September 24, 2019

House Democrats are counting on their ability to obtain that Ukraine whistleblower report, whether through the director of national intelligence or not.

Following reports last week that a whistleblower filed a complaint about President Trump's communications with a foreign leader, which Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson marked as of "urgent concern," Democrats have been trying to get their hands on the complaint, and Politico reports that "if it's not turned over voluntarily," Democrats in the House of Representatives "believe it will be" leaked.

Reports since last week have suggested the complaint concerned a call with Ukraine's president, on which Trump reportedly pushed for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son. Trump has defended the call, saying he brought up Biden's son to talk about "all of the corruption taking place" in Ukraine.

When Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee last week met with Atkinson, they weren't able to get a look at the complaint, with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) saying acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire "has made the unprecedented decision not to share the complaint with Congress."

Now, Maguire himself is heading to Congress Thursday to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, at which point he'll be pushed about the release of the report. If that isn't to be, Democrats may be hoping someone takes matters into their own hands. As Politico notes that it's "hard to run an impeachment inquiry from news reports alone." Brendan Morrow

1:35 p.m.

The FBI's Russia investigation had no basis in political bias, despite Republicans' claims, the Justice Department has found.

The DOJ's inspector general released its report on the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia on Monday after investigating whether it was based in bias against President Trump. It concluded that while the investigation did make "significant errors" in some aspects of the investigation, the inspector general found no evidence that it was opened under "political bias or improper motivation."

Trump and his allies have claimed the Russia investigation was a "witch hunt" from its beginnings and that it was based on the controversial Steele dossier, but the investigation found no evidence the dossier played a role. Instead, while acknowledging that the DOJ and FBI had established a "low threshold" for opening this sort of investigation, the report concluded the FBI had enough information to satisfy that barrier. Republicans' claims that then-FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok opened the investigation under his own bias were also rebutted, as the inspector general found Strozk's supervisor had actually given the go ahead "after multiple days of discussions and meetings" with Strozk and others.

Still, there were "serious performance failures" in how investigators filed all four of their Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications, which allowed them to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the report found. This sparked a new IG investigation into how FISA warrants are obtained. The IG also alleged some document tampering by an FBI lawyer, and recommended an overhaul of presidential campaign investigation guidelines.

Attorney General William Barr unsurprisingly said the report "makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions," and that the "evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory." Find the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:15 p.m.

The president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is defending the Golden Globes' snubbing of female directors — again.

The nominations for the 2020 show, which is voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, were announced Monday and notably did not include any women in the directing category. Awards prognosticators had expected a nomination for Greta Gerwig for Little Women, while other contenders included Marielle Heller for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Lulu Wang for The Farewell.

The lack of female directors immediately drew criticism and has prompted a response from Hollywood Foreign Press Association President Lorenzo Soria, who told Variety, "What happened is that we don't vote by gender. We vote by film and accomplishment.”

In response to Soria's statement, Pajiba's Kristy Puchko tweeted, "Sir, not recognizing your bias, is not the same as not having one."

The Golden Globes' lack of female directing nominees is hardly new to this year. In fact, just five women have been nominated in the Best Director category in Golden Globes history. At the 2018 show, Natalie Portman while handing out the award pointed this out live on the air, saying, "Here are the all-male nominees." This year's Golden Globes, which may or may not feature a similar moment calling out the glaring omission, will air Jan. 5. Brendan Morrow

12:40 p.m.

Kentucky's new restrictions on abortion will be allowed to stand without further challenge.

The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the law requiring women see a fetal ultrasound and listen to a heartbeat before getting an abortion, giving no comment for its Monday decision. Now, the bill signed into law by recently outvoted Gov. Matt Bevin (R) will go into effect.

Bevin signed the abortion restriction into law in 2017, and it has been entangled in court challenges ever since. The ACLU contended that the ultrasound and fetal heartbeat had no medical backing and that mandating them violated doctors' free speech rights. But the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiffs, declaring "as a First Amendment matter, there is nothing suspect with a state's requiring a doctor, before performing an abortion, to make truthful, non-misleading factual disclosures."

Only four Supreme Court justices have to say they want to hear an appeal in order for it to appear on their docket. Yet this was a free speech argument and not one challenging Roe v. Wade, so the upholding of the Kentucky law doesn't indicate much about future abortion challenges headed to the Supreme Court this term. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:32 p.m.

Well that was easy.

Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman wrapped up his opening statement during the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing Monday by summarizing the entire Ukraine scandal that spurred the inquiry into President Trump. The whole thing took just around three minutes.

Don't be fooled, though. The rest of the impeachment proceedings — including Monday's hearing, which is expected to last through the afternoon — won't be so concise. Tim O'Donnell

11:38 a.m.

Republican lawyer Steve Castor seemed to forget about some previous impeachment testimony during his own appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Castor argued that Ukraine didn't feel pressure from President Trump to investigate his domestic political arrivals and that the country's government wasn't even aware of a freeze in U.S. military aid until the end of August. Previous witnesses in the House Intelligence Committee's hearings, however, had a different story. Their testimony claimed that at least some Ukrainian officials knew about the hold up the same day as Trump's infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which spurred the impeachment process.

There's also the word of a former Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal who said (after she resigned) she knew about the aid situation by July 30. Tim O'Donnell

11:27 a.m.

The Golden Globes are changing the channel on broadcast networks.

The nominees for the 2020 show honoring both film and television were announced Monday, and Deadline notes broadcast networks were shut out entirely.

As recently as the 2019 Golden Globes, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was honoring broadcast shows like NBC's The Good Place and CBS' Murphy Brown. But this year, NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox each received a grand total of zero nominations.

Instead, it was Netflix that dominated with 17 nominations in the television categories, while HBO picked up 15, The Wrap reports. Hulu and Amazon Prime Video also both scored five nominations, while the new Apple streaming service Apple TV+ got three thanks to The Morning Show, which landed in the best drama series category and earned nods for its leads, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

Outside of TV, Netflix also led the film categories with another 17 nominations, more than double that of any other distributor, with four of its films — The Irishman, Marriage Story, The Two Popes, and Dolemite is My Name — getting nominated in the top movie categories.

The 2020 Golden Globes will be handed out on Jan. 5 and will air on the nomination-free NBC. Brendan Morrow

11:07 a.m.

U.S. officials have doubted the war in Afghanistan since its very beginning.

Just six months after the longest war in American history began, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tellingly wrote in a memo that "we are never going to get the U.S. military out of Afghanistan unless" the U.S. ensured there was "stability ... necessary for us to leave." And for the 18 years since, U.S. officials have been privately relaying the same concerns while publicly touting "progress," documents and interviews obtained and published by The Washington Post reveal.

Rumsfeld wrote an estimated 59,000 memos he called "snowflakes" during his tenure, but most of them remained private until now. The Post had filed a lawsuit against the National Security Archive and has since obtained more of those snowflakes, including one from 2003 where Rumsfeld complained that he had "no visibility into who the bad guys are."

In interviews with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction also obtained and published by the Post, U.S. officials continually said the same thing: "We didn't know what we were doing," said Army Gen. Douglas Lute, who was the White House's Afghan war czar under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Retired Navy SEAL and Bush and Obama staffer Jeffrey Eggers similarly suggested Osama bin Laden would be "probably laughing in his watery grave considering" the $1 trillion spent on the ongoing 18-year war.

"If the American people knew the magnitude of this dysfunction ... 2,400 lives lost. Who will say this is all in vain?" Lute also questioned in his government interview. That's a reference to the 2,300 U.S. military personnel killed in the ongoing 18-year war, not to mention the estimated 64,124 Afghan security forces and 43,074 Afghan civilians who have been killed.

Find all the "Afghanistan Papers" at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

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