“House Democrats are zeroing in on a framework for their impeachment case against President Trump that will center on a simple ‘abuse of power’ narrative involving the president’s actions regarding Ukraine,” NBC News reports.
“As Democrats continue closed-door depositions with critical witnesses and prepare to move to the next phase of public hearings, they are wrestling over which elements and evidence to bring in, which to leave out. The goal is to explain to the public the reasoning and relevance of any eventual impeachment charges.”
“House Democrats are facing a time crunch to quickly wrap up their investigation into allegations President Trump abused his office in pushing Ukraine to probe his political rivals, prompting growing expectations that votes on impeaching Trump could slip closer to the end of the year,” CNN reports.
“Some Democrats had hoped that a narrow probe could conclude swiftly, with a potential vote to impeach Trump by Thanksgiving.”
“But that has proven to be more complicated than it initially seemed… The reason: Each witness has so far provided more leads for investigators to chase down, including new names to potentially interview or seek documents from.”
“Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants more than control over a wide swath of Syria along his country’s border. He says he wants the Bomb,” the New York Times reports. “In the weeks leading up to his order to launch the military across the border to clear Kurdish areas, Mr. Erdogan made no secret of his larger ambition.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC that President Trump is prepared to use military force against Turkey over its actions in Syria in the event that such is “needed.”
Wall Street Journal: “The idea was presented to Mr. Trump last week by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who has vigorously opposed the president’s initial decision to remove all of the 1,000 troops the U.S. has in northeast Syria.”
“Military officials said the Pentagon supports a plan to leave as many as 300 special operations forces to carry out that mission. The idea also has support in the State Department, according to people familiar with the issue. … The plan, analysts say, might also give Mr. Trump a way to blunt criticism from members of both parties in Congress that he is abandoning the Kurds and handing the country over the Assad regime and the Russians.”
Jeffrey Toobin said he regretted the role he played in amplifying the coverage of Hillary Clinton’s private email server during the 2016 campaign after an investigation found “no persuasive evidence” of classified information being systematically or deliberately mishandled.
Tweeted Toobin: “Note the mostly buried news that State Dept closed Hillary Clinton email probe with this verdict: no big deal. As a journalist, I regret my role in blowing this story out of proportion.”
The White House personnel director told President Trump that his top two candidates to become Secretary of Homeland Security — Ken Cuccinelli and Mark Morgan — are not qualified to fill the position under the federal vacancies law, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Both men are serving on an acting basis, and neither has been nominated by Mr. Trump for permanent roles, which would require Senate confirmation. As a result, neither man is eligible to be elevated to the Department’s top job.
Hey Donnie, how about you freaking nominate someone and have them face the Senate for confirmation?
Jonathan Chait: “The Syria debacle is genuinely alarming to the party, because it shows Trump unleashing a strategic catastrophe, leading to thousands of escaped terrorists, through a simple phone call the implications of which he seems not to have understood. The up-front costs of ripping off the Band-Aid and removing Trump might seem less risky than allowing another year of a completely unconstrained toddler president.”
“In Casino, the bosses accepted a lot of erratic and risky behavior from Nicky Santoro because he was ultimately a useful ally. They didn’t care that he was a violent criminal — they were violent criminals, too. But they eventually decided that his flamboyant and uncontrollable behavior put their whole racket at risk. And when their calculation of his value tipped from acceptable risk to unacceptable risk, the end came swiftly and unexpectedly.”
“The Republican Establishment doesn’t have hit men, but it does have a constitutional process at its disposal that is being helpfully initiated by House Democrats. That its members would band together to cast out a president adored by their party’s base seemed until recently unthinkable. Now it is not.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of President Trump’s most vital allies on Capitol Hill, opened the door to changing his mind on impeachment if there turns out to be what he considers a quid pro quo, Axios reports. Said Graham: “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned the mandate for forming a government to President Reuven Rivlin after failing to cobble together enough support for a coalition within the 28-day time frame that Rivlin had granted, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Axios: “This is the second time in six months that Netanyahu has failed to form a government after an election. Benny Gantz, leader of the center-left Blue and White Party, will now get an opportunity to form a coalition, but he’s also unlikely to succeed. The chances are growing that Israel will be forced to hold a third election this year.”
Wall Street Journal: “Dating back to 2015, the private Instagram account of Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian-American indicted for illegal campaign donations, appears to show VIP access to President Trump and a close relationship with Rudy Giuliani.”
“An internal West Wing feud is pitting the top White House lawyer, Pat Cipollone, against President Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who has been facing criticism from both inside and outside the administration for recently telling reporters that military aid to Ukraine was withheld in part to advance Mr. Trump’s political requests,” CBS News reports.
“Internal feuds are nothing new in the Trump White House. And Mulvaney, like predecessors Reince Priebus and John Kelly, has faced maneuvering against him and rumors of his imminent demise. Mulvaney’s status, however, appears more open to question now, and even his allies consider Cipollone a central rival.”
A source familiar with President Trump’s thinking told CNN that “after watching media coverage this weekend about Mick Mulvaney’s Thursday news conference and performance attempting to clean it up, the President has grown increasingly frustrated with his acting chief of staff’s ability to properly communicate the White House’s impeachment strategy.”
“Trump has voraciously consumed news coverage about Mulvaney and has become more agitated… Specifically, the President is concerned, according to the source, that Mulvaney is not transitioning enough to the role he is in now — helping to lead the impeachment inquiry defense from the West Wing.”
“‘I just think he’s dumb, I really do. I don’t even think he knows what he’s talking about.” — Sean Hannity, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, on acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Financial Times: “A Russian cyber espionage unit has hacked Iranian hackers to lead attacks in more than 35 countries, a joint UK and US investigation has revealed. The so-called Turla group, which has been linked with Russian intelligence, allegedly hijacked the tools of Oilrig, a group widely linked to the Iranian government.”
“The Pentagon recently began drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in case President Donald Trump surprises military leaders by ordering an immediate drawdown as he did in Syria,” NBC News reports.
“The contingency planning is ongoing, officials said, and includes the possibility that Trump orders all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. Officials cautioned, however, that the planning is a precaution and there is currently no directive from the White House to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.”
“Wikileaks founder Julian Assange struggled to say his own name as he appeared in the dock facing extradition to the US,” the Evening Standard reports.
“The 48-year-old is wanted in the United States over claims that he was involved in the hacking and leak of a mass of classified documents in 2010 through the Wikileaks website. But Assange says he is the victim of a politically-driven campaign by the Trump administration against journalists and whistleblowers, and claims his privileged discussions with lawyers have been spied on by the US.”
Fighting back tears, Assange said he has been denied access to a computer behind bars and is “in fear of my life.” He called the case “not equitable” and added: “I can’t think properly.”
Oh, the irony. That he is now the victim of the very President he helped elect through his attacks on the United States while allied with Russia. I have no sympathy for Assange and I hope he suffers greatly.
Washington Post: “As it did on Super Saturday, the British government will try, once again, to hold a ‘meaningful vote’ on Monday in Parliament on the withdrawal agreement that Johnson successfully negotiated with his European counterparts last week. Britain is scheduled to leave the E.U. on Oct. 31, in just 10 days time. But the terms of its departure — or indeed, when or even if it departs — remain in a deep fog following Johnson’s humiliating defeat in the House of Commons over the weekend.”
“The Justice Department confirmed Sunday that President Trump’s son Donald Jr. and former White House Counsel Don McGahn were never called before a grand jury that heard witnesses called by Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Politico reports.
“The disclosure was set in motion by U.S District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling last week that Justice Department attorneys had deleted too much information from a court filing last month in an ongoing legal dispute over Attorney General Bill Barr’s refusal to share with House lawmakers grand jury-related information in Mueller’s final report.”
I am beginning to think Mueller was no hero. He utterly failed his final mission. Not getting either in front of the grand jury, even if they were going to plead the Fifth, is legal malpractice.
James Hohmann: “President Trump backs down when confronted with criticism from congressional Republicans if it’s loud enough and he fears he could lose support from his base.”
“National Rifle Association leaders have told Trump that he’d lose the support of gun owners if he threw his weight behind universal background checks. This helps explain why he’s backed down after calling for stricter background checks in the immediate aftermath of multiple mass shootings. This weekend, Trump nixed plans to host the G-7 summit at his Doral golf club not because it gave Democrats fodder for an article of impeachment but because key Republicans told him they couldn’t defend it. The president appears to be repeating this pattern with Syria.”
“These are all illustrations that conservative lawmakers have more leverage over the White House than they seem to think, especially with impeachment votes looming.”
“A review launched by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation has expanded significantly amid concerns about whether the probe has any legal or factual basis,” NBC News reports.
“Although the probe did not begin as a criminal investigation, Justice Department officials won’t comment on whether it has morphed into one.”