. Penn recommended that Trump ‘stay focused on the substance’ of the allegations surrounding trading access and aid for political favors from Ukraine, according to Stein, ‘and not respond to everything.’ … Officials say Trump has called a variety of TV personalities, lawmakers and longtime New York and Palm Beach friends for advice on how to survive the investigation. … In a brief interview, Penn said repeatedly that he was not working for Trump."
-- More than 70 million viewers watched at least some TV coverage of the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings. Viewership of the live coverage that aired on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and the three major broadcast networks peaked on its opening day, reaching an average of 13.1 million viewers. (Los Angeles Times)
-- Rep. Brenda Lawrence said she remains supportive of the impeachment inquiry following comments over the weekend in which the Michigan Democrat said she preferred censuring the president. "I was an early supporter for impeachment in 2017," she said in the walkback, per CNN. "The House Intelligence Committee followed a very thorough process in holding hearings these past two weeks. The information they revealed confirmed that this President has abused the power of his office, therefore I continue to support impeachment. However, I am very concerned about Senate Republicans and the fact that they would find this behavior by the President acceptable."
-- In related news: Two-thirds of voters across six battleground states, including Michigan, who voted for Trump in 2016 and then for Democrats in the midterms say they will again support the president in 2020, according to new polling from the Times and Siena College: “This group is only a sliver of the electorate — 2 percent of registered voters — and is not representative of all voters. They are overwhelmingly white, 60 percent are male, and two-thirds have no college degree. But the president’s strength among them helps explain why he is highly competitive in states that Democrats carried just one year ago.”
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULDN’T BE OVERSHADOWED:
-- Americans are dying young at alarming rates. Joel Achenbach reports: “Death rates from suicide, drug overdoses, liver disease and dozens of other causes have been rising over the past decade for young and middle-aged adults, driving down overall life expectancy in the United States for three consecutive years, according to a strikingly bleak study published Tuesday that looked at the past six decades of mortality data. The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was immediately hailed by outside researchers for its comprehensive treatment of a still-enigmatic trend: the reversal of historical patterns in longevity. … Although earlier research emphasized rising mortality among non-Hispanic whites in the United States, the broad trend detailed in this study cuts across gender, racial and ethnic lines. By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 — 29 percent — has been among people age 25 to 34. ...
"About a third of the estimated 33,000 ‘excess deaths’ that the study says occurred since 2010 were in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana — the first two of which are critical swing states in presidential elections. The state with the biggest percentage rise in death rates among working-age people in this decade — 23.3 percent — is New Hampshire, the first primary state. … Men overall have higher all-cause mortality than women, but the report pulls out some disturbing trends. Women are succumbing to diseases once far more common among men, even as men continue to die in greater absolute numbers. The risk of death from drug overdoses increased 486 percent for midlife women between 1999 and 2017; the risk increased 351 percent for men in that same period. Women also experienced a bigger relative increase in risk of suicide and alcohol-related liver disease."
-- The National Rifle Association boosted pay for its top executives while slashing spending for programs that are supposedly key to its mission, a new tax filing shows. Beth Reinhard reports: “The jump from 2017 to 2018 for the NRA’s officers, directors and highly paid employees included a 57 percent increase for chief executive Wayne LaPierre that boosted his overall compensation to $2.15 million. The filing also shows perks for top officials that are typically associated with the corporate world, including charter and first-class travel with companions as well as dues for health or social clubs. Those costs were not detailed, though the NRA filing says housing expenses were provided for five people. During that same period, NRA spending plunged 22 percent for education and training, 61 percent for hunter services and 51 percent for field services, which includes organizing volunteers, fundraising for shooting sports and promoting the NRA at gun shows and other events ...
"According to the tax filing, legal fees more than tripled in 2018, to more than $25 million. For the first time, the tax filing lists the Texas law firm of William Brewer III as one of its most highly compensated contractors, receiving $13.8 million. Brewer has become one of LaPierre’s most trusted advisers despite his lack of experience in Second Amendment litigation. ...
"To address concerns, LaPierre summoned members of the 'Golden Ring of Freedom' — donors who have given at least $1 million — to huddle at the Virginia headquarters last month ... LaPierre also disputed reports that he and his wife wanted the NRA to buy them a $6 million home in a gated golf community because of security concerns ... LaPierre’s travel has come under scrutiny following revelations that about $250,000 was spent on his trips to locations such as Italy, Budapest and the Bahamas in recent years."
-- Edward Gallagher, the Navy SEAL recently pardoned by Trump, was charged with war crimes after he threatened to kill a teammate who turned him in, a Navy judge said. From the San Diego Union-Tribune: “A recently-obtained judge’s ruling reveals three Navy SEALs [claimed] to have seen [Gallagher] fatally stab a non-combative, wounded ISIS fighter who had been brought to him for medical treatment during a 2017 deployment to Iraq. That evening, one witness said he heard Gallagher threaten to kill anyone who spoke out about it, the judge’s ruling states. Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh issued a ruling in January that lays out ‘findings of fact’ which include previously undisclosed details in the case against Gallagher. Rugh wrote that these findings of fact support his decision to keep the SEAL confined. The Union-Tribune obtained the ruling this week. The findings include accounts of three witnesses to the stabbing, the accounts of three more SEALs who say they saw Gallagher shoot two civilian non-combatants — an old man and a young girl — and other details alleging threats to potential witnesses by Gallagher.”
-- Jake Spann was 6 months old when his father, a CIA officer, became the first American killed in Afghanistan. He’s 18 now, and the war still isn’t over. Ian Shapira reports: “Jake knows his loss is different from theirs — and different from that of his sisters, Alison, 27, a television anchor in Mississippi, and Emily, 22, a senior at Auburn University. ‘It’s tricky and confusing to think about these experiences at the funeral or with my dad, which I really can’t describe as ‘experiences’ because I haven’t retained those memories,’ Jake said. ‘A lot of sadness comes from just growing up wondering what it all would have been like. You feel kind of robbed of that emotional catharsis that comes with mourning.’ It is phantom grief. His mom married again — another CIA officer, Thys DeBruyn, who has since left the agency. Jake has always called DeBruyn ‘Dad.’ But he has never stopped wondering about his biological father. Sometimes, he thinks about researching Mike’s last assignment, which has been chronicled in a documentary, books and news articles. Other times, he said, he hesitates to search online or ask his mom questions. He’s not sure he’s ready.”
-- Once again, just in time for Thanksgiving, millions of people have been told not to eat romaine lettuce because it might be contaminated. No one really knows why this keeps happening. Kimberly Kindy and Joel Achenbach report: “There are inferences, speculation and intriguing clues, but the best minds of the U.S. government, the lettuce-growing states of California and Arizona, and the leafy greens industry have failed to figure out why romaine keeps getting contaminated — or how they can stop it from happening again and again. … The bulk of the romaine sold in the United States comes from just two growing areas: the Salinas Valley of California (harvested in late spring, summer and fall) and the Yuma, Ariz., growing region that includes the Imperial and Coachella valleys of Southern California (winter and early spring). Contaminated agricultural water is a prime suspect in these outbreaks. The Trump administration delayed implementation of new agricultural water testing rules, developed during the Obama administration, that were set to take effect last year.”
-- FEMA’s hurricane aid to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands has lagged the resources made available to states on the mainland. From the Times: “Two years on, ‘we are in the same situation as we were in the days after the hurricane,’ said Rafael Surillo Ruiz, the mayor of Yabucoa, on Puerto Rico’s hard-hit eastern edge. An examination of Federal Emergency Management Agency data and records demonstrates the degree to which the recovery from Hurricanes Maria and Irma on America’s Caribbean islands has been stalled compared with some of the most disaster-prone states on the mainland, leaving the islands’ critical infrastructure in squalor and limbo.
“FEMA officials say 190 long-term recovery projects have been funded in Puerto Rico — out of more than 9,000 requests. On the United States Virgin Islands, about 218 projects had funding — out of more than 1,500 requests and still counting. In contrast, about 3,700 large and small permanent work projects had obligated funding in Texas, two years after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in August 2017. More than 3,700 such projects had been funded over that time in Florida.”
-- Trump’s acting commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection agency, Mark Morgan, broke federal ethics rules in a previous job by seeking sponsors to buy alcohol and fancy food for FBI happy hours, the San Francisco Chronicle scoops: “The previously unreported finding raises questions about the Trump administration’s vetting process for top officials. Although Morgan’s role is typically subject to Senate confirmation, Trump has not nominated him for the job. That has circumvented the traditional review by the Senate — leaving it unclear whether the ethical lapse was ever known to the administration. … The violations occurred when Morgan was working at the FBI in 2015 as deputy assistant director of the training division, according to the inspector general’s report. Midway through the investigation in the summer of 2016, Morgan retired from the FBI and was named under then-President Barack Obama to head the Border Patrol. He declined to cooperate with the probe after that, the report said.”
-- An English teacher in Fort Worth, Tex., who was fired after tweeting to Trump and asking him to crack down on immigration and “illegal students,” won her appeal to get her job back. From the Star Telegram: “Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath ruled Georgia Clark is entitled to get her job back, along with back pay and employment benefits from the time her contract was not renewed. Or, instead of reinstatement, the school district may pay her one year of salary. … Clark’s tweets earlier this year ignited a national backlash. After her firing in June, she argued that the First Amendment protected her ability to tweet the president. Morath ruled Monday that she was right.”
-- A CBP officer lost his job and citizenship over his Mexican birth certificate. From the Los Angeles Times: “Raul Rodriguez had worked for U.S. Customs for 18 years when internal investigators confronted him last year with a document he had never seen before: His Mexican birth certificate. Rodriguez, 51, a customs officer in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, felt the blood drain from his face. He had lived in the United States as long as he could remember and had no idea he was actually born across the border in Matamoros, Mexico. … The Navy veteran was not charged with a crime but he was fired by [CBP] in July, lost his health insurance and had his residency application rejected this month. He and his wife, Anita, 54, a Homeland Security immigration officer, hope he gets to keep his retirement benefits. … For generations, Mexicans living on the border have obtained second U.S. birth certificates for their children, often from a midwife, so the youths could attend school in the U.S. Those whose passports were later flagged would apply for citizenship or legal residency. … Texas officials have made it more difficult to obtain birth certificates and flagged hundreds as suspicious ... The midwife who signed Rodriguez’s U.S. birth certificate was implicated in several other cases before she died in 2005 … Rodriguez would have to apply for citizenship or legal residency… But [USCIS] denied his citizenship application in June 2018, faulting him for having falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen and having voted illegally.”
-- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) proposed a revised rule to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ children. From Fox 13: “‘I have learned much through this process. The stories of youth who have endured these so-called therapies are heart rending, and I’m grateful that we have found a way forward that will ban conversion therapy forever in our state,’ Gov. Herbert said … The rule is based on a bill that failed to pass the Utah State Legislature, but had support from LGBTQ rights groups, suicide prevention advocates and even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The latest version was crafted with input from all sides, as well as legislative leadership.”
-- An influential neo-Nazi who for years has advocated waging war against “the system” is now dependent on it. From NBC News: “A fan of Charles Manson and follower of Hitler, James Mason published essays in the 1980s that now act as the inspiration for a militant neo-Nazi group linked to multiple murders in the U.S. … But nowadays, Mason isn’t waging war with the system. He is, in fact, dependent on it. The 67-year-old white supremacist lives in a government subsidized apartment in Denver and eats at soup kitchens. … ‘Guerilla warfare, man. Guerilla warfare,’ Mason told NBC's Denver affiliate KUSA. ‘You’ve gotta take what you have to get what you need.’ Mason’s old writings have gained new life with the rise of the Atomwaffen Division, a white supremacist group bent on overthrowing the government through terrorist acts and guerrilla warfare tactics.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Despite the rockiness and the trade disputes, China hopes Trump will be reelected. He is, after all, “easy to read.” Anna Fifield reports: “Although he may seem unpredictable, Chinese officials are betting that Trump’s transactional approach to politics might be preferable to a more principle-driven president, whether Democrat or Republican. ‘Trump is a businessman. We can just pay him money and the problems will be solved,’ said a politically connected person in Beijing, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about sensitive international issues. ‘As long as we have money, we can buy him. That’s the reason why we prefer him to Democrats.’ Trump’s unfiltered tweets help China in negotiations because he is ‘easy to read,’ said Long Yongtu, a former vice minister of foreign trade and China’s point man during its accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, at a conference in Shenzhen this month. ‘We want Trump to be reelected; we would be glad to see that happen.’ Another influential voice in Beijing, Tsinghua University international relations professor Yan Xuetong, wrote recently that, thanks to Trump, China was facing ‘the best strategic opportunity’ since the Cold War.”
-- Trump will use part of his brief visit to London for the NATO summit to raise money for his 2020 coffers. Trump will go to a fundraiser on Dec. 3, which will be hosted by Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. The president’s team expects to raise $3 million from the event. Tickets go from $35,000 to $125,000 and all contributors must provide a copy of their U.S. passport, Axios reports.
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unleashed a populist fury against prosecutors over the indictments against him, as some members of his party and other supporters distanced themselves from his bellicose rhetoric. Steve Hendrix and Ruth Eglash report: “The divisions were on display Tuesday night at a raucous pro-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv. Angry supporters reportedly chanted ‘Die Leftist’ and ‘Arrest the Investigators’ and carried signs reading ‘Cops — Or Criminals?’ Speakers railed against the attorney general and prosecutors — who have been given security details in recent days — parroting the prime minister’s portrayal of the indictments as a ‘coup’ attempt by an unaccountable deep state and a biased media. One protester attempted to grab the microphone of an on-air journalist as another spat on him. But, following a day of speculation about his plans, Netanyahu failed to make an appearance at the gathering as discomfort over his scorched-earth response to the indictments grew. Few senior officials of his Likud party — who have been markedly silent in recent days — attended the rally, many citing scheduling conflicts when pressed by journalists.”
-- Trump plans to designate Mexican cartels as terror groups, stirring an outcry in Mexico. Mary Beth Sheridan reports: “‘Mexico will never accept any action that violates our national sovereignty,’ Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tweeted. … Trump told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in a radio interview broadcast Tuesday that Mexican cartels ‘will be designated’ as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The president noted that he had already suggested sending the U.S. military to help Mexico tackle organized crime, but was turned down by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. … Under U.S. law, a violent foreign group or individual who threatens American security can be designated as terrorist in nature and be subject to special sanctions. Any institution dealing with a designated terrorist — such as a bank or government official — comes under heavy scrutiny and potential punishment."
-- As protests sweep across Latin America, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro has a message for his people: Don’t try that here. Terrence McCoy and Marina Lopes report: “Bolsonaro, a right-wing nationalist who speaks admiringly of the country’s former military dictatorship, has called the protests in Chile, Colombia and beyond ‘terrorist acts,’ and asked the National Congress this week for the authority to use the military to stop any violence that might arise here. His son and his finance minister have taken the rhetoric further, musing publicly that it might be necessary to dissolve the Congress and shut down the press if, as Eduardo Bolsonaro said, ‘the left radicalizes.’ … Rather than quell fears of his autocratic intentions, Bolsonaro and his government are instead reacting to something that hasn’t happened — and which analysts call unlikely — with threats, partisanship and appeals to one of the darkest periods in the nation’s modern history.”
-- The detention of a civil society activist by Afghan intelligence officials is drawing criticism from the county’s president and the U.S. ambassador. Susannah George reports: “The activist, Mohammad Musa Mahmudi, has reported on allegations of widespread sexual abuse of boys in Afghanistan’s Logar province. On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said it was holding him in custody ‘for his own safety.’ U.S. Ambassador John Bass said he was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the move, while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani criticized the agency’s handling of the situation."
-- Saudi Arabia is escalating its crackdown on dissenters. Miriam Berger reports: “Saudi Arabia has over the past two weeks detained at least eight citizens critical of the kingdom, in what rights groups are calling an escalation in an already two-year-long crackdown on dissent. News of the arrests came in stark contrast with Saudi’s efforts to rebrand the nation as open to tourism and investments and as a critical U.S. ally in its confrontations with Iran. These efforts have also progressed despite the conclusion by U.S. intelligence that top Saudi leadership ordered and orchestrated the assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi last year, alongside other diplomatic debacles such as the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen."
-- Two years after the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, multiple resignations have shaken up the government of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. From the BBC: “His chief aide, Keith Schembri, quit amid reports he was being questioned by police, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi also resigned. The Economy Minister, Chris Cardona, took the decision to suspend himself. … The three men who stepped aside from Mr Muscat's government on Tuesday all deny wrongdoing."
-- A 23-year-old Florida man allegedly tried to get the Islamic State to carry out an attack on deans at two Florida colleges where he had been suspended or expelled. Kim Bellwware reports: “The U.S. attorney’s office in Southern Florida announced Monday that it had arrested Salman Rashid of North Miami Beach and charged him with soliciting another person to commit a crime of violence. Rashid ‘solicited confidential human sources’ he believed could connect him with members of the Islamic State but who were in fact working with the FBI, according to the complaint. … The lengthy complaint against Rashid, written by an FBI special agent, recounts a history of violent, misogynistic and extremist social media posts and messages to individuals."
-- A deadly measles outbreak has hit children in Samoa amid anti-vaccine fears. Ben Guarino, Neena Satija and Lena H. Sun report: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is immediately sending experts in response to a request from the Samoan government for assistance with a measles outbreak that has sickened 2,437 people and killed 32, mostly children, U.S. officials said Tuesday. The CDC is providing technical assistance with tracking and monitoring of cases and vaccination campaigns, according to Robert Linkins, a CDC expert on global immunization. Two CDC experts are expected to be on the ground shortly, U.S. officials said. Vaccination rates in Samoa are among the lowest in the world, and the country has been the target of anti-vaccine activists. The measles outbreak was declared Oct. 16 and is spreading rapidly throughout the island with unprecedented severity, CDC officials said. Children under 5 account for nearly half of cases.”
-- Vladimir Putin's annual calendar -- distributed by the regime in Moscow -- no longer depicts the Russian leader as a shirtless superhero but instead has him posing in suits next to Trump, Angela Merkel and other global leaders. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports: “The Kremlin-approved Putin calendar is a popular novelty item, and the international statesman flare to the 2020 iteration marks a departure from previous years. For the 2019 calendar, Putin was photographed playing hockey, fishing shirtless in Siberia and petting animals. The intention was for him to come off as a fit outdoorsman, strong but relatable. The calendars are a small part of a broader state-sponsored image-making campaign by the Kremlin, and the latest one presents Putin as not just a leader of Russians but also a policy-shaper for the world with an increasingly aggressive foreign policy. … Putin is shown out of his suit and in nature in just one 2020 month, when he’s examining a small plant in the forest for August."
-- Pope Francis’s dream of a nuclear-free world drew largely positive coverage in Japan. But when he tried to encourage the Japanese to welcome refugees, the backlash was significant. Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi report: “Japan, among the world’s richest nations, has some of the toughest policies toward refugees and asylum seekers and a reputation for being relatively closed to outsiders. The pope’s effort to preach a more accepting message was not universally welcomed. … The story was one of the most read on the TV Asahi website on Tuesday and Wednesday, and tweets with the words ‘accept refugees’ were trending. But the response seemed more negative than positive. … The words ‘impossible’ or ‘absolutely impossible’ were prominent. ‘That wish we cannot accept. Impossible,’ tweeted Kazuo Ishikawa, a policy analyst and a former government official. … Others highlighted Japan’s other social problems, including the costs of coping with a rapidly aging society, but some were more blunt in rejecting the pope’s message.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
At a Florida rally, Trump angrily lashed out against the impeachment inquiry:
Trump on Americans' reaction to impeachment: “Everybody said that’s really bullshit.”— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) November 27, 2019
Florida rally crowd now chanting "Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!"
Trump addressed the speculation surrounding his unannounced visit to the hospital:
Trump just speculation surrounding his visit to the hospital: “They said ‘take off your shirt, sir and show us that gorgeous chest.’” Cc @ddale8— Jacqueline Alemany (@JaxAlemany) November 27, 2019
The president posted this on Wednesday morning:
Several prominent lawyers piled on after a Breitbart editor claimed that Trump knowing about the whistleblower complaint before he released the aid to Ukraine is irrelevant:
Throwing the bag of money out the car window after robbing a bank because the cops are chasing you is not a “subsequent remedial measure.” https://t.co/86wf0gAuIF— Ted Boutrous (@BoutrousTed) November 27, 2019
The timeline is relevant and probative. Each side can make its argument. You began by saying these facts are flatly not admissible. Thanks for backing off from that. https://t.co/0F1ihIHOSS— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) November 27, 2019
Conservative lawyer George Conway, husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, is glad we know that Conan the dog is a good boy, but he now wants the country to focus on more relevant mysteries:
We’ve solved this, which is nice, but we still don’t know why Trump was trucked off to Walter Reed, which seems a bit more important. https://t.co/ChQlwuc6yK— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 26, 2019
John Bolton might be Twitter's new James Comey:
It probably goes without saying, that our country’s commitment to our national security priorities is under attack from within. America is distracted. Our enemies are not. We need to make U.S. national security a priority. #JohnBolton— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) November 26, 2019
Obama's former chief strategist mocked a longtime rival, who was the chief strategist on Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign and is now helping Trump:
All that bootlicking on Fox News finally paid off for Mark Penn. He’s finally a White House insider again!https://t.co/WDwdXqzUzq— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 26, 2019
Biden has retaken the lead in the primary race after Elizabeth Warren’s numbers plummeted, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll:
New Quinnipiac NATIONAL poll (counts for the December debate)— Zach Montellaro (@ZachMontellaro) November 26, 2019
Everyone else at 3 percent or lower https://t.co/6RM9fv74N0
An NBC reporter came up with a new chart for the 2020 Democratic frontrunners:
The anonymous writer behind the Trump administration book “A Warning” held a Q&A on Reddit, and The Post’s book critic tuned in:
LODESTAR! LODESTAR MAKES A CAMEO!— Carlos Lozada (@CarlosLozadaWP) November 27, 2019
"Our lodestar must be the Party's founding principles, and the President has veered far from them--the notions of free minds, free markets, and free people."
And the Democratic strategist who refuses to share communications that could reveal the identity of the Twitter users who criticize California Rep. Devin Nunes using accounts personifying the Republican's cow and mom said he's not backing down:
Nunes's attorney issued a subpoena last month demanding the records but Parkhomenko's lawyer argued that the Twitter accounts’ language "does not constitute defamation" because "no reasonable person would believe that Devin Nunes’ cow actually has a Twitter account ... It is self-evident that cows are domesticated livestock animals and do not have the intelligence, language, or opposable digits needed to operate a Twitter account." (Sacramento Bee)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met,” Trump said to the two Thanksgiving turkeys he pardoned. (WSJ)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
First lady Melania Trump was loudly booed as she walked on stage at a youth opioid awareness event in Baltimore, a city her husband has repeatedly criticized:
Bernie Sanders slow-jammed the news:
Stephen Colbert poked fun at the Conan the dog situation:
Jimmy Kimmel saw the turkey pardon and thought it should've been the other way around:
And subway riders in New York held a Thanksgiving feast complete with turkey, sides and non-alcoholic sparkling wine: