Trump claims Adam Schiff is faking the transcripts he’s putting out from Intelligence Committee depositions

President Donald Trump tweeted out another conspiracy theory about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) Monday as two more transcripts were released from those testifying in the House Intelligence Committee as it prepares for impeachment.

“Just like Schiff fabricated my phone call, he will fabricate the transcripts that he is making and releasing!” Trump tweeted.

Trump also claimed that Shiff will not allow Trump any witnesses. The president’s lawyers haven’t explained to him that the House does not hold the trial for impeachment, it’s the Senate that holds the trial. That’s where witnesses will be presented and the White House can refute the claims. Schiff is having a hearing around the impeachment inquiry and investigation.

Last week Republicans demanded that the depositions be made public. Once Shiff announced that the hearings would be public and he would release the transcripts of the depositions to the public, Republicans then said the hearings should be behind closed doors and the president claimed the depositions were fake.

Republicans were present during the depositions and are quoted in the transcripts.

Trump did not present any evidence of his claim.

[Raw Story]

On Veterans Day, Trump Laments Passing Whistleblower Law Meant to Improve VA: ‘To Think I Signed!’

On Veterans Day, President Donald Trump lamented passing a whistleblower law meant to increase protections for employees who uncovered wrongdoing in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“To think I signed the Whistleblower Protection Act!” Trump said Monday, stepping on an announcement from the White House twitter account praising Trump’s accomplishments for veterans.

The actual Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in 1998, but Trump has passed at least two laws related to whistleblower protections, according to a review of the congressional record.

The White House tweet is apparently referring to the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, which was sponsored by GOP Sen. Marco Rubio. The law passed the Senate via voice vote.

The law established a new special office in the VA to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and makes it easier to fire employees accused of misconduct. However, an Inspector General report released late last month found the office had largely failed in its mission to protect whistleblowers and conducted corrupt investigations.

Trump also signed the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 into law, which is named for a VA doctor who was ousted and later killed himself after he blew the whistle on the over-prescription of opiates at his VA facility.

[Mediaite]

Trump on Megadonor and Ambassador Sondland: ‘I Hardly Know the Gentleman’

President Donald Trump, when asked about Gordon Sondland’s damaging testimony in the impeachment inquiry, claimed “I hardly know” his ambassador who gave a million to his inauguration.

“Let me just tell you, I hardly know the gentleman,” Trump told reporters Friday. “But this is the man who said there was no quid pro quo, and he still said that. And he said that I said that.”

In addition to Sondland donating $1 million to the Trump inaugural committee, Trump tweeted about Sondland last month–calling him “a really good man and great American” when he directed him not to testify.

Sondland was eventually subpoenaed and testified behind closed doors. A transcript of his testimony was released earlier this week.

Trump also alluded to another phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which he floated also releasing a transcript of to the public.

“What they want is they want my first phone call. I had another phone call. And it’s a very important phone call,” Trump said. “They found out there’s another phone call and that’s the first phone call and they want it released and we’re considering them.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says he’s ‘thinking about’ attending Russia’s May Day parade

Donald Trump says he’s considering attending Russia‘s May Day parade in 2020.

The president told reporters outside the White House that he was “invited” by Russian President Vladimir Putin and is “thinking about” attending the procession, which commemorates the end of the Second World War with a display of the country’s military might.

“It’s right in the middle of our campaign season, but I would certainly think about it”, Mr Trump told reporters on Friday. 

Not to be confused with May Day parades, the Moscow Victory Day Parade on 9 May 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the fall of Nazi Germany on the war’s Eastern front.

“President Putin invited me to the… It’s a very big deal, celebrating the end of the war, etcetera, etcetera, a very big deal, so I appreciate the invitation”, Mr Trump said. “It is right in the middle of political season, so I’ll see if I can do it, but I would love to go if I could.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Trump had been invited earlier this year.

Mr Peskov told reporters that Mr Trump had reacted positively to the invitation.

On Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov reportedly confirmed to Russian news agency RIA that Mr Putin’s invitation was “received with interest”, according to Reuters, but the White House did not respond with an affirmative.

Mr Trump’s response on Friday arrives amid ongoing tensions between the two countries, including Russia’s manoeuvring in Ukraine and its interference in 2016 elections and US politics, in Washington and on social media.

Facing the president and members of his cabinet at the White House last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is leading the impeachment charge against Mr Trump, said that she likely was thinking, “All roads lead to Putin” while addressing the president.

[The Independent]

Trump Wants Whistleblower’s Lawyer Sued ‘Maybe for Treason,’ Which Definitely Isn’t a Thing

President Donald Trump tried his hand at tort law on Friday by suggesting the intelligence community whistleblower “should be revealed” and that their lawyer should be sued “maybe for treason.”

“So the whistleblower is a disgrace to our country” Trump said. And the whistleblower, because of that, should be revealed. And his lawyer who said the worst things possible two years ago, he should be sued and maybe for treason. Maybe for treason, but he should be sued. His lawyer is a disgrace.”

It appears that Trump was referring to attorney Mark Zaid. The comments were made during a press assemblage on the White House lawn where the president also addressed the closed-door impeachment hearings and the state of the 2020 presidential race.

The suggestion of treason as a civil action, however, quickly sent legal commentators into a tailspin of eyebrow-raising ridicule.

First Amendment attorney and legal commentator Adam Steinbaugh noted: “you… you can’t be sued for treason.”

That’s true. Treason is a criminal charge. Suing someone is an action taken in a civil court. Criminal charges are leveled by the state. Civil actions–which we usually call lawsuits–are usually filed by the state or private individuals in an effort to obtain money or information.

Treason, in other words, is a suggestion that simply makes no sense whatsoever under the present circumstances. This isn’t an issue that’s subject to debate. There’s plainly and clearly no cause of action known as “treason” under any state or federal law in the United States. (And this probably shouldn’t even have to be explained.)

Under the laws of the United States, treason has a very specific and very limited definition. Per the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

There’s also a separate codification of treason under at 18 U.S. Code § 2381 which barely tweaks the constitutional definition and also assigns specific penalties for committing the criminal act.

No concept, provision or sleight of legalese that exists in the U.S. legal order would be capable of transmogrifying the above potential crimes into something that anyone could sue anyone else for. The point, now a bit belabored, is basically the end of the story.

Except for maybe the jokes.

“Treasonous infliction of emotional distress, dude,” offered Reason‘s criminal justice reporter C.J. Ciaramella. “Look it up.”

On Thursday, it should be noted, one of the intelligence community whistleblower’s attorneys sent White House Counsel Pat Cipollone a cease-and-desist letter demanding that Trump stop calling for their client’s identity to be exposed and to stop using “rhetoric that may endanger their life.”

“I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates’, behavior,” attorney Andrew P. Bakaj wrote.

The whistleblower’s attorney later laid it on the line:

In the best light, such statements seek to intimidate my client–and they have. As I am sure you are aware, my firm was in the process of coordinating with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to have my client deposed by congressional investigators. However, as a direct consequence of the President’s irresponsible rhetoric and behavior, my client’s physical safety became a significant concern, prompting us to instead state our willingness to only answer written interrogatories [questions].

Trump’s campaign to expose and smear the intelligence community whistleblower has, effectively, given the whistleblower pause about how and whether they should testify. Bakaj says that’s a crime.

“In light of this, it is reasonable to submit that your client’s activity constitutes a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant,” Bakaj continued. “Furthermore, because my client is a lawful whistleblower and a prospective congressional witness, any threats to influence, obstruct, or impede my client’s cooperation is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505, Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees. Finally, reprisal against my client for cooperating with a congressional inquiry would be a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1513, Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant.”

Despite this warning, Trump once again called for the whistleblower’s identity to be revealed.

The 45th president is arguably skilled at asymmetric attempts to muddy the waters and that’s as good an explanation as any for what happened on the White House lawn Friday morning. That doesn’t mean necessarily mean any of this is well-advised. 

Those most recent attacks on these attorneys and their clients are exactly the sorts of statements cautioned against in the cease-and-desist missive. They’re also the sort of statements that congressional investigators are likely to add to any eventual articles of impeachment.

[Law and Crime]

Trump Pushes Insane QAnon Conspiracy, “I caught the swamp. I caught them all.”

Earlier this week, billionaire Leon Cooperman had some advice for the President. He urged Trump to change his behavior or sit the 2020 election out. Cooperman has since thrown his endorsement behind the Democratic candidacy of Michael Bloomberg.

This morning, Trump was asked about the comments from his fellow billionaire. The President told reporters that not only he didn’t really know Cooperman, but that he has defeated the fake news media and caught the swamp.

Trump claimed that the billionaire’s opinion was shaped by the media. He began, “You’ve really shaped my behavior, because from the day I came in here, I’ve had problems with phony stuff, like a phony dossier that turned out to be false, like false investigations that I’ve beaten.”

The President said that Cooperman should be happy with the job he’s done so far. “I don’t know Leon Cooperman, but whoever Leon Cooperman is, I know of him, he can have his own view, but in the meantime I’m making him rich and I’m making a lot of other people rich, including the working man and woman.”

One of Trump’s main campaign promises was to “drain the swamp.” According to the President, this goal has be achieved. “I think in light of all of the things going on, and you know what I mean by that: the fake news, the Comeys of the world, all of the bad things that went on, it’s called the swamp… you know what I did,” he asked. “A big favor. I caught the swamp. I caught them all. Let’s see what happens. Nobody else could have done that but me. I caught all of this corruption that was going on and nobody else could have done it.”

[Hill Reporter]

Trump hits ‘political hacks in New York’ after settling Trump Foundation lawsuit

President Trump on Thursday lashed out at New York’s Democratic attorney general, accusing Letitia James of “deliberately mischaracterizing” a settlement in a lawsuit involving his charity for “political purposes.”

“I am the only person I know, perhaps the only person in history, who can give major money to charity ($19M), charge no expense, and be attacked by the political hacks in New York State. No wonder why we are all leaving!” Trump said in a statement issued on Twitter Thursday evening. 

“Every penny of the $19 million raised by the Trump Foundation went to hundreds of great charitable causes with almost no expenses. The New York Attorney General is deliberately mischaracterizing this settlement for political purposes,” the president continued.

A Manhattan judge earlier Thursday ordered Trump to pay $2 million to nonprofit groups as part of a settlement in a civil lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general’s office last year that alleged he used his charity’s funds for personal and political means. The dispute centered on $2.8 million raised by the Trump Foundation at a 2016 fundraiser for military veterans.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla ruled Thursday that Trump “breached his fiduciary duty to the Foundation” by allowing “his campaign to orchestrate the Fundraiser, allowing his campaign, instead of the Foundation, to direct distribution of the Funds, and using the Fundraiser and distribution of the Funds to further Mr. Trump’s political campaign.”

Scarpulla said that she ordered Trump to pay $2 million in damages rather than $2.8 million — the amount the attorney general had argued for — because the funds ultimately reached their intended destinations, veterans charities.

The lawsuit, filed by then-New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood in June 2018, named Trump, his three eldest children and the Trump Foundation and alleged violations of campaign finance law.

Trump on Thursday attacked James as well as Underwood and her processor, Eric Schneiderman, who resigned amid accusations of physical abuse. Trump accused them of targeting him for political purposes.

Trump also criticized James for not investigating the Clinton Foundation — the charity founded by his former 2016 Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, and former President Bill Clinton.

“It has been 4 years of politically motivated harassment – first by lightweight AG Schneiderman, prior to his resignation for beating up women – then AG Underwood, who was impossible to deal with, and now AG Letitia James, who does not acknowledge that we gave 100% of the funds to great charities, but refuses to investigate the Clinton Foundation with all of its problems,” Trump said.  

Trump also said he would be “happy to donate” $2 million to eight charities, namely Army Emergency Relief; Children’s Aid Society; City Meals on Wheels; Give an Hour; Martha’s Table; United Negro College Fund; United Way of Capital Area; and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Thursday’s order came after the foundation agreed in December to dissolve under court supervision as part of agreement with the state attorney general’s office. In the order, Scarpulla wrote that the parties agreed to a “consensual resolution of the bulk of this proceeding” in October that left it up to her to determine the amount Trump would pay in damages.  

James positioned the order as a major victory for her office. 

[The Hill]

Trump Lies About Fact Checkers

President Donald Trump slammed The Washington Post late on Wednesday night over their report claiming that he wanted to have Attorney General William Barr hold a press conference and publicly clear him of any wrongdoing from his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying that the story was “totally untrue.”

The Washington Post reported late on Wednesday evening:

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.

…As the rough transcript was released, a Justice Department spokeswoman said officials had evaluated it and the whistleblower complaint to see whether campaign finance laws had been broken, determined that none had been and decided “no further action was warranted.” It was not immediately clear why Barr would not go beyond that statement with a televised assertion that the president broke no laws, nor was it clear how forcefully the president’s desire was communicated.

“The story in the Amazon Washington Post, of course picked up by Fake News CNN, saying ‘President Trump asked for AG Barr to host a news conference clearing him on Ukraine,’ is totally untrue and just another FAKE NEWS story with anonymous sources that don’t exist,” Trump tweeted. “The LameStream Media, which is The Enemy of the People, is working overtime with made up stories in order to drive dissension and distrust!”

Trump added, “Years ago, when Media was legitimate, people known as ‘Fact Checkers’ would always call to check and see if a story was accurate. Nowadays they don’t use ‘Fact Checkers’ anymore, they just write whatever they want!”

[The Daily Wire]

Trump formally pulls out of landmark Paris climate agreement

President Trump on Monday began the yearlong process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

The official announcement cements a promise Trump made in the White House Rose Garden in 2017 when he first announced his intention to withdraw from the global climate change agreement signed by every other country in the world.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in a statement.

“President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement,” Pompeo said. “The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy.”

“The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix,” he added, arguing “innovation and open markets” will drive emissions reductions.

Trump’s views on the deal have been widely criticized by Democrats, environmentalists and even some Republicans, who say the U.S. is abdicating global leadership at a time when urgent action is required to stem the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

“It is shameful. It is cowardly when we need to be brave and act boldly. Long after the rest of us are gone, future generations will remember this president’s failure to lead on the greatest environmental challenge of our time,” said Sen. Tom Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. 

“By breaking America’s commitment to the Paris Accord, President Trump is reducing America’s standing in the world,” Carper added.

The president has repeatedly boasted about already withdrawing the U.S. from the deal, despite the rigid timelines required by the agreement for nations seeking to leave it.

The agreement allowed the U.S. to begin the process to withdraw on Monday and finalize the U.S. exit from the agreement on Nov. 4, 2020 — just one day after the presidential election.

The process will kick off just weeks ahead of a United Nations summit in Spain, where leaders will hammer out final details for complying with the agreement.

Democrats have already asked U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft to recuse herself from the withdrawal process, given her financial and personal ties to the fossil fuel industry. Craft’s husband, Joe Craft, is CEO of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest coal companies in the U.S.

Recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate accord has become a box to tick for Democrats running for president in 2020, most of whom have said they would do so their very first day in office.

While some Republicans may have changed their rhetoric on the realities of climate change, many remain opposed to the deal, arguing the U.S. should not have to make efforts to curb emissions without more efforts from other countries first.

House Democrats have taken steps aimed at preventing Trump from leaving the climate pact, passing a resolution in May that would block the move.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately said the bill “will go nowhere” in the Senate.

Climate experts have called the Paris deal the price of admission to the climate conversation, but warn that even the near-global effort may fall short of the action necessary to limit rising temperatures.

The landmark 2015 agreement signed by former President Obama requires the U.S. to reduce emissions about 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

The withdrawal kickoff earned harsh rebuke from environmental groups.

“Donald Trump is the worst president in history for our climate and our clean air and water. Long after Trump is out of office, his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement will be seen as a historic error. Trump has once again demonstrated that he is more interested in catering to the interests of the world’s worst polluters than he is in listening to the American people,” the Sierra Club said in a statement.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called the move a “grave and reckless mistake.”

“Climate change won’t be solved without a global effort. It won’t happen without U.S. leadership. It won’t happen as long as the world’s second-largest climate polluter is backsliding on the climate pledge it has made to the rest of the world,” NRDC President Mitch Bernard said in a statement. 

[The Hill]

Trump claims bribery isn’t an impeachable offense — but it’s in the Constitution as an example

President Donald Trump went off on Twitter Sunday against the idea that “some” reports are incorrectly citing Republican senators believe he tried to extort Ukraine.

“False stories are being reported that a few Republican Senators are saying that President Trump may have done a quid pro quo, but it doesn’t matter, there is nothing wrong with that, it is not an impeachable event. Perhaps so, but read the transcript, there is no quid pro quo!”

Quid pro quo” is a Latin word that simply describes extortion or bribery. The Constitution outlines “high crimes and misdemeanors” as impeachable offenses and gives examples in Section 4 of Article II.

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

[Raw Story]

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