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By Robert A. Vella

The top stories for this Thursday highlight William Barr’s rejection of a desperate request by President Trump for the Attorney General to publicly declare that his phone conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky – which is now the focus of the House of Representatives’  impeachment inquiry – was perfectly legal.  For Barr, who has been heavily criticized for leading the Department of Justice on Trump’s behalf instead of impartially upholding the rule of law, Trump’s request was apparently a step too far.  Vice President Mike Pence’s role in the scandal is now fully in the crosshairs of the impeachment inquiry as one of his top advisors will give closed-door testimony before three House committees today.  The testimony given by William Taylor (the then-acting head of the U.S. embassy in Ukraine), which he will publicly repeat next week, has unequivocally exposed Trump’s attempt to coerce Zelensky for personal political gain – clearly an illegal quid pro quo (i.e. bribery, as defined by the U.S. Constitution) and- for all practical purposes – criminal extortion as well.  The trial of Roger Stone has begun, and prosecutors’ opening statement asserted that he worked closely and deliberately with others to obtain hacked Democratic Party emails from WikiLeaks in order to sway the 2016 presidential election towards Donald Trump.

William Barr

From:  Trump wanted Barr to hold news conference saying the president broke no laws in call with Ukrainian leader

President Trump wanted Attorney General William P. Barr to hold a news conference declaring that the commander in chief had broken no laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival, though Barr ultimately declined to do so, people familiar with the matter said.

The request from Trump traveled from the president to other White House officials and eventually to the Justice Department. The president has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference, Trump advisers say.

In recent weeks, the Justice Department has sought some distance from the White House, particularly on matters relating to the burgeoning controversy over Trump’s dealings on Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry they sparked.

Mike Pence

From:  As public hearings loom, VP Pence aide meets with U.S. House committees

WASHINGTON — U.S. congressional committees conducting an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump met on Thursday for the first time with a top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, one of the last witnesses to testify behind closed doors before public hearings start next week.

Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer and special adviser to Pence for Europe and Russia, arrived at the U.S. Capitol to testify behind closed doors on Thursday morning with members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees. Lawmakers will look to Williams for information about how much Pence knew about efforts by Trump and those around him to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, and foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

William Taylor

From:  Top diplomat in Ukraine directly ties Trump to quid pro quo

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told House impeachment investigators last month that President Donald Trump directed officials to tie military aid to Ukraine to demands that the country open political advantageous probes, according to a transcript of his testimony made public Wednesday.

The transcript of Taylor’s closed-door testimony before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump — the latest in a series of witness transcripts made public — confirms NBC News’ reporting about his more than nine hours of testimony last month. It also contains new details about the language he used in describing the White House’s attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine that shed light on his level of concern about the matter.

From:  Taylor expected to be first to testify in public hearings

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats announced they will launch public impeachment hearings next week, intending to bring to life weeks of closed-door testimony and lay out a convincing narrative of presidential misconduct by Donald Trump.

First to testify will be William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, who has relayed in private his understanding that there was a blatant quid pro quo with Trump holding up military aid to a U.S. ally facing threats from its giant neighbor Russia.

[…]

Along with Taylor, the public will hear from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump fired after what she and others say was a smear campaign against her, and career State Department official George Kent. Taylor and Kent will appear Wednesday, Yovanovitch on Friday.

Roger Stone

From:  Stone Trial Links Trump More Closely to 2016 Effort to Obtain Stolen Emails

WASHINGTON — President Trump was more personally involved in his campaign’s effort to obtain Democratic emails stolen by Russian operatives in 2016 than was previously known, phone records introduced in federal court on Wednesday suggested.

Federal prosecutors disclosed the calls at the start of the criminal trial of Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s longtime friend, who faces charges of lying to federal investigators about his efforts to contact WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. Russian intelligence officers had funneled tens of thousands of emails they stole from Democratic computers to WikiLeaks, which released them at critical points during the presidential race.

The records suggest that Mr. Trump spoke to Mr. Stone repeatedly during the summer of 2016, at a time when Mr. Stone was aggressively seeking to obtain the stolen emails from Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The prosecutors noted that they did not know what Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump had discussed. But they stressed that the timing of their calls dovetailed with other key developments related to the theft and release of the Democratic emails.

Other news

From:  Pentagon leader appeals to Trump to allow military justice cases to proceed unfettered

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper appealed to President Trump this week to allow the military justice system to proceed unfettered in a number of high-profile cases, officials said, as concern intensifies among Pentagon leaders that presidential intervention could damage military discipline and morale.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Esper said he had a “robust discussion” with Trump on Tuesday about the cases of three current or former service members charged with war crimes or other wrongdoing. Earlier in the week, Fox News reported that the president was likely to issue pardons or take other actions to assist them.

“I offered, as I do in all matters, the facts, the options, my advice, the recommendations, and we’ll see how things play out,” Esper said.

From:  Judge strikes down new Trump rule on religious objections

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a new Trump administration rule that could open the way for more health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions or other procedures on moral or religious grounds.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer said the U.S. Health and Human Services Department overstepped its authority and went beyond existing law in issuing the rule. He also said that the measure could be costly, burdensome and damaging to emergency care and that the whole rationale for the rule was based on a lie.

He said the department’s claim that there was a significant increase in complaints about workers being forced to violate their conscience was “flatly untrue.” The HHS rule, he said, is a classic “solution in search of a problem.”

From:  Your DNA Profile is Private? A Florida Judge Just Said Otherwise

For police officers around the country, the genetic profiles that 20 million people have uploaded to consumer DNA sites represent a tantalizing resource that could be used to solve cases both new and cold. But for years, the vast majority of the data have been off limits to investigators. The two largest sites, Ancestry.com and 23andMe, have long pledged to keep their users’ genetic information private, and a smaller one, GEDmatch, severely restricted police access to its records this year.

Last week, however, a Florida detective announced at a police convention that he had obtained a warrant to penetrate GEDmatch and search its full database of nearly one million users. Legal experts said that this appeared to be the first time a judge had approved such a warrant, and that the development could have profound implications for genetic privacy.

From:  California investigating Facebook, demands subpoenaed documents

WASHINGTON, Nov 6 (Reuters) – California is investigating Facebook Inc’s disclosure of user data to Cambridge Analytica and other partners, the state revealed on Wednesday in a court filing that demanded that the social media giant respond to its subpoena.

Revelation of the 18-month-old probe is the latest bad news for Facebook, which is already under investigation by 47 U.S. states. Some states, particularly New York and Nebraska, have raised concerns that Facebook and other big tech companies engage in anti-competitive practices, expose consumer data to potential data theft and push up advertising prices.

From:  New Zealand passes law aimed at combating climate change

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand lawmakers on Thursday joined forces across the aisle to pass a bill aimed at combating climate change.

The Zero Carbon bill aims to make New Zealand reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to the point the country becomes mostly carbon neutral by 2050. It gives some leeway to farmers, however, who bring in much of the country’s foreign income.

The bill was spearheaded by the liberal government but in the end was supported by the main conservative opposition party, which nevertheless promised changes if it wins the next election.

Italy to require studying climate change in schools

Senate unanimously passes bill making animal cruelty a felony

Rand Paul blocks Senate resolution backing protection for whistleblowers

Facing Investigation, Giuliani Needed a Lawyer, but Firms Stayed Away

China says have agreed with US to cancel tariffs in different phases

Longtime Indiana Democrat Pete Visclosky retiring from Congress

22 thoughts on “Barr rejects Trump, Pence in crosshairs, Taylor’s testimony, Stone’s trial, and other news

  1. “That Barr has ALWAYS been a never-Trump-er! He’s OBVIOUSLY a libtard working with the Dems to overturn Trump’s Presidency. He would have done what Trump wanted otherwise.” Signed: One of any of the millions of Trump supporters in America.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wouldn’t that be just FABULOUS if VP Pence gets brought down with our fake POTUS tRump in an impeachment!? Wooohoooo!!! A double-barreled Good Ole Boy shotgun impeachment that hits BOTH bulls-eyes, rather bulls-asses, right up their rectums! 🤣

    Liked by 2 people

    • And ashift, you brainiacs in Zealander know how to recognize good common sense and then ACT UPON IT within record-setting time compared to the rest of the world… and sadly (but not surprisingly) way, WAY faster than the D.S.A., formerly U.S.A. 😉 😛

      D.S.A. = Divided 50 States of America who can’t differentiate rhetoric & propaganda from hardcore facts… like the Earth is a sphere, like all other celestial planets. LOL

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m not a brainiac or a New Zealander, but I agree with the rest. 😎

        I actually have a partially written essay in my iPad titled “The Divided States Of America.” I didn’t finish it and never went back to it because I can’t come up with any potential solutions so it seemed like a waste of energy. I think most of us are fucked, but I hope I’m wrong.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Awww, ashift you are being too modest Sir. 😉 Would you accept highly intelligent non-Zealander then? 😜

          Then it appears you and I assess the current social political trend of our USA or DSA in similar ways. There is a deep, serious, transgenerational motto or core-principle my paternal family raised me on and teaches in many various ways throughout our communities in civil duty—every single uncle and 1 aunt and all of my 11 cousins all SERVED either in our nation’s military or our state’s, municipal’s, county’s, or precinct’s political capacities—that we all MUST work and corroborate as a team player. IOW, yes… individual freedoms and liberty are indeed important, sacred, and must be responsibly, reasonably protected, HOWEVER, in such a multi-plethora diverse nation (melting pot) there is always equal time to be a TEAM PLAYER, a follower for the sake of unity and the greater good!!! Yes?

          Unfortunately, I feel we have some (many?) who overly emphasize that individual, me, me, ME “freedom” (mixed in with hardcore Capitalism) and forget that we have an equal responsibility of being ultimately UNITED as a functioning team. 😦

          Liked by 2 people

        • The “Me, Me, Me – Not We” ideology prevalent today the first commandment of Capitalism. I see Capitalism as the religion that supports the quasi-governmental system of Corporatocracy.

          Our owners put together our collective philosophy with relentless indoctrination in their media and it has infected the population not only with mindless apathy but heartless complacency. Even the people who say they care only care enough to sign petitions. They won’t hit the streets and actually MAKE the change they know we need.

          Check out what I posted today. It’s just a very short comment and a few paragraphs from Alexis de Tocqueville’s book, “De la démocratie en Amerique”, that I think you will find interesting:

          https://ashiftinconsciousness.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/6114/

          Peace, my brother.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Mmmm, I most definitely will check it out! Thank you. And I am quite familiar with Alexis de Tocqueville’s De la démocratie en Amerique. In fact, two of my most favorite, modern Economists—Nobel Prize Winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman—both reference Tocqueville quite a bit! 😉

          And peace to you too ashift! ❤

          Liked by 2 people

        • Great. You have good taste in economists. 😎

          I met a guy at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011-12 that knew Krugman. He wanted him to publicly state his “private” support for OWS, but K, as he called him, didn’t do it.

          Good night. (It’s a little after 1AM here in N.Y. I’m going to laugh to a couple episodes of my favorite old sitcom, Soap, before going to bed.)

          Liked by 2 people

  3. Y’know … during the Bob Mueller investigation, I would look at the graphics in the WaPo and NYT and simply shake my head, comparing the ties and corruption to a giant spider’s web that encompassed too many people to even count. But this … the mega cluster that started with a phone call … is a web that is just as big and just as ominous as was the web of Russian connections. Where does it end??? Is there one single person in Trump’s orbit that is honest and has integrity, that hasn’t sold their soul downstream in order to hang on Trump’s ugly coattails? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Considering the exodus of so many Trump officials, in addition to the numerous resignations of congressional Republicans in recent months, it is evident that some still do have a level of integrity. To better understand what’s happening, we need to distinguish between ideological conviction and political calculus. While the latter is relatively easy to assess because political and electoral motives are generally obvious, the former is much more difficult to see because underlying motives are typically concealed by secrecy. I highly recommend reading Padre Steve’s blog which provides an excellent historical perspective of the Trump movement. Here’s a recent example, from: “Functionaries Ready to Believe and Act Without Asking Questions” Trump’s Orwellian Administration

      As I have thought about the actions of President Trump of the last week or so that I remembered the words of historian Timothy Snyder. He wrote in his book The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America:

      “Authoritarianism begins when we can no longer tell the difference between the true and the appealing. At the same time, the cynic who decides that there is no truth at all is the citizen who welcomes the tyrant.”

      Sadly it seems that there are many Americans, a vocal minority who can no longer tell the difference between truth and what they find appealing. Much of this cannot be ascribed to any other motive than racism, admitted or not. Likewise, there is probably a larger number of Americans who have become so cynical that they have made the decision that there is no truth. They are the people who really make authoritarian regimes possible.

      Hannah Arendt wrote:

      “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction ( i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false ( i.e ., the standards of thought) no longer exist.”

      That is a big part of the danger that we face today. Such people become the willing functionaries who drive the machine of the criminal state.

      The late and great Auschwitz survivor, Primo Levi wrote:

      “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”

      Liked by 3 people

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