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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 126)

New Documents Reveal Details of Pompeo’s Role in Ukraine Affair

Westlake Legal Group merlin_163180182_ee094740-6437-4488-a6b2-1349cc553dd5-facebookJumbo New Documents Reveal Details of Pompeo’s Role in Ukraine Affair Yovanovitch, Marie L United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Pompeo, Mike House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates

WASHINGTON — Internal State Department emails and documents released late Friday further implicate Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a campaign orchestrated this year by President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine for political favors.

The emails indicate that Mr. Pompeo spoke at least twice by telephone with Mr. Giuliani in March as Mr. Giuliani was urging Ukraine to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, and trying to oust a respected American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who had been promoting anticorruption efforts in the country. Mr. Pompeo ordered Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal the next month. One call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo was arranged with guidance from Mr. Trump’s personal assistant, the documents suggest.

The documents also show that the State Department sent members of Congress a deliberately misleading reply about Ms. Yovanovitch’s departure after they asked about pressure on her. As part of the effort to oust her, Mr. Giuliani and his associates encouraged news outlets favorable to the president to publicize unsubstantiated claims about Ms. Yovanovitch’s disloyalty to Mr. Trump.

The documents, and recent congressional testimonies in the impeachment inquiry, tie Mr. Pompeo closely to efforts by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani to persuade the Ukrainian government to announce investigations that could help Mr. Trump politically. Those include investigations into the family of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic presidential candidate, and unfounded claims that Ukrainian officials worked to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. As Mr. Trump sought those investigations, he and his team held up $391 million of military aid critical to Ukraine — which is in a grinding war against Russian-backed separatists — and a coveted White House meeting.

The release of the documents, obtained by a liberal watchdog group that had filed a public records request, came as Mr. Pompeo refused to voluntarily hand over State Department documents about Ukraine to the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry. Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday that Mr. Pompeo was engaged in a Watergate-style “obstruction of this investigation.”

The State Department released the documents in response to a lawsuit brought by the liberal watchdog, American Oversight, whose founders include lawyers who worked in the Obama administration.

Austin Evers, the executive director of the group, said that the documents revealed “a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani’s smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador.”

Mr. Pompeo has refused to answer questions about his role in the Ukraine affair. The State Department did not reply on Saturday to detailed questions about the documents or witness testimonies in the inquiry that put the secretary at the center of the matter.

The documents bolstered testimony delivered Wednesday by Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union and a player in the pressure campaign on Ukraine. He told lawmakers in a public hearing that Mr. Pompeo had full knowledge of the campaign and even approved certain hard-line tactics. Mr. Pompeo and his top aides “knew what we were doing, and why,” Mr. Sondland said, noting that “everyone was in the loop.” He recited email exchanges he had had with Mr. Pompeo on the pressure campaign.

Last month, Mr. Pompeo acknowledged he took part in the July 25 telephone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

The documents, testimony and interviews with Mr. Giuliani paint a portrait of a secretary of state who not only had intimate knowledge of the pressure campaign against Ukraine and the effort to undermine and remove a respected ambassador, but took part in her ouster despite warnings about the campaign from lawmakers and a half-dozen former ambassadors to Ukraine.

The emails released Friday show that Mr. Giuliani’s assistant reached out to Mr. Trump’s assistant seeking “a good number” for Mr. Pompeo. “I’ve been trying and getting nowhere through regular channels,” Mr. Giuliani’s assistant wrote. Mr. Trump’s assistant forwarded the inquiry to a State Department official, and one call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Pompeo took place within days, the emails show.

The emails also show that Mr. Pompeo was scheduled to call Representative Devin Nunes of California, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, and a key ally of the president’s, just a few days after he spoke with Mr. Giuliani.

The emails do not have details of the telephone conversations.

But in an interview last month, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that he spoke to Mr. Pompeo in late March — the same period as the calls listed in the emails released Friday — to relay information he had gathered during his Ukrainian research.

In connection with one such conversation, Mr. Giuliani said he provided Mr. Pompeo a timeline listing what he considered to be key events implicating targets of Mr. Trump, including the Bidens, Ms. Yovanovitch and Ukrainians whom Mr. Giuliani said had disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Shortly after, Mr. Pompeo “called and said, ‘Do you have any backup?’” Mr. Giuliani said in the interview.

In response, Mr. Giuliani said, he had someone hand-deliver to Mr. Pompeo’s office an envelope containing a series of memos detailing claims made by a pair of Ukrainian prosecutors in interviews conducted by Mr. Giuliani and his associates in January.

Mr. Pompeo “said he was referring it for investigation,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that he had since heard that the matters detailed in the memos were referred to the State Department’s inspector general and the F.B.I.

Last month, the department’s inspector general turned over to congressional impeachment investigators a package of materials, including the memos and the timeline, in a Trump Hotel-branded envelope, prompting widespread puzzlement on Capitol Hill about its provenance.

The memos and the timeline were among the materials included in the document release on Friday.

Mr. Giuliani said the memos were written by a retired New York City police detective who works for Mr. Giuliani’s security consulting business and were modeled after the so-called 302 forms that F.B.I. agents file after conducting interviews.

“My guy ­— a former first-grade detective — wrote up what would be the 302,” Mr. Giuliani said. “They’re knockoffs of the 302s,” he added.

The memos include a mix of facts and unsubstantiated claims. They cite documents from Latvia and billing invoices. And they misspell the name of one of the Ukrainian prosecutors.

The memos indicate that the police detective was present for the interviews, as were Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Soviet-born associates who helped Mr. Giuliani connect to the prosecutors and gather information from Kyiv. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were indicted last month on campaign finance charges, in a case that is tied to an investigation into Mr. Giuliani for possible violations of lobbying laws.

Since at least spring 2018, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman had pushed for Ms. Yovanovitch’s ouster.

The effort gained traction this spring when figures in the conservative news media claimed without evidence that Ms. Yovanovitch had privately disparaged Mr. Trump, and also cited the allegations by the Ukrainian prosecutors.

A letter to the State Department from two senior Democratic lawmakers in the House dated April 12 — just days before Ms. Yovanovitch was ordered to leave her post — said they were concerned by “outrageous efforts by Ukrainian officials to impugn” her. Ms. Yovanovitch, a career official, has served as an ambassador for Republican and Democratic presidents.

The reply from the agency, dated June 1, left the impression that Ms. Yovanovitch departed her post on May 20 because she had been scheduled to rotate out after three years, rather than indicating that she had been forced to leave.

The documents also include a letter dated April 5 from six former United States ambassadors to Ukraine to top State Department officials under Mr. Pompeo. In the letter, the former ambassadors said that they were “deeply concerned” about the charges against Ms. Yovanovitch that had emerged in the news media reports and that the accusations were “simply wrong.”

In late March, Ms. Yovanovitch told the third-ranking State Department official, David Hale, that she felt she could no longer continue in her role unless the department issued a statement in her defense. Mr. Hale briefed Mr. Pompeo about the conversation the next day, he testified to House investigators last week.

After looking into the right-wing campaign against Ms. Yovanovitch — even contacting Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality, to ask for details of wrongdoing — Mr. Pompeo believed that “there was no evidence” to support the allegations, Mr. Hale said in an earlier private testimony to lawmakers. But Mr. Pompeo ultimately chose not to issue a statement of support. (Mr. Hannity has denied any such call.)

John Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state, told senators last month that top State Department officials were aware of the smear campaign against Ms. Yovanovitch. Mr. Sullivan said he believed Mr. Giuliani was behind it.

In his retelling, Mr. Sullivan asked Mr. Pompeo why the president wanted to remove Ms. Yovanovitch. “I was told that he had lost confidence in her, period,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and one of the lawmakers who sent the letter to Mr. Pompeo expressing concern over the smear campaign, said he initially found the department’s response “equally frustrating and baffling.”

“Now that we know more facts it makes sense: Secretary Pompeo was apparently helping the president with his scheme to get political help from the Ukrainians, and Ambassador Yovanovitch was standing in the way,” Mr. Engel said. “Six months later, Mr. Pompeo continues to defend the president’s behavior and defy congressional subpoenas for relevant information at the expense of the public servants he is unwilling to lead and defend.”

Mr. Pompeo has doubled down recently on his support of Mr. Trump’s demands on Ukraine. In several instances last month, Mr. Pompeo repeated an unsubstantiated claim by Mr. Trump — that Ukraine may have run an interference operation in the 2016 election. American intelligence officials and Fiona Hill, a Russia expert who served on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council, say that the falsehood has infected American discourse as part of a yearslong disinformation campaign by Russia.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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A Split Decision From Congress Will Leave Voters With Final Say on Trump

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164747955_a6f0b9ae-4fb5-46c7-b370-94c7ebb73155-articleLarge A Split Decision From Congress Will Leave Voters With Final Say on Trump United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion impeachment House of Representatives Ethics and Official Misconduct Democratic Party

Members of the audience applauded after Representative Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, delivered a closing statement at an impeachment hearing on Wednesday.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — When it was all over and the witnesses had testified and the speeches were done, President Trump pronounced himself satisfied with the show. “We had a tremendous week with the hoax,” he declared on Friday as he addressed a room of collegiate athletes. “That’s really worked out incredibly well.”

Mr. Trump began the day with a 53-minute phone call to Fox & Friends in which he repeated a familiar list of accusations and falsehoods, which he amplified again on Saturday with a string of Twitter posts. Indeed, even after two weeks of hearings that presented compelling evidence against him, Mr. Trump was acting as if nothing had changed. In a way, it had not.

Every one is playing their assigned role in a drama where the ending seems known in advance as the House of Representatives heads toward a likely party-line vote to impeach the president, followed by a Senate trial that will not convict him.

But if the outcome of the showdown on Capitol Hill at the moment appears foreordained, the ultimate verdict still is not. Unlike Presidents Richard M. Nixon or Bill Clinton, Mr. Trump faces an election after his impeachment battle, meaning that the voters will serve as the court of appeals rendering their own final judgment on whether he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

As a result, now that the House Intelligence Committee has laid out the evidence against Mr. Trump, the debate that will now play out on Capitol Hill will be aimed not at swaying lawmakers firmly embedded in their partisan corners, but at framing the issue in ways that will resonate with the public. The next few weeks could be critical in setting the parameters for a campaign that will decide if Mr. Trump is fit for office.

“The impeachment jury is actually the smaller universe of voters in our country who are persuadable, swing voters who have avoided the tribalism plaguing most of our citizenry these days,” said former Representative Chris Curbelo, Republican of Florida. “Their verdict will be issued next fall.”

While scholars and lawyers have argued the finer points of Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, the main players in the drama have been studying poll numbers and fund-raising totals. Every day during the hearings, Mr. Trump’s campaign and various organs of the Republican and Democratic parties blasted out emails and videos aimed at that jury beyond the Beltway.

Members of the Intelligence Committee tweeted out their interpretations of the day’s events to their followers from the hearing room dais, even as witnesses were still testifying. Impeachment was the first question asked at Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, which began barely an hour after that day’s marathon hearing wrapped up.

Both sides were fixated on the case study of Representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York who vaulted to fame among conservatives and infamy among liberals for her fierce defense of Mr. Trump. After her Democratic opponent in next year’s election reported raising $1 million from Trump critics outraged by Ms. Stefanik’s performance, conservatives who once were suspicious of her moderate credentials rallied to her side and she was given prized slots on Fox News.

“We just raised 250k in 15 MINUTES,” Ms. Stefanik wrote on Twitter just hours after impeachment hearings concluded on Thursday. “THANK YOU! help us get to 500k TONIGHT.”

In five days of public hearings over two weeks, the committee heard from 12 witnesses, all of them current or former administration officials and most with years if not decades of public service under presidents of both parties. With an average of 12 million Americans watching each day, the testimony laid out in meticulous detail an effort by Mr. Trump and his lieutenants to pressure Ukraine into helping him tear down his domestic political rivals.

Lawmakers were told that Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to announce that it would investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as well as a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine helping Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, the latter a figment of disinformation propagated by Russia, according to American intelligence agencies. Mr. Trump clearly conditioned a coveted White House invitation for Ukraine’s president on his demand for the investigations and several witnesses said it was obvious he held back $391 million in American aid as leverage as well.

Republicans poked holes in the testimony, making clear that none of the witnesses had actually heard Mr. Trump explicitly tie the security aid to the investigations, and they complained vociferously about the process, assailing it as tilted against the president. Some Republicans conceded that Mr. Trump did in fact do what he was accused of doing but maintained that it was not impeachable.

Whatever the hearings revealed about Mr. Trump’s conduct in office, they seemed to only reinforce just how polarized the country has become. No lawmakers declared that the evidence had changed their minds in either direction and judging by polls most Americans seemed to find only validation for the viewpoint they had when the hearings began.

Indeed, listening to Republicans and Democrats, or their friendlier media, would give the impression of two radically different sets of hearings, one that presented damning, incontrovertible evidence that the president abused his power or one that revealed that the whole proceeding was a partisan sham.

While polls before the hearings showed that 49 percent favored impeachment versus 47 percent who opposed it, a survey by Yahoo News and YouGov at the end of the hearings found support for impeachment at 48 percent and opposition at 45 percent. Other polls may eventually show movement but, at first blush, the drama of hearing the evidence presented out loud by real witnesses with evident credibility did not noticeably shift the overall dynamics.

Democrats and Republicans alike privately agreed that it looked unlikely that even a single Republican would vote for impeachment when it reaches the House floor. In the Senate, Republican strategists said they believed they might lose two senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — while Democratic strategists said they also might lose two — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

“We’ve just had this partisan divide ever since the Clinton years,” said former Representative Barbara J. Comstock, Republican of Virginia. “Whether it was Supreme Court nominations or this, it’s just become a team sport, shirts and skins, no matter what the issues are.”

Steve Elmendorf, the top aide to the House Democratic leader when Mr. Clinton was impeached, agreed that lawmakers appear locked into their positions. “Except,” he cautioned, “we are in the Trump show, where anything can happen. Two months ago, we did not think he was going to be impeached over a phone call we knew little about.”

Among the wild cards that could still change the dynamics might be testimony by some of the key witnesses who so far have refused to talk, including John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser who opposed the pressure campaign and is waiting for a court ruling on whether he should appear.

Mr. Trump has long argued that an impeachment battle would help him politically by galvanizing his base against the elites trying to invalidate the 2016 election. While he has refused to provide testimony or documents to the House, arguing that the process is rigged against him, he is taking his case instead to evening rallies in sports arenas filled with supporters.

Mr. Trump and his allies took heart from a Marquette University Law School poll showing him with small leads against each of the Democratic front-runners among voters in Wisconsin, one of the most critical battleground states for 2020. That poll, taken during the first week of hearings, showed that support for impeachment in the state had slipped by four percentage points to 40 percent.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was initially wary of pursuing impeachment unless it was likely to be bipartisan, recalling what happened to Mr. Clinton, who was impeached on a largely party-line vote in the House and acquitted in the Senate. House Republicans back then thought voters would reward them for pursuing impeachment of a president who lied under oath about a sexual affair with a former White House intern but instead it was Democrats who picked up seats in the 1998 midterm elections as the inquiry was underway.

With that in mind, today’s Democratic presidential candidates, while supporting impeachment, are treading lightly around it on the campaign trail, where voters generally do not bring it up. Instead, they emphasize issues like health care, gun control and income inequality, reflecting a fear about how impeachment will play come next fall.

But Ms. Comstock, who was a Republican staff aide investigating Mr. Clinton during his presidency, said the conclusions drawn from the electoral consequences of his impeachment were too narrow. “I do think both sides have maybe learned the wrong lesson,” she said.

While Republicans lost the midterm elections, they won the White House back in 2000 when Mr. Clinton’s handpicked successor, Al Gore, fell short in the Electoral College despite running on a record of peace and prosperity.

Eventually, Ms. Comstock said, the public tires of scandal and seeks to move on. Mr. Trump may win acquittal in the Senate, but that does not mean the public will be as forgiving.

“While they’re now trying to make the best of it with fund-raising and saying this is going to help us, that fatigue” may set in, she said. “There are people who just want a normal presidency.”

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

Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers

Westlake Legal Group 22seals-01-facebookJumbo Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Presidents and Presidency (US) navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

In an October White House photo, President Trump presented the military’s ultimate symbol of heroism, the Medal of Honor, to a dog. It was a joke, a doctored photo reposted on the president’s Twitter account. But even though the president didn’t actually award the Medal of Honor to a dog, legal scholars agree that as commander in chief of the military, he could have.

This week, Mr. Trump said he would reverse the decision of the commander of the Navy SEALs to remove a convicted sailor from its ranks. That reversal might not happen after pushback from top military officials, but its threat prompted many to ask what the limits are on the president’s authority to intervene in the military.

Military scholars say they are few.

He could, hypothetically, also order all the Air Force’s jets painted pink, appoint his chauffeur to an elite commando force or require all officers to wear long, red ties on Fridays.

“The president’s power is very broad; he can micromanage in nearly anything in the military, no matter how trivial,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School.

On Wednesday the Navy began a process to take the Trident pin of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, ousting him from the SEALs. Less than 24 hours later, the president said he would reverse the order in a message on Twitter, saying, “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”

The announcement caught the military off guard, sending commanders from Washington to California scrambling as the Navy searched for clarity.

The president absolutely had the power to do it, Mr. Fidell said. He even has the power to pick people off the street with no qualifications and make them SEALs, he added, though nepotism laws might prevent him from giving the title to family members.

Presidential power over the military runs deep and hits up against just two limits, he said: Congress and the Constitution.

A president cannot create policies that violate constitutional rights. For example, Mr. Fidell said, the president could not block anyone of a specific race or religion from becoming a SEAL because of equal protection and First Amendment rights. A case challenging the president’s decision to bar transgender recruits from joining the military is working its way through the courts.

A president also cannot order the military to do something that violates a law enacted by Congress, such as the law that repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which barred gay troops from serving openly in the military.

But those two constraints leave a broad thoroughfare, crowded with ships, fighter jets and nuclear weapons, where the president has considerable discretion.

“Think of the implications,” Mr. Fidell said. “I suppose it is possible he could tell the Navy who should be a pilot. And if the guy in charge didn’t like it, he could fire him.”

The president’s power over the military is no mistake. Founding fathers knew the executive would need broad authority in war. But the real boundaries of what a president can do as a commander in chief in the day-to-day operations of the armed forces have never been tested, experts say, because since the beginning of the republic the presidency has given the military broad deference in how it runs its affairs.

“The Constitution is a very brief document; it leaves a lot unsaid. So for centuries the president and the military have had to rely on mutual understanding,” said Thomas Bruneau, who taught national security at the Naval Postgraduate School. The president makes broad strategic and political decisions about military power, he said, and the military generally makes decisions on how those decisions will be executed, and by whom.

“This level of intervention at such a low level? I’ve never seen it,” Mr. Bruneau said.

To be sure, presidents have sometimes involved themselves in the minutiae of making war. President Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, personally approved targets for B-52 bombing runs in Operation Rolling Thunder, during the Vietnam War.

But by and large presidents have steered clear of retail personnel actions like the decision to bestow or remove the Trident pin, so the question of whether it is legal has rarely been asked.

“I suspect a lot of Navy lawyers are trying to figure that out themselves right now,” said Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who teaches military law at South Texas College of Law.

Congress, he said, has some authority to enact statutes specifically limiting certain executive actions. For example, it could craft a law restricting the president’s authority to assign troops in certain specialized units like the SEALs or other special operations forces to qualified military commanders.

But, he said, Congress has been careful not to create too many restrictions, concerned it might impede the ability to act in times of national emergency.

“For a long time the system has worked. The military and the president don’t always agree but they have a trusting relationship,” Mr. Corn said. The decision to override a Navy admiral in Chief Gallagher’s case, he said, “sends a message that the president doesn’t trust his commanders, and could really corrode that longstanding relationship.”

He agreed that it was in the president’s legal authority to restore a SEAL’s trident. But he said it might be good for the president to heed advice he tells first-year law students: “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”

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

Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers

Westlake Legal Group 22seals-01-facebookJumbo Navy SEALs Case Reveals Broad Scope of a President’s Military Powers United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Presidents and Presidency (US) navy seals Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

In an October White House photo, President Trump presented the military’s ultimate symbol of heroism, the Medal of Honor, to a dog. It was a joke, a doctored photo reposted on the president’s Twitter account. But even though the president didn’t actually award the Medal of Honor to a dog, legal scholars agree that as commander in chief of the military, he could have.

This week, Mr. Trump said he would reverse the decision of the commander of the Navy SEALs to remove a convicted sailor from its ranks. That reversal might not happen after pushback from top military officials, but its threat prompted many to ask what the limits are on the president’s authority to intervene in the military.

Military scholars say they are few.

He could, hypothetically, also order all the Air Force’s jets painted pink, appoint his chauffeur to an elite commando force or require all officers to wear long, red ties on Fridays.

“The president’s power is very broad; he can micromanage in nearly anything in the military, no matter how trivial,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School.

On Wednesday the Navy began a process to take the Trident pin of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, ousting him from the SEALs. Less than 24 hours later, the president said he would reverse the order in a message on Twitter, saying, “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”

The announcement caught the military off guard, sending commanders from Washington to California scrambling as the Navy searched for clarity.

The president absolutely had the power to do it, Mr. Fidell said. He even has the power to pick people off the street with no qualifications and make them SEALs, he added, though nepotism laws might prevent him from giving the title to family members.

Presidential power over the military runs deep and hits up against just two limits, he said: Congress and the Constitution.

A president cannot create policies that violate constitutional rights. For example, Mr. Fidell said, the president could not block anyone of a specific race or religion from becoming a SEAL because of equal protection and First Amendment rights. A case challenging the president’s decision to bar transgender recruits from joining the military is working its way through the courts.

A president also cannot order the military to do something that violates a law enacted by Congress, such as the law that repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which barred gay troops from serving openly in the military.

But those two constraints leave a broad thoroughfare, crowded with ships, fighter jets and nuclear weapons, where the president has considerable discretion.

“Think of the implications,” Mr. Fidell said. “I suppose it is possible he could tell the Navy who should be a pilot. And if the guy in charge didn’t like it, he could fire him.”

The president’s power over the military is no mistake. Founding fathers knew the executive would need broad authority in war. But the real boundaries of what a president can do as a commander in chief in the day-to-day operations of the armed forces have never been tested, experts say, because since the beginning of the republic the presidency has given the military broad deference in how it runs its affairs.

“The Constitution is a very brief document; it leaves a lot unsaid. So for centuries the president and the military have had to rely on mutual understanding,” said Thomas Bruneau, who taught national security at the Naval Postgraduate School. The president makes broad strategic and political decisions about military power, he said, and the military generally makes decisions on how those decisions will be executed, and by whom.

“This level of intervention at such a low level? I’ve never seen it,” Mr. Bruneau said.

To be sure, presidents have sometimes involved themselves in the minutiae of making war. President Lyndon B. Johnson, for example, personally approved targets for B-52 bombing runs in Operation Rolling Thunder, during the Vietnam War.

But by and large presidents have steered clear of retail personnel actions like the decision to bestow or remove the Trident pin, so the question of whether it is legal has rarely been asked.

“I suspect a lot of Navy lawyers are trying to figure that out themselves right now,” said Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who teaches military law at South Texas College of Law.

Congress, he said, has some authority to enact statutes specifically limiting certain executive actions. For example, it could craft a law restricting the president’s authority to assign troops in certain specialized units like the SEALs or other special operations forces to qualified military commanders.

But, he said, Congress has been careful not to create too many restrictions, concerned it might impede the ability to act in times of national emergency.

“For a long time the system has worked. The military and the president don’t always agree but they have a trusting relationship,” Mr. Corn said. The decision to override a Navy admiral in Chief Gallagher’s case, he said, “sends a message that the president doesn’t trust his commanders, and could really corrode that longstanding relationship.”

He agreed that it was in the president’s legal authority to restore a SEAL’s trident. But he said it might be good for the president to heed advice he tells first-year law students: “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”

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

Navy Is Said to Proceed With Disciplinary Plans Against Edward Gallagher

ImageWestlake Legal Group 23dcseal-image2-articleLarge Navy Is Said to Proceed With Disciplinary Plans Against Edward Gallagher War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Spencer, Richard V Gallagher, Edward (1979- )

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, right, and President Trump in July.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The secretary of the Navy and the admiral who leads the SEALs have threatened to resign or be fired if plans to expel a commando from the elite unit in a war crimes case are halted by President Trump, administration officials said Saturday.

The Navy is proceeding with the disciplinary plans against the commando, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who counts Mr. Trump as one of his most vocal supporters. After reversing a demotion in recent days, the president suggested on Thursday that he would intervene again in the case, saying that the sailor should remain in the unit.

The threats by the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, and the commander, Rear Adm. Collin Green, are a rare instance of pushback against Mr. Trump from members of the Defense Department. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, scrambled to come up with a face-saving compromise this past week in the hope that Mr. Trump could be persuaded to change his mind.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump, referring to the pin that signifies membership in an elite force, said on Twitter that “The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin.” He added: “This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!”

One argument that officials said may be relied on is the assumption that a tweet does not constitute a formal presidential order. Mr. Esper and General Milley conveyed to the president that if he followed up that tweet with a direct order, there would be huge consequences: Mr. Trump would lose Mr. Spencer and Admiral Green, further infuriate his top military leadership and do untold damage to decades of military justice doctrine, according to administration officials.

Administration officials said they now hoped that Mr. Trump would allow the proceedings to continue, but it is unclear whether the president will do so. The debate over Mr. Gallagher comes as Mr. Trump, facing a difficult re-election battle and an impeachment inquiry, has increasingly sought to highlight his role as commander in chief.

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 the Navy ultimately demoted the chief, who was convicted of one charge: bringing discredit to the armed forces by posing for photos with the teenage captive’s dead body.

Chief Gallagher’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said the president was right to stop the process of ousting the commando because the Navy’s move was clear retribution, coming just days after the president’s decision to restore his rank.

“With the timing, it’s difficult to see how this was anything but a direct, public rebuke to the president,” Mr. Parlatore said. “So I can’t see how the secretary of defense or anyone else is going to convince the president that is O.K.”

On Friday, Mr. Spencer made clear that he wanted to move forward with the matter, which could strip Chief Gallagher of his Trident pin. “I believe the process matters for good order and discipline,” he told Reuters in an interview at a security forum in Nova Scotia.

On Saturday, a Navy spokesman pointed to those remarks. “The secretary’s comments are in line with current White House guidance,” said Rear Adm. Charlie Brown, the chief spokesman for the Navy.

A White House spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

The gold insignia Trident pin is one of the most revered in the military. It features an eagle on an anchor, clutching a flintlock pistol and a trident, and represents the grit of sailors who made it through some of the toughest training in the Navy, and are given some of the riskiest missions. It stands for fidelity and sacrifice. Even in death, the pin plays a role: SEALs pound their pins into the wood of fallen comrades’ caskets.

The Pentagon had already been quietly fuming this month after Mr. Trump cleared three members of the armed services, including Chief Gallagher, who were accused or had been convicted of war crimes, overruling military leaders who sought to punish them. All three were lionized by conservative commentators who portrayed them as war heroes unfairly prosecuted for actions taken in the heat of battle.

Mr. Trump, who was lobbied heavily by the families of the three service members, announced on Nov. 15 that he was reversing the demotion of Chief Gallagher. He also ordered the full pardon of Clint Lorance, a former Army lieutenant, from the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, where he was serving a 19-year sentence for the murder of two civilians; and of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker.

One of the jurors who convicted Chief Gallagher expressed dismay at the president’s actions in an interview on Friday, noting that the all-military jury had given Chief Gallagher the maximum punishment allowable under the law because it found his behavior so reprehensible. He spoke out for the first time to defend the decision of the jury.

“People keep saying all he did is pose in a photo and there were lots of other guys in the photo,” said the juror, who asked that his name not be used to protect the privacy of the deliberations. “But he was the senior enlisted guy there, the oldest, the most experienced. He should have set an example for good order and discipline. He should have ensured stuff like that wasn’t happening. And he didn’t. He doesn’t deserve to wear chief’s anchors.”

The juror said he hoped the Trident review process would be allowed to go forward, adding, “Let other SEALs decide if he deserves to be a SEAL.”

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Four Problems With 2016 Trump Polling That Could Play Out Again in 2020

Westlake Legal Group 19poll-failures1-facebookJumbo Four Problems With 2016 Trump Polling That Could Play Out Again in 2020 Trump, Donald J Research Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 Polls and Public Opinion American Association of Public Opinion Research

Meetings of the American Association of Public Opinion Research tend to be pretty staid affairs. But when members of the group gathered for a conference call at this time in 2016, the polling industry was experiencing a crisis of confidence.

Donald J. Trump had swept most of the Midwest to win a majority in the Electoral College, a shocking upset that defied most state-by-state polls and prognoses. An association task force, which was already working on a routine report about pre-election poll methodologies, was suddenly tasked with figuring out what had gone wrong.

“We moved from doing this sort of niche industry report to almost like more of an autopsy,” said Courtney Kennedy, the director of survey research at Pew Research Center, who headed the task force. “Something major just happened, and we have to really understand from A to Z why it happened.”

The group released its report the following spring. Today, with the next presidential election less than a year away, pollsters are closely studying the findings of that document and others like it, looking for adjustments they can make in 2020 to avoid the misfires of 2016.

“Polling is one of those things like military battles: You always re-fight the last war,” said Joshua D. Clinton, who co-directs the University of Vanderbilt’s poll and served on the AAPOR committee. The 2020 election “might have a different set of considerations,” he said, but pollsters have an obligation to learn from the last cycle’s mistakes.

By and large, nationwide surveys were relatively accurate in predicting the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton won by two percentage points. But in crucial parts of the country, especially in the Midwest, individual state polls persistently underestimated Mr. Trump’s support. And election forecasters used those polls in Electoral College projections that gave the impression Mrs. Clinton was a heavy favorite.

AAPOR’s analysis found several reasons the state polls missed the mark. Certain groups were underrepresented in poll after poll, particularly less educated white voters and those in counties that had voted decisively against President Barack Obama in 2012. Respondents’ unwillingness to speak honestly about their support for Mr. Trump may have also been a factor.

These and other issues could reappear in 2020, pollsters warn, if they’re not addressed directly.

To make sure their results reflect the true makeup of the population, pollsters typically “weight” their data, adding emphasis to certain respondents so that a group that was underrepresented in the random sample still has enough influence over the poll’s final result. Polls typically weight by age, race and other demographic categories.

But some state-level polls in 2016 did not weight by education levels, therefore giving short shrift to less educated voters, who tend to be harder to reach.

This often understated Mr. Trump’s support, since he was markedly more popular than past Republican nominees among less educated voters — and noticeably less popular among those with higher degrees, who research suggests are more likely to participate in polls.

The AAPOR analysts found that many polls in swing states would have achieved significantly different results had they been weighted for education. This, in turn, would have noticeably decreased Mrs. Clinton’s lead in much-watched polling averages and forecasts of these states.

A Michigan State University poll that found Mrs. Clinton holding a 17-point lead in that state just before the election did not weight by education. If it had, her lead would have dropped to 10 points in that poll, the AAPOR researchers found — still a far cry from predicting Mr. Trump’s narrow victory there, but a significant change.

And a University of New Hampshire poll put Mrs. Clinton up by 16 points in that state on the eve of the election, though in the end she barely won it. That poll’s gap would have closed entirely if its analysts had weighted for education, according to the AAPOR report.

Some polling firms that did not weight by education in 2016 have since taken up the practice, but not all of them. Mark Blumenthal, the former head of polling at Survey Monkey and a member of the AAPOR task force, said that weighting by education ought to be accepted as necessary. “I think that’s a reasonable line to draw,” he said.

A pre-election study by Morning Consult warned that wealthier, more educated Republicans appeared slightly more reluctant to tell phone interviewers that they supported Mr. Trump, compared with similar voters who responded to online polls.

Pollsters refer to this phenomenon as the “shy Trump” effect, or — in academic parlance — a form of “social-desirability bias.” Studies have affirmed that in races where a candidate or cause is perceived as controversial or otherwise undesirable, voters can be wary of voicing their support, especially to a live interviewer.

Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin voters, said he worried that the shy Trump effect had played a role in skewing the poll’s results away from Mr. Trump in 2016.

Mr. Franklin, who was a member of the AAPOR team, suggested how telephone interviewers might confront the issue with respondents next year: “When they indicate they’re undecided or maybe considering a third-party vote, maybe push people a little more on whether they could change their mind,” he said.

One polling firm that showed Mr. Trump narrowly leading in some of the most inaccurately polled states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida, all of which he won — was Trafalgar Group, a Republican polling and consulting firm that uses a variety of nontraditional polling methodologies.

It sought to combat the shy Trump effect by asking respondents not only how they planned to vote but also how they thought their neighbors would vote — possibly offering Trump supporters a way to project their feelings onto someone else.

The AAPOR report posited that the neighbor question could help overcome shyness among Trump supporters, particularly in phone interviews. It “warrants experimentation in a broad array of contests,” the report said.

That was not the only way Trafalgar innovated. Polls typically use a formula based on past elections to determine which voters are likely to show up on Election Day. They then discard or devalue responses from those who seem less predisposed — typically those without much history of voting, or who don’t express much enthusiasm about politics.

Trafalgar used a generously inclusive model, with a particular eye toward less frequent voters whom Mr. Trump’s anti-establishment campaign had drawn in.

“With Trump, we saw in the primary how new people were being brought into the process, and so we widened the net of who we reached out to,” Robert C. Cahaly, a pollster at Trafalgar, said in an interview.

When the Census Bureau in 2017 released detailed voting information from the 2016 election, it revealed that turnout had surged in many counties that Mr. Obama had lost by 10 points or more in 2012 — particularly in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

It is a reminder that who voted in the previous election is not always a good indicator of who will vote the next time.

“This is where the art comes in, and it’s hard to know until it actually happens which approach is the best approach,” Mr. Clinton said, referring to how polling firms construct their likely-voter models.

The polls from 2016 make clear that finding a representative sample is both the hardest and the most important part of conducting an effective survey. This is not new knowledge for public-opinion professionals, but many said it was a lesson worth relearning.

Compounding all the other factors in 2016 was the simple fact that — in a race with two historically unpopular candidates — many voters didn’t reach a decision until just before Election Day.

In Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, between 13 and 15 percent of respondents in exit polls said they had decided in the last week of the campaign. Those voters broke for Mr. Trump by a wide margin; in Wisconsin, it was about 30 points.

Pew researchers also called back respondents of their pre-election polls and found that many had changed their minds and voted differently than they’d said they would, which is not uncommon. But these voters broke for Mr. Trump by a 16-point margin — a heavier tilt than in any other year on record.

So, in a volatile election, even a perfectly effective poll might not be able to gauge the outcome; a poll can only take the pulse of where voters’ feelings lie in a particular moment.

That points to a major source of agita for some observers of the 2016 election: electoral forecasts in the news media and elsewhere that used polling data to suggest Mrs. Clinton was highly likely to win. Most of them put her chances at somewhere between 70 and 99 percent.

“I’m not sure people understand how these probabilistic projections are produced or what they mean,” Gary Langer, a pollster who works with ABC News, said in an email. “I’d suggest that predicting election outcomes is the least important contribution of pre-election polls. Bringing us to a better understanding of how and why the nation comes to these choices is the higher value that good-quality polls provide.”

Election forecasters do not mean to convey absolute certainty. Just before Election Day, The New York Times’s Upshot forecast gave Mr. Trump a 15 percent chance of winning, and FiveThirtyEight’s model put his chances at 29 percent, indicating that a Republican win was not out of the question.

But the Princeton Election Consortium, which had predicted the 2012 results with striking accuracy, was more certain of a Clinton win, giving her a 99 percent chance in the days leading up to the election.

Sam Wang, a neuroscientist who runs the Princeton model, said in an email that in 2016 he had not factored in enough potential “systematic error” — a catchall variable that accounts for imperfections in individual polls. In 2016, he never set that variable higher than 1.1 percentage points, but in 2020 he plans to set it at two points.

“That will increase the uncertainty much more,” he said, “which will set expectations appropriately in case the election is close.”

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A Senate Trial Could Put Trump’s Use of Aggressive Defense Tactics to Their Biggest Test

Westlake Legal Group 22dc-strategy21-facebookJumbo A Senate Trial Could Put Trump’s Use of Aggressive Defense Tactics to Their Biggest Test Vindman, Alexander S United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Rumors and Misinformation Presidential Election of 2016 Mueller, Robert S III impeachment Holmes, David (Diplomat) D'Antonio, Michael Collins, Douglas A (1966- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — Over four decades in public life, President Trump has sought to bend business, real-estate and political rivals to his will. Facts that cut against his position have been declared false. Witnesses who have questioned his motives have been declared dishonest. Critics of his behavior are part of a corrupt, shadowy effort aiming to damage him.

And, as he likes to put it, his own actions are always, to one degree or another, “perfect.”

That approach — which proved effective for Mr. Trump as he faced off against the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — is about to face a formidable test.

The White House and congressional Republicans allied with Mr. Trump are preparing for a Senate trial in which they will not only say that Mr. Trump did nothing wrong, but present a version of events that portray him as the victim of a broad plot to undermine his presidency even before it began.

That narrative will include claims that Ukrainians meddled in the 2016 election instead of the Russians — an unfounded allegation refuted by the administration’s own intelligence agencies as recently as this week — and that Hunter Biden, the younger son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of Mr. Trump’s leading 2020 Democratic rivals, made money in Ukraine based off his connection to his father.

In a telephone interview with “Fox and Friends” on Friday morning, Mr. Trump listed those he viewed as behind the effort against him — “the Democrats and their machine, the media machine, the fake, corrupt media,” he said — and said he wanted to defend himself against the allegations against him raised by House Democrats.

“Frankly, I want a trial,” Mr. Trump said.

Using a blend of blunt force and more typical Washington wooing of Republican lawmakers, along with a mix of false claims interwoven with proven facts to paint himself as a victim, Mr. Trump has worked a defensive playbook that he honed during the Mueller investigation.

In the course of the hearings held the past two weeks by the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry, his goal has been to bulldoze past formidable testimony by an array of witnesses — including some in his own White House — who under oath laid out, chapter and verse, the president’s pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government to investigate, or say it was investigating, the Bidens.

To Democrats, this portrait of Mr. Trump was damning. To White House aides, the fact that the witnesses could not say he was withholding military aid until he got an announcement of a Biden-related investigation was proof that he had done nothing wrong. And rather than dispute each fact said under oath, they focused mostly on process and the handling of the hearing by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California.

The strategy was similar to the Trump legal team’s handling of the Mueller inquiry, which they frequently charged was not following normal procedures. And when the special counsel’s report did not reveal evidence personally connecting Mr. Trump to the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, the president and his advisers seized on it as a “total exoneration.”

“There’s never a time when he accepts anybody’s judgment over his own,” said Michael D’Antonio, one of Mr. Trump’s biographers. “I think that he does this so well and that it has worked so often that he may not have another message.”

“He once told me that if you stay with a position long enough, there’s a very good chance it would become correct,” Mr. D’Antonio said.

As it eventually did with Mr. Mueller, the White House has adopted a defiant posture toward the House Democrats. The White House counsel has declared the impeachment inquiry illegitimate because of the way in which it has been conducted, and because its parameters have changed over time.

At the same time, the White House has kept key witnesses — including the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser — from testifying.

In the meantime, Mr. Trump has sought to seize on the allegations against him and turn them on someone else, a familiar tactic. He insisted it was really Mr. Biden and Hunter Biden who were linked to corruption in Ukraine and that bad actors there had done him harm by meddling in the 2016 election, a claim intelligence officials have roundly rejected.

In the “Fox and Friends” interview, Mr. Trump unleashed a torrent of falsehoods to support his claims, including saying that the Obama administration wiretapped his 2016 campaign and asserting that Mr. Schiff “made up” a phone call of his, when, in fact, the California congressman stated at the time that he was conveying “the essence” of Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Mr. Schiff, Mr. Trump said, was “sick,” was part of a broader effort to damage his presidency and should be prosecuted.

“They thought I was going to win, and they said, ‘How could we stop him?’” he said. “They tried to overthrow the presidency. This is a disgrace.”

That effort, he said, began even before he became president, adding that an investigation into it would reveal “the greatest political scandal in the history of our country.”

At that point, the hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade — who are reliably friendly to the president — conveyed a hint of skepticism.

“Who is your source, or what are your sources that are telling you, that the Obama administration was out to really hurt your administration?” Mr. Kilmeade asked.

Mr. Trump said he could not reveal it. “I can only say that we have a lot of information that a lot of bad things happened,” he said.

Asked about the hearings, Mr. Trump flatly denied testimony given under penalty of perjury by a succession of career national security officials.

He focused in particular on the account given by Gordon D. Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, of a phone call he had had with the president in a restaurant in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, that another State Department official, David Holmes, who was sitting with Mr. Sondland, said he had overheard.

“How about the guy with the telephone? How about that one?” Mr. Trump said. “I guarantee you that never took place.”

“Well, I have really good hearing,” he said. “And I’ve been watching guys for 40 years make phone calls. And I can’t hear when — you could be two feet away — I can’t hear people making calls. I can’t hear the other side; the phone’s up in the air. Unless you have it on the speaker phone, you can’t do it. That was a total phony deal.”

And he falsely claimed the Democratic National Committee gave its hacked internet server from 2016 to a Ukrainian firm.

To ensure support as the impeachment process plays out and in all likelihood is followed by a Senate trial, Mr. Trump and his aides have spent weeks meeting or speaking individually with congressional Republicans, at times hosting them at Camp David. At one White House visit recently, he hosted them for a screening of the movie “Joker.”

The efforts have targeted Trump critics like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who have listened to the president describe how he has been denied due process, and have increasingly come to agree with him, according to people familiar with the meetings.

The White House and some of Mr. Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill have also pushed for building more aggressive support in the House and the Senate.

In recent weeks, they have put the weight of the presidency behind an effort to persuade Georgia’s governor to appoint Representative Doug Collins, currently the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, to the state’s soon-to-be vacant Senate seat.

Mr. Collins has actively jockeyed for the appointment, which would not only put a reliable defender of the president into a key Senate position before a trial, but could allow someone like Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio or Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas, pugnacious faces of Mr. Trump’s impeachment defense so far, to replace Mr. Collins on the House Judiciary Committee as the impeachment process shifts there.

The ascension of Mr. Jordan or Mr. Ratcliffe would also create another vacancy that Republican leaders could fill with a defender of the president like Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina.

But even without the reinforcements, congressional Republicans — many of whom are wary of incurring the president’s wrath and being punished for it by their party — have either echoed the White House claims against witnesses or found other ways to try to maintain focus on the Bidens, often in starkly personal terms.

Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who has bound herself to Mr. Trump, used Twitter to attack Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a National Security Council official who was on the July 25 call the president held with Mr. Zelensky, and testified this week that he was immediately alarmed by the request for an investigation into the Bidens.

“Vindictive Vindman is the ‘whistle-blower’s’ handler,” Ms. Blackburn tweeted, referring to the anonymous government official whose concerns about the call prompted the House impeachment inquiry.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a key ally of Mr. Trump’s, has shown his support for the president in other ways.

On Friday, Mr. Graham announced plans to call Hunter Biden as a witness in a Senate trial.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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A Senate Trial Could Put Trump’s Use of Aggressive Defense Tactics to Their Biggest Test

Westlake Legal Group 22dc-strategy21-facebookJumbo A Senate Trial Could Put Trump’s Use of Aggressive Defense Tactics to Their Biggest Test Vindman, Alexander S United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Rumors and Misinformation Presidential Election of 2016 Mueller, Robert S III impeachment Holmes, David (Diplomat) D'Antonio, Michael Collins, Douglas A (1966- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — Over four decades in public life, President Trump has sought to bend business, real-estate and political rivals to his will. Facts that cut against his position have been declared false. Witnesses who have questioned his motives have been declared dishonest. Critics of his behavior are part of a corrupt, shadowy effort aiming to damage him.

And, as he likes to put it, his own actions are always, to one degree or another, “perfect.”

That approach — which proved effective for Mr. Trump as he faced off against the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — is about to face a formidable test.

The White House and congressional Republicans allied with Mr. Trump are preparing for a Senate trial in which they will not only say that Mr. Trump did nothing wrong, but present a version of events that portray him as the victim of a broad plot to undermine his presidency even before it began.

That narrative will include claims that Ukrainians meddled in the 2016 election instead of the Russians — an unfounded allegation refuted by the administration’s own intelligence agencies as recently as this week — and that Hunter Biden, the younger son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of Mr. Trump’s leading 2020 Democratic rivals, made money in Ukraine based off his connection to his father.

In a telephone interview with “Fox and Friends” on Friday morning, Mr. Trump listed those he viewed as behind the effort against him — “the Democrats and their machine, the media machine, the fake, corrupt media,” he said — and said he wanted to defend himself against the allegations against him raised by House Democrats.

“Frankly, I want a trial,” Mr. Trump said.

Using a blend of blunt force and more typical Washington wooing of Republican lawmakers, along with a mix of false claims interwoven with proven facts to paint himself as a victim, Mr. Trump has worked a defensive playbook that he honed during the Mueller investigation.

In the course of the hearings held the past two weeks by the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry, his goal has been to bulldoze past formidable testimony by an array of witnesses — including some in his own White House — who under oath laid out, chapter and verse, the president’s pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government to investigate, or say it was investigating, the Bidens.

To Democrats, this portrait of Mr. Trump was damning. To White House aides, the fact that the witnesses could not say he was withholding military aid until he got an announcement of a Biden-related investigation was proof that he had done nothing wrong. And rather than dispute each fact said under oath, they focused mostly on process and the handling of the hearing by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California.

The strategy was similar to the Trump legal team’s handling of the Mueller inquiry, which they frequently charged was not following normal procedures. And when the special counsel’s report did not reveal evidence personally connecting Mr. Trump to the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, the president and his advisers seized on it as a “total exoneration.”

“There’s never a time when he accepts anybody’s judgment over his own,” said Michael D’Antonio, one of Mr. Trump’s biographers. “I think that he does this so well and that it has worked so often that he may not have another message.”

“He once told me that if you stay with a position long enough, there’s a very good chance it would become correct,” Mr. D’Antonio said.

As it eventually did with Mr. Mueller, the White House has adopted a defiant posture toward the House Democrats. The White House counsel has declared the impeachment inquiry illegitimate because of the way in which it has been conducted, and because its parameters have changed over time.

At the same time, the White House has kept key witnesses — including the acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser — from testifying.

In the meantime, Mr. Trump has sought to seize on the allegations against him and turn them on someone else, a familiar tactic. He insisted it was really Mr. Biden and Hunter Biden who were linked to corruption in Ukraine and that bad actors there had done him harm by meddling in the 2016 election, a claim intelligence officials have roundly rejected.

In the “Fox and Friends” interview, Mr. Trump unleashed a torrent of falsehoods to support his claims, including saying that the Obama administration wiretapped his 2016 campaign and asserting that Mr. Schiff “made up” a phone call of his, when, in fact, the California congressman stated at the time that he was conveying “the essence” of Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Mr. Schiff, Mr. Trump said, was “sick,” was part of a broader effort to damage his presidency and should be prosecuted.

“They thought I was going to win, and they said, ‘How could we stop him?’” he said. “They tried to overthrow the presidency. This is a disgrace.”

That effort, he said, began even before he became president, adding that an investigation into it would reveal “the greatest political scandal in the history of our country.”

At that point, the hosts Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade — who are reliably friendly to the president — conveyed a hint of skepticism.

“Who is your source, or what are your sources that are telling you, that the Obama administration was out to really hurt your administration?” Mr. Kilmeade asked.

Mr. Trump said he could not reveal it. “I can only say that we have a lot of information that a lot of bad things happened,” he said.

Asked about the hearings, Mr. Trump flatly denied testimony given under penalty of perjury by a succession of career national security officials.

He focused in particular on the account given by Gordon D. Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, of a phone call he had had with the president in a restaurant in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, that another State Department official, David Holmes, who was sitting with Mr. Sondland, said he had overheard.

“How about the guy with the telephone? How about that one?” Mr. Trump said. “I guarantee you that never took place.”

“Well, I have really good hearing,” he said. “And I’ve been watching guys for 40 years make phone calls. And I can’t hear when — you could be two feet away — I can’t hear people making calls. I can’t hear the other side; the phone’s up in the air. Unless you have it on the speaker phone, you can’t do it. That was a total phony deal.”

And he falsely claimed the Democratic National Committee gave its hacked internet server from 2016 to a Ukrainian firm.

To ensure support as the impeachment process plays out and in all likelihood is followed by a Senate trial, Mr. Trump and his aides have spent weeks meeting or speaking individually with congressional Republicans, at times hosting them at Camp David. At one White House visit recently, he hosted them for a screening of the movie “Joker.”

The efforts have targeted Trump critics like Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who have listened to the president describe how he has been denied due process, and have increasingly come to agree with him, according to people familiar with the meetings.

The White House and some of Mr. Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill have also pushed for building more aggressive support in the House and the Senate.

In recent weeks, they have put the weight of the presidency behind an effort to persuade Georgia’s governor to appoint Representative Doug Collins, currently the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, to the state’s soon-to-be vacant Senate seat.

Mr. Collins has actively jockeyed for the appointment, which would not only put a reliable defender of the president into a key Senate position before a trial, but could allow someone like Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio or Representative John Ratcliffe of Texas, pugnacious faces of Mr. Trump’s impeachment defense so far, to replace Mr. Collins on the House Judiciary Committee as the impeachment process shifts there.

The ascension of Mr. Jordan or Mr. Ratcliffe would also create another vacancy that Republican leaders could fill with a defender of the president like Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina.

But even without the reinforcements, congressional Republicans — many of whom are wary of incurring the president’s wrath and being punished for it by their party — have either echoed the White House claims against witnesses or found other ways to try to maintain focus on the Bidens, often in starkly personal terms.

Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who has bound herself to Mr. Trump, used Twitter to attack Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a National Security Council official who was on the July 25 call the president held with Mr. Zelensky, and testified this week that he was immediately alarmed by the request for an investigation into the Bidens.

“Vindictive Vindman is the ‘whistle-blower’s’ handler,” Ms. Blackburn tweeted, referring to the anonymous government official whose concerns about the call prompted the House impeachment inquiry.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a key ally of Mr. Trump’s, has shown his support for the president in other ways.

On Friday, Mr. Graham announced plans to call Hunter Biden as a witness in a Senate trial.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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Bolton Teases a City Eager to Hear His Story

Westlake Legal Group 22dc-bolton-facebookJumbo Bolton Teases a City Eager to Hear His Story Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — For weeks, Washington has waited to hear what he had to say. So when John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, popped back up on Twitter on Friday morning with a teasing message, it sent the town, well, all atwitter.

“Glad to be back on Twitter after more than two months,” Mr. Bolton wrote. “For the backstory, stay tuned……..”

Was he finally going to describe his internal opposition to President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for damaging information about his Democratic rivals? Would he confirm that he called the whole thing a metaphorical “drug deal” and considered Rudolph W. Giuliani a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up”?

Sorry, no go. Over the course of the day, Mr. Bolton posted a few more messages — not about the Ukraine matter that has propelled his former boss to the edge of impeachment but about his own two-month battle to “liberate” his Twitter account, as he put it, from a White House that refused to give it back when he resigned in September in a flurry of acrimony.

Anyone who knows Mr. Bolton should never have thought he would actually spill on Twitter. A Yale-trained lawyer, he has made clear he is waiting for a court to tell him whether he has to testify, relying on a lawsuit filed by a deputy that will be argued on Dec. 10. While former colleagues have issued public statements, Mr. Bolton’s legal team believes making any public comments could be interpreted as waiving any claim of immunity — he could hardly claim confidentiality with Congress and then tell all on Twitter.

But Washington got excited all the same. And Mr. Bolton seemed to enjoy the tease. He issued a handful of additional tweets, spaced out with hours in between, building up interest. Along the way, he attracted tens of thousands of new followers, topping 800,000 by the end of the business day.

“We have now liberated the Twitter account, previously suppressed unfairly in the aftermath of my resignation as National Security Advisor,” he wrote. “More to come…..”

Three hours later, he added: “Re: speaking up — since resigning as National Security Advisor, the @WhiteHouse refused to return access to my personal Twitter account. Out of fear of what I may say? To those who speculated I went into hiding, I’m sorry to disappoint!”

Two and a half hours after that, he continued: “In full disclosure, the @WhiteHouse never returned access to my Twitter account. Thank you to @twitter for standing by their community standards and rightfully returning control of my account.”

Mr. Bolton, it turned out, had turned over control of his personal Twitter account to the White House when he joined the National Security Council last year. An avid Twitter user since 2010, Mr. Bolton brought a strong following to the new job and wanted it back when he left. In fact, he used the account moments after leaving the White House in September to accuse the president of not telling the truth about his departure.

After Mr. Trump said on Twitter on Sept. 10 that he had fired him, Mr. Bolton tweeted 12 minutes later that that was not true. “I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, ‘Let’s talk about it tomorrow,’” Mr. Bolton wrote, without elaborating.

That was his last tweet until Friday. Shortly afterward, he discovered that he no longer had control of the account. The White House had evidently changed his password and his verifying email address.

“The White House attached software to the account,” Mr. Bolton said by telephone on Friday. “They would not give it back. A representative of mine spoke with John Eisenberg, who said he would get it released, and it never happened. So finally we went to Twitter.” Mr. Eisenberg is the top National Security Council lawyer and himself a player in the Ukraine drama.

Mr. Trump denied freezing Mr. Bolton’s account. “No, of course not. Of course not,” he said when asked on Friday on “Fox and Friends.” “No, I actually had a good relationship with John. We disagreed on some things and some methods, but I actually had a good relationship.”

No one from the White House or the National Security Council would say on the record whether anyone else in the building refused to surrender control of Mr. Bolton’s account or why. But an administration official who insisted on anonymity denied that the White House blocked him from gaining access to his account and said it would not know how to do that.

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Russia Inquiry Review Is Said to Criticize F.B.I. but Rebuff Claims of Biased Acts

Westlake Legal Group 22dc-fbi1-facebookJumbo Russia Inquiry Review Is Said to Criticize F.B.I. but Rebuff Claims of Biased Acts Wiretapping and Other Eavesdropping Devices and Methods United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Surveillance of Citizens by Government Strzok, Peter Steele, Christopher (1964- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Page, Carter McCabe, Andrew G Justice Department Inspectors General Horowitz, Michael E Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Comey, James B Classified Information and State Secrets

WASHINGTON — A highly anticipated report by the Justice Department’s inspector general is expected to sharply criticize lower-level F.B.I. officials as well as bureau leaders involved in the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation, but to absolve the top ranks of abusing their powers out of bias against President Trump, according to people briefed on a draft.

Investigators for the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, uncovered errors and omissions in documents related to the wiretapping of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page — including that a low-level lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, altered an email that officials used to prepare to seek court approval to renew the wiretap, the people said.

Mr. Horowitz referred his findings about Mr. Clinesmith to prosecutors for a potential criminal charge. Mr. Clinesmith left the Russia investigation in February 2018 after the inspector general identified him as one of a handful of F.B.I. officials who expressed animus toward Mr. Trump in text messages and resigned about two months ago, after the inspector general’s team interviewed him.

Though Mr. Trump’s allies have seized on the messages from Mr. Clinesmith and his colleagues as proof of anti-Trump bias, Mr. Clinesmith has not been a prominent figure in the partisan firefight over the investigation. His lawyer declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for Mr. Horowitz.

More broadly, Mr. Horowitz’s report, to be made public on Dec. 9, portrays the overall effort to seek the wiretap order and its renewals as sloppy and unprofessional, according to the people familiar with it. He will also sharply criticize as careless one of the F.B.I. case agents in New York handling the matter, they said.

At the same time, however, the report debunks a series of conspiracy theories and insinuations about the F.B.I. that Mr. Trump and his allies have put forward over the past two years, the people said, though they cautioned that the report is not complete. The New York Times has not reviewed the draft, which could contain other significant findings.

In particular, while Mr. Horowitz criticizes F.B.I. leadership for its handling of the highly fraught Russia investigation in some ways, he made no finding of politically biased actions by top officials Mr. Trump has vilified like the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey; Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy who temporarily ran the bureau after the president fired Mr. Comey in 2017; and Peter Strzok, a former top counterintelligence agent.

The early accounts of the report suggest that it is likely to stoke the debate over the investigation without definitively resolving it, by offering both sides different conclusions they can point to as vindication for their rival worldviews.

The wiretap of Mr. Page emerged as a political flash point in early 2018, though it was one relatively narrow aspect of the sprawling inquiry that found that Moscow sought to help Mr. Trump win election and that his campaign expected to benefit, but found insufficient evidence to charge any conspiracy with the Trump campaign.

Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general who oversaw legal matters related to the 2016 election, asked Mr. Horowitz to scrutinize the wiretap and broader issues related to the investigation, absorbing pressure from Mr. Trump and his allies.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court first approved wiretapping Mr. Page, who had close ties to Russia, as a suspected unregistered agent of a foreign power in October 2016, after he had left the campaign.

The Justice Department obtained three renewal orders. The paperwork associated with the renewal applications contained information that should have been left out, and vice versa, the people briefed on the draft report said.

The email Mr. Clinesmith handled was a factor during the wiretap renewal process, according to the people. Mr. Clinesmith took an email from an official at another federal agency that contained several factual assertions, then added material to the bottom that looked like another assertion from the email’s author, when it was instead his own understanding.

Mr. Clinesmith included this altered email in a package that he compiled for another F.B.I. official to read in preparation for signing an affidavit that would be submitted to the court attesting to the facts and analysis in the wiretap application.

The details of the email are apparently classified and may not be made public even when the report is unveiled.

The investigators’ referral of its findings on Mr. Clinesmith went to John H. Durham, a prosecutor assigned by Attorney General William P. Barr to himself re-examine the Russia case and its origins. The referral from Mr. Horowitz’s team appears to be at least in part the basis for the elevation of Mr. Durham’s inquiry from an administrative review to a criminal investigation, the people said.

Additionally, Mr. Clinesmith worked on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russia investigation. He was among the F.B.I. officials removed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, after Mr. Horowitz found text messages expressing political animus against Mr. Trump.

Shortly after Mr. Trump’s election victory, for example, Mr. Clinesmith texted another official that “the crazies won finally,” disparaged Mr. Trump’s health care and immigration agendas, and called Vice President Mike Pence “stupid.” In another text, he wrote, in the context of a question about whether he intended to stay in government, “viva la resistance.”

In a June 2018 report by Mr. Horowitz about that and other politically charged texts, which identified him as “F.B.I. Attorney 2,” Mr. Clinesmith said he was expressing his personal views but did not let them affect his official actions.

The inspector general apparently did not assert in the draft report that any of the problems he found were so material that the court would have rejected the Justice Department’s requests to continue surveilling Mr. Page. But the people familiar with the draft were uncertain about whether Mr. Horowitz said the problems were immaterial, or instead avoided taking a position on that question.

CNN first reported that the draft accused a lower-level lawyer of altering a document. Mr. Clinesmith’s identification and details about the findings have not previously been reported.

In a phone call to “Fox & Friends” on Friday, Mr. Trump played up the initial revelations to claim that “they were spying on my campaign and it went right to the top and everybody knows it and now we’re going to find out” and “they tried to overthrow the presidency.” The accounts of Mr. Horowitz’s findings do not support that assertion.

And in other crucial respects, the draft inspector general report is said not to corroborate conspiracy theories and insinuations offered by Mr. Trump and his allies about the early stages of the Russia investigation, before Mr. Mueller was appointed as special counsel and took it over.

For example, the draft report also concludes that the F.B.I. had enough evidence to meet the legal standard for opening the investigation, though Mr. Horowitz emphasized that the bar is low, the people said.

The report is also said to conclude that Joseph Mifsud, a Russia-linked professor who told a Trump campaign official that Russia had damaging information on Mrs. Clinton in the form of hacked Democratic emails — a key fact used to open the investigation — was not an F.B.I. informant. That undercuts an assertion of conservative critics of the inquiry.

None of the evidence used to open the investigation came from the C.I.A. or from a notorious dossier of claims about Trump-Russia ties compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent whose research was funded by Democrats, the report concludes, according to the people briefed on it.

Mr. Trump’s allies have complained about how the Justice Department used information from the Steele dossier in the wiretap applications. Along with evidence from other sources, the filings cited some information from Mr. Steele’s dossier about meetings that Mr. Page was rumored to have had with Kremlin representatives during a trip to Russia that year.

Republicans have criticized any use of political opposition research in applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretaps, which are among the most intrusive tools investigators have and are highly regulated. But the people briefed on the draft said Mr. Horowitz does not criticize them for the basic fact that they used the information.

Still, people familiar with questions asked by Mr. Horowitz’s investigators have suggested that he is likely to conclude that the filings exaggerated Mr. Steele’s track record in terms of the amount of value that the F.B.I. derived from information he supplied in previous investigations. The court filings in the Page wiretap application said his material was “used in criminal proceedings,” but it was never part of an affidavit, search warrant or courtroom evidence.

But it remains unclear what other judgments Mr. Horowitz is preparing to render about related disputes related to the use of Mr. Steele’s information in the surveillance materials.

The wiretap applications contained a lengthy footnote telling the judges that Mr. Steele’s research was believed to have been commissioned by someone seeking information that would damage the Trump campaign. But it did not specifically identify the funders — the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

The original October 2016 application said investigators did not know the identity of Mr. Steele’s patrons. But even in 2017, after they specifically learned that Democrats paid a research firm to unearth material that could hurt Mr. Trump, law enforcement officials did not update the language in the renewal applications.

Defenders of the bureau’s inaction argued that the original footnote was sufficient to alert the surveillance court that Mr. Steele gathered the information in a political context and noted that it is standard practice to keep names of individual Americans or organizations out of such documents.

It also remains unclear what the inspector general concluded about Mr. Steele’s contacts with Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official. Mr. Ohr, an expert on Russian organized crime and himself a frequent target of Mr. Trump, spoke with Mr. Steele several times after the F.B.I. terminated its relationship with him. Mr. Ohr briefed the bureau about those conversations. His wife also worked for the opposition research firm that hired Mr. Steele.

In his comments to Fox on Friday, Mr. Trump appeared to be looking past Mr. Horowitz’s report and potentially anticipating its complex findings. “Perhaps even more importantly,” he said, “you have Durham coming out shortly thereafter.”

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