A must-read from the New York Times: “The inside story of President Trump’s demand to halt military assistance to an ally shows the price he was willing to pay to carry out his agenda.”
“Interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials, congressional aides and others, previously undisclosed emails and documents, and a close reading of thousands of pages of impeachment testimony provide the most complete account yet of the 84 days from when Mr. Trump first inquired about the money to his decision in September to relent.
What emerges is the story of how Mr. Trump’s demands sent shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon, created deep rifts within the senior ranks of his administration, left key aides like Mr. Mulvaney under intensifying scrutiny — and ended only after Mr. Trump learned of a damning whistle-blower report and came under pressure from influential Republican lawmakers. […]
Opposition to the order from his top national security advisers was more intense than previously known. In late August, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, for a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting with the president where they tried but failed to convince him that releasing the aid was in interests of the United States.
By late summer, top lawyers at the Office of Management and Budget who had spoken to lawyers at the White House and the Justice Department in the weeks beforehand, were developing an argument — not previously divulged publicly — that Mr. Trump’s role as commander in chief would simply allow him to override Congress on the issue.”
Washington Post: “On one end of the line was Venezuela’s socialist president, the pariah leader of a disintegrating economy whom President Trump’s administration was seeking to isolate.”
“On the other end: the U.S. president’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and then-Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.).”
“Both were part of a shadow diplomatic effort, backed in part by private interests, aimed at engineering a negotiated exit to ease President Nicolás Maduro from power and reopen resource-rich Venezuela to business, according to people familiar with the endeavor.”
Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign sent an email to supporters saying her fundraising was “a good chunk behind where we were at this time last quarter,” The Week reports.
Her campaign had so far raised $17 million ahead of next week’s fourth-quarter fundraising deadline, the email said — at least a 30% drop from the $24.6 million it had ended up with last time.
Joe Biden appeared to walk back a statement he made that he would refuse to testify at the impeachment trial of President Trump — even if he was subpoenaed, CBS News reports. Said Biden: “I would honor whatever the Congress in fact legitimately asked me to do.”
Pete Buttigieg said that Joe Biden’s vote to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq is an example of “why years in Washington is not always the same thing as judgment,” the AP reports. Said Buttigieg: “He supported the worst foreign policy decision made by the United States in my lifetime, which was the decision to invade Iraq.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked President Trump in a phone call for passing on an information which helped prevent “acts of terrorism” in Russia, Reuters reports.
Why are we helping Russia? I doubt Russia shares their intelligence with us.
Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who was eager to hear whatever dirt Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani claims to have on Joe Biden several weeks ago, now seems to have some misgivings.
In an interview with the Daily Beast published on Sunday, Graham advised Giuliani to have the information on Biden that he supposedly found in Ukraine vetted by the intelligence community in case the “intel” is merely part of Russia’s disinformation campaign.
“He has not shared any of that information with me,” Graham told the Daily Beast.
“My advice to Giuliani would be to share what he got from Ukraine with the IC to make sure it’s not Russia propaganda,” the Republican senator added. “I’m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all over the world.”
White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the United States would be very disappointed if North Korea tested a long-range or nuclear missile and would take appropriate action as a leading military and economic power, Reuters reports.
O’Brien added that Washington has many “tools in its tool kit” to respond to any such test.
Paul Krugman’s analysis of what he calls “America’s lost decade” where policies were skewed toward the wealthy:
“Why do a small number of rich people exert so much influence in what is supposed to be a democracy? Campaign contributions are only part of the story. Equally if not more important is the network of billionaire-financed think tanks, lobbying groups and so on that shapes public discourse. And then there’s the revolving door: It’s depressingly normal for former officials from both parties to take jobs with big banks, corporations and consulting firms, and the prospect of such employment can’t help but influence policy while they’re still in office.
[…] the news media [has] echoed [their] priorities, treating them not as the preferences of one small group of voters but as the only responsible position. As Vox’s Ezra Klein noted at the time, when it came to budget deficits it seemed that “the usual rules of reportorial neutrality” didn’t apply; reporters openly advocated policy views that were at best controversial, not widely shared by the general public and, we now know, substantively wrong.
But they were the policy views of the wealthy. And when it comes to treatment of differing policy views, the media often treats some Americans as more equal than others.”
CNN: “45 immigration judges have left their positions, moved into new roles in the immigration court system, or died over the last year — nearly double the number who departed their posts in 2017 and 2018. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is facing a backlog of more than 1 million cases, pushing many immigration cases years into the future.”
Wall Street Journal: “Though Mr. Trump has solicited advice elsewhere, resulting in a competing bids for influence by aides, the president has chiefly relied on Mr. Cipollone for impeachment strategy, officials say. He has been a near-constant presence in Mr. Trump’s office in recent weeks.”
“The two have developed a close bond and sometimes converse with a shorthand born of their familiarity.”
Said one official: “They are stapled to each other’s side.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) criticized President Trump for his tweets and language, saying he doesn’t believe the president is someone who young people can look up to, CBS News reports.
Said Langford: “I don’t think that President Trump as a person is a role model for a lot of different youth. That’s just me personally.”
He added: “I don’t like the way that he tweets, some of the things that he says, his word choices at times are not my word choices. He comes across with more New York City swagger than I do from the Midwest and definitely not the way that I’m raising my kids.”
“You don’t go through the first part in the House and then just tee this up for a Senate process where the guy that is going to be in charge of orchestrating the entire Senate trial has said that the whole thing is already baked and cooked and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. You don’t go and do that. That makes a mockery of the entire system.”
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), on CNN.
“Florida Democrats are used to being wooed by presidential candidates hungry for endorsements and local fundraising early in primary season. This year, the love is late in coming,” Politico reports.
“The state and its 219 party delegates have long enjoyed a front-row seat to electoral brawls. The 2020 election calendar, however, has dimmed the spotlight on the state’s celebrity after the Legislature, under pressure from national leaders of both parties, adopted a March 17 primary. By the time that date rolls around, 25 states and four U.S. territories already will have voted and nearly half the Democratic Party’s 4,051 delegates will be spoken for.”