Each day in the run-up to the first 2020 U.S. presidential primaries, former Vice President Joe Biden faces rhetorical attacks — not just from his Democratic rivals for the party’s nomination, but from Republicans looking to weaken his chances of facing President Trump in the general election next November.
On Friday, a new voice took a swipe at Biden. Officials in North Korea called him a “rabid dog” that “must be beaten to death with a stick,” according to the Associated Press. It was the latest blow the rogue country has targeted against foreign leaders it views as hostile to the rule of Kim Jong Un.
The commentary by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Biden “reeled off a string of rubbish against the dignity” of the North’s supreme leadership, an act it said deserves “merciless punishment.”
The editorial referred to Biden (or sometimes “Baiden”) using only his surname and as the man who served as vice president under Barack Obama.
Back in May, however, the North correctly spelled Biden’s name when it labeled him a “fool of low IQ” after he called Kim a tyrant during a speech.
The reclusive country often insulted foreign leaders and politicians when it sees what it considers slanderous remarks aimed at its leaders or hostile policies against its government. In addition, the North has made racist or sexist diatribes against Obama and former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, the country’s first female leader.
The North reversed this policy concerning President Trump, however, when the nation’s 45th president made diplomatic overtures to Kim in 2018, resulting in three summits. Prior to the overtures, the North Koreans referred to Trump as a “dotard.”
“Anyone who dare slanders the dignity of the supreme leadership of the D.P.R.K, can never spare the D.P.R.K’s merciless punishment whoever and wherever,” said the North Korean statement, referring to the country by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Rabid dogs like Baiden [sic] can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about,” the statement continued. “They must be beaten to death with a stick, before it is too late,” it said.
It wasn’t immediately clear which of Biden’s comments provoked North Korea’s anger. He’s accused Trump of cozying up to “dictators and tyrants” and has been highly critical of his summits with Kim, calling the meetings “three made-for-TV summits.”
Speculating further, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency believes North Korea’s Biden insults were an appeal to Trump, who has continued to describe his personal relationship with Kim as good despite a stalemate in nuclear negotiations over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament steps.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
The Trump administration announced a plan Friday that would require hospitals to disclose negotiated rates with insurance companies in an effort to increase transparency for consumers.
Under the final rule, hospitals would also be required to publicly show the cost and description of a specific item or service online in an “easily-accessible” way.
The policy put forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “will require hospitals to provide patients with clear, accessible information about their ‘standard charges’ for the items and services they provide, including through the use of standardized data elements, making it easier to shop and compare across hospitals, as well as mitigating surprises,” HHS said in its announcement.
The rule is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, according to HHS, so hospitals have time to comply with the new policies. And if hospitals fail to comply, they could ultimately face fines.
“President Trump has promised American patients ‘A+’ healthcare transparency, but right now our system probably deserves an F on transparency,” Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary, said in a statement.
Calling the policy “revolutionary” for the healthcare system, Azar also said Friday’s announcement “may be a more significant change to American healthcare markets than any other single thing we’ve done, by shining light on the costs of our shadowy system and finally putting the American patient in control.”
The administration also announced a proposed rule on Friday that “would require most employer-based group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group and individual coverage to disclose price and cost-sharing information to participants, beneficiaries and enrollees upfront.”
HHS said this proposed rule would allow consumers to compare prices by offering “real-time, personalized access to cost-sharing information.”
Additionally, as part of the proposed rule, health care plans would be required to put the “negotiated rates for in-network providers and allowed amounts paid for out-of-network providers” on a public website.
However, opponents of the rules argue they could confuse consumers and ultimately drive up costs.
“Unfortunately, the rules the administration released today will not help consumers better understand what health services will cost them and may not advance the broader goal of lowering health care costs,” said Blue Cross Blue Shield Association President and CEO Scott Serota.
Serota added in his statement that “clinicians and medical facilities could see in the negotiated payments a roadmap to bidding up prices rather than lowering rates.”
The Trump administration previously pushed to increase transparency in the healthcare industry – in May when HHS also announced that drug makers would be required to disclose their list prices in television advertisements.
“Under the status quo, healthcare prices are about as clear as mud to patients,” said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma in a statement.
Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, a longtime career diplomat, was serving as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine last spring when she was abruptly ordered home and told that she had lost the confidence of the president. President Donald Trump in a subsequent phone call to Ukraine’s president called her “bad news” and said “she’s going to go through some things.”
On Friday, she got the chance to tell her side of the story as part of the ongoing House impeachment inquiry.
Here are three takeaways:
Trump tweeted against Yovanovitch mid-hearing, Dems accuse him of trying to intimidate the witness
At one point in the hearing, Trump lobbed tweets aimed at her testimony, claiming that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”
He noted correctly that the new Ukrainian president “spoke unfavorably about her” in Trump’s phone call with him and that it is his absolute right to put anyone he wants in the job of ambassador – something Yovanovitch herself acknowledged in her testimony.
“Would you like to respond to the president’s attack that everywhere you went ‘turned bad’?” California Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asked Yovanovitch.
“I don’t think I have such powers,” she said, adding that she believes her and her colleagues have made the places she’s been “demonstrably better.”
Schiff later told reporters he thought Trump’s tactic was “witness intimidation.” During the hearing, he asked Yovanovitch whether such tweets might discourage others from coming forward with allegations of wrongdoing.
“Well, it’s very intimidating,” she said.
“It’s designed to intimidate, is it not?” Schiff asked.
“I mean, I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do,” she said. “But I think the effect is to be intimidating.”
Yovanovitch says she had three contacts with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and remains in the dark as to his motives.
One allegation in the impeachment inquiry is that Giuliani — acting on behalf of the president — sidelined American diplomats and official U.S. policy to pursue a widely debunked theory that corrupt Ukrainian politicians interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help the Democratic candidate, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. In the July 25 phone call to Ukraine’s newly elected president, Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate the claim, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
(While some Ukrainian politicians did support Clinton over Trump in largely public ways, U.S. intelligence and a bipartisan Senate inquiry found that Russian operatives — at the behest of their government — engaged in a far more widespread, invasive and secretive campaign to sway voters in support of Trump.)
According to Yovanovitch, Russian President Vladimir Putin, could have been trying to “throw off the scent” that Russia was behind election interference and create an “alternative narrative” that Ukraine was to blame.
As for Giuliani, who embraced the Russian-backed theory, Yovanovitch said she only had contact with Trump’s lawyer three times and not involving the allegations at hand. She also testified that she never received a request from Democrats to protect Hunter Biden, nor did she try to prevent corruption investigations inside Ukraine.
“I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me, not can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me,” she said. “Clearly no one at the State Department did.”
Yovanovitch added, “What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect — coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Yovanovitch warned that corrupt foreigners will try to exploit the U.S. unless diplomats are supported.
In her opening statement, Yovanovitch described her job in patriotic and inspiring terms. She described being deployed to unsettled countries and thrown into dangerous situations as a diplomat serving the U.S. without the protection of body armor or weapons. In Ukraine, she described going to its border with Russia 10 times to wave the American flag to make clear that the U.S. opposed Russia’s efforts to expand its empire.
Yovanovitch alleged that Trump’s handling of U.S. policy puts America at risk. She warned that the State Department is being “hollowed out from within” and called on its leadership to “stand up for the institution” – a necessary tool in U.S. policy to prevent armed conflict.
She said diplomats also try to convince foreign states to root out corruption and embrace democracy.
“Sometimes we get people really angry with us,” Yovanovich said. “It’s uncomfortable, and we are doing our jobs.”
She later added, “And if they realize that they can just remove us, they’re going to do that.”
Over the course of his nearly two-year-long probe, special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors have now indicted 34 individuals and three Russian businesses on charges ranging from computer hacking to conspiracy and financial crimes.
Those indictments have led to seven guilty pleas and five people sentenced to prison.
Here’s what you need to know:
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort faced charges in two separate federal courts on a slew of financial crime charges related largely to his lobbying work in Ukraine.
A jury found Manafort guilty on eight of 18 counts he was tried within the Eastern District of Virginia, with the judge declaring a mistrial on the other ten. The guilty charges included multiple counts of false income tax returns, failure to file reports of foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud.
Manafort was charged with an additional seven counts in the District of Columbia and pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and to witness tampering in the D.C. case. As part of the plea agreement, Manafort also admitted his guilt on the remaining counts in his Virginia trial. He was sentenced to 81 months in prison for both cases and is currently serving his term. Read more here.
Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign official and longtime business associate of Paul Manafort, was charged in two separate federal courts in connection to financial crimes, unregistered foreign lobbying and on allegations that he made false statements to federal prosecutors. Gates pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C. in February 2018 on counts of conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal prosecutors. As part of his plea agreement and cooperation with the Mueller probe, he avoided a slew of financial charges in the Eastern District of Virginia that included assisting in the preparation of false income taxes, bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy and false income taxes. His charges are intimately tied to those of Manafort. In the Eastern District of Virginia, the two were indicted jointly. He is expected to be sentenced in December. Read more here.
The special counsel issued three separate indictments against Manafort. In the third, prosecutors implicated Kilimnik for the first time, charging him with conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice. These charges concern communications between Manafort and Kilimnik regarding messages they exchanged with two journalists who were potential witnesses in the case against them. Though Kilimnik has been indicted, he remains outside of the reach of U.S. law enforcement. Read more here.
In his dramatic and surprise guilty plea in U.S. District Court on Dec. 1, 2017, early in Mueller’s investigation, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn acknowledged that his false statements and omissions in FBI interviews a few days after Trump was sworn in “impeded and otherwise had a material impact on the FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the campaign and Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election,” which the statement of offense he agreed to said.
He specifically admitted to lying about asking the Russian ambassador to refrain from responding to Obama administration sanctions against Russia for its election interference and further requested Russia help block a United Nations vote on Israeli settlements which the incoming administration didn’t agree with. Flynn also agreed that he lied about his lobbying activities in federal filings related to work on behalf of the Republic of Turkey throughout the 2016 campaign. Flynn is awaiting sentencing. Read more here.
The seven counts against President Donald Trump’s longtime friend and veteran political operative Roger Stone include one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements — including lying to Congress — and one count of witness tampering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
The charges brought by Mueller’s office largely revolve around false statements Stone is accused of making to the House Intelligence Committee regarding his communications with associates about Wikileaks. He also stands accused of witness tampering in connection with humorist and radio show host Randy Credico’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. In Stone’s 24-page indictment, Mueller painted perhaps the clearest picture yet of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Stone was convicted on all counts on Nov. 15 and faces up to 50 years in prison. Read more here.
Michael Cohen, President Donald J. Trump’s former personal attorney and long-time fixer, pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to Congress, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. In December, a federal judge in New York sentenced Cohen to three months in prison on the false statements charge to be served concurrently with a three-year sentence he received for other crimes committed in the Southern District of New York. He is serving his sentence. Read more here.
On July 13, 2018 special counsel Robert Mueller took direct aim at the Russians who allegedly were personally responsible for infiltrating the Democratic National Committee’s computer system, among others, setting in motion what former intelligence officers call one of the most effective active measures campaigns in history. The defendants are charged with Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States, Aggravated Identity Theft and Conspiracy to Launder Money. Read more here.
George Papadopoulos, the novice, unpaid foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump was secretly arrested for lying to FBI investigators about his correspondence with foreign nationals with close ties to senior Russian government officials. His indictment was revealed to the public after he pleaded guilty in October 2017. In September 2018, Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days incarceration, 200 hours of community service and a $9,500 fine. Read more here.
In April 2018, Dutch national Alex van der Zwaan became the first person sentenced in special counsel Robert Meuller’s Russia investigation in federal court in Washington. Earlier that year, he had pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates in September 2016. He reported to prison in May 2018 and was released the next month. Read more here.
He hasn’t declared his candidacy for president – yet – but Mike Bloomberg’s already going up with a massive digital ad campaign targeting President Trump.
Fox News confirmed that the former New York City mayor and billionaire business and media mogul will spend $100 million to run digital ads starting Friday that target the Republican incumbent in the White House. The ads will run in the crucial general election battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona.
BATTLE OF THE BILLIONAIRES: STEYER JABS AT BLOOMBERG
“We’re very clear: A case that we make for Mike is that he is the best candidate to take on Trump, and one of the reasons he is the best candidate is he can take the fight to him immediately and robustly,” said Howard Wolfson, a top Bloomberg political adviser, in a statement first provided to the New York Times.
The ads come as Bloomberg has taken concrete steps toward running for the White House. He filed to place his name on the ballot in Arkansas on Tuesday, hours ahead of that state’s presidential primary filing deadline. A week ago, Bloomberg’s name was placed on the primary ballot in Alabama an hour ahead of that state’s filing deadline.
A Bloomberg aide told Fox News that “Mike isn’t waiting to take on the president, he’s starting now. This is all hands on deck.”
The ads – which aides say will run through the end of the presidential primary season, even if Bloomberg ends up not running for the White House – do not feature him beyond the legally required disclaimers.
A digital ad by Mike Bloomberg that’s part of a $100 million digital ad campaign in four crucial general election battleground states
One of the ads – shared by Bloomberg’s team – featured a visual of a Trump tweet behind copy that read “A tweet shouldn’t threaten our country’s security.”
THE LATEST FROM FOX NEWS ON THE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
The ads may be aimed at blunting criticism by Democrats that Bloomberg’s money would be better spent on targeting Trump than on his own White House aspirations.
And the ads seem to hint that if Bloomberg moves forward and declares his candidacy, he would be willing to spend whatever it takes to defeat the president.
The Trump campaign, in responding to the digital ad buy, took aim at Bloomberg and his record governing New York City.
“Bloomberg can spend all the money he wants, but it won’t tarnish the president’s record of results for the American people, and it can’t repair his disastrous tenure as mayor of New York City,” Ali Pardo, Trump campaign deputy communications director, told Fox News.
FILE PHOTO: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, attends the annual Allen and Co. Sun Valley media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., July 12, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire media mogul who continues to weigh a run for the Democratic nomination for president, will launch a $100 million online ad campaign targeting Republican President Donald Trump, an advisor confirmed.
Bloomberg has not said whether he will run for president, but has qualified as a candidate to appear on the primary ballots of two states. The moderate former mayor of New York City would have a tough fight to win the primary that began in earnest in the spring and has allowed possible rivals to campaign for months already.
The online advertisements Bloomberg is funding, which have not yet run but are slated to begin Friday, will target four states: Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The advertisements are slated to run through the primary season, regardless of whether Bloomberg decides to run for president, the aide confirmed. The details were first reported by The New York Times.
Those four states are considered some of the closest and most hotly contested in the primary contest. Trump won all four in 2016, but public opinion polls have shown that he is vulnerable there in the 2020 election when he will stand for reelection.
Bloomberg pumped millions of his own dollars in the 2018 midterm elections to help Democrats across the country.
The crowded field of Democrats vying for president has largely been focused on the primary contest. Should Bloomberg run, he would join the crowded field, entering tied for fifth place.
Bloomberg’s public flirtation with a run, after saying in March that he would not seek the nomination, came days before former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced his late entry into the Democratic field.
Democrats have grown increasingly concerned that while their party try to sort out their primary and pick a nominee, Trump will be able to gain ground in contested general election states. The president’s reelection campaign has started spending heavily in online advertising, using the war chest he has already begun to amass to target general election voters.
Bloomberg’s ad buy could serve as a buffer, an effort to offset Trump’s advantage.
Reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Nick Zieminski
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
President Donald Trump trashed his former ambassador to Ukraine on Twitter Friday as she testified on Capitol Hill as part of an impeachment inquiry into the president’s behavior.
“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted about the ambassador, who was removed from her post in Ukraine earlier this year.
A career foreign service officer, Yovanovitch previously served as ambassador to Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and she has worked in U.S. diplomatic missions across the world, including Mogadishu, Somalia.
“She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Trump said. “Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him.”
Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. 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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
The president tweeted as the ambassador testified before the House Intelligence Committee, and soon after, the committee’s chair, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., read the tweets aloud.
A visibly shaken Yovanovitch said Trump’s tweets were “very intimidating.”
Speaking to reporters during a break in the hearing, Schiff said Trump is “once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her but to show others who may come forward.”
“We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction inquiry very serious,” Schiff added.
In his tweet, Trump also defended Yovanovitch’s dismissal by noting he had the “absolute right to appoint ambassadors.”
“They call it ‘serving at the pleasure of the President,’” he wrote.
Earlier, the White House said Trump would watch the opening statement by the top Republican on the committee, Devin Nunes, but suggested he would tune out during the rest of the hearing, which would have included Yovanovitch’s actual testimony.
“The President will be watching Congressman Nunes’ opening statement, but the rest of the day he will be working hard for the American people,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Friday morning.
On Jan. 25 in a pre-dawn raid FBI agents, at special counsel Robert Mueller’s direction, swarmed the Florida home of President Donald Trump’s longtime friend and veteran political operative Roger Stone. Stone was arrested on a seven-count indictment in connection with Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Accused: A friend of President Trump’s since the late 1970s, Stone, who has taken credit for persuading Trump to get into politics, served as an adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign but left amid controversy in 2015.
The youngest person to testify in the Senate Watergate hearings at the age of 20, Stone — who is known for — among other things — a tattoo of Nixon’s face on his back — was profiled in a 2016 Netflix documentary, “Get Me Roger Stone,” which focused on his eccentric political career and painted him as the original architect of Trump’s political career.
In addition to his decades-long friendship with Trump, Stone worked as a GOP political operative for Presidents Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He partnered with embattled former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort at the political consulting firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly throughout the 1980s.
The Formal Charges: The seven counts against Stone include one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements — including lying to Congress — and one count of witness tampering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
The charges brought by Mueller’s office largely revolve around false statements Stone is accused of making to the House Intelligence Committee regarding his communications with associates about Wikileaks. He also stands accused of witness tampering in connection with humorist and radio show host Randy Credico’s testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. In Stone’s 24-page indictment, Mueller painted perhaps the clearest picture yet of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Alleged Crime: The special counsel’s indictment comes amid scrutiny about the self-described “dirty trickster” and his alleged contact with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in the summer of 2016. Stone has told ABC News multiple times that he had never met or spoken with Assange and had no intermediary providing a back channel to communicate with the controversial Wikileaks founder. The special counsel describes Stone as a conduit between the campaign and Wikileaks, which disseminated internal Democratic National Committee emails in the summer of 2016. Mueller has accused 12 Russian intelligence officers of hacking those emails, and it’s the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community that those Russians “relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.”
An unidentified “senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [Wikileaks] had regarding the Clinton Campaign,” the special counsel’s office wrote in its indictment of Stone. “Stone thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [Wikileaks].”
Mueller’s indictment stops short of accusing Trump, or anyone in his campaign, of colluding with the Russians or of having foreknowledge of the content of stolen documents prior to publication.
The Response: During his arraignment in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 29, Stone entered a plea of not guilty. He was convicted of all counts on Nov. 15 and faces up to 50 years in prison, although sentencing guidelines will likely be lower.
President Donald Trump’s longtime friend and onetime campaign adviser, Roger Stone, was convicted in the only remaining case from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Jurors have returned a guilty verdict on all of seven counts including five counts of lying to Congress, one count of witness tampering and obstruction of a proceeding. Stone had pleaded not guilty and maintained his innocence throughout his trial in Washington, DC.
Prosecutors asked that Stone be remanded pending sentencing, citing his issues with abiding by court orders since his indictment. Stone’s defense pushed back, arguing he has not broken the condition of his release.
Stone’s sworn testimony in September 2017 before the House Intelligence Committee forms the basis for most of the charges in his seven-count indictment, which includes allegations he misled the committee on several key elements of their probe. Stone was also charged with witness tampering by urging his former associate, Randy Credico, to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights before the committee.
With the closure of Stone’s case, so ended another chapter in the special counsel’s investigation. Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors investigated Russian interference during the 2016 election and President Trump’s efforts to undermine their probe for nearly two years.
Mueller brought the charges against Stone in January. Stone pleaded not guilty to them all, and once vowed he would be “vindicated” at trial.
Shortly after Stone’s conviction, President Trump responded on Twitter, “So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie? ….A double standard like never seen before in the history of our Country?”
So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come. Well, what about Crooked Hillary, Comey, Strzok, Page, McCabe, Brennan, Clapper, Shifty Schiff, Ohr & Nellie, Steele & all of the others, including even Mueller himself? Didn’t they lie?….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2019
None of the above mentioned individuals have been charged with lying under oath as Stone was, but a Department of Justice Inspector General report from last year about the firing of FBI’s former deputy director Andrew McCabe accused McCabe of “lacking candor” in interviews under oath with federal investigators.
In effect, the special counsel’s probe culminated in a 448-page report made public in March. But Stone’s case has remained a loose thread stemming from the nearly two-year investigation.
To that end, the trial of Roger Stone has introduced several new pieces of information about what the special counsel examined as part of its probe, including the most detailed view to date of how the Trump campaign responded to WikiLeaks’ role in disseminating information hacked by the Russians.
Former Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon, who took the stand last week, described Stone as the Trump campaign’s unofficial “access point” to WikiLeaks. Rick Gates, the onetime Trump campaign deputy chairman, testified Tuesday about how the campaign responded to information Stone provided them about WikiLeaks, including multiple senior-level “brainstorming” sessions on a number of matters, including how the campaign would respond to future Wikileaks document dumps.
“The campaign was in a state of happiness” when WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in July 2016, Gates said. “Any time you’re in a campaign and damaging information comes out about your competitor, it’s helpful.”
Gates, who pleaded guilty to charges brought by Mueller’s office, has been a central cooperating witness for the special counsel’s team.
Gates testified that his boss at the time, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, instructed him to keep in touch with Stone so that the campaign, and the candidate himself, could be kept abreast of WikiLeaks’ activities. Gates also recalled overhearing a phone call between Stone and then-candidate Trump on July 31, 2016, after which Trump told him “more information would be coming.”
Prosecutors showed an email from Stone to Gates requesting contact information for Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, then a senior adviser to the campaign, one day after news broke that the Democratic National Committee’s server had been hacked by Russians in June of 2016.
Prosecutors did not allege that Stone and Kushner ever actually met.
Stone’s trial was punctuated by an appearance from New York-based comedian and radio host Randy Credico, whose testimony included references to 1950s-era television advertisements and impressions of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The most damning charge Stone faced was witness tampering in connection to his interactions with Credico, who he told congressional investigators was his conduit to WikiLeaks.
Stone faces up to 50 years in prison according to the statutory maximum, but legal experts have told ABC News the actual sentence is likely going to be much lower.
Earlier this year, just days after Stone was indicted, President Trump said in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation that he has not thought about pardoning Stone.
“I have not thought about it. It looks like he’s defending himself very well,” Trump said when asked about the possibility of Stone’s pardon.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday President Donald Trump already has admitted to bribery in the Ukraine scandal at the heart of a Democratic-led inquiry, accusing him of an impeachable offense under the U.S. Constitution.
“The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into the elections. That’s bribery,” Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, told a news conference the day after the first public hearing in the impeachment inquiry she announced in September.
“What the president has admitted to and says it’s ‘perfect,’ I say it’s perfectly wrong. It’s bribery,” Pelosi said.
Democrats are looking into whether the Republican president abused his power by withholding $391 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Kiev to conduct two investigations that would benefit him politically. The money, approved by Congress to help a U.S. ally combat Russia-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country, was later provided to Ukraine.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Another central figure – former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch – is due to testify on Friday in the second public hearing in the inquiry.
White House budget official Mark Sandy will testify in the inquiry in a closed session on Saturday as scheduled if he is subpoenaed, his lawyer said on Thursday.
The inquiry threatens Trump’s presidency even as he seeks re-election in November 2020. If the House approves articles of impeachment – formal charges – against Trump, the Senate would then hold a trial on whether to convict him and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Trump’s removal.
Pelosi’s comments could offer a preview of articles of impeachment Democrats might put forward. At her news conference, she also said Trump’s administration had committed “obstruction of Congress” by blocking testimony of officials summoned to testify in the inquiry.
The Constitution states that impeachable offenses include “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Democrats have begun to use the words bribery or attempted bribery in discussing Trump’s actions. According to precedent, obstruction could be another article of impeachment.
Republicans have said House Democrats already have decided to pass articles of impeachment, but Pelosi denied that was the case, saying the inquiry must play out before any decision can be made.
The focus of the inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and the former vice president’s son Hunter, who had served as a board member for a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma. Trump also asked Zelenskiy to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory embraced by some Trump allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
Pelosi compared Trump’s actions with former President Richard Nixon’s conduct in the Watergate corruption scandal that led him in 1974 to become the only U.S. president to resign. Pelosi said Trump’s actions to enlist a foreign power to help him in a U.S. election and the obstruction of information about that – she called it a cover-up – “makes what Nixon did look almost small.”
Republicans kept up their attacks on Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which is holding the public hearings. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy accused Schiff of lying at Wednesday’s hearing about not knowing the identity of the whistleblower within the U.S. intelligence community whose complaint about Trump’s call triggered the impeachment inquiry.
An estimated 13.8 million viewers across 10 broadcast and cable television networks watched the first day of proceedings, according to Nielsen ratings data.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wields the gavel as the U.S. House of Representatives cast their votes on a resolution that sets up the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 31, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Two career U.S. diplomats, William Taylor and George Kent, testified on Wednesday. Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, offered an account that linked Trump more directly to the pressure campaign on Ukraine.
The Intelligence Committee is due to hear on Friday from Yovanovitch, whom Trump abruptly removed from her post as ambassador to Ukraine in May. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was working at the time to persuade Ukraine to carry out the two investigations.
Yovanovitch told lawmakers behind closed doors on Oct. 11 that Trump ousted her based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives” after she came under attack by Giuliani.
On Wednesday, Taylor offered a new disclosure that indicated Trump’s keen interest in the investigations in Ukraine, saying a member of his staff overheard a July 26 phone call at a restaurant in which Trump asked about the probes the president had asked Zelenskiy to conduct a day earlier.
After the call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, a former political donor appointed as the U.S. envoy to the European Union, the staff member asked Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine, Taylor said.
“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor testified.
Republican lawmakers called Taylor’s account hearsay.
A second staffer for the U.S. Embassy in Kiev overheard the phone call between Trump and Sondland, the Associated Press reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed source briefed on the situation.
Trump told reporters after the hearing that he knew “nothing” about the call with Sondland.
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The staffer cited by Taylor is David Holmes, a Taylor aide who has been subpoenaed to testify in the inquiry on Friday behind closed doors, said a person familiar with the issue.
Democrats are aiming to settle the question of Trump’s impeachment before the end of the year.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Karen Freifeld; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Morgan in Washington and Matthias Williams in Kiev; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney
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