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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 101)

On Border, Trump Moves to Build His Wall One Landowner at a Time

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-wall1-facebookJumbo On Border, Trump Moves to Build His Wall One Landowner at a Time Trump, Donald J Land Use Policies Immigration and Emigration Illegal Immigration Eminent Domain Border Barriers

PROGRESO, Texas — Two days after giving the federal government his signature, Richard Drawe paused with his wife and mother on a levee that his family has owned for nearly a century to watch the cranes and roseate spoonbills.

A border wall that he reluctantly agreed to put on his land will soon divide this Texan family from the whole scene: the levee, a lake, an onion field and all of those birds.

Mr. Drawe, 69, doubts the wall will do much to stop illegal immigration, and though he supports the president who ordered it, he believes that the construction will “ruin” his life. But selling the land early on seemed better and cheaper than facing the government in court, only to have it take the land anyway, he reasoned. The wall, the lights and the roads will be built on about a dozen acres that his grandfather bought in the 1920s, and that will cut him off from the priceless views of the Rio Grande that he cherishes.

“We just finally gave up,” he said. “If they offered me a million dollars to build the wall, I would refuse it if I knew they wouldn’t build it. I don’t want the money. This is my life here.”

The White House is hoping more landowners along the border will make the same decision — and help President Trump deliver on his campaign promise to build 450 miles of new border wall by 2021.

The list of challenges still facing Mr. Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall include an investigation into construction contracts, funding delays and a recent legal decision blocking emergency access to Defense Department funds to build it. The nationwide injunction has, for now, curtailed wall work on 175 miles in Laredo and El Paso, Texas; in Yuma, Ariz.; and El Centro, Calif.

But access to private land like Mr. Drawe’s may be the tallest barrier standing between the president and his wall.

The administration has thus far only built 93 miles of the new wall, nearly all of it on federal land where dilapidated barriers existed or vehicle barriers once stood, according to Customs and Border Protection. The border wall’s final path is not yet set, but 162 miles of it will run through Southern Texas, and 144 miles of that is privately owned, according to the border agency. The Trump administration has acquired just three miles since 2017.

Throughout Mr. Trump’s first term, the White House has pushed the Department of Homeland Security to speed wall construction, an effort that has been led most recently by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. As the sense of urgency has grown, Mr. Trump — no stranger to the powers of eminent domain — has suggested during meetings to “take the land” of private landowners.

The law is on the administration’s side. Eminent domain lawyers and scholars said in interviews that landowners along the border have limited options once they receive a request from the government.

They can voluntarily allow the authorities to access and survey their land and, if officials decide they want it, accept the government’s offer. Or they can be taken to court where they can argue for higher compensation.

But under the law, even before the landowners are paid in full, the government can begin construction.

By using eminent domain powers, federal lawyers can argue in court that the construction of the wall is an emergency, which almost always results in the court granting the government physical possession of the land, according to Efrén C. Olivares, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. The government can then begin building — even as landowners litigate for full pay for years.

“It’s like agreeing to sell your house, but only after do you agree on a set price,” Mr. Olivares said.

The United States brought more than 300 cases against landowners for their property after President George W. Bush signed a bill to begin installing fencing along the border in 2006, according to the Texas Civil Rights Project. Just 46 of those cases are still ongoing. The government reached a settlement to acquire the land of most of the other property owners, and some of that fencing is now turning into a more substantial wall. Many landowners voluntarily let the government access their lands, Justice Department officials said.

The Trump administration has picked up where the Bush administration left off, filing 48 lawsuits to survey and begin work on other parcels of property.

“They’re going to acquire the land for their wall, whether you negotiate with them upfront or they end up filing a lawsuit and taking it by a declaration of taking,” said Roy Brandys, an attorney specializing in eminent domain who represented Mr. Drawe.

Adding to the heartache is where the wall is actually going. The construction is not on the border, which runs along the Rio Grande. It is well within the U.S. side. Mr. Drawe will lose easy access to the land between the wall and the river — about 350 of his 525 acres. The government has agreed to pay him about $42,000 for the 12 acres that the wall will be built on and about $197,000 to compensate for depressing the value of his farm, Mr. Drawe said. Gates are supposed to provide access to his property south of the wall.

By Mr. Drawe’s reckoning, that might be of limited value. He has found packages of drugs on his farm before, he said, and is concerned that the cartel members Mr. Trump cites as the reason for the construction will take control of all the land south of the wall.

“If the wall goes up,” Mr. Drawe said, “it will be the new border.”

Becky Jones is preparing for a fight. The administration recently sent Ms. Jones, 69, and her family a letter saying that they were preparing to take them to court if they did not allow the government to survey their farmland for border wall construction.

For Ms. Jones, the construction undercuts language in Congress’s 2019 spending bill that said land within the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge adjacent to her property would be exempt from the wall. She said the construction, which will run on the road alongside the refuge, will harm the wildlife she grew up admiring.

“Forget deplorable Americans,” she said, “you’re disposable Americans if you happen to be on the south side of the wall.”

Ms. Jones and Mr. Drawe said they support Customs and Border Protection and border security. They just wish the administration would focus on changing the nation’s immigration laws, adding agents and paying for technology to monitor the border instead of building an ineffective wall.

To prove that point, Mr. Drawe produced a wooden ladder that he said was left abandoned by migrants in his fields near an old section of border wall. Earlier this month, a video of a migrant using such a ladder to scale one side of the newly constructed wall and slide down to El Centro, Calif., went viral.

Customs and Border Protection officials said the video showed the wall worked as planned: It slowed the migrant down long enough for agents to arrest the 16-year-old Mexican teenager.

Officials with the Border Patrol said they are similarly not worried about migrants using power tools to cut through the wall. Despite Mr. Trump’s boast of a “virtually impenetrable” barrier, Customs and Border Protection officials know full well breaches are coming and have lined up repair money from a $107 million infrastructure fund.

“When we see that this country is at the crisis that it’s in, we need to take steps that may not be popular with everybody,” said Carmen Qualia, the Rio Grande Valley assistant chief patrol agent. “But our responsibility has not changed.”

In fact, the reality at the border has changed since Mr. Trump declared a national emergency.

His administration has severely limited the American asylum program, forcing more than 55,000 migrants to wait in Mexico for the duration of their cases. It has signed deals that return families back to Central America and limited the number of families that are released into the public with notice to return to immigration court.

Those policies and colder weather have pushed down arrests at the border by more than 70 percent since May, the height of the crossings this year, to 42,649 in November. And the demographics of those crossing are shifting from Central American families to Mexicans, who are easier to deport.

And while many of the migrant families surrendered to agents to request asylum last spring, agents along the border said they’re preparing to see individuals take a more dangerous route to the United States as a result of Mr. Trump’s strict policies.

In the past three months, agents have found migrants hiding in a tractor-trailer in Texas and others hiding in furniture and washing machines in San Diego.

A 29-foot unfinished tunnel extending into Mexico was found in Nogales, Ariz. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found two pounds of heroin in another tunnel in the city in recent days. Customs and Border Protection intercepted $500,000 worth of methamphetamine and fentanyl on a remote-controlled ultralight plane in Tucson in May.

“It’s almost like the wall is obsolete at that point,” said Michael Maldonado, the 30-year-old son of Pamela Rivas, a landowner who has been fighting the government in court for 11 years.

The federal government in 2008 took Ms. Rivas to court to acquire portions of her land, which surrounds the Los Ebanos, Texas, port of entry to Mexico. Ms. Rivas has refused to agree to a payment, hoping her intransigence will delay the government’s plans.

The government has not begun construction on her property yet, but it has secured possession of some of it, meaning the project can begin at any point, according to her attorney, Mr. Olivares.

Border Patrol agents regularly travel the dusty area, driving past the Rivas family’s dilapidated shack that used to operate as a souvenir store for tourists. The land has been the family’s since 1890, and they have so far outlasted the efforts of two presidents.

“The longer that we can endure it, maybe something might change,” Mr. Maldonado said. “Maybe a new administration comes in and says, ‘you know, we’re not going to deal with this.’ ”

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

For Trump Organization, Office Skyscrapers Make Up for Lagging Hotels

Westlake Legal Group merlin_165519273_a32705c9-6797-4042-9ff1-d9520a32ae6c-facebookJumbo For Trump Organization, Office Skyscrapers Make Up for Lagging Hotels Vornado Realty Trust United States Politics and Government Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric F (1984- ) Trump, Donald J Trump Organization Trump National Doral Miami (Doral, Fla) Trump International Hotel (Washington, DC) Real Estate (Commercial) Mar-a-Lago (Palm Beach, Fla) Manhattan (NYC) Doral (Fla) Avenue of the Americas (Manhattan, NY)

DORAL, Fla. — It is happy hour at Trump National Doral Miami, the sprawling resort that is the biggest cash generator in President Trump’s business portfolio. But on a weekday evening in November, only a few sprinklings of patrons grace the resort’s bar and high-end steak house. Tables with lit candles sit empty through the night.

The Doral — which Mr. Trump proposed as the site of next year’s Group of 7 meeting before backing off amid intense criticism — is emblematic of the financial pressure on Mr. Trump since he won the White House three years ago. His highest profile hotel properties have become battlefields in the partisan wars that have pushed down occupancy and enmeshed them in constitutional issues about the ability of a president to own and run a business while in office.

But 1,300 miles up the coast, a bustling 43-story officer tower on Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan tells a more nuanced story about the state of the Trump Organization.

The building, partially owned by Mr. Trump, does not carry his name, draws no protesters and has never garnered the president’s attention on Twitter. And his revenues from leasing office space in the building are surging, part of a trend in which his commercial building holdings are largely offsetting the shrinking of his hotel business.

With hotel expansion plans thwarted, marquee hotels in New York, Panama and Toronto stripped of the Trump name, and revenues lagging or relatively flat at properties like Doral, rising rent collections at office and commercial properties have provided the Trump Organization a sorely needed boost.

Revenues at office towers on Sixth Avenue in Midtown, on Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and at a third building in San Francisco — cities that are centers of political opposition to the president — have each jumped during Mr. Trump’s tenure in the White House, outperforming the family’s much better recognized assets like Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, financial filings show.

“Our office buildings are killing it,” Eric Trump said in an interview. “It is under appreciated.”

The result: total company revenues have remained fairly steady over the past several years, even as some of the Trump hotels have seen declines in sales or at least lagged behind competitors in other cities such as Miami and Chicago. Because public filings about the Trump Organization’s businesses generally only include revenue figures, it is not possible to determine the company’s profits or losses.

At the same time, the company has kept its debt levels relatively low, uncharacteristic of Mr. Trump’s penchant for leverage. That has given the company financial flexibility to weather the squeeze on the hotels and fluctuations in another big line of business, its golf courses.

Hotels are the most visible part of the company, but it also includes 16 golf clubs, the office buildings, several luxury condo buildings, a real estate brokerage, a Virginia vineyard and licensing deals for the Trump name to international partners in real estate and other ventures.

For this report, The Times analyzed five years of Mr. Trump’s personal financial disclosure statements, which he first filed as a candidate and then as president. His candidate reports covered periods longer than a calendar year, so The Times adjusted the figures for comparison. Additionally, The Times obtained loan data and other financial reports that offered a fuller picture of the performance of Mr. Trump’s commercial real estate portfolio, and loan data on Trump Organization properties.

Hotels account for about 25 percent of the revenues. About 30 percent comes from golf courses and clubs like Mar-a-Lago, the Florida property where the president likes to spend weekends during the winter.

Another 30 percent is derived from commercial buildings like 1290 Avenue of the Americas — where on a recent chilly morning, several office workers said they either had no idea about the Trumps’ stake in the tower or had put it out of mind.

Documents offer a hint of how the company’s commercial real estate portfolio — built less around the Trump brand than other parts of the Trump Organization — has increasingly functioned as a steadying force for the family business as its founder has become more polarizing.

Trump Organization had at least $572 million in revenue in 2018, about even with 2017, The Times found. Revenue remained stable because commercial real estate added $17 million while hotels and branding deals fell off by about the same amount.

Different filings by the Trump Organization examined by The Times often show differing revenue amounts for the same buildings, as ProPublica has reported recently. But the trend holds that the office properties have performed better than other assets.

Doral, about seven miles from Miami International Airport, reflects the challenges the hotel business has faced, with even Mr. Trump acknowledging that his politics have driven away certain customers.

The Trump family bought the resort in 2012 out of bankruptcy and then spent, according to its own tally, $250 million to renovate the 800-acre complex, remaking its lobby, golf courses and meeting center and constructing new luxury villas.

The resort brought in sales of $92 million in 2015, with particularly strong business at its restaurants and bars, which include a BLT Prime steakhouse, according to financial reports filed with the county tax assessor.

But by 2016, as the presidential campaign was fully underway, the resort began to fall far short of its revenue projections, and sales dropped to $75 million by 2017. The hotel was only filling about half of its 643 rooms on an average night, far below its competitors, internal company records shared with the tax assessor show.

A tax consultant for the Trump Organization told the county late last year, in a recording obtained through an open records request and first reported by The Washington Post, that there was “some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”

Miami Dade County reduced the hotel’s tax assessment again this year after concluding the hotel had suffered an additional “decline in room revenue projections.” The Trump Organization said the performance of the Doral has rebounded somewhat this year.

But on one recent weekday, with no large events at the resort, the cavernous Donald J. Trump Ballroom sat empty, as did the smaller Ivanka Trump ballroom, with its Austrian crystal chandeliers.

Rather than seeking out the luxurious experience that Mr. Trump has always sought to sell, many of the guests seemed to have ended up at the hotel almost by accident, after finding relatively cheap rates on the internet.

“It is a little too much — the Trump name in gold letters,” said Fernando Oliveria, who was visiting on a work trip from Brazil, after seeing the large “Trump” sign near the hotel entrance. “But it is a nice venue, at a good price.”

Even this week — during the peak holiday season — the least expensive room rate at the Trump Doral resort — $194 a night — was much lower than the two nearby golf resorts that the Trump Organization told Miami tax officials it should be compared to. The PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens was offering a room for $309, and the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa was charging $538 a night.

Financial reports also show declines in the Trump Organization’s branding businesses, which sell the family name to be used on new residential towers outside the United States and licensing it for products from bottled water to furniture and ties. When he took office, Mr. Trump pledged that his business would not enter into new international deals, which had been a growth area for the company, though in September the Trump Organization received approval in Scotland for the construction of 500 homes and 50 hotel cottages next to the Trump family’s Aberdeen golf club.

Further questions about the overall financial health of the Trump Organization emerged after the company moved recently to put its hotel in Washington up for sale.

When it opened in 2016, Trump International Hotel in Washington quickly became a top revenue-generating asset. But sales leveled off in its second full year of operations, Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure covering 2018 showed, even with the steady stream of business coming from Republican groups, lobbyists, business executives and even foreign diplomats, who often are seeking help from the administration.

The potential sale of the hotel — it operates out of the federally owned Old Post Office building between the White House and the Capitol — is premised on the idea that a new owner could significantly increase revenue from corporations and foreign governments. A different owner likely would not have to contend with political opposition that drives away some corporate events, or limitations on certain international business — a result of a constitutional prohibition on the president accepting payments outside of his salary from domestic or foreign governments.

But for the most part, the trend of declining or stagnant revenues does not extend to the Trump Organization’s office buildings.

The 40 Wall Street tower, near the New York Stock Exchange, has seen its net operating income — a measurement of profit — nearly double since 2015, according to financial results assembled by Trepp, a New York-based firm that maintains a national database of the financial health of buildings backed by commercial mortgage backed securities.

The building, controlled by Mr. Trump since 1995 and which has “The Trump Building” on its facade, signed a series of new leases this year with tenants including Katz & Rychik, a law firm, and Unified Capital, a business lender, according to leasing data maintained by Compstak, which runs a commercial real estate database.

The building generated $42.7 million in revenue last year, according to Trepp, more than the Trump hotel in Washington saw in business in 2018. While Mr. Trump has been in office, the Trump Organization has also paid down a loan on the building by 11 percent to $142 million, leaving the building, worth about $540 million, with a relatively small amount of debt compared to its value, said Manus Clancy, a senior managing director at Trepp.

Another office property that has had a strong recent run is 1290 Avenue of the Americas, of which the Trump family is a 30 percent owner. The primary owners of the building, which is near Radio City Music Hall, is Vornado Realty Trust, which has continued to find top-paying new tenants for the building, including a recent major new lease to Linklaters, the global law firm, which rented more than three floors in the building.

The Trump family is also a 30-percent owner of the 555 California Street building in San Francisco, which Vornado also controls and for years was known as the Bank of America tower. The 1.8 million square foot complex is considered the second most valuable office tower in San Francisco and it is listed as 100-percent leased as of the end of September, in a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, an extremely hard standard to achieve in such a large building. Blue chip tenants in the building include Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Company and Microsoft.

Net operating income at the building jumped nearly 20 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to Vornado’s annual reports. Mr. Trump had once sued to block a real estate deal that resulted in him owning 30 percent of these highly profitable Vornado buildings. Forbes, in an article about these properties, estimated the Trump family’s stake in the buildings has jumped by a total of $230 million since Mr. Trump became president.

Now these skyscrapers are helping push up his family company’s bottom line, even through Vornado actually runs the towers.

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

The ‘But I Would Vote for Joe Biden’ Republicans

Westlake Legal Group 00biden-republicans-03-facebookJumbo The ‘But I Would Vote for Joe Biden’ Republicans Voting and Voters United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Iowa Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

CRESTON, Iowa — The voters at campaign events for Joseph R. Biden Jr. here in Iowa and across the country aren’t just shopping for a candidate for themselves.

As they jostle to take pictures with the former vice president and listen to him preach about national unity, they are often thinking about someone else — a dad, a neighbor or a colleague. They consider the political leanings of people close to them who are uncomfortable with the most liberal presidential contenders, but who hate the chaos of the Trump era and are receptive to the kind of centrist, seasoned candidacy Mr. Biden offers.

Some Democrats have been warning the party not to obsess over these potential swing voters, arguing that electability calculations about mythical undecided moderates are futile at this moment of extreme political polarization.

But for many Biden supporters, those voters are their Republican-leaning relatives and friends. And their perspectives are an increasingly prominent consideration as the Iowa caucuses near.

“I think he could get the independents and moderate Republicans who refuse to vote for Donald Trump,” said Bailey Smith, 27, a leader in Atlantic, Iowa’s business community and an undecided voter who attended a Biden campaign event on Sunday. Asked whether she had any moderate Republicans in mind, she replied, “My dad.”

It’s a dynamic that helps explain why, despite Mr. Biden’s series of missteps and uneven debate performances, many Democratic voters still believe the former vice president would stand the best chance against President Trump in a general election, polls show.

That’s a message Mr. Biden’s top surrogates are sounding at every turn, citing specific potential swing voters in the process.

“I always say that in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, if I didn’t have Republican friends, I wouldn’t have had any friends at all growing up,” said Christie Vilsack, the former first lady of Iowa and a prominent Democrat, as she introduced Mr. Biden at a campaign stop here on Saturday night. “Who will appeal to independents? And I want my candidate to be able to appeal to my Republican friends as well.”

Her remarks came just days after Mr. Trump, with his nearly 90 percent approval rating among Republicans, was impeached largely along party lines after he asked a foreign nation to investigate Mr. Biden. Republicans who have long had warm relationships with Mr. Biden defended the president instead.

For some Democrats, that development amounted to another reason for skepticism of Mr. Biden’s emphasis on bipartisanship, and his claims that Republicans might have an “epiphany” with Mr. Trump out of office.

Away from Capitol Hill, crossover voters are also a rare breed. But recent New York Times Upshot/Siena College surveys show that a narrow slice of swing voters does exist in key battleground states, as do voters who say they would be comfortable with Mr. Biden but not Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is more progressive. Mr. Biden continues to lead the national polls, too, though he has struggled in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire this fall.

“There are a few candidates — Biden, obviously, being one — that could be attractive to disaffected Republicans and more centrist Republicans,” said former Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida. He also mentioned Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Mr. Biden’s appeal to what some might call the “reasonable Republican dad” vote goes like this: He shuns far-reaching proposals like “Medicare for all”; he has a history of working with Republicans; his warm personal style is disarming; and he represents a return to what some moderates view as a more stable era.

A number of those factors are a liability among progressive voters, who are clamoring for bold change. But on the campaign trail with Mr. Biden, it’s the centrist Republican and independent voters who are often top of mind for his supporters as they think about the general election.

And according to a dozen Republican donors and strategists, as well as former elected officials who can speak free from concerns about retribution from Mr. Trump, there is some evidence that Mr. Biden can connect with these voters.

“Oh yeah, he definitely does,” said former Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, pointing to Mr. Biden’s ability to speak to blue-collar voters. “He is a guy who can do it probably better than any other Democrat.”

Chuck Hagel, a Republican who served as defense secretary in the Obama administration, said he wrote in Mr. Biden’s name on the ballot instead of voting for Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016. This year, he said, he favors Mr. Biden again, and would not back Mr. Trump — or Ms. Warren, or Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — in the general election. It’s a view shared by other Republicans, Mr. Hagel added.

“They’ve said to me, ‘If Biden is the nominee, I will vote for Biden, I will not vote for any of the other Democrats,’” recalled Mr. Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, citing Mr. Biden’s experience and his empathy. “I don’t know how big or deep or wide that is in this country, but I hear it.”

At Biden campaign events, prominent supporters often instruct attendees to think in pragmatic terms, a stark departure from the fiery populist messages that animate events held by Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders.

“It’s not going to be you, it’s not going to be me, it’s not going to be the party faithful that turn this election — it’s going to be independents and moderate Republicans,” Chris Louscher, a Democratic activist, told a crowd at a Biden event in Algona, Iowa, this month, thinking of her brother-in-law in Florida. “I have a lot of family, a lot of friends, I have people in this audience today that are Republicans. They will vote for Joe Biden and that’s how he wins this next election.”

In recent days, Mr. Biden has been sharpening the contrast between himself and his Democratic rivals, using an addition to his stump speech to swipe at those who suggest that he is “naïve” for wanting to cooperate with Republicans — the very Republicans, he acknowledges, who are attacking him, his family and his “only living son.”

On Friday, a reporter asked Mr. Biden for evidence that Republican officials and voters had any interest in working with him.

“I think Republican voters have interest in finding common ground,” he said. “Wherever I go, there’s an enormous number of independents and Republicans who know and think we have to find common ground.”

It’s not just Republican votes that Mr. Biden is seeking. Several longtime Republicans have donated to his campaign and held events for Mr. Biden, too.

On Friday, Mr. Biden joined about two dozen people — roughly half of them Republicans — at a fund-raiser in Bel Air, Calif., hosted by Harry Sloan, a longtime Republican donor who supported Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

“I’ve spoken to many Republicans who don’t intend to vote for Trump,” Mr. Sloan said. “They’re looking for an alternative. They are pretty polarized against Warren and Sanders and that so-called progressive wing of the party.”

“And when those conversations come up, they tend to say, ‘But I would vote for Joe Biden,’” Mr. Sloan said, adding that his event brought in $100,000.

Yet there are clearly significant limitations to Mr. Biden’s appeal across the aisle — and to Democrats’ guesses about how Republicans might feel.

Some Democrats in the Des Moines area said they thought Douglas E. Gross, a prominent Iowa Republican, would be inclined to support a moderate like Mr. Biden.

That was a surprise to Mr. Gross.

“They’d have to do better than Joe Biden,” he said in an interview this month. “I just think his time has passed him by.”

Then there was Marie Hansen of De Soto, Iowa, who said she was “95 percent” decided on Mr. Biden. But at a Sunday night campaign event, she also described a friend — a now-disaffected Trump voter — who has been swayed by Mr. Trump’s criticisms of Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter. Ms. Hansen wondered about “just finding that candidate she can settle with.”

Many Democrats argue that it is not enough to settle for a candidate who could appeal to disaffected Trump voters or moderate Republicans. They say that without liberal enthusiasm, the party can’t compete against Mr. Trump and his intensely committed base.

Polls show several of the Democratic candidates doing well against Mr. Trump in hypothetical general election matchups. While the Biden campaign and his allies are making explicit overtures to Republicans, supporters of his leading opponents note that their messages, too, can cross strict party lines.

Representative Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is supporting Ms. Warren, said that her “plan to end the corrupt system of self-dealing of the super rich is music to Republican, independent and Democratic ears.”

Mr. Sanders, who has gained in recent polls, appeals to younger progressive voters as well as some of the blue-collar constituents both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are seeking to engage.

“Iowans watched Donald Trump win by running as a fake Bernie Sanders, and they know the best way to beat the imitation is with the real thing,” said Bill Neidhardt, Iowa deputy state director for Mr. Sanders.

For all of the talk at Biden events about engaging independents and Republicans, Democratic attendees who hail from conservative areas tend to be the most skeptical that any Republicans are listening.

Dianne Ballard, 63, of Centerville, Iowa, said she thought that Mr. Biden could defeat Mr. Trump, but also noted that many Republicans negatively associate him with former President Barack Obama. Ms. Ballard, a Biden supporter, did not plan to press the case with her husband, a Republican, over Christmas.

“This is kind of Trump country, unfortunately,” Ms. Ballard said. “You’re either one or the other.”

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

Joe Biden’s Appeal to the ‘Reasonable Republican Dad’ Vote

Westlake Legal Group 00biden-republicans-03-facebookJumbo Joe Biden’s Appeal to the ‘Reasonable Republican Dad’ Vote Voting and Voters United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Iowa Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

CRESTON, Iowa — The voters at campaign events for Joseph R. Biden Jr. here in Iowa and across the country aren’t just shopping for a candidate for themselves.

As they jostle to take pictures with the former vice president and listen to him preach about national unity, they are often thinking about someone else— a dad, a neighbor or a colleague. They consider the political leanings of people close to them who are uncomfortable with the most liberal presidential contenders, but who hate the chaos of the Trump era and are receptive to the kind of centrist, seasoned candidacy Mr. Biden offers.

Some Democrats have been warning the party not to obsess over these potential swing voters, arguing that electability calculations about mythical undecided moderates are futile at this moment of extreme political polarization.

But for many Biden supporters, those voters are their Republican-leaning relatives and friends. And their perspectives are an increasingly prominent consideration as the Iowa caucuses near.

“I think he could get the independents and moderate Republicans who refuse to vote for Donald Trump,” said Bailey Smith, 27, a leader in Atlantic, Iowa’s business community and an undecided voter who attended a Biden campaign event on Sunday. Asked whether she had any moderate Republicans in mind, she replied, “My dad.”

It’s a dynamic that helps explain why, despite Mr. Biden’s series of missteps and uneven debate performances, many Democratic voters still believe the former vice president would stand the best chance against President Trump in a general election, polls show.

That’s a message Mr. Biden’s top surrogates are sounding at every turn, citing specific potential swing voters in the process.

“I always say that in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, if I didn’t have Republican friends, I wouldn’t have had any friends at all growing up,” said Christie Vilsack, the former first lady of Iowa and a prominent Democrat, as she introduced Mr. Biden at a campaign stop here on Saturday night. “Who will appeal to independents? And I want my candidate to be able to appeal to my Republican friends as well.”

Her remarks came just days after Mr. Trump, with his nearly 90 percent approval rating among Republicans, was impeached largely along party lines after he asked a foreign nation to investigate Mr. Biden. Republicans who have long had warm relationships with Mr. Biden defended the president instead.

For some Democrats, that development amounted to another reason for skepticism of Mr. Biden’s emphasis on bipartisanship, and his claims that Republicans might have an “epiphany” with Mr. Trump out of office.

Away from Capitol Hill, crossover voters are also a rare breed. But recent New York Times Upshot/Siena College surveys show that a narrow slice of swing voters does exist in key battleground states, as do voters who say they would be comfortable with Mr. Biden but not Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is more progressive. Mr. Biden continues to lead the national polls, too, though he has struggled in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire this fall.

“There are a few candidates — Biden, obviously, being one — that could be attractive to disaffected Republicans and more centrist Republicans,” said former Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida. He also mentioned Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Mr. Biden’s appeal to what some might call the “reasonable Republican dad” vote goes like this: He shuns far-reaching proposals like “Medicare for all”; he has a history of working with Republicans; his warm personal style is disarming; and he represents a return to what some moderates view as a more stable era.

A number of those factors are a liability among progressive voters, who are clamoring for bold change. But on the campaign trail with Mr. Biden, it’s the centrist Republican and independent voters who are often top of mind for his supporters as they think about the general election.

And according to a dozen Republican donors and strategists, as well as former elected officials who can speak free from concerns about retribution from Mr. Trump, there is some evidence that Mr. Biden can connect with these voters.

“Oh yeah, he definitely does,” said former Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, pointing to Mr. Biden’s ability to speak to blue-collar voters. “He is a guy who can do it probably better than any other Democrat.”

Chuck Hagel, a Republican who served as defense secretary in the Obama administration, said he wrote in Mr. Biden’s name on the ballot instead of voting for Mr. Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016. This year, he said, he favors Mr. Biden again, and would not back Mr. Trump — or Ms. Warren, or Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — in the general election. It’s a view shared by other Republicans, Mr. Hagel added.

“They’ve said to me, ‘If Biden is the nominee, I will vote for Biden, I will not vote for any of the other Democrats,’” recalled Mr. Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, citing Mr. Biden’s experience and his empathy. “I don’t know how big or deep or wide that is in this country, but I hear it.”

At Biden campaign events, prominent supporters often instruct attendees to think in pragmatic terms, a stark departure from the fiery populist messages that animate events held by Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders.

“It’s not going to be you, it’s not going to be me, it’s not going to be the party faithful that turn this election — it’s going to be independents and moderate Republicans,” Chris Louscher, a Democratic activist, told a crowd at a Biden event in Algona, Iowa, this month, thinking of her brother-in-law in Florida. “I have a lot of family, a lot of friends, I have people in this audience today that are Republicans. They will vote for Joe Biden and that’s how he wins this next election.”

In recent days, Mr. Biden has been sharpening the contrast between himself and his Democratic rivals, using an addition to his stump speech to swipe at those who suggest that he is “naïve” for wanting to cooperate with Republicans — the very Republicans, he acknowledges, who are attacking him, his family and his “only living son.”

On Friday, a reporter asked Mr. Biden for evidence that Republican officials and voters had any interest in working with him.

“I think Republican voters have interest in finding common ground,” he said. “Wherever I go, there’s an enormous number of independents and Republicans who know and think we have to find common ground.”

It’s not just Republican votes that Mr. Biden is seeking. Several longtime Republicans have donated to his campaign and held events for Mr. Biden, too.

On Friday, Mr. Biden joined about two dozen people — roughly half of them Republicans — at a fund-raiser in Bel Air, Calif., hosted by Harry Sloan, a longtime Republican donor who supported Mrs. Clinton in 2016.

“I’ve spoken to many Republicans who don’t intend to vote for Trump,” Mr. Sloan said. “They’re looking for an alternative. They are pretty polarized against Warren and Sanders and that so-called progressive wing of the party.”

“And when those conversations come up, they tend to say, ‘But I would vote for Joe Biden,’” Mr. Sloan said, adding that his event brought in $100,000.

Yet there are clearly significant limitations to Mr. Biden’s appeal across the aisle — and to Democrats’ guesses about how Republicans might feel.

Some Democrats in the Des Moines area said they thought Douglas E. Gross, a prominent Iowa Republican, would be inclined to support a moderate like Mr. Biden.

That was a surprise to Mr. Gross.

“They’d have to do better than Joe Biden,” he said in an interview this month. “I just think his time has passed him by.”

Then there was Marie Hansen of De Soto, Iowa, who said she was “95 percent” decided on Mr. Biden. But at a Sunday night campaign event, she also described a friend — a now-disaffected Trump voter — who has been swayed by Mr. Trump’s criticisms of Mr. Biden and his son, Hunter. Ms. Hansen wondered about “just finding that candidate she can settle with.”

Many Democrats argue that it is not enough to settle for a candidate who could appeal to disaffected Trump voters or moderate Republicans. They say that without liberal enthusiasm, the party can’t compete against Mr. Trump and his intensely committed base.

Polls show several of the Democratic candidates doing well against Mr. Trump in hypothetical general election matchups. While the Biden campaign and his allies are making explicit overtures to Republicans, supporters of his leading opponents note that their messages, too, can cross strict party lines.

Representative Andy Levin, a Michigan Democrat who is supporting Ms. Warren, said that her “plan to end the corrupt system of self-dealing of the super rich is music to Republican, independent and Democratic ears.”

Mr. Sanders, who has gained in recent polls, appeals to younger progressive voters as well as some of the blue-collar constituents both Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are seeking to engage.

“Iowans watched Donald Trump win by running as a fake Bernie Sanders, and they know the best way to beat the imitation is with the real thing,” said Bill Neidhardt, Iowa deputy state director for Mr. Sanders.

For all of the talk at Biden events about engaging independents and Republicans, Democratic attendees who hail from conservative areas tend to be the most skeptical that any Republicans are listening.

Dianne Ballard, 63, of Centerville, Iowa, said she thought that Mr. Biden could defeat Mr. Trump, but also noted that many Republicans negatively associate him with former President Barack Obama. Ms. Ballard, a Biden supporter, did not plan to press the case with her husband, a Republican, over Christmas.

“This is kind of Trump country, unfortunately,” Ms. Ballard said. “You’re either one or the other.”

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In Trying Times for President’s Business, It Turns Out Less Trump Is More

Westlake Legal Group merlin_165519273_a32705c9-6797-4042-9ff1-d9520a32ae6c-facebookJumbo In Trying Times for President’s Business, It Turns Out Less Trump Is More Vornado Realty Trust United States Politics and Government Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric F (1984- ) Trump, Donald J Trump Organization Trump National Doral Miami (Doral, Fla) Trump International Hotel (Washington, DC) Real Estate (Commercial) Mar-a-Lago (Palm Beach, Fla) Manhattan (NYC) Doral (Fla) Avenue of the Americas (Manhattan, NY)

DORAL, Florida — It is happy hour at Trump National Doral Miami, the sprawling resort that is the biggest cash generator in President Trump’s business portfolio. But on a weekday evening in November, only a few sprinklings of patrons grace the resort’s bar and high-end steak house. Tables with lit candles sit empty through the night.

The Doral — which Mr. Trump proposed as the site of next year’s G7 meeting before backing off amid intense criticism — is emblematic of the financial pressure on Mr. Trump since he won the White House three years ago. His highest profile hotel properties have become battlefields in the partisan wars that have pushed down occupancy and enmeshed them in constitutional issues about the ability of a president to own and run a business while in office.

But 1,300 miles up the coast, a bustling 43-story officer tower on Sixth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan tells a more nuanced story about the state of the Trump Organization.

The building, partially owned by Mr. Trump, does not carry his name, draws no protesters and has never garnered the president’s attention on Twitter. And his revenues from leasing office space in the building are surging, part of a trend in which his commercial building holdings are largely offsetting the shrinking of his hotel business.

With hotel expansion plans thwarted, marquee hotels in New York, Panama and Toronto stripped of the Trump name, and revenues lagging or relatively flat at properties like Doral, rising rent collections at office and commercial properties have provided the Trump Organization a sorely needed boost.

Revenues at office towers on Sixth Avenue in Midtown, on Wall Street in downtown Manhattan and at a third building in San Francisco — cities that are centers of political opposition to the president — have each jumped during Mr. Trump’s tenure in the White House, outperforming the family’s much better recognized assets like Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, financial filings show.

“Our office buildings are killing it,” Eric Trump said in an interview. “It is under appreciated.”

The result: total company revenues have remained fairly steady over the past several years, even as some of the Trump hotels have seen declines in sales or at least lagged behind competitors in other cities such as Miami and Chicago. Because public filings about the Trump Organization’s businesses generally only include revenue figures, it is not possible to determine the company’s profits or losses.

At the same time, the company has kept its debt levels relatively low, uncharacteristic of Mr. Trump’s penchant for leverage. That has given the company financial flexibility to weather the squeeze on the hotels and fluctuations in another big line of business, its golf courses.

Hotels are the most visible part of the company, but it also includes 16 golf clubs, the office buildings, several luxury condo buildings, a real estate brokerage, a Virginia vineyard and licensing deals for the Trump name to international partners in real estate and other ventures.

For this report, The Times analyzed five years of Mr. Trump’s personal financial disclosure statements, which he first filed as a candidate and then as president. His candidate reports covered periods longer than a calendar year, so The Times adjusted the figures for comparison. Additionally, The Times obtained loan data and other financial reports that offered a fuller picture of the performance of Mr. Trump’s commercial real estate portfolio, and loan data on Trump Organization properties.

Hotels account for about 25 percent of the revenues. About 30 percent comes from golf courses and clubs like Mar-a-Lago, the Florida property where the president likes to spend weekends during the winter.

Another 30 percent is derived from commercial buildings like 1290 Avenue of the Americas — where on a recent chilly morning, several office workers said they either had no idea about the Trumps’ stake in the tower or had put it out of mind.

Documents offer a hint of how the company’s commercial real estate portfolio — built less around the Trump brand than other parts of the Trump Organization — has increasingly functioned as a steadying force for the family business as its founder has become more polarizing.

Trump Organization had at least $572 million in revenue in 2018, about even with 2017, The Times found. Revenue remained stable because commercial real estate added $17 million while hotels and branding deals fell off by about the same amount.

Different filings by the Trump Organization examined by The Times often show differing revenue amounts for the same buildings, as ProPublica has reported recently. But the trend holds that the office properties have performed better than other assets.

Doral, about seven miles from Miami International Airport, reflects the challenges the hotel business has faced, with even Mr. Trump acknowledging that his politics have driven away certain customers.

The Trump family bought the resort in 2012 out of bankruptcy and then spent, according to its own tally, $250 million to renovate the 800-acre complex, remaking its lobby, golf courses and meeting center and constructing new luxury villas.

The resort brought in sales of $92 million in 2015, with particularly strong business at its restaurants and bars, which include a BLT Prime steakhouse, according to financial reports filed with the county tax assessor.

But by 2016, as the presidential campaign was fully underway, the resort began to fall far short of its revenue projections, and sales dropped to $75 million by 2017. The hotel was only filling about half of its 643 rooms on an average night, far below its competitors, internal company records shared with the tax assessor show.

A tax consultant for the Trump Organization told the county late last year, in a recording obtained through an open records request and first reported by The Washington Post, that there was “some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.”

Miami Dade County reduced the hotel’s tax assessment again this year after concluding the hotel had suffered an additional “decline in room revenue projections.” The Trump Organization said the performance of the Doral has rebounded somewhat this year.

But on one recent weekday, with no large events at the resort, the cavernous Donald J. Trump Ballroom sat empty, as did the smaller Ivanka Trump ballroom, with its Austrian crystal chandeliers.

Rather than seeking out the luxurious experience that Mr. Trump has always sought to sell, many of the guests seemed to have ended up at the hotel almost by accident, after finding relatively cheap rates on the internet.

“It is a little too much — the Trump name in gold letters,” said Fernando Oliveria, who was visiting on a work trip from Brazil, after seeing the large “Trump” sign near the hotel entrance. “But it is a nice venue, at a good price.”

Even this week — during the peak holiday season — the least expensive room rate at the Trump Doral resort — $194 a night — was much lower than the two nearby golf resorts that the Trump Organization told Miami tax officials it should be compared to. The PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens was offering a room for $309, and the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa was charging $538 a night.

Financial reports also show declines in the Trump Organization’s branding businesses, which sell the family name to be used on new residential towers outside the United States and licensing it for products from bottled water to furniture and ties. When he took office, Mr. Trump pledged that his business would not enter into new international deals, which had been a growth area for the company, though in September the Trump Organization received approval in Scotland for the construction of 500 homes and 50 hotel cottages next to the Trump family’s Aberdeen golf club.

Further questions about the overall financial health of the Trump Organization emerged after the company moved recently to put its hotel in Washington up for sale.

When it opened in 2016, Trump International Hotel in Washington quickly became a top revenue-generating asset. But sales leveled off in its second full year of operations, Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure covering 2018 showed, even with the steady stream of business coming from Republican groups, lobbyists, business executives and even foreign diplomats, who often are seeking help from the administration.

The potential sale of the hotel — it operates out of the federally owned Old Post Office building between the White House and the Capitol — is premised on the idea that a new owner could significantly increase revenue from corporations and foreign governments. A different owner likely would not have to contend with political opposition that drives away some corporate events, or limitations on certain international business — a result of a constitutional prohibition on the president accepting payments outside of his salary from domestic or foreign governments.

But for the most part, the trend of declining or stagnant revenues does not extend to the Trump Organization’s office buildings.

The 40 Wall Street tower, near the New York Stock Exchange, has seen its net operating income — a measurement of profit — nearly double since 2015, according to financial results assembled by Trepp, a New York-based firm that maintains a national database of the financial health of buildings backed by commercial mortgage backed securities.

The building, which is entirely owned by the Trump family and has “The Trump Building” on its facade, signed a series of new leases this year with tenants including Katz & Rychik, a law firm, and Unified Capital, a business lender, according to leasing data maintained by Compstak, which runs a commercial real estate database.

The building generated $42.7 million in revenue last year, according to Trepp, more than the Trump hotel in Washington saw in business in 2018. While Mr. Trump has been in office, the Trump Organization has also paid down a loan on the building by 11 percent to $142 million, leaving the building, worth about $540 million, with a relatively small amount of debt compared to its value, said Manus Clancy, a senior managing director at Trepp.

Another office property that has had a strong recent run is 1290 Avenue of the Americas, of which the Trump family is a 30 percent owner. The primary owners of the building, which is near Radio City Music Hall, is Vornado Realty Trust, which has continued to find top-paying new tenants for the building, including a recent major new lease to Linklaters, the global law firm, which rented more than three floors in the building.

The Trump family is also a 30-percent owner of the 555 California Street building in San Francisco, which Vornado also controls and for years was known as the Bank of America tower. The 1.8 million square foot complex is considered the second most valuable office tower in San Francisco and it is listed as 100-percent leased as of the end of September, in a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, an extremely hard standard to achieve in such a large building. Blue chip tenants in the building include Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Company and Microsoft.

Net operating income at the building jumped nearly 20 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to Vornado’s annual reports. Mr. Trump had once sued to block a real estate deal that resulted in him owning 30 percent of these highly profitable Vornado buildings. Forbes, in an article about these properties, estimated the Trump family’s stake in the buildings has jumped by a total of $230 million since Mr. Trump became president.

Now these skyscrapers are helping push up his family company’s bottom line, even through Vornado actually runs the towers.

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G.O.P. Senator ‘Disturbed’ by McConnell’s ‘Total Coordination’ with White House

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-murkowski-facebookJumbo G.O.P. Senator ‘Disturbed’ by McConnell’s ‘Total Coordination’ with White House United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Murkowski, Lisa impeachment

WASHINGTON — Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska expressed unease in an interview broadcast on Tuesday with the Senate majority leader’s vow of “total coordination” with the White House on impeachment proceedings against President Trump, a potentially significant crack in Republican unity.

Ms. Murkowski, a moderate with an independent streak, told Anchorage’s NBC affiliate KTUU she opposed “being hand in glove with the defense” and voiced other concerns as the Senate prepares to hold a trial over the two articles of impeachment that the House approved earlier this month.

Ms. Murkowski’s views could prove important. She rarely speaks publicly against Republican leadership, but when she does, she tends to stick with her positions, as when she opposed the confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and helped torpedo a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. She also tends to bring Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a fellow moderate Republican with her, and only a handful of defections would force the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to switch course on the upcoming impeachment trial.

In the interview, Ms. Murkowski said she was “disturbed” by comments by Mr. McConnell that indicated he intends to work in concert with the White House counsel in planning the impeachment trial.

“In fairness, when I heard that I was disturbed,” Ms. Murkowski said. “To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process.”

Ms. Murkowski said she felt that House Democrats had made a mistake in forging ahead with impeachment so quickly without potentially valuable testimony from top White House officials such as the former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff.

“If the House truly believed that they had information that was going to be important, they subpoena them, and if they ignore the subpoena as they did, at the direction of the White House, then that next step is to go to the courts,” she said.

Senate Democrats are pressing to include testimony at the trial from Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, and support from Ms. Murkowski would be critical.

On December 10, a federal judge pushed off a decision on such testimony, responding to a lawsuit by Charles M. Kupperman, another White House official, who asked the courts to decide whether the House could compel him to testify after he defied a House subpoena in October. The case was expected to provide clarity on whether other officials such as Mr. Bolton would have to testify as well.

Instead of prolonging the process, House Democrats moved forward with articles of impeachment based on evidence already collected, formally accusing Mr. Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In a Senate trial to consider removing Mr. Trump from office, the evidentiary standards would be considerably higher than impeachment, which is akin to an indictment.

Democrats argue that Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney have firsthand knowledge of the president’s efforts to force Ukraine’s president to help his re-election by publicly announcing an investigation of Mr. Trump’s Democratic rivals. Mr. Bolton described the machinations around military aid to Ukraine as a “drug deal,” while Mr. Mulvaney would likely understand how Mr. Trump’s desire for a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter was connected to a suspension of military assistance for the country’s ongoing war with Russia-backed separatists.

Ms. Murkowski also said she felt that Mr. McConnell, who has been meeting privately with the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, in preparation for the trial, had himself contributed to what she sees as the larger problems with the way Mr. Trump’s impeachment has been conducted.

In a Christmas message sent out on Wednesday, Mr. Trump wished Americans well, briefly ignoring the impeachment drama after lamenting his treatment by Democrats throughout the process for much of Christmas Eve.

“While the challenges that face our country are great, the bonds that unite us as Americans are much stronger,” Mr. Trump said in the letter.

As the Senate moves ahead with a trial, Ms. Murkowski is one of a small number of Republicans who has not publicly dismissed the case against the president, and says she remains open to considering the case on its merits.

“If it means that I am viewed as one who looks openly and critically at every issue in front of me rather than acting as a rubber stamp for my party or my president, I’m totally good with that” she said.

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Trump Complains About Impeachment After Christmas Eve Message to Troops

Westlake Legal Group 24dc-trump-sub-facebookJumbo Trump Complains About Impeachment After Christmas Eve Message to Troops Xi Jinping Trump, Melania Trump, Donald J Schumer, Charles E Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates McConnell, Mitch Kim Jong-un impeachment

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump spent Christmas Eve morning complaining that Democrats had treated him unfairly during the impeachment inquiry and insisting that Republican leaders in the Senate should run a trial however they see fit.

“It’s up to Mitch McConnell, and we have the majority and now they want McConnell to do wonderful things for them,” Mr. Trump said of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, during remarks to reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate. “I mean he’s going to do what he wants to do.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are locked in a dispute over the procedures that will govern a Senate impeachment trial, with Democrats insisting that it must include testimony from witnesses, a decision that Mr. McConnell and other Republicans say is premature.

Mr. Trump has said in the past that he is eager for Republicans to mount a robust defense of his actions during a trial that would include witnesses. But his Republican allies in the Senate have expressed misgivings about creating a circuslike trial. In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Trump appeared willing to accept whatever Mr. McConnell decided.

“He’s very smart guy, a very good guy, a very fair guy,” Mr. Trump said. He criticized Democrats for trying to influence the Senate process, saying that “they treated us very unfairly, and now they want fairness in the Senate.”

Mr. Trump lashed out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that she “hates all of the people who voted for me and the Republican Party.” And he attacked Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who ran the impeachment investigation, as “a sick, corrupt politician.”

A spokesman for Ms. Pelosi called the president’s comments “projection.” The speaker said Monday on Twitter that the House could not take the final steps to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until senators decided how the trial would be conducted, including a decision about whether witnesses would be called.

“President Trump blocked his own witnesses and documents from the House, and from the American people, on phony complaints about the House process,” Ms. Pelosi tweeted. “What is his excuse now?”

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said on Monday: “We say to President Trump, if you are so confident that you did nothing wrong, then why won’t you let your men testify? If you did nothing wrong, Mr. President, why do you seem so eager to avoid the truth, to hide the truth?”

Mr. Schumer also demanded more internal administration documents ahead of an impeachment trial, calling newly released emails showing that military aid to Ukraine was suspended 90 minutes after Mr. Trump demanded “a favor” from Ukraine’s president “explosive.”

The president’s comments to reporters on Tuesday morning came after praising troops during a video call to five military units deployed at bases around the world. He wished them a Merry Christmas and said that he hoped that “every member of our military will feel the overwhelming gratitude of our nation.”

One soldier asked the president about the cameo appearance he made in the movie “Home Alone 2.” Mr. Trump called it “a big Christmas hit — one of the biggest.”

“It’s an honor to be involved in something like that,” he added.

Another soldier asked him what present he had gotten his wife, Melania Trump, for Christmas — a question that seemed to stump the president for a moment.

“That’s a tough question. I got her a beautiful card,” Mr. Trump said. “A lot of love. We love our family, and we love each other. We’ve had a great relationship, hopefully like you do with your spouses. I’m still working on a Christmas present. There’s a little time left. Not much, but a little time left.”

But the president clearly had other things on his mind on the day before Christmas.

He spent the morning retweeting Fox News commentary about the impeachment. He quoted one as saying that Democrats were “in real doubt about the evidence” for impeachment. And he quoted another as saying that Ms. Pelosi supported the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada only because she needed to do something productive while pursuing impeachment against Mr. Trump.

“The Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats have gone CRAZY,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “They want to make it as hard as possible for me to properly run our Country!”

On other issues, the president said he was not worried about a threatened “Christmas gift” from North Korea. American officials have been on high alert for the possibility that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, might resume testing of ballistic missiles. But Mr. Trump said he was not concerned by the threat.

“That’s O.K. We’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it,” he said, adding: “Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test. I may get a vase. I may get a nice present from him. You don’t know. You never know.”

The president was asked whether he planned to pardon Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser who was convicted in federal court of seven felonies for obstructing the congressional inquiry, lying to investigators under oath and trying to block the testimony of a witness whose account would have exposed his lies.

Mr. Trump said he had not thought about a pardon for Mr. Stone, but expressed sympathy for him and for Michael T. Flynn, the retired lieutenant general who served as Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser and pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“He got hit very hard,” Mr. Trump said about Mr. Stone, “as did General Flynn and a lot of other people. And now they are finding out it was all a hoax.”

The president also said he planned to hold a ceremony with President Xi Jinping of China to sign the first phase of a trade deal that was announced this month, though he offered no details about where or when such a signing ceremony might be held.

“We will be having a signing ceremony, yes,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “We will ultimately, yes, when we get together. And we’ll be having a quicker signing because we want to get it done. The deal is done, it’s just being translated right now.”

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting from Washington.

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A Trump Policy ‘Clarification’ All but Ends Punishment for Bird Deaths

Westlake Legal Group 00cli-deadbirds02-facebookJumbo A Trump Policy ‘Clarification’ All but Ends Punishment for Bird Deaths Trump, Donald J Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming Fish and Wildlife Service environment Birds Audubon Society, National Animals Animal Migration

WASHINGTON — As the state of Virginia prepared for a major bridge and tunnel expansion in the tidewaters of the Chesapeake Bay last year, engineers understood that the nesting grounds of 25,000 gulls, black skimmers, royal terns and other seabirds were about to be plowed under.

To compensate, they considered developing an artificial island as a haven. Then in June 2018, the Trump administration stepped in. While the federal government “appreciates” the state’s efforts, new rules in Washington had eliminated criminal penalties for “incidental” migratory bird deaths that came in the course of normal business, administration officials advised. Such conservation measures were now “purely voluntary.

The state ended its island planning.

The island is one of dozens of bird-preservation efforts that have fallen away in the wake of the policy change in 2017 that was billed merely as a technical clarification to a century-old law protecting migratory birds. Across the country birds have been killed and nests destroyed by oil spills, construction crews and chemical contamination, all with no response from the federal government, according to emails, memos and other documents viewed by The New York Times.

Not only has the administration stopped investigating most bird deaths, the documents show, it has discouraged local governments and businesses from taking precautionary measures to protect birds.

In one instance, a Wyoming-based oil company wanted to clarify that it no longer had to report bird deaths to the Fish and Wildlife Service. “You are correct,” the agency replied.

In another, a building property manager in Michigan emailed the Fish and Wildlife Service to note that residents had complained about birds being killed while workers put up siding and gutters around the apartment. Not to worry, the agency replied: “If the purpose or intent of your activity is not to take birds/nests/eggs, then it is no longer prohibited.”

And when a homeowners’ association in Arizona complained that a developer had refused to safely remove nesting burrowing owls from a nearby lot, Fish and Wildlife said that, because of the new legal interpretation, it could not compel the developer to act.

“Of course, we just got sued over that interpretation, so we’ll see how it ends up,” the enforcement officer wrote.

The revised policy — part of the administration’s broader effort to encourage business activity — has been a particular favorite of President Trump’s, whose selective view of avian welfare has ranged from complaining that wind energy “kills all the birds” to asserting that the oil industry has been subject to “totalitarian tactics” under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Habitat loss and pesticide exposure already have brought on widespread bird-species declines. The number of adult breeding birds in the United States and Canada has plummeted by 2.9 billion since 1970.

Now, said Noah Greenwald, the endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity, the Trump administration has engineered “a fundamental shift” in policy that “lets industrial companies, utilities and others completely off the hook.” Even a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, which killed or injured about a million birds, would not expose a company to prosecution or fines.

Gavin Shire, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for protecting migratory birds, said in a statement that other federal laws like the Endangered Species Act remain on the books. The Trump administration, he said, “will continue to work cooperatively with our industry partners to minimize impacts on migratory birds.”

The documents tell a different story.

In nearly two dozen incidents across 15 states, internal conversations among Fish and Wildlife Service officers indicate that, short of going out to shoot birds, activities in which birds die no longer merit action. In some cases the Trump administration has even discouraged local governments and businesses from taking relatively simple steps to protect birds, like reporting fatalities when they are found.

“You get the sense this policy is not only bad for birds, it’s also cruel,” Mr. Greenwald said.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was originally enacted to protect the birds from over-hunting and poaching at a time when feathered hats were all the rage and the snowy egret was hunted almost to extinction. It makes it illegal “by any means or in any manner” to hunt, take, capture or kill birds, nests or eggs from listed species without a permit.

Beginning in the 1970s, federal officials used the act to prosecute and fine companies up to $15,000 per bird for accidental deaths on power lines, in oil pits, in wind turbines and by other industrial hazards.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an oil and gas trade association, said fossil fuel companies had been unfairly targeted by the law, pointing to an Obama administration prosecution of seven oil companies in North Dakota for the deaths of 28 birds.

“It felt like it was weaponized against one industry,” she said.

Changes to the interpretation of the law topped the association’s wish list for the Trump administration. Six months after that list was released, the Interior Department ended prosecutions for bird deaths “when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.”

If landowners destroy a barn knowing it is filled with baby owls, they would not be liable, as long as the intent was not to kill owls, the opinion said. The illegal spraying of a banned pesticide would not be a legal liability either as long as the birds were not the “intended target.”

In the case of a bridge and tunnel project in Hampton Roads, Va., Stephen C. Birch, the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the agency was seeking an alternate solution for the seabirds. A spokeswoman for the agency said the Trump administration’s opinion “had no direct impact” on the decision to abandon the bird island.

But conservationists who had been working closely with the state to protect the seabirds’ nesting grounds said they had no doubt it had a chilling effect.

“The dynamics really changed,” said Sarah Karpanty, a professor of fish and wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech and a member of the team that had been working with the state. “They were basically conservation partners, and in 2017 all indications were that they were going to be a conservation partner again. Then the solicitor’s opinion changed everything.”

The loss of the Hampton Roads nesting area will devastate some bird species because it was the last they had. Other sites in the Chesapeake Bay have been lost to sea level rise and erosion.

The birds, now south for the winter, will return in March and April to land that has been paved. Construction crews may have to take aggressive measures to prevent the birds from nesting wherever they can, like in cracks in the asphalt.

“If there’s no new habitat construction, they will most likely not reproduce,” Ms. Karpanty said. “The frustrating thing is about this situation is, there is a solution, a relatively easy solution.”

In another case, the United States Coast Guard notified the Fish and Wildlife Service in January 2018 that it had identified a vessel responsible for an oil spill near Woods Hole, Mass., that killed about two dozen sea birds. Federal wildlife police replied that because the “birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act” were killed incidentally, “there’s currently no enforcement action plan.”

In other cases, states and companies are still acting voluntarily. In June 2018 a state official in Michigan alerted the Fish and Wildlife Service that a logger had spotted a great blue heron rookery in a red pine forest and wanted to know how to proceed. The federal agent replied that while the effort to minimize harm to the birds was appreciated, action was considered “strictly voluntary and not required in any way.”

In that instance, the company worked with the state to agree on a 300-foot buffer around the nests where no commercial activity would occur until after nesting season, said Dan Kennedy, an endangered species coordinator with the Michigan environment office.

Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president for conservation at the Audubon Society, said such voluntary actions cannot be counted on.

“I’m sure there are still conscientious actors who are taking steps,” she said. “But we don’t know that, and we don’t know how long they will continue to do that, especially if their competitors aren’t.”

Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore wind companies and drillers, said the Trump administration’s reinterpretation had given his industry more certainty.

“There’s a balance here as to what extent should something that happened to a bird be criminalized, versus how do we ensure that they’re protected,” he said.

Builders, developers and property managers are also benefiting. In Washington D.C., the district’s Department of Energy and Environment asked Fish and Wildlife in July 2018 to help resolve a puzzling issue: a condominium had installed netting to keep birds out of its insulation, but the net was instead trapping songbirds and migratory birds, “many who do not make it out and end up dying.”

The Trump administration replied that migratory birds that are killed “non-purposefully” are not subject to enforcement and offered voluntary guidelines.

“It’s part of a broader dirty blanket that the administration is using over the whole environment,” said Tommy Wells, director of the district’s energy program. He fears that administration policies could reverse a resurgence of wildlife in the city.

In Albuquerque, N.M., Alan Edmonds, an animal cruelty case manager with New Mexico’s animal protection agency, pushed back after the Fish and Wildlife Service gave only a verbal warning to a company that had trapped and killed a Cooper’s hawk. The agency replied that, without proof that the company wanted to kill the hawk, “we can’t do anything.”

Mr. Edmonds said the company received “not even a slap on the wrist.” He acknowledged the hawk was just one bird. But Ms. Greenberger of the Audubon Society said, “This is how we lose birds.”

“We don’t lose them a billion at a time,” she said. “We lose them from small incidents happening repeatedly over the vast geography of our country.”

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Fresh Evidence in Hand, Schumer Demands More Emails and Documents

Westlake Legal Group 23dc-impeach-promo1-facebookJumbo Fresh Evidence in Hand, Schumer Demands More Emails and Documents United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Schumer, Charles E McConnell, Mitch impeachment House of Representatives

Senator Chuck Schumer said on Monday that newly released emails showing that military aid to Ukraine was suspended 90 minutes after President Trump demanded “a favor” from Ukraine’s president were “explosive.” They strengthened, he said, Democratic demands for far more internal administration documents ahead of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

The emails, made public over the weekend, included one from a White House budget office aide, Michael Duffey, telling Pentagon officials to keep quiet “given the sensitive nature of the request.”

The timing of the email — just an hour and a half after Mr. Trump raised investigations of his Democratic rivals with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — added an element to Democrats’ contentions that they say become clearer with every new release of evidence: Mr. Trump abused the power of his office to solicit Ukraine to help him win re-election in 2020.

“What happened over the weekend has only bolstered the case that documents should be produced and witnesses testify,” Mr. Schumer of New York, the Senate Democratic leader, said at a news conference, referring to the emails released to the Center for Public Integrity.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, showed no sign that he would comply with Mr. Schumer’s request. Still, Mr. Schumer clearly believed that the new emails gave Democrats momentum to present evidence in the trial that the House did not have when it charged Mr. Trump with high crimes and misdemeanors.

In a letter to his Senate colleagues, Mr. Schumer laid out a long list of records that Democrats would like to see, including internal emails and documents from the White House, the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget relating to the president’s effort to press Ukraine’s leader to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

In the House on Monday, Democrats indicated that a broader investigation into Mr. Trump was not over. The House’s counsel, Douglas Letter, raised the prospect of a second impeachment if new evidence emerged that Mr. Trump had tried to obstruct justice. His argument was contained in an appeals court filing as part of the Democrats’ effort to press the case that they still needed the testimony of Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel.

“If McGahn’s testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the articles approved by the House,” Mr. Letter wrote, the House Judiciary Committee “will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment.”

The actions in the House and the Senate may deepen the partisan impasse over Mr. Trump’s trial. If Mr. Schumer saw his document request as increasing pressure on Mr. McConnell to negotiate over the format of the proceedings, the majority leader appeared unswayed.

“Do you think Chuck Schumer is impartial?” Mr. McConnell asked during an appearance Monday morning on “Fox & Friends.” He went on: “So let’s quit the charade. This is a political exercise.”

With lawmakers at home in their districts for a two-week holiday recess, Mr. Trump’s trial is in limbo. The House voted almost entirely along party lines last week to impeach Mr. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with the Ukraine matter.

For a trial to begin, the House must transmit the charges contained in the articles of impeachment to the Senate. But with Mr. McConnell coordinating trial planning with the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is withholding the articles, she has said, until she gets some assurance that the proceedings will be fair.

In his “Fox & Friends” appearance, Mr. McConnell called Ms. Pelosi’s decision to withhold the articles “absurd.” He predicted that she would ultimately back down. “I can’t imagine what purpose is served by her holding on to the papers, so sooner or later I’m assuming she will send them over,” he said.

Mr. McConnell is also unlikely to agree to Mr. Schumer’s demand for documents. He has already rejected Mr. Schumer’s request for testimony from four White House officials: John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser; Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff; Robert Blair, Mr. Mulvaney’s senior adviser; and Mr. Duffey, the official with the Office of Management and Budget.

Democrats argue that Mr. McConnell, who has said he is “taking my cues” from the White House, is effectively letting Mr. Trump plan his own trial and violating the oath that all senators take to be impartial jurors during an impeachment trial. In his letter demanding new documents, Mr. Schumer took a shot at Mr. McConnell.

“To oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts, and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of senators to ‘do impartial justice’ according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial,” he wrote.

Bolstering his case was the new evidence that emerged over the weekend. In Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky, after the Ukrainian leader mentioned that Ukraine was ready to buy anti-tank missiles to use in a war against a Russian-backed insurgency, Mr. Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor, though,” according to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House.

He then pressed Mr. Zelensky to open an investigation based on a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 United States elections and another based on unsubstantiated claims of corrupt acts by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic presidential candidate.

That call took place from 9:03 a.m. to 9:33 a.m. At 11:04 a.m., Mr. Duffey emailed Defense Department officials telling them of the aid, “Please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds, pending direction from that process.” Obligation refers to the process of a government agency designating how funds will be spent.

In addition, he wrote, “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction.”

Administration officials have said the timing was coincidental. Other administration officials testified before Congress that the hold on the aid was announced at a meeting on July 18, a week before the call.

But Mr. Schumer did not accept that. His letter demanding still more releases built on one that he sent to Mr. McConnell on Dec. 15, in which he asked the Senate to subpoena an unspecified list of documents, along with the four witnesses. That letter did not specify which records Mr. Schumer wanted.

The new letter was specific. His request for the White House includes “email communications, messages, memoranda and other records” related to the July 25 call, as well as White House records related to the whistle-blower complaint that spurred the House impeachment inquiry.

From the State Department, he asked for “detailed notes, emails, text and WhatsApp messages, memoranda to file, and diplomatic cables pertinent to the investigation that State Department witnesses told the House are being withheld.” The Office of Management and Budget, he wrote, “is also in possession of highly relevant documents and communications related to this case.”

Democrats including Mr. Schumer said on Sunday that the emails made it all the more urgent that Mr. Duffey and the other witnesses testify.

“If the president is so innocent and claims he’s innocent, why would he not allow, just like Richard Nixon did, the people that were closest to him to testify?” Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who is seeking the presidential nomination, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

The trial can proceed in one of two ways: Mr. Schumer and Mr. McConnell can reach agreement on a resolution governing the format, or Mr. McConnell can proceed on his own if he can get 51 senators to agree to a resolution.

When President Bill Clinton was tried in 1999, the Senate passed two resolutions. The first, adopted unanimously, governed the basic format of the opening of the trial, including how long each side was given to present its case. The second, which passed along party lines, governed witnesses; there were three, all of whom gave depositions rather than testify in person. Mr. McConnell and other Republicans want Democrats to adopt the Clinton format.

“My belief is that once we’re sworn in, that 51 of us could adopt the rules from last time that would still apply,” Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, told reporters Monday in the Capitol.

“The speaker is a powerful position,” Mr. Blunt added. “But it’s not so powerful that the speaker can decide not to follow through on something like this.”

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-durham-1-facebookJumbo Durham Surprises Even Allies With Statement on F.B.I.’s Trump Case United States Politics and Government United States Attorneys Trump, Donald J Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Organized Crime Legal Profession Justice Department Horowitz, Michael E Federal Bureau of Investigation Durham, John H Connecticut Barr, William P

WASHINGTON — Whether investigating charges of torture by the C.I.A., rolling up an organized crime network or prosecuting crooked government officials, John H. Durham, the veteran federal prosecutor named by Attorney General William P. Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia inquiry, burnished his reputation for impartiality over the years by keeping his mouth closed about his work.

At the height of the Boston mob prosecution that made his name, he not only rebuffed a local newspaper’s interview request, but he also told his office not to release his résumé or photo.

That wall of silence cracked this month when Mr. Durham, serving in the most politically charged role of his career, released an extraordinary statement questioning one key element of an overlapping investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz.

Mr. Horowitz had found that the F.B.I. acted appropriately in opening the inquiry in 2016 into whether the Trump campaign wittingly or unwittingly helped Russia influence the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor. In response, Mr. Durham, whose report is not expected to be complete for months, released a caveat-laden rebuttal: “Based on the evidence collected to date, and while our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened.”

The statement seemed to support comments made half an hour earlier by Mr. Barr, who assailed what he called “an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign,” based “on the thinnest of suspicions.” Mr. Durham’s decision to go public in such a politically polarized environment surprised people who have worked with him. They found it out of character for him to intervene in such a high-profile way in an open case.

“It’s fair to characterize what John did as unusual in terms of his past practice and I don’t know what the rationale was,” said Kevin J. O’Connor, a former United States attorney for Connecticut who supervised Mr. Durham for several years in the early 2000s. “But I know John well enough to know that he did it because he — not the A.G. or anyone else — thought he had an obligation to.”

Others have been less willing to give Mr. Durham the benefit of the doubt, and it is clear he has placed his reputation for impartiality on the line by accepting this latest assignment.

Mr. Durham’s decision to speak out seemed to supply political fuel to Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia inquiry as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” At a campaign rally in Hershey, Pa., the day after Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham issued their statements, Mr. Trump called F.B.I. agents involved in the Russia inquiry “scum.”

“I look forward to Bull Durham’s report — that’s the one I look forward to,” added Mr. Trump, who appointed Mr. Durham as the United States attorney for Connecticut in 2017.

The inspector general’s report makes no substantive reference to Mr. Durham’s investigation. But before the report’s release, Mr. Durham got into a sharp dispute with Mr. Horowitz’s team over a footnote in a draft of the report that seemed to imply that Mr. Durham agreed with all of Mr. Horowitz’s conclusions, which he did not, according to people familiar with the matter. The footnote did not appear in the final version of the report.

A former Justice Department investigator who knows both Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham, a Republican, said that while the men were aware of each other’s professional reputations, they are in no way close. Mr. Barr, who was unfamiliar with Mr. Durham’s recent work, made quiet inquiries before appointing him to lead the investigation, this person said.

The potential explosiveness of Mr. Durham’s mission was further underscored by the disclosure that he was examining the role of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, in how the intelligence community assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference.

Mr. Durham is known in New England’s close-knit law enforcement community for working long days on his own cases, and providing sought-after guidance on others’.

Wearing gunmetal-frame glasses and a drooping goatee, he rises early and dresses in the dark, often mismatching his suit jackets and pants. His reputation for discretion, on top of a long record of successful high-profile prosecutions, are among the reasons he has been a go-to person when Washington — under Republicans and Democrats alike — needs someone to handle sensitive tasks.

Mr. O’Connor, who was associate attorney general in 2008, was among those who recommended Mr. Durham lead an inquiry into the C.I.A.’s destruction in 2005 of videotapes depicting the torture of two operatives of Al Qaeda.

That investigation, started under an administration that had supported the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, continued into the Obama administration, which brought a very different agenda to the issue. After President Barack Obama took office, Mr. Durham’s brief was expanded to include a criminal investigation into the C.I.A.’s role in the deaths of two detainees in overseas locations, based on allegations of mistreatment by their interrogators.

Mr. Durham completed the torture investigation in 2012. The Justice Department, under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., declined to prosecute anyone, saying that “the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

John A. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s former acting general counsel, was questioned for more than eight hours in the investigation.

Mr. Durham “didn’t personally question me but he did the agency people who had contemporaneous knowledge of the plan to destroy the tapes, and he was very tough with them,” Mr. Rizzo, who retired from the C.I.A. in 2009, said in an interview.

Despite the political uproar at the time, “there were no leaks and he certainly didn’t issue any public statements,” Mr. Rizzo recalled. “I just don’t see him bending to political pressure, so I was surprised he made a statement here.”

Those who know him portray Mr. Durham as the consummate straight arrow who is unlikely to have bowed to pressure from Mr. Barr or anyone else in his current assignment. Mr. Durham declined to be interviewed for this article.

“He believes in four things: his family, his profession, his religion and the Boston Red Sox,” said Hugh F. Keefe, a Connecticut defense lawyer who says Mr. Durham is so by the book, he once asked Mr. Keefe whether he had reported a free Red Sox ticket to the I.R.S. “If anyone thinks they can lead him like a horse to water, they’re mistaken.”

Last year, Mr. Durham, a staunch Catholic, delivered rare public remarks at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Conn.

The topic was his prosecution of John Connolly Jr., an F.B.I. agent jailed for racketeering, obstruction of justice and murder stemming from his collaboration with Boston’s notorious Winter Hill gang, led by James (Whitey) Bulger, an F.B.I. informant.

In a preface to his presentation, Mr. Durham said, “It is as important for the system for prosecutors to protect the secrecy of proceedings, not because we want them to be secret, but because we’re not always right.” He added: “Maybe accusations that are lodged against somebody are untrue. And again, we can destroy the person or persons if that information gets out.”

Mr. Durham was born in Uxbridge, Mass., and received his law degree at the University of Connecticut in 1975. After a stint providing free legal advice to the Crow Indian tribe as part of what is now AmeriCorps, he worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Connecticut until 1982, when he began a 35-year career as an assistant United States attorney, serving in a range of roles leading organized crime and public corruption prosecutions.

He won 119 convictions from 1983 to 1989, including against associates of the Genovese, Gambino and Patriarca crime families, and provided evidence instrumental in convicting the Gambino boss John Gotti in New York.

In 1989, fishermen found the body of William (The Wild Guy) Grasso, the Patriarca state boss from New Haven, dead of a gunshot wound in weeds near the Connecticut River.

Mr. Durham, who colleagues said “could hear grass grow” on surveillance recordings, led a prosecution that linked mobsters in Connecticut and Rhode Island, even unveiling the first recorded mob-induction ceremony. Mr. Durham secured a raft of racketeering convictions against men linked to Mr. Grasso’s murder, gutting the Providence-based Patriarca mob. His doggedness, even after a note with his home address on it was found in a mobster-occupied Hartford jail cell, earned him the nickname “Bull.”

In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Mr. Durham to lead an investigation into corrupt links, rumored for years, between F.B.I. agents and their criminal informants in Boston. Prosecutions of Mr. Bulger and his accomplice Stephen (the Rifleman) Flemmi uncovered a relationship with F.B.I. agents, a retired Massachusetts state trooper and others, in which the mobsters exchanged cases of wine, a stolen two-carat diamond ring, and money for “the keys to the kingdom of all organized crime information in Boston,” Mr. Durham told the college audience last year.

In late 2000, he uncovered government memos indicating that F.B.I. officials were involved in framing four men for the 1965 murder of a mobster, to protect a hit man who was one of the bureau’s informants, a scheme likely known to the bureau’s director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover. Mr. Durham alerted defense lawyers. Two of the four men had died in prison, but the surviving two were released, and the government paid a $100 million civil judgment in the case.

Mr. Durham and his team worked amid speculation that the Justice Department would pull the plug on what was becoming a deeply embarrassing prosecution. In 2000, a colleague told The Boston Herald that Mr. Durham would rather “pull an Archibald Cox” and resign than submit to pressure.

In a Washington Post op-ed this month, Mr. Holder cautioned Mr. Durham, whom he said he has been proud to know for at least a decade, about his statement. “Anyone in Durham’s shoes would do well to remember that, in dealing with this administration, many reputations have been irrevocably lost,” he wrote.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.

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