September 9, 2019

President Trump's administration bungled its handling of classified information so badly, the CIA had to extract one of its best spies from Russia, CNN's Jim Sciutto reports.

Early in Trump's administration, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned fellow officials that "too much information was coming out regarding the covert source," putting their safety at risk, CNN writes. So the U.S. embarked on a secret and eventually successful 2017 mission to extract the spy from Russia — an "extraordinary remedy" the CIA would only perform "when U.S. intelligence believes an asset is in immediate danger," CNN continues.

Fears over the safety of this spy reportedly began at the end of former President Barack Obama's presidency because the spy had been cooperating with the U.S. for a while. Those worries continued to grow after U.S. intelligence released a report that included details about the spy. But it was Trump's personal handling of classified information that reportedly tipped the CIA over the edge, namely when he "discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak" in May 2017, CNN reports.

Weeks later, after the spy had been extracted, Trump officials remained concerned that Trump "may have improperly discussed classified intelligence" during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, CNN writes. That proposition drew from how Trump wouldn't let anyone see an interpreter's notes from the meeting at the G20 summit.

The CIA's public affairs director called CNN's reporting "inaccurate," while White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said "CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger." Read the whole report at CNN. Kathryn Krawczyk

7:15 p.m.

A lawyer for Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman sent a letter to Fox News on Wednesday, requesting that the network either retract or correct a "deeply flawed and erroneous" segment that aired during the Oct. 28 episode of The Ingraham Angle.

Vindman is the National Security Council's Ukraine expert, and the segment aired prior to his closed-door testimony as part of the House impeachment inquiry. Host Laura Ingraham said it was "kind of an interesting angle" that Vindman "is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president's interest, and usually, they spoke in English." Yoo replied, "I found that astounding. Some people might call that espionage."

In his letter, lawyer David Pressman wrote that Vindman "had never in his 20-year career of service to his country been accused of having dual loyalties or committing espionage," which is a felony punishable by death. This falsehood was repeated by others, Pressman said, and Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient who served in Iraq, and his family "have been forced to examine options, including potentially moving onto a military base, in order to ensure their physical security in the face of threats rooted in the falsehood that Fox News originated."

In a statement, Fox News said that "as a guest on Fox News, John Yoo was responsible for his own statements, and he has subsequently done interviews to clarify what he meant." Yoo told The New York Times in an email that he "didn't say that Lt. Col. was a spy or that he had committed espionage. I had no reason to question that he was doing his duty as an officer. But I think the Ukrainians are engaged in espionage against us." That argument, Pressman said, is "as legally irrelevant as it is factually incredible." Catherine Garcia

6:57 p.m.

Impeachment testimony changes are turning out to be game changers.

In the second of Wednesday's back-to-back impeachment hearings, Defense Department official Laura Cooper had something to revise from her closed-door testimony right off the bat. While Cooper originally testified Ukrainian officials started asking about withheld security aid on Sept. 5, she said Wednesday she's since heard from aides that Ukrainians had inquired months earlier.

The withholding of aid to Ukraine is a major part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. It's one half of the quid pro quo Trump has denied, allegedly withheld by the Trump administration until the Ukrainian government agreed to announce an investigation into the Bidens. Several officials have testified the aid was held up for this reason, but one major point made by Republicans has been that the aid was eventually released, and that the Ukrainians didn't even know it was missing until after Trump's infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky where he requested the Biden investigation.

Cooper's testimony undercuts that narrative. She said Wednesday she'd since seen emails provided by staffers showing Ukrainian officials asked about the aid on July 25, the day of the call where Trump asked Zelensky to "do me a favor." If that's true, it would be much harder to claim the Ukrainians didn't feel pressured by Trump's request. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:33 p.m.

At least one person is happy about everything that's going on in Washington, D.C.

As everything that went down between President Trump and Ukraine comes to the surface, Russian President Vladimir Putin is literally saying "thank God" that eyes aren't on him anymore. "No one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore," he said at a Wednesday economic forum in Moscow, per NBC News. "Now they're accusing Ukraine."

Intelligence officials have concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election and will try to do so again, but Trump has ignored that and instead pushed the idea that Ukraine is somehow even more to blame. He explicitly told Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky that he'd like to see Ukraine investigate the 2016 election and baselessly claimed the country has a physical server holding the hacked Democratic National Committee emails. These unfounded claims have led to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump and apparently left Putin thrilled that he's out of the conversation.

Just because Russia is out of the spotlight doesn't mean the country isn't still attempting to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections. Special Counsel Robert Mueller relayed a warning about Russian election interference during his congressional hearing back in April, saying it was likely happening as he testified. Putin himself seemingly joked last month that he's going to get meddling soon, though if we're being honest, that's probably not a joke. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:19 p.m.

As Bolivia's political situation intensifies, the country's interim government Wednesday produced audio it says consists of former exiled President Evo Morales ordering a blockade to prevent food from entering Bolivian cities. But Morales' supporters have dismissed the recording as fraudulent.

"Brother, don't led food into the cities, we are going to do a blockade, a true siege," someone whom the government says is Morales is heard saying in what is allegedly a phone call he made from exile in Mexico. "From now it is going to be fight, fight, fight."

The audio was released by Interior Minister Arturo Murillo one day after the military clashed violently with Morales' supporters who were reportedly blocking fuel from reaching the capital, La Paz, which along with several other cities throughout the country has been facing a food and fuel shortage since the standoff between the protesters and interim government began, per The Wall Street Journal.

Morales' backers, who have accused the military of orchestrating a right wing coup to remove the socialist Morales from power, argue that the government released the video in an attempt to distract the country as it conducts a crackdown on protesters who are demanding Morales' return.

Meanwhile, morales activists have reportedly shared videos showing soldiers firing live rounds at protesters. Morales called upon the interim government Wednesday to "stop this massacre of indigenous brothers who ask for peace, democracy, and respect of life in the streets." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

4:53 p.m.

White House aides and Trump campaign officials were "freaking out" after being "blindsided" by European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony on Wednesday, which contained allegations of quid pro quo and pointed fingers at the president and other top administration officials, CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

The White House had attempted to get an "early peek" at Sondland's remarks during the jittery hours before the impeachment hearing began, due to the perception that he was a "wild card" witness, The Washington Post reports. Sondland's attorney had refused those attempts.

It became clear during the testimony, though, that Sondland's confirmation that "everyone was in the loop" was bad news for Republicans, who pivoted to attempting to distance Trump from what Democrats say was an attempt to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on Hunter Biden, the son of his potential 2020 rival. Trump's campaign specifically zeroed in on Sondland saying that Trump "directly told him he wanted nothing from Ukraine," although Sondland did confirm that the requests of Trump's personal lawyer and fixer Rudy Giuliani "were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit" for the Ukrainian president, and that "Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States."

Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany maintained that "over and over we've heard from Democrats and the media that the next hearing, the next witness, the next testimony would be the bombshell they've been promising, only to have it fizzle out like all the rest. It has happened yet again." But Ken Starr, the lead prosecutor during the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings, begs to differ: "This obviously has been one of those bombshell days," he told Fox News. Jeva Lange

4:36 p.m.

Al Pacino is widely regarded as one of America's great living actors, but in recent years, that hasn't stopped him from appearing in movies like Gigli, Righteous Kill, and Jack and Jill, which offered audiences two Adam Sandler performances for the price of one.

Why does Pacino sign up for such dreck? In a recent interview with GQ, Pacino admitted he has a "perverse" impulse to appear in bad films just to see if he can make them better. (Alas, they still don't give out an Oscar for Most Acceptable Part of a Piece of Garbage.) Read more at GQ. Scott Meslow

4:34 p.m.

Have you followed Marie Kondo's advice and thrown out everything in your residence that doesn't spark joy? Great! Now it's time to fill your residence back up again — and as long as your shelves are bare, why not buy all that stuff directly from Marie Kondo's online store?

And if you think it's a little hypocritical for the self-styled de-cluttering guru to sell you a bunch of overpriced junk, we're sure a sip from your $98 gem-infused water bottle will clear those bad vibes right up. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Scott Meslow

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