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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 181)

A Year Later, Iran Finds Evaporating Sympathy at the U.N.

When Iran’s president and foreign minister arrived in New York a year ago for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, they were riding high. At news conferences and in television appearances, they cast President Trump as an untrustworthy deal-breaker, and European leaders largely sided with the pair in a desperate effort to preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement after the United States renounced it.

This year could not be more different.

Suddenly, President Hassan Rouhani and his witty, often biting American-educated foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, are on the defensive. They are denying any Iranian involvement in the destruction of two major Saudi oil facilities, an assertion that even former Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the nuclear accord four years ago and has become its biggest defender, finds far-fetched. Iran, he said, was behind the attack “one way or the other.”

Iran is now admitting how much damage the American-led sanctions have done to its economy — crashing the currency and turning a boomlet into a recession.

Mr. Zarif, while reserving most of his anger for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who he has called a “warmonger,” has now turned on the Europeans. After committing to preserving the nuclear deal by compensating for much of the revenue Iran was losing, the Europeans “have failed in every single one” of their specific commitments, he said in a meeting with reporters on Sunday.

“They think they need some green light from the U.S.,” said Mr. Zarif, suggesting that Britain, France and Germany had strung him along with promises that they had little intention of fulfilling if it meant further straining their testy relationship with the Trump administration.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161307009_e66ae31a-f66c-4934-8ae1-73e7784d07fa-articleLarge A Year Later, Iran Finds Evaporating Sympathy at the U.N. Zarif, Mohammad Javad United States International Relations United States Trump, Donald J Rouhani, Hassan Iran General Assembly (UN) Europe

The French and Iranian foreign ministers, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Mohammad Javad Zarif, in New York on Sunday.CreditJohannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Last year, three months after Mr. Trump exited the nuclear deal, Iran came to the General Assembly attempting to insert a wedge between the United States and its European allies.

But “Iran has come to this year’s U.N.G.A. with a real wake-up call that what they are able to get from Europeans is no more than some limited political cover for support of the nuclear deal,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, the deputy head of Middle East and North Africa studies for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Iranian officials, she said, have arrived in New York discovering that the Europeans cannot offer any substantive economic relief, and that even a French-led initiative to issue a credit line of $15 billion, essentially an advance payment on Iranian oil shipments, is likely to fail. Washington will most likely not issue waivers, and European banks are unwilling to join the effort if they believe they will be banned from clearing transactions in American dollars.

Two weeks ago, it appeared that Iran might find a way out, taking Mr. Trump up on his offer of negotiations. But the attacks on Saudi Arabia, and the American accusations of Iranian involvement, have all but killed that possibility, American officials said.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, told reporters on Sunday that President Emmanuel Macron’s mediation looked promising until the oil facility attacks, which he called a “game changer.”

France’s priorities have shifted from brokering a meeting between Tehran and Washington aimed at restarting a dialogue to just trying to prevent a military conflict.

“The meeting between Trump and Rouhani is not the No. 1 subject,” Mr. Le Drian said. “The priority subject is whether we can restart a de-escalation path with the different actors.”

Mr. Zarif said that the decision on Friday by the Americans to designate Iran’s central bank as a financier of terrorism, making it virtually impossible for international institutions to do business with it, meant that Mr. Trump “knowingly or unknowingly closed the door to negotiations.”

All this may be posturing, of course, on both sides. For months now, Iranian elites have been signaling that the country would have no choice but to deal with Mr. Trump — Mr. Zarif, who has spent much of his life in the United States, now predicts that the president is more likely than not to be re-elected.

And Mr. Trump gyrates between threatening military action and repeating his assertion that the Iranians really want “a deal.” His aides say Mr. Trump episodically envisions the kind of leader-to-leader negotiations he has conducted with Kim Jong-un, though as one senior American diplomat noted recently, unlike Mr. Kim, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “doesn’t hug and doesn’t write” complimentary letters. (Mr. Trump’s effort, through Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, to invite Mr. Zarif to the Oval Office several months ago failed; Mr. Zarif said he would meet American leaders only for a deeply substantive conversation, “not a photo-op” of the kind held with Mr. Kim.)

But such a moment may have already passed.

The hawkish Mr. Pompeo clearly senses that the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities, for which he blamed the Iranians before any forensic evidence had been gathered, have fundamentally changed the negotiating dynamics. He finally has the opportunity he has sought for 18 months: a chance to kill Europe’s effort to neutralize sanctions.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last week to discuss the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities.Credit United States Department of State

Mr. Pompeo doubled down on his critique on Sunday, saying the Iranians are “bloodthirsty and looking for war,” and suggesting that as the sanctions cut deeper, the Iranian people will demand changes in their government — though he stopped just short of demanding regime change.

“They’re operating today in five countries,” Mr. Pompeo said of the Iranians on Sunday on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s expensive. They’ve already had to make difficult decisions about whether they’re going to feed their people, provide medicine to their people, or they’re going to launch missiles into Saudi Arabia.”

Over the next few days, both sides will have to show their hands. When Mr. Rouhani arrives to speak to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Mr. Zarif said, the Iranian president will announce a “Coalition for Hope” and will invite a wide variety of nations — including the Sunni Arab states that view Iran as a mortal enemy — to join forces on “freedom of navigation and energy security.”

It seems highly unlikely that the proposal will gain any traction. But then again, Mr. Pompeo has also found few takers for an international coalition to patrol the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters to protect oil shipments.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Zarif will join the nations that agreed to the 2015 nuclear deal — with the conspicuous exception of the United States — at a meeting about the future of the agreement. Mr. Pompeo, he said, “is welcome to join,” but to do so he must first sign back up to the terms of the old accord before negotiating a new deal.

“We can make the J.C.P.O.A. even better,” he said, using the formal abbreviation for the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

President Trump gyrates between threatening military action and repeating his assertion that the Iranians really want “a deal.”CreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

But Mr. Pompeo will not be there. Instead, he will be addressing a group called United Against Nuclear Iran, a vociferous critic of the 2015 deal.

The reality is that the accord is now on life support. While European officials say privately that they believe Iran is striking out at shipping and Saudi facilities only because of the American sanctions, they concede that the Saudi attacks most likely undermined their last hope for an agreement that would restore oil revenues to Tehran.

“For the U.S. to be part of any negotiation with Iran, it has to show it is a trustworthy partner,’’ Mr. Zarif said. Picking up on an American term of art, he said he would not “buy the same horse twice.”

“I bought the horse already,” he said of his efforts in 2015 to convince skeptical leaders in Iran, especially in the military, that the country would be better off signing on to the deal and ending much of its nuclear activity than continuing a relationship of hostility.

The stalemate contrasts dramatically with last year’s events. Back then, Mr. Zarif and the European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, announced a complex European plan to neutralize the American sanctions with a barter system. Iran appeared to still be in full compliance with its commitments under the agreement, bolstering its effort to seem more invested in the international system than the United States.

Mr. Trump even dropped the idea of focusing explicitly on Iran last year, for fear that other members of the Security Council would say that Mr. Trump had, for reasons of ego, disassembled an international agreement largely because his predecessor had negotiated it.

This year could not look more different. Iran this spring began eschewing its commitments under the accord, exceeding the limits on how much nuclear material it can produce and increasing the level of enrichment beyond what was allowed. Mr. Rouhani has promised a carefully calibrated and easily reversible program of further violations, until the Europeans pay up. But the further he goes, the more the agreement gets hollowed out.

Mr. Zarif, for his part, says the Europeans have a stark choice ahead of them. “They can simply defy the United States,” he said. “That is the only way.”

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As Trump Confirms He Discussed Biden With Ukraine, Pressure to Impeach Builds

WASHINGTON — President Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he accused a leading political rival of corruption during a phone call with Ukraine’s president, as pressure intensified on reluctant Democrats to move quickly toward impeachment over allegations that Mr. Trump engaged in a brazen effort to enlist foreign help to aid his own re-election.

In public and in private, many Democrats suggested that evidence in recent days indicating that Mr. Trump pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his administration’s stonewalling of attempts by Congress to learn more, were changing their calculations about whether to seek his removal from office.

The influential chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has resisted such calls, said the House may now have “crossed the Rubicon” in light of the new disclosures, and the administration’s withholding of a related whistle-blower complaint. A group of moderate freshman lawmakers who had been opposed to an impeachment inquiry said they were considering changing course, while other Democrats who had reluctantly supported one amplified their calls. Progressives, meanwhile, sharpened their criticisms of the party’s leadership for failing to act.

The fast-moving developments prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi to level a warning of her own to the White House: Turn over the secret whistle-blower complaint by Thursday, or face a serious escalation from Congress.

In a letter to House Democrats, Ms. Pelosi never mentioned the word “impeachment,” but her message appeared to hint at the possibility.

“If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, wrote in the letter.

Read the Letter Nancy Pelosi Sent About the Whistle-Blower Complaint

The House speaker warned of a new phase in the investigation of President Trump if he refuses to hand over the whistle-blower complaint.

Westlake Legal Group thumbnail As Trump Confirms He Discussed Biden With Ukraine, Pressure to Impeach Builds Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pelosi, Nancy Law and Legislation impeachment Espionage and Intelligence Services Biden, Joseph R Jr  1 page, 0.11 MB

The allegations center on whether Mr. Trump pressured a vulnerable ally to take action to damage Mr. Biden at a critical moment, potentially using United States military aid as leverage. Ukraine has been fighting a war with Russia, and the Trump administration had temporarily been withholding a $250 million package of military funding. There have been no indications to this point, however, that Mr. Trump mentioned the aid money on the call.

Mr. Trump showed no sign of contrition on Sunday, telling aides that Democrats were overplaying their hand on a matter voters would discount. Publicly, he worked to focus attention not on his own actions, but on those of Mr. Biden.

Speaking to reporters, the president defended his July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine as entirely appropriate, and stopped short of directly confirming news reports about what was discussed. But he acknowledged that he had discussed Mr. Biden during the call and accused the former vice president of corruption tied to his son Hunter’s business activities in the former Soviet republic.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for a trip to Texas and Ohio.

It is still far from clear that the latest scandal surrounding Mr. Trump’s conduct will lead Ms. Pelosi or other top Democrats to bless following through with full impeachment proceedings and a vote. The House Judiciary Committee is already investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump over other matters, but Ms. Pelosi has consistently questioned the strength of the case.

Proponents of impeachment have repeatedly pointed to damaging revelations — including several instances of possible obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump detailed by the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference with the 2016 election — that they believe warrant seeking Mr. Trump’s removal. But they have run into resistance or indifference from their colleagues and the general public. And given near-unanimous Republican opposition, any impeachment proceeding would likely be a wholly partisan exercise that would all but certainly result in an acquittal by the Senate.

On Sunday, the pattern appeared to be holding, with the vast majority of Republican lawmakers mum about the latest allegations against Mr. Trump. The exception was a couple of prominent lawmakers who suggested that the White House should release the contents of his call with Mr. Zelensky.

“I’m hoping the president can share, in an appropriate way, information to deal with the drama around the phone call,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “I think it would be good for the country if we could deal with it.”

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, was more critical, deeming it “critical for the facts to come out” and stating, “If the president asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme.”

At the same time, interviews with more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers this weekend made clear that they believed the latest allegations had the potential to be singularly incriminating, with prospects to advance the impeachment drive just as it appeared to be losing steam. Not only do they suggest that Mr. Trump was using the power of his office to extract political gains from a foreign power, they argued, but his administration is actively trying once again to prevent Congress from finding out what happened.

“I don’t want to do any more to contribute to the divisiveness in the country, but my biggest responsibility as an elected official is to protect our national security and Constitution,” said Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, adding that it is “becoming more and more difficult” for Democrats to avoid an all-out impeachment inquiry.

Several first-term lawmakers who had opposed impeachment conferred privately over the weekend to discuss announcing support for an inquiry, potentially jointly, after a hearing scheduled for Thursday with the acting national intelligence director, according to Democratic officials familiar with the conversations. A handful of them declined to speak on the record over the weekend, with some still reluctant to go public and others looking for cues from Ms. Pelosi and their freshman colleagues.

Representative Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey freshman who has supported an inquiry, said the fresh revelations made it clear that Congress must move more decisively.

“There are lines being crossed right now that I fear will be erased if the House does not take strong action to assert them, to defend them,” he said in an interview. “If all we do is leave it up to the American people to get rid of him, we have not upheld the rule of law, we have not set a precedent that this behavior is utterly out of bounds.”

The Intelligence Committee chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, said Sunday morning that the accumulating evidence of wrongdoing, and of a presidential cover-up unfolding in real time, left the House with few other options. Mr. Schiff spoke with Ms. Pelosi before making his remarks to coordinate their statements, two people familiar with their conversation said, a sign that the speaker may be more comfortable moving toward a direct discussion of impeachment.

“I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment,” Mr. Schiff said on CNN. “But if the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is coequal to the evil that that conduct represents.”

Mr. Schiff first brought the existence of the whistle-blower complaint to light a little more than a week ago, and has been the party’s lead negotiator with the acting director of national intelligence, who has refused to turn it over to Congress.

Progressives in Congress have watched the stonewalling with seething frustration, and in recent days, they have begun to openly second-guess Ms. Pelosi’s go-slow approach.

“At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior — it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, who commands considerable influence among progressives, wrote on Twitter late Saturday night.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and the co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, said in an interview that she was now ready to vote outright to impeach Mr. Trump, rather than simply continuing the investigation, and that she planned to make her case in public.

“There is no congressional authority anymore that we are being allowed to exercise, except the one that we have not exercised yet,” Ms. Jayapal said.

But the more crucial issue is whether Democrats from the districts Mr. Trump won or nearly lost can stomach a push to expel him.

Representative Dina Titus of Nevada said once a transcript is made public of Mr. Trump pressuring Mr. Zelensky, she doubted that Democrats from competitive seats could continue to resist impeachment.

“Once that comes out,” said Ms. Titus, an impeachment proponent, “I don’t see how they can fight it any longer.”

Jefrey Pollock, a Democratic pollster, said it was imperative that Democrats build a case of the president’s wrongdoing, in part by obtaining unambiguous evidence.

“Every foreign-based scandal so far has completely rolled off the backs of the voters,” Mr. Pollock said. “For this to really seep into the mind-set of the public, the salacious factor needs to increase significantly, because right now, there’s still no evidence that the public is paying any attention to these things.”

Strikingly, though, even some traditionally cautious veteran Democrats said the party might have no choice but to move toward impeachment. They believe that Senate Republicans, who are clinging to their majority of 53 seats, would pay a political price for protecting Mr. Trump if they voted to exonerate him in the face of damning evidence of malfeasance and a House vote to impeach.

“They’ve got to take a second look” at impeachment, Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor and national party chairman, who is an ally of Ms. Pelosi, said of fellow Democrats. He predicted that the latest revelations would “push some of our folks over.”

James Carville, the longtime Democratic strategist, said he had opposed impeachment, but now thinks the House should move “quick and clean” after obtaining a transcript of Mr. Trump’s phone call. “Let the Senate Republicans stew,” he said.

Nicholas Fandos and Jonathan Martin reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.

Ukraine and Whistle-Blower Issues Emerge as Major Flashpoints in Presidential Race

Sept. 21, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 21biden-3-promo-threeByTwoSmallAt2X-v3 As Trump Confirms He Discussed Biden With Ukraine, Pressure to Impeach Builds Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pelosi, Nancy Law and Legislation impeachment Espionage and Intelligence Services Biden, Joseph R Jr
Trump Pressed Ukraine’s Leader on Inquiry Into Biden’s Son

Sept. 20, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-whistleblower-sub-threeByTwoSmallAt2X-v3 As Trump Confirms He Discussed Biden With Ukraine, Pressure to Impeach Builds Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pelosi, Nancy Law and Legislation impeachment Espionage and Intelligence Services Biden, Joseph R Jr
Is It an Impeachment Inquiry or Not? Democrats Can’t Seem to Agree

Sept. 11, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_160638207_a315e497-f3ef-4030-b3f4-f72b921903b3-threeByTwoSmallAt2X As Trump Confirms He Discussed Biden With Ukraine, Pressure to Impeach Builds Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pelosi, Nancy Law and Legislation impeachment Espionage and Intelligence Services Biden, Joseph R Jr

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Biden’s Work in Ukraine: What We Know and Don’t Know

WASHINGTON — President Trump is trying to deflect attention from a firestorm of controversy around revelations that he pressed Ukraine’s leader to investigate a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Trump is doing so by saying the real issue is possible corrupt activity involving Ukraine by Mr. Biden, one of the leading Democratic challengers in the 2020 presidential race, and Mr. Biden’s son.

Here is what we know and do not know about the involvement of the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.

The issue here is whether Mr. Biden used his position as vice president to help a Ukrainian energy company that was paying Hunter Biden by pushing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor. The prosecutor’s office had oversight of investigations into the oligarch who owned the company.

As The New York Times reported this spring, no evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor’s dismissal.

In fact, some of the vice president’s former associates said he never did anything to deter other efforts to go after the oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky. Those efforts included a push by Obama administration officials for the United States to support criminal investigations by Ukrainian and British authorities, and possibly for the United States to start its own investigation, into the energy company, Burisma Holdings, and its owner, Mr. Zlochevsky, for possible money laundering and abuse of office.

The president has often been vague about the specifics of his allegations, but one detail that he and his allies have repeatedly cited is the former vice president’s threatening to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the prosecutor. Mr. Trump’s campaign on Saturday publicized footage of Mr. Biden recounting the threat.

“I said: ‘We’re leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Mr. Biden recounted at a 2018 event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Mr. Biden continued, in footage that was not included in the Trump campaign video.

The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.

His dismissal had been sought not just by Mr. Biden, but also by others in the Obama administration, as well other Western governments and international lenders. Mr. Shokin had been repeatedly accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his office and among the Ukrainian political elite, and criticized for failing to bring corruption cases.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 22dc-bidenexplainer2-articleLarge Biden’s Work in Ukraine: What We Know and Don’t Know Zlochevsky, Mykola United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Shokin, Viktor Presidential Election of 2020 Lutsenko, Yuri V Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. standing with his son Hunter on Capitol Hill in 2009.CreditCharles Dharapak/Associated Press

Hunter Biden has not been accused of legal wrongdoing related to his work for Burisma, which paid him as much as $50,000 per month in some months for his service on the board of the directors. He said in a statement this year that he never discussed Burisma with his father.

But he has been criticized by government watchdog groups in the United States and Ukraine for what they characterize as the perception of a conflict of interest, and trading on his family name by allowing it to be used to burnish the reputations of Burisma and Mr. Zlochevsky.

Starting in 2012, Mr. Zlochevsky has faced a long series of accusations of money laundering and tax evasion, as well as overseeing the awarding of lucrative gas licenses to his companies while he was the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources under the Russia-aligned government of the former president Viktor F. Yanukovych.

When Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, he had no experience in Ukraine. He has a professional history including a number of roles that intersected with his father’s political career. When his father represented Delaware in the Senate, Hunter Biden worked with a credit card issuer in the state. He also worked at the Commerce Department under President Bill Clinton and as a lobbyist on behalf of various universities, associations and companies.

Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies were relieved by the dismissal of Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor whose ouster Mr. Biden had sought, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma. But the oligarch’s allies say Mr. Shokin was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team, and that left the oligarch’s team leery of dealing with the prosecutor.

Mr. Shokin was replaced by a prosecutor named Yuriy Lutsenko, whom former Vice President Biden later called “someone who was solid at the time.” Mr. Zlochevsky’s representatives were pleased by the choice, concluding they could work with Mr. Lutsenko to resolve the oligarch’s legal issues, according to the people familiar with the situation.

While Mr. Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had “fully closed” all “legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against Mr. Zlochevsky and his companies.

The oligarch, who had fled the country amid investigations by previous prosecutors, was removed by a Ukrainian court from “the wanted list,” and returned to the country.

This year, though, Mr. Lutsenko’s office moved to restart scrutiny of Mr. Zlochevsky.

The Times reported that Mr. Lutsenko had been communicating with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has become a leading voice in accusing the Bidens of corruption. And allies of Mr. Biden and Mr. Zlochevsky accuse both Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani of injecting politics into the equation.

Ukraine’s new government replaced Mr. Lutsenko last month.

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Trump’s Hold on Military Aid Blindsided Top Ukrainian Officials

Westlake Legal Group 22Ukraine1-facebookJumbo Trump’s Hold on Military Aid Blindsided Top Ukrainian Officials Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Foreign Aid Defense and Military Forces

KIEV, Ukraine — Senior Ukrainian officials said they were blindsided over the summer when they heard the United States would withhold security assistance to the country.

“It was a total surprise,” said Pavlo A. Klimkin, who was Ukraine’s foreign minister in August when he learned of the Trump administration’s suspension of military aid by reading a news article.

The blocking of military aid to Ukraine is now at the center of questions about whether President Trump manipulated foreign policy to pressure the Ukrainian government to take action that would hurt Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president and a top rival in the campaign for the presidency.

President Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he used a July 25 phone call with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to accuse Mr. Biden of corruption.

Mr. Biden oversaw American policy toward Ukraine in the Obama administration when his son served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. Allies of Mr. Trump have pointed to a conflict of interest, and asked Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden’s request in 2016 that Ukraine’s president at the time, Petro O. Poroshenko, dismiss a prosecutor who had investigated the gas company.

By the time of that July 25 call, the administration had already suspended the aid, a decision reached in early July, according to a former American official.

But the news would not reach the Ukranian officials until much later, and then through nonofficial channels. For years, Ukranian officials had coordinated with the Pentagon, the State Department and members of Congress on military aid.

Mr. Klimkin said he received no formal notice through American diplomatic channels of the halt in aid, although he noted the suspension came as the ministry was transitioning to a new administration. He left the ministry on Aug. 29.

American military assistance for Ukraine had flowed unobstructed into the country since 2014, the year Russia annexed Crimea and fomented a war in two eastern provinces. The aid had always arrived in carefully choreographed shipments planned months in advance.

If the United States harbored concerns about any misuse of the aid by Ukraine, the senior officials said they had never heard about them.

Mr. Klimkin said American officials had always provided the aid along with encouragement to overhaul the army and military industries to root out corruption.

But Mr. Klimkin said that aid was not conditional on those issues, and that he had heard no expressions of concern on those fronts from the United States in 2019.

“I never heard a discussion about meeting these conditions,” he said. “I’m not aware of any indication that something could have gone wrong.”

After a bipartisan outcry in Congress, the White House agreed to restore the aid in mid-September.

If the decision to suspend the aid was tied to a request by Mr. Trump for a politically motivated investigation, that “represents a fundamental challenge and problem for Ukraine,” Mr. Klimkin said, possibly threatening what had been bipartisan support in Congress for military assistance to the country.

“At the end of the day, the only ones who will be happy about that are the people sitting in the Kremlin,” he said.

In an interview on Ukrainian television on Saturday, Ukraine’s current foreign minister, Vadym V. Prystaiko, said Mr. Trump had not pressured Mr. Zelensky in the telephone call.

“There was talk, conversations are different, leaders have the right to discuss any problems that exist,” he said. “This conversation was long, friendly, and it touched on a lot of questions, including those requiring serious answers.”

Another official who learned of the hold on aid like a bolt from the blue was Oleh Shevchuk, who was deputy minister of defense in charge of logistics and oversaw the aid shipments until this month. He also said he learned of it through media reports.

Everything had been arriving smoothly, he said. Even as the news of the suspension came out, he said, Ukraine was receiving containers of medical supplies in Odessa, a Black Sea port. The Ukrainian military was expecting 33 Humvees equipped as ambulances, water purifying equipment and so-called containerized housing units, or mobile homes for soldiers. The Ukrainian military still expects these items, he said.

In fact, the hold came and went so quickly he noticed no change in the shipments and American officials never informed him of any planned delays, Mr. Shevchuk said. “We got more this year than last year,” he said.

The United States has provided about $1.5 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine since 2014, almost entirely as equipment, often drawn from United States Army surpluses, rather than money transfers to the Ukrainian budget.

It includes items much sought-after on the battle front, like body armor, night-vision goggles and armored ambulances. But the aid has not been decisive in the now five-year-old war. Some aid, including ready-to-eat meals and at least one sophisticated counter-battery radar, has been captured and gleefully put on display by the Russian-backed separatists.

As a major component of the aid, about 300 American soldiers serve as trainers at a military base in western Ukraine, far from the fighting in the east.

Oksana Syroid, a former deputy speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament, said in an interview that no American concerns about military aid crossed her desk this year before the hold was announced.

“It’s a very slippery road, a very dangerous approach, to make external relations a hostage to internal politics,” she said of a possible tie of the aid to corruption accusations against Mr. Biden. “It’s like asking a neighbor to take sides in an argument with your spouse.”

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Trump, Biden and Ukraine: Sorting Out the Accusations

WASHINGTON — President Trump is trying to deflect attention from a firestorm of controversy around revelations that he pressed Ukraine’s leader to investigate a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Trump is doing so by saying the real issue is possible corrupt activity involving Ukraine by Mr. Biden, one of the leading Democratic challengers in the 2020 presidential race, and Mr. Biden’s son.

Here is what we know and do not know about the involvement of the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.

The issue here is whether Mr. Biden used his position as vice president to help a Ukrainian energy company that was paying Hunter Biden by pushing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor. The prosecutor’s office had oversight of investigations into the oligarch who owned the company.

As The New York Times reported this spring, no evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor’s dismissal.

In fact, some of the vice president’s former associates said he never did anything to deter other efforts to go after the oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky. Those efforts included a push by Obama administration officials for the United States to support criminal investigations by Ukrainian and British authorities, and possibly for the United States to start its own investigation, into the energy company, Burisma Holdings, and its owner, Mr. Zlochevsky, for possible money laundering and abuse of office.

The president has often been vague about the specifics of his allegations, but one detail that he and his allies have repeatedly cited is the former vice president’s threatening to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the prosecutor. Mr. Trump’s campaign on Saturday publicized footage of Mr. Biden recounting the threat.

“I said: ‘We’re leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Mr. Biden recounted at a 2018 event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Mr. Biden continued, in footage that was not included in the Trump campaign video.

The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.

His dismissal had been sought not just by Mr. Biden, but also by others in the Obama administration, as well other Western governments and international lenders. Mr. Shokin had been repeatedly accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his office and among the Ukrainian political elite, and criticized for failing to bring corruption cases.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 22dc-bidenexplainer2-articleLarge Trump, Biden and Ukraine: Sorting Out the Accusations Zlochevsky, Mykola United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Shokin, Viktor Presidential Election of 2020 Lutsenko, Yuri V Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. standing with his son Hunter on Capitol Hill in 2009.CreditCharles Dharapak/Associated Press

Hunter Biden has not been accused of legal wrongdoing related to his work for Burisma, which paid him as much as $50,000 per month in some months for his service on the board of the directors. He said in a statement this year that he never discussed Burisma with his father.

But he has been criticized by government watchdog groups in the United States and Ukraine for what they characterize as the perception of a conflict of interest, and trading on his family name by allowing it to be used to burnish the reputations of Burisma and Mr. Zlochevsky.

Starting in 2012, Mr. Zlochevsky has faced a long series of accusations of money laundering and tax evasion, as well as overseeing the awarding of lucrative gas licenses to his companies while he was the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources under the Russia-aligned government of the former president Viktor F. Yanukovych.

When Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, he had no experience in Ukraine. He has a professional history including a number of roles that intersected with his father’s political career. When his father represented Delaware in the Senate, Hunter Biden worked with a credit card issuer in the state. He also worked at the Commerce Department under President Bill Clinton and as a lobbyist on behalf of various universities, associations and companies.

Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies were relieved by the dismissal of Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor whose ouster Mr. Biden had sought, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma. But the oligarch’s allies say Mr. Shokin was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team, and that left the oligarch’s team leery of dealing with the prosecutor.

Mr. Shokin was replaced by a prosecutor named Yuriy Lutsenko, whom former Vice President Biden later called “someone who was solid at the time.” Mr. Zlochevsky’s representatives were pleased by the choice, concluding they could work with Mr. Lutsenko to resolve the oligarch’s legal issues, according to the people familiar with the situation.

While Mr. Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had “fully closed” all “legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against Mr. Zlochevsky and his companies.

The oligarch, who had fled the country amid investigations by previous prosecutors, was removed by a Ukrainian court from “the wanted list,” and returned to the country.

This year, though, Mr. Lutsenko’s office moved to restart scrutiny of Mr. Zlochevsky.

The Times reported that Mr. Lutsenko had been communicating with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has become a leading voice in accusing the Bidens of corruption. And allies of Mr. Biden and Mr. Zlochevsky accuse both Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani of injecting politics into the equation.

Ukraine’s new government replaced Mr. Lutsenko last month.

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Biden’s Work in Ukraine: What We Know and Don’t Know

WASHINGTON — President Trump is trying to deflect attention from a firestorm of controversy around revelations that he pressed Ukraine’s leader to investigate a domestic political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Mr. Trump is doing so by saying the real issue is possible corrupt activity involving Ukraine by Mr. Biden, one of the leading Democratic challengers in the 2020 presidential race, and Mr. Biden’s son.

Here is what we know and do not know about the involvement of the former vice president and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.

The issue here is whether Mr. Biden used his position as vice president to help a Ukrainian energy company that was paying Hunter Biden by pushing for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor. The prosecutor’s office had oversight of investigations into the oligarch who owned the company.

As The New York Times reported this spring, no evidence has surfaced that the former vice president intentionally tried to help his son by pressing for the prosecutor’s dismissal.

In fact, some of the vice president’s former associates said he never did anything to deter other efforts to go after the oligarch, Mykola Zlochevsky. Those efforts included a push by Obama administration officials for the United States to support criminal investigations by Ukrainian and British authorities, and possibly for the United States to start its own investigation, into the energy company, Burisma Holdings, and its owner, Mr. Zlochevsky, for possible money laundering and abuse of office.

The president has often been vague about the specifics of his allegations, but one detail that he and his allies have repeatedly cited is the former vice president’s threatening to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the prosecutor. Mr. Trump’s campaign on Saturday publicized footage of Mr. Biden recounting the threat.

“I said: ‘We’re leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Mr. Biden recounted at a 2018 event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired,” Mr. Biden continued, in footage that was not included in the Trump campaign video.

The prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, was soon voted out by the Ukrainian Parliament.

His dismissal had been sought not just by Mr. Biden, but also by others in the Obama administration, as well other Western governments and international lenders. Mr. Shokin had been repeatedly accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his office and among the Ukrainian political elite, and criticized for failing to bring corruption cases.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 22dc-bidenexplainer2-articleLarge Biden’s Work in Ukraine: What We Know and Don’t Know Zlochevsky, Mykola United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Shokin, Viktor Presidential Election of 2020 Lutsenko, Yuri V Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. standing with his son Hunter on Capitol Hill in 2009.CreditCharles Dharapak/Associated Press

Hunter Biden has not been accused of legal wrongdoing related to his work for Burisma, which paid him as much as $50,000 per month in some months for his service on the board of the directors. He said in a statement this year that he never discussed Burisma with his father.

But he has been criticized by government watchdog groups in the United States and Ukraine for what they characterize as the perception of a conflict of interest, and trading on his family name by allowing it to be used to burnish the reputations of Burisma and Mr. Zlochevsky.

Starting in 2012, Mr. Zlochevsky has faced a long series of accusations of money laundering and tax evasion, as well as overseeing the awarding of lucrative gas licenses to his companies while he was the head of the Ukrainian Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources under the Russia-aligned government of the former president Viktor F. Yanukovych.

When Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, he had no experience in Ukraine. He has a professional history including a number of roles that intersected with his father’s political career. When his father represented Delaware in the Senate, Hunter Biden worked with a credit card issuer in the state. He also worked at the Commerce Department under President Bill Clinton and as a lobbyist on behalf of various universities, associations and companies.

Mr. Zlochevsky’s allies were relieved by the dismissal of Mr. Shokin, the prosecutor whose ouster Mr. Biden had sought, according to people familiar with the situation.

Mr. Shokin was not aggressively pursuing investigations into Mr. Zlochevsky or Burisma. But the oligarch’s allies say Mr. Shokin was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes from Mr. Zlochevsky and his team, and that left the oligarch’s team leery of dealing with the prosecutor.

Mr. Shokin was replaced by a prosecutor named Yuriy Lutsenko, whom former Vice President Biden later called “someone who was solid at the time.” Mr. Zlochevsky’s representatives were pleased by the choice, concluding they could work with Mr. Lutsenko to resolve the oligarch’s legal issues, according to the people familiar with the situation.

While Mr. Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma, within 10 months after he took office, Burisma announced that Mr. Lutsenko and the courts had “fully closed” all “legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against Mr. Zlochevsky and his companies.

The oligarch, who had fled the country amid investigations by previous prosecutors, was removed by a Ukrainian court from “the wanted list,” and returned to the country.

This year, though, Mr. Lutsenko’s office moved to restart scrutiny of Mr. Zlochevsky.

The Times reported that Mr. Lutsenko had been communicating with Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has become a leading voice in accusing the Bidens of corruption. And allies of Mr. Biden and Mr. Zlochevsky accuse both Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani of injecting politics into the equation.

Ukraine’s new government replaced Mr. Lutsenko last month.

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Pelosi Warns of ‘New Stage’ of Inquiry if Trump Blocks Whistle-Blower Complaint

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday called on the Trump administration to promptly turn over a secret whistle-blower complaint said to relate to President Trump’s attempts to press Ukraine to investigate his leading Democratic presidential rival, warning that a refusal to do so could force the House to open a new phase in its investigation of him.

In a letter to fellow House Democrats, Ms. Pelosi never mentioned the word “impeachment,” but her remarks appeared to hint at the possibility that the newest revelations about Mr. Trump’s conduct — and the administration’s refusal to share the complaint with Congress — might be enough to prompt her and other leading Democrats to drop their resistance to moving forward with official charges against the president.

“If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, wrote in the letter.

The letter reflected a new level of urgency gripping Democrats amid news reports that Mr. Trump used a July phone call with the Ukrainian president to pressure the government there to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son. The request is part of a secret whistle-blower complaint that the administration has ordered be withheld from Congress.

Still, the wording of the missive points to the deep dilemma Democrats face on impeachment: As they encounter mounting evidence that many of them consider grounds for Mr. Trump’s removal, a political landscape has so far led many of them to conclude the endeavor would fail and potentially be disastrous. The reference to Mr. Trump’s duties under the Constitution and to “lawlessness” were nods to the severity of the situation, but Ms. Pelosi’s avoidance of the word “impeachment” strongly suggested that she was still resisting that course of action.

Ms. Pelosi urged Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence who has stood in the way of the complaint getting to Congress, to relent by Thursday, when he is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in an open hearing. Mr. Maguire, in consultation with White House lawyers, has argued that he is not legally required to hand over the complaint.

The escalation was a significant one, and it came as progressives cranked up pressure on party leaders to take a more aggressive stance on impeachment and as even more moderate Democrats close to the speaker appeared to be warming to the possibility of that outcome. The House Judiciary Committee is already investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump over other matters, but Ms. Pelosi has consistently questioned the strength of their case.

On Sunday, she asked Republicans to join Democrats in demanding that the whistle-blower complaint be sent to Congress and that the as-yet-to-be-identified individual be allowed to speak with lawmakers. The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, has deemed the complaint a matter of “urgent concern and credible,” a designation that Democrats argue mandates that the administration share its contents with lawmakers.

“The administration is endangering our national security and having a chilling effect on any future whistle-blower who sees wrongdoing,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has insisted there was nothing inappropriate about his conversation with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Instead, he has accused Democrats and the news media of cooking up what he calls another witch hunt intended to hurt his presidency.

Ukraine and Whistle-Blower Issues Emerge as Major Flashpoints in Presidential Race

Sept. 21, 2019

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Trump Pressed Ukraine’s Leader on Inquiry Into Biden’s Son

Sept. 20, 2019

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Is It an Impeachment Inquiry or Not? Democrats Can’t Seem to Agree

Sept. 11, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_160638207_a315e497-f3ef-4030-b3f4-f72b921903b3-threeByTwoSmallAt2X Pelosi Warns of ‘New Stage’ of Inquiry if Trump Blocks Whistle-Blower Complaint Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pelosi, Nancy Law and Legislation impeachment Espionage and Intelligence Services Biden, Joseph R Jr

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Trump Acknowledges Discussing Biden in Call With Ukrainian Leader

WASHINGTON — President Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he discussed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with Ukraine’s president as Democrats ramped up calls for an investigation into whether he improperly pressured a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent.

While Mr. Trump defended his July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine as perfectly appropriate, he confirmed that Mr. Biden came up during the discussion and that he accused the former vice president of corruption tied to his son Hunter’s business activities in that former Soviet republic.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for a trip to Texas and Ohio.

Mr. Trump did not directly confirm news reports that he pressured Mr. Zelensky for an investigation. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Mr. Trump urged Mr. Zelensky about eight times during the July 25 phone call to work with the president’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, on an investigation of Mr. Biden and his son.

Mr. Giuliani has already publicly acknowledged pressing Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens, and Mr. Trump told reporters on Friday and again over the weekend that the former vice president should be investigated without saying whether it came up during the phone call.

The president’s interest over the summer in a Ukrainian investigation into Mr. Biden, a Democratic front-runner to challenge Mr. Trump in next year’s election, coincided with his administration’s decision to hold up $250 million in security aid to Ukraine. But there have been no indications that Mr. Trump mentioned the money during the call. The president finally agreed to release the money this month after coming under bipartisan pressure from Congress.

Mr. Trump’s interactions with Ukraine are at least part of a whistle-blower’s complaint that has generated intense interest on Capitol Hill. The administration has refused to release the whistle-blower’s complaint to Congress. Mr. Trump said on Sunday that he would “love” to release a transcript of the call “but you have to be a little bit shy about doing it.”

The revelations increased pressure on Democrats to impeach Mr. Trump after months of stutter-start investigation into other matters and after resistance by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pursue such an effort, with polls showing only limited public appetite for Congress removing the president from office.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159980439_9f893971-448d-40f9-abab-977fdd9e0e93-articleLarge Trump Acknowledges Discussing Biden in Call With Ukrainian Leader Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 impeachment Giuliani, Rudolph W Ethics and Official Misconduct Corruption (Institutional) Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and Mr. Trump spoke in July shortly after the Ukrainian was elected as a reformer and inaugurated.CreditWojciech Olkusnik/EPA, via Shutterstock

“This would be, I think, the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office, certainly during this presidency, which says a lot,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “There is no privilege that covers corruption.”

Mr. Schiff, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said impeachment “may be the only remedy” if Mr. Trump did in fact withhold aid to Ukraine in the hopes that the country would pursue an investigation into the Biden family. “The president is pushing us down this road,” he said. “We may very well have crossed the Rubicon here.”

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said Congress had to take action. “If we do have the evidence from this whistle-blower that the president indeed did try to bully a foreign power into affecting our elections, then we have to do something about it,” he said on “Meet the Press” on NBC as he called for release of the whistle-blower’s complaint.

Mr. Murphy, who recently visited Ukraine, said Mr. Zelensky expressed consternation to him that the security aid was held up. The senator said administration officials gave him two explanations for holding up the money — that Mr. Trump was concerned about corruption in Ukraine and that he thought Europe should be the one to assist Kiev rather than the United States.

But Mr. Murphy cast doubt on those explanations and said the situation was clearly suspicious. “Obviously, the timing of this looks really terrible,” he said.

Mr. Zelensky has not commented on the matter since the issue erupted in news reports in recent days, but Ukraine’s foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, was quoted telling a Ukrainian news outlet on Saturday that the country’s leaders did not take Mr. Trump’s phone call as pressure.

“I know what the conversation was about and I think there was no pressure,” Mr. Prystaiko said. “This conversation was long, friendly, and it touched on many questions, sometimes requiring serious answers.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday denied any link between the security aid and Mr. Trump’s interest in an investigation into his potential rival. “Well, that I can tell you, that there was no connection,” Mr. Mnuchin said on “Meet the Press.” “I have been involved with Secretary Pompeo and others on the national security team on the issue.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that any discussions of aid delivered to Ukraine were “100 percent appropriate” and “100 percent lawful.”CreditPool photo by Mandel Ngan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing on several Sunday shows, did not answer in specifics when asked if there was a “quid pro quo” agreement between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian officials. He insisted more generally that any discussions of aid delivered to Ukraine were “100 percent appropriate” and “100 percent lawful.”

On the other hand, Mr. Pompeo did not hesitate to advance allegations that Mr. Biden should be investigated for wrongdoing.

“If there was election interference that took place by the vice president, I think the American people deserve to know,” he said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. If “Vice President Biden behaved in a way that was inconsistent with the way leaders ought to operate, I think the American people deserve to know that.”

While vice president, Mr. Biden threatened in 2016 to withhold $1 billion in American loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor, who was widely seen as failing to fight corruption. Ukraine’s Parliament complied and the prosecutor was forced out.

That was the policy of the Obama administration at the time, a consensus policy to try to strengthen the rule of law in Ukraine as it fended off military intervention from Russia. But Mr. Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had come under scrutiny by the fired prosecutor.

Mr. Biden asserted on Saturday that he had never spoken with his son about overseas work. On Sunday, Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin both accused him of lying or misstating that, without citing any evidence.

Mr. Trump spoke with Mr. Zelensky in July shortly after the Ukrainian was elected as a reformer and inaugurated in May. The White House readout of the call that day said only that Mr. Trump congratulated him on his election and that the two “discussed ways to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Ukraine, including energy and economic cooperation.”

The Ukrainian readout of the call at the time, however, hinted at other topics, saying that Mr. Trump had expressed his faith in the new Ukrainian government to “complete investigations into corruption cases that have hampered Ukraine-U.S. cooperation.”

Mr. Biden asserted on Saturday that he had never spoken with his son about overseas work.CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times

In his comments to reporters on Sunday, Mr. Trump said there was nothing wrong with the call. “The conversation, by the way, was absolutely perfect,” he said. “It was a beautiful, warm, nice conversation.”

Making an unscheduled appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Giuliani tried to focus attention on Mr. Biden’s actions rather than his own or the president’s.

In an 11-minute, often rambling interview, Mr. Giuliani delivered accusation after accusation against Hunter Biden, painting the former vice president’s son as a grifter and career criminal. “And the kid, unfortunately, is a drug addict,” Mr. Giuliani said.

He called out various Ukrainian officials and the Democratic donor George Soros by name as being involved in a vast criminal conspiracy, connecting the dots on “Ukrainian collusion” that was aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election.

“When the rest of this comes out,” Mr. Giuliani said, referring to additional allegations about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, “this will be a lot bigger than Spiro Agnew.”

Mr. Trump, too, mentioned China and attacked Hunter Biden, saying he was unqualified to be making the money he did with his overseas ventures. “The son, he knew nothing, the son is a stiff, he knew nothing,” the president said.

While Democrats spoke out, Republican lawmakers largely remained silent. “I can’t imagine why people have lost their minds so much over these, these daily reports of one thing or another,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said when reporters encountered him in Houston while waiting for Mr. Trump to arrive for a visit. “They seem to consume everybody’s attention in the news coverage.”

Mr. Cornyn demurred when asked whether a president should pressure a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. “I’m not going to speculate,” he said. “I think the president ought to be able to talk to world leaders and have a conversation without necessarily being public because that you need to have those discussions.”

Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, said more needed to be known to draw a conclusion. “Look, it is not appropriate for any candidate for federal office, certainly, including a sitting president, to ask for assistance from a foreign country. That’s not appropriate,” he said on NBC. “But I don’t know that that’s what happened here.”

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Intelligence Whistle-Blower Law, Explained

WASHINGTON — Congress is in a sharply escalating standoff with the Trump administration over its refusal to share a whistle-blower complaint with lawmakers that is said to be at least in part about President Trump’s communications with Ukraine.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, has accused the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, of violating the law by refusing to turn over the information to his panel, which conducts oversight of the intelligence community. But the Justice Department has said Mr. Maguire can lawfully keep it secret, according to his lawyer.

Details about the complaint have nevertheless started trickling out, suggesting that it may center on efforts by Mr. Trump to use his official powers, like the ability to delay military aid, to coerce Ukraine into opening a criminal investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Some of Mr. Trump’s pressuring of Ukraine has taken place in plain sight, but the identity of the whistle-blower and details of the allegations remained hidden. Mr. Trump attacked the whistle-blower on Friday as partisan while defending his conversations with foreign leaders as appropriate.

This intensifying furor is putting pressure on the legal rules for whistle-blower complaints filed by members of the intelligence community. This is how those rules are supposed to work.

A whistle-blower is someone inside an organization who sees a problem that is going uncorrected — like waste, fraud, abuse, criminal behavior or something that threatens public safety and security — and tries to bring it to light.

In ordinary parlance, a whistle-blower can be someone who speaks out publicly or provides information to journalists. But the government tries to maintain control of information by defining a whistle-blower, for legal purposes, as someone who follows certain procedures that channel a complaint to its internal oversight mechanisms — chiefly, inspectors general and congressional oversight committees.

As an incentive for raising concerns in the way the government prefers, the law provides safeguards to whistle-blowers who obey the rules, like shielding them from losing their security clearances or otherwise being punished in retaliation, like being passed over for promotion, transferred, demoted or fired.

Whistle-blowing within the intelligence community presents a special set of tensions, both because the government wants to keep classified information secret and because presidents of both parties have tried to maintain control over decisions about disclosing internal information to lawmakers.

Congress, however, generally disagrees with the executive branch’s expansive theory of presidential control over information. The two branches worked out a compromise that Congress passed as the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act in 1998 and amended in 2010 and 2014.

That law sets up a special process that allows intelligence employees or contractors to provide information to Congress in exchange for protecting them from retaliation or the threat of reprisal. Under that procedure, they submit the complaint for lawmakers to the intelligence community’s inspector general.

Under the law, the inspector general must decide within 14 days whether the information is credible. The inspector general must also determine whether the allegations amount to an “urgent concern,” meaning they relate to a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of the law or executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the director of national intelligence involving classified information.”

If the complaint meets that standard, the inspector general is supposed to forward it to the director of national intelligence. The law says that within seven days of receiving the complaint, the director in turn shall forward the material to the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees.

No. While the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael K. Atkinson, told Congress that he had determined that the complaint was credible and qualified as an “urgent concern,” Mr. Maguire has refused to transmit it to Congress.

The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act says that if the inspector general rejects a complaint as not credible or not presenting an urgent concern, the official who filed it may still then provide the information to Congress. But in order to continue to be legally protected from reprisal, he or she must obey directions from the director of national intelligence on how to approach lawmakers in a way that secures classified information.

That raises another loophole: The whistle-blower first must obtain specific directions from the director of national intelligence before he or she can obey them. Here, Mr. Maguire is apparently refusing to provide any, according to a House Intelligence Committee official.

Mr. Maguire’s top lawyer, Jason Klitenic, has maintained that it is lawful for Mr. Maguire to withhold the complaint from Congress. Mr. Klitenic, who said he consulted the Justice Department, has made arguments in letters to Mr. Schiff both about how he interprets the statute and about constitutional law.

[Read letters from Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Schiff and Mr. Klitenic.]

He disputed Mr. Atkinson’s determination that the complaint meets the legal standard of an “urgent concern,” stressing that it involves the activities of someone — apparently Mr. Trump — who is outside Mr. Maguire’s authority. But Mr. Atkinson has said that what matters is that the activity “relates to one of the most significant and important” of Mr. Maguire’s “responsibilities to the American people,” so it does fall within the legal standard.

Mr. Atkinson has also raised a broader concern with the Justice Department’s notion that the director of national intelligence can proclaim that a complaint, filed in the “urgent concern” process, falls outside its scope: It suggests that the current whistle-blower has no legal protections from reprisal, and could deter future whistle-blower complaints, as well.

Mr. Klitenic also suggested that Trump administration lawyers think the Constitution gives the president a legal right to order Mr. Maguire to defy a congressional subpoena for the whistle-blower complaint. The complaint pertained to “confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the executive branch,” Mr. Klitenic wrote.

In support of that notion, Mr. Klitenic pointed to claims by two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, when they signed the present system into law in 1998 and 2010. They asserted a constitutional right for presidents to control the disclosure of information to Congress related to their constitutional duties.

Lawyers for Congress and lawyers for the executive branch have long disagreed over where to draw the line between lawmakers’ power to obtain information and the president’s power to keep information secret.

There is little Supreme Court precedent because the two branches have generally resolved prior disputes through negotiation and accommodation. But Mr. Trump vowed to fight “all” congressional oversight subpoenas after Democrats took over the House this year, leading to a series of lawsuits. This issue may be fated to become another.

Whistle-Blower Complaint Is Said to Involve Trump and Ukraine

Sept. 19, 2019

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600 Meetings and a World of Conflict: What to Expect at the U.N. General Assembly

The annual United Nations General Assembly will unfold this week against a backdrop of crises — from the warming planet to economic uncertainty to flaring conflicts that threaten to further entangle the United States in the volatile Middle East.

Trade wars, migration, energy supplies, climate change and the eradication of poverty underpin the basic themes of the 193-member General Assembly agenda. But the actions of the Trump administration, which has sometimes expressed disdain for international institutions like the United Nations, have created a common denominator.

“All of the major topics that I think people will be talking about in the corridors are related to: What is U.S. policy?” said Jeffrey D. Feltman, a veteran American diplomat and former United Nations under secretary-general for political affairs.

Some leaders are not coming, notably Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, as well as Benjamin Netanyahu, the embattled prime minister of Israel. Also not expected is President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, regarded by the Trump administration and about 50 other governments as an illegitimate leader.

But one prominent figure, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, will attend. The Ukrainian leader plans to meet with Mr. Trump amid growing concerns that Mr. Trump had pressured him over American domestic political issues.

Some of the biggest moments and confrontations could happen early in the week. Here is what to expect:

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_144306423_35033b5f-de47-4022-8e74-2f5883c16f01-articleLarge 600 Meetings and a World of Conflict: What to Expect at the U.N. General Assembly Xi Jinping United States International Relations United Nations Trump, Donald J Sisi, Abdel Fattah el- Moon Jae-in International Trade and World Market International Relations General Assembly (UN) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Embargoes and Sanctions

Mr. Trump addressing the General Assembly last year.CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times

President Trump, whose penchant for bombast, scaremongering and diplomatic bombshells are well known, will be surrounded by like-minded company on Tuesday when the speeches begin.

Mr. Trump will be preceded by President Jair M. Bolsonaro of Brazil, sometimes called the mini-Trump, a polarizing figure at home who, like Mr. Trump, dismisses fears about climate change and ridicules critics on Twitter.

After Mr. Trump comes President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, the former general who has come to symbolize the repression of the Arab Spring revolutions — although his appearance was thrown into doubt this past weekend as protests erupted at home. Then comes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, an autocrat who has bullied critics and whose government is a leading jailer of journalists.

The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is likely to say that Mr. Trump set off recent conflict by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement.CreditDave Sanders for The New York Times

Until recently, speculation abounded that Mr. Trump would make history by meeting with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. But the Sept. 14 attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, which American and Saudi officials blame on Iran, has made such a meeting unlikely at best.

American officials are expected to present what they have described as evidence that Iran carried out the attack with drones and cruise missiles. Iran has denied the accusation. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran in their fight against a Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing their country for more than four years, have claimed responsibility.

Mr. Rouhani speaks on Wednesday, and he will almost certainly assert that Mr. Trump ignited the cycle of conflict by withdrawing last year from the 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers and reimposing onerous sanctions that are crippling its economy.

The United States is trying to build a coalition to deter Iran, even if it is unclear what form such deterrence would take. The General Assembly gives the administration an opportunity to “continue to slow walk a military response in favor of more coalition-building and political and economic pressure,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The climate crisis is at the top of the General Assembly’s agenda. About 60 heads of state plan to speak at the Climate Action Summit on Monday, and officials aim to announce initiatives that include net-zero carbon emissions in buildings.

The United States has no such plans — Mr. Trump announced in 2017 that he was withdrawing the country from the Paris Agreement on climate change. But some state governors who have formed the United States Climate Alliance said they would attend the summit and meet with other delegations.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was expected to meet with his Chinese counterparts on the sidelines, suggesting that the administration was seeking to create a more productive atmosphere for resumed trade negotiations after weeks of acrimony. The two governments recently paused their escalating tariff battle.

But some administration officials are pushing for Mr. Trump to address other issues considered sensitive by China, including the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the repression of Tibetans and the detentions of more than one million Muslims, mostly ethnic Uighurs. One official said Mr. Trump should at least criticize China for trying to intimidate Uighur-American activists.

Mr. Trump has never spoken strongly about human rights, and he has openly expressed admiration for Mr. Xi and other authoritarian leaders. But lawmakers in both parties of Congress are pressuring Mr. Trump to act. Bills on the Uighurs, Tibet and Hong Kong are aimed at compelling Mr. Trump and the administration to take harder stands.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, left, and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea are not expected to meet with each other.CreditPool photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon

A protracted feud between Japan and South Korea, rooted in the legacy of Japan’s wartime occupation, has led to downgraded trade relations and the end of an intelligence-sharing agreement. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea are not expected to meet with each other. Whether Mr. Trump can induce them into a three-way conversation remains unclear. And an objective shared by all three — North Korea’s nuclear disarmament — may see little or no progress.

While Mr. Moon is expected to urge Mr. Trump to renew his push for diplomacy with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, no senior North Korean official plans to attend the General Assembly.

Foreign ministers from 18 nations in the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, planned to meet on Monday to discuss what can be done regarding Mr. Maduro, who has presided over the biggest economic collapse in Venezuela’s history and a regional crisis caused by the exodus of millions of his people.

The push will focus on convincing the European Union to expand economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro’s loyalists, including freezing assets they have in Europe. The Europeans may also be pressed to penalize smugglers of Venezuelan gold into Europe.

Mr. Maduro, who claimed victory in disputed elections last fall, has retained power despite nine months of demands to resign by a stubborn opposition movement led by the president of Venezuela’s Parliament, Juan Guaidó. Negotiations between the Venezuelan rivals collapsed last week.

Mr. Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey have been at odds.CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Mr. Trump and President Erdogan are expected to meet on the sidelines, but the outcome is unclear at best. A range of difficult issues has pit their governments against each other.

The Trump administration is considering sanctions to punish Turkey, a fellow NATO member, for buying a Russian S-400 missile defense system instead of American-made Patriots. And Mr. Erdogan has expressed growing anger at the United States over their joint operations in the northern part of war-ravaged Syria that borders Turkey.

He says the Americans have failed to establish a safe zone large enough to keep Kurdish fighters out of Turkey, which regards them as terrorist insurgents. On Saturday, Mr. Erdogan warned that his forces would take “unilateral actions” along the border if the United States did not act by the end of the month.

Someone has to speak last in the list of national delegations addressing the General Assembly. This year, that place falls to Afghanistan, just a few weeks after the collapse of talks between the Taliban and the United States that were aimed at ending the 18-year-old war.

With national elections slated for next Saturday, President Ashraf Ghani was not expected to attend. Instead, Afghanistan’s delegation will be led by Hamdullah Mohib, Mr. Ashraf’s national security adviser.

Mr. Mohib infuriated the Trump administration in March, when he predicted the peace talks would not end in peace.

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