September 30, 2019

It is still unclear why President Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military and other aid to Ukraine from mid-July until Sept. 11 — he has given shifting explanations, none of which seem to hold much water — but it was his decision, and he acted alone, Fox News reported Sunday. The Pentagon, State Department, and Trump's National Security Council were "unanimous" in their support for giving Ukraine the aid, approved by Congress in the spring, Fox News' Chris Wallace reported Sunday. He also had some news on Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer.

Giuliani has said the State Department asked him to intercede in Ukraine — and his saved text messages apparently helped prompt the State Department's official Ukraine envoy, Kurt Volker, to resign on Friday — but Fox News reports that Giuliani was working "off the books" with two other pro-Trump lawyers, Joe DiGenova and wife Victoria Toensing, to dig up Ukraine dirt on Joe Biden. The Trump administration wasn't involved, and only Trump knows the details of what the three lawyers were doing, Wallace said.

Toensing denied that she and DiGenova were working with Giuliani, calling Fox News' reporting "categorically false," and Giuliani told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo that he "didn't work with anybody to try and get dirt on Joe Biden," insisting it was handed to him. Wallace responded: "We stand by our story."

DiGenova, interestingly, is a frequent Fox News guest, and last week he was an instigator of a rhetorical flame war between the news and opinion sides of Fox News, calling Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano a "fool" for saying Trump committed a crime in his Ukraine call. Given this schism and other considerations, Fox News' leadership is reportedly trying to figure out how the typically pro-Trump network will navigate the looming impeachment inquiry into Trump's actions. This appears to be a point for the news side. Peter Weber

8:40 p.m.

Each of the 12 candidates on the Democratic debate stage Tuesday night were undoubtedly hoping to set themselves apart from the rest of the crowd, but there's at least one thing they can all agree on: impeaching President Trump.

The fourth debate of the 2020 primary season kicked off with the dozen candidates answering opening questions pertaining to the House's impeachment inquiry. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren led the charge, announcing that "no one is above the law and that includes the president." Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders agreed, contributing: "Mitch McConnell has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who only recently added his voice to the chorus calling for Trump's impeachment, jumped on the pile, saying "this president is the most corrupt president in modern history." California Sen. Kamala Harris quipped that "as a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it" and that Trump "has committed crimes in plain sight."

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang also agreed that Trump ought to be held accountable. As South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg put it, "The president has left Congress with no choice."

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only active House member on stage, said she was initially resistant to the calls for impeachment and warned that if it was "hyper-partisan," the inquiry could "further divide an already terribly divided country," although she also ultimately agreed it ought to go forward.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the line of questioning, though: "I am getting a lot of eye-rolling already from conservative voters watching re: impeachment," wrote Elizabeth Dias, the national religion correspondent for The New York Times. Jeva Lange

8:15 p.m.

House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Tuesday night said Democrats have made "dramatic progress" in answering questions surrounding President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

They've learned more about the events that took place before and after the conversation, "thanks to the courageous testimony of State Department officials who have been put in an impossible situation by the administration, and that is urged not to comply with the law, urged not to comply with a lawful subpoena by the U.S. Congress," Schiff said. "They are doing their duty and people should make no mistake about that."



He singled out for praise Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, who testified before lawmakers last week, and criticized the State Department for missing a deadline to produce documents related to Ukraine. There is a "complete effort by the administration to stonewall," Schiff said. Catherine Garcia

7:45 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday evening decided to hold off on calling a full House vote to authorize a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump.

This doesn't mean the vote won't happen in the near future, Democratic aides told Politico, as Pelosi is keeping all of her options open. Pelosi shared the news with her caucus during a private meeting. Trump and his Republican allies are trying to paint the impeachment inquiry as illegitimate, but Democrats say a full House vote is unnecessary. "The only time a vote is required is if and when articles of impeachment come to the floor," Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told Politico. "This is an effort by the president to distract from the shocking and serious allegations of misconduct."

Pelosi spoke to reporters on Tuesday night after the meeting, and said the impeachment inquiry is "not a game for us. This is deadly serious. We're here to find the truth, to uphold the Constitution of the United States." Catherine Garcia

7:30 p.m.

Republican voters say they prefer more progressive tax plans, at least when the plans are anonymous, a new poll from a progressive think tank shows.

Data for Progress, whose goal is to "show how a progressive agenda can win nationwide," worked in tandem with YouGov Blue to conduct a survey which pitted the tax plans of President Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) against one another. Those polled were presented with a graph that showed prospective income tax rates for people of different incomes under each plan, but the candidates' names were nowhere to be seen.

Per the poll, Warren's plan — which would aggressively tax the wealthy at higher rates than lower-income people — was the most popular and considered the fairest overall, even among Republican voters, 35 percent of whom preferred Warren's compared to 29 percent who favored Trump's regressive tax rate.

Among Democrats, Sanders' and Warren's plans were effectively tied. Biden, meanwhile, appears to be lost in the wilderness on this one. YouGov conducted a survey of 1,024 U.S. voters online. No margin of error was reported. Read more at Data for Progress. Tim O'Donnell

6:53 p.m.

Let's not forget that the record-breaking 12 candidates set to appear on the debate stage Tuesday night are somehow not even all of the people who are running for president. There is also, apparently, some guy named Wayne Messam, who is the mayor of Miramar, Florida.

You might be excused for not knowing Messam's name; he hasn't appeared on the debate stage quite yet. And, well, he is perhaps not doing the best job self-promoting, either; according to his Federal Election Commission filing on Tuesday, his campaign spent exactly $0 in the third quarter.

Even more surprising, though, is his fundraising haul. Between July and September, Messam reported raising just five dollars.

Take that number with a grain of salt. Adds The New York Times, "It is possible that the numbers Mr. Messam submitted are incorrect. That wouldn't be unprecedented; he submitted a corrected first-quarter report earlier this year after an accounting error led him to report raising nearly twice as much as he actually had." Jeva Lange

6:53 p.m.

If the video depicting a fake President Trump massacring members of the media — which was condemned by the White House — wasn't too much to handle already, ProPublica and WNYC released more disturbing audio from the conference where the footage was originally shown.

While speaking at the pro-Trump conference in Miami, Florida, at the Trump National Doral Miami, Mark Burns, a pastor, told the crowd multiple times that "we've come to declare war." As he continued, he reportedly asked if anybody was "read to go to war for Donald J. Trump, this nation?" as the audience reportedly cheered him on.

Additionally, radio host Wayne Allyn Root reportedly boasted about a time in his childhood when, as one of the few white students at a predominantly black high school, he knocked one classmate unconscious and shattered another kid's teeth. "My buddies and I were high-fiving and laughing," Root reportedly said during his speech. "Man, it was funny."

Root reportedly went on to say that "you've got to be a natural-born killer" to win in politics. Listen to the audio clips at ProPublica. Tim O'Donnell

6:43 p.m.

As part of a federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani, a grand jury has issued a subpoena for documents from former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), a longtime friend who has also interacted with two Giuliani associates who were arrested last week, people with knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are reportedly looking into Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine and his role in the removal of Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. They are asking Sessions to turn over documents related to both matters, as well as interactions with Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested last week for conspiracy and campaign finance violations.

Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, is the primary focus of the subpoena, people familiar with the investigation said, and there is nothing pointing to Sessions being the target of the probe; Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing. A spokesperson for Sessions said he is cooperating and will start turning over documents. The Journal reported on Monday that federal prosecutors have looked at Giuliani's bank records and have been questioning witnesses since at least August. Catherine Garcia

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