July 18, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has provided the most confusing explanation yet for President Trump's racist tweets.

Trump on Sunday sent tweets telling four Democratic congresswomen to "go back" to the countries they came from, inspiring his backers at a Wednesday rally to chant "send her back" after Trump attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). This sparked dozens of allegations that Trump is racist, which, as Graham oddly claimed in a Thursday tweet, apparently happens to every Republican president.

Graham's statement not only doesn't defend past GOP nominees and presidents against labels of racism; it's downright coated in irony. As Omar quickly reminded the senator, he was the one calling Trump a "bigot" just a few years ago. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:36 p.m.

Two federal workers have been indicted in connection with Jeffrey Epstein's death, with several other workers implicated in their testimony.

A Tuesday indictment from the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan has charged Tova Noel and Michael Thomas each with five counts of false entries in official records and one count of conspiracy. The charges detail how they allegedly neglected to check in on Epstein the August night he hanged himself in New York City's Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Epstein, a wealthy financier, was in prison after decades of allegations of sexual abuse involving minors. Guards were supposed to check on his unit twice an hour throughout the night, but video footage apparently shows no one entered Epstein's wing of the building from 10:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. when his body was found. Noel and Thomas allegedly spent that time surfing for furniture sales and sports news, their indictments say.

Both Noel and Thomas have allegedly admitted to skipping their rounds, implicating other guards who say they conducted those rounds with them. If convicted, Noel and Thomas could spend up to 30 years in prison.

Epstein's death has been the source of numerous conspiracy theories, with even Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) suggesting Epstein didn't actually hang himself on Tuesday. Epstein's brother has also fanned the flames surrounding his death in recent weeks, though an autopsy has said Epstein died by hanging. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:06 p.m.

President Trump's military naivity is showing.

When Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and aide to Vice President Mike Pence Jennifer Williams testified for the impeachment inquiry Tuesday, Vindman, an active member of the Army, showed up in his dress uniform. That's explicitly required under Army regulations, but it didn't stop Trump from questioning his outfit choice anyway.

Vindman heads European affairs for the National Security Council and is also a decorated veteran who earned a Purple Heart while fighting in Iraq. So as an active member of the U.S. Army, he's beholden to the regulation that dictates he wear a "service or dress uniform" when asked to ear "business attire." Testifying for Congress would certainly fall under that dress code. But Trump seemed skeptical of that fact on Tuesday when he said "now [Vindman] wears his uniform when he goes in," suggesting that isn't something Vindman has done since he was first commissioned two decades ago.

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) also brought up the fact that Trump and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky both lack military backgrounds, and suggested Vindman shouldn't have interpreted Trump's request for a Biden investigation as a "demand." But Trump's military inexperience doesn't negate the fact that he's the commander in chief of the armed forces regardless of what bone spurs got him out of military service in the first place. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:01 p.m.

Last week, President Trump stirred up controversy when he criticized former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch over Twitter while she was testifying in the impeachment inquiry. Trump's opponents argued it could be construed as witness intimidation, but the White House apparently didn't think so.

During Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman's impeachment testimony Tuesday, the White House followed Trump's playbook and tweeted a graphic highlighting a quote that questioned Vindman's credibility as a witness.

Vindman's old boss, former National Security Council official Tim Morrison (who will testify publicly Tuesday afternoon), reportedly once said he was concerned about Vindman's judgment, which was brought up during Tuesday's public hearing by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Vindman addressed Morrison's comments and said that while he couldn't be sure exactly what caused Morrison to feel that way, he believes it likely had to do with the fact that the two hadn't worked together long at that point and were still developing their working relationship.

As CNN's Jake Tapper points out, the White House technically went after its own employee in this instance. Tim O'Donnell

1:15 p.m.

White House adviser Stephen Miller was in deep with Breitbart.

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center published emails sent from Miller to the right-wing publication during the 2016 race showing how he directed white nationalist viewpoints on the site, and how those views "became policy" in the Trump White House. A second batch of emails now shows there's more to Miller's back-door Breitbart publication, including how he fed the site attacks on then-presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

The new round of emails obtained via former Breitbart editor Katie McHugh shows even more news stories, opinion pieces, and other comments Miller suggested the site could turn into new articles. For example, as a communications director for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, he sent over at least 10 attacks on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that fueled Breitbart's attempts to "harm his candidacy," McHugh said. And when Fox News and other conservative outlets said anything positive about Rubio, he suggested Brietbart take them down as well. In some cases, he explicitly said his suggested articles should be published under the nondescript byline "Breitbart News."

McHugh was sent many of these emails, but Breitbart editor turned White House adviser Stephen Bannon and other editors were copied on the emails too. McHugh was a young editor at the site at the time, and said "no one at Breitbart ever raised a question about whether this was ethical." The White House and Bannon did not respond to a request for comment, while Breitbart said Miller's "pitches" were "not exactly a newsflash." Kathryn Krawczyk

1:07 p.m.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) didn't have patience for any attacks on Tuesday's impeachment witnesses Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a top foreign policy aide to Vice President Mike Pence.

Himes asked both witnesses about President Trump describing them as "Never Trumpers." Williams, whom Trump called out over Twitter for trying to orchestrate a "presidential attack," said she would not describe herself as a "Never Trumper," while Vindman said he thinks of himself as "Never Partisan."

The congressman also offered a harsh rebuttal for Republicans throwing the Ukrainian-born Vindman's loyalty to the United States into question because he was — perhaps jokingly — offered the position of Ukraine's defense minister by a Ukrainian government official. "It's what you stoop to when the indefensibility of your case requires that you attack a man who is wearing a Springfield rifle on a field of blue above a Purple Heart," Himes said. Tim O'Donnell

12:05 p.m.

As recently as a few weeks ago, Republican lawmakers dismissed accusations that impeachment witness and decorated Army officer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was born in Ukraine but immigrated to the United States when he was a toddler, was harboring dual loyalties to his birth country. But that didn't stop GOP counsel Steve Castor from hinting at the notion while questioning Vindman during his public impeachment testimony Tuesday.

Castor spent a few minutes grilling Vindman about Ukraine's former National Security Secretary Oleksandr Danyliuk offering him the job of Ukraine's defense minister three times when Vindman traveled to Ukraine for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration this year. Vindman, who described the offers as "comical" since he doesn't hold a particularly high rank even in the U.S., calmly responded that he turned it down, reported it to his superiors in the U.S., and then never gave it a second thought.

Vindman may have kept his composure, but several observers were angered by the questioning, viewing it as a subtle — or maybe not-so-subtle — way for Castor to instill doubts about Vindman's loyalty, especially considering he asked Vindman if Danyliuk made the offer in English or Ukrainian. For the record, Vindman says it was the former. Tim O'Donnell

11:17 a.m.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and aide to Vice President Mike Pence Jennifer Williams testified for the impeachment inquiry Tuesday under a strict warning from House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to not reveal details about the Ukraine whistleblower. But Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) still pushed Vindman to do so — and didn't get anywhere with it.

The whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry wasn't actually on the call between President Trump and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, but both Vindman and Williams were. So it already seemed sketchy when Nunes asked if Vindman gave a briefing on this call to anyone. Vindman answered that he had, and said they were "outside the White House with an appropriate need to know." After further prodding, Vindman revealed one of those people was state official George Kent and that the other was "in the intelligence community."

That's when things got testy. After Nunes asked for that person's specific identity, Schiff interjected, saying "we need to protect the whistleblower" while Republicans clearly objected in the background. Yet Nunes continued, asking how Vindman could be outing the whistleblower if he didn't know who it was. Vindman then deferred to his counsel and refused to go further in describing the other individual.

Watch the whole moment below. Kathryn Krawczyk

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