Trump to meet Lavrov tomorrow
Squabbling in the impeachment hearing. Bang, bang, bang goes Nadler’s gavel.
While order is restored, let’s catch up with the fact that the Interfax news agency reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet Donald Trump during talks with his US counterpart in Washington tomorrow, Reuters writes.
Lavrov’s trip to Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comes as bilateral ties are at post-Cold War lows, strained over everything from alleged election meddling to the wars in Ukraine and Syria.
Time is also running out for the two sides to strike a deal that would replace or extend their New START nuclear arms treaty that is set to expire in February 2021.
Russian president Vladimir Putin last week offered the United States an extension on the deal without any pre-conditions or further discussion.
Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed Lavrov’s trip to Washington in a statement. It did not mention a meeting with Trump, but Interfax cited a foreign ministry source saying there would be such a meeting.
US intelligence agencies have said Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election campaign in order to tilt the vote in Trump’s favor. Moscow denies it.
Paul Volcker is dead – report
Paul Volcker, the towering former Federal Reserve chairman who tamed US inflation in the 1980s and decades later inspired tough Wall Street reforms in the wake of the global financial crisis, died on Monday at the age of 92, according to the New York Times, which quoted his daughter.
Volcker, who media reports said had been suffering from prostate cancer, was the first to bring celebrity status to the job of U.S. central banker, serving as chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1979 to 1987. As with the man who succeeded him, Alan Greenspan, Volcker could soothe or excite financial markets with just a vague murmur, Reuters writes.
In 2018 he published a memoir, “Keeping at It: The Quest for Sound Money and Good Government,” and expressed concern about the direction of the federal government and the loss of respect for it.
“The central issue is we’re developing into a plutocracy,” he told the New York Times in October 2018. “We’ve got an enormous number of enormously rich people that have convinced themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart and constructive. And they don’t like government and they don’t like to pay taxes.”
In 2009, Volcker began serving as a key financial adviser to President Barack Obama and faced a maelstrom of financial turmoil, government bailouts and fallout from the deepest recession since the 1930s Great Depression.
In working to help the U.S. economy recover from the 2008 crisis, he proposed what became known as the Volcker rule that restricted banks from making high-risk investments with depositors’ cash. Since Donald Trump, who favors fewer regulations, became president in 2017, the rule has been under review.
What’s the key phrase?
Ranking member Doug Collins has kicked off his now-familiar sarcasm show.
He asks what will turn out to be the key phrase from this impeachment process?
He reminds us that the key phrase, burned into our memories over the decades, from the Nixon Watergate process was: “What did the president know and when did he know it?” A: a lot, from the beginning.
The memorable sentence from the Bill Clinton impeachment was: “I did not have sexual relations with that women.” A: Yep, you did.
And Collins suggests the key phrase from the impeachment of Donald Trump will be: “Where is the impeachable offense.” Very lame, Doug. The key phrase is already and will likely remain: “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”
That’s what Donald Trump said in a July phone call to the politically and militarily vulnerable, new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, when asking for an investigation of his US political rivals in exchange for military aid.
Protester disrupts opening of impeachment hearing
The hearing of the House Judiciary Committee got underway at 9.07AM local time in Washington but there was an early interruption.
A protester, appearing to on the side of Donald Trump and against impeachment, shouted at committee chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, that he and the Democrats are committing “treason” in their inquiry, according to CNN’s Manu Raju.
Nadler, who is punctuating his opening statement with occasional clearing of his throat with a short, rattling cough, is pushing on regardless.
“Donald Trump put himself before country,” he has said, twice already. Nadler is outlining “corruption of public office” by the president’s pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals (aka “Do us a favor, though”) in return for crucial military aid for its existential battle against aggressive Russian forces on its Crimean flank.
Attempted Republican interruption to make a motion. Squished by Nadler.
Horowitz expected to outline justification for Trump-Russia probe
The US Justice Department’s internal watchdog will release a highly anticipated report today that’s expected to reject Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the investigation into whether he or his campaign colluded with Russia was illegitimate or illegal and that it was not blighted by political bias in the FBI.
But it is also expected to document errors during the investigation that may animate Trump supporters, The Associated Press writes.
The report, as described by people familiar with its findings, is expected to conclude there was an adequate basis for opening one of the most politically sensitive investigations in FBI history.
The release of DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s review is unlikely to quell the partisan battles that have surrounded the Russia investigation for years. It’s also not the last word: A separate internal investigation continues, overseen by Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, and led by a US attorney, John Durham. That investigation is criminal in nature
Horowitz’s report is expected to identify errors and misjudgments by some law enforcement officials, including by an FBI lawyer suspected of altering a document related to the surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide.
But the report will not endorse some of the president’s theories on the investigation, including that it was a baseless “witch hunt” or that he was targeted by an Obama administration Justice Department desperate to see Republican Trump lose to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
It also is not expected to undo Mueller’s findings or contradict his conclusion that Russia interfered in order to benefit the Trump campaign.
The FBI opened its investigation in July 2016 after learning that a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, had been told before it was publicly known that Russia had ‘dirt’ on the Clinton campaign via hacked emails.
DoJ watchdog to issue report on Trump-Russia investigation
Good Morning, US politics watchers. It’s going to be nothing less than a manic Monday in Washington today, festive spirits be darned.
- The inspector general of the Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, aka the DoJ internal watchdog, is going to make public his report into the origins of the Trump-Russia inquiry during and after the 2016 presidential election. It has extraordinary implications for the reputation of the FBI. It’s not clear yet exactly when the report will be released today – so do stay glued. It is expected to find that the intelligence community did have enough legitimate evidence in 2016 of links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives seeking to interfere in his favor to obtain secret surveillance warrants. There was no illegal spying and that outweighs some secondary findings that there was some sloppiness and political bias on display from some FBI figures.
- Beginning within minutes, at 9AM US eastern time, the House of Representatives judiciary committee will hold its second public hearing in the impeachment inquiry against the president. Congressional lawyers Daniel Goldman and Stephen Castor will be the witnesses, discussing the grounds for impeachment found by the intelligence committee in recent weeks. Expect stormy waters and a long hearing. We now move from the inquiry phase into the process for the Democratic controlled committee to draw up the articles of impeachment (effectively the indictment against Trump), to be voted on by the House before Christmas and leading to a congressional trial in the Senate early next year. Of special note: will the committee include obstruction of the Mueller report (the product of the Trump-Russia investigation) in the articles?
- Democratic 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren says an all-women ticket in the election can beat Donald Trump. She and Joe Biden also seem to be, well, not closed to the idea of recruiting the other as their vice-president. How would a Warren-Kamala Harris ticket go down with America, for example. Stacey Abrams? Intriguing.
- There’s also news on Rudy Giuliani, Afghanistan, Mike Pompeo, Michelle Obama, the Pensacola shooting and more. Stay tuned.