The NY Times should join Alex Jones's in Group Therapy   

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Plummeting abortion rates in California expose the pro-life industry's fraudulent use of statistics. See American RTL's article, Abortion Regs Don't Work, Say Cal's Falling Rates. Bob also discusses the New York Times joining right wing conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones in the mutual paranoia, with the newspaper's column claim there's a good chance that conservatives will rise up with their guns to keep Donald Trump in the White House even if he loses the election. And briefly, Bob notes that the NFL still has trouble filling seats, appropriately so since their cave-in to the racist Black Lives Matter / hate the cops / blame everyone but the real killers protest.


          

Chronicle AM: Marijuana Arrests Increased Last Year, CA Psilocybin Decrim Init Filed, More... (10/1/19)   

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Marijuana arrests nationwide increased last year despite spreading legalization, a California psilocbyn decriminalization initiative has been filed, and more.

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Marijuana Arrests Increased Again Last Year Despite More States Legalizing, FBI Data Shows. According to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports released Monday, the number of marijuana arrests in the US last year was 663,367, a slight increase over the 659,700 pot arrests tallied in 2017 and the 653,249 tallied in 2016. This despite the fact marijuana is now legal for adults in 11 eleven states and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states. Before 2016, marijuana arrests had been declining for roughly a decade.

Psychedelics

California Psilocybin Decriminalization Initiative Filed. A group of activists calling itself Decriminalize California has filed a psilocybin decriminalization initiative with state officials. The group has submitted ballot language to the attorney general's office and is now awaiting approval for an official title and summary. Once that is completed, activists will have 180 days to come up with 625,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2020 ballot. The initiative would decriminalize "personal possession, storage, use, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution in personal possession amounts without profit, transport, and consumption of psilocybin mushrooms" by individuals 18 and older.

International

ONDCP Releases Data on Coca Cultivation and Production in Peru. On Tuesday, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released the results of the annual US Government estimates measuring coca cultivation and potential cocaine production for the Republic of Peru. The estimates found that cultivation "remained elevated" at more than 125,000 acres, up slightly from 2016 and 2017, but still below the recent record of about 180,000 acres in 2013. "The ongoing coca cultivation in Peru and across the Andean Region of South America remains a significant threat to the United States. As part of the Trump Administration's whole-of-government approach to the addiction crisis, we will continue to support our partners in Peru to curb cultivation and production in critical growing regions. We are committed to bringing those who profit off the international drug trade to justice to help accomplish our goal of saving lives," ONDCP Director Jim Carroll said.


          

Kurds Have Been Preparing for Trump’s Syria Betrayal—With a Vengeance   

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Kurds Have Been Preparing for Trump’s Syria Betrayal—With a VengeanceDelil Souleiman/GettyLate Sunday night in Washington, the White House announced it was pulling U.S. troops out of northeast Syria to clear the way for a Turkish invasion. The Kurds there who led the fight on the ground that defeated the so-called Islamic State had seen President Donald Trump’s betrayal coming. But still they hoped it could be avoided. “Don’t let the Turks disrupt my wedding,” our translator texted in September prior to our arrival in the region. For more than a year, we have been visiting almost monthly to interview captured ISIS cadres held by the Kurdish and Arab troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as part of a project for the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS ComebackIn September, we saw the Turkish threat to invade at any moment was held off by tense U.S. negotiations in which the SDF made considerable concessions, allowing Turkey to patrol jointly a large swath of territory while agreeing to remove checkpoints and military positions farther back from the Turkish border.“They should put their patrols inside Turkish territory, and not enter Syria,” SDF leaders told us at the time, as they reluctantly acquiesced to U.S. demands.* * *BITTER FRIENDS* * *Many current and former White House advisors counseled against the kind of announcement made Sunday night. Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned last year over Trump’s threat to remove the few thousand U.S. troops in Syria, who not only served as advisors in the fight against ISIS, but as deterrence against Turkish operations east of the Euphrates River. In a particularly bitter post on Twitter, Bret McGurk, who served as the special U.S. presidential envoy for the fight against ISIS from 2015 to 2018, wrote, “Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”The U.S. military learned about the withdrawal plan only after Trump decided on it following his Sunday phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It has pulled out of two small observation posts in the security-mechanism zone near the Syria-Turkey border so far. But no further withdrawals are imminent, according to a knowledgeable source. The military, remembering Trump’s December order out of Syria and subsequent reversal, is waiting to learn if Trump will follow through with withdrawal this time.A recently departed senior Pentagon official considered the pullout a “blatant betrayal” of the U.S.’ Kurdish partners that gives “carte blanche to Erdogan” for a widely forecast bloodletting. “It’s going to be a massacre, that’s clear,” the ex-official told The Daily Beast. “It’s fundamentally wrong. They destroyed the Caliphate.”But the Kurds are not entirely defenseless. Military leaders of the dominant group, known as the YPG or People’s Protection Units (and their female YPJ partners), already were in overdrive in September, preparing for what they had long anticipated—a possible betrayal by their closest ally, the United States.* * *DIGGING IN* * *Alongside every major highway and criss-crossing the entire Northern Syria area, in fields, cities and towns, we saw digging for an extensive system of tunnels. “We’re ready either way,” the Kurdish leaders told us when we asked if they trusted the Americans to keep the Turks at bay.Kurds don’t have much, but their spirit of freedom and their desire to protect their hard-won territory and what they see as their incipient democracy was evident everywhere in September as the YPG troops prepared for battle with a much better equipped foe—the Turkish armed forces, the second biggest military in NATO. But nobody who fought ISIS in Syria in one vicious battle after another has forgotten that the huge Turkish army stood by and did nothing against the Islamic State as its killers carried out genocidal campaigns against Yazidis and Shiites, while abducting, torturing, ransoming or beheading Americans, Europeans, and Japanese, among others. Through all that, NATO ally Turkey was not interested in intervention. Far from it.That was until the White House statement Sunday night, up to which the U.S. military denied Turkey the ability to operate in airspace over SDF controlled territory, effectively making it more difficult to enter Northern Syria to conduct the “terrorist cleansing operation” that Turks insist upon. They already carried out one such operation in Afrin, west of the Euphrates, in January 2018, displacing Kurds and effectively taking over the area, using what Kurds claim are former ISIS cadres to fight for them.Turks view the Northern Syria area of Rojava, and the YPG dominated SDF, as controlled by Kurdish PKK terrorists operating under another name—wolves in sheep’s clothing. Indeed, in times past—until 1998—PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, lived freely in Syria and the father of the current Assad allowed him to train and equip his highly disciplined terrorist group for attacks into Turkey. It’s also true that over time, the various governing parties of Syria, Iraq and Iran have made use of PKK assaults on Turks as a way to exert pressure on Turkish politics. Turkey has suffered greatly from PKK terrorist attacks both inside Turkey and globally, and the PKK is clearly designated on the U.S. and EU’s list of terrorist organizations. In recent concessions to Turkey’s alarm over the SDF, a group they view as being in the hands of the PKK, the U.S. recently added additional individuals involved in the PKK to the U.S. State Department’s specially designated terrorist list. Turkey has also developed drones that fly over the Qandil mountains, in northern Iraq, making it easier to spot PKK movements and routinely send fighter jets to bomb them.  In the case of northern Syria however, until President Trump’s announcement late Sunday night Washington time, the U.S. policy was to deny the Turks military incursions into territory where U.S. troops patrol and the U.S. military controls the airspace and claims by Turkey that the SDF is PKK have also been hotly disputed.While Turkey sees the SDF as dominated and led by a terrorist organization, the U.S. has a completely different perspective, viewing the YPG and SDF as valued allies in the fight against ISIS. Indeed, YPG and YPJ (Women’s People’s Protection Units) fighters lost over 1,000 lives fighting ISIS and it is common to see Kurdish men and women in Rojava on crutches, in wheelchairs and otherwise suffering from serious and lifelong injuries sustained in the battle to retake ISIS dominated areas, including Raqqa. While the rest of the world was silent, the YPG and YPJ can also take credit for going to the rescue of the Yazidis on Sinjar mountain in 2014, fighting to stop ISIS from carrying out a massive genocidal campaign in which ISIS cadres captured and enslaved countless Yazidi women, boys, and girls. The men were killed by ISIS, the boys killed or indoctrinated. The women and girls subsequently were raped and treated as chattel. But thousands were able to escape with YPG help.* * *THE PRISONERS* * *At present the SDF houses thousands of captured ISIS prisoners, holding the men in repurposed schools and prisons overflowing with former fighters and in camps similarly run at overcapacity for ISIS women and children. According to a March 2019 UN report, a total of 8,000 Islamic State fighters currently are held in SDF custody. In our recent visits to north and east Syria from May through August, relying on our primary intelligence sources, we were told that approximately 2,000 of these Islamic State prisoners were considered “foreign terrorist fighters” from North Africa, Europe, and the Americas.The same data was also corroborated in an August 2019 press release by the Office of the Spokesperson, Special Envoy of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Ambassador James Jeffrey. Just under a 1,000 of the prisoners are believed to be Europeans. ICSVE has interviewed approximately five percent of those detained. Most appear to have become totally disillusioned, are exhausted from battle and prison and say they want to lay down arms. While there is no specific deradicalization or rehabilitation program applied to them at present and we have been requested by the SDF and also agreed to build one, it’s safe to say the majority are spontaneously deradicalizing and simply want to return home to their former lives after facing a judicial process.The SDF prisons are overcrowded and the SDF leadership repeatedly has expressed a need to ICSVE researchers for technical assistance in dealing with terrorist prisoners and for financial assistance to build at least five prisons. Riots and attempted jail breaks have occurred in SDF prisons holding foreign fighters. Likewise, recent news reporting shows over-capacity has prisoners sleeping next to each other on their sides to be able to fit into small and overcrowded rooms. Three detention centers holding ISIS women and children also are administered by the SDF: Camps Hol, Ain Issa and Roj. According to a UN Report as of April 2019 an estimated 75,000 women and children were being held. Our data suggests that at least 60,000 are Syrians and Iraqis. At least 8,000 children and 4,000 wives of foreign fighters remain in the camp.Women and children live in tents in these camps which are hot in the summer, freezing cold during winter, and leak cold rainwater as well.  Dust blows around the camps causing breathing difficulties for some. Women and children have died of typhus, tent fires, and other dangers in the camps. Recently vaccinations have been offered, but many mothers don’t trust the program and refrain from having their children vaccinated. The women cook for themselves and complain that the food provided them lacks nutritious fruits and vegetables. Schools are lacking as well.All of the camps housing women have suffered from ISIS enforcers still dedicated to the group who require the other women to continue to cover themselves and punish those who speak out against them. These women have attacked other women, set their tents on fire, stolen their possessions, attacked, bitten, beaten and stabbed guards and have murdered other women creating a sense of chaos, constant danger and oppression in the camps. Recently a gun fight broke out in Camp Hol, with one woman killed and seven wounded.Foreign fighters from about 60 countries remain in SDF custody. We have interviewed foreign fighters who are nationals of the United States, Canada, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Dagestan, Turkey, Denmark, Russia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, Switzerland, Egypt, and Germany. * * *A TRIBUNAL?* * *While the SDF has struggled to contain the overflow of captured ISIS fighters, they have been frustrated by Turkish politics and threats to their very existence. In recent years with the Syrian uprising and rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Turks saw it to be to their advantage to fund, train and equip Islamist rebels that they believed could keep the Kurdish independence movements in Syria in a weakened state or altogether destroyed. The Kurds, meanwhile, fought back in 2015 when ISIS invaded the city of Kobani on the Turkish border and rose up as a valiant on-the-ground force to repel the terrorists. The U.S. led coalition began arming and supplying the YPG and YPJ, and providing air cover, infusing the Kurds with a powerful sense of valor and military might that ultimately led to the complete territorial defeat of an Islamic State “Caliphate” that had taken as its motto “remain and expand.”ISIS is hardly a defeated foe however, with weekly sleeper cell attacks occurring in both Syria and Iraq and the likes of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi still making video and audio appeals to supporters around the world to reinstate the Caliphate, starting with breaking the ISIS prisoners out of captivity.The subject of ISIS captives is one of great importance to President Trump who repeatedly has threatened to release the roughly 12,000 ISIS foreign men, women and children prisoners held by the SDF in prisons and camps.  Trump’s view is that each country has to take its citizens back, even countries like Sweden that lack a terrorism law under which to prosecute returnees, and countries like France, which already has a serious militant jihadi prison problem and fears any more potential ISIS cadres inside its penitentiaries. These countries have continued to tell the SDF that an international tribunal can be established in its territory to try ISIS prisoners in place. But the UN Counter Terrorism Directorate and U.S. State Department strongly disagree with this proposal and President Trump continues to tweet that he is simply going to release the prisoners to European countries refusing to repatriate them—even though it is the SDF, not Washington, that has them in custody.In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump claimed erroneously that most of the ISIS prisoners are foreigner terrorist fighters and seemed to ignore that ISIS, even when based far away in Syria, is a very real threat to U.S. citizens and interests. It is “time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to … figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their “neighborhood.” They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”While arguments of who should be responsible to prosecute and hold ISIS prisoners can be made on both sides, in many ways Europe, Jordan and many other countries effectively did “flush the toilet” of their militant jihadi problem by allowing them to freely exit their countries to go fight in Syria, most of them ultimately joining ISIS. The U.S. at present repatriates all of its ISIS fighters bringing them to swift and sound justice at home.* * *ISIS AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY* * *Turkey also has a responsibility in the rise of ISIS, having allowed over 40,000 foreign fighters to cross over its border into Syria, many unabashedly on their way to join the Islamic State. Many prisoners tell us of Turkish complicity with their journey into ISIS-land and being wished well by border guards who winked as they crossed into Syria.Abu Mansour, a 36-year-old Moroccan ISIS emir interviewed by ICSVE in February 2019 in Iraqi prison, told us that he basically functioned as the ISIS ambassador to Turkey, negotiating border issues, the transfer of ISIS wounded into Turkey for treatment, the flow of foreign fighters across the Turkish border into ISIS territory, and other logistics. “The subject of Turkey is a very big one,” he said, “and the mutual interests include the obvious and the hidden.”“Their benefit was that it was a border area and we have a border strip with them,” Abu Mansour continued. “Security is one of them, and they wanted to control north of Syria.”  The Turks wanted to control the entire border region in Syria and even into Iraq as far as Mosul, according to Abu Mansour, but they wanted to do it through a proxy force. “So, they wanted to find organizations that would do this favor for them, including terminating the presence of the Kurdish Workers Party [the PKK], without a direct interference from Turkey. At the same time, especially since they were part of NATO, they don’t want to anger NATO, because they need NATO.”By the same token, Turkish President Erdogan’s background as a committed Islamist created a certain sympathy, as did his ambition to revive in modern form the old Ottoman empire, Abu Mansour claimed. “The pretext of [controlling the] Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] is a strong pretext for Turkey, but they have ambitions, as they have entered regions that don’t have PKK in them.” Abu Mansour explained the Turkish and ISIS relationship through his own experiences. In 2013, he said, he was assigned to receive the ISIS volunteers arriving in Turkey, but later, “I supervised the country entry operations, registration as a whole.”  Then in 2015, he said, “I worked on external relations, relations with the Turkish intelligence. It started when I was at the borders.” First there was an agreement about passing the wounded from Syria into Turkey, about the border crossing and security arrangements. “Ambulances, especially in critical and serious situations, could go straight to the [border] gate,” said Abu Mansour. “Then a Turkish ambulance takes the case to the Turkish hospitals, and it is followed up inside Turkey. There was a hotline with intelligence who are located at the borders. Most places were available, [including] hospitals in Turkey [and] there was a technical staff of doctors who follow up the case in Turkey. The [Turkish] state was paying for certain operations performed in private hospitals, but most cases referred by the public hospitals were for free.”Abu Mansour said he had “face-to-face meetings with Turkish delegations. Sometimes they represented the intelligence services, sometimes the Turkish army, depending on the issue. “Most meetings were in Turkey on the border strip, but there were also meetings in Ankara and Gaziantep, depending on the issue,” said Abu Mansour. He would travel with a delegation of two or three ISIS people.”Referencing the easy relationship, as he saw it, between ISIS and the Turkish intelligence and military, Abu Mansour claimed, an ISIS emir could “go to Ankara without a problem.  They always sent a car, or a bodyguard. At one point, we met weekly, depending on the issue and its importance to Turkey and to us, according to the demand.”The situation described by Abu Mansour raises a question: did the ultimate defeat of ISIS in fact deprive the Turks of the proxy buffer zone they wanted—which they are now invading Syria to establish?Abu Mansour recalled, “Turkey asked on many occasions for a safe zone.” This would be a demilitarized zone where it would provide ISIS with whatever it wanted, but only inside Syrian territories. According to Abu Mansour, , ISIS refused to grant it, and relations started to fall apart. Eventually, Turkey grew sick of the back and forth, and there was also a split in ISIS leadership, with one faction deciding it would take the terror war into Turkey with a 2016 bombing at Istanbul airport. At the time, Abu Mansour was in Gaziantep, Turkey, and the Turkish authorities told him they thought this was an orchestrated act to pressure Ankara. But he says that was not the case. The external security services of ISIS had started setting their own agenda, “carrying out operations everywhere,” Abu Mansour told us. “We reached a state in which they couldn’t care less about politics, and they worked like gangs, [and would] strike anywhere.”While Turkey continues to claim that the SDF, our strongest ally in fighting ISIS, is a terrorist dominated group, many questions remain about Turkey’s own complicity with ISIS. Given that during a bitterly fought war with ISIS, in which many Kurdish lives were lost, that the SDF managed to take control of the area, institute a functioning political system that included granting an impressive array of minority rights and rights to women, the SDF deserves our respect and protection.But U.S. President Donald Trump has put a price on all this. “The Kurds fought with us,” he tweeted, “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.” That they saved countless lives in the process, including American lives, does not seem to have been a factor.Spencer Ackerman also contributed reporting to this article.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



          

Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion   

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Trump Sows Turkey Chaos as U.S. Denies Endorsing Syria Incursion(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump hasn’t endorsed a Turkish incursion into Syria, a senior administration official said, deepening confusion around his policy after an uproar from Republicans that he planned to abandon U.S. Kurdish allies.The official said Trump has cautioned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will bear responsibility for Islamic State prisoners in the region, as well as a resurgence of violence if the militants are freed and any harm to civilians in areas Turkey occupies.The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.Trump later suggested his move to clear the way for a Turkish invasion was intended in part to pressure European countries including France and Germany that, he said, have refused to accept the return of citizens who joined Islamic State.Trump said at a meeting with military leaders that he had urged U.S. allies to reclaim their citizens, but they had refused.“We’re not going to move the fighters to Guantanamo Bay and take care of them for many, many years into the future, that’s not for us,” he said. “Now it’s time for Germany and France and all of the nations where they came from to take them back and they chose no. Maybe they’re going to change their tune now, I don’t know.”Trump has come under criticism from allies including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and his former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, for his announcement late Sunday that the U.S. wouldn’t stand in the way of the Turkish incursion.The White House statement was read around the world as Trump abandoning U.S. policy that Kurdish allies would be protected from Turkish aggression in exchange for their help in defeating Islamic State.Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is among the top Democratic contenders to challenge Trump’s re-election in 2020, said in a statement that “once again, an impulsive and erratic president has abandoned friends of the United States with a late-night tweet.”American officials didn’t immediately explain the president’s change in position on Syria. Trump’s order to remove about 50 U.S. troops from a Syria border region Turkey intends to invade doesn’t represent a green light for the incursion, the U.S. official said. The official added that Trump had discussed the decision with officials at the State Department and Pentagon before the White House announcement, and that the agencies should not have been surprised.The U.S. had successfully dissuaded Turkey from an invasion for two years, but if Erdogan orders an operation, the U.S. doesn’t want its soldiers endangered or caught in the crossfire, the official said.I’ve told President Erdogan, I hope he’s going to treat everybody with great respect,” Trump said at the meeting with military leaders. Earlier, he told reporters at the White House: “I have consulted with everybody.”“I fully understand both sides of it but I campaigned on the fact I was going to bring our soldiers home,” he said.The administration official did not say that any U.S. soldiers would be brought home as a result of the withdrawal. The troops moved from the border region, mostly special forces soldiers, would be re-positioned at different U.S. bases in Syria, the official said.(Updates with more Trump remarks, beginning in fourth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.net;Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

Trump left isolated as Republican allies revolt over US withdrawal from Syria   

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Trump left isolated as Republican allies revolt over US withdrawal from SyriaMitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham lead condemnation of foreign policy move that could prove ‘disaster in the making’Donald Trump with Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, in the Cabinet Room on Monday. Lindsey Graham said abandoning the Kurds would be ‘a stain on America’s honour’. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/APDonald Trump was dangerously isolated on Monday as, in a rare rebuke, some of his most loyal allies revolted against his decision to withdraw US troops from north-eastern Syria.Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell led a chorus of Republicans who, having defended the president on almost every other issue – including over impeachment – decided to draw a line in the sand.“A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said. “And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”He added: “As we learned the hard way during the Obama administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal.”The criticism was significant because McConnell is usually at pains not to cross Trump even at his most capricious. Last week the Kentucky senator released a Facebook video promising to stop Democratic-led impeachment in its tracks.Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" – although the constitution does not specify what “high crimes and misdemeanors” are.The process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. Democrats currently control the house, with 235 representatives.The chief justice of the US supreme court then presides over the proceedings in the Senate, where the president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote to convict. Republicans currently control the Senate, with 53 of the 100 senators.Two presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither was removed from office as a result. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote to impeach him.Martin BelamThe unusual fracture emerged on Sunday night when, shortly after a phone conversation between Trump and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House announced removal of US troops from the Syria-Turkey border area. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” it added.Critics of all political stripes have long feared that the move could open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led fighters in the area. Kurdish groups have fought alongside a small US presence in Syria to drive Islamic State militants from the region.The Republican backlash was rapid and potentially unnerving for a president whose fate is tethered to the party and the assumption that it will acquit him in the Senate if, as widely expected, the Democratic-led House of Representatives votes for impeachment.Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, who has become an outspoken defender (and frequent golf partner) of Trump, did not acquiesce this time. Abandonment of the Kurds would be “a disaster in the making”, he said, and “a stain on America’s honour”.Graham told Fox News: “I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is. I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”Graham wrote on Twitter that if the plan goes ahead, he will introduce a Senate resolution opposing it and seeking reversal of the decision. He added: “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, whose attempts to defend Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president have provoked mockery, said: “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, also urged the president to reconsider. “The United States should not step aside and allow a Turkish military operation in north-east Syria,” he said. “This move will undermine our ongoing campaign to prevent an Isis resurgence and will ultimately threaten our homeland.“Additionally, the United States needs to stay engaged to prevent further destructive involvement in the region from our adversaries like the Assad regime, Putin and Iran.”Notably, senator Marco Rubio of Florida, reluctant to criticise Trump even when the president suggested that China investigate former vice president and 2020 election rival Joe Biden, was clear , describing the retreat as “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria”And Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador, admonished Trump without mentioning his name. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. TurkeyIsNotOurFriend”Ominously for Trump, even conservative Fox News aired dissent. Host Brian Kilmeade described the pullout as “a disaster”, telling viewers of Fox & Friends: “Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?”Republicans who have contradicted Trump before did so forcefully again. Utah senator Mitt Romney described Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal”, adding: “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”Romney and Democratic senator Chris Murphy issued a joint statement insisting Trump’s administration “explain to the American people how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests”.Democrats also piled in but there was a lone voice of support for the president on Capitol Hill. Republican senator Rand Paul, long a critic of foreign intervention, said: “So many neocons want us to stay in wars all over the Middle East forever. [Trump] is absolutely right to end those wars and bring the troops home.”Trump himself was undeterred by the blowback. Speaking at the White House on Monday, he said he has “great respect” for the prominent Republican critics. And added: “People are extremely thrilled because they say it’s time to bring our people back home. We’re not a police force. They’re policing the area. We’re not a police force. The UK was very thrilled at this decision … many people agree with it very strongly.”



          

GOP Senators Unnerved and ‘Concerned’ About ‘Betrayal’ of Kurds in Syria   

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GOP Senators Unnerved and ‘Concerned’ About ‘Betrayal’ of Kurds in SyriaBRENDAN SMIALOWSKIPresident Donald Trump’s decision to pave the way for a Turkish invasion of northern Syria at the expense of Kurdish allies in the region has infuriated Republican allies in the Senate who have spent the last two weeks twisting themselves in knots to defend him from an impeachment inquiry. Late on Sunday, the White House released a one-paragraph statement declaring that a Turkish invasion of northern Syria was imminent, and the United States would “not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area.” For Kurds in the region—who have been fighting ISIS with U.S.-supplied weapons and are largely considered the strongest fighting force in Syria—the declaration amounts to an abrogration of agreements with the United States to defend them against Turkey, which considers them to be terrorists. In June, Trump himself warned that abandoning the alliance would allow Turkey to “wipe out the Kurds, who helped us with ISIS.”Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS ComebackThe backlash from his Republican allies was swift.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), led the way on Monday morning, with the South Carolina senator calling the move “shortsighted and irresponsible” on Fox & Friends, a show that effectively serves as a televised presidential daily brief for Trump.“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos, Iran is licking their chops, and if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life,” Graham said. “I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey’s military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria. I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is.”Graham even referenced the House’s impeachment inquiry, unprompted, before adding that while “I’ve tried to help him,” the president’s behavior was “just unnerving to its core.”Graham, who has spent years trying to steer Trump closer to the hawkish foreign policy stances held by his Republican predecessors, opened the floodgates for Republicans who see Trump’s move as a threat to a critical U.S. ally in the region, and a potentially disastrous embrace of an autocratic regime.Indeed, Monday saw widespread pushback from around the Senate GOP, from lawmakers who’ve cozied up to Trump to those who have been more willing to call him out. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Trump ally who has nudged him toward more hawkish positions on Venezuela and Iran policy, called the decision “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said that he was “deeply concerned” that the decision could leave Kurds who risked their lives to fight ISIS in harm’s way.And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), probably Trump’s most vocal Senate GOP critic, characterized the pullout as “a betrayal” that “presages another humanitarian disaster” in Syria. Romney went so far as to join Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to demand that administration officials explain their move to lawmakers and the public. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), meanwhile, has toned down his Trump criticism lately but warned that the retreat would “likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) managed to subtweet the president, calling Trump’s move “a terribly unwise decision” moments after the president described his wisdom on the matter as “great and unmatched.”Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a rare rebuke of the president whom he has pledged to protect from removal from office, pleaded with Trump to maintain an American presence in the region and to prevent Turkey from invading.“I urge the president to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” McConnell said in a statement. Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria, McConnell said, “would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”Among Trump’s allies seeking to thread the needle between opposing the withdrawal and ensuring that the president didn’t feel attacked was Sen. Ted Cruz, who tweeted that while Trump was “right to want to bring our soldiers home,” it would be “DISGRACEFUL” (capital letters Cruz’s) to allow Turkey to attack Kurdish allies in the region.“Our enemies and rivals (Iran, Russia, etc.) don’t abandon their allies,” Cruz said. “If we want allies to stand with America in the future, we shouldn’t either. Honorable nations stand by their friends.”Seemingly alone among Senate Republicans in supporting the withdrawal was Sen. Rand Paul, who is perhaps the biggest cheerleader of Trump’s isolationist instincts. The Kentucky senator told reporters that he stands with Trump “as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy.”Other Senate Republicans have remained tight-lipped on the president’s decision, perhaps praying that Trump will reverse course on the withdrawal—as he did in December 2018, after sharp rebukes from within the party and the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis halted a hastily announced drawdown of U.S. troops from Syria.Asked during an event celebrating a trade agreement with Japan on Monday afternoon about whether he had consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the decision, Trump insisted that he had.“I consulted with everybody,” Trump said.Additional reporting: Sam Brodey Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



          

Donald Trump allies turn on president over 'betrayal' of Kurdish allies in Syria   

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Donald Trump allies turn on president over 'betrayal' of Kurdish allies in SyriaDonald Trump's allies have turned on the president after he took the decision to green-light an offensive by Turkish on its Kurdish allies in Syria. President Trump apparently made the decision without consultation from his own advisers or intelligence services, who warned that it could prove to be one of the most reckless decisions of his presidency. Mr Trump appeared focused on making good on his political pledges to bring home American troops from “ridiculous endless wars”, even at the risk of sending a troubling signal to American allies abroad. Key Republican leaders in Congress appeared taken aback by the move, which they called a “betrayal” that could stain the US’s name. "I want to make sure we keep our word for those who fight with us and help us," Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader, said, adding that, "If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you. America should keep their word." Mr Trump defended his decision in a series of breathless tweets, writing: “I was elected on getting out of these ridiculous endless wars, where our great Military functions as a policing operation to the benefit of people who don’t even like the USA (sic).” Senator Lindsey Graham, a top Republican ally of Mr Trump, said Congress could impose economic sanctions on Turkey and threaten its Nato membership if Ankara invaded Syria. A female fighter of the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) flashes the victory gesture while celebrating near the Omar oil field in the eastern Syrian Deir Ezzor province on March 23, 2019, after announcing the total elimination of the Islamic State (IS) group's last bastion in eastern Syria. Credit: AFP Mr Graham also said that Mr Trump's moves were a "disaster in the making" that would empower Isil in Syria. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of Mr Trump's key allies, added his voice of dissent, saying: "A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime."   The warning was echoed by the US’s partners on the ground, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which claimed yesterday their ability to contain thousands of prisoners in their detention had become severely compromised. "We were doing our best to provide the best kind of security... but with the Turkish invasion we are forced to pull out some of our troops from the prisons and from the camps to the border to protect our people," Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led SDF said. "The Islamic State will benefit from the security vacuum that will follow, and will strengthen and regroup itself," he said, adding that it would undo years of work defeating the jihadists. The SDF has been holding some 10,000 male Isil suspects, including an estimated 10 Britons, in prisons across north-eastern Syria, many of which fall inside Turkey’s proposed 18-mile deep, 300-mile-long buffer zone. This does not include the more than 70,000 women and children held in detention camps would could also be at risk. The White House statement announcing the news was released shortly after a phone call between Mr Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday night. Foreign prisoners in Syria detained by the SDF in Baghuz during the battle for Isil's last stronghold Credit: CBS Mr Erdogan had reportedly assured the US president that Ankara would take over the detention of Isil militants captured by the SDF. He said in a brief statement to press on Monday that he thought the numbers of Isil prisoners had been exaggerated but Turkey was ready to “remove them swiftly”, without elaborating. Mr Trump has repeatedly asked countries working with the US-led coalition against Isil to repatriate their citizens, even threatening on numerous occasions to release them. However, the UK, France, Germany, and other allies have so far refused.  “The United States will not hold them for what could be many years and great cost to the United States taxpayer,” a White House statement released on Sunday said. “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial “Caliphate” by the United States.” On Monday night, US Central Command, however, issued a statement saying that the US does not support Turkey invading Kurdish territory. "The Department of Defense made clear to Turkey - as did the President - that we do not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria. The US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation," said Jonathan Hoffman, Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.  Turkey - Syria map Coalition sources said the chance of a smooth handover from Kurdish to Turkish control was “virtually impossible”, leaving the prospect of prisoners breaking free in the chaos.  Western diplomats told the Telegraph they too were surprised by Mr Trump’s statement, saying they had not been told in advance. They said European governments were rethinking their strategy on suspects being held in Syria. Mr Trump’s decision to pull back from Syria was criticised by Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat Isil who quit in December over differences of opinion with the president on post-Isil US strategy. "Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation," Mr McGurk tweeted. "He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call." The US had for months been working with Turkey to try to create a “safe zone” along its border with northern Syria between the Turkish military and Kurdish forces which Ankara sees as terrorists. At a glance | The four Kurdistans Turkey has repeatedly criticised its slow implementation and threatened a unilateral assault, but until now the US had refused to stand aside. "The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades," Mr Trump said in a series of irate tweets. "Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out." Analysts said on Monday that the US's Kurdish had been left feeling abandoned. “For some time there is a belief in Washington that President Trump and the conventional US are two separate things. Perception is that he makes decisions without consulting his own government, advisers. Kurds and people on the ground  they have been surprised by the decision," Mutlu Civiroglu, Washington-based Kurdish Affairs analyst, told the Telegraph. "Kurds are worried, disappointed. They put a lot of trust in the US, which is the only reason they went ahead with the security mechanism put forward by the US and they expect America to stand with them.”



          

Trump boasts of 'great and unmatched wisdom' and threatens to 'obliterate' the Turkish economy   

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Trump boasts of 'great and unmatched wisdom' and threatens to 'obliterate' the Turkish economyPresident Trump seemingly set out to quell fears Monday that the White House was creating an opening for Turkey to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Northern Syria.The White House announced Sunday night that U.S. troops would leave northern Syria and that Turkey would launch an invasion in the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurdish fighters "terrorists," as a result of a longstanding separatist movement among Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, but the U.S. considered the Kurdish forces in northern Syria their strongest allies in the fight against the Islamic State, which is why Trump has received bipartisan criticism for leaving them vulnerable to Turkish forces.Trump, though, said that Turkey won't do anything he, in his "great and unmatched wisdom," considers "off limits" or else he'll "totally destroy and obliterate" the Turkish economy -- again.> As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over...> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019Trump doesn't mention the Kurds by name, but he has boasted about preventing Erdogan from attempting to "wipe out" the Kurds in the past, so it stands to reason he was referring to them. > Trump in June: https://t.co/Y1U2Za6clN pic.twitter.com/FQJsG6YZg1> > -- Dan Froomkin (@froomkin) October 7, 2019



          

Lindsey Graham is already leading a bipartisan rebuke of Trump's Syria pullout   

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Lindsey Graham is already leading a bipartisan rebuke of Trump's Syria pulloutPresident Trump's promise to pull out of Syria is not going over well.The White House announced Sunday night that the U.S. will "no longer be in the immediate area" of northern Syria where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday a Turkish military incursion was "imminent." Erdogan's promise left even Trump's allies skeptical of the U.S. decision to leave America's Kurdish allies, and led Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to partner with a Democrat and prepare a response to whatever Erdogan has planned.On Monday morning, Graham had tweeted that Trump's Syria decision was "a disaster in the making," while Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) tweeted "Congress must make it clear that Turkey will pay a heavy price if they attack the Syrian Kurds." Graham then tweeted that he'd talked to Van Hollen about doing just that, announcing that "we will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey" and move to remove the country from NATO if it attacks Syria or the Kurds.> Hope and expect sanctions against Turkey - if necessary - would be veto-proof. > > This decision to abandon our Kurdish allies and turn Syria over to Russia, Iran, & Turkey will put every radical Islamist on steroids. Shot in the arm to the bad guys. Devastating for the good guys.> > -- Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 7, 2019Graham's "veto-proof" guarantee probably won't be necessary considering Trump's subsequent and, uh... passionate response. > ....the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory. THE USA IS GREAT!> > -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019



          

Graham Says Trump’s ‘Biggest Lie’ Is of Islamic State’s Defeat   

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Graham Says Trump’s ‘Biggest Lie’ Is of Islamic State’s Defeat(Bloomberg) -- One of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders in Congress rebuked the president’s decision to step aside from Kurdish allies in Syria while Turkey’s military advances, saying it would result in the re-emergence of ISIS.“ISIS is not defeated, my friend. The biggest lie being told by the administration is that ISIS is defeated,” Senator Lindsey Graham told “Fox and Friends” in a phone call Monday. “The Caliphate is destroyed, but there’s thousands of fighters” still there.Graham said he would sponsor a resolution urging Trump to reconsider the decision he called “shortsighted and irresponsible.” Graham said he and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen will also introduce a resolution to impose sanctions on Turkey if it invades Syria.The sharp criticism from Graham, a South Carolina Republican who usually is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the Senate, signals the president’s plan could meet resistance on Capitol Hill. Other Republican lawmakers were joining in expressing misgivings on Monday, echoing the admonishment that prompted Trump to reverse course on a similar pullout announced last year.Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said on Twitter that “the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, tweeted that the move “betrays Kurds, strengthens ISIS and endangers American homeland.”And Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, emphasized the risks of the U.S. abandoning allies in the Mideast. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she said on Twitter. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”Even before the pushback, Trump was defending his decision Monday, insisting on Twitter that the U.S. can’t afford to be stuck in “ridiculous endless wars.” The U.S. was only supposed to be in Syria for 30 days but stayed and “got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight,” Trump tweeted, insisting he’d held off this fight for almost three years.Trump’s move represents a significant shift in U.S. policy that raises questions about the fate of tens of thousands of Islamic State detainees and casts further doubt on the reliability of the U.S. as an ally in the region.Trump said Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to “figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.”’The White House said Turkey would take responsibility for any Islamic State fighters captured in the area over the past two years. It gave no details and it wasn’t immediately clear what, if any, plan the NATO allies had agreed to handle the detainees or how they would be transferred to Turkish custody.But the assurance represents a potential win for Trump, who has insisted that the U.S. would bear no responsibility for any Islamic State detainees, as he gears up for the 2020 election.Close U.S. AllyThe Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a close U.S. ally in the fight to defeat Islamic State. But Turkey considers Syria’s Kurdish militants a threat to its national security, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his forces are ready to begin a military operation against them in northeastern Syria.The U.S. in 2015 provided air support for Kurdish militias to retake the critical town of Kobani from Islamic State and has since used Kurdish fighters as ground troops in the campaign to clear Syria of the group.Trump’s approach to Syria has previously caused friction with administration officials. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, resigned last December after Trump said the U.S. would withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan -- a decision Trump later reversed.Graham, who has not shied from criticizing other Trump moves on foreign policy, said that fatigue with the fight is not a reason to abandon it. Leaving the U.S. wartime Kurdish allies will only make it harder to find allies in the future, he warned.“If we abandon them, good luck getting anybody to help America in the future with radical Islam, al Qaeda and ISIS,” Graham said. “You may be tired of fighting radical Islam, but they’re not tired of fighting you.”Graham called Trump’s decision “impulsive” and said the ensuing chaos in the region will only help U.S. foes. “Iran is licking their chops,” he said. “And if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life.”An adviser to the Syrian Democratic Forces said that Trump’s move will strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia.“The Kurds told me this morning they were going to fight,” Moti Kahana, an adviser to the Kurdish-led forces, said by telephone from New Jersey. “They have two options. They can partner with Iran and Assad in order to prevent Turkish intervention into Syria or face a fight against Turkey in the northern border area and with Iran” in the southeast.Even if the Kurds don’t fight, Kahana said, “they will shift their alliance from the Americans” to Russia, Assad and Iran.Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that the U.S. is “an irrelevant occupioer in Syria” and it’s “futile to seek its permission or relyl on it for security.”(Updates with comment from adviser to Syrian Kurds, Iran’s Zarif in final paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis.To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at jdlouhy1@bloomberg.net;Glen Carey in Washington at gcarey8@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Elizabeth Wasserman, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

Motorcycle Tragedy Is a Real Test for Boris Johnson   

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Motorcycle Tragedy Is a Real Test for Boris Johnson(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It is every family’s worst nightmare: a traffic accident that takes the life of a loved one, often through no fault of their own. Such incidents are usually an agonizing, private tragedy for those involved. The allegations in the case of 19-year-old Harry Dunn, however, are a matter of transatlantic diplomacy and threaten to become an embarrassment to the British prime minister Boris Johnson.They are also a reminder that diplomatic immunity is often used as a shield in ways that were never intended. Johnson, who once criticized the absurdity of the protections offered, can’t let his voice be muffled this time by his need to keep the Americans onside after Brexit.On Aug. 27, Dunn’s motorcycle collided head-on with a Volvo outside a U.S. intelligence base about 70 miles northwest of London; he suffered multiple injuries and was later pronounced dead. Dunn’s devastated family say they were told by police that they believe the Volvo driver was traveling on the wrong side of the road.The driver of the vehicle, named as 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas, is the wife of a U.S. diplomat who may have only been in the country for a short period. Police reported that she was cooperative initially and had no plans to leave the country. But after Dunn’s death, Sacoolas claimed immunity and returned to the U.S. with her family.The case has sparked outrage in the U.K. Harry Dunn and his family have suffered the ultimate irreversible harm, but they seem to have no recourse at all. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats and their families are protected from prosecution in their host country, though the principle dates back thousands of years.It has survived so long for good reason. Not all judicial systems were independent or trustworthy. During the Cold War, there was always the danger that a honeytrap might ensnare a diplomat. But a road in Northamptonshire in 2019 is a long way from such dangers. In recent decades, immunity seems to be abused by diplomats more often than correctly invoked. Waivers of diplomatic immunity are, in practice, rare. Some years ago the Daily Telegraph revealed that the Metropolitan Police made 19 applications for such waivers in the five years to 2007 and most were rejected. A French diplomat accused of assault was sent home. Saudi officials escaped having to account for allegations of indecent assault and drug-dealing.Yet this isn’t just a problem of serious crimes and misdemeanors. If you included parking violations and other smaller offences, diplomatic law-breaking would count for a significant waste of time and resources for the London police.As London mayor, Johnson regularly criticized the U.S. ambassador Robert Tuttle for failing to pay the city’s daily 8 pound ($9.90) congestion charge over three years. “I think it’s the Geneva Convention which prevents me from slapping an ‘asbo’ on every single diplomat who fails to pay, I think it’s an unbelievable scandal,” Johnson said at the time, referring to the Anti-Social Behavior Order penalty that was often used back then against London’s young hooligans.On Monday Johnson broke his silence on Dunn, calling on the U.S. embassy to waive immunity and saying he’d raise the issue with the White House personally. He treads a fine line. His predecessor Tony Blair never lived down accusations that he was George W. Bush’s “poodle”; Johnson is struggling to appease Trump’s sensitivities on Iran and Huawei, both areas where the U.K. disagrees with the president.Brexit complicates things. Trump’s promise of a U.S./U.K. trade deal has become a cornerstone of Johnson’s promise that Brexit will be a success. But the Trump impeachment proceedings have been noted in Westminster. Johnson is often compared to the American president; their chumminess will look less advantageous the more trouble Trump finds himself in.Were immunity to be lifted and Sacoolas found to have caused death by dangerous driving, she might not be sent to prison. Sentences of up to 14 years can be handed down if the offender is under the influence of drink or drugs. But the maximum custodial term for death by “careless or inconsiderate driving” is five years and that is reserved “for rare cases when the blame is exceptionally high.” We’re not likely to find out anway.Could there be a better system? The renowned trial lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has argued that countries should either waive immunity or submit to an international court in criminal cases, with judges from the involved nations. “Any country that chooses to protect an embassy official against prosecution must be treated with the contempt it deserves: Its ambassador should be carpeted, any aid budget reviewed and full details of charges and evidence released to the media,” Robertson wrote nearly a decade ago.It’s hard to live up to such ideals when your entire post-Brexit strategy is about keeping one country happy.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

Motorcycle Tragedy Is a Real Test for Boris Johnson   

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Motorcycle Tragedy Is a Real Test for Boris Johnson(Bloomberg Opinion) -- It is every family’s worst nightmare: a traffic accident that takes the life of a loved one, often through no fault of their own. Such incidents are usually an agonizing, private tragedy for those involved. The allegations in the case of 19-year-old Harry Dunn, however, are a matter of transatlantic diplomacy and threaten to become an embarrassment to the British prime minister Boris Johnson.They are also a reminder that diplomatic immunity is often used as a shield in ways that were never intended. Johnson, who once criticized the absurdity of the protections offered, can’t let his voice be muffled this time by his need to keep the Americans onside after Brexit.On Aug. 27, Dunn’s motorcycle collided head-on with a Volvo outside a U.S. intelligence base about 70 miles northwest of London; he suffered multiple injuries and was later pronounced dead. Dunn’s devastated family say they were told by police that they believe the Volvo driver was traveling on the wrong side of the road.The driver of the vehicle, named as 42-year-old Anne Sacoolas, is the wife of a U.S. diplomat who may have only been in the country for a short period. Police reported that she was cooperative initially and had no plans to leave the country. But after Dunn’s death, Sacoolas claimed immunity and returned to the U.S. with her family.The case has sparked outrage in the U.K. Harry Dunn and his family have suffered the ultimate irreversible harm, but they seem to have no recourse at all. Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats and their families are protected from prosecution in their host country, though the principle dates back thousands of years.It has survived so long for good reason. Not all judicial systems were independent or trustworthy. During the Cold War, there was always the danger that a honeytrap might ensnare a diplomat. But a road in Northamptonshire in 2019 is a long way from such dangers. In recent decades, immunity seems to be abused by diplomats more often than correctly invoked. Waivers of diplomatic immunity are, in practice, rare. Some years ago the Daily Telegraph revealed that the Metropolitan Police made 19 applications for such waivers in the five years to 2007 and most were rejected. A French diplomat accused of assault was sent home. Saudi officials escaped having to account for allegations of indecent assault and drug-dealing.Yet this isn’t just a problem of serious crimes and misdemeanors. If you included parking violations and other smaller offences, diplomatic law-breaking would count for a significant waste of time and resources for the London police.As London mayor, Johnson regularly criticized the U.S. ambassador Robert Tuttle for failing to pay the city’s daily 8 pound ($9.90) congestion charge over three years. “I think it’s the Geneva Convention which prevents me from slapping an ‘asbo’ on every single diplomat who fails to pay, I think it’s an unbelievable scandal,” Johnson said at the time, referring to the Anti-Social Behavior Order penalty that was often used back then against London’s young hooligans.On Monday Johnson broke his silence on Dunn, calling on the U.S. embassy to waive immunity and saying he’d raise the issue with the White House personally. He treads a fine line. His predecessor Tony Blair never lived down accusations that he was George W. Bush’s “poodle”; Johnson is struggling to appease Trump’s sensitivities on Iran and Huawei, both areas where the U.K. disagrees with the president.Brexit complicates things. Trump’s promise of a U.S./U.K. trade deal has become a cornerstone of Johnson’s promise that Brexit will be a success. But the Trump impeachment proceedings have been noted in Westminster. Johnson is often compared to the American president; their chumminess will look less advantageous the more trouble Trump finds himself in.Were immunity to be lifted and Sacoolas found to have caused death by dangerous driving, she might not be sent to prison. Sentences of up to 14 years can be handed down if the offender is under the influence of drink or drugs. But the maximum custodial term for death by “careless or inconsiderate driving” is five years and that is reserved “for rare cases when the blame is exceptionally high.” We’re not likely to find out anway.Could there be a better system? The renowned trial lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has argued that countries should either waive immunity or submit to an international court in criminal cases, with judges from the involved nations. “Any country that chooses to protect an embassy official against prosecution must be treated with the contempt it deserves: Its ambassador should be carpeted, any aid budget reviewed and full details of charges and evidence released to the media,” Robertson wrote nearly a decade ago.It’s hard to live up to such ideals when your entire post-Brexit strategy is about keeping one country happy.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



          

America’s illustrator: Norman Rockwell exhibit – with paintings, posters and magazine covers – opens at the MAC   

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“I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” – Norman Rockwell

Mention the name “Norman Rockwell,” and different thoughts bubble up for different people.

The gawky New England artist charmed millions of Americans for nearly 50 years as the Saturday Evening Post’s most beloved cover illustrator and chronicler of small-town life. At the same time, many critics snubbed Rockwell as too cliché, sentimental or homogenous to be taken seriously.

“Norman Rockwell is arguably America’s most famous artist ever,” said Wes Jessup, executive director of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, where a new exhibition, “Norman Rockwell’s America,” opened this weekend. “Who was more famous? Warhol? No. Warhol was actually a big collector of Rockwell.”

Rockwell was born in New York City in 1894 and died in 1978 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, at age 84. He lived and worked during some of the most impactful movements in modern art history such as impressionism, cubism, surrealism and abstract expressionism.

But he forged his own way as an illustrator. He once said, “Some people have been kind enough to call me a fine artist. I’ve always called myself an illustrator.”

“I’m 50, and when I was in college, Rockwell was considered retrograde. He was overlooked,” Jessup said. “So I think there is a rediscovery coming from my generation and younger people.”

Last month, singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey released her new album, provocatively titled “Norman (expletive) Rockwell.” The moniker suggests that maybe everything in America is not quite so perfect after all.

There is even a term bolstering Rockwell’s lasting impact on popular culture: “Rockwellian.” It can refer to anything quaint, idealistic or sentimental such as a “Rockwellian childhood” or a “Rockwellian holiday celebration.”

‘Vivid and affectionate portraits’

No matter where one places Rockwell in the canon, his depictions of everyday life made him the most widely circulated and universally beloved American artist of the 20th century. Rockwell’s “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country” garnered him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The MAC exhibition will use Rockwell’s singular art and enduring vision of a hopeful America to chronicle the nation’s history and examine what constitutes the American spirit. “Norman Rockwell America” is a show of 22 oil paintings, seven charcoal or graphite studies, original posters and all 323 Post magazine covers spanning six decades. It’s the first solo exhibition of Rockwell’s paintings and covers to visit the Inland Northwest.

The exhibition is arranged in chronological order, making the stages of his career recognizable and his images more poignant. The original works give viewers the chance to observe Rockwell’s superb craftsmanship and attention to detail, characteristics sometimes overlooked in the more widely seen reproductions.

In a masterful style almost photograph-like, and in hyper-real detail, Rockwell painted everyday people in ordinary situations. His goal was to tell a story, in a single picture, armed only with a paintbrush.

He lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, Korean War and Vietnam. But the stories he told most often were relentlessly optimistic, depicting a simpler world, one worth fighting for.

In Rockwell’s paintings, the nation’s rich tapestry is united by holiday rituals, faith and family life. Rockwell’s America is a place where honest, hard-working people endeavor to live rather than a world in which they really live. As Peter Schjedahl wrote in the New Yorker, “He didn’t illustrate Middle America. He invented Middle America.”

For example, readers of the Post delighted in Rockwell’s paintings of humorous childhood escapades. The iconic images include the illustration of the little boys running while yanking on their clothes after sneaking a dip in the local waterhole, the little girl with a black eye sitting outside the principal’s office with a huge grin spread on her face, and the young runaway chatting with a cop at the soda fountain counter with his bundle of clothes tied to a stick in full view under his barstool.

There are lots of intergenerational interactions, too: a grandfather picking up a bat to hit a few balls with the little ones, the daughter watching mom put on makeup at her vanity table and the parents putting their kids to bed. In 1955, Post readers voted the 1951 Thanksgiving issue their all-time favorite cover. The illustration depicts a woman and a young boy saying grace in a crowded restaurant as they are observed by other people at their table.

‘Extraordinary in the ordinary’

“He found the extraordinary in the ordinary moments because when you get to the truth of life, I think what we really remember is how beautiful it was to have a cup of tea with that person,” said Rockwell’s granddaughter Abigail Rockwell, who conducted a phone interview from her home back East.

“Yes, you will remember the Taj Mahal after you visit, but don’t we really go back to the small moments and think, ‘Oh God, I miss having tea with that person?’”

One of the paintings hanging in the MAC exhibit is titled “The Party After the Party.” Rockwell lovingly created an intimate scene in which a granddaughter kneels on the parlor floor in front of her grandmother’s chair. The pair holds hands as the young woman, still clad in her finery, tells Grandma all that happened at the party.

“Yes, I just got chills!” said Abigail Rockwell, now the de facto historian of the family. “That is a really sweet and memorable moment. That is part of the Edison Mazda series (of advertisements Rockwell illustrated) in the 1920s. I’ve always thought it’s some of his best work.”

Abigail Rockwell, who also is a successful jazz singer, will travel to Spokane to give a talk at the MAC on Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. and lead a private tour. Tickets are $25. She also will sign copies of the recently re-released autobiography by her grandfather, “My Adventures as an Illustrator: The Definitive Edition.” Abigail Rockwell has spent much of the last several years researching and updating the book. Her goal was to bust false myths and preserve her grandfather’s legacy.

One of the biggest misconceptions she said that she finds is that her “Pop,” as she calls him, painted only white America. However, a look at some of Rockwell’s most iconic works belies that notion.

In 1961, the artist painted “The Golden Rule,” showing people of different religious faiths and ethnic backgrounds worshipping together. However, Rockwell himself once recalled being directed to paint out a black person from a group picture in the Post. The policy at the time only allowed the portrayal of African Americans in service jobs next to white people.

After leaving the Post in 1963, Rockwell appeared eager to refocus his efforts on supporting the Civil Rights movement. In 1964, he produced his iconic painting “The Problem We All Live With.” It depicts Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old African American girl, on her way to an all-white public school during the New Orleans desegregation crisis. Due to threatened violence, she is being escorted by federal marshals. On the wall behind her are scrawled a racial slur and the letters “KKK.”

‘Ruining his legacy’

“Pop had the bravery to put those words on the wall,” Abigail said. “People don’t realize how controversial it was for him to do that. I saw the angry letters castigating him for ‘ruining his legacy.’ ”

One of Rockwell’s proudest moments, according to his granddaughter, was when he received a lifetime membership card to the NAACP. More than 30 years later, his portrait of Bridges was installed in the hall outside the Oval Office at the White House for several months during the Obama administration. Reproductions of this and more of Rockwell’s Civil Rights era paintings will be on display at the MAC as part of the current exhibition.

Another project Rockwell undertook after leaving the Post was a commission to paint a portrait of Abraham Lincoln for Spokane’s Lincoln First Federal Savings and Loan. The bank’s CEO, the late Spokane resident Donald P. Lindsay, had the idea to hire America’s most famous artist.

“My dad thought it was no big deal to write Norman Rockwell and just ask him to do it,” recalled Lindsay’s eldest daughter, Karen Warrick. “And it worked.”

For $4,000, Rockwell agreed to produce the 7-foot piece, taller even than Lincoln himself. Finished in 1965, the portrait depicts the 16th president as a young man on the farm dressed in work clothes holding an ax in one hand and a book in the other. “Lincoln the Railsplitter” was used to market the Spokane bank and all the branches throughout the state. Jar openers, golf balls, calendars and stationery all bore Rockwell’s Lincoln image.

The original painting hung for two decades in the Lincoln First Federal Bank lobby located in what is now the Lincoln building at Riverside and Lincoln. After the bank changed hands, the piece later made its way to the private collection of former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot. It was eventually sold at auction to the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2006 for $1.6 million.

The MAC has gathered letters, photos, bank memorabilia and a reproduction of “Lincoln the Railsplitter” to include in the exhibition. “It’s exciting that one of the most famous paintings of Abraham Lincoln that was ever done was done by one of America’s most famous artists and that it originated right here in Spokane,” Jessup said.

Warrick said that she hopes the Rockwell exhibit accomplishes what the artist himself wanted: to rekindle the American spirit. “I just hope that a lot of people are reassured that we care for one another in this country, that we are all the things that Rockwell brings out in his paintings,” Warrick said. “You wrap that around the integrity of a Lincoln and maybe young people will be inspired and think: ‘Is that what we used to look like in this country?’ ”


          

Trump's abrupt military departure from Syria draws fierce criticism   

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A day after the White House announced that President Trump was withdrawing all U.S. forces on the Syrian-Turkish border, U.S. bases there are deserted. Trump's abrupt decision now potentially puts the Kurdish-led, American-supported Syrian Democratic Forces directly in harm's way of Turkish forces -- and the Capitol Hill reaction has been bipartisan and blistering. Amna Nawaz reports.
          

Judge rejects Trump's presidential immunity claim to keep 8 years of taxes secret   

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A U.S. District Judge emphatically rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's attempt to keep his financial records under wraps, calling the president's broad claim of immunity from all criminal proceedings "extraordinary" and "an overreach of executive power" at odds with the Constitution.


          

Democrats subpoena Pentagon, White House budget office in impeachment probe   

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Congressional Democrats issued subpoenas to the Pentagon and the White House budget office on Monday as part of their impeachment inquiry, seeking documents related to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withhold military assistance from Ukraine.

          

President Trump: The impeachment inquiry is a scam, Schiff should be investigated   

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President Donald Trump answers questions from the White House after signing a U.S.-China trade deal about the impeachment inquiry.
          

President Trump: Good possibility of a trade deal with China but much prefer 'big deal'   

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President Donald Trump answers reporters' questions about China trade, Hong Kong and more from the Roosevelt room at the White House while signing the U.S.-Japan trade agreement.
          

Trump Boasts of His 'Great and Unmatched Wisdom,' Threatens to Obliterate Turkey   

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After the White House announced Sunday night that U.S. troops would leave northern Syria and that Turkey would launch an invasion in the region, a move that appears to give Turkey the green-light to massacre U.S.-allied Kurds, President Donald Trump posted this tweet believing it would address concerns: "As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I've done before!)."
          

'We're Not Fooling Around': Democrats Defend Inquiry As Trump Calls Efforts A Waste   

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Updated at 4 p.m. ET House Democrats defended their impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Wednesday, while opening another front in the ongoing battle with the White House over documents they are seeking for their probe. Three House committee chairmen threatened to issue a subpoena for the documents. "We're not fooling around here," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said at a news conference with fellow California Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Schiff said White House attempts to stonewall the investigation "will be strengthening the case on obstruction" of justice. At a White House press conference alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinistö later on Wednesday, Trump said, "I always cooperate" with congressional subpoenas, but went on to repeatedly denigrate Democratic investigations moving toward impeachment as a "hoax." "We'll work together with shifty Schiff and Pelosi and all of them," Trump said. Pelosi repeated her argument that the president's July
          

U.S. signs limited deal with Japan on ag, digital trade   

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is scheduled to sign a limited trade agreement Monday with Japan, a deal that would win back benefits American farmers lost when Trump pulled out of a broader Asia-Pacific pact his first week in office.

U.S. farmers have been operating at a disadvantage in Japan since Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which had been negotiated by the Obama administration. The other 11 Pacific Rim countries, including big farm producers such as New Zealand and Canada, went ahead without the United States and were enjoying preferential treatment in Japan.

The Washington wheat industry welcomed the agreement when it was first announced last month. Japan traditionally has been among the biggest importers of the region’s wheat.

“The main thing is it gets us to an equal footing with our competitors as far as a price standpoint. This is just great news,” Michelle Hennings, executive director of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, said at the time.

Trump earlier had put Washington wheat markets in jeopardy when he decided in 2017 to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which put U.S. wheat farmers at a graduating trade disadvantage to both Canada and Australia.

While rewarding American farmers, the new U.S.-Japan mini-deal does not resolve differences over trade in autos. Trump has said the two countries continue to work on a more comprehensive agreement.

Trump has threatened to impose import taxes on foreign autos, claiming they pose a threat to U.S. national security. At the U.N. general assembly, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that Trump had assured him that a previous agreement to spare Japan from new auto tariffs still stood.

But Japanese automakers were disappointed that the United States kept existing auto tariffs at 2.5%.

The limited trade pact also includes market-opening commitments on $40 billion worth of digital trade between the two countries.

Trump has long complained by America’s large trade deficit with Japan, which came to $58 billion last year. Japan is the world’s third-biggest economy behind the United States and China.

The president was set to sign the deal at the White House Monday afternoon.

The news might sound familiar. The deal was first announced at the August Group of 7 summit in Biarritz, France. At the UN gathering last month, the two countries signed an agreement-in-principle. On Monday, Trump was scheduled to sign the final text.


          

Supreme Court’s election-year term opens with insanity case   

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WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court began its election-year term Monday by wrestling over whether states must allow criminal defendants to plead insanity.

The one minor surprise when the justices took the bench just after 10 o’clock was the absence of Justice Clarence Thomas. The 71-year-old Thomas was at home, likely with the flu, the court said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her customary seat to the left of Chief Justice John Roberts. The 86-year-old Ginsburg asked the first question in the insanity arguments.

Ginsburg was treated this summer for a tumor on her pancreas.

Meeting for the first time in public since late June, the court opened a term that could reveal how far to the right and how fast the court’s conservative majority will move, even as Roberts has made clear he wants to keep the court clear of Washington partisan politics. The court is beginning its second term with both of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, on board.

The justices could be asked to intervene in disputes between congressional Democrats and the White House that might also involve the possible impeachment of the Republican president.

Roberts would preside over a Senate trial of Trump if the House were to impeach him.

Its biggest decisions, in cases involving abortion, protections for young immigrants and LGBT rights, are likely to be handed down in late June, four months before the election.

The case about an insanity defense comes from Kansas, where James Kraig Kahler was sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, two teenage daughters and his wife’s grandmother.

Kahler wanted to mount an insanity defense, but Kansas is one of four states that eliminated a defendant’s ability to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Idaho, Montana and Utah are the others. Alaska also limits the insanity defense.

It was unclear how the case would come out. Justice Elena Kagan suggested that even if Kahler were to win at the Supreme Court and could plead insanity, he ultimately would not get a reprieve from his conviction. In no state, she said, “would your client be found insane.”

The justices also were hearing arguments Monday in a challenge to a murder conviction by a non-unanimous jury in Louisiana.


          

Profit, not politics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal   

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KYIV, Ukraine – As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

On Friday, according to the news site Axios, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” regarding Biden. Axios cited a source saying Trump said Perry had asked Trump to make the call to discuss “something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.”

While it’s unclear whether Trump’s remark Friday referred specifically to the behind-the-scenes maneuvers this spring involving the multibillion-dollar state gas company, The Associated Press has interviewed four people with direct knowledge of the attempts to influence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Perry playing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The fourth is an American businessman with close ties to the Ukrainian energy sector.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Energy Department said Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, was not advancing anyone’s personal interests. She said his conversations with Ukrainian officials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country’s energy sector and create an environment in which Western companies can do business.

Perry was asked about the AP’s reporting on Monday while in Lithuania, where he was meeting with officials from Ukraine and other eastern European countries to discuss energy security and cooperation. He said any suggestion that he tried to force a management change at Naftogaz was a “totally dreamed up story.”

“We get asked for our recommendations about people who are experts in areas, various areas,” Perry said. “Folks who have expertise in particular areas. Obviously having been the governor of the state of Texas, I know a lot of people in the energy industry.”

The Trump and Giuliani allies driving the attempt to change the senior management at Naftogaz, however, appear to have had inside knowledge of the U.S. government’s plans in Ukraine. For example, they told people that Trump would replace the U.S. ambassador there months before she was actually recalled to Washington, according to three of the individuals interviewed by the AP. One of the individuals said he was so concerned by the whole affair that he reported it to a U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine months ago.

THE BUSINESSMEN

Ukraine, a resource-rich nation that sits on the geographic and symbolic border between Russia and the West, has long been plagued by corruption and government dysfunction, making it a magnet for foreign profiteers.

At the center of the Naftogaz plan, according to three individuals familiar with the details, were three such businessmen: two Soviet-born Florida real estate entrepreneurs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and an oil magnate from Boca Raton, Florida, named Harry Sargeant III.

Parnas and Fruman have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to Republicans, including $325,000 to a Trump-allied political action committee in 2018. This helped the relatively unknown entrepreneurs gain access to top levels of the Republican Party – including meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.

The two have also faced lawsuits from disgruntled investors over unpaid debts. During the same period they were pursuing the Naftogaz deal, the two were coordinating with Giuliani to set up meetings with Ukrainian government officials and push for an investigation of the Bidens.

Sargeant, his wife and corporate entities tied to the family have donated at least $1.2 million to Republican campaigns and PACs over the last 20 years, including $100,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund, according to federal and state campaign finance records. He has also served as finance chair of the Florida state GOP, and gave nearly $14,000 to Giuliani’s failed 2008 presidential campaign.

In early March, Fruman, Parnas and Sargeant were touting a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with another senior executive at the company, Andrew Favorov, according to two individuals who spoke to the AP as well as a memorandum about the meeting that was later submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, formerly known as Kiev.

Going back to the Obama administration, the U.S. Energy Department and the State Department have long supported efforts to import American natural gas into Ukraine to reduce the country’s dependence on Russia.

The three approached Favorov with the idea while the Ukrainian executive was attending an energy industry conference in Texas. Parnas and Fruman told him they had flown in from Florida on a private jet to recruit him to be their partner in a new venture to export up to 100 tanker shipments a year of U.S. liquefied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest distributor, according to two people briefed on the details.

Sargeant told Favorov that he regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full support, according to the two people who said Favorov recounted the discussion to them.

These conversations were recounted to AP by Dale W. Perry, an American who is a former business partner of Favorov. He told AP in an interview that Favorov described the meeting to him soon after it happened and that Favorov perceived it to be a shakedown. Perry, who is no relation to the energy secretary, is the managing partner of Energy Resources of Ukraine, which currently has business agreements to import natural gas and electricity to Ukraine.

A second person who spoke on condition of anonymity also confirmed to the AP that Favorov had recounted details of the Houston meeting to him.

According to Dale Perry and the other person, Favorov said Parnas told him Trump planned to remove U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and replace her with someone more open to aiding their business interests.

Dale Perry told the AP he was so concerned about the efforts to change the management at Naftogaz and to get rid of Yovanovitch that he reported what he had heard to Suriya Jayanti, a State Department foreign service officer stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv who focuses on the energy industry.

He also wrote a detailed memo about Favorov’s account, dated April 12, which was shared with another current State Department official. Perry recently provided a copy of the April memo to AP.

Jayanti declined to provide comment. Favorov also declined to comment.

On March 24, Giuliani and Parnas gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington with Healy E. Baumgardner, a former Trump campaign adviser who once served as deputy communications director for Giuliani’s presidential campaign and as a communications official during the George W. Bush administration.

She is now listed as the CEO of 45 Energy Group, a Houston-based energy company whose website describes it as a “government relations, public affairs and business development practice group.” The company’s name is an apparent nod to Trump, the 45th president.

This was a couple of weeks after the Houston meeting with Favorov, the Naftogaz executive. Giuliani, Parnas and Baumgardner were there to make a business pitch involving gas deals in the former Soviet bloc to a potential investor.

This time, according to Giuliani, the deals that were discussed involved Uzbekistan, not Ukraine.

“I have not pursued a deal in the Ukraine. I don’t know about a deal in the Ukraine. I would not do a deal in the Ukraine now, obviously,” said Giuliani, reached while attending a playoff baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins. “There is absolutely no proof that I did it, because I didn’t do it.”

During this meeting, Parnas again repeated that Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, would soon be replaced, according to a person with direct knowledge of the gathering. She was removed two months later.

Giuliani, who serves as Trump’s personal lawyer and has no official role in government, acknowledged Friday that he was among those pushing the president to replace the ambassador, a career diplomat with a history of fighting corruption.

“The ambassador to Ukraine was replaced,” he said. “I did play a role in that.”

But Giuliani refused to discuss the details of his business dealings, or whether he helped his associates in their push to forge gas sales contracts with the Ukrainian company. He did describe Sergeant as a friend and referred to Parnas and Fruman as his clients in a tweet in May.

As part of their impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have subpoenaed Giuliani for documents and communications related to dozens of people, including Favorov, Parnas, Fruman and Baumgardner’s 45 Energy Group.

Baumgardner issued a written statement, saying: “While I won’t comment on business discussions, I will say this: this political assault on private business by the Democrats in Congress is complete harassment and an invasion of privacy that should scare the hell out of every American business owner.”

Baumgardner later denied that she had any business dealings in Ukraine but refused to say whether the replacement of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed.

Sargeant did not respond to a voice message left at a number listed for him at an address in Boca Raton.

John Dowd, a former Trump attorney who now represents Parnas and Fruman, said it was actually the Naftogaz executives who approached his clients about making a deal. Dowd says the group then approached Rick Perry to get the Energy Department on board.

“The people from the company solicited my clients because Igor is in the gas business, and they asked them, and they flew to Washington and they solicited,” Dowd said. “They sat down and talked about it. And then it was presented to Secretary Perry to see if they could get it together.

“It wasn’t a shakedown; it was an attempt to do legitimate business that didn’t work out.”

THE ENERGY SECRETARY

In May, Rick Perry traveled to Kyiv to serve as the senior U.S. government representative at the inauguration of the county’s new president.

In a private meeting with Zelenskiy, Perry pressed the Ukrainian president to fire members of the Naftogaz advisory board. Attendees left the meeting with the impression that Perry wanted to replace the American representative, Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy representative who served in the Obama administration, with someone “reputable in Republican circles,” according to someone who was in the room.

Perry’s push for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to change its supervisory board was first reported by Politico.

A second meeting during the trip, at a Kyiv hotel, included Ukrainian officials and energy sector people. There, Perry made clear that the Trump administration wanted to see the entire Naftogaz supervisory board replaced, according to a person who attended both meetings. Perry again referenced the list of advisers that he had given Zelenskiy, and it was widely interpreted that he wanted Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas, to join the newly formed board, the person said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, another Texan who frequently works in Ukraine, the Energy Department confirmed.

Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, according to photographs reviewed by AP. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said he was floored by the American requests because the person had always viewed the U.S. government “as having a higher ethical standard.”

The Naftogaz supervisory board is supposed to be selected by the Ukrainian president’s Cabinet in consultation with international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the United States and the European Union. It must be approved by the Ukrainian Cabinet. Ukrainian officials perceived Perry’s push to swap out the board as circumventing that established process, according to the person in the room.

U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said Perry had consistently called for the modernization of Ukraine’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business there. She said Perry delivered that same message in the May meeting with Zelenskiy.

“What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” Hynes said Saturday. “That is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist.”

Hynes said the Ukrainian government had requested U.S. recommendations to advise the country on energy matters, and Perry provided those recommendations. She confirmed Bleyzer was on the list.

Bleyzer, whose company is based in Houston, did not respond on Saturday to a voicemail seeking comment. Bensh also did not respond to a phone message.

Perry has close ties to the Texas oil and gas industry. He appointed Bleyzer to a two-year term on a state technologies fund board in 2009. The following year, records show Bleyzer donated $20,000 to Perry’s reelection campaign.

Zelenskiy’s office declined to comment on Saturday.

In an interview Friday with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Perry said that “as God as my witness” he never discussed Biden or his son in meetings with Ukrainian or U.S. officials, including Trump or Giuliani. He did confirm he had had a conversation with Giuliani by phone, but a spokeswoman for the energy secretary declined to say when that call was or whether the two had discussed Naftogaz.

In Lithuania on Monday, Perry said he could not recall whether Bleyzer’s name was on the list provided to Zelenskiy. But Perry confirmed he had known Bleyzer for years and called him “a really brilliant, capable businessman.”

“I would recommend him for a host of different things in Kyiv because he knows the country,” Perry said of Bleyzer. “He’s from there. So, why not? I mean I would be stunned if someone said that would you eliminate Michael Bleyzer from a recommendation of people you ought to talk to about how to do business in the country, whether they’re knowledgeable. It’d be remarkable if I didn’t say, `Talk to Michael.“’


          

As impeachment looms, GOP revolts against Trump on Syria   

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WASHINGTON – They may have his back on impeachment, but some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal allies are suddenly revolting against his decision to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria.

On Monday, one chief Trump loyalist in Congress called the move “unnerving to the core.” An influential figure in conservative media condemned it as “a disaster.” And Trump’s former top NATO envoy said it was “a big mistake” that would threaten the lives of Kurdish fighters who had fought alongside American troops for years.

Trump’s surprise move, which came with no advance warning late Sunday and stunned many in his own government, threatened to undermine what has been near lockstep support among Republicans. It also came against the backdrop of a congressional impeachment inquiry in which the backing of Republicans in the Senate is the president’s bulwark against being removed from office.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been among Trump’s most vocal defenders, called the Syria decision “a disaster in the making” that would throw the region into chaos and embolden the Islamic State group.

“I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is,” Graham told Fox News. “I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has shrugged off the key allegation in the impeachment inquiry – that Trump pressured foreign powers to investigate a top Democratic rival – tweeted that Trump’s shift on Syria is “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”

And Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has been more willing than many Republicans to condemn Trump’s calls for foreign intervention in the 2020 election, called the Syria move “a terribly unwise decision” that would “abandon our Kurdish allies, who have been our major partner in the fight against the Islamic State.”

A more frequent Republican Trump critic, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, cast Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal.”

“It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster,” Romney tweeted.

Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s hand-picked ambassador to the United Nations, also cast the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Iraq as a betrayal of a key ally.

“The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake,” she wrote on Twitter.

Former Rubio aide Alex Conant highlighted the risks ahead for a president whose political future depends on Republican support.

“For Trump to make a very controversial move on Syria at the exact moment when he needs Senate Republicans more than ever is risky politics,” Conant said, noting the significance for many Senate Republicans of the United States’ policy in northern Syria, where Kurds would be particularly vulnerable to a Turkish invasion.

“They’re not just going to send out a couple of tweets and move on,” Conant said. “At the same time, the White House is going to need these guys to carry a lot of water for them.”

While a number of Republicans criticized Trump’s decision, one of their most important leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was sanguine, offering little concern about Syria or impeachment during an appearance at the University of Kentucky.

“There are a few distractions, as you may have noticed,” McConnell said. “But if you sort of keep your head on straight and remember why you were sent there, there are opportunities to do important things for the country and for the states that we represent.”

After the appearance, McConnell issued a statement warning that Trump’s proposed withdrawal “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. And it would increase the risk that ISIS and other terrorist groups regroup.”

“As we learned the hard way during the Obama Administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal,” McConnell said.

Outside government, leaders of conservative groups backed Trump.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent evangelical leader, said Trump was simply “keeping his promise to keep America out of endless wars.”

He suggested Trump could easily reengage in the region if the decision backfires.

“The president has got to do what’s best for the country, whether it helps him with this phony impeachment inquiry or not,” Falwell said in an interview.

Former Trump campaign aide Barry Bennett noted that the president has been talking about reducing troop levels in the Middle East since before the 2016 election.

“I understand that they don’t like the policy, but none of them should be shocked by the policy,” Bennett said. “He’s only been talking about this for four or five years now. I think he’s with the vast majority of the public.”

Still, the backlash from other Trump loyalists was intense.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., a member of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees, called it a “misguided and catastrophic blow to our national security interests.”

And on Fox News, a network where many rank-and-file Trump supporters get their news, host Brian Kilmeade said it was “a disaster.”

“Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?” Kilmeade said on “Fox & Friends.”

Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the controversy reminds him of former Defense Secretary James Mattis’ decision to resign late last year after Trump announced plans to withdraw troops from Syria.

“Ultimately, Trump reversed himself,” Aliriza said. “The question is whether he will actually reverse himself again in view of the opposition from Capitol Hill led by several of his closest allies.”


          

Whistleblower’s attorney says team now representing ‘multiple’ officials   

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WASHINGTON – An attorney for the whistleblower who sounded the alarm about President Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine said Sunday that “multiple” whistleblowers have come forward, deepening a political quagmire that has engulfed the president as well as several of his Cabinet members.

The news comes as House Democrats are accelerating their impeachment inquiry and subpoenaing documents related to Trump’s efforts to push foreign countries to investigate one of his political opponents, former vice president Joe Biden.

“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” the whistleblower’s attorney, Andrew Bakaj, said in a tweet. “No further comment at this time.”

Mark Zaid, who also is a member of the original whistleblower’s legal team, confirmed to the Washington Post that the team is now representing a second whistleblower, someone who works in the intelligence community. The second individual has spoken to the inspector general of the intelligence community and has not filed a complaint.

“Doesn’t need to,” Zaid said in a text message, adding that the person has “first hand knowledge that supported the first whistleblower.”

News that the original whistleblower’s team is representing a second person was first reported Sunday by ABC News.

Trump seized on the latest development in a Sunday night tweet.

“Democrat lawyer is same for both Whistleblowers? All support Obama and Crooked Hillary. Witch Hunt!” he said.

The crisis, which began last month with media reports revealing the original whistleblower’s complaint, has quickly metastasized across the Trump administration, ensnaring senior officials such as Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who came under further scrutiny over the weekend.

Trump largely stayed out of public view, spending Saturday at his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, and Sunday at the White House. In tweets, he attacked Democrats and some Republican detractors, including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, whose ouster he demanded Saturday after Romney criticized him.

He also appeared to directly link the 2020 presidential race to his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate Biden, contrary to a tweet on Friday declaring that “this has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens.”

“And by the way, I would LOVE running against 1% Joe Biden – I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” Trump tweeted Sunday, arguing that Biden and his family were “PAID OFF, pure and simple!”

“Sleepy Joe won’t get to the starting gate, & based on all of the money he & his family probably ‘extorted,’ Joe should hang it up,” Trump added. “I wouldn’t want him dealing with China & [Ukraine]!”

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates responded by calling it “puzzling” that Trump would claim to love the prospect of a matchup against Biden, “seeing as how he just sent his administration into a tailspin by trying to bully a foreign country into spreading a comprehensively debunked conspiracy theory about the vice president.”

Biden’s son Hunter served for nearly five years on the board of Burisma, Ukraine’s largest private gas company, whose owner came under scrutiny by Ukrainian prosecutors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment. Hunter Biden was not accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation.

As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, whom Biden and other Western officials, including Republicans, accused of not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. At the time, the investigation into Burisma was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.

On Saturday, Perry’s discussions with Ukrainian officials came to attention amid reports that Trump told Republicans on Friday that he made the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president at the request of Perry.

Asked about Trump’s comments, which were first reported by Axios, Energy Department spokeswoman Shylyn Hynes said in an email that Perry encouraged Trump to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to discuss energy security.

Pompeo, who was scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday, is facing growing pressure from Democrats seeking Ukraine-related documents.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Pompeo, who had spent much of the past week in Europe, missed a Friday deadline to comply with a subpoena for information about the State Department’s dealings with Ukraine. Pompeo asserts that a letter sent to the committee constitutes the department’s initial response.

The whistleblower complaint accused Trump of asking the Ukrainian government to help him with his reelection bid by launching an investigation into Biden. Democrats are also probing whether Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military assistance from Ukraine was linked to his push for the government there to pursue political investigations that could bolster the president’s reelection bid.

Text messages between State Department officials, revealed by House Democrats last week, show that there was at least some concern that Trump was pursuing an improper quid pro quo.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” diplomat William Taylor wrote on Sept. 9 to Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

Sondland, who has denied that Trump sought a quid pro quo, has agreed to meet privately on Tuesday with the three House panels – Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight – spearheading the probe, according to a committee aide.

On Friday, those three committees subpoenaed the White House for documents and wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence demanding that he turn over documents related to his talks with Zelensky.

Speaking at a Republican event in Louisiana on Saturday, Pence criticized Democrats but gave no indication about whether he would comply with their document request.

“Do-Nothing Democrats launched a partisan impeachment inquiry in a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the American people in the last election,” he said.

On Sunday, Trump’s campaign announced that the president would be traveling to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to hold a rally on Friday. The president will also have a rally on Wednesday in Minneapolis.

No White House officials made appearances on the Sunday morning news shows, leaving it up to congressional Republicans and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to defend the president in heated interviews during which they offered at-times-contradictory explanations for the president’s actions.

In a combative exchange on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd urged Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to explain why he told the Wall Street Journal about his concern in the summer that Trump had sought to link Ukrainian military aid to an investigation of the Bidens.

Johnson repeatedly declined to answer, instead raising a conspiracy theory and criticizing the media before finally stating that Trump had “adamantly denied” any quid pro quo.

Johnson also at one point said he does not trust U.S. intelligence agencies. “Something pretty fishy happened during the 2016 campaign and in the transition, the early part of the Trump presidency, and we still don’t know,” he said.

“We do know the answer,” an exasperated Todd responded, adding: “You’re making a choice not to believe the investigations that have taken place.”

Giuliani issued a defiant defense of Trump in an interview on Fox News Channel’s “MediaBuzz” in which he argued that the president “has every right to ask countries to help us in a criminal investigation that should be undertaken.”

Giuliani was named in the whistleblower’s complaint and in a rough transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky as being a key intermediary in back-channel efforts to pursue the allegations against Biden.

But other Republicans sought to play down Trump’s comments, including his exchange with reporters outside the White House on Thursday in which he urged China to investigate Biden.

In an interview on ABC News’s “This Week,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, echoed a suggestion on Friday by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that Trump’s China statement was not “a real request.”

“George, you really think he was serious about thinking that China’s going to investigate the Biden family? … I think he’s getting the press all spun up about this,” Jordan told host George Stephanopoulos.

During the interview, Stephanopoulos repeatedly sought an answer from Jordan on whether he thinks it is appropriate for Trump to ask China and Ukraine to investigate Biden. Jordan dodged the question more than a dozen times.

Democrats on Sunday defended their party’s efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., a member of the Intelligence Committee, supported Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s view that no vote by the full House is necessary for an impeachment inquiry to move forward.

She added that she thinks the House “will have to take a serious look at articles of impeachment” based on the evidence that has emerged.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, N.Y., a key member of House Democratic leadership, said on “This Week” that “the evidence of wrongdoing by Donald Trump is hiding in plain sight.”

“The administration, without justification, withheld $391 million in military aid from a vulnerable Ukraine,” he said. “The president then pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 elections and target an American citizen for political gain. That is textbook abuse of power.”


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