The TAKE with Rick Klein
President Donald Trump is asking his party to defend him even as his rising threats are increasingly more indefensible.
In a tone unique to Trump and his Twitter account, the president has raised the possibility of arresting the House Intelligence chairman for treason, suggested punishments could be in order for the whistleblower, and retweeted an ally who said impeachment could lead to “a Civil War like fracture.”
Trump is following the playbook he used to discredit Robert Mueller and his investigation. But the consequences are potentially more serious during an impeachment inquiry, as the scattered Republican voices less than steadfast in their support are making clear.
Former Sen. Jeff Flake is telling his ex-colleagues that this is the moment to make a clear break and at least oppose reelection if removal is too strong.
“Trust me when I say that you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul,” Flake wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
Republicans would like to keep the focus on impeachment itself, by arguing that the evidence to remove a president from office simply isn’t there.
“There’s not something that you have to defend here,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told “60 Minutes,” completely dismissing Democratic accusations.
It’s the president, though, who is making that a difficult argument to stand behind. He runs the risk with every tweet of creating more that will need defending and explaining.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
The final day for Democratic presidential candidates to qualify for the next debate, scheduled for Oct. 15 and hosted by CNN and the New York Times, is Tuesday.
The Democratic National Committee and its partners announced their intention to hold the debate on one night, even though 12 candidates claim to have passed both the polling and fundraising benchmarks.
The group includes businessman Tom Steyer and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, neither of whom qualified for the last debate in September and would be new faces on a single stage.
At this point, no other campaigns seem close to meeting the thresholds for this month’s showdown. If those 12 are certified, it will be packed podiums for sure, but also a real reckoning for candidates who continue to come up short.
The TIP with Adam Kelsey
Despite recent polling that shows his campaign losing ground to Elizabeth Warren and continuing to trail Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders set the tone for Q3 fundraising Tuesday morning, announcing a massive $25.3 million haul — a number that eclipses Warren’s combined Q1 and Q2 and leaves the Vermont senator with more than $61.5 million in receipts on the year.
Perhaps even more noteworthy is the number of individual donors that Sanders continues to attract — his campaign announced last month that it eclipsed the 1 million unique contributor threshold faster than any presidential candidate in history.
And though Biden, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg — who announced a Q3 take of $19.1 million of his own early Tuesday morning — continue to attract headlines (many of them negative in this progressive era) for their participation in closed-door fundraisers, Sanders and Warren remain steadfast in their commitment to small-dollar donors. Sanders’ average contribution sits at $19 and the campaign claims only 0.1% of its donors have maxed out at $2,800.
It remains to be seen whether $25.3 million is yet another Sanders number soon to be surpassed by Warren, but in the interim it’s clear that he and his army of supporters have the money to fight all the way through July 2020.
ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Tuesday morning’s episode features ABC News Chief National correspondent Terry Moran, who explains why Attorney General William Barr has been talking to foreign governments about the Russia investigation. Then, ABC News’ Katherine Faulders tells us how Republicans are positioning themselves amid the ongoing impeachment inquiry. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
Billionaire Tom Steyer campaigns across Iowa, with stops in Sioux City, Storm Lake and Manila starting at 9 a.m.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, holds a town hall at the Nashua Public Library theater in Nashua, New Hampshire, starting at 10 a.m. Later, she holds another town hall at the Rockingham County Democratic regional office in Londonderry at 6 p.m.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s presidential campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, is holding a conference call with reporters at 11:30 a.m. to discuss the road ahead, after the campaign reached its needed $1.7 million goal to stay in the race.
Former Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., attends town meetings in Portsmouth, Raymond and Hampton, New Hampshire, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline for the 2020 Democratic candidates to qualify for the fourth Democratic primary debate. So far, 12 2020 candidates have qualified for the debate, according to an ABC News analysis, which CNN and The New York Times will co-host on Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio.
Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Democrats investigating whether to impeach President Donald Trump on Monday issued a subpoena to his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, seeking documents related to dealings with Ukraine by Oct. 15.
The Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee issued the subpoena in consultation with two other House panels and said in a statement that Giuliani had acknowledged on television that he asked the government of Ukraine to “target” former Vice President Joe Biden.
Democrats have been moving quickly since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last Tuesday that she was formerly launching an impeachment inquiry. On Friday, the three committees announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been subpoenaed, and depositions scheduled for five other State Department officials.
On Monday, Giuliani was asked to hand over documents related to Trump’s effort to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymry Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, a top contender for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump as the Republican president seeks re-election in 2020.
“Our inquiry includes an investigation of credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the President in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the Office of the President,” the committee chairmen said in a letter to Giuliani.
They said Giuliani had stated that he had evidence such as text messages and telephone records, indicating that other Trump administration officials might have been involved in the scheme to put pressure on Ukraine to become involved in the 2020 election.
Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said letters were also sent seeking documents and setting deposition dates for three Giuliani associates, including businessman Lev Parnas and real estate investor Igor Fruman, who, according to various media accounts, helped introduce Giuliani into top Ukrainian political circles.
>Slideshow (2 Images)
A letter was also sent to Semyon “Sam” Kislin, a Ukrainian immigrant who has had business ties to Trump and served on Giuliani’s city economic development corporation when Giuliani was mayor of New York.
Parnas’ deposition was set for Oct. 10, Fruman’s for Oct. 11 and Kislin’s for Oct. 14.
In a letter, the committees asked the three to advise them by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, about whether they intended to comply with their requests for documents and to appear for the deposition.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Alistair Bell
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on July call between Trump, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was listening in on the controversial July call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, multiple sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
During the call, which took place on July 25, Trump repeatedly pressed Ukraine’s president to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The call generated a complaint from an anonymous whistleblower, who believed the president abused his office calling for the investigation into his political rival. News of the complaint, and the White House’s release of a summary of the call, has prompted an impeachment inquiry.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.
The State Department has not responded to a request for comment on whether Pompeo was on the call.
Pompeo did not respond to general questions about Ukraine or Giuliani during a photo opportunity with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar Monday afternoon.
He appeared on “This Week” on Sept. 22, when he made no mention of being on the call with Ukraine’s president when asked about it. He said he had not seen the whistleblower’s complaint.
“I think I saw a statement from the Ukrainian foreign minister yesterday, said there was no pressure applied in the course of the conversation,” Pompeo told Martha Raddatz at the time. “I do think if Vice President Biden behaved inappropriately, if he was protecting his son and intervened with the Ukrainian leadership in a way that was corrupt, I do think we need to get to the bottom of that.”
The secretary of state left Monday evening for a week-long trip to Europe, including stops in Italy, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece.
Pompeo has also not said whether the department will comply with House Democrats’ subpoena over information related to the call by the Friday deadline, or whether its five senior officials will show up for their depositions.
Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard called out her party rivals for trying to cash in on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s presidential impeachment inquiry.
“Candidates for POTUS who are fundraising off ‘impeachment’ are undermining credibility of inquiry in eyes of American people, further dividing our already fractured country,” the Hawaii congresswoman said on Twitter. “Please stop. We need responsible, patriotic leaders who put the interests of our country before their own.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock have emailed supporters with petition links that lead to a donations page; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has released a number of impeachment advertisements on social media, according to ABC News.
Democrats recently announced a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump over a whistleblower’s claim that the president, who’d put a freeze on millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, improperly pushed that country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, during a July phone call to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Hunter Biden served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma as his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kiev. Trump has claimed that Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to shut down a corruption investigation of Burisma. The former vice president has denied doing anything wrong.
Gabbard had been reluctant to join Democrats in supporting impeachment.
She reversed her position a few days later.
“…After looking carefully at the transcript of the conversation with Ukraine’s president, the whistleblower complaint, the inspector general memo, and President Trump’s comments about the issue, unfortunately, I believe that if we do not proceed with the inquiry, it will set a very dangerous precedent,” she said. “Future presidents, as well as anyone in positions of power in the government, will conclude that they can abuse their position for personal gain, without fear of accountability or consequences.”
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia offered assistance in May for U.S. President Donald Trump’s investigation of the origins of a damning report about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a letter reviewed by Reuters shows.
FILE PHOTO: Australia’s Treasurer Joe Hockey holds a news conference after a meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors during the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in Washington October 10, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The New York Times said Trump had asked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the help, in hopes of discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s campaign to aid Trump in winning the 2016 national election.
An Australian government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the two leaders spoke by telephone in September.
Trump’s request, however, was preceded by an Australian offer of help, with its ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, writing to U.S. Attorney-General William Barr in May to offer Canberra’s assistance.
“The Australian government will use its best endeavors to support your efforts in this matter,” Hockey wrote in a May 28 letter, referring to Trump’s May 24 announcement of plans to investigate the origins of the FBI investigation.
Trump is under mounting pressure amid an impeachment investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives into reports that he sought to influence foreign governments to go after his political adversaries.
The Democratic-led House began the inquiry last week after a whistleblower raised concerns that Trump tried to leverage nearly $400 million in proposed aid for Ukraine in exchange for an investigation of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Trump in the 2020 election.
While the impeachment investigation threatens Trump’s grip on power, his standing with voters remains soured by the Mueller report, which was triggered by former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer.
Downer was allegedly told in 2016 by George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign aide, that Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Downer reported the details of the conversation, which Papadopoulos denies, to the FBI.
(This story has been refiled to fix spelling of “Mueller” in headline, text)
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Rudy Giuliani (right) wipes his brow July 9, 2018, as Donald Trump introduces Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty)
Rudy Giuliani never seems to be one who’s at a loss for words, and now House Democrats are demanding he tell all by sharing key documents with lawmakers as part of its impeachment probe.
On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Giuliani as part of its impeachment inquiry into Giuliani’s client Donald Trump, Politico reports.
Lawmakers, according to the news site, want Trump’s personal lawyer to turn over all “text messages, phone records, and other communications” that could explain how what seems to be a demand for quid-pro-quo came to be made by Trump to the president of Ukraine during a July phone call.
And as the Los Angeles Times reports, House Democratic leadership in the impeachment probe have no plans to take no for an answer from Giuliani:
“Our inquiry includes an investigation of credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the president in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the office of the president,” the three [chairmen], Rep. Adam B. Schiff [(D-Calif.)], who heads the Intelligence Committee; Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), who heads the Oversight Committee, wrote in a letter to Giuliani.
If Giuliani does not comply, the chairmen warned, it would “constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry,” and perhaps become fodder for articles of impeachment against Trump.
At issue is a July phone call Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky. During the call, transcripts of which the White House released last week, Trump appeared to demand help from Zelensky in digging up dirt on Trump Democratic rival Joe Biden in return for Trump releasing to Ukraine millions of dollars in foreign aid.
As the Los Angeles Times explains, Trump kept Giuliani’s name in his mouth during the call:
Trump repeatedly cited Giuliani’s role during a 30-minute phone call on July 25 with Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky, according to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House last week.
When Zelensky asked to buy U.S. anti-tank weapons to help fend off Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, Trump responded by asking for a “favor.”
He urged Zelensky to “look into” Biden, a potential opponent in the 2020 election whose son previously served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. He also complained about CrowdStrike, a California-based cybersecurity company that worked with Democrats in the 2016 campaign and is the subject of conspiracy theories involving Ukraine.
In both cases, Trump said Giuliani would call Zelensky or his aides to discuss his requests. “Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy,” Trump said, according to the White House account.
House Democrats have set an Oct. 15 deadline for Giuliani to comply with their request. Whether he will do so is the question. As Politico reports:
In a statement to Politico, Giuliani said: “I have received a Committee subpoena from three Committees of the House. It raises substantial constitutional and legal issues as well as attorney-client and other privileges. These and other issues must all be considered before a proper decision can be made.”
As for Trump, on Monday, he was raging on Twitter about the Intelligence Committee chair, Schiff, saying he should be arrested for treason.
And he continued to be on the hunt for who dropped dime on him, telling reporters, per Politico,
“we’re trying to find out” the identity of the whistleblower, even though he or she is entitled to anonymity under federal law.
That suggestion has opened Trump up to allegations of witness intimidation.
The Trump campaign is spending millions to push counter impeachment messaging — dropping more than $1 million on Facebook last week as House Democrats moved forward with their inquiry.
As President Donald Trump faced criticism last week over a July phone call with Ukraine, which led House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to advance the impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign’s Facebook ad spending ballooned. Trump’s reelection team dropped a total of $1.1 million between Sept. 22-28, according to Facebook’s political ad transparency reports.
The Trump team’s aggressive anti-impeachment Facebook ad campaign dwarfs its total Facebook ad spending throughout the first three weeks of September, which was just over $640,000, according to digital firm ACRONYM’s analysis of Facebook’s ad data.
The increase in ad spending also comes on the heels of the end of the third fundraising quarter on Monday.
Trump’s ads featured messaging that echoes arguments made by the president and his allies to discredit the impeachment effort, while also fundraising off the president’s latest perilous crisis.
One ad argues the impeachment push has “nothing” to do with the president but is instead a way for Democrats to silence and intimidate Trump voters. “They want to take YOUR VOTE away,” reads one ad. Other ads launched familiar attacks against the president’s 2020 Democratic rivals. “The BIG GOVERNMENT SOCIALISTS like Sleepy Joe, Crazy Bernie, and Pocahontas know they can’t win,” one ad reads.
“If Democrats outraise us, they will be able to dominate the airwaves with their crazy IMPEACHMENT WITCH HUNT,” another add reads.
Since Democrats moved forward with an impeachment inquiry, the president has tweeted similar arguments against impeachment. “The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!” the president tweeted Monday.
The ads also ask supporters to donate to the campaign in order to join an “Impeachment Defense Task Force” — a tactic that’s helped the campaign and the Republican National Committee raise $15 million as of Sept. 27.
The Trump campaign did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Last Friday, the campaign announced a $10 million ad blitz pushing back on impeachment, $2 million of which is coming from the RNC. The RNC told ABC News that this ad is the committee’s first television ad buy in eight years. Ads began airing Sunday in 25 to 50 House districts.
CAPITOL HILL – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plays interdimensional chess. She must satisfy the demands of both liberal and conservative Democrats while taking on President Trump, anticipating political moves before they happen.
Queen to Rook 5. Knight to King 3. Maneuvering a knight deep into enemy territory, able to move in eight directions.
But, some lawmakers were taken aback at Pelosi’s move to fully back an impeachment inquiry.
“It is a colossal error,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said of the push by House Democrats to impeach Trump. “I’m kind of surprised that Speaker Pelosi, as shrewd as she is, would let it get to this point.”
Did Pelosi, D-Calif., misstep? Fail to read the tea leaves?
“We have to strike while the iron is hot,” she told a meeting of House Democrats last week.
Pelosi clearly was unwilling to move too precipitously or prejudge alleged transgressions by the president on a host of subjects for months. This came as liberals mounted a robust push to impeach Trump once Democrats secured control of the House in the 2018 midterms. But, it’s hard to believe Pelosi didn’t suspect where this may have gone. After all, she had not declared that impeachment was “off the table” like she did in 2006 with then-President George W. Bush.
If the House was going to impeach the president, Pelosi needed clarity, something succinct and comprehensible. All of the other “noise” about Trump’s conduct may have been reprehensible and beneath the dignity of the president in the eyes of the speaker, but sources familiar with her thinking said those potential misdeeds weren’t worthy of impeachment.
At a new conference this past May, Pelosi said the president “is almost self-impeaching.” There was a supposition that Pelosi suspected Trump – at least from her vantage point – may commit a misstep so egregious that impeachment would be inevitable. That’s why Pelosi never slammed the door to impeachment the way she did in 2006. Moreover, some people close to the speaker said she suspected House Democrats might come around to impeachment.
Typically, congressional leaders have held certain views which weren’t reflected by their rank-and-file members. Being a congressional leader means seeing around corners, anticipating where your own members may be, or subtly convincing those members to come around to your viewpoint, without them even realizing they’re been influenced. But, those close to Pelosi doubted she really wanted to impeach Trump. After all, this would hijack the Democrats’ message of health care, prescription drugs and background checks for guns.
It would have been toxic for Pelosi to push impeachment actively just a few months ago. More importantly, it would have been more perilous yet for Pelosi to put vulnerable, rank-and-file Democrats in an awkward position on impeachment. However, Pelosi clearly knew how her members could “educate” their constituents into supporting a given measure. She also knew that “events” sometimes would dictate outcomes.
So, Pelosi bided her time. Yes, impeachment could come with downfalls, but it was possible even moderate Democrats representing swing districts might eventually flip the impeachment switch.
The memo and the notes from the phone call on Ukraine provided that clarity to House Democrats and Pelosi.
“This movement was organic,” said one House Democrat about the sudden groundswell from some Democrats representing districts friendly to the president. “There was no collaboration.”
On the other hand, liberal Democrats already supported impeachment and were getting antsy for the leadership to do something. That posed a risk to Pelosi on the other side of the party spectrum.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., sounded almost desperate about the state of play on impeachment as she walked down the Capitol steps a week-and-a-half-ago.
“We need to do the work,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “My worry is that if we allow [Trump] to get away with it… by not impeaching, we are saying it is okay for future presidents to do this.”
Pelosi knew she faced increasing pressure from liberals to move. And, sources close to the speaker told Fox News that Pelosi was concerned about not doing the right thing. There would be political consequences for not acting, too. But, Fox News was told the whistleblower complaint was all the speaker needed.
A team of freshman House Democrats who served in the intelligence community and military – and who transferred districts from red to blue – penned an op-ed in the Washington Post. They called for an impeachment inquiry.
Some analysts said the dam broke. The tide rose. They crossed the Rubicon. Whatever the metaphor, dozens of Democrats then joined the call for a formal impeachment inquiry or to actually impeach Trump.
It was clear to Pelosi that she had the support to move ahead. Her announcement simply reflected the view of her caucus, and not just because Democrats wanted to impeach Trump because they didn’t like him. Rather, Pelosi viewed potential efforts to interfere with the 2020 presidential election as a bridge too far.
“I feel that I am being vindicated,” boasted Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, who has tried multiple times to impeach Trump on the floor. “This is being driven by history now. I don’t think that we have control. I think that events have taken control.”
Pelosi’s announcement buoyed Ocasio-Cortez. When asked if it took too long to launch the impeachment inquest, the New York Democrat replied, “at this point, it doesn’t matter. We’re moving forward with it now.”
Ocasio-Cortez added “that the party is now much more unified” over impeachment since it was no longer a fight between wings of the House Democrats.
BARR ASKED TRUMP TO SPEAK TO OTHER COUNTRIES IN DURHAM PROBE, OFFICIAL SAYS, AMID PUSHBACK TO NY TIMES REPORTING
But, not everyone was on board.
When asked if he backed the House’s new posture just minutes after Pelosi’s announcement, Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, replied: “I’m trying to figure that out. I don’t want the country torn apart.”
Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a freshman Democrat, won his seat after former Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican, retired. Trump had carried the district by five points.
Van Drew said he did not “support impeachment,” but he would not call the impeachment movement “a mistake.”
Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J., also claimed what had been a GOP district in the Garden State for decades. She was one of the freshmen with national security bona fides who wrote the Washington Post op-ed favoring impeachment. President Trump narrowly carried her district in 2016.
Could impeachment put Sherrill in electoral jeopardy?
“You know, it might,” replied Sherrill. “But, we really felt there was a line that had been crossed.”
Sherrill noted that the “Republicans I’ve spoken to in my district have been very supportive.”
In a twist, Pelosi’s decision to move an impeachment probe could actually boost moderate Democrats including Schrader and Van Drew if they ultimately oppose impeachment. Pelosi’s maneuver would present them with a foil. Conservative Democrats could put distance between themselves, the speaker and progressives such as Green and Ocasio-Cortez. Those conservative Democrats could argue they opposed such an extreme tactic as impeachment – and maybe even vote against articles on the House floor.
This has been the interdimensional chess facing Pelosi in her caucus. Anyone who tells you where this is really going doesn’t truly know. It may, as Cornyn asserted, manifest itself as a “colossal error,” or it may be turn out to be quite an astute move. There are always risks for impeachment, but the first waters Pelosi had to successfully navigate were the dangerous shoals of her own caucus.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives’ impeachment probe into President Donald Trump intensified on Monday, as Trump raged about the inquiry and news reports suggested he had used additional diplomatic channels to go after his adversaries.
Three House committees said a subpoena for documents had been sent to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor had said on television he asked the government of Ukraine to “target” former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Trump in the 2020 election.
Giuliani said in a tweet the subpoena raised legal issues including attorney-client privilege. “It will be given appropriate consideration,” he added.
The Democratic-led House initiated an impeachment inquiry against Trump last week after a whistleblower report raised concerns that Trump tried to leverage nearly $400 million in U.S. aid in exchange for investigating Biden from Ukraine’s leader in July.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took part in the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which the matter was discussed, the Wall Street Journal reported, something likely to draw the attention of House investigators.
The New York Times reported that Trump had sought the help of another world leader, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, with a U.S. Justice Department probe into the origins of what became Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In a recent telephone call, Trump asked Morrison to assist Attorney General William Barr with the probe, which Trump hopes will discredit Mueller’s now-closed investigation, the Times reported.
“The Democrats clearly don’t want the truth to come out anymore as it might hurt them politically, but this call relates to a DOJ inquiry publicly announced months ago to uncover exactly what happened,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in response to the Times story.
An Australian government spokesperson said in an email:
“The Australian Government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation. The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the President.”
Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials in Britain and Italy to seek their assistance as well with that investigation, the Washington Post reported.
In the Giuliani document request, the chairmen of three House committees said he had “stated more recently that you are in possession of evidence – in the form of text messages, phone records, and other communications – indicating that you were not acting alone and that other Trump Administration officials may have been involved in this scheme.”
He was given until Oct. 15 to respond.
SUPPORT FOR IMPEACHMENT RISES -POLL
A Sept. 26-30 Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found that 45% of American adults believed Trump “should be impeached,” compared with 37% in a similar poll that ran last week. Forty-one percent said Trump should not be impeached and 15% said they “don’t know.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on Monday to put to rest speculation he would use his position to derail any impeachment effort by the Democratic-led House by avoiding a trial at all. The Republicans control the Senate and have been largely muted about the allegations and inquiries into fellow-Republican Trump.
If the House approves bringing charges, known as “articles of impeachment,” against a president, the process moves to the Senate, where there would be a trial.
“I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell told CNBC. “Under the Senate rules, we are required to take it up if the House does go down that path. “The Senate impeachment rules are very clear.”
Trump spent much of the day directing his ire at the Democrat leading the House inquiry, suggesting on Twitter that U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, should be arrested for “treason.”
Later, speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump accused Schiff of distorting his conversation with Zelenskiy at a House hearing last week.
“Adam Schiff made up a phony call and he read it to Congress and he read it to the people of the United States and it’s a disgrace,” Trump said.
In those comments, Schiff said the call to Zelenskiy “reads like a classic organized crime shakedown” and parodied the president’s remarks.
A spokesman for Schiff did not respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks.
TRUMP SEEKS WHISTLEBLOWER’S IDENTITY
A U.S. intelligence official filed a whistleblower complaint citing the July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
The whistleblower has not been publicly identified, but Trump said on Monday that “we’re trying to find out about a whistleblower. We have a whistleblower who reports things that were incorrect.”
U.S. President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremonial swearing-in for Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Trump has also accused the whistleblower and White House officials who gave the whistleblower information of being spies and suggested they may be guilty of treason.
“The Intel Community Whistleblower is entitled to anonymity,” Andrew Bakaj, an attorney for the whistleblower, said on Twitter shortly after the president’s remarks. “Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.”
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday called on the committee’s Republican chairman, Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, to convene hearings to investigate the administration’s handling of the whistleblower’s complaint, and said the panel should act to “protect witnesses from intimidation.”
“This Committee should not sit idly by as the President threatens potential witnesses, whose testimony may be crucial to congressional investigations into credible allegations against him,” the Democrats wrote in a letter to Graham.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she wants to move “expeditiously” on the impeachment inquiry, perhaps paving the way for an impeachment vote on the House floor early next year.
While McConnell said on Monday that he would be forced to hold a trial, he did not commit to letting it run its full course.
“How long you’re on it is a whole different matter,” McConnell told CNBC.
According to a Senate Republican leadership aide, any senator could attempt to have the articles dismissed in the early stages of the trial, which would trigger a vote with a majority of the Senate needing to be in favor for it to succeed.
Democrats accuse Trump of pressuring a vulnerable U.S. ally to get dirt on a rival for personal political gain. The phone call with Zelenskiy came after Trump froze nearly $400 million in aid intended to help Ukraine deal with an insurgency by Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country. The aid was later provided.
Schiff said on Sunday he expected the whistleblower to appear before the panel very soon.
The U.S. Congress is on a two-week recess but members of the Intelligence Committee will return to Washington this week to carry out an investigation likely to produce new subpoenas for documents and other material.
The committee is scheduled to hold a closed-door hearing on Friday with the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who has concluded that the whistleblower complaint was of urgent concern and appeared credible.
House investigators are set to take the first witness testimony from two people mentioned in the whistleblower’s complaint.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump spaeks to reporters after arriving aboard Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S. September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
On Wednesday, three House committees – Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight – are due to get a deposition from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump labeled “bad news” during his call with Zelenskiy.
On Thursday, the committees are set to get a deposition from Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as Trump’s special representative for Ukraine after the whistleblower complaint named him as one of two U.S. diplomats who followed up with Ukrainian officials a day after Trump’s call to Zelenskiy.
Reporting by David Morgan and Roberta Rampton and Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu; Writing by James Oliphant; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
In an indictment unsealed Monday, the Department of Justice alleges that a naturalized U.S. citizen was working with the Chinese government as a “courier” for information about the U.S. government on behalf of China.
The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California charged Edward Peng, 56, with one count of acting as a foreign agent by transmitting secure digital, or SD, cards through “dead drops.”
The dead drops were allegedly directed by Beijing in coded language.
Dead drops are “a method of spy craft used to pass items or information between two individuals using a secret location, thus not requiring them to meet directly, so as to maintain operational security,” according to the indictment.
The government alleges the drops happened between June 2015 and July 2018 and the government shared video of the alleged drops.
“It is important to understand that we believe that Edward Peng, who is a U.S. citizen who has been living in the United States, has been knowingly working as a courier for the Chinese government,” John Bennett. the FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco field office, said at a press conference.
“In this role, Peng has engaged in several clandestine operations to facilitate the delivery of information from the United States to the MSS (Ministry of State Security) Intelligence officers in China,” Bennett continued.
The indictment says that Peng completed six dead drops on behalf of the Chinese government — first at a hotel owned by a retaliative and then at a hotel in Columbus, Georgia.
The SD cards that Peng distributed contained “classified information,” according to the indictment. Peng was allegedly paid between $10,000 and $20,000 to make the drops.
The government alleges that Peng, a tour guide and sight-seeing operator in San Francisco, would go into hotel rooms in Georgia and California and ask for a hotel key left for “Ed.”
Then, the government alleges that once inside the room, the SD card was stored in a container similar to a “cigarette pack” placed by a double agent, someone who was really working for the United States.
Once Peng picked up the package, he would fly back to China with the SD card dropped off by a source.
“The confidential human source chose to report MSS’s engagement with him to the FBI and chose to cooperate in this criminal investigation. As alleged in the complaint, the defendant in this case made the wrong choice, the defendant chose to work as a secret agent for the MSS’s spy network,” U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David L. Anderson said at a press conference.
Peng and the Ministry of State Security handler would often speak in code on the phone — such as referring to an upcoming trip to China as a trip with the “educational company.” In a drop in Georgia, Peng flew from California to make the drop and collected $20,000, according to the government.
“Peng was observed taking large sums of money from a hotel dresser drawer and removing a hidden disc from the dresser, which contained information intended for the Chinese government,” Bennett said.
Peng is due in court on Oct. 2.
The Justice Department has stepped up its enforcement of cases related to China.
In January, Chinese company Huawei and Skycom were charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, among other charges. Huawei and Huawei USA are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice related to a grand jury investigation in the Eastern District of New York.
Huawei Chief Fiancial Officer Meng Wanzhou is charged with bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud, then-then-acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker said at a news conference.