Trump floats taking case to Supreme Court to stop impeachment

President Trump on Monday questioned whether he and his allies could go to the Supreme Court to halt the House impeachment inquiry. 

Trump tweeted shortly after arriving in the United Kingdom for two days of NATO meetings that he had read House Republicans’ draft defense in which his allies insist there was no evidence of wrongdoing in Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.

“Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE,” Trump tweeted. “Read the Transcripts. Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”

The tweet marked the second time that Trump has raised the possibility of appealing his case to the Supreme Court to avert a possible impeachment. There’s no precedent for a president taking his impeachment case to the high court, and legal experts have previously said it’s unlikely the justices would hear such a case.

The president’s comments came as the impeachment proceedings enter a new phase while he is overseas meeting with world leaders and reflected the difficulty Trump will have restraining himself from weighing in on the House hearings while abroad.

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee are expected to begin reviewing a draft version of the panel’s report summarizing its findings after private depositions and public hearings with a dozen current and former administration officials.

The committee will then vote Tuesday on whether to adopt the report, which would be sent to the Judiciary Committee thereafter.

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will hold its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry, titled “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.” The panel will hear from legal scholars as Democrats weigh whether the evidence turned up in their weeks-long impeachment inquiry warrants the drafting of articles aimed at removing the president from office. 

The White House said it will not participate in the hearing, though it did not rule out taking part in future hearings.

House Democrats are examining whether Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to pursue investigations that could benefit him politically, including by conditioning a White House meeting or aid for Ukraine to those investigations.

But House Republicans argue in their draft defense that the president’s actions were not politically motivated and that the evidence does not support Democrats’ assertions.

The president’s GOP allies at no point over the course of the 123-page document concede any wrongdoing by Trump, instead insisting that with proper context the administration’s actions were “entirely prudent.”

Trump himself has maintained that his much-scrutinized July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect.” On the call, Trump asks Zelensky to look into the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about 2016 election interference.

Trump in April first tweeted that he would take Democrats to the Supreme Court if they tried to impeach him. That assertion came on the heels of former special counsel Robert Mueller releasing his full report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But legal experts cast doubt on the chances of the Supreme Court taking up such a case. They noted that the Constitution grants impeachment powers to the House and that Chief Justice John Roberts would be expected to preside over a Senate trial.

[The Hill]

Trump criticizes Lisa Page after she breaks silence

President Trump criticized former FBI lawyer Lisa Page on Monday in a tweet, a day after she broke her silence in an interview about the attacks she has withstood from the president.

“When Lisa Page, the lover of Peter Strzok, talks about being ‘crushed’, and how innocent she is, ask her to read Peter’s ‘Insurance Policy’ text, to her, just in case Hillary loses,” Trump tweeted Monday while traveling to the United Kingdom for a NATO meeting.

“Also, why were the lovers text messages scrubbed after he left Mueller. Where are they Lisa?” the president continued, accusing former special counsel Robert Mueller of deleting text messages between Page and Strzok without offering evidence. 

Trump and his allies have long eviscerated Page and Strzok — another former FBI official — for text messages they sent criticizing then-candidate Trump ahead of the 2016 election. The messages exchanged by the pair, who had an affair and who both worked on the FBI’s original Russian interference probe, were unearthed by a Justice Department inspector general investigation last year.

In one August 2016 exchange, Strzok compared the Russia investigation to “an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before 40.”

Trump has pointed to the text messages as evidence that Page and Strzok were laying the groundwork for an effort to undermine him in the event he won the 2016 presidential election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Page subsequently told congressional investigators that the two were discussing how strongly to push forward in investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Page broke years of public silence in an interview with The Daily Beast published Sunday, likening Trump’s attacks on her to being “punched in the gut.”

“My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He’s demeaning me and my career. It’s sickening,” Page told The Daily Beast. 

The Justice Department inspector general said last year that the text messages had been deleted from the individuals’ FBI phones due to technical glitches but had been recovered.

[The Hill]

Trump praises Kennedy after Chuck Todd links senator’s Ukraine remarks to Putin

President Trump on Monday praised Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) for his appearance a day earlier on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where anchor Chuck Todd questioned the senator for pushing the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

“Thank you to Great Republican @SenJohnKennedy for the job he did in representing both the Republican Party and myself against Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd on Meet the Depressed!” Trump tweeted.

The president tweeted his thanks as he flew to London for NATO meetings. He also praised two House Republicans for defending him against the impeachment inquiry in television interviews.

Kennedy has been part of controversial interviews each of the past two Sundays after making claims about Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election.

Kennedy last week suggested that there was still a possibility that Ukraine was responsible for the 2016 Democratic National Committee hack. He walked back those comments days later but has continued to insist Ukraine interfered in other ways. 

On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Kennedy asserted that reporting in outlets such as Politico and The Economist indicated that the former Ukrainian president favored Clinton over Trump.

“The fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton,” he said.

Todd appeared exasperated with the senator and pushed back on his argument, suggesting Kennedy was furthering a narrative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Are you at all concerned that you’ve been duped?” Todd asked. 

“No, just read the articles,” Kennedy said. 

The Intelligence Committee has concluded that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election and was seeking to aid the Trump campaign. Former special counsel Robert Mueller determined he could not establish that the Trump campaign worked with Russia.

In the aftermath of that investigation, Trump and some of his allies have continued to claim Ukraine meddled in the 2016 race despite the insistence to the contrary of national security officials. 

[The Hill]

Trump wastes no time distorting Zelensky statement

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivered an unmistakable rebuke to President Trump in an interview published Monday by Time and three European news outlets. Then Trump, as is his wont, declared himself totally exonerated.

According to the partial transcript posted by Time, Zelensky mostly discussed the war with Russian-backed rebels along Ukraine’s eastern border. When he got onto the topic of the United States’ role, he started by saying he didn’t want Ukraine to be a pawn in a great-powers game of chess. But then he got into how Trump and other U.S. officials had been publicly labeling Ukraine a “corrupt country” and the difficulties that this causes with global investors and businesses.

”This is a hard signal,” Zelensky said. “For me it’s very important for the United States, with all they can do for us, for them really to understand that we are a different country, that we are different people. It’s not that those things don’t exist. They do. All branches of government were corrupted over many years, and we are working to clean that up. But that signal from them is very important.”

In other words, the chaff thrown up by Trump and his allies in defense of his attempt to persuade Zelensky to announce two investigations that could help Trump’s reelection bid — “Ukraine is corrupt, and Trump was just trying to protect taxpayers’ money” — is at least as harmful to Ukraine’s new housecleaning government as it is helpful to Trump.

But that comment wasn’t the one that got Trump’s attention. It was one at the end of the interview, when Zelensky was asked the $300-million question: “When did you first sense that there was a connection between Trump’s decision to block military aid to Ukraine this summer and the two investigations that Trump and his allies were asking for? Can you clarify this issue of the quid pro quo?”

There’s a great deal of confusion over this precise point. The White House froze nearly $300 million in security aid to Ukraine about two weeks before Trump spoke with Zelensky and asked for “a favor” in the form of those two investigations. But the hold on the aid didn’t become public until Politico broke the news in late August.

Here’s Zelensky’s response, according to Time’s transcript: “Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing.… I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.”

There are a million different ways to parse that, but the meaning seems clear: Zelensky really, really, really wants to get out of the middle of this controversy. Yet it’s also clear that he’s not forgiving Trump for delaying the aid approved by Congress, more than 10% of which is apparently still on hold.

Trump, though, offered a completely different read:

Nothing wrong? How about “If you’re our strategic partner, you can’t go blocking anything for us”? How about Zelensky imploring Trump to stop driving capital away from Kyiv?

But that’s how Trump operates, counting on people not to take the extra step and read the Zelensky interview for themselves.

It’s kind of like Trump’s fallback line, “Read the transcript.” If people actually read the reconstructed transcript that the White House released, they would see Trump telling Zelensky how dependent Ukraine is on the United States, then find him asking Zelensky to conduct two investigations that are clearly beneficial to Trump politically — including one specifically into the Democrat who’s leading the race to oppose Trump in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Granted, some folks may not be troubled by a president using the power of his office to try to persuade a foreign government to help him win reelection. But even they would have to concede it’s something less than “perfect.”

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump posted a picture of himself as Rocky, his campaign claims it isn’t edited.

People are used to seeing Donald Trump’s face transposed on to a lot of things: satsumas, the Queen, a giant floating baby flying across the US and the UK.

But this morning, the president himself posted a photo where his head was photoshopped on to something utterly surprising: the super-buff, bare body of the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa.

It was tweeted at 10.54am, with Trump offering exactly zero explanation – not even a caption. All we know is that the tweet was sent during a golf trip at one of Trump’s golf clubs in Florida, during his Thanksgiving holiday at Mar-a-Lago.

Who knows how we should interpret it? Perhaps the 45th president suffered a blow to the head this morning. Or perhaps he wants us to know he’s a fighter. Maybe he’s upset about of all the low blows thrown his way during his tenure, with people saying mean things like “why does he grab women by the pussy?”

Trump attacks Fox News for interviewing Swalwell

President Trump on Thursday renewed his attacks against Fox News over its coverage of the impeachment inquiry, taking issue with the network’s decision to interview Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) about the process. 

Trump singled out Fox News host Shannon Bream, asking why she would “waste airtime” by featuring a failed presidential candidate, referencing Swalwell’s short-lived 2020 campaign. 

“Fox should stay with the people that got them there, not losers!” he said. 

Beam interviewed Swalwell, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, following a day in which the panel heard testimony from three administration officials about the president’s dealings with Ukraine. 

The House impeachment inquiry has centered around allegations that the president pressured Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden over unfounded allegations of corruption. House Democrats are also probing whether Trump tied military aid to Ukraine publicly announcing the investigations. 

While speaking on Fox News, Swalwell adamantly pushed back against Republicans’ argument that a quid pro quo didn’t take place because Ukraine eventually received the security aid. 

“The president got caught. The only reason the aid was released was because the whistleblower came forward,” Swalwell said, referencing a government whistleblower complaint that led to the launch of the impeachment inquiry. 

Swalwell also emphasized new statements from Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia and Ukraine, who testified that her staff received questions from the Ukraine Embassy about “security assistance” on July 25. That is the same day Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call to open investigations. 

Trump has repeatedly dismissed allegations of wrongdoing, often characterizing officials testifying in the impeachment inquiry as “Never Trumpers.” In a separate tweet early Thursday morning, he claimed the “fake” and “corrupt” news media weren’t covering the impeachment hearings fairly. 

While Trump has enjoyed a cordial relationship with many of Fox News’s opinion hosts, he’s also shown a willingness to target some of its news anchors. Earlier this week, he blasted “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace as “nasty” and “obnoxious” over an interview in which he persistently grilled House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) about the implications of the impeachment inquiry. 

Trump claimed that the “dumb and unfair interview would never have happened” in the past, prompting a rebuttal from Wallace’s colleague Neil Cavuto. 

“The best we can do as journalists is be fair to all, including you, Mr. President,” Cavuto said on Fox News on Monday. “That’s not fake doing that. What is fake is not doing that. What is fake is saying Fox never used to do that. Mr. President, we have always done that.”

[The Hill]

IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY Trump says he will ‘strongly consider’ testifying in House impeachment probe

President Donald Trump said Monday that he is “strongly” considering testifying before the impeachment probe in light of recent comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said he is more than welcome to present his case personally before the House Intelligence Committee.

“Our Crazy, Do Nothing (where’s USMCA, infrastructure, lower drug pricing & much more?) Speaker of the House, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, who is petrified by her Radical Left knowing she will soon be gone (they & Fake News Media are her BOSS), suggested on Sunday’s DEFACE THE NATION that I testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted. “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

Speaking with CBS’s “Face the Nation” in an interview that aired Sunday, Pelosi said Trump can “come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants, if he wants to take the oath of office, or he could do it in writing.”

“He has every opportunity to present his case,” she said, adding that if Trump “has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it.”

But Pelosi, calling Trump’s efforts at having Ukraine investigate the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 presidential election, said the president’s conduct “was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did.”

“At some point, Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue,” she said.

Public calls for the president to testify before the committee have ramped up recently. After an extended rant during Wednesday’s public impeachment hearings from Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in which the Trump ally said investigators need to have “the person who started” the probe, meaning the first whistleblower, come testify, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., retorted, “I’d like to see the person who started it come testify. President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there.”

Speaking with Fox News on Monday, Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., one of Trump’s top allies in battling impeachment, said his advice to the president on testifying before impeachment investigators would be “heck no.”

Earlier this month, Trump decried the idea of the whistleblower providing written answers to Congress, saying they would be “not acceptable.” Trump refused to supply former special counsel Robert Mueller with live testimony, instead opting to provide written answers to a series of questions related to Russian electoral interference. In his more than 400-page report, Mueller said those written answers were “inadequate.”

[NBC News]

Trump attacks Pence aide who called Ukraine call ‘inappropriate’

President Trump railed against Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer and staffer to Vice President Pence, after she told lawmakers in closed-door testimony that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the center of the impeachment inquiry was “inappropriate.”

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” the president tweeted Sunday afternoon. “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Trump also used the label “Never Trumpers” to attack diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent after they testified in the impeachment inquiry last week.

He also took aim at what he called “Crazed, Do Nothing Democrats” in a tweet moments later, accusing them of “turning Impeachment into a routine partisan weapon. That is very bad for our Country, and not what the Founders had in mind!!!!”

“Republicans & others must remember, the Ukrainian President and Foreign Minister both said that there was no pressure placed on them whatsoever,” he wrote in another tweet. “Also, they didn’t even know the money wasn’t paid, and got the money with no conditions. But why isn’t Germany, France (Europe) paying?” 

On Saturday, House Democrats released a transcript of Williams’s closed-door testimony with lawmakers as part of the chamber’s ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

During her deposition, Williams testified that she has firsthand knowledge of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky as one of the officials on the call.

Williams testified that she found a few references made in the phone call — during which Trump asked Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden as well as the hack of the Democratic National Committee server in 2016 — to be “unusual, and more of a political nature.”

When pressed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) on her feelings about the concerns raised by Trump during the call, Williams testified that she “found them to be more political in nature and, in the context of a foreign policy – or an engagement with a foreign leader, to be more political than diplomatic.”

“Some people would say that diplomacy itself is inherently political, and so everything diplomatic is, by definition, political also, but you had a strong reaction to that. Can you spell out what you saw improperly political about those mentions?” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) asked Williams during her testimony.

“I believe I found the specific mentions to be – to be more specific to the president in nature, to his personal agenda … as opposed to a broad foreign policy objective of the United States,” Williams responded.

“I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold,” she added.

Williams is expected to testify publicly next week as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump.

[The Hill]

Trump attacks ambassador on Twitter as she testifies that his words in Ukraine call made her feel threatened

President Donald Trump lashed out at former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Friday as she testified in a public impeachment hearing that his words about her in a phone call with the Ukraine president “sounded like a threat.”

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump claimed in a two-part tweet blast.

“She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” the president wrote.

The time stamp on the tweet is 10 a.m., 30 minutes after Yovanovitch started her opening statement at the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearing.

Yovanovitch, whose career of service to the U.S. spanned more than three decades, was asked at the hearing about the tweets.

“I actually think that where I served over the years I and others have demonstrably made things better for the U.S. as well as for the countries that I served in,” she said.

“It’s very intimidating,” she added when asked again about the president’s tweets.

“I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Yovanovitch had served the U.S. in Ukraine from August 2016 until May 2019, when Trump ousted her. She testified that she “had no agenda other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals” during her tenure and said she was the victim of a “smear campaign” pushed in part by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Trump, in his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called Yovanovitch “bad news” and offered the cryptic remark that “she’s going to go through some things.”

That call is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether Trump abused his office by asking Zelenskiy to announce investigations involving former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Yovanovitch, who was already removed as ambassador by the time of Trump’s July 25 call, said that Trump’s remark about her “didn’t sound good. It sounded like a threat.”

“It’s not a very precise phrase,” she added. “It kind of felt like a vague threat.”

[NBC News]

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]

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