By Robert A. Vella
Topics for this Sunday include Democrats’ focus on Trump administration officials they intend to question in their impeachment inquiry of the president, a Republican on the Federal Election Commission – Caroline Hunter – who tried to block a routine report on foreign activities in U.S. elections, a federal court ruling on Trump’s new “fast track” deportation policy, how Trump’s unconstitutional diversion of federal funds to pay for his border wall project will affect the U.S. military strategic operations in Guam, an embarrassing blunder by the Los Angeles Police Department, how police in Texas knew about the dangerous mental state of the Odessa mass shooter eight years ago, and more insight into the election confusion in Israel which could topple beleaguered prime minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.
The Democrats sent the list of current and former officials in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, saying each has been scheduled for an interview with House committees in October. Lawmakers sent a separate memo notifying Pompeo of a subpoena for documents relating to the administration’s dealings with Ukraine.
The officials Democrats want to depose include Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; Kurt Volker, a former NATO ambassador who was Trump’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations; State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; State Department counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl; and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Four of the five officials were mentioned in a whistleblower complaint in which Trump is accused of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for personal gain.
Former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker plans to appear at his deposition next Thursday in front of three congressional committees, according to a source familiar with his plans.
Volker’s appearance before the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs committees was announced just hours before the news broke Friday evening that he had resigned.
The deadline for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to produce documents from the State Department on this matter after being subpoenaed by three congressional committees is after Volker is set to appear. The sequence here appears strange because usually investigators want to have documents in hand before interviews.
Some White House officials see Volker’s departure as being motivated by him believing he needed to protect the McCain Institute, where he also maintained a role during his time as special representative to Ukraine, explained one source familiar with discussions at the White House.
Generally, there is not much love lost for Volker by White House officials, whom another source says “was never fully on the Trump train.”
In a politically apocalyptic year, with the threat of foreign interference in the 2020 election looming, one thing has been constant: You could set your watch to the Federal Election Commission’s digest showing up online.
The latest in election regulatory activity has published every Friday in 2019 and has posted in a similar frequency going back to 2009. The only recent disruption was the government shutdown that began around Christmas last year.
That was until this Friday, after what FEC Chair Ellen L. Weintraub said was a Republican commissioner’s effort to block a draft memo on prohibited foreign national electoral activity from being included in the digest, which led to the digest being withheld from the public.
But Weintraub found a way to get the information out.
The Trump administration was dealt a blow late Friday by a federal judge after she ruled to block its move that would allow immigration officers to deport people who entered the U.S. illegally before they appear before judges.
The policy, which was announced in July but hasn’t yet been enforced, would allow fast-track deportations to apply to anyone in the country illegally for less than two years. Now, they are largely limited to people arrested almost immediately after crossing the Mexican border.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, said the administration’s expansion of “expedited removal” authority violated procedural requirements to first seek public comment and ignored flaws in how it has been used on a smaller scale at the border.
Border wall funding
HONOLULU — President Donald Trump is raising a large chunk of the money for his border wall with Mexico by deferring several military construction projects slated for Guam, a strategic hub for U.S. forces in the Pacific.
This may disrupt plans to move Marines to Guam from Japan and to modernize munitions storage for the Air Force.
About 7% of the funds for the $3.6 billion wall are being diverted from eight projects in the U.S. territory, a key spot in the U.S. military’s efforts to deter North Korea and counter China’s growing military.
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department has opened an inquiry after a recruitment ad went up on the right-wing website Breitbart, saying such a job listing would conflict with the department’s “core values.”
After being peppered with questions on social media, Police Chief Michel Moore said Saturday on Twitter that the LAPD did not purchase ad space from the site and is trying to determine whether the posting was meant to “discredit” the department. The LAPD’s official Twitter account said in a separate set of messages that the department is looking for ways to ensure the situation doesn’t happen again.
Her son had refused to take his mental-health medication. He was delusional about a government conspiracy against him and had threatened to end his own in life in a shootout with police.
When Amarillo, Texas, police officers arrived at her home the night of February 7, 2011, they found what they interpreted as preparations for an attack — a machete hidden in her son’s bed and an underground shelter he had dug in the backyard. In a recording the mother shared with police, her son declared, “911 will bow down before me.”
The officers were so troubled by what they encountered that they recorded floor plans of the property and shared the information with the city’s SWAT team, according to incident reports. The woman’s then-28-year-old son, they concluded, was volatile and might hurt somebody someday.
Those concerns were tragically realized when the woman’s son—Seth Ator—engaged police in a wild shootout not unlike what officers feared might happen eight years earlier.
(Bloomberg) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make a last ditch effort to form a government after elections this month produced a parliamentary stalemate, his Likud party said in a text message.
Talks on Sunday morning with the rival Blue and White party to form a unity government ended unsuccessfully. Netanyahu might return his mandate from President Reuven Rivlin if negotiations fail, Likud has said.
Israel has held two inconclusive elections in less than a year, resulting in political paralysis that may continue through the end of the year at a time of mounting diplomatic and regional security challenges. Netanyahu is also facing the prospect of being brought to trial on corruption charges. His legal woes may have given him an added incentive to stay in power, amid speculation he’s been seeking to pass a law that would shield an incumbent leader from prosecution.
Netanyahu’s Likud party slightly trailed Blue and White in the Sept. 17 election, but he had a slim lead when the factions were asked to recommend their choice for premier to Rivlin. Nearly two weeks on, little progress has been made in resolving the political stalemate.