Digging up dirt?
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) could face a House ethics probe tied to accusations this week that he sought damaging information on Joe Biden from an ousted Ukrainian prosecutor. Nunes, the top Republican on the House committee overseeing the impeachment inquiry, denied meeting with the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, and threatened to sue CNN and The Daily Beast for publishing the allegations. The accusations came from Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani’s who worked on the pressure campaign against Ukraine; Parnas claims he learned from Shokin that Nunes set up meetings in Europe last year to “discuss digging up dirt” on the former vice president. Congressional records indicate Nunes took several aides on a four-day trip to Vienna, costing taxpayers $63,000. Parnas also claims he met personally with a Nunes aide at the Trump International Hotel to discuss efforts to damage Biden.
Los Angeles County
Authorities thwarted two potential school shooters last week within 50 miles of the Santa Clarita shooting earlier this month. One tip came from Ánimo Mae Jemison Charter Middle School in Los Angeles, where students overheard a 13-year-old boy threatening to shoot his classmates. Detectives searched his home and found an AR-15–style rifle, 100 rounds of ammunition, a list of intended targets, and a hand-drawn map of the school. A relative of the boy, 19, was charged with possession of an unregistered firearm. At Knight High School in Palmdale, a student who’d been involved in a fight on campus hours earlier was arrested after posting threats on social media along with photos of a person holding a gun. Between the time of the Santa Clarita shooting and those two arrests, local authorities investigated 34 other school-related threats that proved not credible.
More scrutiny for Rudy
New York City
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, broke lobbying laws or hid his work for foreign governments, The Wall Street Journal reported this week. Manhattan-based federal prosecutors and the FBI have issued subpoenas seeking information on payments to Giuliani and his security-consulting firm. The wide-ranging inquiry has already led to money-laundering charges against Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who both pleaded not guilty. Giuliani quarterbacked President Trump’s effort to collect dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter and was paid $500,000 last year by Parnas’ company. He denies any wrongdoing. “There’s obviously a concerted effort to spread as many lies about me as possible,” he said, “so that I’m not credible when I continue to reveal all of the massive evidence of criminality by the Bidens.”
A white police officer was convicted of manslaughter this week for killing an unarmed black man, Greg Gunn, steps from the house he shared with his mother. Gunn, 58, was stopped and patted down while returning home from a late-night poker game in 2016. Aaron Smith, 26, says Gunn fled, causing Smith to tackle him, tase him three times, hit him across the head with a police baton, and finally shoot him five times, first in the back. Prosecutors said Smith changed his story repeatedly, and his claim that Gunn swung a painter’s pole was undermined by the fact that Gunn was holding his baseball cap. Smith failed to turn on his body and dashboard cameras before the stop. The Montgomery Police Department was criticized for retaining Smith until his conviction. He now faces 10 to 20 years in prison.
New York City
Michael Bloomberg officially kicked off a Democratic presidential bid this week that will be boosted by an unprecedented self-funded ad blitz. Bloomberg, New York’s mayor from 2002 to 2013, launched his campaign with $31 million in nationwide TV ads, pitching himself as the candidate most likely to defeat President Trump. Bloomberg, 77, a former Republican who re-registered as a Democrat last year, backs higher taxes, gun reform, and an expansion of Obamacare. Earlier this month he apologized for stop-and-frisk, a policing strategy that was often criticized for racial bias during his years as mayor. Worth an estimated $54 billion, Bloomberg says he won’t accept donations and plans to spend at least $500 million in the primary season, including $100 million in anti-Trump digital ads. Competitors condemned the outsize spending by Bloomberg, who intends to bypass the first four primary and caucus states. “Elections should not be for sale,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said.
“Presidents are not kings,” U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said this week, ruling that White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify before the House Judiciary Committee and striking a blow at President Trump’s efforts to stonewall investigations. The White House had ordered McGahn, whom Democrats have called the single most important witness for determining whether Trump obstructed the Mueller probe, to defy the House’s subpoena. Yet presidents, Jackson ruled, “do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.” She called the administration’s legal claim of an “absolute immunity” that would shield top presidential advisers from testifying “fiction.” Many key potential witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry could now be compelled to testify, though the White House will appeal the ruling. If McGahn does testify, he could still invoke executive privilege to limit his testimony. ■