What Now?! – 10/26/2019

A federal judge on Friday said that the House of Representatives can be given grand jury material collected as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, especially since there is an ongoing impeachment inquiry, CNBC reports.

From the decision: “Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in a diligent and thorough investigation into, and in a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the President described in the Mueller Report.”

Also important: “Even in cases of presidential impeachment, a House resolution has never, in fact, been required to begin an impeachment inquiry.” This ruling thus destroys the final Republican argument about process forever.

The ruling is a major win for House Democrats.

Lawyers for former national security advisor John Bolton have been in touch with officials working on the House committees conducting an impeachment probe into President Trump, NBC News reports.

“The news comes more than a week after the White House’s former top Europe expert, Fiona Hill, testified to Congress that Bolton has been so disturbed by efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a ‘drug deal.’”

When the White House was asked about Bolton by CNBC, an official said: “We’re not going to talk about Bolton.”

“Tim Morrison, a National Security Council official who has been identified as a witness to one of the most explosive pieces of evidence unearthed by House impeachment investigators, plans to testify Thursday even if the White House attempts to block him,” Politico reports.

“Morrison would be the first currently serving White House official to testify. He’s also the first official believed to be on a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which Trump pressed his counterpart to investigate former vice president Joe Biden.”

“Morrison, a top Russia and Europe adviser on President Trump’s National Security Council, is expected to […] corroborate key elements of a top U.S. diplomat’s account that Trump was pressing for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into the Bidens before he would greenlight US security assistance,” CNN reports. “Morrison’s testimony is expected to be significant because he is a current White House official whose name was cited 15 times in Bill Taylor’s opening statement.”

NBC News reports that one of its reporters received two butt dials from incompetent crime lord Rudy Giuliani, revealing details about his crimes: “Giuliani can be heard discussing overseas dealings and lamenting the need for cash, though it’s difficult to discern the full context of the conversation. The call appeared to be one of the most unfortunate of faux pas: what is known, in casual parlance, as a butt dial.”

And then he did it again the next day.

“In the message, Giuliani is heard talking to at least one other person. The conversation appears to pick up almost exactly where Giuliani’s phone call with the reporter left off the day before, with Giuliani insisting he was the target of attacks because he was making public accusations about a powerful Democratic politician… Giuliani spends the entire three minutes railing against the Bidens. He can be heard recycling many of the unfounded allegations he has been making on cable news and in interviews with print reporters.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) criticized Attorney General William Barr over reports that the Justice Department is launching a criminal investigationof the Russia probe.

Said Warner: “Senate Intel is wrapping up a three-year bipartisan investigation, and we’ve found nothing remotely justifying this… He needs to come before Congress and explain himself.”

“The Trump Organization is exploring a sale of the rights to the company’s opulent Washington, D.C., hotel, a move it says is motivated partly by criticism that the Trumps are flouting ethics laws by profiting from the property,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Politico: “The scrutiny of Rudy Giuliani isn’t just coming from the previously known probes by FBI agents and the U.S. attorney’s office based out of Manhattan… The criminal division of the Justice Department in Washington has taken an interest in the former New York mayor, too, meaning an expansion of resources that indicates the politically sensitive probe into the president’s personal attorney is both broader and moving at a faster pace than previously understood.”

“Federal prosecutors in New York have subpoenaed the brother of one of the recently indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani, as they escalate their investigation in the campaign-finance case,” CNN reports.

“The subpoena to Steven Fruman is the latest indication of prosecutors’ actions since the rushed arrest two weeks ago of his brother, Igor Fruman, and another defendant, Lev Parnas, at a Washington-area airport. Since then, investigators have doled out multiple subpoenas and conducted several property searches, in one case blowing the door off a safe to access the contents.”

“Federal prosecutors told a judge this week that they are sifting through data from more than 50 bank accounts.”

New York Times: “Privately, White House officials concede they are losing the messaging battle with Democrats, whose inquiry has produced a series of devastating revelations about allegations that the president and his allies conducted a campaign to pressure Ukraine for his own political gain.”

Associated Press: “Asked about criticism that the White House lacks a coordinated pushback effort and could do a better job delivering its message, spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said, ‘It’s hard to message anything that’s going on behind closed doors and in secret.’ ‘It’s like you’re fighting a ghost, you’re fighting against the air. So we’re doing the best we can.””

Amber Phillips: “Republicans are flailing to defend President Trump from the impeachment inquiry, right as some key members of the Senate shift from implicitly defending Trump to acknowledging recent testimony has been damaging to his case. This suggests conviction of Trump in the Republican-controlled Senate, should the House impeach him, isn’t a door that’s entirely slammed shut.”

“As the impeachment inquiry presents stronger evidence Trump was holding up military aid for his personal gain, his congressional defenders are pulling even more Trumpian tactics. Most of them collapse under the weight of the facts. Some are so obviously political stunts that there’s no other way to describe them.”

Key takeaway: “Republicans’ erratic attempts to defend the president are derived from the fact the White House has no coherent defense either, and it largely isn’t coordinating with Republicans on what to say or do.”

“The White House is eyeing former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh to lead impeachment messaging efforts,” CNN reports.

“Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, is among those pushing for Sayegh’s hire… Sayegh was previously a candidate to become White House communications director after Hope Hicks left the White House last year.”

Tony and I went to college together at George Washington University. He was with the College Republicans and I was with the College Democrats. He was a hack even then.

“Top Trump officials have quietly created a de facto impeachment war room, with a chief goal of policing and solidifying Republican Senate support for acquittal,” Axios reports.

“Most senior officials in the White House recognized quickly that the G7 and Syria decisions harmed the president’s standing with Senate Republicans, and realized that could bleed over and cause problems for their impeachment firewall.”

“For the past several weeks, senior Trump White House officials have held a near-daily meeting focused on messaging — not the legal side of the impeachment fight, per three sources familiar with the situation.”

The anonymous “senior Trump administration official” who will release a tell-all book, A Warning, next month was a frequent participant in meetings with President Trump and plans to recount specific conversations, sources tell Mike Allen.

From the book’s back cover: “You will hear a great deal from Donald Trump directly, for there is no better witness to his character than his own words.”

Also interesting: “The author of the book, which hit #1 on Amazon within 24 hours of its announcement, has agreed to at least one interview with a journalist to coincide with publication, 25 days from now. The format and interviewer haven’t been decided.”

Despite reports that hundreds of U.S. troops will stay behind in Syria, President Trump took to Twitter to declare that troops were “coming home.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed troops are staying behind in Syria — just 30 minutes after Trump’s tweet.

And now we get this: “The White House is considering options for leaving about 500 U.S. troops in northeast Syria and for sending dozens of battle tanks and other equipment, officials said Thursday, the latest in an array of scenarios following President Trump’s decision this month to remove all troops there,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The options, presented by military officials, would represent a reversal from the American withdrawal Mr. Trump wanted. It also would modify U.S. objectives—from countering Islamic State extremists to also safeguarding oil fields in eastern Syria with additional troops and new military capability.”

“The whistleblower who initially unmasked President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for political favors has moved steadily toward the periphery of the House impeachment inquiry as several Democrats said Thursday they have ample testimony from senior Trump administration officials to back his claims,” the Washington Post reports.

“Democrats were once prepared to take extraordinary steps to preserve the whistleblower’s identity under questioning, considering him central to their investigation. But over the past month, they have grown cold to the idea of exposing him to additional scrutiny after several witnesses described how Trump leveraged access and military aid to secure a promise from Ukraine to launch investigations that could help his 2020 reelection bid.”

Lawyers Andrew Bakaj and Mark Zaid writing in the Washington Post:

“Our client’s whistleblower complaint about President Trump’s efforts to solicit interference from Ukraine in the 2020 U.S. election was publicly released a month ago, and since then, speculation about the whistleblower’s identity has only increased. As each allegation in the complaint is substantiated by new witnesses, the president and his supporters remain fanatically devoted to bringing our client into the spotlight. But the reality is that the identity of the whistleblower is irrelevant.”

Senate Republicans voted Thursday to confirm Justin Walker to a lifetime seat on a federal court, despite the fact that he earned a rare and embarrassing ‘not qualified’ rating from the American Bar Association, the HuffPost reports.

Every Republican present voted to put Walker, 37, onto the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Every Democrat present voted no. The full vote tally is here.

“A federal judge on Thursday held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt for violating an order to stop collecting loan payments from former Corinthian Colleges students,” the Washington Post reports.

“Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco slapped the Education Department with a $100,000 fine for violating a preliminary injunction. Money from the fine will be used to compensate the 16,000 people harmed by the federal agency’s actions.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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