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Politics

Former President Jimmy Carter admitted to hospital for brain surgery

aimintang/iStock(ATLANTA) -- Former President Jimmy Carter was hospitalized on Monday for a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain, caused by bleeding due to his recent falls, a spokesperson said.

Carter, the oldest living ex-U.S. president, was admitted to Emory University Hospital on Monday evening ahead of the procedure, which is scheduled to take place Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for the family said he was "resting comfortably, and his wife, Rosalynn, is with him."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Defense aides confused by hold on military aid for Ukraine: Transcripts

rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats on Monday released three more transcripts from closed-door testimony that showed that Defense Department aides were confused by a hold on U.S. military aid for Ukraine, and one senior State Department staffer was nervous that President Donald Trump would shift U.S. policy to "suit domestic politics."

The interview transcripts come as House Democrats plan the first open hearings on Wednesday as part of an impeachment inquiry.

At issue is whether Trump improperly pressured Ukraine -- a country that desperately needed U.S. aid to fend off Russian aggression -- to launch investigations into the 2016 election and Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The transcripts came from testimony by Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia; and Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, who both worked as special advisers on Ukraine at the State Department.

Croft testified that her foreign counterparts raised concerns about a hold on military aid "very early on." She said news of the hold got out quickly after a July meeting and that two Ukrainian officials approached her quietly to ask about it.

"I remember being very surprised at the effectiveness of my Ukrainian counterparts' diplomatic tradecraft, as in to say they found out very early on or much earlier than I expected them to," she said.

Croft also said she expressed her concerns to a colleague earlier this year that if Trump saw Biden as a "credible rival," he might try to change U.S. policy on Ukraine.

"It was possible that the Trump administration would choose to change its policy to suit domestic politics," she testified in a closed-door deposition.

At the Pentagon, Cooper said that aides were confused by the hold on the financial aid because the Defense Department had certified the financial transfer last May when Ukraine had met the necessary anti-corruption benchmarks.

Upon learning the aid was on hold last July, Cooper said senior aides were unclear legally how everything would "play out."

"So the comments in the room at the deputies' level reflected a sense that there was not an understanding of how this could legally play out," she told Congress, according to the transcript of her interview. "And at that meeting the deputies agreed to look into the legalities and to look at what was possible."

 In her testimony, Cooper spoke to the need for the military aid to fend off Russian aggression, noting that Russia had already in 2014 tried to annex a portion of Ukraine.

"They are trying to negotiate a peace with Russia, and if they are seen as weak, and if they are seen to lack the backing of the United States for their Armed Forces, it makes it much more difficult for them to negotiate a peace on terms that are good for Ukraine," she testified.

She also described a conversation with former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, in which he said the military aid would be released if Ukraine was willing to make a statement "that would somehow disavow any interference in U.S. elections and would commit to the prosecution of any individuals in election interference."

Laura Cooper transcript:

Laura Cooper transcript by ABC News Politics on Scribd


Catherine Croft transcript:

 

Christopher Anderson transcript:

Christopher Anderson transc... by ABC News Politics on Scribd


Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

 


Gabbard lawyers call out-of-context Clinton comments 'defamatory,' demand she issue a retraction

Jenny Anderson/Walt Disney Television(WASHINGTON) -- Lawyers representing Hawaii Rep. and 2020 Democratic presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard wrote a letter to former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on Monday, demanding that she retract a statement saying that Republicans were grooming a female 2020 candidate.

Initially, there was confusion after Clinton's comments, made on the "Campaign HQ" podcast weeks ago, were taken out of context when listeners and reporters thought Clinton said Russia, not Republicans, was grooming a 2020 candidate for a third-party run.

When asked for comment at the time, a Clinton spokesman said, “if the nesting doll fits.”

Gabbard latched onto Clinton’s comments, and is now calling them defamatory. The Clinton team later worked to clarify that she was talking about Republicans grooming a candidate for a third-party run.

“It appears you may now be claiming that this statement is about Republicans (not Russians) grooming Gabbard,” her lawyers wrote. “But this makes no sense in the light of what you actually said… This Republicans-not-Russians spin developed only after you realized the defamatory nature of your statement, and therefore your legal liability, as well as the full extent of the public backlash against your statement."

ABC News’ request for comment from Clinton about Gabbard's retraction request was not immediately returned.

At a campaign stop on Monday, Gabbard again ruled out a third-party run.

"Over and over and over again, I have ruled out a third-party run completely. There should be no disputing of the fact. This is something I've said consistently since anyone has asked me for months and months," Gabbard told reporters. "The fact that people like Hillary Clinton and others are continuing to traffic in this rumor-mongering just shows that they're more interested in trying to undermine my candidacy and my campaign than actually living in the world of truth."

In recent weeks, Gabbard has been asked frequently if she would be running as a third-party candidate. She told "The View" last week that she would only run as a Democrat and came onto the show to "set the record straight."

"I'm running to build a New Democratic Party," she said.

Clinton’s original exchange came as a part of a conversation centered on Republican paths to victory in 2020. Clinton suggested that President Donald Trump’s campaign would try to deflect votes from his opponent and direct them toward a third-party candidate.

"It's going to be the same as 2016. 'Don't vote for the other guy. You don't like me? Don't vote for the other guy, because the other guy is going to do x,y,z, the other guy did such terrible things," Clinton said.

"And I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She's the favorite of the Russians; they have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far..." Clinton told David Plouffe, the 2008 Barack Obama campaign manager.

Gabbard addressed speculation about being boosted by Russia on ABC's "This Week" in May, after being asked about an article published in The Daily Beast titled "Tulsi Gabbard's Campaign Is Being Boosted by Putin Apologists."

The Daily Beast article said that Gabbard's campaign was being "underwritten by some of the nation's leading Russophiles," and highlighted donations from supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The piece says that those donors' views are likely to align more closely with Gabbard's on subjects like Syria. As a member of Congress, she has met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and criticized a U.S. strike against the Syrian government, receiving backlash from other Democrats in Congress.

"You know, it's unfortunate that you're citing that article, George, because it's a whole lot of fake news," Gabbard said. "What I am focused on is what is in the best interest of the American people. What is in the best interest of our national security. Keeping the American people safe."


Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick weighs potential late 2020 presidential bid: Sources

adamkaz(WASHINGTON) -- Deval Patrick, the politician who made history as Massachusetts' first black governor, is eyeing a potential late bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to two Democratic Party sources.

The ally of former President Barack Obama has begun reaching out to officials and potential aides about a possible late entry into the race, the sources said. The decision comes as a reversal to the announcement at the end of 2018 he would not run.

"I hope to help in whatever way I can. It just won’t be as a candidate for president," he wrote in 2018, as he signaled that his concerns with launching a White House run were with "the cruelty of our elections process."

If the former governor decides to join the other 19 presidential contenders currently competing for the nomination, he would most likely announce Thursday, the day before the filing deadline in the first primary state of New Hampshire.

The New York Times was first to report Patrick was considering a run.

Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said he "has not spoken with anyone about a potential Deval Patrick presidential campaign."

Patrick is the second Democrat to consider a late entry into the still-crowded primary field, after former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed to qualify for Alabama's primary last week, keeping his options open as he weighs his own last-minute run amid concerns over the current field's ability to defeat President Donald Trump.

The news of Patrick's possible entry already earned jeers from the Trump campaign's director of communication, Tim Murtaugh, who tweeted, "Late entries into the Democrat primary just mean that the existing cast of characters can’t get it done. Not one of them can beat @realDonaldTrump and the new ones can't either."

Patrick, a CBS News political commentator, expressed his own concerns about the primary field, saying last month on "CBS This Morning" that he thought former Vice President Joe Biden's "support was soft."

"I'm a fan of the vice president. I have known him a long time. I have always felt that his support was soft and it feels like his campaign is contracting rather than expanding," he said following the October debate.

He also added that he thought "poll numbers" don't "mean much right now" and suggested voters aren't keeping too close of an eye on the primary this early.

"I'm not sure that the poll numbers mean much right now. I keep meeting people who say, 'you know it's too much right now, I'm not focused right now. I'll focus when there are fewer candidates' and I suspect that moment will come soon."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren actually named Patrick as a possible member of her cabinet in an interview with Angela Rye over the weekend, saying, "If I could talk about people who aren't politicians, I talk about my former governor, Deval Patrick, who is a pretty terrific guy."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mulvaney withdraws motion to join lawsuit over congressional testimony after House Democrats, Bolton ally push back

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour(WASHINGTON) -- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney filed a notice of withdrawal of his motion to join an ongoing lawsuit filed last month.

The original lawsuit, filed by Dr. Charles Kupperman was in response to a subpoena he received from House Democrats seeking his testimony in the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump regarding Ukraine.

Monday afternoon, attorneys for the House Democrats and the former deputy national security adviser jointly filed with a federal judge saying Mulvaney should not be able to join the lawsuit.

Kupperman was subpoenaed by House Democrats on Oct. 25, that subpoena has since been withdrawn. The House asked the judge to dismiss Kupperman's case on Wednesday after they withdrew their subpoena for Kupperman's testimony, arguing that the case was obsolete without the subpoena.

The president's former deputy national security adviser shares the same attorney with his former boss, ex-national security adviser John Bolton, who has rejected a House invitation for testimony. He has not be subpoenaed at this point in time.

In their filing on Monday, Democrats argued "this case is moot … (and) the subpoena to Kupperman, which provides the sole basis for the injury he asserts in his complaint, has been withdrawn." Therefore, Mulvaney should not be allowed to intervene. Democrats added that Mulvaney's intervention should be thrown out even if the "case were not moot." Democrats claimed that "Mulvaney is differently situated from Kupperman in several important respects that make clear that he lacks a cognizable interest in Kupperman's case."

On the other hand, Kupperman's attorney, Charles Cooper, also argued Mulvaney should not be able to join the suit but for different reasoning. Cooper in his filing argued that Kupperman is neutral, and noted that Mulvaney is not, writing in part, "Mulvaney has made it clear that he supports the Executive, and he accordingly seeks declaratory relief against only the House Defendants."

Attorneys also pointed out that Kupperman is no longer part of the administration, unlike Mulvaney.

Mulvaney's notice on Tuesday evening states his intention to refile as a separate, related case.

Kupperman filed his case shortly after he was subpoenaed, asking a judge to decide whether he must submit to questioning in the House impeachment inquiry.

The case is the latest twist in White House efforts to block all former and current administration officials from testifying or otherwise cooperating with the Democrat-led probe.

The White House had maintained that Kupperman is entitled to what it calls constitutional immunity, arguing, "Congress may not constitutionally compel the president's senior advisers to testify about their official duties" due to the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Judge dismisses Trump lawsuit against NY officials, House committee over taxes

ftwitty/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge on Monday issued another blow to President Donald Trump and his ongoing effort to avoid having his tax records turned over to Congress.

U.S. Judge Carl Nichols granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that Trump filed in July over the TRUST Act in New York, which gave Congress the authority to retrieve tax information from New York residents.

In granting the dismissal, he noted that the president, "has not met his burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over either of the New York Defendants."

The president's lawsuit named the House Ways and Means Committee, New York Attorney General Letitia James and the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance, Michael Schmidt. ABC News reported at the time that Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has hesitated to use the new law to request the president's state returns.

In their complaint, Trump's lawyers claimed that Neal had "expressed a renewed interest in utilizing" the statute.

Nichols wrote that "such a speculative statement" about Rep. Richard Neal's "interest in utilizing" the TRUST Act "does not satisfy" the court.

Shortly after the judge issued his ruling, New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement applauding the decision.

“We have said all along that this lawsuit should be dismissed and we are pleased with the court’s conclusion.," James said. "The TRUST Act is an important tool that will ensure accountability to millions of Americans who deserve to know the truth. We have never doubted that this law was legal, which is why we vigorously defended it from the start and will continue to do so.”

In response, the president's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, downplayed the implications of the ruling.

"Regarding the tax case out of DC -- we are reviewing the opinion," Sekulow said. "The case against the Ways and Means Committee proceeds in federal court."

Sekulow was referring to a separate lawsuit with similar implications for the president' highly sought after tax information. The House Ways and Means Committee filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration seeking six years of the president's tax returns. A judge has not yet ruled on that case.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Longtime New York Republican Rep. Peter King will not run for re-election

rarrarorro/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Congressman Peter King, who has represented his Long Island congressional district for almost 30 years has announced that we will retire and not seek re-election in 2020.

King, 75, is a 14-term congressman who was first elected to New York’s 2nd district in 1992. His vacant seat leaves Democrats with an opportunity to gain a competitive seat in the House as they look to defend -– and possibly increase -– their majority in 2020.

King announced his retirement in a Facebook post saying that “this was not an easy decision.”

“The prime reason for my decision,” King said, “was that after 28 years of spending 4 days a week in Washington, D.C., it is time to end the weekly commute and be home in Seaford.

“Politically, I will miss the energy and dynamism of a re-election campaign especially since my polling numbers are as strong as they have ever been and I have more than $1 million in campaign funds,” he said. “Governmentally, I will miss fighting for the people of my district and America and will always be proud of my efforts for 9/11 victims and their families; protecting our citizens from terrorism and MS-13; leading the successful effort to recover from Superstorm Sandy; being consistently cited for bipartisanship; working with President Clinton to achieve the Good Friday Agreement and end centuries of warfare in Ireland and Northern Ireland; and standing with the brave men and women of law Enforcement.”

King’s district has become more competitive in recent years. He won re-election in 2018 by only 6 percentage points after winning by 17 percentage points 2 years earlier. Donald Trump won the district by 9 points in 2016 but President Barack Obama won the district in 2012 and 2008.

The former Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has long maintained a reputation for bipartisanship and being able to be one of the few people in Congress to reach across the aisle. In 2017, King was named as the most bipartisan member of Congress by the Lugar Center in an index ranking of all members in the 114th congress.

King has also earned a reputation for his hard lines on immigration and crime.

“For too long the federal government has not done enough to secure our borders or enforce immigration laws already on the books. The border situation is even more serious now because it's not just undocumented workers trying to enter the country looking for work but rather organizations seeking to exploit our porous borders to smuggle weapons and drugs into the U.S.,” says King’s platform on his website.

Regarding crime, he says “I have been a leader in cracking down on illegal gun trafficking, ensuring only qualified individuals are able to purchase weapons, and respecting individual state laws on firearm purchases, all while respecting the Second Amendment Rights of Americans nationwide."

Peter King stood head & shoulders above everyone else

He’s been principled & never let others push him away from his principles

He’s fiercely loved America, Long Island, and his Irish heritage and left a lasting mark on all 3

I will miss him in Congress & value his friendship https://t.co/GSXizZ2c5D

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 11, 2019

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer lauded King in a tweet saying “he stood head and shoulders above everyone else.”

King thanked the residents of the 2nd Congressional District who elected him for 14 terms and indicated that, even though he was retiring, he would vote against Donald Trump’s impeachment and will support the president’s bid for re-election in 2020.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chief Justice John Roberts, who's clashed with Trump, would oversee impeachment trial

JPecha/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- If President Donald Trump faces an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, it would mark the third time in history a U.S. Supreme Court chief justice would have to preside over the affair -- but the first time for one who has clashed openly with the very president whose fate hangs in the balance.

Trump has called Chief Justice John Roberts an "absolute disaster" and a "nightmare for conservatives."

Roberts, who is constitutionally bound to oversee impeachment trial proceedings, has publicly chided Trump for criticizing federal judges.

"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," he said last year in a statement.

The chief justice has said nothing publicly about the impeachment inquiry or any preparations for a possible trial. A court spokeswoman has declined to comment on the record. But Roberts, now in his 15th term on the bench, is almost certainly watching developments on Capitol Hill with a wary eye.

"He well understands, at this extraordinarily polarized time, with the eyes of the whole country on him, it's urgently important that he be perceived by both sides as being entirely neutral and fair, and I'm sure that's what he's going to do," said Jeffrey Rosen, a constitutional scholar and CEO of the National Constitution Center who has interviewed Roberts.

"They have their job to do, and you have to recognize that," Roberts said of Congress and the White House in a September speech on the same day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened Democrats' formal impeachment inquiry into Trump. "In our branch, our job is to interpret the law and ensure compliance with the Constitution."

Roberts, who famously compared his role as a justice to a baseball umpire calling balls and strikes, would be tested like never before. He has no experience as a trial judge, and he's assiduously sought to avoid the very type of political spectacle he'd have to oversee.

"I don't think you feel any extra pressure because of the president's attack, but Roberts will be reinforced in his determination to uphold the ideal that he cares about," Rosen said. "He feels passionately about the need for the courts to be perceived in a nonpartisan way; he's said it ever since he was appointed as Chief Justice."

All signs suggest Roberts intends to remain religiously focused on the court's docket -- some 896 cases so far this term -- and seek to avoid disruptions to the court's business at all costs.

The justices are currently weighing decisions on employment discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender Americans; Trump's elimination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA; life sentences for juvenile offenders; gun rights; and abortion.

An impeachment trial would force Roberts into a delicate balancing act, splitting time between deliberating on cases and deliberating on the fate of the president -- both significant and high-stakes.

The best scenario for Roberts would be for a Senate trial to occur during one of the court's planned recesses in either late December into early January, or late January into early February. But conflict between scheduled court sittings and impeachment proceedings might be impossible to avoid.

President Bill Clinton's Senate impeachment trial ran from Jan. 7 to Feb. 12, 1999, including several days when the Supreme Court was in session.

"Chief Justice (William) Rehnquist would hear argument on the east side of the street in the morning from 10 to 12, then cross to the other side to preside in the Senate, in some cases well into the night," said Neil Richards, a former Rehnquist clerk during the 1999 impeachment trial of Clinton.

If Roberts is unable to preside at a scheduled court sitting, Justice Clarence Thomas would manage the session as the senior member of the bench. Roberts would still be allowed to vote in cases before the court, but would have to do so based on legal briefs and transcripts of the oral arguments.

"A judge who's a good manager of his time should be able to work harder at night and catch up on the regular work of the term," said Eric Claeys, a former Rehnquist clerk during the 1995-1996 term.

Despite the complicated schedule, involvement of the chief justice in an impeachment trial will add solemnity and an air of impartiality, which the founding fathers intended, political historians said.

"The chief justice is in the chair. And senators are not allowed to speak. So, that's the way it will be handled in the Senate," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the process earlier this month.

If his Supreme Court sessions are any guide, Roberts' style at trial would be punctual, formal, polite but firm, not afraid to show a sense of humor or to challenge colleagues when he doesn't agree.

He would be tasked with moderating the impeachment proceedings, setting the pace, authorizing senators to speak or stop speaking, and would decide on motions and admissibility of evidence. During questioning of any witnesses, the chief justice is the conduit for senators to submit their queries in writing, according to Senate rules.

"Experts in Senate procedure will no doubt offer him advice," said Richards, "but the calls he makes are subject to reversal by the other 50 people in the room. He can make a ruling and 50 other people can overrule him."

In the event a vote is called and there's a tie, the chief would break it.

"He would try to be even more neutral than Rehnquist, if possible, and Rehnquist was almost completely neutral," said Rosen. "He consulted a Senate parliamentarian before making many of his rulings and Roberts might do the same."

During the Clinton impeachment, Rehnquist made just one notable substantive ruling. When a senator objected to another's characterization of the lawmakers as "jurors," Rehnquist upheld the objection and said they were sitting as a court.

Rehnquist refused to weigh in on excluding evidence or limiting debate, instead deferring to senators for backroom negotiations or a simple majority vote to resolve a question.

"He presided, but it was the Senate's trial," Claeys said. "His job was mostly a ceremonial one."

During a trial, Roberts would receive a temporary office off of the Senate floor and be allowed two aides seated beside him in the chamber. Rehnquist always had one of his three clerks present along with his Administrative Assistant James Duff, who is now the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, Richards said.

Roberts' reputation as an institutionalist suggests he would try to closely follow the example of Rehnquist, for whom he also once clerked. But scholars say the chief justice has the potential to be much more engaged in impeachment trial proceedings should he choose to be.

"This is literally an ancient and rarely used constitutional mechanism, and when things creak into life they take on a life of their own," said Richards. "Not only are careers and legacies at stake, but they are directing the future of the country. And the normal rules may not apply."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


As impeachment inquiry goes public, federal prosecutors quietly investigate Giuliani

Marilyn Nieves/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As the Congressional impeachment inquiry goes public this week, prosecutors in New York are quietly continuing to investigate an alleged covert plan involving Ukrainian government officials and associates of Rudy Giuliani to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to that country, sources told ABC News.

In recent weeks, a former congressman caught up in the scandal and who's now cooperating with federal investigators has been asked about any role he might have played in removing Yovanovitch, a key figure in the ongoing impeachment proceedings.

The recent indictments of the two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, claim at a critical period, during the spring and summer of 2018, the two men embarked on a plan to raise $20,000 for a congressmen whom they wanted to help get Yovanovitch removed.

Federal prosecutors claim Parnas and Fruman, two Florida-based businessmen from the former Soviet Union, were working to remove Yovanovitch at the request of Ukrainian government officials.

The congressman has been identified as former House member Pete Sessions of Texas. The two men also contributed $350,000 to a SuperPAC that spent roughly $3 million for Sessions during the 2018 election cycle.

Federal authorities claim Parnas met with the Sessions to secure his "assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then-ambassador to the Ukraine," Yovanovitch. Sources told ABC News that Sessions wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking that he consider "terminating" Yovanovitch's "ambassadorship and find a replacement as soon as possible."

A source familiar with the investigation said in recent weeks that prosecutors subpoenaed Sessions seeking any documents related to the letter requesting that Yovanovitch be fired.

Sessions has maintained he took no action at the behest of Parnas and Fruman, but that he wrote that letter only after several congressional colleagues reported to him claims that Yovanovitch was disparaging President Donald Trump, which Yovanovitch has denied under oath.

"My entire motivation for sending the letter was that I believe that political appointees should not be disparaging the president, especially while serving overseas," Sessions said in a statement.

A spokesman for Sessions said the former congressman is cooperating with investigators and has turned over the requested documents.

The source told ABC News federal investigators also have a significant number of questions for Sessions about Giuliani.

While the circumstances of Fruman's and Parnas' alleged roles in Yovanovitch's removal is not the primary focus of federal prosecutors in New York, according to sources, it does give criminal investigators a potential avenue, depending how aggressive they are, to delve into a key aspect of the Ukrainian scandal unfolding in Washington.

Understanding why Fruman and Parnas allegedly wanted Yovanovitch out of Ukraine, and who backed those efforts, has potential implications for their close associate, Giuliani. The former prosecutor and New York mayor also was working to get Yovanovitch removed and is accused of being the architect of a plan involving Trump to have Ukrainian officials investigate Vice President Joe Biden.

It's not yet completely clear how Parnas and Fruman financed their alleged efforts to influence U.S. politics and to remove an ambassador. Both men have pleaded not guilty to alleged campaign finance violations.

According to the indictment, Parnas and Fruman falsely claimed the source of their alleged illegal contributions was a limited liability corporation they established called Global Energy Producers. The government alleges the money actually came from a "private lending transaction between Fruman and third parties, and never passed through a GEP account."

Yovanovitch apparently knew she was a target. She testified as part of the impeachment inquiry that a senior Ukrainian official who contacted her in February told her about "two individuals from Florida, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, who were working with Giuliani."

That senior Ukrainian official, Yovanovitch testified to House investigators, "was very concerned, and told me I really needed to watch my back."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Hidden Figures' NASA women to receive Congressional Gold Medals

LaserLens/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Three African American women who were portrayed in the 2016 film, "Hidden Figures," will receive Congressional Gold Medals.

President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 1396, the “Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act” which will award Congressional Gold Medals to Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Vaughan and Jackson will receive their honor posthumously.

The three African American women were featured in the movie starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer. The film details the true story of Johnson, Jackson and Vaughan, who faced discrimination, racism and segregation but were vital in preparing astronaut John Glenn's orbital mission. The three women were mathematical masterminds who helped make history.

Johnson, who turned 101 years old in August, is the only surviving member of the trio. In 2015, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2017, NASA honored her with its dedication of the Katherine Jonson Computational Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia.

The legislation also provides a Congressional Gold Medal to Dr. Christine Darden, an African American female mathematician, data analyst and aeronautical engineer who worked 40 years at NASA, starting in 1967. While Darden is not featured in the "Hidden Figures" movie, she is in the original book by Margot Lee Shetterly.

In addition, one gold medal will be awarded "in recognition of all the women who served as computers, mathematicians, and engineers at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) between the 1930s and the 1970s" as per Congress’ website.

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'This is a very strong case of bribery' : Rep. Jackie Speier on impeachment

ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- A Democratic and a Republican lawmaker looked ahead to the first televised hearings in the impeachment probe and responded on Sunday to the Republican witness requests in interviews on ABC's "This Week."

"This is a very simple, straightforward act. The president broke the law," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif, a member of the House Intelligence Committee which will conduct this week's public hearings. "He went on a telephone call with the president of Ukraine and said 'I have a favor though' and then proceeded to ask for an investigation of his rival. This is a very strong case of bribery."

"The Constitution is very clear -- treason, bribery or acts of omission," she added. "And in this case it's clearly one of those."

Ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, criticized the inquiry for being partisan, in response to Speier during a separate interview on "This Week."

"I think whatever happens now, there will be a taint to this one-sided partisan approach to impeachment, that is different that has been used before, and so I think there will be intense skepticism about whatever they come up with," he said.

When "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz pressed Thornberry on the substance of the allegations at the center of the impeachment inquiry versus the process, Thornberry said, "I believe that it is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival."

He added, however, "I do not believe it was impeachable."

Thornberry further defended the Republicans' focus on process over substance in the impeachment inquiry.

"There's a reason we let murderers and robbers and rapists go free when their due process rights have been violated," he said. "We believe the integrity of the system, the integrity of the Constitution, the integrity of the processes under our legal system, is more important than the outcome of one particular case."

When asked why he thought President Donald Trump's actions were not an abuse of power, the Texas Republican pointed to the president's public statements on these issues.

"There's not anything that the president said in that phone call that's different than he says in public all the time," Thornberry said. "So, is there some sort of abuse of power that rises to that threshold that is different than the American people have been hearing for three years? I don't hear that."

Public hearings in the impeachment inquiry begin on Wednesday, with testimony from Ambassador Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent scheduled.

House Republicans released their request for witnesses on Saturday, including Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, an individual referred to as "the anonymous whistleblower," senior diplomat Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison, the senior director for Europe and Russia on the White House National Security Council, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff responded to Republicans in a letter saying that the committee was evaluating the witness list, but said that the impeachment inquiry would not "serve as vehicles for any Member to carry out the same sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies about the 2016 U.S. election interference that President Trump pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit."

He also called the original whistleblower's testimony "redundant and unnecessary" and said that an appearance would put the whistleblower's personal safety at risk.

On "This Week," Speier echoed Schiff's comments and said the focus needs to stay on the president's conversation.

"We want to stay focused on the Ukraine call," she said.

"And having Hunter Biden come in is unrelated to the Ukraine call. And so that becomes irrelevant," she added.

Thornberry criticized the timing of the inquiry, accusing Democrats of rushing the process so that impeachment does not interfere with early presidential primary challenges.

"Put everything they've got out there, fine," Thornberry said. "Let the American people decide this in less than a year."



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Missing airman who fell out of plane into Gulf of Mexico identified as 29-year-old Special Tactics combat controller

U.S. Air Force(NEW YORK) -- The Air Force has identified the missing airman who fell out of a plane over the Gulf of Mexico during a training exercise as a 29-year-old Special Tactics combat controller.

Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff fell from a C-130 aircraft on Tuesday during a parachute training exercise, according to the Air Force. His parachute was deployed, officials said.

Condiff fell from the aircraft at about 1,500 feet and others in the plane saw him tread water after he landed, ABC News Pensacola affiliate WEAR reported. It was unclear what led to the fall.

The Dallas native was with the Air Force's 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing and "was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations," according to his biography.

His roles included static-line jumpmaster, military free-fall jumper, combat scuba diver, air traffic controller and a joint terminal attack controller.

After enlisting in the Air Force in 2012, Condiff completed deployments to Africa and Afghanistan, according to the Air Force. He was promoted to staff sergeant in December 2017 and was received the Air Force Commendation Medal with a combat device and Air Force Achievement Medal.

The U.S. Coast Guard announced Saturday that the search for Condiff had been suspended and the Air Force has taken the lead in the efforts to recover his body.

Condiff is survived by his wife and their two daughters as well as his parents, sister and two brothers, according to the Air Force.

The Air Force described him as a "devoted family man" who was "focused on teaching his girls to be adventurous like he was."

"Cole was a man with deep-rooted beliefs who dedicated himself to God, our freedoms, peace, and his family," U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steven Cooper, commander of the 23rd STS, said in a statement.

"This is a tragic loss to the squadron, the Special Tactics community and our nation. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and teammates at this time."

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Despite smaller footprint, military objective remains the same in Syria: Gen. Milley

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that although the military's footprint will remain small, it's important to keep watch over the Islamic State in Syria to meet the objective of permanently defeating ISIS.

"There are still ISIS fighters in the region. And unless pressure is maintained, unless attention is maintained on that group, then there is a very real possibility that conditions could be set for a reemergence of ISIS," the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday on ABC's "This Week," in his first interview since taking the role. "The footprint will be small, but the objective will remain the same: the enduring defeat of ISIS."

Asked about current troop levels in Syria after President Trump's recent call to withdraw forces, Milley said over 500 troops would likely remain there.

"If I do my math and I look at the new troops going in and those going out, it could be more than 700 who remain," said "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

Milley responded, "Well, there'll be less than a thousand for sure, and probably in the 500-ish frame, maybe six. But it's in, that it's in, that area. But we're not gonna go into specific numbers because we're still going through the analysis right now."

President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw nearly all American troops in the Kurdish-controlled region in Syria in October, drawing bipartisan backlash in Congress.

His stance on troop deployments reversed only two days after the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, when the president said military forces "may have to fight for the oil."

The death of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi also raised concerns over a new potential leader of ISIS, but Milley said the Pentagon has "a considerable amount of information" on that individual.

"We'll see in the days ahead, in the weeks ahead, in the months ahead if he's able to piece together his organization or not," Milley said on "This Week" Sunday. "We'll pay close attention to him and where opportunities arise, we'll go after him as well."

As the impeachment inquiry intensifies, Milley also underlined the diplomatic significance of military aid to Ukraine, saying that it's important to continue to help Ukraine maintain its free and sovereign status.

Milley declined to comment on the recent news surrounding National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified in a closed door deposition in the impeachment inquiry and was attacked by President Trump.

"I have learned over the years an active duty military officer is not to comment on active investigations," he said, adding that doing so would be inappropriate.

Milley also discussed U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, which he insisted never again would be "a safe haven to terrorists that would attack the United States."

"In order for that mission to be successful, the government of Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces, are going to have to be able to sustain their own internal security to prevent terrorists from using their territory to attack other countries, especially the United States," Milley said. "That effort's ongoing. It's been ongoing for 18 consecutive years."

After serving in Afghanistan as the Deputy Commanding General, Milley told ABC News he has never once regretted his decision to join the military. Born and raised in a veterans' family, he said he thinks about the soldiers who died under his command as Veterans' Day approaches.

"The freedoms we have are not free. They're paid for in the blood of all those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been fighting for it for two and a half centuries," he said.

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Sanders, campaigning with AOC, says potential Bloomberg bid shows 'the arrogance of billionaires'

Bastiaan Slabbers/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., took a break from campaigning throughout Iowa on Saturday to join ABC News for a wide-ranging interview that included sharp words for a potential rival.

The senator and the representative each criticized former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who's now considering his own 2020 bid.

"That is the arrogance of billionaires," said Sanders, referring to reports that if Bloomberg runs he doesn't intend to participate in early-state primaries.

"I'm doing five events this weekend right here in Iowa," Sanders continued. "We're all over New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, California. But he's too important. You see, when you're worth $50 billion, I guess you don't have to have town meetings, you don't have to talk to ordinary people. What you do is you take out, I guess a couple of billion dollars, and you buy the state of California."

"I don't think billionaires should be president right now," Ocasio-Cortez added. "I don't think that that's what this country needs, and I think that is going to take us further in the direction of wealth and political power concentrating at the very, very top of our country, and I think that our democracy should be for everyday people, not for purchase."

Ocasio-Cortez also cited Bloomberg's support of the New York Police Department's use of stop-and-frisk measures, widely considered to be racially discriminatory, as a major issue he'd have to confront during a campaign.

"To this day, he still defends his policy of stop-and-frisk, which impacted families like mine," the congresswoman said. "It was my cousins and my friends that were stopped on the New York City subway system and racially profiled and patted down and thrown into jail for low-level marijuana offenses."

The pair took to the campaign trail in the Hawkeye State less than three weeks after Ocasio-Cortez publicly announced her endorsement of Sanders' bid at a massive New York City rally. Ocasio-Cortez attended three events with Sanders and addressed thousands of supporters. She also knocked on doors to rally support in Des Moines.

Ocasio-Cortez met with Sen. Elizabeth Warren before she ultimately decided to endorse Sanders. The New York congresswoman said Sanders' Medicare for all plan and decades-long progressive record are what swayed her.

"It's about a personal story and a personal history, and I think his history and commitment is unique," Ocasio-Cortez added. "I think we're so used to electoral cycles about being the lesser of two evils that we are not used to selecting the best of great options."

On impeachment, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez agreed that former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter, whose former position on the board of a Ukrainian company was at the center of President Donald Trump's calls for that country to investigate the Bidens, should not be called as a witness in the impeachment probe.

The congresswoman criticized House Republicans, accusing them of turning the probe into a "partisan issue." She also said calls to out the whistleblower were "profoundly dangerous."

"We need to protect the rule of law in the United States of America," she said, adding that the in relation to the impeachment probe, Republicans are "trying to turn this into a sideshow, and it's undignified and it's wrong."

"What Republicans are trying to do with Hunter Biden," Sanders added, "is clearly to deflect attention from the impeachable offenses of Donald Trump."

The senator added that he will attempt to maintain his rigorous pace of campaigning should impeachment go to trial and his presence be required on Capitol Hill.

"I guess I'm just going to have to try to be in Washington, D.C, in Des Moines, Iowa, and Concord, New Hampshire at the same time," Sanders said. "I will do my best."

With an eye on 2020, Sanders pledged that his partnership with Ocasio-Cortez would continue should he win the presidency.

"If I am in the White House," Sanders added, "she will play a very, very important role, no question, in one way or the other."

Sanders was asked what type of role.

"No hints," he said.



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Trump says transcript of 2nd call with Ukraine president to be released soon

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump told reporters on Saturday morning to expect a transcript of his second phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be released next week.

"Now they want to have a transcript of the other call, the second call, and I'm willing to provide that," Trump said, likely speaking of an April phone call just after Zelenskiy took office. "We’ll probably give it to you on Tuesday."

"But," the president added, "we have another transcript coming out which is very important. They asked for it. And I'll gladly give it. There's never been a president who's been so transparent."

Trump spoke briefly before boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Washington, on his way to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to attend the Louisiana State University vs. Alabama college football game.

The White House released a rough first transcript of a July phone call with Zelenskiy on Sept. 25 after word got out of a complaint from a whistleblower within the intelligence community. The White House transcript included cautionary language saying it was not a verbatim account of the discussion between the two leaders, as some Intelligence Community officials said releasing a full transcript could "undermine" national security.

"The text in this document records the notes and recollections of Situation Room duty officers and [National Security Council] policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place," the White House memo said.

Portions of the memo were redacted, but Zelenskiy asserted that there was "no blackmail" in the July call that led the House to open a formal impeachment inquiry into the president.

"There was no blackmail. It was not the subject of our conversation," he said. "The call could have no impact on our relations with America."

Notes from the whistleblower complaint said the opposite, citing a White House official who listened in to the phone call and described it as "crazy" and "frightening" and was "visibly shaken."

Despite Zelenskiy's claim that there was no quid pro quo on the phone call, government officials were subpoenaed to appear before the House Oversight, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees in a series of closed-door depositions as part of the formal impeachment inquiry.

One by one, current and formal officials met before Congress to give their account of the phone call and the Trump administration's relationship with Ukraine -- including the business dealings of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

"I was concerned by the call," said Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the director of European affairs at the National Security Council. "I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine."

Trump continues to defend his call with Zelenskiy as "perfect," and has made negative comments about the inquiry, calling it a "hoax."

Public testimonies with the witnesses are also scheduled to begin next week, as the House announced on Nov. 6.

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