“Career diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators in his closed-door testimony this week that Rudy Giuliani asked the State Department and the White House to grant a visa to the former Ukrainian official who Joe Biden had pushed to have removed when he was vice president,” CNN reports.
“Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, testified that around January 2019 Giuliani requested a visa for former Ukrainian prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin to travel to the United States. Shokin had been pushed out of his position as Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016 after pressure from Western leaders, including Biden, over concerns that he was not pursuing corruption cases.”
Washington Post: “A multiyear State Department probe of emails that were sent to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s private computer server concluded there was no systemic or deliberate mishandling of classified information by department employees, according to a report submitted to Congress this month.”
“The report appears to represent a final and anticlimactic chapter in a controversy that overshadowed the 2016 presidential campaign and exposed Clinton to fierce criticism that she later cited as a major factor in her loss to President Trump.”
Politico: “Former Trump White House officials and other Republicans close to the White House are increasingly worried about President Trump’s erratic behavior and say there are no longer enough safeguards around him to prevent self-inflicted disasters large and small.”
“Under the strain of a metastasizing impeachment probe on Capitol Hill and helming an administration run by a diminishing number of heavyweight officials of independent stature, the president is displaying the kind of capricious behavior that once might have been contained or at least mitigated, former officials say.”
“The Department of Energy cited the same arguments as the Pentagon for why it is unable to cooperate “at this time” with House committees’ subpoena for documents related to President Trump’s efforts to push Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden,” Axios reports.
New York Times: “According to people who were there, he came equipped with a PowerPoint presentation, complete with quotes from the Constitution, as he schooled fellow senators on the intricacies of a process he portrayed as all but inevitable.”
“Few Republicans are inclined to convict Mr. Trump on charges that he abused his power to enlist Ukraine in an effort to smear his political rivals. Instead, Mr. McConnell sees the proceedings as necessary to protect a half a dozen moderates in states like Maine, Colorado and North Carolina who face re-election next year and must show voters they are giving the House impeachment charges a serious review.”
The Atlantic: “The president has polled confidants about whether Mulvaney is up to the job, blaming him for leaks and negative news coverage, and considering whether he should find someone else to run the West Wing. It might stand to reason, then, that with Trump’s growing frustrations with Mulvaney—coupled with a performance yesterday that could put Trump in greater legal jeopardy than ever before—Mulvaney’s days as acting chief of staff are numbered.”
“Yesterday’s press conference was significant not just for Mulvaney’s revelations about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. It also laid bare just how key a role Mulvaney has played in those dealings.”
Playbook: “A few outliers in the Republican Party — Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) former Ohio governor John Kasich, who has contemplated launching a primary challenge — have begun to publicly speak out against President Trump. The vast majority, including GOP leaders in both the Senate and House, are sticking with the president. But yesterday’s developments mark a shift in how some Republicans are willing to discuss the president publicly.”
Washington Post: “A growing number of congressional Republicans expressed exasperation Friday over what they view as President Trump’s indefensible behavior, a sign that the president’s stranglehold on his party is starting to weaken as Congress hurtles toward a historic impeachment vote.”
“In interviews with more than 20 GOP lawmakers and congressional aides in the past 48 hours, many said they were repulsed by Trump’s decision to host an international summit at his own resort and incensed by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s admission — later withdrawn — that U.S. aid to Ukraine was withheld for political reasons. Others expressed anger over the president’s abandonment of Kurdish allies in Syria.”
A day after Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL.) became the first House Republican to say he would consider voting to impeach President Trump, he announced his retirement, the Washington Post reports.
A New York Times editorial: “The Constitution’s framers envisioned America’s political leaders as bound by a devotion to country above all else. That’s why all elected officials take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. By protecting Donald Trump at all costs from all consequences, the Republicans risk violating that sacred oath.”
“Senator Smith’s question once again hangs over the Republican Party: Surely they are not so desperate for short-term victory as to tolerate this behavior? We’ll soon find out.”
“Just as Britain appeared on the cusp of a history-making, up-or-down vote on its long-delayed departure from the European Union, the British Parliament struck an impasse on Saturday as lawmakers adopted a measure that delayed a vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with Brussels,” the New York Times reports.
“The turbulent events left Mr. Johnson’s agreement in limbo, legally obliging him to seek yet another extension for Britain’s departure, which he had once vowed never to do. It was the latest twist in a debate that has convulsed the country ever since the British public voted in 2016 for a divorce from the European Union.”
“The British government formally asked the European Union to delay the country’s departure for the third time, a request Prime Minister Boris Johnson had long resisted,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Mr. Johnson, who has rejected delaying Brexit, didn’t sign the letter. He also sent a second letter urging EU leaders not to grant an extension.”
“The request, in a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk sent late Saturday, marks a political setback for Mr. Johnson just days after he successfully concluded a renegotiation of Britain’s EU withdrawal terms that his political opponents assumed was all but impossible.”
“Federal prosecutors reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation have asked witnesses pointed questions about any anti-Trump bias among former F.B.I. officials who are frequent targets of President Trump and about the earliest steps they took in the Russia inquiry,” the New York Times reports.
“The prosecutors, led by John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, have interviewed about two dozen former and current F.B.I. officials, the people said. Two former senior F.B.I. agents are assisting with the review, the people said.”
“The number of interviews shows that Mr. Durham’s review is further along than previously known.”
“The United States’ abrupt withdrawal from northeastern Syria is forcing the Pentagon to accept a dangerous reality — the rebirth of an Islamic State sanctuary that could allow terrorists to launch attacks on the West,” Politico reports.
“The U.S. military won’t be able do much more than monitor and try to contain ISIS activity in parts of Syria without special operations forces on the ground, according to current and former military officials. And although the Defense Department is considering backup options including a drone campaign and occasional commando raids, the pullout of the troops who had been living in the country alongside Syrian Kurdish forces will make it difficult to track the group or find targets to attack.”