Trump Goes to Hospital for ‘Routine’ Checkup

U.S. President Donald Trump made an unexpected visit to a military hospital Saturday afternoon for what the White House said was an early start to his annual health checkup.

“Anticipating a very busy 2020, the president is taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, D.C., to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam at Walter Reed,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

The president spent about two hours and 15 minutes at the medical complex in Bethesda, Maryland. A photographer saw him emerge from the facility with an open collar and no necktie.

Grisham, just after Trump’s departure, said the president underwent a “quick exam and labs” and he “remains healthy and energetic without complaints, as demonstrated by his repeated vigorous rally performances in front of thousands of Americans several times a week.”

The press secretary provided no additional details on what type of tests Trump underwent.

The press secretary added that the president, while at the facility, also greeted medical staff “to share his thanks for all the outstanding care they provide to our Wounded Warriors, and wish them an early happy Thanksgiving.”

Before departing Walter Reed, Trump also met with the family of a special forces soldier injured in Afghanistan, Grisham said.

Trump, 73, was deemed fit by his official physician, U.S. Navy Commander Sean Conley, following an examination in early February at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The motorcade of President Donald Trump waits at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md., Nov. 16, 2019.

The president, who has a taste for red meat and fast food, does not drink alcohol or smoke. He is not known to have had any significant medical issues since becoming president in January 2017 but has a history of elevated cholesterol and had been taking a low daily dose of aspirin for cardiac health.

Four hours of tests

On February 8, Trump underwent four hours of routine tests at Walter Reed with Conley supervising a panel of 11 different board-certified specialists.

Following the annual examination, Conley, in a memo to the White House, said the president was “in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency and beyond.”

That was the second such physical exam of his presidency. Questions were raised about the true health of the president after the first one in 2018.

The White House doctor at the time, Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, declared Trump in “excellent health,” attributing it to “incredibly good genes.”

The physician also declared that he had told the president he “might live to be 200 years old” if Trump would just eat food that was more healthful.

After the 2018 physical, Jackson told reporters the president weighed 108 kilograms (239 pounds) and could reasonably lose approximately 4 to 7 kilograms (10 to 15 pounds).

Jackson said Trump would undergo a colonoscopy in 2019. The procedure apparently was not performed in February of this year.  

Jackson also said the president got a perfect score on a screening for cognitive impairment and was “mentally very sharp.”

Nomination

Jackson later was nominated by Trump to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the admiral withdrew his name after allegations of misconduct surfaced, including accusations he improperly dispensed medication.
 
The admiral denied the allegations, which Trump called “lies.”

The president subsequently recommended Jackson for a second star (higher military rank) and promoted him to White House chief medical adviser.

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Senior White House Official Testifies Privately in Trump Impeachment Probe

A senior White House budget official arrived on Capitol Hill Saturday to testify behind closed doors before congressional investigators who are conducting an impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump.

Mark Sandy, a longtime career official with the Office of Management and Budget, is the first agency employee to be deposed in the inquiry after three employees appointed by Trump defied congressional subpoenas to testify. It remains unclear if a subpoena had been issued to Sandy.

Sandy could provide valuable information about the U.S. delay of nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine last summer, allegedly in exchange for the newly-elected Ukrainian president to launch investigations into 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son at Trump’s request. Investigators are also exploring debunked claims promoted by Trump and allies that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Sandy was among the career employees who questioned the holdup, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

His signature is on at least one document that prevented the provision of the aid to Ukraine, according to copies of documents investigators discussed during an earlier deposition. A transcript of the discussion has been publicly disclosed.

Sandy appears before the House foreign affairs, intelligence, and oversight and reform committees.

Members of Congress head to a resticted area for a closed-door deposition held as part of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019.
FILE – Members of Congress head to a resticted area for a closed-door deposition held as part of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019.

In a statement, the three Democratic-led committees said they are investigating “the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters.”

Sandy’s deposition comes one day after the ousted former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testified at the congressional impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump that she was “shocked and devastated” over remarks Trump made about her during a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“I didn’t know what to think, but I was very concerned,” she told the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. “It felt like a threat.”

Her testimony was consistent with her closed-door testimony last month when she said she felt “threatened” and worried about her safety after Trump said “she’s going to go through some things.”

A career diplomat, Yovanovitch was unceremoniously recalled to Washington after Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, and his allies waged what her colleagues and Democrats have described as a smear campaign against her. Two Giuliani associates recently arrested for campaign finance violations are accused of lobbying former Republican House member Pete Sessions of Texas for her ouster.

Yovanovitch was mentioned in Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy that triggered the impeachment probe after a whistleblower filed a complaint. According to the White House summary of the call, Trump said Yovanovitch was “bad news.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2019.

An unusual exchange occurred during the hearing that began when Trump took to Twitter to again criticize Yovanovitch.  He tweeted, “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.”

Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff interrupted the proceedings to read the tweet and asked her to respond. Yovanovitch paused before saying, “It’s very intimidating” and added: “I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but the effect is to be intimidating.”

Schiff responded that, “Some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”

Trump’s Twitter attack drew the ire of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House.

She said Trump “was wrong” and that Yovanovitch “clearly is somebody who’s been a public servant to the United States for decades, and I don’t think the president should have done that.”

The White House later issued a statement denying accusations of intimidation.

“The tweet was not witness intimidation, it was simply the President’s opinion, which he is entitled to,” the statement said. “This is not a trial, it is a partisan political process—or to put it more accurately, a totally illegitimate, charade stacked against the President. There is less due process in this hearing than any such event in the history of our country. It’s a true disgrace.”

Yovanovitch also told lawmakers that she was the target of a “campaign of disinformation” during which “unofficial back channels” were used to oust her.

Yovanovitch said repeated attacks from “corrupt interests” have created a “crisis in the State Department,” which she said “is being hallowed out within a competitive and complex time on the world stage.”

A transcript of a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is shown during…
A transcript of a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is shown during former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony on Capitol Hill, Nov. 15, 2019.

The veteran diplomat said that senior officials at the State Department, right up to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, failed to defend her from attacks from Trump and his allies, including Guiliani.

Yovanovitch, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from July 2016 to May 2019, also testified last month that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had recommended she praise Trump on Twitter if she wanted to save her job.

During opening remarks, Schiff said Yovanovitch was “smeared and cast aside” by Trump because she was viewed as an obstacle to Trump’s political and personal agenda.

Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, described the hearings as nothing more than “spectacles” for Democrats to “advance their operation to topple a duly elected president.”

Republicans, led by Nunes and their lead counsel, Steve Castor, tried to portray Yovanovitch as immaterial to the impeachment inquiry.

Nunes suggested that Yovanovitch’s complaints are a personnel matter that is “more appropriate for the Subcommittee on Human Resources on Foreign Affairs” and declared she is “not a material fact witness.”

Castor peppered Yovanovitch with questions aimed at proving her irrelevance, including whether she was involved in preparations for the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy or plans for a White House meeting between the two leaders. She answered in the negative to all the questions.

Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, left, talks to Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney, during testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2019.
Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, left, talks to Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney, during testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2019.

Nunes also read a rough transcript of an April call Trump had with newly elected Zelenskiy that shows Zelenskiy was eager to have Trump attend his inauguration in Ukraine. The White House released the transcript just minutes after the hearing began, apparently an attempt to dispel any notions of wrongdoing by the president.

“I know how busy you are, but if it’s possible for you to come to the inauguration ceremony, that would be a great, great thing for you to do to be with us on that day.”

Trump vowed to have a “great representative” attend the event if he was unable to.

The U.S. delegation to inauguration was led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry after Vice President Mike Pence canceled the trip.

Yovanovitch’s removal sent shockwaves through the foreign service, with more than 50 former female U.S. ambassadors writing a letter to Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to protect foreign service officers from political retaliation.

William Taylor, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and George Kent, a senior State Department official in charge of U.S. policy toward Ukraine, testified on Wednesday during the first day of the historic televised hearings that could lead to a House vote on articles of impeachment before the end of the year.

George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Ambassador Bill Taylor, charge d…
George Kent, senior State Department official, left, and Ambassador William Taylor, charge d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, are sworn in at at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 13, 2019.

All three diplomats have previously testified behind closed doors about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter, and to probe a discredited conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 president election.

Democrats say the open hearings will allow the public to assess the credibility of the witnesses and their testimonies. Republicans hope to discredit the impeachment proceedings and poke holes in the witnesses’ testimony.

Also Friday, David Holmes, a staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, appeared before House investigators for closed-door testimony. Holmes testified he overheard Trump ask Sondland about the status of “investigations” during a phone call after Trump’s July 25 conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Sondland later explained the probes pertained to Biden, a former U.S. vice president, and his son, Hunter, according to Holmes. No wrongdoing by either Biden has been substantiated.

Holmes’ testimony was one of the first direct accounts of Trump pursuing investigations of a political rival.

Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry to determine if Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine unless President Zelenskiy publicly committed himself to investigating 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden for corruption.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.
FILE – U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on the sidelines of the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.

Trump also has repeated an unfounded claim that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democrats and their candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Republicans have contended that Trump did not improperly pressure Ukraine to investigate political rivals for political advantage.

Under pressure from Trump, Republican lawmakers have waged a vigorous defense of the president’s actions in dealing with Ukraine over a several-month period, and they have asserted that the Democrats’ case for impeachment against Trump is non-existent.

Next week, the House panel will hold public hearings again. The schedule for testimony includes:
 
Tuesday: Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence; Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, former director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, Ambassador Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine; and Tim Morrison, a White House aide with the National Security Council focusing on Europe and Russia policy.
 
Wednesday: Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union; Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs; and David Hale, under secretary of state for political affairs.
 
Thursday: Fiona Hill, former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia.

 

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Trump Fights Back as Democrats Home In on Impeachment

As House Democrats bring witnesses to testify in the public impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump continues to attack the witnesses and opposition Democrats. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara takes a look at the president’s communications strategy and at his supporters and opponents in Congress.

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Harris Picks up Endorsement From Black Women’s Organization

The country’s largest online political organization aimed at electing black women is endorsing Kamala Harris, the lone black woman in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Higher Heights co-founder Glynda Carr says the group chose to back the California senator because of her qualifications, record in elected office and commitment to issues affecting black women, including gun safety, health care and the economy.

Wednesday’s endorsement comes as observers are questioning the viability of Harris’ campaign. Harris is languishing in many polls and has lagged with black voters.

Higher Heights provided significant support during the 2018 midterms to candidates who helped usher in the most diverse Congress in history. It claims an online membership of 90,000 activists, donors, supporters and volunteers.

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Democrats Claim Victory Over Trump-Backed Kentucky Governor, Seize Virginia Legislature

U.S. Democrats claimed an upset win in Kentucky on Tuesday over a Republican governor backed by President Donald Trump and seized control of the state legislature in Virginia, where anti-Trump sentiment in the suburbs remained a potent force.

The outcomes of Tuesday’s elections in four states, including Mississippi and New Jersey, could offer clues to how next year’s presidential election could unfold, when Trump will aim for a second four-year term.

In Kentucky, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, whose father, Steve, was the state’s last Democratic governor, scored a narrow victory over Governor Matt Bevin despite an election-eve rally headlined by Trump.

In a speech in Lexington, Kentucky, on Monday night, Trump – who won Kentucky by 30 percentage points in 2016 – told voters that they needed to re-elect Bevin, or else pundits would say the president “suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world.”

The remarks reflected the extent to which Bevin, 52, sought to nationalize the campaign, emphasizing his support for Trump amid a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of the Republican president in Congress.

While the result was a significant setback for Trump, who remains relatively popular in Kentucky, it may have had more to do with Bevin’s diminished standing in the state. Opinion polls showed Bevin may be the least popular governor in the country, after he waged high-profile fights with labor unions and teachers.

Beshear’s upset win could also bolster Democrats’ slim hopes of ousting Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is on the ballot himself in the state next year.

At a rally on Tuesday night, Bevin refused to concede, citing unspecified “irregularities,” even as Beshear called on the governor to honor the results.

Kentucky’s Attorney General Andy Beshear, running for governor against Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, reacts to statewide election results at his watch party in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. November 5, 2019.

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said in a statement that the president “just about dragged Gov. Matt Bevin across the finish line” while helping Republicans win several other statewide races.

Meanwhile, Democrats wrested both chambers of Virginia’s legislature from narrow Republican majorities, which would give the party complete control of the state government for the first time in a quarter-century.

Trump has avoided Virginia, where Democrats found success in suburban swing districts in last year’s congressional elections, as they did in states across the country. Tuesday’s election, which saw Democrats prevail in several northern Virginia suburbs, suggested the trend was continuing.

In Mississippi, where Republican Governor Phil Bryant was barred from running again due to term limits, Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves defeated Attorney General Jim Hood, a moderate Democrat who favors gun rights and opposes abortion rights.

Like Bevin, Reeves campaigned as a staunch Trump supporter in a state that Trump easily won in 2016. The president held a campaign rally in the state last week alongside Reeves.

In New Jersey, Democrats were expected to maintain their majority in the state’s general assembly, the legislature’s lower chamber.

Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Fairfax, Virginia, Nov. 5, 2019. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)
Voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Fairfax, Virginia, Nov. 5, 2019. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet)

Virginia in the spotlight

The Virginia contest drew heavy attention and money from both parties. Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential front-runner, visited Virginia over the weekend to campaign with several statehouse candidates, and Republican Vice President Mike Pence held a rally on Saturday.

Other Democratic presidential contenders, including U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, have also campaigned with local candidates.

In one notable race, Democrat Shelly Simonds, who lost a state House of Delegates race in 2017 via random draw after the election ended in a tie, won a rematch against Republican David Yancey.

Virginia’s Democratic gains came despite a year of scandal for the party’s top officials in the state. Governor Ralph Northam barely endured a political firestorm after his yearbook page was shown to have photos of someone in blackface and another person in a Ku Klux Klan costume, while Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface himself in college.

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, meanwhile, has denied two accusations of sexual assault.

The legislative wins likely mean that Democrats can pass a raft of bills that Republicans had resisted, including new gun limits. Democrats will also control the redistricting process in 2021, when lawmakers draw new voting lines for state and congressional elections after next year’s U.S. Census.

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US Government Sees No Evidence of Hacking in Tuesday’s Elections

Voting in U.S. state and local elections on Tuesday showed no evidence of successful tampering by any foreign government, the Justice Department and six U.S. security agencies said.

But Russia, China, Iran and other adversaries of the United States will seek to meddle in U.S. elections moving forward, including through social media manipulation and cyberattacks, the agencies said.

“While at this time we have no evidence of a compromise or disruption to election infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts or disrupt the ability to tally votes, we continue to vigilantly monitor any threats to U.S. elections,” a joint statement, signed by the heads of each agency, said.

Cliff Smith, a Ridgeland, Mississippi, poll worker, offers a voter an “I Voted” sticker after they cast their ballot, Nov. 5, 2019.

The agencies have increased efforts to protect elections and a new position was created within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to focus solely on U.S. election security.

A January 2017 assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies found that Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential election and its goals included aiding President Donald Trump.

National security experts have said they believe foreign governments will again target the 2020 presidential election in an effort to influence U.S. voters.

In February 2018, the Justice Department created the first ever Cyber Digital Task Force with the mission of protecting future U.S. elections from foreign interference.

 

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Trump Jr. Releases Provocative Book Defending Father

Donald Trump Jr. released a book Tuesday that rails against the left as he admitted he had caught the political bug and may consider running for office in the future.

In “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence US,” the president’s son fiercely defends his father and slams mainstream media and political opponents including Hillary Clinton.

“This is the book that the leftist elites don’t want you to read!” screams a blurb on Amazon, adding that “no topic is spared from political correctness.”

Trump Jr. dedicates the 300-page part memoir to “deplorables,” a clear dig at Clinton who used the term to describe Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The book quickly rose to third on Amazon’s list of bestselling books after the president on Monday encouraged his 66.5 million Twitter followers to order a copy.

“A great new book that I highly recommend for ALL to read,” Trump tweeted.

Trump Jr., known for his virulent attacks on traditional media including The New York Times and The Washington Post, accuses social networks of trying to sensor him and other conservatives.

“This ‘shadow banning’ amounts to a complete suppression of freedom of speech. It can’t be allowed to continue,” he writes in the book, taking aim at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

FILE – White House adviser Ivanka Trump speaks during the forum Unleashing the Potential of Women Entrepreneurs through Finance and Markets, on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington, Oct. 18, 2019.

While Ivanka Trump was thought to be the most political of the president’s four adult children owing to her role as a White House advisor, Trump Jr hinted Tuesday that he may be tempted to run one day.

“I don’t rule anything out. Right now I like the campaigning part. I actually enjoy some of that fight,” he told CBS in an interview.

“I like getting out there and being with real people and seeing the difference that my father and his policies are making in their lives.

“I’m interested in winning 2020 for my father right now. We’ll worry about everything else later,” the 41-year-old added.

“Triggered” is published by Center Street, a known publisher of conservative books.

Trump Jr was to sign copies at a Barnes and Noble in Manhattan later on Tuesday.

The president has published several books, most famously “Trump: The Art of the Deal” in 1987 which became a New York Times bestseller.

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Trial of Trump Crony Roger Stone Promises Political Drama

Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, is going on trial over charges related to his alleged efforts to exploit the Russian-hacked Hillary Clinton emails for political gain.

The trial in Washington, which begins Tuesday, promises to revive the specter of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as the impeachment inquiry against Trump proceeds in the House.

Stone’s indictment in January was an offshoot of Mueller’s investigation. Stone is accused of lying to lawmakers about WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a House intelligence committee probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

A self-proclaimed dirty trickster with a flair for public drama, Stone has a history in Republican political circles dating back to the Nixon administration. He emerged as an early public supporter of Trump and has consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated.

Stone, a longtime friend of the president’s, briefly served on Trump’s campaign but was pushed out amid infighting with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Though sidelined, he continued to communicate with Trump and stayed plugged into his circle of advisers.

The indictment says Stone, who was arrested by the FBI in a raid at his Florida home, repeatedly discussed WikiLeaks in 2016 with campaign associates and lays out in detail Stone’s conversations about emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted in the weeks before Trump beat Clinton.

After WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the indictment says, a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone about additional releases and “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign.” The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone.

Stone is also accused of threatening New York radio host Randy Credico in an effort to prevent Credico from contradicting Stone’s testimony before the House intelligence committee.

 

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Former Ambassador Says she was Warned to ‘Watch my Back’

It started with a warning to watch her back, that people were “looking to hurt” her. From there, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House investigators, it escalated into a chilling campaign to fire her as President Donald Trump and his allies angled in Eastern Europe for political advantage at home.

Testimony from Yovanovitch, released on Monday, offered a first word-for-word look at the closed-door House impeachment hearings. Inside, Democrats and Republicans are waging a pitched battle over what to make of Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine’s leaders to investigate political rival Joe Biden, Biden’s son and Democratic activities in the 2016 election.

The transcript came out on the same day that four Trump administration officials defied subpoenas to testify, acting on orders from a White House that is fighting the impeachment investigation with all its might. Among those refusing to testify: John Eisenberg, the lead lawyer at the National Security Council and, by some accounts, the man who ordered a rough transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader moved to a highly restricted computer system.

During nine hours of sometimes emotional testimony, Yovanovitch detailed efforts led by Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies to push her out of her post. The career diplomat, who was recalled from her job in May on Trump’s orders, testified that a senior Ukrainian official told her that “I really needed to watch my back.”

While the major thrust of Yovanovitch’s testimony was revealed in her opening statement, Monday’s 317-page transcript provided new details.

Yovanovitch offered significant threads of information including the possibility that Trump was directly involved in a phone call with Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and the Ukrainians dating back to January 2018. And she pushed back on Republican suggestions that she harbored opposition to Trump.

She had been recalled from Kyiv before the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that’s at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Later, she was “surprised and dismayed” by what she saw in the transcript of the call — including that Trump had called her “bad news.” He also said that “she’s going to go through some things.”

“I was shocked,” Yovanovitch said, to see “that the president would speak about me or any ambassador in that way to a foreign counterpart.”

Asked about her as he left on a campaign trip on Monday, Trump had a more equivocal comment: “I’m sure she’s a very fine woman. I just don’t know much about her.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said transcripts from the hearings are being released so “the American public will begin to see for themselves.” Two were released Monday, and more are coming.

Republicans have accused Democrats of conducting a one-sided process behind closed doors.

But the transcripts show GOP lawmakers were given time for questioning, which they used to poke at different aspects of the impeachment inquiry. Some Republicans criticized the process as unfair, while others tried to redirect witnesses to their own questions about Biden’s work on Ukraine corruption issues while he was vice president.

In public, some Republicans say the president’s actions toward Ukraine, though not ideal, are certainly not impeachable.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight committee, defended Yovanovitch’s ouster as clearly within the president’s prerogative.

“President Trump has the authority to name who he wants in any ambassador position. That’s a call solely for the president of the United States as the commander in chief,” Jordan said.

Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv as Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against Biden and his son Hunter, who was involved with Burisma, a gas company there.

Giuliani’s role in Ukraine was central to Yovanovitch’s testimony. She said she was aware of an interest by the Trump lawyer and his associates in investigating Biden and Burisma “with a view to finding things that could be possibly damaging to a presidential run,” as well as investigating the 2016 election and theories that it was Ukraine, and not Russia, that interfered.

However, asked directly if Giuliani was promoting investigations on Burisma and Biden, Yovanovitch said, “It wasn’t entirely clear to me what was going on.”

More directly, she drew a link between Giuliani and two businessmen — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who have been indicted in the U.S. on charges stemming from campaign donations – as part of the campaign to oust her. She understood they were looking to expand their business interests in Ukraine “and that they needed a better ambassador to sort of facilitate their business’ efforts here.”

Yovanovitch said was told by Ukrainian officials last November or December that Giuliani was in touch with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, “and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me.”

She said she was told Lutsenko “was looking to hurt me in the U.S.”

The diplomat said she sought advice from Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, after an article appeared in The Hill newspaper about Giuliani’s complaints against her. Sondland told her, ”’You need to go big or go home,” advising her to “tweet out there that you support the president.”

Yovanovitch said she felt she could not follow that advice as a nonpartisan government official.

The former envoy stressed to investigators that she was not disloyal to the president. She answered “no” when asked point blank if she’d ever “badmouthed” Trump in Ukraine, and said she felt U.S. policy in Ukraine “actually got stronger” because of Trump’s decision to provide lethal assistance to the country — military aid that later was held up by the White House as it pushed for investigations into Trump’s political foes.

Long hours into her testimony, Yovanovitch was asked why she was such “a thorn in their side” that Giuliani and others wanted her fired.

“Honestly,” she said, “it’s a mystery to me.”

Yovanovitch, still employed by the State Department, is in a fellowship at Georgetown University.

She told the investigators that the campaign against her, which included an article that was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr., undermined her ability to serve as a credible ambassador and she wanted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to issue a statement defending her. But no statement was issued.

The impeachment panels also released testimony Monday from Michael McKinley, a former senior adviser to Pompeo.

McKinley, a 37-year career diplomat, testified that he decided to resign from his post as a senior adviser to Pompeo after his repeated efforts to get the State Department to issue a statement of support for Yovanovitch after the transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy phone call was released. “To see the impugning of somebody I know to be a serious, committed colleague in the manner that it was done raised alarm bells for me,” he said.

McKinley said he was already concerned about politicization at the State Department, and that the refusal to publicly back Yovanovitch convinced him it was time to leave.

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Trump, in 2020 Election Preview, Pushes Republican Candidates in Tuesday Voting

There are scattered key elections in the U.S. on Tuesday, with President Donald Trump campaigning for Republican candidates in hopes of shoring up his own political standing a year ahead of his re-election contest.

Trump, with polls showing widening disapproval ratings from voters nationally and facing an impeachment inquiry in Washington, heads Monday night to the mid-south state of Kentucky, where he won easily in the 2016 national election that sent him to the White House and remains popular.

Whether his Republican allies win there and elsewhere could signal how voters feel about him as he looks to the Nov. 3, 2020, national election against a Democratic challenger that won’t be picked for months.

Governor Matt Bevin looks on during the final Kentucky gubernatorial debate with Democratic candidate Andy Beshear, Oct. 29, 2019 in Highland Heights, Kentucky.

He is headlining an election-eve rally for incumbent Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, a loyal supporter of the president who is facing a tough re-election campaign against his Democratic challenger, State Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of a former Kentucky governor.

“Kentucky is having the best economic year ever under Matt’s leadership,” Trump said on Twitter ahead of his visit. In another tweet, Trump said, “Matt will never let you down, and we have to send a strong signal to Nancy Pelosi and the Radical Left Democrats. See you on Monday night, VOTE TUESDAY!!!”

Trump was referring to his nemesis in Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives that has launched the impeachment inquiry against Trump after he pressed Ukraine to investigate one of his top 2020 Democratic rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.

But Bevin has openly feuded with teachers and others in the state, putting his re-election in doubt in a state that has long voted for Republican candidates. Polls show his race against Beshear is a tossup.

In the run-up to Tuesday’s voting, Trump also has visited the southern states of Mississippi and Louisiana, two other states he won in 2016, to lend support to Republican gubernatorial candidates.

Louisiana’s Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone talks to media on a campaign stop at New Orleans International Airport in Kenner, La., Nov. 4, 2019.

On Twitter, Trump has called for the Louisiana election of Eddie Rispone, a self-described “conservative outsider for governor” over incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, in a runoff that occurs Nov. 16.

Trump contended that Edwards “is always fighting” his Make America Great Again agenda. “Wants to raise your taxes and car insurance to the sky. Vote for Republican Eddie R!”

In a recent open contest for the governor’s seat, with both Republicans and Democrats on the ballot, Edwards won easily, but narrowly failed to reach a majority, necessitating the runoff late next week with Rispone, his closest challenger.

At a rally in Mississippi last week, Trump called on voters to elect Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who is locked in a tight contest Tuesday with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, to replace the term-limited Republican Gov. Phil Bryant. Analysts in the state say it could be one of the closest elections in a generation.

There are four states that are holding state legislative contests on Tuesday, but only in the mid-Atlantic state of Virginia, which borders Washington, is there a possibility of a switch in political control.

Republicans now narrowly hold majorities in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. But a handful of Democratic wins in closely contested contests throughout the state could give them control of both the legislature and the governor’s office, where Gov. Ralph Northam has two years remaining in his term.

“Virginia has the best Unemployment and Economic numbers in the history of the State,” Trump tweeted, apparently unaware that Democratic governors have run the state 14 of the last 18 years, even as Republicans have recently held majorities in the state legislature.

Trump claimed that if Democrats take control of the General Assembly, as the state legislature is called, “those numbers will go rapidly in the other direction.”

“I hope everyone in the Great State of Virginia will get out and VOTE on Tuesday in all of the local and state elections to send a signal” to Washington by voting for Republicans, Trump said.

Numerous cities throughout the U.S. are also holding elections Tuesday, electing mayors and other officials.

In Tucson, Arizona, in the southwestern part of the U.S., voters are deciding in a referendum whether to declare it a sanctuary city, like numerous other municipalities throughout the U.S., to protect immigrants when they have been arrested from being turned over to federal immigration authorities. Trump has often derided such localities as counter-productive to his tough anti-immigration policies.

 

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