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Trump, who wanted a TV legal team, is ‘distracted’ by impeachment trial, source says

“Why are they doing this to me,” the source quoted Trump as saying repeatedly, telling people around him this weekend at Mar-a-Lago that he “can’t understand why he is impeached.”

Trump has been telling associates and allies around him that he wanted a “high profile” legal team that can perform on television, the source said. It’s simply who Trump is, the source continued, adding Trump loves having people who are on television working for him.

This in part may explain why Kenneth Starr and Alan Dershowitz were added to the legal team representing the President.

House Democrats on Saturday released their argument for why Trump should be removed from office by the Senate in the upcoming impeachment trial.

The Democrats filed to the Senate their trial brief, a summary explaining why the House passed two articles of impeachment last month charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“President Trump’s conduct is the Framers’ worst nightmare,” the managers wrote in the brief.

“President Donald J. Trump used his official powers to pressure a foreign government to interfere in a United States election for his personal political gain, and then attempted to cover up his scheme by obstructing Congress’s investigation into his misconduct,” the managers wrote in the brief. “The Constitution provides a remedy when the President commits such serious abuses of his office: impeachment and removal. The Senate must use that remedy now to safeguard the 2020 U.S. election, protect our constitutional form of government, and eliminate the threat that the President poses to America’s national security.”

Trump’s legal team filed its formal response Saturday evening to the Senate summons of the President, offering the first glimpse into what will ultimately be the White House’s impeachment defense.

The response argued both substantively, against the charges in the articles, and procedurally, against the House’s impeachment inquiry.

“President Trump categorically and unequivocally denies each and every allegation in both articles of impeachment,” the document reads.

The legal team argues that the first article of impeachment, abuse of power, “alleges no crime at all, let alone ‘high crimes and Misdemeanors,’ as required by the Constitution.” The team cited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s repeated denials that he felt any pressure from Trump as evidence that Trump did not abuse his power during the July 25 phone call.

The team pointed to the fact that the President released transcripts of both the July 25 phone call and an earlier one on April 21 to argue the conversations were “perfectly legal, completely appropriate and taken in furtherance of our national interest.”

Seasoned lawyers

Starr, the hard-charging prosecutor whose work led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and Dershowitz, the constitutional lawyer, will join Robert Ray, Starr’s successor at the Office of Independent Counsel during the Clinton administration, on the defense team, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said earlier in a statement.

The additions of Starr and Ray to Trump’s legal team happened over the last three to four weeks, according to a source familiar with the legal team’s thinking.

The legal team was aware of Trump’s previous comments about Starr, when in 1999 the President called Starr a lunatic, before they broached the idea with him, but they didn’t think it was a big deal.

In the end, “the President wanted these guys out there,” the source said.

It is unclear if the President was aware of Starr making recent comments on Fox News about compelling evidence against him in reaction to the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union.

Dershowitz was pressured by White House to join legal team, source says

The President was especially fixated on having controversial defense attorney Dershowitz on the legal team. But Dershowitz has been telling his own associates he didn’t want to participate in the President’s trial, the source who is familiar with these conversations said. White House officials have applied a lot of pressure over the last several weeks to convince Dershowitz to join the team, sources familiar with the attorney’s appointment said.

Discussions about bringing in Dershowitz happened over a longer period of time, as CNN has previously reported, and he was also speaking directly to the President about his views on the impeachment case unlike Starr and Ray.

“Alan has been more engaged” behind the scenes, the source said.

The three seasoned lawyers are expected to join a legal team headed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and outside attorney Jay Sekulow, who are still expected to deliver statements on the President’s behalf on the Senate floor.

Sekulow has a long history working with Starr, going back to when Starr was solicitor general and Sekulow argued to the Supreme Court. Starr was a partner Cipollone’s at Kirkland and Ellis.

When Sekulow and Cipollone were trying to determine who else should argue on the floor, it seemed like Starr and his former deputy would be natural fits for their combination of legal chops, television experience and notoriety.

The source says they’re well respected lawyers with experience on impeachment and the TV experience “doesn’t hurt.”

Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Trump’s longtime personal counsel Jane Raskin and attorney Eric Herschmann will also supplement the President’s impeachment legal team, Grisham said. All are expected to have speaking roles, people familiar with the matter told CNN.

Trump’s response to his legal team

When the President was presented with his final team by his lawyers, he was pleased with it and gave the ultimate sign off, but he had also previously been looped in on the idea of Starr and the others.

Also, one of the reasons the President is beefing up his legal team is to break up the monotony of the floor arguments over the 24 hours they are expected to have to make their case, according to a person familiar.

The legal team has been strategizing on how to make what are typically dry legal arguments more interesting by changing up who is delivering the message, in part to appease the President who has said privately he wants a show fit for television.

CNN’s Sarah Westwood and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.

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EXCLUSIVE POLL: More Than 50% of African-Americans Are ‘Very Concerned’ About Paying for Basic Necessities

WASHINGTON — America is experiencing a booming economy and record unemployment, but not everyone is feeling it.

Large majorities of both African-Americans and Hispanics say they’re worried about job security, housing, and being able to pay for education and basic necessities, according to a VICE News-Ipsos poll focused on African-Americans and Hispanics.

A majority of African-Americans say they’re “very concerned” about being able to afford housing (57%) and food and household necessities (54%). That’s much higher than the 34% of non-Hispanic white Americans who said they were “very concerned” about those things.

Nearly half of African-Americans (49%) and 43% of Hispanics are “very concerned” about job security for people in their households, compared to 27% of white Americans. Just under half of Hispanics say they’re “very concerned” about affording housing (49%) and affording food and household necessities (45%).

Large numbers of white people also say they’re feeling squeezed economically — at least half of white respondents said they’re also concerned about being able to afford every category we asked about except higher education. But the level and depth of their concerns isn’t nearly as high across a number of measures as blacks and Hispanics.

The poll results show how ongoing economic inequality between racial and ethnic groups continues to drive much higher levels of financial anxiety in black and brown communities even as unemployment rates have reached historic lows in both groups.

“Despite the ongoing economic expansion, Americans — particularly minority Americans — are still very anxious about their economic security,” said Chris Jackson, public poll lead at Ipsos. “With large majorities of Americans concerned about affording healthcare, housing, or basic necessities, it is clear that the boom has not translated to stability for most folks.”

These numbers come from an online poll conducted by Ipsos for VICE News that includes extensive questions about what issues African-Americans and Hispanic Americans care about the most ahead of the 2020 presidential election. The study included questions on climate change, immigration, healthcare, the economy, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice, and reparations. The full polling memo can be read here.

VICE News is presenting the 2020 Iowa Brown & Black Forum, the nation’s oldest nonpartisan presidential forum dedicated exclusively to addressing issues facing communities of color, on Monday, Jan. 20 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We’ll be asking the 2020 candidates about these issues then.

Here are some other major standouts from our extensive polling.

African-Americans say racism is the biggest threat facing the country

Even with their high levels of economic concerns, African-Americans still see racism as the biggest threat facing the country.

A full 50% of African-Americans say racism is one of the “main problems facing the country right now.” That’s a substantially higher number than any other issue — and much higher than the number of white and Hispanic Americans who said racism is a main problem facing the country.

Only 19% of white Americans and 30% of Hispanics said racism was one of the main problems facing the country right now.

Whites and Hispanics say they worry most about healthcare

Americans’ top issue overall in the poll was healthcare costs, with 49% of all poll respondents listing it as one of the top three problems facing the country.

But it’s a bigger relative worry by far for white respondents than other groups: 57% of white poll respondents say it’s a main problem facing the country, compared to 30% of African-Americans and 39% of Hispanics.

Hispanics also picked it as their top issue. Racism tops the list of concerns for African-Americans, while healthcare came in second at 30% and 29% said an unfair criminal justice system was a top problem.

After healthcare, Hispanics list global warming (33%) as their next-biggest issue, with 31% saying illegal immigration is a main problem facing the country. African-Americans see “an unfair criminal justice system” as their next biggest concern behind racism and healthcare costs.

While healthcare was by far the top issue for white Americans, 37% said drug and opioid abuse was a main problem facing the country, 36% picked illegal immigration, and 33% picked global warming and climate change.

African-Americans and Hispanics are much more supportive of Medicare for All than white Americans

Medicare for All, a hot-button issue in the 2020 race, has much stronger support from African-Americans and Hispanic Americans than it does with non-Hispanic white Americans.

Fully 77% of African-Americans and 65% of Hispanics support Medicare for All in our poll, a number that drops to 54% with whites. It’s at 60% support overall, slightly higher than other recent polls have found.

That gap in support for the policy is largely driven by big partisan divides with Americans — the Republican Party is heavily white, while the Democratic Party is quite diverse.

There’s not much difference in support for Medicare for All among different groups of Democrats in our poll — 82% of African-Americans, 77% of Hispanics, and 75% of whites support it.

That might help explain why just as many African-Americans and even more Hispanics say they’d consider voting for Bernie Sanders as Joe Biden in the general election, as VICE News revealed on Tuesday.

Only 39% of Hispanics say the Democratic Party “cares about people like me”

African-Americans and Hispanics are key parts of the Democratic coalition. Together, they account for more than one-third of all general-election Democratic voters. But that doesn’t mean they feel like the party is always in their corner.

Only 39% of Hispanic poll respondents say the Democratic Party “cares about people like me,” with 21% disagreeing and 32% saying they neither agreed or disagreed with the statement.

Democrats’ numbers were better with African-Americans, the most stable part of their coalition — 54% said that Democrats cared about people like them, while 13% said the party didn’t.

That doesn’t mean that either group is ready to flock to the GOP: Just 25% of Hispanics and 15% of African-Americans said the Republican Party cared “about people like me,” with 38% of Hispanics and 52% of African-Americans disagreeing. But these numbers are a warning sign for a Democratic Party that’s become increasingly dependent on turning out brown and black voters at high numbers in order to win elections.

African-Americans and Hispanics are just as supportive of LGBTQ rights as white Americans

When asked if “more needs to be done to protect the rights of LGBTQ people,” 47% of African-Americans and 42% of Hispanics agreed, compared to 40% of whites. Just 17% of African-Americans and 23% of Hispanics disagreed, compared to 29% of whites.

African-Americans and Hispanics want the Democratic ticket to reflect them

The Democratic field has grown whiter as a number of once-promising black and Hispanic candidates have dropped out — every one of those who made the last Democratic debate were white. That might be a problem for black and Hispanic voters, a majority of whom would like to see a minority on the 2020 ticket.

57% of African-Americans said it is “important” that Democrats should put a minority on the ticket and 53% of Hispanics said the same. Only 21% of whites said a minority on the ticket is “important.”

Methodology

This poll was conducted by Ipsos from Jan. 8-10, 2020, on behalf of VICE Media. For this survey, a sample of roughly 2,013 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska, and Hawaii were interviewed online in English and Spanish. The sample includes 784 white respondents, 585 African-American respondents, and 577 Hispanic respondents including 229 white Democrats, 417 African-American Democrats, and 293 Hispanic Democrats.

Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online non-probability polls. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval, which in this case is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for all respondents, 4.0 percentage points for white respondents, 4.6 percentage points for African-American respondents, and 4.7 percentage points for Hispanic respondents. Those numbers were plus or minus 6.5 percentage points for white Democrats, 5.5 percentage points for African-American Democrats, and plus or minus 6.5 percentage points for Hispanic Democrats.

Cover: A man displays his “I Voted” sticker after voting in the library at the Midnight Mission in Skid Row, downtown Los Angeles, California on November 6, 2018. (Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

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Trump defenders push ‘no crime’ as Democrats seek removal – Boston Herald

By LAURIE KELLMAN

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s lawyers on Sunday previewed their impeachment defense with the questionable assertion that the charges against him are invalid, adopting a position rejected by Democrats as “nonsense” as both sides sharpened their arguments for trial.

“Criminal-like conduct is required,” said Alan Dershowitz, a constitutional lawyer on Trump’s defense team. Dershowitz said he will be making the same argument to the Senate and if it prevails, there will be “no need” to pursue the witness testimony or documents that Democrats are demanding.

The argument is part of a multi-pronged strategy the president’s team is developing ahead of its impeachment trial brief, which is due Monday. Trump asserts that his Ukraine pressure was “perfect” and that he is the victim of a witch hunt.

But the “no crime, no impeachment” approach has been roundly dismissed by scholars and Democrats, who were fresh off a trial brief that called Trump’s behavior the “worst nightmare” of the country’s founders. In their view, the standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is vague and open-ended in the Constitution and meant to encompass abuses of power that aren’t necessarily illegal.

The White House is pushing an “absurdist position,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead Democratic prosecutor of the impeachment case. “That’s the argument I suppose you have to make if the facts are so dead set against you.” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., another impeachment prosecutor, called it “arrant nonsense” and said evidence of Trump’s misconduct is overwhelming.

The back-and-forth came as all concerned agitated for the Senate to get on with the third impeachment trial in the nation’s history. Behind the scenes Sunday, the seven House managers were meeting on strategy with staff and shoring up which prosecutor will handle which parts of the case. The White House, meanwhile, was working on its response to the House’s brief outlining the charges.

No senators were more eager to get going than the four Democratic presidential candidates facing the prospect of being marooned in the Senate ahead of kickoff nominating votes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“I’d rather be here,” said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on New Hampshire Public Radio while campaigning Sunday in Concord.

During the trial, Sanders and other senators are required to sit mutely for perhaps six grueling hours of proceedings daily — except Sundays, per Senate rules — in pursuit of the “impartial justice” they pledged to pursue. But there was scant evidence that anyone’s mind was really open about whether Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to help him politically amounted to impeachable conduct or removal from office.

Mystery, however, abounded over the trial’s ground rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shed no light on how the proceedings will follow — and differ from — the precedent of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999.

“The president deserves a fair trial. The American people deserve a fair trial. So let’s have that fair trial,” said Democratic Rep. Jason Crow of Colorado, one of the seven impeachment prosecutors.

But what’s fair is as vigorously disputed as the basic question of whether Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to help him politically merits a Senate conviction and removal from office. The stakes are enormous, with historic influence on the fate of Trump’s presidency, the 2020 presidential and congressional elections and the future of any presidential impeachments.

Whatever happens in the Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said, Trump will “be impeached forever.” Members of Trump’s team countered that if they win a vindication for Trump, it means “there will be an acquittal forever as well,” Trump attorney Robert Ray said Sunday. “That is the task ahead.”

For all of the suspense over the trial’s structure and nature, some clues on what’s to come sharpened on Sunday.

The president’s lawyers bore down on the suggestion that House impeachment is invalid unless the accused violated U.S. law. Dershowitz’s argument, backed up by Ray, refers to an 1868 speech by Benjamin Curtis, who after serving as a Supreme Court justice acted as the chief lawyer for Andrew Johnson at his Senate impeachment trial.

“There can be no crime, there can be no misdemeanor, without a law, written or unwritten, express or implied,” Curtis told the Senate. “There must be some law; otherwise there is no crime. My interpretation of it is that the language ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ means ‘offenses against the laws of the United States.’”

Johnson was ultimately acquitted by the Senate.

“The core of the impeachment parameters allege that crimes have been committed, treason, bribery, and things like that, in other words, other high crimes and misdemeanors,” Ray said Sunday.

Republicans have long signaled the strategy, which has, in turn, been disputed by other scholars.

“Rubbish,” said Frank Bowman, a University of Missouri law professor and author of his own book about the history of impeachment for the Trump era.

“It’s comically bad. Dershowitz either knows better or should,” said Bowman, who said he had been Dershowitz’s student as a law professor at Harvard. “It’s a common argument, and it’s always wrong.”

Even as he made the case for Trump’s acquittal, Dershowitz on Sunday distanced himself from the rest of Trump’s defense team and said he would merely speak about the Constitution at the trial. He refused to endorse the strategy pursued by other members of that team or defend Trump’s conduct and said he didn’t sign onto the White House left brief filed Saturday, which called impeachment a “brazen” attempt to overturn the 2016 election.

“I’m a liberal Democrat … I’m here as a constitutional lawyer,” Dershowitz said. “I’m here to lend my expertise on that issue and that issue alone.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for witnesses and documents that weren’t part of the House proceedings. A few Republicans said they want to know more before deciding. It’s relevant because new information from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, is being incorporated in the House case. At the same time, Senate Democrats want to call John Bolton, the former national security adviser, among other potential eyewitnesses, after the White House blocked officials from appearing in the House.

With Republicans controlling the Senate 53-47, they can set the trial rules — or any four Republicans could join with Democrats to change course.

As for being forced back to the Senate in the heat of the nomination fight, Sanders pointed out in New Hampshire that he is “not the only senator who’s going to be stuck in the impeachment.” Also off the campaign trail will be Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

“I can’t tell you how long I’m going to be in Washington. Is it a week? Is it two weeks? Is it three weeks?” Sanders said on NPR. “So it creates a difficult political situation.”

The House on Dec. 18 voted mostly along party lines to impeach, or indict, Trump. The president rejects both charges as the products of a “witch hunt” and a “hoax,” and has cast himself as a victim of Democrats who opposed him from the beginning of his administration.

Crow spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” and Dershowitz was on CNN and ABC’s “This Week.” Ray was on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” Schiff appeared on ABC and Nadler appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Hunter Woodall in Manchester, N.H., contributed to this report.

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Follow Laurie Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com//APLaurieKellman

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GOP Senator Downplays Trump Publicly Soliciting Foreign Interference, Says It Was ‘Just Statements,’ ‘Mistakes of Judgment’

Republican Senator Richard Shelby from Alabama on Sunday downplayed President Donald Trump’s public attempt to persuade foreign countries to probe former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

The Democrat-led House voted in mid-December to approve two articles of impeachment—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress—against Trump. At the heart of the impeachment proceedings, launched by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September, is a July phone call between the U.S. leader and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump asked his foreign counterpart to investigate the Bidens.

When asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ This Week whether Trump’s conduct in relation to the Ukraine scandal amounted to an impeachable offense, Shelby said: “Well, I don’t know that has actually been proven.”

“That’s all in dispute. I’ve never seen anything where Trump was actually involved in it,” he continued, before Stephanopoulos reminded him that the president encouraged Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens publicly late last year.

In the days after Pelosi formally announced the impeachment inquiry into Trump, the White House released a summary transcript of the president’s call with Zelenskiy, which recounted the president urging the Ukrainian leader to dig into unfounded allegations against the Bidens. Trump later told reporters at the White House that Zelensky and China should “start an investigation into the Bidens,” roughly a week after the White House released the transcript.

“We’ve seen the president in public ask the Ukrainians to get involved, asked the Chinese to get involved,” Stephanopoulous told Shelby.

“Well, those are just statements, political. They make them all the time,” Shelby said. “I didn’t say it was OK. People do things, things happen.”

He went on to defend Trump further, saying that he’s only “human” and is prone to making the same “mistakes of judgment” that other politicians have made in the past.

Newsweek reached out to Shelby for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

House Democrats released an extensive 111-page document outlining their procedural and substantial case against Trump on Saturday, ahead of the Senate impeachment trial. The brief argues that the president should be removed from office as he abused his power and obstructed Congress.

“The evidence overwhelmingly establishes that he is guilty of both. The only remaining question is whether the members of the Senate will accept and carry out the responsibility placed on them by the Framers of our Constitution and their constitutional Oaths,” the document reads. “History will judge each Senator’s willingness to rise above partisan differences, view the facts honestly, and defend the Constitution.”


Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) waits for Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to deliver the Federal Reserve’s Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Senate Banking Committee on February 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. Powell addressed issues that could effect the economy including trade with China, Brexit, inflation and public debt.
Joshua Roberts
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Trump trial: Ken Starr and no stripes (opinion)

At trial in the Senate in 1999, Clinton won a resounding acquittal. So why, some wondered, would Trump pick Starr to help defend him?

“But the rest of the country will get a real window into the character of our President. Rather than mount a defense of his conduct with the best legal team, he’s choosing a group mired in controversies including scandal, corruption, and misogyny. The majority of America, in my view, will be repulsed. But they won’t be surprised. The President let us know who he was when he stepped off that Access Hollywood bus. And now he’s picked a legal team that has no problem at all with it.”

The oath

William Rehnquist, the chief justice who presided over Clinton’s impeachment trial, appeared in the Senate chamber back then wearing four gold stripes on the sleeves of his judicial robe, a look he had adopted a few years earlier from a local production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Iolanthe.”

So when current Chief Justice John Roberts arrived Thursday to take an oath and administer it to the full Senate at the start of Trump’s trial, some were disappointed to see that he wore only a plain black robe.

The trial involves a lot of choices that are much more serious than the sartorial.

Will there be witnesses? What is the meaning of the oath requiring senators to “do impartial justice?” Will newly disclosed evidence be considered? And will the chief justice actively intervene — or follow Rehnquist’s ceremonial approach to the job?

Michael Zeldin wrote that the nature of the trial “requires that all relevant witness and documentary evidence that bears on the guilt or innocence of the impeached officeholder be brought forth and evaluated. This occurs every day in criminal trials across America, and has been the norm in every other impeachment trial conducted by the Senate. The oath requires nothing less.”
In the first presidential impeachment trial, that of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, “41 witnesses were called: 25 by the prosecution and 16 by the defense,” Dean Obeidallah noted. “And in President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, three witnesses were called to testify.” But it’s an open question whether there will be enough votes in the GOP-controlled Senate to call even one witness. (In Obeidallah’s view, the one witness America really needs to hear from is the one who knows the most about what happened: President Trump.)
Vice President Mike Pence invoked the Andrew Johnson trial in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, calling on Democrats to follow the example of Senator Edmund Ross who voted against removing the president. Jeremi Suri said that if Pence had looked further into the story of Ross, he would have learned that historians believe the senator essentially sold his vote for favors.
“No one believed that Ross was a man of conscience or principle,” Suri observed. “He used his vote to benefit himself. And he protected a president who did everything he could to prevent the enforcement of the Constitution’s protections for African American civil rights, as stipulated in the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.”

Enter Lev Parnas

lev parnas 2020 Trump Biden investigation ukraine anderson cooper intv ac360 vpx_00004607

In a round of television interviews this week, Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, asserted that Trump knew all about the effort to extract a political favor from Ukraine’s president in return for announcing an investigation that would harm former vice president Joe Biden’s candidacy.

If Parnas is to be believed, the President’s withholding of US aid from Ukraine wasn’t about fighting corruption but about re-electing Trump in 2020, observed Frida Ghitis: “It all fits with the rest of Trump’s behavior, his payment of hush money to cover up alleged sexual encounters, his mob lingo to insult former friends — remember when he called Michael Cohen a ‘rat’ — his browbeating and intimidation of aides?”
Asha Rangappa noted that “Trump finally got Ukraine to announce an investigation — though not the one he was hoping for.” The Interior Ministry said it would examine alleged surveillance of the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, “by people linked to Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani,” Rangappa wrote.
Yet Parnas’ statements and documents provided by his lawyer are unlikely to sway the outcome of the impeachment trial, wrote Paul Callan. The House committees’ investigation “was terminated before court rulings could have affirmed the legitimacy of congressional subpoena power. Instead, the House rushed its investigation and compounded the problem by stalling the transfer of the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Meanwhile, the public lost interest.”
It’s a good bet that the defense lawyers and the House managers making the case for impeachment will attract more controversy than John Roberts. In the Clinton impeachment, Rehnquist’s decision to wear stripes “was among the most consequential decisions he made at the trial,” wrote Adam Raymond in New York Magazine. “As he later put, quoting Iolanthe, ‘I did nothing in particular, and I did it very well.’

It’s getting tense

The lasting takeaway from the Democratic debate in Iowa may be what happened the moment it ended.

Senator Elizabeth Warren walked over to Senator Bernie Sanders, declined to shake his hand and said, “I think you called me a liar on national TV.”

David Axelrod was not surprised. The former advisor to President Barack Obama wrote, “a clash between these erstwhile allies, who avoided confrontation throughout 2019, seemed inevitable. And it’s a sure sign that voting is near.”

He knows whereof he speaks: Axelrod described a bitter exchange between presidential rivals Obama and Hillary Clinton in December 2007, as they also were angling for a strong showing in the early primary voting.

Asked to meet for a brief conversation with Clinton when the two candidates found themselves at a Washington airport en route to an Iowa debate, Obama sought and received an apology for the negative remarks of a Clinton supporter, Axelrod recalled. “But when Obama raised other actions by her campaign he felt were out of bounds, Clinton became incensed and disgorged her own litany of complaints about our campaign tactics.” Clinton later served in Obama’s administration and he endorsed her candidacy for president in 2016.

Sanders and Warren should also patch it up, wrote Carl Gibson and David Weissman: “There’s far too much at stake for progressives who support Sanders and Warren to allow their own personal preferences for any one candidate to jeopardize progressives’ chances to win the White House.”
Republican Scott Jennings was hoping for some more fireworks. “Why do the Democrats just stand there and let things happen to themselves,” he asked. “Biden is ahead nationally, and nobody did anything to stop him. Warren is effectively calling Sanders a backwoods misogynist and he slinked off into a corner. How do these folks hope to get the nomination or win the White House in such a pitiful crouch?
Aisha C. Moodie Mills wrote that “missing from the conversation are a range of issues that would … speak to the hearts and interests of the Democratic base.” She asked on Twitter about the issues people want to “hear more about.” Among them: “voting rights; election protection; criminal justice reform; immigration and family separation; the future of work; curbing the rise of white nationalist terrorism; women’s rights and reproductive health; gun control…LGBTQ rights — and the list goes on.”

Bloomberg: Why Iowa?

Michael Bloomberg‘s last-minute campaign, funded by the billionaire entrepreneur and former New York City mayor, is skipping the Iowa caucus and the three other first primary states, and focusing on the March primaries. Last week, he went one step further by arguing in a CNN Opinion piece that it was a major mistake for the party to begin the voting with two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, that lack the diversity of the Democrats’ national base.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that the two early voting states are unlikely to be consequential in the general election. So as a party, we are spending all of our time and resources outside of the battleground states we need to win,” wrote Bloomberg. “Meanwhile, President Trump is spending his time in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina — all states we lost in 2016 by razor-thin margins.”
Two other presidential candidates offered their views on foreign policy. Joe Biden wrote on the Trump administration’s strategy on Iran in the wake of the targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani. “Trump has no strategy here. No endgame,” Biden wrote. “The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upmanship.”

Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna wrote, “We are feeling a sense of déjà vu right now. A Republican administration is lying to the American people about the ‘imminent threat’ posed by a Middle Eastern country. The vice president is falsely claiming that the government in question is linked to the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks. Hawkish lawmakers in Washington accuse voices of restraint of ‘strengthening our enemies’ and being ‘in love with terrorists.’ ”

A similar frenzy, they argued, took hold before the Bush administration attacked Iraq President Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, which they called “the worst foreign policy disaster in modern American history.”

The bravest woman

Evelyn Yang, who’s married to presidential candidate Andrew Yang, spoke powerfully in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash about the repeated sexual abuse she says her obstetrician committed against her and many other women — and the failure of authorities to ensure that he could no longer practice medicine after the first complaints emerged.
“I cried as I forced myself to get through reading this woman’s story,” wrote Anushay Hossain. “Yang’s sheer courage is undeniable, but it also made me think of the unmitigated horror she went through, how hard she fought even as both medical and criminal justice institutions apparently failed her, and how purely fearless she is not only to share her story now but continue to give a voice to survivors.”

Social justice crusader

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday set aside to remember the great champion of civil rights who was assassinated in 1968. But which Martin Luther King does America honor?

Historian Peniel Joseph suggested that political leaders “embrace the most seemingly non-threatening aspects of King’s legacy, namely his Christian religious faith and philosophy of non-violence. Turning King into a sanctified figure shorn of rough political edges allows us to celebrate the civil rights movement as a children’s bedtime story, one with a happy ending.”

It’s impossible to reckon fully with King unless you understand his commitment to achieving social justice, Joseph noted. “The most powerful way Americans can honor King now is through the pursuit of new national voting rights legislation that ends voter suppression, ID laws, allows prisoners to vote and automatically registers every 18-year-old citizen to vote.”

Cheaters win?

Major League Baseball delivered a stunning report on cheating by the 2017 world champion Houston Astros, and heads rolled. Managers of three teams (two of whom formerly worked for the Astros) were axed, as was the Astros’ general manager.

But no players were disciplined, to sports columnist Mike Downey‘s chagrin. “Trouble is, nobody took away their loot. The championship trophy is still theirs. The banner can still wave. … Not a single Houston player … has gotten the heave-ho or lost a red cent. Everybody’s free to report back for duty in 2020, either with the Astros or whomever their current employers might be. No suspensions, no recriminations, no accomplishments rescinded, no records corrected, no asterisks next to their stats.”

Downey’s verdict: “The bad guys won.”

Vlad the improviser

Enmeshed in the US constitution’s impeachment machinery, President Trump might have looked enviously this week at what the president of Russia was doing.

Vladimir Putin flicked away all of his ministers, picked a new prime minister and proposed an overhaul of the nation’s constitution that could ensure he stays in effective control as far as the eye can see. Russia scholar Daniel Treisman wrote, “Facing a hard term limit in 2024 and falling approval ratings as the economy stagnates, Russia’s president has taken an unexpected gamble to increase his options by reshaping the political system.”

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AND…

Big Ben: No comment

Big Ben, the iconic bell in London’s Elizabeth Tower, has long been rung when the UK marks big occasions, including the London Olympics, the new year and “the state funerals of monarchs on three occasions, a toll per year of each of their lives,” observed Holly Thomas.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson thought it only fitting that it also should toll on January 31, “Brexit” day, when his nation leaves the EU.

The problem: Big Ben is being renovated and it would cost about 500,000 pounds to get it to toll for this special occasion. Johnson proposed “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” — a special collection from the public to pay for it, and he chipped in some of his own money.

But emotions are still raw over Brexit, Thomas wrote: “Across the country, bells have become an emblem of victory for some, yet another waste of breath for many, and an outright insult for others.”

In the face of doubts and opposition, Johnson’s office backed away from the plan Thursday. There will be other “events” to mark the day … and Big Ben will get the day off.

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There May Be More ‘Impeachment Activity’ Later This Year

Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.) said Sunday that Democrats “will not stop” on impeachment and added that there may be more “impeachment activity” in the near future.

“The subpoenas that I have issued that have gone through the lower courts are now going to be heard at the Supreme Court in March,” Waters said during an appearance on MSNBC. “We will not stop. Whether or not that leads to another impeachment activity, I don’t know.”

Waters, who serves as chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for President Donald Trump’s personal and professional financial records. She suspects these documents will point towards illicit behavior on the part of the president.

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Waters is not the first Democrat to suggest Congress might impeach Trump again. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) left open the possibility of new articles of impeachment against Trump. Rep. Al Green (D., Texas) has pushed for Democrats to reimpeach Trump if the Senate trial does not remove him. Last month, Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.) said Democrats would continue to push for impeachment if Trump is reelected in 2020. House Counsel Douglas Letter said that a second impeachment of Trump could be necessary if new evidence comes to light about the president’s conduct.

Waters in October tweeted that Trump should be “imprisoned & placed in solitary confinement” because “impeachment is not good enough for Trump.” She later claimed she was not speaking literally.

The Senate’s impeachment trial of Trump is expected to get underway this week. Senate Democrats expressed concern that an acquittal of Trump could embolden the president.

Graham PiroGraham is a media analyst at the Free Beacon. He graduated from Georgetown University in 2018 and was a staff reporter for the College Fix. Follow him on Twitter at @graham_piro or reach him at piro@freebeacon.com.

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Trump’s lawyers decry House impeachment case as ‘defective’

President Trump’s legal team on Saturday accused the House of a “brazen and unlawful attempt” to overturn the 2016 election in a scathing response to the impeachment trial summons issued by the Senate ahead of its trial to decide whether to remove the president from office.

The House, in a separate 111-page brief filed Saturday, countered by calling Trump’s alleged attempt to involve a foreign power in the 2020 election — the issue at the base of the House impeachment — the exact reason the framers of the Constitution added such a drastic remedy to check abuses by the executive branch.

The filings were the first of several arguments Trump’s lawyers and House managers are expected to file before the Senate formally begins the impeachment trial Tuesday, giving a taste of the harsh rhetoric expected for the next several weeks in only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

The Senate has not agreed on a set of rules to govern the trial, such as how long each side gets to speak and whether witnesses will be called. It could be Wednesday before arguments begin on the merits of the two articles of impeachment.

The House last month voted largely along party lines to impeach Trump on two counts: abuse of power for withholding military aid to Ukraine and a coveted White House meeting unless the newly elected president of Ukraine opened investigations into Trump’s political rivals; and obstruction of Congress for blocking current and former federal employees from producing documents or testifying as part of the House investigation.

The president’s seven-page filing argues that the articles “violate the Constitution,” are “defective in their entirety” and should not be considered valid because they don’t cite a specific federal law that has been broken.

Most constitutional scholars agree that the term “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which appears in the impeachment clause in the Constitution, does not refer to a violation of federal criminal statutes, but to a crime against the American public at large, and that it is up to Congress to determine what qualifies.

Beyond letters to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the president and his lawyers explicitly refused an invitation to participate in the House investigation and impeachment hearings, saying the process was unfair.

Their filing to the Senate on Saturday, a day after naming five outside lawyers to the president’s defense team, marks the first time they’ve fully engaged and given a sense of their legal strategy.

Trump’s legal team, led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, challenged the House impeachment on both procedural and constitutional grounds.

The filing states that Trump was mistreated by House Democrats during their investigation. It says he did nothing wrong by withholding nearly $400 million in congressionally approved aid, because the executive branch dictates foreign policy; or by preventing federal officials from complying with the investigation, because the president needed to protect the confidentiality of executive branch information and decision making.

“By approving the articles, the House violated our constitutional order, illegally abused its power of impeachment and attempted to obstruct President Trump’s ability to faithfully execute the duties of his office,” they wrote.

The filing from the House managers, the seven Democrats tasked with proving the House case to the Senate, is effectively the prosecution’s opening brief of the trial.

Trump’s legal team has until noon Monday to file a similar trial brief, where the legal justifications they plan to rely on should become more clear. The House has a chance to rebut it in a brief due by noon Tuesday, an hour before the trial proceedings are expected to begin for the day.

The House managers’ filing gathers the public testimony and closed-door depositions of more than a dozen current and former federal officials. The officials had raised concerns about Trump and his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani’s attempts to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and the Ukrainian energy company he worked for, as well as into the debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, sought to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump’s “effort to gain a personal political benefit by encouraging a foreign government to undermine America’s democratic process strikes at the core of misconduct that the Framers designed impeachment to protect against,” the managers wrote.

The evidence cited in the filing includes new information that has become public in the month since the Dec. 18 House vote to impeach Trump, including text messages and audio recordings provided by Lev Parnas, a confidant of Giuliani’s who faces federal campaign finance violation charges. Parnas has turned on Trump and Giuliani in recent weeks.

The evidence also includes information unearthed by multiple news organizations who have sued the administration for access to the documents Trump refused to provide the House.

It was not up to Trump to decide whether to release the military aid to Ukraine, which had been approved by Congress, the House managers argue.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, made the same determination Thursday, saying in a report that federal law “does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.”

In their brief, the House managers argue that “evidence overwhelmingly establishes” that Trump is guilty of both charges, and that the only question is whether the Senate will fulfill the responsibility placed upon it by the Constitution and remove him from office.

“If the Senate permits President Trump to remain in office, he and future leaders would be emboldened to welcome, and even enlist, foreign interference in elections for years to come,” they write.

It takes a vote of two-thirds of senators to remove a president from office, meaning 20 Republicans would have to join 47 Democrats to convict Trump. So far, no Republicans have indicated a willingness to do so.

The previous two presidential impeachment trials, of President Clinton in 1999 and President Andrew Johnson in 1868, resulted in acquittals.

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Lew Olowski: Iran, not Trump, threatens US security – the president is handling the situation correctly

The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. Politicians forget this fact.

Right now, for example, politicians in Congress concentrate their time and attention upon articles of impeachment that call President Trump “a threat to national security.”

Meanwhile, Trump actively defends the United States against a real threat to national security: the Islamic Republic of Iran.

TRUMP FIRES BACK AFTER IRANIAN LEADER CONDEMNS HIM ON TWITTER: ‘MAKE IRAN GREAT AGAIN!’

Between Trump and Iran, the president’s opponents seem to think Trump is the worse enemy.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, for example, accuses Trump of “taking us pell-mell toward another war.”

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She joins other politicians who accuse Trump of “escalating” conflict with Iran. They fault Trump for two decisions, in particular: withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018; and killing Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in a targeted drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020.

These politicians are blaming the victim, and their accusations are false. In fact, Trump’s response to Iranian aggression has been necessary and proportional: not escalatory.

Recall that Iran has been waging war against the United States since 1979: long before Donald Trump won the presidency.

Almost immediately after the Islamic Republic was founded, it invaded the American embassy in Tehran and captured 98 hostages. Since then, Iran has routinely committed armed attacks against the United States and its allies. For example, Iran plotted to bomb a restaurant in Washington, D.C., in an attack that would have assassinated the Saudi ambassador and massacred 100–150 American civilians. Iran even helped Al Qaeda bomb the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, murdering hundreds of innocents.

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Iran is likelier to build nuclear weapons because Trump “gutted” the Iranian nuclear deal. Yet the Iranian nuclear deal was gutless to begin with.

More recently, Iran killed about 600 American soldiers in Iraq, shot down U.S. aircraft, attacked commercial ships, bombed U.S. allies, besieged the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and killed countless civilians worldwide.

Now imagine all this plus nuclear weapons.

Former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Iran is likelier to build nuclear weapons because Trump “gutted” the Iranian nuclear deal. Yet the Iranian nuclear deal was gutless to begin with. It did not require Iran to abandon its decades-long terror campaign against the United States and its allies. Moreover, because the deal sunsets in 2025, it was designed to merely postpone Iran’s nuclear weaponry, not prevent it.

In other words, the deal let Iran keep its terror and have nukes, too. Trump rightly rejected it.

The goal of the nuclear deal was to charm Iran into thinking the commercial benefits of trade exceed the strategic benefits of a nuclear arsenal. So the deal paid Iran up to $150 billion — and lifted trade sanctions, allowing Iran to make even more money — in exchange for Iran’s promise to curb its nuclear development and submit to international inspections. But after the deal was signed, Iran broke the deal, anyway, violating rules governing nuclear centrifuges, international inspections, chemical production, and weapons technology.

To understand why Iran did that, follow the money.

First, by paying Iran and lifting pre-existing trade sanctions at the outset, the deal gave away Iran’s incentive to follow through on its promises: why buy the cow after you got the milk for free?

Second, by granting billions of dollars to Iran that were initially seized to enforce pre-existing nuclear sanctions — instead of making Iran forfeit this money — the deal gave Iran a get-out-of-sanctions-free card. This signaled to Iran and other nuclear proliferators — including Iran’s partner, North Korea — that illegally pursuing nuclear weapons is a win/break-even proposition instead of a risky business.

Third, because positive trade relations enrich everyone, Iran was confident that, once it violated the deal, other countries would be unlikely to punish it. Losing business hurts everyone, not just the bad guys in Tehran.

If withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal is an escalation that causes Iran to double-down on terrorism and nuclear armament, then there was never a deal to begin with: it was blackmail.

Similarly, the United States did not “escalate” by killing Soleimani in a targeted drone strike. Soleimani was a notorious enemy combatant. He led Iran’s war against the United States for many years. Killing him does not even match the scale of aggression he personally committed against the United States, let alone escalate Iran’s decades-long war.

Rather, the United States rightfully killed Soleimani as an act of responsive self-defense. With a single missile strike, Trump annihilated both Soleimani and Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of a paramilitary group that had just killed a U.S. citizen and attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad: two birds with one drone.

Killing individual enemy combatants — without collateral damage, remarkably — is not even an escalation against Iran’s most recent terrorism spree, let alone an escalation of its decades-long war against the United States.

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Trump is obligated to terminate these national security threats, not surrender to them. The United States is even entitled, as a matter of necessity and proportionality, to disable the Iranian government’s entire capacity to continue launching attacks: let alone to merely kill one Iranian general.

To be sure, Iran responded to this strike by launching missiles directly at Iraqi military bases containing some U.S. troops. Yet by exchanging direct attacks against each other, the United States and Iran are de-escalating the war between them.

First, Iran’s missile launch at Iraqi bases was less provocative than previous attacks because this time, at least, Iran inflicted no fatalities. But just a few weeks ago, Iran’s paramilitary forces fired missiles that killed an American citizen and wounded several others — causing Trump to respond in the first place.

Second, direct attacks imply a de-escalation because these are a concession from Iran’s preferred modus operandi in its war against the United States: committing armed attacks through paramilitary proxy forces.

Rogue governments like Iran command civilian militias and other paramilitary forces purposely to blur the line between combatants and non-combatants. This strategy endangers innocent civilians. That, of course, is the point: by blending into civilian populations, Iranian proxies use innocents as human shields. Because they are not wearing Iranian military uniforms or operating from Iranian-owned military bases, these forces can more easily conceal combatants, deter military responses for fear of collateral damage, and even hide the Iranian government’s own involvement.

This is the same strategy used by Al Qaeda, Islamic State, and Russia in its paramilitary operations against Ukraine and Estonia, a NATO ally.

Iranian terrorism’s longstanding paramilitary strategy undermines the most fundamental principles in the law of armed conflict. Military operations should temper the risk of harm to innocent civilians: not exploit such harm for tactical advantage.

Hopefully, the United States’ killing of Soleimani, and Iran’s missile response, represents a change in course for both countries.

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For Iran, its direct missile attack should initiate a move toward more lawful military operations: a de-escalation from the terrorist strategy Iran utilized under Soleimani’s leadership.

For the United States, killing Qassem Soleimani should signal the end of indifference to Iranian aggression and a renewed commitment toward defending the United States and its allies.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE BY LEW OLOWSKI

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One Year Later, CNN Still Hasn’t Taken Down or Corrected Its Jussie Smollett Report

One year ago, former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett apparently decided what his career really needed was a fake hate crime committed against him.

We’ve never been quite clear on the “why” behind this,  nor am I entirely certain it’s important, but that’s what he decided needed to be done.

So, he allegedly hired a duo of inept, Keystone Kops-ish brothers of Nigerian heritage to pretend to be white supporters of President Donald Trump. These white Trump supporters would assault him, scream “This is MAGA country” and then run off into a chilly Chicago morn, leaving Smollett to contact the police and reap the rewards.

There were problems with this story from the beginning, back on Jan. 29, 2019, but that didn’t stop famous people from believing it. This was mostly because the media reported it almost uncritically — until, that is, additional details started emerging.

Details like, oh, that Smollett had told different stories to both the media and the police. That he wouldn’t turn over phone records that would corroborate his story. That he couldn’t explain why the heck a duo of violent conservatives would be hanging around in the Windy City at 2 a.m. ready to attack the third- or fourth-most recognizable person on “Empire” because he was a gay black man and this was how they kept Chicago “MAGA country.”

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Those inconsistencies should have bothered every news outlet from the beginning. Instead, it wasn’t just Smollett that ended up looking bad — everyone did.

As the case is about to mark its first anniversary, it’s interesting to look back at CNN’s report on the day the “attack” happened. You can see it in its original form, in fact, because CNN’s done absolutely nothing to take it down or correct it.

First, the original story’s headline:

Notice the total certitude: Smollett didn’t say he was attacked; he was attacked.

That tone continued in the article itself.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett was attacked in the early morning hours on Tuesday in what Chicago police are calling a possible hate crime,” it read.

“Smollett was attacked by two people who were ‘yelling out racial and homophobic slurs’ and ‘poured an unknown chemical substance on the victim,’ police said.

“One of Smollett’s alleged attackers also put a rope around his neck, according to police. Both fled the scene.

“Smollett took himself to Northwestern Hospital and ‘is in good condition,’ authorities said.”

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Now granted, this is based on what police said, but there’s a certain degree of assuredness here: Something did happen. No one seemed to guess that something was a strange hoax perpetrated to focus attention on Smollett, but there you go.

Perhaps this statement by Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi should have raised a bit more alarm at the time, though.

“The Streeterville neighborhood where the alleged attack occurred has a very high density of city and private surveillance cameras. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, detectives canvassed and reviewed hundreds of hours of video and have now expanded the search area along the Chicago riverfront hoping to find video to be able to release a public description of the offenders,” Guglielmi said.

“Unfortunately, thus far we have not found any helpful information on a suspect or a suspect’s vehicle to be able to share.”

Well, that didn’t set off any klaxons of alarm and here we are, one year later, with Smollett possibly facing more trouble.

Even though the actor supposedly got off for the crime — remember, he spent a few hours doing community service and forfeited his $10,000 bond for charges of filing a false police report, all thanks to State’s Attorney Kim Foxx — he’s still in what the kids like to call a pickle.

Do you think the Jussie Smollett will pay a legal price for what he did?

As Kyle Smith notes over at National Review, “outrage about Smollett’s lies caused the appointment of a special prosecutor, Dan Webb. So the story lives on. Smollett has not been nailed, and Chicago wants him nailed. He will get nailed. The postman always rings twice.”

As Smith wrote, Webb has already obtained a warrant from a judge to search Smollett’s Google accounts, “not just emails but also drafted and deleted messages; any files in their Google Drive cloud storage services; any Google Voice texts, calls and contacts; search and web browsing history; and location data.”

“Ouch. There is no chance that all of this information will back up Smollett’s made-for-TV claims about men roaming around looking for gay television actors to beat up while chanting MAGA slogans,” Smith wrote on Jan. 13.

No, probably not. Those claims shouldn’t have been so widely bought at the beginning of the investigation, however. I don’t think it’s just hindsight that makes Smollett’s story sound particularly foul. Looking through CNN’s original piece, you get a sense of wonderment that any of us bought this. Perhaps it’s difficult to remember the outpouring of love for Smollett from celebrities and politicians.

Well, here’s a small reminder:

Rev. Al probably shouldn’t give Dan Webb any ideas about Jussie Smollett.

One year later, it’s clear that if Smollett’s claims weren’t a visibility-boosting hoax designed to play on liberal confirmation bias, they represent one of the most improbable crimes ever committed. I doubt there’s a single person at CNN who would stand behind by the substance of this story now, and the network shouldn’t have countenanced the tone back then. Either way, it remains up and uncorrected.

(In fairness, the story does have an “Editor’s Note” at its top now,  stating “Read update here.” But the headline on the update is a neutral-sounding, “The many twists and turns in the Jussie Smollett investigation.” And to say the accompanying report buries the lede would be overly charitable. It’s not what any honest reader would call a “correction.”)

CNN, it’s worth noting, has been one of the loudest voices protesting what it sees as President Trump eroding trust in the media by calling it “fake news.” Whether or not that’s appropriate, I won’t get into here. However, looking back at this story — and the fact it’s still up — I’m not quite sure CNN needs the president’s help earning that appellation.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Donald Trump’s looming legal problems continue past impeachment trial

Investigators in New York and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives have several inquiries that will continue well into the presidential campaign. Their focus touches an area that Trump has long tried to shield from scrutiny: his finances.

The investigations have been underway for nearly a year. Trump has filed lawsuits to block subpoenas to his long-time accounting firm Mazars USA and banks Deutsche Bank and Capitol One. Now both matters are before the US Supreme Court, meaning the pace of those investigations is largely tied to the court’s schedule.

Oral arguments are set for March and a decision will come by June. Behind the scenes investigators are continuing to collect evidence and interview witnesses, but major decisions are unlikely until the justices decide whether investigators can review the President’s financial and tax records — putting the outcome of investigations on a collision course with the 2020 election.

The case that may pose the biggest legal threat to Trump’s company is the criminal investigation led by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The DA’s office is investigating whether the President and the Trump Organization violated state laws in connection with hush money payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump. The investigation is looking into whether business records filed with the state were falsified and if any tax laws were violated, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The criminal investigation goes beyond those payments, according to prosecutors, who redacted several paragraphs in court filings describing the scope of the inquiry. On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said his office asked the DA to investigate discrepancies revealed in a ProPublica article about the information the Trump Organization told tax authorities and lenders about its business.

Investigators have interviewed Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, and David Pecker, a long-time confidant of Trump who ran the tabloid newspaper The National Enquirer. The DA subpoenaed Mazars for Trump’s personal and business tax returns, and the President sued to block the accounting firm from complying.
Investigators launched their inquiry last summer after the US attorney for the Southern District of New York closed its investigation into the Trump Organization’s handling of the hush money payments. In 2018, prosecutors charged Cohen with multiple crimes including violating federal election laws for facilitating the payments. Cohen pleaded guilty and is serving a three-year prison sentence. For months prosecutors continued to investigate whether the Trump Organization broke the law in how it reimbursed Cohen but closed its case in July with no further charges.

NY attorney general

In March 2019, New York’s Attorney General launched a civil investigation into Trump’s funding of several commercial projects. The probe was prompted by Cohen’s congressional testimony in which he alleged that Trump inflated his assets.

Deutsche Bank complied with a subpoena the following month and began turning over documents, including emails and loan documents, relating to Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; the Trump National Doral Miami; the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago; and the unsuccessful effort to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. It is not clear where the investigation stands.

Deutsche Bank, which has loaned more than $300 million to the Trump Organization according to Trump’s financial disclosures and other public filings, is one of the only large global banks that would do business with the family.

What we know and don't know about the Senate impeachment trial

Congress

The Democrat-led House Intelligence, Financial Services and Oversight Committees kicked off investigations into Trump and his finances early last year as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election was wrapping up.

Lawmakers have said their inquiry is broad and is looking at everything from the President’s financial interests with foreign governments to whether anti-money laundering laws or federal ethics laws need to be tightened.

For its part, the Intelligence Committee’s time has been absorbed by the impeachment inquiry into Trump.