Wrapping up our live coverage for tonight. The president is now in London for the Nato summit as the House intelligence committee prepares to review its report on the impeachment inquiry. Among today’s many impeachment-adjacent developments:
- House Republicans released a 123-page report defending Trump against the impeachment inquiry against him.
- Two Giuliani associates will likely face additional charges, a federal prosecutor said in court in Manhattan.
- A federal judge denied the Trump administration’s attempt to delay an order requiring former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress.
- The Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee “thoroughly investigated” and debunked a key GOP talking point about Ukraine and the 2016 election, Politico reported.
- Attorney general William Barr is signaling that he may publicly disagree with an inspector general’s conclusion, in an independent report, that the FBI had enough information in the summer of 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, the Washington Post reported.
- Trump’s reelection campaign announced it would no longer credential Bloomberg News reporters after the outlet said it would not investigate its owner, Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire former Republican who recently announced his candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, or any of Bloomberg’s Democratic rivals, while still continuing to investigate Trump. Trump tweeted angrily that the news agency’s approach was “not O.K.” Many media critics actually agree.
- Trump said in a tweet that his administration would restore steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina, despite the efforts of Brazil’s far-right president to develop an alliance with Trump.
Report: Barr Signals He Disagrees With Inspector General’s Report on FBI
Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on a central finding of a forthcoming report — that the FBI had enough information in the summer of 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, the Washington Post reports.
The report from Justice Department’s inspector general Michael Horowitz is expected to be made public in a week.
The inspector general operates independently of Justice Department leadership, so Barr cannot order Horowitz to change his findings, the Washington Post notes.
Democrats have long argued that Barr, who was confirmed as attorney general in early 2019, acts more like the president’s personal attorney than the attorney general of the entire country, and that his behavior is eroding the independence of the Justice Department.
File under Freedom of Information Act victories.
Buzzfeed News is suing the Justice Department to publicly release as many documents as possible generated during the Mueller investigation. The Justice Department released a new batch of documents today: hundreds of pages of summaries of FBI interviews.
Some highlights from the new documents, according to Buzzfeed News:
- In February 2017, shortly after his inauguration, Trump wanted former New Jersey governor Chris Christie to tell then-FBI director James Comey that “I really like him.” Christie did not do this, he told FBI investigators, saying it “would have been uncomfortable.”
- On Valentine’s Day 2017, Christie was having lunch with Trump when the president told him, “Now that we fired [former Trump national security adviser Michael] Flynn, the Russia thing is over.” Christie told the FBI that he laughed and said “No way. We’ll be here on Valentine’s Day 2018 talking about this.”
- Deputy campaign manager Rick Gates told the FBI that “while Paul Manafort was running Trump’s campaign, Manafort had pushed the unfounded theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s servers.” Trump still cites this debunked theory, as Buzzfeed notes— and did so during the summer 2019 call with the Ukrainian President that’s at the center of the current impeachment inquiry.
Donald Trump’s actions towards Ukraine were “entirely prudent” and involved “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power”, according to a draft Republican report on last month’s impeachment inquiry hearings.
The report provides a blueprint for House Republicans to defend the US president at Wednesday’s judiciary committee hearing and for their Senate counterparts to acquit him in a trial.
It also directly contradicts the testimony of career diplomats and makes little attempt to get to grips with the devastating evidence of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who spoke about the existence of a quid pro quo, or Fiona Hill, former top Russia expert at the White House, who warned against falling for Moscow’s propaganda about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.
Earlier today, Donald Trump’s re-election campaign announced it will no longer issue press credentials to reporters for Bloomberg News, the agency owned by billionaire Democratic presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg, after it announced a controversial plan for how it would continue to cover American politics while its owner was running for president.
Trump added his own aggrieved tweet on the situation this afternoon, shortly after arriving in the United Kingdom for a NATO meeting. He complained that “Mini Mike Bloomberg has instructed his third rate news organization not to investigate him or any Democrat, but to go after President Trump, only” and that this was “not O.K.!”
While generally hostile to the existence of an independent press, Trump is not alone in his opinion that Bloomberg News’ currently approach to managing a massive conflict of interest is “not O.K.”
Bloomberg News’ editor-in-chief announced in late November that the agency’s reporters would still cover polls, policies and how the Bloomberg campaign is faring. But Bloomberg News’ reporters would not do investigative stories on Bloomberg or any other Democratic contender for president, he told the agency’s journalists, while still recapping others’ investigations of Democratic contenders and continuing to investigate the Trump administration.
Multiple former Bloomberg editors called the coverage plan unsatisfying and inappropriate.
Margaret Sullivan, a prominent Washington Post media columnist and the former public editor of The New York Times, wrote that the initial coverage plans “put Bloomberg’s many talented journalists, especially those in Washington and New York, in a compromised position.”
Sullivan and others have argued that a better plan would have been for Bloomberg himself to have “entirely recused himself from decision-making or influence at the news organization — saying, in effect, ‘cover me like anyone else and do it with journalistic integrity.’”
But that’s not what the billionaire former mayor of New York City has decided to do.
Sullivan noted that Bloomberg “half-jokingly” told a radio interviewer last year, “Quite honestly, I don’t want all the reporters I’m paying to write a bad story about me. I don’t want them to be independent.”
For Sullivan, Bloomberg’s approach highlighted a similarity between the new 2020 Democratic contender and Trump:
“We already have a rich-guy president who thinks the tried-and-true rules that underpin our democracy aren’t made for him and who doesn’t exhibit a core understanding of the accountability role of an independent press,” she wrote.
A month after dropping out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, and after pledging he would not run for senate as a challenger to Texas Republican John Cornyn, Beto O’Rourke is focusing on state-level politics in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports.
O’Rourke is trying to use some of his political capital to help flip the Texas House of Representatives from Republican to Democratic control.
House Republicans Release Impeachment Report Defending Trump
As House Democrats push forward with their impeachment inquiry, House Republicans have released a 123-page report defending President Donald Trump.
Washington journalists called the GOP report a “pre-buttal to the Democrats’ not-yet-drafted articles of impeachment” and a “full-throated defense” of the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
You can read the report here.
Judge Denies Trump Attempt to Delay McGahn testimony
U.S. District Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson has denied the Trump administration’s request to stay an order requiring former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress while the administration appeals Jackson’s ruling to a higher court.
“Further delay of the Judiciary Committee’s enforcement of its valid subpoena causes grave harm to both the Committee’s investigation and the interests of the public more broadly,” Jackson wrote, noting also that delaying McGahn’s testimony “would impede an investigation that a committee of Congress is undertaking as part of an impeachment inquiry.”
The judge made clear that McGahn may still invoke executive privilege and refuse to answer Congressional questions during his testimony, but had previously rejected the Trump Justice Department’s argument that the president could give senior aides immunity from having to testify at all.
What additional charges might Giuliani allies Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman face from federal prosecutors?
A prosector said during a hearing today in Manhattan that additional charges were “likely.”
A Florida reporter suggests these charges might involve donations Parnas and Fruman made to Republicans in Florida: Ron DeSantis, now the state’s governor; Rick Scott, the former governor and now one of Florida’s senators, and Brian Mast, one of the state’s members of Congress.
Report: Republican committee debunked GOP Ukraine claim
As the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president continues, Trump’s Republican allies have repeatedly claimed that the Ukrainian government tried to meddle in the 2016 election to favor Hillary Clinton.
That claim was “thoroughly investigated” and debunked by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee, Politico reports. The committee “found no evidence that Ukraine waged a top-down interference campaign akin to the Kremlin’s efforts to help Trump win in 2016.”
More from Politico here.
For Giuliani associates, ‘an upgraded indictment likely’
More details from federal court in Manhattan: A prosecutor said an upgraded indictment is likely in the criminal case against two Rudy Giuliani associates with ties to Ukraine, the Associated Press reports.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind made the prediction during a pretrial hearing Monday in the case against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The men are charged with using foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions. Prosecutors say the donations were made while the men were lobbying U.S. politicians to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
The arrest of Parnas and Fruman brought new scrutiny to Giuliani, a former New York City mayor who is President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. Giuliani has tried to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Trump’s potential Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. Giuliani has said he knew nothing about illegal campaign donations.
The Trump administration has quietly released more than $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon after months of unexplained delay, the Associated Press reports.
The White House has yet to offer any explanation for the delay, despite repeated queries from Congress. Officials familiar with the matter told the Associated Press that, unlike Ukraine, there has been no suggestion that President Donald Trump is seeking “a favor” from Lebanon in exchange for the aid.
Democrats have released a list of witnesses for Wednesday’s hearing to review the evidence for impeaching the president, The Hill’s Olivia Beavers reports:
Georgia’s Republican governor is ignoring Donald Trump’s preference and appointing a financial services executive, Kelly Loeffler, to fill the senate seat left vacant when Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson retires for health reasons at the end of the year, according to news reports.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which broke the story, has more background on Loeffler, a multimillionaire with a history of donating to Democratic politicians.
Loeffler, the female CEO of a bitcoin business, is not beloved by more conservative Republican politicians in Georgia. But political analysts in the state see her as potentially “able to bring back suburban women who have left the Republican Party during the Trump administration,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Her personal wealth is also seen as a useful asset in funding the special election campaign to fill Isakson’s seat over the longer term.
In her application for the open senate job, Loeffler wrote that she would be a staunch ally of Trump, something conservatives have said they doubt.
“If chosen, I will stand with President Trump…to Keep America Great,” Loeffler wrote, according to Politico. “Together, we will grow jobs, strengthen the border, shutdown drug cartels and human traffickers, lower health care costs, and protect our national interests — at home and abroad.”
Trump wanted Georgia’s Republican governor to appoint Rep. Doug Collins, who is currently the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, who “could have been a potentially critical juror in any Senate impeachment trial,” Politico reported.
Isakson, 74, has been struggling with Parkinson’s disease.
At a court hearing in Manhattan, a federal prosecutor said there will “likely” be additional charges in the case against two associates of Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Bloomberg News reports.
The two men pleaded not guilty in October to charges that they used foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions to politicians and committees to advance their business interests.
This is Lois Beckett, taking over our live politics coverage from our West Coast bureau.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will travel to Iowa to campaign for Sen. Kamala Harris in mid-December as she tries to rebound amid a critical stretch in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Associated Press reports.
Harris has staked her campaign on a strong showing in Iowa and recently spent six days over the Thanksgiving holiday campaigning in the state. But she’s still stuck in single digits in most polls, far from the top of the pack that includes former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.