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National Govt & Politics
Ex-White House aide: Giuliani work in Ukraine was 'domestic political errand' for Trump
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Ex-White House aide: Giuliani work in Ukraine was 'domestic political errand' for Trump

Ex-White House aide: Giuliani work in Ukraine was 'domestic political errand' for Trump

Ex-White House aide: Giuliani work in Ukraine was 'domestic political errand' for Trump

In what may be a final day of public impeachment hearings by the House Intelligence Committee, a former National Security Council official said she shared her concerns about the work in Ukraine of President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, recalling she had warned officials the effort would lead to trouble.

"I did say to Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up," Hill said. "And here we are."

Repeating a warning from her former boss at the Trump White House, ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton, Hill quoted Bolton say saying 'Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going blow everyone up.”

In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Hill criticized the interest inside the White House in Giuliani's efforts to press Ukraine to start investigations into Hunter Biden, and GOP questions about interference in the 2016 elections by Ukraine, deriding it as a "domestic political errand."

In testifying about Giuliani's back channel work in Ukraine, Hill described how she confronted U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about the two-track diplomatic efforts on Ukraine, complaining that Sondland was not keeping her in the loop on his work - and then predicting it would cause problems.

Hill said she made much the same prediction to her former boss, Bolton, saying the Giuliani effort would 'backfire' on the White House.

"The story line he was promoting, the narrative he was promoting was going to backfire," Hill said. "I think it has backfired."

In her appearance, Hill also agreed with the testimony of Sondland on Wednesday, in which he said Giuliani was pressing a quid pro quo - trading a White House meeting for the new leader of Ukraine for investigations sought by President Trump.

The hearing also featured testimony from a U.S. official in the American embassy in Ukraine, David Holmes, who overheard a phone call between Sondland and President Trump.

"The President's voice was loud and recognizable," Holmes said, telling lawmakers that Sondland actually held the phone away from his ear and winced at the volume from Mr. Trump.

In that call, Holmes said he clearly heard the President ask Sondland if Ukraine was going to announce investigations sought by the President about the Bidens, Burisma, and the allegations of interference by Ukraine in the 2016 elections.

“I then heard President Trump ask, 'so he's going to do the investigation?'” Holmes recounted. 

“Ambassador Sondland replied, 'he's going to do it,'” Holmes added.

Republicans tangled with Holmes several times over his story.

At one point in the GOP questions to Holmes, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) requested the Foreign Service Officer declare that he would never reveal the details of such a high level call in the future.

"I think it was Gordon Sondland who showed indiscretion by having that conversation over a public phone line," Holmes said.

Earlier, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) rebuked Holmes for revealing portions of the Trump-Sondland call, where Sondland told Mr. Trump that the leader of Ukraine "loves your ass."

Turner said it was embarrassing to President Zelensky; Holmes defended his actions, calling Zelensky a "Ukrainian patriot."

You can find more coverage of Thursday's impeachment hearing at this link. 

Read More
  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
  • A New Jersey town council approved a resolution last week that proclaimed it a “sanctuary township” for law-abiding gun owners. Lawmakers in West Milford passed a non-binding resolution that “opposes further interference with, or abridging of, the rights of lawful gun owners,” NJ.com reported. Pete McGuinness, council president in the rural town of 26,000 people, said the resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote Dec. 4, the website reported. “We’re just letting the community know we are a gun-friendly, Second Amendment-positive township,” McGuinness told NJ.com. The resolution declares West Milford a “Second Amendment/lawful gun owner sanctuary township' and criticizes “red flag laws” that have been adopted by at least 17 states, including New Jersey, rthe website reported. Adoption of the resolution came six days before a shooting in Jersey City that killed four people, including a police officer, NJ.com reported.
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Washington Insider

  • Already facing significant opposition back home from within his own party for refusing to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump, freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) is reportedly ready to switch to the Republican Party with the backing of the President, a politically embarrassing development for Democrats in advance of this week's House impeachment vote. 'Wow, that would be big,' President Trump tweeted over the weekend about news reports on Van Drew's future. 'Always heard Jeff is very smart!' As of Sunday evening, Van Drew had not publicly confirmed his plans, as the reported move enraged Democrats on Capitol Hill and back in the Garden State. 'Betraying our party by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw,' said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who made clear his disappointment in Van Drew in a series of weekend tweets, calling the switch 'cynical and desperate.' The five staffers who resigned from Van Drew's office on Sunday included two Deputy Chiefs of Staff, his Communications Director, Legislative Director, and Legislative Assistant. An experienced former state lawmaker in New Jersey who won a GOP House seat in 2018, Van Drew set himself apart from fellow Democrats repeatedly over the past year, opposing Nancy Pelosi's election as Speaker, voting against starting an impeachment inquiry, and opposing a resolution to hold the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'I'm always true to my word,' Van Drew told reporters in mid November of 2018, as he explained why he would vote against Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. Less than a year later, Van Drew - who served sixteen years in the New Jersey state House and Senate as a Democrat - is evidently ready to switch to the GOP. Democrats said the real story was that Van Drew - because of his opposition to an impeachment investigation - was in danger of being defeated in the 2020 Democratic primary, as they quickly leaked recent polling showing exactly that outcome. The possibility of a party switch left questions for Republicans as well. In a story in the Press of Atlantic City newspaper on Sunday, one GOP candidate who had already announced a bid to run against Van Drew called the lawmaker, an 'absolute weasel,' as even former Vice President Joe Biden piled on. 'The leading Democrat opposed to impeachment is switching parties to protect Trump,' Biden tweeted, using the Van Drew story as part of a fundraising effort. The current Congress has already seen one party switch, in part because of the impeachment inquiry, as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan switched from the GOP to Independent. President Trump is holding a campaign rally in Amash's district on Wednesday evening, likely just after the House votes on two impeachment charges.
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  • Already over two months behind schedule, key lawmakers in Congress said Thursday they had reached a tentative agreement which would hopefully bring $1.3 trillion in funding bills to a vote next week in the House and Senate, avoiding a government shutdown deadline of December 20. 'There's a meeting of the minds,' said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as lawmakers scrambled to wrap up a dozen unfinished funding bills for the federal government - work which should have been finished by October 1. With no details readily available - and House leaders talking about holding a vote by Tuesday on a single giant bill, or maybe a pair of funding plans - the familiar year-end rush caused furrowed brows for some in the Congress. 'Two minibuses = an omnibus,' tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), using the familiar name for large funding measures, in which up to a dozen spending bills are jammed into one catch-all funding plan. Congress is supposed to be finished with the 12 different funding bills for the federal government by September 30 of each year - as the new fiscal year begins October 1. But over the past 45 years, it has become standard procedure for lawmakers in both parties to use temporary funding measures - known as 'continuing resolutions' - to fund operations of the government while final spending deals are worked out by the House and Senate. Only four times since a big change in Congressional budget rules in 1974 has the Congress finished the funding work on time - in 1976, 1988, 1994, and 1996.