This article titled “Trump-Ukraine scandal: warnings about Giuliani reportedly began months ago – live” was written by Joanna Walters in New York, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 16th October 2019 01.03 Asia/Kolkata
And sticking with Giuliani, subpoenas and lawyers…
Rudy Giuliani parted ways today with his attorney Jon Sale.
But, apparently on the cusp of not being his lawyer, Sale put his pen to this refusal of Giuliani to comply with the congressional subpoena seeking documents in the impeachment inquiry.
Giuliani under investigation
The businessman, Lev Parnas, is a close associate of Giuliani and was involved in his effort to investigate Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Giuliani said Parnas’ company, “Fraud Guarantee”, based in Boca Raton, Florida, whose website says it aims to help clients “reduce and mitigate fraud”, engaged Giuliani Partners, a management and security consulting firm, around August 2018.
Giuliani said he was hired to consult on Fraud Guarantee’s technologies and provide legal advice on regulatory issues.
Federal prosecutors are “examining Giuliani’s interactions” with Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, who was also indicted on campaign finance charges, a law enforcement source told Reuters on Sunday.
The New York Times reported last week that Parnas had told associates he paid Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars for what Giuliani said was business and legal advice. Giuliani said for the first time on Monday that the total amount was $500,000.
Giuliani told Reuters the money came in two payments made within weeks of each other. He said he could not recall the dates of the payments. He said most of the work he did for Fraud Guarantee was completed in 2018 but that he had been doing follow-up for over a year.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport outside Washington last week on charges they funneled foreign money to unnamed U.S. politicians in a bid to influence US-Ukraine relations in violation of US campaign finance laws. The men were preparing to board a plane to Europe.
Foreign nationals are prohibited from making contributions and other expenditures in connection with US elections, and from making contributions in someone else’s name.
Giuliani would not say where the money came from, only adding: “I know beyond any doubt the source of the money is not any questionable source. The money did not come from foreigners. I can rule that out 100%.”
Subpoena deadlines today
The three House committees leading the inquiry, intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight, demanded the material from Giuliani, alleging that he “pressed the Ukrainian government to pursue two politically motivated investigations.”
The chances of him turning over the material on deadline are, perhaps, slim to medium, given that he has been scathing about the political integrity of the inquiry.
Vice president Mike Pence has also been subpoenaed to submit documents by today, and the chances of him doing so appear to be slim to zero.
And defense secretary Mark Esper, likewise, has a today deadline to comply with a subpoena for related documents from the Pentagon, and has indicated the department will cooperate.
However, he added on Fox News Sunday at the weekend that Donald Trump and other officials may yet create complications for the compliance
“I don’t know what restrictions we may have internally in regard to releasing them,” Esper said. “The White House has a say on the release of documents as well.”
Warnings began about Giuliani and Ukraine many months ago – report
As state department official George Kent continues his testimony behind closed doors to the House intelligence committee on Capitol Hill, crumbs of info are tumbling out in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Kent said he warned colleagues as far back as March, the New York Times reports, about Donald Trump’s personal lawyer/human “hand grenade” Rudy Giuliani’s role in what Kent described as a “disinformation” campaign – using a Ukrainian prosecutor to smear Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden, and the ousted ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch, who was reportedly told that she had “done nothing wrong” but was being withdrawn from her post anyway (following an apparent political campaign against her because she was seen as anti-Trump – and possibly, for those on the make in the swamp, too zealously anti-corruption) defied White House non-cooperation with the impeachment inquiry and testified in Washington last week.
Warren goes full-on SNL
Democratic front-runner Elizabeth Warren is on an absolute tweet storm today, linking America’s big dollar election donation system corrupt, calling out pay-for-play – and taking full advantage of comedy actor Kate McKinnon’s most recent depiction of her on Saturday Night Live.
McKinnon has Warren’s bright-eyed, brisk and breathless earnestness down and raised laughs with her impression of the Senator and 2020 candidate’s tactic of calling small-dollar donors personally to thank them for giving to her campaign.
But for Warren, 70, it’s pure gold.
Early afternoon summary
Action in the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry is taking place behind closed doors today, so we’ll wait breathlessly for any revelations via participating lawmakers on Capitol Hill committees taking testimony from state department official George Kent.
Meanwhile, there is plenty else afoot in US politics.
- The British parents of 19-year-old Harry Dunn have suddenly been invited to the White House this afternoon in connection with the diplomatic row over their son’s death in August.
- Kent is just one of a string of key witnesses testifying behind closed doors in Congress this week, much to Donald Trump’s chagrin.
- The US Congress is back in session after a two week recess. Apart from impeachment action in the House, Senate Democrats aim to force votes on a number of issues, including the climate crisis and gun control.
- Elizabeth Warren will be hoping to cement her position as Democratic front-runner in the primary debate in Ohio tonight – only just over a year to the presidential election now! And how will Bernie Sanders do, just coming back from a heart attack? In an unprecedented format, it’s one stage, one night 12 candidates tonight. The Guardian’s crack team of politics reporter Lauren Gambino and live blogger Joan Greve will be there. National affairs correspondent Tom McCarthy will train his eagle-eye from New York and bring you the main “take aways”.
- As US troops are pulling back from Kurdish territory in north-eastern Syria, Russian forces are moving in amid violence and extreme tension between Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian interests, in a pickle that threatens a new wave of Middle Eastern geo-political instability.
“A pain no painkillers can take away”
Harry Dunn’s parents have spoken this week about the emotional devastation they are suffering after losing their 19-year-old son to a car crash, when he was riding his motorcycle and it was in a collision on a British minor road with a car driven by Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat.
She has expressed grief and sorrow and apologized to Harry’s parents, but they remain bewildered by the fact that she has been able to disappear to the US instead of working with police in the UK for the duration of their investigation into Harry’s death.
A family spokesman said this morning that the parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, who flew to the US on Sunday to “continue our fight for justice”, had been suddenly issued an urgent invitation to the White House this afternoon. It’s unclear what is planned or whether they will meet with Donald Trump there.
Charles said before boarding her flight for the US she had received a letter from Sacoolas expressing her “deepest sympathies and apologies”.
Charles said: “To be perfectly honest, yes, it’s the start of some closure for our family…having said that, as it’s nearly seven weeks now since we lost our boy, sorry just doesn’t cut it.”
Charles described the sensation of losing Harry, who was still conscious when his parents came upon the scene of the crash and tried to reassure him that he would recover, as being “in pain morning until night that no painkillers can take away”.
The family doesn’t want diplomatic immunity to stand in the way of Sacoolas, 42, taking part in the crash investigation in the UK.
Parents of Harry Dunn to attend White House meeting
The parents of Harry Dunn, the 19-year-old motorcyclist killed recently in a car accident outside an RAF base involving a US diplomat’s wife in Britain, are going to the White House this afternoon for a meeting, according to the family.
The parents have already demanded to see all the exchanges between the US embassy, the UK Foreign Office and the British police that led to the decision for the American driver Anne Sacoolas to claim diplomatic immunity and leave the country, the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour writes today.
The lawyers say they will mount a judicial review if the Foreign Office does not cooperate.
Sacoolas has admitted in a statement that she was “driving on the wrong side of the road and is terribly, terribly sorry for that tragic mistake”.
The Foreign Office wrote to the Dunn family at the weekend to say that the US and the UK agreed her diplomatic immunity no longer applied once she returned to the US.
The Dunn family, currently in the US to pursue their demand that Sacoolas return to UK to face an investigation, said they were ready to launch a full investigation into the Foreign Office role.
It is unclear who the family will meet at the White House or what will be discussed.
The parents have recently arrived in the US to step up their campaign to pressure Sacoolas to return to the UK and face police questioning.
She left the UK shortly after the collision between Dunn’s motorbike and a car outside RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire on 27 August. She is believed to have been driving the car and met police afterwards. But no investigation followed after the force was advised she had protective status granted to foreign diplomats.
“Conspiracy of silence”
Much lively chatter about MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and his closing monologue last night in which he noted former colleague Ronan Farrow’s description of alleged attempts at NBC to kill his reporting into the Harvey Weinstein rape and sexual harassment allegations as “a conspiracy of silence by NBC management.”
The news network denies any such conspiracy or campaign and maintains that it didn’t broadcast Farrow’s story (which he soon after took to the New Yorker) because the journalism wasn’t quite there.
And here’s April Ryan and Ronan Farrow, just coz!
US soldiers pulling back as Russian troops arrive
The politically-sensitive pull-out continues steadily amid heavy fighting between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces.
The official says the American troops have pulled out of the Manbij area, where US outposts were set up in 2017.
Troops are consolidating their positions to prepare to fly out of the country soon and US soldiers based in Iraq could conduct cross-border operations against the Islamic State in Syria as they did before creating the now-abandoned partnership with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The AP reminds us that the White House announced a week ago that US forces in northeast Syria would move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault, essentially abandoning the Kurds who fought alongside American forces in the attempt to defeat Islamic State militants.
Captured ISIS militants have been freeing themselves from prison as the region descends into a dangerous chaos.
Last night Trump announced a halt to negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey and began other sanctions, including raising steel tariffs back up to 50% and actions against three senior Turkish officials and Turkey’s defense and energy ministries.
Opposition to these announcements can be summarized thus: a day late and a dollar short. Especially for the Kurdish militia in what had been a semi-autonomous area of north-eastern Syria, and civilians now caught between Turkish and Syrian interests.
The latest news from the region, as reported by the Guardian’s Bethan McKernan, is that Russian troops are now patrolling in the area “in a clear sign that Moscow has become the de facto power broker in the region after the evacuation of US troops.”
Career diplomats testify despite White House resistance
It’s the week that diplomats you’ve never heard of are attending closed door hearings in Washington to testify before the House intelligence committee, which is taking the lead on the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry.
But their very obscurity (for the average outside-the-beltway peasant), and the in-camera nature of the hearings, is of vital importance. Open hearings with big names can be illuminating and move the dial in investigations, whether it’s Trump-Russia or Trump-Ukraine, or whatever. But there’s no denying they often descend into a partisan circus.
Yesterday career diplomat and former top Russia aide, British-born Fiona Hill, who has worked during the administrations of no less than six presidents, gave testimony for almost 10 hours. Some of the details that were later disclosed by indiscreet politicians are absolute dynamite.
Today it’s George Kent, whose title, ordinarily, would be an eye-glazer – Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. But in the circumstances, with the White House trying to stop officials from testifying, folks like these are pure gold to investigators looking for sober facts about what the president’s henchmen have been up to, where, when, with whom and why. The White House apparently attempted to block him, to no avail.
Tomorrow it’s Michael McKinley, who resigned last week as senior adviser to secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who has to be presiding over an increasingly-demoralized state department (what’s left of it) as more details come out about Trump administration shenanigans in Ukraine, and the summary career-execution of former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
On Thursday it’s Gordon Sondland, who is defying a White House block in order to testify about being up to his sorry neck in the Ukraine scandal, despite being US ambassador to the European Union (of which Ukraine is not a member). He probably wishes he had the dignity of being able to call himself a career diplomat, instead of Trump Super Fan.
And now to that Trump tweet. It seems this whole behind-closed-doors thing is really getting the president’s goat. Listen, as the mainstream media, we’d love nothing more than a seat in those committee hearings, but have to admit, reluctantly, that in-camera testimony is a logical move for Adam Schiff and his intel committee.
Can Warren stay ahead?
Before we had back to the impeachment cobbler, here’s a look at that Quinnipiac University poll from late yesterday that noted Elizabeth Warren staying slightly ahead of Joe Biden in the race for the Democratic party nomination to fight for the White House in 2020 – and those two leaders leaving the rest of the pack seemingly further and further behind.
Just a day before the Democratic debate tonight in Ohio, (with a special curtain-raiser piece by my politics colleague, Lauren Gambino) Quinnipiac reports that Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden “remain locked in a close race for the top spot”.
In the latest opinion poll, Warren received 30 percent of the vote among Democratic voters and registered independents who lean towards voting Democratic, while Biden got 27 percent.
Getting smaller in their rear-view mirrors, next placed was Bernie Sanders, with just 11 percent support. South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg was at eight percent and Senator and former California attorney general, Kamala Harris, was struggling at four percent. No other candidate topped even two percent – we’re looking at you, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Julián Castro and the etceteras.
This compares to an October 8 Quinnipiac University poll, in which Warren received 29 percent, Biden got 26 percent, and Sanders had 16 percent of the vote, just shortly after he suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail and was taken to hospital in Las Vegas.
Former chief strategist for Barack Obama and regular TV pundit, David Axelrod, said on CNN last night that Warren “will be stepping up there tonight as a front-runner, if not the front-runner” and striving to cement that position.
Warren tweeting more than Trump
At least, today. Donald Trump has only tweeted once this morning – and we’ll come on to that in a sec. Meanwhile, the Warren digits are flying across the keyboard with her latest “plan for that” on campaign financing.
“When I’m the Democratic nominee,” she states, her campaign will continue to eschew donations from federal lobbyists of Political Action Committees (PACs).
And she’s just announced that she won’t take any contributions over $200 from Big Tech and Big Finance execs, affirming that she’s running a grassroots campaign.
In a flurry of tweets, she also notes that “when I’m president” she will “eliminate big money” from US politics. She wants new campaign finance laws in order to “shut down corruption” and she is keen to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court decisions that lifted restrictions on what she calls “money for influence” election spending.
Climate crisis and inequality: the green gap
An environmental justice forum for presidential candidates in the 2020 election will take place on 8 November in South Carolina, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) has just announced, my colleague Nina Lakhani, Guardian US environmental justice reporter, writes.
This is the first event focussed on environmental and climate justice issues – such as access in the United States to clean air and water, public transport, healthy food, and flood resistance -which disproportionately affect people of colour, indigenous and low income communities. Inequality around such essentials has been called a “civil rights emergency” in the age of Donald Trump.
It will be a Q&A format with candidates to appear on stage one by one in the Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium of South Carolina State University. Questions for candidates can be submitted via ejpresforum.org.
Unsurprisingly, US Senator and currently Democratic front-runner-by-a-whisker, Elizabeth Warren is one of the first to confirm that she’ll take part. Last week Warren published an ambitious plan to tackle decades of environmental discrimination.
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), former Maryland US Representative John Delaney (who is still in the 2020 race, at least officially and in his own mind, despite not making the party threshold for appearing in the debates these days), and entrepreneur Tom Steyer, who makes his debate debut tonight, have also confirmed. You can check here for an up-to-date list of participants ejpresforum.org.
NBCSL is partnering with a bunch of interesting groups for the event including the Pee Dee Indian Tribe of South Carolina, South Carolina Environmental Justice Network, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, NAACP, National Wildlife Federation, National Children’s Campaign, and South Carolina State University.
The event signals how pressing environmental justice issues are in the country’s most marginalized communities – yet it’s an area most candidates have yet to address.
NBCSL President Gilda Cobb-Hunter, said the event, ‘Moving Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving’ will give candidates a rare opportunity for candidates to show votes “where they stand on clean water, clean air and so many of the important issues that people living on the front lines of environmental degradation face.
”Candidates who want to earn the votes of communities impacted by environmental justice should step up, hear our concerns and explain their plans for a cleaner, healthier future for all… [and] show us where they stand on clean water, clean air and so many of the important issues that people living on the front lines of environmental degradation face.”
The NBCSL will hold a second event on gun violence and mental health in December at its Annual Legislative Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Congress back in session
The US Congress returns to business today after a two-week recess. Things have been far from quiet on Capitol Hill, with the impeachment inquiry going full steam ahead via committee sittings and a flurry of subpoenas demanding documents and testimony from witnesses, in the face of the White House declaration that it won’t cooperate with the inquiry.
But the majority of lawmakers have been back in their districts, out and about listening to voters, and now that they’re back in session.
Something outside of the impeachment storm that’s coming up is a likely attempt by Democrats in the Senate (remember them? They’ve been taking a solid back seat to House Democrats who are A. in the majority and B. leading the impeachment inquiry) to force votes on action to address the climate crisis, gun control, healthcare provision and other policies.
Democrats, led in the Senate by New York’s Chuck Schumer, aim to oblige a floor vote on these issues, including Trump administration’s ongoing attempts to roll back the emissions controls kicked off by the Obama administration’s clean power plan.
In a statement, Schumer said that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell “and Senate Republicans have shunned vital proposals to improve American’s lives, including those to address the climate crisis and gun violence epidemic, save protections for people with pre-existing conditions, secure our elections, get big special interest money out of politics and more.”
Democratic debate: Warren forges ahead
Good morning, US politics watchers, it’s another huge day in Washington – and Ohio.
The fourth Democratic primary debate takes place in Westerville, near Columbus, Ohio, tonight (8pm ET) and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has crept into the lead in latest polling. This is the first time we could consider that, perhaps, Joe Biden is no longer the frontrunner.
Warren will be extremely keen to consolidate her position tonight, and she and Biden can see the rest of the field slipping behind. Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, also today (of all days) gave his first TV interview about the Ukraine mess, regretting that he got involved in the business-political “swamp” out there. Understatement.
It is also a crucial night for Bernie Sanders, attempting to bounce back after a heart attack. He’ll feel the spotlight hot on his brow tonight.
In Washington, the Trump-Ukraine impeachment inquiry continues at breakneck speed. George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state, testifies on Capitol Hill behind closed doors, a day after former top Russia aide Fiona Hill testified for almost 10 hours, after which incredible details oozed out via lawmakers. She reported that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, has been referred to as a human “hand grenade”.
Also, federal prosecutors are reported to be scrutinizing Rudy Giuliani’s business and political dealings with regard to Ukraine and Trump’s purported “shadow foreign policy” serving his own ends in the region, the Wall Street Journal says.
And, in northern Syria, the US is scrambling to remove its remaining troops safely as the Trump administration itself scrambles to try to rein in Turkey’s military advance, which it is largely accused of facilitating, to the cost of Kurdish allies.
Hold on to your hats.
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