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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 164)

‘We Absolutely Could Not Do That’: When Seeking Foreign Help Was Out of the Question

WASHINGTON — One day in October 1992, four Republican congressmen showed up in the Oval Office with an audacious recommendation. President George Bush was losing his re-election race, and they told him the only way to win was to hammer his challenger Bill Clinton’s patriotism for protesting the Vietnam War while in London and visiting Moscow as a young man.

Mr. Bush was largely on board with that approach. But what came next crossed the line, as far as he and his team were concerned. “They wanted us to contact the Russians or the British to seek information on Bill Clinton’s trip to Moscow,” James A. Baker III, Mr. Bush’s White House chief of staff, wrote in a memo later that day. “I said we absolutely could not do that.”

President Trump insists he and his attorney general did nothing wrong by seeking damaging information about his domestic opponents from Ukraine, Australia, Italy and Britain or by publicly calling on China to investigate his most prominent Democratic challenger. But for every other White House in the modern era, Republican and Democratic, the idea of enlisting help from foreign powers for political advantage was seen as unwise and politically dangerous, if not unprincipled.

A survey of 10 former White House chiefs of staff under Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama found that none recalled any circumstance under which the White House had solicited or accepted political help from other countries, and all said they would have considered the very idea out of bounds.

“I served three presidents in the White House and don’t remember even hearing any speculation to consider asking for such action,” said Andrew H. Card Jr., who ran the younger Mr. Bush’s White House and was the longest-serving chief of staff in the last six decades.

William M. Daley, who served as commerce secretary under Mr. Clinton and chief of staff under Mr. Obama, said if someone had even proposed such an action, he probably would “recommend the person be escorted out of” the White House, then fired and reported to ethics officials.

Other chiefs were just as definitive. “Did not happen on Reagan’s watch. Would not have happened on Reagan’s watch,” said Kenneth M. Duberstein, his last chief of staff. “I would have shut him down,” said Leon E. Panetta, who served as Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff and Mr. Obama’s defense secretary.

Read the 1992 Memo President George Bush’s Team Sent About Seeking Foreign Help to Beat Bill Clinton

When Republican congressmen suggested Mr. Bush reach out to Russia or Britain for information that could help him win his re-election race against Bill Clinton, James A. Baker III, then the White House chief of staff, wrote this memo. (PDF, 1 page, 4.8 MB)

Westlake Legal Group thumbnail ‘We Absolutely Could Not Do That’: When Seeking Foreign Help Was Out of the Question United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Reagan, Ronald Wilson Presidents and Presidency (US) Presidential Election of 2016 Obama, Barack Clinton, Bill Bush, George W Bush, George Burisma Holdings Ltd Baker, James A III  1 page, 4.8 MB

The sense of incredulity among White House veterans in recent days crossed party and ideological lines. “This is unprecedented,” said Samuel K. Skinner, who preceded Mr. Baker as chief of staff under Mr. Bush. Other chiefs who said they never encountered such a situation included Thomas F. McLarty III and John D. Podesta (Clinton) and Rahm Emanuel, Denis R. McDonough and Jacob J. Lew (Obama).

History has shown that foreign affairs can be treacherous for presidents, even just the suspicion of mixing politics with the national interest. As a candidate in 1968, Richard M. Nixon sought to forestall a Vietnam peace deal by President Lyndon B. Johnson just before the election.

Associates of Mr. Reagan were accused of trying to delay the release of hostages by Iran when he was a candidate in 1980 for fear that it would aid President Jimmy Carter, but a bipartisan House investigation concluded that there was no merit to the charge. Mr. Clinton faced months of investigation over 1996 campaign contributions from Chinese interests tied to the Beijing government.

In none of those cases did an incumbent president personally apply pressure to foreign powers to damage political opponents. Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine’s president this summer to investigate involvement with Democrats in 2016 and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. while holding up $391 million in American aid. Mr. Trump has said he was simply investigating corruption, not trying to benefit himself.

“The right way to look at it is the vice president was selling our country out,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said in an interview on Sunday. Mr. Trump was fulfilling his duty, he said. “I don’t see what the president did wrong.”

Mr. Giuliani has been leading Mr. Trump’s efforts to dig up evidence of corruption by the Democrats in Ukraine, meeting with various officials and negotiating a commitment by the newly installed government in Kiev to investigate conspiracy theories about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election and supposed conflicts of interest by Mr. Biden.

Told that past White House chiefs of staff said any legitimate allegations should be handled by the Justice Department, not the president, Mr. Giuliani said: “That’s if you can trust the Justice Department. My witnesses don’t trust the Justice Department, and they don’t trust the F.B.I.” He added that he would not have either until Attorney General William P. Barr took over.

Mr. Barr has contacted foreign officials for help in investigating the origin of the special counsel investigation by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference and ties with Mr. Trump’s campaign, part of an effort to prove that the whole matter was a “hoax,” as the president has insisted.

Mr. Trump defends himself by saying that other presidents have leaned on foreign governments for help. That is true, but when other presidents have pressured counterparts and even held up American assistance to coerce cooperation, it has generally been to achieve certain policy goals — not to advance the president’s personal or political agenda.

As an example, Mr. Trump often cites Mr. Obama, who was overheard telling President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia in 2012 that he would have more “more flexibility” to negotiate missile defense after the fall election. While that may be objectionable, it is not the same thing as asking a foreign government to intervene in an American election.

“They assume everybody’s as sleazy and dirty as they are, which is not the case,” Mr. Emanuel said.

Mr. Trump points to Mr. Biden, arguing that the former vice president was the one who abused his power by threatening to withhold $1 billion in American aid to Ukraine unless it fired its prosecutor general.

Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, earning $50,000 a month. The company’s oligarch owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, had been a subject of cases overseen by the prosecutor, and so Mr. Trump contends that Mr. Biden sought the prosecutor’s ouster to benefit his son.

As a matter of appearances, at least, the former vice president’s family left him open to suspicion. Even some of his defenders say it was unseemly for Hunter Biden to seemingly trade on his family name. The elder Mr. Biden has said he never discussed his son’s business dealings in Ukraine with him, but some Democrats suggest he should have if only to prevent just such a situation from arising.

For all of that, however, no evidence has emerged that Mr. Biden moved to push out the prosecutor to benefit his son. No memo or text message has become public linking the two. None of the American officials who were involved at the time have come forward alleging any connection. No whistle-blower has filed a complaint.

In pressing for the prosecutor’s ouster, Mr. Biden was carrying out Mr. Obama’s policy as developed by his national security team and coordinated with European allies and the International Monetary Fund, all of which considered the Ukrainian prosecutor to be deliberately overlooking corruption.

Indeed, at the time Mr. Biden acted, there was no public evidence that the prosecutor’s office was actively pursuing investigations of Burisma, although Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies say the prosecutor continued to use the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from the oligarch and his team.

The 1992 episode involving Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker provides an intriguing case study in the way previous administrations have viewed seeking political help overseas. At the time, Mr. Bush was trailing in the polls and eager for any weapon to turn things around.

Representatives Robert K. Dornan, Duncan Hunter and Duke Cunningham of California and Sam Johnson of Texas urged the president to ask Russia and Britain for help.

Mr. Dornan, reached last week, said Mr. Baker offered no objections during the meeting. “Baker sat there in the Oval Office like a bump on a log,” he recalled. “He said nothing.” If Mr. Baker advised Mr. Bush not to reach out to foreign governments, then he did so after the congressmen had left, Mr. Dornan said.

Mr. Dornan said that was a mistake and that Mr. Bush should have done as Mr. Trump has. “The bottom line from me was, ‘If you don’t do this, Mr. President, leader of the free world, you will lose,’” Mr. Dornan said. “And he didn’t do it and he lost. Baker cost Bush that second term.”

As it was, Mr. Baker and some of his aides got in trouble anyway because State Department employees searched Mr. Clinton’s passport file to determine whether he had ever tried to renounce his American citizenship. They found no such evidence, but an independent counsel was appointed to investigate whether the search violated any laws.

The attorney general who requested the investigation? Mr. Barr, in his first tour running the Justice Department. The independent counsel who was appointed? Joseph diGenova, a lawyer now helping Mr. Giuliani look for information in Ukraine. In the passport case, Mr. diGenova concluded that no laws had been broken and that he should never have been appointed in first place.

As for seeking help from Russia and Britain, Mr. Baker declined to comment last week, but his peers said he did exactly as they would have. “It would have been ludicrous at that stage to do anything,” Mr. Skinner said. “Baker’s decision was obviously the right one.”

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

‘We Absolutely Could Not Do That’: When Seeking Foreign Help Was Out of the Question

WASHINGTON — One day in October 1992, four Republican congressmen showed up in the Oval Office with an audacious recommendation. President George Bush was losing his re-election race, and they told him the only way to win was to hammer his challenger Bill Clinton’s patriotism for protesting the Vietnam War while in London and visiting Moscow as a young man.

Mr. Bush was largely on board with that approach. But what came next crossed the line, as far as he and his team were concerned. “They wanted us to contact the Russians or the British to seek information on Bill Clinton’s trip to Moscow,” James A. Baker III, Mr. Bush’s White House chief of staff, wrote in a memo later that day. “I said we absolutely could not do that.”

President Trump insists he and his attorney general did nothing wrong by seeking damaging information about his domestic opponents from Ukraine, Australia, Italy and Britain or by publicly calling on China to investigate his most prominent Democratic challenger. But for every other White House in the modern era, Republican and Democratic, the idea of enlisting help from foreign powers for political advantage was seen as unwise and politically dangerous, if not unprincipled.

A survey of 10 former White House chiefs of staff under Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama found that none recalled any circumstance under which the White House had solicited or accepted political help from other countries, and all said they would have considered the very idea out of bounds.

“I served three presidents in the White House and don’t remember even hearing any speculation to consider asking for such action,” said Andrew H. Card Jr., who ran the younger Mr. Bush’s White House and was the longest-serving chief of staff in the last six decades.

William M. Daley, who served as commerce secretary under Mr. Clinton and chief of staff under Mr. Obama, said if someone had even proposed such an action, he probably would “recommend the person be escorted out of” the White House, then fired and reported to ethics officials.

Other chiefs were just as definitive. “Did not happen on Reagan’s watch. Would not have happened on Reagan’s watch,” said Kenneth M. Duberstein, his last chief of staff. “I would have shut him down,” said Leon E. Panetta, who served as Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff and Mr. Obama’s defense secretary.

Read the 1992 Memo President George Bush’s Team Sent About Seeking Foreign Help to Beat Bill Clinton

When Republican congressmen suggested Mr. Bush reach out to Russia or Britain for information that could help him win his re-election race against Bill Clinton, James A. Baker III, then the White House chief of staff, wrote this memo. (PDF, 1 page, 4.8 MB)

Westlake Legal Group thumbnail ‘We Absolutely Could Not Do That’: When Seeking Foreign Help Was Out of the Question United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Reagan, Ronald Wilson Presidents and Presidency (US) Presidential Election of 2016 Obama, Barack Clinton, Bill Bush, George W Bush, George Burisma Holdings Ltd Baker, James A III  1 page, 4.8 MB

The sense of incredulity among White House veterans in recent days crossed party and ideological lines. “This is unprecedented,” said Samuel K. Skinner, who preceded Mr. Baker as chief of staff under Mr. Bush. Other chiefs who said they never encountered such a situation included Thomas F. McLarty III and John D. Podesta (Clinton) and Rahm Emanuel, Denis R. McDonough and Jacob J. Lew (Obama).

History has shown that foreign affairs can be treacherous for presidents, even just the suspicion of mixing politics with the national interest. As a candidate in 1968, Richard M. Nixon sought to forestall a Vietnam peace deal by President Lyndon B. Johnson just before the election.

Associates of Mr. Reagan were accused of trying to delay the release of hostages by Iran when he was a candidate in 1980 for fear that it would aid President Jimmy Carter, but a bipartisan House investigation concluded that there was no merit to the charge. Mr. Clinton faced months of investigation over 1996 campaign contributions from Chinese interests tied to the Beijing government.

In none of those cases did an incumbent president personally apply pressure to foreign powers to damage political opponents. Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine’s president this summer to investigate involvement with Democrats in 2016 and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. while holding up $391 million in American aid. Mr. Trump has said he was simply investigating corruption, not trying to benefit himself.

“The right way to look at it is the vice president was selling our country out,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, said in an interview on Sunday. Mr. Trump was fulfilling his duty, he said. “I don’t see what the president did wrong.”

Mr. Giuliani has been leading Mr. Trump’s efforts to dig up evidence of corruption by the Democrats in Ukraine, meeting with various officials and negotiating a commitment by the newly installed government in Kiev to investigate conspiracy theories about Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election and supposed conflicts of interest by Mr. Biden.

Told that past White House chiefs of staff said any legitimate allegations should be handled by the Justice Department, not the president, Mr. Giuliani said: “That’s if you can trust the Justice Department. My witnesses don’t trust the Justice Department, and they don’t trust the F.B.I.” He added that he would not have either until Attorney General William P. Barr took over.

Mr. Barr has contacted foreign officials for help in investigating the origin of the special counsel investigation by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference and ties with Mr. Trump’s campaign, part of an effort to prove that the whole matter was a “hoax,” as the president has insisted.

Mr. Trump defends himself by saying that other presidents have leaned on foreign governments for help. That is true, but when other presidents have pressured counterparts and even held up American assistance to coerce cooperation, it has generally been to achieve certain policy goals — not to advance the president’s personal or political agenda.

As an example, Mr. Trump often cites Mr. Obama, who was overheard telling President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia in 2012 that he would have more “more flexibility” to negotiate missile defense after the fall election. While that may be objectionable, it is not the same thing as asking a foreign government to intervene in an American election.

“They assume everybody’s as sleazy and dirty as they are, which is not the case,” Mr. Emanuel said.

Mr. Trump points to Mr. Biden, arguing that the former vice president was the one who abused his power by threatening to withhold $1 billion in American aid to Ukraine unless it fired its prosecutor general.

Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, earning $50,000 a month. The company’s oligarch owner, Mykola Zlochevsky, had been a subject of cases overseen by the prosecutor, and so Mr. Trump contends that Mr. Biden sought the prosecutor’s ouster to benefit his son.

As a matter of appearances, at least, the former vice president’s family left him open to suspicion. Even some of his defenders say it was unseemly for Hunter Biden to seemingly trade on his family name. The elder Mr. Biden has said he never discussed his son’s business dealings in Ukraine with him, but some Democrats suggest he should have if only to prevent just such a situation from arising.

For all of that, however, no evidence has emerged that Mr. Biden moved to push out the prosecutor to benefit his son. No memo or text message has become public linking the two. None of the American officials who were involved at the time have come forward alleging any connection. No whistle-blower has filed a complaint.

In pressing for the prosecutor’s ouster, Mr. Biden was carrying out Mr. Obama’s policy as developed by his national security team and coordinated with European allies and the International Monetary Fund, all of which considered the Ukrainian prosecutor to be deliberately overlooking corruption.

Indeed, at the time Mr. Biden acted, there was no public evidence that the prosecutor’s office was actively pursuing investigations of Burisma, although Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies say the prosecutor continued to use the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from the oligarch and his team.

The 1992 episode involving Mr. Bush and Mr. Baker provides an intriguing case study in the way previous administrations have viewed seeking political help overseas. At the time, Mr. Bush was trailing in the polls and eager for any weapon to turn things around.

Representatives Robert K. Dornan, Duncan Hunter and Duke Cunningham of California and Sam Johnson of Texas urged the president to ask Russia and Britain for help.

Mr. Dornan, reached last week, said Mr. Baker offered no objections during the meeting. “Baker sat there in the Oval Office like a bump on a log,” he recalled. “He said nothing.” If Mr. Baker advised Mr. Bush not to reach out to foreign governments, then he did so after the congressmen had left, Mr. Dornan said.

Mr. Dornan said that was a mistake and that Mr. Bush should have done as Mr. Trump has. “The bottom line from me was, ‘If you don’t do this, Mr. President, leader of the free world, you will lose,’” Mr. Dornan said. “And he didn’t do it and he lost. Baker cost Bush that second term.”

As it was, Mr. Baker and some of his aides got in trouble anyway because State Department employees searched Mr. Clinton’s passport file to determine whether he had ever tried to renounce his American citizenship. They found no such evidence, but an independent counsel was appointed to investigate whether the search violated any laws.

The attorney general who requested the investigation? Mr. Barr, in his first tour running the Justice Department. The independent counsel who was appointed? Joseph diGenova, a lawyer now helping Mr. Giuliani look for information in Ukraine. In the passport case, Mr. diGenova concluded that no laws had been broken and that he should never have been appointed in first place.

As for seeking help from Russia and Britain, Mr. Baker declined to comment last week, but his peers said he did exactly as they would have. “It would have been ludicrous at that stage to do anything,” Mr. Skinner said. “Baker’s decision was obviously the right one.”

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

Legal Team Says It Represents a Second Whistle-Blower Over Trump and Ukraine

Westlake Legal Group 06dc-trump-facebookJumbo Legal Team Says It Represents a Second Whistle-Blower Over Trump and Ukraine Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Stephanopoulos, George ABC News

WASHINGTON — A lawyer for the whistle-blower whose complaint set off an impeachment inquiry of President Trump said Sunday that the same legal team was now representing a second whistle-blower, an intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the president’s interactions with Ukraine.

The new whistle-blower “made a protected disclosure under the law and cannot be retaliated against,” Mark S. Zaid, one of the lawyers, said on Twitter.

Mr. Zaid confirmed a report by the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on his show, “This Week,” which said the new whistle-blower had already been interviewed by the intelligence community’s inspector general’s office, but had not yet communicated with any congressional committees.

Another member of the legal team confirmed on Twitter that the firm was now representing “multiple whistleblowers” but declined to comment further.

The New York Times reported on Friday that an intelligence official with more direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s dealing with Ukraine than the first whistle-blower, and who had grown alarmed by the president’s behavior, was weighing whether to come forward. The second official was among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people briefed on the matter said.

The new whistle-blower matches the description of the official that The Times reported on last week. Mr. Zaid said he did not know whether the individual was the same person.

It is also not clear if the new whistle-blower will file a formal complaint. Mr. Zaid said the second whistle-blower’s act of coming forward to the inspector general had already secured whistle-blower protections.

The first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council, filed a complaint in August outlining how Mr. Trump used his power to push Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals, setting off an impeachment inquiry. Mr. Trump has tried to undermine the credibility of the first whistle-blower, whose identity is not publicly known, by saying that the individual was trading on secondhand information.

“The first so-called second hand information ‘Whistleblower’ got my phone conversation almost completely wrong, so now word is they are going to the bench and another ‘Whistleblower’ is coming in from the Deep State, also with second hand info,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday night, referring to his now-infamous July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in which he leaned on Mr. Zelensky to investigate Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president and current presidential candidate, as well as his son Hunter Biden. “Keep them coming!”

Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, framed the news of the new whistle-blower on Sunday as a political hit on the president. “SURPRISE Democrat lawyer has other secret sources,” Mr. Giuliani wrote on Twitter. He added that the bottom line was that there was “no quid pro quo” attached to Mr. Trump’s pressure on Ukrainian officials to investigate his political rivals, and called the story an “ORCHESTRATED DEM CAMPAIGN LIKE KAVANAUGH,” referring to the sexual misconduct allegations against Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Mr. Zaid works for Compass Rose Legal Group, a law firm that specializes in representing whistle-blowers. He is part of the legal team that is now representing both individuals who have come forward. The team also includes Andrew P. Bakaj, the lead lawyer, and I. Charles McCullough III.

“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” Mr. Bakaj said on Twitter. “No further comment at this time.”

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

Second Whistle-Blower Has Been Interviewed Over Trump’s Ukraine Dealings

Westlake Legal Group 06dc-trump-facebookJumbo Second Whistle-Blower Has Been Interviewed Over Trump’s Ukraine Dealings Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Stephanopoulos, George ABC News

WASHINGTON — The legal team for the whistle-blower alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is now representing a second whistle-blower, an intelligence official with firsthand knowledge of the president’s interactions, the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos reported Sunday.

The new whistle-blower has already been interviewed by the intelligence community’s inspector general’s office, but has not yet communicated with any congressional committees, Mr. Stephanapoulos said on his show, “This Week.” The new whistle-blower has the full legal protection for those who raise alarms about wrongdoing in the executive branch, he said.

A member of the legal team confirmed on Twitter that the firm was now representing a second whistle-blower.

The New York Times reported on Friday that an intelligence official with more direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s dealing with Ukraine than the first whistle-blower, and who had grown alarmed by the president’s behavior, was weighing whether to come forward. The second official was among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people briefed on the matter said.

The new whistle-blower matches the description of the official that The Times reported on last week. But Mr. Stephanapoulos said that Mark Zaid, one of the lawyers representing the whistle-blower, did not know whether the individual was the same person.

The first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the White House, filed a complaint last month outlining how Mr. Trump used his power to push Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals, setting off an impeachment inquiry. Mr. Trump has tried to undermine the credibility of the first whistle-blower, whose identity is not publicly known, by saying that the individual was trading on secondhand information.

“The first so-called second hand information ‘Whistleblower’ got my phone conversation almost completely wrong, so now word is they are going to the bench and another ‘Whistleblower’ is coming in from the Deep State, also with second hand info,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Saturday night, referring to his now-infamous July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. “Keep them coming!”

Mr. Zaid works for Compass Rose Legal Group, a law firm that specializes in representing whistle-blowers. He is part of the legal team that is now representing both individuals who have come forward. The team also includes Andrew P. Bakaj, the lead lawyer, and Charles McCullough III.

“I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General,” Mr. Bakaj said on Twitter. “No further comment at this time.”

Mr. Zaid did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

Italy’s Connection to the Russia Investigation, Explained

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr has said he is reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation. As part of the review, Mr. Barr met recently with officials in Italy, where in 2016 a Trump campaign adviser met Joseph Mifsud, a professor whose actions figured prominently into the F.B.I.’s rationale for opening the Russia inquiry.

President Trump and some of his allies have asserted without evidence that a cabal of American officials — the so-called deep state — embarked on a broad operation to thwart Mr. Trump’s campaign. The conspiracy theory remains unsubstantiated, and the Justice Department has not explained why Mr. Barr feels the allegations merit a review, though he would need to run down all leads if he is to conduct a thorough audit.

Mr. Mifsud was a professor at the London Academy of Diplomacy who also spent time as a political science faculty member at Link Campus University, a school in Rome.

Some of the president’s allies have pushed an unfounded theory that the Maltese-born Mr. Mifsud is a Western intelligence agent possibly under the control of the F.B.I. or C.I.A. whom the deep state officials dispatched as a counterintelligence trap for the Trump campaign.

Mr. Mifsud told a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, in the spring of 2016 that the Russians had “thousands” of stolen Democratic emails that could prove damaging to Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, if they became public.

James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, has called Mr. Mifsud a Russian agent. Mr. Mifsud maintained contacts with Russians associates, including a former employee of the Internet Research Agency, which used social media posts to sow discord in 2016 as part of Russia’s election sabotage.

Mr. Mifsud told an Italian newspaper in 2017 that he was not a secret agent. “I never got any money from the Russians,” he said. “My conscience is clear.”

Mr. Mifsud and Mr. Papadopoulos first met in March 2016 in Italy. The following month, after Mr. Mifsud had traveled to Moscow, they met again in London, where Mr. Mifsud revealed that the Russians possessed information that could damage Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Mifsud suggested that the Russian government could assist the Trump campaign through the “anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton,” according to the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who took over the Russia investigation in May 2017.

Mr. Papadopoulos bragged in May 2016 to a pair of Australian diplomats about Mr. Mifsud’s offer of Russian dirt about Mrs. Clinton’s hacked emails. The Australian government passed the information to the United States, but only months later — after WikiLeaks published the stolen Democratic emails.

The Australians’ account, including the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about the email hacking, was a driving factor in the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any Trump associates conspired.

The F.B.I. began investigating him, along with three other Trump associates, as part of the counterintelligence inquiry. When agents questioned Mr. Papadopoulos about his interactions with Mr. Mifsud, he repeatedly lied, according to court records, hindering investigators’ attempts to potentially detain Mr. Mifsud.

He had been in the United States and agents interviewed him once, but Mr. Mifsud left the country. He has since disappeared from public view.

Westlake Legal Group impeachment-investigation-tracker-promo-1570214529724-articleLarge-v2 Italy’s Connection to the Russia Investigation, Explained United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Rome (Italy) Presidential Election of 2016 Papadopoulos, George (1987- ) Mueller, Robert S III Mifsud, Joseph Italy Great Britain Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services central intelligence agency Barr, William P Australia

The Evidence Collected So Far in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry

The status of the documents and witness testimony being collected by congressional investigators.

Mr. Papadopoulos was eventually convicted of lying to federal investigators and served 12 days in prison.

Since leaving prison, Mr. Papadopoulos has promoted unfounded assertions and outright conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation. He wrote a book, “Deep State Target,” accusing the Obama administration of mounting a coordinated effort to spy on the Trump campaign and keep Mr. Trump from being elected and asserting that he was a pawn in that operation.

Mr. Papadopoulos has posited that Mr. Mifsud was “an Italian intelligence asset who the C.I.A. weaponized” as part of the unsubstantiated “deep state” plot. The president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has claimed, also without evidence, that Mr. Mifsud was a “counterintelligence operative, either Maltese or Italian.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia last week alleging that one of its former diplomats who met with Mr. Papadopoulos was involved in the supposed plot. Australian officials rejected Mr. Graham’s characterization of the diplomat’s role in the episode.

On Friday, Mr. Trump also raised the specter of the conspiracy. “They think it could have been by U.K. They think it could have been by Australia. They think it could have been by Italy,” he said, without elaborating on the accusations themselves or who was making them.

Mr. Mifsud worked for neither the F.B.I. nor the C.I.A., former American officials said. If he had been an F.B.I. informant, prosecutors could have easily found and questioned him. If Mr. Mifsud were working for the C.I.A., the agency would have had an obligation to tell the F.B.I. as it investigated Mr. Papadopoulos.

So to believe the conspiracy that Mr. Mifsud was secretly working for the C.I.A. is to believe that either the intelligence community withheld from prosecutors that he was one of their agents or that prosecutors conspired to deceive federal courts.

To believe that another Western government secretly employed Mr. Mifsud as part of a plot against the president is to believe that an elaborate conspiracy entirely eluded the special counsel’s office in its exhaustive investigation, which included more than 2,800 subpoenas, nearly 500 search warrants, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviews of about 500 witnesses.

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Barr and a Top Prosecutor Cast a Wide Net in Reviewing the Russia Inquiry

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-durham1-facebookJumbo Barr and a Top Prosecutor Cast a Wide Net in Reviewing the Russia Inquiry United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Papadopoulos, George (1987- ) Mueller, Robert S III Mifsud, Joseph Justice Department Italy Great Britain Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Durham, John H Classified Information and State Secrets central intelligence agency Barr, William P Australia

WASHINGTON — After a jet carrying Attorney General William P. Barr touched down in Rome late last month, some diplomats and intelligence officials at the American Embassy were unsure why he had come to the Eternal City. They were later surprised, two officials said, to discover that he had circumvented protocols in arranging the trip, where he met with Italian political and intelligence officials.

Everything about the visit was unusual — perhaps most of all, the attorney general’s companion and his mission. Mr. Barr and a top federal prosecutor, John H. Durham, who is reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation, sought evidence that might bolster a conspiracy theory long nurtured by President Trump: that some of America’s closest allies plotted with his “deep state” enemies in 2016 to try to prevent him from winning the presidency.

Mr. Trump has embraced the theory in his interactions with world leaders since the days after the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, testified to lawmakers in July that his investigation found insufficient evidence to charge any Trump associates with conspiring with Russia to help subvert the election. An emboldened Mr. Trump — who could benefit politically if Mr. Durham were to unearth facts that undermined Mr. Mueller’s investigation — began pressing close allies to cooperate with the review.

The trip to Italy generated criticism that Mr. Barr was doing the president’s bidding and micromanaging a supposedly independent investigation. But Mr. Barr seems to have embraced his role, signaling that he has made the investigation a priority and is personally overseeing it.

Now, glimpses of the Durham review are emerging. Investigators have interviewed F.B.I. officials about their work in 2016, examined intelligence files from around that time and cast a wide net in setting up interviews with a foreign cast of characters who played disparate roles in the pre-election drama.

One of Mr. Trump’s efforts to aid the review, a discussion with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine one day after Mr. Mueller’s testimony, so unnerved White House officials that it sparked a whistle-blower complaint, as well as formal impeachment proceedings and questions about whether the president hijacked American diplomacy for political gain.

Mr. Barr has portrayed the review as an attempt to ferret out any abuse of power by law enforcement or intelligence officials. But it is also a politically charged effort that takes aim at the conclusions of the American law enforcement and intelligence communities about Russia’s election interference based on years of work by multiple agencies.

The review could fray diplomatic relations with overseas partners and affect Mr. Trump’s political fortunes. And it is testing traditional boundaries drawn to keep the powers of American law enforcement out of electoral politics.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. This article is based on documents and interviews with current and former American and foreign officials as well as others familiar with the Durham review.

The review already created a minor diplomatic dust-up when Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of the president’s closest allies in Congress, fired off a letter to leaders of Britain, Italy and Australia on Wednesday, urging them to help “investigate the origins and extent of foreign influence in the 2016 election.”

All three countries play some role in a counternarrative pushed by the president’s supporters that the real story of election sabotage in 2016 was not the well-documented saga of Russian internet trolls and leaked stolen emails, but anti-Trump elements in the intelligence and law enforcement agencies working with sympathetic foreign allies to try to block Mr. Trump’s victory.

Mr. Graham asserted without evidence in his letter that an Australian former diplomat was involved in the supposed plot. Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, responded sharply, rejecting Mr. Graham’s description of the role of the diplomat, Alexander Downer.

The president further stoked the flames on Friday, suggesting a broad foreign plot against him. “And just so you know — just so you know, I was investigated,” he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “I was investigated. O.K.? Me. Me. I was investigated. I was investigated. And they think it could have been by U.K. They think it could have been by Australia. They think it could have been by Italy.”

He did not say whom he meant by “they.”

One consequence of the president’s attempts to investigate the investigators could be that some American allies might think twice before providing politically sensitive information.

“I’m gravely concerned if our Australian intelligence colleagues believe that they are sharing information with us for domestic political purposes, that trust could erode,” said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Warner said he and his colleagues have pressed the Justice Department for information about the scope of the review but have gotten no response.

The president has handed Mr. Barr sweeping powers to conduct the review. It was not begun as a criminal investigation, though it is not clear whether that has changed. In conducting a review, Mr. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut and a veteran prosecutor who has broken up mafia rings and investigated C.I.A. torture, has no power to subpoena witnesses or documents and instead has the authority only to read materials the government already gathered and to request voluntary interviews from witnesses.

Typically, he would write a report at the end of his review summarizing his findings. If he finds evidence of a crime, Mr. Durham could make a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr has asked Mr. Trump to help gain access to foreign officials for the inquiry, and the president has complied. Mr. Trump has called the leaders of Ukraine and Australia, and the attorney general has spoken directly to officials in Britain, Australia and Italy, according to a Justice Department official.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham traveled to Italy — the attorney general’s second trip there in weeks — where a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, met a Maltese professor in the spring of 2016. During a later meeting, Mr. Papadopoulos told investigators, the professor said that Russia had politically damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

The professor, Joseph Mifsud, has effectively disappeared since the Mueller investigation revealed his discussions with Mr. Papadopoulos, and Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors suggested in a court filing that he may have served as a cutout for Russian intelligence.

Mr. Trump’s allies have asserted, without evidence, that he was actually a C.I.A. agent working as part of an Obama administration plot to spy on the Trump campaign.

“Mifsud was an Italian operative handled by the C.I.A.,” Mr. Papadopoulos wrote on Twitter on Sept. 27, the day Mr. Barr was in Italy. “Italy holds the keys to the kingdom. Right government, right time.”

On Friday, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy said he was suing Mr. Papadopoulos for slander because he told an Italian right-wing newspaper that Mr. Renzi, while in office, had taken orders from former President Barack Obama to try to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy. “See you in court,” Mr. Renzi wrote on Facebook.

Mr. Papadopoulos served 12 days in prison last year for lying to F.B.I. agents in the Russia investigation, and investigators said his lies hindered their ability to question Mr. Mifsud. An Italian government official confirmed that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham traveled to Rome in part to gain more information about Mr. Mifsud.

Mr. Barr opened the Justice Department review this year after he said he did not get “satisfactory” answers when he asked why law enforcement officials opened the 2016 counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. He turned to Mr. Durham to review the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation and whether it was properly predicated.

Mr. Durham has a track record with delicate cases where the investigative focus is on F.B.I. agents and C.I.A. officers. In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno asked him to investigate the F.B.I.’s handling of James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious mobster whom agents used as an informant. He secured convictions and unraveled a corrupt network of law enforcement officials working with Mr. Bulger.

Almost a decade later, Mr. Durham was directed to investigate the destruction of C.I.A. videotapes depicting the torture of detainees in secret prisons run by the agency. During that investigation, he interviewed Gina Haspel, now the director of the C.I.A., about her role in the destruction of the tapes. The investigation was expanded to include abuses of C.I.A. detainees. It ended with no criminal charges.

His most recent assignment involved investigating James A. Baker, the widely respected former top lawyer at the F.B.I., over a suspected leak of classified information. Mr. Durham quietly used agents with the United States Postal Service in that case because the Justice Department had decided that the F.B.I. could not investigate itself, people familiar with the investigation said. Mr. Baker has denied wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime.

For his review, Mr. Durham has enlisted Nora R. Dannehy, a veteran federal prosecutor who worked with him in Connecticut and led a two-year inquiry into whether department officials under President George W. Bush broke the law in firing several United States attorneys.

Many of the F.B.I. and C.I.A. officials that Mr. Durham is expected to attempt to interview have left government, including Bill Priestap, the bureau’s top counterintelligence agent during the Russia inquiry. Mr. Priestap privately told Congress last year that there was no F.B.I. conspiracy against Mr. Trump or his campaign.

He was also asked whether he met Mr. Mifsud on an overseas trip, a suggestion the F.B.I. was secretly working with the professor. Mr. Priestap said no.

For his part, Mr. Barr does not seem to mind that his travels in aid of the Durham review create an appearance that he is trying to protect the president. During a speech on Thursday, Mr. Barr recalled a recent episode when he was asked which country he planned to visit next. “Greenland,” he joked, a reference to one of Mr. Trump’s previous controversies.

Jason Horowitz contributed reporting from Rome, and Julian E. Barnes from Washington.

Follow Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner on Twitter: @MarkMazzettiNYT, @adamgoldmanNYT and @ktbenner.

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Biden Faced His Biggest Challenge, and Struggled to Form a Response

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WASHINGTON — Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s presidential campaign was under attack, and he and his advisers were torn over what to do.

For more than a week, President Trump had been hurling unfounded accusations about Mr. Biden, his son Hunter and their dealings in Ukraine. Mr. Biden and his advisers debated whether to mount a fierce counterattack or to stick to a set of policy arguments he had been planning to roll out. Bad news loomed in the background: Mr. Biden’s poll numbers had already grown wobbly, his fund-raising was uneven, and cable news was flashing chyrons by the hour showing Mr. Trump’s wild claims.

Mr. Biden himself was equivocating: He wanted to defend and protect his son, but he also believed the president was baiting him into a dirty fight. And as a lifelong adherent to congressional tradition, Mr. Biden was wary of acting hastily as an impeachment inquiry was getting underway.

The strain grew so acute that some of Mr. Biden’s advisers lashed out at their own party, taking the unusual step of urging campaign surrogates to criticize the Democratic National Committee — a neutral body in the primary — for not doing more to defend Mr. Biden, while the Republican National Committee was running TV ads attacking him. Frustrated, D.N.C. officials informed the Biden camp that it would continue denouncing Mr. Trump but would not run ads for Mr. Biden or any other candidate.

The Biden campaign’s tense deliberations reached a climax last weekend when Mr. Biden agreed to give a scorching rebuttal to Mr. Trump in a speech on Wednesday in Reno, Nev. But he delivered it well into the evening on the East Coast, and it was mostly lost amid another long day of Trumpian eruptions.

To some Biden allies, it seemed too little too late: a case study in political indecision. Now Mr. Biden looks more vulnerable than at any point since he entered the campaign. Facing one of the greatest challenges of his candidacy, Mr. Biden has plainly struggled to meet the moment, or fully reconcile his own cautious instincts with his protectiveness of his family’s privacy and his preference for taking the moral high road against Mr. Trump.

Interviews with more than 50 Democratic strategists, lawmakers and lobbyists provide a portrait of a candidacy facing challenges on all sides, and one at risk of losing its core argument that Mr. Biden is the Democrat best able to defeat Mr. Trump in a general election.

There is no evidence behind Mr. Trump’s claim that Mr. Biden intervened inappropriately with Ukraine to help his son, but Democrats have been unnerved by the president’s onslaught and Mr. Biden’s halting response.

In addition to the attacks from Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden’s top rivals, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, each out-raised him in the third quarter by about $10 million. And as Ms. Warren has emerged as Mr. Biden’s most formidable competition, Mr. Sanders, her main challenger for progressive support, just had a heart attack, casting uncertainty over whether he could siphon votes from Ms. Warren, as the Biden camp had hoped.

Even before last week, Mr. Biden’s advisers were acknowledging to donors that he may well lose both of the leadoff nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

His communications aides contend that most voters were more focused on what Mr. Trump did to prompt the impeachment inquiry than on the false claims themselves. And they pointed to the former vice president’s forceful attacks on Mr. Trump at a news conference Friday to argue that he was now ready to do battle with the president.

“This guy like all bullies is a coward,” Mr. Biden said. “He does not want to run against me.”

On Thursday, Mr. Biden, whose inner monologue rarely remains repressed, gave voice to the tension he is struggling with as he spoke at a fund-raiser in Palo Alto, Calif.

Recalling the difficulty Hillary Clinton had in confronting Mr. Trump’s campaign style, Mr. Biden worried about being “sucked into the trap of the stuff that Trump was laying. He wants you in a mud fight.”

“But when you respond to that,” he continued, “it brings you back down into that.”

Mr. Biden was even blunter, and angrier, in private after news first emerged that Mr. Trump had exhorted the Ukrainian government to investigate him and his son.

“I can’t believe this guy is going after my family like this,” he told Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, as the two campaigned in Iowa, Mr. Coons recalled.

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Leading Democrats have been pleading privately with Mr. Biden and his top aides to aggressively confront Mr. Trump, and expressing impatience with them for not seizing this opportunity to engage him in a two-man race. After all, Mr. Biden had spent months framing his candidacy as a singular crusade to oust an aberrant president.

“It’s time to really respond so everybody hears it,” said Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, a campaign co-chairman. “If someone says something enough, people will start to believe it, and this president gets in his zone of telling a lie over and over again. You have to make sure people don’t believe in it.”

David Plouffe, former President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, was mystified. Mr. Biden “should use this moment and become Trump’s opponent,” Mr. Plouffe said. “I don’t understand it.”

But Mr. Biden is confronting an almost unimaginable situation: the president he hopes to challenge is facing impeachment for urging another country to help smear him. What’s more, the House inquiry centers on what Mr. Biden values most in his private and public life: protecting his family and honoring institutional norms.

Several Democrats close to Mr. Biden say he did not take on Mr. Trump sooner in large part because of his reverence for congressional prerogatives — he did not want to immediately insert himself into the House’s jurisdiction. But Mr. Biden also sought to address the attacks on his son on his own terms rather than sit for hastily arranged television interviews that would have forced him to answer questions about Hunter Biden’s work that few of his own aides dared pose.

Now, just as his monthslong lead in the primary is eroding, he faces an opponent who’s threatening his son, the political system he dedicated his adult life to and, as he approaches his 77th birthday, his last chance to become president.

For Mr. Biden’s campaign, no attack could have been more difficult to deal with than one involving the candidate’s son.

Mr. Biden nearly did not run for president because of the effect it would have on his family — and particularly on Hunter Biden and his children, according to multiple advisers to the former vice president. Hunter Biden has struggled for years with substance addiction and had recently gone through a very public divorce from his first wife.

In separate interviews, Mr. Coons and his fellow senator from Delaware, Tom Carper, both said they had warned Mr. Biden that the president would target his family.

“He expected his family to be attacked,” Mr. Carper said, adding that Mr. Biden assured him he was braced for “the onslaught.’’

Mr. Biden’s family, including his son, encouraged him to enter the race, knowing the attacks were inevitable. But as Anita Dunn, one of Mr. Biden’s closest advisers, put it: “When it happens, it still feels pretty lousy.”

The Biden campaign has attempted to handle the candidate’s son with great sensitivity. Mr. Biden made clear at the outset that Hunter, a lawyer who had long advised his father on his campaigns, should not be made to feel excluded, people who spoke with him said. One adviser to Mr. Biden recently telephoned his son to solicit advice on the upcoming debate in Ohio.

But to most of Mr. Biden’s aides, Hunter Biden has been a spectral presence. He is living in Los Angeles and stayed away from Mr. Biden’s campaign launch in Philadelphia. Hunter Biden quietly attended the last two debates and appeared with his new wife, Melissa Cohen, at a July fund-raiser in Pasadena, Calif.

Still, Mr. Biden’s advisers are aware that Hunter Biden carries political vulnerabilities. His business career has intersected repeatedly with his father’s political power, through roles he had held in banking, lobbying and international finance. Working for a Ukrainian energy company beginning in 2014, he was paid as much as $50,000 a month while his father was vice president, and some of Mr. Biden’s admirers worry that, while Mr. Trump’s accusations are without merit, voters may view Hunter Biden’s actions as problematic.

In the past, Mr. Biden has bristled at questions about whether his family had benefited financially from his political career. He did so again on Friday when he was asked whether his son’s work in Ukraine represented a conflict of interest. Pointing a finger at the questioner he said: “Let’s focus on the problem. Focus on this man, what he’s doing, that no president has ever done. No president!” The Trump campaign was soon circulating a clip of the episode.

For his allies, it is both poignant and painful that Mr. Biden’s family is again at the heart of his public identity. He lost his first wife and daughter, and nearly lost his two sons, in a car accident in the weeks after he was elected to the Senate in 1972. His final years as vice president, as well as his hopes to run for president in 2016, were overwhelmed by his elder son Beau’s death from brain cancer.

Jim Mowrer, a former Democratic congressional candidate from Iowa who served with Beau Biden in the military, said he spoke to Hunter Biden early this year and got the impression he was trying to focus on personal matters rather than the campaign. Mr. Mowrer said he saw the elder Mr. Biden in Iowa last month and they discussed not Hunter but his other son, Beau.

“Beau’s death is very, very fresh in his mind, and so now these attacks on Hunter are even more unsettling,” Mr. Mowrer said.

The politics of Ukraine and impeachment have been so costly for Mr. Biden, in part, because he is confronting so many other challenges in the Democratic race: a struggle to excite liberal primary voters, an ascendant rival in Ms. Warren and a decline in fund-raising that has forced him to spend even more time appealing to donors in cities hundreds of miles from the early primary states.

Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, acknowledged some of those problems in a briefing for Democratic donors at Morgan Stanley’s New York office last month. Mr. Schultz assured the group that they had a path to the nomination that depended on winning South Carolina — the fourth primary state — and then scoring big victories in the Super Tuesday primaries in March.

In South Carolina, where Mr. Biden’s support appears strongest among the early-voting states, some of his supporters are discussing a trip to Iowa before Thanksgiving — to vouch for the former vice president, and to emphasize his ability to appeal to minority constituencies, like African-Americans.

“We probably know Joe Biden a lot better than they do,” said State Senator Dick Harpootlian of South Carolina, a Biden supporter.

Mr. Schultz acknowledged at the briefing that Mr. Biden had been uneven at times during debates and on the stump. Still, he predicted Mr. Biden would maintain an advantage over Ms. Warren, saying she would struggle to overcome the persistent competition on the left from Mr. Sanders.

But Ms. Warren has recently pulled well ahead of Mr. Sanders. Now, even Mr. Biden’s own campaign aides privately acknowledge that South Carolina may not be much of a political firewall if Ms. Warren rolls through Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

As he finds his way forward, Mr. Biden is relying on a circle of advisers, some formal and others less so, but there is no chief strategist. Mike Donilon, who wrote much of the Reno speech, may be the closest person to playing that role. Democrats who know Mr. Biden well say the campaign is mostly in his hands — and he makes the final calls.

While Mr. Biden’s team has done little polling in the race, he is expected to conduct a survey of Iowa Democrats next week on the Ukraine issue ahead of a new advertising push in the state.

Mr. Biden has begun to escalate his attacks on the president, and his campaign began airing a commercial hitting back at the president for trying to “pick his opponent and face only the candidates he thinks he can beat.” Still, there is no final consensus, in Mr. Biden’s camp, about how consistently he should confront Mr. Trump.

“He’s never gone negative,” said William M. Daley, the former White House chief of staff, who worked on Mr. Biden’s 1988 campaign. “That’s not him, that’s the charm of Joe.”

Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting from Los Angeles.

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What Happened in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry This Week

Developments in the House impeachment inquiry were fast and furious this week. It was hard to keep up, even for those of us who are paid to do it. Here’s a breakdown of important articles you may have missed.

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President Trump’s public call on China for help that could benefit him in the 2020 election comes amid an impeachment inquiry into a similar request to Ukraine.CreditCreditPete Marovich for The New York Times

In an extraordinary move on Thursday, President Trump, already facing impeachment for pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival, publicly called on China to examine former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., another request for help from a foreign power that could benefit him in next year’s election. On Monday it was revealed that Mr. Trump had also asked Australia for help in an effort he had hoped would discredit the origins of the Mueller investigation. To tally that all up, Mr. Trump and his attorney general have sought help to discredit the president’s opponents from Ukraine, Australia, Italy and, according to one report, Britain.

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If you haven’t had a chance to read through the whistle-blower complaint at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry, here’s an annotated version. And a second official is weighing whether to blow the whistle on President Trump’s Ukraine dealings. The second official, a member of the intelligence community, was interviewed by the inspector general to corroborate the original whistle-blower’s account.

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2nd Official Is Weighing Whether to Blow the Whistle on Trump’s Ukraine Dealings

WASHINGTON — A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry. The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.

The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, briefed lawmakers privately on Friday about how he substantiated the whistle-blower’s account. It was not clear whether he told lawmakers that the second official is considering filing a complaint.

A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point. He said that he relied on information from more than half a dozen American officials to compile his allegations about Mr. Trump’s campaign to solicit foreign election interference that could benefit him politically.

Additionally, a reconstructed transcript of a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky released by the White House also showed Mr. Trump pressuring Ukraine.

Because the second official has met with Mr. Atkinson’s office, it was unclear whether he needs to file a complaint to gain the legal protections offered to intelligence community whistle-blowers. Witnesses who speak with inspectors general are protected by federal law that outlaws reprisals against officials who cooperate with an inspector general.

Whistle-blowers have created a new threat for Mr. Trump. Though the White House has stonewalled Democrats in Congress investigating allegations raised in the special counsel’s report that Mr. Trump obstructed justice, the president has little similar ability to stymie whistle-blowers from speaking to Congress.

The Trump administration had blocked Mr. Atkinson from sharing the whistle-blower complaint with lawmakers but later relented.

Mr. Trump and his allies have taken aim at the credibility of the original whistle-blower by noting that he had secondhand knowledge. The president has also singled out his sources, saying that they were “close to a spy.”

“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Mr. Trump told staffers at the United States mission to the United Nations. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Mr. Atkinson has identified some indications of “arguable political bias” that the whistle-blower had in favor of a rival candidate. But the inspector general said that the existence of that bias did not alter his conclusion that the complaint was credible.

Still, testimony from someone with more direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s efforts to use American foreign policy for potential political gain would most likely undermine conservatives’ attacks on the C.I.A. officer’s credibility.

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President Trump’s personal lawyer. The prosecutor general of Ukraine. Joe Biden’s son. These are just some of the names mentioned in the whistle-blower’s complaint. What were their roles? We break it down.CreditCreditIllustration by The New York Times

The House Intelligence Committee has taken the lead on the investigation into the whistle-blower’s claims as part of the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump abused his powers by using high-level diplomacy to advance his personal interests. Committee aides were still trying to arrange an interview with the C.I.A. officer.

Among the matters the president asked Mr. Zelensky to examine were a Ukrainian natural gas company connected to Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Trump has said publicly since the release of the complaint that the matter should be examined and added on Thursday that the Chinese government should look at dealings that Hunter Biden had there.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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Saudi Arabia and Iran Make Quiet Openings to Head Off War

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After years of growing hostility and competition for influence, Saudi Arabia and Iran have taken steps toward indirect talks to try to reduce the tensions that have brought the Middle East to the brink of war, according to officials from several countries involved in the efforts.

Even the prospect of such talks represents a remarkable turnaround, coming only a few weeks after a coordinated attack on Saudi oil installations led to bellicose threats in the Persian Gulf. Any reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have far-reaching consequences for conflicts across the region.

It was President Trump’s refusal to retaliate against Iran for the Sept. 14 attack, analysts say, that set off unintended consequences, prompting Saudi Arabia to seek its own solution to the conflict. That solution, in turn, could subvert Mr. Trump’s effort to build an Arab alliance to isolate Iran.

In recent weeks, officials of Iraq and Pakistan said, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, asked the leaders of those two countries to speak with their Iranian counterparts about de-escalation.

Iran welcomed the gestures, stating privately and publicly that it was open to talks with Saudi Arabia.

In a statement to The New York Times on Friday, the Saudi government acknowledged that Iraq and Pakistan had offered to mediate talks between the two countries but denied that Prince Mohammed had taken the initiative.

“Efforts at de-escalation must emanate from the party that began the escalation and launched attacks, not the kingdom,” the statement said.

Distrust between the two Middle Eastern powers remains intense, and the prospect of high-level direct talks any time soon appears remote. But even a slight warming could echo far outside their respective borders, where their rivalry fuels political divides from Lebanon to Yemen.

Iran has long wanted to wrest the Saudis from their alliance with Iran’s archenemies, Israel and the United States, which are waging a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran to try to force it to restrict its nuclear program and stop backing militias in the region.

Iran’s receptiveness for contact with the Saudis contrasts with its chilly tone toward the United States. Last week, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, dodged an opportunity to speak directly with Mr. Trump while both were attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The new overtures between Saudi Arabia and Iran began in the aftermath of last month’s drone and cruise missile strikes on two Saudi oil facilities, which Saudi Arabia and the United States accused Iran of orchestrating.

Despite tough threats by the Trump administration, the president declined to order a military response. The demurral raised questions for the Saudis about the American commitment to Saudi security, which has underpinned the strategic layout of the Persian Gulf for decades.

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan met with Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah last month. Days later, while Mr. Khan was at the General Assembly, he told reporters that Prince Mohammed had asked him to talk to Iran.

Prince Mohammed told Mr. Khan, “I want to avoid war,” according to a senior Pakistani official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. “He asked the prime minister to get involved.”

Mr. Khan then spoke with Mr. Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

The Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, visited Saudi Arabia a few days after Mr. Khan did.

A senior Iraqi official said that Prince Mohammed asked Mr. Abdul Mahdi to mediate with Iran, and that Iraq had suggested Baghdad as the venue for a potential meeting.

“There is a big response from Saudi Arabia and from Iran and even from Yemen,” Mr. Abdul Mahdi told journalists in Iraq after his return from the kingdom. “And I think that these endeavors will have a good effect.”

Iran endorsed the idea.

“Iran is open to starting a dialogue with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region,” Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, told Al Jazeera in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. “An Iranian-Saudi dialogue,” he added, “could solve many of the region’s security and political problems.”

While they explore back-channel possibilities, both sides have continued to stake out staunchly opposing public positions.

The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia had not asked anyone to send messages to Iran. Instead, he wrote, other countries he did not identify had offered to serve as intermediaries.

“We informed them that the truce needs to come from the side that is escalating and spreading chaos through aggressive acts in the region,” Mr. al-Jubeir wrote.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran said that his country would “definitely greet Saudi Arabia with open arms” — but only if it prioritized friendly relations with neighbors over purchasing weapons from the United States.

Iran has long sought to pull Saudi Arabia away from the United States and Israel. But it was the lack of an American military response to the strikes on Saudi oil facilities that appeared to have created an opening.

“There are cracks in the armor suggesting Saudi Arabia is interested in exploring a new relationship with Iran,” said Philip Gordon, a former White House coordinator for the Middle East. “The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the U.S. to support them and find out they won’t.”

He added, “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.”

Top officials from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Saudi allies which could suffer if open conflict broke out, have spoken publicly of the need for diplomacy to reduce tensions and have made their own efforts to reach out to Iran. The Emirates has held direct maritime security talks with Iran, and has pulled back from the war in Yemen, where it is allied with the Saudis in a battle against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

If Saudi Arabia joins Kuwait and the Emirates in reaching out to Iran, it could undermine the Trump administration’s effort to build an international coalition to ostracize and pressure the Iranians.

“The anti-Iran alliance is not just faltering, it’s crumbling,” Martin Indyk, the executive vice president of Brookings Institution and a former senior diplomat, said Thursday on Twitter. “MBZ has struck his deal with Iran; MBS is not far behind,” he said, referring to the Emirati crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, or MBZ, and the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS.

He also noted that Mr. Trump’s most hawkish anti-Iran adviser, John R. Bolton, had left the administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is fighting for his political life and Mr. Trump has shown a willingness to talk directly to the Iranians.

For the Saudis, even indirect talks with Iran would represent a significant departure from Prince Mohammed’s approach to his prime regional rival since his father, King Salman, ascended to the Saudi throne in 2015.

He has cast Iran as the root of the Middle East’s problems and argued that political and theological differences make negotiations impossible. He has compared Iran’s supreme leader to Hitler and threatened to instigate violence inside Iran’s borders.

“We are a primary target for the Iranian regime,” Prince Mohammed said in 2017. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.”

His antipathy toward Iran gave him common cause with Israel and the Trump administration. The Saudis have pitched themselves as the United States’ greatest ally against Iran, proposing they carry out joint operations to weaken it and possibly bring about regime change, according to former United States officials.

But Prince Mohammed may now be more willing to explore a possible accommodation.

“We have reached the peak of Saudi-Iran tensions and both sides have concluded this balance of fear is detrimental to their interests,” said Saeed Shariati, a political analyst in Tehran.

For now, the rift appears wide, and possibly unbridgeable. The Saudis criticize Iran for backing militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where the kingdom has been mired in a disastrous war against the Houthis for four years.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities that seem to have helped prompt the diplomatic initiatives, but many Western experts believed that the Houthis could not have carried out the strikes unassisted.

Mr. al-Jubeir said Tuesday that Iran needed to stop its ballistic missile program, refrain from interfering in Arab states and “act like a normal country, and not like a rogue who sponsors terrorism.”

For its part, Iran has called on Saudi Arabia to freeze its multibillion-dollar arms purchases from the United States, stop its intervention in Yemen and end discrimination against the Shiite Muslim minority in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led absolute monarchy.

At the General Assembly last week, Iran’s president, Mr. Rouhani, aimed part of his speech directly at Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.

“It’s the Islamic Republic of Iran who is your neighbor,” he said. “At the day of an event, you and us will be alone. We are each other’s neighbors, not America.”

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