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Westlake Legal Group > News and News Media

Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: 4 of the 9 bodies identified, authorities say

Four of the nine bodies have been identified as investigators continue to examine the crash site of the flight that killed Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others on Sunday.

Those who have been identified include Bryant, Sarah Chester, John Altobelli and the pilot, Ara Zobayan.

Westlake Legal Group kobe-cropped-301am Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: 4 of the 9 bodies identified, authorities say Morgan Phillips fox-news/us/disasters/transportation fox-news/travel/vacation-destinations/los-angeles fox-news/sports/nba/los-angeles-lakers fox-news/sports/nba fox-news/person/kobe-bryant fox news fnc/sports fnc article 8820c017-38b8-592b-b741-9858122c1593

FILE – In this July 26, 2018 file photo former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna watch during the U.S. national championships swimming meet in Irvine, Calif.(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

SHAQ TEARFULLY REACTS TO KOBE BRYANT’S PASSING: ‘IT’S GONNA BE HARD FOR ME’

Gianna Bryant, 13, was traveling with her father to a youth basketball tournament in which she was playing. Two of her teammates died with her — Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester — along with Alyssa’s parents, John and Keri Altobelli, and Payton’s mother, Sarah Chester. Christina Mauser was the girls’ basketball coach at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

The pilot flying the chartered Sikorsky S-76B was no rookie — he had logged 1,250 hours on the helicopter when it plunged into a foggy hillside in Calabasas, Calif., according to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Jennifer Homendy, who spoke at a news conference Tuesday. He’d been with the charter company for 10 years.

Homendy said the flight had a descent rate of 2,000 feet per minute for a “high-energy impact crash.” She said the chopper fell to the ground in one piece, crashing after about a minute of plunging. She said it was not yet clear if the pilot could have recovered from the dive.

ESPN ANCHOR’S TOUCHING TRIBUTE TO KOBE BRYANT GOES VIRAL

Westlake Legal Group AP20028828920145 Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: 4 of the 9 bodies identified, authorities say Morgan Phillips fox-news/us/disasters/transportation fox-news/travel/vacation-destinations/los-angeles fox-news/sports/nba/los-angeles-lakers fox-news/sports/nba fox-news/person/kobe-bryant fox news fnc/sports fnc article 8820c017-38b8-592b-b741-9858122c1593

This image taken from video on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, and provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, shows part of the wreckage of a helicopter crash near Calabasas, Calif. (James Anderson/National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

The scene of the crash is currently a HAZMAT scene and clean-up crews are working to expunge the toxic mess. Vehicles cannot reach the hillside crash site due to the rugged terrain, so it may take as many as five to seven days to complete the cleanup.

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The NTSB will release its full preliminary report in 10 days, but the final report could take as many as 12 to 18 months, according to Homendy.

Westlake Legal Group AP20028828920145 Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: 4 of the 9 bodies identified, authorities say Morgan Phillips fox-news/us/disasters/transportation fox-news/travel/vacation-destinations/los-angeles fox-news/sports/nba/los-angeles-lakers fox-news/sports/nba fox-news/person/kobe-bryant fox news fnc/sports fnc article 8820c017-38b8-592b-b741-9858122c1593   Westlake Legal Group AP20028828920145 Kobe Bryant helicopter crash: 4 of the 9 bodies identified, authorities say Morgan Phillips fox-news/us/disasters/transportation fox-news/travel/vacation-destinations/los-angeles fox-news/sports/nba/los-angeles-lakers fox-news/sports/nba fox-news/person/kobe-bryant fox news fnc/sports fnc article 8820c017-38b8-592b-b741-9858122c1593

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For John Bolton, an ‘Upside-Down World’ After Trump Revelation

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-bolton-1-facebookJumbo For John Bolton, an ‘Upside-Down World’ After Trump Revelation United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate impeachment Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Not long ago, they called him “too extreme,” “aggressively and dangerously wrong” and “downright dangerous.” They called him “nutty,” “reckless” and “far outside the mainstream.”

Now they would like to call him their star witness.

Suddenly, John R. Bolton, the conservative war hawk and favorite villain of the left, is the toast of Senate Democrats, the last, best hope to prove their abuse-of-power case against President Trump. Democrats who once excoriated him are trumpeting his credibility as they seek his testimony in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

On the other side of the aisle, some of Mr. Bolton’s longtime Republican friends are just as abruptly tossing him to the curb, painting him as a disgruntled former adviser who just wants to sell books. Some of the same senators who allied with him, promoted his career, consulted with him on foreign affairs and took his political action committee money are going along as he is painted as “a tool for the radical Dems and the deep state,” as he was termed on one of the Fox News channels, part of the network where he worked for 11 years.

“It’s a totally upside-down world,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland who two years ago denounced Mr. Bolton’s “history of warmongering” when he was appointed Mr. Trump’s national security adviser. “But what we should all agree on is we want to get to the truth of the matter about the impeachment charges and we should accept his testimony under penalty of perjury.”

There is, in fact, no agreement on that as Senate Republicans try to wrap up the trial without calling Mr. Bolton or any other witnesses in a vote likely to be held on Friday. Many Republicans argue that nothing has changed despite Mr. Bolton’s account that Mr. Trump wanted to hold up American security aid to Ukraine until it investigated his domestic political rivals — an assertion that directly contradicts the president.

This is one of those moments that capture Mr. Trump’s Washington, where ideology, philosophy, party and policy mean less than where you stand on Mr. Trump — for or against him. Mr. Bolton is actually more conservative and more consistent than Mr. Trump, but since his story appears to threaten the president, he has been promptly be embraced by one camp and exorcised by the other.

Among those who understand what that feels like are other refugees from the Trump White House, who despite devoting what they described as endless hours trying to making his presidency a success are now branded apostates for speaking out. Among them are John F. Kelly, the former secretary of homeland security and White House chief of staff.

Mr. Kelly was one of the few prominent conservatives to jump to Mr. Bolton’s defense since news of his account, included in an unpublished book submitted to the White House for review, broke in The New York Times on Sunday.

“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” Mr. Kelly said during a lecture in Sarasota, Fla., according to a report in The Herald-Tribune.

Mr. Kelly did not always get along with Mr. Bolton. At one point, they had a profanity-laced shouting match, after which Mr. Kelly left the White House for the rest of the day. But Mr. Kelly said Mr. Bolton “always gave the president the unvarnished truth,” adding: “John’s an honest guy. He’s a man of integrity and great character, so we’ll see what happens.”

That it has come to this surprises no one who actually knows Mr. Bolton. An iconoclastic believer in a forceful approach to the world, he disdains what he views as weak-kneed conventional diplomacy, international organizations that intrude on American sovereignty and free-rider allies. When he is on someone’s side, there is no more relentless ally. When he is not, there is no more implacable foe.

Loyalty to party or president takes a back seat to principle as he defines it. While President George W. Bush gave him high-ranking positions, including a recess appointment as ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Bolton did not hold back criticizing his former boss after leaving the administration for going soft on North Korea and Iran. He wrote a bracingly candid memoir that named names and spared no one. Simply reading that would have made clear to Mr. Trump or his aides what might happen when he left this White House.

And so it has. Just months after leaving Mr. Trump’s White House amid tension over policy toward Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Ukraine, Mr. Bolton has written “The Room Where It Happened,” to be published in March, in which he reports that the president explicitly told him that he did not want to release $391 million in aid to Ukraine until it announced investigations into his Democratic rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

That account threw the Senate trial into temporary disarray since it directly contradicted Mr. Trump’s defense. The president denied Mr. Bolton’s account, and his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani called him a “back-stabber.” On the Fox Business channel, Lou Dobbs assailed Mr. Bolton for using the same literary agents as James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director fired by Mr. Trump — prompting one of the literary agents to point out that one of their other clients was Mr. Dobbs.

While Mr. Bolton has left plenty of bruises over the years and he was accused of politicizing intelligence before the Iraq war, an accusation he denied, many former colleagues said he was forthcoming to a fault.

“Ambassador Bolton was known for being frank and candid — in fact, some complained that his frankness and candor got in the way of a more indirect, diplomatic approach,” said Peter D. Feaver, a national security aide in Mr. Bush’s White House. “I do not recall ever hearing people complain that he made up stuff.”

Democrats at this point are happy to vouch for his honesty. “I think Bolton has a lot of credibility,” Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, who once called him “too extreme,” said on Fox News this week. “Not just among the Republicans but our side as well.”

On the other hand, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, said Mr. Bolton was not to be believed. “I would say that he’s a witness very interested in making a lot of money right now,” Mr. Paul said on CNN. “A month ago, he was against testifying. Now that his book is complete and available for $29.95, he’s all for testifying. So I think we need to take with a grain of salt his testimony if he comes in.”

More painful for Mr. Bolton may be closer friends who have distanced themselves. Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, who called Mr. Bolton “one of my closest friends” a few weeks ago, suggested that his close friend had a grudge. “He was fired by the president,” Mr. Inhofe told reporters, although Mr. Bolton insists he resigned. “That can have an effect on a person.”

Fred Fleitz, another longtime friend who served as Mr. Bolton’s chief of staff twice, most recently in the Trump White House, even wrote an op-ed for Fox News criticizing his former boss for publishing a book about the president before the election.

“Presidents have to be able to consult and confide in their national security adviser without worrying about those discussions being published,” Mr. Fleitz said in an interview on Tuesday. He added that “he’s a straight shooter, he’s an honest man, he’s an honorable man.”

Mr. Bolton has often been misunderstood or mischaracterized. His critics call him a neoconservative, but in fact he cares little for the democracy promotion that drives actual neoconservatives. Instead, he is a hard-core “Americanist,” as he puts it, favoring tough policies up to and including the use of force to defend American interests. He supported the invasion of Iraq, he has said, not to create a Jeffersonian republic in Baghdad but to eliminate what he saw as a security threat to the United States.

He has consistently advocated regime change or military action to resolve conflicts with states like Iran and North Korea and spent much of his tenure as national security adviser trying to keep Mr. Trump from entering what Mr. Bolton considered unwise agreements with enemies.

He struggled over whether to testify in the impeachment hearings even as he wrote his latest book. He finally offered to appear if the Senate subpoenaed him, knowing that he would be harshly criticized if he refused to testify and his account of the Ukraine matter only became public in the book after the trial.

But while colleagues said he was disturbed by the president’s actions on Ukraine — and he has openly criticized the president’s Iran and North Korea policies since leaving the White House — that does not mean that Mr. Bolton has joined the ranks of the Never Trump Republicans.

Friends say he still wants a future in Republican politics, having reconstituted his political action committee shortly after leaving the White House. But they say he understands that donors would be reluctant to contribute if he was perceived as an accuser of Mr. Trump. He also remains as contemptuous of Democrats as ever and has not explicitly expressed support for impeachment or conviction.

“I think the Democrats should be careful in what they wish for if they do get him as a witness,” Mr. Fleitz said. “I don’t know that he would say what they hope he would say.”

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Sanders to be targeted in Dem super PAC ad citing recent heart attack

A pro-Israel Democratic super PAC is expected to release an attack ad Wednesday targeting 2020 presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., citing his recent heart attack on the campaign trail, according to reports.

The ad, funded by the Democratic Majority for Israel, shows voters from Iowa arguing why Sanders will be unable to beat President Trump in the November general election, The New York Times reported.

Westlake Legal Group AP20027128712519 Sanders to be targeted in Dem super PAC ad citing recent heart attack fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc Bradford Betz article 0ca3e9a9-79f4-5b40-acd5-5158086cf923

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, in Sioux City, Iowa.  (AP)

“I like Bernie, I think he has great ideas, but in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, they’re just not going to vote for a socialist,” a voter reportedly says in the ad. “I just don’t think Bernie can beat Trump.”

Another voter brings up Sanders’ heart attack, which he suffered in Las Vegas last October, according to The Times.

“I do have some concerns about Bernie Sanders’ health, considering the fact that he did have a heart attack,” the person reportedly says.

BRIT HUME: IF SANDERS WINS IOWA AND NH, THE RACE IS ON FOR DEMOCRATS TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE

Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel, told The Times that the ad is intended to address voters’ concerns that Sanders is in a “uniquely bad position” to defeat Trump.

“For many months people were saying he really didn’t have much of a chance, but you have to look at the data now and say he does have a realistic chance of winning Iowa and potentially the nomination,” Mellman said. “This is the point at which there could be room for someone else to make their case and have a better candidate emerge.”

Politico, citing the Advertising Analytics, reports that the anti-Sanders ad cost more than $680,000 to produce.

Anticipating blowback from the ad, Sanders released a counterattack video on Tuesday, arguing that the billionaire class is “getting nervous” that his campaign is gaining ground.

“It’s no secret that we’re taking on the political establishment and the big money interests, who are now running attack ads against us in Iowa,” Sanders tweeted along with a minute and a half video. “But we have the people, and our grassroots movement will prevail.”

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The attack comes amid a Real Clear Politics (RCP) poll on Tuesday showing sanders leading his Democratic rivals ahead of the Iowa causes.

Westlake Legal Group AP20027128712519 Sanders to be targeted in Dem super PAC ad citing recent heart attack fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc Bradford Betz article 0ca3e9a9-79f4-5b40-acd5-5158086cf923   Westlake Legal Group AP20027128712519 Sanders to be targeted in Dem super PAC ad citing recent heart attack fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/bernie-sanders fox news fnc/politics fnc Bradford Betz article 0ca3e9a9-79f4-5b40-acd5-5158086cf923

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Pentagon says more troops injured after Jan. 8 rocket attack in Iraq

Westlake Legal Group AP20024664960631 Pentagon says more troops injured after Jan. 8 rocket attack in Iraq Louis Casiano fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/us fnc article 0724d0d4-f069-5df1-b1f0-d8417a7d5877

The Pentagon on Tuesday updated the number of U.S. troops injured in a retaliatory airstrike on an Iraqi air base following the death of an Iranian general.

“As of today, 50 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with TBI [traumatic brain injury],” Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in a statement.

AERIAL IMAGES OF IRANIAN ATTACK ON IRAQ BASE

The troops were injured on Jan. 8 after Iran fired missiles on U.S. and coalition forces at the Al-Assad Air Base in Iraq following the death of Iranian Quds Force Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Initial estimates put the number of troops who suffered concussions at 34. Fifteen of the 16 newly diagnosed troops have returned back to duty. Eighteen service members have been transported to Germany for further evaluation and treatment, the Pentagon said.

Campbell said that the numbers were a “snapshot in time” and could change.

The updated numbers come after President Trump downplayed injuries sustained by service members in the attack.

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“I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen,” Trump told a reporter in Switzerland last week where he attended the World Economic Forum in Davos. “I’ve seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops.”

Westlake Legal Group AP20024664960631 Pentagon says more troops injured after Jan. 8 rocket attack in Iraq Louis Casiano fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/us fnc article 0724d0d4-f069-5df1-b1f0-d8417a7d5877   Westlake Legal Group AP20024664960631 Pentagon says more troops injured after Jan. 8 rocket attack in Iraq Louis Casiano fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/us fnc article 0724d0d4-f069-5df1-b1f0-d8417a7d5877

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Coronavirus outbreak: Chartered jet flies Americans from China to US, report says

Westlake Legal Group AP20027185331400 Coronavirus outbreak: Chartered jet flies Americans from China to US, report says Nick Givas fox-news/world/world-regions/china fox-news/us/us-regions/west/alaska fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/health fnc c47dcf77-62a2-5a11-b5ed-76eb97ec56b7 article

Nearly 240 Americans were evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan early Wednesday morning, and are now on their way back to the United States where they’ll be screened by health officials for any signs of the coronavirus.

A State Department official confirmed the plane’s travel plans with The Associated Press and said the aircraft had been chartered by the American government to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak started. Other U.S. citizens will also be on board.

The passengers will reportedly be screened for the virus when the plane makes a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska, and those who are medically cleared will be allowed to continue on to the continental U.S.

The plane’s ultimate destination is Ontario, California, according to the U.S. Embassy in China. Hospitals will be on alert and are prepared to treat, or quarantine, any potential patients.

HOW DANGEROUS IS THE CORONAVIRUS?

The coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, began at an animal and seafood market in Wuhan and has spread to several other countries. The illness is said to be transferable between humans and has killed over 130 people thus far while sickening almost 6,000 in mainland China.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. There aren’t many preemptive steps that can be taken to avoid infection, other than practicing basic sanitary measures on a regular basis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands regularly and avoiding contact with other sick people who are recovering from an illness. It also suggests avoiding touching your eyes and face, along with keeping objects and surfaces in your home or workspace clean and disinfected.

China’s leaders have made major efforts to contain the spread of the virus, including the immediate construction of a 1,000-bed hospital to accommodate the growing number of patients.

United Airlines suspended some of its flights to China on Tuesday after the viral threat caused a “decline in demand for travel,” to the country.

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Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., called for a targeted travel ban to help contain the spread of the disease and sent a letter to President Trump‘s cabinet listing his recommendations.

“There’s no need for recreational, student or educational, or non-critical business travel under the circumstances until this crisis is under control,” he wrote.

Westlake Legal Group AP20027185331400 Coronavirus outbreak: Chartered jet flies Americans from China to US, report says Nick Givas fox-news/world/world-regions/china fox-news/us/us-regions/west/alaska fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/health fnc c47dcf77-62a2-5a11-b5ed-76eb97ec56b7 article   Westlake Legal Group AP20027185331400 Coronavirus outbreak: Chartered jet flies Americans from China to US, report says Nick Givas fox-news/world/world-regions/china fox-news/us/us-regions/west/alaska fox-news/health/infectious-disease/coronavirus fox news fnc/health fnc c47dcf77-62a2-5a11-b5ed-76eb97ec56b7 article

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Bolton Book Puts New Focus on Trump’s Actions in Turkey and China Cases

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166171011_07f9240c-40ea-4835-a031-e972f1f1d8dc-facebookJumbo Bolton Book Puts New Focus on Trump’s Actions in Turkey and China Cases ZTE Corp Xi Jinping United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Turkey Trump, Donald J Treasury Department Ross, Wilbur L Jr Presidential Election of 2020 Politics and Government Mnuchin, Steven T Halkbank Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Embargoes and Sanctions China Bolton, John R Barr, William P

WASHINGTON — It was late 2018, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was on the phone with an unusual request for President Trump: Could he intervene with top members of his cabinet to curb or even shut down a criminal investigation into Halkbank, one of Turkey’s largest state-owned banks?

It was not Mr. Erdogan’s only effort to persuade the Trump administration to back off the investigation into the bank, which had been accused of violating United States sanctions against Iran.

His government had hired a lobbying firm run by a friend of and fund-raiser for Mr. Trump to press his case with the White House and State Department. And there would be more phone calls between the two leaders in which the topic came up, according to participants in the lobbying.

Mr. Erdogan’s influence campaign is now under scrutiny again in Washington, following the disclosure that Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, reported in his forthcoming book his concern that the president was effectively granting personal favors to Mr. Erdogan and President Xi Jinping of China.

People familiar with the unpublished manuscript said Mr. Bolton wrote that he had shared his concern with Attorney General William P. Barr and that Mr. Barr responded by pointing to Mr. Trump’s intervention in two cases linked to Turkey and China: the investigation of Halkbank and Mr. Trump’s decision in 2018 to lift sanctions on ZTE, a major Chinese telecommunications company.

The Justice Department has disputed Mr. Bolton’s account. But on Tuesday, top Democrats seized on the suggestions of meddling in the Halkbank and ZTE cases as fresh evidence that Mr. Trump, whose family enterprise has extensive business ties to Turkey and also has considered building new towers in China and expanding in other areas, was using the presidency to enrich himself and his family.

“Several members of the administration had concerns about the president’s dealings with autocrats,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic minority leader, said at a news conference. “Did the president have financial interests at stake when he was talking to Erdogan or Xi and others?”

He added: “Maybe his kids had some economic interest at stake. And did it impact our nation’s foreign policy with those countries?”

Former foreign policy officials — including some who served in Republican administrations — said in interviews that Mr. Trump plays an unusual and at times disturbing role in high-profile criminal and sanction cases involving foreign governments.

“What I know about his intervention in the Halkbank case is highly abnormal and quite worrying, actually,” said Philip Zelikow, a history professor at the University of Virginia who served on the National Security Council staff for President George Bush.

Suggesting that Mr. Trump was putting private, commercial interests above those of the United States, Mr. Zelikow added: “There have been interventions on behalf of a foreign government that are hard to explain in traditional public interest terms.”

Mr. Trump’s involvement in the Halkbank investigation started early in his administration. In 2017, he was asked by Rudolph W. Giuliani during an Oval Office meeting with Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, to help secure the release of a Turkish gold trader at the center of Halkbank’s sanctions-evasion efforts.

The gold trader, Reza Zarrab, who had hired Mr. Giuliani to help secure his release, had been accused by federal prosecutors of playing a central role in an effort by Halkbank to funnel more than $10 billion in gold and cash to Iran, in defiance of United States sanctions designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Turkey also wanted the trader released, former Turkish government officials said, so that he would not testify against top bank officials or implicate members of Mr. Erdogan’s family or Mr. Erdogan himself.

The push failed to secure Mr. Zarrab’s release and was abandoned after he agreed to testify on behalf of the Justice Department to help obtain the conviction of a Halkbank executive in early 2018.

But that was just the start of the lobbying.

Mr. Erdogan, in a series of phone calls and in-person conversations in 2018 and 2019, repeatedly tried to persuade Mr. Trump to use his power to limit additional enforcement action against Halkbank itself, something the Justice Department had made clear it was considering.

After one phone conversation in late 2018, Mr. Erdogan told reporters in Turkey that Mr. Trump had told him that “he would instruct the relevant ministers immediately” to follow through on the matter.

“Talks are underway about this issue,” Mr. Erdogan said at the time. “It is very important that this process has begun.”

Mr. Erdogan’s son-in-law, who serves as Turkey’s finance minister, also took up the case, pressing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the matter. Other appeals were made by the former project manager of Trump Towers Istanbul, a twin-tower complex and mall that was the Trump family’s first high-rise project in Europe.

Asked about Turkey’s lobbying efforts in an interview in October, Mr. Mnuchin cited the ongoing legal process and would not comment.

The bank had separately hired a lobbying firm run by Brian D. Ballard, a top fund-raiser for Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. The lobbyists from Mr. Ballard’s team argued to the State Department and White House that any criminal charges against the state-owed bank could destabilize the Turkish economy.

For months, it looked like Turkey was going to succeed in this unusual lobbying campaign — asking a United States president to put pressure on his own Justice Department to protect a state-owned bank. Mr. Barr, who was confirmed in February 2019, played a key role in overseeing the negotiations over a possible settlement with the bank that would have seen it avoid criminal charges, representatives for Halkbank said in interviews last year.

Only after Turkey invaded Syria in early October did the Justice Department move to indict the bank.

“President Trump has been carrying water for President Erdogan and Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the finance committee. “Every member of Congress should be profoundly alarmed that Donald Trump is trying to get the bank accused of the largest Iranian sanctions violation scheme in U.S. history off the hook because his authoritarian pal asked for a favor.”

Mr. Trump’s 2018 intervention in the case of ZTE was equally perplexing to some observers. Two years before, the United States found the Chinese company guilty of violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea. In April 2018, the Trump administration moved to punish ZTE by banning it from buying American technology.

But Mr. Trump suddenly had a change of heart, essentially pardoning the company in exchange for a $1 billion fine and promises to replace its senior leadership and allow American compliance monitors.

The decision came after a direct plea to Mr. Trump from Mr. Xi in the midst of intense maneuvering over trade talks between the two countries and as the United States was preparing for a summit with North Korea.

It drew bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill. Top lawmakers, including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, had urged the administration not to bend on ZTE, which they considered a law enforcement and national security issue.

Chinese officials had made it clear that they considered lifting ZTE’s penalty a condition for reaching a trade deal. There was also the implicit threat that, if the penalty was not lifted, American companies operating in China would face further retaliation. The United States has also relied on China to exert pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program.

The Trump family had for years worked on plans to build a series of new hotel or apartment building projects in China, goals put on hold after Mr. Trump was elected president.

His administration scrambled to quiet the growing dissent, and Mr. Trump lashed out at Democrats for having allowed ZTE to flourish under President Barack Obama’s watch.

In May 2018, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, and Mr. Mnuchin traveled to Capitol Hill to brief a group of Senate Republicans, including Mr. Rubio, John Cornyn of Texas and Bob Corker of Tennessee, on their plans for ZTE. Mr. Ross and Mr. Mnuchin sought to assure the lawmakers that they were planning on harsh penalties for ZTE and appealed to Republicans to dampen their public criticism so a deal could be reached, a person briefed on the discussions said.

Chinese officials widely speculated that the penalties on ZTE were an effort by the Trump administration to gain the upper hand in the trade talks. But people briefed on the discussions say Trump administration officials had not fully realized what a complication the measure would become in the trade talks.

Since then, ZTE has made a gradual recovery, and its profits have rebounded. And although its run-in with the Trump administration tarnished its smartphone brand with consumers, cellphone carriers around the world have still been willing to work with the company to build 5G mobile networks.

The handling of ZTE has raised questions about whether Mr. Trump will follow through with imposing restrictions on Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications company that the White House views as a national security threat.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, who served as a senior Treasury adviser working on sanctions issues during the Obama administration and who now studies sanctions policy at the Center for a New American Security, said Mr. Trump’s interventions were unusual and disruptive.

“This is not the norm in Washington,” she said. “He is making up sanctions policy on his own, and influencing the course of policy in a way that undermines United States priorities and has shocked United States allies.”

Ana Swanson contributed reporting from Washington, Raymond Zhong from Shanghai and Michael Forsythe from New York.

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Trump’s Defense Team Discounts Bolton as Republicans Work to Hold Off Witnesses

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s defense team appealed to the Senate on Tuesday to disregard a new account by John R. Bolton that bolsters the impeachment case against the president. But by day’s end, Republican leaders indicated that they had not corralled the votes they sought to prevent his former national security adviser or other witnesses from coming forward.

On the final day of arguments on Mr. Trump’s behalf, Jay Sekulow, one of the president’s private lawyers, sought to raise doubts about Mr. Bolton’s claim in an unpublished manuscript that Mr. Trump tied the release of military aid to Ukraine to investigations into his political rivals, calling it an “unsourced allegation” that was “inadmissible” in his impeachment trial.

Just after Mr. Trump’s team ended a three-day legal defense, Republican senators rushed into a private meeting room in the Capitol, where Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, worked to herd his rank and file in line behind ending the trial. He brandished a card that bore a tally of Republican votes on the question, and warned that he did not yet have enough to block an expected Democratic move to call witnesses because some Republicans remained uncommitted, according to people familiar with the meeting not authorized to discuss it publicly.

“It was a serious family discussion,” Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, told reporters as he emerged from the senators-only meeting in the Strom Thurmond Room. “Some people are sincerely exploring all the avenues.”

The talks unfolded after Mr. Trump’s team essentially rested their case against removing him from office, ending its oral arguments by urging senators to ignore what Mr. Bolton might have to say. Without directly denying the veracity of his account, whose existence was first reported by The New York Times, Mr. Sekulow argued that the behavior Mr. Bolton described was not had no place in the discussion of the president’s fate.

Impeachment “is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts,” Mr. Sekulow said. “That is politics, unfortunately. Hamilton put impeachment in the hands of this body, the Senate, precisely and specifically, to be above that fray.”

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Senator Mitch McConnell said he does not have the votes to block Democrats to call for  witnesses during the impeachment trial.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The argument was a bid to quiet the anger and anxiety that Mr. Bolton’s revelation prompted in Republican ranks when it emerged at a critical stage in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial. Conservatives said the case for moving directly to acquittal without new testimony or documents was overwhelming, but key moderates, including Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, said they were still undecided. Earlier, another moderate, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, indicated that “Mr. Bolton probably has some things that would be helpful for us.”

Two other Republicans, Senators Mitt Romney of Utah and Susan Collins of Maine, have said they would vote for witnesses, but Democrats would need four Republicans to join them in order to prevail.

Inside the private meeting on Tuesday, Mr. McConnell warned that allowing witnesses would blow the trial wide open and potentially prolong it by weeks. Clutching his whip count of yeses, noes and maybes, Mr. McConnell appeared to be suggesting that undecided senators needed to make up their minds and get in line with the majority of their colleagues.

The activity inside and outside the Senate chamber underscored just how thoroughly Mr. Bolton’s account has upended the trial, injecting an element of unpredictability into a proceeding that appeared headed for Mr. Trump’s acquittal by week’s end.

The longtime Republican foreign policy figure has made clear he would testify if called, but senators also know that regardless of his account, it is a virtual impossibility that the Republican-controlled chamber would vote to convict Mr. Trump and remove him from office less than 10 months before a presidential election. A 67-vote supermajority would be needed to do so.

How they proceed could have significant political ramifications not just for Mr. Trump, whose very defenses could be further undermined, but for Republican senators up for re-election in swing states this fall who want to show voters they conducted a fair tribunal.

Democrats pounced on Mr. Sekulow’s remarks about Mr. Bolton, saying that his reference to “unsourced allegations” proved their point that the Senate must subpoena Mr. Bolton to testify in the trial to clarify his precise account.

“Once again, the president’s team, in a way that only they could, have further made the case for calling John Bolton,” Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager, told reporters during a break in the proceedings.

Proponents of calling Mr. Bolton got an unexpected bit of support late Monday from John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff, who told an audience in Florida that he believed Mr. Bolton’s account and supported the Senate seeking direct witnesses.

“I think some of the conversations seem to me to be very inappropriate, but I wasn’t there,” he said, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “But there are people that were there that ought to be heard from.”

Republican leaders appeared to be slowing down what had been a breakneck trial schedule to allow for fuller consideration of the matter. They were hopeful that by putting distance between the emergence of Mr. Bolton’s account and the vote on witnesses, tensions would cool enough to hold a majority intact to reject Democrats’ demands for witnesses.

Beginning Wednesday, senators will have up to 16 hours spread over two days to question the prosecution and the defense teams. Much of that time will most likely be used to allow the two sides to respond to one another’s arguments, but Democrats and Republicans were also preparing pointed questions intended to highlight soft spots in the respective cases.

At the White House, Mr. Trump was uncharacteristically quiet about the impeachment proceedings, which he has followed on television in recent days. He sought instead to put his policy agenda on full display, unveiling a long awaited Middle East peace plan that bolstered arguments by his lawyers that the president was a boon, not a threat, to American interests.

Mr. Trump framed the matter even more directly on Twitter.

“Are you better off now than you were three years ago?” he wrote. “Almost everyone say YES!”

Inside the Senate chamber, Mr. Sekulow and two White House lawyers delivered a voluble and indignant final defense, capping three days of oral arguments on the president’s behalf against the House’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges.

Punctuating his remarks with a refrain of “danger, danger, danger,” Mr. Sekulow insisted that the managers’ case was built solely on a dressed up policy dispute with the president over his push to combat corruption there.

“If that becomes the new normal, future presidents, Democrats and Republicans will be paralyzed the moment they are elected, even before they can take the oath of office,” Mr. Sekulow said. “The bar for impeachment cannot be set this low.”

Despite his warnings, Mr. Sekulow did not directly deny the former national security adviser’s account, instead reading aloud from statements by Mr. Trump, the Justice Department and the vice president’s office contesting Mr. Bolton’s specific recollections.

Democrats spent three days last week arguing just the opposite. They said that the House’s two-month investigation concluded that Mr. Trump had used the powers of his office not in the pursuit of a policy objective but a political advantage. When he was caught, they argued, he sought to conceal what he had done by ordering an across the board defiance of their investigation.

Clocking in at under an hour and a half, the bare-bones closing argument from Mr. Trump’s lawyers underscored their confidence in the final outcome. In the end, they used less than half of the 24 hours available to them to present a case to senators.

Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, capped the presentation by playing a highlight reel of House and Senate Democrats arguing against a partisan impeachment in 1998, including Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, one of the House managers, and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

“You were right,” Mr. Cipollone said, looking directly at Mr. Schumer.

“All you need in this case are the Constitution and your common sense,” Mr. Cipollone sad. “The articles of impeachment fall far short of any constitutional standard, and they are dangerous.”

Reporting was contributed by Carl Hulse, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson.

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Democracy 2020 Digest: Tulsi shreds on New Hampshire slopes — WATCH

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6127367160001_6127366711001-vs Democracy 2020 Digest: Tulsi shreds on New Hampshire slopes -- WATCH Paul Steinhauser fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/new-hampshire fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/iowa fox-news/politics/elections/polls fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/tulsi-gabbard fox-news/person/pete-buttigieg fox-news/person/joe-biden fox-news/person/amy-klobuchar fox news fnc/politics fnc article 5d0ace0b-d709-5fa8-867d-65cd0ccce645

NORTH CONWAY, N.H. – She may be from Hawaii, but Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is more than comfortable on the slopes.

The four-term congresswoman and Iraq War veteran strapped on her snowboard and shredded it up with supporters on Tuesday at Cranmore Mountain Resort in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Gabbard took to the slopes with just two weeks to go until New Hampshire holds the country’s first primary in the White House race. The long-shot for the Democratic presidential nomination — who is spending the vast majority of her time campaigning in New Hampshire — was joined by a couple of dozen supporters who entered a contest to ski or snowboard alongside the White House hopeful.

“I’ve been wanting to go snowboarding all winter and so try to find the time to do it — we’ve been campaigning every day and so we just brainstormed with the team and said why don’t we go snowboarding,” she told Fox News in an interview at the ski resort.

Gabbard took the opportunity to chat with some undecided voters who happened to be spending the day skiing and snowboarding at Cranmore.

“We just heard from people that this is a much better way, that they appreciate being able to meet a presidential candidate out and having some fun and going where people are hanging out rather than just the usual traditional political haunts,” she said. “I’m grateful. I had some fun in the process, too.”

The candidate took a few warm-up runs with campaign aides before joining supporters and reporters who covered the campaign event. Gabbard told Fox News it was her first time snowboarding in two years.

“I’m glad that I was able to find my footing here. It’s been a couple of years since I went snowboarding,” she told Fox News’ Rob Dirienzo.

Gabbard appears to be the first presidential candidate to hit the slopes since former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson went skiing a couple of election cycles ago.

Her afternoon snowboarding came four weeks after the Hawaii lawmaker went surfing in the frigid Atlantic Ocean waters on New Year’s Day at Hampton Beach along New Hampshire’s Seacoast.

Buttigieg comments on campaign diversity after ‘microaggressions’ report

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg says his presidential campaign is working “to empower staffers at all levels to be able to speak to their experiences to raise concerns.”

The Democratic presidential candidate’s comments on Tuesday came hours after a New York Times report that Buttigieg’s campaign sent a questionnaire to staffers of color earlier this month asking about microaggressions in the workplace.

The first question asked on the survey – which was sent out on Jan 1. by the campaign’s national engagement coordinator – asked whether they had experienced any of six microaggressions listed, including being interrupted or being mistaken for another staffer of color, according to the report.

Speaking to reporters in Ottumwa, Iowa, Buttigieg told reporters including Fox News’ Andres del Aguila that “we’ve got to work much harder to do a better job.

And the campaign posted a Medium article which highlighted that it’s committed to building a diverse staff.

Buttigieg’s struggled to overcome what critics say is a lack of diversity in his campaign. And his inability to date to build support among black voters has been well chronicled in the media. The candidate’s also faced scrutiny for his handling as mayor of the fatal police shooting last year of a black man.

Murder case from Klobuchar’s prosecutor days comes under scrutiny

It was one of the biggest cases of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s tenure as the top prosecutor in Minnesota’s largest county.

And Klobuchar – in her Senate elections and during her current White House bid – has often recounted the killing by stray bullet of an 11-year old girl who doing homework at her dining room table. Klobuchar’s office put Tyesha Edwards’ killer – who was a black teenager – in jail for life.

But a new Associated Press investigation into the 17-year old case – which was unveiled on Tuesday — uncovered new evidence and raises questions about whether the shooter, Myron Burrell, is innocent.

A Klobuchar campaign spokesperson told the AP that Burrell was tried and convicted of Tyesha’s murder twice, and the second trial occurred when Klobuchar was no longer the Hennepin County Attorney. If there was new evidence, the spokesperson said it should be immediately reviewed by the court.

Biden’s closing argument to voters in Iowa: ‘Imagine all the progress we can make’

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday went up with his final TV commercial in Iowa ahead of next Monday’s caucuses, which kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar.

The ad urges voters to imagine what a Biden administration could accomplish if President Trump is defeated in November’s general election.

“Imagine all the progress we can make in the next four years,” Biden says as he narrates the spot, before listing affordable health care, fighting climate change and banning assault weapons.

“What we imagine today, you can make a reality. But first we need to beat Donald Trump,” Biden emphasizes.

The commercials scheduled to run in five TV markets in Iowa as well as on Hulu through next Monday’s caucuses.

Biden ahead nationally, but Sanders nipping at heels

Biden retains the edge in the latest national poll in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Biden stands at 26 percent support among Democratic voters and independent voters who lean Democratic, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released on Tuesday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont grabs 21 percent support, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 15 percent, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg at 8 percent, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at 7 percent, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 6 percent, and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang at 3 percent. No one else tested topped 2 percent.

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“After months of leading national polls, Joe Biden’s support is holding steady – but he no longer sits comfortably at the top of the Democratic presidential pack. Bernie Sanders’ support breaks into the ’20s for the first time,” Quinnipiac Poll analyst Mary Snow highlighted.

The survey indicates that 55 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they might change their mind about their vote, with 43 percent saying their mind is made up.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6127367160001_6127366711001-vs Democracy 2020 Digest: Tulsi shreds on New Hampshire slopes -- WATCH Paul Steinhauser fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/new-hampshire fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/iowa fox-news/politics/elections/polls fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/tulsi-gabbard fox-news/person/pete-buttigieg fox-news/person/joe-biden fox-news/person/amy-klobuchar fox news fnc/politics fnc article 5d0ace0b-d709-5fa8-867d-65cd0ccce645   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6127367160001_6127366711001-vs Democracy 2020 Digest: Tulsi shreds on New Hampshire slopes -- WATCH Paul Steinhauser fox-news/us/us-regions/northeast/new-hampshire fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/iowa fox-news/politics/elections/polls fox-news/politics/elections fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/tulsi-gabbard fox-news/person/pete-buttigieg fox-news/person/joe-biden fox-news/person/amy-klobuchar fox news fnc/politics fnc article 5d0ace0b-d709-5fa8-867d-65cd0ccce645

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Biden takes heat after sparring with Iowa voter who challenged him on climate change

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6126392250001_6126389802001-vs Biden takes heat after sparring with Iowa voter who challenged him on climate change fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/tom-steyer fox-news/person/joe-biden fox news fnc/politics fnc article Adam Shaw 876bf78b-3535-5a6c-b8a4-ac45d6359503

Joe Biden came under fire Tuesday from 2020 rival Tom Steyer after a video surfaced of him telling a man in Iowa to “go vote for someone else” when the man challenged him on his energy policies in the Hawkeye State.

The man, identified as Ed Fallon, took the opportunity during Biden’s appearance at a campaign event to grill him on energy policies.

“I’m going to support you if you win the nomination because we’ve got to get rid of Trump. What are we going to do about climate change?” asked Fallon, a former state legislator. “Now you say you’re against pipelines but then you want to replace these gas lines… We have got to stop building and replacing pipelines.”

FOX NEWS POLL: SANDERS GAINS AMONG DEMOCRATS, BIDEN STILL BEST AGAINST TRUMP

“No no no… go vote for someone else,” Biden said while patting him on the chest. “You’re not going to vote for me in the primary.”

“I’m going to vote for you in the general if you treat me right,” Fallon said.

“Look, you’re asking for a picture of me, coming up and telling me you don’t support me,” Biden said, to which Fallon disagreed, saying he’d back him in the general.

“I’m looking for a primary, caucus [vote],” Biden told Fallon, who said he’s supporting Steyer in the caucuses next week. Fallon then asked for a picture, to which Biden said no.

The exchange went viral online after video from journalist Zaid Jilani surfaced, and it soon brought criticism from Steyer, who said it was “no way to treat an Iowan.”

“He said he’d vote for the Dem in the general [because] he knows how important it is to beat Trump,” Steyer tweeted Tuesday. We need immediate action on climate. If you don’t agree, happy to talk @ debate.”

“But don’t take it out on voters we need to win in [November],” he added.

Fallon, meanwhile, took to his website, BoldIowa.com, to give his account of the interaction, where he accused Biden of not even attempting to address his concern.

“What was even more shocking was how Biden pushed and poked me, and then took hold of my jacket with both hands as he lectured me,” he wrote.

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“I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it one more time: Joe Biden is the Democratic candidate LEAST likely to beat Donald Trump,” Fallon wrote. “His demeanor on the stump will inevitably come back to bite him, perhaps repeatedly.”

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6126392250001_6126389802001-vs Biden takes heat after sparring with Iowa voter who challenged him on climate change fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/tom-steyer fox-news/person/joe-biden fox news fnc/politics fnc article Adam Shaw 876bf78b-3535-5a6c-b8a4-ac45d6359503   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6126392250001_6126389802001-vs Biden takes heat after sparring with Iowa voter who challenged him on climate change fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/person/tom-steyer fox-news/person/joe-biden fox news fnc/politics fnc article Adam Shaw 876bf78b-3535-5a6c-b8a4-ac45d6359503

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Megathread: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Says GOP Lacks Votes To Block Impeachment Witnesses

Westlake Legal Group OBOfXOERn5tWm_t7MwwZDQtRpdgVGXMzalW4UT8xCb4 Megathread: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Says GOP Lacks Votes To Block Impeachment Witnesses r/politics

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators privately Tuesday he does not yet have the votes to block new witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

McConnell convened a closed-door meeting of GOP senators shortly after Trump’s legal team made its closing arguments in the trial, the third and final day of defense proceedings punctuated by revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. A Republican familiar with the meeting was not authorized to describe it by name and requested anonymity.

The GOP leader faced a handful of potential defections, but several days remained before any potential witness vote would be taken.

A decision to call more witnesses would need 51 votes to pass. With a 53-seat majority, Republicans can only afford to lose three Republicans to prevent more debate over witnesses.


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