W

January 18, 2020

Week 166

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

This week the articles of impeachment were transmitted to the Senate, and the impeachment trial formally began. Senators were sworn in, but it was unclear if they planned to follow the oath they swore to deliver impartial justice.

This week the House released hundreds of pages of documents provided by Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani. Parnas made stunning disclosures in MSNBC and CNN interviews of other Trump regime members being “in the loop” on Trump’s plan to withhold aid from Ukraine pending the announcement of investigations, including Vice President Mike Pence, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and many others.

As the Senate trial was about to begin, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found Trump had violated the law by withholding Ukraine aid. The government of Ukraine also announced it would open a criminal investigation into Trump regime members’ alleged surveillance of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch disclosed in the Parnas documents, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo skipped scheduled Congressional hearings on Iran, and largely hid from the media for the balance of the week.

  1. On Friday, WAPO reported that in a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage, a 49-by-69-inch photograph of the 2017 Women’s March was altered to blur posters carried by marchers critical of Trump.
  2. The Archives acknowledged in a statement to the Post that it made multiple alternations to the original photo blurring signs held by protestors that were critical of Trump or referenced women’s anatomy.
  3. The Archives said the decision was made by agency managers and museum staff members. Officials did not provide the Post with examples of other photographs being altered to avoid engaging political controversy.
  4. On Monday, Trump retweeted a doctored image of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wearing Muslim garments in front of an Iranian flag, which said, “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.”
  5. Jasmine El-Gamal, Obama’s adviser for the Middle East, called Trump’s tweet “deeply damaging” to Muslims in the U.S. as it suggests being Muslim is incompatible with being loyal to America.
  6. On Saturday, Trump tweeted support for anti-government protests in Tehran for victims of the plane crash, “To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency.”
  7. On Sunday, Trump continued, tweeting, “To the leaders of Iran — DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching.”
  8. On Sunday, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll found 56% disapprove of Trump’s handling of Iran, 43% approve. The polls also found 52% feel less safe after the strike, 25% feel more safe, and 22% say they are not effected.
  9. On Sunday, Trump attacked Obama’s secretary of state, falsely claiming John Kerry admitted giving funds “ridiculously to Iran were used to fund attacks on the USA,” calling Kerry a “complete fool.”
  10. Trump also tweeted before Speaker Pelosi appeared on “This Week,” “ask Crazy Nancy why she allowed Adam “Shifty” Schiff to totally make up my conversation,” adding, “He got caught!”
  11. On Sunday, Pelosi told “This Week” that she would not rule out the House subpoenaing former NSA John Bolton to testify if the Senate trial does not include witnesses.
  12. Pelosi also said she has not ruled out the possibility of additional articles of impeachment against Trump, saying, “Let’s just see what the Senate does. The ball will be in their court soon.”
  13. When asked about Trump’s tweets, she said, “I don’t like to spend too much time on his crazy tweets, because everything he says is a projection,” adding, “Everything he says you can just translate it back to who he is.”
  14. Pelosi also said, “The president is impeached for life, regardless of any gamesmanship on the part of Mitch McConnell,” adding, “There is nothing the Senate can do to ever erase that.”
  15. Pelosi also said, “As I have said in terms of this president, all roads lead to Putin,” adding, “And sometimes I wonder about Mitch McConnell, too. Why is he an accomplice to all of that?
  16. Heading into impeachment, a Morning Consult/Politico poll found 57% of registered voters think the Senate should call witnesses at the impeachment trial, 24% do not.
  17. Shortly after Pelosi’s interview on “This Week,” Trump quoted Fox News analyst Gregg Jarrett, tweeting, “Pelosi has made a mockery of Impeachment. Her Articles are so weak,” and “she thought she could extort the Senate. She couldn’t.”
  18. Trump also tweeted a clip of Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s show, adding, “This phony Impeachment Hoax should not even be allowed to proceed. Did NOTHING wrong. Just a partisan vote. Zero Republicans.”
  19. Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “Why did Nervous Nancy allow corrupt politician Shifty Schiff to lie before Congress? He must be a Witness, and so should she!”
  20.  Trump also tweeted, “Why should I have the stigma of Impeachment attached to my name when I did NOTHING wrong?” calling it “a totally partisan Hoax,” and “Very unfair to tens of millions of voters!”
  21. Trump also suggested the Senate should dismiss House charges, tweeting, “Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crimes” gives it “credibility that it otherwise does not have.”
  22. Trump also attacked David Kris, a Justice Department official appointed to review the FBI’s wiretap reform, mimicking a Fox Business News segment in which Rep. Devin Nunes attacked Kris.
  23. Trump tweeted, “You can’t make this up! David Kris, a highly controversial former DOJ official, was just appointed by the FISA Court to oversee reforms,” adding, “Zero credibility. THE SWAMP!”
  24. Trump also lashed out at Michael Atkinson, his appointee for Intelligence Committee Inspector General, tweeting, “ICIG Michael Atkinson facing serious questions,” and suggesting he is part of an anti-Trump conspiracy.
  25. On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff told “Face the Nation” that his committee is “considering” subpoenaing Bolton, adding, “Americans want to see a fair trial in the Senate.”
  26. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told “Face the Nation” that he “didn’t see a specific piece of evidence” backing Trump’s claim that Iran was preparing to attack four U.S. embassies.
  27. Esper said Trump was making the point that such an attack was “probably” in the works, adding he shared that view, saying, “my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies.”
  28. On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined an invitation by the House Foreign Affairs Committee to testify on the Soleimani strike. Chair Eliot Engel said he was “disappointed and frustrated” by the decision.
  29. On Monday, NBC News reported Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in June 2019, in a directive that gave Trump the final sign-off on any specific operation.
  30. The idea initially came up in 2017 under former NSA H.R. McMaster, but came under more serious consideration in 2018 under Bolton. Trump signed off on the strike after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
  31. The directive’s existence explained why the option of the strike on Soleimani was on the menu provided to Trump, but undermined the regime’s stated rationale for carrying out the strike.
  32. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “The Democrats and the Fake News are trying to make terrorist Soleimani into a wonderful guy,” adding, “because I did what should have been done for 20 years.”
  33. Trump also tweeted, “it doesn’t really matter” whether “the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was “imminent” or not,” claiming, “because of his horrible past!” The original tweet misspelled “imminent” as “eminent.”
  34. On Monday, Pompeo shifted the explanation for the strike in a speech saying it was part of a larger strategy of deterrence, saying Iran “must now understand what we will do if they ever again pose risk to American lives.”
  35. Pompeo also responded to questions, saying, “There was in fact a set of imminent attacks that were being plotted by Qassem Soleimani,” and “It was unmistakable,” that “the risks were real and growing.”
  36. On Monday, CNN reported State Department officials say they were not notified of “imminent” threats against four U.S. embassies, and did not issue specific warnings to the embassies before the strike.
  37. On Thursday, Defense One reported 11 U.S. troops were injured in the January 8 Iran missile strike and airlifted to Kuwait and Germany. The Trump regime did not share this information with the American public.
  38. On Monday, Trump tweeted, falsely claiming, “I was the person who saved Pre-Existing Conditions in your Healthcare,” and “rid you of the expensive, unfair and very unpopular Individual Mandate.”
  39. Trump later tweeted “I stand stronger than anyone in protecting your Healthcare with Pre-Existing Conditions. I am honored to have terminated the very unfair, costly and unpopular individual mandate for you!”
  40. AP Fact Check reported Trump’s claims are false: his alternatives to Obamacare does not cover preexisting conditions, while they are covered with Obamacare in place.
  41. NYT reported the Trump regime said in a filing to the Supreme Court that its lawsuit to invalidate Obamacare is not in any rush, and can wait until after the elections while lower courts consider questions more carefully.
  42. The Republican states who filed the lawsuit, and had pushed the Supreme Court to settle the case quickly, reversed too, saying in a filing “the current petitions do not justify immediate, emergency review by the court.”
  43. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “Bernie Sander’s volunteers are trashing Elizabeth “Pocahontus” [sic] Warren, Everybody knows her campaign is dead,” and, “Mini Mike B is also trying, but getting tiny crowds.”
  44. Trump also tweeted, “Really Big Breaking News (Kidding): Booker, who was in zero polling territory, just dropped out,” adding, “I was sooo concerned that I would someday have to go head to head with him!”
  45. On Monday, Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Lev Parnas, tweeted a photo of Parnas and Trump together, and said they provided “a trove of Lev Parnas’ WhatsApp messages, text messages & images” to the House.
  46. On Monday, the White House urged Senate Republicans to preserve the option to speed through a Senate impeachment trial and dismiss charges as Trump looked for a quick end to the proceedings.
  47. Republicans debated including a provision in the resolution to dismiss the charges, which would require 51 votes and would stop the trial. Senate Majority Leader McConnell told Republicans he does not want to hold that vote if it would fail.
  48. On Monday, Trump tweeted, ““We demand fairness” shouts Pelosi and the Do Nothing Democrats, yet the Dems in the House wouldn’t let us have 1 witness, no lawyers or even ask questions,” calling it a “witch-hunt.”
  49. Pelosi responded, accusing Trump of a cover-up, contrasting it to the “Clinton impeachment process,” in which “66 witnesses were allowed to testify including 3 in the Senate trial, and 90,000 pages of documents were turned over.”
  50. Pelosi added in a tweet, “Trump was too afraid to let any of his top aides testify & covered up every single document,” adding, “The Senate must #EndTheCoverUp.”
  51. Later Monday, Sen. Roy Blunt, the No. 4 Republican, told reporters there “certainly there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss” articles of impeachment against Trump.
  52. On Monday, a Quinnipiac poll found 46% believe the Senate trial should remove Trump from office, 48% did not. The poll also found 66% say they would like to see Bolton testify.
  53. Later Monday, CBS News reported the White House is preparing for at least four GOP Senators to defect and vote to call witnesses, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and possibly Cory Gardner.
  54. Other possible defections included Sens. Rand Paul and Lamar Alexander, a Senate “institutionalist.” White House officials also said they expected Trump to invoke executive privilege to block Bolton from testifying.
  55. On Monday, NYT reported Russians hackers from a military intelligence unit GRU successfully hacked Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which is at the center of the impeachment trial.
  56. It was unclear what hackers found, or what they were looking for; experts suggested they were searching for potentially embarrassing information on the Bidens, such as Trump sought in investigations he requested from Ukraine.
  57. The Russian tactic is similar to the one used in the 2016 election: the GRU set up fake websites that mimicked Burisma subsidiaries, and emailed them to Burisma employees in what looked like internal company emails.
  58. On Tuesday, CNN reported behind closed doors, Pelosi raised concerns to her caucus about the Russian hack into Burisma. Pelosi said she learned of the hack through reporting and the Gang of Eight had not been briefed.
  59. Pelosi also said McConnell is acting like a rogue Senate leader, and mused that she sometimes wonders if he has Russian connections.
  60. On Sunday, Axios reported Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to invite Trump to Damascus in a video that aired Sunday on Russia-1 television channel.
  61. On Wednesday, in his annual state-of-the-nation speech, Putin called for constitutional changes which would give him a path to hold on to power after the end of his term in 2024, as he reaches a two term limit again.
  62. In response, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, a long-time Putin ally, unexpectedly resigned, along with his entire cabinet. The change would weaken the presidency and give the cabinet and PM more power.
  63. On Monday, the Treasury Department released data showing the U.S. budget deficit surpassed $1 trillion in 2019, a 17% increase from 2018, and its highest level since 2012.
  64. On Monday, a Wisconsin judge found the state Elections Commission and three of its members in contempt for not having removed more than 200,000 voters from the voter rolls, and fined them $250 per day each.
  65. On Monday, George Nader, a key witness in the Mueller probe, pleaded guilty to child sex charges. Nader also still faces federal court charges of conspiring to funnel illegal campaign contributions.
  66. On Wednesday, lawyers for Michael Flynn said he is looking to withdraw his guilty plea he offered two years ago, just two weeks before he was set to face his long-delayed sentencing.
  67. On Thursday, a federal judge agreed to postpone Flynn’s sentencing for another month while he considers the request to withdraw his plea.
  68. On Thursday, Time magazine’s cover story featured Kushner, with the headline, “The Family Business: the Unusual Power of Jared Kushner.” Campaign manager Brad Parscale refers to Kushner as “No. 2 after Trump.”
  69. On Monday, the Trump regime asked the Supreme Court to lift a lower court order blocking its effort to make it more difficult for immigrants who rely on public assistance, known as public charge, to gain legal status.
  70. On Monday, WAPO reported Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funds for his wall, five times the amount Congress had authorized — and bringing the total to $18.4 billion.
  71. The regime took $2.5 billion from military counterdrug programs in 2019 and will increase it to $3.5 billion in 2020. The regime will also divert $3.7 billion in military construction funding, up from $3.6 billion in 2019.
  72. Trump viewed the court ruling in his favor in Week 165 as encouragement to take more money. The regime has completed 101 miles of new barrier wall so far, far less than the 450 miles Trump promised by election day.
  73. On Monday, Nelly Jordan, a Republican Party leader in Delaware, was removed from her position as vice chair after posting on Facebook that Jewish people who support impeaching Trump are Jews “in name only.”
  74. On Tuesday, a high school student in Kentucky was expelled from Whitefield Academy after a photo of her 15th birthday celebration was shared on social media, showing her wearing a rainbow shirt.
  75. An official at the school said the picture “demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of Whitefield Academy’s beliefs,” and was one of her “lifestyle violations.”
  76. On Tuesday, leaked emails show Trump advisor Stephen Miller suggested to Breitbart the idea of shipping immigrants out of the U.S. on trains as a scare tactic, saying migrants might “replace existing demographics.”
  77. On Tuesday, Yahoo News reported that in addition to appointing judges who are extremists, out of 187 confirmed judges, 85% of Trump nominees have been white and 76% have been men.
  78. On Tuesday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced he will sign a measure into law which allowed continued funding to faith-based foster care and adoption agencies that exclude LGBTQ families based on religious beliefs.
  79. On Thursday, NYT reported the FBI arrested three men suspected of being members of a neo-Nazi hate group called The Base, on their way to a pro-gun rally in Virginia, in anticipation of a possible race war.
  80. On Friday, HuffPost reported three additional neo-Nazis were arrested in the lead-up to the Virginia gun rally: three Georgia men were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit murder as part of The Base.
  81. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and banned firearms and other weapons on the Capitol grounds for the week. On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the ban after it was challenged.
  82. On Friday, a WAPO-Ipsos poll found more than 8 in 10 black Americans describe Trump as racist, and has made racism a bigger issue in the country. The poll also found 9 in 10 disapprove of the job he has done.
  83. On Friday, Pew Research found 68% of Hispanic voters disapprove of Trump, and 67% are dissatisfied with the country’s direction under him. Among Democrats, 87% place a high importance on the 2020 election.
  84. On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to consider whether the Trump regime can allow employers to limit women’s access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.
  85. On Tuesday, Parnas attorney Bondy shared a photo with the Daily Beast of Parnas with Ivanka and Jared at an event. A White House official called it “one of tens of thousands of pictures they take every year.”
  86. On Tuesday, Sen. Tim Kaine told reporters that as many as 10 Republican Senators are considering supporting his resolution that would direct Trump to remove forces from any hostilities against Iran within 30 days.
  87. On Tuesday, Politico reported Sen. Ted Cruz pitched the idea of witness reciprocity, saying if Democrats wanted to hear from Bolton as a witness, Republicans would be able to call Hunter Biden.
  88. On Tuesday, NYT reported behind the scenes, Trump’s team was inviting conservative activists to the White House to plan and strategize as they braced for a damaging period.
  89. Lawmakers were also anxious as they faced an unpredictable process, and debates raged publicly and privately about whether to call witnesses and compel evidence.
  90. Later Tuesday, House Democrats released dozens of pages of notes, text messages, and other records provided by Parnas to the four House committees on the day before articles were set to be transmitted.
  91. Documents were sent to the Senate in a letter from Schiff saying, “Despite unprecedented obstruction” by Trump, “the committee continues to receive and review” evidence and will make “supplemental transmittals.”
  92. Documents included Parnas’ handwritten notes on Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna paper, which he claimed were instructions from Giuliani, saying, “get Zalensky [sic] to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.”
  93. Texts and call logs turned over by Parnas revealed he was in contact with Tom Hicks Jr., a Trump family friend, and Joseph Ahearn, a fundraiser for Trump, about the developments in Ukraine.
  94. In one photograph from May 2018, Parnas is pictured with Hicks and Donald Jr. That month, Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman donated $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC, with which Hicks and Ahearn were affiliated.
  95. Texts revealed a circle of communications on the topic of Yovanovitch between Parnas, Hicks, and Giuliani, and conservative media Fox News host Sean Hannity, the Daily Caller, and One America News Network.
  96. Documents also included exchanges with Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko in March 2019 on WhatsApp, in which he complains to Parnas about Maria Yovanovitch: “you can’t even get rid of one [female] fool.”
  97. Documents also showed Parnas helped set up a video interview for Lutsenko with John Solomon at The Hill newspaper on Yovanovitch. After the interview, Parnas texted it to Ahearn and wrote, “Have jr retweet it.”
  98. Ahearn replied “Sent,” then Parnas texted, urging him to “Watch Hannity.” Other texts indicate Trump tweeted about the Hannity segment, and Donald Jr. tweeted the U.S. needs “less of these jokes as ambassadors.”
  99. Texts from a Trump donor, former Marine and 2020 House candidate Robert Hyde, to Parnas seemed to indicate he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in March, and made comments that appeared threatening.
  100. On March 25, Hyde texted Parnas, “She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off.” Then later, “They know she’s a political puppet,” followed by, “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”
  101. Hyde also texted, “They are willing to help if we/you would like a price … Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money … what I was told.” Parnas responded: “Lol.”
  102. Documents also included a May 10, 2019 letter from Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky requesting a meeting, in which he said Trump had “knowledge and consent” of his actions, the first public document to state this.
  103. Giuliani also said in the letter that he was acting in Trump’s personal capacity, writing, “In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump,” and added that he would “be accompanied by my colleague Victoria Toensing.”
  104. On Tuesday, Trump held a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during a Democratic debate. Trump said of Soleimani, “Great percentages of people don’t have legs or arms because of this son of a bitch.”
  105. Trump also mocked Democrats, saying it, “doesn’t matter” to them that Soleimani killed “hundreds of thousands of people,” claiming, “they’ll start a new investigation” over whether there was really any imminent threat.
  106. Trump also implied the number of embassies under attack could have been more than four — a charge his own regime did not back — saying, “If I didn’t kill him, and let’s say we lost three, four, five embassies or bases.”
  107. Trump blamed Obama for Soleimani, the “king of roadside bombs,” saying, “He should have been killed 20 years ago.” He also attacked Pelosi, saying, “her district is filthy dirty,” telling her to spend more time at home.
  108. Trump also touted a war crime, saying, “People said to me, ‘why are you staying in Syria?’” adding, “Because I kept the oil. Which frankly, we should have done in Iraq.”
  109. Trump also veered off, saying, “Somebody said, ‘Oh, sir, don’t mention the lightbulb,’” adding, “The new lightbulb costs five times as much, and it makes you look orange,” and he cares more about the orange light than the cost.
  110. Trump also commented on dishwashers, hyping “new dishwashers that give you more water so you can actually wash and rinse your dishes without having to do it 10 times.”
  111. NYT reported Trump’s voice was uncharacteristically hoarse as he delivered his standard rambling speech, delivering rosy memories of 2016 and airing grievances. He also faced protestors in the sea of red t-shirts.
  112. On Wednesday, Chair Schiff said the Parnas documents make clear Giuliani “is acting at the behest and with the knowledge and consent of the president,” and the documents represent a small sample of what Trump is withholding.
  113. On Wednesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Engel requested documents from the State Department related to Hyde, Parnas, and Yovanovitch, noting alarm that Hyde texted he had “a person inside.”
  114. On Wednesday, Politico reported the State Department abruptly canceled two classified congressional briefings on embassy security and the U.S. relationship with Iran scheduled for Wednesday.
  115. The cancellations coincided with the release of Parnas’ documents. A House aide said staffers were “furious” and noted briefings are required by law every month. The State Department gave no explanation.
  116. On Wednesday, WAPO reported White House lawyers are trying to engineer the fastest impeachment trial in American history, with a goal of concluding the trial in a few days without calling witnesses.
  117. White House aides were also concerned about managing Trump and his tweeting during the trial. They plan to have several surrogates on television defending Trump during the trial.
  118. White House counsel Pat Cipollone is expected to lead Trump’s defense team after Trump took advice not to appoint House members. Some aides worry if Cipollone will perform well enough on television for Trump.
  119. On Tuesday, European countries triggered a dispute mechanism in the Iran nuclear deal that could lead to the return of U.N. sanctions. Britain, France, and Germany said Iran’s recent statements left them “no choice.”
  120. On Wednesday, WAPO reported days before Britain, France, and Germany warned of the violation, Trump had threatened to impose a 25% tariff on European automobiles if they refused to call out Iran.
  121. On Wednesday, NPR reported the Trump regime is expected to release more than $8 billion allocated through a Department of Housing and Urban Development disaster recovery fund to Puerto Rico.
  122. The aid was supposed to be released months ago to help Puerto Rico rebuild in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. So far $1.5 billion has been made available after Congress approved $20 billion.
  123. Congressional Democrats have continuously complained about the delay. They sought to ramp up pressure on the regime after Puerto Rico recently faced a series of earthquakes recently.
  124. HUD was meant to release $8.2 billion of aid in September, but did not. Forty members of Congress asked HUD Sec. Ben Carson in a letter for “an explanation as to why your Department has chosen to violate the law.”
  125. On Wednesday, Politico reported that U.S. intelligence officials have quietly asked the House and Senate intelligence committees not to hold open hearings this year on election security, fearing anger by Trump.
  126. The request came from the Director of National Intelligence, saying they did not want intelligence chiefs to be seen on camera disagreeing with Trump on big issues like threats from Iran, Russia, or North Korea.
  127. On Thursday, AP reported federal officials announced in a change of policy, the FBI plans to notify state officials, in most cases the secretary of state, if local election systems have been breached.
  128. In the past, only local officials were notified, meaning state officials might certify an election without realizing there had been a breach in individual counties. The change is meant to bolster federal-state cooperation.
  129. On Friday, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said at an event that Homeland Security “fully expects” Russia to attempt to interfere in U.S. elections in 2020, but added, “Let me be clear: We are prepared.”
  130. Wolf said, “As we saw in 2016,” Russia will “attempt to interfere in the 2020 elections to sow public discord and undermine our democratic institutions.” He also highlighted threats from China and Iran.
  131. Wolf said agencies are “laser-focused” on securing the 2020 elections, and praised reforms made since 2016 which he claimed ensure that “over 90 percent of votes cast in 2020 will have a corresponding paper ballot.”
  132. On Friday, the Kansas City Star reported a local Kansas City radio station, KCXL, signed a lease to broadcast six hours of programming from a Russian state-owned media outlet Radio Sputnik.
  133. The station is owned by RM Broadcasting in Florida. The owner, Arnold Ferolito, disputed the DNI’s 2017 assessment that Sputnik and RT were involved in Moscow’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.
  134. On Wednesday, Pelosi announced her impeachment managers, a diverse group led by Chair Schiff, including Chairs Jerrold Nadler and Zoe Logren, and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Sylvia Garcia, Val Demings and Jason Crow.
  135. There have been 20 impeachment managers in U.S. history and all have been white men. Pelosi picked three women to be part of the seven, and three people of color.
  136. As Pelosi was naming her managers in a ceremony, Trump tweeted, “Here we go again, another Con Job by the Do Nothing Democrats,” adding, “All of this work was supposed to be done by the House, not the Senate!”
  137. Pelosi said the managers would walk the articles to the Senate at 5 p.m. McConnell’s office said the Senate must first notify the House managers that they are ready to receive the articles and asked for Thursday at noon.
  138. In opening debate on the resolution, Nadler said Trump “gravely abused the power of his office” and “betrayed our country” by using the “powers of his office” to pressure a “government to help him win reelection.”
  139. Pelosi stood next to a poster of an American flag and a quote from the Pledge of Allegiance, and said “once somebody is impeached, they are always impeached. It cannot be erased,” adding Trump “gave us no choice.”
  140. Pelosi also said Trump was guilty of “an assault on the Constitution of the United States,” and addressing Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, added, “It’s not personal. It’s not political. It’s not partisan. It’s patriotic.”
  141. The resolution to send the articles passed 228-193. Pelosi held an engrossment ceremony at 5 p.m., then impeachment managers marched to the Capitol Rotunda to present the articles to the secretary of the Senate.
  142. Pelosi signed the resolution with black impeachment pens with her signature emblazoned in gold, and used one pen for each letter, then handed them out to members of Congress. Republicans complained.
  143. After the articles were delivered, McConnell announced the details for Thursday’s proceedings. As promised earlier, in the latest gamesmanship, McConnell did not accept articles Wednesday from Democrats’ procession.
  144. On Wednesday, as the House voted on impeachment, Trump signed phase one of the trade deal with China, months after initially claiming the countries had made a deal. The phase offered modest changes.
  145. Trump held a grandiose ceremony in the White House with Chinese officials, flanked by his team of all white men, inviting 27 members of Congress, four cabinet secretaries, two governors, and a Fox Business host.
  146. Trump told reporters, “Some of the congressmen may have a vote,” calling it “the impeachment hoax,” adding, “it’s not going to matter…But I’d rather have you voting than sitting here listening to me introduce you, OK?”
  147. Later Wednesday, Rep. Demings, one of the impeachment managers, called on McConnell to recuse himself from the impeachment trial given his statement on Fox News that he is coordinating with the White House.
  148. Deming’s statement noted: “The moment Senator McConnell takes the oath of impartiality required by the Constitution, he will be in violation,” adding, “he has effectively promised” to let Trump manage his own trial.
  149. Later Wednesday, Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, “Trump knew exactly what was going on,” adding, “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent” of Giuliani or Trump.
  150. Parnas also said of Zelensky and his inner circle, “they have no reason to speak to me,” adding, “They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work.”
  151. Asked if the Ukraine effort by Giuliani was to hurt Joe Biden, Parnas said, “it was never about corruption. It was never — it was strictly about Burisma, which included Hunter Biden and Joe Biden.”
  152. Parnas said when he arrived in Kyiv in May, he was given a clear directive by Giuliani to make clear to Zelensky that unless he publicly announced an investigation, Ukraine’s relationship “would be sour” with the U.S.
  153. Parnas said that one of the consequences he threatened was that Vice President Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelensky’s inauguration, a high-level recognition urgently sought by Ukrainians, would be canceled.
  154. The next day, Trump instructed Pence to cancel his trip to the inauguration. Parnas said that Pence was aware of what they were up to, and that the Ukrainians got the message.
  155. Parnas also said Attorney General William Barr was likely aware of what was going on, saying, “Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it’s impossible,” adding, “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”
  156. Parnas also said that he met several times with Rep. Devin Nunes, who had denied knowing him Parnas to Fox News, and said he was referred to a Nunes aide who was aware of what he and Giuliani were doing.
  157. Parnas said he wants to testify because “I want to get the truth out,” adding, “it’s important for our country,” and, “There’s a lot of things that are being said that are not accurate.”
  158. A spokeswoman for the DOJ told MSNBC that Parnas’ claims regarding Barr were “100 percent false.” Maddow said her show asked for a comment from Pence’s office, but did not get a response.
  159. While the show was airing, Giuliani said in a statement to MSNBC that Parnas “never” spoke on behalf of Trump. Asked if Parnas was lying, Giuliani said, “All I can say is the truth,” and, “He’s a very sad situation.”
  160. Later Wednesday, Rep. Nunes changed his previous story on Fox News, saying he can now remember the call, but describing it as “very odd and random, and saying Yovanovitch was not discussed.
  161. Shortly after, Rep. Ted Lieu tweeted that Nunes wrote him a letter threatening that he “will sue me if I didn’t apologize for saying last month that Nunes conspired with Parnas.”
  162. Shortly after, Hyde told Sinclair Broadcasting he had “absolutely not” been monitoring Yovanovitch, saying, “It was just colorful, we were playing — I thought we were playing.”
  163. Later Wednesday, NYT reported on their interview with Parnas. Parnas expressed regret for having trusted Trump and Giuliani. His lawyer said Parnas was eager to cooperate with prosecutors investigating Giuliani.
  164. Parnas said he did not speak with Trump on Ukraine, but he met with him several times and was told by Giuliani Trump was in the loop. Parnas said of a text from Giuliani, “It’s going to work I have no 1 in it,” “no 1” is Trump.
  165. Later Wednesday, WAPO reported Hyde has a history of turbulent behavior including being involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital after an incident at Trump’s Doral resort in May 2019.
  166. Hyde was also had a restraining order against him for “inappropriate behavior and advances” against a female political consultant. His social media posts included him at the bowling alley at the White House in May.
  167. Later Wednesday, NYT reported Hyde was often seen in Trump circles at the Trump Hotel DC, and gained access to Trump events having donated $25,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, and other GOP causes.
  168. On Thursday, in an interview with CNN, Parnas said he met Ukrainian officials another time to demand an investigation of the Bidens: the first was in early 2019 with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
  169. Parnas said he told Poroshenko he would need to announce an inquiry of Burisma: “Trump would either invite him to the White House or make a statement for him, but basically would start supporting him for president.”
  170. Parnas said he later told a Zelensky aide unless they announced an investigation “there was no aid,” “no inauguration, Pence wouldn’t be at the inauguration,” and “no visit to the White House.”
  171. Parnas also said Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing arranged a sit-down with Barr and senior DOJ officials on behalf of their client Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who agreed to get dirt on the Bidens.
  172. Parnas said Barr was aware of the arrangement, saying, “Bill Barr basically did (the meeting) as a favor to Joe diGenova.” Parnas also got a cut of the $1 million retainer Firtash paid for the lawyers.
  173. On Thursday, NYT reported Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation into allies of Trump, following reports that Yovanovitch was under surveillance while stationed in Kyiv as revealed in Parnas’ documents.
  174. The Internal Affairs Ministry of Ukraine said documents “contain facts of possible violations of Ukrainian law and of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, which protect the rights of diplomats.”
  175. The statement also noted Ukraine “cannot ignore such illegal activities” on its territory. The move was a remarkable departure for Zelensky, who has tried to avoid any hint of partisanship dealing with the U.S.
  176. On Thursday, Ukraine also said it has asked the FBI for help in investigating the reported hacking of Burisma by hackers working for Russia.
  177. On Thursday, Pence told reporters of Parnas, “I don’t know the guy,” and called the allegation that he was aware of efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens as “completely false.”
  178. On Thursday, the non-partisan federal watchdog agency Government Accountability Office said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget violated the law when it withheld $391 million from Ukraine.
  179. At issue is the Impoundment Control Act which limits a president’s power to withhold money that has been allocated by Congress without legislative branch approval. The Act was enacted in 1974 over Nixon’s veto.
  180. The Trump regime rejected the findings. This is the third time the GAO has found Trump violated the act, including in December 2017 related to Energy Department funds and December 2018 related to the DHS funds.
  181. Although the report does not result in any action or specific penalty against the White House or Trump, it will focus attention in the impeachment trial on the legality of Trump freezing Ukraine aide.
  182. On Thursday, GOP Sen. Martha McSally lashed out at a CNN reporter asking her about impeachment, saying, “You’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you.” McSally also tweeted a video clip of the encounter.
  183. On Thursday, at her weekly news conference, Pelosi said of Republicans who do not want the Parnas evidence introduced at the trial, “They’re afraid of the truth,” and “want to ignore anything new that comes up.”
  184. Pelosi added, “Public opinion will have a lot to do with this,” adding, “public opinion has grown enormously for seeing witnesses…and documentation,” and “they’ll just have to contend with the public on that.”
  185. Pelosi also criticized Facebook, calling the company “shameful” and accused it of acting in an “irresponsible” way, adding, “They didn’t even check on the money from Russia in the last election.”
  186. Pelosi added, “The Facebook business model is strictly to make money,” adding, “They don’t care about the impact on children” or the “truth,” and they intend “to be accomplices for misleading the American people.”
  187. On Thursday, the Senate began the formal impeachment trial. The House impeachment managers again walked the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Schiff read aloud the articles of impeachment to the Senators.
  188. Schiff added Trump “warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
  189. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts administered an oath to 99 senators in session (Sen. James Inhofe was absent), requiring them to swear to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors in the trial.
  190. The clerk then called each Senator by name for their turn to sign the oath book on a table in the well of the Senate, meant to convey the gravity of presidential and judicial impeachment trials.
  191. On Thursday, Senators voted unanimously to allow the sergeant-at-arms to “install appropriate equipment and furniture in the Senate chamber.” Cell phones, computers, and other electronic gadgets will not be allowed.
  192. On Thursday, shortly after the Senate trial got underway, Trump tweeted, “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!”
  193. On Thursday, following calls from Democrats led by Sen. Kamala Harris, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham paused judicial nominations during the impeachment trial.
  194. On Thursday, NYT reported the DOJ will investigate a years-old leak of classified information about a Russian intelligence document, and appear to be focusing on former FBI director and Trump adversary James Comey.
  195. The investigation marked the second time the DOJ has investigated Comey, who Trump has called a “leaker” and said he should face prison time, and will focus on Comey providing details to reporters.
  196. Prosecutors are examining articles in the NYT and WAPO in 2017, which cite a Russian government document. The document played a key role in Comey’s decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton.
  197. The timing of the investigation was highly unusual given leaks are typically investigated when they happen. It is being conducted by the U.S. attorney office in Washington, which is also investigating Andrew McCabe.
  198. On Thursday, in the second part of his MSNBC interview, Parnas said, “it was all about 2020, to make sure [Trump] had another four years,” adding, “There was no other reason for doing it.”
  199. Parnas also said then Energy Secretary Rick Perry was involved, noting on his way to Zelensky’s inauguration, he called Giuliani “to ask him what to discuss, and Rudy told him to make sure to give [Zelensky] the message.”
  200. Parnas added that Perry called Giuliani after the inauguration, saying “that he spoke to Zelensky, and Zelensky’s going to do it.” Parnas said the effort did lead to Zelensky making a general announcement.
  201. Parnas noted, “Giuliani blew his lid,” because the announcement “wasn’t supposed to be a corruption announcement,” adding, “It had to be about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and Burisma.”
  202. Parnas also recalled a conversation with Trump at a super PAC dinner and saying something negative about Yovanovitch to him, then Trump immediately turning to an aide, John DeStefano, and said “fire her.”
  203. Parnas also said Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow was “in the loop,” adding he “didn’t agree with what Rudy was doing, but he knew what he was doing,” adding Selulow “didn’t want to be involved in the Ukraine stuff.”
  204. Parnos said Sekulow held discussions about getting a visa for Ukrainian general prosecutor Viktor Shokin so Giuliani could “debrief him in front of Lindsey Graham and certain other people like the attorney general.”
  205. Parnas also said that former Trump attorney John Dowd visited him in jail and told him to be a “good boy” and to “be quiet.” Records show Trump and Sekulow spoke about Dowd representing Parnas and Igor Fruman.
  206. Parnas also compared Trump to a “cult leader,” adding he believes he is more safe telling his story than leaving it in the hands of Barr, saying, “I’m more scared of our own justice department than I am of these criminals.”
  207. On Thursday, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley compared Trump to Billy the Kid and Al Capone, saying, “he’s going to be seen as acting in a demagogic way and acting in a dictatorial way.”
  208. On Friday, Trump announced his made-for-tv impeachment legal team, with the addition of former independent counsel Ken Starr and celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
  209. Trump also enlisted Robert Ray, Starr’s successor as independent counsel, who negotiated a settlement with Clinton as he left the White House. All three appear on Fox News, and face controversies.
  210. Dershowitz represented Jeffrey Epstein. Starr was fired as president of Baylor University over his mishandling of sexual misconduct by the football team. Ray was charged with stalking a former girlfriend.
  211. Trump’s legal team will be led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and his personal lawyer Sekulow, who will also be charged with preserving Trump’s support with Senate Republicans.
  212. Other lawyers on the team included Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general who declined to pursue charges against Trump University, along with Jane Serene Raskin, and Eric Herschmann.
  213. On Friday, Pompeo broke 72 hours of silence over alleged surveillance and threats to Yovanovitch, saying he believed the allegations were false, but that he had an obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.
  214. Pompeo claimed in a radio interview that he had no knowledge of the allegations prior to the release of the Parnas documents, and claimed he did not know and had not met Parnas.
  215. On Friday, Chair Engel threatened in a letter to subpoena Pompeo to appear if he does not show up for the scheduled House Foreign Affair Committee hearing on January 29 to discuss Iran policy.
  216. On Friday, Trump tweeted, “The GOA got it exactly backwards,” meaning the GAO, citing quotes by Dershowitz and Sean Hannity on Fox News, adding, “They do what the House asks. The Swamp!”
  217. On Friday, the Trump regime proposed additional changes to former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature achievement of stricter nutritional standards on the school lunch menu. Friday was also Michelle’s birthday.
  218. USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps announced the changes would allow schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits on the menu, and sell more pizza, burgers, and fries.
  219. On Friday, newly released Parnas documents revealed repeated contact via text messages between Nunes’ aide, Derek Harvey, and Parnas relating to Giuliani’s Ukraine efforts.
  220. Text messages also revealed the three met at the Trump Hotel DC, and that Parnas set up calls for Harvey with the same Ukrainian prosecutors who were working with Giuliani.
  221. Text messages showed that Harvey sent Parnas Nunes’ contact information on April 10, two days before the two spoke. Parnas told MSNBC Nunes “couldn’t be in a spotlight,” citing “something to do with an ethics committee.”
  222. On Friday, Rep. Lieu tweeted a response to Nunes’ lawyer over his threat to sue him, saying, “It is true” Nunes worked with Parnas “and conspired to undermine our own government,” adding, “take your letter and shove it.”
  223. On Friday, Hyde pointed the finger at ardent European Trump supporter Anthony de Caluwe for surveilling Yovanovitch, claiming he had copied and pasted information received from him and sent it to Parnas.
  224. De Caluwe denied the allegations, telling NBC News that Hyde’s statement was “incorrect,” and saying he declined to provide the information Hyde sought, claiming, “I informed him it’s against the law.”
  225. On Saturday, de Caluwe reversed after an additional batch of documents were released, telling NBC News he did send the messages to Hyde, but that there was no actual surveillance and it was meant as a joke.
  226. De Caluwe said in a statement, “My engagement in this exchange with Rob is something that has no credibility. My friendship with Rob was jovial and this exchange was just a part of a ridiculous banter.”
  227. On Friday, in a court filing submitted shortly before midnight, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said he was the one who made the decision to release Peter Strzok and Lisa Page texts.
  228. Rosenstein said he decided to release the texts to the media before his testimony citing concerns that they would be cherry-picked in a manner to undermine the DOJ, as well as Strzok and Page.
  229. On Saturday, Trump lawyer Bondi dismissed the new evidence on “TODAY,” saying, “Parnas liked to take pictures with a lot of people. He showed up at events pretty much everywhere where Republicans were.”
  230. When asked about evidence that Parnas had a breakfast meeting with Trump in September, just days before Parnas was arrested, Bondi replied, “I don’t know what that matters,” and “We’re going to stick to the facts” and law.
  231. On Saturday, WAPO reported at a Friday night fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, Trump delivered a dramatic account, including new details, of the strike against Soleimani to donors.
  232. Trump did not mention an “imminent attack” or threats to U.S. embassies, instead saying Soleimani was responsible for “every young, beautiful man or woman who you see walking around with no legs, no arms.”
  233. Trump said to applause, “He was saying bad things about our country, like we’re going to attack, we’re going to kill your people. I said, ‘listen, how much of this shit do we have to listen to, right?’”
  234. Trump also described the Situation Room moments before the attack: ‘Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds.’ No emotion. ‘two minutes and 11 seconds to live, sir. They’re in the car….Then all of a sudden, boom.”
  235. Trump also bragged he increased the defense budget by $2.5 trillion (the actual amount is $738 billion), and said to those who criticize the budget deficit, “Who the hell cares about the budget? We’re going to have a country.”
  236. On Saturday, Trump retweeted, “Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia,” and “That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away.”
  237. Trump’s tweet came as thousands were expected in Richmond to protest Gov. Northam’s measures put in place after arrests made by the FBI. The State Capitol was enclosed by a chain-link fence and barricades.
  238. On Saturday, thousands marched in the fourth Annual Women’s March in Washington DC and other U.S. cities. Participants said that this year demonstrators said they felt something new: hope.

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Copyright Amy Siskind January 18, 2020

Clerk of the House Cheryl Johnson, left, and House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving pass through Statuary Hall at the Capitol to deliver the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Following are impeachment managers, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and other managers Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.