September 17, 2019

Corey Lewandowski came to Capitol Hill Tuesday to passionately defend President Trump while dodging congressional Democrats' questions, and Trump appears to be loving it.

Trump's former campaign manager testified Tuesday as part of the House Judiciary Committee's first official impeachment hearing, in his opening statement nostalgically recalling the president's decision to "ride down the golden escalator" in 2015. Lewandowski said it was an "honor and a privilege" to be a part of Trump's "historic campaign," even getting in a dig at Hillary Clinton with a reference to deleted emails and claiming there has been "harassment of this president from the day he won the election."

As the hearing proceeded, Lewandowski frustrated Democrats like Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) by dodging basic questions, such as whether he met with Trump in the White House in June 2017, by asking for specific citations and quotes from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. The White House had directed Lewandowski to not provide information outside of the Mueller report, although Lewandowski was never actually a White House employee. At one point, Lewandowski asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) to repeat a question because "I didn't hear it. Just a rant."

Much of what Lewandowski said sure seemed to be directed at Trump himself, who was indeed watching and tweeted his approval for the "beautiful" opening statement, which he subsequently posted a video of. Lewandowski is currently mulling a 2020 Senate run, which he used a pre-hearing tweet to plug Tuesday morning. Trump previously expressed his support for the potential campaign, saying Lewandowski is "terrific on television." Brendan Morrow

3:10 p.m.

It appears that President Trump was a bit off the mark this morning when he tweeted a theory that Kurdish forces were releasing prisoners with ties to the Islamic State in an attempt to get the U.S. to continue fighting alongside them. Trump's suspicions were likely derived from the fact that the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the Middle East, were disappointed in Washington for removing U.S. troops from the region, providing Turkey — which considers Kurdish forces a national security threat — with an opening to invade.

U.S. officials have said that prisoners with ISIS ties are indeed being deliberately released, but it's actually Turkish proxy forces in the Free Syrian Army — a decentralized rebel group that has been linked to extremists groups — who are behind it, rather than the Kurds, Foreign Policy reports. One U.S. official said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have not abandoned or released any prisoners with ISIS ties and, in some cases, the SDF has reportedly moved detainees to other facilities further south.

Subsequently, Trump's theory is not sitting well with U.S. and Kurdish forces . "That has enraged our forces in Syria," another senior U.S. administration official said. "Kurds are still defending our bases. Incredibly Reckless and dishonest thing to say." Tim O'Donnell

3:09 p.m.

It's been more than seven months since former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he wouldn't run for president in 2020, but he's reportedly still thinking about doing it anyway.

Bloomberg has been telling associates recently that "Joe Biden's recent struggles against Sen. Elizabeth Warren are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary," CNBC reports.

“I think it's something he wants," an ally of Bloomberg's told CNBC. "He has not been shy about that."

There's a catch, though: in this hypothetical scenario, Biden would apparently need to drop out of the race early on in the primaries. "Nothing can happen unless Biden drops out, and that's not happening anytime soon," the Bloomberg ally told CNBC.

Axios similarly reported all the way back in April that Bloomberg would reconsider his decision not to run if Biden didn't get into the race. Biden did announce his candidacy soon after, but with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) overtaking him in some national polls recently, Bloomberg is apparently doing that reconsideration as we speak, even with just four months left to go until the Iowa caucuses.

"He's like everyone else," an associate of Bloomberg's told CNBC. "They can't get it out of their system." He can't get teasing the increasingly unlikely idea of a late entrance into the race out of his system, at least. The Week Staff

2:17 p.m.

As she seeks sole custody of their daughter, Jeremy Renner's ex-wife has reportedly accused him of threatening to kill her.

The Avengers actor is currently in a custody battle with Sonni Pacheco, who TMZ writes Monday is accusing him of "rhapsodizing about killing" her at a club while he was "coked up and drunk." Later that night, Renner allegedly "put a gun in his mouth, threatened to kill himself, and fired the gun into the ceiling" while his 6-year-old daughter, Ava, was sleeping in her bedroom.

Pacheco also claims in the legal documents that Renner was once overheard by their nanny saying he was going to kill Pacheco at her home because "it was better that Ava had no parents than to have [Pacheco] as a mother," TMZ reports. Additionally, she alleges Renner has often been under the influence while with their daughter and left cocaine on his bathroom counter, where she could have reached it. Renner and Pacheco married in 2014, with Pacheco filing for divorce less than a year later.

In a statement to TMZ, a representative for Renner said, "The well-being of his daughter Ava has always been and continues to be the primary focus for Jeremy. This is a matter for the court to decide. It's important to note the dramatizations made in Sonni's declaration are a one-sided account made with a specific goal in mind." Renner himself has yet to speak publicly about the report. Brendan Morrow

1:58 p.m.

Fiona Hill might be a major threat to President Trump.

Hill, who previously served as Trump's top adviser to Russia, was hired in March 2017 as an ally to then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And as a story of her first time meeting Trump reveals, she's seemingly unafraid to hurt the president's feelings — something that could prove notable as she testifies for Congress on Monday.

As The Washington Post reported in 2017, Hill's hiring was "a reassuring selection among Russia hard-liners." But as the Post continues, Hill's "relationship with Trump, however, was strained from the start."

In one of her first encounters with the president, an Oval Office meeting in preparation for a call with Putin on Syria, Trump appeared to mistake Hill for a member of the clerical staff, handing her a memo he had marked up and instructing her to rewrite it. When Hill responded with a perplexed look, Trump became irritated with what he interpreted as insubordination, according to officials who witnessed the exchange. As she walked away in confusion, Trump exploded and motioned for McMaster to intervene.

Things got even worse for Hill "when she was forced to defend members of her staff suspected of disloyalty" after Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked, per the Post. Read more about Hill and Trump's troubles at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:52 p.m.

Deutsche Bank has been under a lot of scrutiny recently, mostly due to its role as the primary lender to President Trump. But it turns out the bank also has a questionable history in China, The New York Times, along with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, reports.

Beginning nearly two decades ago, Deutsche Bank, while seeking to make inroads in China, conducted a campaign that involved enriching Beijing's elite in exchange for contracts. This included some lavish gifts for the country's former president and premier and millions of dollars paid to Chinese consultants. It also meant that the bank reportedly hired more than 100 relatives of the country's political elite, even if they were unqualified.

For example, a man named Ma Weiji was considered "one of the worst candidates" for the job he applied for with the bank, but he was brought on anyway in 2007, likely because his parents were senior executives at state-owned companies, per a senior bank executive. Ma reportedly then secured meetings for Deutsche Bank with his parents' companies.

In another instance, China's former propaganda minister's son was up for a gig. One Deutsche Bank employee wrote in an email that the son "cannot meet our standard," but — you guessed it — he was offered the job, anyway. The same goes for another candidate who was deemed unqualified, but happened to be the daughter of Li Zhanshu, who is now a top member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

12:18 p.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is ready to cross the aisle.

Graham, normally a loyal supporter, has been one of the leading critics of President Trump's decision to remove U.S. troops from northern Syria, which — as many predicted — led to Turkey invading the region, placing the U.S.'s Kurdish allies in danger.

Graham can't reverse the Turkish incursion at this point, but he is rallying support to impose sanctions on Turkey for its actions, and he's ready to work with Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to get the job done quickly.

Despite the negative reaction to his decision-making, Trump also appears to be on board after warning Turkey not to cross him following the U.S. withdrawal. Tim O'Donnell

Update: Pelosi later announced that she and Graham agreed to a "joint resolution to overturn the President's dangerous decision in Syria immediately."

11:33 a.m.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is running for president again — at least in Anthony Scaramucci's dreams.

The famously short-lived White House communications director has since turned on the president who appointed him, and has publicly said he's trying to knock President Trump off the 2020 ticket. Now, it seems Scaramucci has decided on his dream candidate, and has launched a website and line of T-shirts to persuade him to run.

Scaramucci started making his support for Romney known earlier this month, tweeting a poll that showed the 2012 GOP nominee beating the presumptive 2020 nominee in a hypothetical primary. He then revealed last week he'd launched Mitt2020.org, and on Sunday night, showed off that the site was offering "commit to Mitt" campaign T-shirts. They are being sold at $20.20 each to "test demand," and so far Scaramucci has seen an "overwhelming" response, he told ABC News.

While Romney hasn't even hinted at granting Scaramucci's wishes, the "Mitt Happens" shirt is sure to be a collector's item in a few years. Kathryn Krawczyk

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