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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 31)

Trump Saw No Quid Pro Quo for Ukraine, but Envoys Had Their Doubts

Westlake Legal Group 04dc-prexy1-facebookJumbo Trump Saw No Quid Pro Quo for Ukraine, but Envoys Had Their Doubts Zelensky, Volodymyr Volker, Kurt D United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Presidential Election of 2020 impeachment House Committee on Intelligence

WASHINGTON — President Trump has repeatedly denied that there was any quid pro quo attached to his pressure on Ukraine to investigate his political enemies, but a new batch of text messages released late Thursday night indicated that his own representatives saw it differently.

Envoys representing Mr. Trump sought to leverage the power of his office to prod Ukraine into opening investigations that would damage his Democratic opponents at home. They made clear to Ukrainian officials that the White House invitation their newly inaugurated leader coveted depended on his commitment to the investigations.

And the senior American diplomat posted in Ukraine suspected it went even further than a trade of an Oval Office visit, telling colleagues that it appeared to him that unfreezing $391 million in American aid that Mr. Trump had blocked was contingent on the former Soviet republic following through on the politically charged investigations sought by the president and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The text messages, provided to three Democratic-led House committees by the former special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt D. Volker, may shape the impeachment inquiry now threatening the future of Mr. Trump’s presidency. They provide new pieces of a timeline of events in recent months and a road map for further investigation by House Democrats.

Among other things, the messages demonstrated that the president’s team had made clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine before the now-famous July 25 call with Mr. Trump that he would have to agree to the investigations to confirm a promised visit to the White House that had been held up for two months.

“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington,” Mr. Volker wrote to Andrey Yermak, a top Ukrainian presidential adviser at 8:36 a.m. the morning of the phone call.

During the call that followed, Mr. Trump did press Mr. Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate supposed Ukrainian efforts to help Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, pursuing a conspiracy theory that even the president’s own homeland security adviser had told him was “completely debunked.” The president also pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Mr. Zelensky assured the president he would, according to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House. The text messages indicate that the Ukrainians were quickly given possible dates for a White House visit by Mr. Zelensky.

“Phone call went well,” Mr. Yermak wrote Mr. Volker afterward. “President Trump proposed to choose any convenient dates. President Zelenskiy chose 20,21,22 September for the White House Visit. Thank you again for your help!”

The text messages underscore the danger to Mr. Trump as the House Democratic impeachment inquiry gains steam. So far, the House committees have interviewed just a single witness, Mr. Volker, and already uncovered information damaging to the president’s case.

The Democratic chairmen of the committees said in a letter to colleagues late Thursday night that the texts were “only a subset of the full body of materials” that Mr. Volker turned over and that others would be released in time.

Mr. Trump has asserted he did nothing wrong and was only trying to uncover corruption by Democrats. Undaunted, he doubled down on Thursday, publicly calling on Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and adding a call to China to do the same.

“As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday night, and he repeated the sentiments on Friday morning.

Republican lawmakers said that Mr. Volker’s testimony, taken behind closed doors on Thursday by House investigators, did not support the nefarious interpretation of Mr. Trump’s actions advanced by Democrats like Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The facts we learned today undercut the salacious narrative that Adam Schiff is using to sell his impeachment ambitions,” Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican members on two of the committees, wrote in a letter. “We hope the American people get to read the transcript of today’s testimony and see the truth.”

Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO who served unpaid and part-time as Ukraine special envoy before abruptly resigning last week, was not a hostile witness who went into the testimony intending to make accusations against the president. Instead, he told investigators that he was devoted to helping Ukraine resolve its grinding five-year-old conflict with Russian-armed separatists and tried to satisfy the president’s suspicions about Ukraine but was never fully kept in the loop.

Nonetheless, his account, as related by a person familiar with his testimony and the documents released by the committee, raises significant questions for the president as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others.

Mr. Volker told the House investigators that he was eager to help the newly elected Mr. Zelensky build a relationship with Mr. Trump that would bolster Ukraine but found last May that Mr. Giuliani’s efforts were convincing the president that Ukraine was full of “terrible people” who “tried to take me down” in 2016.

The new Ukrainian government sought Mr. Volker’s help in managing Mr. Giuliani. In July, Mr. Yermak asked Mr. Volker to connect him with the former New York mayor, which Mr. Volker agreed to do. Mr. Volker met with Mr. Giuliani for breakfast on July 19 and, he told the committee investigators, warned the former mayor that his theory about corruption involving Mr. Biden was unfounded and implausible and that his sources about it were not credible.

The Ukrainians were wary of being dragged into American domestic politics. “President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics,” William B. Taylor, the top American diplomat in Kiev, wrote in a text message a couple days after the breakfast.

Mr. Giuliani talked with Mr. Yermak the next day and then advocated a phone call between the two presidents. At the same time Mr. Trump had ordered his aides to hold up the $391 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine, with no explanation provided to the agencies involved. Then he got on the phone with Mr. Zelensky to ask for “a favor.”

A week after the phone call, on Aug. 2, Mr. Giuliani met in Madrid with Mr. Yermak and then said the Ukrainian president should issue a statement committing to fighting corruption. A week later, Mr. Volker talked with Mr. Yermak and then reached out to Mr. Giuliani.

“Had a good chat with Yermak last night,” Mr. Volker wrote. “He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right.”

Later the same day, Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a Trump supporter who had actively involved himself in Ukraine, reported that the president was ready to schedule the White House visit that Mr. Zelensky had been seeking.

Mr. Volker asked Mr. Sondland how he swayed the White House. “Not sure i did,” Mr. Sondland replied by text, using the acronym for president of the United States. “I think potus really wants the deliverable.”

Mr. Sondland then raised the proposed statement by Mr. Zelensky. “To avoid misunderstandings, might be helpful to ask Andrey for a draft statement (embargoed) so that we can see exactly what they propose to cover,” he wrote.

“Agree!” Mr. Volker replied.

The next day, Mr. Yermak pressed for a date for the White House visit, clearly seeing it as linked to the statement. “I think it’s possible to make this declaration and mention all these things. Which we discussed yesterday,” he wrote. “But it will be logic to do after we receive a confirmation of date.”

In other words, the Ukrainians would issue their statement committing to the investigations Mr. Trump wanted only after the White House visit was officially scheduled. “Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations,” Mr. Yermak wrote.

Mr. Yermak’s first draft of the statement did not mention Burisma, the company that Hunter Biden worked for, or the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani insisted the statement had to explicitly mention both of those otherwise there was no point, Mr. Volker told investigators.

Mr. Volker drafted language that would satisfy Mr. Giuliani and sent it to Mr. Yermak.

“Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians,” it would say. “I want to declare that this is unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.

But Mr. Yermak ultimately objected to specifically citing Burisma or 2016 in the statement, Mr. Volker told the committee. Then on Aug. 28, Politico reported the Ukrainian aid freeze and a couple days later, Mr. Trump canceled a trip to Poland, where he was to meet with Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Taylor, the diplomat in Kiev, saw a connection. “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he asked Mr. Sondland in a text message on Sept. 1.

“Call me,” Mr. Sondland replied.

Mr. Taylor clearly was not convinced. A week later, he expressed fear that the Ukrainians would go ahead with the statement Mr. Giuliani wanted and Mr. Trump would still not release the aid.

“The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance,” he wrote. “The Russians love it. (And I quit.)”

The next day, Mr. Taylor again made clear that he believed the aid freeze and the investigations were linked. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” he wrote Mr. Sondland.

“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Mr. Sondland replied. “The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

If Mr. Taylor still had concerns, Mr. Sondland added curtly, he should give Mr. Pompeo “a call to discuss them directly.”

It is not clear whether he did.

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

U.S. Added 136,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Rate at 3.5%

Westlake Legal Group 04jobs1-facebookJumbo U.S. Added 136,000 Jobs in September; Unemployment Rate at 3.5% Wages and Salaries United States Economy Unemployment Trump, Donald J Labor and Jobs International Trade and World Market Factories and Manufacturing

The Labor Department will release the latest hiring and unemployment figures for September at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. The monthly report provides one of the better snapshots of the state of the American economy. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Wall Street analysts expect the report to show that job creation picked up last month, with employers creating 147,000 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics initially reported that 130,000 jobs were created in August, a figure likely to be revised Friday.

  • Unemployment is expected to be unchanged at 3.7 percent.

  • Average hourly earnings are expected to show a rise by 0.2 percent, after moving up 0.4 percent in August. That would bring the year-over-year increase to 3.2 percent.

The Labor Department’s monthly report has taken on added significance after a week of disappointing economic news and stock market skids.

Last year, an average of 223,000 jobs were created each month, thanks in part to the temporary pick-me-up delivered by tax cuts and increased government spending. This year, the monthly average through August has been 159,000. That falloff was expected now that the recovery has passed its 10-year anniversary and there are more job postings than job seekers. The unemployment rate has remained below 4 percent for the last seven months. And many Americans who had dropped out of the labor force — because they were too discouraged to look, or couldn’t find sufficiently attractive offers — have rejoined.

Job growth of less than 100,000 would set off some alarms. But unusually meager payroll gains one month can be reversed by a blockbuster increase the next. What matters is the longer-run pattern.

“Numbers below 100,000 on a sustained basis would worry me,” said Ben Herzon, an executive director at Macroeconomic Advisers, “but numbers in the low 100,000s would not be cause for concern.”

The September reading from the Labor Department is the last monthly report to be released before Federal Reserve officials meet on Oct. 29 and 30.

Because policymakers have split on the need for another rate cut, the employment report could be more pivotal in the decision than usual. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, has noted that the labor market and consumer spending are the two of the strongest parts of the economy.

On Wall Street, expectations that the central bank would pare borrowing costs for a third time this month has been building this week as news about slowing growth rolled in. A weak report would encourage policymakers who favor lowering benchmark interest rates again.

The United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors has shut down 34 factories in the United States for more than two weeks. But the walkout by 49,000 workers will not be reflected in the government’s monthly report because the strike started after the government surveyed employers.

In August, the job totals were elevated by the hiring of 25,000 temporary census workers. Mr. Herzon estimates that Census Bureau hires in September were half that number. And those gains will be reversed after a few months.

President Trump has repeatedly placed the manufacturing sector at the center of his economic strategy. Nonetheless, that sector is suffering the most from prolonged trade tensions. Companies in the business of making goods — as opposed to those that deliver services, like hospitals and restaurants — are much more dependent on sales to other countries and supply chains that wend around the globe.

Last spring, manufacturers were adding as many as 25,000 jobs a month. In recent months, the average had been closer to 3,000.

News this week that manufacturing activity in the United States fell for the second month in a row set off a stock-market tumble.

With 11.6 million workers, the sector accounts for about 11 percent of the country’s output, but it tends to loom larger in policy debates. Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust, noted that a key measure of manufacturing activity reflected in a survey by the Institute for Supply Management “has a better track record of being a leading indicator of downturns, so I do think there is something to the hold that it has on confidence.”

A decline in manufacturing hires is likely to fuel anxieties about the economy.

Mr. Powell’s pride in the labor market’s performance is well grounded. The jobless rate has skimmed along near half-century lows. Sidelined workers have been lured from living rooms and classrooms back into the workplace. New applications for unemployment insurance have not risen noticeably in recent months.

“One of the best stories about labor market in the last two years is that the job market has done so well, it is now reaching into further corners and providing opportunities to those who had not enjoyed them,” Mr. Tannenbaum said. “This is the way the economy is supposed to work.”

The tight labor market as well as minimum wage increases in several states and cities have helped bulk up paychecks for workers at the lowest end of the salary spectrum. And it means that when some workers, say, in retail lose a job, they have an easier time finding another.

The most highly sought after workers, though, are often the most highly skilled and the most highly paid — a phenomenon that tends to exacerbate income inequality. So keep an eye on not just the total number of payroll gains, but also on what kinds of jobs are being created.

Keep an eye on whether restaurateurs are hiring. A drop in leisure and hospitality job gains could indicate that consumers are not feeling as free to spend.

“Dining out is the single most highly discretionary category,” said Ellen Zentner, chief United States economist for Morgan Stanley. “It responds in kneejerk fashion when people are uncertain about job security and income.”

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

Ukraine to Review Criminal Case of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son

Westlake Legal Group 04ukraine-sub-facebookJumbo Ukraine to Review Criminal Case of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son Zelensky, Volodymyr United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday that he would review several important cases previously handled by his predecessors, including a criminal case involving a natural gas company that employed a son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The development came amid an impeachment inquiry against President Trump connected to a request he made to the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate Mr. Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and his son’s work in Ukraine.

It raises questions of whether Ukraine was, in effect, bowing to public and private pressure from the president of the United States, on which it has depended on for millions of dollars in aid.

The prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, said he intended to review 15 cases in all, and mentioned several high-profile investigations of wealthy Ukrainians, including the owner of the natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, where Mr. Biden’s son Hunter served on the board until earlier this year.

He denied being pressured over the Bidens or the Burisma case.

Mr. Ryaboshapka told journalists at a briefing in Kiev on Friday: “The prosecution service is beyond politics. We are conducting an audit of all cases, including those which were investigated by the previous leadership of the prosecutor’s office.”

If laws were violated, he added, “we will react accordingly.”

Mr. Trump’s repeated public requests that the Ukrainian government investigate a case touching on a likely opponent in next year’s election — what he described in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in July as a “favor” — is central to the formal House committee impeachment inquiry called by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The inquiry is examining whether Mr. Trump betrayed his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist the aid of a foreign power to tarnish a political rival. Mr. Trump has vigorously denied doing anything wrong, calling his phone call with Mr. Zelensky “perfect.”

No evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son has emerged, and the elder Mr. Biden has denied the accusations. But Mr. Trump has doubled down, urging China to investigate the Bidens and charging that the country lavished $1.5 billion on Hunter Biden in order to influence his father and win favorable trade deals with the United States.

Mr. Ryaboshapka’s comments on Friday were the first indication of how Ukrainian criminal justice officials were handling one of the two investigations that Mr. Trump raised in the call.

On the call, Mr. Zelensky of Ukraine suggested that he would assist with an investigation of the firm, according to White House reconstructed notes of the phone call. The Ukrainian president said that a new prosecutor general would soon be appointed who would be “100 percent my person” and would “look into the situation.”

Mr. Ryaboshapka did not say how long his audit of those cases would last. His review is needed before a decision on any further action could be taken.

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

Texts From Top Diplomat Described ‘Crazy’ Plan to Keep Aid From Ukraine

Westlake Legal Group 03dc-impeachment-facebookJumbo Texts From Top Diplomat Described ‘Crazy’ Plan to Keep Aid From Ukraine Yovanovitch, Marie L Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pompeo, Mike Pelosi, Nancy impeachment

WASHINGTON — A top American diplomat in Ukraine repeatedly raised concerns with colleagues about the White House’s decision to withhold $391 million in security aid from Ukraine, describing it as a “crazy” plan to withhold security assistance “for help with a political campaign,” according to texts released Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

The texts, which were turned over to Congress by Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine, come from a series of early September exchanges. They appear to show a dispute among American diplomats over whether the president was trying to use security aid or a White House meeting with the country’s new leader as leverage to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on a leading political rival — a charge at the heart of the impeachment investigation.

One message, written by William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, suggested that Mr. Trump was holding back the package of military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip to influence the country’s president to do his political bidding.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Mr. Taylor wrote on Sept. 9 to Mr. Volker and Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union.

Mr. Sondland replied that he believed he had “identified the best path forward” for unfreezing the assistance. But he also took issue that there is any sort of direct agreement, writing in response, “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” He then suggested the conversation move to phone rather than text.

That exchange and others emerged as congressional investigators met privately for more than nine hours on Capitol Hill with Mr. Volker, who is the first witness in their growing impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump tried to bend American policy for his own political benefit by pressuring President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

While the president has openly admitted that he wanted Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a crucial question has been whether Mr. Trump tried to use the security aid or a meeting at the White House as leverage. The money was delayed until the Trump administration released it last month amid a bipartisan outcry from lawmakers.

In his text, Mr. Sondland added, “The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

It was not immediately clear what led Mr. Taylor to conclude that Mr. Trump was withholding aid as leverage over Ukraine. When the texts were sent, news reports about the delay in releasing the aid, and about attempts by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating Mr. Biden and other Democrats, had already prompted public speculation that Mr. Trump was engaging in a quid pro quo.

But his concerns persisted. Roughly a week earlier, on Sept. 1, Mr. Taylor had asked Mr. Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”

Mr. Sondland replied simply, “Call me.”

The next day, Mr. Taylor described a “nightmare” situation in which the Ukrainians announced they would conduct the investigations Mr. Trump wanted and still not receive the security assistance. “The Russians love it,” he wrote of that potential outcome. “(And I quit.)”

Mr. Taylor could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The texts thrust him into the center of the blossoming controversy, and he is now almost certain to be called to testify by lawmakers.

Democrats leading the investigation said the messages “reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay.”

Republicans demanded a full transcript of Mr. Volker’s interview be released. “The facts we learned today undercut the salacious narrative that Adam Schiff is using to sell his impeachment ambitions,” wrote Representatives Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes, the top Republicans on the Oversight and Reform and Intelligence committees, referring to the chairman of the intelligence panel.

When the Trump administration forced out Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador, before her term was up, Mr. Taylor was sent to be the chargé d’affaires, the No. 2 post in an embassy, and acting ambassador. Mr. Taylor was a former ambassador in Ukraine, serving from 2006 to 2009.

The texts among Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Taylor portray Mr. Taylor as a diplomat deeply skeptical of the Trump administration’s approach to Ukraine, flabbergasted that the military assistance had been cut off — and firmly believing that the White House was asking for Ukraine to begin political investigations in return for the aid being released.

In one text, he worried about how the hold would affect Ukrainians’ view of the United States and if it would have “shaken their faith in us.”

The texts also suggest that Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO, was deeply intertwined in efforts by the president and Mr. Giuliani to press the Ukrainians into action.

Mr. Volker’s name appears several times in an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that set off the impeachment inquiry, and Mr. Giuliani has said publicly he briefed Mr. Volker on his efforts. The complaint centers on a July call Mr. Trump had with Mr. Zelensky, in which he pressed him to investigate Mr. Biden, and asserts that Mr. Volker advised the Ukrainians on how to “navigate” Mr. Trump’s demands.

In his session with investigators, Mr. Volker presented himself as a diplomat caught in the middle “trying to solve a problem” and help Ukraine, but as someone who was not “fully in the loop” on the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate his rivals, according to a person briefed on his testimony.

Mr. Volker told investigators that even as he agreed to set up a meeting between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Zelensky’s top aide, he warned Mr. Giuliani that he believed the conspiracy theories Mr. Giuliani was pursuing were unfounded. While there may have been Ukrainians interested in influencing the United States government, Mr. Volker told investigators that he thought it was implausible that Mr. Biden or the Hillary Clinton campaign did anything wrong.

Mr. Volker told the committee staff that he was never informed that Mr. Trump raised Mr. Biden or the 2016 election during the July 25 phone call, nor was he shown the rough transcript afterward. He was in Ukraine at the time and met the next day with Mr. Zelensky, who he said raised no concerns about the call with him.

In his testimony, Mr. Volker told investigators he believed Mr. Taylor was a diplomat of high integrity. But he also said he did not see the freezing of the assistance as directly linked to Mr. Trump’s interest in beginning a new Ukraine investigation as Mr. Taylor did, according to a person familiar with the testimony.

Mr. Taylor concluded that the assistance was linked to Mr. Trump’s desire for new investigations in Ukraine based on news reports, Mr. Volker testified, according to the person. While Mr. Taylor feared the aid would never come, Mr. Volker told House investigators he was sure that Congress or the Pentagon would force the administration to release the assistance and the issue would be resolved. Mr. Volker believed if he could persuade Mr. Trump that Mr. Zelensky was trustworthy, he could push the relationship to a better place, he said in his testimony.

Mr. Volker told the committee that he did not act at Mr. Pompeo’s behest but briefed the secretary of state who approved of his actions. He also said he kept John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, informed.

The interview, which Mr. Volker participated in voluntarily, took place out of public view. The text exchange was part of a trove of more than 60 pages of documents, many of them texts, that Mr. Volker provided before he arrived.

Mr. Volker resigned on Friday from his part-time, unpaid State Department post without public explanation. A person familiar with his thinking said the longtime diplomat concluded he could no longer be effective in the post in light of the unfolding scandal. But the resignation also freed him to appear before the House investigators without restrictions, according to people familiar with his account.

Democrats are pushing their impeachment investigation forward with haste, issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documentary evidence and witness testimony.

The session with Mr. Volker was the first in what is expected to be a fast-paced series of interviews in the coming weeks, when Democrats aim to bring a parade of witnesses behind closed doors for questioning. Ms. Yovanovitch is expected to appear next week.

Other State Department diplomats, including Mr. Sondland, and associates of Mr. Giuliani’s are scheduled to participate, as well, but it remains to be seen whether they will appear voluntarily. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the committee this week that its requests were inappropriately aggressive and untenable.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Lara Jakes from Washington.

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

September Jobs Report: What to Watch For

Westlake Legal Group 04jobs1-facebookJumbo September Jobs Report: What to Watch For Wages and Salaries United States Economy Unemployment Trump, Donald J Labor and Jobs International Trade and World Market Factories and Manufacturing

The Labor Department will release the latest hiring and unemployment figures for September at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. The monthly report provides one of the better snapshots of the state of the American economy. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Wall Street analysts expect the report to show that job creation picked up last month, with employers creating 147,000 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics initially reported that 130,000 jobs were created in August, a figure likely to be revised Friday.

  • Unemployment is expected to be unchanged at 3.7 percent.

  • Average hourly earnings are expected to show a rise by 0.2 percent, after moving up 0.4 percent in August. That would bring the year-over-year increase to 3.2 percent.

The Labor Department’s monthly report has taken on added significance after a week of disappointing economic news and stock market skids.

Last year, an average of 223,000 jobs were created each month, thanks in part to the temporary pick-me-up delivered by tax cuts and increased government spending. This year, the monthly average through August has been 159,000. That falloff was expected now that the recovery has passed its 10-year anniversary and there are more job postings than job seekers. The unemployment rate has remained below 4 percent for the last seven months. And many Americans who had dropped out of the labor force — because they were too discouraged to look, or couldn’t find sufficiently attractive offers — have rejoined.

Job growth of less than 100,000 would set off some alarms. But unusually meager payroll gains one month can be reversed by a blockbuster increase the next. What matters is the longer-run pattern.

“Numbers below 100,000 on a sustained basis would worry me,” said Ben Herzon, an executive director at Macroeconomic Advisers, “but numbers in the low 100,000s would not be cause for concern.”

The September reading from the Labor Department is the last monthly report to be released before Federal Reserve officials meet on Oct. 29 and 30.

Because policymakers have split on the need for another rate cut, the employment report could be more pivotal in the decision than usual. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, has noted that the labor market and consumer spending are the two of the strongest parts of the economy.

On Wall Street, expectations that the central bank would pare borrowing costs for a third time this month has been building this week as news about slowing growth rolled in. A weak report would encourage policymakers who favor lowering benchmark interest rates again.

President Trump has repeatedly placed the manufacturing sector at the center of his economic strategy. Nonetheless, that sector is suffering the most from prolonged trade tensions. Companies in the business of making goods — as opposed to those that deliver services, like hospitals and restaurants — are much more dependent on sales to other countries and supply chains that wend around the globe.

Last spring, manufacturers were adding as many as 25,000 jobs a month. In recent months, the average had been closer to 3,000.

News this week that manufacturing activity in the United States fell for the second month in a row set off a stock-market tumble.

With 11.6 million workers, the sector accounts for about 11 percent of the country’s output, but it tends to loom larger in policy debates. Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust, noted that a key measure of manufacturing activity reflected in a survey by the Institute for Supply Management “has a better track record of being a leading indicator of downturns, so I do think there is something to the hold that it has on confidence.”

A decline in manufacturing hires is likely to fuel anxieties about the economy.

Mr. Powell’s pride in the labor market’s performance is well grounded. The jobless rate has skimmed along near half-century lows. Sidelined workers have been lured from living rooms and classrooms back into the workplace. New applications for unemployment insurance have not risen noticeably in recent months.

“One of the best stories about labor market in the last two years is that the job market has done so well, it is now reaching into further corners and providing opportunities to those who had not enjoyed them,” Mr. Tannenbaum said. “This is the way the economy is supposed to work.”

The tight labor market as well as minimum wage increases in several states and cities have helped bulk up paychecks for workers at the lowest end of the salary spectrum. And it means that when some workers, say, in retail lose a job, they have an easier time finding another.

The most highly sought after workers, though, are often the most highly skilled and the most highly paid — a phenomenon that tends to exacerbate income inequality. So keep an eye on not just the total number of payroll gains, but also on what kinds of jobs are being created.

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

September Jobs Report: What to Watch For

Westlake Legal Group 04jobs1-facebookJumbo September Jobs Report: What to Watch For Wages and Salaries United States Economy Unemployment Trump, Donald J Labor and Jobs International Trade and World Market Factories and Manufacturing

The Labor Department will release the latest hiring and unemployment figures for September at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. The monthly report provides one of the better snapshots of the state of the American economy. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Wall Street analysts expect the report to show that job creation picked up last month, with employers creating 147,000 jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics initially reported that 130,000 jobs were created in August, a figure likely to be revised Friday.

  • Unemployment is expected to be unchanged at 3.7 percent.

  • Average hourly earnings are expected to show a rise by 0.2 percent, after moving up 0.4 percent in August. That would bring the year-over-year increase to 3.2 percent.

The Labor Department’s monthly report has taken on added significance after a week of disappointing economic news and stock market skids.

Last year, an average of 223,000 jobs were created each month, thanks in part to the temporary pick-me-up delivered by tax cuts and increased government spending. This year, the monthly average through August has been 159,000. That falloff was expected now that the recovery has passed its 10-year anniversary and there are more job postings than job seekers. The unemployment rate has remained below 4 percent for the last seven months. And many Americans who had dropped out of the labor force — because they were too discouraged to look, or couldn’t find sufficiently attractive offers — have rejoined.

Job growth of less than 100,000 would set off some alarms. But unusually meager payroll gains one month can be reversed by a blockbuster increase the next. What matters is the longer-run pattern.

“Numbers below 100,000 on a sustained basis would worry me,” said Ben Herzon, an executive director at Macroeconomic Advisers, “but numbers in the low 100,000s would not be cause for concern.”

The September reading from the Labor Department is the last monthly report to be released before Federal Reserve officials meet on Oct. 29 and 30.

Because policymakers have split on the need for another rate cut, the employment report could be more pivotal in the decision than usual. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, has noted that the labor market and consumer spending are the two of the strongest parts of the economy.

On Wall Street, expectations that the central bank would pare borrowing costs for a third time this month has been building this week as news about slowing growth rolled in. A weak report would encourage policymakers who favor lowering benchmark interest rates again.

President Trump has repeatedly placed the manufacturing sector at the center of his economic strategy. Nonetheless, that sector is suffering the most from prolonged trade tensions. Companies in the business of making goods — as opposed to those that deliver services, like hospitals and restaurants — are much more dependent on sales to other countries and supply chains that wend around the globe.

Last spring, manufacturers were adding as many as 25,000 jobs a month. In recent months, the average had been closer to 3,000.

News this week that manufacturing activity in the United States fell for the second month in a row set off a stock-market tumble.

With 11.6 million workers, the sector accounts for about 11 percent of the country’s output, but it tends to loom larger in policy debates. Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust, noted that a key measure of manufacturing activity reflected in a survey by the Institute for Supply Management “has a better track record of being a leading indicator of downturns, so I do think there is something to the hold that it has on confidence.”

A decline in manufacturing hires is likely to fuel anxieties about the economy.

Mr. Powell’s pride in the labor market’s performance is well grounded. The jobless rate has skimmed along near half-century lows. Sidelined workers have been lured from living rooms and classrooms back into the workplace. New applications for unemployment insurance have not risen noticeably in recent months.

“One of the best stories about labor market in the last two years is that the job market has done so well, it is now reaching into further corners and providing opportunities to those who had not enjoyed them,” Mr. Tannenbaum said. “This is the way the economy is supposed to work.”

The tight labor market as well as minimum wage increases in several states and cities have helped bulk up paychecks for workers at the lowest end of the salary spectrum. And it means that when some workers, say, in retail lose a job, they have an easier time finding another.

The most highly sought after workers, though, are often the most highly skilled and the most highly paid — a phenomenon that tends to exacerbate income inequality. So keep an eye on not just the total number of payroll gains, but also on what kinds of jobs are being created.

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Top Diplomat Described ‘Crazy’ Plan to Withhold Aid From Ukraine

Westlake Legal Group 03dc-impeachment-facebookJumbo Top Diplomat Described ‘Crazy’ Plan to Withhold Aid From Ukraine Yovanovitch, Marie L Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pompeo, Mike Pelosi, Nancy impeachment

WASHINGTON — A top American diplomat in Ukraine repeatedly raised concerns with colleagues about the White House’s decision to withhold $391 million in security aid from Ukraine, describing it as a “crazy” plan to withhold security assistance “for help with a political campaign,” according to texts released Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

The texts, which were turned over to Congress by Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine, come from a series of early September exchanges. They appear to show a dispute among American diplomats over whether the president was trying to use security aid or a White House meeting with the country’s new leader as leverage to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on a leading political rival — a charge at the heart of the impeachment investigation.

One message, written by William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, suggested that Mr. Trump was holding back the package of military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip to influence the country’s president to do his political bidding.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Mr. Taylor wrote on Sept. 9 to Mr. Volker and Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union.

Mr. Sondland replied that he believed he had “identified the best path forward” for unfreezing the assistance. But he also took issue that there is any sort of direct agreement, writing in response, “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” He then suggested the conversation move to phone rather than text.

That exchange and others emerged as congressional investigators met privately for more than nine hours on Capitol Hill with Mr. Volker, who is the first witness in their growing impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump tried to bend American policy for his own political benefit by pressuring President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

While the president has openly admitted that he wanted Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a crucial question has been whether Mr. Trump tried to use the security aid or a meeting at the White House as leverage. The money was delayed until the Trump administration released it last month amid a bipartisan outcry from lawmakers.

In his text, Mr. Sondland added, “The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

It was not immediately clear what led Mr. Taylor to conclude that Mr. Trump was withholding aid as leverage over Ukraine. When the texts were sent, news reports about the delay in releasing the aid, and about attempts by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating Mr. Biden and other Democrats, had already prompted public speculation that Mr. Trump was engaging in a quid pro quo.

But his concerns persisted. Roughly a week earlier, on Sept. 1, Mr. Taylor had asked Mr. Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”

Mr. Sondland replied simply, “Call me.”

The next day, Mr. Taylor described a “nightmare” situation in which the Ukrainians announced they would conduct the investigations Mr. Trump wanted and still not receive the security assistance. “The Russians love it,” he wrote of that potential outcome. “(And I quit.)”

Mr. Taylor could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The texts thrust him into the center of the blossoming controversy, and he is now almost certain to be called to testify by lawmakers.

Democrats leading the investigation said the messages “reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay.”

Republicans demanded a full transcript of Mr. Volker’s interview be released. “The facts we learned today undercut the salacious narrative that Adam Schiff is using to sell his impeachment ambitions,” wrote Representatives Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes, the top Republicans on the Oversight and Reform and Intelligence committees, referring to the chairman of the intelligence panel.

When the Trump administration forced out Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador, before her term was up, Mr. Taylor was sent to be the chargé d’affaires, the No. 2 post in an embassy, and acting ambassador. Mr. Taylor was a former ambassador in Ukraine, serving from 2006 to 2009.

The texts among Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Taylor portray Mr. Taylor as a diplomat deeply skeptical of the Trump administration’s approach to Ukraine, flabbergasted that the military assistance had been cut off — and firmly believing that the White House was asking for Ukraine to begin political investigations in return for the aid being released.

In one text, he worried about how the hold would affect Ukrainians’ view of the United States and if it would have “shaken their faith in us.”

The texts also suggest that Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO, was deeply intertwined in efforts by the president and Mr. Giuliani to press the Ukrainians into action.

Mr. Volker’s name appears several times in an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that set off the impeachment inquiry, and Mr. Giuliani has said publicly he briefed Mr. Volker on his efforts. The complaint centers on a July call Mr. Trump had with Mr. Zelensky, in which he pressed him to investigate Mr. Biden, and asserts that Mr. Volker advised the Ukrainians on how to “navigate” Mr. Trump’s demands.

In his session with investigators, Mr. Volker presented himself as a diplomat caught in the middle “trying to solve a problem” and help Ukraine, but as someone who was not “fully in the loop” on the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate his rivals, according to a person briefed on his testimony.

Mr. Volker told investigators that even as he agreed to set up a meeting between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Zelensky’s top aide, he warned Mr. Giuliani that he believed the conspiracy theories Mr. Giuliani was pursuing were unfounded. While there may have been Ukrainians interested in influencing the United States government, Mr. Volker told investigators that he thought it was implausible that Mr. Biden or the Hillary Clinton campaign did anything wrong.

Mr. Volker told the committee staff that he was never informed that Mr. Trump raised Mr. Biden or the 2016 election during the July 25 phone call, nor was he shown the rough transcript afterward. He was in Ukraine at the time and met the next day with Mr. Zelensky, who he said raised no concerns about the call with him.

In his testimony, Mr. Volker told investigators he believed Mr. Taylor was a diplomat of high integrity. But he also said he did not see the freezing of the assistance as directly linked to Mr. Trump’s interest in beginning a new Ukraine investigation as Mr. Taylor did, according to a person familiar with the testimony.

Mr. Taylor concluded that the assistance was linked to Mr. Trump’s desire for new investigations in Ukraine based on news reports, Mr. Volker testified, according to the person. While Mr. Taylor feared the aid would never come, Mr. Volker told House investigators he was sure that Congress or the Pentagon would force the administration to release the assistance and the issue would be resolved. Mr. Volker believed if he could persuade Mr. Trump that Mr. Zelensky was trustworthy, he could push the relationship to a better place, he said in his testimony.

Mr. Volker told the committee that he did not act at Mr. Pompeo’s behest but briefed the secretary of state who approved of his actions. He also said he kept John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, informed.

The interview, which Mr. Volker participated in voluntarily, took place out of public view. The text exchange was part of a trove of more than 60 pages of documents, many of them texts, that Mr. Volker provided before he arrived.

Mr. Volker resigned on Friday from his part-time, unpaid State Department post without public explanation. A person familiar with his thinking said the longtime diplomat concluded he could no longer be effective in the post in light of the unfolding scandal. But the resignation also freed him to appear before the House investigators without restrictions, according to people familiar with his account.

Democrats are pushing their impeachment investigation forward with haste, issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documentary evidence and witness testimony.

The session with Mr. Volker was the first in what is expected to be a fast-paced series of interviews in the coming weeks, when Democrats aim to bring a parade of witnesses behind closed doors for questioning. Ms. Yovanovitch is expected to appear next week.

Other State Department diplomats, including Mr. Sondland, and associates of Mr. Giuliani’s are scheduled to participate, as well, but it remains to be seen whether they will appear voluntarily. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the committee this week that its requests were inappropriately aggressive and untenable.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Lara Jakes from Washington.

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Trump Envoys Pushed Ukraine to Commit to Investigating Biden

Westlake Legal Group 03diplosub2-facebookJumbo Trump Envoys Pushed Ukraine to Commit to Investigating Biden Zelensky, Volodymyr Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Giuliani, Rudolph W Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — Two of President Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine worked on a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals, according to three people briefed on the effort and documents released Thursday night.

Their work on the statement is new evidence of how Mr. Trump’s fixation with conspiracy theories linked to Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to bend American foreign policy to the president’s political agenda in the weeks after a July 25 call between the two leaders.

The statement was worked on by Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, according to the documents and the three people who have been briefed on the statement. Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and the de facto leader of a shadow campaign to push the Ukrainians to press ahead with investigations, provided the critical element of the language, Mr. Volker told House Democratic investigators on Thursday, a person familiar with his testimony said.

The Ukrainians never released the statement. But if they had, Mr. Trump’s aides would have effectively pressured a foreign government to give credence to allegations intended to undercut one of the Democratic Party’s leading 2020 presidential candidates — former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — without leaving Mr. Trump’s fingerprints on it.

Mr. Volker spent Thursday on Capitol Hill being questioned by House investigators as Democrats pursued their impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s actions.

Late Thursday, House Democrats released a series of texts between Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Andriy Yermak, a top aide to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that also showed that officials in both countries understood that Mr. Trump would not grant Mr. Zelensky an Oval Office meeting he was seeking until Ukraine agreed to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by the American side.

The texts also showed the three men discussing language for the proposed statement. On the morning of Aug. 13, Mr. Volker sent Mr. Sondland language they wanted added to an earlier draft sent by the Ukrainians.

“We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future,” Mr. Volker said in what appears to be the language he was proposing.

Mr. Sondland quickly replied, “Perfect,” adding that they should send it along to an adviser to the Ukrainian president.

Four days later, Mr. Sondland texted Mr. Volker, asking if they still wanted the Ukrainian president “to give us an unequivocal draft” specifically citing the two issues that Mr. Trump has been focused on: Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that had put Mr. Biden’s younger son, Hunter Biden, on its board, and Mr. Trump’s belief that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 American elections to benefit Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Volker replied: “That’s the clear message so far …”

Under questioning on Capitol Hill, Mr. Volker told House Democratic investigators that the language including specific references to Burisma and the 2016 election had come from Mr. Giuliani, the person familiar with his testimony said.

Mr. Volker told the House investigators that the Ukrainians had earlier proposed language promising a statement on fighting corruption that did not specifically mention Burisma and 2016. When Mr. Giuliani was shown that original language, Mr. Volker told the House, he indicated to Mr. Volker that it was not sufficient and said the Ukrainians should be asked for specific public commitments to investigate Burisma and 2016.

By Mr. Volker’s account, according to the person familiar with his testimony, he was eventually told by Mr. Yermak that the Ukrainian government could not agree to the language being sought by Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Volker told Mr. Yermak that he was right, and the idea was dropped, according to the account Mr. Volker provided the House.

The idea behind the statement was to break the Ukrainians of their habit of promising American diplomats and leaders behind closed doors that they would look into matters and never follow through, the people briefed on it said. According to the account provided by Mr. Volker to the House, the idea of the Ukrainians providing a statement had originated with Mr. Giuliani in a conversation he had with Mr. Yermak.

It is unclear if the statement was delivered to Mr. Zelensky, but no statement was released publicly under his name. Around that time, the Ukrainian officials indicated to the Americans that they wanted to avoid becoming more deeply enmeshed in American politics.

The drafting of the statement, which came in the weeks after the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, was an effort to pacify Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani and to normalize relations between the two countries as Ukraine faced continuing conflict with Russia. Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker believed that Mr. Giuliani was “poisoning” Mr. Trump’s mind about Ukraine and that eliciting a public commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue the investigations would induce Mr. Trump to more fully support the new Ukrainian government, according to the people familiar with it.

The texts released by House Democrats late Thursday night corroborated this characterization.

In the hours before the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Volker texted Mr. Yermak that he had “Heard from White House” that “we will nail down date” for the official Oval Office visit coveted by the Ukrainians, “assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate” the claims that Ukrainian officials tried to sabotage Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The topic of the investigations came up during the July call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, and Mr. Zelensky appeared open during the conversation to Mr. Trump’s request that he coordinate with Attorney General William P. Barr and Mr. Giuliani. Within weeks Mr. Volker and Mr. Sondland were strategizing about the draft statement with Mr. Yermak.

The texts suggest that, after the presidential call, negotiations picked up about a statement that would mention the investigations and satisfy Mr. Trump.

On Aug. 10, Mr. Yermak expressed a willingness “to make this declaration and mention all these things,” but noted that, first, the Ukrainians wanted to receive “guarantees for future visit” to Washington. “Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations,” Mr. Yermak texted.

Mr. Volker replied, “Sounds great!”

Mr. Giuliani said he was aware of the statement but that it was not written at his behest.

Mr. Giuliani said that the statement was being handled by Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker, and that he was not sure if Mr. Trump was involved in it.

“I don’t have any information that would suggest that it was at his request, but I can’t tell you it wasn’t, either,” he said.

He said he believed that the statement was intended to be delivered as part of a series of announcements by Mr. Zelensky’s government about the confirmation of new prosecutors and other officials.

“He was supposed to do something, or say something, to assure everybody — meaning our people — that he was going to take serious action about corruption,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I know that the investigations — which would be the collusion, the Burisma investigation — would be included in it, but it would have been part of an overall statement about dealing with corruption in an aggressive way.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Aides to Mr. Zelensky did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent in the overnight hours in Ukraine.

Despite Mr. Trump’s accusations of corruption on the part of the Bidens, no evidence has surfaced that the former vice president knowingly took any steps to help his son or the gas company that paid him as a board member.

Mr. Trump’s regular suggestions that Ukraine, rather than Russia, was responsible for the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee have been thoroughly debunked. While some Ukrainian officials expressed opposition to Mr. Trump in 2016, claims by Mr. Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, that documents released in Ukraine that year implicating Mr. Manafort in financial fraud were falsified or doctored have not been substantiated.

But Mr. Trump’s continued efforts to press Ukraine to investigate those matters has drawn in a growing number of his aides, including Mr. Volker, who stepped down last week at the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine, and Mr. Sondland, who has taken an increasingly prominent role in dealing with Kiev.

Mr. Sondland, 62, made a fortune in hotels, and has been a prominent Republican donor and fund-raiser for years.

He backed out of his role as a host of a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump in 2016 citing Mr. Trump’s disparaging comments toward immigrants and the family of a slain Muslim American soldier.

But Mr. Sondland donated $1 million through his companies to the inaugural committee for Mr. Trump, who subsequently tapped Mr. Sondland last year to be United States ambassador to the European Union.

The role traditionally has not focused heavily on Ukraine, which is not part of the European Union, but Mr. Sondland increasingly worked to establish himself as a central figure in Ukraine policy, administration officials said.

Mr. Sondland came to be seen in the administration as more loyal to Mr. Trump than was Mr. Volker, an acolyte of Senator John McCain, an outspoken critic of the president.

Mr. Sondland told reporters last month that he saw Ukraine as among a handful of “low-hanging fruit” policy areas where the European Union could work together with Washington to improve relations.

Mr. Sondland raised some hackles at the State Department and in the National Security Council when he asked to be included in the United States delegation that attended Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration, according to people familiar with the events. Mr. Sondland attended an Oval Office meeting afterward with other members of the delegation — which also included Mr. Volker; the energy secretary, Rick Perry; and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin — to brief Mr. Trump on the delegation’s impressions of Mr. Zelensky.

When the delegation praised Mr. Zelensky and urged Mr. Trump to fully support the new Ukrainian government, the president was dismissive. “They’re terrible people,” Mr. Trump said of Ukrainian politicians, according to people familiar with the meeting. “They’re all corrupt, and they tried to take me down.”

Mr. Sondland continued building a relationship with Mr. Zelensky, hosting him at a June dinner at the United States mission to the European Union in Brussels, and meeting him again in Kiev in July with Mr. Volker on the day after Mr. Trump’s phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

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What We Know About Hunter Biden’s Business in China

Westlake Legal Group merlin_162077214_fcec7317-a8f0-4cf9-b59e-09f9c3b59048-facebookJumbo What We Know About Hunter Biden’s Business in China United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry impeachment Conflicts of Interest China Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s latest broadside against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter appears to center on a joint venture that involved the younger Mr. Biden and some of China’s leading state-owned financial companies.

But the president’s claims bear little if any relation to the known facts.

Without presenting any evidence, Mr. Trump suggested on Thursday that China showered $1.5 billion on Hunter Biden in order to influence his father and win favorable trade deals with the United States.

“That’s probably why China for so many years has had a sweetheart deal where China rips off the U.S.A.” because they deal with people like “Biden where they give the son a billion and a half dollars,” Mr. Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. He added: “You know what they call that? They call that a payoff.”

Companies associated with Hunter Biden or his business partners have struck several deals involving China over the past decade. So, in fact, have Mr. Trump’s own relatives — a point that Mr. Trump does not mention in his now almost-daily accusations against the former vice president, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son.

But while the extent of Hunter Biden’s business dealings with China is not entirely clear, no evidence has emerged of how much money the younger Mr. Biden may have earned. In fact, his lawyer says he has earned nothing from the venture that the president is apparently citing. Nor is there any evidence that his father traded favors with the Chinese government to help his son.

Mr. Trump’s latest attacks follow weeks in which he has accused Hunter Biden of improperly profiting in Ukraine from his father’s position. The younger Mr. Biden collected roughly $50,000 a month for serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm at a time when his father was helping to shape the Obama administration’s foreign policy toward Ukraine.

Mr. Trump’s efforts this past summer to pressure Volodymyr Zelensky, the new Ukrainian president, to investigate Mr. Biden and his son — at the same time that Mr. Trump was withholding $391 million in American military aid to Ukraine — set off the fast-moving impeachment inquiry now underway in the House of Representatives.

The president’s attacks also come after a string of controversies involving members of Mr. Trump’s extended family and China, most of them unfolding after he was elected. A company run by his daughter Ivanka has been awarded dozens of potentially valuable trademarks by the Chinese government. A real estate company owned by the family of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, tried to sell its troubled investment in a Manhattan skyscraper to a prominent Chinese firm. And Nicole Meyer, Mr. Kushner’s sister and an executive in the family firm, invoked her connections to the president when she pitched Chinese investors in Beijing to buy into a development in New Jersey.

The $1.5 billion figure to which Mr. Trump referred on Thursday appears to be the amount of money that a Shanghai-based private-equity company, BHR Equity Investment Fund Management Co., aimed to raise in 2014. The company, which says its biggest shareholder is the state-controlled Bank of China, pools money and invests in companies, many of which are also state owned.

Hunter Biden has been a member of the board of BHR since it was formed in late 2013. In October 2017, after his father had left the vice presidency, he bought 10 percent of the firm, investing the equivalent of $420,000.

But his lawyer, George Mesires, said on Thursday that he has never been paid for his role on the board, and has not profited financially since he began as a part-owner.

“He has not been compensated for being on the board of directors, nor has he received any return on his investment to date,” Mr. Mesires said. Although BHR has been involved in a number of business deals, he said, “there have been no distributions to the shareholders since Hunter has been an equity owner.”

With his latest attacks on the Bidens, Mr. Trump is “desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent, credible news organizations,” Kate Bedingfield, Mr. Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement.

Still, the fact that Chinese state-owned firms were interested in linking arms with Hunter Biden while his father was vice president fits a long pattern of companies owned by or closely tied to foreign governments courting the families of high-ranking American officials. In 2002, for example, when George W. Bush was president, his brother Neil won a $400,000 consulting contract to advise a Chinese semiconductor company co-founded by the son of the man who was then China’s president.

“Almost any senior name that I start researching, I run into practices like this. It is extraordinarily widespread,” Sarah Chayes, the author of the book “Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security,” said in an interview on National Public Radio on Thursday. “How did we all convince ourselves that this isn’t corrupt?”

Asked if there was any conflict of interest, Mr. Mesires, said: “Hunter has been repeatedly clear on this point. Hunter has not and does not discuss his business interests with his father.”

A spokesman for the Biden campaign also said that the former vice president never discussed the China venture with his son.

The only known connection between the elder Mr. Biden and BHR came in early December 2013 in Beijing. Mr. Biden, who had traveled to China on official business as vice president, met and shook hands with his son’s business associate, Jonathan Li, in the lobby of the hotel where the American delegation was staying, according to an account in The New Yorker. The magazine said Hunter Biden had arranged the encounter with Mr. Li, who was headed for a post as BHR’s chief executive.

Hunter Biden went along to Beijing, too, because his young daughter had been invited and needed to be chaperoned, according to Mr. Mesires. He said that his client and Mr. Li met for coffee on the trip but that it was only a social chat. “He conducted no business there,” the lawyer said.

Several days after the trip, BHR won a business license from the Chinese government. Mr. Mesires said that the registration paperwork had already been submitted and that the timing of the approval was purely coincidental. Hunter Biden was not involved in the firm’s registration, and its approval “was not related in any way, shape or form to Hunter’s visit,” he said.

To raise funds, BHR teamed up with some of China’s leading state-owned financial companies, including its biggest indirect shareholder, Bank of China, as well as China Development Bank and the country’s social security fund, according BHR’s website. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2014 that the firm was seeking to raise $1.5 billion.

That figure was then cited by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author, in a 2018 book detailing the China business ties of some prominent American political families. Mr. Schweizer was also the author of the 2015 book “Clinton Cash.”

Until October 2017, well after his father had stepped down from the vice presidency, Hunter Biden had no equity stake in BHR, Mr. Mesires said. He said Mr. Biden bought a stake in the firm in the name of a company named Skaneateles L.L.C. for the equivalent of about $420,000. That gave him about 10 percent of the company’s registered capital of 30 million renminbi, China’s currency. Skaneateles is the New York hometown of Hunter Biden’s mother, who died in 1972.

BHR has invested in a number of state-owned Chinese companies, including a subsidiary of the oil refiner Sinopec and China General Nuclear Power Group. The business focus of some of them is at odds with American policy.

For example, the company invested in Face++, a division of the Chinese company Megvii, which specializes in facial recognition technology that is promoted for use by China’s police, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. BHR also invested alongside AVIC, a major state-owned aerospace and defense company that builds fighter jets for the Chinese military.

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Trump Envoys Pushed Ukraine to Commit to a Biden Inquiry and Go Public With It

Westlake Legal Group 03diplosub2-facebookJumbo Trump Envoys Pushed Ukraine to Commit to a Biden Inquiry and Go Public With It Zelensky, Volodymyr Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Giuliani, Rudolph W Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — Two of President Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine helped draft a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals, three people briefed on the effort said.

Their work on the statement is new evidence of how Mr. Trump’s fixation with conspiracy theories linked to Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to bend American foreign policy to the president’s political agenda in the weeks after a July 25 call between the two leaders.

The statement was worked on by Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, according to the three people who have been briefed on it.

The Ukrainians never released it. But if they had, Mr. Trump’s aides would have effectively pressured a foreign government to give credence to allegations intended to undercut one of the Democratic Party’s leading 2020 president candidates — former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — without leaving Mr. Trump’s fingerprints on it.

Mr. Volker spent Thursday on Capitol Hill being questioned by House investigators as Democrats pursued their impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s actions. He disclosed a set of texts in September in which William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, alluded to Mr. Trump’s decision earlier in the summer to freeze a military aid package to the country. He told Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

After speaking with Mr. Trump, Mr. Sondland texted back that there was no quid pro quo, adding, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”

The statement worked on in August by Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker was among the topics that came up during the closed-door questioning of Mr. Volker on Capitol Hill.

The statement was written with the awareness of a top aide to the Ukrainian president, as well as Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and the de facto leader of a shadow campaign to push the Ukrainians to press ahead with investigations, according to one of the people briefed on it.

The statement would have committed Ukraine to investigating the energy company Burisma Holdings, which had employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s younger son. And it would have called for the Ukrainian government to look into what Mr. Trump and his allies believe was interference by Ukrainians in the 2016 election in the United States to benefit Hillary Clinton.

The idea behind the statement was to break the Ukrainians of their habit of promising American diplomats and leaders behind closed doors that they would look into matters and never follow through, the people briefed on it said.

It is unclear if the statement was delivered to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, but no statement was released publicly under his name. Around that time, the Ukrainian officials indicated to the Americans that they wanted to avoid becoming more deeply enmeshed in American politics.

The drafting of the statement, which came in the weeks after the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, was an effort to pacify Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani and to normalize relations between the two countries as Ukraine faced continuing conflict with Russia. Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker believed that Mr. Giuliani was “poisoning” Mr. Trump’s mind about Ukraine and that eliciting a public commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue the investigations would induce Mr. Trump to more fully support the new Ukrainian government, according to the people familiar with it.

ABC News on Thursday published portions of texts between Mr. Volker and Mr. Sondland referring to the writing of the draft statement.

The topic of the investigations came up during the July call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, and Mr. Zelensky appeared open during the conversation to Mr. Trump’s request that he coordinate with Attorney General William P. Barr and Mr. Giuliani. Within weeks Mr. Volker and Mr. Sondland were working on the draft statement, along with Andriy Yermak, a close adviser to Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Giuliani said he was aware of the statement but that it was not written at his behest.

Mr. Giuliani said that the statement was being handled by Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker, and that he was not sure if Mr. Trump was involved in it.

“I don’t have any information that would suggest that it was at his request, but I can’t tell you it wasn’t, either,” he said.

He said he thought that the statement was intended to be delivered as part of a series of announcements by Mr. Zelensky’s government about the confirmation of new prosecutors and other officials.

“He was supposed to do something, or say something, to assure everybody — meaning our people — that he was going to take serious action about corruption,” said Mr. Giuliani. “I know that the investigations — which would be the collusion, the Burisma investigation — would be included in it, but it would have been part of an overall statement about dealing with corruption in an aggressive way.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Aides to Mr. Zelensky did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent in the overnight in Ukraine.

Despite Mr. Trump’s accusations of corruption on the part of the Bidens, no evidence has surfaced that the former vice president knowingly took any steps to help his son or his son’s Ukrainian employer.

Mr. Trump’s regular suggestions that Ukraine, rather than Russia, was responsible for the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee have been thoroughly debunked. While some Ukrainian officials expressed support for Mrs. Clinton in 2016, claims by Mr. Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, that documents released in Ukraine that year implicating Mr. Manafort in financial fraud were falsified or doctored have not been substantiated.

But Mr. Trump’s continued efforts to press Ukraine to investigate those matters has drawn in a growing number of his aides, including Mr. Volker, who stepped down last week at the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine, and Mr. Sondland, who has taken an increasingly prominent role in dealing with Kiev.

Mr. Sondland, 62, made a fortune in luxury hotels, and has been a prominent Republican donor and fund-raiser for years.

He backed out of his role as a host of a fund-raiser for Mr. Trump in 2016 citing Mr. Trump’s disparaging comments toward immigrants and the family of a slain Muslim American soldier.

But Mr. Sondland donated $1 million through his companies to the inaugural committee for Mr. Trump, who subsequently tapped Mr. Sondland last year to be United States ambassador to the European Union.

The role traditionally has not focused on Ukraine, which is not part of the European Union, but Mr. Sondland increasingly worked to establish himself as a central figure in Ukraine policy, administration officials said.

Mr. Sondland came to be seen in the administration as more loyal to Mr. Trump than was Mr. Volker, an acolyte of Senator John McCain, an outspoken critic of the president.

Mr. Sondland told reporters last month that he saw Ukraine as among a handful of “low-hanging fruit” policy areas where the European Union could work together with Washington to improve relations.

Mr. Sondland raised some hackles at the State Department and in the National Security Council when he asked to be included in the United States delegation that attended Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration, according to people familiar with the events. Mr. Sondland attended an Oval Office meeting afterward with other members of the delegation — which also included Mr. Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin — to brief Mr. Trump on the delegation’s impressions of Mr. Zelensky.

When the delegation praised Mr. Zelensky and urged Mr. Trump to fully support the new Ukrainian government, the president was dismissive. “They’re terrible people,” Mr. Trump said of Ukrainian politicians, according to people familiar with the meeting. “They’re all corrupt and they tried to take me down.”

Mr. Sondland continued building a relationship with Mr. Zelensky, inviting him to a June dinner at the United States mission to the European Union in Brussels, and meeting him again in Kiev in July with Mr. Volker on the day after Mr. Trump’s phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

And Mr. Sondland kept in contact with Mr. Zelensky’s aides, who have told people that Mr. Sondland urged them to encourage the Ukrainian president to push forward with investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election.

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