John Bolton tweets: ‘For the backstory, stay tuned’

President Trump said he would like an impeachment trial and continued to disparage former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during an appearance on Fox News this morning.

“I want a trial,” he said in a telephone interview, railing against the inquiry.

He said he wants Hunter Biden and Adam Schiff to testify, claiming he knows “exactly” who the whistleblower is.

Trump also went after Yovanovitch, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine who testified publicly last week.

“The ambassador, the woman, she wouldn’t even put up, she’s an Obama person,” Trump said of Yovanovitch.  He said he asked his team “why are you being so kind” to Yovanovitch and was told “she’s a woman – we have to be nice.”

“I heard bad things,” Trump said, inaccurately saying that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky brought her up during the call. Trump brought her up. 

Trump claimed that Yovanovitch “wouldn’t hang my picture in the embassy” and “wouldn’t defend” him.

“This was not an angel, this woman, okay? And there were a lot of things that she did that I didn’t like,” he said.

Trump said he doesn’t know a number of the witnesses who have testified in the impeachment inquiry, such as Kurt Volker. As for US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, Trump said he “hardly” knows him.

Trump questioned why Sondland was working so closely with Ukraine – which was something Sondland addressed during his testimony.

“I’ve had a couple of conversations, I’ve seen him hanging around, you know, when I go to Europe, but he was really a European Union Ambassador, and all of a sudden, he is working on this, you know, ask about that,” he said. 

Former White House official rejects ‘fictional narrative’ Trump and Giuliani used in Ukraine pressure campaign

Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, and David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, are testifying together publicly today before the House Intelligence Committee in the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry into Trump.

The hearing is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. ET.

Here’s what we know about Hill and Holmes:

About Hill: A former national security official, Hill served in the Trump administration from April 2017 until July of this year. During her time with the National Security Council, she oversaw rocky Washington-Moscow ties, and her views sometimes seemed at odds with Trump’s desire to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin whom he has praised on multiple occasions.

In her previous deposition, Hill said US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told Ukrainian officials in meetings on July 10 they would have to open an investigation to secure a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

About Holmes: Holmes is a career foreign service officer who arrived in Ukraine in 2017, according to a source who knows him and describes him as a “sharp guy.” He joined the foreign service in 2002, according to the American Foreign Service Association, and has previously served in Kabul, New Delhi, Kosovo, Bogota, Moscow and Kosovo.

He told lawmakers during a closed-door deposition that he overheard a conversation between President Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland the day after Trump spoke with the Ukrainian president by phone in July, CNN previously reported. Holmes heard Trump ask Sondland on the call if the Ukrainians were going to “do the investigation,” and Sondland responded, “He’s gonna do it.”

Ambassador says he pushed Ukraine to investigate Bidens at Trump’s ‘express direction’

Drew Angerer/Getty Images Drew Angerer/Getty Images

EU ambassador Gordon Sondland is making clear that some of President Trump’s senior-most aides were aware of a link between US aid to Ukraine and the country opening investigations that would benefit Trump politically.

“Everyone was in the loop,” he said in his opening statement. “It was no secret.”

Here is what he says these officials knew, and that they’ve said before today about their involvement:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  Sondland says his efforts to pressure Ukraine into opening the investigations came at the “express direction of the President of the United States.” 

“We followed the President’s orders,” Sondland said.

What Trump has said: Trump has been adamant in his self-defense, insisting over and over there was “no quid pro quo” in Ukraine.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Sondland says he told Pence in early September that he was concerned US aid to Ukraine was being tied to investigations into Trump’s political rivals. 

What Pence has said: Under repeated questioning, Pence has refused to say whether he knew there was a link between US aid and investigations. He’s denied ever linking the issues in his own conversations with Zelensky, and told CBS last month, “I can only tell you what I know, and what I know is that the transcript of the President’s call with President Zelensky shows that there was no quid pro quo.”

SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO: Sondland says Pompeo was kept apprised on his efforts in Ukraine, and cites emails to the top diplomat showing he raised the issue of linking aid to Ukraine with investigations.

Sondland also says “based on my communications with Secretary Pompeo,” he felt comfortable raising concerns about the linkage to a top aide to Zelensky.

What Pompeo has said: Asked on ABC about claims the White House conditioned US aid on investigations, Pompeo said in October, “I never saw that in the decision-making process that I was a part of.”

“The conversation was always around, what were the strategic implications? Would that money get to the right place?” he said.

ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MICK MULVANEY: Sondland says an email to Mulvaney on July 19 to set up a phone call between Trump and Zelensky made the alleged exchange clear. Mulvaney responded that he was asking the NSC to arrange the call for the next day.

What Mulvaney has said: In a now-infamous news conference, Mulvaney confirmed there was a quid pro quo but downplayed its significance. He later denied he said that. He’s refused to be interviewed by Congressional investigators.

ENERGY SECRETARY RICK PERRY: Sondland says Perry was directly involved in carrying out the wishes of President Trump by working with Giuliani secure the investigations.

What Perry has said: Perry has denied any quid pro quo, including in an interview with Fox: “There was no quid pro quo in the sense of what those folks out there would like for it to be…I never heard that said anywhere, anytime in any conversation.” He’s also refused to cooperate with the investigation.

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER JOHN BOLTON: Like other witnesses, Sondland recalls a meeting in Bolton’s office on July 10 where he linked the investigations and a White House meeting for President Zelensky. Sondland also says Bolton’s office requested Giuliani’s contact info before a visit to Kiev.

What Bolton has said: Bolton has remained silent as the impeachment proceeding advances. He has defied a Congressional subpoena, and wants a judge to decide whether he should cooperate with investigators or follow the White House guidance not to comply.

National Security Council aide Vindman tells lawmakers he reported concerns about Trump’s call out of a ‘sense of duty’

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes claimed in his opening statement today that diplomats who testified in the impeachment inquiry last week were “unable to identify any crime or impeachable offense the President committed.”

Facts First: Two diplomats who testified last week, Bill Taylor and George Kent, declined to venture an opinion when asked whether Trump committed impeachable offenses. Taylor made clear that they were testifying to say what they knew, not to take a position for or against impeachment.

Rep. John Ratcliffe asked them: “So, in this impeachment hearing today, where we impeach presidents for treason or bribery or other high crimes, where is the impeachable offense in that call? Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call? Shout it out. Anyone?”

Both Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, stayed silent for about three seconds after the “anyone?” But then Taylor said, “Mr. Ratcliffe, if I could just respond. Let me just reiterate that I’m not…”

Ratcliffe then interrupted, saying he only had a minute left for his questioning. When the committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, reminded Ratcliffe that he had asked a question the witness was trying to answer, Ratcliffe said, “I’ll withdraw the question.”

Taylor answered anyway, returning to what he had said in his opening statement that he was appearing at the hearing to provide facts, not to advocate or oppose impeachment. “I’m not here to take one side or the other. That’s your decision,” he said. He continued moments later that Kent was also not present to “decide about impeachment.”

Watch the moment:

Trump says he’ll consider testifying

Al Drago/Reuters Al Drago/Reuters

A Republican member of one of the House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump said that information provided about Trump during a closed-door deposition of a former National Security Council official “is alarming” and “not okay.”

“Well, of course, all of that is alarming. As I’ve said from the beginning, I think this is not okay. The President of the United States shouldn’t even in the original phone call be on the phone with the president of another country and raise his political opponent,” Rep. Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

“So, no, this is not okay,” he added.

In his CNN interview, Turner also addressed tweets Trump posted last week during former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s public testimony before the panel. Responding in real-time to the President’s tweets, which claimed that “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” the former official said they were “very intimidating.”

“It’s certainly not impeachable, and it’s certainly not criminal and it’s certainly not witness intimidation. It certainly wasn’t trying to prevent her or wouldn’t have prevented her from testifying, she was actually in the process of testifying. But nonetheless, I find the President’s tweets unfortunate,” the congressman said.

“I think along with most people, I find the President’s tweets, generally, unfortunate,” Turner said.

His campaign’s decision to move toward the center is being embraced by likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the clear leader with 25% in the latest CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers. He’s up from a mere 9% in our September poll, 15% in June and 1% in March.

Buttigieg is running 9 points ahead of his nearest competitor, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. She’s at 16%, down from 22% in September.

Joining Warren in the second tier are former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 15% each.

Biden has trended downward in each CNN poll taken since December 2018. He was at 20% in September, 23% in June, 27% in March and 32% last December.

Sanders, on the other hand, is up from 11% in September. He was at 16% in June and 25% in March.

The only other candidate to see appreciable upwards movement in our poll is Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She clocks in at 6%, up from her previous high of 3%.

All candidates besides these five registered support from 3% or less of caucusgoers in this poll.

This includes California Sen. Kamala Harris. She hit just 3%, which is her lowest in any CNN poll of Iowa since last December.

And for those wondering, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets 2% in the horserace. His favorable rating of 18% is well below his unfavorable rating of 59%. That makes for a net favorability of -39 points — the worst of all Democrats polled.

(All June breakdowns in these posts are among in-person caucusgoers. In that survey, caucusgoers were asked if they would caucus in-person or virtually. Rules implemented now make it so that all caucusgoers will be in-person.)

Live Updates: Mark Sandy has arrived for his deposition

Among the many guests who had their pictures taken with President Donald Trump at the White House’s annual Hanukkah party last year were two Soviet-born businessmen from Florida, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

In the picture, which Parnas posted on social media, he and Fruman are seen smiling alongside Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer.

Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas (second and third from left) pictured with Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas (second and third from left) pictured with Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

At one point during the party that night, Parnas and Fruman slipped out of a large reception room packed with hundreds of Trump donors to have a private meeting with the President and Giuliani, according to two acquaintances in whom Parnas confided right after the meeting.

Word of the encounter in the White House last December, which has not been previously reported, is further indication that Trump knew Parnas and Fruman, despite Trump publicly stating that he did not on the day after the two men were arrested at Dulles International Airport last month.

Eventually, according to what Parnas told his confidants, the topic turned to Ukraine that night. According to those two confidants, Parnas said that “the big guy,” as he sometimes referred to the President in conversation, talked about tasking him and Fruman with what Parnas described as “a secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

In the days immediately following the meeting, Parnas insinuated to the two people he confided in that he clearly believed he’d been given a special assignment by the President; like some sort of “James Bond mission,” according to one of the people.

To Parnas, the chain of command was clear: Giuliani would issue the President’s directives while Parnas, who speaks fluent Russian, would be an on-the-ground investigator alongside Fruman, who has numerous business contacts in Ukraine.

“Parnas viewed the assignment as a great crusade,” says one of the people in whom Parnas confided. “He believed he was doing the right thing for Trump.”

The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment to a series of questions regarding the meeting and Trump’s relationship with Parnas and Fruman.

Giuliani, through his lawyer, Robert Costello, denies that any private meeting took place that night at the White House, saying it was a mere handshake and photo opportunity. Costello also rejects Parnas’ claims of being put on a “James Bond” style mission, saying that Parnas is “no Sean Connery,” and that he suffers from “delusions of grandeur.”

Joseph A. Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, told CNN, “Mr. Parnas at all times believed that he was acting only on behalf of the President, as directed by his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and never on behalf of any Ukrainian officials.”

A lawyer for Fruman declined to comment for this article.

Read the full story here.

Ambassador who Trump fired testifies accusations against her by Rudy Giuliani were all false, including the notion that she had badmouthed Trump

Alex Brandon/AP Alex Brandon/AP

House Democrats are trying to use Trump’s tweets against him. They displayed one of his tweets on a screen in the hearing room, a tweet where he posted about an article in The Hill that included allegations against Yovanovitch. The series of articles have been widely discredited in recent months. 

Democratic staff lawyer Dan Goldman used that tweet, and another about the same topic from Donald Trump Jr., to show how Yovanovitch’s reputation was attacked before she was ultiamtely removed from Ukraine. Witnesses have said that the false allegations in The Hill, which were also pushed by Rudy GIulinai, were apparently the driving force behind Trump’s decision to end her ambassadorship.

“People thought it was ridiculous,” Yovanoavitch said of the allegations against her.

Rare half dollar coin could sell for $500K

This coin was worth half a dollar when it was made in 1838. Now, it’s worth an estimated half a million.

The 1838-O Capped Bust Half Dollar will be auctioned this week in Baltimore by auction house Stack’s Bowers Galleries, which describes it as “a truly legendary coin … that will forever be revered, studied and dreamed about.”
It isn’t just old, it’s extremely rare. Only 20 were ever created, and the Smithsonian Institution believes only 11 still exist. Stack’s Bowers says it could be as few as nine.

The specific coin being auctioned is called the Cox Specimen, which last changed hands in the 1980s, according to the auction house. It features a woman wearing a band that reads “Liberty” on one face, and the national symbol of the bald eagle on the other.

It was created at the New Orleans Mint, which opened in 1838 with the purpose of creating gold and silver coins. The coins created there are stamped with the letter “O,” representative of the city’s name, to distinguish it from coins made at other mints.

At the time, lots of silver coins were being imported into the United States from other countries like Mexico — but silver coins from Latin America had an “uneven quality,” said the auction house.

Converting them into silver half dollars would then turn these uneven coins into ones that were “fit for banking and commerce.”

According to the Smithsonian, US coin expert Walter Breen said the coins could have been made to test the capabilities of a new large press — or perhaps were designed to be presentation pieces.

However, the mint ended up producing very few of these half dollars. The spread of yellow fever that year closed the mint for months, and technical issues halted progress — making the existing few 1838-O half dollar coins highly coveted by modern collectors.

One of the most enthusiastic collectors was a man named “Colonel” E.H.R. Green, who once owned six of the half dollar coins, including the Cox Specimen, according to the statement. The Cox Specimen was bought and sold by several other dealers before finding its way to the auction house.

The other eight coins are either owned by dealers or are on display — one of the coins is currently part of the National Numismatic Collection in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Even if the coin sells for half a million dollars, it won’t be the most expensive coin of its type.

Another 1838-O half dollar coin sold for $763,750 in 2014. Most recently, one fetched $444,000 at a Florida auction last January.

The difference in selling price depends on market forces as well as the grade and “eye appeal” of the individual coin, Vicken Yegparian, Vice President of Numismatics at the auction house, told CNN in an e-mail. For instance, the Cox Specimen has highly reflective surfaces with sharp and distinct features.

Stack’s Bowers Galleries has made headlines for astronomical sales before — a famous silver coin dated 1794 sold for over $10 million in 2013, setting the world record for highest auction price for a rare coin.

Two key witnesses will answer questions from lawmakers as the public gets its first glimpse of testimony

 

Drew Angerer/Getty Images Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, stuck to the script in his opening statement, using direct quotes from key Trump officials who are involved in the Ukraine controversy. 

For example, he quoted key excerpts from President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This is a very different approach than what he did at the last public hearing about the Ukraine scandal, in late September, when he presented a dramatized version Trump’s infamous call with Zelensky. He exaggerated Trump’s actions, which gave Trump an opening to attack him. Trump has said that Schiff’s actions were treasonous or even impeachable, even though there is no procedure for members of Congress to be impeached. 

It shows that Schiff may have learned a valuable lesson – that there is no room for error as these impeachment hearings enter their new public phase.