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Republicans head into election year with seven times cash Democrats have, FEC filings show

By Mary Margaret Olohan

The Republican National Committee heads into the 2020 election year with more than seven times as much cash on hand as the Democratic National Committee, the parties’ FEC filings show.

FEC filings from both parties show the RNC has $63 million in cash on hand compared to the DNC’s $8.3 million, Bloomberg reported. This is more than seven times as much cash on hand as the DNC has, according to Axios.

The RNC in November raised $20.6 million compared to the DNC’s $8 million, FEC filings show. The DNC did not immediately return the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Trending: Buttigieg’s latest: Reparations for (wait for it!) illegal aliens

News of these funds came after the RNC reported more than 600,000 new donors since Democrats began attempting to impeach President Donald Trump.

As the House Judiciary Committee adopted articles of impeachment earlier in December, the Trump campaign and the RNC received over $10 million in small donations, Axios reported. Republicans raised $15 million during the 72 hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in September that the impeachment inquiry would begin.

A quarter of those who register at Trump rallies are either self-described Democrats or independents, an official told Axios, adding that about a quarter of Trump rally registrants are low-propensity voters.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Opinion | The Bipartisan Spending Party

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.


Photo:

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Congress has left town for the year but alas not before another bipartisan spending party that has typified the

Trump

Presidency. The numbers deserve notice because they are likely to have more long-term impact than impeachment.

Lawmakers whooped through $1.4 trillion in discretionary spending for the rest of the fiscal year with little debate or objection. A bipartisan deal on the budget outlines in August was supposed to give Congress time to negotiate 12 individual spending bills, but as usual they couldn’t agree so they piled it all into two bills totalling more than 2,300 pages on Monday. A day later they added a list of tax subsidies, and by Friday it was law. Congress can act fast when it is greasing its own wheels.

The political secret to this bipartisan blowout is that the Republicans get more for defense in return for giving Democrats more for social welfare. An $860 billion national security bill gave President Trump $1.375 billion for his border wall—despite Democratic vows that he’d get none—and modest flexibility in where the wall can be built. The White House also won $738 billion for defense, $22 billion more than last year, and funding to create Mr. Trump’s Space Force.

Democrats cashed in with $555 billion for domestic priorities. They scored $25 million for “gun violence research,” $425 million in election security grants, and more money for Head Start and early childhood education. They increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and Medicaid for Puerto Rico.

Farm state Members added $1.5 billion in disaster relief, on top of the $3 billion Congress passed earlier this year. GOP Senator

Chuck Grassley

delivered a big tax break for Iowa’s biodiesel blenders, and the tax bill also showers largesse on distilleries, race-horse and Nascar owners, short-line railroads, and renewable energy. In return, Republican tax writers were able to pass a small list of “corrections” to their 2017 tax reform.

The only good tax news was agreement to repeal, permanently, three tax increases that Democrats had passed to make the phony ObamaCare numbers look real in 2010. Democrats were keen to repeal the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans. Unions have negotiated rich benefits and don’t want to be taxed on them. Republicans in turn were able to repeal permanently the taxes on medical devices and health insurance.

The Export-Import Bank was reauthorized for seven years, while the egregious federal flood insurance program was extended again through September without reform. West Virginia Senator

Joe Manchin

landed his bill requiring taxpayers to underwrite the pensions and health care of retired coal miners.

Senator

Lisa Murkowski

was able to protect Alaskan salmon from competition. Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

included an earmark for the Presidio Trust, which maintains a San Francisco park. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21.

The Club for Growth notes that the bills increase discretionary outlays by more than $175 billion over last year, and budget watchdogs estimate the higher spending caps Congress agreed to this summer will add $1.7 trillion to the national debt over 10 years. Debt held by the public as a share of GDP is close to 80% and rising, 10 years into an economic expansion.

The budget problem isn’t a shortage of revenue. CBO says tax receipts grew 4% last fiscal year, through September, and 3% in the first two months this year. Economic growth is feeding the Treasury. But spending is growing much faster: 8% last fiscal year, more than four times the inflation rate, and 6% in October and November this year.

In addition to the latest discretionary bills, spending on Social Security (6%), Medicare (6.1%) and Medicaid (9.2%) continue to soar this year. Neither party shows any inclination to do anything about those programs, except expand them. Mr. Trump may yet join

Barack Obama

in the spending record books.

The week’s best and worst from Kim Strassel, James Freeman, Bill McGurn and Dan Henninger. Image: Reuters/AP Composite: Brad Howard

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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AOC: rejecting private, high dollar fundraisers is “called giving a damn”

At a campaign rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders in Venice, California on Saturday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proudly championed Sanders’s refusal to take money from billionaires, saying, “For anyone who accuses us for instituting purity tests, it’s called having values. It’s called giving a damn.”

And on Saturday night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren explained to reporters why she has sworn off high dollar fundraisers despite having held them as candidate for the Senate — an issue that was raised during the sixth Democratic debate on Thursday.

“I saw how this system works,” Warren said in Iowa. “And I decided when I got in the presidential race that I wanted to do better than that.”

The comments marked the continuation of that debate’s tense exchange about how the current Democratic frontrunners — Warren, Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden — fundraise. And they highlight how the question of what kind of voters fuel a candidate’s campaign is becoming an increasingly clear point of differentiation between progressive 2020 candidates and more moderate ones.

The progressive wing of the 2020 candidates — represented by Warren and Sanders — argue that money in politics has an inherently corrupting effect that excludes those without great financial means from the political process. Moderates — represented by Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden — believe that having laxer guidelines for donations is a political necessity not inherently at odds with good governance.

During Thursday’s debate, for instance, Buttigieg pointed out that respected Democratic leaders like President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have utilized high dollar fundraisers. But Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez pushed back against Buttigieg’s stance by telling a story that also seemed to underscore his lack of Washington experience.

“I go into work all the time and I hear people saying, ‘What will my donors think?’” she said. “I see that billionaires get members of Congress on speed dial and waitresses don’t, okay? There’s a difference.”

When Sanders took the stage after Ocasio-Cortez, he echoed this point: “We don’t have a super PAC,” Sanders said. “We don’t want a super PAC. We don’t go to rich people’s wine caves.”

Those wine caves were at the center of Thursday’s argument over fundraising, one that as Vox’s Ella Nilsen explained, had been building for some time.

The wine cave debate, briefly explained

In early December, Buttigieg held a high dollar fundraiser at the Hall Rutherford wine caves in Napa Valley. The fundraiser was exceptionally ritzy. The property owner and event host are billionaires; the chandelier hanging over the wine hall was adorned with 1,500 Swarovski crystals; people who spent $2,800 got access to a “a co-host dinner with Buttigieg.” The event was only partially open to the press.

Sanders and Warren signaled their opposition to the fundraiser ahead of the debate, as as Vox’s Ella Nilsen has explained, which led Buttigieg to complain he was feeling attacked when Warren brought up her grassroots fundraising Thursday.

Buttigieg followed that complaint by stating he wanted to accept money from supporters all different backgrounds.

“This is our only chance to defeat Donald Trump, he said. “And we shouldn’t try to do it with one hand tied behind our back. The way we will win is to bring everybody to our side in this fight.”

“So, the mayor just recently had a fundraiser that was held in a wine cave, full of crystals, and served $900-a-bottle wine,” Warren responded. “He had promised that every fundraiser he would do would be open-door, but this one was closed-door. We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States.”

Buttigieg fired back by declaring that he was the only candidate on the debate stage who isn’t a millionaire or a billionaire, and accused Warren of hypocrisy by pointing out that she has has transferred money from her senate campaign — which was funded in part by the big-ticket fundraisers — to her presidential campaign.

Warren has faced criticism over this choice before — and she did, in fact, transfer funds from her senate campaign to her presidential campaign. And Saturday she began to face questions over a 2018 VIP photo reception she held with premium seating for those who gave $2,700 donations and … a souvenir wine bottle for people who gave $1,000.

Now, like Ocasio-Cortez, Warren is arguing she has the experience needed to understand why high dollar fundraising isn’t a good idea.

“I saw how this system works. And I decided when I got in the presidential race that I wanted to do better than that,” she told the press after a town hall on Saturday. “And that’s why I just quit doing it.”

Warren’s comments also illuminate why the issue of the wine caves became such a topic of debate Thursday, and why Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and the Massachusetts senator herself are still all talking about this days later. The issue is not the wine caves: it is the system, and how that system affects who gets access to politicians, as Vox’s Ella Nilsen has explained:

Campaign finance reform and getting money out of politics is having a moment in the Democratic Party right now. It did in 2016 as well, when Sanders proved that grassroots, small-dollar donations could power a presidential campaign — even one costing many millions of dollars.

That’s true again in 2020, when all Democratic candidates are forswearing corporate PAC contributions and touting their small-dollar donations. Sanders and Warren in particular boast of their grassroots fundraising prowess, and Buttigieg goes out of his way to mention the 2 million donations he’s received from over 700,000 individuals so far this campaign cycle. But on Thursday, Sanders contrasted the number of billionaires who donated to his campaign (zero) to Biden and Buttigieg’s.

Given Buttigieg’s relatively short path to national renown and the case that he’s always been part of an elite class, not being able to speak more openly about his ties to powerful organizations and donors could be problematic the further along he gets in this race. That’s especially the case given that the Democratic base is increasingly skeptical, if not outright adversarial, toward the wealthy and privileged class in the United States.

Beyond the ideological debate the wine caves represent, the issue also is a strategic opportunity for both Warren and Buttigieg to increase their bases of support.

Buttigieg is facing attacks over his campaign finance practices at a moment in which he has strong leads in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire according to polls. He also has soft support according to many of those same polls, which suggest most voters — both in early states and at the national level — have yet to definitively settle on a candidate.

His rivals see this reality as a chance to siphon off some of his support, and polls suggest no one has more to gain from doing so than Warren, who recent surveys suggest is both the second choice of voters in Iowa, and the second choice of many Buttigieg supporters.

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White House spokeswoman: ‘Dangerous’ for Pelosi to hold impeachment articles from Senate

White House spokeswoman Stephanie GrishamStephanie GrishamTrump’s Dingell insults disrupt GOP unity amid impeachment CNN’s Bolduan fights tears, tells Debbie Dingell she’s ‘tired of getting emotional on air’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — Pelosi looks to play hardball on timing of impeachment trial MORE said Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump blasts ‘unfair’ impeachment, ‘extreme leftists’ in speech to young conservatives Sunday shows preview: 2020 race heats up as impeachment moves to Senate Global health is the last bastion of bipartisan foreign policy MORE (D-Calif.) holding on to the impeachment articles is “dangerous” for the country.

Grisham told Fox News’s “Fox & Friends Weekend” that she did not “see any positives” in Pelosi withholding of the articles from the Senate after the House passed them last week.

“I mean, this is dangerous for our country,” she said. “And I think the American people know that. So I think there are no — there is nothing good about anything with this process, let alone her holding on to things.”

The spokeswoman said she believes Pelosi “overplayed her hand,” adding that she thinks the case for impeachment is weak and that the GOP-majority Senate is unlikely to convict President TrumpDonald John TrumpClyburn to White House: ‘I am not going to be intimidated’ Trump to headline event for evangelicals in the new year Brazil’s Bolsonaro says Trump won’t pursue steel, aluminum tariffs MORE

“And she knows that when it gets over to the Senate, there will be actual evidence introduced and actual witnesses that will show even more that this president did nothing wrong,” she said. “So now she’s just going to hold on to these things. It’s like she’s taken her toys and gone home.”

Grisham added that the White House is hoping for a quick Senate trial but is not expecting that right now. 

“It looks like the House Democrats have thrown our country into chaos for absolutely no reason,” she said. 

The Senate will try Trump in January after the House passed two articles of impeachment against him last week. Pelosi has delayed passing along the articles to the Senate, saying that Senate leaders first need to meet to determine the rules for the trial and whether there will be witnesses. 

Senate Democrats are requesting additional witnesses after the White House blocked several key administration witnesses from testifying in front of the House. Republicans argue the Democrats should have ensured they had a stronger case before moving to the Senate.

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William Barr: Analyze this

(Scott Johnson)

With the heat generated by the Pelosi Players performing their impeachment farce in the House of Representatives last week, Martha MacCallum’s interview with Attorney General Barr last week hasn’t gotten the attention it merits. I posted an 18-minutes clip and transcript yesterday in “Barr versus Comey.” In the five-minute clip below (posted here by FOX News), Barr discusses the questionable origin of the Russia hoax and the scope of the Durham investigation. This is an intensely interesting segment.

Watch the latest video at foxnews.com

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Pete Buttigieg’s immigration plan rebukes Trump and calls for an overhaul of the system

Pete Buttigieg released on Sunday an immigration plan that would reverse the Trump administration’s enforcement policies, push for a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, and streamline the process of applying for asylum and other forms of legal immigration.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor is one of the last in the Democratic field to release an immigration plan, and it largely mirrors those of other candidates. It’s now clear that the field has reached consensus on most issues, including ending President Donald Trump’s toughest anti-immigrant policies, creating a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the US, strengthening protections for asylum seekers, and making it easier for immigrants to come to the US legally.

Buttigieg doesn’t have much of a record on immigration compared with candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden, who has had to answer for the Obama administration’s immigration policies.

In the Democratic debates, Buttigieg has talked about his immigrant father, who was born in Malta and came to the US for his doctorate. In South Bend, Buttigieg created a municipal ID program to allow unauthorized immigrants to open bank accounts and fill prescriptions; he also helped create a system of alerting residents of known US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids — but he’s even admitted that “a mayor can’t do much when it comes to immigration.”

Buttigieg has also struggled with Latino voters, one of the largest immigrant populations in the US, though immigration is not the only issue that determines Latino support.

His immigration plan, therefore, is the most detailed window into his thoughts on immigration that he has offered so far. It’s an area of policy in which the president has substantial executive authority, and given that both Trump and former President Barack Obama have exercised those powers liberally, Buttigieg is likely to do the same if elected.

Buttigieg, like Biden, has positioned himself as a moderate Democrat. And also like Biden, he hasn’t embraced some key progressive immigration proposals endorsed by the other frontrunners, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, such as decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings and restructuring immigration enforcement agencies such as US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE.

Although Buttigieg doesn’t explicitly back those proposals, his platform offers other ways to make immigration enforcement more humane, some of which are unique among the Democratic field: He’d prioritize enforcement only for immigrants considered a risk to public safety, limit the use of immigration detention, and change the way immigrants are processed at the border.

What Buttigieg’s plan would do

Under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, he has aimed to prosecute anyone who crosses the border without authorization, including immigrants who pose no public safety risk.

Like other candidates, Buttigieg would instead direct immigration enforcement efforts to individuals who have committed serious crimes, those who have no asylum or humanitarian claims, and those who “circumvent our laws for profit,” including human traffickers and people who exploit immigrant labor.

He would use immigration detention sparingly, instead enrolling immigrants in programs offering alternatives to detention; he would also end for-profit detention facilities, which have been the site of some of the most egregious abuses of immigrants in recent years.

But unlike Sanders and Warren, Buttigieg doesn’t want to overhaul CBP and ICE, which are the primary agencies responsible for arresting and detaining immigrants — he would work within the existing enforcement system, and that means he would be able to rely primarily on executive authority to introduce reforms. But he’s proposing to shift responsibility for processing migrants at the southern border from CBP to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

As the number of migrants showing up at the southern border reached record levels over the last year, CBP started holding them for days or even weeks in processing centers that weren’t designed to house people for more than 72 hours. There have been numerous reports of overcrowding, of migrants going for weeks without showers and sleeping on concrete floors with nothing but mylar blankets to keep them warm.

Instead, Buttigieg said he would create new HHS facilities designed for overnight stays and staffed with people who can deliver medical care (including mental health services), age-appropriate care, and emergency aid. He would also allow outside agencies and watchdog groups to regularly inspect them.

Under Buttigieg’s plan, asylum officers would be allowed to fully adjudicate asylum applications for immigrants in detention, rather than forcing them to go to immigration court to argue their asylum claims — a process that can take months or even years and is more adversarial. Under that process, immigrants would be entitled to a lawyer and would work with legal service providers to make sure they can access counsel.

Buttigieg proposes a revamping of the legal immigration system, too — but that would require bipartisan support from Congress, an unlikely prospect given that gridlock on immigration issues has never been worse.

As part of that goal, however, he would get rid of per-country visa caps, which have made it much more difficult for Chinese and Indian immigrants in particular to immigrate to the US. He would also nix the five-year waiting period for green card holders to obtain health insurance and food assistance, keep the costs associated with applying for citizenship low, and aid immigrant integration by, for example, promoting voter registration at naturalization ceremonies.

Buttigieg has a plan to cooperate with countries in Latin America to reduce the root causes of migration, though it’s not as bold as those of Biden or Warren. He’d reinstate about $450 million in aid to Central America, compared with Biden’s $4 billion over four years and Warren’s $1.5 billion per year. He is, however, one of the only candidates to commit to assisting Venezuelan refugees, who have fled economic and political crisis in their home country.

How Buttigieg would reverse Trump’s policies

Buttigieg’s plan aims to reverse various Trump policies: his travel ban on individuals from seven countries deemed to be security threats, the practice of family separations, and his cap on annual refugee admissions (to a historic low of 18,000), as well as the practice of keeping migrants trapped in Mexican border towns while they wait for decisions on their asylum applications.

He proposes to raise the cap on annual refugee admissions to 125,000 during his first year in office, and says he supports legislation that would set an annual floor of 95,000 admissions. That’s on par with what Biden and Warren have proposed (though Warren has pledged to raise the cap to 175,000 by the end of her first term.) Sanders, by contrast, has vowed to increase the cap, but hasn’t specified a number.

Buttigieg would also reinstate programs offering temporary legal protection to certain immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and extend additional protection from deportation to parents of DACA recipients. Trump has tried to roll back those protections, but court rulings have so far kept them alive.

During Thursday night’s Democratic debate, Buttigieg vowed to not only financially compensate the almost 5,500 immigrant families who were separated as the result of Trump administration policies, but also to offer them a “fast track” to citizenship. Though advocates and Democratic lawmakers have proffered similar proposals, it’s unique among 2020 Democrats so far.

“They should have a fast track to citizenship because what the United States did under this president to them was wrong,” Buttigieg said. “We have a moral obligation to make right what was broken.”

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How an ‘urgent’ tip became ‘high crimes’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The night before the whistleblower complaint that launched President Donald Trump’s impeachment was made public, Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee crammed into the same room to get a first look at the document.

For Democrats, it was an instant bombshell, a “jaw-hit-the-floor sort of moment,” one lawmaker said. Another described sneaking peeks at Republican colleagues to see whether they were having a similar reaction.

But the Democrats in the room didn’t get the reaction they were hoping for from Republicans. And through nearly three months of closed-door depositions, powerful public hearings, and procedural posturing, they never would.

The House’s drive toward impeachment ended last week with a party-line vote. Not a single Republican turned against the Republican president, and his grip on the GOP appeared tighter than ever heading into a Senate trial.

There were brief moments when that outcome seemed less certain.

A series of text message s from Kurt Volker, Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, stirred anxieties in both parties about work being done by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, in the Eastern European country. And one by one, State Department officials, including the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, willingly defied Trump’s orders and provided investigators new details about the scheme.

Even White House advisers conceded they were losing ground in the early days of the impeachment investigation. The administration’s public arguments amounted solely to Trump’s protestations that he had done nothing wrong and that the process was unfair.

But by the time lawmakers streamed into the House chamber last Wednesday to vote on impeachment for just the third time in American history, each side was more hardened in its belief that it was in the right.

This account of how they got there is based on interviews with 21 people directly involved in the matter. Several insisted on anonymity to describe private conversations.

___

It was 7:37 p.m. on a Friday, and most of official Washington had gone home. But Adam Schiff had a subpoena to announce.

In a cryptic statement, released without warning on Sept. 13, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee revealed that a whistleblower complaint was being withheld from Congress by the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.

Schiff, D-Calif., gave no details, but said it was a “matter of urgent concern.” Under the law, Democrats said, the administration had no choice but to turn it over.

Even before Schiff’s subpoena, some members of the House Democratic caucus were agitating for Trump’s impeachment. Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s warnings that they did not yet have an “ironclad case,” the tally of those in favor of a formal investigation had slowly ticked up.

“I feel like we’re struggling to justify not moving forward,” Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., told Pelosi on a private Democratic caucus conference call in April, just days after special counsel Robert Mueller issued his findings in the Russia investigation. Mueller said Trump could not be exonerated on obstruction of justice and left it to Congress to decide what to do.

By early September, a group of Democratic House members was so frustrated by the lack of action on impeachment that they were preparing to hold a news conference to challenge Pelosi publicly, according to one lawmaker involved in the effort. They only called off the drastic step when the Ukraine developments emerged and Pelosi signaled she was going to start an inquiry.

In truth, Pelosi had already quietly signed off on stepped-up investigations into Trump. The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, for example, insisted in August that his committee was in “formal impeachment proceedings.” But it wasn’t clear whether the effort was genuinely impeachment or just an attempt to appease some of the more liberal members of the committee.

Besides, without Pelosi’s public and explicit backing, the impeachment push was going nowhere.

___

By summer, Democratic investigators had taken note of Giuliani’s direct dealings with Ukrainian officials, which he discussed frequently in the media.

The former New York City mayor had for months openly disparaged the American ambassador to Kyiv. All the while, Giuliani promoted uncorroborated corruption allegations against Democrat Joe Biden, the former vice president and current White House candidate whose son Hunter had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

On the morning of Sept. 9, three House committees announced an investigation into whether Giuliani was trying to “manipulate the Ukrainian justice system” to help Trump and “target a possible political opponent.” That same afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee received notification about the whistleblower complaint.

In the days that followed, Schiff’s staff exchanged letters with Maguire, the intelligence chief, and talked to him directly about the complaint. Democrats decided to go public when it became clear that Maguire wasn’t willing to provide the complaint, according to committee aides.

In the complaint, the whistleblower, who worked at the CIA and been detailed to the White House, raised concerns about Giuliani’s dealings with Ukraine. The person specifically flagged a July 25 phone call Trump had with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The central charge, to the committee Democrats, was stunning: that Trump had sought help from Ukraine investigating Democrats, including Biden, ahead of Trump’s reelection bid, and made a White House visit for Zelenskiy contingent upon Ukraine’s willingness to “play ball.” Later, other witnesses would testify that Trump held back military assistance from Ukraine as leverage.

Pelosi, D-Calif., would speak with Trump about the matter hours before launching the impeachment inquiry. He insisted his call with Zelenskiy was “perfect” — a line he would repeat numerous times throughout the investigation.

The speaker vehemently disagreed.

“I was just stunned that the president of United States would engage in such an activity and not even admit that it was wrong,” Pelosi would later tell the AP the day after the impeachment vote. “He had to know it was wrong.”

That afternoon in September, she soberly announced that the House was plunging into an impeachment investigation of the president of the United States.

“The actions taken by the president,” she said, “have seriously violated the Constitution.”

___

As the whistleblower complaint upended Washington, even some of the president’s most ardent allies were on edge.

What had Trump said in the call with Zelenskiy? Who was involved? What had Giuliani been doing abroad? And what had Trump done behind closed doors?

Amid the uncertainty, the White House’s response was muddled. There was little coordinating, no direction offered beyond what Trump doled out on Twitter.

The president himself was irate. For all his criticism of Pelosi, Trump and his advisers have long had grudging respect for her command of the Democratic caucus. They knew she wouldn’t have started the investigation unless she had the votes to impeach.

Yet some in Trump’s orbit argued to him that impeachment would virtually assure his reelection, proving to Americans once and for all that Democrats were motivated by little more than their opposition to his presidency.

Trump, however, wasn’t among them. He raged to allies about the all-but-certain stain impeachment would leave on his legacy, not to mention the wall-to-wall news cycles of criticism.

As was often the case in the Trump White House, his team turned on each other at times. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney complained he was being shut out of the process. Mulvaney’s allies worried that White House counsel Pat Cipollone was angling for his job.

Mulvaney, who had carried out the summertime order to withhold military aid to Ukraine, quickly became a figure of central interest to impeachment investigators. Ordered by the White House to defy a subpoena, Mulvaney briefly considered legal action against the House, but abandoned that idea days later. Democrats still want him as a witness in the Senate’s upcoming impeachment trial.

Amid the early chaos, the White House made a decision: It would release a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy, the one that had spurred the whistleblower complaint. Cipollone and Attorney General William Barr were among those who urged Trump to make the transcript public as a way of bolstering the president’s case that he did nothing wrong.

The transcript was sprinkled with references to Biden and the Democratic National Committee. Trump said Zelenskiy: “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”

____

There was an implicit, if unsaid, directive from Pelosi to her Democrats: Don’t mess this up. There was a sense that Democrats had stumbled by appearing enthusiastic about impeachment, and Pelosi wanted it handled in a somber, serious way.

She put one of her most trusted chairmen, Schiff, in charge of the impeachment investigation. The two consulted often about how to proceed, meeting with other committee heads at least once a week in her office.

From the outset, lawmakers and aides knew that they would have to do the investigation quickly. The goal was always an impeachment vote by Christmas.

They rapidly called in witnesses for private depositions — 17 in all, with 12 eventually testifying in public — who told a largely consistent story of an irregular diplomatic channel in Ukraine as Giuliani became involved and Trump pushed for the investigations of Democrats.

Volker, the Ukraine special envoy, was up first for a closed-door deposition in early October. He brought with him a cache of text messages with other diplomats that plainly revealed that the officials were scrambling to clean up as Giuliani and Trump pushed Ukraine to announce the investigations. The texts gave investigators names of other potential witnesses and a sequence of events.

Democratic lawmakers privately debated whether the committee should release Volker’s texts publicly. One lawmaker urged staff to put them out immediately, before the White House try to classify them retroactively.

The impact of the texts was “seismic,” another lawmaker said. In one of the texts, the top official in Ukraine at the time, William Taylor, said it was “crazy” to withhold military aid from Ukraine for help with a political campaign.

Volker would eventually testify publicly, one of several officials to appear during five days of televised hearings. Lawmakers and aides believed that the decision by Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, to defy Trump’s orders and testify emboldened other witnesses to appear.

In the public hearings, the witnesses at times seemed made for TV. White House aide Alexander Vindman came in full military uniform to describe his discomfort as he listened into Trump’s call. Trump’s envoy to the European Union, Gordon Sondland repeatedly described the administration’s dealings with Ukraine as a quid pro quo — one thing in exchange for another. Former White House aide Fiona Hill described a “domestic political errand” that had upended Ukraine policy.

To bolster their case, Republicans moved one of Trump’s most ardent defenders, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, onto the House Intelligence Committee temporarily.

___

At first, Trump resisted the notion of a “war room” to organize on impeachment. There were few substantive reasons for that decision, other than Trump not wanting to give Democrats the satisfaction of knowing he was concerned.

But White House advisers knew they needed more defenses; congressional Republicans, after all, were telling them so.

By the time public hearings began, the White House was on steadier footing, ready to launch the same kind of online assault it had perfected during the contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

On Nov. 13, the morning of the first open hearing, Mulvaney, Cipollone and senior adviser Jared Kushner walked over to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to work alongside the nine members of the White House research staff.

As the Intelligence Committee gaveled into session, the research team launched its opening salvo. One, two, ten emails came in quick succession, blasting Democrats and trying to undercut the witness testimony by highlighting their closed-door comments.

The initial flurry was described internally as “shock and awe.” It was meant as a signal to Trump’s Republican allies that it was time to fight back.

Trump’s allies on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were now working in tandem. Jeff Freeland, the White House’s point man on the Hill for the hearings, provided guidance to the war room on what Republican lawmakers needed during the hearings.

By the afternoon of the first hearing, the White House believed for the first time it was making progress. Some of the same Republican lawmakers who had been vocally critical of the West Wing effort were using the White House’s talking points in their questions of witnesses.

_____

After two weeks of public hearings, not a single Republican was publicly or privately committed to impeaching Trump. That wasn’t an accident.

The top Republican vote-counter, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, was waging a careful campaign to unify Republicans in Trump’s defense, keeping in close contact with members. Weekly impeachment meetings had begun in early October, and they quickly drew a crowd, with Republicans gathering to hear presentations from key lawmakers and Trump allies such as Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, a handful of Democrats were wavering on impeachment, but far from enough to hold off a vote.

Two articles of impeachment seemed sure to pass — abuse of power for soliciting election help from Ukraine, and obstruction of Congress for rebuffing subpoenas for testimony and documents.

But some of the more liberal members of the House Judiciary Committee tasked with drafting the articles wanted a third, based on Mueller’s report. This was the time, they argued, to hold Trump accountable for all of his worst perceived offenses.

But several moderate Democrats opposed the idea, arguing that Ukraine was a cleaner case: Trump had asked a foreign leader to help investigate a Trump political rival and then the president had blocked Congress’ efforts to investigate that.

A group of them — the same freshmen who had written an op-ed that helped tip the scales in favor of impeachment — called Pelosi while she was on a trip to Spain to make the argument for fewer articles.

The articles were introduced later that week. There were only two.

____

On Wednesday, December 18, 2019, Trump was impeached for what Democrats considered “high crimes and misdemeanors” as laid out in the Constitution.

The House voted 230-197 on the first charge, 229-198 on the second, with one Democrat voting “present” each time.

The articles are expected to eventually head to the Senate for a trial, where he is nearly certain to be acquitted. But Pelosi is waiting to send them, for now, to try and gain leverage for what Democrats consider a fair trial.

Addressing a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, as the impeachment votes were cast, Trump called the Democrats’ actions “depraved” and a “mark of shame.” He said it didn’t even feel like he was being impeached.

“He’s impeached forever because he violated our Constitution,” Pelosi told the AP. “He gave us no choice.”

___

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo, Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman, Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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Ukraine aid blocked soon after Trump’s phone call with Zelenskiy, emails show | US news

It took only about 90 minutes after Donald Trump’s infamous July telephone call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy for White House officials to order the Pentagon to freeze military funding for Ukraine, according to newly-released government emails.

The correspondence, published by the Center for Public Integrity, appears to show that Trump appointees acted quickly after the call, behind the scenes, to block Ukrainian aid from the Pentagon.

The emails appear to confirm that the aid was held up soon after Trump pressured Zelenskiy on the call to “do us a favor, though”. That request prompted an American whistleblower who heard details about the call to complain, which in September triggered the entire impeachment inquiry.

Worried intelligence experts assessed that the president was pressing a foreign leader to investigate Trump’s US political rivals, specifically 2020 candidate Joe Biden, in return for vital military assistance for Ukraine’s armed resistance to Russian aggression on its border. Critics of the president have called that a threat to US national security and the integrity of US elections.

There were calls from prominent Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Amy Klobuchar this weekend for the author of the reported emails, Mike Duffey, associate director for national security programs at the Office of Budget Management, to testify in the Senate during Trump’s expected impeachment trial next year.

While House Democrats and Senate Republicans are this weekend in a standoff over terms for the next steps of the impeachment process, Klobuchar said on Sunday in CNN’s State of the Union politics news show that “I think there will be an agreement on this and the trial will go forward.”

A July email from Duffey to Pentagon officials, said: “Based on guidance I have received and in light of the administration’s plan to review assistance to Ukraine, including the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process.”

Klobuchar then read a portion of Duffey’s email out on air, while denouncing Trump’s efforts to block witnesses from testifying in the impeachment investigation so far and in the expected Senate trial, which has led to a charge of obstruction of Congress against him.

She said: “We just found out this weekend that someone who works for Mick Mulvaney, Mike Duffey, he sent an email 90 minutes after the president made the critical call to the Ukraine president … we have it here, we just found it,.”

She read out that Duffey’s email continued: “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute direction.”

Mulvaney is Trump’s acting chief of staff and someone whom Democrats are fiercely keen to testify to Congress. He confirmed in a White House press briefing in October that Trump had demanded a quid pro quo in his contacts with Zelenskiy, though he urged the media and critics to “get over it”.

Schumer tweeted that the email was “all the more reason why we need Duffey and others to testify in a Senate trial”.

The new documents “reveal how quickly the White House moved to cut off
military aid to Ukraine,” Susan Smith Richardson, chief executive
officer of the Center for Public Integrity, said in a statement.

On Sunday, Marc Short, chief of staff to vice-president Mike Pence told NBC’s Meet the Press that the timing of the email from Duffey was just a coincidence.

This prompted scathing comments on Twitter from legal scholar Lawrence Tribe, and George Conway, Trump critic and husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

George Conway
(@gtconway3d)

so many coincidences https://t.co/m5BAkLdOHz


December 22, 2019

The impeachment process is currently in limbo after articles of impeachment – effectively congressional charges against the president – were agreed last week in the House but have not yet been officially delivered to the Senate as required by protocol.

In a showdown with the Republican-controlled Senate, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, has delayed the handover of the articles saying she wants an agreement on a fair trial and the calling of witnesses.

Asked by CNN host Dana Bash on Sunday if the Senate trial could go ahead without an agreement to call witnesses, Klobuchar said she thought matters would be resolved and “the trial will go forward”.

She added: “What is shocking to me is that right now despite the president claiming innocence and saying he wants to present witnesses, he is the one blocking witnesses.”

Trump has refused to allow senior White House and administration officials, including his Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, to testify to the impeachment inquiry or cooperate with producing documents. That has led to one of the two articles of impeachment against Trump being obstruction of Congress. The other is abuse of power, over his dealings with Ukraine.

After the Duffey emails were released, Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of Budget Management, which was included in the email chain, told the New York Times: “It’s reckless to tie the hold of funds to the phone call.”

OMB officials informed other agencies about a Ukraine aid freeze on 18 July, but the first official action to withhold Pentagon funds came on 25 July. The timeline of events that day show Trump and Zelenskiy’s call lasted from 9.03am to 9.33am and then the email from Duffey is time-stamped 11.04am.

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Trump invites Johnson to White House in new year – British media

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has invited British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to visit him in the White House in the new year, British media reported on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump at the NATO leaders summit in Watford, Britain December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Pool

Trump’s invitation was made after the British prime minister’s election win this month, The Sunday Times newspaper reported. Britain wants to strike a new trade deal with the United States after it leaves the European Union at the end of January.

“Some potential dates have been floated in mid-January but nothing has yet been formally agreed. But it is clear that both sides want to make it happen some time in early 2020,” the Sunday Times quoted a source close to the White House as saying.

A spokesman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said the reports were “speculation”. “We will respond to any formal invitation, but anything less than that is speculation,” he said.

Johnson is reluctant to make the visit before delivering Brexit on Jan. 31 and would prefer to go after a cabinet reshuffle scheduled in February, when he is expected to appoint cabinet office minister Michael Gove as his new trade negotiator, The Mail on Sunday reported.

That could allow Johnson to take Gove on the U.S. visit ahead of talks of a post-Brexit trade deal, according to the report.

Some Downing Street insiders, however, have concerns about a visit by Johnson due to fears the prime minister could be dragged into Trump’s ongoing impeachment proceedings, the Sunday Times reported.

Johnson won approval for his Brexit deal in the British parliament on Friday, the first step towards fulfilling his election pledge to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union by Jan. 31.

As Britain prepares to leave the bloc, Johnson and Trump agreed in a phone call last Monday to pursue an “ambitious” UK-U.S. free trade agreement.

After Johnson’s election win on Dec. 12, Trump had said Britain and the United States were now free to strike a “massive” new trade deal after Brexit.

“This deal has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the EU,” Trump had said in a tweet earlier this month.

The White House declined to comment on the reported invitation to Johnson.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Paul Sandle in London and Timothy Ahmann in Washington; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore/Sam Holmes/Susan Fenton

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SNL’s cold open turned the 6th Democratic debate into the Jerry Springer show

Saturday Night Live spoofed last weeks’ sixth Democratic debate in its opening sketch, poking fun at the fracas caused by a barb from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren about South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s wine cave fundraiser, and having President Donald Trump barge onto the stage in a Jerry Springer-like confrontation.

Moderator Judy Woodruff, played by Heidi Gardner, introduced the sixth debate with a nod to the stage’s decreased diversity — only one candidate of color, businessman Andrew Yang, met the participation criteria this time around.

“Just like the Bachelor,” Gardner said, The further we go the less diverse it gets.”

As the debate kicked off, SNL used the candidates’ introductions to spoof their personalities.

Warren, played by Kate McKinnon, jumped with enthusiasm. “I’m here and I am in my element — PBS is my safeword!” McKinnon declared. “Last debate I gave you policy TMI and now I am ready to walk it back.”

Pete Buttigieg, played by Colin Jost, was overly self-conscious. “It’s wonderful to be here tonight, but I have to warn you tonight I will be in attack mode — as long as that’s okay with you guys,” Jost said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, played by Rachel Dratch, was bursting with new confidence following an appearance in November’s debate that was not roundly praised. “Tonight my voice will be as solid as my carefully rehearsed Midwestern mom jokes,” Dratch said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, played by Larry David, was cantankerous and to the point: “I’m Bernie Sanders, I’m white, can’t help it, let’s move on.”

And former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, played by Fred Armisen, showed up place of businessman Tom Steyer (who, unlike Bloomberg, took part in the real life debate), calling it a “classic billionaire switcheroo.”

“For 30 million dollars PBS is now owned by viewers like me,” he said contentedly. “Look, I even got a tote bag.”

The wine cave controversy

After the introductions, the sketch focused on a skirmish that broke out at the real debate over Buttigieg’s recent high-dollar fundraiser at the Hall Rutherford wine caves in Napa Valley. Two of his rivals, Warren and Sanders, have eschewed high-dollar fundraisers; Buttigieg and Biden, however, have embraced them.

On SNL, Warren described the fundraiser as “basically eyes wide shut minus any sex appeal whatsoever.”

“I’ve never been to a wine cave, I haven’t even been to a Filene’s Basement: too much shimmer and shine,” McKinnon added.

Buttigieg retorted: “I’m the only person on this stage who isn’t a millionaire or a billionaire. I live on my mayor’s salary plus a $20 a week allowance from my parents — and that’s only if I do my chores.”

Klobuchar then interjected. “The only cave I ever go to is a man cave — I call it the Senate,” she said. “For more of these classic zingers please check out my stand up special Land of 10,000 Laughs, only on Costco+ streaming services.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, played by Jason Sudeikis, then rushed to Buttigieg’s defense, while also celebrating his own coherence.

“Quit picking on Lil’ Bo Pete over here okay, kid’s trying his best!” Sudeikis’s Biden said. “Speaking of, have you noticed how I’m playing with almost a full deck of cards tonight? I haven’t even told a long rambling story yet!”

As the debate descended into chaos, a candidate who has exited the race — California Sen. Kamala Harris, played by Maya Rudolph — glides onto the stage with a martini.

“I was just in the neighborhood,” she said. “But while I’m here, I just want to show you how good you could have had it America.”

In the final part of the skit, Gardner’s Woodruff tells the candidates that Trump has been backstage all along. Trump, played by Alec Baldwin, then marches onto the stage (with large clip-on earrings) blustering about impeachment. “You think I’m afraid?” Baldwin says. “What are they gonna do impeach me?”

Biden challenges Trump to a push-up contest — “first gotta do one wins” — but it’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, played by McKinnon, who closes in on Trump with the decisive strike.

“I brought you two gifts Mr. President,” she says, holding up a gift bag. “They’re the articles of impeachment.”