How a Fixation on an Ally Led to a Crisis for the White House
•President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House, in Washington, on, July 26, 2019. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)WASHINGTON — It was not a country that would naturally have seemed high on the priority list of a president who came to office relishing a trade clash with China, promising to reorder the Middle East and haranguing European allies to spend more on NATO.But for President Donald Trump, Ukraine has been an obsession since the 2016 campaign.Long before the July 25 call with the new Ukrainian president that helped spur the formal start of impeachment proceedings against him in the House, Trump fretted and fulminated about the former Soviet state, angry over what he sees as Ukraine’s role in the origins of the investigations into Russian influence on his 2016 campaign.His fixation was only intensified by his hope that he could employ the Ukrainian government to undermine his most prominent potential Democratic rival in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden.His personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has undertaken a nearly yearlong, free-ranging effort to unearth information helpful to Trump and harmful to Biden.And Trump has put the powers of his office behind his agenda: He has dispatched Vice President Mike Pence and top administration officials with thinly veiled messages about heeding his demands about confronting corruption, which Ukrainian and former American officials say is understood as code for the Bidens and Ukrainians who released damaging information about the Trump campaign in 2016. This summer he froze a package of military assistance to Ukraine even as the country, eager to build closer relations with Washington, continued to be menaced by its aggressive neighbor Russia.When Ukraine elected its new leader, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, on April 21, Trump seized on the moment as an opportunity to press his case. Within hours of Zelenskiy’s victory, Trump placed a congratulatory call as he was en route from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to Washington.He urged Zelenskiy to coordinate with Giuliani and to pursue investigations of “corruption,” according to people familiar with the call, the details of which have not previously been reported. On Wednesday night, a spokesman for Trump declined to respond to questions about the call and whether Trump mentioned Giuliani. Officials at the National Security Council declined to comment.In a phone interview Wednesday night, Giuliani dismissed the idea that Trump was “obsessed with Ukraine.”“He mentions it rarely in comparison to other things,” he added. Giuliani said he was unaware that his name had been part of the April call.Four days after that call, Trump said on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program that he “would imagine” that Attorney General William Barr would like to review information about Ukraine’s actions in the 2016 election.On Wednesday, the Justice Department said that the official named to review the origins of the counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign, John H. Durham, is looking into the role of Ukraine, among other countries. “While the attorney general has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating,” the Justice Department said in a statement.When the U.S. delegation dispatched to Zelenskiy’s inauguration — including Energy Secretary Rick Perry — reported back favorably in May about the new leader, Trump was dismissive. “They’re terrible people,” he said of Ukrainian politicians, according to people familiar with the meeting. “They’re all corrupt, and they tried to take me down.”Trump’s suspicions played out in public Wednesday, both in the reconstructed transcript of the July 25 call and in a meeting at the United Nations with Zelenskiy. Asked at his appearance with Zelenskiy if he believed that Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails are on a server spirited into Ukraine — an element of an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory circulating on the far right — Trump replied, “Yeah, I think they could very well — boy, that was a nice question.”Trump’s focus on Ukraine started after a law enforcement organization, the National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine, released damaging information about cash payments earmarked to his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, by the Russia-aligned political party of Ukraine’s ousted former president.Even after Manafort stepped down from the Trump campaign under pressure, he insisted to Trump’s aides that Clinton’s campaign was behind the surfacing of the documents revealing the payments and questioned the authenticity of the documents.Manafort remained in contact with Trump’s aides through the election. And during the presidential transition, Manafort told people that he was discussing possible investigations with the president-elect’s team into whether Ukrainians tried to undermine the Trump campaign through the release of damaging information about Manafort.Trump was briefed on the subject and would consider pursuing investigations “if the Democrats keep pushing” investigations into Russian meddling on Trump’s behalf, Manafort told people in the days before the inauguration.Manafort told the people that the Ukrainians who released the damaging information about him were working with the Clinton campaign to mount a “politically motivated attack on me.”The issue continued to fester with Trump. He tweeted six months after his inauguration about “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign” and to “boost Clinton,” and asked, “where is the investigation?”After special counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation of Russian interference in the campaign and possible obstruction of justice by the president, Giuliani stepped in to grant Trump’s wish for an investigation with a different focus, albeit one lacking government authority and operating outside normal foreign policy channels.With Trump’s blessing, Giuliani has worked for months with current and former Ukrainian prosecutors to seek information and push for investigations into matters that he admitted would be of political benefit to Trump.One involves the overlap between Biden’s diplomacy in Ukraine as vice president and his son Hunter’s position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company owned by an oligarch who had been accused of corruption.A second involves the claim that Ukrainian officials sought to damage Manafort and Trump’s campaign in 2016. Mixed in with the issues related to Manafort is the unsubstantiated theory that the hack of Democratic National Committee emails in 2016 could have been carried out by Ukrainians who in turn pinned the blame on Russia — something that Trump brought up in general terms with Zelenskiy on the July 25 call.Throughout Giuliani’s efforts he would brief Trump, keeping the president abreast of his work. But Giuliani also decided he would talk publicly about what he found.“I decided because I couldn’t get law enforcement agencies interested in doing their job, I would just put it out publicly and I would see if anyone was interested in it,” Giuliani said in an interview Wednesday.Giuliani’s work set the stage for the April call, Trump’s first contact with Zelenskiy, a former comedian and political neophyte. Zelenskiy is seen by the West as a reformer elected with a mandate to take a hard line against both Russian aggression and the political corruption that has long plagued his country.The White House released a summary — but not a full transcript — of the April call, noting that Trump pledged to work with the new administration “to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity and root out corruption.”Giuliani planned to travel to Kyiv in May to try to meet with Zelenskiy to urge him to pursue the corruption investigations of interest to Trump, telling The Times, which revealed his efforts and the planned trip, that he had the full support of Trump.Ukrainian officials blocked his efforts to arrange a meeting with Zelenskiy, and Giuliani canceled the trip at the last minute amid a backlash.Instead, Giuliani said he conveyed his information to an aide to Zelenskiy in a late July phone call, followed by an Aug. 1 meeting in Madrid, which was revealed by The Times. The meeting was arranged with the knowledge and cooperation of the State Department, and Giuliani said he briefed the department afterward.As Giuliani was pressing for discussions with Ukrainian officials, the American ambassador to Ukraine was recalled in May, two months before her term was to expire, amid growing attacks from conservatives in the United States who saw her as insufficiently supportive of Trump — an early public sign of U.S. foreign policy being intertwined with Trump’s political priorities.And even though the Defense Department certified in a letter to Congress in May that Ukraine was making sufficient progress in fighting corruption to justify the release of $125 million in military assistance, Trump subsequently froze that aid and more — not releasing it until this month, under pressure from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.During the early weeks of the summer, Trump repeatedly expressed concern to aides about whether he should view Zelenskiy as friendly to his priorities.The July 25 call demonstrates the degree to which Trump and Giuliani were tracking Ukrainian politics.In the weeks leading up to the call, Zelenskiy had taken steps toward removing Yuriy Lutsenko, the country’s top prosecutor, with whom Giuliani had been working to gather information about, and push investigations into, the Bidens and the Manafort documents.Two days before the call, Zelenskiy had floated the name of a successor to Lutsenko. Giuliani saw the move to replace Lutsenko as a threat to the investigations for which he was pushing, and the account of the July 25 call released by the White House suggests that Trump concurred.“I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good, and he was shut down, and that’s really unfair,” Trump told Zelenskiy, in what people familiar with the conversation said was a reference to Lutsenko.“A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down,” Trump said, later adding that Lutsenko “was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor.”In fact, Lutsenko was widely criticized in Ukraine as corrupt. And his office’s efforts to restart an investigation into the oligarch who owned the company that paid Hunter Biden were seen among some Ukrainian officials as an effort to curry favor with Trump. This article originally appeared in The New York Times.© 2019 The New York Times Company
Read the full whistleblower complaint against Trump
2020 Vision Thursday: Elizabeth Warren joins Biden at the head of the pack Andrew Romano West Coast Correspondent•Pelosi says allegations in whistleblower complaint show WH ‘cover-up’Scroll back up to restore default view.Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race with one smart, fast takeaway every weekday and a deeper roundup every weekend. Reminder: There are 130 days until the Iowa caucuses and 404 days until the 2020 election.While the political world was transfixed, understandably, by the building drama of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, significant news was also being made on the campaign trail.It looks like the Democratic primary contest has a new frontrunner. Or a co-frontrunner, to be exact.In terms of polling, the story of the summer was how Elizabeth Warren started out in late April around 7 percent, still reeling from her stumble in handling questions about her claims to Native American ancestry, then slowly but surely gained support until she broke away from the pack and joined Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in the top tier. Look back at a graph of the national numbers over that period; Warren is the only major candidate whose line goes up, overall, rather than down.But the last 72 hours have seen Warren breaking away from Sanders too — and even surpassing Biden where it matters most.Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden. (Photos: Neibergall/AP, Bastiaan Slabbers/Reuters)Start with the big picture. Three national polls have come out since Tuesday: Quinnipiac, Emerson and the Economist. Two of them show Warren leading Biden for the first time, with 27 percent support to Biden’s 26 percent (the Economist) or 25 percent (Quinnipiac); in both polls, Sanders trails at 16. Meanwhile, the third poll (Emerson) shows Biden leading Warren by a mere 2 points — a huge shift from Emerson’s late August poll, which had Biden ahead of Warren by 16 points.On average, Biden still leads nationally by more than 7 percentage points. But that is his smallest advantage to date, and it could shrink further if additional surveys confirm Warren’s momentum. As for Sanders, Warren’s average lead over the Vermont senator — 4.1 percentage points — is the largest it’s ever been.Warren speaks at Washington Square Park in New York City on Sept. 16, 2019. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Two girls, 10 and 11, face criminal charges of harassment and assault of a 10-year-old girl on a school bus in a small upstate New York town, in an episode that the local police are treating as a racial hate crime.
The two girls charged in the alleged attack, which occurred on Sept. 10, are white, and the girl who was assaulted is black, the police in the village of Gouverneur, in St. Lawrence County, said.
It is now up to county probation officials to decide whether the accused girls should be prosecuted in family court, a probation department supervisor said. The girls were charged as juveniles.
“The loss of civility in this world is being played out in the realm of 10- and 11-year-olds,” Lauren French, the local school superintendent, said in an interview on Wednesday. “There is no shade of gray in this. This event was wrong on all levels.”
The girl who was assaulted had her right eye blackened from being punched, lost hair when it was pulled and bruised her knee after falling backward onto a school bus seat during the attack, the police said.
A bus aide who was riding with the children at the time and did not intervene was charged with three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, the police said.
“That this was allegedly perpetrated by her own classmates, on a school bus with an adult monitor present, makes this incident even more shocking and troubling,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.
Cuomo, who noted in his statement that the episode had lasted 20 minutes, said that he was directing the state Division of Human Rights to open an investigation. He also said he had asked the Hate Crimes Task Force to assist the local authorities.
The arrests coincide with a national push to treat acts of bullying among juveniles as crimes, sometimes at the request of victims’ parents. It also coincides with a rise in hate-crime incidents in schools across the United States; 753 such cases were reported in 2017, according to FBI data.
“A lot of people are saying that by calling it bullying, we are not taking it as seriously as we could, and not treating it as damaging and harmful as it really is,” said Amanda Nickerson, director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo. “Some are arguing we have to elevate this to other levels.”
Some municipalities have enacted local laws that can lead to parents being fined for their children’s actions. In North Tonawanda, New York, near Buffalo, parents may be fined $250 and jailed up to 15 days if their children engage in bullying behavior. Gouverneur does not have such a law.
French, the schools superintendent, said that she agreed with the police’s decision to treat the episode as a crime, as did Mayor Ronald P. McDougall of Gouverneur.
But some anti-bullying advocates said they believe the drive to turn young children into criminals over such behavior has gone too far.
“Parents are out for blood,” said Ross Ellis, the founder and chief executive of Stomp Out Bullying.org, a national organization. “I had a mother call me who wanted a 3-year-old on the playground arrested. I get that you don’t want your child beaten up, but it’s got to stop on both ends.”
Ellis said that the girls accused of bullying should receive counseling and that school officials and the girls’ parents should meet to explore the roots of the behavior. “It’s a terrible thing that happened, but make it a teachable moment,” she said.
Gouverneur, which has 4,000 residents and is about 30 miles from the Canadian border, is 95% white and 1% black, according to 2010 census data.
The police said that their inquiry began on Sept. 10, when the alleged victim’s mother filed a complaint saying that her daughter had been subjected to “racially motivated language” and beaten up on the bus.
The police arrested the two girls on Monday after a two-week investigation, charging them with second-degree harassment. The 11-year-old was also charged with third-degree assault as a hate crime, the police said.
The bus aide, Tiffany N. Spicer of Edwards, New York, who is also white, was employed by the First Student bus company. She was released on appearance tickets and ordered to appear in court at a later date, the police said. She could not be reached for comment.
Jay Brock, a First Student spokesman, said in a statement that Spicer, 28, had been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the police investigation. “We, too, take this incident very seriously,” Brock said.
Last week, a Florida case involving the arrest of even younger children after an episode of school violence gained wide attention. On Monday, a reserve officer with the Orlando Police Department was fired after he arrested two 6-year-olds in separate incidents at a charter school without the proper approval. One of the children had kicked a staff member, and was handcuffed and charged with battery. The charges were later dropped.
It is not uncommon for young people to be charged with hate crimes. In 2017, 17% of those arrested and charged with committing hate crimes in the United States were under 18, according to the latest available FBI data.
And while hate crimes at schools have increased, reported incidents of bullying at schools, have declined in recent years. The National Center for Education Statistics found that 20% of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school in 2017, down from 29% in 2005.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2019 The New York Times Company
While dozens of world leaders made their voices heard at the UN Climate Action summit in New York City Monday, it was a 16-year-old’s rallying cry that had people — including the US president — talking.
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is known internationally for continuously and courageously working to combat climate change. She was the face of the Global Climate Strikes, inspiring millions of people — more specifically, young people — to rally in more than 150 countries, as CBS News reports. And, she says her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis is her “superpower.”
She told “CBS This Morning” that Asperger’s, which is a condition on the autism spectrum that affects social interaction and nonverbal communication, has helped her deliver her message to the masses. “What I want people to do now is to become aware of the crisis that is here,” she said.
She’s not afraid to speak up for what she believes in, even if she’s talking to VIPs of parliaments and governments. “I just know what is right and I want to do what is right,” she told CBS. “I want to make sure I have done anything, everything in my power to stop this crisis from happening… I have Asperger’s, I’m on the autism spectrum, so I don’t really care about social codes that way.”
Before her name became internationally recognised, she hadn’t shared about being on the autism spectrum, in part, because she knew “many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’, or something negative,” she tweeted. Asperger’s was officially categorised as a diagnosis on the autism spectrum 2013, according to the Autism Society.
When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!
I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower.#aspiepower
“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” she wrote, adding the hashtag #aspiepower.
And on Monday, Thunberg used her power to ask leaders to do something about climate change, noting that they needed to know the younger generation is paying attention. She previously told CBS that she wasn’t afraid to shame “those [leaders] who need shaming” when it comes to the future of the planet. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction,” she said at the summit. “And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”
Thunberg has been making bold statements and moves on her journey to being an activist supernova. For example, instead of flying to the UN’s Climate Action Summit, she took a zero-emissions yacht across the Atlantic ocean.
“We need people who think outside the box, and who aren’t like everyone else,” she told CBS. “It can be an advantage.”
Hahahah. Mike Pence really thought if he sold out all his morals for Trump that Donny wouldn’t throw him under the bus first chance he got. #presidentpelosi https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/1176964604519469056 …
Trump says that he thinks „you should ask for” Mike Pence’s conversations with Ukraine.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.