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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry"

Seizing the Presidency to Suit His Own Needs

Westlake Legal Group 18dc-bolton-facebookJumbo Seizing the Presidency to Suit His Own Needs United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir (Book) Presidential Election of 2020 National Security Council Books and Literature Bolton, John R

One day in the summer of 2018, John R. Bolton commiserated with John F. Kelly over the burdens of working for President Trump. Mr. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, had just had another argument with the president in trying to stop him from using the power of his office to punish a political foe. It did not go well.

“Has there ever been a presidency like this?” Mr. Kelly asked plaintively.

“I assured him there had not,” Mr. Bolton recalls in his new book.

That is self-evidently true and yet it bears repeating every once in a while. After more than three years of the Trump presidency, it has become easy to forget at times just how out of the ordinary it really is. The normalization of Mr. Trump’s norm-busting, line-crossing, envelope-pushing administration has meant that what was once shocking now seems like just another day.

Which is why Mr. Bolton’s damning book stands out even among the proliferation of volumes about this president. In 494 pages, the former national security adviser becomes the first person with daily access to Mr. Trump’s Oval Office to catalog the various ways that he has seized the presidency to suit his own needs, much to the consternation of not just liberal critics but a lifelong, left-bashing, conservative stalwart like Mr. Bolton.

The portrait he draws in “The Room Where It Happened,” due out Tuesday, is of a president who sees his office as an instrument to advance his own personal and political interests over those of the nation. That is what got Mr. Trump impeached in the first place, but the book asserts his Ukraine scheming was no one-off. The line between policy and politics, generally murky in any White House, has been all but erased in Mr. Bolton’s telling.

Decisions on trade, foreign policy, national security, law enforcement and other issues are fashioned through the prism of what it will mean for Mr. Trump. Other presidents at least maintained the notion that there was a difference between presidential duty and campaign imperative, but as Mr. Bolton describes it, Mr. Trump sees little need for pretense.

“Throughout my West Wing tenure, Trump wanted to do what he wanted to do, based on what he knew and what he saw as his own best personal interests,” Mr. Bolton writes in the book. At another point he adds, “I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations.”

In this portrayal, an “erratic,” “impulsive” and “stunningly uninformed” Mr. Trump could make “irrational” decisions and “saw conspiracies behind rocks.” In an interview to promote his book, Mr. Bolton told ABC News this week that he had concluded that Mr. Trump was not “fit for office” and did not have “the competence to carry out the job.”

He added, “There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election.”

Beyond withholding security aid to a war-torn Ukraine unless its leaders incriminated his Democratic foes, Mr. Trump also sought to intervene in criminal investigations of major firms in China and Turkey to “give personal favors to dictators he liked,” according to Mr. Bolton — all part of what he described as “obstruction of justice as a way of life.” Likewise, Mr. Trump was “pleading” in a meeting with President Xi Jinping of China to help him win re-election by buying American agricultural products, which he thought would bolster him in farm states.

Other presidents have pursued what they saw as their own best interests or were driven by re-election calculations, even in the farm arena. The grain embargo imposed against the Soviet Union by Jimmy Carter to protest the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan was lifted by Ronald Reagan in deference to American farmers who formed a key voting bloc. Other presidents kept the domestic reaction in mind when making foreign policy decisions.

And other presidents exploited the power of their office for political reasons. Even before Richard M. Nixon and the wide array of abuses that fell under the rubric of Watergate, John F. Kennedy ordered the C.I.A. to wiretap American reporters, while the agency under Lyndon B. Johnson infiltrated the 1964 campaign of his Republican challenger, Barry Goldwater.

But what Mr. Bolton argues is that Mr. Trump’s personal and political interests are the essential elements of this particular presidency, that to him the rules that governed other presidents in the post-Watergate era are meant to be broken. That has been ever clearer in the months since Mr. Trump was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial: He has ousted officials who testified for House prosecutors, fired quasi-independent inspectors general who angered him and publicly pressured the Justice Department to go easy on his associates who have been convicted of crimes.

Mr. Trump’s defenders say that he is simply exercising control over the executive branch in keeping with an expansive but constitutional interpretation of his power and that he has every right to demand loyalty and to make decisions with his political future in mind. As with the Ukraine case, they say, he has legitimate reasons for his actions, even if they may look unseemly at times. They argue that his supporters want him to break glass in Washington.

As for Mr. Bolton, Mr. Trump and his allies dismiss his account as another tell-all by another disgruntled employee grinding an ax — “the Washington swamp’s equivalent of revenge porn,” as Peter Navarro, the president’s trade adviser, put it.

“Bolton’s book, which is getting terrible reviews, is a compilation of lies and made up stories, all intended to make me look bad,” Mr. Trump wrote Thursday on Twitter after news accounts about the memoir. “Many of the ridiculous statements he attributes to me were never made, pure fiction. Just trying to get even for firing him like the sick puppy he is!”

Mr. Bolton, by his own account and those of other White House officials, actually resigned last September before the president later claimed to have fired him. And Mr. Trump, who has compiled a long record of false and misleading statements, offers a contradictory defense against his former aide, claiming that Mr. Bolton’s account is both “made up” and classified at the same time, without explaining how it could be full of national secrets if it is “pure fiction.”

The White House effort to stop Mr. Bolton from publishing his memoir on the grounds that it contains classified information goes to the book’s larger theme of turning the office into a tool for Mr. Trump’s own gain. In short, the president has turned a process meant to safeguard the nation’s secrets into a political cudgel against an adviser turned critic.

Mr. Bolton submitted his book to the National Security Council for prepublication review in December as required of a former official and participated in an extensive, monthslong process with a career employee, making the changes requested until there were no more requests.

But after the career employee completed the review, which would have normally cleared the book for publication, Mr. Trump’s political appointees, led by Robert C. O’Brien, his new national security adviser, stepped in. They ordered a new review and insisted there was more classified information still in the manuscript. Exactly what, they have not disclosed publicly, but Mr. Trump claimed this week that every conversation with him was “highly classified,” a fanciful notion that goes well beyond what most of his predecessors asserted.

With Mr. Trump vowing to block Mr. Bolton’s book from seeing the light of day, the Justice Department then went to court twice this week to stop the book’s distribution, a move that four former White House lawyers from Republican and Democratic administrations said had no precedent that they could think of. While no president enjoys revelatory books by former aides, they are a cross many have born without employing the Justice Department as a weapon to punish perceived transgressors.

Not that Mr. Trump’s usual critics are all that sympathetic to Mr. Bolton, harshly blaming him for not testifying during House impeachment hearings last year and instead holding his information back for his $2 million book. But some have seized on the material in the book, however belated, as confirmation of Mr. Trump’s politicization of the office.

Mr. Bolton, who served in three previous Republican administrations, makes clear that Mr. Trump is like no other president of his acquaintance. Consumed by his enemies, Mr. Trump seeks to use his power to strike back. He badgers Attorney General William P. Barr to prosecute former Secretary of State John F. Kerry for talking to Iran in supposed violation of the Logan Act. After an irritating leak, he tells his White House counsel to instruct Mr. Barr to “arrest the reporters, force them to serve time in jail and then demand they disclose their sources.”

And he ordered Mr. Kelly, his chief of staff, to strip security clearances for Trump critics like John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama. Mr. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, told Mr. Trump it was “not presidential” and complained to Mr. Bolton that it was “Nixonian.” Mr. Bolton, no fan of Mr. Brennan, agreed with Mr. Kelly.

“I thought there was a case against Brennan for politicizing the C.I.A., but Trump had obscured it by the blatantly political approach he took,” Mr. Bolton writes. “It would only get worse if more clearances were lifted. Kelly agreed.”

In the end, many of Mr. Trump’s exhortations go nowhere. Mr. Kerry has never been prosecuted, reporters have not been arrested and it remains unclear whether Mr. Brennan’s clearance was actually revoked as the president said it was. His defenders say Mr. Trump’s critics make too much of flamboyant outbursts that actually do not result in action, that he is more bark than bite.

But Mr. Kelly is now gone. Mr. Bolton is now gone. And Mr. Trump faces a 137-day sprint to Election Day that will decide whether he should keep control of the instruments of state for four more years.

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

Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, plans to publish a damning book next week depicting President Trump as a corrupt, poorly informed, reckless leader who used the power of his office to advance his own personal and political needs even ahead of the nation’s interests.

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” describes Mr. Bolton’s 17 turbulent months at Mr. Trump’s side through a multitude of crises and foreign policy challenges, but attention has focused mainly on his assertions that the president took a variety of actions that should have been investigated for possible impeachment beyond just the pressure campaign on Ukraine to incriminate Democrats.

Mr. Bolton, who did not testify during House proceedings and whose offer to testify in the Senate trial was blocked by Republicans, confirms many crucial elements of the Ukraine scheme that got Mr. Trump impeached in December. He also asserts that the president was willing to intervene in criminal investigations to curry favor with foreign dictators. And he says that Mr. Trump pleaded with China’s president to help him win re-election by buying American crops grown in key farm states.

Here are some of the highlights:

The book offers firsthand evidence that Mr. Trump linked his suspension of $391 million in security aid for Ukraine to his demands that Ukraine publicly announce investigations into supposed wrongdoing by Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — the heart of the impeachment case against the president.

If Mr. Bolton’s account is to be believed, it means that Mr. Trump explicitly sought to use taxpayer money as leverage to extract help from another country for his partisan political campaign, a quid pro quo that House Democrats called an abuse of power. At the time of the impeachment hearings, Republicans dismissed the accusation by saying that the witnesses offered only secondhand evidence. Mr. Bolton, by contrast, was in the room.

Mr. Bolton says that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to persuade the president to release the aid, which Ukraine desperately needed to defend itself against a continuing war with Russia-sponsored forces. The critical meeting took place on Aug. 20 when, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over,” referring to Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Bolton otherwise confirms testimony offered by his former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, that he objected to the “drug deal” being cooked up by Mr. Trump’s associates to force Ukraine to help and that he called Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer who was hip deep in the affair, “a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” He writes that he suspected that Mr. Giuliani had personal business interests at stake and adds that he had the matter reported to the White House Counsel’s Office.

“I thought the whole affair was bad policy, questionable legally, and unacceptable as presidential behavior,” Mr. Bolton writes. “Was it a factor in my later resignation? Yes, but as one of many ‘straws’ that contributed to my departure.”

As the book nears publication and details spill out, many congressional Democrats quickly assailed Mr. Bolton for not telling his story during the impeachment proceedings and instead saving it for his $2 million book.

Mr. Bolton explains his position in the epilogue, saying he wanted to wait to see if a judge would order one of his deputies to testify over White House objections. Once the House impeached Mr. Trump over the Ukraine matter, Mr. Bolton volunteered to testify in the Senate trial that followed if subpoenaed.

But Senate Republicans voted to block new testimony by him and any other witnesses even after The New York Times reported that his forthcoming book would confirm the quid pro quo. Some of those Republican senators said that even if Mr. Bolton was correct, it would not be enough in their minds to make Mr. Trump the first president in American history convicted and removed from office.

Mr. Bolton blames House Democrats for being in a rush rather than waiting for the court system to rule on whether witnesses like him should testify, and he faults them for narrowing their inquiry to just the Ukraine matter rather than building a broader case with more examples of misconduct by the president.

“Had a Senate majority agreed to call witnesses and had I testified, I am convinced, given the environment then existing because of the House’s impeachment malpractice, that it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome,” he writes.

The other episodes that Mr. Bolton says the House should have investigated include Mr. Trump’s willingness to intervene in Justice Department investigations against foreign companies to “give personal favors to dictators he liked.” Mr. Bolton said it appeared to be “obstruction of justice as a way of life.”

He singles out Halkbank of Turkey, a financial institution investigated for a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade American sanctions on Iran. At a side encounter during a Buenos Aires summit meeting in late 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey handed Mr. Trump a memo by the law firm representing Halkbank, “which Trump did nothing more than flip through before declaring he believed Halkbank was totally innocent.” He then told Mr. Erdogan “he would take care of things.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_172386801_35c241af-d1c4-4d04-aff7-498baa210452-articleLarge Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir 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) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Putin, Vladimir V Presidential Election of 2020 Pompeo, Mike O'Brien, Robert C (1952- ) impeachment Embargoes and Sanctions Bolton, John R
Credit…Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Mr. Bolton also mentions ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications giant that was convicted of evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea and then faced new penalties for further violations during its follow-up consent decree. During a conversation on trade with President Xi Jinping of China, Mr. Trump offered to lighten the penalties.

“Xi replied that if that were done, he would owe Trump a favor and Trump immediately responded he was doing this because of Xi,” Mr. Bolton writes. He called himself “appalled” and “stunned” by the idea of intervening in a criminal investigation to let a sanctions buster off the hook. In the end, the Justice Department accepted a $1 billion fine and lifted a seven-year ban on buying American products, an act of lenience that saved the company from going out of business.

A new allegation in the book accuses Mr. Trump of “pleading” with Mr. Xi to help him win re-election by buying American agricultural products, which would help the president in farm states. Mr. Trump did not deny it when asked about the matter on Wednesday night by Sean Hannity on Fox News, but Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, did on his behalf earlier in the day, saying it was not true.

Over a long career in and out of Republican administrations in Washington, Mr. Bolton has rarely shied from giving his opinions, usually born of strong conservative national security convictions that have made him one of the capital’s most outspoken hawks advocating the use of military power and sanctions.

While he agreed with Mr. Trump on issues like getting out of the nuclear accord with Iran, he found himself repeatedly trying to stop the president from making concessions to other rogue states or inviting the Taliban to Camp David for a peace deal while pushing for a more robust use of force against outliers like Iran or Syria. He considered Mr. Trump’s diplomacy to be folly.

To Mr. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s decision to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore was a “foolish mistake,” and the president’s desire to then invite Mr. Kim to the White House was “a potential disaster of enormous magnitude.” A series of presidential Twitter posts about China and North Korea were “mostly laughable.” Mr. Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki was a “self-inflicted wound” and “Putin had to be laughing uproariously at what he had gotten away with in Helsinki.”

Mr. Bolton also describes an environment inside the administration marked by caustic infighting in which various players trash one another in a contest for the president’s ear — and the president trashes all of them.

When Mr. Bolton took over as national security adviser in 2018, John F. Kelly, then the White House chief of staff, disparaged the departing adviser, H.R. McMaster, by saying, “The president hasn’t had a national security adviser in the past year and he needs one.” Mr. Pompeo, the book says, disparaged Nikki R. Haley, then the ambassador to the United Nations, calling her “light as a feather.”

The Justice Department has gone to court to stop the book from being published, arguing that it has classified information in it and that it was not cleared by a prepublication review required of former government officials like Mr. Bolton.

In fact, according to his lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, Mr. Bolton participated in an extensive back-and-forth over the book and agreed to all of the revisions mandated by the career official who reviewed it or came up with acceptable alternatives. Only when the review was over did another official, Michael J. Ellis, a political appointee, step in to review it all over again at the instruction of Robert C. O’Brien, Mr. Bolton’s successor as national security adviser.

If there is classified information still in the book, it is hard to figure out what it might be. There are not references to secret intelligence programs or espionage sources and methods. But Mr. Trump insisted this week that every conversation with him was “highly classified” and therefore could not be disclosed, an assertion that goes far beyond tradition.

In his epilogue, Mr. Bolton says that in a few cases, “I was prevented from conveying information that I thought was not properly classifiable, since it revealed information that can only be described as embarrassing to Trump or as indicative of possible impermissible behavior.” One example is the direct quote of what Mr. Trump said to Mr. Xi about helping him win re-election.

For the most part, though, Mr. Bolton explains in the epilogue that the career official who reviewed the book merely made him take quotation marks off things that the president said and otherwise generally left them in. And so Mr. Bolton offers a guide to readers: “In some cases, just put your own quotation marks around the relevant passages; you won’t go far wrong.”

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

Trump Removes State Dept. Inspector General

Westlake Legal Group trump-removes-state-dept-inspector-general Trump Removes State Dept. Inspector General United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Linick, Steve A Inspectors General Grimm, Christi A Fine, Glenn A Atkinson, Michael K (1964- ) Appointments and Executive Changes
Westlake Legal Group merlin_162011829_5d6d8ede-1721-4bfd-84e6-f08a2b281a98-facebookJumbo Trump Removes State Dept. Inspector General United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Linick, Steve A Inspectors General Grimm, Christi A Fine, Glenn A Atkinson, Michael K (1964- ) Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — President Trump continued his purge of inspectors general late Friday, moving to oust Steve A. Linick, who had served in that post at the State Department since 2013, and replacing him with an ambassador with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Linick, who was named by President Barack Obama to lead the office of the inspector general at the State Department, will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen J. Akard, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions, the State Department said in a statement on Friday night.

In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi that was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Trump wrote that “it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as Inspectors General.”

“That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General,” the president added.

The decision to remove Mr. Linick, first reported Friday night by Politico, is the latest in a purge of inspectors general whom Mr. Trump has deemed insufficiently loyal to his administration, upending the traditional independence of the internal watchdog agencies whose missions are to conduct oversight of the nation’s sprawling bureaucracy.

A month earlier, the president ousted Michael K. Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, telling the leaders of two congressional committees that he had lost confidence in him. Mr. Atkinson had infuriated the president by insisting on telling Congress about the whistle-blower complaint that prompted the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

The president also took steps to remove Glenn A. Fine, who has been the acting inspector general for the Defense Department since before Mr. Trump took office, so that he could not be installed as the leader of an oversight panel intended to keep tabs on how the Trump administration spends trillions of dollars in pandemic relief approved by Congress.

Under law, the administration must notify Congress 30 days before formally terminating an inspector general. Mr. Linick is expected to leave his post then.

The removals of the inspectors general — and their replacements by allies of the president’s — are part of an aggressive move by Mr. Trump and his top aides against who he considers to be “deep state” officials in many key agencies and who he believes are opposed to his agenda.

That effort accelerated in the weeks after the president was acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial. Mr. Trump viewed the inquiry into his actions related to Ukraine as a “coup” orchestrated by career officials and Democratic politicians determined to bring his presidency to an early conclusion.

Ms. Pelosi, who led the impeachment effort in the House, condemned the move late Friday to replace Mr. Linick.

“The late-night, weekend firing of State Department IG Steve Linick is an acceleration of the President’s dangerous pattern of retaliation against the patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people,” she said in a statement on Twitter.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, called the decision to remove Mr. Linick an “outrageous act” meant to protect Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from accountability.

Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas and the chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Twitter that the move by the White House was a “potential cover up” by Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo, and that it could result in a congressional inquiry.

“Congress & @HouseForeign Oversight Subcommittee will hold the Trump admin accountable for any illegal actions and corrupt conduct,” Mr. Castro tweeted.

In his statement, Mr. Engel said that he had learned that Mr. Linick’s office had opened an investigation into Mr. Pompeo. Mr. Engel said that “Mr. Linick’s firing amid such a probe strongly suggests that this is an unlawful act of retaliation.”

Mr. Engel did not offer any more details, but a Democratic aide said that Mr. Linick was looking into whether Mr. Pompeo had misused a political appointee at the State Department to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Pompeo did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the accusation.

Mr. Linick was a bit player in the impeachment inquiry, briefly drawing attention to himself at the height of the investigation into Mr. Trump’s actions. In October, he hand-delivered a packet of information to congressional investigators, saying he thought it might help answer whether the president pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden.

At least two investigations by Mr. Linick’s office have caused friction with senior political appointees at the State Department.

In November, the office said it had found that appointees at the agency, when it was led by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, had retaliated against an Iranian-American career civil servant because of her ethnicity and a perception that she held political views different from those of top Trump officials. Brian H. Hook, then the head of the office of policy planning, where the career official, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, worked, was scrutinized in that inquiry. Mr. Hook is now the special representative for Iran and works closely with Mr. Pompeo.

In August, Mr. Linick’s office found that two political appointees in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs — the assistant secretary Kevin Moley and his senior adviser Mari Stull — had harassed career employees. Mr. Pompeo did not fire Mr. Moley, who announced in October he would retire later that year.

Employees of the State Department’s inspector general’s office, including career foreign service officers, have viewed Mr. Linick as a competent, nonpartisan leader.

Mr. Akard, by contrast, has been a controversial figure since his nomination for a senior State Department job when Mr. Tillerson was secretary. The White House had pushed Mr. Akard for the job of director general of the Foreign Service, a top management position that has traditionally gone to a respected career official with decades of experience.

A close associate of Mr. Pence’s, Mr. Akard had served as the director of international development at the Indiana Economic Development Corp., in the state where Mr. Pence once was governor. Members of Congress heard the intense grumblings of longtime State Department employees and signaled to the White House in 2018 that he would not be confirmed; even senior Republicans had opposed the nomination.

In 2019, Mr. Akard was confirmed as the department’s director of the office of foreign missions, a job with the rank of ambassador that top career officials do not consider meaningful compared with the director general post.

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Edward Wong and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting from Washington.

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Trump Accuses Media and Democrats of Exaggerating Coronavirus Threat

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-trump1-facebookJumbo Trump Accuses Media and Democrats of Exaggerating Coronavirus Threat United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Travel Warnings Presidential Election of 2020 Pence, Mike Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump and members of his administration mobilized on Friday to confront the threat of the coronavirus — not just the outbreak, but the news media and the Democrats they accused of exaggerating its danger.

While stock markets tumbled, companies searched for new supply chains and health officials scrambled to prevent a spread of the virus, Mr. Trump and his aides, congressional allies and backers in the conservative media sought to blame the messenger and the political opposition in the latest polarizing moment in the nation’s capital.

Mr. Trump said that news outlets like CNN were “doing everything they can to instill fear in people,” while some Democrats were “trying to gain political favor by saying a lot of untruths.” His acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went even further, telling conservative activists that journalists were hyping the coronavirus because “they think this will bring down the president; that’s what this is all about.”

At a campaign rally on Friday evening in South Carolina, the president denounced Democrats, describing the concerns they have expressed about the virus as “their new hoax” after the Russia investigation and then impeachment. “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he said. “We did one of the great jobs. You say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They go, ‘Oh, not good, not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. They cannot even count the votes in Iowa.”

The accusations came as other elements of the federal government moved to head off a broader wave of infections like those in China. The State Department urged Americans to reconsider traveling to Italy, where the virus has spread, and health officials reported three more cases of unknown origin, in California, Oregon and Washington State, raising fears of local transmission. The World Health Organization reported cases in 56 countries and warned of a “very high” global risk, while stock markets closed their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general said that it would begin a “comprehensive review” of the federal government’s coronavirus response, speeding up a process that had already been underway to monitor how the health agency was organizing its resources for a potential domestic outbreak.

While other presidents in moments like this have sought to transcend politics and assert national leadership, Mr. Trump has framed the issue in partisan terms while playing down the risk to the United States. Privately he has been consumed by concern that his enemies will use the coronavirus and the economic impact it has against him as he seeks re-election.

Democrats said that Mr. Trump was making the crisis all about himself rather than the American public. “For Mick Mulvaney to suggest that Americans turn off their TVs and bury their heads in the sand when they’re worried about a global health pandemic is Orwellian, counterproductive, dangerous and would be repeating China’s mistake,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

Democrats argued that the virus posed a greater threat to Americans than General Suleimani, and Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island asserted that the Trump administration had not been forthcoming about the real risks each presented.

“Because of the dishonesty from this administration on this and many other issues, Americans have lost trust in their government,” Mr. Cicilline told the secretary. “Now we’re facing a serious global health crisis in the form of the coronavirus and trust is more important than ever.”

Mr. Pompeo bristled at what he considered a political ambush. “We agreed that I’d come today to talk about Iran, and the first question today is not about Iran,” he complained.

Republicans defended Mr. Pompeo by going on offense against the Democrats. “This hearing is a joke,” declared Representative Lee Zeldin of New York.

With Vice President Mike Pence leading the response to the virus, the administration has moved to coordinate its communication with the public. But officials sought on Friday to dispel the impression that they were clamping down on scientific information or limiting the availability of experts whose tone has suggested more alarm than the president’s.

In a briefing with congressional officials on Friday morning, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that he “was not muzzled” by Mr. Pence’s office, but he did say that he had to get permission for roughly a half-dozen television appearances that had already been planned.

Administration officials held a briefing at the White House featuring Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, along with Russell T. Vought, the budget director, and Eric Ueland, the White House legislative director. After each official read off a series of prepared talking points, they took only a handful of questions from journalists.

Of the three officials, Mr. Azar went the furthest in suggesting that the United States might face a difficult next phase of the coronavirus, if it spreads. Mr. Trump has repeatedly told advisers he is concerned that Mr. Azar and others in the administration are presenting an “alarmist” view.

“The administration has ignored or sidelined expert staff at agencies like the C.D.C. and the N.I.H., offered the public inconsistent and confusing information, and failed to provide clear leadership,” said Dr. Kathleen Rest, the executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists and a health policy expert, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

Mr. Pence went to Florida on Friday for a previously scheduled fund-raiser for the state’s Republican delegation, although he planned to give a briefing to Gov. Ron DeSantis while there. He also stopped by the radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh’s studio to insist that the administration was not focused on politics.

“Washington is always going to have a political reflexive response to things,” Mr. Pence said. “But we’re going to tune that out.”

Mr. Limbaugh has been among the conservative commentators who have blamed the news media and political opponents for overemphasizing the coronavirus, which he compared to the common cold. “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Mr. Limbaugh, who was recently given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Mr. Trump, said on his show on Monday.

That theme has been amplified by some of the president’s favorite Fox News hosts, like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, in recent days and animated Mr. Mulvaney’s appearance on Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md.

“The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be the thing that brings down the president,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “That’s what this is all about it.”

Mr. Mulvaney noted that the administration took action weeks ago to prevent a public health emergency by limiting travel from China, where the worst outbreak has centered. “Why didn’t you hear about it?” Mr. Mulvaney asked. “What was still going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment, that’s all the press wanted to talk about.”

The news media, in fact, has been covering the global spread of coronavirus intensively for months, including the Trump administration’s travel restrictions.

Following the president’s lead, Mr. Mulvaney also minimized concerns over the virus. “The flu kills people,” he said. “This is not Ebola. It’s not SARS, it’s not MERS. It’s not a death sentence; it’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.”

Mr. Trump sounded off to reporters as he left the White House for the rally in South Carolina. “They’re doing everything they can to instill fear in people, and I think it’s ridiculous,” Mr. Trump said of CNN and other news outlets. “And some of the Democrats are doing it the way it should be done, but some of them are trying to gain political favor by saying a lot of untruths.”

That message was quickly picked up and repeated at the conservative conference. “It’s overblown in the media,” said Lee Murphy, a congressional candidate in Delaware and an actor who played a defense secretary once on “House of Cards.” “They want to get at President Trump every chance they can, but this should not be political. I’m tired of it being overblown and being political.”

Jeff Jordan, running for Congress in Virginia, said too much has been made of the coronavirus, which he compared with the common flu. “The media at large is not a fan of the president,” he said. “The media will take any opportunity they can to cause damage.”

On Capitol Hill, the attacks on coverage drew scorn from Democrats. “The problem is the American people need to be able to trust that their government will tell them the truth, no matter what the truth is,” said Representative Andy Levin of Michigan. “And I’m very concerned that the American people cannot trust this government.”

Tony Fratto, who served as a deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush during multiple crises, including the last time the stock markets fell so far so fast, said blaming others in such a situation is counterproductive and urged the White House to keep its attention on the underlying issue.

“Focus only on health and safety, and I know they don’t believe this, but if they keep Americans safe, they will definitely get credit for it,” he said. “Because of the White House’s attacks, if things do go poorly, they’re going to be blamed for taking their eye off the ball even if they’ve done all the right things.”

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Haberman, Lara Jakes, Catie Edmondson and Noah Weiland.

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Trump Accuses Media and Democrats of Exaggerating Coronavirus Threat

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-trump1-facebookJumbo Trump Accuses Media and Democrats of Exaggerating Coronavirus Threat United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Travel Warnings Presidential Election of 2020 Pence, Mike Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump and members of his administration mobilized on Friday to confront the threat of the coronavirus — not just the outbreak, but the news media and the Democrats they accused of exaggerating its danger.

While stock markets tumbled, companies searched for new supply chains and health officials scrambled to prevent a spread of the virus, Mr. Trump and his aides, congressional allies and backers in the conservative media sought to blame the messenger and the political opposition in the latest polarizing moment in the nation’s capital.

Mr. Trump said that news outlets like CNN were “doing everything they can to instill fear in people,” while some Democrats were “trying to gain political favor by saying a lot of untruths.” His acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, went even further, telling conservative activists that journalists were hyping the coronavirus because “they think this will bring down the president; that’s what this is all about.”

At a campaign rally on Friday evening in South Carolina, the president denounced Democrats, describing the concerns they have expressed about the virus as “their new hoax” after the Russia investigation and then impeachment. “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he said. “We did one of the great jobs. You say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They go, ‘Oh, not good, not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. They cannot even count the votes in Iowa.”

The accusations came as other elements of the federal government moved to head off a broader wave of infections like those in China. The State Department urged Americans to reconsider traveling to Italy, where the virus has spread, and health officials reported three more cases of unknown origin, in California, Oregon and Washington State, raising fears of local transmission. The World Health Organization reported cases in 56 countries and warned of a “very high” global risk, while stock markets closed their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general said that it would begin a “comprehensive review” of the federal government’s coronavirus response, speeding up a process that had already been underway to monitor how the health agency was organizing its resources for a potential domestic outbreak.

While other presidents in moments like this have sought to transcend politics and assert national leadership, Mr. Trump has framed the issue in partisan terms while playing down the risk to the United States. Privately he has been consumed by concern that his enemies will use the coronavirus and the economic impact it has against him as he seeks re-election.

Democrats said that Mr. Trump was making the crisis all about himself rather than the American public. “For Mick Mulvaney to suggest that Americans turn off their TVs and bury their heads in the sand when they’re worried about a global health pandemic is Orwellian, counterproductive, dangerous and would be repeating China’s mistake,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

Democrats argued that the virus posed a greater threat to Americans than General Suleimani, and Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island asserted that the Trump administration had not been forthcoming about the real risks each presented.

“Because of the dishonesty from this administration on this and many other issues, Americans have lost trust in their government,” Mr. Cicilline told the secretary. “Now we’re facing a serious global health crisis in the form of the coronavirus and trust is more important than ever.”

Mr. Pompeo bristled at what he considered a political ambush. “We agreed that I’d come today to talk about Iran, and the first question today is not about Iran,” he complained.

Republicans defended Mr. Pompeo by going on offense against the Democrats. “This hearing is a joke,” declared Representative Lee Zeldin of New York.

With Vice President Mike Pence leading the response to the virus, the administration has moved to coordinate its communication with the public. But officials sought on Friday to dispel the impression that they were clamping down on scientific information or limiting the availability of experts whose tone has suggested more alarm than the president’s.

In a briefing with congressional officials on Friday morning, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that he “was not muzzled” by Mr. Pence’s office, but he did say that he had to get permission for roughly a half-dozen television appearances that had already been planned.

Administration officials held a briefing at the White House featuring Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, along with Russell T. Vought, the budget director, and Eric Ueland, the White House legislative director. After each official read off a series of prepared talking points, they took only a handful of questions from journalists.

Of the three officials, Mr. Azar went the furthest in suggesting that the United States might face a difficult next phase of the coronavirus, if it spreads. Mr. Trump has repeatedly told advisers he is concerned that Mr. Azar and others in the administration are presenting an “alarmist” view.

“The administration has ignored or sidelined expert staff at agencies like the C.D.C. and the N.I.H., offered the public inconsistent and confusing information, and failed to provide clear leadership,” said Dr. Kathleen Rest, the executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists and a health policy expert, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

Mr. Pence went to Florida on Friday for a previously scheduled fund-raiser for the state’s Republican delegation, although he planned to give a briefing to Gov. Ron DeSantis while there. He also stopped by the radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh’s studio to insist that the administration was not focused on politics.

“Washington is always going to have a political reflexive response to things,” Mr. Pence said. “But we’re going to tune that out.”

Mr. Limbaugh has been among the conservative commentators who have blamed the news media and political opponents for overemphasizing the coronavirus, which he compared to the common cold. “It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump,” Mr. Limbaugh, who was recently given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Mr. Trump, said on his show on Monday.

That theme has been amplified by some of the president’s favorite Fox News hosts, like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, in recent days and animated Mr. Mulvaney’s appearance on Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Md.

“The reason you’re seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be the thing that brings down the president,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “That’s what this is all about it.”

Mr. Mulvaney noted that the administration took action weeks ago to prevent a public health emergency by limiting travel from China, where the worst outbreak has centered. “Why didn’t you hear about it?” Mr. Mulvaney asked. “What was still going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment, that’s all the press wanted to talk about.”

The news media, in fact, has been covering the global spread of coronavirus intensively for months, including the Trump administration’s travel restrictions.

Following the president’s lead, Mr. Mulvaney also minimized concerns over the virus. “The flu kills people,” he said. “This is not Ebola. It’s not SARS, it’s not MERS. It’s not a death sentence; it’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.”

Mr. Trump sounded off to reporters as he left the White House for the rally in South Carolina. “They’re doing everything they can to instill fear in people, and I think it’s ridiculous,” Mr. Trump said of CNN and other news outlets. “And some of the Democrats are doing it the way it should be done, but some of them are trying to gain political favor by saying a lot of untruths.”

That message was quickly picked up and repeated at the conservative conference. “It’s overblown in the media,” said Lee Murphy, a congressional candidate in Delaware and an actor who played a defense secretary once on “House of Cards.” “They want to get at President Trump every chance they can, but this should not be political. I’m tired of it being overblown and being political.”

Jeff Jordan, running for Congress in Virginia, said too much has been made of the coronavirus, which he compared with the common flu. “The media at large is not a fan of the president,” he said. “The media will take any opportunity they can to cause damage.”

On Capitol Hill, the attacks on coverage drew scorn from Democrats. “The problem is the American people need to be able to trust that their government will tell them the truth, no matter what the truth is,” said Representative Andy Levin of Michigan. “And I’m very concerned that the American people cannot trust this government.”

Tony Fratto, who served as a deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush during multiple crises, including the last time the stock markets fell so far so fast, said blaming others in such a situation is counterproductive and urged the White House to keep its attention on the underlying issue.

“Focus only on health and safety, and I know they don’t believe this, but if they keep Americans safe, they will definitely get credit for it,” he said. “Because of the White House’s attacks, if things do go poorly, they’re going to be blamed for taking their eye off the ball even if they’ve done all the right things.”

Reporting was contributed by Maggie Haberman, Lara Jakes, Catie Edmondson and Noah Weiland.

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Uniting Trumpers, Never Trumpers and Democrats With a New Deputy at the State Dept.

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-biegun1-facebookJumbo Uniting Trumpers, Never Trumpers and Democrats With a New Deputy at the State Dept. United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty State Department Russia North Korea Embargoes and Sanctions Biegun, Stephen E Arms Control and Limitation and Disarmament

WASHINGTON — When Stephen E. Biegun was sworn in as deputy secretary of state, it was in front of an unusual crowd at the State Department — one that included loyalists to President Trump, but also a mix of Never Trumpers and Democrats.

Denis R. McDonough, President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff and deputy national security adviser, was there that day in December. So was John D. Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush who in 2016 refused to vote for Mr. Trump. There were career diplomats, congressional officials and national security experts from both parties who had worked with Mr. Biegun in his various roles in the Senate, the National Security Council and Ford Motor.

Which gave rise to some crucial questions: How had Mr. Biegun navigated Trump world to land such a senior position, No. 2 at the State Department? Could he calm a simmering revolt among career State Department employees who have accused Mr. Biegun’s immediate boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, of abandoning veteran diplomats and letting the president’s personal political agenda infect foreign policy?

More to the point, would he even survive?

The job is a risk — Washington is full of people who have catapulted from the Trump administration with reputations diminished — but friends say they are betting on Mr. Biegun.

“If anyone can figure out how to navigate it, I think it can be Steve,” said Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s second national security adviser.

It helps, friends say, that Mr. Biegun has the even temperament of a man who thrives in the background. Never one to upstage the boss, be it the president or secretary of state, Mr. Biegun is mild-mannered and deferential, the anti-Pompeo.

While Mr. Pompeo is prone to profanity-laced rants, Mr. Biegun is a Republican of another era who projects calm. “He listens,” said Mr. McDonough, who was Mr. Biegun’s Democratic counterpart when the two men served as the chief foreign policy advisers to their parties’ Senate leaders in the mid-2000s.

While Mr. Pompeo has sought to bring back “swagger” to diplomacy, Mr. Biegun is described as a careful negotiator. And while Mr. Pompeo allowed a shadow foreign policy campaign to undermine the United States Embassy in Ukraine, Mr. Biegun has insisted that, in diplomacy, “politics best stop at the water’s edge.”

John R. Beyrle, who was one of Mr. Obama’s ambassadors to Moscow, said that Mr. Pompeo most likely viewed Mr. Biegun as “somebody who could help ameliorate that almost toxic situation” at the State Department.

“So if there is that vacuum or deficit of trust, which I think there is, Steve is well placed to fill it,” said Mr. Beyrle, who worked with Mr. Biegun on the board of the U.S.-Russia Foundation, which promotes entrepreneurship and education with Moscow.

Notably, Mr. Biegun has described Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador in Kyiv who was ordered back to Washington and accused of being disloyal to Mr. Trump, as “a very capable foreign service officer.”

Since first meeting Ms. Yovanovitch years ago, when they were both working on Russia policy, “my esteem has done nothing but grown for her,” Mr. Biegun told senators at his confirmation hearing in November.

Colleagues say the secret to Mr. Biegun’s success, so far, is that he gained the trust of Mr. Trump by enabling the president’s bromance with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. Officials said the president twice considered appointing Mr. Biegun as national security adviser, but made him the chief envoy to North Korea instead. In that job Mr. Biegun has tried to move talks between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim forward when other administration officials wanted to shut them down.

Mr. Biegun also declined to join the so-called Never Trumper movement in 2016, putting him among a relatively small number of Republicans with high-level foreign policy experience who were not blacklisted by the White House after Mr. Trump won the presidential election.

“He’s friends with Republicans and Democrats, he treats people well, he knows how to operate in Washington, he knows the think tanks, he knows the press, he knows the diplomatic community,” said John B. Bellinger III, the State Department’s former top lawyer who worked with Mr. Biegun on Mr. Bush’s National Security Council.

Born in Detroit to a large family — more than 30 relatives attended his December swearing-in ceremony — Mr. Biegun was in high school in Pontiac, Mich., when a history teacher wrote the word “czar” on the chalkboard in the Cyrillic alphabet. He was immediately fascinated and went on to study Russian at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Biegun lived in Moscow in the early 1990s, when he worked for the International Republican Institute, which promotes democracy with some funding from the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development. But he mostly developed his national security credentials on Capitol Hill — first as a top Republican staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, then the majority leader — and at the White House as a top aide to Condoleezza Rice, who was the first national security adviser in the Bush administration.

He traveled to Russia as a vice president at Ford, negotiating new business ventures, but also took time off to briefly advise Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee in 2008. That position, according to colleagues, revealed his ability to maintain patience under pressure and to avoid a condescending tone — even when having to explain the most basic foreign policy axioms to his boss.

In his new job, Mr. Biegun will also remain the lead negotiator with North Korea — a dual role, he has said, that elevates “the priority on North Korea to the deputy secretary position, and I think that’s very important.”

But the diplomacy has fizzled since Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim abruptly left a summit meeting in Vietnam a year ago, unable to agree on a path for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Critics say the Trump administration was too willing to keep the talks going — and the president too eager to meet with Mr. Kim — even as North Korea was busily building up its arsenal.

Mr. Biegun was not only trying to negotiate with the North Koreans, but he was also engaged in a behind-the-scenes fight with Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, John R. Bolton, who believed Mr. Biegun was pursuing a useless mission.

“This idea that they can be coaxed into giving up” their nuclear program “was flawed from the start,” Mr. Bolton said on Monday in remarks at Duke University.

Still, Joseph Y. Yun, a career diplomat who negotiated with North Korean officials until he retired in March 2018, said Mr. Biegun’s new status could convince Pyongyang that the United States was serious enough about restarting the discussions that it had promoted one of its most senior officials to devote to the details.

“It’s a very good signal to North Korea,’’ said Mr. Yun, who retired in part out of frustration with the State Department’s diminished role in the talks. “This will elevate the negotiations.”

Mr. Biegun’s greatest challenge, however, is the diplomatic morass of Russia and Ukraine.

No one senior official has run the policy since Mr. Bolton left the White House as national security adviser in September, and few have been eager to embrace the portfolio.

But Mr. Biegun has told colleagues he is eager to try to resolve Russia’s undeclared war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The conflict has killed more than 13,000 Ukrainian troops and civilians and threatened Kyiv’s sovereignty since it began in 2014, the same year that Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Ukrainian officials have anxiously looked to Washington for more help as Kyiv broadens talks with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to ratchet back tensions. Mr. Pompeo visited Kyiv last month to signal continued American commitment to Ukraine. But the country’s leaders have not yet been invited to meet with Mr. Trump at the White House, even though the president has been acquitted of impeachment charges that he demanded that Ukraine announce an investigation into his political rivals before releasing security aid for Donbas.

Eric Rubin, a former ambassador to Bulgaria who is now president of the union that represents career diplomats, noted that during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mr. Biegun committed to work “to bridge whatever divides may exist” at the State Department.

“This is not an easy time for our country or our profession,” Mr. Rubin said. “We wish him well.”

Mr. Biegun faces another source of tension with the 2011 New START arms control treaty with Russia, which drove American and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in nearly 60 years. The treaty is set to expire in February 2021, and people who have spoken to Mr. Biegun believe he wants to extend it. But Mr. Trump and his aides have signaled repeatedly that they intend to let the treaty expire unless it can be broadened to include other nations with strategic weapons, chiefly China — and the Chinese are not interested.

In his confirmation hearing, Mr. Biegun summed up his approach in a single line that somehow conveyed both optimism for diplomacy and cleareyed realism about the Trump administration’s view of the world, given its “Make America Great Again” mantra.

“I’ve long thought America was great,” Mr. Biegun said.

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Trump Expected to Name Richard Grenell as Acting Head of Intelligence

Westlake Legal Group 19dc-dni-facebookJumbo Trump Expected to Name Richard Grenell as Acting Head of Intelligence United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Presidential Election of 2020 Office of the Director of National Intelligence Maguire, Joseph (1952- ) Grenell, Richard Espionage and Intelligence Services Coats, Dan Appointments and Executive Changes

WASHINGTON — President Trump was expected to name Richard Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, to be the acting director of national intelligence, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Mr. Grenell, whose outspokenness throughout his career as a political operative and then as ambassador has prompted criticism, is a vocal Trump loyalist who will lead a group of national security agencies often viewed skeptically by the White House.

He would take over from Joseph Maguire, who has served as the acting director of national intelligence since the resignation last summer of Dan Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana. Mr. Grenell, who has pushed to advance gay rights in his current post, would apparently also be the first openly gay cabinet member.

Mr. Grenell did not respond to a request for comment, nor did a White House spokesman. The people familiar with the move cautioned that the president had a history of changing his mind on personnel decisions after they were revealed in the news media.

Under American law, Mr. Maguire had to give up his temporary role before March 12. He could return to his old job as director of the National Counterterrorism Center, but he might choose to step down from government.

Mr. Trump can choose any Senate-confirmed official to replace Mr. Maguire as the acting head of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.

Mr. Maguire, a retired admiral, became the acting director in August just as a whistle-blower inside the C.I.A. filed a complaint about Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

Since the acquittal of Mr. Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, the White House has been pushing to remove officials seen as disloyal or holding views contrary to the White House, looking for replacements who are more likely to follow the president’s wishes. While it has never been clear how Mr. Trump viewed Mr. Maguire, there is little doubt that the president would like a partisan fighter in the post before any public testimony before Congress.

Mr. Grenell has long been a strong voice on Twitter, posting about the dangers of Huawei, the Chinese company building next-generation telecommunications networks around the globe; the failure of European allies to spend enough on their military and other issues. He is one of the administration’s loudest critics of Huawei, pressuring Germany not to do business with the firm. Mr. Grenell has long been ambitious and has been anxious for a promotion from his diplomatic post. He was in contention to be national security adviser, a post that ultimately went to Robert C. O’Brien.

But Mr. Grenell is also a polarizing figure and his confirmation by the Senate is not assured, one reason the president intents to name him acting director, rather than formally nominating him for the job. A number of Republican senators have privately pushed the administration to nominate a national security professional or politician who is seen as a less divisive figure.

Since the beginning of his administration, Mr. Trump has viewed the intelligence agencies skeptically.

He has at times disparaged American intelligence agencies because he did not agree with their findings, such as the conclusion that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election in an effort to help Mr. Trump win. He told his intelligence chiefs to “go back to school” after they offered assessments on Iran and North Korea at odds with his policy initiatives.

Anxious to avoid a repeat of that hearing, Mr. Maguire’s aides initially pushed for this year’s public hearing to be canceled, a request that lawmakers have rejected.

Tensions between the White House and intelligence agencies only grew during the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Maguire initially blocked the whistle-blower complaint from being forwarded to Congress, following the guidance of administration lawyers. But he eventually helped broker the agreement to provide the complaint to Congress’s intelligence committees, allowing the impeachment inquiry to gain steam.

Mr. Coats announced his resignation in July, effective Aug. 15. Including acting directors, nine people have served as head of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence since the job was created in late 2004 to improve the nation’s ability to fight terrorism. That law made the director of national intelligence the top intelligence adviser to the president.

When Mr. Coats announced his resignation, Mr. Trump initially nominated one of his loyalists, Representative John Ratcliffe, Republican of Texas, to be the next top intelligence chief, a job considered to be among the most nonpartisan in Washington. But Mr. Trump quickly dropped those plans after pushback from Democrats and some key Republicans who worried Mr. Ratcliffe’s loyalty to the president and lack of intelligence experience would make him nearly impossible to confirm. There were also concerns that Mr. Ratcliffe exaggerated some of what he included on his résumé.

During his tenure, Mr. Coats was unafraid to defend his employees and push back against some of the president’s claims that contradicted the intelligence agencies. He told intelligence officers in a speech that it was their duty to seek the truth about the world, “and when we find that truth, to speak the truth.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created after the Sept. 11 attacks to oversee the government’s vast network of 17 spy agencies and to ensure critical national security information was being shared across the government.

At the beginning of the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo, then the C.I.A. director, was the most prominent voice on intelligence matters. When Mr. Pompeo moved to the State Department, his successor, Gina Haspel, took a much less prominent role.

Ms. Haspel’s reluctance to speak publicly thrust Mr. Coats into the public spotlight. His criticism of the Mr. Trump and warnings about Russian interference in the election, drew the ire of the White House.

After Mr. Ratcliffe was dropped from consideration, Mr. Trump promised to announce a new nominee soon. But the list of people with the requisite experience who have not been critical of the president is slim.

The administration considered, and discarded, a number of potential nominees including Pete Hoekstra, the American ambassador to the Netherlands and a former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican on the committee.

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John Rood, Top Defense Official, Latest to Leave After Impeachment Saga

Westlake Legal Group 19dc-rood-facebookJumbo John Rood, Top Defense Official, Latest to Leave After Impeachment Saga United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Rood, John C. impeachment Defense Department Anderson, James H

WASHINGTON — John C. Rood, the Defense Department’s top policy official, is the latest member of President Trump’s national security team involved in the Ukraine matter to leave the government.

Mr. Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, will step down at the end of February, the department’s press secretary, Alyssa Farah, said Wednesday.

Mr. Rood was part of the team at the Defense Department that told Congress last year that Ukraine had made the necessary reforms to justify sending the country $250 million in promised security assistance. The certification was widely viewed as undermining a key argument Mr. Trump’s defense team made during his impeachment battle: that Mr. Trump withheld the aid because he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

Mr. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. Since his acquittal, the president has moved swiftly to purge administration officials whose presentation of events did not align with his own.

Mr. Rood’s departure, reported earlier by CNN, was not entirely unexpected; he and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper were known to clash frequently early in their careers, and Mr. Esper was expected to fire him when he became Defense Secretary last year. But the dearth of respected national security policy experts willing to work for Mr. Trump has made it difficult for administration officials to fill jobs.

James H. Anderson, the acting deputy under secretary of defense for policy, will be taking over Mr. Rood’s duties until a replacement is appointed by the president, the department said.

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A Presidency Increasingly Guided by Suspicion and Distrust

Westlake Legal Group 15dc-trump-facebookJumbo A Presidency Increasingly Guided by Suspicion and Distrust United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Richard Hofstadter Presidents and Presidency (US) Presidential Election of 2020 paranoia impeachment D'Antonio, Michael

WASHINGTON — President Trump suggested in recent days that he had, in fact, learned a lesson from his now-famous telephone call with Ukraine’s president that ultimately led to his impeachment: Too many people are listening to his phone calls.

“When you call a foreign leader, people listen,” he observed on Geraldo Rivera’s radio show. “I may end the practice entirely. I may end it entirely.”

Mr. Trump has always been convinced that he is surrounded by people who cannot be trusted. But in the 10 days since he was acquitted by the Senate, he has grown more vocal about it and turned paranoia into policy, purging his White House of more career officials, bringing back loyalists and tightening the circle around him to a smaller and more faithful coterie of confidants.

The impeachment case against Mr. Trump, built largely on the testimony of officials who actually worked for him, reinforced his view that the government is full of leakers, plotters, whistle-blowers and traitors. Career professionals who worked in government before he arrived are viewed as “Obama holdovers” even if they were there long before President Barack Obama. Testifying under subpoena was, Mr. Trump has made clear, “insubordinate.”

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said on Twitter after the acquittal that the investigation was useful, in its own way, because it made it easier “unearthing who all needed to be fired.” The president and his staff have increasingly equated disloyalty to him with disloyalty to the nation. All of which makes for a volatile eight months ahead as Mr. Trump fights a rear-guard battle with his own government while facing off against Democrats on the campaign trail to win a second term.

“I think he feels like the people are out to get him, going overboard. I mean just put yourself in his shoes,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a staunch ally, told reporters this past week as the president railed on Twitter against Justice Department prosecutors. “There’s just a general frustration that the system is — there’s a double standard in the media and actually in the law.”

In the last week and a half, Mr. Trump has pushed out two witnesses who testified in the House inquiry, stripped a nomination from an official he blamed for being insufficiently loyal and assailed prosecutors, a judge and even the jury forewoman in the case of his friend Roger J. Stone Jr.

His national security adviser has just finished transferring more than 50 career professionals out of the White House and back to their home agencies. The president has brought back two of his earliest and most trusted aides, Hope Hicks and Johnny McEntee, as he retreats into a cocoon of his original 2016 campaign team. And more personnel moves are likely in the days to come.

Mr. Trump’s personal loyalty test now extends not to whether someone has worked in his White House since his inauguration, but to whether someone was part of his 2016 campaign and there from the beginning, according to interviews with more than a half-dozen administration officials and advisers to the president. His decision to turn the Office of Presidential Personnel over to Mr. McEntee, a 29-year-old aide who was once ordered marched out of the White House by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff at the time, was born out of concern about who is surrounding him, people familiar with the move said.

While some officials cited a lack of responsiveness from officials working in the personnel office, others said that Mr. Trump had taken to blaming them for appointments that he made, on the advice of other advisers. That included Gordon D. Sondland, the Republican donor he appointed ambassador to the European Union who became a key witness in the impeachment inquiry and has now been dismissed. It also included John R. Bolton, his former national security adviser, who plans to publish a book next month revealing Mr. Trump’s machinations about Ukraine.

In private conversations, Mr. Trump has complained bitterly that none of his enemies have been criminally charged, citing James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, and his onetime deputy, Andrew G. McCabe. Mr. Bolton in particular has been a source of his anger in several conversations, according to people familiar with what the president has said. He has accused Mr. Bolton of betraying him, and made clear his anger extends to anyone he believes helped Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that he may bar government officials from listening into his phone calls with foreign leaders would reverse decades of practice in the White House. Presidents traditionally have multiple aides from the National Security Council and State Department monitor foreign leader calls to help interpret their meaning, record any agreements and inform relevant parts of government.

Mr. Trump, however, felt burned early on when transcripts of his calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia were leaked to The Washington Post. During subsequent conversations with foreign leaders, he sometimes kicked out aides for more private talks and in the case of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even demanded that his own interpreter turn over notes of the discussion.

“He knows that anything even reasonably controversial out of his mouth, on the phone or off, will be reported out and construed in the most evil way possible,” Mr. Rivera, a friend of the president’s who interviewed him for his Cleveland radio show, said on Saturday. “As a result, he indicated to me that he’s dramatically scaling back” the number of people “looped into a state call.”

Going back to his days in the real estate business, Mr. Trump has long considered suspicion a key to success. “Be paranoid,” he advised in a motivational seminar in 2000. “Now that sounds terrible. But you have to realize that people, sadly, sadly, are very vicious. You think we’re so different from the lions in the jungle? I don’t know.”

Nor is presidential paranoia a new phenomenon even as Mr. Trump seems to have elevated it to a guiding philosophy of his White House. From Thomas Jefferson to Franklin D. Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy, other presidents turned at times to unseemly and even ruthless methods against their enemies like illegal wiretapping. Probably no previous presidents were as paranoid as Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon and in the latter case it helped bring down his presidency.

“The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent,” as Richard Hofstadter, the famed midcentury American historian, wrote in his landmark 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” In Mr. Trump’s case, it connects with supporters suspicious of the elite.

John A. Farrell, a Nixon biographer, said most other presidents managed to contain or disguise their paranoid elements, but it drove Johnson and Nixon to extremes that were ultimately self-destructive. Mr. Trump, he said, sees no need to hide it.

“He has responded to criticism, opposition and other curbs on his power with a vulgar energy and the vile Nixonian strategy that making Americans hate each other is a potent way to seize and secure power,” Mr. Farrell said. “It is no accident that a president acting this way comes from a chain of influences that includes Roy Cohn and Roger Stone.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers and defenders turn to the old nostrum — just because he may be paranoid does not mean people are not out to get him. The relentless investigations against him, the Trump-bashing text messages by F.B.I. officials, the excesses of the surveillance warrant on a former campaign adviser, the longtime lawyer-fixer who turned against him, the whistle-blower who took his concerns to House Democrats, all of it, they said, has contributed to an understandable defensiveness.

“Trump came to office with an almost pathological distrust of others and an irresistible impulse to attack any perceived threat,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who testified against impeachment last year before the House Judiciary Committee. “The well-documented bias in the F.B.I. and Justice Department against Trump fuels his suspicions and tendency to counterpunch. Both his perceptions and his responses became more exaggerated.

“However,” Mr. Turley added, “his suspicions were validated to some degree in these investigations — something that many refuse to acknowledge. He came to Washington with an agenda that was highly antagonistic and threatening to the status quo. It was immediately clear that he faced deep opposition to his agenda.”

As with so many aspects of his personality, the seeds of Mr. Trump’s reaction may lie in his biography. Michael D’Antonio, the author of “The Truth About Trump,” recalled that the future president was raised by a father who taught him that all of life is a battle for power and that he should be a “killer.” Mr. Trump, Mr. D’Antonio said, came to see others as useful for his own purposes or obstacles to be crushed.

“In this way, he’s forcing us all to live in the world that once existed only in Trump’s mind and in his close circle,” Mr. D’Antonio said. “Here, in Trump’s America, we’re to believe that all institutions are corrupt. No one is to be trusted. Those who would speak against him hesitate. Words of protest and revelations that might be made by whistle-blowers are stifled by fear. This is the world Trump has always inhabited and he wants us to live there too.”

Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little

WASHINGTON — On a day when President Trump congratulated the attorney general for overruling career prosecutors in favor of the lighter prison sentence he sought for a longtime friend, Senate Republicans agreed on one thing: Reining in a president emboldened by the impeachment acquittal they orchestrated is not on their to-do list.

“Kind of immaterial,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said on Wednesday, waving off the question of whether the president or his allies at the Justice Department may have interfered with the sentencing of Roger J. Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s longtime associate.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he was not “losing any sleep” over the departure of the four prosecutors who had handled the case and withdrew in protest on Tuesday, having assured himself the president did nothing wrong.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, refused to broach the topic: “I’m not going to have this conversation right now,” he said, ducking into the Senate subway on his way to the Capitol.

In the week since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted Mr. Trump of two impeachment charges, lawmakers in his party have watched as he has purged key players in the case against him, including the ambassador to the European Union and two White House National Security Council aides, and put in motion plans to banish others he considers insufficiently loyal. They have listened as he has called for one of those officials, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, to be investigated by the Pentagon.

They have read his tweets and heard his comments heaping scorching criticism on the Justice Department for “a horrible and very unfair” attempt to put Mr. Stone in prison for seven to nine years based on a conviction for lying to Congress and trying to block witness testimony. Mr. Trump cheered on William P. Barr, the attorney general, for intervening, while castigating the federal judge overseeing the case.

And they have been forced to reckon with the fact that, far from obscuring his actions or offering innocent explanations, Mr. Trump has been open and unapologetic about his efforts to take revenge on his perceived enemies and assist those he considers loyal.

The warning sirens may be blaring from Democrats and Justice Department veterans. But having expressed confidence just last week that the impeachment trial might chasten him going forward, Republican senators now appear unwilling to grapple with the president who emerged: an emboldened Mr. Trump determined to tighten his grip on the levers of power.

Video

transcript

Trump Calls Prosecution of Roger Stone a ‘Disgrace’

President Trump denied that his tweet praising the attorney general for intervening in the sentencing of Roger J. Stone Jr. was political interference.

Reporter: “On Roger Stone, isn’t your tweet political interference?” “No, not at all. He was treated very badly — nine years recommended. If you look at what happened — I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing. And I didn’t speak to him, by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence for doing nothing. You have murderers and drug addicts, they don’t get nine years — nine years for doing something that nobody even can define what he did. Somebody said he put out a tweet, and the tweet, you based it on that. We have killers, we have murderers all over the place, nothing happens. And then they put a man in jail and destroy his life, his family, his wife, his children — nine years in jail. It’s a disgrace. In the meantime, Comey walks around making book deals. The people that launched this scam investigation, and what they did is a disgrace.”

Westlake Legal Group 12dc-trump-videoSixteenByNine3000 As a Post-Impeachment Trump Pushes the Limits, Republicans Say Little Vindman, Alexander S United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Stone, Roger J Jr Senate Republican Party impeachment Cornyn, John Collins, Susan M

President Trump denied that his tweet praising the attorney general for intervening in the sentencing of Roger J. Stone Jr. was political interference.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Asked if Mr. Trump appeared to have learned any positive lessons from the impeachment saga that threatened his presidency and prompted her and some others Republicans to criticize his conduct, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska paused on Wednesday to choose her words carefully.

“There haven’t been strong indicators this week that he has,” she said.

In the Oval Office on Wednesday, Mr. Trump insisted he had in fact grown wiser based on the impeachment experience — but not in ways that many in his party were hoping for. “That the Democrats are crooked,” he told reporters when asked about the lessons he took from the episode. “They got a lot of crooked things going. That they’re vicious. That they shouldn’t have brought impeachment.”

On Capitol Hill, Republicans offered up general platitudes about the principle that presidents should stay out of pending legal matters. But none asked for an explanation of Mr. Trump’s handling of Mr. Stone’s case, or suggested his actions warranted further scrutiny.

Instead, after three years of provocations, attacks on political opponents and allies alike, and abrupt policy reversals, Republican lawmakers fell back on a set of neutral responses they have found crucial to navigating the choppy waters of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Privately, many in the party say it is just often not worth it to challenge him in the open. Better to try lobby the White House quietly, like a handful of Republican senators did last week when they tried to intervene to stop Mr. Trump from firing Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who testified in the House impeachment hearings. But their entreaties did not work.

Matters of foreign policy have often prompted more public disagreements, like a planned vote on Thursday to curtail Mr. Trump’s war powers, but they are few and far between.

The handful of moderate Republicans who have broken with the president on matters of consequence — including in recent weeks to criticize his pressure campaign on Ukraine undergirding the House’s impeachment case — are reluctant to to do so again and again.

Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, seemed to grow frustrated on Wednesday when reporters pressed her to reconcile Mr. Trump’s recent actions with her assertion last week that he would be “much more cautious in the future” after having been impeached.

“My vote to acquit the president was not based on predicting his future behavior,” Ms. Collins said. She added, “I think the president would be better served by never commenting on pending federal investigations.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chastised Mr. Trump for his pressure on Ukraine, declined to pass any direct judgment on the president’s actions since.

“The sentencing is in the hands of the courts, which should make an appropriate decision,” he said. “And politics should never play a part in law enforcement. So that’s what I have to say about that.”

Even Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the sole Republican who voted to convict Mr. Trump last week, said he did not have time to get into the particulars of the case, saying he trusted the judge in Mr. Stone’s case to “do what is right.”

“I can’t begin to spend time discussing the president’s tweets,” he said. “That would be a full-time job.”

Democrats have watched with increasing desperation. The House still holds subpoena power, and can use its control of the federal spending process to try to curb some unwanted excesses by the administration. But the chamber just used the Constitution’s most powerful tool for executive accountability, impeachment, and failed to win a conviction.

In the Senate, where Republicans are in control, some Democrats have taken to outright pleading with colleagues to speak up. Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, interrupted a Banking Committee meeting Wednesday morning to implore his colleagues to stop what he called Mr. Trump’s “retribution tour.”

“We cannot give him a permanent license to turn the presidency and the executive branch into his own personal vengeance operation,” Mr. Brown said. “If we say nothing — and I include everyone in this committee, including myself — it will get worse. His behavior will get worse.”

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to convene emergency hearings on the Justice Department matter.

But Mr. Graham ruled it out, saying he had sought an explanation from Mr. Barr’s office about the decision to change the sentencing recommendation for Mr. Stone, and found it satisfactory.

“Should the president stay out of cases? Yeah, absolutely. He should not be commenting on cases in the system,” Mr. Graham said. “If I thought he’d done something that changed the outcome inappropriately, I’d be the first to say.”

“I’m comfortable the system is working,” he added.

Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, chalked the Stone imbroglio up to the president’s social media habits.

“This is a situation where the tweet was very problematic,” he said, hastening to add that tweeting was the president’s right and that all signs he had seen pointed to the situation having been handled properly at the Justice Department.

Other elected Republicans professed a loose command of the facts or sidestepped questions by accusing reporters of distorting them.

Asked whether Mr. Trump had been emboldened since his acquittal, Mr. Cornyn dismissed the idea as a “narrative,” declining to elaborate as he disappeared into a committee room.

Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, said he was “still unfamiliar” with “all the particulars” of the situation around Mr. Stone’s sentencing, but added: “There’s no legal issue here. It’s just a question of propriety.”

Some Republicans did not even bother trying to explain away the president’s actions.

“I do not have an opinion on that,” declared Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader.

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