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"[Rick] Gates recalled a time on the campaign aircraft when candidate Trump said, 'get the emails.' [Michael] Flynn said he could use his intelligence sources to obtain the emails," investigators wrote in a summary of Gates' April 2018 interview with Mueller's team. Flynn was a foreign policy adviser on the campaign and became Trump's first national security adviser.

"Flynn had the most Russia contacts of anyone on the campaign and was in the best position to ask for the emails if they were out there," the investigators also wrote about Gates' interview.

Gates described in an interview with Mueller investigators last year how several close advisers to Trump, Trump's family members and Trump himself considered how to get the stolen documents and pushed the effort, according to investigators' summary.

"Gates said Donald Trump Jr. would ask where the emails were in family meetings. Michael Flynn, [Jared] Kushner, [Paul] Manafort, [Redacted] [Corey] Lewandowski, Jeff Sessions, and Sam Clovis expressed interest in obtaining the emails as well. Gates said the priority focuses of the Trump campaign opposition research team were Clinton's emails and contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Flynn, [Redacted] [Jeff] Sessions, Kushner, and [Donald] Trump Jr. were all focused on opposition topics," Gates told investigators, according to the interview summary.

Previously, Mueller wrote in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election that Trump's campaign showed interest in the hacked documents WikiLeaks had in summer and fall 2016. But many of the details are still redacted in the Mueller report, leaving holes in the story that the release to CNN somewhat fills in.

The release, received by CNN on Saturday, includes 274 pages of Mueller team interview notes, emails and other documents related to the cooperation of Gates, former top campaign official Steve Bannon and former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. Both Cohen and Gates pleaded guilty to criminal charges from Mueller. Bannon was not charged with any crime.

Bannon told the special counsel's office how Trump took interest in finding the 33,000 missing Hillary Clinton emails that she said she had erased from her private server, according to the documents. Neither Bannon nor Gates said they knew the Russians had stolen the Democratic documents, but believed foreign nationals had done the hacks.

Trump had asked publicly for Russia to find the missing emails when he spoke at a campaign rally in 2016.

Fox News host Sean Hannity also makes several appearances in the interview notes, fleshing out just how entwined the primetime TV personality had become with the Trump political operation in 2016.

"[Rick] Gates said, during the campaign, Trump and [campaign chairman Paul] Manafort talked to Sean Hannity in their offices often," special counsel's office investigators noted Gates told them in April 2018.

Manafort, according to the released documents, also emailed Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and others three days before the 2016 presidential election, saying Manafort had briefed Hannity.

Hannity was previously named in federal court during a proceeding about Cohen as one of Cohen's three legal clients. He also texted with Manafort following Manafort's arrest in October 2017.

Large parts of the interview notes are still redacted by the Justice Department.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/02/politics/mueller-investigation-notes-trump-stolen-emails/index.html
 

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In a striking reversal, a top diplomat revised his testimony in the House impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump to acknowledge he understood that American aid to Ukraine was being withheld until the country promised to investigate corruption.

The three-page update from U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, tucked beneath hundreds of pages of sworn testimony released Tuesday, provides new insight into Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate Democrats and Joe Biden in what the Democrats call a quid pro quo at the centre of the House inquiry.

Specifically, Sondland, the ambassador to the EU, said he now recalls telling a top aide to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, on the sidelines of a Warsaw meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, that military aid to the country likely would not resume until Ukraine had provided a public anti-corruption statement, as Trump wanted.

Trump has denied any quid pro quo, but Democrats say that is the singular narrative developing from his July 25 call with Zelensky. In that call, Trump, asked for "a favour," the spark for the impeachment inquiry.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the Democratic chairman of the intelligence committee, said the House panels conducting the inquiry are releasing the word-by-word transcripts of the past weeks' closed-door hearings so the American public can decide for themselves.

"This is about more than just one call," Schiff wrote Tuesday in an op-ed in USA Today. "We now know that the call was just one piece of a larger operation to redirect our foreign policy to benefit Donald Trump's personal and political interests, not the national interest."

Pushing back, Trump's Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement saying the transcripts "show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought."

House investigators released more transcripts Tuesday from Sondland, a wealthy businessman who donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration, and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, and announced they want to hear from Trump's acting chief of staff, reaching to the highest levels of the White House.

The documents include dozens of pages of text messages as the diplomats tried to navigate the demands of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, who they soon learn is running a back channel U.S. foreign policy on Ukraine.

Sondland testified that he spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Giuliani, "and Pompeo rolled his eyes and said: 'Yes, it's something we have to deal with."'

Pressed by investigators, Sondland — who initially said he didn't know that the Ukraine firm Burisma that Trump wanted to investigate was linked to Biden's son, Hunter — also testified that it would be improper for the U.S. to prompt Ukraine to investigate the Biden family. "It doesn't sound good," he said.

In his revised testimony, Sondland says his memory was refreshed by the opening statements of two other key inquiry witnesses: the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, and Tim Morrison, a European expert at the National Security Council.

More officials refuse to appear
Public hearings could begin as soon as next week in the impeachment inquiry that Trump says is illegitimate and Republicans in Congress call a sham.

The release of more transcripts comes as the Trump administration resumes its stonewalling of the inquiry. Two more White House officials, an energy adviser and a budget official, declined to appear Tuesday before investigators, even after one received a subpoena.

Meanwhile, investigators say they want to hear from chief of staff Mick Mulvaney because his news conference last month amounted to "nothing less than a televised confession" of Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and Biden as the White House was blocking military funding for the Eastern European ally.

Trump says he did nothing wrong, and Mulvaney later walked back his remarks.

The White House has instructed its officials not to comply with the impeachment inquiry being led by House Democrats. It is uncertain if Mulvaney will appear.

Republicans have been unable to deliver a unified argument against the impeachment probe, but one of them, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Tuesday he's "pretty sure" how it all will end.

"I don't think there's any question it would not lead to a removal," of Trump from the White House, McConnell said.

Most of those who have testified before the House panel are from the ranks of the State Department, including recalled U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovonavitch, whose testimony was released Monday. Diplomats have testified to the mounting concerns in the State Department over Trump's interest in having a foreign ally investigate Biden.

Volker and Sondland both testified they were disappointed after briefing Trump at the White House upon their return from Zelensky's inauguration in May as a new leader of the young democracy vowing to fight corruption.

That pivotal May 23 meeting raised red flags when Trump told them to work with Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, on Ukraine issues.

Trump "went on and on and on about how Ukraine is a disaster and they're bad people," Sondland testified.

Trump holds an alternative view that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election, a theory counter to U.S. intelligence. "'They tried to take me down.' He kept saying that over and over," Sondland said.



Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, is seen leaving a closed-door interview with House investigators on Capitol Hill on Oct. 3. (Jose Luis Magana/The Associated Press)
 

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Trump ordered to pay $2M for misusing his charitable foundation

U.S. admits he misused Trump Foundation funds to buy sports memorabilia, champagne for pre-election gala

A New York judge has ordered Donald Trump to pay $2 million US to settle a lawsuit alleging he misused his charitable foundation to further his political and business interests before he became U.S. president.

New York state Judge Saliann Scarpulla imposed the penalty in connection with a lawsuit brought against Trump by the New York attorney general's office over the handling of the Trump Foundation's assets.

Among other things, the judge ruled that Trump improperly allowed his presidential campaign staff to work with the foundation in holding a fundraiser for veterans' charities in the run-up to the 2016 Iowa caucuses. The event was designed "to further Mr. Trump's political campaign," Scarpulla said.

In the settlement, Trump admitted, among other things, to have improperly arranged for the charity to pay $10,000 for a 6-foot portrait of him. He also agreed to pay back $11,525 in the organization's funds he spent on sports memorabilia and champagne at a charity gala. He also agreed to restrictions on his involvement in other charitable organizations.

The agreement was an about-face for Trump. He and his lawyers have blasted the lawsuit as politically motivated, and he tweeted, "I won't settle this case!" when it was filed in June 2018.

Trump's fine and the charity's remaining $1.7 million funds will be split evenly among eight organizations, including City Meals-on-Wheels, the United Negro College Fund and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
 

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Washington (CNN) If the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump were a play, the first act would now close.

That's because, starting Wednesday, we will begin to hear witnesses in the inquiry testifying publicly. Which will be a MAJOR change from the release of transcripts from closed-door interviews that have dominated the conversation around impeachment to date.

Those transcripts have provided a more robust picture of the goings-on in the White House both before and after that fateful July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And that picture makes a few things very clear:

1. Several senior officials were convinced the call was inappropriate from the get-go.

2. Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were knee-deep in the attempts to convince (coerce?) Ukraine to open investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden as well as the whereabouts of the hacked Democratic National Committee server.

3. US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland openly floated a quid pro quo -- security aid for opening investigations -- in a conversation with a top Ukrainian official.

The truth is, however, wrapping your arms around these lengthy -- and, at times, hard to follow -- transcripts is no easy task. And that means that for most people outside the world of politics, the real impeachment inquiry will begin next week.
We are a visual people. Images have a power to move us that words on a page often do not. (He says as someone who writes for a living.) The public hearings, then, are the truly high-stakes fight here. There will be moments from each day of testimony, moments that get played (and replayed) on cable TV. Moments that will come to define not just a witness but the proceedings more broadly.

Get ready.

The Point: Act 1 is over. And Act 2 is where all the major drama happens.

Monday:
Tuesday:
Wednesday:
Thursday:
Friday:

And that was the week that was in 17 headlines.
 

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Washington (CNN) Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley divulged in her forthcoming memoir that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former White House chief of staff John Kelly attempted to recruit her to undermine President Donald Trump in an effort to "save the country," according to The Washington Post.

The two former Cabinet members sought Haley's help in their endeavors to subvert the President but she refused, Haley wrote. The Washington Post obtained a copy of her book, titled "With All Due Respect," ahead of its Tuesday release. CNN has not seen a copy of the memoir.

"Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the President, they weren't being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country," Haley wrote.

At one point, Haley wrote that Tillerson also told her people would die if Trump was unchecked. However, Haley said she supported most of Trump's foreign policy decisions that others in the White House tried to block or slow down, according to the Post.

Haley called Tillerson and Kelly's attempt to subvert the President "offensive" in an interview that aired Sunday on "CBS Sunday Morning."

"It should have been, go tell the President what your differences are and quit if you don't like what he's doing," she said. "To undermine a President is really a very dangerous thing. And it goes against the Constitution and it goes against what the American people want. It was offensive."

Tillerson did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post and Kelly declined to comment in detail to the Post, but said that if providing the President "with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice from across the [government] so he could make an informed decision is 'working against Trump,' then guilty as charged."

CNN has reached out to Kelly, Tillerson and the White House for comment.

Since the President took office, his Cabinet has been a revolving door for officials who at times departed over policy differences with the commander in chief. Some of them went to land book deals, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former communications director Anthony Scaramucci. More recently, CNN reported former national security adviser John Bolton has struck a deal to write a book for Simon & Schuster.

In her book, Haley describes multiple clashes within the White House surrounding foreign policy strategy, according to the Post. In one interaction, Haley details an Oval Office showdown over her suggestion to withhold funding for the United Nations agency that supports Palestinians. Kelly and Tillerson were opposed to the move, while Haley had the support of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

"I was so shocked I didn't say anything going home because I just couldn't get my arms around the fact that here you have two key people in an administration undermining the President," Haley said in an interview with the Post.

Trump told them to work out their problems elsewhere. "'I have four secretaries of state: you, H.R., Jared, and Rex," Haley recounted Kelly saying. "'I only need one.'"

Haley described her disagreements with Trump over his handling of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018, as well as Trump's comments in 2017 where she said he displayed "moral equivalence" in response to a white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, according to the Post.

In her memoir, Haley also addressed the mounting Ukraine scandal that has led to an impeachment inquiry against Trump in the House of Representatives. Though she said she dismissed Democratic efforts to impeach the President, she said she opposed Trump's move to ask a foreign government for help in a political investigation, according to the Post.

"There was no heavy demand insisting that something had to happen. So it's hard for me to understand where the whole impeachment situation is coming from because what everybody's up in arms about didn't happen," Haley told the Post in an interview.

She also addressed impeachment in her Sunday interview with CBS.

"Impeachment is like the death penalty for a public official," Haley said. "If you look in that transcript there is nothing in that transcript that warrants the death penalty for the President."
 

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Joe: Did Nikki Haley Go To Trump After Rex Tillerson, Kelly Approached Her?
 

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President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs for travel to Georgia from the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 8, 2019.Leah Millis / Reuters file

Nov. 11, 2019, 4:49 AM EST
By Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor

Last week, President Donald J. Trump complained that he would be getting “no lawyer” and “no due process” during the House impeachment hearings, set to begin Wednesday.

The irony of course is that if Trump is unhappy with how the impeachment process is unfolding, he has mostly Republicans to blame. After all, they are the ones who have written the rules that impeachment investigations follow.

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After weeks of Republican demands for a vote on an impeachment resolution, the House of Representatives did just that and approved, along party lines, a resolution that establishes the procedural guidelines for the impeachment investigation of Trump. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced that public hearings will commence Wednesday.

The impeachment process Democrats just approved, and which Trump will doubtless spend the next several weeks slamming publicly, is the same process Republicans have used to govern their oversight investigations during the past three decades. The GOP has controlled the majority of the House's investigative powers for 20 of the last 25 years. (And I spent five of those years working at the House Oversight Committee as a spokesperson and a senior adviser under the chairmanship of Republican Darrell Issa, R-Calif.)

Trump might label this an attack on “due process,” but his fight isn’t with Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Schiff, it’s with the Republican-led investigative committees who instituted this precedent during their investigations of President Bill Clinton’s administration in 1997 and 1998. That practice was extended in the 112th, 113th, 114th and 115th congresses.

For all Trump’s griping about lawyers, the House impeachment inquiry isn’t a trial at all. But the reason he won’t have a lawyer representing his interests in the hearings is because Republicans made a point to continue the procedure during the Benghazi investigation. During that investigation, Republican committee members approved rules specifically stipulating that “counsel … for agencies under investigation may not attend.”

We’ve seen this pattern of Trump and Republicans objecting to rules they created consistently throughout the impeachment investigation.

In recent weeks, House Republicans have extended a lot of energy and rhetoric railing against “closed-door depositions.” Yet, according to a report released by congressional investigative experts at Co-Equal, a group intended to help Congress remain a check on the executive branch, House Republicans conducted depositions of more than 140 administration officials during their impeachment inquiry of Clinton. While the Trump administration has tried to obstruct the current impeachment investigation by blocking witnesses from appearing for depositions, during the Benghazi inquiry alone, House Republicans took testimony from more than 60 career employees who served under President Barack Obama.

Even much of the authority to conduct depositions for investigations stemmed from Republicans. Republicans first gave this authority to a congressional committee during the Clinton investigation, then expanded it to the House Oversight Committee in 2011, and again in 2014 as part of the Benghazi probe, again in 2015 to include four additional committees, and finally in 2017 to include all House congressional committees. (Previously, “depositions had been authorized by the House only for specific investigations.”)

Interestingly enough, the effort to expand deposition authority to all congressional committees was spear-headed by Reps. Jim Jordan and former Rep. Mike Pompeo who said, “The ability to interview witnesses in private allows committees to gather information confidentially and in more depth than is possible under the five-minute rule governing committee hearings. This ability is often critical to conducting an effective and thorough investigation.”

This is the same Pompeo, who, as secretary of state, has refused to cooperate with the congressional investigation and the same Jordan, who, as the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, has labeled the impeachment investigation a “sham process.” Jordan has yet to explain how this process is a “sham” when it’s being conducted under the very rules and powers that he specifically helped enact when he thought Hillary Clinton was going to be the president of the United States.

Trump officials such as White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, acting-Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Pompeo have refused to testify in a blatant act of obstruction, and yet, Republican chairs took 141 depositions from Clinton officials, including from two White House chiefs of staff, two White House counsels, the vice president’s chief of staff and the first lady’s chief of staff.

The bottom line is Trump and his Republican defenders can continue their embarrassing crusade against the rules and procedures that Democrats are using, but the inescapable fact is those very rules and procedures were authorized and utilized by Republicans first. When the impeachment hearings begin Wednesday, congressional Democrats would be wise to remind Trump and his faithful servants that if they are looking for someone to blame, they need only to look in the mirror.
 

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Our current crisis unites the wrongdoing of the Nixon and Reagan administrations as they have never been combined before.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

By James M. Banner Jr., editor of “Presidential Misconduct: From George Washington to Today”

During the Watergate investigation, I contributed to an unprecedented history of presidential misconduct that the impeachment inquiry of the House Committee on the Judiciary requested in 1974. Now, 45 years later, I’ve edited an expanded version, covering all U.S. presidencies through Barack Obama’s. Looking over that 230-year span, what I’m forced to conclude is deeply troubling: Since the early 1970s, the behavior of American presidents has worsened in alarming ways.

Until then, executive branch malfeasance followed what we might think of as normal human misbehavior: the search for easy money, attempts to escape responsibility and the subversion of existing law for personal gain. Only occasionally, and then without major threat to the public welfare, did administration officials thumb their noses at the law and engage in flagrantly illegal acts.

That changed decisively in the 1970s.

With the presidency of Richard M. Nixon, criminal acts were engineered and implemented directly from the White House. Then, during Ronald Reagan’s administration, a shadow government composed of administration officials acting outside normal channels and without legal authorization seized control of aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

Today, the Trump White House has allegedly engaged in what looks like a breathtaking combination of both Oval Office complicity and shadow government operations. These two kinds of illicit executive action seem to have been brought together to drive U.S. relations with other foreign powers. This sort of criminal behavior has never before so permeated a presidency or so deeply threatened American governance.

Earlier in the nation’s history, official corruption assumed simpler, less sinister forms. The first known instance of executive branch malfeasance by members of the chief executive’s “official family” (his Cabinet officials and subordinate officers) occurred during George Washington’s first term (1789-1793) — when Assistant Treasury Secretary William Duer stole more than $250,000 from federal accounts for his speculative purposes. Like so many subsequent acts of misconduct, this one was actuated by greed — exploiting public office for private gain.

Such corruption was made easy by the absence of laws that effectively prevented and punished it. Well into the late 19th century, money could buy public office. Kickbacks for federal appointments were commonplace. As they remain today, public offices were made available as a reward for political support and campaign contributions even if appointees were incompetent or ignorant of the requirements of their offices.

Not until 1883, with enactment of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, were federal government positions subject to competitive examination and protected against partisan retribution. The 1939 Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from taking part in partisan politics, brought still greater protection of the public interest. So did subsequent whistleblower protection laws and some modest campaign finance reforms — even in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s notorious 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.

Rarely, however, have presidents themselves been caught in outright illegal or dishonest behavior. The administrations of Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) and Warren G. Harding (1920-1923), for example, may have been two of the most corrupt in U.S. history. But neither of those presidents were themselves corrupt. Naïve and too trusting of their subordinates, they simply failed to set high standards of behavior. They could not bring themselves to dismiss cronies and associates in whom they’d misplaced their trust. Presidential failures of this sort have been frequent.

It was during the Nixon presidency (1969-1974) that, seemingly for the first time, illegal and corrupt acts were orchestrated from the Oval Office. As tape-recorded conversations and other documents and testimony revealed, Nixon himself knew of his subordinates’ misdeeds, urged them on and joined in efforts to obstruct justice by covering up their illegal acts. For that, Nixon was the first president to be named an un-indicted co-conspirator in a legal filing. The Watergate break-in and associated scandals — which included warrantless wiretapping, break-ins, surreptitious surveillance and secret plotting among White House staff members — ultimately cost Nixon his presidency.

But the revelation of the Nixon administration’s wrongdoings and the punishments of those involved failed to deter others. Under Reagan in the 1980s, a second serious departure in the modern annals of presidential behavior emerged. Members of Reagan’s administration devised a secret operation — the Iran-Contra Affair — in defiance of Congress’s explicit ban against transferring funds authorized for one purpose to an unauthorized one. The scheme involved covert weapons-running, dealings with terrorists and money-skimming.

Yet even these criminal misdeeds have been surpassed today in two respects. First, plotting to skirt public policy and engage in foreign policy outside official State Department and intelligence channels has now involved private individuals as well as plotters within the White House. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, acting as Trump’s amateur foreign policy representative without congressional confirmation, is their embodiment.

Second, and more deeply troubling, our current crisis unites the wrongdoing of the Nixon and Reagan administrations as they have never been combined before.

Nixon-like secret, illegal malfeasance now appears to be mixing with Reagan-administration cabal-like secret plotting. Illegal behavior is being plotted by a group of conspirators both within and outside the government — and the president of the United States admits he connived in it.

Many people are now placing confidence in the impending public House impeachment hearings to alter the president’s behavior — though previous congressional oversight, robust press exposure of the administration’s actions, Republican election losses, court decisions and aroused citizens have failed to do so. Consider, however, that it was the threat, not the fact, of impeachment that drove Nixon from office, and that the two other impeachments in U.S. history — of Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton — couldn’t gain the two thirds of the Senate vote required to remove a president from office. There’s seems slim chance that this one will do so either.

All Americans ought to be deeply fearful about what this portends for the future. If those responsible for illegal and corrupt acts don’t pay the price for their flagrant disregard of our laws and the U.S. Constitution — and if new laws and institutions are not created to prevent their happening again — the nation’s future is not bright.
 
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