Romney Breaks With GOP Colleagues: ‘No Evidence’ Of Ukrainian Meddling

 

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The Utah senator dismissed conspiracy theories that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, calling out Russia as the culprit.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) distanced himself from some of his GOP colleagues on Tuesday, stating that there was no sign of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I saw no evidence from our intelligence community, nor from the representatives today for the Department of State, that there is any evidence of any kind of that suggests that Ukraine interfered in our elections,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We have ample evidence that Russia interfered in our elections.”

Romey’s statement follows testimony from Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, the third-highest ranking State Department official. Hale told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Russian meddling was not a “hoax,” and that he knows of no evidence implicating Ukraine.

The remarks are a stark contrast to those of Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who on Monday told NBC News that there was no “question that elected officials in Ukraine had a favorite in the election,” promoting a debunked conspiracy theory.

“Every elected official in the Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton,” the Senate Intelligence Committee chair said. “Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?”

The comments echoed Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-La.) claims on Sunday, when he speculated during a “Meet the Press” appearance that “both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election,” and that “it’s been well documented.”

The U.S. intelligence community has dismissed rumors of any role by Ukraine, reportedly briefing senators in November that the allegations are a talking point touted by Russia to divert attention from its own interference in the U.S. election.

Less than two weeks ago, Kennedy suggested on Fox News that Ukraine may have perpetrated the 2016 Democratic National Committee server hack that exposed party emails. The senator’s claim promulgated a lie often peddled by President Donald Trump while blatantly ignoring American intelligence officials’ conclusion that it was Russia behind the hack.

Kennedy recanted shortly after, telling CNN, “I was wrong.”

“The only evidence I have, and I think it’s overwhelming, it that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer. I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it,” he said.

On Tuesday, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Intelligence Committee, denounced the erroneous claims, telling CNN that he hasn’t seen the slightest indication of Ukrainian involvement.

“I bet I sat through 25 hearings, briefings, meetings, probably more on the question of what happened in 2016,” he said. “In none of those meetings was there ever a hint, a breath, a suggestion, a word that somehow Ukraine was involved.”

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'Serious misconduct' by Donald Trump takes center stage at hearing

The House Judiciary Committee is moving swiftly to weigh findings by fellow lawmakers that President Donald Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and then obstructed Congress' investigation as possible grounds for impeachment.

Responsible for drafting articles of impeachment, the Judiciary Committee prepared Wednesday morning for its first hearing since the release of a 300-page report by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee that found “serious misconduct” by the president.

The report did not render a judgment on whether Trump’s actions stemming from a July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president rose to the constitutional level of “high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment. That is for the full House to decide. But its findings involving Trump's efforts to seek foreign intervention in the American election process provide the basis for a House vote on impeachment and a Senate trial carrying the penalty of removal from office.

"The evidence that we have found is really quite overwhelming that the president used the power of his office to secure political favors and abuse the trust American people put in him and jeopardize our security,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told The Associated Press.

“It was a difficult decision to go down this road, because it's so consequential for the country," Schiff said. But “the president was the author of his own impeachment inquiry by repeatedly seeking foreign help in his election campaigns."

Schiff added: “Americans need to understand that this president is putting his personal political interests above theirs. And that it's endangering the country."

The session Wednesday with legal scholars will delve into possible impeachable offenses, but the real focus will be on the panel, led by Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and made up of a sometimes boisterous, sharply partisan division of lawmakers.

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“It is not wrong because President Trump is right," according to Turley. He calls Trump's call with Ukraine “anything but 'perfect," as the president claims. “A case for impeachment could be made, but it cannot be made on this record," he says.

The remaining three witnesses, all called by Democrats, will argue for impeachment, according to statements obtained by theAP.

Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill argues, “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning."

The political risks are high for all parties as the House presses only the fourth presidential impeachment inquiry in U.S. history.

In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Chairman Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump.” She said the report "reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”

Trump, attending a NATO meeting in London, called the impeachment effort by Democrats “unpatriotic” and said he wouldn't be watching Wednesday's hearing.

The "Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report” provides a detailed, stunning, account of a shadow diplomacy run by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, resulting in layers of allegations that can be distilled into specific acts, like bribery or obstruction, and the more amorphous allegation that Trump abused his power by putting his interests above the nation.

Based on two months of investigation sparked by a still-anonymous government whistleblower's complaint, the report relies heavily on testimony from current and former U.S. officials who defied White House orders not to appear.

The inquiry found that Trump "solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection," Schiff wrote in the report's preface. In doing so, the president “sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security,” the report said. When Congress began investigating, it added, Trump obstructed the investigation like no other president in history.

Along with revelations from earlier testimony, the report included previously unreleased cell phone records raising fresh questions about Giuliani's interactions with the top Republican on the intelligence panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, and the White House. Nunes declined to comment. Schiff said his panel would continue its probe.

For Republicans falling in line behind Trump, the inquiry is simply a 'hoax' 

Republicans defended the president in a 123-page rebuttal claiming Trump never intended to pressure Ukraine when he asked for a “favor” — investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden. They say the military aid the White House was withholding was not being used as leverage, as Democrats claim — and besides, the $400 million was ultimately released, although only after a congressional outcry. Democrats, they argue, just want to undo the 2016 election.

For Republicans falling in line behind Trump, the inquiry is simply a “hoax.” Trump criticized the House for pushing forward with the proceedings while he was overseas, a breach of political decorum that traditionally leaves partisan differences at the water’s edge.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy called on Democrats to end the impeachment “nightmare." He said, “They’re concerned if they do not impeach this president they cant beat him in an election."

Democrats once hoped to sway Republicans to consider Trump's removal, but they are now facing a ever-hardening partisan split over the swift-moving proceedings that are dividing Congress and the country.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a critical moment of her leadership as she steers the process ahead after initially resisting the impeachment inquiry, warning it was too divisive for the country and required bipartisan support.

Possible grounds for impeachment are focused on whether Trump abused his office as he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals. At the time, Trump was withholding $400 million in military aid, jeopardizing key support as Ukraine faces an aggressive Russia at its border.

The report also accuses Trump of obstruction, becoming the “first and only'' president in U.S. history to "openly and indiscriminately" defy the House's constitutional authority to conduct the impeachment proceedings by instructing officials not to comply with subpoenas for documents and testimony.

For Democrats marching into what is now a largely partisan process, the political challenge if they proceed is to craft the impeachment articles in a way that will draw the most support from their ranks and not expose Pelosi’s majority to messy divisions, especially as Republicans stand lockstep with the president.

While liberal Democrats are pushing the party to go further and incorporate the findings from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election and other actions by Trump, more centrist and moderate Democrats prefer to stick with the Ukraine matter as a simpler narrative that Americans understand.

Democrats could begin drafting articles of impeachment against the president in a matter of days, with a Judiciary Committee vote next week. The full House could vote by Christmas. Then the matter moves to the Senate for a trial in 2020.

The White House declined an invitation to participate Wednesday, with counsel Pat Cipollone denouncing the proceedings as a “baseless and highly partisan inquiry.” Cipollone, who will brief Senate Republicans on Wednesday, left open the question of whether White House officials would participate in additional House hearings.

House rules provide the president and his attorneys the right to cross-examine witnesses and review evidence before the committee, but little ability to bring forward witnesses of their own.

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Kamala Harris Dropping Out Of Presidential Race

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The California senator struggled to gain traction in recent months.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is dropping her presidential bid. She informed her staff on Tuesday.

Harris held a call with her team in Iowa on Tuesday, saying that she had made the decision because of financial struggles experienced by the campaign.

“I don’t think anyone on my team was expecting this,” said one staffer, who said they were completely shocked by the news. 

Harris will be going to New York City and Baltimore to inform staff there, and she intends to travel to the four early states where she has a campaign presence to be with her team there as well this week.

On Tuesday afternoon, Harris emailed her supporters that she was withdrawing from the presidential race: 

My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.

I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.

In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do.

So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret ― but also with deep gratitude ― that I am suspending my campaign today.

The news came just as a super PAC reserved airtime in Iowa for an ad blitz, set to begin on Tuesday, meant to bolster the candidate. (It quickly cancelled the spots after Harris’ announcement.) Harris’ team had been upfront about its financial issues and had cut staff in New Hampshire in order to double down on the caucus state

Presidential hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters after a town hall in Iowa, said he was disappointed the California senator had been forced out of the contest. 

“She’s a first-rate candidate and a real competitor and I have mixed emotions about it because she is really a solid, solid person and loaded with talent,” he said. 

Harris entered the race as a top-tier candidate, drawing more than 20,000 people to a kickoff rally in Oakland. She faced immediate progressive scrutiny of her record as a prosecutor in California. Throughout the campaign, she struggled to weave together her progressive positioning as a senator and presidential candidate with the more traditional stances she held during her decades as a prosecutor.

The high point of her campaign came during the first presidential debate, when she attacked Biden for his stance on desegregation efforts in the 1970s. She skyrocketed in the polls, but was unable to sustain her place in the field as the Biden campaign aggressively fought back and Harris struggled to explain her own views on mandatory busing. 

As her poll numbers began to sink in the late summer and early fall, her campaign announced a renewed focus on Iowa, ditching a previous strategy of focusing on her delegate-rich home state of California and heavily African-American South Carolina. 

Harris was spending far more money than she was bringing in, and according to The New York Times, she made the final decision to drop out after a financial audit showed she would have to go into debt in order to stay in the race. 

Three Black Men Exonerated Decades After Witness Testimonies Ignored By Police Officials

Alfred Chestnut, Andrew Stewart and Ransom Watkins pose for a photo after their release in Baltimore. The men, who spent 36 years in prison, were exonerated of the 1983 murder of a teenage boy who was shot dead over a jacket. 

Three Black men from Baltimore walked into the arms of their families for the first time in 36 years without being surrounded by guards on Monday (Nov. 25) after being exonerated in a wrongful murder conviction. According to The Washington Post, Baltimore prosecutor’s Conviction Integrity Unit apologized to the men for the system failing them, despite sweeping four witness testimonies under the rug shortly after the incident took place in 1983.

MORE: Exonerated After 30 Years: Cops Coerced A Confession In Pattern Seen Against Black Men

DeWitt Duckett was 14 years old when he was shot and killed in the hallway of Harlem Park Junior High School for his Georgetown University Starter jacket. The teen was heading to lunch with friends and someone demanded his coat. Duckett was shot while struggling to remove the jacket from his body. He then ran to the cafeteria where he collapsed. Duckett was conscious at the time, but unable to speak. He died two hours later.

Police arrested three teens on Thanksgiving Day that year, and they were later convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins, and Andrew Stewart are the names of the three Black men who had their freedom, youth, and innocence stripped away.

Prosecutors now admit that the case “encouraged false witness testimony and ignored evidence of another assailant.” Police reports produced shortly after the killing indicated that a number of witnesses told Baltimore investigators that a man named Michael Willis, then 18, was responsible for the murder of Duckett. “One student identified him immediately, one saw him run and discard a handgun as police pulled up to Harlem Park Junior High School, one heard him confess to the shooting, and one saw him wearing a Georgetown jacket that night,” The Washington Post reports.

However, police – including Donald Kincaid who was the lead detective in the case, opted to focus on Chestnut, Watkins, and Stewart instead. The three men, then teens at the time, admitted to skipping high school that day, as they were seen parlaying in the hallways and classrooms of Harlem Park. The teens were kicked out of the school at around 12:45 p.m. by a security guard. The guard testified at trial that after lecturing the teens, he watched them leave the school and locked the doors before the shooting took place at 1:15 p.m. Despite this knowledge, prosecutors at the time claimed that the three teens must have snuck back into the school. A Georgetown University jacket was allegedly later found in Chestnut’s bedroom.

‘The Post’ reports that defense attorneys in the case searched for evidence that would call into question their clients’ guilt. A year later, then-Assistant State’s Attorney Jonathan Shoup denied such accounts, despite there being proof stating otherwise. Per police reports that were eventually sealed by a judge, trial witnesses failed to identify the three defendants in photo lineups as well as statements connecting Willis to the crime on two occasions.

Kincaid was surprised by the news of the men being released. He also denied any wrongdoing connected to the Baltimore police’s investigation. “What would I get out of that? You think for one minute I want to send three young boys to prison for the rest of their life … I didn’t know those boys. I didn’t know them from Adam. Why would I want to do something like that?” he said.

The men’s freedom was a result of Chestnut’s unwavering efforts to bring attention to their case and force it to be reviewed once more. While the other two men may have lost hope, he continued to push for what he knew would allow him and his childhood friends to be reunited with their loved ones. In May, he sent a handwritten letter to City Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby’s office. He had just seen Mosby on television speaking of Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit and its’ commitment to uncovering wrongful convictions.

Mosby, the head of Baltimore’s Conviction Integrity Unit and the person responsible for the three men walking to freedom, said that the case was flawed. She said the teen witnesses were often questioned without their parents present. Also, they felt coerced into falsely identify Chestnut, Watkins, and Stewart.

Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit worked in tandem with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project to acquire representation for the men.

She visited Chestnut, Watkins, and Stewart on Friday (Nov. 22) to share the news of her requesting their exoneration. “I’m sorry. The system failed them. They should have never had to see the inside of a jail cell. We will do everything in our power not only to release them, but to support them as they re-acclimate into society,” she told the men.

The main detectives in the case are no longer working within the justice system.

Willis – who according to ‘The Post,’ had a number of arrests on drug and assault charges after Duckett’s murder, was killed in West Baltimore at age 27.

“This is overwhelming,” said Chestnut as he stood beside his lawyers and family on the outside of the prison he was held in for 36 years. “I always dreamed of this. My mom, this is what she’s been holding on to forever. To see her son come home.”

‘Presidents Are Not Kings’: Judge Orders Trump Lawyer Don McGahn To Testify Before Congress

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

House Democrats subpoenaed McGahn to testify after the Mueller report laid out several instances of the counsel refusing to carry out orders.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn must honor a congressional subpoena and testify before Congress, a federal judge in the nation’s capitol ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson ruled that McGahn, who played a major role in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report focused on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, must appear before Congress in response to the subpoena, but can assert legal privileges during his testimony.

House Democrats began seeking McGahn’s testimony after the Mueller report went public, and his testimony is now being sought as part of an ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The Trump administration has tried to block him and other current and former administration officials from appearing before Congress. The administration quickly announced it would appeal and seek to block Jackson’s ruling that McGahn must honor the subpoena.

“Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote. “This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Moreover, as citizens of the United States, current and former senior-level presidential aides have constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, and they retain these rights even after they have transitioned back into private life.”

White House counsel and assistant to the President for U.S. President Donald Trump, Donald McGahn, as Supreme Court nominee B

Don McGahn

The ruling could have an immediate impact on the ongoing impeachment inquiry surrounding Trump’s more recent Ukraine scandal. The House Judiciary Committee wants McGahn to testify soon, now that the House Intelligence Committee’s public hearings on the Ukraine scandal are winding down.

“To make the point as plain as possible, it is clear to this Court ... that, with respect to senior-level presidential aides, absolute immunity from compelled congressional process simply does not exist,” Jackson wrote. 

House Democrats subpoenaed McGahn to testify after the second volume of Mueller’s report laid out several instances of McGahn refusing to carry out orders he considered inappropriate or illegal. McGahn, according to the Mueller report, told former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that he would resign because Trump had asked him to “do crazy shit” like fire Mueller. Trump then tried to get McGahn to deny that Trump had ordered him to get Mueller removed, according to the report.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, in an opinion signed by Trump appointee Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel, found that the public disclosure of the Mueller report “does not have any legal bearing upon the force of the congressional subpoena” and that the public disclosure of the report “did not constitute a general waiver concerning Mr. McGahn’s communications with the President on those subjects or any other subjects.”

Trump told his former counsel to ignore the subpoena. The House Judiciary Committee sued McGahn back in August, and Jackson heard the case in October. At the October hearing, according to CNN, Jackson said that McGahn’s “status as a former executive branch official” doesn’t shield him from giving information. The Trump administration has argued that McGahn has absolute immunity from being forced to comply with a congressional subpoena.

Trump told ABC back in June that what McGahn told Mueller “doesn’t matter” and said that McGahn “wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer.”

Since the dispute over McGahn’s testimony began seven months ago, the White House has blocked several fact witnesses from testifying about their knowledge of Trump’s Ukraine scandal, even as Republicans and White House officials have complained that many of the impeachment inquiry witnesses lacked firsthand knowledge of Trump’s actions. 

Read the full ruling below.

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