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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 139)

How a Month of Impeachment Ads Foreshadow the 2020 Ad Wars

Westlake Legal Group 00impeachads-facebookJumbo How a Month of Impeachment Ads Foreshadow the 2020 Ad Wars Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Social Media Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Political Advertising Political Action Committees Penzeys Spices Online Advertising impeachment Facebook Inc Democratic Party Delgado, Antonio club for growth Campaign Finance

Two minutes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi had announced an official impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign placed a new ad on Facebook, dropping $12,000 on an “Impeachment Poll” for its supporters.

Days later, the Trump campaign poured $8 million into a national television and digital ad campaign, releasing a television ad spinning the impeachment inquiry on unfounded conspiracy theories about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden. (CNN refused to air the ad, citing inaccuracies.)

All told, more than $13.6 million has been invested in trying to change public opinion on impeachment since the inquiry was announced, according to an analysis by Advertising Analytics, an ad monitoring company. In those four weeks of a rapidly escalating ad war, the messaging that will likely dominate the early stages of the election is coming into focus.

“If anyone is a history buff — and the Spanish Civil War was the precursor to World War II, when all the tactics got tested — then this is the Spanish Civil War for the upcoming presidential election ad wars,” said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.

For President Trump and his Republican allies, any effort that counters the president, including impeachment, is painted as evidence of a vast, far-left conspiracy. In ads from the campaign and from the Republican National Committee, the alleged far-left assault is illustrated largely through repetitive mentions and images of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, two freshman Democrats known for their outspoken progressive values and criticism of Mr. Trump, but not as leaders of the impeachment inquiry.

Additionally, Republicans are presenting the inquiry as a diversion: Support of the inquiry, the ads state, means breaking the 2018 midterm election promises of focusing on key issues like improving health care and lowering drug prices.

Democrats, at first largely loath to talk much about the impeachment inquiry for fear of appearing to politicize the issue, have quickly been put on the defensive. But in $1.5 million in ads from House Majority Forward, a Democratic-aligned super PAC, launched in defense of the freshman Democrats targeted by Republicans, there is nary a mention of impeachment. Instead, they are positive ads focused largely on local accomplishments.

“Forget the noise,” one ad from House Majority Forward said in favor of Haley Stevens, a freshman Democrat in Michigan, noting she was “focused on Michigan and getting the job done.”

The biggest advertiser surrounding impeachment, unsurprisingly, is the Trump campaign. With a $150 million-plus war chest, the president’s re-election campaign has dominated paid messaging on all platforms, most visibly on Facebook, raising concerns among Democratic operatives about its control over the digital conversation.

Indeed, Mr. Trump is vastly outspending Democrats on Facebook. He tripled his overall weekly buy of Facebook ads as soon as the impeachment inquiry was announced, and has spent $1.25 million on impeachment ads over the four weeks following the announcement of the inquiry, dwarfing even Tom Steyer, the billionaire candidate flooding airwaves and websites to raise his profile.

But Mr. Trump’s targeting in impeachment ads on Facebook reflects a similar strategy seen in his social media presence: Rather than focusing on persuading independents or voters in states crucial to his re-election, he has instead targeted areas where he has broad support, with advertising designed to fire up his base.

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More than 50 percent of his Facebook impeachment advertising is in states not competitive in 2020, according to an analysis of Facebook ads by Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic consultancy group. Just 9 percent of his ads are in the critical swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Ten percent went to Texas alone.

“Impeachment is just the latest tool that Trump’s using to enrage and activate the voters already in his corner,” said Daniel Scarvalone, a senior director at Bully Pulpit.

Notably, the Trump campaign put barely any resources online behind attacks on Mr. Biden, with roughly $78,000 in Facebook ads invoking some mention of Mr. Biden and his son’s business dealings in Ukraine, according to Bully Pulpit.

“You used to have to make an ad and air it on TV to get the media to fall for it,” said Mr. Goldstein. “Now you spend a couple thousand bucks on Facebook and have a press conference.”

The focus on Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Omar is evident in nearly every ad aligned with the president. In four ads from the Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group, that similarly target freshman Democratic representatives, members of the so-called Squad — which includes Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Ms. Omar, and Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib — are front and center. Perhaps unsurprisingly, strategists say it is because criticizing and using images of the Squad also appeals to the Republican targets for impeachment ads.

“They consistently test well in both focus groups and polling,” said Tom Schultz, vice president of campaigns for the Club for Growth, referring to the four congresswomen.

Though the impeachment inquiry is centered on Mr. Trump, part of the Republican Party’s strategy has been to target a core of freshman Democrats in swing districts and erode enthusiasm for impeachment in those areas, pitching support of the inquiry as ignoring progress on other issues. From Oct. 2-9, the R.N.C. spent $1.3 million on versions of these ads targeting 14 different Democratic house freshmen.

“Instead of fixing health care and lowering drug prices,” an ad from the Republican National Committee blares, the House freshman Democrats all vote “with the radicals for endless investigations of President Trump.”

The Republican effort forced House Majority Forward on the air, launching positive spots for 11 of the targeted House Democrats that focus on how they have worked to lower drug prices through Ms. Pelosi’s newly passed bill and other health care efforts.

“That’s why he’s doing the hard work others won’t,” one ad says in support of Representative Antonio Delgado, a freshman Democrat from a district in New York that Mr. Trump won in 2016. The ad goes on to say Mr. Delgado “took on the big drug companies to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.”

Though the Democratic presidential candidates have all tried to avoid focusing on impeachment, for fear of appearing to politicize it, many of the leading campaigns have still used impeachment in advertisements on Facebook to either drum up support or work toward donor acquisition.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right: In America, nobody is above the law,” wrote the campaign of Senator Kamala Harris, which spent $36,000 on Facebook impeachment ads, according to Bully Pulpit. “Sign our card to thank Speaker Pelosi for taking up the cause of impeachment.”

“It’s time for Congress to step up and begin impeachment proceedings,” the campaign of Senator Elizabeth Warren posted in an ad. “Add your name if you agree with Elizabeth.” The Warren campaign spent about $70,000 on Facebook ads targeting impeachment, according to Bully Pulpit.

These ads, known in political operative speak as acquisition ads, are designed to help candidates gather data on potential supporters or donors and continue to target messages toward them.

But as a sign of just how vast the impeachment ad wars have become, one of the top spenders on Facebook wasn’t even a political entity. Instead, it was a spice company based in Wisconsin, Penzeys Spices, that dropped nearly $100,000 in just a week on ads calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.

“The political landscape of America is in for the type of sudden shift we haven’t seen in close to 50 years,” the company’s owner, Bill Penzey, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday, outlining the next phase of its impeachment advertising plan. “You might want to buckle up.”

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Chinese Investment Pits Wall Street Against Washington

Westlake Legal Group 00DC-CHINAMONEY-facebookJumbo Chinese Investment Pits Wall Street Against Washington ZTE Corp United States Economy Trump, Donald J Stocks and Bonds Shaheen, Jeanne Securities and Exchange Commission Securities and Commodities Violations Rubio, Marco Romney, Mitt Pensions and Retirement Plans New York State Common Retirement Fund MSCI Inc Morgan Stanley Law and Legislation International Trade and World Market Human Rights and Human Rights Violations Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co Ltd Government Employees Gillibrand, Kirsten E Gazprom China Mobile Ltd China Communications Construction Co China California Public Employees Retirement System BlackRock Inc

WASHINGTON — The rivalry between the United States and China has spread to a fight over financial ties between the countries, pitting Washington security hawks against Wall Street investors.

Members of Congress and the Trump administration are warning that Chinese companies are raising money from American investors and stock exchanges for purposes that run counter to American interests. To help curb the flow of dollars into China, they have turned their sights on an unlikely target: their own retirement fund.

The Thrift Savings Plan is the retirement savings vehicle for federal government employees, including lawmakers, White House officials and members of the military. Beginning next year, the fund is scheduled to switch to a different mix of investments that would increase its exposure to China and other emerging markets. Lawmakers and some in the Trump administration are trying to stop that move, saying the change would pump federal workers’ savings into companies that could undermine American national security or have been sanctioned by the United States.

Last Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to the plan’s governing board urging it to reverse its decision.

“For China, this is the greatest free lunch program for capital they’ve ever known, because they’re able to penetrate the investment portfolios of scores of millions of Americans in basically one shot,” said Roger Robinson, the president of the consulting firm RWR Advisory Group, which has distributed research on the subject to lawmakers and members of the Trump administration.

The push to forestall more investment in China is part of a broader effort by some officials in Washington to separate ties between the world’s two largest economies. It is also another indication that President Trump’s conflict with China will persist, even if the United States signs a limited trade deal with Beijing later this year.

Some China critics are pressing Mr. Trump to go beyond the tariffs he has already imposed and erect larger barriers between the two countries, including restrictions on the flow of technology and investment.

In recent months, officials have been making more frequent calls to re-examine China’s presence in the stock portfolios of American investors. Administration officials, including members of the National Security Council, have begun pressing the Securities and Exchange Commission to increase scrutiny of Chinese firms, which have long skirted the auditing and disclosure requirements of American stock exchanges, putting investors at risk. Chinese law restricts the company documentation that auditors can transfer out of the country, limiting their visibility to American regulators.

Policymakers are considering more stringent proposals. In June, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would delist foreign firms that do not comply with American financial regulators for a period of three years.

Another area of concern is the decision by companies that compile major stock indexes to include more firms that are listed on Chinese exchanges. While investors can’t put money directly into an index, they can invest in a fund that mirrors an index’s particular basket of securities.

As global stock markets have steadily trended upward in recent years, more investors have turned to passive investing, in which a fund simply mirrors a major index, rather than active investing, in which fund managers try to pick certain stocks to outperform the market.

And as China’s economy has continued to grow, index providers have increased the weighting of Chinese stocks. The move has been a win for Beijing, funneling money into the Chinese market and helping to enhance the international profile of its companies and its currency, the renminbi.

Like many retirement vehicles, the Thrift Savings Plan, which manages $600 billion of savings by millions of federal government employees, offers participants the option of investing in an index fund.

The plan, which is similar to a 401(k), gives federal workers the option to invest in a fund with international exposure. If they do, their savings go to a fund featuring the same securities as a popular index developed by Morgan Stanley.

Currently, the fund mirrors an index with stocks solely from developed countries, called the MSCI Europe, Australasia, Far East Index. But on the advice of an outside consultant, Aon Hewitt, the board decided to shift those investments to better diversify its portfolio and obtain a higher return. In mid-2020, the fund is to begin mirroring Morgan Stanley’s MSCI All Country World ex-U.S.A. Index, which includes shares of more than 2,000 companies from dozens of developed and emerging countries, including China.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have joined Democrats and Republicans in Congress in expressing concerns about the planned change. They say it will funnel the savings of Americans into some companies that have murky financial records, or pursue activities that run counter to America’s national interest.

Senators Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat from New Hampshire, sent a letter last week to the body that manages the plan, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, urging it to reverse a decision that they said would invest retirement funds in companies “that assist in the Chinese government’s military activities, espionage, and human rights abuses, as well as many other Chinese companies that lack basic financial transparency.”

The letter, which was also signed by Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democratic senator from New York, as well as the Republican senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Rick Scott of Florida, said, “It is our responsibility to these public servants to ensure that the investment of their retirement savings does not undermine the American interests for which they serve.”

A spokeswoman for Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said it was reviewing the letter and had invited the consultant, Aon Hewitt, to review its previous recommendations at a meeting on Monday.

One company in the new index that the senators have pointed to is Hikvision, a Chinese manufacturer of video surveillance products that the United States placed on a blacklist earlier this month. The Trump administration says the company has provided surveillance equipment that aided China in a campaign targeting a Muslim minority, including in constructing large internment camps in the autonomous region of Xinjiang.

The MSCI All Country World ex U.S.A. Index also includes AviChina Industry & Technology Company Ltd., a subsidiary of China’s state-owned manufacturer of aircraft and airborne weapons, which manufactured planes and missiles that were the centerpiece of a military parade in Beijing earlier this month. Also included in the index is China Mobile, which is blocked from providing international services in the United States; ZTE, which the United States fined last year for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea; and China Communications Construction Company, which is reportedly involved in island building in the South China Sea.

The index also includes Russian companies that have been sanctioned over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, cyberespionage and other issues. A December 2018 report by RWR Advisory Group found that five of the 11 Russian constituents of the index had been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, including the Russian gas companies Gazprom and Novatek.

Richard V. Spencer, secretary of the Navy, said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article last week that the savings of members of the military should not be “unwittingly helping to underwrite the threats China and Russia pose to their lives.” Mr. Spencer said the board must reverse its decision “for the good of the country and those who serve it.”

Business leaders and Wall Street executives have started pushing back, saying efforts to restrict investment constitute government interference and could destabilize financial markets. When policymakers begin to pull the threads of financial connections between the United States and China, it’s not clear how much they will unwind, they say.

“There are certainly reasons why the U.S. should be concerned about various things China is doing and the rivalry it presents,” said Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at the investment advisory firm Silvercrest Asset Management. “But by the same token, they’re the second-biggest economy in the world. If you push them off a cliff, you better make sure you’re not handcuffed to them.”

Reversing the decision could cost federal employees who are saving for retirement. China is now home to more companies in the global Fortune 500 than the United States. And while China’s growth has slowed sharply in recent years, its economy is still expanding at about 6 percent annually, roughly three times as fast as the United States’.

Fast-growing economies tend to be favorable for stock investing, suggesting that investors could be giving up some gains if they’re blocked from the Chinese markets. In an analysis for the Thrift Retirement Board, Aon Hewitt found that $1 invested in the securities on the new index would have returned $3.28 after 23 years, while $1 invested in the securities of the original index would have returned $3.05.

“At the end of the day, stock investing is about being exposed to growth,” said Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. “That is where the growth is.”

— Alan Rappeport contributed reporting. Matt Phillips contributed from New York.

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Watching the Raid Was Like a Movie, the President Said. Except There Was No Live Audio.

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-video-facebookJumbo Watching the Raid Was Like a Movie, the President Said. Except There Was No Live Audio. United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Idlib (Syria) Defense Department central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — In describing the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Sunday, President Trump used dramatic, even cinematic language to portray the daring American commando raid that brought down the Islamic State leader who, the president said, died “screaming, crying and whimpering.”

Mr. Trump described the video footage he watched from the White House Situation Room as “something really amazing to see.” The experience, the president said, was “as though you were watching a movie.”

What the president saw, according to military and intelligence officials, was overhead surveillance footage on several video screens that, together, provided various angles from above, and in real time.

The videos included heat signatures of those moving around — which analysts labeled friend or foe — at the al-Baghdadi compound near Idlib, Syria.

But those surveillance feeds could not show what was happening in an underground tunnel, much less detect if Mr. al-Baghdadi was whimpering or crying.

For that, Mr. Trump would have had to have gotten a report from the commandos directly, or relayed up through their chain of command to the commander in chief.

At the Pentagon on Sunday, officials steered clear of any description of Mr. al-Baghdadi whimpering or crying, and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, when pressed about the president’s assertion on ABC’s “This Week,” did not repeat the “whimpering” characterization.

“I don’t have those details,” Mr. Esper said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

A Defense Department official said on Sunday that it was certainly possible for Mr. Trump to have spoken directly with one or more of the commandos after the raid, or with their commanders who had spoken to members of the raiding party.

In addition to the version provided by Mr. Trump in lengthy televised comments, the accounting of what he saw was provided by a number of military, intelligence and administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the raid.

Mr. Trump would not have received any real-time dialogue from the scene, the officials said, because the last thing American military planners want is to invite critique, second-guessing or even new orders from the Situation Room in the middle of an active military raid.

In fact, in recent years American Special Operations forces have moved away from using helmet cameras to pipe back video in real time on every mission because it is often violent and disorienting, and invites instant quarterbacking from back in command centers.

Perhaps because of the importance of this raid, though, the Delta Force operators were wearing body cameras, officials said, but those cameras do not broadcast in real time; instead the video in those cameras is configured to be downloaded and reviewed after the operation is complete.

At the time of Mr. Trump’s remarks, that footage had not been reviewed by senior commanders in the Pentagon or given to the White House. It is not clear whether the dog that followed Mr. al-Baghdadi into the tunnel was wearing a body camera.

Mr. Trump said he did not have to make any decisions in the moments of the raid, while troops were on the ground. (Military officials said they would never have asked him to).

“No,” Mr. Trump said in response to whether he had to make decisions on the fly. “We were getting full reports on literally a minute-by-minute basis. ‘Sir, we just broke in. Sir, the wall is down. Sir, you know, we’ve captured. Sir, two people are coming out right now. Hands up.’ ”

Then, Mr. Trump said, he was given a report: “‘Sir, there’s only one person in the building. We are sure he’s in the tunnel trying to escape.’”

“But it’s a dead-end tunnel,” Mr. Trump said he was told.

In the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader, in 2011, Leon E. Panetta, who then was serving as C.I.A. director, narrated the events unfolding in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to President Barack Obama and his national security advisers in the Situation Room.

Mr. Panetta was on a video screen as he spoke from C.I.A. headquarters, and was the one who informed the president when the Al Qaeda leader, code-named “Geronimo,” was positively identified by Navy SEALs as being in the house — and, later, when he was killed.

“Geronimo EKIA,” Mr. Panetta said, for Enemy Killed in Action.

It was unclear on Sunday whether Mr. al-Baghdadi similarly was given a code name for the Idlib raid.

Helene Cooper and Julian E. Barnes reported from Washington, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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Moving Closer to Trump, Impeachment Inquiry Faces Critical Test

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-impeach1-facebookJumbo Moving Closer to Trump, Impeachment Inquiry Faces Critical Test United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Suits and Litigation (Civil) impeachment House of Representatives Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — House impeachment investigators are speeding toward new White House barriers meant to block crucial testimony and evidence from the people who are closest to President Trump — obstacles that could soon test the limits of Democrats’ fact finding a month into their inquiry.

What has been a rapidly moving investigation securing damning testimony from witnesses who have defied White House orders may soon become a more arduous effort. Investigators are now trying to secure cooperation from higher-ranking advisers who can offer more direct accounts of Mr. Trump’s actions but are also more easily shielded from Congress.

Democrats are likely to face the first such roadblock on Monday, when one of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers is expected to defy a subpoena as he awaits a federal court to determine whether he can speak with impeachment investigators. But others could soon follow, legal experts and lawmakers say, forcing Democratic leaders toward a consequential choice: Try to force cooperation through the courts or move on to begin making an argument for impeachment in public.

At stake is not just how quickly the investigation concludes, but how much evidence ultimately undergirds the case against Mr. Trump.

Many Democrats involved in the inquiry already believe they have collected enough to impeach him for abusing his power by enlisting a foreign government to smear his political rivals. But to persuade the public — and the necessary number of Republican senators — that the president should be convicted and removed from office, they may need additional proof tying him directly to certain elements of the alleged wrongdoing. They could potentially unearth stronger evidence by turning to the courts, but that could also stall the case for months and risk losing public support, much as some Democrats believe happened in the Russia inquiry.

“As in many investigations, you get to a point where you have to decide how much is enough and whether the incremental value of the additional juice is worth the squeeze,” said Ross H. Garber, a lawyer who is one of the nation’s leading experts on impeachment. “If anything, they may be surprised by how much cooperation they have gotten from witnesses already, notwithstanding the position of the executive branch.”

For now, Democrats have not yet exhausted testimony from officials who appear willing to cooperate and have at least peripheral knowledge of the case. At least two more White House officials are scheduled to testify this week, and are expected to confirm key events. Other officials from the State and Defense Departments involved in Ukraine policy are set to appear, as well.

Democrats believe a reconstructed transcript released by the White House of a July phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine also significantly bolsters their case. In the call, Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and unproven theories about Democratic collusion with Ukraine during the 2016 election.

“We have a tremendous table of evidence before us that fills in all of the principal, material questions that were raised by the whistle-blower,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, referring to an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint about Mr. Trump’s actions toward Ukraine helped prompt the impeachment inquiry.

But the story lawmakers have uncovered so far has also pointed further into Mr. Trump’s inner circle, offering tantalizing leads that Democrats have signaled they intend to at least try to run down.

They have indicated that they want to talk to John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser, who is said to have been deeply alarmed by what he saw transpiring with Ukraine. They may also seek testimony from Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff who helped carry out Mr. Trump’s order to freeze the aid; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who was deeply involved in implementing the president’s agenda. And then there is Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, who appears to have orchestrated the campaign to secure the investigations.

The president has greater powers to shield from Congress his conversations with close aides, as well as greater pull on the loyalties of potential witnesses, who have already begun to indicate they cannot simply defy White House orders like others who have already testified.

One of the first signs Democrats would now face a more difficult trek emerged late on Friday when the president’s former deputy national security adviser, Charles M. Kupperman, took the unusual move of filing the lawsuit, asking a federal judge to rule on whether he should be forced to testify about his conversations with Mr. Trump. Democrats had subpoenaed Mr. Kupperman to appear on Monday but Mr. Trump ordered him not to by invoking a rarely used and untested theory that top presidential aides are absolutely immune from testimony.

Mr. Kupperman worked directly with Mr. Trump on Ukraine policy and served as his acting national security adviser in September, when Mr. Trump decided to release $391 million in aid for Ukraine that he had temporarily frozen. Some impeachment witnesses have said the president had been using the aid as leverage to force the Ukranians to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

The suit could have ramifications that go far beyond Mr. Kupperman. The lawyer who filed the suit, Charles Cooper, also represents Mr. Bolton, and Mr. Cooper will almost certainly handle requests for Mr. Bolton’s testimony the same way.

Mr. Trump’s advisers are bullish that claims of absolute immunity and executive privilege can help gum up Democrats’ progress and may force them to leave certain potential witnesses and documentary evidence uncollected in the interest of time.

Indeed, the suit and the potential that the White House could invoke immunity over other top aides raises profound and largely unanswered legal questions about the extent of the president’s ability to shield private communications from Congress, especially in the face of an impeachment inquiry. Even on an expedited schedule, the disputes could take months to sort out and end up before the Supreme Court.

The challenge does not have a neat historical parallel. Unlike in the impeachment proceedings against Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton, the House is not building its case on a federal law enforcement investigation, which obviated the need for the kind of primary fact finding underway right now.

Though they have not entirely ruled out using the courts to knock down claims of immunity they view as spurious, Democrats led by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, have hinted for weeks now that they do not intend to wait around for decisions. They still, however, want to force each witness to decide how to respond, testing for additional cracks in the president’s stonewall.

On Saturday, Mr. Schiff and two others leading the inquiry wrote to Mr. Kupperman’s lawyer that if Mr. Kupperman fails to show up on Monday as scheduled, he will expose the president to further charges of obstructing Congress — possibly an impeachable offense — and run the risk of being held in contempt of Congress.

The House, they wrote, may well assume “that your client’s testimony would have corroborated other evidence gathered by the committees showing that the president abused the power of his office by attempting to press another nation to assist his own personal political interests, and not the national interest.”

Several current and former diplomats have backed up that account in private testimony in recent days. The most startling came last week from William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, who told investigators that Mr. Trump sought to condition the entire United States relationship with Ukraine, including the aid package and a coveted White House meeting for Mr. Zelensky, on a promise that the country would publicly investigate his rivals.

Mr. Taylor said that when he objected to what he saw as the manipulation of the aid, Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, Gordon D. Sondland, told him there was no quid pro quo but went on to describe just that.

The testimony privately shook the confidence of many Republican lawmakers, and Democrats claimed it was a smoking gun. But allies of the president quickly pointed to what could be a central topic of debate if the Democrats proceed to impeach: Mr. Taylor’s account was not based on firsthand encounters with the president.

“How would you really know,” asked Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, noting that Mr. Taylor’s information appeared to be second- and thirdhand.

Mr. Sondland, a Trump supporter testified a week before, is the closest anyone directly interacting with Mr. Trump has come to implicating him. He told investigators that Mr. Trump had handed over Ukraine policy to Mr. Giuliani to his alarm. On Saturday, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer acknowledged that his client had also testified that he believed Mr. Trump had withheld a White House meeting from the Ukrainians as part of a quid pro quo to secure the politically beneficial investigations, a development first reported by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

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Al-Baghdadi Raid Was a Victory Built on Factors Trump Derides

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-assess-promo-facebookJumbo Al-Baghdadi Raid Was a Victory Built on Factors Trump Derides United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Terrorism Syria National Security Agency Middle East Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense and Military Forces central intelligence agency bin Laden, Osama

WASHINGTON — The death of the Islamic State’s leader in a daring nighttime raid vindicated the value of three traditional American strengths: robust alliances, faith in intelligence agencies and the projection of military power around the world.

But President Trump has regularly derided the first two. And even as he claimed a significant national security victory on Sunday, the outcome of the raid did little to quell doubts about the wisdom of his push to reduce the United States military presence in Syria at a time when terrorist threats continue to develop in the region.

Mr. Trump has long viewed the United States intelligence agencies with suspicion and appears to see its employees as members of the “deep state.” He also has a distinctly skeptical view of alliances — in this case, close cooperation with the Kurds, whom he has effectively abandoned.

“The irony of the successful operation against al-Baghdadi is that it could not have happened without U.S. forces on the ground that have been pulled out, help from Syrian Kurds who have been betrayed, and support of a U.S. intelligence community that has so often been disparaged,” Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Sunday.

“While the raid was obviously a welcome success, the conditions that made the operation possible may not exist in the future,” he said.

To Mr. Trump, the death of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was proof of the wisdom of his strategy of defending America at home without committing United States forces to “endless wars” abroad.

To the president and his supporters, the arguments from critics amount to sour grapes, an effort by an impeachment-crazed opposition to play down the success of a focused, successful clandestine operation that echoed the killing of Osama bin Laden.

That, of course, was the 2011 moment that Democrats celebrated as proof that a progressive president with little national security experience could take out the world’s most wanted terrorist. And while it had faded a bit in memory by the time President Barack Obama was up for re-election the following year, it was a talking point for his campaign.

Mr. Trump seemed to be laying the predicate for his own campaign talking points on Sunday, when he recounted telling his own forces that “I want al-Baghdadi,” rather than a string of deceased terrorist leaders who were “names I never heard of.” And clearly he is hoping that the success of the raid has a wider resonance: He sees the al-Baghdadi raid, some former Trump aides said, as a counterweight to the impeachment inquiry, which is based in part on an argument that he has shaped foreign policy for his political benefit.

It is too early to know whether any political boost will be lasting. But navigating the complex morass of the Middle East is no less complex for the death of Mr. al-Baghdadi. It is not clear if the president’s decision to pull back American forces in northern Syria in recent weeks complicated the planning and execution of the mission.

And while the raid achieved its goal, it did little to resolve the question of whether Mr. Trump’s instinct for disengagement will create room for new strains of violent radicalism that he and his successors will be forced to clean up.

For Mr. Trump, the aftermath of the Bin Laden killing eight years ago should also sound a warning.

Even without its leader, Al Qaeda evolved and spread. The Islamic State began its killing spree in the vacuum of the Middle East by early 2014, in both Iraq and Syria. Mr. Trump himself, in the heat of the 2016 campaign, accused Mr. Obama of creating the conditions for a new iteration of Islamic terrorism to prosper.

He was the founder,” Mr. Trump said in August 2016, talking about Mr. Obama and ISIS. “The way he got out of Iraq, that was the founding of ISIS.”

The history of the Middle East is rife with the rise of extremist movements, and there is no reason to believe ISIS will be the last. Long after the cinematic details of the daring raid — from its patient beginnings in Iraq last summer to the tense flight into Syria and the chase down a sealed tunnel where Mr. al-Baghdadi met his end — the enduring question will be whether the Trump administration capitalizes on the moment to address the region’s deep sectarian and political fissures and the underlying causes of terrorism.

Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute wrote on Sunday that “al-Baghdadi’s death will dash the dreams of an Islamic State centered in the Levant, but its years of operations recruited, trained and dispatched foreign fighters from dozens of countries that will lead the next generation of jihad to other frontiers.”

He added: “Islamic State-trained foreign fighters will be a future terrorism problem for the decade to come.”

Mr. Obama and his administration grappled with that challenge endlessly, and their memoirs are filled with Situation Room meetings searching for an approach beyond drone strikes. But they never solved the problem.

Mr. Trump’s team, in contrast, rarely discusses it. And that is in part because of the president’s very different philosophy of how to secure the country, one that was on display in his sometimes rambling news conference after the announcement of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death.

Mr. Trump’s approach to the region has never been consistent, but he has struck consistent themes. The first is that the United States does not need to keep forces in the region to reach out and kill its enemies. The high price of occupation, rebuilding and vacuum-filling, he suggests, can be paid by allies, or by Russians, Turks and even the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

“That’s why I say they should start doing a lot of the fighting now, and they’ll be able to,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Sunday. “I really believe they’ll be able to.”

All the terrorists need to know, he said, is that the United States will hunt them down, if necessary, even from afar.

But the story of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s demise is more complex. He was living in territory that was essentially ungoverned space, dominated by two different Qaeda groups — Mr. al-Baghdadi’s rivals — and now an emerging territory for ISIS fighters on the run. The Syrians and the Russians control the airspace.

It is exactly the kind of area that American military and intelligence leaders — and the Republican leadership in Congress — have urged Mr. Trump to keep an eye on by keeping a small force in the country.

David H. Petraeus, the former general and C.I.A. director, often says that ungoverned space inevitably becomes extremist space. “Las Vegas rules do not obtain in these locations,” he said this year. “What happens there doesn’t stay there.”

Mr. Trump does not subscribe to that theory. In his view, American surveillance can keep track of the terrorists from above, while the National Security Agency can bore into their networks.

To Mr. Trump, a United States military presence on the ground becomes an excuse for others not to act; it does not bother him, he says, that Russia now occupies an area that was essentially an American protectorate before.

“I’ll tell you who loves us being there: Russia and China,” he said. “Because while they build their military, we’re depleting our military there.”

Mr. Trump acknowledged the help of some of those governments on Sunday, thanking the Russians first for allowing in the American helicopters, saying that the Kurds “gave us some information,” that Turkey was “not a problem.” (He did not give a similar heads-up to the congressional leadership that has been pressing for his impeachment, saying, “Washington is a leaking machine.”) While he declined to say where the operation began and ended, it was from Iraqi territory.

But it is far from clear that, in the absence of American engagement, that access is assured.

The one exception to Mr. Trump’s disengagement philosophy may come over oil.

Mr. Trump said he would not ask American taxpayers to “pay for the next 50 years” of containing mayhem. But in recent days he has indicated he is willing to keep troops around Syria’s oil fields, a consistent exception to the Trump no-troops rule. When the Iraq invasion happened, he noted Sunday, he argued for America to “keep the oil.”

Now he is making a similar case about the oil in Syria. Oil money fueled ISIS, he notes, and more recently it helps feed the Kurds — not mentioning that their access to it is being jeopardized by his sudden decision three weeks ago to abandon the American posts along the Turkey-Syria border.

But in recent days his defense secretary, Mark T. Esper, has indicated Mr. Trump was willing to commit forces to secure the fields, and the president went further on Sunday, saying he intends to “make a deal with an Exxon-Mobil or one of our great companies to go in” and exploit the field properly.

“We should be able to take some also,” he said.

The risk, of course, is that America looks like a force of exploitation, willing to enter hostile foreign lands for two reasons only: killing terrorists and extracting resources. The mission of the American Century — helping other nations to develop their economies and build democratic institutions — is missing from the strategy.

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

Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-raid-facebookJumbo Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Esper, Mark T Defense Department Deaths (Fatalities) central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump knew the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Operations commandos were zeroing in on the location for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, when he ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria earlier this month, intelligence, military and counterterrorism officials said on Sunday.

For months, intelligence officials had kept Mr. Trump apprised of what he had set as a top priority, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist.

But Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump’s actions.

It is unclear how much Mr. Trump considered the intelligence on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location when he made the surprise decision to withdraw the American troops during a telephone call on Oct. 6 with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. What is clear, military officials said, is that it put commanders on the ground under even more pressure to carry out the complicated operation.

More than a half-dozen Pentagon, military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials — along with Mr. Trump, who gave an account during a White House news conference on Sunday — provided a chronology of the raid.

The planning for the raid began this past summer, when the C.I.A. first got surprising information about Mr. al-Baghdadi’s general location in a village deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by rival Qaeda groups. The information came after the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s wives and a courier, two American officials said.

Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify more precisely Mr. al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements. American officials said the Kurds continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone.

The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

According to a Syrian engineer who spoke with villagers living near the raid site, Mr. al-Baghdadi had sought shelter in the home of Abu Mohammed Salama, a commander of another extremist group, Hurras al-Din. The commander’s fate in that raid, and the precise nature of his relationship to Mr. al-Baghdadi, are not clear.¶

As the Army’s elite Delta Force commando unit began drawing up and rehearsing plans to conduct the mission to kill or capture the ISIS leader, they knew they faced formidable hurdles. The location was deep inside territory controlled by Al Qaeda. The skies over that part of the country were controlled by Syria and Russia.

The military called off missions at least twice at the last minute.

The final planning for the raid came together over two to three days last week. A senior administration official said that Mr. al-Baghdadi was “about to move.” Military officials determined that they had to go swiftly. If Mr. al-Baghdadi moved again, it would be much harder to track him with the American military pulling out its troops and surveillance assets on the ground in Syria.

By Thursday and then Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Trump “gave us the green light to proceed.’’

Around midnight Sunday morning in the region — 5 p.m. Saturday in Washington — eight American helicopters, primarily CH-47 Chinooks, took off from a military base near Erbil, Iraq.

Flying low and fast to avoid detection, the helicopters quickly crossed the Syrian border and then flew all the way across Syria itself — a dangerous 70-minute flight in which the helicopters took sporadic groundfire — to the Barisha area just north of Idlib city, in western Syria. Just before landing, the helicopters and other warplanes began firing on a compound of buildings, providing cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs to descend into a landing zone.

Mr. Trump said that with the helicopter gunships firing from above, the commandos had bypassed the front door, fearing a booby trap, before destroying one of the compound’s walls. That allowed them to rush through and confront a group of ISIS fighters.

The president, along with Mr. Esper, Vice President Mike Pence and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watched video of the raid piped into the White House Situation Room from surveillance aircraft orbiting over the battlefield.

The Delta Force commandos, under fire, entered the compound, where they shot and killed a number of people. As the Delta Force team breached the wall with explosives, an Arabic linguist advised children and other noncombatants how to flee, a decision commanders credited with saving 11 of the children Mr. al-Baghdadi had in his compound.

Mr. al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel, with the American commandos in pursuit. Mr. Trump said that the ISIS leader took three children with him, presumably to use as human shields from the American fire. Fearing that Mr. al-Baghdadi was wearing a suicide vest, the commandos dispatched a military dog to subdue Mr. al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump said.

It was then that the Islamic State leader set off the explosives, killing the three children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Esper described the climax of the two-hour ground raid on “This Week” this way: “He’s in a compound, that’s right, with a few other men and women with him and a large number of children. Our special operators have tactics and techniques and procedures they go through to try and call them out. At the end of the day, as the president said, he decided to kill himself and took some small children with him, we believe.”

Mr. Trump was more descriptive. “I got to watch much of it,” he said. Mr. al-Baghdadi, he said, “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Mr. Esper did not repeat the “whimpering” and “crying” assertion made by Mr. Trump. “I don’t have those details,” he said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

At 7:15 p.m. Washington time on Saturday, the Special Operations commander on the ground reported that Mr. al-Baghdadi had been killed. Five other “enemy combatants” were killed in the compound, the White House said, and “additional enemies were killed in the vicinity.”

Two American service members were slightly wounded, the White House said, but have returned to duty. The American military dog was wounded in Mr. al-Baghdadi’s suicide-vest explosion and was taken away, Mr. Trump said.

After the raid, the commandos removed the 11 children from the site and handed them over to a woman in the area. The military then ordered the destruction of the site, to ensure it would not in the future become a shrine to ISIS, according to a person familiar with the operation.

Altogether, the American troops were on the ground in the compound for around two hours, Mr. Trump said, clearing the buildings of fighters and scooping up information that the president said contained important details on ISIS operations. Mr. Trump said the commandos already had DNA samples from the Islamic State leader, which he said they used to make a quick assessment that they had the right man.

Once all the Americans had piled back into their helicopters and started the return flight to Iraq — using the same route out as they had used coming in, Mr. Trump said — American warplanes bombed the compound to ensure it was physically destroyed, Mr. Esper said. Just after 9 p.m. Washington time Saturday — four hours after the helicopters had taken off — Mr. Trump tweeted, “Something very big has just happened!”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Rukmini Callimachi from Romania.

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

Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-raid-facebookJumbo Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Esper, Mark T Defense Department Deaths (Fatalities) central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump knew the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Operations commandos were zeroing in on the location for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, when he ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria earlier this month, intelligence, military and counterterrorism officials said on Sunday.

For months, intelligence officials had kept Mr. Trump apprised of what he had set as a top priority, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist.

But Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump’s actions.

It is unclear how much Mr. Trump considered the intelligence on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location when he made the surprise decision to withdraw the American troops during a telephone call on Oct. 6 with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. What is clear, military officials said, is that it put commanders on the ground under even more pressure to carry out the complicated operation.

More than a half-dozen Pentagon, military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials — along with Mr. Trump, who gave an account during a White House news conference on Sunday — provided a chronology of the raid.

The planning for the raid began this past summer, when the C.I.A. first got surprising information about Mr. al-Baghdadi’s general location in a village deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by rival Qaeda groups. The information came after the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s wives and a courier, two American officials said.

Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify more precisely Mr. al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements. American officials said the Kurds continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone.

The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

According to a Syrian engineer who spoke with villagers living near the raid site, Mr. al-Baghdadi had sought shelter in the home of Abu Mohammed Salama, a commander of another extremist group, Hurras al-Din. The commander’s fate in that raid, and the precise nature of his relationship to Mr. al-Baghdadi, are not clear.¶

As the Army’s elite Delta Force commando unit began drawing up and rehearsing plans to conduct the mission to kill or capture the ISIS leader, they knew they faced formidable hurdles. The location was deep inside territory controlled by Al Qaeda. The skies over that part of the country were controlled by Syria and Russia.

The military called off missions at least twice at the last minute.

The final planning for the raid came together over two to three days last week. A senior administration official said that Mr. al-Baghdadi was “about to move.” Military officials determined that they had to go swiftly. If Mr. al-Baghdadi moved again, it would be much harder to track him with the American military pulling out its troops and surveillance assets on the ground in Syria.

By Thursday and then Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Trump “gave us the green light to proceed.’’

Around midnight Sunday morning in the region — 5 p.m. Saturday in Washington — eight American helicopters, primarily CH-47 Chinooks, took off from a military base near Erbil, Iraq.

Flying low and fast to avoid detection, the helicopters quickly crossed the Syrian border and then flew all the way across Syria itself — a dangerous 70-minute flight in which the helicopters took sporadic groundfire — to the Barisha area just north of Idlib city, in western Syria. Just before landing, the helicopters and other warplanes began firing on a compound of buildings, providing cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs to descend into a landing zone.

Mr. Trump said that with the helicopter gunships firing from above, the commandos had bypassed the front door, fearing a booby trap, before destroying one of the compound’s walls. That allowed them to rush through and confront a group of ISIS fighters.

The president, along with Mr. Esper, Vice President Mike Pence and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watched video of the raid piped into the White House Situation Room from surveillance aircraft orbiting over the battlefield.

The Delta Force commandos, under fire, entered the compound, where they shot and killed a number of people. As the Delta Force team breached the wall with explosives, an Arabic linguist advised children and other noncombatants how to flee, a decision commanders credited with saving 11 of the children Mr. al-Baghdadi had in his compound.

Mr. al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel, with the American commandos in pursuit. Mr. Trump said that the ISIS leader took three children with him, presumably to use as human shields from the American fire. Fearing that Mr. al-Baghdadi was wearing a suicide vest, the commandos dispatched a military dog to subdue Mr. al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump said.

It was then that the Islamic State leader set off the explosives, killing the three children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Esper described the climax of the two-hour ground raid on “This Week” this way: “He’s in a compound, that’s right, with a few other men and women with him and a large number of children. Our special operators have tactics and techniques and procedures they go through to try and call them out. At the end of the day, as the president said, he decided to kill himself and took some small children with him, we believe.”

Mr. Trump was more descriptive. “I got to watch much of it,” he said. Mr. al-Baghdadi, he said, “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Mr. Esper did not repeat the “whimpering” and “crying” assertion made by Mr. Trump. “I don’t have those details,” he said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

At 7:15 p.m. Washington time on Saturday, the Special Operations commander on the ground reported that Mr. al-Baghdadi had been killed. Five other “enemy combatants” were killed in the compound, the White House said, and “additional enemies were killed in the vicinity.”

Two American service members were slightly wounded, the White House said, but have returned to duty. The American military dog was wounded in Mr. al-Baghdadi’s suicide-vest explosion and was taken away, Mr. Trump said.

After the raid, the commandos removed the 11 children from the site and handed them over to a woman in the area. The military then ordered the destruction of the site, to ensure it would not in the future become a shrine to ISIS, according to a person familiar with the operation.

Altogether, the American troops were on the ground in the compound for around two hours, Mr. Trump said, clearing the buildings of fighters and scooping up information that the president said contained important details on ISIS operations. Mr. Trump said the commandos already had DNA samples from the Islamic State leader, which he said they used to make a quick assessment that they had the right man.

Once all the Americans had piled back into their helicopters and started the return flight to Iraq — using the same route out as they had used coming in, Mr. Trump said — American warplanes bombed the compound to ensure it was physically destroyed, Mr. Esper said. Just after 9 p.m. Washington time Saturday — four hours after the helicopters had taken off — Mr. Trump tweeted, “Something very big has just happened!”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Rukmini Callimachi from Romania.

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

Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-raid-facebookJumbo Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Esper, Mark T Defense Department Deaths (Fatalities) central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump knew the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Operations commandos were zeroing in on the location for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, when he ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria earlier this month, intelligence, military and counterterrorism officials said on Sunday.

For months, intelligence officials had kept Mr. Trump apprised of what he had set as a top priority, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist.

But Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump’s actions.

It is unclear how much Mr. Trump considered the intelligence on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location when he made the surprise decision to withdraw the American troops during a telephone call on Oct. 6 with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. What is clear, military officials said, is that it put commanders on the ground under even more pressure to carry out the complicated operation.

More than a half-dozen Pentagon, military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials — along with Mr. Trump, who gave an account during a White House news conference on Sunday — provided a chronology of the raid.

The planning for the raid began this past summer, when the C.I.A. first got surprising information about Mr. al-Baghdadi’s general location in a village deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by rival Qaeda groups. The information came after the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s wives and a courier, two American officials said.

Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify more precisely Mr. al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements. American officials said the Kurds continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone.

The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

According to a Syrian engineer who spoke with villagers living near the raid site, Mr. al-Baghdadi had sought shelter in the home of Abu Mohammed Salama, a commander of another extremist group, Hurras al-Din. The commander’s fate in that raid, and the precise nature of his relationship to Mr. al-Baghdadi, are not clear.¶

As the Army’s elite Delta Force commando unit began drawing up and rehearsing plans to conduct the mission to kill or capture the ISIS leader, they knew they faced formidable hurdles. The location was deep inside territory controlled by Al Qaeda. The skies over that part of the country were controlled by Syria and Russia.

The military called off missions at least twice at the last minute.

The final planning for the raid came together over two to three days last week. A senior administration official said that Mr. al-Baghdadi was “about to move.” Military officials determined that they had to go swiftly. If Mr. al-Baghdadi moved again, it would be much harder to track him with the American military pulling out its troops and surveillance assets on the ground in Syria.

By Thursday and then Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Trump “gave us the green light to proceed.’’

Around midnight Sunday morning in the region — 5 p.m. Saturday in Washington — eight American helicopters, primarily CH-47 Chinooks, took off from a military base near Erbil, Iraq.

Flying low and fast to avoid detection, the helicopters quickly crossed the Syrian border and then flew all the way across Syria itself — a dangerous 70-minute flight in which the helicopters took sporadic groundfire — to the Barisha area just north of Idlib city, in western Syria. Just before landing, the helicopters and other warplanes began firing on a compound of buildings, providing cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs to descend into a landing zone.

Mr. Trump said that with the helicopter gunships firing from above, the commandos had bypassed the front door, fearing a booby trap, before destroying one of the compound’s walls. That allowed them to rush through and confront a group of ISIS fighters.

The president, along with Mr. Esper, Vice President Mike Pence and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watched video of the raid piped into the White House Situation Room from surveillance aircraft orbiting over the battlefield.

The Delta Force commandos, under fire, entered the compound, where they shot and killed a number of people. As the Delta Force team breached the wall with explosives, an Arabic linguist advised children and other noncombatants how to flee, a decision commanders credited with saving 11 of the children Mr. al-Baghdadi had in his compound.

Mr. al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel, with the American commandos in pursuit. Mr. Trump said that the ISIS leader took three children with him, presumably to use as human shields from the American fire. Fearing that Mr. al-Baghdadi was wearing a suicide vest, the commandos dispatched a military dog to subdue Mr. al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump said.

It was then that the Islamic State leader set off the explosives, killing the three children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Esper described the climax of the two-hour ground raid on “This Week” this way: “He’s in a compound, that’s right, with a few other men and women with him and a large number of children. Our special operators have tactics and techniques and procedures they go through to try and call them out. At the end of the day, as the president said, he decided to kill himself and took some small children with him, we believe.”

Mr. Trump was more descriptive. “I got to watch much of it,” he said. Mr. al-Baghdadi, he said, “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Mr. Esper did not repeat the “whimpering” and “crying” assertion made by Mr. Trump. “I don’t have those details,” he said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

At 7:15 p.m. Washington time on Saturday, the Special Operations commander on the ground reported that Mr. al-Baghdadi had been killed. Five other “enemy combatants” were killed in the compound, the White House said, and “additional enemies were killed in the vicinity.”

Two American service members were slightly wounded, the White House said, but have returned to duty. The American military dog was wounded in Mr. al-Baghdadi’s suicide-vest explosion and was taken away, Mr. Trump said.

After the raid, the commandos removed the 11 children from the site and handed them over to a woman in the area. The military then ordered the destruction of the site, to ensure it would not in the future become a shrine to ISIS, according to a person familiar with the operation.

Altogether, the American troops were on the ground in the compound for around two hours, Mr. Trump said, clearing the buildings of fighters and scooping up information that the president said contained important details on ISIS operations. Mr. Trump said the commandos already had DNA samples from the Islamic State leader, which he said they used to make a quick assessment that they had the right man.

Once all the Americans had piled back into their helicopters and started the return flight to Iraq — using the same route out as they had used coming in, Mr. Trump said — American warplanes bombed the compound to ensure it was physically destroyed, Mr. Esper said. Just after 9 p.m. Washington time Saturday — four hours after the helicopters had taken off — Mr. Trump tweeted, “Something very big has just happened!”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Rukmini Callimachi from Romania.

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

Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-raid-facebookJumbo Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Esper, Mark T Defense Department Deaths (Fatalities) central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump knew the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Operations commandos were zeroing in on the location for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, when he ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria earlier this month, intelligence, military and counterterrorism officials said on Sunday.

For months, intelligence officials had kept Mr. Trump apprised of what he had set as a top priority, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist.

But Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump’s actions.

It is unclear how much Mr. Trump considered the intelligence on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location when he made the surprise decision to withdraw the American troops during a telephone call on Oct. 6 with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. What is clear, military officials said, is that it put commanders on the ground under even more pressure to carry out the complicated operation.

More than a half-dozen Pentagon, military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials — along with Mr. Trump, who gave an account during a White House news conference on Sunday — provided a chronology of the raid.

The planning for the raid began this past summer, when the C.I.A. first got surprising information about Mr. al-Baghdadi’s general location in a village deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by rival Qaeda groups. The information came after the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s wives and a courier, two American officials said.

Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify more precisely Mr. al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements. American officials said the Kurds continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone.

The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

According to a Syrian engineer who spoke with villagers living near the raid site, Mr. al-Baghdadi had sought shelter in the home of Abu Mohammed Salama, a commander of another extremist group, Hurras al-Din. The commander’s fate in that raid, and the precise nature of his relationship to Mr. al-Baghdadi, are not clear.¶

As the Army’s elite Delta Force commando unit began drawing up and rehearsing plans to conduct the mission to kill or capture the ISIS leader, they knew they faced formidable hurdles. The location was deep inside territory controlled by Al Qaeda. The skies over that part of the country were controlled by Syria and Russia.

The military called off missions at least twice at the last minute.

The final planning for the raid came together over two to three days last week. A senior administration official said that Mr. al-Baghdadi was “about to move.” Military officials determined that they had to go swiftly. If Mr. al-Baghdadi moved again, it would be much harder to track him with the American military pulling out its troops and surveillance assets on the ground in Syria.

By Thursday and then Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Trump “gave us the green light to proceed.’’

Around midnight Sunday morning in the region — 5 p.m. Saturday in Washington — eight American helicopters, primarily CH-47 Chinooks, took off from a military base near Erbil, Iraq.

Flying low and fast to avoid detection, the helicopters quickly crossed the Syrian border and then flew all the way across Syria itself — a dangerous 70-minute flight in which the helicopters took sporadic groundfire — to the Barisha area just north of Idlib city, in western Syria. Just before landing, the helicopters and other warplanes began firing on a compound of buildings, providing cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs to descend into a landing zone.

Mr. Trump said that with the helicopter gunships firing from above, the commandos had bypassed the front door, fearing a booby trap, before destroying one of the compound’s walls. That allowed them to rush through and confront a group of ISIS fighters.

The president, along with Mr. Esper, Vice President Mike Pence and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watched video of the raid piped into the White House Situation Room from surveillance aircraft orbiting over the battlefield.

The Delta Force commandos, under fire, entered the compound, where they shot and killed a number of people. As the Delta Force team breached the wall with explosives, an Arabic linguist advised children and other noncombatants how to flee, a decision commanders credited with saving 11 of the children Mr. al-Baghdadi had in his compound.

Mr. al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel, with the American commandos in pursuit. Mr. Trump said that the ISIS leader took three children with him, presumably to use as human shields from the American fire. Fearing that Mr. al-Baghdadi was wearing a suicide vest, the commandos dispatched a military dog to subdue Mr. al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump said.

It was then that the Islamic State leader set off the explosives, killing the three children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Esper described the climax of the two-hour ground raid on “This Week” this way: “He’s in a compound, that’s right, with a few other men and women with him and a large number of children. Our special operators have tactics and techniques and procedures they go through to try and call them out. At the end of the day, as the president said, he decided to kill himself and took some small children with him, we believe.”

Mr. Trump was more descriptive. “I got to watch much of it,” he said. Mr. al-Baghdadi, he said, “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Mr. Esper did not repeat the “whimpering” and “crying” assertion made by Mr. Trump. “I don’t have those details,” he said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

At 7:15 p.m. Washington time on Saturday, the Special Operations commander on the ground reported that Mr. al-Baghdadi had been killed. Five other “enemy combatants” were killed in the compound, the White House said, and “additional enemies were killed in the vicinity.”

Two American service members were slightly wounded, the White House said, but have returned to duty. The American military dog was wounded in Mr. al-Baghdadi’s suicide-vest explosion and was taken away, Mr. Trump said.

After the raid, the commandos removed the 11 children from the site and handed them over to a woman in the area. The military then ordered the destruction of the site, to ensure it would not in the future become a shrine to ISIS, according to a person familiar with the operation.

Altogether, the American troops were on the ground in the compound for around two hours, Mr. Trump said, clearing the buildings of fighters and scooping up information that the president said contained important details on ISIS operations. Mr. Trump said the commandos already had DNA samples from the Islamic State leader, which he said they used to make a quick assessment that they had the right man.

Once all the Americans had piled back into their helicopters and started the return flight to Iraq — using the same route out as they had used coming in, Mr. Trump said — American warplanes bombed the compound to ensure it was physically destroyed, Mr. Esper said. Just after 9 p.m. Washington time Saturday — four hours after the helicopters had taken off — Mr. Trump tweeted, “Something very big has just happened!”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Rukmini Callimachi from Romania.

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

Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid

Westlake Legal Group 27dc-raid-facebookJumbo Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Terrorism Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Espionage and Intelligence Services Esper, Mark T Defense Department Deaths (Fatalities) central intelligence agency Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump knew the Central Intelligence Agency and Special Operations commandos were zeroing in on the location for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State leader, when he ordered American troops to withdraw from northern Syria earlier this month, intelligence, military and counterterrorism officials said on Sunday.

For months, intelligence officials had kept Mr. Trump apprised of what he had set as a top priority, the hunt for Mr. al-Baghdadi, the world’s most wanted terrorist.

But Mr. Trump’s abrupt withdrawal order three weeks ago disrupted the meticulous planning underway and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, the officials said.

Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Mr. Trump’s actions.

It is unclear how much Mr. Trump considered the intelligence on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location when he made the surprise decision to withdraw the American troops during a telephone call on Oct. 6 with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. What is clear, military officials said, is that it put commanders on the ground under even more pressure to carry out the complicated operation.

More than a half-dozen Pentagon, military, intelligence and counterterrorism officials — along with Mr. Trump, who gave an account during a White House news conference on Sunday — provided a chronology of the raid.

The planning for the raid began this past summer, when the C.I.A. first got surprising information about Mr. al-Baghdadi’s general location in a village deep inside a part of northwestern Syria controlled by rival Qaeda groups. The information came after the arrest and interrogation of one of Mr. al-Baghdadi’s wives and a courier, two American officials said.

Armed with that initial tip, the C.I.A. worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence officials in Iraq and Syria to identify more precisely Mr. al-Baghdadi’s whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his periodic movements. American officials said the Kurds continued to provide information to the C.I.A. on Mr. al-Baghdadi’s location even after Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw the American troops left the Syrian Kurds to confront a Turkish offensive alone.

The Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, one official said, provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country.

According to a Syrian engineer who spoke with villagers living near the raid site, Mr. al-Baghdadi had sought shelter in the home of Abu Mohammed Salama, a commander of another extremist group, Hurras al-Din. The commander’s fate in that raid, and the precise nature of his relationship to Mr. al-Baghdadi, are not clear.¶

As the Army’s elite Delta Force commando unit began drawing up and rehearsing plans to conduct the mission to kill or capture the ISIS leader, they knew they faced formidable hurdles. The location was deep inside territory controlled by Al Qaeda. The skies over that part of the country were controlled by Syria and Russia.

The military called off missions at least twice at the last minute.

The final planning for the raid came together over two to three days last week. A senior administration official said that Mr. al-Baghdadi was “about to move.” Military officials determined that they had to go swiftly. If Mr. al-Baghdadi moved again, it would be much harder to track him with the American military pulling out its troops and surveillance assets on the ground in Syria.

By Thursday and then Friday, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Trump “gave us the green light to proceed.’’

Around midnight Sunday morning in the region — 5 p.m. Saturday in Washington — eight American helicopters, primarily CH-47 Chinooks, took off from a military base near Erbil, Iraq.

Flying low and fast to avoid detection, the helicopters quickly crossed the Syrian border and then flew all the way across Syria itself — a dangerous 70-minute flight in which the helicopters took sporadic groundfire — to the Barisha area just north of Idlib city, in western Syria. Just before landing, the helicopters and other warplanes began firing on a compound of buildings, providing cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs to descend into a landing zone.

Mr. Trump said that with the helicopter gunships firing from above, the commandos had bypassed the front door, fearing a booby trap, before destroying one of the compound’s walls. That allowed them to rush through and confront a group of ISIS fighters.

The president, along with Mr. Esper, Vice President Mike Pence and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, watched video of the raid piped into the White House Situation Room from surveillance aircraft orbiting over the battlefield.

The Delta Force commandos, under fire, entered the compound, where they shot and killed a number of people. As the Delta Force team breached the wall with explosives, an Arabic linguist advised children and other noncombatants how to flee, a decision commanders credited with saving 11 of the children Mr. al-Baghdadi had in his compound.

Mr. al-Baghdadi ran into an underground tunnel, with the American commandos in pursuit. Mr. Trump said that the ISIS leader took three children with him, presumably to use as human shields from the American fire. Fearing that Mr. al-Baghdadi was wearing a suicide vest, the commandos dispatched a military dog to subdue Mr. al-Baghdadi, Mr. Trump said.

It was then that the Islamic State leader set off the explosives, killing the three children, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Esper described the climax of the two-hour ground raid on “This Week” this way: “He’s in a compound, that’s right, with a few other men and women with him and a large number of children. Our special operators have tactics and techniques and procedures they go through to try and call them out. At the end of the day, as the president said, he decided to kill himself and took some small children with him, we believe.”

Mr. Trump was more descriptive. “I got to watch much of it,” he said. Mr. al-Baghdadi, he said, “died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”

Mr. Esper did not repeat the “whimpering” and “crying” assertion made by Mr. Trump. “I don’t have those details,” he said. “The president probably had the opportunity to talk to the commanders on the ground.”

At 7:15 p.m. Washington time on Saturday, the Special Operations commander on the ground reported that Mr. al-Baghdadi had been killed. Five other “enemy combatants” were killed in the compound, the White House said, and “additional enemies were killed in the vicinity.”

Two American service members were slightly wounded, the White House said, but have returned to duty. The American military dog was wounded in Mr. al-Baghdadi’s suicide-vest explosion and was taken away, Mr. Trump said.

After the raid, the commandos removed the 11 children from the site and handed them over to a woman in the area. The military then ordered the destruction of the site, to ensure it would not in the future become a shrine to ISIS, according to a person familiar with the operation.

Altogether, the American troops were on the ground in the compound for around two hours, Mr. Trump said, clearing the buildings of fighters and scooping up information that the president said contained important details on ISIS operations. Mr. Trump said the commandos already had DNA samples from the Islamic State leader, which he said they used to make a quick assessment that they had the right man.

Once all the Americans had piled back into their helicopters and started the return flight to Iraq — using the same route out as they had used coming in, Mr. Trump said — American warplanes bombed the compound to ensure it was physically destroyed, Mr. Esper said. Just after 9 p.m. Washington time Saturday — four hours after the helicopters had taken off — Mr. Trump tweeted, “Something very big has just happened!”

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Rukmini Callimachi from Romania.

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