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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 118)

Ex-White House Counsel McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-mcgahn-facebookJumbo Ex-White House Counsel McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry subpoenas Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Mueller, Robert S III McGahn, Donald F II Justice Department impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Executive Privilege, Doctrine of Decisions and Verdicts Burck, William A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before impeachment investigators about Mr. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation, a judge ruled on Monday.

The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed a victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome President Trump’s stonewalling.

Judge Jackson rejected the Trump administration’s sweeping claim that top presidential advisers are absolutely immune from being compelled to talk about their official duties — meaning they do not even have to show up in response to a subpoena.

Citing Congress’s constitutional power to investigate suspected abuses of power within the government, Judge Jackson wrote that the Trump administration’s “claim to unreviewable absolute testimonial immunity on separation-of-powers grounds — essentially, that the Constitution’s scheme countenances unassailable executive branch authority — is baseless, and as such, cannot be sustained.”

Still, Mr. McGahn is unlikely to appear any time soon because it is virtually certain that the Justice Department will file an appeal and seek a stay of the judge’s ruling. He and his lawyer, William A. Burck, have taken the position that the fight is between Congress and the Trump administration, permitting administration lawyers to handle the case.

“Don McGahn will comply with Judge Jackson’s decision unless it is stayed pending appeal,” Mr. Burck said in an email. “The DOJ is handling this case, so you will need to ask them whether they intend to seek a stay.”

The Justice Department had no immediate comment, but a stay request and appeal is widely expected, following the pattern of other recent legal fights over congressional subpoenas.

But the ruling carries broader implications at a time when the White House has also invoked the same expansive immunity theory to block witnesses about the Ukraine affair from cooperating in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in the House.

Several potential witnesses to what Mr. Trump said and did in connection with his pressuring of Ukraine to announce investigations that could benefit him politically — like his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton — have declined to testify because of the administration’s constitutional theory that they are immune.

Mr. Bolton, who had a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Trump about why he was freezing a military aid package to Ukraine in August, has let it be known that he has pertinent information about the matter. But he has also threatened to sue if he is presented with any subpoena, seeking a judicial ruling about whether such a subpoena is legally valid.

A lawyer for Mr. Bolton, Charles J. Cooper, has previously argued that Mr. Bolton’s situation is different from that of Mr. McGahn because Mr. Bolton’s official duties centered on foreign affairs and national security matters. But Mr. Bolton’s intentions and desires are unclear.

In her ruling, Judge Jackson appeared to respond to Mr. Cooper’s notion. She wrote that the law required not just Mr. McGahn, but “other current and former senior-level White House officials” who receive a subpoena to appear, and that it made no difference “whether the aides in question are privy to national security matters, or work solely on domestic issues.”

She added: “However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the president does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires,” she said. “Fifty years of say so within the executive branch does not change that fundamental truth.”

If Mr. McGahn declines to testify until a definitive judgment is reached and Mr. Trump is prepared to keep appealing all the way to the Supreme Court, there appears to be little chance that the matter will be resolved in time for Mr. McGahn’s potential testimony to play any role in the impeachment inquiry.

Indeed, the current dispute is only about whether Mr. McGahn must show up to be asked questions. Even if the Supreme Court were to ultimately say he must, it would leave unanswered whether the questions that lawmakers want to ask him — primarily about conversations with Mr. Trump detailed in the Mueller report — are subject to executive privilege, so the litigation process might have to start all over again at that point.

In her ruling, Judge Jackson distinguished the issue she was ruling on — whether senior-level presidential aides, such as Mr. McGahn, are legally required to appear before a committee in response to a subpoena — “from the very different question of whether the specific information that high-level presidential aides may be asked to provide in the context of such questioning can be withheld from the committee on the basis of a valid privilege.”

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Mr. McGahn in May after the release of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The report showed that Mr. McGahn was a key witness to several of the most serious episodes in which Mr. Trump sought to obstruct the Russia investigation — including when the president pushed Mr. McGahn to have Mr. Mueller fired, and later tried to bully him into falsifying evidence to deny that he had done so.

But Mr. Trump, who had openly vowed to stonewall “all” oversight subpoenas after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm election, instructed Mr. McGahn not to cooperate. His administration put forward the theory that top aides to the president like Mr. McGahn were absolutely immune from being compelled to testify about their officials duties — meaning that they do not even have to show up.

In August, the House Judiciary Committee sued Mr. McGahn, seeking a judicial order that he comply with the subpoena. That same day, the panel also asked a judge for an order permitting it to see secret grand jury evidence gathered by Mr. Mueller, which Attorney General William P. Barr declined to provide to Congress. (Another federal judge ruled for Congress in the grand jury case a month ago, but the administration has appealed.)

The court filings said the House needed the information not just for oversight purposes, but also for an impeachment inquiry. While the impeachment focus has since shifted to the Ukraine affair that burst into public view in September, House Democrats are still considering an article of impeachment that would accuse Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice.

A question pervading both disputes is whether the Constitution permits Congress to subpoena aides to a president like Mr. McGahn and, potentially, Mr. Bolton, to talk about their official duties — or whether the president’s secrecy powers make his aides absolutely immune from such subpoenas.

Administrations of both parties have taken the position that “Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties,” as a 15-page legal opinion from Steven A. Engel, the current head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, put it. But there is no definitive court precedent on the issue.

In 2008, another Federal District Court judge, John D. Bates, rejected that theory in another subpoena dispute. He ruled that President George W. Bush’s former White House counsel Harriet Miers had no right to skip a hearing for which she had been subpoenaed. Judge Bates, a Bush appointee, said she had to show up — although she might still refuse to answer specific questions based on a claim of executive privilege.

But the executive branch did not appeal the Miers ruling, and because no appeals court weighed in, Judge Bates’s opinion does not count as a controlling precedent for other disputes raising the same issue. That left the Obama administration, in a 2014 memo, free to take the position that Judge Bates had been wrong, and the Trump legal team echoed that logic.

In arguments late last month, Judge Jackson had indicated skepticism with the Trump administration’s arguments that Judge Bates got it wrong 11 years ago, suggesting that the executive branch’s legal theory threatened constitutional checks and balances.

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

Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-military2-facebookJumbo Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered the Pentagon not to remove a Navy SEAL at the center of a high-profile war crimes case from the elite commando unit, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday.

Mr. Esper’s confirmation of the order from Mr. Trump is the latest turn in an extraordinary series of events that pitted the president against his senior military leadership over the fate of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL who was convicted of posing for photographs with the body of a teenage Islamic State captive in American custody.

The Navy wanted to oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit. Instead, it was the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, who was fired on Sunday. Mr. Esper accused Mr. Spencer of not telling him that he was negotiating a separate deal with the White House, which differed from what Mr. Spencer was saying publicly and to senior Defense Department leadership.

On Monday, Mr. Esper indicated that the military would follow Mr. Trump’s wishes.

“I spoke with the president on Sunday,” Mr. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. “He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin.” The pin designates membership in the elite unit.

This was the second time Mr. Trump had made known his wishes that Chief Gallagher remain a Navy SEAL — the first was last Thursday, via Twitter. But Navy officials said over the weekend that they did not consider tweets to be orders and announced they were moving ahead with disciplinary hearings that could oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit.

Those hearings will not be happening now, Defense Department officials indicated.

Following this weekend’s rapid-fire developments in an already complicated story, some Pentagon officials remained torn on Monday deciding whose side of the story to believe, according to a Defense Department official.

Mr. Trump’s intervention into the military justice system and the Defense Department’s maneuvering to avoid confrontation with the White House had some in the building confused as to what actually happened regarding Mr. Spencer’s dismissal, the official added.

Chief Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other misconduct.

His court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges, but he was convicted of one charge of bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s body.

The Navy demoted him, but Mr. Trump earlier this month reversed that demotion, angering Navy officials, including the commander of the SEALs, Rear Admiral Collin Green, and Mr. Spencer, the Navy secretary.

In a letter acknowledging his termination on Sunday, Mr. Spencer said that he regarded good order and discipline throughout the Navy’s ranks to be “deadly serious business.”

“The lives of our sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside,” the letter said.

He added: “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.”

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

Who Is Edward Gallagher, the SEAL the Navy Wants to Expel?

The son of a West Point graduate and career Army officer, Edward Gallagher enlisted in the Navy as a medic in 1999 and deployed to Iraq attached to a Marine infantry unit. He became one of the few Navy medics ever to complete the Marines’ demanding scout sniper school. Now 40, he sometimes goes by the nickname Blade.

He graduated from the Navy’s punishing Basic Underwater Demolition course in 2005 and joined the SEALs, the most elite commando force in the Navy. Since then, he has deployed to combat zones with the SEALs five times, rising to become a special operations chief, as SEAL chief petty officers are known. Chief Gallagher was named the top platoon leader in SEAL Team 7 and has been awarded several Bronze Stars for valor in actions under fire in Iraq and Afghanistan. The chief came to be widely known among the SEALs as a battle-wise veteran.

Since his arrest last fall, his supporters, including conservative lawmakers and media outlets, have portrayed Chief Gallagher as a valiant SEAL who was being unfairly second-guessed and prosecuted over heat-of-the-moment decisions in a combat zone. But his critics, including some fellow SEALs, have said he had become a rogue operator and poor military role model, and had committed heinous acts of unnecessary violence.

SEALs from the platoon that Chief Gallagher led during a deployment to Mosul, Iraq, in 2017 told military officials that they saw the chief fatally stab a wounded ISIS captive. Navy investigators said while several SEALs were providing medical aid to the fighter, Chief Gallagher took out a handmade hunting knife and stabbed the captive, a teenager, several times in the neck and torso.

The chief was also accused of firing a sniper rifle at civilians, striking a girl wearing a flower-print hijab as she walked along a riverbank and an old man carrying a water jug. Several SEALs broke the group’s code of silence and testified against Chief Gallagher in a military trial.

The chief appeared before a military jury of five Marines and two sailors in a two-week trial that started in late June and was marred by accusations of prosecutorial misconduct and a witness who changed his story on the stand.

After deliberating for about two hours, the jury acquitted Chief Gallagher of murder, attempted murder and obstruction of justice charges. But the chief was convicted of one relatively minor charge — posing for inappropriate photos with the dead captive — and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, time he had already served before trial. The jury also ordered that the chief be demoted one rank to petty officer first class, a step that became a point of contention.

During the sentencing, Chief Gallagher told the jury he had put “a black eye” on the Marine Corps and the Navy. “I’ve made mistakes in my 20-year career — tactical, ethical, moral — I’m not perfect,” he said. “But I’ve always bounced back from my mistakes.”

During the war crimes investigation, officials uncovered evidence that Chief Gallagher had violated regulations in a number of ways. A live training grenade was found in his garage. Text messages were unearthed in which he talked about using marijuana and narcotics with other SEALs.

That behavior, along with his criminal conviction, has rankled the commander of the SEALs, Rear Adm. Collin Green, who has sought to rein in what some saw as years of lax discipline in the force. A sailor can be expelled from the SEALs if a commander loses “faith and confidence in the service member’s ability to exercise sound judgment, reliability and personal conduct.”

The Navy has expelled more than 150 sailors from the SEALs since 2011, stripping them of the right to wear the Trident pins that signify membership. Having the insignia taken away is a serious consequence: The dead take their comrades’ Trident pins with them to the grave.

Westlake Legal Group the-daily-album-art-articleInline-v2 Who Is Edward Gallagher, the SEAL the Navy Wants to Expel? War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J navy seals Green, Collin P Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

Listen to ‘The Daily’:What Should Happen to the Navy SEAL Chief?

A war-crimes investigation pitted the commander in chief against the military. How a presidential intervention resulted in a rare resignation — upending the Navy.

Mr. Trump has provided supportive messages for Chief Gallagher on Twitter, offering congratulations after the court-martial verdict and telling him and his family, “You have been through much together.” But Mr. Trump has been more than a cheerleader.

The president ordered less restrictive confinement for Chief Gallagher while he awaited trial; reversed his demotion and restored his rank to chief petty officer after the verdict; and last week, announced that he would prevent the Navy from kicking the chief out of the SEALs.

After Chief Gallagher had his rank restored this month, he thanked Mr. Trump on Instagram, writing, “I truly believe that we are blessed as a Nation to have a Commander-in-Chief that stands up for our warfighters.”

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

Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-military2-facebookJumbo Trump Ordered Pentagon Not to Oust Navy SEAL From Elite Unit United States Navy United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- ) Esper, Mark T Defense Department

WASHINGTON — President Trump ordered the Pentagon not to remove a Navy SEAL at the center of a high-profile war crimes case from the elite commando unit, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday.

Mr. Esper’s confirmation of the order from Mr. Trump is the latest turn in an extraordinary series of events that pitted the president against his senior military leadership over the fate of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the SEAL who was convicted of posing for photographs with the body of a teenage Islamic State captive in American custody.

The Navy wanted to oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit. Instead, it was the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, who was fired on Sunday. Mr. Esper accused Mr. Spencer of not telling him that he was negotiating a separate deal with the White House, which differed from what Mr. Spencer was saying publicly and to senior Defense Department leadership.

On Monday, Mr. Esper indicated that the military would follow Mr. Trump’s wishes.

“I spoke with the president on Sunday,” Mr. Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. “He gave me the order that Eddie Gallagher will retain his Trident pin.” The pin designates membership in the elite unit.

This was the second time Mr. Trump had made known his wishes that Chief Gallagher remain a Navy SEAL — the first was last Thursday, via Twitter. But Navy officials said over the weekend that they did not consider tweets to be orders and announced they were moving ahead with disciplinary hearings that could oust Chief Gallagher from the commando unit.

Those hearings will not be happening now, Defense Department officials indicated.

Following this weekend’s rapid-fire developments in an already complicated story, some Pentagon officials remained torn on Monday deciding whose side of the story to believe, according to a Defense Department official.

Mr. Trump’s intervention into the military justice system and the Defense Department’s maneuvering to avoid confrontation with the White House had some in the building confused as to what actually happened regarding Mr. Spencer’s dismissal, the official added.

Chief Gallagher was accused of shooting civilians, murdering a captive Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife in Iraq and threatening to kill SEALs who reported him, among other misconduct.

His court-martial ended in acquittal on those charges, but he was convicted of one charge of bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s body.

The Navy demoted him, but Mr. Trump earlier this month reversed that demotion, angering Navy officials, including the commander of the SEALs, Rear Admiral Collin Green, and Mr. Spencer, the Navy secretary.

In a letter acknowledging his termination on Sunday, Mr. Spencer said that he regarded good order and discipline throughout the Navy’s ranks to be “deadly serious business.”

“The lives of our sailors, Marines and civilian teammates quite literally depend on the professional execution of our many missions, and they also depend on the ongoing faith and support of the people we serve and the allies we serve alongside,” the letter said.

He added: “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the commander in chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took.”

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

U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria

By

MANAMA, Bahrain — United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.

American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26.

On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.

“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

The resumption of extensive counterterrorism operations capped a tumultuous two months in which many of the nearly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria flew or drove out of the country under Mr. Trump’s withdrawal order. Separately, several hundred other troops, some with armored Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived from Iraq and Kuwait under a subsequent order from Mr. Trump to protect Syria’s eastern oil fields from ISIS, as well as from the Syrian government and its Russian partners.

When the dust settles on all of the troop movements, General McKenzie said he would have about 500 American forces, or half of what he had before Mr. Trump’s directives, operating in an area east of the Euphrates River and Deir al-Zour, north to al-Hasakah and into Syria’s far northeast along the border with Iraq.

American commandos and their Syrian Kurdish partners conducted some low-level missions after the withdrawal order. But now that Americans and Kurds had regrouped their joint operations in the much smaller area, General McKenzie said, they could resume bigger missions against ISIS.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 25dc-isis2-articleLarge U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Politics and Government Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said on Saturday that relations between the United States and the Kurds were now “pretty good.”Credit…Mazen Mahdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate,” General McKenzie said in describing what was left of ISIS’s religious state that at its peak was the size of Britain. “They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”

The operation on Friday in Deir al-Zour province against several ISIS compounds killed or wounded “multiple” ISIS fighters and resulted in the capture of more than a dozen others, according to a statement from the American military coalition in Baghdad, which oversees the operations in Syria.

After the American withdrawal from the border, Vice President Mike Pence reached a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that accepted a Turkish military presence in a broad part of northern Syria in exchange for a cease-fire. The deal amounted to a near-total victory for Mr. Erdogan, as thousands of Syrian Kurds were forced to flee south, often battling with ill-disciplined Turkish proxy forces as they went.

The United States considers the Syrian Kurds a pivotal partner in the fight on the ground against ISIS, but Turkey views them as terrorists, a distinction that has repeatedly put Washington in a difficult position.

Syrian Kurds who counted the United States as a friend and an ally accused Washington of betrayal immediately after the withdrawal from the border and the Turkish offensive. Army Green Berets who had fought alongside the Kurds and praised them for their valor said they felt ashamed at how the United States had treated the Kurds.

General McKenzie insisted that relations between the two sides were now “pretty good.” He did not say, however, how long American troops would stay in northern Syria. “We don’t have an end date,” he said twice during an interview with reporters on Saturday.

With a mercurial president who has twice in 10 months ordered all American troops out of Syria immediately — only to reverse himself twice after aides implored him to reconsider — other senior commanders say the Pentagon has to be ready for another no-notice message on Twitter that American troops are leaving, oil or not.

It was a message that Mr. Pence, on an unannounced pre-Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, repeated on Saturday even as he sought to reinforce the administration’s support for the Kurds and the mission of protecting the oil fields. “President Trump is always going to look for opportunities to bring our troops home and to take these men and women out of harm’s way,” Mr. Pence said.

The immediate fight may be on again against ISIS, but General McKenzie said that protecting the oil fields might ultimately draw a larger challenge from Syrian Army troops west of the Euphrates. “I’d expect at some point the regime will come forward to that ground,” General McKenzie said in a separate interview before the security conference.

The last time pro-Syrian government forces threatened American troops near the oil fields, in February 2018, the United States unleashed an artillery and aerial bombardment that left 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters dead. Most of that American air power is still nearby.

At the security conference in Manama on Saturday, several top European and Middle Eastern officials urged their counterparts to continue applying unrelenting pressure on ISIS, which is also called Daesh, in northern Syria.

“ISIS leaders have been killed and territory reclaimed, but the profound crisis of governance that made Daesh’s emergence possible is still there,” said France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly. “France’s aircraft will continue to strike relentlessly, and French forces will continue to train and equip partner forces.”

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs, added that ISIS also posed “an ideological challenge with which we are also having to deal and which, frankly, only us in the region can take the lead in this fight.”

“We need to expose terrorists for the thugs that they are,” he added.

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

U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria

By

MANAMA, Bahrain — United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.

American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert redoubts even though their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been killed during an American raid on Oct. 26.

On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.

“Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, the commander of the military’s Central Command, told reporters on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

The resumption of extensive counterterrorism operations capped a tumultuous two months in which many of the nearly 1,000 American troops in northeastern Syria flew or drove out of the country under Mr. Trump’s withdrawal order. Separately, several hundred other troops, some with armored Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived from Iraq and Kuwait under a subsequent order from Mr. Trump to protect Syria’s eastern oil fields from ISIS, as well as from the Syrian government and its Russian partners.

When the dust settles on all of the troop movements, General McKenzie said he would have about 500 American forces, or half of what he had before Mr. Trump’s directives, operating in an area east of the Euphrates River and Deir al-Zour, north to al-Hasakah and into Syria’s far northeast along the border with Iraq.

American commandos and their Syrian Kurdish partners conducted some low-level missions after the withdrawal order. But now that Americans and Kurds had regrouped their joint operations in the much smaller area, General McKenzie said, they could resume bigger missions against ISIS.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 25dc-isis2-articleLarge U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syria Politics and Government Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said on Saturday that relations between the United States and the Kurds were now “pretty good.”Credit…Mazen Mahdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“What we’re talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate,” General McKenzie said in describing what was left of ISIS’s religious state that at its peak was the size of Britain. “They still have the power to injure, still have the power to cause violence.”

The operation on Friday in Deir al-Zour province against several ISIS compounds killed or wounded “multiple” ISIS fighters and resulted in the capture of more than a dozen others, according to a statement from the American military coalition in Baghdad, which oversees the operations in Syria.

After the American withdrawal from the border, Vice President Mike Pence reached a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that accepted a Turkish military presence in a broad part of northern Syria in exchange for a cease-fire. The deal amounted to a near-total victory for Mr. Erdogan, as thousands of Syrian Kurds were forced to flee south, often battling with ill-disciplined Turkish proxy forces as they went.

The United States considers the Syrian Kurds a pivotal partner in the fight on the ground against ISIS, but Turkey views them as terrorists, a distinction that has repeatedly put Washington in a difficult position.

Syrian Kurds who counted the United States as a friend and an ally accused Washington of betrayal immediately after the withdrawal from the border and the Turkish offensive. Army Green Berets who had fought alongside the Kurds and praised them for their valor said they felt ashamed at how the United States had treated the Kurds.

General McKenzie insisted that relations between the two sides were now “pretty good.” He did not say, however, how long American troops would stay in northern Syria. “We don’t have an end date,” he said twice during an interview with reporters on Saturday.

With a mercurial president who has twice in 10 months ordered all American troops out of Syria immediately — only to reverse himself twice after aides implored him to reconsider — other senior commanders say the Pentagon has to be ready for another no-notice message on Twitter that American troops are leaving, oil or not.

It was a message that Mr. Pence, on an unannounced pre-Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, repeated on Saturday even as he sought to reinforce the administration’s support for the Kurds and the mission of protecting the oil fields. “President Trump is always going to look for opportunities to bring our troops home and to take these men and women out of harm’s way,” Mr. Pence said.

The immediate fight may be on again against ISIS, but General McKenzie said that protecting the oil fields might ultimately draw a larger challenge from Syrian Army troops west of the Euphrates. “I’d expect at some point the regime will come forward to that ground,” General McKenzie said in a separate interview before the security conference.

The last time pro-Syrian government forces threatened American troops near the oil fields, in February 2018, the United States unleashed an artillery and aerial bombardment that left 200 to 300 of the attacking fighters dead. Most of that American air power is still nearby.

At the security conference in Manama on Saturday, several top European and Middle Eastern officials urged their counterparts to continue applying unrelenting pressure on ISIS, which is also called Daesh, in northern Syria.

“ISIS leaders have been killed and territory reclaimed, but the profound crisis of governance that made Daesh’s emergence possible is still there,” said France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly. “France’s aircraft will continue to strike relentlessly, and French forces will continue to train and equip partner forces.”

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s minister of foreign affairs, added that ISIS also posed “an ideological challenge with which we are also having to deal and which, frankly, only us in the region can take the lead in this fight.”

“We need to expose terrorists for the thugs that they are,” he added.

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

Why Giuliani Singled Out 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs to Help Dig Up Dirt

Westlake Legal Group 00rudy-firtash-facebookJumbo Why Giuliani Singled Out 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs to Help Dig Up Dirt United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Parnas, Lev Kolomoisky, Igor V Giuliani, Rudolph W Fruman, Igor Firtash, Dmitry V Biden, Joseph R Jr

VIENNA — They were two Ukrainian oligarchs with American legal problems. One had been indicted on federal bribery charges. The other was embroiled in a vast banking scandal and was reported to be under investigation by the F.B.I.

And they had one more thing in common: Both had been singled out by Rudolph W. Giuliani and pressed to assist in his wide-ranging hunt for information damaging to one of President Trump’s leading political rivals, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

That effort culminated in the July 25 phone call between the American and Ukrainian presidents that has taken Mr. Trump to the brink of impeachment and inexorably brought Mr. Giuliani’s Ukrainian shadow campaign into the light.

In public hearings over the last two weeks, American diplomats and national-security officials have laid out in detail how Mr. Trump, at the instigation and with the help of Mr. Giuliani, conditioned nearly $400 million in direly needed military aid on Ukraine’s announcing investigations into Mr. Biden and his son, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

But interviews with the two Ukrainian oligarchs — Dmitry Firtash and Ihor Kolomoisky — as well as with several other people with knowledge of Mr. Giuliani’s dealings, point to a new dimension in his exertions on behalf of his client, Mr. Trump. Taken together, they depict a strategy clearly aimed at leveraging information from politically powerful but legally vulnerable foreign citizens.

In the case of Mr. Firtash, an energy tycoon with deep ties to the Kremlin who is facing extradition to the United States on bribery and racketeering charges, one of Mr. Giuliani’s associates has described offering the oligarch help with his Justice Department problems — if Mr. Firtash hired two lawyers who were close to President Trump and were already working with Mr. Giuliani on his dirt-digging mission. Mr. Firtash said the offer was made in late June when he met with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both Soviet-born businessmen involved in Mr. Giuliani’s Ukraine pursuit.

Mr. Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, confirmed that account and added that his client had met with Mr. Firtash at Mr. Giuliani’s direction and encouraged the oligarch to help in the hunt for compromising information “as part of any potential resolution to his extradition matter.”

Mr. Firtash’s relationship to the Trump-allied lawyers — Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova — has led to intense speculation that he is, at least indirectly, helping to finance Mr. Giuliani’s campaign. But until now he has stayed silent, and many of the details of how and why he came to hire the lawyers have remained murky.

In the interview, Mr. Firtash said he had no information about the Bidens and had not financed the search for it. “Without my will and desire,” he said, “I was sucked into this internal U.S. fight.” But to help his legal case, he said, he had paid his new lawyers $1.2 million to date, with a portion set aside as something of a referral fee for Mr. Parnas.

And in late August, Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova did as promised: They went to the Justice Department and pleaded Mr. Firtash’s case with the attorney general, William P. Barr.

In an interview, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that he had sought information helpful to Mr. Trump from a member of Mr. Firtash’s original legal team. But, Mr. Giuliani said, “the only thing he could give me was what I already had, hearsay.” Asked if he had then directed his associates to meet with Mr. Firtash, Mr. Giuliani initially said, “I don’t think I can comment,” but later said, “I did not tell Parnas to do anything with Firtash.”

He added, though, that there would be nothing improper about seeking information about the Bidens from the oligarchs. “Where do you think you get information about crime?” he said.

But Chuck Rosenberg, a legal expert and a United States attorney under President George W. Bush, said the “solicitation of information, under these circumstances, and to discredit the president’s political opponent, is at best “crass and ethically suspect.”

He added: “And it is even worse if Mr. Giuliani, either directly or through emissaries acting on his behalf, intimated that pending criminal cases can be ‘fixed’ at the Justice Department. The president’s lawyer seems to be trading on the president’s supervisory authority over the Justice Department, and that is deeply disturbing.”

Mr. Bondy, the lawyer for Mr. Parnas — who was arrested with Mr. Fruman last month on campaign finance-related charges and has signaled a willingness to cooperate with impeachment investigators — said in a statement that all of his client’s actions had been directed by Mr. Giuliani.

“Mr. Parnas reasonably believed Giuliani’s directions reflected the interests and wishes of the president, given Parnas having witnessed and in several instances overheard Mr. Giuliani speaking with the president,” the lawyer said. Mr. Parnas, he added, “is remorseful for involving himself and Mr. Firtash in the president’s self-interested political plot.”

By the time Mr. Giuliani turned his attention to Mr. Kolomoisky and Mr. Firtash, he had been working for months to turn up damaging information about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who joined the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma while his father was vice president.

Mr. Giuliani spoke with Ukrainian officials like Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor general who suggested, falsely, that Mr. Biden had had him fired for looking into Burisma, as well as with Mr. Shokin’s successor, Yuriy Lutsenko. And he enlisted Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova, trusted colleagues since their days together in the Reagan Justice Department, to help interview and potentially represent anyone willing to come forward with dirt. Mr. Parnas acted as translator and fixer, crisscrossing the Atlantic with stops at the Manhattan cigar bar that was Mr. Giuliani’s hangout, a strip club in Kyiv and even a Hanukkah reception at the White House.

The campaign seemed to be paying off, with the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, poised to announce the investigations Mr. Giuliani sought, when the political situation changed. On April 21, Mr. Poroshenko was unseated by Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political novice, sending Mr. Giuliani scrambling to establish a conduit. Two days later, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman flew to Tel Aviv to meet with Mr. Kolomoisky, who was seen as Mr. Zelensky’s patron.

Mr. Kolomoisky, a banking and media tycoon who is one of Ukraine’s richest men, is also known for financing mercenary troops battling Russian-supported separatists in eastern Ukraine. Earlier in April, The Daily Beast had reported, citing unnamed sources, that the F.B.I. was investigating him for possible money-laundering in connection with problems at a bank he had owned. He is also entangled in a civil lawsuit in Delaware.

Mr. Giuliani’s assessment, according to Mr. Parnas’s lawyer, was that those legal problems made Mr. Kolomoisky vulnerable to pressure.

But the meeting did not go according to plan. In an interview, Mr. Kolomoisky said the two men came “under the made-up pretext of dealing liquefied natural gas,” but as soon as it became clear that what they really wanted was a meeting between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Zelensky, he abruptly sent them on their way. The exchange, he said, went like this:

“I say, ‘Did you see a sign on the door that says, ‘Meetings with Zelensky arranged here’?

“They said, ‘No.’

“I said, ‘Well then, you’ve ended up in the wrong place.’”

Mr. Kolomoisky, who has denied wrongdoing in the bank case, said he had not been contacted by the F.B.I.; a bureau spokesman declined to say whether the oligarch was under investigation.

After the Kolomoisky meeting’s unsuccessful end, Mr. Giuliani tweeted about the Daily Beast article and gave an interview to a Ukrainian journalist. Mr. Zelensky, he warned, “must cleanse himself from hangers-on from his past and from criminal oligarchs — Ihor Kolomoisky and others.”

Mr. Kolomoisky offered a warning of his own, predicting in the Ukrainian press that “a big scandal may break out, and not only in Ukraine, but in the United States. That is, it may turn out to be a clear conspiracy against Biden.”

The pair fared better with Mr. Firtash.

For several years, Mr. Firtash’s most visible lawyer had been Lanny Davis, a well-connected Democrat who also represented Mr. Trump’s fixer-turned-antagonist, Michael Cohen. In a television appearance in March, Mr. Giuliani had attacked Mr. Davis for taking money from the oligarch, citing federal prosecutors’ contention that he was tied to a top Russian mobster — a charge Mr. Firtash has denied.

Now, however, Mr. Giuliani wanted Mr. Firtash’s help. After being largely rebuffed by a member of the oligarch’s legal team in early June, he hit upon another approach, according to Mr. Parnas’s lawyer: persuading Mr. Firtash to hire more amenable counsel.

There was a brief discussion about Mr. Giuliani’s taking on that role himself, but Mr. Giuliani said he decided against it. According to Mr. Parnas’s lawyer, that is when Mr. Giuliani charged Mr. Parnas with persuading the oligarch to replace Mr. Davis with Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova. The men secured the June meeting with Mr. Firtash in Vienna after a mutual acquaintance, whom Mr. Firtash declined to name, vouched for them.

In the interview, Mr. Firtash said it had been clear to him that the two emissaries were working for Mr. Giuliani. The oligarch, a major player in the Ukrainian gas market, said Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman initially pitched him on a deal to sell American liquefied natural gas to Ukraine, via a terminal in Poland. While the deal didn’t make sense financially, he said, he entertained it for a time, even paying for the men’s travel expenses, because they had something else to offer.

“They said, ‘We may help you, we are offering to you good lawyers in D.C. who might represent you and deliver this message to the U.S. D.O.J.,” Mr. Firtash recalled, referring to the Justice Department.

The oligarch had been arrested in Vienna in 2014, at the American authorities’ request, after his indictment on charges of bribing Indian officials for permission to mine titanium for Boeing. Mr. Firtash, who denies the charges, was free on bail but an Austrian court had cleared the way for his extradition to the United States.

In hopes of blocking that order, Mr. Firtash and his Vienna lawyers had filed records showing that a key piece of evidence — a document known as “Exhibit A” that was said to lay out the bribery scheme — had been prepared not by Mr. Firtash’s firm, but by the global consultancy McKinsey & Company. But Mr. Firtash’s legal team had been unable to persuade federal prosecutors to withdraw it. McKinsey has denied recommending “bribery or other illegal acts.”

Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova, the Giuliani emissaries told him, “are in a position to insist to correct the record and call back Exhibit A as evidence,” Mr. Firtash recalled.

He hired the lawyers, he said, on a four-month contract for a singular task — to arrange a meeting with the attorney general and persuade him to withdraw Exhibit A. He said their contract was for $300,000 a month, including Mr. Parnas’s referral fee. A person with direct knowledge of the arrangement said Mr. Parnas’s total share was $200,000; Ms. Toensing declined to discuss the payment but has said previously that it was for case-related translation.

There was one more piece to Mr. Parnas’s play. “Per Giuliani’s instructions,” Mr. Parnas’s lawyer said, his client “informed Mr. Firtash that Toensing and diGenova were interested in collecting information on the Bidens.” (It was the former vice president who had pushed the Ukrainian government to eliminate middleman gas brokers like Mr. Firtash and diversify the country’s supply away from Russia.)

While Mr. Firtash declined to say whether anyone linked to the dirt-digging efforts had asked him for information, he was adamant that he had not provided any. Doing so might have helped Mr. Giuliani, he said, but it would not have helped him with his legal problems.

“I can tell you only one thing,” he said. “I do not have any information, I did not collect any information, I didn’t finance anyone who would collect that information, and it would be a big mistake from my side if I decided to be involved in such a fight.”

At any rate, Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova soon delivered for Mr. Firtash, arranging the meeting with Attorney General Barr. But by the time they met, in mid-August, the ground had shifted: The whistle-blower’s complaint laying out Mr. Trump’s phone call with Mr. Zelensky, and Mr. Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine, had been forwarded to the Justice Department and described in detail to Mr. Barr. What’s more, concerns about intervening in the Firtash case had been raised by some inside the Justice Department, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The department declined to comment, but Mr. Firtash said the attorney general ultimately told the lawyers to “go back to Chicago,” where the case had initially been brought, and deal with prosecutors there.

Mr. Firtash continues, however, to have faith in Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova’s ability to work the Justice Department angle. Their contract was just extended at least through year’s end.

If Mr. Firtash had nothing to offer, Mr. Giuliani still got some results.

After Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova came on board, confidential documents from Mr. Firtash’s case file began to find their way into articles by John Solomon, a conservative reporter whom Mr. Giuliani has acknowledged using to advance his claims about the Bidens. Mr. Solomon is also a client of Ms. Toensing.

One article, citing internal memos circulated among Mr. Firtash’s lawyers, disclosed that the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, had offered a deal to Mr. Firtash if he could help with their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Giuliani, who as a former federal prosecutor was aware that such discussions are hardly unusual, took the story a step further. In an appearance on Fox News, he alleged that the offer to Mr. Firtash amounted to an attempt to suborn perjury, but said the oligarch had refused to “lie to get out of the case” against him.

Then, after the meeting with Mr. Barr, Mr. Solomon posted a sworn affidavit from Mr. Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor, repeating his contention that Mr. Biden had pressed for his firing to short-circuit his investigations.

Mr. Giuliani was soon waving the affidavit around on television, without explaining that it had been taken by a member of Mr. Firtash’s legal team to support his case.

Mr. Firtash said he had not authorized the document’s release and hoped his lawyers had not either. He said the affidavit had been filed confidentially with the Austrian court because it also included the former prosecutor’s statement that Mr. Biden had been instrumental in blocking Mr. Firtash’s return to political life in Ukraine — an assertion that Mr. Firtash believes speaks to the political nature of the case against him.

Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova declined to say whether they had played a role in leaking the documents, but Mark Corallo, a spokesman for their law firm, said that the pair “took the Firtash case for only one reason: They believe that Mr. Firtash is innocent of the charges brought against him.”

When Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were arrested, they were at Dulles International Airport awaiting a flight to Vienna, where they had arranged to have the Fox News host Sean Hannity interview Mr. Shokin. Mr. Giuliani was planning to join them the next day, he said in an interview.

A bemused Mr. Kolomoisky has watched the events unfold from Ukraine, where he returned after Mr. Zelensky’s victory. Initially he didn’t believe that Mr. Parnas was all that connected, he said, but after Mr. Giuliani started going after him, “I was able to connect A to B.”

He said he had since made peace with Mr. Parnas and had spoken to him several times, including the night before he was detained. In their conversations, he said, Mr. Parnas made no secret that he was helping Mr. Firtash with his legal case. And while Mr. Kolomoisky insisted that neither Mr. Parnas nor Mr. Fruman had mentioned his own legal travails, he added:

“Had they, I would have said: ‘Let’s watch Firtash and train on Firtash. When Firtash comes back here, and everything is O.K., I will be your next client.’”

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Devin Nunes Denounces Reports He Played a Role in Ukraine

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164759343_30414839-50a0-4557-b4cd-f4555dcab475-facebookJumbo Devin Nunes Denounces Reports He Played a Role in Ukraine United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Shokin, Viktor Patel, Kashyap Parnas, Lev Nunes, Devin G Giuliani, Rudolph W Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — Representative Devin Nunes, an outspoken defender of President Trump in his impeachment hearings, said on Sunday that reports that he played a role in the effort to dig up damaging information on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Ukraine were part of a criminal campaign against him by a “totally corrupt” news media.

The reports, including most prominently one from CNN on Friday, nonetheless put Mr. Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, in the middle of a new controversy at a key moment in the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine.

According to the reports, Lev Parnas, who worked on the Ukraine pressure campaign with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said through his lawyer that he had learned of a meeting in Vienna in 2018 between Mr. Nunes and Viktor Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor general who has emerged as a key figure in Republican attacks on Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Mr. Parnas, who has been indicted on campaign finance charges in Manhattan, learned of the meeting from Mr. Shokin, his lawyer said.

Neither Mr. Shokin nor Mr. Nunes has confirmed that the meeting happened, and Mr. Parnas has no direct knowledge of what may have been discussed. But Mr. Shokin had falsely suggested that he was ousted under pressure from Vice President Biden because he was investigating a company where Hunter Biden was a director, and he has subsequently made claims about the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, aligning him with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Nunes on Sunday refused to directly answer whether he met with Mr. Shokin, instead replying that he wanted to offer a rebuttal but could not yet do so, citing the news media’s “criminal activity” in “listening to somebody who’s been indicted.”

“Everybody’s going to know all the facts, but I think you can understand, I can’t compete by trying to debate this out with the public media when 90 percent of the media are totally corrupt,” he said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Mr. Nunes later added after an extended back and forth that the reports were “demonstrably false” and he would “get to all the facts” after he filed a lawsuit against CNN.

Mr. Parnas also met personally with one of Mr. Nunes’s aides at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, according to Mr. Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy. The aide joined at least one meeting there to discuss the effort to collect negative information on the Bidens, Mr. Bondy said. Mr. Nunes did not address that report on Sunday.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, declined on Sunday to say whether he found the reports credible or whether the House should investigate. But he noted that they could potentially prompt an ethics investigation.

“If he was on a taxpayer-funded codel — and I say ‘if’ — seeking dirt on a potential Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, that will be an ethics matter,” Mr. Schiff said, using an abbreviation for congressional delegation. “That is not before our committee.”

Mr. Giuliani rejected his former associate’s claim on Saturday, telling Fox News that he did not believe Mr. Nunes met with Mr. Shokin.

“Poor Lev, I don’t know what he’s doing to himself,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I think, once again, that’s going to be shown to be provably untrue. This is the first I would have heard of that. I think I would have heard of it, if it happened.”

Still, Mr. Giuliani argued that it “would have been” Mr. Nunes’s “duty” to meet with Mr. Shokin to unearth relevant evidence of corruption in Ukraine.

Mr. Nunes has previously shown a willingness to jump into the fray of investigations to defend Mr. Trump. As the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Nunes in 2017 stepped aside from his panel’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election after the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into whether he disclosed classified information to the White House.

He was eventually cleared of wrongdoing in that matter. But he continued to be dogged by criticism that he was too close to Mr. Trump to run an impartial investigation, following reports that a claim that Mr. Nunes trumpeted — that the president or his closest associates may have been swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies — was actually fed to him by White House officials.

A former committee staff member for Mr. Nunes, Kashyap Patel, who played a key role in helping Republicans try to undermine the Russia investigation, also has emerged as a figure in the Ukraine matter in recent months. Now an aide on the National Security Council, House impeachment investigators are scrutinizing any role he played in the shadow foreign policy Mr. Trump was conducting as he pushed the Ukrainian government to announce investigations into his political rivals.

Mr. Patel has responded to some of the reports about his role shepherding the administration’s Ukraine policy by joining a defamation lawsuit against a handful of news organizations led by Mr. Nunes, his former boss.

Republicans have also begun their own investigation into the Bidens. Last week, Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, requested documents from the State Department related to the former vice president’s communications with Ukrainian officials.

Ben Protess and Chris Cameron contributed reporting.

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Mulvaney Asked About Legal Justification for Withholding Ukraine Aid

Westlake Legal Group 24dc-impeach1-facebookJumbo Mulvaney Asked About Legal Justification for Withholding Ukraine Aid United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Office of Management and Budget (US) Mulvaney, Mick impeachment Foreign Aid

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, asked officials in the budget office after President Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president whether there was a legal justification for withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, according to two people briefed on an internal White House review.

The discussions, which took place via email in August, came after the hold on the $391 million had already been put in place. Mr. Mulvaney also asked the officials at the Office of Management and Budget how long the aid could be withheld, three people familiar with the review said.

The emails, which were first reported by The Washington Post on Sunday, were surfaced during a review by the White House Counsel’s Office that is examining the events surrounding the Ukraine call. They raise the question of whether Mr. Mulvaney was seeking after the fact to justify the hold, which is central to Democrats’ impeachment investigation into whether Mr. Trump abused his office for political gain, or whether his request was routine.

An administration official on Sunday played down the significance of Mr. Mulvaney’s inquiry, saying that anytime the budget office holds money, it produces a legal justification document. Mr. Mulvaney, the official said, was simply asking to review that document.

The person also hinted at growing tension between the budget office and the White House Counsel’s Office, which the person said had never raised questions about the legality of the hold in real time.

“To be clear,” said Rachel Semmel, a budget office spokeswoman, “there was a legal consensus at every step of the way that the money could be withheld in order to conduct the policy review. O.M.B. works closely with agencies on executing the budget. Routine practices and procedures were followed.”

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

The overarching purpose of the review by the counsel’s office was to clarify the actions of White House officials involved in the call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and it has helped officials establish a timeline around the withholding of the aid and the call. It originally centered on why John A. Eisenberg, a deputy White House counsel, decided to place a rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for higher-level secret documents.

On the call, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election. The White House has released a rough transcript of the call.

So far, the review has included interviews with a number of White House aides and officials on the National Security Council. The White House Counsel’s Office has also reviewed the system that carries official emails to look for information related to the withheld aid.

Mr. Mulvaney has previously told associates that the aid was released after budget officials raised alarms that the deadline for doing so was approaching.

Officials close to both Mr. Mulvaney and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone — who have been at odds since the beginning of 2019 — expressed frustration that some of the details of the review had leaked.

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Esper Demands Resignation of Navy Secretary Over SEAL Case

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WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Sunday demanded the resignation of the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, declaring that he had lost “confidence” in the Navy’s top civilian leader after Mr. Spencer diverged from President Trump over the treatment of a member of the Navy SEALs at the center of a high-profile war crimes case.

In a statement, Mr. Esper said he had lost trust in Mr. Spencer because his private statements about the Navy SEAL case differed from what he advocated in public. But Defense Department officials said Mr. Spencer prompted the ire of Mr. Trump when he threatened to resign over the president’s handling of the case of the SEALs member, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, and publicly said he disagreed with the president’s handling of the matter.

“I wish Richard well,” Mr. Esper said in a statement on Sunday. He added that he was “deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior D.O.D. official.”

The ousting of Mr. Spencer, first reported by The Washington Post, is the latest turn in an extraordinary story of how Mr. Trump has angered and alienated his own senior military leadership over his interference in how three American service members accused of war crimes have been treated.

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