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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 100)

7 Aides Resign Over Rep. Van Drew’s Plan to Switch to Republican Party

Nearly all of Representative Jeff Van Drew’s Washington staff resigned over the weekend as both Democrats and Republicans harshly criticized the moderate Democrat’s apparent decision to switch parties just as the House prepares to undertake its historic vote on articles of impeachment against President Trump.

Mr. Van Drew, who hails from a conservative district that for 24 years before his election was represented by a Republican, is one of only two Democrats who voted against rules laying out the impeachment process.

“Sadly, Congressman Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office,’’ according to a letter from five staff members, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times.

Letter From 5 Van Drew Staff Members

Five of Representative Jeff Van Drew’s staff members resigned over the weekend after his apparent decision to switch to the Republican Party.

Westlake Legal Group thumbnail 7 Aides Resign Over Rep. Van Drew’s Plan to Switch to Republican Party Van Drew, Jeff Trump, Donald J Primaries and Caucuses New Jersey impeachment Elections, House of Representatives  1 page, 0.16 MB

NBC News reported that a sixth staffer had also resigned. A seventh person also resigned, according to a person familiar with the situation in Mr. Van Drew’s office, leaving his chief of staff as the sole remaining staff member in his Washington office.

Mr. Van Drew’s decision drew bipartisan condemnations and is certain to become a dominant issue when he runs for re-election next year.

A Republican running for his seat called him a weasel who was not to be trusted. A Democratic foe labeled him a traitor. The governor of New Jersey said he lacked the courage to protect the Constitution.

“This is the end of his career,” said David Richter, a Republican businessman who has been campaigning for Mr. Van Drew’s seat in Congress since August and referred to him on Sunday as a “weasel.”

On Monday, Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair State University who had been taking steps toward challenging Mr. Van Drew as a Democrat in a primary, said that she, too, would run to replace him.

“I think he’s a traitor,” said Professor Harrison. “I think it is something that is emblematic of the cynicism of our country.”

In a separate statement announcing her campaign, she said that Mr. Van Drew had “ignored the voices of our community and has instead sold his soul, cutting back-room deals with the White House.”

Even before word of Mr. Van Drew’s apparent plans became public, Professor Harrison said, she had met with Democratic county leaders in the district, who had declined to sign a letter backing Mr. Van Drew for re-election and had criticized his anti-impeachment stance.

“If I have to put $1 million of my own money into this race, to win, I’m prepared to do it.”

Mr. Van Drew did not return calls. But the freshman congressman who is up for re-election next year has told aides he is preparing to switch parties as soon as this week.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News several weeks ago, Mr. Van Drew said Mr. Trump would likely survive an impeachment process given Republican control of the Senate and that voters, not Congress, should decide Mr. Trump’s fate.

“At the end of the day, I’m afraid all we’re going to have is a failed impeachment,” he said, adding: “The bottom line is he’s still going to be the president of the United States, and the bottom line is he is still going to be the candidate of the Republican Party. So why don’t we let the people do the impeachment by voting in the electoral process the way that we usually do.”

Mr. Richter, 53, said he had been told by Republican leaders in the district that crosses Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties that Mr. Trump was expected to endorse Mr. Van Drew. Still, he said he had no plans to step aside to clear an easy path to the Republican nomination for Mr. Van Drew.

“I’m in this thing all the way through,” said Mr. Richter, a former chief executive of a publicly traded construction management firm, Hill International, who personally contributed $300,000 of the $413,000 his campaign raised during the first quarter.

“I’ve talked to a lot of Republicans,” he said. “Nobody is happy about the switch.”

Mr. Richter added that any support Mr. Trump offered Mr. Van Drew, in exchange for the distraction a high-profile Democratic defection could offer in a week when the president faces impeachment, would quickly fade once Mr. Trump had “gotten what he wanted.”

The state Republican chairman, Doug Steinhardt, could not be reached for comment. Mike Testa Jr., a Republican who was elected in November to Mr. Van Drew’s former State Senate seat and who is a chairman of Mr. Trump’s re-election effort in New Jersey, did not return calls.

The staff members who resigned include Mr. Van Drew’s communications director, director of constituency relations and legislative director.

The resignation of the five staff members was reported by Politico.

In addition to Mr. Richter, Mr. Van Drew could face two other already-announced opponents, Brian Fitzherbert and Bob Patterson, if he pursues the Republican nomination.

“He’s doing what he’s done for nearly 30 years,” Mr. Fitzherbert said of Mr. Van Drew. “Political survivorship. It’s desperation.”

Democrats were equally unsparing in their criticism.

The state’s powerful Senate president, Stephen M. Sweeney, vowed retribution as the national Democratic Party offered jobs to the members of Mr. Van Drew’s congressional staff who had quit “to stand up for their Democratic values.”

“Jeff Van Drew’s decision to switch parties is a betrayal to every voter who supported him in 2018,” Mr. Sweeney said in a statement. “But now he is out of the Democratic Party and in November, we are going to take him out of Congress.”

Gov. Philip D. Murphy, speaking on CNN, predicted that Mr. Van Drew would be defeated.

“He’s putting politics over the Constitution,” Mr. Murphy said. “I think it’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Van Drew’s district sprawls across the southern part of New Jersey, from Atlantic City west toward the Pennsylvania border.

If Professor Harrison, who lives in Longport in Mr. Van Drew’s district, wins the support of established Democratic Party leaders in the district, she may face a primary challenge of her own.

The left-leaning Working Families Alliance issued a statement late Saturday laying blame for the debacle on George Norcross III, a Democratic power broker who is a member of the Democratic National Committee and who had supported Mr. Van Drew’s political climb from mayor to state senator to congressman.

“This is a direct result of the South Jersey Democratic machine’s power — a machine that engineered Van Drew’s rise knowing his values were out of step with the party,” said Sue Altman, director of the alliance, an affiliate of the national Working Families Party.

On Sunday, she said she anticipated insurgent Democratic challengers.

“I think there’s still some very qualified candidates who are going to emerge,” Ms. Altman said. “I would imagine there’s a real thirst for an anti-machine candidate.”

Professor Harrison, a 54-year-old mother of three who has taught at Montclair for more than two decades, said she did not consider herself a political insider.

“I don’t think of myself as being establishment,” she said.

Michael Gold contributed reporting.

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Judiciary Committee Report Argues Trump ‘Betrayed the Nation’

Westlake Legal Group 16dc-impeach-facebookJumbo Judiciary Committee Report Argues Trump ‘Betrayed the Nation’ Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Elections, House of Representatives

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee formally presented its case for impeaching President Trump in a 658-page report published online early Monday morning, arguing just days before a final vote in the House that he “betrayed the nation by abusing his high office.”

The report, which echoes similar documents produced after the committee’s approval of impeachment articles for Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, contains no new allegations or evidence against Mr. Trump.

But it offers a detailed road map for the two articles of impeachment the committee approved, charging that Mr. Trump abused the power of the presidency to enlist Ukraine in tarnishing his political rivals and obstructing Congress by blocking witnesses from testifying and refusing to provide documents.

The House is expected to vote on Wednesday on whether to impeach the sitting president for only the third time in the nation’s history, setting in motion a trial in the Senate early next year that could lead to Mr. Trump’s removal from office.

“President Trump has placed his personal, political interests above our national security, our free and fair elections, and our system of checks and balances,” the report states. “He has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that will continue if left unchecked. Accordingly, President Trump should be impeached and removed from office.”

The report argues that the House should charge Mr. Trump with abuse of power for holding up nearly $400 million worth of security aid and the promise of a White House meeting until Ukraine agreed to announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and 2016 election interference.

“When the president demands that a foreign government announce investigations targeting his domestic political rival, he corrupts our elections,” the report states. “To the founders, this kind of corruption was especially pernicious, and plainly merited impeachment. American elections should be for Americans only.”

It also urges the House to approve an article of impeachment charging the president with obstruction of Congress, saying that “President Trump’s obstruction of Congress does not befit the leader of a democratic society. It calls to mind the very claims of royal privilege against which our founders rebelled.”

The report includes a scathing 20-page dissent from Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who accuses Democrats on the panel of conducting an unfair process in a partisan attempt to drive Mr. Trump from office because of their dislike of him and his policies.

“The case is not only weak but dangerously lowers the bar for future impeachments,” he writes. “The record put forth by the majority is based on inferences built upon presumptions and hearsay. In short, the majority has failed to make a credible, factually-based allegation against this president that merits impeachment.”

Mr. Collins concludes: “Before the House are two articles of impeachment against the president of the United States, Donald John Trump. To these articles, the minority dissents.”

The report by the Democratic-controlled committee rejects the criticism that the impeachment inquiry was unfair to Mr. Trump and Republicans, arguing that the president had many opportunities to have his lawyer present evidence or cross-examine witnesses during the inquiry.

“The president’s decision to reject these opportunities to participate affirms that his principal objective was to obstruct the House’s inquiry rather than assist in its full consideration of all relevant evidence,” the report states.

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Trump Officials Praise Gains From China Deal, but They Come at a Cost

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-chinatrade1-facebookJumbo Trump Officials Praise Gains From China Deal, but They Come at a Cost United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Economy Trump, Donald J Lighthizer, Robert E International Trade and World Market Economic Conditions and Trends Customs (Tariff) China

WASHINGTON — Trump administration officials predicted big gains for the economy from a newly announced trade deal with China, but the economic losses sustained during a bruising 19-month trade war will not be easy to make up.

In a televised interview on Sunday, President Trump’s top trade negotiator praised the progress that the agreement between the world’s two biggest economies would make on issues like intellectual property, currency and financial services. He described the deal as “remarkable” and predicted that it would roughly double American exports to China by 2021.

Yet the negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, admitted that the limited agreement, which the administration says is just the first of several phases, was only a partial victory. He said it would leave many of the existing tariffs between the countries in place and other bigger changes to the Chinese economy undone.

“This is a first step in trying to integrate two very different systems, to the benefit of both of us,” Mr. Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Anyone who thinks you would change China in one stroke of the pen “is foolish,” he said, adding: “The president is not foolish. He is very smart.”

Business groups have welcomed the first-phase trade pact as a sign of easing tensions in the trade war. On Sunday, Mr. Lighthizer predicted that Chinese purchases of American products would rise by more than $100 billion a year once the agreement, which is expected to be signed in January, goes into effect.

But the economic benefits of the pact appear to have come at significant costs — namely, the tariffs Mr. Trump imposed to force China to accept an agreement and the uncertainty that his unpredictable approach to trade has created. Those factors have added new costs for businesses, forced them to undertake expensive changes to their supply chains and caused them to put off investments and new hiring.

Once those costs are taken into account, trade experts said, the gains from the new agreement are less clear.

“It’s hard to see this China deal as the vindication of the president’s tactics,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s a pretty small deal, coming at a pretty high cost.”

To persuade China to bend to American demands, Mr. Trump imposed more new tariffs than any other president in modern history. On Friday, Mr. Trump announced that he would not go forward with an additional tariff increase planned for Sunday and that he would lower the rate on some of the tariffs he had already placed on China.

But tariffs on more than $360 billion of Chinese goods — the bulk of products the country exports to the United States — will stay in place indefinitely.

The remaining tariffs cover a wide range of product categories in which American officials contend that the Chinese government has provided huge subsidies to businesses to become globally competitive. They also include many goods for which the Trump administration is leery of having the United States depend on China for national security or economic security reasons, such as nuclear reactor parts or certain widely used industrial pumps and motors.

In the interview on Sunday, Mr. Lighthizer described those tariffs as motivation for China to continue to negotiate with the United States. But many businesses continue to denounce them as a tax on doing business with the world’s second-largest economy.

Companies that import parts and finished products from China have already paid nearly $40 billion in additional taxes since Mr. Trump imposed his first tariffs, data from United States Customs and Border Protection shows. While Mr. Trump insists that China is paying those tariffs, most economic studies have found that the burden of the levies falls more heavily on American businesses and consumers than Chinese ones.

The deal will need to make up a lot of ground in the area of agriculture, as well.

Under pressure from the trade war, American farm exports to China have fallen sharply, as China has put tariffs on American products and Chinese state purchasers shifted to buying goods from Brazil, Argentina and other countries. American agricultural exports to China fell from $19.6 billion in 2017 to $9.2 billion in 2018, according to the United States Agriculture Department, and have remained depressed this year.

Mr. Trump and his advisers have predicted that the deal will result in China buying $40 billion to $50 billion of American farm products per year. But some analysts have questioned how realistic those estimates are, given that the highest level of farm products the United States has ever exported to China was $26 billion in 2012.

The uncertainty created by the trade war also appears to have taken a substantial toll on the American and global economy, particularly by suppressing business investment.

Mr. Trump and his advisers have pointed to record-low unemployment, a strong stock market and high consumer confidence as evidence that their trade war has little downside. But economists say American growth would be even stronger if not for the trade war.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimated that the trade war lowered American gross domestic product by a third of a percentage point in the third quarter, when the American economy grew by 1.9 percent.

“The trade war has done significant damage to the economy,” Mr. Zandi said. “You can see the fingerprints of the trade war clearly in the manufacturing sector.”

The new tariffs that Mr. Trump decided not to move ahead with on Sunday would have fallen more heavily on American consumers by raising the price of apparel, smartphones and other finished goods. He also scaled back tariffs imposed in September on other consumer products.

But earlier tranches of tariffs, which fell more heavily on industrial components and machinery, will remain in effect. That could ironically penalize some companies for making goods in the United States, instead of China.

Robert J. Leo, a lawyer for the American Down and Feather Council, said that levies would remain in effect on down and feathers from China, but not on Chinese-made comforters and pillows.

“That means the Chinese manufacturers can manufacture their products and get them into the country without tariffs,” where American manufacturers that import the goods to make products in the United States will still be charged, Mr. Leo said.

Despite the barriers that remain, Mr. Lighthizer said in the interview that Friday was “probably the most momentous day in trade history ever,” because in addition to announcing the agreement with China, the administration submitted its revised United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to Congress for a vote.

The two deals “have been hyped as short-term wins for the U.S. resulting from hard-nosed negotiations by the Trump administration,” said Eswar Prasad, a trade professor at Cornell University. “But the outcomes of these trade deals hardly compensate for the heightened uncertainty resulting from the trade tensions unleashed by the Trump administration on multiple fronts that has hurt business sentiment and contributed to falling investment.”

The North American deal has gained the support of congressional Democrats and appeared to be on track for passage in the House of Representatives as early as this week. But in recent days, Mexico has raised new concerns about the deal’s stronger labor provisions, throwing up a potential stumbling block to its passage.

Jesús Seade, Mexico’s chief negotiator for the pact, flew to Washington for meetings on Sunday after the United States said it would send as many as five labor attachés to Mexico to monitor labor conditions under the deal. Mexico has described the idea as a violation of its sovereignty.

For its part, the Chinese government appeared over the weekend to be keeping up its end of the deal struck on Friday, starting with the cancellation on Sunday of plans to impose further retaliatory tariffs against the United States.

China’s Finance Ministry announced that the country’s tariff commission had rescinded plans to impose tariffs of 5 percent or 10 percent on a range of American products, notably farm goods like sorghum and seed corn as well as flavored tea, electric clocks, magnifying glasses and navigational radars. China had previously said that it would put the tariffs in place if the United States proceeded with plans to impose further tariffs on Sunday.

The ministry said China would continue to collect 25 percent tariffs on a wide range of other American goods, in retaliation for the continued American imposition of 25 percent tariffs on $250 billion a year worth of Chinese goods.

Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, praised the trade deal on Saturday, and that praise was widely echoed by state media.

Mr. Wang said the Phase 1 pact was based on principles of mutual respect between China and the United States — a crucial requirement and endorsement from Beijing’s perspective. He also said the understanding between the two countries was good news for their economies and for the global economy.

“It will help to shore up confidence” in the global economy, Mr. Wang said, according to state-run Chinese television.

Ana Swanson reported from Washington, and Keith Bradsher from Beijing. Chris Buckley contributed reporting from Beijing.

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Representative Jeff Van Drew, Anti-Impeachment Democrat, Plans to Switch Parties

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163630359_4d3f6f4a-d3dd-401a-93ff-381e75bcbe08-facebookJumbo Representative Jeff Van Drew, Anti-Impeachment Democrat, Plans to Switch Parties Van Drew, Jeff Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Republican Party impeachment Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a moderate Democrat who is among his party’s staunchest opponents of impeaching President Trump, told aides on Saturday that he is planning to switch parties and declare himself a Republican as soon as next week, just as the House is casting its historic votes on articles of impeachment.

At a White House meeting on Friday, Mr. Van Drew sought Mr. Trump’s blessing for the move, which could be critical to his ability to avoid a primary challenge next year, and the president urged him to make the jump, according to two Democrats and one Republican who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were intended to be private.

Mr. Van Drew has spoken with senior advisers to Mr. Trump about announcing his switch at an event at the White House either immediately before or just after the House votes on two articles of impeachment, which is expected to happen on Wednesday, according to Republicans and Democrats.

Beyond the potential boost to Mr. Van Drew’s own political fortunes, the move would also provide a silver lining for Mr. Trump as he becomes the third president ever to be impeached. The president has characterized the drive to remove him as an entirely partisan exercise that will cost Democrats their majority in the House, and a high-profile Democratic defection could help bolster his case while allowing him to divert attention from the vote.

The decision by Mr. Van Drew reflects the heavy political consequences hanging over next week’s impeachment vote, particularly for moderate Democrats in districts that supported Mr. Trump in 2016. While there is little doubt that Democrats will have the votes to approve the charges against the president in a near party-line vote, a small number of their conservative-leaning members are deeply uncomfortable with the idea of taking part in a Democrat-only impeachment vote and are spending the weekend torn over how to proceed.

Mr. Van Drew did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month, Mr. Van Drew vowed in a two-hour teleconference that he would remain a Democrat.

“I am absolutely not changing,” he said, stating his lifelong position as a moderate Democrat.

But conversations between Mr. Van Drew and top advisers to Mr. Trump intensified in recent days, according to a Republican familiar with the discussions, with the lawmaker making clear that he was nervous about losing his seat, either in a Democratic primary or the general election.

Those talks came after Mr. Van Drew saw the results of a poll conducted this month that suggested that a vote against impeaching Mr. Trump would damage his chances of winning his Democratic primary. The poll, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, showed that the overwhelming majority of Democratic primary voters — 71 percent — would be less likely to support his re-election if he opposed the charges against Mr. Trump.

A freshman lawmaker from a historically Republican-leaning southern New Jersey district, Mr. Van Drew has already made clear he will not support impeachment, which has prompted talk of a liberal primary challenger.

“I don’t see anything there worthy of actually taking a president out of office,” he said earlier in the week.

Mr. Van Drew was one of only two House Democrats who opposed the impeachment process when the party’s leaders brought the matter to a vote in October to lay out ground rules for the inquiry. That stance has made him the target of sharp criticism from progressive activists and protests outside his district office. Perhaps more notable, his state’s machine-aligned Democratic leaders have also gone public with their own discomfort over his stance.

“I am imploring you to vote in favor of impeachment,” Michael Suleiman, the Atlantic County Democratic chairman, wrote in a letter to Mr. Van Drew, warning about repercussions for other Democrats. “A ‘no’ vote on impeachment will suppress Democratic turnout down-ballot, which my organization cannot sustain,” he continued.

A former state senator, Mr. Van Drew represents a congressional district the president won by about 5 points in 2016. Mr. Van Drew won the seat more easily thanks to a Republican opponent who made racist comments and lost his backing from the national party.

But congressional Republicans were already focusing on Mr. Van Drew, considering him a top target in their effort to take back the House.

Mr. Van Drew kept his discussions about leaving the Democratic Party closely guarded. On Saturday afternoon, as word circulated about his switch, his re-election campaign emailed a fund-raising invitation for an event next month in New Jersey to benefit him and his fellow freshman Democrats in the state’s delegation.

“These frontline members are facing incredibly difficult re-election campaigns and are a critical piece of the puzzle as we work to protect our majority in the House,” the invitation said.

Mr. Van Drew may already have Democratic challenger. Brigid Harrison, a politics professor at Montclair State University, had been publicly signaling that she was considering a primary challenge to Mr. Van Drew. Already, she has met with many of the county Democratic leaders in the district, as well as Stephen M. Sweeney, the powerful State Senate president.

Now, she says an announcement about her candidacy as a Democrat is imminent.

“At the end of the day, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, what you don’t like is a traitor,” Ms. Harrison said in an interview. “So now, in addition to prioritizing his political career over the direction of the country, Congressman Van Drew is also a traitor to his voters.”

Mr. Van Drew has long had a difficult relationship with many Democrats in his home state, based in part on his support for gun rights. But during his years in the state legislature, he was an important Democratic vote for the southern block of the state, so he was largely spared from intraparty threats.

Still, once he was elected to Congress, Mr. Van Drew began to stray more visibly from the state delegation. He skipped a delegation meeting in Washington with Gov. Philip D. Murphy, the lone lawmaker from New Jersey’s 13 Democratic representatives and senators to do so.

And since he has been publicly indicating he will not vote for impeachment, party leaders in New Jersey have intensified their opposition. Mr. Van Drew had reportedly sought a letter of support from Democratic county leaders to help prop him up after his impeachment vote, but was denied.

Instead, Mr. Suleiman, the powerful Atlantic County chairman, sent the stern letter to Mr. Van Drew.

“Atlantic County Democrats have a tough time as it is facing 100 years of ‘Boardwalk Empire;’ we cannot afford to have Democrats sit on their hands in a presidential year when we usually perform well,” he wrote in a letter first obtained by The New Jersey Globe.

The drop-off in support from party leaders also comes after Mr. Van Drew failed to deliver legislative victories in his district last month. A slate that was publicly called “Team Van Drew” lost all three of its legislative seats, one of the few red-to-blue flips in the New Jersey off-year elections.

Mr. Van Drew would hardly be the first political moderate to change parties before what could be a difficult election. In December 2009, then-Representative Parker Griffith of Alabama, a freshman who was elected as a Democrat, became a Republican. But Mr. Griffith, with no Republican president in office to vouch for him, lost his primary the next year.

Jonathan Martin reported from Washington, and Nicholas Corasaniti from New York.

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The Breach Widens as Congress Nears a Partisan Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-assess1-facebookJumbo The Breach Widens as Congress Nears a Partisan Impeachment United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sensenbrenner, F James Jr Republican Party Nadler, Jerrold impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — It was the rarest of moments in the nation’s capital, a seemingly sincere attempt at persuasion across the partisan breach by the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on the eve of the panel’s vote to impeach President Trump.

“I know this moment must be difficult, but you still have a choice,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York told his Republican colleagues at the start of more than 17 hours of debate on whether to remove Mr. Trump from office. “I hope that we are able to work together to hold this president — or any president — accountable for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens.”

A short time later, the former Republican chairman of the committee responded with a plea to Democrats to abandon impeachment: “Put aside your partisan politics,” Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin implored, “because the future of our country and the viability of our Constitution as the framers decided it, are at stake.”

But the appeals to rise above the tribalism of the moment from the two veteran lawmakers fell on deaf ears. They persuaded no one, and only served to contrast with the rancorous, sometimes personally vindictive debate that unfolded over the next two days in the Ways and Means Committee Room not far from the Capitol.

This was the very divisive impeachment debate that Democrats had always hoped to avoid.

In March, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her new Democratic majority that barring “something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should” try to impeach Mr. Trump. “It divides the country,” she said then. “And he’s just not worth it.”

But now, less than three months after the allegations in a whistle-blower complaint catapulted Democrats into an investigation of whether the president pressured Ukraine for political gain, the country is exactly where Ms. Pelosi worried it would be — on the brink of an intensely partisan impeachment with deep consequences for both parties and the country.

When she gave the green light for impeachment articles to be drafted this month, Ms. Pelosi said, “the president leaves us no choice but to act,” arguing that to do nothing in the face of Mr. Trump’s transgressions would invite lasting damage to the Constitution and the institutions of government.

But by Friday morning, as the committee formally paved the way for the House to impeach Mr. Trump next week, both sides seemed to sense that political vandalism had already taken place. Representative Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, predicted “irreparable damage to our country” and closed his final argument with a lament: “God help us.”

It wasn’t just that the committee eventually voted to approve two articles of impeachment, charging Mr. Trump with abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress. Throughout the committee’s debate, the lawmakers from the two parties couldn’t even agree on a basic set of facts in front of them.

They called each other liars and demagogues and accused each other of being desperate and unfair. At one point, Republicans all but abandoned their pursuit of trying to persuade their Democratic colleagues, instead making a motion to strike the most critical lines out of the articles — essentially taking the “impeach” out of impeachment.

“It is silly,” Mr. Nadler complained about the proposed amendment not long before his Democratic majority rejected it on a 23-17 vote, the same party-line margin that emerged throughout the day, time after time, no matter the argument or the issue.

Lawmakers in both parties appeared to feel the weight of history as they delivered impassioned arguments over and over again, in five-minute chunks, alternating between Democrats and Republicans well into the night on Wednesday, and again on Thursday.

But if the passion was similar, the substance was not. Even for members of a profession who are used to talking past each other, it was striking how unwilling both Republicans and Democrats on the committee were to concede even an inch to the other side.

“Ukraine was not aware of the aid,” Mr. Johnson insisted Thursday, referring to the $391 million in security assistance that Mr. Trump had ordered withheld. If they didn’t know the money had been frozen, he explained, Ukraine couldn’t have been on the receiving end of a pressure campaign by the president.

When it was his turn, Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, asserted exactly the opposite, alluding to email evidence and testimony that disproved Mr. Johnson’s argument. “They knew it on July the 25th,” Mr. Cohen said of the Ukranians. “There were communications from the embassy that have been released that they knew the aid was being held up. They knew it was being held up.”

It was an example of the different impeachment realities that the two parties are living in. But it was hardly the only one.

Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, described Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with the President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine one way, saying it “shows that the president tried to get President Zelensky to interfere in the upcoming presidential election.” His Republican colleague, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, saw it differently: “We saw the call transcript, and there is no conditionality.”

And after Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona, said it was “clear” that Mr. Trump cared about rooting out corruption in Ukraine, Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, scoffed: “The president never brings up corruption.”

As the skies darkened outside and the clock ticked toward midnight on Thursday, both sides appeared to grow weary of the verbal combat.

“Republican colleagues are working overtime to try to convince us that we didn’t see what we saw with our own eyes and we didn’t hear what we heard with our own ears,” complained Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas.

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the panel, had a more colorful way of expressing his frustration after being accused of trying to “muddy the waters” with fuzzy facts and questionable interpretations.

“If this was a muddying the waters, y’all are an E.P.A. hazardous waste site at this point,” Mr. Collins snapped back.

After three-and-a-half hours of opening statements on Wednesday, a marathon session on Thursday seemed like it would never finish as both sides engaged in a kind of mutually assured destruction — refusing to be the ones to call it quits first.

Determined to avoid the accusation that they shut down debate prematurely, Mr. Nadler gave every member who wanted it a chance to speak. Republicans, grumpy about a rumor circulating that their members wanted to leave early to attend the Congressional Ball at the White House that evening, refused to give Democrats the satisfaction of ending their speeches either.

The night finally ended with predictable rancor when Mr. Nadler abruptly called a recess right before taking a final vote, saying he wanted “the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these last two days and to search their consciences.”

Instead, his decision — made without any warning and without the kind of bipartisan consultation that is common on the Judiciary Committee — added to the sense of mounting tension inside the grand room, where nerves were already frayed.

It was clear that despite Mr. Nadler’s advice, nothing had changed by 10 the next morning, when the weary committee members returned for a rare Friday session to take the party-line vote that had been a certainty all along.

Mr. Nadler moved swiftly to call for the final votes on the two articles of impeachment, and both passed with all 23 Democrats in favor of impeaching Mr. Trump and all 17 Republicans opposed.

In just 7 minutes, the work was over, and Mr. Nadler banged his gavel.

“Without objection,” he said, as some Republicans in the room scowled, “this meeting is adjourned.”

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The Breach Widens as Congress Nears a Partisan Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-assess1-facebookJumbo The Breach Widens as Congress Nears a Partisan Impeachment United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sensenbrenner, F James Jr Republican Party Nadler, Jerrold impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — It was the rarest of moments in the nation’s capital, a seemingly sincere attempt at persuasion across the partisan breach by the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on the eve of the panel’s vote to impeach President Trump.

“I know this moment must be difficult, but you still have a choice,” Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York told his Republican colleagues at the start of more than 17 hours of debate on whether to remove Mr. Trump from office. “I hope that we are able to work together to hold this president — or any president — accountable for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens.”

A short time later, the former Republican chairman of the committee responded with a plea to Democrats to abandon impeachment: “Put aside your partisan politics,” Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin implored, “because the future of our country and the viability of our Constitution as the framers decided it, are at stake.”

But the appeals to rise above the tribalism of the moment from the two veteran lawmakers fell on deaf ears. They persuaded no one, and only served to contrast with the rancorous, sometimes personally vindictive debate that unfolded over the next two days in the Ways and Means Committee Room not far from the Capitol.

This was the very divisive impeachment debate that Democrats had always hoped to avoid.

In March, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her new Democratic majority that barring “something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should” try to impeach Mr. Trump. “It divides the country,” she said then. “And he’s just not worth it.”

But now, less than three months after the allegations in a whistle-blower complaint catapulted Democrats into an investigation of whether the president pressured Ukraine for political gain, the country is exactly where Ms. Pelosi worried it would be — on the brink of an intensely partisan impeachment with deep consequences for both parties and the country.

When she gave the green light for impeachment articles to be drafted this month, Ms. Pelosi said, “the president leaves us no choice but to act,” arguing that to do nothing in the face of Mr. Trump’s transgressions would invite lasting damage to the Constitution and the institutions of government.

But by Friday morning, as the committee formally paved the way for the House to impeach Mr. Trump next week, both sides seemed to sense that political vandalism had already taken place. Representative Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, predicted “irreparable damage to our country” and closed his final argument with a lament: “God help us.”

It wasn’t just that the committee eventually voted to approve two articles of impeachment, charging Mr. Trump with abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress. Throughout the committee’s debate, the lawmakers from the two parties couldn’t even agree on a basic set of facts in front of them.

They called each other liars and demagogues and accused each other of being desperate and unfair. At one point, Republicans all but abandoned their pursuit of trying to persuade their Democratic colleagues, instead making a motion to strike the most critical lines out of the articles — essentially taking the “impeach” out of impeachment.

“It is silly,” Mr. Nadler complained about the proposed amendment not long before his Democratic majority rejected it on a 23-17 vote, the same party-line margin that emerged throughout the day, time after time, no matter the argument or the issue.

Lawmakers in both parties appeared to feel the weight of history as they delivered impassioned arguments over and over again, in five-minute chunks, alternating between Democrats and Republicans well into the night on Wednesday, and again on Thursday.

But if the passion was similar, the substance was not. Even for members of a profession who are used to talking past each other, it was striking how unwilling both Republicans and Democrats on the committee were to concede even an inch to the other side.

“Ukraine was not aware of the aid,” Mr. Johnson insisted Thursday, referring to the $391 million in security assistance that Mr. Trump had ordered withheld. If they didn’t know the money had been frozen, he explained, Ukraine couldn’t have been on the receiving end of a pressure campaign by the president.

When it was his turn, Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, asserted exactly the opposite, alluding to email evidence and testimony that disproved Mr. Johnson’s argument. “They knew it on July the 25th,” Mr. Cohen said of the Ukranians. “There were communications from the embassy that have been released that they knew the aid was being held up. They knew it was being held up.”

It was an example of the different impeachment realities that the two parties are living in. But it was hardly the only one.

Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat of Georgia, described Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with the President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine one way, saying it “shows that the president tried to get President Zelensky to interfere in the upcoming presidential election.” His Republican colleague, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, saw it differently: “We saw the call transcript, and there is no conditionality.”

And after Representative Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona, said it was “clear” that Mr. Trump cared about rooting out corruption in Ukraine, Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, scoffed: “The president never brings up corruption.”

As the skies darkened outside and the clock ticked toward midnight on Thursday, both sides appeared to grow weary of the verbal combat.

“Republican colleagues are working overtime to try to convince us that we didn’t see what we saw with our own eyes and we didn’t hear what we heard with our own ears,” complained Representative Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas.

Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the panel, had a more colorful way of expressing his frustration after being accused of trying to “muddy the waters” with fuzzy facts and questionable interpretations.

“If this was a muddying the waters, y’all are an E.P.A. hazardous waste site at this point,” Mr. Collins snapped back.

After three-and-a-half hours of opening statements on Wednesday, a marathon session on Thursday seemed like it would never finish as both sides engaged in a kind of mutually assured destruction — refusing to be the ones to call it quits first.

Determined to avoid the accusation that they shut down debate prematurely, Mr. Nadler gave every member who wanted it a chance to speak. Republicans, grumpy about a rumor circulating that their members wanted to leave early to attend the Congressional Ball at the White House that evening, refused to give Democrats the satisfaction of ending their speeches either.

The night finally ended with predictable rancor when Mr. Nadler abruptly called a recess right before taking a final vote, saying he wanted “the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these last two days and to search their consciences.”

Instead, his decision — made without any warning and without the kind of bipartisan consultation that is common on the Judiciary Committee — added to the sense of mounting tension inside the grand room, where nerves were already frayed.

It was clear that despite Mr. Nadler’s advice, nothing had changed by 10 the next morning, when the weary committee members returned for a rare Friday session to take the party-line vote that had been a certainty all along.

Mr. Nadler moved swiftly to call for the final votes on the two articles of impeachment, and both passed with all 23 Democrats in favor of impeaching Mr. Trump and all 17 Republicans opposed.

In just 7 minutes, the work was over, and Mr. Nadler banged his gavel.

“Without objection,” he said, as some Republicans in the room scowled, “this meeting is adjourned.”

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It Was a Great Day for Trump, Except for That ‘Scam’

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-TRUMP-facebookJumbo It Was a Great Day for Trump, Except for That ‘Scam’ United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Polls and Public Opinion Luntz, Frank I Johnson, Boris impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Abdo Benitez, Mario

WASHINGTON — President Trump had plenty of good news to talk about on Friday, beginning with the news from across the Atlantic that a close ally, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, had just seen his party win a decisive majority in Parliament. There were also his accomplishments at home to promote: finishing the first phase of a trade deal with China, averting a government shutdown and moving forward with House Democrats on his signature North American trade pact.

“This has been a wild week,” Mr. Trump said, stating the obvious to reporters in the Oval Office as he praised Mr. Johnson and hailed the China accord as a “phenomenal deal.”

On any other day, the session with reporters would have been an unqualified victory lap for Mr. Trump, a leader who has long felt he does not receive enough credit for his policy accomplishments, and who on Friday had several such wins to crow about. Except that earlier in the morning, the House Judiciary Committee had voted to advance two articles of impeachment against him, prompting an all-but-certain impeachment vote and Senate trial.

Nothing about the vote was a surprise, but Mr. Trump’s private frustration and embarrassment over most likely becoming the third president in American history to be impeached bubbled again to the surface, at least momentarily, dashing the hopes of advisers who have been encouraging him to keep focused on “presidenting.”

“I think it’s a horrible thing to be using the tool of impeachment, which is supposed to be used in an emergency,” Mr. Trump said, scowling as he sat next to President Mario Abdo Benítez of Paraguay. “It’s a scam. It’s something that shouldn’t be allowed. And it’s a very bad thing for our country.”

The timing and mechanics of an impeachment trial in the Republican-controlled Senate remain in flux, but Mr. Trump said he would support a lengthy proceeding, an idea his aides have long said he favors. He added that it would give him a chance to learn more about a whistle-blower whose account of Mr. Trump’s July call with the Ukrainian president formed the basis of the impeachment inquiry.

The president’s support for a more drawn-out process was at odds with a plan set forth by Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who has tried to persuade the president to support an abbreviated trial.

“I’ll do whatever they want to do,” Mr. Trump said, before adding, “I wouldn’t mind a long process because I’d like to see the whistle-blower, who is a fraud.”

Mr. Trump’s extensive comments on impeachment seemed at least momentarily to conflict with the operative stance at the White House of emphasizing what the president was getting done for the American people — similar to the approach aides to President Bill Clinton took when he was impeached. But while Mr. Clinton seethed and obsessed over the proceedings in private, Mr. Trump’s use of his preferred pressure release valve — Twitter — hit a new peak this week.

“How do you get Impeached when you have done NOTHING wrong (a perfect call), have created the best economy in the history of our Country, rebuilt our Military, fixed the V.A. (Choice!), cut Taxes & Regs, protected your 2nd A, created Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, and soooo much more? Crazy!” Mr. Trump wrote Friday morning.

Mr. Trump was in a meeting in the White House residence and not watching television as the Judiciary Committee vote began, but he kept his aides close throughout morning. That group included two in-house strategists focused on impeachment messaging: Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department spokesman, and Pam Bondi, a former Florida attorney general. Other advisers described the president, who has publicly and privately marveled over the unity he sees in the Republican Party around impeachment, as in good spirits.

Another ally in the mix was Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer whose work to dredge up unflattering information on Mr. Trump’s political opponents landed him at the center of the Democratic-led impeachment effort.

Mr. Giuliani was ushered into the White House moments before the vote, and one senior administration official said he was there, in part, to talk about a trip he had taken to interview Ukrainians in Budapest and Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, for an anti-impeachment documentary.

Last month, Mr. Giuliani told an associate that Mr. Trump had approved of his participation in the documentary when he briefed the president about it during a meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

By the time the Paraguayan president arrived at the White House just before noon, Mr. Trump was flanked by several additional advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, his national security adviser.

“It’s a very sad thing for our country but it seems to be very good for me politically,” Mr. Trump said. “The polls have gone through the roof for Trump.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers firmly believe they are winning the public opinion battle around impeachment. His advisers are leaning on polls they say show shifting fortunes in politically crucial swing states, and they are closely watching the behavior of House Democrats they believe are in vulnerable districts.

Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican pollster, offered a different assessment: Public opinion has remained polarized and static as impeachment moves forward, even with a strong economy and several trade accords in the making. “When taken together it’s a political home run,” Mr. Luntz said.

At least, it should be.

“The president never gets the credit he deserves because there’s always something ugly under the surface,” Mr. Luntz added. “Any other president would be in the 60th percentile after a week like this.”

The president’s approval rating continues to hover around 41 percent, according to national polls.

Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

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Supreme Court to Rule on Release of Trump’s Financial Records

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-scotus-trump-facebookJumbo Supreme Court to Rule on Release of Trump’s Financial Records United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump Tax Returns McDougal, Karen (1971- ) Mazars USA Federal Taxes (US) Cohen, Michael D (1966- ) Clifford, Stephanie (1979- )

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether President Trump can block the release of his financial records, setting the stage for a blockbuster ruling on the power of presidents to resist demands for information from prosecutors and Congress.

The court’s ruling, expected by June, could require disclosure of information the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect. Or the justices could rule that Mr. Trump’s financial affairs are not legitimate subjects of inquiry so long as he remains in office.

Either way, the court is now poised to produce a once-in-a-generation statement on presidential accountability.

The case will test the independence of the court, which is dominated by Republican appointees, including two named by Mr. Trump. In earlier Supreme Court cases in which presidents sought to avoid providing evidence, the rulings did not break along partisan lines.

To the contrary, the court was unanimous in ruling against Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton in such cases, with Nixon and Clinton appointees voting against the presidents who had placed them on the court. The Nixon case led to his resignation in the face of mounting calls for his impeachment. The Clinton case led to Mr. Clinton’s impeachment, though he survived a Senate vote on his removal.

Mr. Trump asked the court to block three sets of subpoenas, and the justices agreed to decide his appeals in all three. The court said that arguments would be held over two hours in late March or early April, but it did not specify the date.

All of the subpoenas sought information from Mr. Trump’s accountants or bankers, not from Mr. Trump himself, and the firms have indicated that they will comply with the court’s ruling. Had the subpoenas sought evidence from Mr. Trump himself, there was at least a possibility that he would try to defy a ruling against him, prompting a constitutional crisis.

One of the cases concerned a subpoena to Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, from the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat. It sought eight years of business and personal tax records in connection with an investigation of the role that Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Both Mr. Trump and his company reimbursed the president’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, for payments made to the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed that she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen was also involved in payments to Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who had also claimed she had a relationship with Mr. Trump. The president has denied the relationships.

Mr. Trump sued to stop his accounting firm from turning over the records, but lower courts ruled against him. In a unanimous ruling, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, said state prosecutors may require third parties to turn over a sitting president’s financial records for use in a grand jury investigation.

In a footnote to the decision, Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, wrote that the information sought was in a sense unexceptional.

“We note that the past six presidents, dating back to President Carter, all voluntarily released their tax returns to the public,” Judge Katzmann wrote. “While we do not place dispositive weight on this fact, it reinforces our conclusion that the disclosure of personal financial information, standing alone, is unlikely to impair the president in performing the duties of his office.”

In their petition urging the Supreme Court to hear their appeal, Trump v. Vance, No. 19-635, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office. But even if some federal investigations may be proper, the petition said, the Supreme Court should rule that state and local prosecutors may not seek information about a sitting president’s conduct.

“That the Constitution would empower thousands of state and local prosecutors to embroil the president in criminal proceedings is unimaginable,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote.

Mr. Vance responded that the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Nixon in 1974 essentially decided the central issue in Mr. Trump’s appeal. “This court has long recognized,” Mr. Vance wrote, “that a sitting president may be subject to a subpoena in a criminal proceeding.”

That the subpoena in the Nixon case came from a federal court rather than a state grand jury made no difference, Mr. Vance wrote. “The states’ strong interests in operating a fair and just criminal judicial process should be respected no less than the federal government’s parallel interests recognized in Nixon,” he wrote.

The Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to hear Mr. Trump’s appeal seeking to keep his financial records private. The brief did not adopt the broad position taken by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyers — that he is immune from criminal investigation while he remains in office. Rather, the department’s brief said that courts should require prosecutors to meet a demanding standard before they are allowed to obtain the information.

The second subpoena, also directed to the accounting firm, came from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the hush-money payments and whether Mr. Trump inflated and deflated descriptions of his assets on financial statements to obtain loans and reduce his taxes.

When Mr. Trump’s lawyers went to court to try to block the subpoena, they argued that the committee was powerless to obtain his records because it had no legislative need for them. They said the panel was engaged in an improper criminal inquiry and was not seeking information to help it enact legislation.

In October, a divided three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to block the subpoena.

“Having considered the weighty interests at stake in this case, we conclude that the subpoena issued by the committee to Mazars is valid and enforceable,” Judge David S. Tatel, who was appointed by President Clinton, wrote for the majority. Judge Patricia A. Millett, appointed by President Barack Obama, joined the majority opinion.

In dissent, Judge Neomi J. Rao, appointed by Mr. Trump, wrote that “allegations of illegal conduct against the president cannot be investigated by Congress except through impeachment.”

In a brief urging the Supreme Court to deny review in the case, Trump v. Mazars USA, No. 19-715, lawyers for the committee argued that they had a legitimate need for the information they sought.

“The election of a president who has decided to maintain his ties to a broad array of business ventures raises questions about the adequacy of existing legislation concerning financial disclosures, government contracts with federal officeholders and government ethics,” the brief said. “Whether new legislation on these subjects is needed is a natural subject of congressional inquiry.”

The third set of subpoenas came from the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees and were addressed to two financial institutions that did business with Mr. Trump, Deutsche Bank and Capital One. They sought an array of financial records related to the president, his companies and his family.

A different three-judge panel of the Second Circuit ordered most of the requested materials to be disclosed. It made an exception for sensitive personal information unrelated to the committee’s investigations.

“The committees’ interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a chief executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions,” Judge Jon O. Newman wrote for the majority.

In urging the Supreme Court to block the Second Circuit’s ruling while the justices decided how to proceed in the case, Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG, No. 19A640, Mr. Trump wrote that “these ‘dragnet’ subpoena look nothing like a legislative inquiry.”

The committees responded that they need the information to address interference in American elections.

“Legislative efforts to secure the financial system from abuse have obvious importance,” lawyers for the committee told the justices. “And nothing is more urgent than efforts to guard against foreign influence in our systems for electing officials, particularly given the upcoming 2020 elections.”

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Ukraine’s Leader, Wiser to Washington, Seeks New Outreach to Trump

Westlake Legal Group 12dc-lobby-1-facebookJumbo Ukraine’s Leader, Wiser to Washington, Seeks New Outreach to Trump Zelensky, Volodymyr Yanukovych, Viktor F United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Telizhenko, Andrii Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Mercury Public Affairs Manafort, Paul J Lobbying and Lobbyists Lanza, Bryan

WASHINGTON — Eager to repair their country’s fraught relationship with Washington, allies of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine have met with lobbyists with close ties to the Trump administration, hopeful of creating new channels of communication.

After more than two months of anxious waiting, Mr. Zelensky finally appears to have won support from the White House for a candidate to fill Ukraine’s vacant ambassadorship to the United States.

And Mr. Zelensky, still deeply dependent on American assistance, has been signaling, in hardly subtle fashion, that he and his officials will not assist in the impeachment process, keeping quiet in particular about the fact that his government knew weeks earlier than it has publicly acknowledged that Mr. Trump had frozen nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Nearly every world leader has struggled to figure out how to deal with Mr. Trump. But few face greater pressure to find the answer — or more hurdles to doing so — than Mr. Zelensky.

Wiser now to the ways of Washington, he and his team are carefully trying to reestablish themselves in a variety of ways as an important ally with a substantive agenda deserving of Washington’s attention and support.

They have a long ways to go. Mr. Zelensky’s team has been discouraged by the absence of expected support from Mr. Trump for Ukraine’s peace talks with Russia, as well as the lack of follow-through from the White House on a promised Oval Office meeting with Mr. Zelensky that the administration had quietly signaled might happen in late January.

Mr. Zelensky’s allies were frustrated further by Mr. Trump’s meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. And when the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani paid an unexpected visit to Kyiv last week in a continued effort to dig up dirt on Mr. Trump’s political opponents, no Ukrainian government officials met him.

Asked by an official at the German Marshall Fund on Friday what the Zelensky administration wants from Washington, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, who has been in Washington this week meeting with administration and congressional officials, said “all we are asking from our colleagues in the U.S. administration is fair treatment.”

He added, “We don’t want to be shamed and blamed.”

The continued push to try to overcome Mr. Trump’s grudge against Ukraine suggests Zelensky administration officials have concluded that impeachment will fail in the Senate and that they will almost certainly need to work with Mr. Trump for at least another year, and possibly another five years if Mr. Trump is re-elected.

“Our relations are not in good shape,” said Olena Zerkal, a former deputy foreign minister under Mr. Zelensky. “I don’t believe in any chemistry between our leaders.”

Mr. Zelensky’s willingness to accommodate the Trump administration has hardly gone unnoticed in Kyiv.

After the White House released a rough transcript of a July 25 call between the American and Ukrainian presidents, Mr. Zelensky was panned in Ukraine on social media for seeming too eager to please Mr. Trump. That included signaling a willingness to pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump into political targets like the family of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Monica Zelensky,” the Ukrainian president was called on social media in Kyiv, in a reference to the intern whose sexual relations with Bill Clinton led to the last impeachment proceedings of an American president.

Even a White House visit, if it happens, risks being seen not so much as a triumph for Mr. Zelensky as more kowtowing to Mr. Trump, who could cite it as evidence he never linked such a visit, or American military assistance for Ukraine, to investigations that would benefit him politically.

“In Kyiv, we have to place bets on the current power in Washington,” said Nikolay Kapitonenko, professor at the Institute of International Relations. But outreach to the Republican administration is not risk free, he said, adding, “Zelensky understands that taking any side is dangerous.”

The importance of American support for Ukraine — and the desire for more of it from Mr. Trump — has been on display in recent days.

An American diplomat traveled to Kyiv to express support for the Ukrainians headed into Mr. Zelensky’s first face-to-face meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday in Paris.

But Trump administration officials privately told the Ukrainians that Mr. Trump himself would signal support, according to Americans and Ukrainians familiar with the matter, either via Twitter, as first reported by The Daily Beast, or possibly even an invitation for Mr. Zelensky to visit the White House next month. While Mr. Trump posted more than 100 tweets on Sunday, none expressed support for the Ukrainians headed into the peace talks.

The Trump administration had also resisted calls to levy sanctions against a Russian gas pipeline that would circumvent Ukraine. The White House reportedly worked to undermine congressional efforts to block the pipeline, though sanctions language was added to a $738 billion military policy bill that passed the House on Wednesday. And the military assistance that Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of using as leverage to force the investigations reportedly still has not fully reached Ukraine.

Those are among the issues that may help explain why the Ukrainians are considering stepping up their lobbying in Washington, despite potential political and financial costs.

During his campaign and early in his presidency, Mr. Zelensky proclaimed that he had no need to hire lobbyists like the government of his predecessor. “I never met a single lobbyist,” he said. “I don’t need this. I never paid a coin and I never will.”

Yet, in the weeks before Mr. Zelensky was elected in April, his advisers quietly worked with a Washington lobbying firm, Signal Group, to arrange meetings in Washington with Trump administration officials, as well as congressional offices and think tanks that focus on Ukraine-United States relations.

Mr. Zelensky distanced himself from the arrangement, even though Signal Group reported in a filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, that it was paid nearly $70,000 by Mr. Zelensky’s party through a lawyer named Marcus Cohen. Mr. Cohen, on the other hand, claimed that the money came from his own pocket, not from Mr. Zelensky’s party.

The Justice Department’s National Security Division, which oversees FARA, sent a letter to Mr. Cohen requesting information about the arrangement, then urged him to register as a foreign agent, according to people with knowledge of the situation. One of the people said that the division also audited Signal Group’s filings, informing the firm in a letter in October that the inquiry was closed.

Signal defended its FARA filings as accurate, and referred questions about Mr. Cohen’s representations to him or Mr. Zelensky’s team. Neither responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Zelensky “may find that it is best to be his own spokesperson on this subject for a while to prevent others from interpreting his words for him,” at least until “trust can be rebuilt,” Heather A. Conley, who was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs from 2001 to 2005, said in an email.

Ms. Conley, who is director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was among the think tank officials who met with one Mr. Zelensky’s advisers in April in a meeting arranged by Signal and Mr. Cohen.

They discussed Mr. Zelensky’s anticorruption and economic overhaul plans, Ms. Conley said, adding, “Ukraine faces a fraught landscape in Washington — with or without a lobbyist.”

The discussions about hiring a lobbyist, which are described as preliminary, have divided Mr. Zelensky’s team.

Some are concerned that hiring a lobbying firm with ties to Mr. Trump could jeopardize Democratic support. And some are wary of becoming involved with K Street at all, because of the specter of Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for crimes related to his lobbying for a deeply unpopular former Ukrainian government.

Yet two of the firms being discussed for possible lobbying engagement have links to Mr. Manafort, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.

A representative of one of the firms, Mercury Public Affairs, which worked with Mr. Manafort on his Ukraine effort, met in Kyiv last month with a top aide to Mr. Zelensky. The lobbyist, Bryan Lanza, has ties to the Trump White House, and was in Ukraine on unrelated business according to people familiar with the meeting.

It was arranged by an American lawyer named Andrew Mac, who himself registered last month with the Justice Department as an unpaid lobbyist for Mr. Zelensky. Mr. Mac, who splits his time between Washington and Kyiv, was appointed by Mr. Zelensky last month as an adviser responsible for building support among the Ukrainian diaspora.

In a sign of the scrutiny in Kyiv on its new government’s tumultuous relationship with Mr. Trump, and efforts to calm it, secretly recorded video and photographs circulated of Mr. Lanza’s meeting with the Zelensky aide in a restaurant.

In an article featuring the photographs, a Ukrainian news outlet noted that Mr. Lanza helped lift sanctions against the corporate empire of the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a Kremlin ally. That arrangement was assailed by critics in Washington as a sweetheart deal that represented a capitulation to the Kremlin, while Mr. Lanza also lobbied to help remove potentially crippling sanctions on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

Mr. Mac said Mr. Lanza had been “very effective in working for his clients on difficult matters.”

Another firm that was discussed by Mr. Zelensky’s aides, Prime Policy Group, also has a Manafort link — albeit a more dated one. It was started by Charlie Black, a former business partner of Mr. Manafort’s in the 1980s and ’90s. Mr. Black’s firm has represented other clients in Ukraine, including Sergey Tigipko, a Ukrainian billionaire and former official in the government of Viktor F. Yanukovych.

Mr. Black said he had not had any conversations with Mr. Zelensky’s team about a possible contract, but would not be opposed to such an engagement.

Mr. Mac met this month in Washington to discuss Ukrainian energy issues with the former Representative Billy Tauzin, a Democrat turned Republican from Louisiana who is now a lobbyist. While someone with knowledge of the deliberations said Mr. Tauzin was not being considered as a potential lobbyist for Ukraine, he has connections that could be helpful. His congressional staff once included Dan Brouillette, who was confirmed this month as secretary of the Energy Department, upon which the Ukrainian government has relied for help with its power supply during brutally cold winters.

Ms. Conley suggested that Mr. Zelensky would be better served by an ambassador than a lobbyist, but the process of filling that vacancy has not been quick.

At least three names had been floated in recent months, and the Zelensky administration’s current preference for the position, Volodymyr Yelchenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, had been awaiting approval since late September or early October, according to people familiar with the process. They said that the State Department had signed off on Mr. Yelchenko weeks ago, but that the Ukrainians had grown anxious waiting for the White House to do so.

Officials in Kyiv were told that the approval would be formally communicated this week, they said. The White House and State Department did not respond to questions about the approval of Mr. Yelchenko.

Some attributed the delay to a quiet push by some Trump allies for a prospective ambassador who is closely aligned with Mr. Giuliani, Andrii Telizhenko, who had served as a low-ranking diplomat in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington under the previous government.

He was embraced by Mr. Trump’s allies after claiming that the former American ambassador to Kyiv and other Ukrainian officials worked to undermine Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign. In recent months, Mr. Telizhenko has worked closely with Mr. Giuliani to advance those claims. As part of the effort, the two men traveled together to Hungary and Ukraine last week to record interviews with former Ukrainian officials for a series of programs by a conservative cable channel seeking to undermine the impeachment proceedings.

It is unclear whether Mr. Zelensky’s team ever seriously considered Mr. Telizhenko as an ambassador candidate.

Kenneth P. Vogel reported from Washington, and Andrew E. Kramer from Kyiv.

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U.S. and China Reach Initial Trade Deal

Westlake Legal Group 13dc-uschina-facebookJumbo U.S. and China Reach Initial Trade Deal United States International Relations United States Economy Trump, Donald J International Trade and World Market Customs (Tariff)

BEIJING — The United States and China have agreed to an initial trade deal that will result in a reduction of tariffs and purchases of American farm goods, marking a significant de-escalation in the 19-month battle that has rattled the world economy.

“We have agreed to a very large Phase One Deal with China,” President Trump said in a tweet. “They have agreed to many structural changes and massive purchases of Agricultural Product, Energy, and Manufactured Goods, plus much more.”

Mr. Trump said the United States would reduce its overall tariff rate on Chinese goods to 7.5 percent, down from the current rate of 25 percent and that a round of tariffs scheduled for Sunday would be cancelled.

Wang Shouwen, China’s vice commerce minister, said at a news conference in Beijing that the two sides had made “significant progress” and that the agreement would result in the United States removing some of the tariffs it has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods. Those tariffs would come off “phase by phase” and the United States would agree to exempt more Chinese products from being taxed, he said.

“This will create better conditions for China and the United States to strengthen cooperation,” Mr. Wang said.

The agreement includes a commitment by Beijing to buy more American agriculture products and to strengthen laws protecting foreign companies operating in China, as well as beefing up intellectual property rules and providing more transparency around currency movements. Mr. Wang said both sides have agreed to complete legal reviews as quickly as possible and that an official signing was still being worked out.

Some advisers to the White House said China had agreed to buy $50 billion worth of American farm products next year but China has so far not confirmed that figure and the United States trade representative did not provide an official figure in its statement.

“The Phase One agreement also includes a commitment by China that it will make substantial additional purchases of U.S. goods and services in the coming years,” U.S.T.R. said on Friday.

Chinese officials on Friday said that imports of American agriculture products would increase by a “considerable margin” to meet China’s needs for goods like soybean and pork.

The deal came as a relief of investors, who have been haunted by the steady drumbeat of tariffs that have depressed business sentiment and stirred economic uncertainty. The S&P 500 was up slightly in early-morning trading.

An agreement will also give Mr. Trump another trade win that he can tout heading into his re-election campaign and as Congress forges ahead with his impeachment. The agreement came on the same week that the administration agreed with House Democrats to revise the terms of a trade pact with Canada and Mexico.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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