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Westlake Legal Group > United States Politics and Government

How Elizabeth Warren Got to ‘Yes’ On Medicare for All

Two days before Senator Elizabeth Warren rolled out a fundamental reimagining of America’s health care and tax system — a $20.5 trillion package that would dwarf all her previous plans combined — she was working the phones to personally preview her proposal and sell it to a select group of political influencers.

One was Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, who had written skeptically days earlier that her plan to pay for “Medicare for all” was a “make-or-break moment” for her, if not the whole 2020 race. Another call was to Representative Pramila Jayapal, the lead sponsor of Medicare for all legislation in the House and a leading liberal as the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Pramila,” Ms. Warren told her, “we’re gonna do this.”

She would soon need every ally possible: Ms. Warren’s announcement of her Medicare for all financing package is perhaps the riskiest political bet of her campaign. Her Democratic rivals have attacked her plan as unfeasible and some voters worry that it is too radical. Ms. Warren would guarantee government health coverage to every American for the first time, erase the existing system of private insurance that currently covers more than 170 million people and pay for it with huge new taxes on corporations and the wealthy but not, her campaign claimed, with “one penny” from the middle class.

The sprawling plan is the culmination of Ms. Warren’s yearslong journey toward a full embrace of Medicare for all and a clear sign that she believes her path to the Democratic nomination, and her party’s to the White House, is through full-throated liberalism.

And yet the politics of health care have always been thorny — they powered the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018 and the Republican wave in 2010. Ms. Warren appeared to nod to that reality on Friday, announcing a two-step transition plan that would give her up to three years to try to pass Medicare for all.

The twist is that health care was never supposed to define Ms. Warren’s candidacy. That was Senator Bernie Sanders’s signature issue. Ms. Warren had entered the race and gained momentum with a populist agenda focused on breaking up Big Tech, tackling corruption in Washington and on Wall Street, and making corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes.

But her decision to remake the health care system is now a major part of the 2020 debate, and Ms. Warren’s upward momentum in the polls has stalled as her opponents have assailed her. Political strategists say the sheer scope of her plan and her support for ending private insurance threaten to subsume her candidacy.

“She took most, if not all, of her chips and put them on this — and I do think it took a lot of political guts,” said Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked in the Clinton White House. “By going big on health care, she will either go to the White House on this issue or go home because of it.”

How Ms. Warren came to put together her blueprint, including her determination to avoid middle-class tax increases, offers a revealing window into the methodical way that she operates, her approach to political balancing acts and how she might govern as president. It is a story that begins with Ms. Warren researching medical bankruptcies at Harvard nearly two decades ago and ends with her as a front-runner for the Democratic nomination, rolling out a plan while under siege from her rivals for more specifics.

Throughout, Ms. Warren has kept one eye trained on policy and the other on realpolitik: protecting her aspirational brand of liberalism and robbing Republicans (and her Democratic rivals) of a potent talking point about middle-class taxes. She ignored those in the Democratic establishment who had warned her against eliminating private insurance, and ultimately settled on a proposal whose math loosely adds up but that many, even within her party, see as mostly a values statement.

ImageWestlake Legal Group oakImage-1573864911687-popup How Elizabeth Warren Got to ‘Yes’ On Medicare for All Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Lehane, Chris Jayapal, Pramila Health Insurance and Managed Care Harvard University Berwick, Donald M

A recent round of recent Facebook ads from the Warren campaign featured 12 bullet points of her agenda as president. It did not include Medicare for all.

The transition she announced Friday focuses her first 100 days on a public health insurance plan closer to what her more moderate rivals have championed — drawing instant condemnation that she was trying to have it both ways. “We’re not going to beat Donald Trump next year with double talk on health care,” Kate Bedingfield, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, said on Friday.

The backlash seemed to ensure that Ms. Warren will face even more pressure to explain her stance in the Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday.

“Up until putting a price tag on Medicare for all she had imposed her will on the primary and dictated the tempo on her terms,” Mr. Lehane said. “This is first time that she is having to react and not follow her campaign script.”

Ms. Warren had a plan for everything. That was her calling card almost from the start of the race. But health care was conspicuous it its absence, all the way back to her first trip to Iowa, when she barely mentioned Medicare for all. In June, Ms. Warren simply tucked into the slipstream of her liberal rival, Mr. Sanders, on his signature issue.

“I’m with Bernie on Medicare for all,” she said at the first debate.

But by fall, health care was emerging as the No. 1 issue in the campaign, and the absence of a plan was increasingly untenable. She was dogged for weeks by questions about whom she would raise taxes on, saying only that total costs for the middle class would go down.

“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg took aim at the last debate. “Except this.”

What few people knew then was that Ms. Warren and her Boston-based team had been privately crunching numbers since at least late August, working with the internal imperative to craft a package without hiking middle-class taxes, according to interviews with people directly involved in the process.

The onslaught at the debate accelerated the timeline. One academic described working so hard with Warren officials in late October that he was distracted from his teaching duties; another said she made final edits on a letter endorsing Ms. Warren’s math in her car at her child’s school during a Halloween parade.

“Syria is easier compared to this,” said one Warren adviser, granted anonymity to speak about the process of crafting a plan.

Kristen Orthman, Ms. Warren’s communications director, said the campaign had not been and would not be buffeted by “the cable news flavor of the week.”

“We are running a campaign on identifying what’s broken, presenting big ideas to fix it, and building a grass-roots movement to make it happen and that’s exactly what we did here,” Ms. Orthman said.

Now Ms. Warren, who declined to be interviewed for this article, must sell her plan to a Democratic Party deeply concerned about ceding any political advantage to President Trump next fall.

Skeptics of Medicare for all have ranged from Hillary Clinton to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to former President Barack Obama, who on Friday night issued a warning of his own about disrupting people’s existing insurance. “Eighty-five percent of the country has health care,” Mr. Obama said. “They may not love it, but it roughly works for them.”

Kathleen Sebelius, who had a front-row seat to the health care wars of the last decade as Mr. Obama’s first secretary of health and human services, sounded a similar note of caution. “We saw the Republicans very effectively demagogue the issue,” she said.

Even some of Ms. Warren’s supporters are wary.

“It still kind of scares me,” said Eric Spera, a 40-year-old who attended a recent town hall in Goose Creek, S.C. “I love her. I think she’s the best candidate that there is. But that’s the only drawback I have with her.”

Yet in some ways, Ms. Warren has almost proceeded as if her announcement did not happen. On the stump, she only glancingly mentions health care. And speaking to reporters the day after unveiling her Medicare for all financing plan, she uncharacteristically stumbled over the specifics, insisting, incorrectly, that only billionaires would see their taxes go up.

Nearly two decades earlier, Ms. Warren was meeting with fellow Harvard researchers in her light-filled office at the university’s Radcliffe Institute to pore over hundreds of accounts of how Americans went bankrupt.

The same answer kept popping up: medical bills.

“We started to hear things like, ‘I have diabetes and I can’t afford to save,’ and older people who had no savings left because of their medical bills,” said Deborah Thorne, a researcher who worked closely with Ms. Warren on the project. “I do think you could have watched our views evolving then, both for Elizabeth and me.”

Ms. Thorne recalled one story that stood out especially: a middle-aged man who had spent hours debating with his wife about whether to go to the emergency room for a second heart attack; they were worried about the bills they could not afford to pay after the first one.

“Both of us were so moved by the data and the people’s experiences, it made it clear to us: This isn’t working,” Ms. Thorne said. “So what would?”

In 2008, Ms. Thorne and Ms. Warren co-wrote a book chapter where they described single-payer health care as “the most obvious solution” to medical bankruptcy. A few paragraphs later though, they acknowledged that other policy options exist “if single-payer health insurance is politically unacceptable.”

In Ms. Warren’s 2012 Senate run, her lone competitive race against a Republican, she resisted endorsing a government-run health care program, saying “you’ve got to stay with what’s possible,” an echo of what former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. now says.

Four year later another member of the Harvard research team, Steffie Woolhandler, a longtime single-payer advocate, traveled to Washington to make her case for Medicare for all to Ms. Warren. But the senator demurred, saying that she would prioritize “supporting the Affordable Care Act and helping Democrats hold onto the Senate” in the upcoming election.

But a year later, it was Ms. Warren reaching out, inviting Ms. Woolhandler to her Massachusetts home on June 19, 2017. There, over tea on an indoor porch, Ms. Warren peppered her with questions about the economics of Medicare for all.

“She seemed to be thinking through the economics — essentially, why can other nations with single-payer spend no more than we do and cover everybody?” Ms. Woolhandler said.

Days later, she called for single-payer for the first time. And in September, she signed onto Mr. Sanders’s single-payer legislation. Mr. Sanders has framed health care chiefly as a matter of human rights, a way to provide medical care to the masses. Ms. Warren focused on eliminating the medical bankruptcies she had seen in her research.

Under Medicare for all, she said at the time, “Families don’t have to bear the costs of heartbreaking medical disasters on their own.”

But she stopped well short that day of saying it was the only way to proceed. “Everything should be on the table,” she said. “Medicare for all is one way.”

The Sanders legislation represented an early 2020 ideological crossroads, not only for Ms. Warren but for much of the presidential primary field. Multiple advisers to potential candidates said the decision on whether to join with Mr. Sanders, who had made Medicare for all central to his insurgent 2016 campaign, presented one of the first sorting moments of the coming primary.

“There are people who thought it was a litmus test for being able to run for president,” said Senator Michael Bennet, a moderate Democrat who is using a long-shot presidential bid to warn his party about the electoral risk of Medicare for all.

But long after endorsing the Sanders bill, Ms. Warren’s language on Medicare for all remained fluid.

In March 2019, at a CNN forum, she said there were “a lot of different pathways” for universal coverage, and that private insurers “could” still have a role. By June, Ms. Warren was more unequivocal, raising her hand at the first presidential debate to endorse doing away with private insurers entirely.

Still, she allowed herself room to maneuver, especially on how the program would be paid for. She repeatedly refused to rule out raising middle-class taxes, saying only that she would lower overall costs. The tension came to a head in a July post-debate interview, when Chris Matthews, pressed her in a live interview on MSNBC to say what would happen to taxes. Over and over, she refused to answer.

By September, the headlines were everywhere: The candidate with a plan for everything did not have one for the issue at the center of the race. The tax question became so commonplace that Ms. Warren even got advice from the late-night host Stephen Colbert, who recommended she compare it to taxes for public schools.

Behind the scenes, her team was already pressing to get the senator on firmer rhetorical and financial footing. Two long-serving Warren aides, Jon Donenberg and Bharat Ramamurti, were spearheading the effort to develop a financing plan over the summer, with Mr. Donenberg briefing Ms. Warren on various cost options.

But the plan was not quite cooked yet by the time she stepped on the debate stage in Ohio with a bull’s-eye on her back. She had just caught Mr. Biden in national polling averages for the first time, and staked out a lead in Iowa.

The attacks began almost immediately. First came Mr. Buttigieg. Then Senator Amy Klobuchar (“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” she said). Then Mr. Biden (“On the single most important thing facing the American public,” he said, “I think it’s awfully important to be straightforward with them.”)

From a hotel room thousands of miles away, Donald Berwick, a former federal health care official, had watched it unfold with growing frustration. For six weeks, he had been stealthily working with Ms. Warren’s campaign to develop a comprehensive way to pay for Medicare for all.

“Senator Warren was under tremendous pressure,” Dr. Berwick said. “It was the same question again and again: Where is your plan? Where is your plan? That’s her thing, she has plans.” But he said that he and Simon Johnson, an M.I.T. economist close to Ms. Warren, were not rushed by campaign officials after they began working together at the end of August.

Ms. Warren’s own staff had produced the initial outline of her proposal and began circulating it among a small network of economists and academics, both for input and, eventually, public validation.

“It did kick into a higher gear after the last debate,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, whom the campaign has consulted on this and other policy proposals.

The Warren campaign also tipped the progressive group Data for Progress about her proposal; it rushed a poll into the field on Oct. 30 and 31, and released its favorable results on Nov. 1, the same day as Ms. Warren’s plan.

The proposal immediately came under attack from Ms. Warren’s rivals, chiefly Mr. Biden, who said “she’s making it up.” His campaign manager recently warned that Medicare for all could cost Democrats the House.

Ms. Jayapal, the Seattle congresswoman whom Ms. Warren called before releasing her plan, said it was a milestone to have a front-runner fully embrace government-provided Medicare for all.

“It was tricky political terrain because it was Bernie’s issue,” said Ms. Jayapal, who has not endorsed a Democratic candidate. “She had to figure out a way to not step on that but also make the issue her own.”

At a campaign event in North Carolina recently, Ms. Warren delivered an emphatic rejoinder to those who said it was misguided and impossible to enact.

“You don’t get what you don’t fight for,” she said.

Less than 30 minutes earlier, Ms. Warren had been asked to list the first three bills she would want to sign into law. Medicare for all did not make the cut.

Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Elizabeth Warren Got to ‘Yes’ On Medicare for All

Two days before Senator Elizabeth Warren rolled out a fundamental reimagining of America’s health care and tax system — a $20.5 trillion package that would dwarf all her previous plans combined — she was working the phones to personally preview her proposal and sell it to a select group of political influencers.

One was Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, who had written skeptically days earlier that her plan to pay for “Medicare for all” was a “make-or-break moment” for her, if not the whole 2020 race. Another call was to Representative Pramila Jayapal, the lead sponsor of Medicare for all legislation in the House and a leading liberal as the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Pramila,” Ms. Warren told her, “we’re gonna do this.”

She would soon need every ally possible: Ms. Warren’s announcement of her Medicare for all financing package is perhaps the riskiest political bet of her campaign. Her Democratic rivals have attacked her plan as unfeasible and some voters worry that it is too radical. Ms. Warren would guarantee government health coverage to every American for the first time, erase the existing system of private insurance that currently covers more than 170 million people and pay for it with huge new taxes on corporations and the wealthy but not, her campaign claimed, with “one penny” from the middle class.

The sprawling plan is the culmination of Ms. Warren’s yearslong journey toward a full embrace of Medicare for all and a clear sign that she believes her path to the Democratic nomination, and her party’s to the White House, is through full-throated liberalism.

And yet the politics of health care have always been thorny — they powered the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018 and the Republican wave in 2010. Ms. Warren appeared to nod to that reality on Friday, announcing a two-step transition plan that would give her up to three years to try to pass Medicare for all.

The twist is that health care was never supposed to define Ms. Warren’s candidacy. That was Senator Bernie Sanders’s signature issue. Ms. Warren had entered the race and gained momentum with a populist agenda focused on breaking up Big Tech, tackling corruption in Washington and on Wall Street, and making corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes.

But her decision to remake the health care system is now a major part of the 2020 debate, and Ms. Warren’s upward momentum in the polls has stalled as her opponents have assailed her. Political strategists say the sheer scope of her plan and her support for ending private insurance threaten to subsume her candidacy.

“She took most, if not all, of her chips and put them on this — and I do think it took a lot of political guts,” said Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked in the Clinton White House. “By going big on health care, she will either go to the White House on this issue or go home because of it.”

How Ms. Warren came to put together her blueprint, including her determination to avoid middle-class tax increases, offers a revealing window into the methodical way that she operates, her approach to political balancing acts and how she might govern as president. It is a story that begins with Ms. Warren researching medical bankruptcies at Harvard nearly two decades ago and ends with her as a front-runner for the Democratic nomination, rolling out a plan while under siege from her rivals for more specifics.

Throughout, Ms. Warren has kept one eye trained on policy and the other on realpolitik: protecting her aspirational brand of liberalism and robbing Republicans (and her Democratic rivals) of a potent talking point about middle-class taxes. She ignored those in the Democratic establishment who had warned her against eliminating private insurance, and ultimately settled on a proposal whose math loosely adds up but that many, even within her party, see as mostly a values statement.

ImageWestlake Legal Group oakImage-1573864911687-popup How Elizabeth Warren Got to ‘Yes’ On Medicare for All Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Lehane, Chris Jayapal, Pramila Health Insurance and Managed Care Harvard University Berwick, Donald M

A recent round of recent Facebook ads from the Warren campaign featured 12 bullet points of her agenda as president. It did not include Medicare for all.

The transition she announced Friday focuses her first 100 days on a public health insurance plan closer to what her more moderate rivals have championed — drawing instant condemnation that she was trying to have it both ways. “We’re not going to beat Donald Trump next year with double talk on health care,” Kate Bedingfield, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, said on Friday.

The backlash seemed to ensure that Ms. Warren will face even more pressure to explain her stance in the Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday.

“Up until putting a price tag on Medicare for all she had imposed her will on the primary and dictated the tempo on her terms,” Mr. Lehane said. “This is first time that she is having to react and not follow her campaign script.”

Ms. Warren had a plan for everything. That was her calling card almost from the start of the race. But health care was conspicuous it its absence, all the way back to her first trip to Iowa, when she barely mentioned Medicare for all. In June, Ms. Warren simply tucked into the slipstream of her liberal rival, Mr. Sanders, on his signature issue.

“I’m with Bernie on Medicare for all,” she said at the first debate.

But by fall, health care was emerging as the No. 1 issue in the campaign, and the absence of a plan was increasingly untenable. She was dogged for weeks by questions about whom she would raise taxes on, saying only that total costs for the middle class would go down.

“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg took aim at the last debate. “Except this.”

What few people knew then was that Ms. Warren and her Boston-based team had been privately crunching numbers since at least late August, working with the internal imperative to craft a package without hiking middle-class taxes, according to interviews with people directly involved in the process.

The onslaught at the debate accelerated the timeline. One academic described working so hard with Warren officials in late October that he was distracted from his teaching duties; another said she made final edits on a letter endorsing Ms. Warren’s math in her car at her child’s school during a Halloween parade.

“Syria is easier compared to this,” said one Warren adviser, granted anonymity to speak about the process of crafting a plan.

Kristen Orthman, Ms. Warren’s communications director, said the campaign had not been and would not be buffeted by “the cable news flavor of the week.”

“We are running a campaign on identifying what’s broken, presenting big ideas to fix it, and building a grass-roots movement to make it happen and that’s exactly what we did here,” Ms. Orthman said.

Now Ms. Warren, who declined to be interviewed for this article, must sell her plan to a Democratic Party deeply concerned about ceding any political advantage to President Trump next fall.

Skeptics of Medicare for all have ranged from Hillary Clinton to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to former President Barack Obama, who on Friday night issued a warning of his own about disrupting people’s existing insurance. “Eighty-five percent of the country has health care,” Mr. Obama said. “They may not love it, but it roughly works for them.”

Kathleen Sebelius, who had a front-row seat to the health care wars of the last decade as Mr. Obama’s first secretary of health and human services, sounded a similar note of caution. “We saw the Republicans very effectively demagogue the issue,” she said.

Even some of Ms. Warren’s supporters are wary.

“It still kind of scares me,” said Eric Spera, a 40-year-old who attended a recent town hall in Goose Creek, S.C. “I love her. I think she’s the best candidate that there is. But that’s the only drawback I have with her.”

Yet in some ways, Ms. Warren has almost proceeded as if her announcement did not happen. On the stump, she only glancingly mentions health care. And speaking to reporters the day after unveiling her Medicare for all financing plan, she uncharacteristically stumbled over the specifics, insisting, incorrectly, that only billionaires would see their taxes go up.

Nearly two decades earlier, Ms. Warren was meeting with fellow Harvard researchers in her light-filled office at the university’s Radcliffe Institute to pore over hundreds of accounts of how Americans went bankrupt.

The same answer kept popping up: medical bills.

“We started to hear things like, ‘I have diabetes and I can’t afford to save,’ and older people who had no savings left because of their medical bills,” said Deborah Thorne, a researcher who worked closely with Ms. Warren on the project. “I do think you could have watched our views evolving then, both for Elizabeth and me.”

Ms. Thorne recalled one story that stood out especially: a middle-aged man who had spent hours debating with his wife about whether to go to the emergency room for a second heart attack; they were worried about the bills they could not afford to pay after the first one.

“Both of us were so moved by the data and the people’s experiences, it made it clear to us: This isn’t working,” Ms. Thorne said. “So what would?”

In 2008, Ms. Thorne and Ms. Warren co-wrote a book chapter where they described single-payer health care as “the most obvious solution” to medical bankruptcy. A few paragraphs later though, they acknowledged that other policy options exist “if single-payer health insurance is politically unacceptable.”

In Ms. Warren’s 2012 Senate run, her lone competitive race against a Republican, she resisted endorsing a government-run health care program, saying “you’ve got to stay with what’s possible,” an echo of what former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. now says.

Four year later another member of the Harvard research team, Steffie Woolhandler, a longtime single-payer advocate, traveled to Washington to make her case for Medicare for all to Ms. Warren. But the senator demurred, saying that she would prioritize “supporting the Affordable Care Act and helping Democrats hold onto the Senate” in the upcoming election.

But a year later, it was Ms. Warren reaching out, inviting Ms. Woolhandler to her Massachusetts home on June 19, 2017. There, over tea on an indoor porch, Ms. Warren peppered her with questions about the economics of Medicare for all.

“She seemed to be thinking through the economics — essentially, why can other nations with single-payer spend no more than we do and cover everybody?” Ms. Woolhandler said.

Days later, she called for single-payer for the first time. And in September, she signed onto Mr. Sanders’s single-payer legislation. Mr. Sanders has framed health care chiefly as a matter of human rights, a way to provide medical care to the masses. Ms. Warren focused on eliminating the medical bankruptcies she had seen in her research.

Under Medicare for all, she said at the time, “Families don’t have to bear the costs of heartbreaking medical disasters on their own.”

But she stopped well short that day of saying it was the only way to proceed. “Everything should be on the table,” she said. “Medicare for all is one way.”

The Sanders legislation represented an early 2020 ideological crossroads, not only for Ms. Warren but for much of the presidential primary field. Multiple advisers to potential candidates said the decision on whether to join with Mr. Sanders, who had made Medicare for all central to his insurgent 2016 campaign, presented one of the first sorting moments of the coming primary.

“There are people who thought it was a litmus test for being able to run for president,” said Senator Michael Bennet, a moderate Democrat who is using a long-shot presidential bid to warn his party about the electoral risk of Medicare for all.

But long after endorsing the Sanders bill, Ms. Warren’s language on Medicare for all remained fluid.

In March 2019, at a CNN forum, she said there were “a lot of different pathways” for universal coverage, and that private insurers “could” still have a role. By June, Ms. Warren was more unequivocal, raising her hand at the first presidential debate to endorse doing away with private insurers entirely.

Still, she allowed herself room to maneuver, especially on how the program would be paid for. She repeatedly refused to rule out raising middle-class taxes, saying only that she would lower overall costs. The tension came to a head in a July post-debate interview, when Chris Matthews, pressed her in a live interview on MSNBC to say what would happen to taxes. Over and over, she refused to answer.

By September, the headlines were everywhere: The candidate with a plan for everything did not have one for the issue at the center of the race. The tax question became so commonplace that Ms. Warren even got advice from the late-night host Stephen Colbert, who recommended she compare it to taxes for public schools.

Behind the scenes, her team was already pressing to get the senator on firmer rhetorical and financial footing. Two long-serving Warren aides, Jon Donenberg and Bharat Ramamurti, were spearheading the effort to develop a financing plan over the summer, with Mr. Donenberg briefing Ms. Warren on various cost options.

But the plan was not quite cooked yet by the time she stepped on the debate stage in Ohio with a bull’s-eye on her back. She had just caught Mr. Biden in national polling averages for the first time, and staked out a lead in Iowa.

The attacks began almost immediately. First came Mr. Buttigieg. Then Senator Amy Klobuchar (“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” she said). Then Mr. Biden (“On the single most important thing facing the American public,” he said, “I think it’s awfully important to be straightforward with them.”)

From a hotel room thousands of miles away, Donald Berwick, a former federal health care official, had watched it unfold with growing frustration. For six weeks, he had been stealthily working with Ms. Warren’s campaign to develop a comprehensive way to pay for Medicare for all.

“Senator Warren was under tremendous pressure,” Dr. Berwick said. “It was the same question again and again: Where is your plan? Where is your plan? That’s her thing, she has plans.” But he said that he and Simon Johnson, an M.I.T. economist close to Ms. Warren, were not rushed by campaign officials after they began working together at the end of August.

Ms. Warren’s own staff had produced the initial outline of her proposal and began circulating it among a small network of economists and academics, both for input and, eventually, public validation.

“It did kick into a higher gear after the last debate,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, whom the campaign has consulted on this and other policy proposals.

The Warren campaign also tipped the progressive group Data for Progress about her proposal; it rushed a poll into the field on Oct. 30 and 31, and released its favorable results on Nov. 1, the same day as Ms. Warren’s plan.

The proposal immediately came under attack from Ms. Warren’s rivals, chiefly Mr. Biden, who said “she’s making it up.” His campaign manager recently warned that Medicare for all could cost Democrats the House.

Ms. Jayapal, the Seattle congresswoman whom Ms. Warren called before releasing her plan, said it was a milestone to have a front-runner fully embrace government-provided Medicare for all.

“It was tricky political terrain because it was Bernie’s issue,” said Ms. Jayapal, who has not endorsed a Democratic candidate. “She had to figure out a way to not step on that but also make the issue her own.”

At a campaign event in North Carolina recently, Ms. Warren delivered an emphatic rejoinder to those who said it was misguided and impossible to enact.

“You don’t get what you don’t fight for,” she said.

Less than 30 minutes earlier, Ms. Warren had been asked to list the first three bills she would want to sign into law. Medicare for all did not make the cut.

Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Elizabeth Warren Got to ‘Yes’ On Medicare for All

Two days before Senator Elizabeth Warren rolled out a fundamental reimagining of America’s health care and tax system — a $20.5 trillion package that would dwarf all her previous plans combined — she was working the phones to personally preview her proposal and sell it to a select group of political influencers.

One was Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, who had written skeptically days earlier that her plan to pay for “Medicare for all” was a “make-or-break moment” for her, if not the whole 2020 race. Another call was to Representative Pramila Jayapal, the lead sponsor of Medicare for all legislation in the House and a leading liberal as the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Pramila,” Ms. Warren told her, “we’re gonna do this.”

She would soon need every ally possible: Ms. Warren’s announcement of her Medicare for all financing package is perhaps the riskiest political bet of her campaign. Her Democratic rivals have attacked her plan as unfeasible and some voters worry that it is too radical. Ms. Warren would guarantee government health coverage to every American for the first time, erase the existing system of private insurance that currently covers more than 170 million people and pay for it with huge new taxes on corporations and the wealthy but not, her campaign claimed, with “one penny” from the middle class.

The sprawling plan is the culmination of Ms. Warren’s yearslong journey toward a full embrace of Medicare for all and a clear sign that she believes her path to the Democratic nomination, and her party’s to the White House, is through full-throated liberalism.

And yet the politics of health care have always been thorny — they powered the Democratic takeover of the House in 2018 and the Republican wave in 2010. Ms. Warren appeared to nod to that reality on Friday, announcing a two-step transition plan that would give her up to three years to try to pass Medicare for all.

The twist is that health care was never supposed to define Ms. Warren’s candidacy. That was Senator Bernie Sanders’s signature issue. Ms. Warren had entered the race and gained momentum with a populist agenda focused on breaking up Big Tech, tackling corruption in Washington and on Wall Street, and making corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes.

But her decision to remake the health care system is now a major part of the 2020 debate, and Ms. Warren’s upward momentum in the polls has stalled as her opponents have assailed her. Political strategists say the sheer scope of her plan and her support for ending private insurance threaten to subsume her candidacy.

“She took most, if not all, of her chips and put them on this — and I do think it took a lot of political guts,” said Chris Lehane, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked in the Clinton White House. “By going big on health care, she will either go to the White House on this issue or go home because of it.”

How Ms. Warren came to put together her blueprint, including her determination to avoid middle-class tax increases, offers a revealing window into the methodical way that she operates, her approach to political balancing acts and how she might govern as president. It is a story that begins with Ms. Warren researching medical bankruptcies at Harvard nearly two decades ago and ends with her as a front-runner for the Democratic nomination, rolling out a plan while under siege from her rivals for more specifics.

Throughout, Ms. Warren has kept one eye trained on policy and the other on realpolitik: protecting her aspirational brand of liberalism and robbing Republicans (and her Democratic rivals) of a potent talking point about middle-class taxes. She ignored those in the Democratic establishment who had warned her against eliminating private insurance, and ultimately settled on a proposal whose math loosely adds up but that many, even within her party, see as mostly a values statement.

ImageWestlake Legal Group oakImage-1573864911687-popup How Elizabeth Warren Got to ‘Yes’ On Medicare for All Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Lehane, Chris Jayapal, Pramila Health Insurance and Managed Care Harvard University Berwick, Donald M

A recent round of recent Facebook ads from the Warren campaign featured 12 bullet points of her agenda as president. It did not include Medicare for all.

The transition she announced Friday focuses her first 100 days on a public health insurance plan closer to what her more moderate rivals have championed — drawing instant condemnation that she was trying to have it both ways. “We’re not going to beat Donald Trump next year with double talk on health care,” Kate Bedingfield, a deputy campaign manager for Mr. Biden, said on Friday.

The backlash seemed to ensure that Ms. Warren will face even more pressure to explain her stance in the Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday.

“Up until putting a price tag on Medicare for all she had imposed her will on the primary and dictated the tempo on her terms,” Mr. Lehane said. “This is first time that she is having to react and not follow her campaign script.”

Ms. Warren had a plan for everything. That was her calling card almost from the start of the race. But health care was conspicuous it its absence, all the way back to her first trip to Iowa, when she barely mentioned Medicare for all. In June, Ms. Warren simply tucked into the slipstream of her liberal rival, Mr. Sanders, on his signature issue.

“I’m with Bernie on Medicare for all,” she said at the first debate.

But by fall, health care was emerging as the No. 1 issue in the campaign, and the absence of a plan was increasingly untenable. She was dogged for weeks by questions about whom she would raise taxes on, saying only that total costs for the middle class would go down.

“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything,” Mayor Pete Buttigieg took aim at the last debate. “Except this.”

What few people knew then was that Ms. Warren and her Boston-based team had been privately crunching numbers since at least late August, working with the internal imperative to craft a package without hiking middle-class taxes, according to interviews with people directly involved in the process.

The onslaught at the debate accelerated the timeline. One academic described working so hard with Warren officials in late October that he was distracted from his teaching duties; another said she made final edits on a letter endorsing Ms. Warren’s math in her car at her child’s school during a Halloween parade.

“Syria is easier compared to this,” said one Warren adviser, granted anonymity to speak about the process of crafting a plan.

Kristen Orthman, Ms. Warren’s communications director, said the campaign had not been and would not be buffeted by “the cable news flavor of the week.”

“We are running a campaign on identifying what’s broken, presenting big ideas to fix it, and building a grass-roots movement to make it happen and that’s exactly what we did here,” Ms. Orthman said.

Now Ms. Warren, who declined to be interviewed for this article, must sell her plan to a Democratic Party deeply concerned about ceding any political advantage to President Trump next fall.

Skeptics of Medicare for all have ranged from Hillary Clinton to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to former President Barack Obama, who on Friday night issued a warning of his own about disrupting people’s existing insurance. “Eighty-five percent of the country has health care,” Mr. Obama said. “They may not love it, but it roughly works for them.”

Kathleen Sebelius, who had a front-row seat to the health care wars of the last decade as Mr. Obama’s first secretary of health and human services, sounded a similar note of caution. “We saw the Republicans very effectively demagogue the issue,” she said.

Even some of Ms. Warren’s supporters are wary.

“It still kind of scares me,” said Eric Spera, a 40-year-old who attended a recent town hall in Goose Creek, S.C. “I love her. I think she’s the best candidate that there is. But that’s the only drawback I have with her.”

Yet in some ways, Ms. Warren has almost proceeded as if her announcement did not happen. On the stump, she only glancingly mentions health care. And speaking to reporters the day after unveiling her Medicare for all financing plan, she uncharacteristically stumbled over the specifics, insisting, incorrectly, that only billionaires would see their taxes go up.

Nearly two decades earlier, Ms. Warren was meeting with fellow Harvard researchers in her light-filled office at the university’s Radcliffe Institute to pore over hundreds of accounts of how Americans went bankrupt.

The same answer kept popping up: medical bills.

“We started to hear things like, ‘I have diabetes and I can’t afford to save,’ and older people who had no savings left because of their medical bills,” said Deborah Thorne, a researcher who worked closely with Ms. Warren on the project. “I do think you could have watched our views evolving then, both for Elizabeth and me.”

Ms. Thorne recalled one story that stood out especially: a middle-aged man who had spent hours debating with his wife about whether to go to the emergency room for a second heart attack; they were worried about the bills they could not afford to pay after the first one.

“Both of us were so moved by the data and the people’s experiences, it made it clear to us: This isn’t working,” Ms. Thorne said. “So what would?”

In 2008, Ms. Thorne and Ms. Warren co-wrote a book chapter where they described single-payer health care as “the most obvious solution” to medical bankruptcy. A few paragraphs later though, they acknowledged that other policy options exist “if single-payer health insurance is politically unacceptable.”

In Ms. Warren’s 2012 Senate run, her lone competitive race against a Republican, she resisted endorsing a government-run health care program, saying “you’ve got to stay with what’s possible,” an echo of what former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. now says.

Four year later another member of the Harvard research team, Steffie Woolhandler, a longtime single-payer advocate, traveled to Washington to make her case for Medicare for all to Ms. Warren. But the senator demurred, saying that she would prioritize “supporting the Affordable Care Act and helping Democrats hold onto the Senate” in the upcoming election.

But a year later, it was Ms. Warren reaching out, inviting Ms. Woolhandler to her Massachusetts home on June 19, 2017. There, over tea on an indoor porch, Ms. Warren peppered her with questions about the economics of Medicare for all.

“She seemed to be thinking through the economics — essentially, why can other nations with single-payer spend no more than we do and cover everybody?” Ms. Woolhandler said.

Days later, she called for single-payer for the first time. And in September, she signed onto Mr. Sanders’s single-payer legislation. Mr. Sanders has framed health care chiefly as a matter of human rights, a way to provide medical care to the masses. Ms. Warren focused on eliminating the medical bankruptcies she had seen in her research.

Under Medicare for all, she said at the time, “Families don’t have to bear the costs of heartbreaking medical disasters on their own.”

But she stopped well short that day of saying it was the only way to proceed. “Everything should be on the table,” she said. “Medicare for all is one way.”

The Sanders legislation represented an early 2020 ideological crossroads, not only for Ms. Warren but for much of the presidential primary field. Multiple advisers to potential candidates said the decision on whether to join with Mr. Sanders, who had made Medicare for all central to his insurgent 2016 campaign, presented one of the first sorting moments of the coming primary.

“There are people who thought it was a litmus test for being able to run for president,” said Senator Michael Bennet, a moderate Democrat who is using a long-shot presidential bid to warn his party about the electoral risk of Medicare for all.

But long after endorsing the Sanders bill, Ms. Warren’s language on Medicare for all remained fluid.

In March 2019, at a CNN forum, she said there were “a lot of different pathways” for universal coverage, and that private insurers “could” still have a role. By June, Ms. Warren was more unequivocal, raising her hand at the first presidential debate to endorse doing away with private insurers entirely.

Still, she allowed herself room to maneuver, especially on how the program would be paid for. She repeatedly refused to rule out raising middle-class taxes, saying only that she would lower overall costs. The tension came to a head in a July post-debate interview, when Chris Matthews, pressed her in a live interview on MSNBC to say what would happen to taxes. Over and over, she refused to answer.

By September, the headlines were everywhere: The candidate with a plan for everything did not have one for the issue at the center of the race. The tax question became so commonplace that Ms. Warren even got advice from the late-night host Stephen Colbert, who recommended she compare it to taxes for public schools.

Behind the scenes, her team was already pressing to get the senator on firmer rhetorical and financial footing. Two long-serving Warren aides, Jon Donenberg and Bharat Ramamurti, were spearheading the effort to develop a financing plan over the summer, with Mr. Donenberg briefing Ms. Warren on various cost options.

But the plan was not quite cooked yet by the time she stepped on the debate stage in Ohio with a bull’s-eye on her back. She had just caught Mr. Biden in national polling averages for the first time, and staked out a lead in Iowa.

The attacks began almost immediately. First came Mr. Buttigieg. Then Senator Amy Klobuchar (“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” she said). Then Mr. Biden (“On the single most important thing facing the American public,” he said, “I think it’s awfully important to be straightforward with them.”)

From a hotel room thousands of miles away, Donald Berwick, a former federal health care official, had watched it unfold with growing frustration. For six weeks, he had been stealthily working with Ms. Warren’s campaign to develop a comprehensive way to pay for Medicare for all.

“Senator Warren was under tremendous pressure,” Dr. Berwick said. “It was the same question again and again: Where is your plan? Where is your plan? That’s her thing, she has plans.” But he said that he and Simon Johnson, an M.I.T. economist close to Ms. Warren, were not rushed by campaign officials after they began working together at the end of August.

Ms. Warren’s own staff had produced the initial outline of her proposal and began circulating it among a small network of economists and academics, both for input and, eventually, public validation.

“It did kick into a higher gear after the last debate,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, whom the campaign has consulted on this and other policy proposals.

The Warren campaign also tipped the progressive group Data for Progress about her proposal; it rushed a poll into the field on Oct. 30 and 31, and released its favorable results on Nov. 1, the same day as Ms. Warren’s plan.

The proposal immediately came under attack from Ms. Warren’s rivals, chiefly Mr. Biden, who said “she’s making it up.” His campaign manager recently warned that Medicare for all could cost Democrats the House.

Ms. Jayapal, the Seattle congresswoman whom Ms. Warren called before releasing her plan, said it was a milestone to have a front-runner fully embrace government-provided Medicare for all.

“It was tricky political terrain because it was Bernie’s issue,” said Ms. Jayapal, who has not endorsed a Democratic candidate. “She had to figure out a way to not step on that but also make the issue her own.”

At a campaign event in North Carolina recently, Ms. Warren delivered an emphatic rejoinder to those who said it was misguided and impossible to enact.

“You don’t get what you don’t fight for,” she said.

Less than 30 minutes earlier, Ms. Warren had been asked to list the first three bills she would want to sign into law. Medicare for all did not make the cut.

Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

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How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0

Westlake Legal Group 00DC-FEDEXTAX-01-facebookJumbo How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0 United States Politics and Government United States Trump, Donald J Taxation Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (2017) Stock Buybacks Smith, Frederick Fedex Corporation Federal Taxes (US) Corporate Taxes

WASHINGTON — In the 2017 fiscal year, FedEx owed more than $1.5 billion in taxes. The next year, it owed nothing. What changed was the Trump administration’s tax cut — for which the company had lobbied hard.

The public face of its lobbying effort, which included a tax proposal of its own, was FedEx’s founder and chief executive, Frederick Smith, who repeatedly took to the airwaves to champion the power of tax cuts. “If you make the United States a better place to invest, there is no question in my mind that we would see a renaissance of capital investment,” he said on an August 2017 radio show hosted by Larry Kudlow, who is now chairman of the National Economic Council.

Four months later, President Trump signed into law the $1.5 trillion tax cut that became his signature legislative achievement. FedEx reaped big savings, bringing its effective tax rate from 34 percent in fiscal year 2017 to less than zero in fiscal year 2018, meaning that, overall, the government technically owed it money. But it did not increase investment in new equipment and other assets in the fiscal year that followed, as Mr. Smith said businesses like his would.

Nearly two years after the tax law passed, the windfall to corporations like FedEx is becoming clear. A New York Times analysis of data compiled by Capital IQ shows no statistically meaningful relationship between the size of the tax cut that companies and industries received and the investments they made. If anything, the companies that received the biggest tax cuts increased their capital investment by less, on average, than companies that got smaller cuts.

FedEx’s financial filings show that the law has so far saved it at least $1.6 billion. Its financial filings show it owed no taxes in the 2018 fiscal year overall. Company officials said FedEx paid $2 billion in total federal income taxes over the past 10 years.

As for capital investments, the company spent less in the 2018 fiscal year than it had projected in December 2017, before the tax law passed. It spent even less in 2019. Much of its savings have gone to reward shareholders: FedEx spent more than $2 billion on stock buybacks and dividend increases in the 2019 fiscal year, up from $1.6 billion in 2018, and more than double the amount the company spent on buybacks and dividends in fiscal year 2017.

A spokesman said it was unfair to judge the effect of the tax cuts on investment by looking at year-to-year changes in the company’s capital spending plans.

“FedEx invested billions in capital items eligible for accelerated depreciation and made large contributions to our employee pension plans,” the company said in a statement. “These factors have temporarily lowered our federal income tax, which was the law’s intention to help grow G.D.P., create jobs and increase wages.”

FedEx’s use of its tax savings is representative of corporate America. Companies have already saved upward of $100 billion more on their taxes than analysts predicted when the law was passed. Companies that make up the S&P 500 index had an average effective tax rate of 18.1 percent in 2018, down from 25.9 percent in 2016, according to an analysis of securities filings. More than 200 of those companies saw their effective tax rates fall by 10 points or more. Nearly three dozen, including FedEx, saw their tax rates fall to zero or reported that tax authorities owed them money.

From the first quarter of 2018, when the law fully took effect, companies have spent nearly three times as much on additional dividends and stock buybacks, which boost a company’s stock price and market value, than on increased investment.

The law cut the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, and allowed companies to deduct the full cost of new equipment investments in the year that they make them. Those cuts stimulated the American economy in 2018, helping to push economic growth to 2.5 percent for the year and fueling a boost in hiring. Business investment rose at an 8.8 percent rate in the first quarter of 2018, and was nearly as strong in the second quarter.

But the impact dwindled quickly.

In the summer, the economy grew at just 1.9 percent and business investment fell 3 percent, including a 15.3 percent plunge in spending on factories and offices. Over the spring, companies spent less on new investments, after adjusting for inflation, than they had in the winter.

Overall business investment during Mr. Trump’s tenure has now grown more slowly since the tax cuts were passed than before.

Some conservative economists and business leaders say the effects of the tax cuts were undercut by uncertainty from Mr. Trump’s trade war, which is slowing global growth and prompting companies to freeze projects. Other economists say the fizzle is predictable because high tax rates were not holding back investment.

“It did provide a short-term boost, but it wasn’t the big response that many people expected,” said Aparna Mathur, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who recently concluded that the 2017 law has not meaningfully changed investment patterns in America.

Mr. Smith, 75, a former Marine who built FedEx from a small package delivery service into a global logistics giant, was no stranger to pressing for lower taxes. He tried, without success, to get President Barack Obama to cut the corporate rate. But with Mr. Trump’s ascension, the corporate chief began a one-man campaign to convince Washington that now was the moment. He met with the president-elect at Trump Tower on Nov. 17, just days after the election, and appeared alongside the president at official events.

In a conference call with analysts the month after Mr. Trump’s election, Alan Graf, FedEx’s chief financial officer, called the prospect of a 20 percent corporate tax rate “a mighty fine Christmas gift.”

Mr. Smith teamed up with his competitor, David Abney, the chairman and chief executive of UPS, to push for a tax overhaul, including jointly writing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

“Fred and I even jointly had some meetings about this with key people, and we were both pushing pretty hard,” Mr. Abney said in a recent interview.

FedEx spent $10 million on lobbying in 2017, in line with previous spending, with much of it focused on tax issues, according to federal records. Its team pushed hard to shape the bill behind the scenes, meeting regularly with House and Senate committee staff who were writing the provisions.

Mr. Smith met with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in February 2017, and on May 26 he spoke on the phone with Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, according to Mr. Mnuchin’s public calendar.

Eight months after Congress passed the law, Mr. Trump celebrated the tax cuts by hosting Mr. Smith and other business leaders at a dinner at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club. He singled out Mr. Smith several times, bantering with him about a term paper that Mr. Smith had written while a student at Yale. The paper formed the basis for the creation of FedEx.

The next week, Mr. Smith boasted of his company’s influence on the law in the company’s annual report, which noted that FedEx is “investing more than $4.2 billion in our people and our network as a result of the tax act.”

FedEx increased the size of its work force by around 4 percent in its 2018 fiscal year and around 7 percent in its 2019 fiscal year.

The company also accelerated previously scheduled wage increases for hourly employees by six months. It gave performance-based pay to other managers and said it would invest $1.5 billion over seven years in its Indianapolis shipping hub. The company also bought 24 Boeing freight jets for $6.6 billion, a purchase officials say would not have happened without tax cuts.

But the company ended its 2018 fiscal year having spent $240 million less on capital investments than it predicted it would in December 2017, shortly before the tax cuts passed. The company’s capital spending declined by nearly $175 million in fiscal 2019.

This year, the company cut back employee bonuses and has offered buyouts in an effort to reduce labor costs in the face of slowing global growth. The company has also added to its pension fund, a move that carried the benefit of reducing its tax liability even further.

FedEx reduced its tax liability in part by taking advantage of a provision in the law that allowed companies to immediately deduct the value of any capital investments they make in a given year. But its biggest gains were from the cut in the corporate rate. FedEx had been carrying a large amount of future tax liabilities on its balance sheet — and when the corporate rate fell to 21 percent, those liabilities shrank too.

“Something like $1.5 billion in future taxes that they had promised to pay, just vanished,” said Matthew Gardner, an analyst at the liberal Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington. “The obvious question is whether you can draw any line, any connection between the tax breaks they’re getting, ostensibly designed to encourage capital expenditures, and what they’re actually doing. And it’s just impossible to know.”

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Embassy Official Confirms Trump Asked About Ukraine Investigation

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-holmes-facebookJumbo Embassy Official Confirms Trump Asked About Ukraine Investigation Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Republican Party KIEV, Ukraine impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Holmes, David (Diplomat) Foreign Service (US) Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — An official from the United States Embassy in Kiev confirmed to House impeachment investigators on Friday that he had overheard a call between President Trump and a top American diplomat in July in which the president asked whether Ukraine was going to move forward with an investigation he wanted.

The official, David Holmes, testified privately that he was at a restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, when he overheard Mr. Trump on a cellphone call loudly asking Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, if Ukraine’s president had agreed to conduct an investigation into one of his leading political rivals. Mr. Sondland, who had just come from a meeting with top Ukrainian officials and the country’s president, replied in the affirmative.

“So, he’s going to do the investigation?” Mr. Trump asked, according to a copy of Mr. Holmes’s opening statement posted by CNN and confirmed by The New York Times.

Mr. Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and political donor turned ambassador, told Mr. Trump that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass,” and would conduct the investigation and do “anything you ask him to,” according to Mr. Holmes’s statement.

After the call ended, Mr. Holmes asked if it was true that the president did not care about Ukraine. Mr. Sondland, he testified, agreed. According to Mr. Holmes’s account, the ambassador said Mr. Trump cared only about the “big stuff.” Mr. Holmes noted Ukraine had “big stuff” going on, like a war with Russia.

But Mr. Sondland had something else in mind. He told Mr. Holmes he meant “‘big stuff’ that benefits the president,” like the “Biden investigation” that his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was pushing for, because it affected him personally.

The account could prove significant as Democrats continue to build an impeachment case against Mr. Trump. It illustrates how preoccupied he was with persuading Ukraine’s president to go along with his demand that the country commit publicly to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading political rival, and how he actively used his power and the instruments of American foreign policy to see that it happened.

It adds significant new detail to a conversation that was first revealed on Wednesday during public testimony by Mr. Holmes’s boss, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American envoy in Ukraine. Mr. Taylor said then that he had only recently learned of the episode from Mr. Holmes. And it raised the possibility that Mr. Holmes could be called to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry and presented Democrats with new leads to track down even as they conduct a string of high-profile public hearings with other witnesses.

Mr. Holmes, a career Foreign Service officer who is the political counselor in the American Embassy in Kiev, said he had been following the impeachment inquiry from afar in recent weeks and came to understand only belatedly that he had pertinent information to share. He testified under subpoena by the House Intelligence Committee after the State Department directed him not to appear, according to an official working on the inquiry.

“I came to realize I had firsthand knowledge regarding certain events on July 26 that had not otherwise been reported, and that those events potentially bore on the question of whether the president did, in fact, have knowledge that those officials were using the levers of our diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian president to announce the opening of a particular criminal investigation,” he testified.

Mr. Holmes’s account of the relationship between the two countries in his opening statement was broader, though, and closely resembles that offered by other top officials who have offered public and private testimony to the House.

He described how Mr. Sondland and two other American officials — Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Kurt D. Volker, the United States special envoy to Ukraine — styled themselves as the “Three Amigos” and took charge of Ukraine policy within the administration. On the outside, Mr. Giuliani exercised significant influence over what they did.

“Beginning in March 2019, the situation in the embassy and in Ukraine changed dramatically,” Mr. Holmes said, according to his statement. “Specifically, our diplomatic policy that had been focused on supporting Ukrainian democratic reform and resistance to Russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda being promoted by Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

The conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland took place on July 26, one day after Mr. Trump personally pressed Mr. Zelensky in a now-famous phone call to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as unproven allegations that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump specifically wanted an investigation into unsubstantiated corruption allegations related to Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy firm, Burisma Holdings.

Mr. Sondland did not mention the episode to investigators last month when he answered their questions in private. He will almost certainly be asked about it next week when he appears for public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

He has already revised his initial testimony once, admitting to the panel last week that he told a top Ukrainian official that the country would probably not receive a package of nearly $400 million in security assistance Mr. Trump froze in July unless it committed publicly to the investigations Mr. Trump sought. And Republicans have argued that he may be overstating his access to and influence with the president.

On Thursday, two people familiar with the matter said that a second embassy official, Suriya Jayanti, also overheard the call and could corroborate Mr. Holmes’s account. It is unclear if investigators will also call her to testify. On Friday, Mr. Holmes indicated there was a third person present who would have overheard it, as well.

Mr. Holmes told investigators that he did not take notes during the conversation, but said he immediately told other embassy officials about it.

The conversation took place not long after Mr. Sondland had met directly with Mr. Zelensky and other officials. Mr. Holmes’s account gave hints that Mr. Trump’s request may have been on Mr. Zelensky’s mind, but it does not indicate what, if anything, he or his aides may have communicated to Mr. Sondland. In the meeting, Mr. Holmes recalled, Mr. Zelensky said that Mr. Trump had raised “some very sensitive issues” “three times” on the call — issues the Ukrainian leader noted they would have to follow up on in person.

Mr. Holmes described sitting on the terrace of a Kiev restaurant a little while later during lunch with Mr. Sondland, sharing a bottle of wine, when Mr. Sondland called Mr. Trump. The president was speaking so loudly, he said, that Mr. Sondland held the phone away from his ear and Mr. Holmes and others could hear Mr. Trump’s voice.

In addition to discussing the investigations, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland discussed ASAP Rocky, an American rapper imprisoned in Sweden at the time on charges of assault. Mr. Sondland told the president the rapper “should have pled guilty,” according to Mr. Holmes’s written statement.

Mr. Sondland then advised Mr. Trump that he should “let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home,” Mr. Holmes testified. The ambassador added that Sweden “should have released him on your word,” and added, referring to an American reality show celebrity family pressing for Mr. Trump’s help in the case, “you can tell the Kardashians you tried.”

Mr. Sondland noted after the call that the president was in a “bad mood.”

Mr. Holmes’s account included other potentially significant details new to investigators about Trump administration officials using a White House meeting and the frozen military assistance as leverage for what Mr. Trump wanted. He testified that Mr. Taylor told him at the time about a June 28 call with him, the “Three Amigos” and Mr. Zelensky in which “it was made clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting.”

Mr. Taylor described the same call in his testimony, saying that Mr. Sondland had said he “wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring” the call. But Mr. Taylor did not say that investigations or preconditions had been discussed.

“It is important to understand that a White House visit was critical to President Zelensky,” Mr. Holmes said. “He needed to demonstrate U.S. support at the highest levels both to advance his ambitious anti-corruption agenda at home and to encourage Russian President Putin to take seriously President Zelensky’s peace efforts.”

By late summer, Mr. Holmes testified, he had a “clear impression” that a hold on the military aid was also “likely intended by the president either to express dissatisfaction that the Ukrainians had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigations or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”

Mr. Holmes also described frustrations among American officials.

At one point, he said, Mr. Sondland vented: “Dammit, Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f—s everything up.”

He said that John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, openly discussed strategies for marginalizing Mr. Giuliani on a trip to Kiev during the summer. Mr. Holmes testified that he also complained about Mr. Sondland’s “expansive interpretation of his mandate.” And he recalled Mr. Bolton saying that a hold on the security assistance would be lifted only if Mr. Zelensky could “favorably impress” during a face-to-face meeting scheduled for early September. The meeting never happened.

Other witnesses have described similar concerns by Mr. Bolton, and investigators would like to speak with him, but he has declined to appear given White House orders not to.

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Embassy Official Confirms Trump Asked About Ukraine Investigation

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-holmes-facebookJumbo Embassy Official Confirms Trump Asked About Ukraine Investigation Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Republican Party KIEV, Ukraine impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Holmes, David (Diplomat) Foreign Service (US) Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — An official from the United States Embassy in Kiev confirmed to House impeachment investigators on Friday that he had overheard a call between President Trump and a top American diplomat in July in which the president asked whether Ukraine was going to move forward with an investigation he wanted.

The official, David Holmes, testified privately that he was at a restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, when he overheard Mr. Trump on a cellphone call loudly asking Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, if Ukraine’s president had agreed to conduct an investigation into one of his leading political rivals. Mr. Sondland, who had just come from a meeting with top Ukrainian officials and the country’s president, replied in the affirmative.

“So, he’s going to do the investigation?” Mr. Trump asked, according to a copy of Mr. Holmes’s opening statement posted by CNN and confirmed by The New York Times.

Mr. Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and political donor turned ambassador, told Mr. Trump that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass,” and would conduct the investigation and do “anything you ask him to,” according to Mr. Holmes’s statement.

After the call ended, Mr. Holmes asked if it was true that the president did not care about Ukraine. Mr. Sondland, he testified, agreed. According to Mr. Holmes’s account, the ambassador said Mr. Trump cared only about the “big stuff.” Mr. Holmes noted Ukraine had “big stuff” going on, like a war with Russia.

But Mr. Sondland had something else in mind. He told Mr. Holmes he meant “‘big stuff’ that benefits the president,” like the “Biden investigation” that his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was pushing for, because it affected him personally.

The account could prove significant as Democrats continue to build an impeachment case against Mr. Trump. It illustrates how preoccupied he was with persuading Ukraine’s president to go along with his demand that the country commit publicly to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading political rival, and how he actively used his power and the instruments of American foreign policy to see that it happened.

It adds significant new detail to a conversation that was first revealed on Wednesday during public testimony by Mr. Holmes’s boss, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American envoy in Ukraine. Mr. Taylor said then that he had only recently learned of the episode from Mr. Holmes. And it raised the possibility that Mr. Holmes could be called to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry and presented Democrats with new leads to track down even as they conduct a string of high-profile public hearings with other witnesses.

Mr. Holmes, a career Foreign Service officer who is the political counselor in the American Embassy in Kiev, said he had been following the impeachment inquiry from afar in recent weeks and came to understand only belatedly that he had pertinent information to share. He testified under subpoena by the House Intelligence Committee after the State Department directed him not to appear, according to an official working on the inquiry.

“I came to realize I had firsthand knowledge regarding certain events on July 26 that had not otherwise been reported, and that those events potentially bore on the question of whether the president did, in fact, have knowledge that those officials were using the levers of our diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian president to announce the opening of a particular criminal investigation,” he testified.

Mr. Holmes’s account of the relationship between the two countries in his opening statement was broader, though, and closely resembles that offered by other top officials who have offered public and private testimony to the House.

He described how Mr. Sondland and two other American officials — Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Kurt D. Volker, the United States special envoy to Ukraine — styled themselves as the “Three Amigos” and took charge of Ukraine policy within the administration. On the outside, Mr. Giuliani exercised significant influence over what they did.

“Beginning in March 2019, the situation in the embassy and in Ukraine changed dramatically,” Mr. Holmes said, according to his statement. “Specifically, our diplomatic policy that had been focused on supporting Ukrainian democratic reform and resistance to Russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda being promoted by Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

The conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland took place on July 26, one day after Mr. Trump personally pressed Mr. Zelensky in a now-famous phone call to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as unproven allegations that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election. Mr. Trump specifically wanted an investigation into unsubstantiated corruption allegations related to Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy firm, Burisma Holdings.

Mr. Sondland did not mention the episode to investigators last month when he answered their questions in private. He will almost certainly be asked about it next week when he appears for public testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

He has already revised his initial testimony once, admitting to the panel last week that he told a top Ukrainian official that the country would probably not receive a package of nearly $400 million in security assistance Mr. Trump froze in July unless it committed publicly to the investigations Mr. Trump sought. And Republicans have argued that he may be overstating his access to and influence with the president.

On Thursday, two people familiar with the matter said that a second embassy official, Suriya Jayanti, also overheard the call and could corroborate Mr. Holmes’s account. It is unclear if investigators will also call her to testify. On Friday, Mr. Holmes indicated there was a third person present who would have overheard it, as well.

Mr. Holmes told investigators that he did not take notes during the conversation, but said he immediately told other embassy officials about it.

The conversation took place not long after Mr. Sondland had met directly with Mr. Zelensky and other officials. Mr. Holmes’s account gave hints that Mr. Trump’s request may have been on Mr. Zelensky’s mind, but it does not indicate what, if anything, he or his aides may have communicated to Mr. Sondland. In the meeting, Mr. Holmes recalled, Mr. Zelensky said that Mr. Trump had raised “some very sensitive issues” “three times” on the call — issues the Ukrainian leader noted they would have to follow up on in person.

Mr. Holmes described sitting on the terrace of a Kiev restaurant a little while later during lunch with Mr. Sondland, sharing a bottle of wine, when Mr. Sondland called Mr. Trump. The president was speaking so loudly, he said, that Mr. Sondland held the phone away from his ear and Mr. Holmes and others could hear Mr. Trump’s voice.

In addition to discussing the investigations, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland discussed ASAP Rocky, an American rapper imprisoned in Sweden at the time on charges of assault. Mr. Sondland told the president the rapper “should have pled guilty,” according to Mr. Holmes’s written statement.

Mr. Sondland then advised Mr. Trump that he should “let him get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home,” Mr. Holmes testified. The ambassador added that Sweden “should have released him on your word,” and added, referring to an American reality show celebrity family pressing for Mr. Trump’s help in the case, “you can tell the Kardashians you tried.”

Mr. Sondland noted after the call that the president was in a “bad mood.”

Mr. Holmes’s account included other potentially significant details new to investigators about Trump administration officials using a White House meeting and the frozen military assistance as leverage for what Mr. Trump wanted. He testified that Mr. Taylor told him at the time about a June 28 call with him, the “Three Amigos” and Mr. Zelensky in which “it was made clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting.”

Mr. Taylor described the same call in his testimony, saying that Mr. Sondland had said he “wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring” the call. But Mr. Taylor did not say that investigations or preconditions had been discussed.

“It is important to understand that a White House visit was critical to President Zelensky,” Mr. Holmes said. “He needed to demonstrate U.S. support at the highest levels both to advance his ambitious anti-corruption agenda at home and to encourage Russian President Putin to take seriously President Zelensky’s peace efforts.”

By late summer, Mr. Holmes testified, he had a “clear impression” that a hold on the military aid was also “likely intended by the president either to express dissatisfaction that the Ukrainians had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigations or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”

Mr. Holmes also described frustrations among American officials.

At one point, he said, Mr. Sondland vented: “Dammit, Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f—s everything up.”

He said that John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, openly discussed strategies for marginalizing Mr. Giuliani on a trip to Kiev during the summer. Mr. Holmes testified that he also complained about Mr. Sondland’s “expansive interpretation of his mandate.” And he recalled Mr. Bolton saying that a hold on the security assistance would be lifted only if Mr. Zelensky could “favorably impress” during a face-to-face meeting scheduled for early September. The meeting never happened.

Other witnesses have described similar concerns by Mr. Bolton, and investigators would like to speak with him, but he has declined to appear given White House orders not to.

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With a Tweet, Trump Upends Republican Strategy for Dealing with Yovanovitch

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164463414_5b38f580-0e53-49fb-abd6-4fccb348e8e0-facebookJumbo With a Tweet, Trump Upends Republican Strategy for Dealing with Yovanovitch Yovanovitch, Marie L United States Politics and Government United States International Relations twitter Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment

WASHINGTON — Heading into Friday’s impeachment hearing, the Republican strategy for dealing with Marie L. Yovanovitch was simple: treat the ousted ambassador to Ukraine with respect during her testimony on Friday and avoid any appearance of bullying a veteran diplomat who had been vilified and driven from her post.

President Trump blew up the plan.

Ms. Yovanovitch had just begun to recount, in powerful and personal terms, the devastation and fear she felt when she learned Mr. Trump had attacked her during a July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine. She was “shocked, appalled, devastated that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that,” she said.

It was just the kind of human moment that Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee had anticipated — a political trap they were determined not to fall into. But they apparently didn’t anticipate how Mr. Trump would react.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, sneering at her to his 66 million followers while recounting an earlier posting in her diplomatic career. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”

By repeating the same kind of verbal attack that made Ms. Yovanovitch a sympathetic witness for the Democrats in the first place, Mr. Trump undercut his own party’s best chance at minimizing the impact of her testimony. And he handed Democrats another new argument — that his tweet amounted to nothing less than witness intimidation that itself could become an article of impeachment.

“That was not part of the plan, obviously,” said Jeff Flake, the former Republican senator from Arizona, who clashed repeatedly with Mr. Trump before he retired in 2017. “He can’t help himself. You would think every instinct would be to lay off. She’s a sympathetic witness. But he seems just to be incapable of controlling himself.”

The president’s tweet was at once surprising and entirely predictable.

Mr. Trump has used Twitter to attack his adversaries nearly 6,000 times since becoming president. He has repeatedly tweeted that the impeachment inquiry is a “hoax” and has lashed out at diplomats and national security officials calling them “never Trumpers” who are out to undermine his agenda. For weeks, he and his allies have obsessed about the identity of the whistle-blower whose complaint about Mr. Trump’s phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine jump-started the impeachment inquiry.

But his decision to fling the sharp-edged insult an hour into Ms. Yovanovitch’s testimony was the latest evidence — as if any more was needed — that Mr. Trump’s instincts are rarely in sync with the interests of his party.

White House aides insisted on Friday that the president was too busy to watch the hearing, but in fact, he chose to watch Ms. Yovanovitch, who had stuck in his craw because he saw her as an obstacle to his desire to have investigations into Hunter Biden, the younger son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., people close to Mr. Trump said.

On the first day of the impeachment hearings on Wednesday, the president had managed to avoid commenting about the two men who testified — William B. Taylor Jr., the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George P. Kent, a senior State Department official.

But his inability to hold his fire on Friday raised fresh doubts among his allies and White House advisers about what he will do next week, when eight witnesses are scheduled to testify in public hearings over the course of three days.

Mr. Trump did not clear his Friday tweet with top White House aides before putting it out, leaving some of his advisers deeply dispirited. Privately, they acknowledged he had done himself damage.

Not long after Mr. Trump’s tweet, his son Donald Trump Jr. fired off his own broadside, tweeting, “America hired ⁦‪@realDonaldTrump‬⁩ to fire people like the first three witnesses we’ve seen. Career government bureaucrats and nothing more.”

Mr. Trump’s congressional allies had largely held back from those kinds of direct attacks on Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kent. They had planned to be especially careful with Ms. Yovanovitch.

On Thursday, they met for several hours in Room HVC-215 of the Capitol for a practice session aimed at coordinating their overall message, with members who were not on the Intelligence Committee playing the parts of the former ambassador and Representative Adam B. Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence committee.

One thing they were clear about: They intended to use the same care grilling Ms. Yovanovitch that Republican senators tried to employ during last year’s testimony by Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her when the two were in high school, according to one person close to the House Republican leadership.

Mr. Trump didn’t get the message — and Democrats seized on the political opportunity he handed them. Not long after the president tweeted his thoughts on Ms. Yovanovitch, Mr. Schiff read it aloud, to Ms. Yovanovitch and the cameras.

“Now the president, in real time, is attacking you,” Mr. Schiff told her. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”

Her answer was succinct: “It’s very intimidating.”

Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, used his five minutes of questioning at the hearing to decry what he called the president’s “disgusting” tweet.

“He smeared you when you were in Ukraine,” Mr. Swalwell told Ms. Yovanovitch. “He smeared you on that phone call with President Zelensky on July 25. He is smearing you right now as you are testifying. Ambassador Yovanovitch, are the president’s smears going to stop you from fighting corruption?”

“Well,” she answered, clearly not wanting to take the bait of a direct confrontation with the president, “I will continue my work.”

Following the hearing, some Republican lawmakers defended the president’s decision to tweet at Ms. Yovanovitch even as others grudgingly acknowledged that it wasn’t the kind of message they had hoped to highlight.

“We’re not here to talk about tweets,” Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, told reporters. “This is not the first or last tweet they are going to complain about.”

But under repeated questioning, she added: “I said I disagree with the tone of the tweet.”

Ms. Stefanik and other Republican members struggled to focus on the message they had hoped to deliver throughout the day: that Democrats had put in place an unfair impeachment process that denied Mr. Trump’s defenders their rights. Representative Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York, said Mr. Trump was just “fighting back.”

But that was not how the week was supposed to go, especially at the White House, where Mr. Trump had scheduled a series of events to highlight what he said he was doing while the Democrats were focused on impeachment.

The idea was to embrace the strategy that former president Bill Clinton used during his own impeachment fight. Mr. Clinton described that strategy on CNN on Thursday. “I would say, ‘I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry and they should just have at it,’” Mr. Clinton said. “‘Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people.’ That’s what I would do.”

Early Friday morning, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, issued a statement saying that Mr. Trump would watch the opening statement by the top Republican on the committee. She added, “but the rest of the day, he will be working hard for the American people.”

To illustrate that, the White House had scheduled an announcement for Friday afternoon on new rules to promote “honesty and transparency” in health care prices. But as soon as the event was over, reporters deluged the president with questions — about his Yovanovitch tweet.

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What Ads Are Political? Twitter Struggles With a Definition

Westlake Legal Group 15twitter01-facebookJumbo What Ads Are Political? Twitter Struggles With a Definition United States Politics and Government twitter Social Media Politics and Government Political Advertising Online Advertising Dorsey, Jack Corporate Social Responsibility Computers and the Internet

SAN FRANCISCO — The Alzheimer’s Association, a health care advocacy group, recently spent $84,000 on ad campaigns on Twitter. One campaign had a singular purpose: to persuade people to ask Congress for larger investments in medical research for the disease.

Now the nonprofit is worried about whether those messages will still fly. That’s because Twitter announced last month that it would soon prohibit all political ads from its platform — and, depending on whom you ask, pushing lawmakers for money for medical research could be seen as a political cause.

The Alzheimer’s Association was so concerned that it contacted Twitter this month to express misgivings about the political ads ban. “We’re not really sure how it’s going to impact us,” said Mike Lynch, a spokesman for the group. “A lot of what we do is issue advertising, so it really depends on how they define political advertising.”

The Alzheimer’s Association is one of many nonprofits and organizations that have put pressure on Twitter over its prohibition of political ads, which is set to start next Friday. The problem is that while campaign ads from candidates are clearly political, other messages that deal with hot-button issues such as abortion, school choice and climate change may or may not cross that line.

That has set off a scramble within Twitter to define what constitutes a political ad. Twitter’s advertising executives have held meetings in Washington with public relations and free speech groups to debate the situation. And the company has fended off public criticism about the ban, including from Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts who is running for president. Last week, Ms. Warren said Twitter’s new ad policy would prevent climate advocacy groups from holding corporations accountable.

On Friday, after weeks of discussions, Twitter rolled out a formal definition of what it considers to be a political ad. Under the official policy, Twitter said ads that discuss elections, candidates, parties and other overtly political content would be prohibited. For ads that refer to causes generally and that are placed by organizations and not politicians or political candidates, Twitter said it would place restrictions on them but not ban them outright.

The restrictions included removing advertisers’ ability to target specific audiences, a practice known as “micro targeting.” The ads also cannot mention specific legislation, Twitter said.

“It’s a big change for us as a company but one we believe is going to make our service, and political advertising in the world, better,” Vijaya Gadde, who leads Twitter’s legal, policy, trust and safety divisions, said in a call on Friday to introduce the policy.

Twitter’s unveiling of its political ads policy did little to mollify its critics, such as conservatives who have said the barring of such ads is an attempt to suppress right-wing voices.

“Whatever they come up with, we fully expect Twitter to continue to censor, block, or to incur ‘bugs’ that will unfairly silence President Trump and conservatives,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director.

Some super PACs and political groups said Twitter’s decision disrupted the political advertising strategy and budget they had already mapped out for the 2020 election.

“Changing the rules halfway through is really dangerous,” said Danielle Butterfield, the director of paid media for Priorities USA, one of the largest Democratic super PACs. “A lot of organizations are going to have to look back at their strategy and figure out how to adjust, especially in the middle of the cycle.”

She said her group had used ads on Twitter to flag stories about the economy under the Trump administration to local reporters in swing states, a key part of its in-state strategy.

Twitter finds itself in a delicate situation because its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, decided last month that the social media service would no longer host political ads. In a series of tweets on Oct. 30, Mr. Dorsey said political ads presented challenges to civic discourse and added that he believed the reach of political messages “should be earned, not bought.”

His declaration contrasted with that of Twitter’s rival, Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said last month that he planned to allow political ads on the social network — even if they are inaccurate or contain lies — because such ads are newsworthy and should remain for free speech reasons. Ms. Warren and others have pilloried Mr. Zuckerberg for his stance, saying he is running a “disinformation-for-profit machine.”

Mr. Dorsey, though, was immediately praised by politicians — including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York — for taking a stand against political ads.

At the time, Mr. Dorsey defined political ads as those sponsored by candidates or that discussed political issues. He said some ads, such as those promoting voter registration, would be permitted as exceptions. Mr. Dorsey, who has since been traveling in Africa, was unavailable for comment on Friday.

His pronouncements quickly kicked up a ruckus among nonprofits, lobbyists and others, who said they feared they would no longer be able to run issue-based ads on Twitter because it was unclear if their messages would be considered political.

“The policy would tilt the playing field,” said Eric Pooley, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental advocacy group. “Nonprofit organizations need to be able to communicate to the public. That’s what we do.”

The American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group, said that Mr. Dorsey’s announcement had created uncertainties and that it was being unfairly swept up in Twitter’s efforts to clean up its platform. Affiliates of Planned Parenthood added that they already struggled to get ads approved on social media and worried about a ban.

“Digital advertisement is a cost-effective way for small nonprofits to reach their audience. The question becomes, where do we turn next?” said Emma Corbett, the communications director of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, which represents Planned Parenthood in New York State.

Twitter said it held discussions about the policy with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Affairs Council, a nonpartisan organization that advises companies on their lobbying and digital advocacy efforts, last week.

Nick DeSarno, the director of digital and policy communications at the Public Affairs Council, said Twitter was trying to split the difference between limiting politicians from placing ads while allowing advocacy organizations to continue raising awareness about political topics.

“While Twitter’s potential new issues ads policy is more permissive than a total ban, it’s still going to be a challenge for groups who are trying to drive political or legislative change using the platform,” he said.

Twitter’s limitations on targeted ads will prevent advertisers from sending political messages to residents of specific ZIP codes or cities; instead, they can broadcast their content only at a state level. The company said it would also prevent advertisers from targeting their messages based on political leanings or interests of users such as “conservative,” “liberal” or “political elections.”

“We very much believe that cause-based advertising has value, and can help drive public conversation around important topics,” said Del Harvey, the vice president of trust and safety at Twitter. “But we still don’t think it should be used with the sort of primary goal of driving political or judicial or legislative or regulatory outcomes.”

Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting from New York.

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With a Tweet, Trump Upends Republican Strategy for Dealing with Yovanovitch

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164463414_5b38f580-0e53-49fb-abd6-4fccb348e8e0-facebookJumbo With a Tweet, Trump Upends Republican Strategy for Dealing with Yovanovitch Yovanovitch, Marie L United States Politics and Government United States International Relations twitter Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment

WASHINGTON — Heading into Friday’s impeachment hearing, the Republican strategy for dealing with Marie L. Yovanovitch was simple: treat the ousted ambassador to Ukraine with respect during her testimony on Friday and avoid any appearance of bullying a veteran diplomat who had been vilified and driven from her post.

President Trump blew up the plan.

Ms. Yovanovitch had just begun to recount, in powerful and personal terms, the devastation and fear she felt when she learned Mr. Trump had attacked her during a July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine. She was “shocked, appalled, devastated that the president of the United States would talk about any ambassador like that,” she said.

It was just the kind of human moment that Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee had anticipated — a political trap they were determined not to fall into. But they apparently didn’t anticipate how Mr. Trump would react.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, sneering at her to his 66 million followers while recounting an earlier posting in her diplomatic career. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go?”

By repeating the same kind of verbal attack that made Ms. Yovanovitch a sympathetic witness for the Democrats in the first place, Mr. Trump undercut his own party’s best chance at minimizing the impact of her testimony. And he handed Democrats another new argument — that his tweet amounted to nothing less than witness intimidation that itself could become an article of impeachment.

“That was not part of the plan, obviously,” said Jeff Flake, the former Republican senator from Arizona, who clashed repeatedly with Mr. Trump before he retired in 2017. “He can’t help himself. You would think every instinct would be to lay off. She’s a sympathetic witness. But he seems just to be incapable of controlling himself.”

The president’s tweet was at once surprising and entirely predictable.

Mr. Trump has used Twitter to attack his adversaries nearly 6,000 times since becoming president. He has repeatedly tweeted that the impeachment inquiry is a “hoax” and has lashed out at diplomats and national security officials calling them “never Trumpers” who are out to undermine his agenda. For weeks, he and his allies have obsessed about the identity of the whistle-blower whose complaint about Mr. Trump’s phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine jump-started the impeachment inquiry.

But his decision to fling the sharp-edged insult an hour into Ms. Yovanovitch’s testimony was the latest evidence — as if any more was needed — that Mr. Trump’s instincts are rarely in sync with the interests of his party.

White House aides insisted on Friday that the president was too busy to watch the hearing, but in fact, he chose to watch Ms. Yovanovitch, who had stuck in his craw because he saw her as an obstacle to his desire to have investigations into Hunter Biden, the younger son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., people close to Mr. Trump said.

On the first day of the impeachment hearings on Wednesday, the president had managed to avoid commenting about the two men who testified — William B. Taylor Jr., the top diplomat in Ukraine, and George P. Kent, a senior State Department official.

But his inability to hold his fire on Friday raised fresh doubts among his allies and White House advisers about what he will do next week, when eight witnesses are scheduled to testify in public hearings over the course of three days.

Mr. Trump did not clear his Friday tweet with top White House aides before putting it out, leaving some of his advisers deeply dispirited. Privately, they acknowledged he had done himself damage.

Not long after Mr. Trump’s tweet, his son Donald Trump Jr. fired off his own broadside, tweeting, “America hired ⁦‪@realDonaldTrump‬⁩ to fire people like the first three witnesses we’ve seen. Career government bureaucrats and nothing more.”

Mr. Trump’s congressional allies had largely held back from those kinds of direct attacks on Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kent. They had planned to be especially careful with Ms. Yovanovitch.

On Thursday, they met for several hours in Room HVC-215 of the Capitol for a practice session aimed at coordinating their overall message, with members who were not on the Intelligence Committee playing the parts of the former ambassador and Representative Adam B. Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence committee.

One thing they were clear about: They intended to use the same care grilling Ms. Yovanovitch that Republican senators tried to employ during last year’s testimony by Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Justice Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her when the two were in high school, according to one person close to the House Republican leadership.

Mr. Trump didn’t get the message — and Democrats seized on the political opportunity he handed them. Not long after the president tweeted his thoughts on Ms. Yovanovitch, Mr. Schiff read it aloud, to Ms. Yovanovitch and the cameras.

“Now the president, in real time, is attacking you,” Mr. Schiff told her. “What effect do you think that has on other witnesses willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing?”

Her answer was succinct: “It’s very intimidating.”

Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, used his five minutes of questioning at the hearing to decry what he called the president’s “disgusting” tweet.

“He smeared you when you were in Ukraine,” Mr. Swalwell told Ms. Yovanovitch. “He smeared you on that phone call with President Zelensky on July 25. He is smearing you right now as you are testifying. Ambassador Yovanovitch, are the president’s smears going to stop you from fighting corruption?”

“Well,” she answered, clearly not wanting to take the bait of a direct confrontation with the president, “I will continue my work.”

Following the hearing, some Republican lawmakers defended the president’s decision to tweet at Ms. Yovanovitch even as others grudgingly acknowledged that it wasn’t the kind of message they had hoped to highlight.

“We’re not here to talk about tweets,” Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, told reporters. “This is not the first or last tweet they are going to complain about.”

But under repeated questioning, she added: “I said I disagree with the tone of the tweet.”

Ms. Stefanik and other Republican members struggled to focus on the message they had hoped to deliver throughout the day: that Democrats had put in place an unfair impeachment process that denied Mr. Trump’s defenders their rights. Representative Lee Zeldin, Republican of New York, said Mr. Trump was just “fighting back.”

But that was not how the week was supposed to go, especially at the White House, where Mr. Trump had scheduled a series of events to highlight what he said he was doing while the Democrats were focused on impeachment.

The idea was to embrace the strategy that former president Bill Clinton used during his own impeachment fight. Mr. Clinton described that strategy on CNN on Thursday. “I would say, ‘I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry and they should just have at it,’” Mr. Clinton said. “‘Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people.’ That’s what I would do.”

Early Friday morning, Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, issued a statement saying that Mr. Trump would watch the opening statement by the top Republican on the committee. She added, “but the rest of the day, he will be working hard for the American people.”

To illustrate that, the White House had scheduled an announcement for Friday afternoon on new rules to promote “honesty and transparency” in health care prices. But as soon as the event was over, reporters deluged the president with questions — about his Yovanovitch tweet.

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Barr Suggests Impeachment Inquiry Undermines Voters’ Intent

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr on Friday vigorously defended President Trump’s use of executive authority and suggested that House Democrats were subverting the will of voters by exploring whether to remove the president from office for abusing his power.

Mr. Trump campaigned on a vow to upend Washington, and voters were aware of his agenda when they elected him president, Mr. Barr said.

“While the president has certainly thrown out the traditional Beltway playbook and punctilio, he was up front about what he wanted to do and the people decided they wanted him to serve as president,” Mr. Barr said in a speech at a conference hosted by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group influential in Republican politics.

Mr. Trump’s opponents “essentially see themselves as engaged in a war to cripple by any means necessary a duly elected government,” Mr. Barr added.

His forceful defense of the president came after some of Mr. Trump’s allies have in recent weeks accused Mr. Barr of failing to vociferously back the president. Mr. Trump was said to be frustrated that Mr. Barr urged him to release a reconstructed transcript of the July call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine at the center of the impeachment case. The president also wanted Mr. Barr to hold a news conference to say the president had violated no laws, only to have Mr. Barr rebuff the request. Mr. Trump has denied that account.

Speaking for an hour at the upscale Mayflower Hotel a few blocks from the White House, Mr. Barr hit back at the president’s critics on an array of fronts as he argued that Mr. Trump, in his capacity as president, has not overstepped his authority.

While Mr. Barr never uttered the word impeachment, he castigated those he sees as stalling Mr. Trump’s agenda. He defended the president’s right to set policies, steer the country’s diplomatic and military relations and keep executive branch conversations confidential from congressional oversight.

“In waging a scorched-earth, no-holds-barred war against this administration, it is the left that is engaged in shredding norms and undermining the rule of law,” Mr. Barr said.

He noted that opponents labeled themselves “the resistance” immediately after Mr. Trump was elected and accused them of “using every tool and maneuver to sabotage the functioning of the executive branch and his administration.

“Resistance is the language used to describe insurgency against rule imposed by an occupying military power,” Mr. Barr said. He added that it connotes that the government is not legitimate. “This is a very dangerous and indeed incendiary notion.”

Mr. Barr spoke as the second public impeachment hearing wrapped up on Capitol Hill, where Democrats have accused Mr. Trump of abusing the power of his office for personal gain.

Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, testified that she was the target of a smear campaign engineered to get Mr. Trump to remove her; she was recalled from Kiev in the spring. She said that her dismissal from the post put national security at risk by opening the door for Russia to further influence Ukraine, a strategic American ally.

She also said that she felt devastated and threatened to learn that Mr. Trump had vilified her to Mr. Zelensky, testimony that Mr. Trump underscored by attacking her on Twitter as she sat before lawmakers.

In his address, Mr. Barr suggested the president has acted within his powers and that his opponents were willing to bend the law to stop him.

Mr. Barr is known as an executive power maximalist and a believer in the unitary executive theory, which posits that the Constitution imbues the presidency with broad powers that are subject to relatively little oversight.

He has argued, for example, that Congress cannot make it a crime for a president to exercise executive powers corruptly; and that presidents have authority over law enforcement investigations even when investigators are scrutinizing their activity.

On Friday, Mr. Barr hit back against criticisms of his view of executive authority.

“Some of you may recall when I was up for confirmation, all these Democratic senators saying how concerned they were about my adherence to the unitary executive theory,” Mr. Barr said.

“This is not new and it’s not a theory,” Mr. Barr said, calling his viewpoint a straightforward description of the powers that the Constitution gives the president. “Whatever the executive power may be, those powers must be exercised under the president’s supervision,” he said.

Mr. Barr’s assessment was a “highly contestable — and in my view, seriously mistaken — reading of history,” said Peter M. Shane, a former Justice Department official and Ohio State University law professor who specializes in the separation of powers.

“He over-reads the vesting of executive power, ignores the limitations on executive power implicit in other clauses, and ignores evidence of what voters in favor of ratification would have expected from the text,” Mr. Shane said. “He is, indeed, a maximalist.”

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