By Robert A. Vella
This week’s public testimony in the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry of President Trump kicked-off today with two witnesses who gave firsthand accounts of Trump’s attempt to coerce the newly elected president of Ukraine for personal political gain. The following stories cover the testimony provided so far plus more revelations regarding this scandal and other news. The plea deal made in the criminal prosecution of convicted Russian spy Maria Butina’s American boyfriend Paul Erickson is especially noteworthy because the details of his cooperation weren’t released but quite possibly involves illegal conduct by the National Rifle Association which was one of Russia’s targets used to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
Vindman is one of four key witnesses testifying at the House Intelligence Committee House Tuesday. The others are: Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Pence, Tim Morrison, another senior NSC official, and Kurt Volker, a former envoy to Ukraine.
Ukrainians ‘came to understand’ what Trump wanted, State Department aide David Holmes testifies.
House is investigating whether Trump lied to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, its general counsel told a federal appeals court.
Attacking witnesses is Trump’s core defense strategy in fighting impeachment.
As the House Intelligence Committee opens its second week of public impeachment hearings, Mr. Volker will say that he did not realize that others working for Mr. Trump were tying American security aid to a commitment to investigate Democrats. His testimony, summarized by a person informed about it who insisted on anonymity to describe it in advance, will seek to reconcile his previous closed-door description of events with conflicting versions offered subsequently by other witnesses.
Mr. Volker will be one of four witnesses appearing before the committee on Tuesday as it ramps up its investigation into the president’s effort to extract domestic political help from a foreign power while holding up $391 million in American security aid. The committee, which already had eight witnesses set for this week, added a ninth on Monday by calling David Holmes, a senior American Embassy official in Ukraine who overheard a conversation in which Mr. Trump asked about whether Ukraine was going to agree to carry out the investigations he wanted.
A counselor in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine told lawmakers last week that he was shocked to overhear a phone call in which a top diplomat assured President Trump that Ukrainian officials would pursue an investigation of interest to the U.S. commander in chief — a probe which the diplomat later suggested was of former vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s political rival.
The counselor, David Holmes, also testified that the Ukrainians “gradually came to understand that they were being asked to do something in exchange” for a White House meeting or military aid, which was held back as the president and his allies pressed for the Biden investigation, according to a transcript of his testimony released Monday.
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’s conversations with Mr. Trump about the investigations, including one revealed last week in another ambassador’s testimony, has made him a central figure to Democrats’ investigation.
Several witnesses have testified to impeachment investigators that they were alarmed by what they perceived as dual channels of U.S. policy on Ukraine—one traditional, and the other led by Mr. Sondland and Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, which focused on the president’s push for certain investigations. 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.
Two of Perry’s longtime friends received a potentially lucrative contract from the Ukrainian government after he attended the inauguration of its newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in May. And Perry had recommended one of them, Michael Bleyzer, as an energy adviser during the course of his meeting with Zelenskiy.
It sure seems like a clear-cut case of cronyism if not pay-for play, offenses Perry has been accused of before — as well as other forms of corruption: In 2015, he was charged with abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant after seeking the resignation of then-Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. The charges were dismissed.
More significantly now, Perry is engulfed in the growing controversy over Trump’s seeming efforts to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the matter that led Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives to open an impeachment inquiry.
An overwhelming 70% of Americans think President Donald Trump’s request to a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, which sits at the heart of the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, was wrong, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds.
A slim majority of Americans, 51%, believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely.
In addition to the 51%, another 19% think that Trump’s actions were wrong, but that he should either be impeached by the House but not removed from office, or be neither impeached by the House nor convicted by the Senate. The survey also finds that 1 in 4 Americans, 25%, think that Trump did nothing wrong.
Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering, according to a plea agreement filed in a South Dakota federal court Monday afternoon.
In a two-page statement detailing the factual basis for the plea, Erickson said he conned someone only identified as “D.G.” into wiring him $100,000 under the pretense that the money was for a real estate investment in North Dakota. As part of the plea filed in U.S. district court in South Dakota, Erickson admits the money was not for a real estate deal. He also notes that he wired $1,000 of the money to a person called “M.B.”
A CBS News investigation has uncovered a possible pay-for-play scheme involving the Republican National Committee and President Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas. Emails obtained by CBS News show the nominee, San Diego billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate half a million dollars as his confirmation in the Senate hung in the balance, chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.
When Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas in September, Manchester wanted to help. So the San Diego real estate developer, who prefers the nickname “Papa Doug,” loaded up his private jet with supplies and headed for the hard-hit Caribbean country where he owned a home – and hoped to soon be serving as U.S. ambassador.
A Trump supporter, Manchester donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. He was offered the Bahamas post the day after Mr. Trump was sworn in. Manchester said Trump told him, “I should probably be the ambassador to the Bahamas and you should be president.”
WASHINGTON, Nov 18 (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday temporarily put on hold a lower court ruling that would require President Donald Trump’s accounting firm to hand over some of his financial records to a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee.
The order issued by Chief Justice John Roberts does not indicate whether the court ultimately plans to hear Trump’s appeal, filed on Friday, of the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It merely puts the litigation on hold while the nine justices decide how to proceed. The hold remains in effect until the court acts.
A fringe group of far-right activists have been disrupting conservative and pro-Trump events in recent weeks, drawing rebukes from mainstream Republicans who are eager to separate the party from white nationalists and alt-right racists.
The alt-right activists view Kirk and Shapiro as insufficiently conservative on issues like immigration and claim to be carrying the mantle for President Trump. Members often show up at the events wearing red Make America Great Again hats and Fuentes’s show is called “America First” in a nod to the president’s popular slogan.
Shapiro, who is Jewish, and others have described the disruptions as an insidious effort to smuggle racist and anti-Semitic ideologies into the conservative mainstream.
Federal prosecutors have charged two guards at a prison in Manhattan in connection to the investigation into accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, a senior law enforcement official said.
The charges against Michael Thomas and Tova Noel, who are both in custody, are expected to be made public shortly and to center around falsifying prison records.
The guards were on duty before Epstein died by suicide in his cell on Aug. 10. The guards were said to have falsified documents to indicate they were regularly checking on the inmate.
The Associated Press reported Friday that federal prosecutors had offered a plea deal to two officers responsible for guarding Epstein the night of his death, but the officers declined the offer.