February 13, 2020

Attorney General William Barr is saying what everyone is thinking.

In an interview with ABC News on Thursday, Barr shared his frustrations with President Trump's recent tweets that seemingly led Barr to upend federal prosecutors' sentencing decision in Roger Stone's criminal case. Trump "has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case" Barr said, but added "I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases" because those tweets "make it impossible for me to do my job."

Barr also acknowledged allegations that he's under Trump's total control, saying "I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody ... whether it's Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president." Trump's "background commentary," Barr said, make it appear that's not true.

After federal prosecutors recommended up to a nine year prison sentence for Trump's longtime friend Stone, Trump tweeted his displeasure with the suggestion. The DOJ subsequently softened its recommendation for Stone's prison time, and the four prosecutors in the case stepped down from it. Trump has since attacked the lead juror and the judge in Stone's case as well. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 3, 2020

One of former National Security Adviser John Bolton's ex-aides is accusing him of caring more about book sales than his country.

Mark Groombridge worked for Bolton during his tenure as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush. On Monday, Groombridge tweeted that he has been deeply disappointed in Bolton's actions throughout President Trump's impeachment, writing, "You've let down your country. I worked loyally for you for 15 years. Yes, the Senate was never going to convict, but you had the opportunity to provide them with the info so they could make a fully informed decision. Guess it was about book sales after all."

The New York Times reported last month that in his forthcoming book, Bolton contradicts Trump's claims that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine. Bolton did not testify during the House impeachment inquiry, following White House instructions not to cooperate with investigators. Democrats wanted Bolton to testify during Trump's Senate impeachment trial, but Republicans had enough votes to block their efforts. Of course, they would not have been able to stop Bolton from telling his full story to the press. Catherine Garcia

December 12, 2019

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) sharply rebuked President Trump during the House Judiciary Committee's hearing on Thursday night, saying that because of his "selfish" actions, Ukrainians died.

"In my colleagues' efforts to defend this president, you want him to be someone he's not," Swalwell said. "You want him to be someone he is telling you he is not." Trump's decision to freeze security aid to Ukraine, given to help the country fight Russian military aggression, resulted in the deaths of innocent Ukrainians, he continued, adding, "People died, and you may not want to think about that, but they died when this selfish, selfish president withheld the aid for his own personal gain."

Swalwell then pivoted to Russia. "To my colleagues who believe we have such an anti-corruption president in the White House, I ask you this: How many times did this anti-corruption president meet with the most corrupt leader in the world, Vladimir Putin?" he said. "How many times did he talk to him? Sixteen times, between meetings and phone conversations. And how many conditions did the president put on Vladimir Putin to get such an audience with the most powerful person in the world at the highest office? Zero conditions. That's who you're defending. So keep defending him. We will defend the Constitution, our national security, and our elections." Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has time to set the record straight on this one.

Pelosi gave a press conference Thursday after announcing she advised the House Judiciary Committee to proceed with impeachment. But the most noteworthy moment came when Pelosi was halfway out the door and a reporter asked "Do you hate the president?"

"I don't hate anybody," Pelosi said as she marched back into the room and pointed out the Sinclair broadcast reporter who asked her the question. She then took the podium and made it clear that she "think[s] the president is a coward when it comes to helping our kids who are afraid of gun violence," going on to call President Trump "cruel" and "in denial." But "as a Catholic, I resent your using the word 'hate' in a sentence that addresses me," Pelosi continued, adding "I pray for the president all the time." Watch the whole exchange below. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 22, 2019

That one's gotta hurt.

On Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that he'd earned the endorsement of Oliver Davis Jr., a black community leader in Indiana. The endorsement got some heavy play for someone who's not even close to a national political figure — but all makes sense considering Davis is from Pete Buttigieg's hometown.

Davis is the vice president of the common council in South Bend, Indiana, where Buttigieg is mayor. In fact, Davis even ran for mayor earlier this year after Buttigieg declined to run, but couldn't beat the 4,447 votes that Buttigieg's chief of staff earned to clinch the Democratic nomination. Still, Davis is one of the longest-serving members of the city's common council, and focused on Biden's long tenure in his endorsement. "In times like these, when the political winds are fiercely blowing across our country, it's important for us to have an experienced leader who has been through the diverse storms of life to guide our country," he said.

It's hard not to read that as a shot at Buttigieg, who is 40 years Biden's junior and has faced major criticism over his lack of political and life experience and dismal showing among black voters. And if that weren't enough of a blow, Biden was sure to point out that Davis "joins two other African American elected officials from Indiana" in backing Biden as well. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 29, 2019

President Trump's allies want to hear a wider impeachment story.

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, is set to testify Tuesday that he found Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president worthy of reporting to a superior. That prompted smears against Vindman from Trump backers — something House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) quickly shut down.

Once it became clear that Vindman's testimony could be damaging to Trump, former GOP congressmember and current CNN contributor Sean Duffy decided to attack Vindman's Ukrainian birthplace. "I don't know that he's concerned about American policy," Duffy alleged, claiming without evidence that Vindman "has an affinity for the Ukraine."

Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House, took issue with that. "It is shameful to question their patriotism, their love of this country," Cheney said of Vindman, Politico's Jake Sherman reported.

Cheney's split is yet another instance of top Republicans fracturing from Trump in the impeachment debate. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified last week that he was told aid was being withheld until Ukraine agreed to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, commented that "the picture coming out of" Taylor's testimony was "not a good one." Kathryn Krawczyk

Editor's note: This article initially misidentified Cheney's state affiliation. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.

October 25, 2019

President Trump's pledge to reduce the federal deficit isn't exactly working out.

The federal deficit has jumped from $779 billion in fiscal year 2018 to $984 billion in 2019, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed in a Friday statement. That's a 26 percent jump, and the deficit's highest point since it was coming down from the recession in 2012.

The deficit saw a massive jump as the recession kicked in from 2008 to 2009, and that number hasn't been replicated since. Still, the deficit has purely been on upward swing under Trump, and has only increased more dramatically since the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed. The GOP tax package was expected to help push the deficit over $1 trillion by 2020, and now, that looks unavoidable.

That deficit growth completely bucks the several times Trump has promised to cut the federal deficit and national debt. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 17, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, probably, but signs aren't pointing to a warm reception for President Trump's delegation to Ankara. Erdogan has already rejected the demand for an immediate ceasefire in Syria that Pence and Pompeo are bringing from Trump, and he hinted Wednesday he may not even meet with the U.S. delegation. And then there's Trump's letter.

Trump agreed to pull U.S. forces out of northeastern Syria in an Oct. 6 phone call with Erdogan, effectively giving Turkey's president the green light to invade Syria and push out or kill America's Kurdish allies. In a contentious White House meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday, shortly after the House overwhelmingly rebuked Trump's decision, Trump had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pass around copies of what he described as a "nasty" letter he had sent Erdogan on Oct. 9, starting with him urging Erdogan, "Let's work out a good deal" that doesn't involve "slaughtering thousands" of Kurds, and ending on the odd note: "Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool! I will call you later."

Erdogan launched his invasion of Syria Oct. 9, the same day Trump sent his missive. Did he get the letter? Yes, a Turkish presidential source tells BBC Turkish. "President Erdogan received the letter, thoroughly rejected it, and put it in the bin," the government official said, or in another translation: "The letter was rejected by Erdogan and thrown into the trash." Apparently, writes BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, "Trump's mixture of threats and locker-room banter infuriated" Erdogan. Peter Weber

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