Gordon Sondland, hotelier turned diplomat, wasn’t always a Trump supporter

Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, finds himself in the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry after the State Department blocked him from appearing before three congressional committees on Tuesday.

Sondland has been a player in Republican politics for a number of years but wasn’t always a Trump supporter.
Sondland was previously the founder and CEO of the Provenance Hotels chain, which boasts 19 hotels across the country.
Sondland was confirmed to the ambassador role on June 29, 2018.

A frequent donor to the GOP

During the 2016 election, Sondland donated to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign and to the former Florida governor’s Super PAC, FEC filings show. After Trump locked up the nomination, Sondland, a frequent donor to the Republican National Committee, joined Trump and the RNC’s joint finance operation.
George W. Bush
However, after Trump attacked a Gold Star family, Sondland sought to distance himself from Trump after The Seattle Times obtained an invitation to a August fundraiser for Trump that showed Sondland listed as an event sponsor.
A spokeswoman for Sondland said at the time that he would not be hosting or attending any Seattle or Portland fundraisers for the Trump campaign, Willamette Week reported.
“Mr. Trump’s statements have made it clear that his positions do not align with” his personal beliefs and values, Provenance Hotels spokeswoman Kate Buska told the Portland newspaper.
“Historically, Mr. Sondland has been supportive of the Republican party’s nominees for President,” she added. “However, in light of Mr. Trump’s treatment of the Khan family and the fact his constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels, neither Mr. Sondland or Mr. Wali can support his candidacy.”
After the election, Sondland donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee through four limited liability companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Although the bulk of his donations have been to GOP candidates, he gave over $5,000 to Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden’s reelection campaign in 2015, according to FEC filings.
Wyden had vouched for Sondland during his confirmation hearing in 2018, saying he knew the hotelier for a quarter century by way of Oregon’s “really small Jewish community.”
He also touted Sondland’s contributions to the Oregon community, including a $1 million endowment to the Portland Art Museum, where he served as its chairman from 2009 to 2011, to allow free admission for children.

Limited prior work in government

Sondland is a first generation American of refugee parents, who fled Nazi Germany and eventually settled in Seattle, Washington.
Before he took on the diplomat role, Sondland’s work in government had been limited. He was appointed by George W. Bush to serve on the Commission for White House Fellowships.
He had worked on the transition team for Oregon Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who was governor from 2003 to 2011. Sondland also worked as a principal Republican liaison for Oregon and the White House. He also chaired the governor’s Office of Film and Television.
While he is ambassador to the European Union, he has stated that he has a specific interest in Ukraine.
“President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the US ambassador to the EU, but he’s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine,” he told a Ukraine media outlet in July.
Sondland was set to be on the hot seat Tuesday as House investigators pressed him about text messages he exchanged related to Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky and the freezing of foreign aid to Ukraine.
In text messages released last week by the former US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, Sondland told a US diplomat concerned over the withhold of funding in exchange for an investigation that he is mistaken about Trump’s intentions.
But on Tuesday morning, the State Department ordered Sondland not to appear before Congress.
“He is a sitting ambassador and employee of State and is required to follow their direction,” Sondland’s attorney Robert Luskin said.

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Rudy Giuliani Laughs At Subpoena On Fox News: They Seem To Forget That Im A Lawyer

Just hours after being issued a subpoena from top congressional Democrats, Rudy Giuliani appeared on Fox News to defend his involvement with Ukraine, actions that have become central to an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump

Trump’s personal attorney appeared on Sean Hannity’s program as part of his latest effort to distance himself from the political whirlwind surrounding Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukrainian president.

During the “Hannity” segment, Giuliani appeared to question the motives behind the subpoenas while defending his communications with officials in Ukraine about investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a top Trump rival in the 2020 presidential campaign. He also reminded viewers that he was a professional lawyer as he pushed unfounded conspiracy theories targeting a spate of his boss’s political rivals.

“These people are such intellectual heavyweights, I don’t know if I could handle Schiff,” Giuliani said Monday, appearing to joke about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee who recently sent him a subpoena.

Giuliani went on to push unfounded claims about the Biden family, Trump’s 2016 political rival Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

“Wake up, Democrats. You are covering up corruption, and by the time this is over, you’re going to be the party of corruption,” Giuliani said. Earlier in the show, he noted that lawmakers “seem to forget that I’m a lawyer. If I were defending a terrorist, they’d be going crazy that I was called before a committee.”

The chairs of multiple House committees subpoenaed Giuliani and three of his associates Monday as part of the inquiry, demanding he produce communications and other documents related to his work for the president. The subpoena pertains to material from Jan. 20, 2017, the day before Trump’s inauguration, to the present.

“Our inquiry includes an investigation of credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the president in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the office of the president,” said the letter, signed by Schiff and two other Democratic congressmen: Eliot Engel (N.Y.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Elijah Cummings (Md.), chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Giuliani must comply with the subpoena by Oct. 15, although the former New York City mayor has already pushed back on its merits, claiming on Twitter that it raised “significant issues concerning legitimacy.”

House Democrats are investigating Giuliani’s role in the unfolding scandal over Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as part of their impeachment inquiry.

During the July conversation, Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company for five years. A reconstruction of the call released last week showed Trump asking Zelensky for a “favor” shorty after Zelensky brought up millions in military aid the U.S. had appropriated for Ukraine.

Neither Biden has been accused of any wrongdoing, despite Giuliani’s claims.

Giuliani appears to be one of the central figures related to that favor, which Democrats have called an unprecedented quid pro quo for political dirt. The attorney is mentioned multiple times in a formal whistleblower complaint about the call, and he has admitted in television interviews that he met with Ukrainian operatives. But Giuliani has recently said he did so at the behest of the State Department. Trump has also denied any impropriety and moved to discredit the unnamed whistleblower.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also been issued a subpoena by House Democrats.

Giuliani’s whirlwind media appearances have prompted frustration from Democrats in recent days, including from the Biden campaign. The former vice president’s staff recently asked news executives to stop booking Giuliani on their shows, saying he was using the appearance to spread “false, debunked conspiracy theories.”

“Giuliani is not enlightening your viewers in any way. He’s not offering a unique or informed perspective,” the Biden camp wrote in the letter last week. “He’s certainly not introducing new facts, since his relationship with the truth is casual at best.”

House Democrats have, however, pointed to the lawyer’s own statements on CNN to back up their request for the subpoena.

“You stated more recently that you are in possession of evidence ― in the form of text messages, phone records, and other communications ― indicating that you were not acting alone and that other Trump Administration officials may have been involved in this scheme,” they wrote.

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Trump and RNC raise $125 million for reelection bid in third quarter

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(CNN)President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $125 million during the July-to-September fundraising quarter as Trump faces a fast-moving impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives and what will be a costly reelection fight in 2020.

“President Trump has built a juggernaut of a campaign, raising record amounts of money at a record pace,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
Ronna McDaniel, the RNC’s chairwoman, said attacks from Democrats have spurred the President’s supporters to open their wallets.
    “We are investing millions on the airwaves and on the ground to hold House Democrats accountable, highlight their obstruction, and take back the House and reelect President Trump in 2020,” she said.
    The haul by Team Trump exceeds the $105 million that Trump and the national party raised through their joint efforts during the second quarter of the year. Trump’s campaign has already announced plans to deploy big sums to mount a defense of the President, running Facebook and television ads that focus on impeachment.
    Some of the Democrats hoping to challenge Trump next year are raising substantial sums, too.
    On Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders reported collecting $25.3 million during the third quarter — the largest three-month haul posted so far by any of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders and a sign of Sanders’ enduring strength with small-dollar contributors.
      South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $19 million, his campaign announced Tuesday. Several other leading candidates — including the frontrunners in recent polling, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President joe Biden — had not disclosed their third quarter totals as of Tuesday evening.
      All candidates must report the details of their fundraising and spending to the Federal Election Commission by October 15.

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      A year later, what Khashoggi’s murder says about Trump’s close ally

      (CNN)A year ago, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi writer, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiance, who was waiting for him outside the building. He was never seen again.

      A contributor to the Washington Post, Khashoggi, aged 59, was a critic of the Saudi regime and was living in self-imposed exile in the United States. He was murdered inside the Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018, by a team that was dispatched from Saudi Arabia, among them associates of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman — known as MBS — the then-32-year-old de facto ruler of the country.
      The Saudis (and MBS himself) have consistently denied that bin Salman had any direct role in Khashoggi’s murder and instead have ascribed it to a rogue operation by overzealous subordinates. They charged 11 of them, five of whom face a possible death penalty, although given the opaque nature of the Saudi legal system little is clear about the yet unresolved case.
        In November 2018, the CIA concluded — with “high confidence” according to the Washington Post — that bin Salman had ordered the murder of Khashoggi.
        Khashoggi’s murder brought into sharp focus concerns about the judgment of the young prince that had percolated for years. MBS had variously entered an ongoing war in Yemen that, according to the UN, had precipitated the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet; he had blockaded the gas-rich state of Qatar, a close American ally and the site of the most important US military base in the Middle East. Domestically, MBS had also imprisoned a host of clerics, dissidents and businessmen.

          Trump: ‘I’m extremely angry’ about Khashoggi killing

        At first it looked like Trump might distance himself from MBS. Less than two weeks after Khashoggi’s murder on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Donald Trump promised “severe punishment” for the Saudis if it was proven that they had murdered Khashoggi. Khashoggi, after all, was both a legal resident of the United States and a journalist who was contributing regularly to a major American media institution.
        A month later, Trump backpedaled, citing putative massive American arms sales to the Saudis. Trump told reporters, “…it’s ‘America First’ for me. It’s all about ‘America First.’ We’re not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders, and let Russia, China, and everybody else have them … military equipment and other things from Russia and China. … I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.”
        Until Khashoggi’s murder, it was possible to emphasize the positive case for bin Salman, to argue that he was genuinely reforming Saudi Arabia’s society and economy. He had clipped the wings of the feared religious police in the kingdom and had given women greater freedoms, such as the right to drive and a larger role in the workplace.
        Bin Salman encouraged concerts and movie theaters in a society that had long banned both and he also started to end the rigid gender separation in the kingdom by, for instance, allowing women to attend sports events.
        He also promised a magical moment in the Middle East when the Arab states could deliver a peace deal with the Palestinians, while he was liberating his people from the stultifying yoke of Sunni Wahhabism that had nurtured so many of the 9/11 plotters. For many years, Washington had puzzled over whether Saudi Arabia was more of an arsonist or a firefighter when it came to the propagation of militant Islam. Bin Salman appeared to be a firefighter.

          Wolf Blitzer presses senator over meeting with world leader

        MBS also has a somewhat plausible plan for diversifying the heavily oil-dependent Saudi economy known as Vision 2030, to be financed in part by the sale of parts of the oil giant Aramco, which may be the world’s most valuable corporation with a market value that the Saudis hope is two trillion dollars.
        In March 2018, MBS even visited Hollywood and Silicon Valley, where he ditched his Arab robes in favor of a suit and where he was feted as a reformer by film stars and tech industry heavyweights.
        But after Khashoggi’s murder, the positive case for Mohammed bin Salman was largely submerged in the West, where he was increasingly viewed as an impetuous autocrat. In 2015, he had authorized the disastrous and ongoing war in neighboring Yemen, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. He had also effectively kidnapped the Lebanese Prime Minister, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, when he was on a trip to Saudi Arabia. And MBS led the blockade of his country’s neighbor, gas-rich Qatar, which continues to this day.
        In addition to his arrests of prominent clerics and dissidents, Bin Salman, in a palace coup, supplanted his cousin Mohamed bin Nayef as crown prince in 2017. Famously, MBS also imprisoned 200 rich Saudis at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and had relieved them of more than $100 billion because of their purported corruption.
        Now Bin Salman faces what may be his most difficult foreign policy challenge yet: What to do about the drone and missile attacks earlier this month against the crown jewel of Saudi Arabia’s economy, the Aramco Abqaiq oil facility, an attack the crown prince and the Trump administration have plausibly blamed Iran for. The Iranians have denied involvement in the attacks
        This attack is particularly problematic for MBS, as he is also Saudi minister of defense and he has presided over a massive arms buildup, yet was not able to defend the kingdom against the missile and drone barrage that took down half of Saudi’s oil capacity, at least temporarily.

          Post-Khashoggi murder, why should U.S. believe anything Saudi Arabia has to say?

        The Iranian attack also poses a quandary for President Trump, who doesn’t want the United States to get embroiled in another war in the Middle East, even though he has embraced MBS as a close ally.
        On Sunday, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired an interview with bin Salman in which he said that he hoped that Saudi Arabia could reach a “political and peaceful solution” with Iran.
          One can only hope that MBS and Trump don’t launch a war against Iran, which has a large army, significant proxy forces around the Middle East and sophisticated ballistic missile systems. However, it’s hard to imagine them not responding at all since the Iranians have shown they can now attack with impunity a key node of the world’s energy markets.
          Mohammed bin Salman may be able to preside over the murder of a dissident journalist in Turkey with relative ease, but there is little in his conduct of foreign policy hitherto to suggest that he will skillfully deal with the Iranians.

          Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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          Trump’s right-wing media diet is a factor in the impeachment inquiry

          Media

          New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

          The whistleblower’s complaint says “I do not know why the President associates these servers with Ukraine.”
          Well, he must not be an avid consumer of the MAGA media universe.
            As The Daily Beast’s Kevin Poulsen explained here, Trump was “referencing a conspiracy theory pushed by Russian trolls and far-right pundits that imagines the Democratic National Committee fabricating all the evidence in Russia’s 2016 breach of the DNC network.” In other words, it’s a Russia-friendly theory that contradicts all of the U.S. intel community assessments about Russia’s meddling in the election.
            It went “from the depths of 4chan, promoted by Russian media, to the president’s mouth,” BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick wrote.
            This is how the president’s alt-right media diet actively hurts his presidency and the public.

            John Solomon’s contributions

            WaPo’s Philip Bump zeroed in on this point on Thursday. “There’s little indication at this point that Trump’s media diet is anything other than a buffet of conservative television and Internet articles. That diet might just have contributed to the most significant threat Trump’s presidency has seen,” Bump wrote.
            The allegations in the whistleblower complaint “include a significant number of news articles published by a popular conservative opinion columnist for the Hill” — that’s John Solomon, a Fox regular — “articles that the whistleblower seems to think contributed to the fervency of the Trump-Giuliani effort.”
            Bump said it’s clear that “Solomon’s reporting and the stories he helped advance were simultaneously politically useful to Trump and potentially influenced his thinking.” And he pointed out that former chief of staff John Kelly specifically tried to keep these sorts of “unvetted” stories off of Trump’s desk. It doesn’t seem like anyone is trying to do that now…
            → For more on Solomon, WaPo’s Paul Farhi is out with a new story… It says Solomon “has had a long, and occasionally decorated, career as an editor and investigative reporter in Washington, though his more recent work has been trailed by claims that it is biased and lacks rigor…”

            What Trump’s favorite TV shows are telling him

            Right now they’re telling him that he’s a hero. That the Democrats just hate him no matter what. That, as Dan Bongino said, “this was a professional hit on Donald Trump. I have no doubt.” And that, as Mark Meadows told Lou Dobbs, “the president didn’t do anything wrong.” Trump tweeted out three different clips from Dobbs’ show on Thursday… and two clips from Sean Hannity’s show…
            → Gabriel Sherman reported on Thursday that Fox’s Shep Smith was told to stop critiquing Tucker Carlson. A Fox spokesperson denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith. At issue: The question of whether Trump is in legal jeopardy.
            → Oliver Darcy writes: A chyron on Laura Ingraham’s show said ‘Legal Experts: Both Call And Complaint Show No Criminality or Basis for Impeachment.’ Fox’s senior legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano has said Trump admitted to a crime. Shep Smith has cited other experts who agree. It’s nuts how it has become totally normal for Fox’s biggest stars to totally undermine and contradict the reporting and analysis from their own colleagues…

            NYT’s banner headline on Friday

            The front page says “COMPLAINT ASSERTS A WHITE HOUSE COVER-UP.”
            news
            …And that’s arguably the biggest headline from Thursday: The whistleblower’s allegation that senior White House officials tried to “lock down” a record of Trump’s call, and that other politically sensitive info may have been treated the same way…

            NYT criticized for identifying whistleblower’s workplace

            Who is the whistleblower? Where does he work? What were his motives? Reporters have been chasing these Q’s for more than a week. On Thursday the NYT came out with a story describing the whistleblower as a CIA officer, though not naming him. The paper was widely criticized for sharing the details. The man’s lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, said the report was “reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way.” The WSJ later matched the NYT’s reporting.
            Times exec editor Dean Baquet initially defended the reporting this way: “The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country — whether the president of the U.S. abused power and whether the W.H. covered it up.”

            Did the W.H. already know where the man worked?

            On Thursday evening, the NYT came out with more: “The White House learned that a C.I.A. officer had lodged allegations against President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even as the officer’s whistle-blower complaint was moving through a process meant to protect him against reprisals, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.”
            Baquet updated his statement to note, “We also understand that the White House already knew he was a C.I.A. officer.” If that’s the case, it takes some of the heat off the NYT, for sure…

            The LAT’s scoop

            Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times was the first reporter with quotes from Trump’s shocking remarks to a group of diplomatic officials on Thursday. The NYT followed a few minutes later. The LAT was also first with the audio. “When I heard it for the first time today, it just took me aback,” Stokols told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, calling it “casually menacing.”
            → In his remarks, Trump also said “many” reporters are “scum,” a word that he has mostly deployed against MS-13 gang members and other criminals in the past. He also called members of the press “animals” and “some of the worst human beings you’ll ever meet.”

            Coming up on Friday…

            — Nancy Pelosi will be on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” at 7:30am…
            — Pelosi and House Dems will be holding a presser on 200 days of “Senate GOP Inaction” at 9:30am…
            — BTW, Friday marks 200 days without an on-camera White House press briefing…

            FOR THE RECORD

            — TIME’s cover this week has Trump painting himself into an orange corner…
            — Greg Miller’s analysis: “The whistleblower has by some measures exceeded in weeks what Mueller accomplished in two years: producing a file so concerning and sound that it singlehandedly set in motion the gears of impeachment.” (WaPo)
            — Lester Holt at the end of “Nightly News” on Thursday: “If history is any guide, this will only get uglier. And louder. And yes, further leach at this country’s political divide. Which makes our collective challenge even more important: To listen. To ask. To examine the facts and demand nothing short of the truth. That’s what we endeavor to do here every night. And will continue to do as this story unfolds…” (Mediaite)
            — Tim Naftali, former director of the Nixon library: “The Whistleblower complaint is from a patriot who understands and fears Abuse of Power. If even 50 % of his fears are accurate, we are in a variation of Nixonland again…” (Twitter)
            — Samantha Storey in praise of the whistleblower’s complaint: “It’s well written. It’s clear. The sentences are easy to read. Its point ― that the president of the United States has undermined America’s democracy ― screams off the page…” (HuffPost)

            McConnell’s silence

            “Sen. Mitch McConnell, who often ignores reporters’ questions but sometimes engages, just ignored three of mine,” CNN’s Manu Raju reported Thursday afternoon. “I asked him if he’s concerned the whistleblower alleged Trump sought help from a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 elections. I asked if he’s concerned that the WH allegedly sought to conceal the president’s conversations And I asked if he has any concerns with Trump asking the Ukraine president to talk [to] Rudy Giuliani.” McConnell “walked in silence…”
            → Related, and the headline of the day, from the WSJ: “Everyone In Washington Is Reading the Whistleblower Complaint — Except Senate Republicans.”

              Romney is not alone, but…

              Jonathan Martin is out with a must-read story about Mitt Romney. He says Romney’s public statements of concern “reflect what many in his party believe privately but are almost uniformly unwilling to say: that they are faced with damning revelations about the president that are difficult to explain away, and are unsure of whether there is more damaging material to come.” This calls to mind what Mike Murphy said on MSNBC the other day: “One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump.”

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              Lewandowskis House Testimony Was Basically His Senate Campaign Launch

              In calling in Corey Lewandowski to testify, House Judiciary Committee Democrats hoped theyd get a spectacle that might boost their impeachment efforts.

              Its unclear whether that will happen. What they clearly did get, however, was a spectacle that cemented Lewandowskis brand as an unapologetic fighter for Donald Trumpfor better or for worse.

              Tuesdays high-profile hearing was essentially a coming-out party for Lewandowskis long-teased, but still unannounced campaign for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire: he talked up his blue collar roots and service to President Trump while effusively praising his former boss and gleefully trolling his Democratic questioners. During a bathroom break, he tweeted out a link to a website supporting his possible Senate run; at another point, while answering a question from a friendly lawmaker, he fantasized about what hed do if he were in the upper chamber.

              That performance didnt come as a shock to Democrats on Capitol Hill or back in New Hampshire, who said they expected that Lewandowski would seize on the hearing to boost his own profile.

              Democratic lawmakers and aides did not admit to any second thoughts about Lewandowskis appearance in light of his explicit politicking and eagerness to gum up the hearing. And they predicted his testimony would damage whatever political hopes he does harbor.

              Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) noted that in his testimony, Lewandowski admitted that Special Counsel Robert Muellers report found that Trump summoned him to the Oval Office in 2017 and directed him to send a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the president wanted Mueller reined in. Lewandowski had previously said he couldnt recall talking about Sessions with Trump.

              Thats obstruction of justice, plain and simple, said Cicilline. Admitting that in this hearing, under oath, I think is not a way to begin a U.S. Senate campaign.

              New Hampshire Democrats, meanwhile, have been salivating for weeks at the prospect of Lewandowski creating a televised spectacle, believing it to be a golden opportunity to define him to voters ahead of a possible bid. Party officials and activists in the state have been widely speculating that the former Trump campaign official would use his face time in front of the Judiciary Committee to leave little doubt in Granite Staters minds that he is preparing to launch a Republican challenge to Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

              New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Josh Marcus-Blank pointed to Lewandowskis promotion on Tuesday of the website paid for by a new outside group backing him, called Stand With Corey. By ducking questions and promoting that dark money group during a Congressional hearing to which he was subpoenaed to testify, Lewandowski is demonstrating once again that he works for those shady clients and Trump, not the people of New Hampshire, said Marcus-Blank.

              Thats perfectly in keeping with his character, one member of the New Hampshire Democratic state committee said on Tuesday afternoon. Everyone whos been following him in New Hampshire knows hes all about empty, shameless performances.

              Lewandowskis stunts in New Hampshire have historically been well telegraphed. In 2010, he debated a cardboard cutout of former Gov. John Lynch on national tax day at the height of the Tea Party movement.

              Its all performance, the New Hampshire Democratic state committee member added.

              The 46-year-old Windham resident had been on a media tour in his home state in recent weeks, saying hes taking a very long look at a possible candidacy. After steering the early part of Trumps first presidential campaignbefore being ousted by the president in a dramatic fashionthe bombastic operative has since worked as a Washington consultant and television commentator, engaging in politics from the outside.

              The Daily Beast previously reported that Lewandowski recently huddled with Trump after several administration officials encouraged him to enter the race. While some Republicans in the state explicitly said his entrance would help Shaheens chancesa sentiment that was bolstered by an editorial in the conservative newspaper the Union Leader advocating for a write-in over Lewandowskihis allies are convinced hes entering as the frontrunner.

              Over the course of over five hours on Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Lewandowski took every opportunity he could get to talk up his biography and his work in helping to elect Trump in 2016. In fact, he seemed to revel in injecting explicit politics into his testimony. I appreciate your comments about my ability to win in New Hampshire, he said, in response to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who mentioned Lewandowskis political ambitions.

              It was just one more thing to enrage Democrats during an already infuriating afternoon during which Lewandowski refused to answer questions and generally stymied Democrats limited time questioning him. This is not a Republican primary campaign, admonished Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to Lewandowski. This is the House Judiciary Committee.

              Meanwhile, Republicans on the panel seemed eager to serve softballs to Lewandowski that allowed him to expound on his patriotism, values, and character. "Do you think the Democrats will go to any length to undermine the president of the United States and influence the 2020 election?" asked Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ).

              "I believe in this democracy of the United States and I love this country," responded Lewandowski, adding that his primary concern is that his children and grandchildren look back at the Mueller inquiry and say, "that never should have been allowed, never to a Republican and never to a Democrat."

              Despite the muddled questioning and political maneuvering, Democrats said it was worth bringing in Lewandowski.

              Besides, said one Democratic aide, Its not like he has a shot at winning.

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              Bill Nye Wants a Rematch With Tucker Carlson

              Subscribe to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts

              This week, Bill Nye joined The Last Laugh podcast to offer some advice to the 10 Democratic presidential primary candidates who will be participating in CNNs upcoming Climate Crisis Town Hall. After all, the Science Guy has a lot of experience making the case for climate action on TV.

              Oh god, Nye says when I bring up the appearance he made on Tucker Carlsons show a couple of years ago. As one headline put it at the time, Bill Nye appears on Fox News and it doesnt go well.

              The experience was just a lot of adrenaline, Nye tells me. He was in Washington, D.C., where Carlson tapes his show. It was a beautiful night, gorgeous, and Tucker Carlson was on the roof of the building doing his schtick from there. Fox invited him on to talk about climate change and he agreed, making his first appearance on that network in nearly a decade despite being a semi-frequent presence on CNN and MSNBC.

              So we were going to go on the roof, beautiful night, this will be fun, Nye thought to himself. But then the producers told him he wasnt going to be on the roof with the host but rather in a small room on a lower floor of the same studio. They moved me, changed my chair three times to throw me off, he says.

              During his introduction, Carlson mocked his guest as Bill Nye the Psychoanalyst Guy for claiming that climate change deniers suffer from cognitive dissonance. The host was clearly itching for a fight.

              As the segment began, Nye quickly realized that every time he started to talk, Carlson would interrupt him. Working as fast as I could, I took my phone out and tried to show him with a stopwatch that he interrupted me every six seconds, Nye says. So its hard to make a point with him.

              By the end of their nine minutes on screen together, Carlson was shouting at Nye, Im open-minded, you are not!

              Carry on, Mr. Carlson, Im sure we will cross paths again, Nye told him, a bit ominously. They havent crossed paths since.

              Hes really drifted off, with respect, Nye says of Carlson, who has become the most prominent white nationalist voice on Fox News under President Trump. I mean hes gotten odder and odder. Besides the racism, Nye was enraged by a recent show in which he attacked the metric system.

              The other thing I wonder about Tucker Carlson is, hes got four kids, Nye says, turning more serious. I just wonder how his children feel about climate change. They keep a pretty low profile. I wonder about it, because it much more difficult to meet a climate change denier who is young.

              Nye had a much better time making a cameo on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver earlier this year. God, that was a blast, he says of the sketch in which he lit a globe on fire to demonstrate the impact of climate change. As the longtime host of a childrens program, he has spent most of his career communicating his message in a kid-friendly way. But on HBO, he got to scream, The planets on fucking fire! at the top of his lungs. It was heartfelt! he says.

              And yet Nye does not regret his attempt to get through to Fox News viewers on the climate crisis. Ill go back on there almost anytime, he says, explaining that he was asked back shortly after his original appearance but said no at the time and hasnt been invited since.

              Ive offered to be on The Five and they wouldnt have me on, Nye adds of Foxs afternoon roundtable show. It wouldnt be fun, he admits, but youve got to meet people where they are.

              Lets all go fishing at the other guys fishin hole, Nye says, explaining that he means that literally as well as figuratively. Because were more alike than we are different.

              When I ask if that applies to him and Tucker Carlson, Nye sighs and replies, Yeah, I guess. Like Nye, Carlson used to be famous for wearing bow ties on television. He used to, Nye says of Carlson, but he lost his nerve.

              Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Stand-up comedian and host of Comedy Centrals Good Talk, Anthony Jeselnik.

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              Trump thinks Fox News isn’t doing enough to promote his presidency

              Iike Shep Smith

              New York (CNN Business)President Trump took his complaints about Fox News, his biggest bastion of support on television, to a new level Wednesday, claiming that the network “isn’t working for us anymore.”

              “We have to start looking for a new News Outlet,” he tweeted on Wednesday, inadvertently lending credence to critics’ claims that Fox is akin to state-run TV.
              Fox spokespeople declined to comment on the president’s attacks.
                Brit Hume, the network’s senior political analyst, replied to Trump and said “Fox News isn’t supposed to work for you.”
                The president has lodged complaints about Fox more than a dozen times this year, in what appears to be an intensifying pressure campaign to keep the network “in line,” so to speak.
                He typically hits the tweet button after watching stories on the network’s daytime newscasts, which are anchored by journalists Iike Shep Smith, Bret Baier, Sandra Smith and Bill Hemmer.
                While some of the news hours have a rightward bent, the anchors generally don’t display the pro-Trump sycophancy that’s a signature feature of Fox’s opinion programs.
                On Wednesday Trump said he had just watched Fox “heavily promoting the Democrats” during Sandra Smith’s interview of DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa.
                Trump said Hinojosa was “spewing out whatever she wanted with zero pushback by anchor,” which, ironically, is what Trump often does during interviews with his Fox friends like Sean Hannity, who has in his time off-air also served as an unofficial adviser to the president.
                Trump then listed off some of his previous grievances about Fox, including the existence of Shep Smith’s 3 p.m. newscast and the presence of liberal commentators Donna Brazile and Juan Williams.
                He called Fox “HOPELESS & CLUELESS” and said “they should go all the way LEFT and I will still find a way to Win – That’s what I do, Win. Too Bad! I don’t want to Win for myself, I only want to Win for the people. The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!”
                Just one day ago, Trump tweeted out promotion and praise for one of Fox’s pro-Trump hosts, Jeanine Pirro, who released another Democrat-bashing book on Tuesday. “Out today, go get it!” Trump said shortly after Pirro appeared on Fox to sell the book.
                  Trump also routinely posts videos of Fox segments he likes and tweets congratulations to the network for its ratings wins.
                  Hinojosa responded to Trump’s tweet about her and said “Thanks for watching.”

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                  Boris Johnson

                  africa

                  Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Boris Johnson has emerged as the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after a leadership contest and could prove to be as divisive a figure in Britain as President Trump is in the United States.

                  Around the world, Johnson, Britain’s gaffe-prone former foreign secretary,has in the past caused raised eyebrows and outrage with his outspoken comments.
                  But it is in Africa, in particular, that he has shocked many with language considered to be racist and offensive.
                  Johnson, who was a member of the British Parliament at the time he made some of these comments in 2002, apologized while on the campaign trail for the London mayoral elections in 2008.
                  Johnson said at the time that he “loathed and despised,” racism as he stood for elections in one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
                  “I do feel very sad that people have been so offended by these words and I’m sorry that I’ve caused this offence,” he was quoted as saying in a local media report at the time.
                  Below are some of Johnson’s comments about Africa.

                  ‘The big white chief’

                  news
                  Johnson made the remarks in an outlandish 2002 Daily Telegraph article, where few people were spared.

                  ‘Not in charge anymore’

                  What Boris Johnson has to say about Africa - CNN
                  In a Spectator 2002 column titled, ‘Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism,’ he wrote: “It is just not convincing, 40 years on, to blame Africa’s problems on the ‘lines on the map’, the arbitrary boundary-making of the men in sola topis.”

                  ‘Aids-ridden choristers’

                  africa
                  Writing in the same 2002 Spectator article, he also described meeting some young children with AIDS who performed a welcome song for Johnson and his group. He has come under fire for his insensitive description of the children.

                  ‘Flag waving piccaninnies’

                  news
                  Writing in his column in the Daily Telegraph on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visits around the world, he used the term “piccaninnies,” which is a racist term used to describe black children.

                  ‘Ancestral dislike’

                  What Boris Johnson has to say about Africa - CNN
                  Johnson wrote a column in the British Sun newspaper in 2016 questioning why former President Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and attributed it to his “ancestral dislike.” The Obama administration was forced to write a blog post to address several rumors circulating about the bust’s removal.

                  ‘The bicycle guy’

                  With his unruly mop of white-blond hair and bumbling personality, Boris Johnson is not exactly a forgettable figure.
                  But Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta struggled to recall his name during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Nairobi last year.
                  His mind went blank as he struggled to recall the former UK foreign secretary’s name. He then referred to Johnson as “the bicycle guy.”
                  Because of their combative history, May could be forgiven for indulging in a moment of schadenfreude: Johnson had been one of her fiercest political rivals and he resigned from her Cabinet over disagreements over her Brexit strategy.
                  As he embarks on a post-Brexit world where shoring up trade interests with Commonwealth countries will be paramount, Britain’s next Prime Minister appears to have his work cut out for him in impressing African leaders.

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                  Russia and 2020 Elections

                  One week after Robert Mueller’s testimony shined a spotlight, once again, on election interference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat. The leader turned heads on the Senate floor Monday as he rose to decry critics who have dubbed him “a Russian asset” and “Moscow Mitch” for stonewalling congressional measures to improve election security. And with momentum building in the House to formally start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the pressure is unlikely to let up anytime soon.

                  Focusing on election interference from 2016 is backwards thinking, though, at least according to Virginia Senator Mark Warner. With 2020 just around the corner, he tells WIRED—in an exclusive interview—that the upcoming election is where both parties need to direct their attention right now.

                  As the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has long been a vocal proponent of new legislation to strengthen election protections, such as the Honest Ad Act, which would compel Silicon Valley firms to disclose when political ads are paid for by a foreign nation. He’s also behind a bill that would require campaigns to alert federal officials if they’re approached by a foreign operative offering information or other assistance. Both bills have bipartisan support—Senator Susan Collins became the first Republican to cosponsor the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act earlier this week.

                  Even as GOP leaders try to position election security as a partisan issue, Warner—a former governor of Virginia and a cofounder of the firm that eventually became Nextel—has maintained the respect of his colleagues across the aisle. But his frustration seems to be growing, especially now that Trump has tapped Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be his next director of national intelligence. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has already come out opposed to Ratcliffe, Warner tells WIRED he’s still got some patience left. Even if it’s wearing thin.

                  This transcript is slightly edited for length and clarity.

                  WIRED: After Mueller testified, the president and Republicans say case closed. What do you make of that?

                  Mark Warner: I’m not here to relitigate 2016, or the Mueller testimony, specifically. I would point out, out of the Mueller investigation: 37 indictments, the president’s national security adviser pled guilty. The president’s campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s deputy campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s chief political adviser is coming to trial in the fall, Roger Stone. The attorney general had to resign. There were literally hundreds of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

                  That’s not normal. And I think the biggest takeaway from the Mueller testimony was that the Russians who attacked us in 2016 are still attacking us and, in Bob Mueller’s words, on a daily basis. You combine that with the warnings from Trump’s own FBI director [Christopher Wray] and Trump’s own director of national intelligence [Dan Coats]. And one of the things that concerns me the greatest is that we’ve not done more to protect the integrity of our election system in 2020.

                  I was just talking to your [Intelligence Committee] cochair, Senator [Richard] Burr, and he was saying the states in 2018 weathered these attacks, the national infrastructure is good on election security. Basically, case closed, again, not much more is needed.

                  I think everyone picked up their game in 2018, including the Department of Homeland Security, and our intelligence community was more active as well. But the intelligence community’s own reporting was that Russia didn’t throw its full force of efforts in 2018. Chances are they’ll reserve those for the presidential election. So I think there is some low-hanging fruit that would get 75 votes on the floor of the Senate—if we could get these bills to the floor of the Senate.

                  I think there ought to be an affirmative obligation that if a foreign government, the Kremlin, offers you campaign help, your obligation ought to be not to say thank you, but to report to the FBI. I think we ought to make sure that every polling station in America has a paper ballot backup, so that if a machine was hacked, you’ve still got ability to protect the integrity of the voting system. And I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t think we need some basic guard rails around the manipulation of Facebook, Twitter, and Google by foreign entities and others. So at least there ought to be the requirement that if somebody advertises on a political basis on Facebook, but in truth it’s a foreign government, they ought to have the same disclosure requirements as somebody who advertises on radio or television.

                  Isn’t it a little bit ironic that in this highly digital era, we’re going back to paper ballots?

                  I think we need to make sure that we use the best technology, but if technology, as we see from banks this week, can continue to be hacked into, if voting machines are not as protected as needed, if the private companies who control the voter files could have their information moved around … You don’t need to change votes to cause chaos. I think people’s overall confidence in the system goes up if there is that back check of having a paper ballot backup. Again, this is not saying we wouldn’t still use voting machines, but across the election community everyone believes it’s safer if you have that paper ballot backup that goes along with the voting counting machines.

                  And now we know we’re getting attacked, cybersecurity is on the top of many minds. And then the president this week announced he’s nominating Representative John Ratcliffe to be DNI, who seems like more of a politician and a Trump supporter than someone from the intel community. Does that worry you?

                  It worries me greatly. The irony is that Donald Trump’s appointees in the intel world—his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; his director of the FBI, Chris Wray, his director of the CIA, Gina Haspel—have been pretty good about speaking truth to power, even when Trump did not want to hear the truth. They’ve been very good at not allowing America’s intelligence to get politicized—while I’m going to give Mr. Ratcliffe the courtesy of a meeting, I fear that he is being appointed in the mold of a Bill Barr, the attorney general, who basically is simply a loyalist first to Donald Trump and doesn’t maintain that kind of independence.

                  If there’s ever been a time when everyone says that Russians and others will be back, when we’ve got as many potential conflict spots around the world, we need to make sure that the head of our national intelligence is not going to politicize the intelligence. That intelligence product goes to our military, it goes to the executive, it goes to us in the Congress. It cannot be a political product. And we’ve got to make sure that the intelligence community is going to be willing to speak truth to power, and that means telling Donald Trump the truth, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. And so far it appears to me that Mr. Ratcliffe, who doesn’t have much experience and who seems—based upon press reports—that his audition was based on questioning Mueller and questioning the legitimacy of the Russian’s intervention in our electoral system, is pretty chilling.

                  What do you see as the biggest threats—or are there any new threats—facing America in 2020?

                  So I think there are a couple of new threats. One, Russia in 2016 was surprised at how vulnerable our systems were, our electoral systems. And how easy Facebook and Twitter and YouTube were to be manipulated. So I think that playbook is now out there, they’ve used the same tactics in the Brexit vote [and] the French presidential elections. So my fear is we may not only see Russia, we can see Iran, we could potentially see China, who has a great deal of control over a number of their Chinese tech companies, start to use these tools because they’re cheap and effective. I like to point out that if you add up all Russia spent in the Brexit vote, the French presidential elections, and the 2016 American elections, it’s less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane. So Russia and our adversaries, I think, have decided the way to engage with us in conflict is not through straight up old-school military but through cyber activities, misinformation and disinformation, increasingly trying to weaken and interfere, for example with our space communications, and I think Russia will up their game … and others … [It] means there will be more adversaries in 2020.

                  Second is, I think in 2016 we saw Russia try to misrepresent—the Russian agents misrepresent themselves as Americans on Facebook and Twitter by simply posting fake messages. The next iteration, the next generation of that will be the so-called “deepfake” technology, where an American may not be able to view what his eyes are telling him, because you’ll see an image of you or me or a political figure that may sound like that person but isn’t that person at all.

                  Now, if McConnell doesn’t allow some of these bills, like the Honest Ads Act or just broader election security bills, to come up, what do you think the Silicon Valley tech firms can do on their own?

                  Look, we’ve seen progress made by Facebook, Twitter, some progress made by Google. But I don’t think self-regulation, particularly when a regulation may mean they may not be collecting as much information as they like, or self-regulation may mean they have to go against or limit some of the fake content. It goes against their very business model. So I think Facebook has made progress in particular, but some of the tools they have—for example, the ability to access on an easy basis the campaign ads that they promised, that tool is not effective at all.

                  So at the end of the day, when we’re talking about something as critical as protecting the integrity of our democracy, when Americans lack faith in so many of our institutions to start with, if we don’t go the extra mile and put in place a set of rules and regulations—and god forbid should Russia or Iran or another foreign enterprise massively interfere again—and we didn’t do our duty, then shame on all of us.

                  This week, two fairly senior Senate Democrats called for impeachment proceedings to begin. Where are you on that? We started this conversation with you saying you don’t want to relitigate 2016, but it seems like there’s this growing chorus amongst Democrats to impeach.

                  I actually think Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has navigated that challenge very well. I understand the frustrations with President Trump—his activities and tweets and antics. I think, though, the best way we can show that that’s not who we are as Americans is to defeat him at the ballot box in a free and fair election. And what I worry about is if we don’t guarantee that free and fair election, then we haven’t done our job.


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