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  1. #41
    From the Los Angeles Times online - - -

    Europeans are free traders now? That's rich

    By Beth Baltzan

    Jul 26, 2018 | 1:05 PM

    After President Trump met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday, tensions between the two economic powerhouses abated, as the United States and the European Union announced an agreement to move forward on trade negotiations.

    But all is not as it seems. The “deal,” such as it is, is vintage EU: the agricultural sector is excluded, except for soybeans. This won’t be good news for American farmers, who struggle to gain a foothold in a highly protected European market. The Obama administration refused to accept an agriculture carve-out when negotiating a trade agreement with the Europeans.

    Our friends across the pond have deftly taken advantage of President Trump’s rejection of the global status quo to cast themselves as defenders of free trade. But actions speak louder than words. As recently as the G-7 summit in June, the United States floated the idea that the members of the G-7 simply eliminate all their tariffs. The self-proclaimed free trader nations, including those from the EU, were caught with their tail between their legs.

    We need real reform at the WTO, not surgical agreements here and there.

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, faltered, saying that eliminating tariffs would require intense negotiations and “take a long time.” In truth, every WTO member could simply take its tariff commitments and change all the positive numbers to zero.

    That certainly puts Wednesday’s announcement in context.

    As current and former U.S. trade negotiators, including me, know all too well, the EU and others are no more free traders than is Trump. The Europeans like to protect their markets — like agriculture — they just don’t like it when U.S. leaders protect ours. To be clear, in the aftermath of World War II, the United States created this asymmetrical system: We slashed our tariffs more than our trading partners did. The Europeans could charge up to 6% on primary aluminum imports, whereas the United States, for the most part, capped itself at zero.

    In that regard, Europe’s outrage at the president’s imposition of a 10% tariff on aluminum is a bit rich. The WTO expressly authorizes members to protect their essential security interests. Steel and aluminum fall in that realm; it was an open secret on Capitol Hill that the Obama administration shared that view and considered invoking the same provision.

    In response to Trump’s action, the EU manipulated the rules to reject the U.S. national security claim and imposed counter-tariffs, bypassing WTO dispute settlement.

    How is dodging the very rules of a structured system a defense of that system? It is not.

    Amidst all this cynicism, all is not lost. A true champion of the system may finally have emerged: Norway. The Norwegians have chosen to do what champions of the system are supposed to do — forgo the instant gratification of retaliation and instead work through the dispute settlement system, however plodding it may be.

    Some Europeans recognize the systemic imbalance. The political editor of the German newspaper Die Zeit acknowledged in a recent New York Times op-ed that “[the] Europeans have basically been free riders … spending almost nothing on defense, and instead building vast social welfare systems at home and robust, well-protected export industries abroad. Rather than lash back at Mr. Trump, they would do better to ask how we got to this place, and how to get out.”

    The point about vast social welfare systems is one that Democrats must bear in mind. It is Democrats, not Republicans, who have a proud tradition of fighting for a social safety net for dispossessed workers so that job losses, due to trade or otherwise, don’t have to destroy lives.

    Democrats will not reclaim the Midwest, which decided the 2016 election by less than 100,000 votes, by rejecting Trump’s willingness to disturb the global trading system, by welcoming half-measures such as the one the Europeans pitched Wednesday, or by buying into the notion that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a magic bullet. Remember that Trump borrowed critiques of TPP from Midwest Democrats, such as Sherrod Brown and Sandy Levin, not Republicans such as Mike Pence and Paul Ryan, who embraced the deal.

    Democrats have long known that trade theory and trade reality are two different things, and that our trading system needs reform. Even the WTO director-general commented that the systemic “shake-up” is positive in many ways and encouraged member nations to use this as an opportunity to improve the multilateral trading system.

    But we can’t be fooled by the kinds of deals we saw Wednesday. We need real reform at the WTO, not surgical agreements here and there. Trump’s presidency is at least in part the product of exasperated workers who’ve been left behind by globalization. If that fundamental unfairness isn’t addressed, he won’t be the last president elected on a platform of blowing up the system.

    Beth Baltzan is a recent U.S. WTO litigator in the Executive Office of the President of the United States. From 2012 to 2016, she served as Democratic House Ways and Means trade counsel.

  2. #42
    Trump lets states, cities refuse refugees for 1st time in US

    Associated Press / 06:54 AM October 03, 2019

    SAN DIEGO – When President Donald Trump dramatically slashed the number of refugees allowed into the U.S., he also gave state and local governments the authority to refuse to accept them for the first time in history.

    Last week’s move could further undermine a program that has seen an 80 percent drop in the number of refugees allowed in under Trump, who has pushed to limit both legal and illegal immigration.

    If governors or lawmakers want to close the door, it could hurt towns with aging populations that have come to rely on young refugees to revitalize their economies.

    While conservative states like Texas and Tennessee have sued to halt refugee resettlement or demand compensation for the costs, the mayors of more liberal cities like Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Nashville have publicly welcomed more people fleeing danger in their home countries.

    Trump’s executive order again thrusts states and cities into immigration policy, willingly or not, like when they had to decide whether to work closely with federal deportation officers or become “sanctuaries” that limit cooperation.

    The change was announced at the same time Trump cut the number of refugees to 18,000 next year, the lowest level since Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980.

    Trump’s order says the federal government and local officials were not coordinating well and the administration was respecting communities that can’t take in refugees. Refugees have the right to move anywhere in the United States once they’re resettled.

    But the new authority for state and local governments could lead to disruptions, disputes and delays, further chipping away at the U.S. resettlement program.

    The program has long enjoyed bipartisan support and was considered a model for protecting the world’s most vulnerable people because of close coordination with communities that welcomed refugees, advocates say.

    “This order is in effect a state-by-state, city-by-city refugee ban, and it’s un-American and wrong,” said Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, a Maryland-based Jewish nonprofit groupthat helps refugees worldwide find safety and freedom. “Is this the kind of America we want to live in? Where local towns can put up signs that say, ‘No Refugees Allowed’ and the federal government will back that?”

    Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, a Democrat, said he hopes North Dakota’s Republican governor keeps the door open. He said his city has 500 job vacancies and needs refugees to grow the economy, as does North Dakota, which has 30,000 unfilled positions.

    The city was receiving as many as 600 refugees annually until Trump’s restrictions. Last year, Fargo got fewer than 100.

    “I think a lot of mayors will tell you that we’re on the front lines, and we need people in our communities,” Mahoney said.

    He said employers call “all the time” hoping for more refugee workers, and the town has had good experiences with them. Many work in health care as caretakers, in the service industry cleaning hotel rooms or in manufacturing at plants that make windows or computer parts.

    “They are hard-working and often work two jobs while they put their children through school,” Mahoney said. “Ninety percent are fully employed within 90 days.”

    Trump’s order requires state and local officials to provide public written consent to receive refugees.

    North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, who considered suing the federal government to demand more say over the resettlement program, did not respond to questions by The Associated Press on whether he would give his approval.

    It’s unclear whether counties and other government entities also can weigh in, but that could result in the United States admitting far fewer than Trump’s already historically low cap.

    “It has the potential to paralyze the ability to move forward on refugee resettlement in many places across the country,” said Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and a former official in the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, which includes refugee resettlement. He left in 2017.

    The International Refugee Assistance Project is considering suing over the policy, which director Betsy Fisher said is “empowering local officials who share the anti-refugee and anti-immigrant agenda.”

    In 2015, more than two dozen states _ nearly all with Republican governors _ tried to shut out Syrians, citing terrorism fears. But they didn’t have the legal authority.

    A federal judge last year permanently blocked Indiana from trying to turn away Syrians under an order that Vice President Mike Pence championed as governor, which barred state agencies from making payments to a nonprofit resettling refugees in the state.

    Trump’s changes mean resettlement agencies have been receiving less federal funding, which is based on the number of refugees admitted. The money supports language and cultural awareness classes, citizenship assistance, and job training and placement _ programs that help refugees quickly become self-sufficient.

    More than 51 programs have disappeared in the past three years and 41 offices have suspended their services in 23 states, according to the Refugee Council USA, an advocacy group representing non-governmental refugee resettlement agencies.

    Betty Kabbashi, who fled violence in South Sudan, said refugees are grateful to be in the United States and want to contribute to their communities. She’s a widow with two children, ages 5 and 7, who works as a hospital interpreter in Portland, Maine, where the chamber of commerce found that foreign-born residents have contributed $1.2 billion to the metro area’s gross domestic product.

    “I count myself as an American because this is where I found opportunity,” said Kabbashi, who hopes to get her dentistry license. “This is my home.” /gsg

  3. #43
    White House rules out cooperation in impeachment probe

    Agence France-Presse

    Posted at Oct 09 2019 06:56 AM

    WASHINGTON - The White House slammed the door in a letter Tuesday on any cooperation by President Donald Trump's administration with the Democrats' impeachment probe, calling it "constitutionally invalid."

    The 8-page letter to Democratic leaders, signed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, rejected the entire process underway in the House of Representatives, which is examining whether Trump abused his office by seeking a corruption probe in Ukraine of 2020 election rival Joe Biden.

    "President Trump cannot permit his Administration to participate in this partisan inquiry under these circumstances," the letter said.

    "Your inquiry lacks any legitimate constitutional foundation, any pretense of fairness, or even the most elementary due process protections," the letter said.

    The White House said it objected especially to the fact that the lower house had not held a formal vote to launch the impeachment inquiry.

    That "has never happened," a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters. He accused Democrats of "purporting simply to proceed on the basis of a news conference."

    Democrats say that no formal House vote is needed because the impeachment process is in its earliest stages, equivalent to gathering evidence for an indictment. Only then would the Democrats call for a vote on whether to impeach, passing the matter on to the Republican-controlled Senate for a trial.

    The decision means no members of the Trump administration will be authorized to testify in Congress and will ignore subpoenas, the official said.

    He insisted that the White House was "definitely avoiding saying there's no way we'd ever cooperate." However, he gave no explanation of how a change might come.

    The letter had been awaited for several days as part of Trump's strategy of stonewalling investigators and focusing on undermining the credibility of Democratic leaders with his voter base.

    Earlier Tuesday, the White House prevented the US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, from showing up to testify.

    "He would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court," Trump said on Twitter.

    In slightly more measured terms, the letter asks Democrats to drop the entire process.

    "We hope that, in light of the many deficiencies we have identified in your proceedings, you will abandon the current invalid efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry and join the President in focusing on the many important goals that matter to the American people," it said.

  4. #44
    White House calls House impeachment probe unconstitutional

    Steve Holland, Reuters

    Posted at Oct 09 2019 06:59 AM

    WASHINGTON - The White House on Tuesday rejected an impeachment inquiry launched by Democrats in the House of Representatives as "constitutionally invalid" and said it would refuse to cooperate with the probe absent a vote of the full House.

    An eight-page letter signed by White House counsel Pat Cipollone was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top U.S. Democrat, and the Democratic chairs of the House intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees.

    Pelosi argues the impeachment inquiry she launched is constitutional and that no House vote is necessary at this juncture.

    The inquiry was started based on accusations from a government whistleblower that President Donald Trump sought Ukraine's help in investigating Democratic rival Joe Biden.

    The White House argued that the three other impeachment inquiries in American history, against presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, all included House votes, and that this should serve as precedent for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

    "Proceeding without a House vote is unprecedented in the history of our nation. In every prior occasion for a presidential impeachment inquiry there has been a vote of the House," said a senior administration official, speaking as the letter was released.

    The letter said Trump has been denied basic due process rights, such as to cross-examine witnesses, call witnesses to testify, receive transcripts of testimony, and have access to evidence.

    "All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent," the letter said.

    It said the Supreme Court has recognized that due process protections apply to all congressional investigations.

    The letter was the result of an intense behind-the-scenes effort in recent days by White House lawyers to respond to the Democrats' impeachment bid.

    One concern the White House has involves the whistleblower. House Democrats are working to protect the identity of the person who has accused Trump of impropriety in his dealings with Ukraine.

    "There shouldn't be a situation where you can have a primary witness, an accuser in an impeachment inquiry, and the president never able to know who the accuser is and never able to cross examine him," said the senior administration official.

    Trump has called the inquiry a partisan "witch hunt," and released a summary transcript of his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a bid at damage control.

    The letter argues - a contention denied by the Democrats - that the impeachment effort is simply aimed at reversing the result of the 2016 presidential election and influencing the 2020 election.

    "The decision as to who will be elected president in 2020 should rest with the people of the United States, exactly where the Constitution places it," said the letter.

  5. #45
    Exclusive: Democrats willing to risk 2020 chances to impeach Trump - Reuters/Ipsos poll

    Chris Kahn

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Most Democrats want to impeach U.S. President Donald Trump, even if that means weakening their party’s chances of winning back the White House in the 2020 election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

    The poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 55% of Democrats said that their party leaders should press ahead with impeachment even “if it means a lengthy and expensive process that could weaken their chances of winning the presidency in 2020.”

    And even a higher number - 66% of Democrats - agreed that Congress should pursue impeachment, “even if that means they will need to postpone efforts to pass laws that could benefit me.”

    Overall, the poll found that support for impeachment remains unchanged overall among all Americans - holding at 45% since last week. But opposition to impeachment dropped by 2 percentage points from last week to 39%.

    Among those who identify as Democrats, 79% said Trump should be impeached, up 5 percentage points from a similar poll that ran Sept. 26-30. Only 12% of Republicans and about 1 in 3 independents supported impeachment, which is mostly unchanged from last week.

    Support for impeaching Trump had been rising since late September after an unidentified U.S. intelligence official filed a whistleblower complaint accusing the president of pressuring Ukraine to ensnare Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son in a corruption investigation.

    Biden, the former vice president, is an early favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, and opinion polls show that he fares better than other Democrats including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in a hypothetical general election matchup against Trump.

    The whistleblower complaint, denounced by Trump as a “witch hunt” carried out by his political enemies, has since been backed up by a second unidentified whistleblower who has more direct knowledge than the first of some of the allegations in the complaint, according to the person’s lawyers.

    Trump, who says he was acting out of his duty to root out corruption, said last week that China should also investigate Biden.

    Overall, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that 51% of all Americans agreed that Trump “pressured” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens, while 27% disagreed.

    And 59% agreed that Congress should investigate “if President Trump committed impeachable offenses” as part of his conversation with Zelenskiy.

    In general, 39% said they approved of the job Trump was doing and 55% disapproved.

    Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the poll shows how much Democratic voters have lined up behind Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and moderate House Democrats who had been cautious about pursuing an impeachment inquiry earlier this year.

    “That phone call (between Trump and Zelensky) changed everything,” Kamarck said.

    “The moderates, Speaker Pelosi, they changed their minds in a very public way in favor of impeachment. They’ve been making their case to the public, and some of them have followed.”

    Democratic voter Moneque Jarmon, 51, from Philadelphia said she doubted Trump would be removed from office through the impeachment process. But it was important to set a precedent that the president is accountable for his actions, she said.

    “The fact that he tweets every few minutes, the risky behavior he’s doing – he’s advertising that he can do whatever he wants, like he’s the president and nobody can touch him,” she said. “The longer he stays in there, the more damage he’s going to do.”

    Jarmon, who supports Biden as an experienced candidate to take on Trump, said Congress had for a long time failed to pass important legislation like gun control, so she doubted an impeachment process would make the situation worse.

    The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,118 adults, including 454 who identify as Democrats and 457 who identify as Republicans. It has as credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 5 percentage points.

  6. #46
    'Buckle up': Abrupt Syria policy shift is sign of Trump unchained

    Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland, Arshad Mohammed

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Over the span of just a few hours, U.S. President Donald Trump upended his own policy on Syria with a chaotic series of pronouncements, blindsiding foreign allies, catching senior Republican supporters off guard and sending aides scrambling to control the damage.

    Trump’s decision on Sunday to remove some U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, opening the door to a Turkish offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, provides a vivid example of how, with traditional White House structures largely shunted aside and few aides willing to challenge him, he feels freer than ever to make foreign policy on impulse.

    While Trump’s erratic ways are nothing new, some people inside and outside of his administration worry that the risk of miscalculation from his seat-of-the-pants approach may only increase as he moves into re-election campaign mode facing other unresolved, volatile international issues such as Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.

    He also made clear on Monday that he was determined to make good on his 2016 campaign promise to extract the United States from “these endless wars,” although his plans for doing so are clouded by uncertainty.

    It comes as Trump is under growing pressure from a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry over his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate one of his political opponents, former Vice President Joe Biden.

    “There’s a real sense that nobody is going to stop Trump from being Trump at this stage, so everybody should buckle up,” said one U.S. national security official, who cited Trump’s firing last month of national security adviser John Bolton as a sign of the president being less restrained than ever by his top advisers.

    Trump’s policy whiplash on Syria started shortly after a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in which he sought U.S. support for Ankara’s planned incursion.

    Several hours later, the White House issued a late-night statement - which, according to one administration official, was dictated directly by Trump to a senior aide - that said U.S. forces “will no longer be in the immediate area.”

    This suggested that Turkey could be given free rein to strike Kurdish forces long aligned with Washington in the fight against Islamic State.

    Trump, in a series of Monday tweets, appeared to double down on plans for a U.S. troop drawdown if not a full withdrawal, but later threatened to destroy the economy of NATO ally Turkey if it took its military operation too far. That seemed to be an attempt to placate criticism, including from Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that he was abandoning the Syrian Kurds, who denounced it as a “stab in the back.”


    The latest presidential pronouncements on Syria injected news confusion over U.S. Syria policy.

    Last December, acting without a formal policymaking process, Trump called for a complete U.S. withdrawal from Syria. But he ultimately reversed himself after drawing strong pushback from the Pentagon, including the resignation of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and an uproar on Capitol Hill and among U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East.

    Trump insisted to reporters on Monday that he “consulted with everybody” on his new Syria decision, although the announcement seemed to catch Congress as well as some within his administration by surprise.

    “He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation,” tweeted Brett McGurk, who served as Trump’s envoy for the international coalition to combat Islamic State and quit after the December Syria policy uproar.

    Trump’s abrupt decision on Syria came after learning in the phone call with Erdogan that the Turks planned to go ahead with a long-threatened incursion, a senior administration official said.

    “We were not asked to remove our troops. The president when he learned about the potential Turkish invasion, knowing that we have 50 special operations troops in the region, made the decision to protect those troops” by pulling them back, the official said.

    The official underscored that Trump’s decision did not constitute a U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

    Trump made clear to Erdogan that the United States did not support the Turkish military plan, which came as a surprise to the Turkish leader, a senior State Department official said.

    There was some confusion among senior officials trying tofigure out what Trump had actually decided, a source familiar with the internal deliberations at the White House said.

    But the senior administration official, speaking on a conference call with reporters, denied that Pentagon officials were “blindsided” and Trump said he had consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    On Tuesday, after U.S. forces began pulling back from the Turkey-Syria border, Trump was still trying to clean up after himself. In a morning tweet-storm, he denied abandoning Kurdish forces, the most effective U.S. partners in fighting Islamic State in Syria. But he also praised Turkey as a trade partner, softening the economic threats he had issued the day before.


    U.S. officials told Reuters repeatedly ahead of Trump’s decision that U.S. personnel would not be able to stay in northeast Syria if their Kurdish-led partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces, were forced to turn their attention to a massive Turkish invasion. That view was reaffirmed on Monday, as officials warned that only a limited pullback was expected for now – but a larger one could follow.

    “If it’s wide-scale conflict, we would not have a partner in northeast Syria,” one U.S. official said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    The president saw his decision in the context of fulfilling a campaign promise to ultimately bring U.S. troops home. He visited Walter Reed Medical Center on Friday and awarded Purple Heart medals to a half-dozen wounded warriors.

    Trump himself got into the subject earlier when taking questions from reporters at the White House. He said the United States had become a “police force” in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and he wanted to change that.

    “I have to sign letters often to parents of young soldiers that were killed and it’s the hardest thing I have to do. I hate it,” Trump said.

    Some independent analysts said, however, that Trump’s freewheeling way of making war-related decisions could further undermine U.S. credibility with allies and partners. He has already whipsawed on plans for a withdrawal from the long-running war in Afghanistan.

    “We find ourselves involved in counterterror operations around the world,” said Fred Hof, a former Pentagon and State Department official. “Potential partners will be looking at what happened in Syria and drawing certain conclusions.”

    Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Humeyra Pamuk; writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney

  7. #47
    From GQ online ...

    That Bonkers White House Letter Says Impeachment Is “Unconstitutional” (It’s Not)

    The Trump administration’s legal defense makes a number of highly questionable claims.

    By Jay Willis

    October 9, 2019

    In a bizarre and defiant eight-page letter sent yesterday to congressional leadership, White House counsel Pat Cipollone outlined the president's strategy for defending himself against the House's ongoing impeachment inquiry. It asserts, more or less, that the constitutionally prescribed process of impeachment is in fact unconstitutional, and that any demands lawmakers make of him or anyone in his administration are illegitimate. "President Trump and his Administration reject your baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process," Cipollone writes. "Your unprecedented actions have left the President with no choice."

    Much of the letter is composed of grandiose proclamations about constitutional law that do not hold up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. For example, Cipollone declares that the inquiry lacks the "necessary authorization" for a "valid impeachment proceeding" because the House has not passed a formal resolution authorizing it—a purported requirement not found in the United States Constitution. Cipollone also protests that the inquiry unlawfully deprives Trump of his constitutional rights to due process—to call and cross-examine witnesses against him, to present evidence, and so on. But the legal decision cited by Cipollone states that due process applies to impeachment trials, which take place in the Senate, and only if an official is first impeached by the House. This argument lifts a legal standard from one context, applies it to another, and hopes no one spots the difference.

    The letter's final section reads like a Hannity opening monologue, praising the president's call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as "completely appropriate" and issuing indignant, conspiratorial demands for investigations of Trump's would-be investigators. It harps on the absurd notion that House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff, by presenting a colloquial summary of the White House's notes of the call, "concoct[ed] a false version of the call" to mislead voters. Schiff preceded this statement, which he made during a public hearing last month, by explicitly noting that he was repeating "the essence of what the president communicates" in the call. Yet Trump's lawyers are acting as if Schiff, a sitting member of Congress, told an obviously disprovable lie on national television, and they managed to catch him in the act.

    If Cipollone is aware of how embarrassingly obtuse this bit of circular reasoning is, he does not let on in the letter's text. "This powerfully confirms that there is no issue with the actual call," he writes. "Otherwise, why would Chairman Schiff feel the need to make up his own version?"

    The passage that reveals the most about the Trump administration's mindset, though, is contained in the letter's brief second section. In it, Cipollone claims that the impeachment inquiry is a nakedly partisan attempt to "reverse the election of 2016," and thus cannot be a legitimate exercise of congressional power. In support of this argument, he cites the words of current House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler, who during the 1998 Clinton impeachment proceedings argued that because "the effect of impeachment is to overturn the popular will of the voters," Congress must wield its authority carefully, and should not impeach "except to defend our system of government or our constitutional liberties against a dire threat."

    At the time, Nadler went on to propose several more guideposts for legislators pondering the limits of the impeachment power: To preserve the legitimacy of America's political institutions, he argued, impeachment should never take place on a partisan basis or by a narrow vote, and should never occur "without an overwhelming consensus of the American people."

    Set aside, for a moment, Cipollone's implicit contention that a president's attempts to trade foreign aid for political favors during his 2020 re-election bid are not a "dire threat" to "our system of government." Both Nadler and Cipollone are wrong, because reading bipartisanship into the Constitution as a necessary condition for impeachment means that in practice, as long as members of the president's party agree unanimously to dig in their heels, impeachment can never take place, no matter how egregious the abuses of power. In this era of hyperpartisanship, such an interpretation would hollow out the impeachment power altogether.

    Similarly, as long President Trump's base prevents the emergence of "overwhelming" popular support for impeachment, the White House believes lawmakers have no legitimate authority to act. It is a wild, nonsensical conclusion that substitutes the zeal of MAGA voters for the judgment of Congress, and erects partisan wagon-circling as an absolute shield against accountability.

    It is perhaps true, as Cipollone states, that impeachment "is fraught with the risk of deepening divisions in the country and creating long-lasting rifts in the body politic." But when the Constitution's framers entrusted to Congress the power to impeach presidents who commit high crimes and misdemeanors, they did not limit it to circumstances in which impeachment is uncontroversial. President Trump's defense against this impeachment inquiry is purely political, because he has no legal grounds to object.

  8. #48
    As Biden calls for impeachment, Trump adds legal muscle, lashes out at whistleblower

    Trevor Hunnicutt

    ROCHESTER, N.H. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump added muscle to the legal team defending against an impeachment investigation led by congressional Democrats on Wednesday, after 2020 re-election rival Joe Biden called for the first time for his impeachment.

    Biden, who is at the center of a controversy over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that led the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives to open an impeachment inquiry, had previously refrained from making an outright plea for impeachment.

    Trump continued to paint the probe as a partisan smear, and accused the U.S. intelligence officer who filed the whistleblower complaint that sparked the furor of having political motives. He also added former U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy, best known for his investigations of the administration of Trump’s Democratic predecessor, to his outside legal team.

    During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Biden, the Democratic front-runner to face Trump in next year’s presidential election, took the gloves off.

    “With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself. By obstructing justice, refusing to reply with a congressional inquiry, he’s already convicted himself,” Biden said. “In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts.”

    “To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.”

    Trump fired back on Twitter.

    “So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment - and I did nothing wrong,” Trump wrote.

    The House began impeachment proceedings against Trump last month over his attempts to have Ukraine’s president investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

    Despite Trump’s allegations, which he made without evidence, that Biden engaged in improper dealings in Ukraine, there are few signs the controversy has damaged the Democratic former vice president’s 2020 prospects.

    Public opinion polls, including those taken by Reuters/Ipsos, have shown Biden’s support remaining relatively stable.


    Trump on Wednesday again described the inquiry as a partisan attack.

    “It turns out that the whistleblower is a Democrat, strong Democrat, and is working with one of my opponents as a Democrat,” Trump told reporters.

    Lawyers for the whistleblower responded in a statement, denying that political factors had influenced the complaint.

    “Our client has never worked for or advised a political candidate, campaign or party,” they said in a statement. “Our client has spent their entire government career in apolitical, civil servant positions.”

    The day after the White House declared its refusal to cooperate with the impeachment probe, Trump added that he would respond if House Democrats “give us our rights.”

    The addition of Gowdy to Trump’s legal team marked a pivot from late September, when outside lawyer Jay Sekulow said there were no plans to beef up the legal team. Sekulow announced Gowdy’s hiring on Wednesday.

    The three congressional committees leading the inquiry were working on final arrangements on Wednesday to interview the whistleblower.

    The State Department this week abruptly blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who had been in touch with Ukrainian officials on Trump’s behalf from speaking to the inquiry.

    The investigation is focused on whether Trump used almost $400 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to begin an investigation of the Bidens.

    Trump has defended the July 25 phone call to Zelenskiy.

    Most Democrats want to impeach Trump, even if that means weakening their party’s chances of winning back the White House in 2020, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll.

    The poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 55% of Democrats said their party leaders should press ahead with impeachment even “if it means a lengthy and expensive process that could weaken their chances of winning the presidency in 2020.”

    An even higher number - 66% of Democrats - agreed that Congress should pursue impeachment, “even if that means they will need to postpone efforts to pass laws that could benefit me.”

  9. #49
    Breaking with Trump, U.S. Republicans press for response to Turkey over Syria

    Patricia Zengerle, Makini Brice

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Republicans condemned President Donald Trump’s Syria policy on Wednesday after Turkey launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters, a rare break from the White House that had some calling for “devastating” sanctions against the NATO ally.

    Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, usually a vocal Trump ally, has repeatedly criticized Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria and unveiled a framework for sanctions on Turkey with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen.

    Their proposed sanctions would target the assets of senior officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mandate sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system and impose visa restrictions.

    They also would sanction anyone who conducted military transactions with Turkey or supported energy production for use by its armed forces, bar U.S. military assistance to Turkey and require a report on Erdogan’s net worth and assets.

    “I am pleased to have reached a bipartisan agreement with Senator Van Hollen on severe sanctions against Turkey for their invasion of Syria,” Graham said in a statement.

    “While the Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support,” he said.

    The Turkish military and Syrian rebel allies launched an operation in Syria on Wednesday with air strikes. Erdogan said the operation aimed to eliminate a “terror corridor” along the Turkish border.

    Ankara has branded the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists because of their ties to militants who have waged an insurgency in Turkey. But many members of Congress, and U.S. officials, credit the Kurds with fighting alongside American troops to defeat Islamic State militants.

    Some House Republicans joined in the condemnation.

    Representative Liz Cheney, who chairs the House Republican Conference, said Trump’s decision “is having sickening and predictable consequences.” Saying his action aided U.S. adversaries “Russia, Iran and Turkey,” she said lawmakers would respond.

    “Congress must and will act to limit the catastrophic impact of this decision,” Cheney said in a statement.

    Other Republicans issued statements questioning what they described as Trump’s decision to “abandon” the Kurds.

    The White House did not respond to a request for comment.


    Senator Susan Collins called it “terribly unwise,” and added, “Today we are seeing the consequences of that terrible decision. If the reports of Turkish strikes in Syria are accurate, I fear our allies the Kurds could be slaughtered.”

    In an interview with the media outlet Axios, Graham predicted that enough Senate Republicans would back sanctions legislation to override a possible Trump veto.

    If so, it would be the first veto override of Trump’s presidency after too few Republicans joined Democrats to muster the two-thirds majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives to override his first five.

    “The president’s doing this completely against everybody else’s advice,” Graham said. “He will get 100% of the credit if he knows something the rest of us don’t. And he’s going to get 100% of the blame. There’ll be no middle ground.”

    In a statement on Twitter on Tuesday, Graham warned Ankara of “sanctions from hell” if it moved into northern Syria. “Wide, deep, and devastating sanctions,” he said.

    Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said Turkey’s “aggressive actions” raised concerns and risked a precipitous decline in relations with Washington.

  10. #50
    Explainer: Does the impeachment probe violate Trump's civil rights?

    Jan Wolfe

    (Reuters) - The White House says U.S. President Donald Trump will refuse to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry by the Democratic-led House of Representatives on the grounds that it is fundamentally unfair and violates his legal rights.

    In a letter to top House Democrats, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said Trump’s lawyers must be allowed to call and cross-examine witnesses, access evidence, and be afforded other “basic rights guaranteed to all Americans.”

    Legal experts say because impeachment is a political, and not legal, process, the House has broad authority to set the ground rules for an inquiry. Allowing Trump’s lawyers to participate anyway could build public support and make it appear more fair, however, they said.

    The following explains Trump’s positions and the procedures followed in the past, and examines whether the current inquiry does indeed violate Trump’s constitutional rights.


    Cipollone said the House has “not established any procedures affording the President even the most basic protections demanded by due process under the Constitution and by fundamental fairness” in violation of “every past precedent.”

    Trump should have the right to access evidence, examine witnesses, and have counsel present at hearings, Cipollone said. The Committees must also disclose evidence that is favorable to the president, he wrote.

    Cipollone argued that Republican lawmakers should be allowed to issue subpoenas, a tool that would enable them to present their own evidence and try to undermine the Democrats’ arguments.

    The White House also said the investigation was not legitimate because the full House had not voted to authorize it, reiterating an argument frequently made by some Republican lawmakers.

    House Democratic leaders had no immediate response to the letter. But rank-and-file members called it an act of desperation that would not stop their inquiry.


    Some of the protections requested by the White House were given to former presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

    For example, the House allowed Nixon’s defense lawyers to respond to evidence and testimony during his impeachment inquiry. Nixon resigned from office in 1974 before being impeached.

    Twenty-five years later, Clinton was afforded similar protections. Clinton was impeached by the House but not convicted by the Senate.

    In both of those cases, the House held a full vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry. There was no such vote in 1868 in the case of Andrew Johnson, the only other president to face impeachment.


    According to several experts, no.

    Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri, said the U.S. Constitution gives the House the freedom to set its own ground rules for the process.

    No full vote is needed to authorize an investigation and the House is not obligated to let Trump’s lawyers participate, Bowman said.

    “Trump has no standing whatever to insist that the House do impeachment the way he would like it done,” Bowman said.

    And while Trump often turns to the courts for relief, that is not an option here, experts said.

    Michael Stern, a former congressional lawyer, said the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, would not review the legitimacy of an impeachment inquiry.

    “There is no role for the courts in that process,” said Stern, who served as Senior Counsel to the House from 1996 to 2004.

    But legal experts agreed that giving Trump some basic protections and allowing his lawyers to participate would make the process more fair. That could be a wise political move for Democrats, said Ross Garber, an impeachment lawyer in Washington.

    Bypassing due process safeguards that are standard in the U.S. legal system “may make the American people question the legitimacy of the impeachment process,” Garber said.

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