Transcript Shows WH Made Up Details of Trump’s Zelensky Call

The release of the transcript of President Donald Trump’s first call in April with Ukrainian President-elect Volodomyr Zelensky was meant to bolster the case that Trump had nothing but good intentions in his dealings with Ukraine—but it also showed a White House summary of the same call released to the public shortly after it occurred was largely fabricated. 

The White House readout, a summary of the call released hours after it occurred, claimed Trump “underscored the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity—within its internationally recognized borders—and expressed his commitment to work together with President-elect Zelensky and the Ukrainian people to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.”

Such statements are nowhere to be found in the transcript of the call released by the president on Friday. That transcript shows Trump congratulating Zelensky on his recent election win, promising to arrange a White House visit for him, and recounting the large number of Ukrainian women who participated in Trump’s Miss Universe competitions.

Nowhere does Trump mention efforts to address Ukrainian corruption, economic prosperity, or democratic institutions. Nor does he even allude to its efforts to beat back the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on those discrepancies.

The White House released the transcript in an effort to undercut claims by congressional Democrats that Trump sought to leverage a Zelensky White House visit and delayed military aid to Ukraine to solicit an investigation by Ukrainian prospectors into the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and into conspiracy theories regarding a supposed Ukrainian role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Trump and his allies have claimed that the president was simply seeking to root out corruption in Ukraine, a stated objective of U.S. foreign policy for years. The readout of Trump’s April call with Zelensky indicated that Trump had indeed pressed Zelensky on that issue in particular.

But the transcript released Friday, which notes that it is not a “verbatim” account of the conversation, doesn’t even mention the word “corruption.”

The Trump White House has a checkered record of releasing summaries of his calls with foreign leaders, a practice viewed as standard in prior administrations. Many of those readouts have contained scant details of the conversations, even as foreign leaders put out far more detailed summaries, a practice that experts say allows foreign governments to put their own spin on highly consequential interactions with the president.

[The Daily Beast]

Trump knocks testimony from ‘Never Trumpers’ at Louisiana rally

President Trump on Thursday attacked Democratic lawmakers in personal terms and ridiculed the first two witnesses to testify publicly in the House’s impeachment inquiry as “Never Trumpers.”

In his first campaign rally since the Wednesday hearing, Trump riffed about the spectacle and insisted to a crowd of adoring supporters that he had done nothing wrong.

“The absolutely crazed lunatics, the Democrats, radical left and their media partners standing right back there are pushing the deranged impeachment witch hunt for doing nothing wrong,” Trump said during the event in Bossier City, La.

Trump briefly addressed the testimony of diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent, who told the House Committees about their concerns regarding Trump’s policy in Ukraine, the focus on investigations into his political rivals and the actions of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

“You saw yesterday how about when they asked these two Never Trumpers, ‘what exactly do you think you impeach him for?'” Trump said. “And they stood there and went like, ‘what?'”

“But they’re unraveling and their sinister plans will fail,” Trump added. “They’ve already failed as far as I’m concerned.”

The president avoided addressing any specific claims in the testimony from Taylor and Kent. Instead, he turned his ire toward House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), whom he mocked at length.

“He’s got the little 10-inch neck,” Trump said of the Democratic lawmaker, who is overseeing the impeachment hearings.

“He will not make the LSU football team, that I can tell you,” Trump added.

The president also read aloud from a post on The Daily Wire, a conservative publication that published quotes from a Ukrainian official that distanced the country from allegations against Trump.

Trump rallied in Louisiana for the second time in a week and the third time in a month as he makes a final push for Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone. Thursday’s event came one day after the first public hearing in the House impeachment inquiry. 

Taylor in particular laid out in rich detail the timeline of events that led him to believe the president’s policy in Ukraine was inappropriate.

He delivered a damning new piece of testimony when he told the House Intelligence Committee that one of his staffers overheard a call between Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in which the president asked about investigations. The Associated Press reported earlier Thursday that a second staffer overheard the call as well.

But Trump and his allies have landed on a clear talking point in the aftermath of the hearing, noting that neither Taylor nor Kent had direct interactions with the president or first-hand information about potential wrongdoing.

Trump is facing a gauntlet of upcoming witness testimony that could produce more damaging revelation. Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is set to testify in public on Friday morning. She has previously told lawmakers behind closed doors that Giuliani led a concerted effort to smear her and remove her from her post.

Several more witnesses, including Sondland, will testify in public next week. The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry will also hear private deposition from additional administration officials in the coming days.

Earlier on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) portrayed Trump’s actions as a clearly impeachable offense.

“What President Trump has done on the record — in terms of … [asking] a foreign power to help him in his own election and the obstruction of information about that, the cover up — makes what Nixon did look almost small,” she said at a press conference. “Almost small.”

Trump reiterated his belief that the impeachment process will ultimately benefit Republicans at the polls, despite public polling showing an even split among those in favor of impeachment and those opposed to it.

But in what appeared to be a more sincere moment from the free-wheeling president, Trump indicated to the crowd that the process has been difficult for his family and that he’d be happy to see it conclude.

“What a life I lead,” Trump said to the crowd. “You think this is fun, don’t you? But it’s been very hard on my family.”

[The Hill]

Trump: Erdoğan has ‘great relationship with the Kurds’

President Trump on Wednesday said his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has a “great relationship with the Kurds” amid concerns of possible ethnic violence against the minority group in northern Syria.

The two leaders met for the first time in Washington one month after Turkey launched its offensive into northeastern Syria against Kurdish forces allied with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS. Turkey claims the Kurdish group is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is designated as a terrorist group by both Ankara and Washington.

“I think the president has a great relationship with the Kurds,” Trump said. “Many Kurds live currently in Turkey, and they’re happy, and they’re taken care of, including health care — we were talking about it before — including health care and education and other things, so that’s really a misnomer.”

The question came from reporter Rahim Rashidi of the Iraqi Kurdistan network K24, who was dubbed “Mr. Kurd” by Trump during a press conference last year when discussing the fight against ISIS. Rashidi has adopted the nickname, putting it on business cards and introducing himself that way when interviewing the president and other lawmakers.

Erdoğan reasserted that Turkey’s offensive is rooting out “terrorist organizations.”

“We have no problems with the Kurds. We have problems with terrorist organizations, and of course you’re not going to own up to the terrorists, are you?” he asked.

Turkey is home to one of the largest populations of Kurdish minorities, about 19 percent of its population.

[The Hill]

The US Navy canceled a routine Black Sea patrol after Trump complained that it was hostile to Russia

Christopher Anderson, an aide to former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, testified that the White House canceled a Navy freedom-of-navigation operation in the Black Sea after President Donald Trump complained to then-national security adviser John Bolton about a CNN report that framed the operation as a counter to Russia, Politico reported.

According to Anderson’s testimony, the news report in question came from CNN and characterized the operation as antagonistic toward Russia. Anderson testified that Trump called Bolton at home to complain about the article, and the operation was later canceled at the behest of the White House, Anderson said.

“In January, there was an effort to get a routine freedom-of-navigation operation into the Black Sea,” Anderson testified. “There was a freedom-of-navigation operation for the Navy. So we — we, the US government — notified the Turkish government that there was this intent.”

While Anderson in his testimony placed the report in January, details from his testimony match a story from early December, which had the headline “US makes preparations to sail warship into the Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions.”

Anderson said the White House asked the Navy to cancel the freedom-of-navigation operation because the report portrayed the operation as a move to counter Russia, which has increased its naval presence there since annexing Crimea in 2014. In November 2018, its forces attacked Ukrainian assets transiting the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea. Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and held 24 Ukrainian service members captive.

“We met with Ambassador Bolton and discussed this, and he made it clear that the president had called him to complain about that news report. And that may have just been that he was surprised,” Anderson said.

“We don’t — I can’t speculate as to why, but that, that operation, was canceled, but then we were able to get a second one for later in February. And we had an Arleigh-class destroyer arrive in Odessa on the fifth anniversary of the Crimea invasion.”

The White House and the US Navy’s 6th Fleet, which conducts operations in Europe, did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment. 

[Business Insider]

TRUMP CLAIMS IVANKA ‘CREATED 14 MILLION JOBS’ BUT ONLY 5.5 MILLION HAVE BEEN CREATED DURING HIS PRESIDENCY

President Donald Trump on Tuesday spread fake news that his daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump has “created 14 million jobs,” a statement that many Twitter users quickly corrected him about.

The president credited his daughter, who has been promoting the administration’s workforce initiative, with the sky-high number during his speech at the Economic Club of New York.

“And when she started this, two and half years ago, her goal was 500,000 jobs,” the president said, regarding the administration’s ‘Pledge to America’s Workers.’

“She has now created 14 million jobs,” Trump claimed, “And they are being trained by these great companies, the greatest companies in the world because the government cannot train them. It’s a great thing.”

The president added: “14 million and going up.”

Many Twitter users shared why the president was wrong about the results of his daughter, whom he regularly praises.

Journalist James Fallows called it one of the president’s “lunatic claims.”

“TOTAL US employment rise in past 3 years, including normal population growth, is around 6 million. Share of that via Ivanka????” Fallows tweeted. “If reality mattered.”

Washington Post video editor JM Rieger noted that through August 2019, about 5.5 million jobs have been created under the Trump administration, less than half the amount the president attributed to his daughter. Rieger shared a Forbes story from September citing U.S. Department of Labor figures to show that job growth under President Trump has been weaker than forecast and that he has created 1.5 million fewer jobs than his predecessor Barack Obama.

CNN reporter Daniel Dale, whose Twitter profile states he engages in “fact-checking the president and other politicians,” explained why the president spoke “nonsensically.”

“These are education and training opportunities, many of them for existing employees and many planned before/entirely independent of the Pledge,” Dale tweeted.

A White House web page on the pledge states that since the president signed an executive order establishing the National Council for the American Worker in July 2018, “more than 300 companies and organizations have signed the Pledge, contributing to over 12 MILLION new education and training opportunities for American students and workers over the next five years.”

The council is co-chaired by Ivanka Trump. She has been traveling the United States and around the world promoting the administration’s workforce efforts including the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, which seeks to economically empower 50 million women in developing countries by 2025.

It is not clear what specific work Ivanka Trump has done to create jobs beyond promote the administration’s programs through in-person appearances and photo ops.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Newsweek on the president’s claim and numbers to back it up.

[Newsweek]

Trump celebrates resignation of Bolivia’s president

President Trump on Monday hailed the ouster of Bolivian President Evo Morales as a “significant moment for democracy” even as Morales’s supporters and some U.S. lawmakers likened it to a coup.

Trump issued a statement approving of Morales’s resignation, which capped weeks of unrest following the country’s elections last month.

“After nearly 14 years and his recent attempt to override the Bolivian constitution and the will of the people, Morales’s departure preserves democracy and paves the way for the Bolivian people to have their voices heard,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump said the events in Bolivia “send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail. We are now one step closer to a completely democratic, prosperous, and free Western Hemisphere.”

Mexico on Monday offered asylum to Morales, and later said the Bolivian leader had requested it. 

Morales and his leftist government have been in power for 14 years, but the country’s first indigenous president has come under scrutiny toward the end of his tenure. Morales changed the country’s laws in order to run for office a fourth time and declared he won last month’s election despite widespread accusations of fraud.

The Washington Post reported the the heads of the armed forces and police withdrew their support for the government in recent days amid escalating protests. By Sunday, all four socialist officials atop the Bolivian government had resigned in what Morales likened to a coup.

That language was echoed by prominent liberals in the U.S. Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), both self-described democratic socialists.

“I am very concerned about what appears to be a coup in Bolivia, where the military, after weeks of political unrest, intervened to remove President Evo Morales,” Sanders tweeted.

“What’s happening right now in Bolivia isn’t democracy, it’s a coup,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The people of Bolivia deserve free, fair, and peaceful elections — not violent seizures of power.”

Trump has used socialist governments around the world to attack Democrats and their progressive policies ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The Trump administration has pushed for the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, but has thus far been unsuccessful.

[The Hill]

Trump Just Called DACA Recipients ‘Hardened Criminals’ Hours Before Their Supreme Court Case

Hours before the Supreme Court would hear arguments in a case to determine the legal status of nearly 700,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, President Trump tweeted a message for them.

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals,” wrote Trump, referring to immigrants who’ve benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

The missive came as protestors and activists swarmed the Supreme Court ahead of its hearing on the Obama-era law that gives certain immigrants temporary legal status and a work permit, which they can renew every two years. Recipients need to have come to the U.S. before age 16, graduated high school (or be enrolled), and passed a background check.

Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet echoes the language he frequently uses to describe immigrants. But according to a 2017 report from the libertarian think tank CATO Institute, DACA recipients have lower incarceration rates than people born in the U.S. And to be eligible for the program, applicants can’t have been convicted of a felony — or even a string of misdemeanors.

After he took office, Trump initially waffled on whether his administration would preserve the policy. In February of 2017, Trump called DACA beneficiaries “absolutely incredible kids.” But facing pressure from immigration hard-liners, Trump swiftly changed his tune. By September of that year, he announced that the Department of Homeland Security would end the program completely.

That fight has now arrived at the Supreme Court, which will decide whether it’s lawful for the Trump administration to end the program. Nearly 700,000 immigrants rely on DACA to live and work in the U.S., the vast majority of which are women under the age of 25.

Despite the fact that his own administration is pushing to dismantle the program, Trump has punted the issue to Democrats in Congress. He added in his tweet that, if the Supreme Court rules in his administration’s favor, the White House will work with Democrats on a plan to keep DACA beneficiaries in the U.S.

“President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!” Trump wrote.

[VICE]

Fact-checking Trump’s barrage of anti-impeachment tweets

President Donald Trump has lashed out again at Democrats’ impeachment push, tweeting a rapid-fire series of arguments in his own defense over three tweets Tuesday morning.Trump has made these same claims (or very close) before. But since public impeachment hearings are beginning on Wednesday, it’s worth breaking down his case.Let’s go point by point:

“Why is such a focus put on 2nd and 3rd hand witnesses…”

Various witnesses who have testified in the impeachment inquiry have had firsthand knowledge of various components of the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine.For example, witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Tim Morrison of the White House’s National Security Council both listened to Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; so did witness Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence.The former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testified about what she had been directly told about why Trump was abruptly removing her from her post.Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, testified about his own comments to Ukrainian officials about how US military aid would not “likely” be issued until Ukraine declared that it was conducting an investigation related to Joe Biden. (Sondland described this proposed declaration as an “anti-corruption statement.”) Among other firsthand testimony, Trump’s current top diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, testified about his own concerns about the role Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was playing in relations with Ukraine.

“…many of whom are Never Trumpers…”

There is no evidence that “many” of the impeachment witnesses are “Never Trumpers” under the traditional definition of the term: longtime Republicans who refuse to support Trump.Though we can’t be certain of the private political beliefs of people who have testified, the witnesses have included Trump’s own appointees; administration aides; and career diplomats with no history of public support of or opposition to political candidates.Trump appears to be trying to redefine the term “Never Trumper” so that it applies to anyone who criticizes his actions.

“…or whose lawyers are Never Trumpers…”

Trump has a better case here. After Trump was elected, Taylor’s lawyer John Bellinger joined “Checks and Balances,” a group of conservative lawyers formed to speak out against Trump. Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, has represented both Democrats and Republicans and sued both Democratic and Republican administrations, but he has been open about his opposition to Trump: “Anti-Trump. Worst presidential choice in modern history. Not a repub or dem issue,” he wrote on Twitter in 2017.

“…all you have to do is read the phone call (transcript) with the Ukrainian President and see first hand?”

The document the White House released says on its first page that it is “not a verbatim transcript.” Vindman has testified that some details were omitted from the document.Regardless, Trump’s frequent contention that the phone call was “perfect” is highly questionable. Contrary to Trump’s repeated assertions, the call document shows that the whistleblower’s allegations about the call were highly accurate: Trump sought to get Zelensky to investigate Biden, to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about Democratic computer servers, and to speak to Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.The whistleblower described these requests as pressure, which Trump is entitled to dispute. But the underlying facts are not in dispute.

“He (Zelensky) and others also stated that there was ‘no pressure’ put on him to investigate Sleepy Joe Biden…”

Zelensky has indeed said that he did not feel pressured by Trump. “Nobody pushed me,” he told reporters while sitting beside Trump at a meeting at the United Nations in September. (When CNN’s Clarissa Ward asked Zelensky the next week if he felt pressure from Trump to investigate the Bidens to get the aid, Zelensky responded indirectly, saying, “I’d like to tell you that I never feel pressure. I have lots of people who’d like to put pressure on me here and abroad. But I’m the president of an independent Ukraine and I’d like to think and my action suggests, no one can put pressure on me.”)CNN, the The New York Times and others have described a difficult internal debate within Zelensky’s team about how to handle Trump’s push for an announcement of investigations.

“…as President, I have an ‘obligation’ to look into corruption, and Biden’s actions, on tape, about firing the prosecutor…are certainly looking very corrupt (to put it mildly!) to me.”

There is no evidence of Biden acting corruptly.Trump appeared to be referring to a 2018 video of Biden telling the story of how he used a threat to deny Ukraine a $1 billion loan guarantee to successfully pressure Ukrainian leaders to fire a chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was widely seen by the US government, its European allies and Ukrainian activists to be ineffective in fighting corruption.”He was executing U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy,” Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, testified.All that aside, nothing would have obligated Trump to push a foreign leader to investigate an American political rival or announce an investigation into that person, nor to link such an investigation or announcement to the execution of American foreign policy.

“His son’s taking millions of dollars, with no knowledge or talent, from a Ukrainian energy company, and more millions taken from China, and now reports of other companies and countries also giving him big money…”

Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, did make significant money from his role on the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma; he has not denied reports that his salary was $50,000 per month.Hunter Biden, a lawyer who had worked in the Commerce Department and served on the Amtrak board, acknowledged in October that he would “probably not” have been invited to join the Burisma board if his father were not Joe Biden; he said he had done “nothing wrong at all” but had used “poor judgment” in getting involved in such a “swamp.”It is not clear how much money Hunter Biden has earned from China. Trump has repeatedly claimed that Hunter Biden pocketed $1.5 billion, but he has not presented evidence for this claim; Hunter Biden told ABC that it has “no basis in fact,” adding, “No one ever paid me $1.5 billion, and if they had, I would not be doing this interview right now.”A lawyer for Hunter Biden, George Mesires, says the investment company in which his client has held a 10% stake was capitalized with a total of about $4.2 million in Chinese money at today’s exchange rates, “not $1.5 billion.” (Even this investment — made when Biden was a member of the company board, not a part-owner — was not a direct payment to him, and Mesires says Biden has not made a profit from his investment.)There is no evidence of illegal behavior by Hunter Biden.

“Both Bidens should be forced to testify in this No Due Process Scam!”

Trump didn’t specify here what he was referring to, but he has previously alleged that he is being denied due process because his lawyers are not being permitted to participate in the impeachment hearings.Trump is entitled to make this subjective argument. The Constitution, however, does not mandate the House of Representatives to allow the President’s lawyers to participate in impeachment proceedings. The Senate holds a trial after the House votes to impeach; the House is not obligated to treat its own process as if it were a trial.Democrats are beginning their public hearings in the House Intelligence Committee. Their rules will permit Trump lawyers to submit evidence and ask questions of witnesses once the process moves to the House Judiciary Committee, which will make the decision about whether to draw up articles of impeachment.Trump’s campaign has noted that lawyers for Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were permitted to cross-examine witnesses. That happened in the Judiciary Committee; those impeachment processes did not begin with the House Intelligence Committee.

[CNN]

Trump claims Adam Schiff is faking the transcripts he’s putting out from Intelligence Committee depositions

President Donald Trump tweeted out another conspiracy theory about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Monday as two more transcripts were released from those testifying in the House Intelligence Committee as it prepares for impeachment.

“Just like Schiff fabricated my phone call, he will fabricate the transcripts that he is making and releasing!” Trump tweeted.

Trump also claimed that Shiff will not allow Trump any witnesses. The president’s lawyers haven’t explained to him that the House does not hold the trial for impeachment, it’s the Senate that holds the trial. That’s where witnesses will be presented and the White House can refute the claims. Schiff is having a hearing around the impeachment inquiry and investigation.

Last week Republicans demanded that the depositions be made public. Once Shiff announced that the hearings would be public and he would release the transcripts of the depositions to the public, Republicans then said the hearings should be behind closed doors and the president claimed the depositions were fake.

Republicans were present during the depositions and are quoted in the transcripts.

Trump did not present any evidence of his claim.

[Raw Story]

On Veterans Day, Trump Laments Passing Whistleblower Law Meant to Improve VA: ‘To Think I Signed!’

On Veterans Day, President Donald Trump lamented passing a whistleblower law meant to increase protections for employees who uncovered wrongdoing in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“To think I signed the Whistleblower Protection Act!” Trump said Monday, stepping on an announcement from the White House twitter account praising Trump’s accomplishments for veterans.

The actual Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in 1998, but Trump has passed at least two laws related to whistleblower protections, according to a review of the congressional record.

The White House tweet is apparently referring to the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which was sponsored by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. The law passed the Senate via voice vote.

The law established a new special office in the VA to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and makes it easier to fire employees accused of misconduct. However, an Inspector General report released late last month found the office had largely failed in its mission to protect whistleblowers and conducted corrupt investigations.

Trump also signed the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 into law, which is named for a VA doctor who was ousted and later killed himself after he blew the whistle on the over-prescription of opiates at his VA facility.

[Mediaite]

1 2 3 4 5 344