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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 44)

Lamar Alexander Says Convicting Trump Would ‘Pour Gasoline on Cultural Fires’

Westlake Legal Group 31dc-alexander1-facebookJumbo Lamar Alexander Says Convicting Trump Would ‘Pour Gasoline on Cultural Fires’ United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Senate Schumer, Charles E Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Murkowski, Lisa impeachment Democratic Party Constitution (US) Alexander, Lamar

WASHINGTON — As he weighed the evidence against President Trump, Senator Lamar Alexander reached an unavoidable conclusion: Mr. Trump had done what he was accused of, pressuring a foreign power to investigate his political rival. But however inappropriate his conduct, another conviction overrode the first: Americans would not tolerate the Senate stepping in to substitute its own judgment for that of the voters fewer than 10 months before the next election.

“The Senate reflects the country, and the country is as divided as it has been for a long time,” Mr. Alexander said Friday during an interview in his Capitol office. “For the Senate to tear up the ballots in this election and say President Trump couldn’t be on it, the country probably wouldn’t accept that. It would just pour gasoline on cultural fires that are burning out there.”

With that logic, Mr. Alexander delivered a victory to Mr. Trump — and to Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, with whom Mr. Alexander has been friends for more than a half-century. In announcing he would vote to block witnesses at Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, he set Mr. Trump on a quick course to his inevitable acquittal.

Many Republicans appeared to be following Mr. Alexander’s lead on Friday, saying the Tennessee senator had echoed the feelings of their caucus — and the country.

“Long story short, @SenatorAlexander most likely expressed the sentiments of the country as a whole as well as any single Senator possibly could,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close ally of Mr. Trump’s, wrote on Twitter. “Those who hate Trump and wish to take the voters choice away in an unfounded manner, Sen. Alexander rightly rejected their arguments.”

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, put it this way: “Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

Mr. Alexander could easily have gone the other way. He is retiring from the Senate and free to vote as he pleases without political consequences. And he said in the interview that Mr. Trump had done exactly what Democrats had accused him of doing: He withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate his political rival — a move he could not condone.

“I think he did something that was clearly inappropriate,” Mr. Alexander said. “I think it is inappropriate for the president to ask the leader of a foreign nation to investigate a leading political rival, which the president says he did. I think it is inappropriate at least in part to withhold aid to encourage that investigation.”

“But that is not treason, that is not bribery, that is not a high crime and misdemeanor,” he added, listing the criteria enumerated in the Constitution for impeachable offenses.

It is hardly a surprise that Mr. Alexander is effectively coming down on both sides. Widely respected as a Senate “institutionalist” — a guardian of its traditions — he is a product of a bygone time in Republican politics: the pre-Trump era, when lawmakers worked across the political aisle to forge consensus on matters of national importance.

A former governor, university president and secretary of education, Mr. Alexander has modeled himself on Senator Howard R. Baker Jr., another Tennessee Republican, who turned against President Richard M. Nixon during Watergate. Mr. Baker, who died in 2014, introduced Mr. Alexander to Mr. McConnell in 1969, when Mr. Alexander was an aide in the Nixon White House and Mr. McConnell was a legislative assistant to a Kentucky senator.

Few friendships in the Capitol have been as enduring as theirs. Today Mr. McConnell calls Mr. Alexander “my best friend in the Senate.” But Mr. Alexander said he did not give Mr. McConnell — whom he described, aptly, as “a person of few words” — advance notice of his vote.

“I know what he thinks, and he knows that is not the way to influence my decisions,” Mr. Alexander said.

Yet Mr. McConnell did not really have to ask. Although Mr. Alexander was lumped in with three other Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — who had expressed openness to witnesses, it was clear early on that he was unlikely to vote to include them.

Those close to him say he does not relish shaking things up.

“I think that Lamar has been able to successfully navigate the ins and outs of the new administration because Lamar is very wise in how he shares, when he shares, any disagreement or policy difference he might have with the administration,” said Tom Griscom, a close friend of Mr. Alexander’s who worked as Mr. Baker’s press secretary. “He’s not looking to be out on the front edge of it.”

Another close friend, Tom Ingram, who ran Mr. Alexander’s Senate races and served as his chief of staff, said he was not surprised by Mr. Alexander’s decision. He said Mr. Alexander was troubled by what he regarded as a highly partisan impeachment process in the House, and wanted to assure that the Senate gave it thorough consideration, which was why he had expressed openness to witnesses.

“Knowing the reverence he holds for the presidency — the office, not the person — and for the Senate process and how seriously he takes impeachment, it was going to have to be very clear in his mind that the offense clearly fit the high bar set in the Constitution.”

With 47 Democratic votes (including those of two independents who caucus with them), Senate Democrats would need four Republicans to cross party lines in order to force the Senate to subpoena witnesses and fresh documents. In the end, it appears, they will fall short by two. Ms. Collins and Mr. Romney have said they will vote in favor of witnesses.

A little more than 12 hours after Mr. Alexander had declared his intentions, Ms. Murkowski said Friday that she, too, would vote against.

“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate,” she said in a statement. “I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything.”

“It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed,” Ms. Murkowski added.

Unlike Mr. Alexander, she did not pass judgment on Mr. Trump’s behavior. Mr. Alexander’s decision to do so gave Democrats a boost.

“He came to the wrong conclusions about hearing evidence in this trial, that’s clear,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, told reporters on Friday. “But Senator Alexander, a senior Senate Republican, a retiring member, said out loud what I think most Senate Republicans believe in private: That yes, the president did withhold military assistance to try to get Ukraine to help with his election.”

Even so, Mr. Alexander told NPR that he supported Mr. Trump’s re-election.

In the interview with The New York Times, he said voters should take the charges against Mr. Trump into account, but offered a pointed contrast between the president and his would-be Democratic challengers, specifically mentioning Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, an icon of the progressive left who is a leading contender in her party’s nominating contest.

“Whatever you think of his behavior,” Mr. Alexander said of Mr. Trump, “with the terrific economy, with conservative judges, with fewer regulations, you add in there an inappropriate call with the president of Ukraine, and you decide if your prefer him or Elizabeth Warren.”

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Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says

Westlake Legal Group 31dc-bolton1-facebookJumbo Trump Told Bolton to Help His Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Book Says Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) Mulvaney, Mick Manuscripts Kent, George P Giuliani, Rudolph W Cipollone, Pat A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — More than two months before he asked Ukraine’s president to investigate his political opponents, President Trump directed John R. Bolton, then his national security adviser, to help with his pressure campaign to extract damaging information on Democrats from Ukrainian officials, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump gave the instruction, Mr. Bolton wrote, during an Oval Office conversation in early May that included the acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, who is now leading the president’s impeachment defense.

Mr. Trump told Mr. Bolton to call Volodymyr Zelensky, who had recently won election as president of Ukraine, to ensure Mr. Zelensky would meet with Mr. Giuliani, who was planning a trip to Ukraine to discuss the investigations that the president sought, in Mr. Bolton’s account. Mr. Bolton never made the call, he wrote.

The previously undisclosed directive that Mr. Bolton describes would be the earliest known instance of Mr. Trump seeking to harness the power of the United States government to advance his pressure campaign against Ukraine, as he later did on the July call with Mr. Zelensky that triggered a whistle-blower complaint and impeachment proceedings. House Democrats have accused him of abusing his authority and are arguing their case before senators in the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have said he did nothing wrong.

The account in Mr. Bolton’s manuscript portrays the most senior White House advisers as early witnesses in the effort that they have sought to distance the president from. And disclosure of the meeting underscores the kind of information Democrats were looking for in seeking testimony from his top advisers in their impeachment investigation, including Mr. Bolton and Mr. Mulvaney, only to be blocked by the White House.

In a statement after this article was published, Mr. Trump denied the discussion that Mr. Bolton described.

“I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky,” Mr. Trump said. “That meeting never happened.”

In a brief interview, Mr. Giuliani denied that the conversation took place and said those discussions with the president were always kept separate. He was adamant that Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Mulvaney were never involved in meetings related to Ukraine.

“It is absolutely, categorically untrue,” he said.

Neither Mr. Bolton nor a representative for Mr. Mulvaney responded to requests for comment.

Mr. Bolton described the roughly 10-minute conversation in drafts of his book, a memoir of his time as national security adviser that is to go on sale in March. Over several pages, Mr. Bolton laid out Mr. Trump’s fixation on Ukraine and the president’s belief, based on a mix of scattershot events, assertions and outright conspiracy theories, that Ukraine tried to undermine his chances of winning the presidency in 2016.

As he began to realize the extent and aims of the pressure campaign, Mr. Bolton began to object, he wrote in the book, affirming the testimony of a former National Security Council aide, Fiona Hill, who had said that Mr. Bolton warned that Mr. Giuliani was “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Mr. Trump also repeatedly made national security decisions contrary to American interests, Mr. Bolton wrote, describing a pervasive sense of alarm among top advisers about the president’s choices. Mr. Bolton expressed concern to others in the administration that the president was effectively granting favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Xi Jinping of China.

The New York Times reported this week on another revelation from Mr. Bolton’s book draft: that Mr. Trump told him in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter. That account undercuts a key element of the White House impeachment defense — that the aid holdup was separate from his requests for inquiries. Mr. Trump has denied the conversation took place.

Since that Times article, people who have reviewed the draft have further described its contents, including details of the May meeting. Mr. Bolton’s manuscript was sent to the White House for a standard review process in late December.

Its revelations galvanized the debate over whether to call witnesses in the impeachment trial, but late on Thursday, Republicans appeared to have secured enough votes to keep any new testimony out of Mr. Trump’s trial and to move toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The White House has sought to block the release of the book, contending that it contains classified information. The government reviews books by former officials who had access to secrets so they can excise the manuscripts of any classified information. Officials including Mr. Trump have described Mr. Bolton, who was often at odds with Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Mulvaney, as a disgruntled former official with an ax to grind.

Mr. Bolton has angered Democrats — and some Republicans — for remaining quiet during the House investigation, then announcing that he would comply with any subpoena to testify in the Senate and signaling that he is eager to share his story. Administration officials should “feel they’re able to speak their minds without retribution,” he said at a closed-door lunch in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, the NBC affiliate KXAN reported, citing unnamed sources.

“The idea that somehow testifying to what you think is true is destructive to the system of government we have — I think, is very nearly the reverse, the exact reverse of the truth,” Mr. Bolton added.

The Oval Office conversation that Mr. Bolton described came as the president and Mr. Giuliani were increasingly focusing on pushing the Ukrainian government to commit to investigations that could help Mr. Trump politically. At various points, Mr. Trump, Mr. Giuliani and their associates pressed Ukrainian officials under Mr. Zelensky and his predecessor to provide potentially damaging information on the president’s rivals, including Mr. Biden and Ukrainians who Mr. Trump’s allies believed tried to help Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Mr. Giuliani had just successfully campaigned to have the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, recalled, convinced that she was part of an effort to protect Mr. Trump’s political rivals from scrutiny. Mr. Giuliani had argued she was impeding the investigations.

At the time of the Oval Office conversation Mr. Bolton wrote about, Mr. Giuliani was planning a trip to Kyiv to push the incoming government to commit to the investigations. Mr. Giuliani asserted that the president had been wronged by the Justice Department’s Russia investigation and told associates that the inquiry could be partly discredited by proving that parts of it originated with suspect documents produced and disseminated in Ukraine to undermine his onetime campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose work in Ukraine became a central focus of the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Giuliani, a private consultant with a range of international clients, had said none were involved in the Ukraine effort, Mr. Bolton wrote, adding that he was skeptical and wanted to avoid involvement. At the time, Mr. Giuliani was working closely with two Soviet-born businessmen from Florida, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to carry out the shadow Ukraine effort.

After pushing out Ms. Yovanovitch, Mr. Giuliani turned his attention to other American diplomats responsible for Ukraine policy. During the Oval Office conversation, he also mentioned a State Department official with the last name of Kent, whom Mr. Bolton wrote he did not know. Mr. Giuliani said he was hostile to Mr. Trump and sympathetic to George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who has long been a target of the far right.

George P. Kent, a top State Department official who oversees Ukraine policy, went on to be a key witness in House Democrats’ impeachment investigation, testifying that claims by Mr. Giuliani’s allies of Mr. Soros’ wide influence in Ukraine were used to smear Ms. Yovanovitch.

Mr. Bolton left the Oval Office after 10 minutes and returned to his office, he wrote. Shortly after, two aides came into his office, saying Mr. Trump had sent them out of a separate meeting on trade to ask about Mr. Kent, Mr. Bolton wrote.

The conversation that Mr. Bolton describes was separate from another one that Mr. Bolton wrote about, where he observed Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Trump talking on the phone with Mr. Giuliani about Ukraine matters. Mr. Mulvaney has told associates he would leave the room when Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were talking to preserve their attorney-client privilege, and his lawyer said earlier this week that Mr. Mulvaney was never in meetings with Mr. Giuliani and has “no recollection” of the first discussion.

Around the time of the May discussion, The Times revealed Mr. Giuliani’s efforts and his planned trip to Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani said at the time that Mr. Trump was aware of his efforts in Ukraine, but said nothing else about any involvement of Mr. Trump or other members of the administration. The disclosure created consternation in the White House and Mr. Giuliani canceled his trip.

A day after the Times article was published, Mr. Giuliani wrote a letter to Mr. Zelensky, saying he was representing Mr. Trump as a “private citizen” and, with Mr. Trump’s “knowledge and consent,” hoped to arrange a meeting with Mr. Zelensky in the ensuing days. That letter was among the evidence admitted during the House impeachment inquiry.

Peter Baker and Kenneth P. Vogel contributed reporting.

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Pompeo Says U.S. Backs Ukraine Against Russian Aggression

Westlake Legal Group 31ukraine-1-facebookJumbo Pompeo Says U.S. Backs Ukraine Against Russian Aggression Zelensky, Volodymyr 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 Pompeo, Mike Foreign Aid

KYIV, Ukraine — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday after a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that the Trump administration was committed to supporting Ukraine in its defense against aggression by Russia, which invaded and annexed part of the country and is supporting a separatist insurgency.

“Today I’m here with a clear message: The United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one,” Mr. Pompeo said at a news conference with Mr. Zelensky. “Our commitment to support it will not waver.”

Ukraine is a “bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in Eastern Europe,” he added.

The two met before noon in the president’s office in central Kyiv, and Mr. Zelensky said they had talked about new steps to strengthen the partnership between the two nations.

“I don’t think these friendly and warm relations have been influenced by the impeachment trial of the president,” he said when asked about whether the impeachment of President Trump had affected ties between Kyiv and Washington.

Mr. Zelensky reiterated that he was ready to meet with Mr. Trump in an official White House visit, which would be an important signal of the status of American support for Ukraine. But Mr. Pompeo said no visit had been scheduled yet. “We’ll find the right time,” he said.

Mr. Pompeo was the first official from President Trump’s cabinet to meet with Mr. Zelensky since the impeachment inquiry focused on Mr. Trump and Ukraine began last fall. Mr. Trump had a brief meeting with Mr. Zelensky on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York — the day after the Democrats in the House of Representatives announced their opening of the inquiry.

The move by the Democrats was prompted by a formal complaint filed by a C.I.A. whistle-blower who had said that Mr. Trump had pressed Mr. Zelensky in a July 25 call for political favors at the same time he was withholding from Ukraine $391 million of military aid mandated by Congress.

The impeachment trial in the Senate began this month but appeared as of early Friday to be moving to a swift close.

The military aid from Washington, which was released by the White House on Sept. 11, after Mr. Trump had heard about the formal whistleblower complaint, is aimed at helping Ukrainian soldiers fight a years-long Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of Russian soldiers are in the region, the Donbas, American officials say.

Ukraine and other European nations want the Trump administration to get involved in talking with leaders in Kyiv and Moscow to help settle the conflict.

On Friday morning, as snow fell lightly in Kyiv, Mr. Pompeo met with Vadym Prystaiko, foreign minister of Ukraine, and went to the golden-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral downtown to attend a wreath-laying ceremony for the soldiers who have died fighting in the Donbas.

More than 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been killed since the war began in 2014, the same year Russia invaded and occupied the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. The conflict has become grinding trench warfare in open fields with regular shelling.

Analysts say Mr. Trump’s actions on Ukraine — which critics say centered on gaining political advantage for his re-election campaign this year — and his open admiration of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have weakened decades of American support for Ukraine.

Mr. Trump and his aides deny that he withheld the aid for political reasons, and say that they were requesting that Ukraine conduct legitimate investigations into corruption.

Mr. Pompeo said on Friday, “The United States under President Trump has been the world’s fiercest defender of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

Ukrainian officials are eager to have Mr. Zelensky visit Mr. Trump in the Oval Office and to have the American president publicly and strongly affirm support for Ukraine. Ukrainian officials are angry that the Americans have granted the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, two visits with Mr. Trump in White House, most recently in December.

In response to a question on Friday, Mr. Pompeo said a White House visit by Mr. Zelensky was not dependent on the kind of investigation Mr. Trump had sought.

The Ukraine trip is a fraught one for Mr. Pompeo, who arrived here on Thursday night after a stop in London, and plans to travel to three more nations that became independent from Moscow afterwards.

Mr. Pompeo has been dogged by sharp questions over his role in the Ukraine affair and, more recently, an acid comment he reportedly made about Ukraine in a Jan. 24 conversation with a National Public Radio reporter. The reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, a veteran national security correspondent, said that after she asked about Ukraine, Mr. Pompeo shouted at her in a rant full of obscenities and asked her to locate Ukraine on an unmarked map that his aides pulled out. She added that, using the “f-word,” he asked, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?”

Mr. Pompeo put out an extraordinary statement the next day that denounced the news media as “unhinged” and banned NPR from joining the pool of reporters on his current trip. His actions have been widely criticized by press freedom advocates and foreign policy experts.

Mr. Pompeo enabled Mr. Trump’s actions on Ukraine by ordering the recall of Marie L. Yovanovitch, the respected ambassador to Ukraine, last April. Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and associates with Ukraine business ties had been pressing the president hard for the ouster of the ambassador, who had been an anti-corruption advocate.

In May, after Ms. Yovanovitch moved back to Washington, Mr. Pompeo asked a former ambassador to Ukraine and veteran diplomat, William B. Taylor Jr., to be chief of mission until a new ambassador was appointed. Mr. Taylor, along with Ms. Yovanovitch and other diplomats, defied administration orders not to testify in the impeachment inquiry; Mr. Taylor spoke of how he gradually discovered Mr. Trump’s Ukraine plans over the summer, which administration critics say undermined American support of Ukraine by withholding aid.

Mr. Trump’s main demand of Mr. Zelensky was that he announce investigations into Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president and a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter Biden, who had been on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company.

There is no evidence or suggestion that the older Mr. Biden acted inappropriately on Ukraine policy because of his son’s corporate ties.

On several occasions, Mr. Pompeo, an ardent Trump loyalist, has reiterated Mr. Trump’s conspiratorial assertions about Ukraine, the Bidens and questions of interference in the 2016 presidential election — assertions that have been discredited and have angered the Ukrainians.

“As secretary of state and C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo had every opportunity to put his mark on Russia and Ukraine policy,” said Andrew S. Weiss, a former American official who worked on Russia and Ukraine and is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But at nearly every turn he focused instead on the audience of one — Donald Trump.”

“That’s why he turned a blind eye when Trump and cronies like Rudy Giuliani decided to totally dismantle the Ukraine policy framework that has been in place since 1991 and, knowingly or unknowingly, did a huge solid for the Kremlin,” he added. “Making a short pitstop in Kyiv hardly begins to undo the damage that has been wrought.”

Mr. Pompeo canceled planned trips to Ukraine twice — once in November and once at the start of January.

“Russia is fighting a hybrid war against Ukraine, Europe and the United States,” Mr. Taylor wrote in a Jan. 26 op-ed in The New York Times. “This war has many components: armed military aggression, energy supply, cyber attacks, disinformation and election interference. On each of these battlegrounds, Ukraine is the front line.”

Maria Varenikova contributed reporting from Kyiv.

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Lamar Alexander, Key G.O.P. Senator, Plans to Oppose Move for New Evidence

WASHINGTON — Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said late Thursday that although he believed that Democrats had proved their case that President Trump acted “inappropriately” in his dealings with Ukraine, he did not think the president’s actions were impeachable and would vote against considering new evidence in the impeachment trial.

Mr. Alexander’s statement was a strong indication that Republicans had lined up the votes to block a call for more witnesses and documents on Friday and press toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in history. His opposition was a significant victory for the White House and Republican leaders.

“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did,” Mr. Alexander said in a late-night statement after the conclusion of a second marathon day of questioning by senators. “I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.”

In announcing his stance, Mr. Alexander effectively conceded that the president had engaged in a corrupt effort to leverage taxpayer money to advance his own political objectives — the basis of the abuse-of-power charge against him — but said he had concluded such actions were not impeachable. He called the second charge, obstruction of Congress, “frivolous.”

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” he said in a statement released at 11 p.m. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

His announcement capped a day of intense lobbying both on the floor of the Senate and off as each side sought to appeal to a shrinking group of undecided Republicans. Shortly before Mr. Alexander declared his intentions, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another moderate, became the second Republican to say definitively that she would vote in favor of considering new evidence, after Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.

Video

transcript

Questions at Impeachment Trial on Witnesses and Whistle-Blower

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.

“Senator from Kentucky?” “I have a question to present to the desk for the House manager Schiff and for the president’s counsel.” “Thank you.” “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.” “The question from Senator Warren is for the House managers: At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?” “I don’t think a trial without witnesses reflects adversely on the chief justice. I do think it reflects adversely on us.” “Senators for both parties —” “Senator from South Dakota —” “The question from Senator Portman —” “The senator from Wisconsin —” “Senator Brown and Wyden —” “Mr. Chief Justice.” “Senator from Alaska?” “May I send a question to the desk?” “Thank you.” “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?” “The House could have pursued Ambassador Bolton. The House considered whether or not they would try to have him come testify and subpoena him. They chose not to subpoena him. And it will do grave damage to this body as an institution to say that the proceedings in the House don’t have to really be complete — you don’t have to subpoena the witnesses that you think are necessary to prove your case, you don’t really have to put it all together before you bring the package here, even when you’re impeaching the president of the United States, the gravest impeachment that they could possibly consider.”

Westlake Legal Group merlin_168116028_c2803c0d-03b1-4ab8-81be-491741fcef9a-videoSixteenByNine3000 Lamar Alexander, Key G.O.P. Senator, Plans to Oppose Move for New Evidence United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Senate Romney, Mitt Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 Pelosi, Nancy McConnell, Mitch Johnson, Andrew impeachment House of Representatives Democratic Party Collins, Susan M Bolton, John R Biden, Joseph R Jr Barrasso, John Alexander, Lamar

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Democrats would need four Republicans to join them in voting for a motion to consider additional witnesses and documentary requests. After Mr. Alexander and Ms. Collins made their positions clear on Thursday night, all eyes turned to a fourth possible Republican swing vote, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who said she would announce her decision on Friday.

Both parties deemed it nearly impossible that any other Republican senator would defect.

As the trial neared a critical turning point, both parties were already looking beyond the verdict and framing their arguments to voters ahead of the November elections.

“If the American people decide that they don’t like what’s happened here, that they don’t like the constitutional violations that have happened, that they don’t like the attack on a successful president for purely partisan political purposes, then they can do something about it, and they can throw them out,” said Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel.

Bracing for a likely defeat of their efforts to force witnesses to be heard at the trial, Democrats forecast what is likely to be their message after the verdict is reached, asserting that Mr. Trump’s acquittal would be illegitimate because the trial was flawed.

“He will not be acquitted,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, told reporters at her weekly news conference. “You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.”

Even before Mr. Alexander announced his stance on witnesses, Senate Republican leaders projected confidence that they would line up the requisite votes, and privately plotted the trial’s endgame. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, spent much of Thursday toiling behind the scenes to cajole wavering moderates and stifle any move to prolong the trial by admitting additional evidence.

Asked about the looming vote as he arrived on Thursday morning to the Capitol, he told reporters: “I’m always confident.”

Ms. Murkowski appeared to be grappling with her position on Thursday evening. After the Senate broke for dinner, she submitted a question for Mr. Trump’s defense team asking why the Senate should not hear from John R. Bolton, his former national security adviser, who wrote in an unpublished book that Mr. Trump said he would not release the military aid for Ukraine until the country assisted in investigations of his political rivals.

She noted that account, reported on Sunday by The New York Times, contradicted Mr. Trump’s explicit denials that he had linked the military aid and investigations.

“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge,” Ms. Murkowski asked. “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?”

But later, she joined with Mr. Alexander and other senators in asking Mr. Trump’s team if they agreed that even if Mr. Bolton’s account were true, the president’s conduct did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. They did.

The House Democratic prosecutors made their final pleas to call the former national security adviser as the vote drew closer.

“The truth is staring us in the eyes,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager. “We know why they don’t want John Bolton to testify: It’s not because we don’t know what really happened here, they just don’t want the American people to hear it in all its ugly, graphic detail.”

Mr. Alexander, a former education secretary and presidential candidate set to retire at the end of the year, met privately with Ms. Murkowski earlier Thursday evening when the trial broke for dinner and also informed Mr. McConnell of his decision.

He then returned to the floor and read a copy of “Impeachment: An American History” and hand-drafted a statement announcing a decision that even his staff did not yet know.

Mr. Alexander’s final statement made clear that he would vote to acquit Mr. Trump, as well, even if he did not condone his conduct.

“If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist,” he said.

Ms. Collins gave far less insight into her thinking on the underlying charges, but said that she saw value in hearing more.

“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity,” she said in a statement released just before Mr. Alexander’s. “Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed.”

Earlier inside the Senate chamber, the usually scripted trial got off to a tense start on Thursday when Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, submitted a question that included the name of a person widely believed to be the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose anonymous complaint about Ukraine helped prompt the impeachment inquiry.

After studying the question card, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. refused to read it aloud, instead saying, “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.”

An indignant Mr. Paul then rushed out of the chamber straight to waiting television cameras to read the question aloud himself. He asked if the prosecution and defense teams were aware of reports that two government officials “may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings.”

Mr. Paul’s move reflected how Mr. Trump’s conservative allies have sought to turn the tables on the entire inquiry, shifting the focus away from the president’s conduct and toward what they suggest was a conspiracy by his opponents to manufacture a basis for removing him.

The theme has been a favorite of the president’s, and is all but certain to figure prominently in his re-election campaign after his acquittal as he makes the case to voters that the impeachment effort was an affront to them as much as a challenge to him.

In a rare bipartisan question — one of only three out of more than 170 submitted — Ms. Murkowski and Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, asked that given the actions of any president are to some extent inherently political, how should senators distinguish between permissible political actions and impeachable ones.

Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, said trying to discern a politician’s motive “is very dangerous.”

“There is always some eye to the next election,” he said, “and it ends up becoming a standard so malleable that in reality really is a substitute for a policy difference: If we don’t like a policy difference, we attribute it to a bad motive.”

Mr. Schiff countered that impeachment was the appropriate “political punishment for a political crime” involving corrupt activity.

“If we go down that road” of ignoring a corrupt motive, Mr. Schiff said, “there is no limit to what this or any other president can do.”

The vote on Friday does not deal directly with individual witnesses or sets of documents. Rather, it will resolve whether the trial should even consider calling additional witnesses and evidence.

If a majority of senators vote no, Republican leaders could move the proceeding to final deliberations and a speedy up or down vote on each article of impeachment, possibly as early as Friday. If they vote yes, the trial would blow open and could become a free-for-all in which any group of 51 senators could band together to issue subpoenas for testimony and records of their choosing.

But senators in both parties were also bracing for the distinct possibility that the witness and documents vote could end in a 50-50 tie. Such an outcome would put Chief Justice Roberts in a difficult position. There is precedent, drawn from the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, of a chief justice casting a tiebreaking vote on a procedural motion. But despite Democratic hopes, Chief Justice Roberts is unlikely to want entangle himself in a dispute that has been so thoroughly politicized.

If the chief justice abstained from breaking a tie, the motion would fail.

Michael D. Shear, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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Alexander, Conceding Case Against Trump, Announces Vote to Block Witnesses

WASHINGTON — Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, said late Thursday that although he believed that Democrats had proved their case that President Trump acted “inappropriately” in his dealings with Ukraine, he did not think the president’s actions were impeachable and would vote against considering new evidence in the impeachment trial.

Mr. Alexander’s statement was a strong indication that Republicans have lined up the votes to block a call for more witnesses and documents on Friday and press toward a quick acquittal in the third presidential impeachment trial in history. His opposition was a significant victory for the White House and Republican leaders.

“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did,” Mr. Alexander said in a late-night statement after the conclusion of a second marathon day of questioning by senators. “I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.”

In announcing his stance, Mr. Alexander effectively conceded that the president had engaged in a corrupt effort to leverage taxpayer money to advance his own political objectives — the basis of the abuse of power charge against him — but said he had concluded such actions were not impeachable. He called the second charge, obstruction of Congress, “frivolous.”

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” he said in a statement released at 11 p.m. “When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

His announcement capped a day of intense lobbying both on the floor of the Senate and off as each side sought to appeal to a shrinking group of undecided Republicans. Shortly before Mr. Alexander declared his intentions, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another moderate, became the second Republican to say definitively that she would vote in favor of considering new evidence, after Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.

Video

transcript

Impeachment Trial Highlights: Questions on Witnesses and the Whistle-Blower

On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.

“Senator from Kentucky?” “I have a question to present to the desk for the House manager Schiff and for the president’s counsel.” “Thank you.” “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.” “The question from Senator Warren is for the House managers: At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?” “I don’t think a trial without witnesses reflects adversely on the chief justice. I do think it reflects adversely on us.” “Senators for both parties —” “Senator from South Dakota —” “The question from Senator Portman —” “The senator from Wisconsin —” “Senator Brown and Wyden —” “Mr. Chief Justice.” “Senator from Alaska?” “May I send a question to the desk?” “Thank you.” “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?” “The House could have pursued Ambassador Bolton. The House considered whether or not they would try to have him come testify and subpoena him. They chose not to subpoena him. And it will do grave damage to this body as an institution to say that the proceedings in the House don’t have to really be complete — you don’t have to subpoena the witnesses that you think are necessary to prove your case, you don’t really have to put it all together before you bring the package here, even when you’re impeaching the president of the United States, the gravest impeachment that they could possibly consider.”

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On their last day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Trump, senators put Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. in the middle of the fray.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Democrats would need four Republicans to join them in voting for a motion to consider additional witnesses and documentary requests. After Mr. Alexander and Ms. Collins made their positions clear on Thursday night, all eyes turned to a fourth possible Republican swing vote, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who said she would announce her decision on Friday.

Both parties deemed it nearly impossible that any other Republican senator would defect.

As the trial neared a critical turning point, both parties were already looking beyond the verdict and framing their arguments to voters ahead of the November elections.

“If the American people decide that they don’t like what’s happened here, that they don’t like the constitutional violations that have happened, that they don’t like the attack on a successful president for purely partisan political purposes, then they can do something about it, and they can throw them out,” said Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel.

Bracing for a likely defeat of their efforts to force witnesses to be heard at the trial, Democrats forecast what is likely to be their message after the verdict is reached, asserting that Mr. Trump’s acquittal would be illegitimate because the trial was flawed.

“He will not be acquitted,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, told reporters at her weekly news conference. “You cannot be acquitted if you don’t have a trial. You don’t have a trial if you don’t have witnesses and documentation.”

Even before Mr. Alexander announced his stance on witnesses, Senate Republican leaders projected confidence that they would line up the requisite votes, and privately plotted the trial’s endgame. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, spent much of Thursday toiling behind the scenes to cajole wavering moderates and stifle any move to prolong the trial by admitting additional evidence.

Asked about the looming vote as he arrived on Thursday morning to the Capitol, he told reporters: “I’m always confident.”

Ms. Murkowski appeared to be grappling with her position on Thursday evening. After the Senate broke for dinner, she submitted a question for Mr. Trump’s defense team asking why the Senate should not hear from John R. Bolton, his former national security adviser, who wrote in an unpublished book that Mr. Trump said he would not release the military aid for Ukraine until the country assisted in investigations of his political rivals.

She noted that account, reported on Sunday by The New York Times, contradicted Mr. Trump’s explicit denials that he had linked the military aid and investigations.

“This dispute about material facts weighs in favor of calling additional witnesses with direct knowledge,” Ms. Murkowski asked. “Why should this body not call Ambassador Bolton?”

But later, she joined with Mr. Alexander and other senators in asking Mr. Trump’s team if they agreed that even if Mr. Bolton’s account were true, the president’s conduct did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. They did.

The House Democratic prosecutors made their final pleas to call the former national security adviser as the vote drew closer.

“The truth is staring us in the eyes,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House manager. “We know why they don’t want John Bolton to testify: It’s not because we don’t know what really happened here, they just don’t want the American people to hear it in all its ugly, graphic detail.”

Mr. Alexander, a former education secretary and presidential candidate set to retire at the end of the year, met privately with Ms. Murkowski earlier Thursday evening when the trial broke for dinner and also informed Mr. McConnell of his decision.

He then returned to the floor and read a copy of “Impeachment: An American History” and hand-drafted a statement announcing a decision that even his staff did not yet know.

Mr. Alexander’s final statement made clear that he would vote to acquit Mr. Trump, as well, even if he did not condone his conduct.

“If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist,” he said.

Ms. Collins gave far less insight into her thinking on the underlying charges, but said that she saw value in hearing more.

“I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity,” she said in a statement released just before Mr. Alexander’s. “Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed.”

Earlier inside the Senate chamber, the usually scripted trial got off to a tense start on Thursday when Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, submitted a question that included the name of a person widely believed to be the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose anonymous complaint about Ukraine helped prompt the impeachment inquiry.

After studying the question card, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. refused to read it aloud, instead saying, “The presiding officer declines to read the question as submitted.”

An indignant Mr. Paul then rushed out of the chamber straight to waiting television cameras to read the question aloud himself. He asked if the prosecution and defense teams were aware of reports that two government officials “may have worked together to plot impeaching the president before there were formal House impeachment proceedings.”

Mr. Paul’s move reflected how Mr. Trump’s conservative allies have sought to turn the tables on the entire inquiry, shifting the focus away from the president’s conduct and toward what they suggest was a conspiracy by his opponents to manufacture a basis for removing him.

The theme has been a favorite of the president’s, and is all but certain to figure prominently in his re-election campaign after his acquittal as he makes the case to voters that the impeachment effort was an affront to them as much as a challenge to him.

In a rare bipartisan question — one of only three out of more than 170 submitted — Ms. Murkowski and Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, asked that given the actions of any president are to some extent inherently political, how should senators distinguish between permissible political actions and impeachable ones.

Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, said trying to discern a politician’s motive “is very dangerous.”

“There is always some eye to the next election,” he said, “and it ends up becoming a standard so malleable that in reality really is a substitute for a policy difference: If we don’t like a policy difference, we attribute it to a bad motive.”

Mr. Schiff countered that impeachment was the appropriate “political punishment for a political crime” involving corrupt activity.

“If we go down that road” of ignoring a corrupt motive, Mr. Schiff said, “there is no limit to what this or any other president can do.”

The vote on Friday does not deal directly with individual witnesses or sets of documents. Rather, it will resolve whether the trial should even consider calling additional witnesses and evidence.

If a majority of senators vote no, Republican leaders could move the proceeding to final deliberations and a speedy up or down vote on each article of impeachment, possibly as early as Friday. If they vote yes, the trial would blow open and could become a free-for-all in which any group of 51 senators could band together to issue subpoenas for testimony and records of their choosing.

But senators in both parties were also bracing for the distinct possibility that the witness and documents vote could end in a 50-50 tie. Such an outcome would put Chief Justice Roberts in a difficult position. There is precedent, drawn from the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson, of a chief justice casting a tiebreaking vote on a procedural motion. But despite Democratic hopes, Chief Justice Roberts is unlikely to want entangle himself in a dispute that has been so thoroughly politicized.

If the chief justice abstained from breaking a tie, the motion would fail.

Michael D. Shear, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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

Trump Called Powell an ‘Enemy.’ ‘Ugh’ Was a Response Inside the Fed.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_161022033_6a3c13d1-ea62-44ae-8ff5-c6a3e35e098b-facebookJumbo Trump Called Powell an ‘Enemy.’ ‘Ugh’ Was a Response Inside the Fed. Xi Jinping United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Powell, Jerome H International Trade and World Market Interest Rates Federal Reserve System Banking and Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s nonstop attacks on the Federal Reserve have raised eyebrows and broken with recent presidential norms. But an Aug. 23 tweet in which Mr. Trump called the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, an “enemy” of America appears to have prompted some hand-wringing inside the central bank.

“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” Mr. Trump wrote, just moments after Mr. Powell wrapped up a speech at the monetary policy world’s top annual conference in Jackson, Wyo.

Mr. Trump, who himself nominated Mr. Powell to lead the Fed, had long complained about the central bank’s 2018 rate increases and had griped that officials were too slow in reversing course. But suggesting America’s most important economic leader was an enemy sent shock-waves through the economics profession — and spurred an email chain at the Fed itself.

Minutes after the president posted his tweet, the Fed’s communications director, Michelle Smith, sent an email to Richard Clarida, the Fed vice chair, with a screenshot of the tweets, based on documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Ugh ugh,” Mr. Clarida replied.

An hour later, Ms. Smith sent Mr. Powell and Mr. Clarida an email containing positive comments about the Fed chair from Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota. The email quoted a talk radio interview in which Mr. Cramer criticized Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Powell.

“This is an area where I frankly disagree with the president. He’s forever attacking the Federal Reserve and particularly Jay Powell,” Mr. Cramer said in the interview. “They are independent of politics, and they ought to remain independent of politics.”

That message met with a positive reaction from Mr. Powell, who replied with one word: “Terrific.”

Mr. Powell has not responded to Mr. Trump’s attacks, even when they are personal. He has repeatedly said that the Fed, which is independent of the White House, does not take politics into consideration.

But Mr. Powell has spent much of his tenure shoring up support on Capitol Hill, meeting with lawmakers from both parties, who routinely give the chair high marks. Their view of the chair matters, because while the president nominates members to the Fed’s Board of Governors, the White House has no other significant power over the central bank. Monetary policymakers answer to Congress.

That reality has not stopped Mr. Trump’s steady drumbeat of criticism. While the Fed cut rates two times after the August tweet, Mr. Trump has continued to blast the central bank. He said this week that “the Fed should get smart” and lower interest rates, and has tweeted about Mr. Powell personally 13 more times.

It is not all talk. Mr. Trump has recently nominated a Fed critic, Judy Shelton, to sit among the Fed’s leadership in Washington. Her confirmation hearing — along with that for Christopher Waller, a more conventional pick — could come as soon as Feb. 13, according to a person familiar with the scheduling.

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

Trump Called Powell an ‘Enemy.’ ‘Ugh’ Was a Response Inside the Fed.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_161022033_6a3c13d1-ea62-44ae-8ff5-c6a3e35e098b-facebookJumbo Trump Called Powell an ‘Enemy.’ ‘Ugh’ Was a Response Inside the Fed. Xi Jinping United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Powell, Jerome H International Trade and World Market Interest Rates Federal Reserve System Banking and Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s nonstop attacks on the Federal Reserve have raised eyebrows and broken with recent presidential norms. But an Aug. 23 tweet in which Mr. Trump called the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, an “enemy” of America appears to have prompted some hand-wringing inside the central bank.

“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” Mr. Trump wrote, just moments after Mr. Powell wrapped up a speech at the monetary policy world’s top annual conference in Jackson, Wyo.

Mr. Trump, who himself nominated Mr. Powell to lead the Fed, had long complained about the central bank’s 2018 rate increases and had griped that officials were too slow in reversing course. But suggesting America’s most important economic leader was an enemy sent shock-waves through the economics profession — and spurred an email chain at the Fed itself.

Minutes after the president posted his tweet, the Fed’s communications director, Michelle Smith, sent an email to Richard Clarida, the Fed vice chair, with a screenshot of the tweets, based on documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Ugh ugh,” Mr. Clarida replied.

An hour later, Ms. Smith sent Mr. Powell and Mr. Clarida an email containing positive comments about the Fed chair from Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota. The email quoted a talk radio interview in which Mr. Cramer criticized Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Powell.

“This is an area where I frankly disagree with the president. He’s forever attacking the Federal Reserve and particularly Jay Powell,” Mr. Cramer said in the interview. “They are independent of politics, and they ought to remain independent of politics.”

That message met with a positive reaction from Mr. Powell, who replied with one word: “Terrific.”

Mr. Powell has not responded to Mr. Trump’s attacks, even when they are personal. He has repeatedly said that the Fed, which is independent of the White House, does not take politics into consideration.

But Mr. Powell has spent much of his tenure shoring up support on Capitol Hill, meeting with lawmakers from both parties, who routinely give the chair high marks. Their view of the chair matters, because while the president nominates members to the Fed’s Board of Governors, the White House has no other significant power over the central bank. Monetary policymakers answer to Congress.

That reality has not stopped Mr. Trump’s steady drumbeat of criticism. While the Fed cut rates two times after the August tweet, Mr. Trump has continued to blast the central bank. He said this week that “the Fed should get smart” and lower interest rates, and has tweeted about Mr. Powell personally 13 more times.

It is not all talk. Mr. Trump has recently nominated a Fed critic, Judy Shelton, to sit among the Fed’s leadership in Washington. Her confirmation hearing — along with that for Christopher Waller, a more conventional pick — could come as soon as Feb. 13, according to a person familiar with the scheduling.

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

Trump Called Powell an ‘Enemy.’ ‘Ugh’ Was a Response Inside the Fed.

Westlake Legal Group merlin_161022033_6a3c13d1-ea62-44ae-8ff5-c6a3e35e098b-facebookJumbo Trump Called Powell an ‘Enemy.’ ‘Ugh’ Was a Response Inside the Fed. Xi Jinping United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Powell, Jerome H International Trade and World Market Interest Rates Federal Reserve System Banking and Financial Institutions

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s nonstop attacks on the Federal Reserve have raised eyebrows and broken with recent presidential norms. But an Aug. 23 tweet in which Mr. Trump called the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, an “enemy” of America appears to have prompted some hand-wringing inside the central bank.

“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” Mr. Trump wrote, just moments after Mr. Powell wrapped up a speech at the monetary policy world’s top annual conference in Jackson, Wyo.

Mr. Trump, who himself nominated Mr. Powell to lead the Fed, had long complained about the central bank’s 2018 rate increases and had griped that officials were too slow in reversing course. But suggesting America’s most important economic leader was an enemy sent shock-waves through the economics profession — and spurred an email chain at the Fed itself.

Minutes after the president posted his tweet, the Fed’s communications director, Michelle Smith, sent an email to Richard Clarida, the Fed vice chair, with a screenshot of the tweets, based on documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“Ugh ugh,” Mr. Clarida replied.

An hour later, Ms. Smith sent Mr. Powell and Mr. Clarida an email containing positive comments about the Fed chair from Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota. The email quoted a talk radio interview in which Mr. Cramer criticized Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Powell.

“This is an area where I frankly disagree with the president. He’s forever attacking the Federal Reserve and particularly Jay Powell,” Mr. Cramer said in the interview. “They are independent of politics, and they ought to remain independent of politics.”

That message met with a positive reaction from Mr. Powell, who replied with one word: “Terrific.”

Mr. Powell has not responded to Mr. Trump’s attacks, even when they are personal. He has repeatedly said that the Fed, which is independent of the White House, does not take politics into consideration.

But Mr. Powell has spent much of his tenure shoring up support on Capitol Hill, meeting with lawmakers from both parties, who routinely give the chair high marks. Their view of the chair matters, because while the president nominates members to the Fed’s Board of Governors, the White House has no other significant power over the central bank. Monetary policymakers answer to Congress.

That reality has not stopped Mr. Trump’s steady drumbeat of criticism. While the Fed cut rates two times after the August tweet, Mr. Trump has continued to blast the central bank. He said this week that “the Fed should get smart” and lower interest rates, and has tweeted about Mr. Powell personally 13 more times.

It is not all talk. Mr. Trump has recently nominated a Fed critic, Judy Shelton, to sit among the Fed’s leadership in Washington. Her confirmation hearing — along with that for Christopher Waller, a more conventional pick — could come as soon as Feb. 13, according to a person familiar with the scheduling.

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

Trump Lawyer’s Impeachment Argument Stokes Fears of Unfettered Power

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WASHINGTON — When a lawyer for President Trump suggested to senators this week that whatever a president does in pursuit of re-election is inherently in the public’s interest, the moment crystallized fears among some of Mr. Trump’s critics about creeping presidential autocracy.

“If a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment,” said the lawyer, Alan M. Dershowitz. He sought on Thursday to clarify or walk back his remarks, saying on Twitter that they were mischaracterized.

But the wave of outrage underscored how the politics of the Trump era — and his lawyers’ efforts to help Mr. Trump advance his agenda and defend himself from scrutiny — have become infused with concerns about executive power overreach.

The constitutional system is built on the idea that each of the three branches of government depends upon and is accountable to the others, said Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor and co-author of a separation-of-powers casebook, but an accumulating pattern of claims and actions by the Trump administration has called that into doubt.

“What is scary about Trump’s view of executive power is that he tries to do as much as he can without the sanction of Congress, and to resist oversight by the other branches,” Mr. Shane said. “Put all that together and you get a picture of an executive branch in which all activity is subject to the whim of the president, and how that whim is exercised cannot be effectively checked.”

The list of ways in which Mr. Trump and his legal team have pushed limits is growing.

In the Ukraine affair, his lawyers have argued that nothing is impeachable or illegal about using his official powers to coerce a weak ally to announce a corruption investigation into a domestic political rival, and the Senate’s Republican majority will likely vote to acquit him.

Along the way, Mr. Trump’s legal team came up with a theory by which the executive branch could lawfully withhold from Congress a whistle-blower complaint that an inspector general had deemed an “urgent concern.” A law says that the administration “shall” disclose such a complaint to lawmakers.

And before the Ukraine affair came to light, lawyers in the White House budget office developed a legal theory that Mr. Trump had constitutional authority to withhold military aid from Ukraine, overriding the Anti-Impoundment Act. They never activated that theory, since he released the aid after the whistle-blower filed his complaint.

The president’s edgy views of executive power did not start with Ukraine. Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly claimed that Article II of the Constitution, which creates the presidency, gives him “the right to do whatever I want.”

He has said he could pardon himself and vowed to systematically stonewall “all” congressional subpoenas.

Mr. Trump broke with a long-held norm by personally ordering an investigation into the Russia investigators, and he repeatedly tried to impede the special counsel inquiry, boasting that he has “an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.”

After William P. Barr, a longtime believer in a maximalist interpretation of presidential power, privately provided the Trump administration with a legal theory by which obstruction of justice laws do not apply to presidents who abuse their power over the Justice Department, Mr. Trump appointed him attorney general.

In domestic policy, Mr. Trump has pushed the limits of emergency powers laws to claim a right to spend more taxpayer money on a border wall with Mexico than Congress was willing to appropriate. In foreign policy, he launched strikes at the Syrian government without permission from Congress, and nearly brought the country to war with Iran by killing a senior Iranian general without consulting lawmakers.

Against the backdrop of all this and more, critics of Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Dershowitz’s remarks. The leader of the House impeachment managers, Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, told the Senate on Thursday that Mr. Trump’s team had embraced the vision of a presidency that exists above the law — “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal” — that Richard Nixon famously articulated to defend his conduct after Watergate.

“We are right back to where we were a half-century ago — and I would argue we may be in a worse place because this time, this time that argument may succeed,” Mr. Schiff said, accusing Trump defenders of embracing “the normalization of lawlessness” by a president.

Mr. Dershowitz did not attend the impeachment trial on Thursday, but another member of the president’s defense team, Patrick Philbin, also distanced himself from the impression Mr. Dershowitz had left.

“The suggestion has been made because of Professor Dershowitz’s comments that the theory that the president’s counsel is advancing is, ‘the president can do anything he wants if he thinks it will advance his re-election, any quid pro quo, anything he wants, anything goes,’ and that is not true,” Mr. Philbin said.

On Twitter, Mr. Dershowitz said that the intended meaning of his remarks the previous evening, which circulated widely on social media and aired repeatedly on television, had been distorted.

“They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his re-election was in the national interest, he can do anything,” Mr. Dershowitz wrote. “I said nothing like that, as anyone who actually heard what I said can attest.”

At least one part of Mr. Dershowitz’s self-defense seemed accurate. Some Democratic senators and other critics accused him of suggesting that even Nixon was not impeachable, despite his clear crimes. But that accusation is incompatible with Mr. Dershowitz’s main argument: that an impeachable “high crime and misdemeanor” requires an indictable offense.

(His embrace of that view was itself disputed. It cuts against the view of most legal scholars, and he himself said in 1998 that he thought a “technical crime” was not required to impeach a president who abuses power. He has since disavowed that view, saying he changed his mind after research.)

But the context of Mr. Dershowitz’s view that abuse of power, absent an indictable crime, is not impeachable provides a guide for sorting through his inflammatory remarks, which were muddled in places.

Mr. Dershowitz made his remarks in response to a question posed by a Republican senator about whether quid pro quos are routine in foreign policy. The president’s defense team has repeatedly pointed out that administrations commonly withhold assistance as leverage to induce another country to take some step.

The talking point elides the distinction between a president who is attempting to achieve some public policy goal or to obtain a personal benefit. In his answer, Mr. Dershowitz appeared to be attempting to rebut that objection, including by arguing that a president may have more than one motivation for acting.

Specifically, he was arguing against the idea that presidents can be impeached for otherwise lawful actions if they are motivated by gaining personal political benefits rather than serving the public interest. One reason this would be folly, he maintained, was that often both motivations will simultaneously exist.

(Mr. Trump’s legal team has argued that he had a sincere interest in fighting corruption in Ukraine. House impeachment managers have scoffed at that notion and portrayed him as solely motivated by a desire to manufacture a basis to smear a political rival as corrupt.)

But as he riffed, Mr. Dershowitz went further than merely observing that presidents routinely think about public opinion — that is, voter sentiments — as well as the public good when they weigh potential actions.

He also collapsed any distinction between those two motives by saying that politicians often justifiably believe that their re-election would serve the public interest. That part of his remarks went viral.

But the larger context was that under Mr. Dershowitz’s theory, even a president who nakedly abuses power, without any reference to the purported public good, cannot be impeached — so long as there is no indictable offense.

On Thursday, Mr. Dershowitz emphasized that he was not trying to communicate that presidents wield unfettered power when they are trying to get re-elected.

“Let me be clear once again (as I was in the Senate): a president seeking re-election cannot do anything he wants,” Mr. Dershowitz wrote on Twitter. “He is not above the law. He cannot commit crimes.”

But, he argued, a lawful act “does not become unlawful or impeachable if done with a mixed motive of both promoting the public interest and helping his RE-election.”

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Mitt Romney, a Man Alone

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WASHINGTON — It’s been one of those spectacle weeks on Capitol Hill, the likes of which history might just stop to recognize, even if Trump-era Washington pauses for nothing.

There were big crowds, special rules in place, Alan M. Dershowitz mugging for photographs and Triumph, the canine puppet known for his ambush mockery of celebrities, trying to score an interview with Senator Mitt Romney, to no avail.

You could always recognize Mr. Romney, Republican of Utah, racing around the Capitol. He drew big press scrums and wore a bemused grin — a face to indicate that he had seen some things in a career that has taken some unforeseen turns, particularly now.

Mr. Romney is the rare Senate Republican — actually the lone Senate Republican — who is vocally pushing for witnesses to be called in President Trump’s impeachment trial. He is also the only Senate Republican who is seen as a possible vote to convict the president, an added distinction since Mr. Trump got every House Republican to fall in line.

All of which places upon Mr. Romney a level of curiosity that goes beyond the quasi-celebrity treatment he already receives as the last pre-Trump standard-bearer of a Republican Party that feels about 80 years removed from the party that nominated him eight years ago.

“Hey, it’s Mitt Romney!” …. “One question, senator!” …. “Senator Romney! Senator Romney!”

As Mr. Romney was beating a brisk retreat from the Senate floor during a break in the trial on Wednesday afternoon, a small pack of reporters yelled after him like kids chasing an ice cream truck. He ended up in his hideaway office tucked into the entrails of the Capitol.

“Yes, it is a little unusual,” Mr. Romney said in an interview, referring to the trial — specifically, to something “unusual” that had happened at the trial just before a break.

He was sitting at his desk in the back left corner of the Senate chamber. He looked attentive, jotted down notes and managed to refrain from sipping the contraband chocolate milk he was busted for drinking out of a bottle during the Tuesday proceeding.

Then, suddenly, the House impeachment managers started dropping Mr. Romney’s name into their testimony. The House’s lead prosecutor, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, posed a theoretical circumstance in which President Barack Obama was discovered to be hitting up his Russian counterpart for dirt on his 2012 opponent, Mr. Romney, in exchange for military aid. Then two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas, shot back with a question for Mr. Schiff about whether Mr. Obama would have the authority to ask for an investigation of Mr. Romney’s son if he was being paid a million dollar by some shady Russian company.

At which point Mr. Romney raised his hands and flashed something between a smile and a grimace in the direction of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the presiding judge who had just read out the questions containing these imagined Romney scenarios. It was an expression to indicate this was not exactly a normal circumstance for any juror to find himself in, let alone a juror who ran twice for the job that the current impeached occupant of the White House (who had recently called said juror “a pompous ass”) now holds.

Mr. Romney has also become a magnet for nostalgia lately — at least among Democrats. “He is a decent, honorable man,” former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a recent interview of Mr. Romney. Mr. Biden conceded that it was unlikely that he would be running for president right now if it were Mr. Romney seeking re-election, not Mr. Trump.

“I think this is Senator Romney’s moment to shine,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, another Democratic presidential candidate who was in Washington for the impeachment trial. She was referring specifically to Mr. Romney’s support for calling witnesses.

“Hopefully he can bring some people with him,” Ms. Klobuchar said. She meant Republicans, a prospect that was looking more and more unlikely. By most indications, Mr. Romney’s ability to recruit Republican colleagues to his position has been minimal at best.

“I know there are some who feel if we open the door, we’d have tons of witnesses and court battles,” Mr. Romney said. He said he would propose an arrangement in which each side would get to call one or two witnesses, and then have 30 days to produce them — regardless of what procedural or legal roadblocks were placed before them.

Mr. Romney is also an oddity among Senate Republicans in that he has not withheld his low opinion of Mr. Trump. “He has made a career of trashing people by tweet,” Mr. Romney said in response to a question about what he thought of an outburst from the president on Wednesday morning about John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, whose unpublished manuscript contains an account that contradicts Mr. Trump’s impeachment defense. “It is part of his shtick and it’s working for him,” he said of the Twitter attack. “I think it’s unfortunate.”

By the same token, Mr. Trump has not been shy about heaping scorn upon Mr. Romney. It has created a situation in which some of Mr. Romney’s colleagues have taken their own shots at him, no doubt as a way to prove allegiance to their audience of one in the White House.

Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, likened Mr. Romney to “Jeff Flake on steroids,” referring to the former Arizona Republican and frequent critic of Mr. Trump who retired last year from the Senate. Senator Kelly Loeffler, Republican of Georgia, who was recently appointed to the Senate by that state’s governor — over the objections of the White House — tried to score easy points with Mr. Trump by ambushing Mr. Romney (roughly the Senate equivalent of the new inmate picking a fight with the biggest dude on the cellblock).

“My colleague @SenatorRomney wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame” tweeted Ms. Loeffler, who along with her husband had been a major donor to Mr. Romney.

It is not just Senate Republicans who have gone against Mr. Romney, who has become a heat rod inside Mr. Trump’s party.

He gets yelled at in grocery stores, among other places. “I was on an airplane a few months ago and someone seated across the aisle began heckling me,” Mr. Romney recalled. It involved a “social issue” he said, and a flight attendant had to come over. “And they were moved to a different seat, so that I wouldn’t be bothered.”

Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist on Mr. Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, shrugs off the vitriol. “I hope it makes them feel better because I can tell you that Mitt Romney does not care,” Mr. Stevens said. “He is an incredibly secure individual. He does not have this residual anger towards the world like Trump does.”

It helps, Mr. Stevens added, that Mr. Romney has suffered much worse politically. “As Mitt once said in some context, ‘The worst thing that could happen to anyone in politics has already happened to me. I lost the presidency.’ It’s like the guys in Vietnam said, ‘What are you going to do, send me to Vietnam?’”

There was a time, after Mr. Obama defeated him in 2012, that Mr. Romney expected to live out his public days in quasi exile. That had been the precedent for party nominees who lose general elections. “Mike Dukakis can’t get a job mowing lawns,” Mr. Romney said in “Mitt,” the 2014 Netflix documentary about his two presidential campaigns.

Photographs of a solemn Mitt Romney pumping his own gas started popping up online. #SelfiesWithMitt became a thing. (“Airports are the worst,” he said.) He fought Evander Holyfield in a charity boxing match. People stopped him and said he looked familiar. “You’re John Kerry, you’re John Kerry,” said one woman who accosted him in Arkansas. Mr. Romney told people he was Tom Brady.

As the end of the week neared and potentially gettable votes in favor of calling witnesses kept falling away, the impeachment trial’s denouement began to resemble more of a fait accompli. It seemed likely by Thursday that there would be no witnesses called — only a fast vote that would result in an almost certain acquittal of Mr. Trump.

Before leaving the sanctuary of his hideaway and heading back to the trial, Mr. Romney grew solemn. “I think of this as an inflection point, politically in our country,” Mr. Romney said. “It’s a constitutional issue. I feel a sense of deep responsibility to abide by the Constitution, to determine — absent the pulls from the right and the pulls from the left — what is the right thing to do?”

It would be after midnight when Mr. Romney got home, where he likes to unwind after a long day with television before bed. (He much prefers “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the Netflix interview show starring Jerry Seinfeld, to anything on cable news.) The Super Bowl would be played on Sunday, without Mr. Brady. The Iowa caucuses would be held on Monday without Mr. Romney.

Whatever, Mr. Romney said he was not one for dwelling or looking back. “You go back to my campaigns,” he said. “I sort of watch how the president reacts to his opponents, and it’s not the way I did it. But you know what? He won and I didn’t. On the other hand, he won and I didn’t but I would not have done what he’s done in order to win.”

It is not clear what exactly Mr. Romney is referring to here, nor does he elaborate except to repeat the last part: “I would not have done some of the things he did.”

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