Trump Administration, Week 149, Friday, 22 November – Thursday, 28 November 2019 (Days 1,037-1,043)


Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always. This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process.

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Friday, 22 November 2019, Day 1,037:


Russia Inquiry Review Is Said to Criticize F.B.I. but Rebuff Claims of Biased Acts, The New York Times, Adam Goldman and Charlie Savage, Friday, 22 November 2019: “A highly anticipated report by the Justice Department’s inspector general is expected to sharply criticize lower-level F.B.I. officials as well as bureau leaders involved in the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation, but to absolve the top ranks of abusing their powers out of bias against President Trump, according to people briefed on a draft. Investigators for the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, uncovered errors and omissions in documents related to the wiretapping of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page — including that a low-level lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, altered an email that officials used to prepare to seek court approval to renew the wiretap, the people said.” See also, Justice Department watchdog finds political bias did not taint top officials running the FBI’s Russia investigation, but it documents errors, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Matt Zapotosky, and Devlin Barrett, Friday, 22 November 2019: “The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is expected to find in a forthcoming report that political bias did not taint top officials running the FBI investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, while at the same time criticizing the bureau for systemic failures in its handling of surveillance applications, according to two U.S. officials. The much-anticipated report due out Dec. 9 from Inspector General Michael Horowitz will allege that a low-level FBI lawyer inappropriately altered a document that was used during the process to renew a controversial warrant for electronic surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser, the officials said. The inspector general referred that finding to U.S. Attorney John Durham, and the lawyer involved is being investigated criminally for possibly making a false statement, they said.”

Charges of Ukrainian Meddling in 2016 Presidential Election? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says. The New York Times, Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg, Friday, 22 November 2019: “Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit. The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating ‘a fictional narrative.’ She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it. In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair.”

Trump Attacks Impeachment Inquiry and Accuses a Witness of Lying, The New York Times, Eileen Sullivan, Friday, 22 November 2019: “President Trump unleashed a series of falsehoods on Friday in an effort to invalidate the impeachment inquiry and counter sworn testimony from officials in his own administration, after a week of damaging public hearings. In a 53-minute phone interview with ‘Fox & Friends,’ Mr. Trump accused David Holmes, a political counselor to the top American diplomat in Ukraine, of fabricating a phone call between Mr. Trump and the ambassador to the European Union. Mr. Holmes told impeachment investigators that he had overheard the president asking the ambassador, Gordon D. Sondland, about Ukrainian investigations into his political rivals, a consequential detail in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry…. In his own testimony under oath, Mr. Sondland corroborated Mr. Holmes’s account.” See also, Trump’s Long List of Inaccurate Statements on ‘Fox & Friends,’ The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Friday, 22 November 2019. See also, Trump makes at least 18 false claims in ranting Fox & Friends interview, CNN Politics, Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam, Friday, 22 November 2019: “Fox & Friends tried harder than usual — not especially hard, but harder than usual — to challenge President Donald Trump. It did not work very well. Trump ranted dishonestly for much of his 53-minute Friday interview with his favorite morning show, repeatedly refusing to let the show’s co-hosts get a word in edgewise. When they did manage to make a semi-critical point, Trump brushed them off.” See also, Impeachment Briefing: How Republicans Are Using Hearings, The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Friday, 22 November 2019.

Continue reading Week 149, Friday, 22 November – Thursday, 28 November 2019 (Days 1,037-1,043)

What’s next in the House impeachment inquiry, Vox, Ella Nilsen, Friday, 22 November 2019: “On Thursday, the US House wrapped up a marathon week of public hearings for its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. With lawmakers headed home for Thanksgiving break, the question on everyone’s minds is ‘what comes next?’ In its rough form, what’s next is that the House Intelligence Committee and Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) will compile and submit a report of its investigation to the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee hasn’t had jurisdiction on the narrow Ukraine-focused impeachment investigation, but it’s the body that will decide whether or not to draft articles of impeachment — the ‘charges’ against Trump. There are no more public hearings on the schedule for now. Of course, this could change if someone else with valuable testimony comes forward. But some Democrats don’t want to wait long for a star witness like former National Security Adviser John Bolton — who has said he won’t testify unless compelled by a court.” See also, Questions over next steps as House Judiciary Committee moves into impeachment spotlight, Politico, John Bresnahan, Heather Caygle, and Kyle Cheney, Friday, 22 November 2019. See also, The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry, CNN Politics, Meg Wagner, Zoe Sottile, Fernando Alfonso III, and Veronica Rocha, Friday, 22 November 2019. See also, House Judiciary Committee Awaits Impeachment Report as Proceedings Move to Next Stage, The Wall Street Journal, Siobhan Hughes, Friday, 22 November 2019: “Impeachment proceedings now move to a new stage as scheduled public hearings are over and the House Intelligence Committee will write a report about President Trump pressing Ukraine to investigate his political rivals that will be presented to the House Judiciary Committee to weigh articles of impeachment. The exact steps along that course remain unclear, and the possibility remains for surprise developments, such as testimony from witnesses who have so far refused to appear. But as both Republicans and Democrats fan out over the Thanksgiving recess to make their respective cases, according to one House aide, discussions have begun in the Judiciary panel about holding an initial hearing on the topic of what actions count as high crimes and misdemeanors, which under the U.S. Constitution are criteria for impeachment.”

The Awful Truth About Impeachment, The New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser, Friday, 22 November 2019: “After five days, twelve witnesses, lots of shouting, and dozens of angry tweets from the President, the House Intelligence Committee’s public impeachment hearings into Donald Trump’s Ukraine affair ended on Thursday with one unequivocal result: a Republican stonewall so complete that it cannot and will not be breached. The G.O.P. defense, in essence, is that facts are irrelevant, no matter how damning or inconvenient, and that Trump has the power to do whatever he wants, even if it seems inappropriate, improper, or simply wrong. Recognizing this, Democrats on Thursday evening signalled that they will move ahead with impeachment by the full House anyway, and soon. It was a grim choice, made with the knowledge that the case against Trump will likely proceed without any Republican votes, or even testimony from key Administration witnesses who have obeyed the President’s command not to appear.”

The 24 defenses Trump’s allies have floated on Ukraine and impeachment, The Washington Post, JM Rieger, Friday, 22 November 2019: “As House Democrats have investigated President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine over the past two months, Republican lawmakers and Trump allies have floated no fewer than 24 defenses of the president.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper: Trump is trying to ‘gaslight the country,’ Politico, Michael Calderone, Friday, 22 November 2019: “CNN’s Jake Tapper thinks fact-checking Donald Trump is no longer enough — and he has created an hourlong special exploring the effects on foreign policy, business and the national culture of the president’s compulsive lying. While news organizations including The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have openly weighed when and whether to call Trump’s misstatements ‘lies’ — a term that implies malice and forethought — Tapper thinks the media is well past the point of giving Trump the benefit of the doubt. His special, therefore, represents a new benchmark in the mainstream media’s adjustment to Trump’s norm-shattering presidency. In an interview, the 50-year-old anchor admitted he can’t read Trump’s mind. But Tapper also isn’t afraid to ascribe motive when the president repeats a false claim ‘over and over and over’ despite evidence to the contrary. It’s not an honest mistake; it’s a lie. Take the whistleblower complaint that kick-started the Ukraine scandal. Trump has repeatedly said it’s inaccurate, which Tapper considers a ‘lie’ given that an investigation and testimony have largely corroborated the whistleblower’s claims. ‘He’s repeated that so many times that there’s obvious malice of forethought,’ Tapper said of the president. ‘He’s obviously saying this in order to undermine a fact, in order to try to gaslight the country.'”

The Battle for the Senate, Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson, Friday, 22 November 2019: “The fight to dislodge Donald Trump from the presidency has sparked unprecedented interest in the 2020 Democratic primary, drawing dozens of candidates, including no fewer than seven sitting senators. But the fight to wrest the Senate from Republican control — and oust Mitch McConnell as majority leader — is arguably just as important…. The stakes could hardly be higher. Unless Democrats flip the Senate, the grand plans of the presidential candidates are dead on arrival. Capturing the chamber is just as crucial if Trump is re-elected; it would give Democrats control of the legislative agenda, budget, and judicial confirmations, ending McConnell’s reign as Trump’s rubber stamp.”

In squalid Mexico tent city, asylum seekers are growing so desperate they’re sending their children over the border alone, The Washington Post, Kevin Sieff, Friday, 22 November 2019: “In recent weeks, dozens of parents have watched as their children, sleeping outside in the cold, have become sick or despondent. Many decided to get them help the only way they knew how — sending them across the border alone.”

His White House Engulfed, Trump Keeps California in the Cross Hairs, The New York Times, Coral Davenport and Katie Rogers, Friday, 22 November 2019: “Two Californians, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, are leading the impeachment investigation. The state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, has been unsparing in his criticism and his legal challenges. And the president’s response appears to be personal. Beyond the name-calling — ‘Shifty’ Adam Schiff and ‘Nervous Nancy”’Pelosi — he has held California Democrats responsible even for the state’s natural disasters.”

Trump opens up Camp David as an ‘adult playground’ to woo Republican lawmakers during impeachment, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade, and Josh Dawsey, Friday, 22 November: “President Trump, partial to gold and marble elegance, never took a shine to rustic Camp David. So acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney pitched to him an unusual idea at the start of the House impeachment inquiry: Use the secluded mountainous presidential retreat to woo House Republicans. Since then, Mulvaney and top White House officials have hosted weekend getaways for Republicans at the historic lodge, seeking to butter up Republicans before the big impeachment vote. The casual itinerary includes making s’mores over the campfire, going hiking, shooting clay pigeons and schmoozing with Trump officials, some of whom stay overnight with lawmakers.”

Navy SEALS  Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers, The New York Times, Dave Philipps and Hohn Ismay, Friday, 22 November 2019: “This week, Mr. Trump said he would reverse the decision of the commander of the Navy SEALs to remove a convicted sailor from its ranks. That reversal might not happen after pushback from top military officials, but its threat prompted many to ask what the limits are on the president’s authority to intervene in the military. Military scholars say they are few.” See also, Donald Trump Keeps Navy SEALS Above the Law, The Intercept, Matthew Cole, published on Thursday, 5 December 2019.


Saturday, 23 November 2019, Day 1,038:


New Documents Reveal Details of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Role in Ukraine Affair, The New York Times, Edward Wong and Kenneth P. Vogel, Saturday, 23 November 2019: “Internal State Department emails and documents released late Friday further implicate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a campaign orchestrated this year by President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine for political favors. The emails indicate that Mr. Pompeo spoke at least twice by telephone with Mr. Giuliani in March as Mr. Giuliani was urging Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, and trying to oust a respected American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who had been promoting anticorruption efforts in the country. Mr. Pompeo ordered Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal the next month. One call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo was arranged with guidance from Mr. Trump’s personal assistant, the documents suggest. The documents also show that the State Department sent members of Congress a deliberately misleading reply about Ms. Yovanovitch’s departure after they asked about pressure on her. As part of the effort to oust her, Mr. Giuliani and his associates encouraged news outlets favorable to the president to publicize unsubstantiated claims about Ms. Yovanovitch’s disloyalty to Mr. Trump.” See also, New documents show contacts between Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, The Washington Post, Associated Press, Saturday, 23 November 2019: “Newly released documents show Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was in contact with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the months before the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly recalled. The State Department released the documents Friday to the group American Oversight in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. They show that Pompeo talked with Giuliani on March 26 and March 29.” See also, White House helped arrange call between Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pompeo after handover of Biden allegations, CNN Politics, Kevin Liptak and Caroline Kelly, Saturday, 23 November 2019: “The White House helped arrange a phone call between Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day after the President’s personal lawyer handed over materials with unproven claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to documents released by the State Department late Friday night. The documents show that Pompeo spoke with Giuliani briefly twice in late March — both before and after he handed off a packet of information that included claims against the Bidens. Only the second conversation was facilitated by the White House. The emails provide new insight into how Giuliani’s efforts were coordinated through the White House. Pompeo had previously attempted to distance himself from the packet of information on Biden that Giuliani had compiled.”

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas is willing to tell Congress that Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, met with former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin to get dirt on Biden, CNN Politics, Vicky Ward, Saturday, 23 November 2019: “A lawyer for an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani told CNN that his client is willing to tell Congress about meetings the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee had in Vienna last year with a former Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, represents Lev Parnas, the recently indicted Soviet-born American who worked with Giuliani to push claims of Democratic corruption in Ukraine. Bondy said that Parnas was told directly by the former Ukrainian official that he met last year in Vienna with Rep. Devin Nunes.” See also, Representative Adam Smith (Democrat-Washington), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, says ethics investigation of Devin Nunes is likely over alleged meeting with Ukrainian about Bidens, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Colby Itkowitz, Saturday, 23 November 2019: “A high-ranking House Democrat said Saturday it’s ‘quite likely’ Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) will face an ethics investigation over allegations that he met with an ex-Ukrainian official to obtain information about former vice president Joe Biden and his son. Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, appeared on MSNBC where he was asked whether Nunes could face a House inquiry. ‘Quite likely, without question,’ Smith said.”

Trump’s Republican support hardens despite damning impeachment testimony, The Washington Post, Philip Rucker, Friday, 23 November 2019: “After two weeks of extraordinary open hearings that Democrats envisioned as their best opportunity to shape public opinion on impeachment, President Trump claims to be impervious to the cascade of damaging revelations because of hardening Republican opposition to his removal from office. So far, the historic proceedings have exacerbated the political divide. Some moderate Republican lawmakers once seen as the most likely to break with Trump condemned his conduct but signaled in recent days that they would probably vote against his impeachment because they do not believe the president’s actions meet that threshold.”

Navy Is Said to Proceed With Disciplinary Plans Against Edward Gallagher, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Helene Cooper, and Dave Philipps, Saturday, 23 November 2019: “The secretary of the Navy and the admiral who leads the SEALs have threatened to resign or be fired if plans to expel a commando from the elite unit in a war crimes case are halted by President Trump, administration officials said Saturday. The high-level pushback to Mr. Trump’s unambiguous assertion on Twitter this past week that the commando, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, should remain in the unit was an extraordinary development in what was already an extraordinary case, one with few precedents in the history of presidential relations with the American military.”

In Three Touchstone Speeches, Elizabeth Warren Grounds Her Campaign in a History of American Protest and Movement Building, The Intercept, Ryan Grim, Saturday, 23 November 2019: “To launch her campaign, back in January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren had a number of locations to choose from. She could have started in Norman, Oklahoma, the setting of her ragged-edge-of-the-middle-class origin story, where her prairie populism could have been brought to the fore. She spent years in Houston, Philadelphia, and Boston, too, all chock full of their own useful imagery for a campaign. Instead, she chose Lawrence, Massachusetts, for her opening salvo, linking her campaign to the Bread and Roses strike, led in 1912 largely by radical immigrant seamstresses and other garment workers. It would be the first of three speeches setting up what Warren sees as the driving force of her campaign: the labor movement — more precisely, the women- and immigrant-led labor movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries.”


Sunday, 24 November 2019, Day 1,039:


Michael Bloomberg Joins 2020 Democratic Field for President, The New York Times, Alexander Burns, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “Michael R. Bloomberg announced on Sunday that he would run for president in 2020, bringing his enormous wealth and eclectic political biography into the tumultuous Democratic primary and seeking to win over skeptical liberal voters by presenting himself as a multibillion-dollar threat to President Trump. Mr. Bloomberg, a former Republican who has expressed reservations about his adopted party’s leftward drift, said in a statement that he would offer a pragmatic option to voters in a campaign to unseat a president who ‘represents an existential threat to our country and our values.'” See also, Mike Bloomberg enters Democratic campaign for president, The Washington Post, Michael Scherer, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, one of the world’s richest people, announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination Sunday by promising to ‘rebuild America’ and defeat President Trump. The announcement, which Bloomberg telegraphed for weeks even after deciding earlier this year not to run, reflects his view that the current field of Democratic candidates is not well-positioned to win in 2020. Bloomberg has promised a disruptive campaign that could break spending records with a massive advertising buy aimed at states that vote in March and April.”

House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff says Democrats will press forward despite lack of testimony from key impeachment witnesses, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday that his panel will press ahead with its impeachment report even though key witnesses have not testified, in the latest signal that Democrats are moving swiftly in their probe of President Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine. In an interview on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ Schiff said the evidence against Trump is ‘already overwhelming,’ although he stopped short of saying whether he would support impeachment himself.”

White House review turns up emails showing extensive effort to justify Trump’s decision to block Ukraine military aid, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig, and Tom Hamburger, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records. The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after President Trump had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance, according to the three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations. One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear if the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly.” See also, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Asked About Legal Justification for Withholding Ukraine Aid, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, asked officials in the budget office after President Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president whether there was a legal justification for withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, according to two people briefed on an internal White House review. The discussions, which took place via email in August, came after the hold on the $391 million had already been put in place. Mr. Mulvaney also asked the officials at the Office of Management and Budget how long the aid could be withheld, three people familiar with the review said.”

Devin Nunes Denounces Reports He Played a Role in Ukraine, The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “Representative Devin Nunes, an outspoken defender of President Trump in his impeachment hearings, said on Sunday that reports that he played a role in the effort to dig up damaging information on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Ukraine were part of a criminal campaign against him by a “totally corrupt” news media. The reports, including most prominently one from CNN on Friday, nonetheless put Mr. Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, in the middle of a new controversy at a key moment in the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine. According to the reports, Lev Parnas, who worked on the Ukraine pressure campaign with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said through his lawyer that he had learned of a meeting in Vienna in 2018 between Mr. Nunes and Viktor Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor general who has emerged as a key figure in Republican attacks on Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Mr. Parnas, who has been indicted on campaign finance charges in Manhattan, learned of the meeting from Mr. Shokin, his lawyer said.” See also, Devin Nunes denies allegation he met with top Ukrainian prosecutor about Bidens, The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck and Felicia Sonmez, Sunday, 24 November 2019. See also, The Devin Nunes-Ukraine allegations, explained. The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, published on Monday, 25 November 2019: “The House Intelligence Committee just finished hearing from a dozen witnesses, many of whom said President Trump’s allies were pushing unsubstantiated allegations about Joe Biden in Ukraine. Now, a Ukrainian American who worked with Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani says he wants to testify that the top Republican on the committee was helping them dig up dirt on Biden, too. That’s the allegation now facing Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.): that he was in on the very thing Congress has launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump over. Nunes has said stories reporting this are ‘demonstrably false.'”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper Demands Resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer Over SEAL Case Involving Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, The New York Times, Helene Cooper, Maggie Haberman, and Dave Philipps, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper demanded the resignation of the Navy’s top civilian leader on Sunday, an abrupt move aimed at ending an extraordinary dispute between President Trump and his own senior military leadership over the fate of a SEAL commando in a war crimes case. In a statement, Mr. Esper said he had lost trust in the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, because his private statements about the case differed from what he advocated in public. Mr. Esper added that he was ‘deeply troubled by this conduct.'” See also, Defense Secretary Mark Esper Fires Navy Secretary Richard Spencer Over SEAL Controversy, The New York Times, Associated Press, Sunday, 24 November 2019. See also, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer Forced to Resign Amid Controversy Over Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, The Wall Street Journal, Gordon Lubold and Nancy A. Youssef, Sunday, 24 November 2019: “Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Sunday over the controversial case of a Navy SEAL that has created high-level friction between the president and the Pentagon. Mr. Spencer was fired after Mr. Esper learned that the Navy secretary was negotiating a deal with the White House to find a solution to a military and political crisis that had pitted President Trump against top leaders of the Pentagon who believed the good order and discipline of the military was at stake.”


Monday, 25 November 2019, Day 1,040:


Judge Rules Former White House Counsel Donald McGahn Must Testify to Congress. The Trump Administration Will Appeal. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Monday, 25 November 2019: “The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before House impeachment investigators about President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry, a judge ruled on Monday, saying that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and calling the administration’s arguments to the contrary ‘fiction.’ The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed another lower-court victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome Mr. Trump’s stonewalling.” See also, Judge Rules Former White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with House subpoena, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow, Monday, 25 November 2019: “Former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena, a federal court ruled Monday, finding that ‘no one is above the law’ and that top presidential advisers cannot ignore congressional demands for information. The ruling raises the possibility that McGahn could be forced to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry.” See also, Judge rules former White House Counsel must testify about his time as White House lawyer, Politico, Darren Samuelsohn, Kyle Cheney, and Andrew Desiderio, Monday, 25 November 2019. See also, Federal Judge Rejects White House Claims of Immunity for Close Aides, The Wall Street Journal, Byron Tau, Monday, 25 November 2019: “A federal judge has ruled that close presidential advisers aren’t immune from being forced to testify in congressional inquiries in an opinion that could eventually clear the way for numerous administration officials to be summoned as part of the impeachment investigation of President Trump. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson struck a blow against a decades-old legal doctrine known as absolute immunity, which has long been asserted by lawyers representing presidential administrations of both parties but has remained largely untested in the courts. The Justice Department said it would appeal and would seek to stay the ruling while it asks a higher court to review the matter.”

House Intelligence Committee to Release Impeachment Report Soon After Thanksgiving, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Monday, 25 November 2019: “Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to deliver a report soon after Thanksgiving making the case for impeaching President Trump, its chairman said on Monday, moving quickly to escalate what he called ‘urgent’ evidence of wrongdoing by the president. Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the Intelligence Committee chairman, wrote in a letter to colleagues that after two months of inquiry and despite consistent stonewalling by Mr. Trump, his panel had uncovered ‘massive amounts of evidence’ pointing to misconduct and ‘corrupt intent’ by the president related to Ukraine. Mr. Schiff’s staff is now working to compile that evidence into a written report for public release and transmittal to the House Judiciary Committee shortly after lawmakers return from their holiday break. The judiciary panel is expected to promptly draft and debate articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump based on its findings and potentially other alleged offenses. ‘The president has accepted or enlisted foreign nations to interfere in our upcoming elections, including the next one; this is an urgent matter that cannot wait if we are to protect the nation’s security and the integrity of our elections,’ Mr. Schiff wrote. The decision to press ahead quickly, however, means that Democrats are making a calculated decision to forgo opportunities to obtain more testimony and records that are relevant to their inquiry, a risk that was underscored hours after they announced their plans. A pair of court rulings on Monday held out the possibility that the House could eventually gain access to additional new evidence that could strengthen their case.” See also, Impeachment Briefing: What Happened Today, The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Monday, 25 November 2019. See also, Democrats eye multiple articles of impeachment as some push to go beyond Ukraine scandal, CNN Politics, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, Monday, 25 November 2019: “House Democrats are increasingly focusing on multiple articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over the Ukraine scandal — as some lawmakers push to go even further and include what many in the party see as clear criminality detailed in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. In private, Democrats are debating how broadly to draft the articles of impeachment against Trump, especially given what many in the House view as clear misconduct detailed in the Mueller report and violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause by allegedly enriching himself while in office. But adding more allegations to the impeachment effort could divert the focus from the two-month-old investigation into Ukraine, which some Democrats argue is a clearer case of abuse of power: the President using his office to push a foreign country to announce investigations that could bolster his reelection chances in 2020.”

Can Trump Challenge His Impeachment in the Supreme Court? The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 25 November 2019: “‘If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach,’ President Trump wrote on Twitter in the spring, ‘I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.’ Now that impeachment seems virtually certain, it is time to assess Mr. Trump’s vow and ask whether the Supreme Court would entertain his challenge. The Constitution seems to exclude the court from the impeachment process. It grants the House of Representatives ‘the sole power of impeachment.’ The Senate, similarly, has ‘the sole power to try all impeachments.’ Those are the only provisions of the Constitution that use the pointed word ‘sole.’ The Supreme Court, too, has been pretty categorical. ‘The judiciary, and the Supreme Court in particular, were not chosen to have any role in impeachments,’ Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the court in a 1993 opinion that rejected an impeached judge’s objection to the procedures used at his Senate trial. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s statement had particular force, as he was a student of impeachment. He had just published “Grand Inquests,” a history of the impeachments of President Andrew Johnson and Justice Samuel Chase.”

Federal Subpoenas Are Issued for Information on Rudy Giuliani’s Associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, The Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, and Shelby Holliday, Monday, 25 November 2019: “Subpoenas issued to people with ties to President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, indicate a broad federal investigation into possible money laundering, obstruction of justice and campaign-finance violations and show that prosecutors are probing Mr. Giuliani’s consulting businesses and other sources of income, according to people familiar with the matter. In recent weeks, prosecutors have sent subpoenas and other requests to potential witnesses seeking records and information related to Mr. Giuliani and two of his associates, according to the people. The investigation, led by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has already led to campaign-finance charges against the associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.” See also, Investigators scrutinize Giuliani form and donations to Trump super PAC as part of broad investigation, The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Josh Dawsey, Monday, 25 November 2019: “The federal investigation into two associates of Rudolph W. Giuliani is exploring a wide range of potential crimes — including wire fraud and failure to register as a foreign agent — as prosecutors dig into the pair’s interactions with the president’s personal lawyer and the main pro-Trump super PAC, according to people familiar with the investigation. Giuliani’s dealings with the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are being investigated by federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. That office has already filed campaign finance charges against Parnas and Fruman and accused them of conspiracy and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.” See also, Why Rudy Giuliani Singled Out 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs to Help Dig Up Dirt, The New York Times, Jo Becker, Walt Bogdanich, Maggie Haberman, and Ben Protess, Monday, 25 November 2019: “They were two Ukrainian oligarchs with American legal problems. One had been indicted on federal bribery charges. The other was embroiled in a vast banking scandal and was reported to be under investigation by the F.B.I. And they had one more thing in common: Both had been singled out by Rudolph W. Giuliani and pressed to assist in his wide-ranging hunt for information damaging to one of President Trump’s leading political rivals, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr…. [I]nterviews with the two Ukrainian oligarchs — Dmitry Firtash and Ihor Kolomoisky — as well as with several other people with knowledge of Mr. Giuliani’s dealings, point to a new dimension in his exertions on behalf of his client, Mr. Trump. Taken together, they depict a strategy clearly aimed at leveraging information from politically powerful but legally vulnerable foreign citizens.”

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer forced out by Defense Secretary Mark Esper over handling of Navy SEAL’s war crimes, The Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Dan Lamothe, Monday, 25 November 2019: “Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer on Sunday after losing confidence in him over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes in Iraq, the Pentagon said. Spencer’s ouster was another dramatic turn in the story of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was accused of committing war crimes during a 2017 deployment. Gallagher was acquitted of murder but convicted in July of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State prisoner.” See also, Trump Says He Intervened in War Crimes Cases to Protect ‘Warriors,’ The New York Times, Helene Cooper, Maggie Haberman, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Monday, 25 November 2019: “Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that Trump had also ordered the Pentabon not to oust a Navy SEAL from that elite unit.” See also, Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he was ‘flabbergasted’ by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer’s attempt to make a private deal with Trump, The Washington Post, Dan Lamothe, Monday, 25 November 2019: “Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Monday he was ‘flabbergasted’ that his Navy secretary tried to make a secret deal with the White House in which a Navy SEAL accused of war crimes could retire as a member of the elite force if President Trump stayed out of the case. The offer by Richard V. Spencer, who was ousted by Esper on Sunday, contradicted what he had told Esper and other senior defense officials in recent days: that he was considering resigning if Trump forced the issue, Esper said. Esper said that when he met with Army and Navy leaders a few weeks ago to discuss the cases of the SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, and two U.S. soldiers, they all agreed to rely on the military’s legal system and administrative processes. But the defense secretary said he learned Friday from a senior White House official after meeting with Trump that Spencer had offered an alternative that he had not run by Esper, his superior at the Pentagon. Esper declined to name that White House official but said that Spencer was ‘forthright’ about what he had done after the fact.” See also, Ousted Navy secretary warns Trump that ‘the rule of law is what sets us apart from our adversaries,’ The Washington Post, James Hohmann, Monday, 25 November 2019: “What makes America exceptional isn’t any arsenal. It’s moral authority. That’s the upshot of Richard V. Spencer’s Sunday letter to President Trump, acknowledging his ‘termination’ as secretary of the navy. The messy circumstances surrounding Spencer’s exit should not overshadow another damning resignation letter from another Trump appointee. Spencer explained that he has strived over two-plus years on the job to ensure judicial proceedings are ‘fair, transparent and consistent,’ from ensigns to admirals. ‘Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline,’ he wrote. ‘I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.'” See also, Trump ordered Defense secretary Mike Esper to allow Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher to keep his status, Politico, Wesley Morgan, Monday, 25 November 2019.

Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Disclosure of Trump’s Financial Records, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 25 November 2019: “The Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling that required President Trump’s accounting firm to turn over financial records to a House committee. The court’s brief order gave no reasons, and there were no noted dissents. The court’s stay was in one sense routine, maintaining the status quo while the court decides whether to hear Mr. Trump’s appeal in the case. But it also suggested, given that it takes five votes to grant a stay, that the court viewed the legal questions presented by the case as substantial enough to warrant further consideration. The court set a speedy briefing schedule, requiring Mr. Trump to file his petition seeking review by Dec. 5. The court could announce whether it will hear the case in the coming weeks and, if it does, issue a decision by June.” See also, Supreme Court blocks House committee from immediately reviewing Trump’s financial records, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Monday, 25 November 2019: “The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a House committee from immediately reviewing President Trump’s financial records, after the president’s lawyers agreed to an expedited review of a lower-court ruling granting access. The court’s action signals that, even as Congress considers impeaching Trump, the court will undertake a more complete consideration of the legal powers of Congress and state prosecutors to investigate the president while he is in office. The court instructed Trump’s lawyers to file a petition by Dec. 5 stating why the court should accept the case for full briefing and oral argument. If the petition is eventually denied, the lower-court ruling will go into effect. If accepted, the case probably will be heard this term, with a decision before the court adjourns at the end of June.”

Report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization says climate-heating greenhouse gases hit new high, The Guardian, Damian Carrington, Monday, 25 November 2019: “The concentration of climate-heating greenhouse gases has hit a record high, according to a report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. The jumps in the key gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade, showing action on the climate emergency to date is having no effect in the atmosphere. The WMO said the gap between targets and reality were both ‘glaring and growing.’ The rise in concentration of greenhouses gases follows inevitably from the continued surge in global emissions, which was described as ‘brutal news’ for 2018. The world’s scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will suffer more heatwaves, droughts, floods and poverty.”

Supreme Court lets lawsuit by Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann continue against two conservative outlets, the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Monday, 25 November 2019: “A climate scientist may pursue his defamation lawsuit against a magazine and a Washington think tank after the Supreme Court on Monday declined to intervene at this stage of the litigation. The National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute had asked the court to review a decision by local District of Columbia courts that said the lawsuit by Pennsylvania State University professor Michael Mann could continue.”

Supreme Court Acts in Campaign Finance and Libel Cases, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 25 November 2019: “The Supreme Court on Monday returned a challenge to Alaska’s limits on campaign contributions to a lower court, suggesting that the limits were too low. The court also turned away appeals from defendants in a libel suit over climate change and from Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was examined by the podcast ‘Serial.’ And the justices refused to reconsider a ruling on how much authority Congress may delegate to the executive branch.”

National Enquirer company chief David Pecker is talking with New York prosecutors as part of the investigation into the Trump Organization’s handling of hush money payments to women, CNN Politics, Kara Scannell and Mark Morales, Monday, 25 November 2019: “David Pecker, the head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer, has spoken with prosecutors with the New York district attorney’s office as part of its investigation into the Trump Organization’s handling of hush money payments to women who alleged affairs with President Donald Trump, sources with knowledge of the meeting tell CNN. The America Media Inc. chairman’s late October meeting with prosecutors from the major economic crimes bureau could provide key details on discussions that took place involving Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who allegedly had an affair with Trump, and agreements that were made with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the sources said. Cohen is cooperating with the investigation. Pecker is expected to continue talking with prosecutors, sources said.”

U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria, The New York Times, Eric Schmitt, Monday, 25 November 2019: “United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive. The new operations show that despite Mr. Trump’s earlier demand for a complete withdrawal of all American forces from Syria, the president still has some 500 troops in the country, many of them in combat, for the foreseeable future.”


Tuesday, 26 November 2019, Day 1,041:


‘Bleak’ U.N. Report on a Planet in Peril Looms Over New Climate Talks, The New York Times, Somini Sengupta, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “With world leaders gathering in Madrid next week for their annual bargaining session over how to avert a climate catastrophe, the latest assessment issued by the United Nations said Tuesday that greenhouse gas emissions are still rising dangerously. ‘The summary findings are bleak,’ said the annual assessment, which is produced by the United Nations Environment Program and is formally known as the Emissions Gap Report. Countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions despite repeated warnings from scientists, with China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, further increasing their emissions last year. The result, the authors added, is that ‘deeper and faster cuts are now required.’ As if to underscore the gap between reality and diplomacy, the international climate negotiations, scheduled to begin next week, are not even designed to ramp up pledges by world leaders to cut their countries’ emissions. That deadline is still a year away.” See also, In bleak report, U.N. says drastic action is the only way to avoid the worst effects of climate change, The Washington Post, Brady Dennis, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The world has squandered so much time mustering the action necessary to combat climate change that rapid, unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions offer the only hope of averting an ever-intensifying cascade of consequences, according to new findings from the United Nations. Already, the past year has brought devastating hurricanes, relentless wildfires and crippling heat waves, prompting millions of protesters to take to the streets to demand more attention to a problem that seems increasingly urgent. Amid that growing pressure to act, Tuesday’s U.N. report offers a grim assessment of how off-track the world remains. Global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, according to the United Nations’ annual ’emissions gap’ report, which assesses the difference between the world’s current path and the changes needed to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate accord.” See also, UN calls for push to cut greenhouse gas levels to avoid climate chaos, The Guardian, Fiona Harvey, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “Countries must make an unprecedented effort to cut their levels of greenhouse gases in the next decade to avoid climate chaos, the UN has warned, as it emerged that emissions hit a new high last year. Carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, also accounting for deforestation, rose to more than 55 gigatonnes, and have risen on average by 1.5% a year for the past decade, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) annual emissions gap report. Global emissions must fall by 7.6% every year from now until 2030 to stay within the 1.5C ceiling on temperature rises that scientists say is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences. The only time in recent history when emissions have fallen in any country at a similar rate came during the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the financial crisis and recession, emissions in the US and Japan fell briefly by about 6% but soon rebounded. However, technologies such as renewable energy and electric vehicles are now available, and increasingly cheap, which could enable deep cuts in carbon without jeopardising economic growth.” See also, Climate catastrophe alert: Emissions spiked under Trump, and the world is taking notice, The Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany, Tuesday, 26 November 2019.

House Judiciary Committee schedules first impeachment hearing as Trump claims he is protecting the presidency, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner, and Colby Itkowitz, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled its first impeachment hearing for Dec. 4, as Democrats released transcripts Tuesday of the depositions of two more Trump administration officials. The depositions of Mark Sandy, an Office of Management and Budget official, and Philip Reeker, the diplomat in charge of U.S. policy for Europe, were released hours after Trump said he would ‘love’ for several senior administration officials to testify in the impeachment inquiry. He then argued that the White House was preventing them from doing so to protect the institution of the presidency.” See also, 3 takeaways from Mark Sandy’s and Philip Reeker’s testimony on Ukraine, The Washington Post, Amber Phillips, Tuesday, 26 November 2019. See also, Trump’s Legal Team Is Invited to Participate in Impeachment Hearing Next Week, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday invited President Trump’s legal team to participate in its first public impeachment hearing next week, when lawmakers plan to convene a panel of constitutional scholars to inform their debate over whether the president’s actions warrant his removal from office. The Judiciary Committee announced it had scheduled the hearing, ‘The Impeachment Inquiry Into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,’ for Dec. 4 without specifying witnesses. But Democratic officials, speaking on condition of anonymity before the witness list was finalized, said it would feature prominent legal experts who could testify about constitutional precedent and the history of impeachment. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the Judiciary Committee chairman, wrote a letter to the president Tuesday afternoon notifying him of the hearing and offering his lawyers a chance to question the witnesses. The actions signaled that Democrats are moving quickly to begin a new phase of the impeachment inquiry, shifting from a complex investigation of Mr. Trump’s actions into a consequential debate over whether they warrant the use of the House’s powers under the Constitution to try to remove a sitting president.” See also, White House Budget Official Mark Sandy Said Two Aides Resigned Amid Ukraine Aid Freeze Concerns, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “Two officials at the White House budget office resigned this year after expressing concerns about President Trump’s decision to hold up congressionally approved security assistance to Ukraine, a third aide at the office told impeachment investigators, revealing dissent within a key agency about Mr. Trump’s insistence on freezing the money. Mark Sandy, an official at the White House Office of Management and Budget, told the House Intelligence Committee in a private interview this month that one official who ‘expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold’ resigned in September at least in part because of those concerns.” See also, Democrats move rapidly on impeachment with first House Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for Wednesday, 4 December, Politico, Kyle Cheney, Andrew Desiderio, and Heather Caygle, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing next week on the impeachment of President Donald Trump, as Democrats move quickly to the next stage of a process that is likely to lead to the third-ever presidential impeachment before the end of the year. The hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 4, will feature a panel of constitutional experts and focus on the definition of an impeachable offense and the ‘procedural application of the impeachment process,’ according to committee aides.” See also, Trump and his counsel are invited to take part in upcoming impeachment hearings, CNN Politics, Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The House Judiciary Committee has invited President Donald Trump or his counsel to participate in the panel’s first impeachment hearing next week as the House moves another step closer to impeaching the President. The committee announced that it would hold a hearing December 4 on the ‘constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment,’ with a panel of expert witnesses testifying.” See also, Mark Sandy, a career official at the White House Office of Management and Budget, reveals that two OMB officials resigned in part over concerns about Ukraine aid hold, The Washington Post, Erica Werner and Felicia Sonmez, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget recently resigned in part over concerns about the holdup on Ukraine aid, a career employee of the agency told impeachment investigators, according to a transcript of his testimony released Tuesday. Mark Sandy, the only OMB official to testify in the impeachment inquiry, did not name the employees in question. He said one worked in the OMB legal division and described that person as having a ‘dissenting opinion’ about how the security assistance to Ukraine could be held up in light of the Impoundment Control Act, which limits the ability of the executive branch to change spending decisions made by Congress.”

Testimony and Evidence Collected in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry, The New York Times, Weiyi Cai and Alicia Parlapiano, updated on Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “After more than a month of hearing closed-door and public testimony from more than a dozen witnesses, House Democrats will now focus on drafting a report as a part of their impeachment investigation into President Trump. Many sought-after witnesses refused to comply with House investigators’ requests, following orders from the White House. Democrats have decided not to enter into a court fight to force those witnesses to comply; they may instead use those refusals as a plank in a possible article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress.”

Trump administration officially put hold on Ukraine aid the same day as the Trump phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, CNN Politics, Jeremy Herb, Manu Raju, Sara Murray, and Rene Marsh, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The White House budget office’s first official action to withhold $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine came on the evening of July 25, the same day President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone, according to a House Budget Committee summary of the office’s documents. That withholding letter, which was among documents provided to the committee, was signed by a career Office of Management and Budget official, the summary states. But the next month, OMB political appointee Michael Duffey signed letters taking over the decision to withhold both the Pentagon and State Department aid to Ukraine from the career official. A hold was placed on the Ukraine aid at the beginning of July, and the agencies were notified at a July 18 meeting that it had been frozen at the direction of the President, a week before the Trump-Zelensky call. The career official who initially withheld the aid money was Mark Sandy, according to a source familiar with the matter. Sandy testified before House impeachment investigators in a closed-door deposition, while Duffey defied a subpoena.”

Trump Knew of Whistle-Blower Complaint When He Released Aid to Ukraine, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Julian E. Barnes, and Maggie Haberman, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter. Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said. The revelation could shed light on Mr. Trump’s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a ‘quid pro quo’ with Kyiv. Mr. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.” See also, Trump Was Briefed on Whistleblower Complaint Before Ukraine Aid Was Released, The Wall Street Journal, Michael C. Bender, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “President Trump was briefed about the whistleblower complaint prompted by his dealings with Kyiv before the White House lifted a hold on more than $391 million in aid to Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. The president was briefed about the complaint in August by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and John Eisenberg, an attorney with the White House National Security Council, the people said. The complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry by Democrats in the House, which Mr. Trump has dismissed as a hoax.”

Department of Justice moves to halt U.S. District Court Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson’s ruling that former White House counsel Don McGahn must testify, Politico, Darren Samuelsohn, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The Justice Department asked a federal judge Tuesday to put a temporary pause on her ruling that orders former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn to testify in the House impeachment probe, saying it needs the delay to pursue an appeal. While expected, the move from DOJ means that the primary congressional panel responsible for drafting articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump likely won’t hear anytime soon from McGahn, one of the star witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.”

Former Clinton strategist Mark Penn counsels Trump on impeachment, The Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “As President Trump’s White House battles impeachment, he turned to a familiar face last week: Mark Penn, one of President Bill Clinton’s top strategists. Penn visited the Oval Office for more than an hour last Monday, three people familiar with the meeting said, and provided polling data and impeachment advice for the president. Penn reassured Trump that he would not be removed from office, according to people familiar with the meeting, and encouraged him to travel the country as Clinton did when he was fighting impeachment over 20 years ago, officials said.”

Brett Kavanaugh’s latest opinion should terrify Democrats, Vox, Ian Millhiser, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “If you’ve spent any time around the Federalist Society — the hugely influential conservative legal society that plays an outsized role in choosing President Trump’s judicial nominees — then you’ve probably noticed their obsession with a singular issue. Beginning in the latter half of the Obama administration, Federalist Society gatherings grew increasingly fixated on diminishing the power of federal agencies to regulate businesses and the public — an agenda that would severely weaken seminal laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. On Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaled that he is on board with this agenda. Kavanaugh’s opinion is not especially surprising. The Trump appointee to the Supreme Court keynoted the Federalist Society’s annual banquet earlier this month and he spent much of the Obama years frustrating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies. But his opinion is nonetheless significant because it shows that there are almost certainly five votes on the Supreme Court to slash agencies’ regulatory power.”

House Oversight and Reform Committee Sues Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Over 2020 Census Documents, The New York Times, Catie Edmondson, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday sued William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, for refusing to produce subpoenaed documents regarding President Trump’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, is an escalation of a monthslong dispute over the panel’s efforts to investigate the Trump administration’s effort to alter the decennial survey to ask 2020 respondents whether they are citizens. The government abandoned that effort after the Supreme Court in June blocked the question from being added, rejecting the administration’s stated reason for the effort as ‘contrived.'” See also, House Oversight and Reform Committee sues Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over 2020 census documents, Politico, Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “The House Oversight and Reform Committee filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to enforce the panel’s subpoenas seeking information about the Trump administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.”

Judge bars Trump’s health insurance rule for immigrants, The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “A federal judge in Oregon on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction blocking a Trump administration proclamation that would require immigrants to show proof of health insurance to get a visa. U.S. District Judge Michael Simon said in a written opinion that the proclamation could not take effect while a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality makes its way through the courts. The proclamation issued by President Trump in October would only apply to people seeking immigrant visas from abroad — not those in the U.S. already.”

Inspector General Says the Trump Administration’s Numbers on Immigrant Family Separations Can’t Be Confirmed, BuzzFeed News, Hamed Aleaziz, Tuesday, 26 November 2019: “Department of Homeland Security officials lacked the technology to track all the immigrant families who were separated at the southern border, so a government watchdog can’t confirm if there were more than reported and if they have been reunified, according to an unpublished report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General and obtained by BuzzFeed News. The poor reporting mechanisms were known to US Customs and Border Protection officials for months but went unaddressed during the zero-tolerance plan that broke up hundreds of families, the report adds.”


Wednesday, 27 November 2019, Day 1,042:


Rudy Giuliani Pursued Business in Ukraine While Pushing for Inquiries for Trump, The New York Times, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, and Michael Rothfeld, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “As Rudolph W. Giuliani waged a public campaign this year to unearth damaging information in Ukraine about President Trump’s political rivals, he privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials, documents reviewed by The New York Times show. Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine, and none of the deals were finalized. But the documents indicate that while he was pushing Mr. Trump’s agenda with Ukrainian officials eager for support from the United States, Mr. Giuliani also explored financial agreements with members of the same government.” See also, Rudy Giuliani was in talks to be paid by Ukraine’s top prosecutor as they together sought damaging information on Democrats, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Matt Zapotosky, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, negotiated this year to represent Ukraine’s top prosecutor for at least $200,000 during the same months that Giuliani was working with the prosecutor to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the discussions. The people said that Giuliani began negotiations with Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, about a possible agreement in February. In the agreement, Giuliani’s company would receive payment to represent Lutsenko as the Ukrainian sought to recover assets he believed had been stolen from the government in Kyiv, those familiar with the discussions said.” See also, Rudy Giuliani Weighed Doing Business With Ukrainian Government, The Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Ballhaus, Wednesday, 27 November 2019.

Witness testimony and records raise questions about account of Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ call, The Washington Post, Aaron C. Davis, Elise Viebeck, and Josh Dawsey, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “President Trump was cranky when they spoke on the phone in September, Ambassador Gordon Sondland told members of Congress, but his words were clear: Trump wanted no quid pro quo with Ukraine…. Sondland’s recollection of a phone conversation that he said took place on Sept. 9 has emerged as a centerpiece of Trump’s defense as House Democrats argue in an impeachment inquiry that he abused his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats. However, no other witness testimony or documents have emerged that corroborate Sondland’s description of a call that day.”

Stop Saying That Impeachment Is Political, The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “The point of an impeachment is not to do the popular or the poll-tested thing but to have the courage to do an unpopular thing, because what is at stake is a larger, even existential matter…. Impeachment in this sense is anti-politics; it presumes that there exists a constitutional principle that overrules the politics of popularity. The point of an impeachment is not to do the popular or the poll-tested thing but to have the courage to do an unpopular thing, because what is at stake is a larger, even existential matter…. The political consequences of impeachment are no longer the primary or even the secondary issue at stake; more important is the survival of the principle of the rule of law against the unashamed assertion of arbitrary power. Postponing a reckoning until the next election implies that what is at issue in Trump’s attempted extorting of the Ukrainian government are a series of policy choices, which voters may or may not endorse. According to this reasoning, if Watergate had happened during Nixon’s first term, and he had been reëlected anyway, attempted political burglary and obstruction of justice would have become acceptable practice. By invoking law against arbitrary power, the Democrats may not ‘win,’ and who knows what the political outcome will be, but, as Pelosi says, there is no longer a choice. Law and arbitrary power remain in eternal enmity. You pick your side.”

Trump Lawyers, Skeptical of Engaging on Impeachment, Weigh Hearing Strategy, The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “The White House is reviewing an invitation from House Democrats for President Trump’s legal team to participate in the first Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing next week, even as his lawyers privately question whether to engage with a proceeding his administration branded ‘an illegitimate sham partisan process’ to drive Mr. Trump from office. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wrote to the president on Tuesday offering him or his lawyers the opportunity to appear before lawmakers at a Dec. 4 hearing with constitutional scholars to discuss the historical precedents for impeachment, the definition of an impeachable offense and whether Mr. Trump’s actions meet the bar for removal.”

Appeals court stays ruling that former White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with House subpoena, The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday evening stayed a lower-court ruling that former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn must comply with a House subpoena after the administration appealed, arguing the battle poses great consequences for the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted an administrative stay while it considers a longer-term order, and fast-tracked oral arguments in the case for a hearing Jan. 3. The stay came after U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington on Monday found no basis for a White House claim that the former counsel is ‘absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony,’ saying ‘Presidents are not kings’ and raising the possibility that McGahn could be forced to testify before the House Judiciary Committee as part of its impeachment inquiry.”

Trump Tax Records Reveal New Inconsistencies–This Time for Trump Tower, ProPublica, Heather Vogell, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “Donald Trump’s business reported conflicting information about a key metric to New York City property tax officials and a lender who arranged financing for his signature building, Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to tax and loan documents obtained by ProPublica. The findings add a third major Trump property to two for which ProPublica revealed similar discrepancies last month. In the latest case, the occupancy rate of the Trump Tower’s commercial space was listed, over three consecutive years, as 11, 16 and 16 percentage points higher in filings to a lender than in reports to city tax officials, records show.”

Trump Keeps Losing in Court. But His Legal Strategy Is Winning Anyway. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “Critics of President Trump cheered on Monday when a federal judge ruled that the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify to Congress — and scathingly labeled ‘fiction’ the administration’s arguments that top White House aides are immune from congressional subpoenas. Indeed, the outcome was the latest in a string of lower-court losses for Mr. Trump as he defends his stonewalling of lawmakers’ oversight and the impeachment investigation. Other fights are playing out in the courts over Mr. Trump’s financial records and grand-jury evidence in the Russia investigation. But from a realist perspective, Mr. Trump is winning despite losing…. [T]ime is on Mr. Trump’s side. The realistic window for Congress to consider impeaching him is closing, with the 2020 election less than a year away. If the overriding goal is to keep information from coming out while his term and potential re-election hang in the balance, the Trump legal strategy is succeeding despite all the adverse rulings.”

Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hurricane Aid to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Has Stalled, The New York Times, Mark Walker and Solan Kanno-Youngs, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “Two years after Hurricanes Maria and Irma, records show the agency’s work on long-term recovery on the islands is crawling compared with some states on the mainland. An examination of Federal Emergency Management Agency data and records demonstrates the degree to which the recovery from Hurricanes Maria and Irma on America’s Caribbean islands has been stalled compared with some of the most disaster-prone states on the mainland, leaving the islands’ critical infrastructure in squalor and limbo. FEMA officials say 190 long-term recovery projects have been funded in Puerto Rico — out of more than 9,000 requests. On the United States Virgin Islands, about 218 projects had funding — out of more than 1,500 requests and still counting. In contrast, about 3,700 large and small permanent work projects had obligated funding in Texas, two years after Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in August 2017. More than 3,700 such projects had been funded over that time in Florida.”

Frank Wuco, Trump official who suggested dropping nuclear bombs on Afghanistan, is now responsible for arms control issues, The Washington Post, John Hudson, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “A former conservative talk radio host and naval intelligence officer who suggested dropping nuclear bombs on Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks now works on arms control issues at the State Department, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter. Frank Wuco, a senior adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, came under scrutiny last year when his past comments involving the promotion of far-right conspiracy theories surfaced.” See also, Frank Wuco, Trump official who promoted fringe conspiracy theories, is now senior adviser at the State Department Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, CNN Politics, Kate Sullivan and Andrew Kaczynski, Wednesday, 27 November 2019.

Worry rises in military over Trump’s decision-making, CNN Politics, Barbara Starr and Nicole Gaouette, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “Tensions that have been mounting for months between some of the nation’s most senior military officers and President Donald Trump are boiling over after his decision to intervene in the cases of three service members accused of war crimes. A long-serving military officer put it bluntly, telling CNN ‘there is a morale problem,’ and senior Pentagon officials have privately said they are disturbed by the President’s behavior. Dismay in the Pentagon has been building over Trump’s sporadic, impulsive and contradictory decision-making on a range of issues, including his sudden pullback of troops in Syria. But now there are new and significant worries, as multiple military officials and retired officers say Trump’s intervention into high-profile war crimes cases cannot be ignored. Fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer wrote Wednesday in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump’s intervention was ‘shocking and unprecedented. … It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.'” See also, Richard Spencer: I was fired as Navy secretary. Here’s what I’ve learned because of it. The Washington Post, Richard Spencer, Wednesday, 27 November 2019. See also, The Navy Is Dropping Its Efforts to Expel Three Officers From the Elite SEAL Commando Force, The New York Times, Dave Philipps, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “The Navy is dropping its efforts to expel three officers from the elite SEAL commando force over their involvement in the war crimes case surrounding Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the service said on Wednesday. The new acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas B. Modly, said in a statement that he had ordered a halt to a review process for the three officers — Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier, and Lt. Thomas MacNeil. The three will be allowed to keep the Trident pins that signify membership in the SEALs.”

Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Legislation, Angering China, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Edward Wong, and Keith Bradsher, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “President Trump on Wednesday signed tough legislation that authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong, signaling support for pro-democracy activists and escalating tensions with Beijing as Mr. Trump tries to negotiate a trade deal with Chinese leaders. China’s Foreign Ministry was furious, saying the bill ‘seriously interfered with Hong Kong affairs, seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs, and seriously violated international law and basic norms of international relations.’ The ministry warned the United States against acting arbitrarily and said that any consequences would ‘be borne by the United States.'” See also, Trump signs legislation designed to support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan and David J. Lynch, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “President Trump on Wednesday signed legislation designed to support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, a major rebuke to China just as he has predicted that a trade deal is close at hand. Trump acted after markets closed ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday and under pressure from lawmakers in both parties. The legislation authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in human rights abuses and requires the State Department to perform an annual review of the special trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.”

Russia Inquiry Review Is Expected to Undercut Trump Claim of F.B.I. Spying on His Presidential Campaign, The New York Times, Adam Goldman, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general’s report said. The determination by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is expected to be a key finding in his highly anticipated report due out on Dec. 9 examining aspects of the Russia investigation. The finding also contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who alleged not only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped. The startling accusation generated headlines but Mr. Trump never backed it up. The finding is one of several by Mr. Horowitz that undercuts conservatives’ claims that the F.B.I. acted improperly in investigating several Trump associates starting in 2016. He also found that F.B.I. leaders did not take politically motivated actions in pursuing a secret wiretap on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page — eavesdropping that Mr. Trump’s allies have long decried as politically motivated.”

Multiple Women Recall Sexual Misconduct and Retaliation by Gordon Sondland, ProPublica, Julia Silverman, Kelly Clarke, and Fiona McCann, and Portland Monthly, Maryam Jameel and Doris Burke, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “Three women say they faced sexual misconduct by Gordon Sondland before he was the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and at the center of the presidential impeachment inquiry. They say he retaliated against them professionally after they rejected his advances. In one case, a potential business partner recalls that Sondland took her to tour a room in a hotel he owns, only to then grab her face and try to kiss her. After she rejected him, Sondland backtracked on investing in her business. Another woman, a work associate at the time, says Sondland exposed himself to her during a business interaction. She also recalls falling over the back of a couch trying to get away from him. After she made her lack of interest clear, she says Sondland called her, screaming about her job performance. A third woman, 27 years Sondland’s junior, met him to discuss a potential job. She says he pushed himself against her and kissed her. She shoved him away. She says his job help stopped. All three women have agreed to be named in this story. In all the cases, friends, family members or colleagues of the women recall being told about the encounters at the time. The cases span a seven-year period, ending less than a decade ago. Sondland denies the allegations.” See also, Three Women Accuse Gordon Sondland of Sexual Misconduct, Report Says, The New York Times, Neil Vigdor and Alex Traub, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “Three women have accused Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, of making unwanted sexual advances toward them years before his recent turn as a star witness at the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, according to a news report. The women shared their accounts with ProPublica and Portland Monthly, which published them online Wednesday in a joint investigative project between the nonprofit news organization and the Oregon magazine.”

Elizabeth Warren Wants to Revoke Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee Massacre, The New York Times, Reid J. Epstein, Wednesday, 27 November 2019: “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Wednesday introduced legislation to revoke Medals of Honor from 20 United States soldiers who killed hundreds of Native American women and children in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. The proposal from Ms. Warren, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, follows a House bill on the same subject that was introduced in June by Representative Denny Heck of Washington. It has yet to receive a vote. ‘The horrifying acts of violence against hundreds of Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee should be condemned, not celebrated with Medals of Honor,’ Ms. Warren said in a statement released Wednesday by her Senate office. ‘The Remove the Stain Act acknowledges a profoundly shameful event in U.S. history, and that’s why I’m joining my House colleagues in this effort to advance justice and take a step toward righting wrongs against Native peoples.'” See also, Elizabeth Warren introduces bill to strip Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee massacre, The Guardian, Victoria Bekiempis, Thursday, 28 November 2019: “The Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Merkley have announced legislation that would strip Medals of Honor from US soldiers who carried out the Wounded Knee massacre, killing hundreds of mostly unarmed Native Americans. A House bill on the subject was introduced in June by representatives including Deb Haaland, a New Mexico Democrat who is one of the first female Native American US lawmakers. ‘The horrifying acts of violence against hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee should be condemned, not celebrated with Medals of Honor,’ said Warren, from Massachusetts, who is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.”


Thursday, 28 November 2019, Day 1,043 (Thanksgiving in the US):


Trump Visits Afghanistan and Says He Reopened Talks With Taliban, The New York Times, Michael Crowley, Thursday, 28 November 2019: “President Trump paid an unannounced Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Afghanistan on Thursday and declared that he had reopened peace negotiations with the Taliban less than three months after scuttling talks in hopes of ending 18 years of war…. The scope and prospects of any renewed negotiations remained unclear, and White House officials gave few details beyond Mr. Trump’s sudden revelation. On the flight to Afghanistan, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, had insisted that the secret trip was ‘truly about Thanksgiving and supporting the troops’ and ‘nothing about the peace process’ with the Taliban.”