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E.g., 12/10/2019
E.g., 12/10/2019

White House balks at participating in this week's impeachment hearing

12/02/19 08:00AM

As the congressional impeachment inquiry shifts this week to the House Judiciary Committee, this appears to be the moment Donald Trump and his team have been waiting for. With the House Intelligence Committee having completed hearings as part of a lengthy fact-finding process, the Judiciary panel offers the president and his lawyers an opportunity to begin presenting a defense.

With this in mind, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) formally extended an invitation to the White House last week, urging the president to "stop complaining about the process" and begin participating in the impeachment proceedings. Nadler gave the White House a deadline of Dec. 6 to make its intentions known.

Last night, as NBC News reported, he received a response.

The White House said Sunday it will not participate in the House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing on Wednesday but left open the possibility that it may take part in future proceedings.

In a letter to committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called the hearing, which will explore the "historical and constitutional basis of impeachment," unfair.

Politico's report added, "The decision indicates that President Donald Trump has listened to his allies and some congressional Republicans who argued that a White House presence at the hearing would validate a process they have harangued as illegitimate and partisan."

Of course, Republicans have harangued that the process has been illegitimate and partisan because, in its preliminary stages, Team Trump wasn't able to testify or present a defense. Now that the president and his attorneys have been invited to participate directly in the process, they've effectively decided to boycott?

The one thing Team Trump said it wanted most -- a chance to participate and present a defense -- now appears to be the thing Team Trump won't accept.

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Abortion clinics face down myriad pressures to remain open

Abortion clinics face down myriad pressures to remain open

11/29/19 09:34PM

Rachel Maddow reports on the lengths to which abortion clinic operators like Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, have to go to stay open to patients while dealing with hostility from protesters, state legislatures, and judiciaries, not to mention funding issues and the challenge of recruiting physicians who could be threatened by... watch

Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.27.19

11/27/19 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* From bad to worse for Giuliani: "President Trump's personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, negotiated this year to represent Ukraine's top prosecutor for at least $200,000 during the same months that Giuliani was working with the prosecutor to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the discussions."

* The right expected way too much from the Horowitz report: "The Justice Department's inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump's campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia's election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general's report said."

* Trump's latest legal setback: "A federal judge in Oregon blocked President Donald Trump's bid to deny immigrants visas unless they buy health insurance within 30 days of entering the country or otherwise show they can cover their medical costs."

* DHS: "The internal watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security found that the Trump administration anticipated it would separate 26,000 children if the "zero tolerance" policy of 2018 had been allowed to continue, and that the agency knew it lacked the technology to track and reunite children with their parents."

* Dems seem to be raising a legitimate point: "As the Justice Department's internal watchdog prepares to release a long-awaited report examining the FBI's conduct in 2016 and 2017 in the Russia investigation, Democrats are expressing frustration over what they view as his failure to examine the conduct of Donald Trump's attorneys general over the past two years."

* Climate crisis: "With world leaders gathering in Madrid next week for their annual bargaining session over how to avert a climate catastrophe, the latest assessment issued by the United Nations said Tuesday that greenhouse gas emissions are still rising dangerously."

* Remember last week, when Trump's EPA started rolling back chemical-plant safeguards? "An explosion at a chemical plant in southeastern Texas early on Wednesday injured at least eight people, shattered the windows of nearby homes and forced residents near the site to flee as orange flames shot into the sky."

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Trump learned of whistleblower complaint before releasing Ukraine aid

11/27/19 03:37PM

On Aug. 12, a whistleblower filed a formal, written complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community on Donald Trump's Ukraine scheme, roughly five weeks after the administration quietly froze U.S. military aid to the vulnerable ally. Inspector General Michael Atkinson soon after scrutinized the complaint, deemed it credible, and concluded that it involved a matter of "urgent concern."

As a procedural matter, the next step in the process was supposed to be notification of the Intelligence Committee chairs on Capitol Hill. But as it turns out, in this case, someone else was notified about the whistleblower's complaint, too. As the New York Times reported:

President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower's complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lawyers from the White House counsel's office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.

The timeline, of course, is of critical importance. Trump ordered the hold on military aid in July, he learned of the complaint against him in August, and he released the promised aid in September. Or put another way, the American president agreed to do the right thing only after becoming aware of the fact he'd been caught doing the wrong thing.

That's no small detail, especially in the context of an impeachment inquiry evaluating the motivations behind the White House scheme. Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah explained, "This is what prosecutors call 'consciousness of guilt.' It's very strong evidence that when he froze the money it was for an illicit purpose. Otherwise, why not keep it frozen and explain it was all on the up and up to fight 'corruption?'"

But let's also not overlook the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland from last week.

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By focusing on impeachment polling, Trump picks the wrong fight

11/27/19 12:40PM

Over the last week or so, Donald Trump has focused his attention nearly every day on public-opinion polls related to his impeachment. The president usually responds to discouraging data by insisting pollsters are part of a conspiracy to make him look bad, but this week, the Republican has been reduced to making up imagined polls that he claims show broad opposition to his impeachment.

Trump kept this going during his campaign rally in south Florida last night.

"They're pushing that impeachment witch hunt, and a lot of bad things are happening to them," Trump told rallygoers. "Because you see what's happening with the polls? Everybody said, 'That's really bulls**t.'"

The crowd erupted into a cheer and began chanting "bulls**t," echoing the president.

Putting aside the oddity of hearing a presidential crowd chant a profanity, Trump seems almost desperate for people to believe impeachment is unpopular. Maybe he believes it, maybe he hopes Democrats will change direction if they fear a backlash, or maybe the president thinks he can make a falsehood true by simply asserting it, over and over again.

Whatever the motivation, there are a couple of ways to look at the latest data. According to the latest figures from FiveThirtyEight's tally, public support for impeaching Trump and removing him from office is between 45% and 50%. That's roughly where the numbers have been since early October.

To be sure, it'd be a mistake to look at these results and describe the impeachment effort as wildly popular, but at the same time, the president's frequent assertions that the American public is turning on the idea are plainly wrong.

All of which leads us to the other angle: historical context.

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