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Jamie Dupree Washington Insider

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday considers a politically explosive trio of cases on the future of an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrant 'Dreamers' in the United States, and whether the Trump Administration has properly exercised its legal authority to take away the protection those people have had since 2012 to avoid being deported from the United States. Legal experts say the Trump Administration certainly has the right to terminate the DACA program - because it is a discretionary use of authority by the Executive Branch.  But experts also argue that the Trump Administration bungled that simple move, resulting in several years of court challenges, culminating in these arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. 'This is a program put in place by a government agency - it is not something the Congress put in place - which is important, because now the agency says it can get rid of the program,' said Nicole Saharsky, a lawyer who worked on one of the three DACA cases before the Justices. 'It seemed to me the government had such an easy argument,' Saharsky said at a Georgetown University symposium earlier this fall. 'This is discretionary - we're going to exercise our discretion and not have it anymore.' But Saharsky and other legal experts say the way the Trump Administration went about ending the program undermined its authority to easily make a change. For example, it took the Trump Administration months to produce policy points from the Secretary of Homeland Security - used in a later court case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals - to support the reason why the DACA program should be changed. 'Part of the debate is about whether those additional policy reasons are properly before the court or not,' said Irv Gornstein, the Executive Director of the Supreme Court Institute and a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. That 'after-the-fact-justification' - as Gornstein labeled it during a Supreme Court preview this fall - is one of a series of administrative matters the Justices must consider, in what otherwise would seem to be a legal slam dunk for the Trump Administration. When lower courts first blocked the feds from changing DACA, law professor Josh Blackman called it 'ludicrous,' denouncing a decision from a federal judge in San Francisco as an 'amateur act of punditry.' But as the issue has wound its way through the courts, Blackman has joined others in acknowledging the Trump Administration fell short in offering the proper rationale for the change. 'Offer other reasons that are legitimate, and the policy can be rescinded,' Blackman argued in a lengthy argument on Twitter earlier this year. The outcome of this case could also find roots in the Supreme Court rebuke of the Trump Administration over the Census, where Chief Justice John Roberts clearly laid out a path for the feds to take without violating the Administrative Procedures Act - which could apply as well to the DACA situation. All of that will play out in 80 minutes of arguments - covering three different cases before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
  • Just days before impeachment hearings are set to begin the U.S. House, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress continued to be on different pathways when it comes to defending the President's conduct, as Mr. Trump on Sunday again maintained that he did nothing wrong in his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 'The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT,' Mr. Trump tweeted from Trump Tower in New York. 'Read the Transcript!' But Democrats said the transcript showed behavior which was not acceptable - and there were some GOP lawmakers agreeing in part. 'I believe it was inappropriate,' Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said of the President's request in a July phone call for the government of Ukraine to launch investigations which would have benefited Mr. Trump politically.  'I do not believe it was impeachable,' Thornberry said on ABC's 'This Week.' Mr. Trump argued specifically against that. 'Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable,' he tweeted. The White House document detailing the call - which is not a full, word for word transcript - shows the President clearly asking the leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of Vice President Biden, along with probing the assertion that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats in the 2016 elections. While the White House and Republicans tried to sort out their impeachment arguments, Democrats were blasting the GOP. 'Witness testimony shows that everybody involved in the President’s pressure campaign knew what he wanted,' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-I), 'political investigations to undermine our free and fair elections.' 'Republicans cried for weeks for open & public impeachment inquiry hearings,' said Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA). 'Now that public hearings begin this week, Trump & GOP don’t want them.
  • Republicans on Saturday submitted an impeachment hearing witness list to Democrats which includes the son of Vice President Joe Biden, along with the intelligence community whistleblower who initially touched off questions about President Donald Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to launch certain investigations to help Mr. Trump's 2020 election bid. In a five page letter to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) blasted the process involved in the impeachment process, labeling it a 'one-sided and purely political' effort against President Trump. 'Americans see through this sham impeachment process, despite the Democrats' efforts to retroactively legitimize it last week,' Nunes wrote, referring to a House vote to approve plans for the impeachment inquiry opposed by GOP lawmakers. The GOP request named eight specific witnesses: + Hunter Biden, son of the former Vice President. + Devon Archer, tied to Biden through a Ukraine energy company. + Alexandra Chalupa, a former DNC staffer. + David Hale, the third-ranking State Department official, who testified behind closed doors on November 6. + Tim Morrison, National Security Council official who testified on October 31. + Nellie Ohr, a frequent target of the GOP from the Russia investigation. + Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, who was the first witness deposed by Congress. + The whistleblower who brought the Ukraine issue to officials in the U.S. Intelligence Community. On his way to the Alabama-LSU college football game on Saturday, President Trump added his own jabs at Democrats, saying he would likely release the transcript of another phone call with the leader of Ukraine next week. 'PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!' the President tweeted, in a familiar complaint about the Russia investigation. The GOP letter also asks to hear publicly from 'All individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint.' It was not clear how many witnesses would be approved by Democrats; as of now, it's not known how long the hearings will go, or how many public sessions will be conducted. 'We expect that you will call each of the witnesses listed above to ensure that the Democrats' 'impeachment inquiry' treats the President with fairness,' Nunes wrote. You can read the GOP letter at this link. The immediate reaction from Democrats did not seem positive for the GOP effort to call Hunter Biden and others. 'This inquiry is not, and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit,' Schiff wrote in a Saturday afternoon response.
  • Just days before the start of public impeachment hearings, Congressional Republicans on Friday shuffled the GOP membership on the House Intelligence Committee, adding Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), one of the most vocal and staunch defenders of President Donald Trump. 'I am appointing @Jim_Jordan to the Intelligence Committee — which has now become the Impeachment Committee — where he will continue fighting for fairness and truth,' tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Friday. Jordan has routinely been one of the more outspoken defenders of the President on a host of issues. 'No quid pro quo whatsoever,' he told reporters earlier this week about allegations that President Trump had withheld military aid from Ukraine in an effort to get the government to start several investigations which could give political help to Mr. Trump's re-election bid in 2020. In order for Jordan to be added to the panel, Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas will step aside; he submitted a resignation letter for his committee slot, which was read on the House floor on Friday afternoon. “I look forward to rejoining my colleagues on HPSCI when this impeachment hoax has concluded and we return to the important work and oversight of the Intelligence Community that the committee is intended for,” Crawford said. The switch involving Jordan came as Democrats released the transcripts of closed door depositions with two more witnesses, former White House aide Fiona Hill, and National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. One of the few aides who listened to a July 25 phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine, Vindman said there was no question in his mind that President Trump was holding back military aid for Ukraine in order to get the government to start investigations which could benefit Mr. Trump's re-election. “And was there any doubt in your mind as to what the President, our President, was asking for as a deliverable?” asked Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT). “There was no doubt,” Vindman answered. In a separate deposition, Hill - who served as a Russia expert for the Trump White House until just a few months ago - said national security experts like herself had been subjected to false conspiracy theories and death threats to paint them as opponents of President Trump. 'My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again,' Hill testified. 'I received, I just have to tell you, death threats, ca1ls at my home,' Hill added. 'My neighbors reported somebody coming and hammering on my door.' Hill blamed the back channel actions of President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for the escalating pressure on Ukraine to investigate the son of Joe Biden, and a debunked theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats during the 2016 elections. 'I didn't know exactly what Mr. Giuliani was doing,' Hill said. 'So we are now living my worst nightmare.' Watching Giuliani discuss Ukraine-related issues on television, Hill said the President's lawyer seemed to be separated from reality. “He seemed at times to actually believe some of the things he was saying that I knew to be untrue,” Hill testified. Hill's testimony is at this link. Vindman's testimony is available here.
  • Ignoring the verbal barbs and Twitter attacks leveled against him by President Donald Trump, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has started his campaign to regain his old Senate seat - which reportedly has irked the President - by heaping praise on President Trump. In a 30 second video unveiled on Thursday titled, 'Great Job,' Sessions said he hasn't criticized the President, because he agrees with Mr. Trump's agenda. 'Did I write a tell all book?' Sessions says in the ad. 'Have I said a cross word about our President? Not one time.' 'The President is doing a great job for America, and Alabama, and he has my strong support,' Sessions says in the video released on Thursday night. Tucked into that advertisement is a snippet of video from a late February 2016 rally in Madison, Alabama, where Sessions became the first sitting GOP Senator to endorse Mr. Trump, just as he was poised to grab control of the race for the Republican nomination. 'At this time in American history, we need to make America great again,' Sessions said to cheers of 'USA! USA!' from the crowd. That early support resulted in Sessions being brought in as a top adviser for the President, and ultimately the Alabama Senator would become U.S. Attorney General. But it was in that post that Sessions infuriated the President by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, as President Trump belittled Sessions repeatedly, until Sessions was finally pushed out, the morning after the 2018 mid-term elections. 'Sessions didn't have a clue,' the President tweeted in March. 'The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself,' Mr. Trump tweeted in June of 2018.  'I would have quickly picked someone else,' the President added. In recent weeks, as Sessions has made clear he wanted to run to regain his seat in the U.S. Senate, GOP Senators have made clear to their former colleague that he does not have the backing of the President at this point. Sessions enters what's already a crowded Republican Primary, as the GOP looks to defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), a Democrat who won an improbable victory to replace Sessions, as he defeated GOP nominee Roy Moore, who had been beset by a variety of sexual misconduct allegations. The GOP lineup right now includes not only Moore, but also former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), along with the Alabama Secretary of State, the state Auditor, another state Representative, and several other candidates. It would not be the first time that Sessions has taken an unusual route to the U.S. Senate; in 1986, Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge by President Reagan, but after a spirited debate with strong opposition from Democrats, Sessions was forced to withdraw. Sessions had the last laugh, as he returned to Alabama and ran for the U.S. Senate, winning in 1996 - then serving alongside many of the Democratic Senators who had opposed his nomination to the federal bench.
  • A series of emails released under a Freedom of Information Act request show that National Weather Service forecasters publicly knocked down talk that Hurricane Dorian might threaten the Alabama Gulf Coast without knowing that President Donald Trump had heightened concerns by mentioning a possible threat to the Yellowhammer State twenty minutes earlier. 'The day shift did not know what precipitated this escalation in calls/social media questions,' wrote Chris Darden, in charge of the National Weather Service office in Birmingham, Alabama. 'It was later learned that the uptick in calls/concern regarding Alabama may have been related to a White House tweet earlier in the day,' Darden told others by email on Sunday, September 1. 'It was directly in response to the increase in calls from anxious and panicked citizens,' Darden wrote. The calls led the Birmingham office to send out a tweet, twenty minutes after the President wrongly included Alabama as being under a direct threat from Hurricane Dorian. In a series of agency emails made public this week, the Birmingham, Alabama office - and other Weather Service officials - repeatedly say that the forecasters had no idea they were getting worried calls and messages because of the President's tweet. 'Some in media assumed, understandably so, that our social media posts were a direct response to the WH (White House) post,' Darden wrote in an email. 'In fact, they were not as we were not even aware of them at the time.' But as the news media focused on the matter - and the President refused to back down in the days after the tweets - by that Friday, officials issued a public rebuke of the Birmingham office. 'The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time,' the statement read. The dustup ultimately led to President Trump presenting a weather map in his defense, which included an extra area - marked by a black marker - to show that there was a threat to Alabama. Other emails made public from the Weather Service included complaints from fellow employees about the public rebuke of the Birmingham office. “This statement is deeply upsetting to NOAA employees that have worked the hurricane and not fully accurate based on the timeline in question,” wrote one NOAA worker in Maryland. Also included were angry emails from people outside of the Weather Service, who accused NOAA officials of giving in to the President. “You should resign immediately,” one woman wrote. “You should make yourself legit by getting a job in Trump's reelection campaign.” You can find all the emails released by NOAA at this link.
  • As more Trump Administration officials did not show up to testify before impeachment investigators in the Congress on Wednesday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry became the first of President Trump's Cabinet to join that growing list, as Democrats say the President and his aides are openly obstructing a Congressional impeachment investigation. Transcripts from the impeachment investigation show that Perry was working in concert with the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as Giuliani was operating a separate diplomatic effort in Ukraine, apart from State Department officials. It was also revealed this week that before testimony by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, the two men spoke about events involving Ukraine. 'I have spoken with Secretary Perry on several occasions relating to non-Ukraine business,' Sondland told investigators, 'and I did ask Secretary Perry to refresh my memory about a couple of meetings. Yes.' Perry was one of nine different officials from the White House, the State Department, and the Cabinet - in just three days this week - who defied subpoenas for their testimony. Democrats said if the top officials from the Trump Administration had only testimony which would benefit the President, then they would probably stop at nothing to tell the world that message. 'This will only further add to the body of evidence of a potential obstruction of Congress charge against the President,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is leading the impeachment proceedings at this point in the House. On Wednesday, only one of four officials showed up to testify; that was David Hale, a top State Department official. 'We wish others would show the same courage and dedication to the law,' Schiff told reporters. Meanwhile, Democrats began to mock GOP lawmakers who had furiously complained about the closed door depositions conducted in recent weeks, arguing that Republicans were saying little about the hundreds and hundreds of pages of testimony released this week. Republicans brushed aside such criticism, as they argue that Democrats are wasting the time of the American people. 'This is nothing but a show trial in the U.S. House of Representatives,' said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). 'They're trying to undo the free and open election of 2016 that elected Donald Trump to be President of the United States,' Perdue added.
  • As more White House officials refused to come to Capitol Hill for closed door depositions in the impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump, Democrats announced they would hold their first public hearings next week with a series of U.S. diplomats. 'We will be beginning with the testimony of Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Kent on Wednesday,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as he addressed reporters outside the secure room in the bowels of the Capitol which has been used for depositions in recent weeks. 'And we will have Ambassador Yovanovitch testify on Friday,' Schiff added. Democrats said it was time to show what was going on with the White House and Ukraine. 'Next week the House will begin open hearings to bring the truth directly to the American people,' said Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA).  'The President and his enablers can’t hide from the facts,' Clark added. “The President has blatantly abused his office, and betrayed the constitution,” said Rep. Joe Negeuse (D-CO). “We will hold him accountable.” Republicans in Congress had an entirely different take. 'You are being sold a false bill of goods - a fairy tale - by a group of people who want to take down this President by any means necessary, hook or crook,' said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). The announcement of public hearings came as Democrats released a fifth transcript from closed door depositions in recent weeks, this time from the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. In sometimes sharp questions from Republicans, Taylor said President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani was the person who spearheaded the plan to withhold military aid from Ukraine, in order to get the government to approve election investigations sought by President Trump. Taylor said it was the very definition of a 'quid pro quo.' Republicans pressed Taylor's conclusion, saying there was no evidence that Ukraine even realized the military aid was on hold - either during the July 25 call between President Trump and the Ukraine leader - or through August. Taylor acknowledged it took him time to reach that conclusion as well, but it came into focus in early September.
  • As Democrats on Tuesday released transcripts from two more closed door depositions in their impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, a top U.S. diplomat revised his original testimony, saying he now recalls that Ukraine had been told that in order to get military aid from the United States, Ukraine's leader would have to publicly announce investigations desired by President Trump. Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the European Union, submitted a new four page addition to his testimony in October, saying he now recalls that the U.S. was making the defense aid dependent on actions by the Ukraine government. 'I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,' Sondland wrote in his revisions. 'Soon thereafter, I came to understand that, in fact, the public statement would need to come directly from President Zelensky himself,' Sondland added. The investigations sought by President Trump would cover, 1) Hunter Biden/Joe Biden, and 2) the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine – and not Russia – had hacked key Democratic staffers and the Democratic National Committee in 2016. In his July 25 phone call with the new Ukraine leader, President Trump had brought up both of those subjects. In his deposition testimony released on Tuesday, Sondland said his work with President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani became more and more complicated by demands from the White House. 'It kept - it kept getting more insidious as timeline went on,' Sondland said.
  • A day after four White House officials refused to show up for closed door depositions on Capitol Hill, two more White House aides were expected to do the same on Tuesday, as Democrats said it was yet another example of the President stonewalling the Congress on questions involving Ukraine and Russian interference in the 2016 elections. 'This will be further evidence of an effort by the Administration to obstruct the lawful and constitutional duties of Congress,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as Democrats noted similar actions were part of impeachment charges drawn up against President Richard Nixon. 'We may infer by the White House obstruction here, that their testimony would be further incriminating of the President,' Schiff told reporters on Monday. 'We have a series of shifting, ever-changing rationales for this campaign of obstruction,' Schiff added. 'What are these @WhiteHouse officials hiding from the American people?' tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). 'Also, this is yet more evidence of Obstruction of Congress, which is an impeachable offense,' Lieu added. The officials who did not come to Capitol Hill for questioning on Monday are: + John Eisenberg, the top lawyer on the National Security Council + Michael Ellis, the top deputy to Eisenberg + Robert Blair, a top adviser to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney + Brian McCormack, a senior official in the White House budget office. The Tuesday witnesses who likely won't appear: + Wells Griffith, a White House energy expert + Michael Duffey, an official in the White House budget office. Instead of getting testimony from White House officials, Democrats are ready to release another pair of transcripts from earlier closed door proceedings. One transcript released on Monday from the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, showed that she was tipped off by Ukraine government officials to the work of President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. 'I do not know Mr. Giuliani's motives in attacking me, Yovanovitch told investigators on October 11, as the former Ambassador said she first learned Giuliani was up to something in Ukraine in late 2018. Yovanovitch said 'senior Ukrainian officials' were worried by Giuliani, telling her 'I really needed to watch my back,' the former ambassador added. Asked about the testimony from his former Ambassador, President Trump offered little to reporters. 'I really don’t know her,' Mr. Trump said, not mentioning that he said Yovanovitch was 'bad news' during his July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine. Two more depositions are due out on Tuesday, from the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor, and the special U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker.
  • A record 112.5 million Americans are expected to travel during the last couple of weeks of this year, according to the American Automobile Association. >> Read more trending news  Most of these travelers will be headed to relatives’ homes for Christmas. They won’t, however, be spending the night there. A new survey shows 65 percent won’t. SleepZoo.com, a website that seeks to help people improve their sleep, surveyed 1,738 Americans about their holiday plans. And while 81 percent of respondents said they will see family during the holidays, the site said, only 55 percent indicated they’re actually looking forward to it. Here are some of the reasons respondents said they will stay at a hotel or Airbnb (answers add up to more than 100 percent because respondents were able to choose more than one reason): 45 percent anticipate drama/arguments with family, with many citing political differences as a source of friction. 20 percent want to avoid an uncomfortable sleeping arrangement (e.g. sleeping on the couch or the floor). 18 percent cited insufficient space/too many people in the home, making them feel cramped and uncomfortable. 18 percent said sleeping at a relative’s home would keep them from being able to make love to their partner. 15 percent don’t want to sleep over because they won’t be able to watch TV on their own. 12 percent don’t like the food their family serves and would rather stay elsewhere to enjoy a better meal. 10 percent said they won’t be able to stroll around in their underwear or in the nude if they spend the night with family. 9 percent would have to share a room with a relative. 5 percent wouldn’t be able to enjoy a drink/nightcap.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter has been hospitalized for the second time in a month. >> Read more trending news  The Carter Center confirmed that Carter has been admitted to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Carter is scheduled for Tuesday morning to have a procedure to relieve pressure on his brain caused by bleeding due to recent falls, according to the center.  Carter, 95, suffered a minor pelvic fracture on Oct. 21 when he fell in his home in Plains. He also fell on Oct. 6 which left him with a black eye and multiple stitches.  Carter was treated for the pelvis injury at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus. He returned to his Sunday school class just two weeks later. The 39th president received a dire cancer diagnosis in 2015 but survived and has since said he is cancer-free. Carter is resting comfortably, and his wife, Rosalynn, is with him, Congileo said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Home security cameras in Missouri caught a bright fireball that streaked across the sky Monday evening.  >> Read more trending news  A large fireball was spotted over St. Louis on EarthCam, a website dedicated to webcam content around the world. Twitter user Mike Hefner uploaded video from his Nest Cam located in Wentzville, which is west of St. Louis. Rob Edwards posted his video of the event. One of the better videos from the event came from Tom Stolze. He notes in the tweet that the meteor traveled from the east to west. People in the region reported on Twitter that their homes shook as the meteor crossed the sky. Some reported hearing a loud boom about 45 seconds later.
  • A 70-year-old Oklahoma man has been sentenced to 15 days in an Arizona jail for concealing the dead body of his wife in his vehicle. Rodney Puckett has already served more than 180 days in jail and is scheduled to be released Nov. 23. Puckett was arrested May 13 after an Eloy restaurant worker reported seeing a car going through the drive-thru with a naked body in the front seat. Puckett told police his 74-year-old wife died at a Texas hotel. An autopsy shows she suffered from heart disease.
  • Thieves posing as tree trimmers are robbing people in Nowata County, according to the sheriff's office. Deputies say one of the most serious cases happened in the town of Delaware, where an elderly man was robbed of cash, keys and clothing. Deputies say the crooks are wearing hard hats and safety vests to appear more legitimate. Their typical tactic is to ask to enter the victim's home, and once there, they forcibly rob the victim, deputies said.

Washington Insider

  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday considers a politically explosive trio of cases on the future of an estimated 700,000 illegal immigrant 'Dreamers' in the United States, and whether the Trump Administration has properly exercised its legal authority to take away the protection those people have had since 2012 to avoid being deported from the United States. Legal experts say the Trump Administration certainly has the right to terminate the DACA program - because it is a discretionary use of authority by the Executive Branch.  But experts also argue that the Trump Administration bungled that simple move, resulting in several years of court challenges, culminating in these arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. 'This is a program put in place by a government agency - it is not something the Congress put in place - which is important, because now the agency says it can get rid of the program,' said Nicole Saharsky, a lawyer who worked on one of the three DACA cases before the Justices. 'It seemed to me the government had such an easy argument,' Saharsky said at a Georgetown University symposium earlier this fall. 'This is discretionary - we're going to exercise our discretion and not have it anymore.' But Saharsky and other legal experts say the way the Trump Administration went about ending the program undermined its authority to easily make a change. For example, it took the Trump Administration months to produce policy points from the Secretary of Homeland Security - used in a later court case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals - to support the reason why the DACA program should be changed. 'Part of the debate is about whether those additional policy reasons are properly before the court or not,' said Irv Gornstein, the Executive Director of the Supreme Court Institute and a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center. That 'after-the-fact-justification' - as Gornstein labeled it during a Supreme Court preview this fall - is one of a series of administrative matters the Justices must consider, in what otherwise would seem to be a legal slam dunk for the Trump Administration. When lower courts first blocked the feds from changing DACA, law professor Josh Blackman called it 'ludicrous,' denouncing a decision from a federal judge in San Francisco as an 'amateur act of punditry.' But as the issue has wound its way through the courts, Blackman has joined others in acknowledging the Trump Administration fell short in offering the proper rationale for the change. 'Offer other reasons that are legitimate, and the policy can be rescinded,' Blackman argued in a lengthy argument on Twitter earlier this year. The outcome of this case could also find roots in the Supreme Court rebuke of the Trump Administration over the Census, where Chief Justice John Roberts clearly laid out a path for the feds to take without violating the Administrative Procedures Act - which could apply as well to the DACA situation. All of that will play out in 80 minutes of arguments - covering three different cases before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
  • Just days before impeachment hearings are set to begin the U.S. House, President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress continued to be on different pathways when it comes to defending the President's conduct, as Mr. Trump on Sunday again maintained that he did nothing wrong in his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. 'The call to the Ukrainian President was PERFECT,' Mr. Trump tweeted from Trump Tower in New York. 'Read the Transcript!' But Democrats said the transcript showed behavior which was not acceptable - and there were some GOP lawmakers agreeing in part. 'I believe it was inappropriate,' Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said of the President's request in a July phone call for the government of Ukraine to launch investigations which would have benefited Mr. Trump politically.  'I do not believe it was impeachable,' Thornberry said on ABC's 'This Week.' Mr. Trump argued specifically against that. 'Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it was not perfect, but is not impeachable,' he tweeted. The White House document detailing the call - which is not a full, word for word transcript - shows the President clearly asking the leader of Ukraine to investigate the son of Vice President Biden, along with probing the assertion that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats in the 2016 elections. While the White House and Republicans tried to sort out their impeachment arguments, Democrats were blasting the GOP. 'Witness testimony shows that everybody involved in the President’s pressure campaign knew what he wanted,' said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-I), 'political investigations to undermine our free and fair elections.' 'Republicans cried for weeks for open & public impeachment inquiry hearings,' said Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-CA). 'Now that public hearings begin this week, Trump & GOP don’t want them.
  • Republicans on Saturday submitted an impeachment hearing witness list to Democrats which includes the son of Vice President Joe Biden, along with the intelligence community whistleblower who initially touched off questions about President Donald Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to launch certain investigations to help Mr. Trump's 2020 election bid. In a five page letter to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) blasted the process involved in the impeachment process, labeling it a 'one-sided and purely political' effort against President Trump. 'Americans see through this sham impeachment process, despite the Democrats' efforts to retroactively legitimize it last week,' Nunes wrote, referring to a House vote to approve plans for the impeachment inquiry opposed by GOP lawmakers. The GOP request named eight specific witnesses: + Hunter Biden, son of the former Vice President. + Devon Archer, tied to Biden through a Ukraine energy company. + Alexandra Chalupa, a former DNC staffer. + David Hale, the third-ranking State Department official, who testified behind closed doors on November 6. + Tim Morrison, National Security Council official who testified on October 31. + Nellie Ohr, a frequent target of the GOP from the Russia investigation. + Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, who was the first witness deposed by Congress. + The whistleblower who brought the Ukraine issue to officials in the U.S. Intelligence Community. On his way to the Alabama-LSU college football game on Saturday, President Trump added his own jabs at Democrats, saying he would likely release the transcript of another phone call with the leader of Ukraine next week. 'PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!' the President tweeted, in a familiar complaint about the Russia investigation. The GOP letter also asks to hear publicly from 'All individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint.' It was not clear how many witnesses would be approved by Democrats; as of now, it's not known how long the hearings will go, or how many public sessions will be conducted. 'We expect that you will call each of the witnesses listed above to ensure that the Democrats' 'impeachment inquiry' treats the President with fairness,' Nunes wrote. You can read the GOP letter at this link. The immediate reaction from Democrats did not seem positive for the GOP effort to call Hunter Biden and others. 'This inquiry is not, and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit,' Schiff wrote in a Saturday afternoon response.
  • Just days before the start of public impeachment hearings, Congressional Republicans on Friday shuffled the GOP membership on the House Intelligence Committee, adding Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), one of the most vocal and staunch defenders of President Donald Trump. 'I am appointing @Jim_Jordan to the Intelligence Committee — which has now become the Impeachment Committee — where he will continue fighting for fairness and truth,' tweeted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on Friday. Jordan has routinely been one of the more outspoken defenders of the President on a host of issues. 'No quid pro quo whatsoever,' he told reporters earlier this week about allegations that President Trump had withheld military aid from Ukraine in an effort to get the government to start several investigations which could give political help to Mr. Trump's re-election bid in 2020. In order for Jordan to be added to the panel, Rep. Rick Crawford of Arkansas will step aside; he submitted a resignation letter for his committee slot, which was read on the House floor on Friday afternoon. “I look forward to rejoining my colleagues on HPSCI when this impeachment hoax has concluded and we return to the important work and oversight of the Intelligence Community that the committee is intended for,” Crawford said. The switch involving Jordan came as Democrats released the transcripts of closed door depositions with two more witnesses, former White House aide Fiona Hill, and National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. One of the few aides who listened to a July 25 phone call between President Trump and the leader of Ukraine, Vindman said there was no question in his mind that President Trump was holding back military aid for Ukraine in order to get the government to start investigations which could benefit Mr. Trump's re-election. “And was there any doubt in your mind as to what the President, our President, was asking for as a deliverable?” asked Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT). “There was no doubt,” Vindman answered. In a separate deposition, Hill - who served as a Russia expert for the Trump White House until just a few months ago - said national security experts like herself had been subjected to false conspiracy theories and death threats to paint them as opponents of President Trump. 'My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again,' Hill testified. 'I received, I just have to tell you, death threats, ca1ls at my home,' Hill added. 'My neighbors reported somebody coming and hammering on my door.' Hill blamed the back channel actions of President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for the escalating pressure on Ukraine to investigate the son of Joe Biden, and a debunked theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats during the 2016 elections. 'I didn't know exactly what Mr. Giuliani was doing,' Hill said. 'So we are now living my worst nightmare.' Watching Giuliani discuss Ukraine-related issues on television, Hill said the President's lawyer seemed to be separated from reality. “He seemed at times to actually believe some of the things he was saying that I knew to be untrue,” Hill testified. Hill's testimony is at this link. Vindman's testimony is available here.
  • Ignoring the verbal barbs and Twitter attacks leveled against him by President Donald Trump, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has started his campaign to regain his old Senate seat - which reportedly has irked the President - by heaping praise on President Trump. In a 30 second video unveiled on Thursday titled, 'Great Job,' Sessions said he hasn't criticized the President, because he agrees with Mr. Trump's agenda. 'Did I write a tell all book?' Sessions says in the ad. 'Have I said a cross word about our President? Not one time.' 'The President is doing a great job for America, and Alabama, and he has my strong support,' Sessions says in the video released on Thursday night. Tucked into that advertisement is a snippet of video from a late February 2016 rally in Madison, Alabama, where Sessions became the first sitting GOP Senator to endorse Mr. Trump, just as he was poised to grab control of the race for the Republican nomination. 'At this time in American history, we need to make America great again,' Sessions said to cheers of 'USA! USA!' from the crowd. That early support resulted in Sessions being brought in as a top adviser for the President, and ultimately the Alabama Senator would become U.S. Attorney General. But it was in that post that Sessions infuriated the President by recusing himself from the Russia investigation, as President Trump belittled Sessions repeatedly, until Sessions was finally pushed out, the morning after the 2018 mid-term elections. 'Sessions didn't have a clue,' the President tweeted in March. 'The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself,' Mr. Trump tweeted in June of 2018.  'I would have quickly picked someone else,' the President added. In recent weeks, as Sessions has made clear he wanted to run to regain his seat in the U.S. Senate, GOP Senators have made clear to their former colleague that he does not have the backing of the President at this point. Sessions enters what's already a crowded Republican Primary, as the GOP looks to defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), a Democrat who won an improbable victory to replace Sessions, as he defeated GOP nominee Roy Moore, who had been beset by a variety of sexual misconduct allegations. The GOP lineup right now includes not only Moore, but also former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), along with the Alabama Secretary of State, the state Auditor, another state Representative, and several other candidates. It would not be the first time that Sessions has taken an unusual route to the U.S. Senate; in 1986, Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge by President Reagan, but after a spirited debate with strong opposition from Democrats, Sessions was forced to withdraw. Sessions had the last laugh, as he returned to Alabama and ran for the U.S. Senate, winning in 1996 - then serving alongside many of the Democratic Senators who had opposed his nomination to the federal bench.