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Wednesday
Oct162019

Speaker at DOJ hate crimes event directly rebukes Attorney General William Barr

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In a ceremony at the Department of Justice on Wednesday marking the 10th anniversary of a landmark anti-hate crime law, a speaker read off a letter that directly targeted Attorney General William Barr, accusing him of "hypocrisy" related to the department's stance on legal protections for transgender people.

Appearing as a representative for the family of Matthew Shepard, a gay student who was murdered in Wyoming in October 1998, Cynthia Deitle read a letter from the family excoriating Barr for not "disagreeing with the administration" and what they described as its promotion of hate. The law is named after Shepard and James Byrd, who also was murdered in a hate crime.

"We find it interesting and hypocritical that he would invite us to this event commemorating a hate crime law named after our son and Mr. Byrd, while, at the same time, asking the Supreme Court to allow the legalized firing of transgender employees," said Deitle, who serves as the programs and operations director of the foundation named after Shepard. "Mr. Barr, you cannot have it both ways. If you believe that employers should have the right to terminate transgender employees, just because they are transgender, then you believe they are lesser than and not worthy of protection."

Deitle continued: "If so, you need not invite us to future events at the Department of Justice that are billed as celebrating the law that protects these same individuals from hate crimes. Either you believe in equality for all or you don't. We do not honor our son by kowtowing to hypocrisy."

While Barr himself was not in attendance, sitting next to Deitle was Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. He did not react to Deitle's comments.

Earlier in the program, Dreiband touted the department's handling of hate crimes cases, saying it remains a "top priority" for the administration.

"Since January 2017 alone, the Department of Justice has charged more than 70 defendants for committing crimes motivated by hate," Dreiband said.

In response to the letter, a Justice Department spokeswoman said it "mischaracterizes the department's position" related to protections for transgender people.

In a recent argument before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said the administration does not believe Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars sex-based employment discrimination, has a legal application to transgender people.

"As the head of the Department of Justice, he can take a stand as a member of this administration to disavow and condemn any person who fuels the fires of hate with their words and actions," Deitle said, reading from the letter. "He must lead and demonstrate his refusal to accept hate in all its manifestations. He must demonstrate courage, even if it means disagreeing with the administration. So far, he has done none of these deeds."

At the conclusion of Deitle's remarks, a large portion of the audience in the Justice Department's Great Hall offered a sustained round of applause, including some who stood up and cheered.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

Trump says he thought family of UK teen wanted meeting with diplomat's wife

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After the parents of Harry Dunn, a British teenager killed when the wife of an American diplomat crashed into his motorcycle, turned down a meeting with Anne Sacoolas at the White House on Tuesday, President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday that he thought they wanted to meet her.

"I thought they were -- based on what I thought -- that they wanted to meet," he said in the Oval Office. "But now they only want to meet in the U.K. and that's up to them."

Trump met with Tim Dunn and Charlotte Charles, the 19-year-old's parents, on Tuesday and offered them a meeting with Sacoolas, who was waiting in another room, according to a family representative.

"We weren't ready to meet her, it would have been too rushed," Tim Dunn said, according to the Press Association. "It's not what we wanted; we wanted a meeting with her in the U.K."

Charlotte Charles, Dunn's mother, said she "initially" thought the meeting at the White House on Tuesday was being held to sweep her son's death under the rug.

"We've said all along that we are willing to meet her, we are still willing to meet her," she said in an interview on CBS This Morning. "But it needs to be on U.K. soil."

Dunn, 19, was riding his motorcycle along a roadway in the village of Croughton, England, on the night of Aug. 27, when a car traveling in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road hit him head-on, killing him. Sacoolas, 42, who is married to an American diplomat, admitted that she was responsible for the crash, but fled the U.K. to the U.S. after apparently claiming diplomatic immunity, which protects diplomats and their family members from prosecution or lawsuits under the host nation's laws.

Her attorney, Amy Jeffress, has said her client wants to meet with the family to apologize and take responsibility. Dunn's parents told ABC News that they would only meet with her if she returned to the U.K. to face the consequences of her actions.

On Wednesday, Trump suggested that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a public plea for Sacoolas to return to the U.K., asked Trump would organize the meeting between Sacoolas and the Dunn family.

"I offered to bring the person in question in and they weren't ready for it, but I did offer," Trump said. "I spoke with Boris, he asked me if I'd do that, and I did it."

Dunn's parents traveled to Washington on Tuesday, after receiving a call from the White House to say that they would be meeting with a senior official regarding their case.

"We had no idea," said Charlotte Charles. "Certainly didn't think for a second it would be President Trump."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

Biden, most 2020 Democrats see red in 3rd quarter money race

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden outspent the amount he raised, about $6 million less than what he brought in last quarter, according to third quarter fundraising reports -- a key indicator of a campaign's viability to last in the grueling primary and a concerning financial turn for the veteran politician.

Biden is the only top-tier candidate in the red, ending the third quarter with only $9 million in the bank -- a troubling sign after spending $2 million more than he raised. His campaign spent a total of $17.7 million during the past three months, despite raising a lackluster $15.7 million -- nearly doubling his burn rate from the second quarter to 112% in the third.

Most alarming for Biden, who still maintains among the top tier in polling, is the relatively small size of his war chest compared to some of the other top-tier contenders, mainly Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who come out of the third quarter with $33.7 million and $25.7 million on hand, respectively.

The third fundraising quarter, which spans the months of July to September, drastically split the increasingly competitive Democratic field between a small cohort of top fundraisers flushed with cash, including Sanders, Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and those who are seeing a relative cash flow shortage, among them, Biden and more than 10 other Democrats.

Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg enjoy a financial edge to outspend their Democratic rivals in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, among the 19 Democratic contenders still in the race.

With only four short months before the first votes are cast in the Iowa caucuses, the focus on expensive early-state investments -- between boots on the ground, advertisements, and field organizing -- will only accelerate in the coming months, with pressure to continue an aggressive campaign operation leading into the nominating process mounting.

The high spending rates - and dips into savings - come as campaigns are increasingly jumping into the on-air ad battle, ramping up their digital operations and expanding staffing on the ground.

Much of the Biden campaign’s spending this quarter was on staffing -- nearly $7 million. The campaign also spent more than $2 million on online and television advertising and nearly $1 million on private jets.

But Biden’s campaign dismissed alarm bells about him trailing far behind his competitors, instead affirming their confidence in the former Delaware senator’s ability to "go long."

"I think we have the resources we need to run our race," Biden deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, told reporters in the spin room at Tuesday night’s debate. "It's more important how you spend the money than how you raise it. We have the resources we need to continue to run our race. We've always said that we think this race is going to be a dogfight, that it's going to go long. We're building an operation that is going to be sustained."

"So we are 100% confident that we have what we need to run our race," she added.

Even the former vice president struck an optimistic tone with reporters in Iowa Wednesday about his fundraising haul

"Our fundraising is building. We have raised a lot of money online, and we have raised money off line, as well," he said. "We feel confident we will be ready."

Leading the pack in fundraising this quarter are Sanders and Warren, whose campaigns are buttressed by massive grassroots armies after both raked in $25.3 million and $24.7 million respectively. The two progressive stalwarts also maintained lower burn rates compared to the rest of their Democratic rivals - a clear sign of their ability to amass sizable war chests, despite the fiercely competitive race over a year before election day.

Third quarter campaign finance records show Warren and Sanders’ campaigns spent $7.5 million and $7 million respectively on staffing and $3.8 million each on digital media production and online ad placement.

And Warren’s spending is expected to only increase in coming months.

Late last month, the Massachusetts senator announced an eight-figure plan to invest in television and online ads targeting early primary and caucus states including Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina heading into the fall.

Warren’s campaign has yet to air her first television ad, but according to the ad service firm Advertising Analytics, the campaign has already reserved nearly $5 million worth of television airtime in the early months of 2020.

"I think it's telling that candidates like Warren have lower burn rates, since she has been rising in the polls and therefore might not feel the urgency that candidates like Biden feel, who are watching their poll numbers fall," said Sarah Bryner, a research director at the Center for Responsive Politics

Buttigieg, who fell short of his impressive $24.9 million second quarter fundraising haul this quarter, also burned through most of the $19 million he raised, marking a burn rate of 97%, a big jump from just 35% in the second quarter. The 38-year old mayor, still amassed $23.4 million in his bank, which will afford him more flexibility to invest heavily in the early states in the critical months ahead.

Buttigieg has been building up an aggressive ad campaign in recent weeks, topping other Democratic candidates on online advertising as well as dropping six-figure television ad blitz in early primary states.

Andrew Yang, the eccentric tech entrepreneur, who is notable for his freedom dividend proposal, more than tripled his fundraising in the third quarter, bringing in $10 million, and managed to maintain a distinguishable low burn rate below 44%, ending the quarter with a relatively strong cash on hand of $6.3 million among lower-polling candidates.

Beyond the top candidates, Biden is not alone in falling behind in the money race.

Another prominent Democrat who burned through much more than she raised this quarter, is California Sen. Kamala Harris, who spent $14.6 million while only raising $11.8 million - producing a burn rate of 125%. Harris, who started her presidential campaign months earlier than Biden, maintained a burn rate of below 65% in the previous two quarters. She ends with $10.5 million cash on hand.

After Harris, the rest of the Democrats who appeared on Tuesday night’s debate stage finished out the third quarter with less than $7 million in the bank - and nearly all of them are spending far faster than they are bringing in, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and billionaire Tom Steyer.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, author Marianne Williamson and former Congressman Joe Sestak, D-Penn., covered their spending with the amount raised but the three have very little cash in the bank -- Castro for example only has $672,333 -- to support their campaign for the long haul.

Between the third and fourth quarter filing deadline at the end of the year, some expect the field to narrow - as the limits of cash-strapped campaigns put more pressure on an already winnowing primary.

"I suspect that what is happening right now is that the candidates are sensing that the field will winnow quickly, and now is their best chance to remain relevant," Bryner said. "Once the field narrows, the fundraising pool will open up for those candidates who remain, and I think that candidates are depending on that."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden, most 2020 Democrats see red in 3rd quarter money race

Wednesday
Oct162019

California Rep. Eric Swalwell says 'Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump' for purposes of impeachment

US House of Representatives (Office of Rep. Eric Swalwell)(NEW YORK) -- California Rep. Eric Swalwell joined ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast Wednesday, calling out President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for an alleged "shakedown scheme" involving Ukraine and at least four men who have recently been arrested on campaign finance charges.

When prompted on how House Democrats will respond if Giuliani continues to refuse to cooperate with a wide-ranging subpoena from the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, Swalwell said they will take it as a guilty plea.

"If that's the case, we will file that away as a consciousness of guilt. ... Innocent people would appear, a guilty person with something to hide would not. And [the committees would] consider that as a potential obstruction of Congress and for the president," he told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Brad Mielke, host of ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump and Donald Trump is Rudy Giuliani."

Swalwell said personal lawyers don't act unless authorized by their clients.

Tuesday was the deadline for Giuliani to comply with lawmakers working on the impeachment inquiry, launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sept. 24 after a whistleblower filed a complaint regarding a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Giuliani's defiance, along with attempts by Trump administration officials to bar witnesses from testifying before the lawmakers, has escalated the standoff between House Democrats and the White House.

Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said lawmakers have to stay focused on the impeachment probe because of the urgency of the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

"So you have crime, confession and cover up," Swalwell said. "And the American people understand all three of those. And the best way to protect an upcoming election and our national security, I think, is to stay singularly focused on this incident right now."

Since the beginning of the impeachment inquiry process, a number of State Department employees, including former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch; former national security adviser on Russia Fiona Hill; former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker; and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, have given closed-door depositions on Capitol Hill.

Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, became the sixth witness called before the committees on Wednesday.

Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, initially blocked from testifying by the White House, is scheduled to meet before lawmakers on Thursday. They are also scheduled to hear from their first Pentagon witness, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Laura Cooper, on Friday.

Swalwell said it's clear so far in the process that House Democrats believe Trump is at the bottom of this. In a tweet on Monday, Swalwell said when a lawyer is indicted, "the client takes the fall."

"If they don't want to show up and they don't have anything that could exonerate themselves, we're just going to conclude that [as] consciousness of guilt," he reiterated.

When asked why the House is keeping the deposition process private, Swalwell said the committees want to ensure the witnesses aren't tailoring their testimony based on the others' stories.

"We're taking a first pass at the timeline and the number of people involved in this shakedown scheme." he said. "We're keeping a close hold for now. That's not to say there won't be public hearings in the future. But any investigation like this, you do keep a close hold."

He added, "The public will be read in very soon."

Swalwell announced in April that he would join the list of Democrats running for president in 2020. However, soon after the first set of Democratic debates, he dropped out of the race.

During his brief run, the lawmaker focused his campaign narrowly on gun reform and student loan debt relief.

Other than the impeachment inquiry, gun control was a hot topic at the fourth Democratic debate, hosted by CNN and the New York Times on Tuesday.

"It was a little refreshing to watch it, you know, from the couch and not on the stage," Swalwell said.

The lawmaker's priorities have not changed, as he praised former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke's remarks on gun reform, pushing for a mandatory buyback program where the government can require gun owners to turn in their assault weapons in exchange for payment.

O'Rourke's priorities, not too far from Swalwell's, would also institute red-flag laws and university background checks.

"I really enjoyed the conversation around assault weapons and a mandatory buyback," he said. "To see Beto O'Rourke lean in and say that, you know, if we really want to do something about these mass shootings, we can't leave 15 million in our community and then as the other candidates engage with him on that, that was fulfilling."

During the first presidential debate in June, Swalwell, 38, told former Vice President Joe Biden, 78, that he should "pass the torch” to the younger candidates.

When prompted by the hosts, he said it's more about mindset than age.

"It was really a mindset and just offering something other than, you know, decades of service in Washington, and that's not to take away the service of senators," he said. "I just think that elections are generally about change and we win when we offer change."

The Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program with new episodes every Wednesday. ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein interview the biggest names and examine the biggest issues in U.S. politics

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

Trump on Turkey going into Syria: 'It's not our border'

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday again tried to distance himself and the U.S. from the unfolding fighting and humanitarian crisis in northeastern Syria, telling reporters in the Oval Office, "It's not our border."

Asked a White House photo-op with Italy's president, “Are you okay -- are you okay with Erdoğan saying that he is not going to do a ceasefire?” -- referring to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's response to U.S. efforts to broker a stop to the conflict -- Trump, after a lengthy discourse about why the U.S. should not be involved in the fighting, then said, “So, if Russia wants to get involved with the -- with Syria, that's really up to them. They have a problem with Turkey, they have a problem at a border. It's not our border. We shouldn't be losing lives over it.”

The comment comes amid a torrent of criticism, including among Republicans, of Trump's decision to pull back U.S. troops ahead of a Turkish operation against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces and now to withdraw nearly all American forces from the war-torn country.

Instead, Trump has called for a ceasefire and peace settlement, dispatching Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien to Ankara to meet Turkish officials.

But Erdogan made clear again Wednesday he has no interest in "sitting at a table with a terrorist organization... We're not looking for a mediator or anything, we don't need it," he told Turkish Parliament in a speech.

Erdogan declined to meet with O'Brien, who arrived Wednesday in Ankara and met with Turkey's foreign minister. On Thursday, Erdogan will meet with Pence and Pompeo, who depart from Washington Wednesday, according to Erdogan's communications director.

Despite Erdogan's comments, Trump denied that Erdogan didn't want a ceasefire, saying while seated next to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, "We're trying to get Turkey to do the right thing. We want to get wars stopped."

Turkey launched an offensive against the Syrian Kurdish forces that the U.S. armed and fought alongside against ISIS, but that Turkey considers a terrorist organization. U.S. officials have denied that the administration has abandoned those Kurdish forces, saying the decision to move troops was "tactical" -- or what Trump called "strategically brilliant" Wednesday.

While a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. still supports Syrian Kurdish forces and does not consider them terrorists, Trump badmouthed them Wednesday, saying, "They're not angels."

"It is time for us to go home," the president said. While Russian and Syrian forces loyal to dictator Bashar al Assad moved into towns and bases once held by U.S. troops, Trump dismissed concern over it: "If Russia wants to get involved in Syria, that's really up to them."

At a later news conference, Trump again defended his decision to abruptly withdraw U.S. military forces from northeastern Syria, insisting he wasn't surprised and didn’t give Turkey “a green light” to launch a military operation, calling a reporter's suggestion he did “so deceptive.”

“When you make a statement like that, it's so deceptive. Just the opposite of a green light,” Trump said. “First of all, we had virtually no soldiers there. They were mostly gone, just a tiny little group. They would have been in harm's way. You have a massive army on the other side of the border. I didn't give them a green light. And If anybody saw the letter, and i can certainly release it, I wrote a letter right after that conversation, a very powerful letter. They've been fighting for many, many years. When you ask a question like that, it's very deceptive.”

The president was to meet with congressional leaders later Wednesday on the Syria situation -- many of them, including prominent Republicans -- angry about his handling of the situation.

“It's too late for this kind of conversation. I mean I'm happy that they're talking," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said of the Pompeo-Pence mission.

"But my goodness, the lack of preparation and thinking about how we could have transitioned to a setting where we can protect the Kurds and also hopefully meet Turkey’s needs and interests — that's something we should have considered a long time ago before we pulled our troops out,” he said Wednesday.

“But now, to go over and say let's talk to Erdogan is like, 'Hey guys, you let the horses out of the barn. This is, this is too late to be talking about locking the barn door,” he added.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio echoed Romney’s exasperation.

“Frankly, I don’t know what we can do at this point to reverse some of the long-term damage,” Rubio said.

Rubio said he fears Erdogan is planning an ethnic cleansing of the Kurds. “This is a really problematic situation that’s unfolding.”

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham also blasted Erdogan for saying sanctions don’t matter and that he will refuse any ceasefire.

“We’re going to sanction that hell out of Turkey. We're going to break their economy until they leave Syria. This is a defining moment of Trump's presidency. If we abandon the Kurds, it will be to our shame and our national security detriment and Trump will own the reemergence of ISIS,” Graham said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

4th defendant in federal case involving Rudy Giuliani clients arrested

Rawf8/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A fourth defendant in the federal campaign finance case involving two associates of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, was arrested in New York on Wednesday.

David Correia, an American businessman, was taken into custody at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. Correia is one of four men charged in an indictment, which also targeted Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, a pair of Ukrainian businessmen with extensive business ties to Giuliani.

Last week, ABC News reported the business relationship between Giuliani and the men charged in the alleged campaign finance scheme is a subject of the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by federal authorities in New York, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Andrey Kakushkin, a Ukrainian-born business associate of Correia's, was taken into custody last week in California. Parnas and Fruman were arrested last week at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia, just outside Washington, as they attempted to leave the country with "one-way tickets," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said.

With Correia's arrest, all four defendants are in custody.

The indictment, which was filed on Oct. 10 in the Southern District of New York, alleges the defendants "conspired to circumvent the federal law against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates."

Court documents describe how the four defendants allegedly funneled "$1-2 million" from a Russian donor into the U.S. political system between June 2018 and April of this year.

Correia and Kakushkin are expected to appear in a New York federal courthouse on Thursday for an initial appearance. None of the defendants have entered a plea.

Authorities said last week the investigation is ongoing.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

Chelsea Clinton debunks rumors of running for New York Rep. Nita Lowey's seat in Congress

Heidi Gutman/Walt Disney Television(NEW YORK) -- Author and global health advocate Chelsea Clinton appeared as a guest co-host on The View Wednesday following the fourth 2020 Democratic debate, saying the rumors about her potential run for Congress are not true, at least not right now.

"I'm not considering running for Congresswoman [Nita] Lowey's seat," she said. "[But] I understand why people are asking."

As The Guardian reported in August 2018, Clinton has long expressed an interest in following in her parents' famous footsteps. She told reporters in 2018 that a future in politics would be a "definitely maybe."

“If my city councilor were to retire, if my congresswoman were to retire, my senators, and I thought that I could make a positive impact, then I think I would really have to ask my answer to that question [of whether to run for office]," Clinton said at the Edinburgh film festival, according to The Guardian.

Lowey, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, announced Oct. 10 she would not seek reelection.

Clinton said she's more focused on her family than jumping into the politics.

When co-host Whoopi Goldberg asked if she would ever consider it, Clinton replied, "I don't know, but right now the answer is no."

She emphasized that people shouldn't make assumptions based on her last name.

On Oct. 1, Chelsea Clinton and her mother, Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate, appeared on the show as guests to discuss their new book, The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience.

While on the show earlier this month, Chelsea gave her analysis on the current state of politics, expressing frustration with President Donald Trump in the midst of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats. The inquiry, sparked by a phone call between the president and Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy and a whistleblower complaint, has taken many twists and turns, including a growing list of State Department employees subpoenaed by lawmakers to give depositions on the Hill.

Chelsea Clinton said the president and his politics are "a scam."

“I do believe he's the greatest scam in American political history,” she said. "I think his whole life has been a scam, and unfortunately, people are suffering every day because his scam thus far has succeed at the highest levels."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

Five key takeaways from the fourth Democratic debate

liveslow/iStock(WESTERVILLE, Ohio) -- The fourth Democratic primary debate in Westerville, Ohio, featured a number of tense exchanges and again highlighted the major policy rifts that continue to divide the field with less than four months to go until the first votes are cast.

While there was relatively little disagreement on the issue continuing to dominate Washington -- the impeachment of President Donald Trump -- the debate, hosted by CNN and The New York Times, featured pitched exchanges on health care, taxes, foreign policy and the candidates' governing philosophies.

Here are five key takeaways from Tuesday night's fourth Democratic debate:

Democrats (mostly) united on impeachment


The Democratic field presented a mostly unified front Tuesday night on the issue of impeachment, with almost every candidate voicing strong support for the House's decision to move forward with the inquiry.

"This is about Donald Trump. But understand, it's about the next president and the next president and the next president and the future of this country. The impeachment must go forward," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

"In my judgment, Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of the country," argued Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

"They have no choice but to move," former Vice President Joe Biden, who was a consistent skeptic of impeachment before coming out in support of the inquiry last week, said of House Democrats in agreement.

But while the field was united, some lamented that the discussion draws attention away from a robust discussion of the issues that matter most to voters.

"The fact is, Donald Trump -- when we are talking about him -- we are losing," said businessman Andrew Yang. He said he still supports impeachment.

"If impeachment is driven by these hyper-partisan interests, it will only further divide an already terribly divided country," said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, one of the most reluctant supporters of impeachment.

Warren faces the scrutiny of a front-runner, Biden gets support amid attacks

Trump may have been the target of the most ire from the Democratic field Tuesday night, but Warren was likely a close second.

On health care, taxes and jobs, Warren fended off a spate of attacks from more moderate candidates like South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Even former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke went after Warren, labeling her as "punitive" against certain segments of the American public.

"I'm really shocked at the notion that anyone thinks I'm punitive. Look, I don't have a beef with billionaires. My problem is, you made a fortune in America, you had a great idea, you got out there and worked for it, good for you, but you built that fortune in America, I guarantee you built it in part using workers all of us helped pay to educate," Warren said, defending her plan to institute a wealth tax.

"You are making Republican talking points right now in this room by coming out for a plan that's going to do that," Klobuchar said of Warren's support for Medicare for All, a plan the Minnesotan says will kick nearly 150 million people off their health insurance plans.

Along with her consistent rise in both national and early state polls, Warren is expected to face increased scrutiny on both her record and slate of ambitious policy goals. Tuesday night may mark the beginning of that phenomenon.

Biden, who came into the debate as a central figure in the impeachment probe, was spared any attacks from his Democratic rivals and in fact got a boost of support from Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who said any attacks only benefit Trump.

"We are literally using Donald Trump's lies and the second issue we cover on this stage is elevating a lie and attacking a statesman. That was so offensive ... the only person sitting at home that was enjoying that was Donald Trump," Booker said.

Democrats rumble on health care again

The divide between progressive and moderate Democratic candidates was on full display early at Tuesday's debate, when leading progressive candidates Warren and Sanders took on a barrage of questions from more moderate rivals over their push for a "Medicare for All" overhaul of the American health care system.

Warren, specifically, was peppered with questions from moderates and declined to answer questions over her continued reluctance to detail how she'll pay for her Medicare for All plan and whether or not taxes will be raised on the middle class -- an issue Buttiegeg raised in a heated moment early in the debate.

"Well, we heard it tonight. A yes or no question that didn't get a yes or no answer," Buttiegeg said, taking on Warren. "Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything, except this."

Warren fired back, taking a shot at the mayor's own health care plan.

"Whenever someone hears the term 'Medicare For All Who Want It,' understand what that really means. It's Medicare For All who can afford it," she said.

Sanders, the author of the Medicare for All bill Warren and other senators on the debate stage supported, also jumped in to defend his bill, arguing, "Well, as somebody who wrote the damn bill, as I said, let's be clear: Under the Medicare For All bill that I wrote, premiums are gone. Co-payments are gone. Deductibles are gone. All out-of-pocket expenses are gone. We're going to do better than the Canadians do."

And as Warren continued to dodge questions regarding how she plans to specifically pay for her health care plan, moderate candidate Klobuchar, also took a shot at the progressive stalwart.

"At least Bernie's being honest here and saying how he's gonna pay for this and that taxes are going to go up," Klobuchar said. "And I'm sorry Elizabeth, but you've not said that, and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we're gonna send the invoice."

Mayor Pete comes out swinging

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor has begun to shed his non-confrontational style in recent weeks, and Tuesday night he continued that aggressive strategy.

Buttigieg confronted Warren early over her health care plan, and later had one of the most intense showdowns of the night with O'Rourke over their gun control policies.

"I don't need lessons from you on courage -- political or personal," Buttigieg snapped in response to O'Rourke, after the former Texas congressman accused him of listening to "the polls and the consultants and the focus groups."

While he has maintained his position near the top of the pack in fundraising and secured his spot on the next debate stage in November, Buttigieg has struggled to join the ranks of Biden, Warren and Sanders at the top of most public polls.

Tuesday also afforded Buttigieg an opportunity to elevate his voice in the foreign policy arena amid Trump's controversial decision to remove U.S. troops from northern Syria.

He sparred with Gabbard, the only other veteran on the stage, who he said was "dead wrong" that the U.S. needs to withdraw from the area and accused Trump of degrading U.S. leadership on the global stage.

"This president has betrayed American values; our credibility has been tattered. I will restore U.S. credibility before it is finally too late," Buttigieg said.

Sanders rebounds after heart attack

Two weeks after suffering a heart attack and having two stents placed in a blocked coronary artery -- and with questions swirling around his campaign's future -- Sanders rebounded at Tuesday night's debate, delivering a lively and boisterous performance that his supporters have known to expect from the progressive leader.

Sanders was lively, pointed and -- at times -- even jovial, joking with candidates on the stage.

And in one big moment, the Vermont senator amid a flurry of attacks from more moderate rivals, railed in quintessential Sanders' fashion, offering a resounding and passionate defense of his plan to completely rethink the American health care system through a Medicare for All plan.

"The issue is whether the Democratic party has the guts to stand up to the health care industry which made $100 billion in profit. Whether we have the guts to stand up to the corrupt price fixing pharmaceutical industry, which is charging us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs," Sanders said, raising his voice. "And if we don't have the guts to do that, if all we can do is take their money, we should be ashamed of ourselves."

Later in the debate, Sanders -- who would be the oldest person to hold the office in history -- was asked about his health and emphatically, again, reiterated that he's ready to carry on, even teasing his upcoming New York City rally this weekend.

"We're going to have a special guest at that event, and we are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country," Sanders said, before thanking people across the country for supporting him amid the health scare. "I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I'm so happy to be back here with you this evening," he added, in a touching moment for a candidate so often reluctant to talk about his personal life.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

Pompeo’s former senior adviser to appear before impeachment committees Wednesday

State Department(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s former senior adviser is scheduled to appear Wednesday before three House committees leading the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump.

Michael McKinley, a veteran diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to Brazil, Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru, is the sixth witness called by the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees as they investigate Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s effort to pressure Ukraine to open corruption investigations for Trump’s political benefit.

It was unclear Wednesday morning if McKinley would show up. The State Department has ordered active officials not to appear before the committees, but two other former U.S officials have not been blocked from testifying: special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, who resigned after it was revealed how he facilitated Giuliani’s effort, and Fiona Hill, the senior Russia official on Trump’s National Security Council who departed days before Trump’s controversial call with Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Two current State Department officials were subpoenaed and complied, defying their order not to appear: former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, whose portfolio includes Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, will comply with a subpoena and testify Thursday after not showing up last Tuesday.

McKinley stepped down as Pompeo’s senior adviser Friday after serving as a key conduit to the Foreign Service, the U.S. diplomatic corps. In a farewell note to colleagues, McKinley said it was time to move on after 37 years, but his resignation comes amid anger and frustration over Pompeo’s role in the Ukraine controversy.

As a close adviser, McKinley traveled often with Pompeo during Pompeo's year and a half as Secretary of State, returning to Washington from Brasilia just weeks after Pompeo was sworn in. His guidance was important to Pompeo who worked to restore trust among career diplomats after his predecessor Rex Tillerson was seen as destroying their ranks with budget cuts, a costly, unpopular department redesign, and a freeze on hiring family members to work at missions overseas.

But it’s unclear how much McKinley knew about Giuliani’s efforts and how they were aided by Sondland and Volker; the department’s attempts to dispel a smear campaign against Yovanovitch by Giuliani, his associates, and corrupt Ukrainian politicians; or the hold on $392 million of security assistance to Ukraine from the State Department and Pentagon.

McKinkey is not included in internal emails given to Congress by the State Department inspector general and obtained by ABC News, where officials like Kent are seen countering a “fake news driven smear” campaign against Yovanovitch. But other senior advisers to Pompeo are included, including Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale, another well-respected ambassador and the department’s highest-ranking career Foreign Service officer, as well as State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, a West Point classmate and longtime friend of Pompeo.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct162019

Giuliani asked Trump to extradite cleric wanted by Turkish president, source says

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In early 2017, Rudy Giuliani urged President Donald Trump to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, a former senior level administration official with direct knowledge confirmed to ABC News.

Giuliani repeatedly urged Trump that the U.S. government should eject Fethullah Gulen from the country, a top priority of the Turkish president.

The former senior official told ABC News that White House officials stepped in and stopped any action from ever happening.

Aides told Giuliani he should tell the Turkish government that if they wanted this individual extradited they should directly contact the United States Department of Justice, which would evaluate the request, according to the source.

The Washington Post was first to report the story.

Gulen, a Muslim cleric, has been living in exile in Pennsylvania.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long accused Gulen of plotting a coup in 2016 against him, a charge that he denies. Bringing Gulen back to Turkey for punishment has been a top goal of Erdogan.

In a text exchange with The Post Tuesday afternoon, Giuliani declined to discuss whether he advocated for Gulen’s extradition, writing: “can’t comment on it that would be complete attorney client privilege but sounds wacky.”

When told that multiple people described those conversations to The Post, Giuliani responded “Bull,” and then liked the question with a thumbs-up emoji.

Metin Topuz, a Turkish translator for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, is currently under trial in Turkey for alleged connections to Gulen's supposed coup attempt.

Two ex-business associates of Michael Flynn, Trump's former campaign adviser, were charged by the government with acting as foreign agents in a plot centered on smearing the Turkish cleric.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys alleged in December 2018 that the two business associates, Bijan Rafiekian and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, "sought to discredit and delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of politicians and the public, and ultimately to secure the Turkish citizen’s extradition."

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December 2017 in connection with Robert Mueller's investigation into meddling in the 2016 campaign, and is scheduled for sentencing in December.

Diplomatic relations between Turkey and the U.S. are currently highly strained over the former's decision to invade Syria and pursue Kurdish forces previously allied with America in the fight against the Islamic State. Trump issued a decision to pull troops out of northern Syria after a call with Erdogan last week, opening the door for the invasion.

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