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What Now?! – 11/19/2019

“Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Trump to testify in front of investigators in the House impeachment inquiry ahead of a week that will see several key witnesses appear publicly,” the AP reports.

“Pushing back against accusations from the president that the process has been stacked against him, Pelosi said Trump is welcome to appear or answer questions in writing, if he chooses.” Said Pelosi: “If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it.”

President Trump responded to “crazy” and “do nothing” Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s invitation to testify before the House impeachment probe. Said Trump: “She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea and will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”

If President Trump ever does testify before Congress, first off, I will become a vegetarian, and second off, he should be mindful of this: The House of Representatives is now investigating whether President Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller in written answers he provided in the Russia investigation, CNN reports.

Speaking of lying to Congress… Ryan Goodman: “Ambassador Kurt Volker faces a serious credibility problem for having denied knowledge or involvement in President Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. He also appears to have lied about a crucial July 10 meeting at the White House and other related matters. Volker faces a serious legal liability problem too. He made these apparent false statements to Congress in his deposition under penalty of law.”

This chart presents detailed information comparing Volker’s testimony to the testimony of at least eleven other current and former U.S. officials whose statements contradict what Volker told Congress.”

“Democrats are approaching Week 2 of impeachment hearings with one key goal: show more of President Trump’s direct involvement in the scheme to tie Ukrainian aid to an investigation of Joe Biden’s son,” Axiosreports.

“Of the eight officials testifying next week, the one with the most known direct interactions with Trump is EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland. The Trump megadonor already had to amend his testimony once. He may be the most legally vulnerable, and he has spoken with Trump about the investigations.”

“At least two others — National Security Council top Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and former Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill — also have the potential to offer key details from within the White House, with one Democratic official describing them as this week’s star witnesses.”

The GOP strategy: “Republicans’ goal this week is to create as much distance as possible between President Trump and the witnesses and make the case that Trump himself never specifically ordered a halt on aid to Ukraine with the intention of forcing a political investigation.”

David Holmes, a U.S. official in Kiev who overheard a phone conversation between U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and President Trump will testify publicly on Thursday as part of the House impeachment inquiry, CNN reports.

The addition of Holmes means nine individuals will testify publicly as witnesses in the House impeachment probe this week.

CBS News investigation uncovers a possible pay-for-play scheme involving President Trump’s ambassador nominee to the Bahamas.

“The Supreme Court on Monday issued an administrative stay blocking House Democrats’ subpoena for President Trump’s tax returns until both sides can file the necessary legal papers,” Axios reports.

“The lower court order compelling Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA to turn over the president’s financial records will be delayed until the Supreme Court decides whether to take up Trump’s appeal.”

This is normal and standard practice in many cases where a party appeals a court order. This is not a tell on how the Court will eventually rule.

President Trump announced that Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell met with Trump and Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin in a meeting that was not on the president’s original public schedule.

The Fed statement says the meeting was at Trump’s invitation.

Jonathan Chait: “The saga of President Trump’s reprisals against Amazon has lurked on the margin of the news, largely overshadowed by the Ukraine scandal. Late Thursday night, Amazon revealed it had filed a protest in federal court of a Pentagon decision to deny it a $10 billion cloud-computing contract, the most recent piecemeal iteration of a saga that attracted precious little media attention even before the Ukraine scandal obscured it.”

“Yet the story here is almost certainly a massive scandal, probably more significant than the Ukraine scandal that spurred impeachment proceedings. Trump improperly used government policy to punish the owner of an independent newspaper as retribution for critical coverage. It resembles the Ukraine scandal because it is a flagrant abuse of power, and has been hiding in plain sight for months (as the Ukraine scandal did, until a whistle-blower report leaked in September). The scale of the abuse, though, is far more serious, because it is a concrete manifestation of Trump’s authoritarian ambitions.”

“President Trump’s visit to Walter Reed on Saturday did not follow the protocol of a routine presidential medical exam,” CNN reports.

“Medical staff at Walter Reed did not get a staff-wide notice about a presidential visit to the medical center in Bethesda, Maryland, ahead of Trump’s arrival.”

“Typically, Walter Reed’s medical staff would get a general notice about a ‘VIP’ visit to the medical center ahead of a presidential visit, notifying them of certain closures at the facility. That did not happen this time, indicating the visit was a non-routine visit and scheduled last minute.”

Karen Tumulty: “The White House is not telling the truth.”

“Two Senators are probing a whistleblower’s allegations that at least one political appointee at the Treasury Department may have tried to interfere with the audit of President Trump or Vice President Pence,” the Washington Post reports.

“Staff for Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the chair and ranking Democrat on the Senate finance committee, met with the IRS whistleblower earlier this month… Follow-up interviews are being scheduled to further explore the whistleblower’s allegations.”

Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd at a Washington, D.C., jazz club over the weekend, days after her dramatic testimony in the House impeachment probe.

“Despite his denials, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was feeling pressure from the Trump administration to investigate Joe Biden before his July phone call with President Trump that has led to impeachment hearings,” the AP reports.

“In early May, staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, including then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, were briefed on a meeting Zelensky held in which he sought advice on how to navigate the difficult position he was in… He was concerned that Trump and associates were pressing him to take action that could affect the 2020 U.S. presidential race.”

“The briefings show that U.S. officials knew early that Zelensky was feeling pressure to investigate Biden, even though the Ukrainian leader later denied it in a joint news conference with Trump in September.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a “Dear Colleague” letter defending the impeachment inquiry amid President Trump’s repeated attacks.

Key takeaway: “The facts are uncontested: that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit, at the expense of our national security interests.”

“There are also some who say that no serious wrongdoing was committed, because the military assistance to Ukraine was eventually released. The fact is, the aid was only released after the whistleblower exposed the truth of the President’s extortion and bribery, and the House launched a formal investigation.”

Also important: “The weak response to these hearings has been, ‘Let the election decide.’ That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action, because the President is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections.”

“President Trump on Sunday labeled one of his vice president’s top national security aides a ‘Never Trumper,’ a day after it was disclosed that she had said the president’s July call with Ukraine was ‘unusual and inappropriate’ in a deposition to Congress, Politico reports.

“Trump tweeted that the aide, Jennifer Williams — ‘whoever that is,’ he said — should read the transcripts of both his calls with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine: the July 25 call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, as well as an initial April 21 call that the White House released a summary of Friday.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said Sunday that the Trump administration officials who provided information to the anonymous whistleblower about the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine “exposed things that didn’t need to be exposed,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Johnson: “This would have been far better off if we would’ve just taken care of this behind the scenes. We have two branches of government. Most people, most people wanted to support Ukraine. We were trying to convince President Trump.”

Tough. I am sorry you didn’t get to cover up successfully the President’s crimes.

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly confronted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) on Sunday over the top Republican’s characterization of last week’s impeachment testimony, accusing the congressman of “very badly” misrepresenting the witnesses’ positions, the Daily Beast reports.

Jonathan Swan: “Fox News host Tucker Carlson is pushing hard for Trump to pardon Stone, and interviewed his daughter Adria Stone on his Friday night show. She pleaded with President Trump to pardon her father. ‘Donald Trump, if you can hear me, please save our family,’ she said.”

“Trump watches Carlson’s show religiously and values his opinions.”

“Carlson indicated on Friday night’s episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight that he won’t let this go.”

“A U.S. ambassador set to testify this week in the House impeachment inquiry kept several Trump administration officials apprised of his effort to get Ukraine to launch investigations that President Trump would later discuss in a July call with his Ukrainian counterpart,” emails reviewed by the Wall Street Journal show.

“Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who will be one of eight witnesses to testify in the inquiry’s second week of open hearings, is one of several people who has linked a holdup of security aid to Ukraine over the summer with investigations that Mr. Trump sought.”

“Mr. Sondland kept several top officials—including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry—apprised of that push, according to the emails reviewed by the Journal, in the weeks leading up to Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart that spurred a whistleblower complaint and, ultimately, the impeachment probe.”

“House Republicans, bracing for another week of impeachment hearings, asserted on Sunday that President Trump had done nothing wrong because his plans for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals never came to fruition — even as the president complicated their efforts by attacking another witness,” the New York Times reports.

“On a day of back-and-forth on Twitter and the morning television talk shows… Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Mr. Trump to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, while the president’s allies shifted their emphasis away from the defense they offered last week, when they stressed that witnesses had only secondhand information against him.”

“That argument may not work much longer, because lawmakers are about to hear from crucial witnesses who had direct contact with the president.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested that the start of a Senate trial in the impeachment of President Trump would be pushed up against the beginning of the Democratic presidential primary season, NBC News reports.

Said McConnell: “Well, all I can tell you at this particular point is it looks to me like the House is going to be on this until Christmas.”

He added: “Then it comes over to the Senate, it displaces all other business, the chief justice of the United States is in the chair, senators are not allowed to speak, they have to sit there and listen, and I’m not sure how long it will go on.”

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

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